Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 


 

 November 2 :

 

    After all our efforts to get Uliad up and running again, we finally arrived at Great Barrier Island with great plans to hike and explore the wooded hills and trails here.  Unfortunately, we were greeted with high winds and rain showers all day long yesterday which kept us holed up aboard Uliad the entire day reading and playing games.  I was starting to feel a bit sorry for myself until I remembered that this was still nicer to be holed up in this pretty little spot than to be still tied to the dock back in Whangarei and stuck on board. 

    With my days off from work coming to a close, we raised anchor this morning and set off for the 8 hour trip back.  The wind and rain finally died out sometime after midnight, and when we got underway we could see that the wind had shifted around and would once again be blowing just off our nose for the whole trip back.  I was using this trip to check that every last thing on board was working properly, so by now I was running out of systems to check.  So I decided that I'd better check our fish procurement system.  Emmett was feeling a bit grumpy and seasick as we left the protection of the harbor, which must have led him to declare, "Oh Dad!, There's no fish around here anyway!" as I came up the companionway with one of our trolling rods. 

    "How would you know that, Em?" I snapped back, "Do you have some experience fishing off Great Barrier Island that I wasn't aware of?"   So then literally about two minutes after I got a lure wet the reel started singing with a fish on.  I got so excited about reeling in a fish again that I almost forgot to gloat to Emmett about there being no fish, huh?  I ended up reeling in a small barracouta (yes, that's how they spell it here) and we all ended up getting some practice in remembering where the gafff and gloves and pliers and so forth was all kept when we had a fish to bring aboard.  But since it was a barracouta, we ended up letting it go, so perhaps Emmett felt vindicated too as we had no further strikes the rest of the way home.

 

 

November 4:

      We made it as far as Woolshed Bay again, and then parked overnight to go upriver on the rising tide the next day.  There's a shallow spot or two in the river a few hundred yards from our marina that must only have 4 or 5 feet at low tide, so we are going to always schedule any boat excursions to go out and return home when the tide nears its peak and gives us an extra 5 feet of water to navigate over.  And since there are only two high tides per day, and one of them will probably be at night in the dark, there's really only one good time to go or return on any given day.  So that's just one more star that has to be aligned for us to go anywhere in Uliad these days.

     I spent part of the trip back making up my "to do" list for Uliad after our shakedown sail and ended up with a list of 11 items...not too bad for a boat that's been idle for a year.  Anyway, it will give me something to do other than working at the clinic.  First on the list was to replace the steering chain.  I had no idea where to go to find the large stainless steel chain that I needed.  I was guessing that perhaps it was a standard motorcycle chain but I started at an industrial shop here in town that sells rope and cable and pulleys and such...they had that size chain, but not in stainless steel, so they sent me to another shop in town that had just what I needed.  God I love boat repairs in a modern first-world country!!

     Despite the breakdowns an bad weather, the crew seems happy to be sailing again, too.  All the old routines of anchoring and docking and watch keeping seemed to come right back just like old times.  So I think we're probably all game to visit Great Barrier Island again sometime, but only if the weather forecast is better! 

 

November 6:

     Finding the right chain turned out to be the easy part.  Then came connecting it (also pretty easy), followed by readjusting the cables where they attach to the steering quadrant.  This would not have been too difficult at all except for the fact that the bolts one must access to do this job are stuffed in the most difficult to get at back side of the stern locker.  (Probably not a bad design as this is really a once in a decade job)  And there there was the Turk's head knot that I had tied onto the wheel last year in just the right spot so when that decorative knot was at 12 o'clock the the rudder was absolutely straight.  And now after tightening the cables and putting the rudder straight, that knot was sitting at about 10:30.  So I sat there a while and had to decide if it would be quicker or easier to re-tie the Turk's head or to readjust the cables.  In the end I chose the cable and after twiddling for another half hour in the stern locker everything lined up perfectly.  Trust me, the Turk's head took longer.

 

November 12:

   The cruisers have definitely started rolling into the harbor lately, including our old friends Mary and David from Giselle whom we last saw back in the Marquesas Islands.  So we got together for breakfast and again for dinner, we had so much catching up to do!  They've just come back from a season in Vanuatu and New Caledonia, which is probably where we'll be heading next, so I imagine I'll be meeting up with them a few more times yet to pick their brains over where we should go.

   Its nice to see the docks bustling with activity again as various boats come and go.  Lots of folks who stored their boats for the winter are now coming back to New Zealand as well, so suddenly our social lives are picking up here!  So Kathleen has let me know that I've got to get my boat projects finished and my tools put away so we can make the boat presentable for visitors again.

   This weekend I got some new light fixtures installed and a 12 volt outlet replaced.  Then I checked the impeller on the engine's water pump and decided it looks like it will last another season.  Tried flushing the watermaker but another hose blew on the outlet line.  So after much testing, I decided that the problem must be a combination of brand new membranes and using collected rainwater to flush.  Since the rainwater has basically zero solutes in it, that results in a huge output through the membranes of nearly double what it usually puts out and has caused a big pressure load which blows out the output hoses on start up.  So hopefully that problem will go away once we start using watermaker water which can't pass through those membranes quite so fast.  But until then I have to turn a valve slowly to come up to full output gradually.  I knew that chemistry degree would come in handy some day. 

 

 

November 17:

     One nice thing about sailing in the South Pacific (in comparison to, say, the Caribbean) is that most captains know what they're doing.  By the time you get your boat to Fiji or New Zealand, a captain has many thousands of miles of sailing under his or her belt and has spent a whole lot of time on their boat.  So in any given harbor, you can be fairly confident that the vast majority of other boaters know what the hell they're doing.  Compare that with the Caribbean where hoards of yachts are rented out by the week to vacationers with questionable boat handling skills and doubtful sobriety.  And a steady stream of new cruisers in their new boats follow their Quixotic dreams.  (We can make such accusations as we were those charterers and new cruisers ourselves once.)

      Anyway, that's the usual around here.  But no matter how far we go, every once and a while, we run across some boater where we shake our heads and wonder, "How in the hell have you made it this far without drowning?"

      So today we were sitting in the cockpit of a friend here at the marina having a beer when we saw this little sloop drifting along the dock.  I made some comment that he had forgotten to take his "Q" flag down.  This is a yellow flag that boats are supposed to display when entering a new country, until they have been cleared in by customs.  And since the customs dock is 6 miles down river from us, we tend not to see them in Whangarei.  Anyhow, after pausing for a minute in front of the dock, a sailor popped up on deck to set out mooring lines and fenders--as if it just now occurred to him that he might need those things now that the dock was only 20 feet away.  Only now the current was pushing him along in the river so we watched him do a little back-and-forth dance between rigging his lines and running back to the cockpit to steer his boat.

      After a while of this, he started drifting closer to Uliad and I was getting nervous that he might decide to take the slip next to ours.  And since he had so far showed some rather questionable boat handling skills, I thought it best to wander back to our dock and be ready to fend off.  Eventually I and a few other neighbors gathered to hear him ask in French where the Customs dock was?  Sure enough he had sailed right past it 6 miles down river.  Sure enough, he had arrived in New Zealand without bothering to learn any details about the check in process.  So he proceeded to tie up at our marina, handing me a mooring line that was about 2/3 of the way frayed through and ready to snap at the next gust of wind.  Then he staggered around the dock, looking a bit bewildered until finally I took pity and offered to call Customs for him on my cell phone.  After explaining the situation, I handed him the phone to give his boat information and when he passed the phone back, customs said, "have him stay right there, we'll be there in an hour!"  "Magnifique!", exclaimed the Frenchman as I explained that the officials would come to him.  I didn't bother to remind him that there would likely be a pretty hefty charge for having them come up from their dock on a Friday night.

       But in the end, he wasn't hauled off in handcuffs and with whatever his check-in cost, he didn't hang around to pay any dockage fees at this marina.  Wherever he went, I hope his mooring lines hold. 

 

November 26:

     Emmett has become quite the ukulele player over the past few months.  So when Kathleen heard about a ukulele festival happening this weekend in Auckland, we made plans to go.  It seems that here in New Zealand, the ukulele is the instrument of choice for school music teachers everywhere to introduce students to music.  (I try to recall what we did in Minnesota...the recorder, maybe?)  I guess the ukulele makes sense, as I can't think of an instrument more associated with the South Pacific.  And frankly, it's just fun to play, so what better way to learn?  Anyway, students around the country learn a book full of songs and then are invited to the ukulele festival to perform in "the world's largest ukulele orchestra".   The whole thing was pretty loosely organized, so we didn't have much trouble walking right in, finding a group of homeschooled kids, and parking Emmett in front of the sheet music to strum along.

Emmett attends New Zealand UkefestEmmett (lower right) joins world's largest Ukulele Orchestra

    The "orchestra" filled the stands of a big outdoor stadium while parents parked in the grass to listen.  The whole event lasted a couple of hours and hopefully left Emmett motivated to learn some more music.

 

 

November 27:

 

     We decided to make a weekend of it in Auckland.   Even more than ukuleles, Emmett's life revolves around his Razor scooter these days, so he was quick to express his desire to visit a new skate park that was just opened in Victoria Park.  He has declared it the best skate park in all of New Zealand, and therefore in all the world as far as he knows.

     So I spent a couple hours watching him practice the same move over and over:  drop down into the empty swimming pool-like structure, fly out the other side, kick his scooter around in a full circle and land on it with both feet.  I am told that this maneuver is called the "tailwhip".

Emmett practices his tailwhip at the Auckland Skate Park

      I was amazed at his focus on perfecting this trick, wondering why he could not apply this intense concentration to, say, a page full of long division problems.  And I was reminded of the time when he could spend a similar amount of time jumping from the side of the pool into my arms, climbing out to the side, and doing it again.  Over. And over.and over.  It was the same thing now, except there was no need for Daddy's participation.  Over, and over, and over. 

     This is a funny age.  The "tweens", they call it.  Not quite a kid, but not quite a teenager.  But heading in that direction certainly.  I feel a bit puzzled about it all... Not sure if I should rejoice in the fact that my son can entertain himself and get by without such infuriatingly constant supervision?  Or should I mourn the end of those blessed days when nothing in Emmett's life was better than leaping fearlessly towards Dad's open arms?

 

November 28:

     We brought our life raft in to get serviced while we were in Auckland.  To be honest, it was a couple of years overdue for this.  I had meant to get it done in Tahiti, but was told that they didn't service the Avon brand there, so our next possible place was here. Then last year when we arrived I figured there was no need until we were getting closer to our departure... So by now what is supposed to be an annual or at most biennial inspection has stretched out to about 4 years.

     I had called ahead to request that the raft be inflated as soon as we brought it in.  This created a bit more of a headache for the staff, but hey, I figured we shouldn't be familiarizing ourselves with the raft for the first time when our boat was sinking!  The liferaft people grumbled a bit at first, but in the end they agreed that this is probably what everyone should do.  (Or were they just kissing my ass?)

    My secret fear was that they'd open that case to find a shredded rat's nest that would never have helped us a bit in an emergency, but to my great relief, there really was a functional raft inside that little white suitcase that looked darned sturdy, held it's air and had all the necessary emegency supplies tucked inside.  We did find many of the supplies (flares, batteries, water, seasick pills, etc.) to be expired and a little signal light atop the raft needing to be replaced.  So we left with instructions to make the necessary upgrades and repack the whole thing.

Emmett explores our liferaft

    Dealing with safety equipment like this always seems like it will be fun and interesting, but soon it forces us to start discussing some really unpleasant "what if's".  How much food or water to pack in a raft?  Should you pack other extra gear?  How much first aid equipment?  How many flares?  A radio?  Should we replace that broken signal light?

     On one hand, if you know you're going to end up in the life raft, the answer is to pack as much as f---ing possible!!  But the reality is, a couple of years from now we'll most likely be here again, trying to decide how much money to spend on something we'll most likely never ever use.  The reality is, with an EPIRB beacon, help is at most a day or two away anywhere on the planet.  How much do you need to last a day or two?  Not much. 

     So the two questions it boils down to are:  How much is your family's lives worth? (Anything!!) and  How much money should you blow on something you'll never use?  (Nothing!!)  Our bill for the liferaft inspection and re-packing will, of course, end up somewhere in between. 

 

November 29:

     Have you ever shopped at an ethnic grocery store?  I recall back in the USA, I'd occasionally go exploring in some Asian or Mexican market for some obscure ingredient.  Sometimes we'd even find it.  But to be honest, the typical ethnic market is cramped, full of dusty cans that I have no idea what's inside, and the whole place smelled a bit like mothballs.  It always seemed a bit depressing to shop there and I quite understood why anyone would buy rice there when there was a perfectly nice, neat, and convenient Safeway down the block.

     Until I became an expatriate myself.  Now I understand that if you grew up on a certain brand of Vietnamese soy sauce, then LaChoy will forever seem a weak, sad imitation of the real thing.  I know this because at Thanksgiving Dinner, some American ladies told us about an "American Market" in Auckland filled with all the real American brands that we grew up on.  And secretly we began to immediately make plans to go.  Because if you grew up on JIF, any other peanut butter just doesn't taste quite right.  And don't get me started on Bisquick, Nestle Tollhouse chips, Cherry Coke, salsa, barbecue sauce... oh God! the list just keeps going!! 

    So we wandered off to some obscure neighborhood in the suburbs of Auckland and found a non-descript building covered in scaffolding with the good old stars and stripes flying at the door.  And although it was the same run-down, cramped, funny smelling market, it was filled with all those blessed things we grew up with.  Like those ethnic markets back home, its shelves were stuffed with food, and also those familiar brands of toiletries, cosmetics, toys, clothes, and whatever.  And the patrons were a mixture of displaced expatriates like us, and a few upscale New Zealanders who thought themselves clever for knowing where to find some obscure ingredient for their next dinner party.

Martha's Backyard--A store for Americans in New Zealand!

    We soon filled the trunk with a few boxes full of old favorites; and I'm glad to report that Emmett will now be able to continue his lifelong love affair with Bush's Baked Beans. And Kathleen will, after months of abstinence, be able to nibble on true, god-honest Wheat Thins again!

 

                                                                                                                                   

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