Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 

 October 1:


      The joyful day finally arrived.  After much research, Emmett finally decided to send away to order a new scooter online from Australia.  "5 to 10 business days shipping time" was expected and mercifully, after 6 days the yard manager came down to tell Emmett that a big box was delivered for him up at the office.  By the time I got home from the clinic, he had it assembled and out for a trial run at the skate park next to the marina here.

Emmett's head in the clouds over his new Razor

     Aahhh, do you remember back when a brand new bicycle seemed like the greatest day your life would ever know?   We just had one of those here on Uliad. 



October 7:

     When we arrived in New Zealand, part of the clearance paperwork formalities with Customs was to state the value of Uliad.   We were then issued a document called a "Temporary Import Exemption" form.  This document basically confirmed that Uliad was a foreign vessel, temporarily in New Zealand, and therefore exempt from paying New Zealand sales taxes on all repairs and equipment for the boat.  So over the past 11 months, this document has been my best friend every time I go shopping.  It doesn't count for personal items like clothing or food, but it does for parts and labor on all things physically part of the boat.  That 15% discount has come in handy for all of the work we've had done.

     But there's a catch.  Our Temporary import form also states very clearly that we are required to depart from New Zealand within 12 months, or we must pay a bond equal to the import duty and GST taxes on our boat if we were to import it permanently or sell it.  Now I knew this was the deal all along and I even stated what seemed like a ridiculously low valuation of Uliad on the original paperwork.  But even so, those taxes and duties are steep.  So with our new plan of staying in New Zealand until the cyclone season ends, we were facing having to post around $80K for that privilege.  This was a potential deal breaker for us.  Even though we'd get the money back when we left New Zealand, there would be quite a cost involved in liquidating those assets back in the US, converting the money to New Zealand Dollars, and then doing the reverse all over again.  So this was a potential deal breaker for us and has had us stressed out for weeks.  If New Zealand Customs was going to insist on getting the bond, we were thinking we'd probably sail back north and hurry through Fiji to get to the equator in the Solomon Islands or maybe the Marshall Islands before the South Pacific hurricane season picked up by December.  Or else go to Fiji (rough, week long thousand mile sail) check in, then turn around and sail right back to New Zealand to get a new 12 month temporary import. 

     Neither of those options sounded very appealing, so we gathered our best argument for asking them to extend our temporary import:  Namely that I'm now a hard working, tax paying contributor to the Kiwi economy, working as a doctor in a town that is desperately short of them and currently facing an epidemic of meningococcal meningitis as well.  I even got a letter from the CEO of the company I now work for.  Then we patiently waited a week for the head of the NZ Customs office in this region to get back from vacation and finally scheduled a meeting. 

     All three of us showed up with our most earnest smiles to make our request.  And...after briefly explaining our position and presenting our letter, she agreed!  Uliad was granted an additional 6 months in New Zealand without having to post that enormous bond.  What a relief off of our shoulders that was!!  So now we're finally feeling like we have a plan:  Working part time, exploring New Zealand part time, and slowly getting prepared to sail off into the sunset again come next spring (actually Autumn here in the southern hemisphere, but I just can't get used to calling it that!) 




October 9:


      You may not be aware of this if you live anywhere in the northern hemisphere, but right now the Rugby World Cup is being held in New Zealand.   New Zealanders are crazy about rugby in the same way that Americans get excited over NFL football.  There is a national league here as well as an international team that plays against the few other rugby-crazed countries like South Africa, Australia, or Fiji.  And every 4 years, just as in soccer, they have a big international tournament to see what country is the best in the world. 

      It's hard not to get caught up in all the excitement.  We even discovered that the USA sent a team here and watched them beat Russia one night before they suffered an embarassing 60-something to 7 loss to Australia.  But despite our obligation to root for the home team, I think our favorite (don't tell the New Zealanders this) team was from Tonga.  There is a big expatriate community of Tongans here in New Zealand, and as we learned last year, Tongans know how to have a good time.  When Tonga's national team arrived in Auckland, there were literally thousands of people lined up to escort their bus to the hotel.  And all through the tournament, the papers documented the fun they were having:  "The Tongan Team travels to Local Schools"  Tongan Rugby Players visit Nursing Home" or "Traditional Feast held by Local Tongans for National Team.'  They may not have won many games, but the team and their fans were definitely having the most fun.

     But now both Tonga and the USA have been eliminated, so I have to find something else to get me excited about rugby.  This weekend I found it.  Working at the Urgent Care Clinic here I discovered that all worries about coughs, colds, rashes, or sore backs ENDS about an hour before game time.  So with double-headers going on Saturday and Sunday, I enjoyed a rare afternoon of peace and quiet while getting paid for it!  It will be sad to see this World Cup end. 



October 21:

     Kathleen's birthday today.  Between shifts at the clinic, I managed to help Emmett make Mom's cake: lemon and raspberry marbled layer cake, covered with fondant.  And of course decorated by Em.  Gift giving holidays tend to be fairly low-key aboard the boat...mostly because we just don't have room for much new stuff on board.  So it forces one to think carefully about what is truly useful.

     So Kathleen's gifts this year:  Some DVDs, a scented candle, a decor box to hide the clutter, a new extra-luxurious pillow, a set of sconce lamps (with installation included anywhere she prefers).  But perhaps the best birthday gift for Kathleen is only appreciated by reviewing the ship's log:  last year on this day we were beating into 20 knots of wind and 12 foot seas...still over a hundred miles to go before we'd see the shores of New Zealand.  Three years ago, we were just putting Uliad back in the water in Trinidad after several weeks of dirty, sweaty toil in a gigantic industrial boat yard.  The year before that, we were neophyte sailors bouncing around off shore somewhere about half way between Charleston and Cape Canaveral.  Do I know how to show a girl a good time on her birthday or what?  Just having our home clean, dry, and firmly attached to something solid had to feel like a real birthday treat for poor Kathleen.


October 25:

     OK, can we talk here?  I've decided that the real test of when you've come to know a place well is when certain things start to annoy you.  You travel to someplace new and exotic and at first everything is so cool and it's all such a charming novelty...  But after a few months the novelty wears off and the warts start to become glaringly apparent.  So thoughts start popping into your head like "why can't these people ever show up on time!" (Columbia) or "surely by now it must have occurred to someone on this island that there are alternatives to everyone simply throwing their garbage in the ditch/backyard/bushes/ocean/street...(Tonga)

    So in the last few weeks, the blinders seem to be coming off here in New Zealand.  At the risk of sounding catty, here are the top contenders as of late for our biggest Kiwi pet peeves:

    #1 Bare Feet.  It makes perfect sense to me in some sandy tropical island, or even at a grassy park on a summer day.  But New Zealand is not some third world place...there are sidewalks, cars, and yes, shoe stores here.  So why was the middle aged couple walking into the grocery store in front of me today wearing no shoes?  Why do I have to look at some dude's filthy stinky bare feet propped up on the sofa at the coffee shop?  After growing up in a country with "no shirt, no shoes, no service" posted on every restaurant door, I have to admit, I find it a bit stomach-turning.  And don't get me started on all the broken toes, infected feet, and cut heels that I get to take care of at the clinic! 

    #2  Curvy roads.  Granted New Zealand is a hilly island, and the swerving, turning roads that wrap around every crag and spur of those hills lend a certain scenic charm at first.  But once you actually have a need to BE somewhere, but for the fact that nobody can go more than 40 mph around the 2 lane hairpins that represent New Zealand's major North-South thoroughfare, it loses it's charm.  I will be really embarassed if after sailing half-way around the world without getting seasick, I end up car sick here.  Embarassed, yes, but surprised, no.  Attention Caterpillar, Inc... if you're out there, send a ship load of bulldozers and dump trucks to Auckland--attention of the New Zealand Highway Department!

    #3 Metered Internet.  For some reason, every possible internet service here has a data limit.  Our monthly Wifi plan is good 30 days or 5 Gigs, whatever comes first.  Go to a coffee shop with your I-pad and you're given a coupon at the counter good for 50 Megabytes.  Smartphone?  Hotel Room wifi? Same thing.  The lone hold out seems to be...McDonalds!  Where you can log in for free and simultaneously scarf down as much data and as many calories as you can.  Those anti-globalization protesters are going to change their tunes in a hurry the next time they find themselves in New Zealand trying to surf YouTube. 


October 26:

    But in all fairness, I should also mention a few things about New Zealand that we continue to find charming:

     #1 Latte Art.  The Kiwis seem to have jumped way ahead of us in this area.  At Starbucks or Seattle's Best or Caribou Coffee, you can get a perfectly good cup, but you'll be lucky to get anything more than a dash of cinnamon on top.  Here the baristas still pull a good shot, but then they top it off with the most magical little artistic flourishes in the foam that floats on top.  A few examples from my latest trips to the nearest cafe: 

latte art 1latte art #2

       Try Googling "Latte Art" for even more amazing examples.  Despite the bleary-eyed morning, I've gotten a bit inspired myself to see what I could make with the espresso machine onboard Uliad.  So far, I can do a fairly decent valentine heart, except when it ends up looking more like an apple.

     #2  School Uniforms.  Now of course lots of private schools back home have school uniforms, but here both public and private do...and each school with its own particular colors and styles.   And then on top of that, the high school kids add little badges to their sharp little blazers to show that they are "Class President" or "Peer Mediator".  And yes, I've even noticed quite a few "Prefect" badges.  Every time I see one, its all I can do not to shout, "Ten points for Gryffindor!!"  


October 29:

      For those readers who check in hoping to hear about sailing adventures, let me offer a long overdue apology.  It has been almost a year to the day that we parked Uliad at Riverside Drive Marina in New Zealand.  And due to a variety of circumstances, she hasn't moved since.  Until today, that is!  With a few days off from work, we had been eying October 29th for the past week as a day to actually become sailors again, and cruise out to Great Barrier Island for a few days.

     After several days of packing things away, putting out sails and rigging, and attending to all the little details necessary to make us mobile again, we were all set to go by 9am--which was just before the high tide that we need to get over the shallow spots just down river from us. We were all a bit nervous about this trip...we were out of practice and so was our boat.  Problems always pop up like weeds on a boat that has been idle too long.

     But we were blessed with a dead calm and we had timed the tide for no current to deal with and we managed to sort out all the mooring lines and back out of our slip without any drama.  Then we puttered off through a drizzling rain down the muddy Hatea River.  The only problem that became apparent was that with full engine power, we were travelling a good two knots slower than we usually do.  I knew there would probably be some fouling on our hull, but this was worse than I'd hoped for.  But with a close eye on the engine gauges and the channel markers, we came to the mouth of the river two and a half hours later.  Just as we were starting to feel a bit of swell coming off the ocean, Kath questioned whether she should have taken her seasickness medication and I went to look at the chart and calculate how long until we got to Great Barrier Island.  With our new slower boat speed, and the wind more on our nose than the forecast had predicted, it looked like we'd be racing to drop anchor before sunset.  It occurred to us that we were in no rush to do anything and what's more, we should just take it easy our first day out.  So we anchored in a little cove called Woolshed Bay, just inside the river mouth where we had a pretty view of the wooded peaks that make up Whangarei Heads.

     With our anchor down, I decided to brave the 64 degree water here and have a look at our fouled bottom.  It was an awful shock to jump in, even with my wetsuit, but I soon got accustomed to the cold and had a chance to look at the damage.  Now I could see from our slip that there was a thin coat of slime all over our bottom.  The muddy river water lets you see only a foot down or so, though.  And from about that depth and beyond was a thick coating of hard barnacles.  So I set to work with a hand scraper and managed to get about half the job done before the cold water drove me out.

      It took a hot shower, a mug of cocoa, and about a half an hour of shivering under a blanket to recover...only to remind myself that the other half of the hull would still need to be scraped at some point.  Or I could just cough up the money to have Uliad hauled out of the water and pressure-washed when we got back.  I decided to hope that the water would be warmer when we got to Great Barrier. 


October 30:

     We were up and ready to face the 47 mile crossing to Great Barrier Island this morning, but remember that thing I said about boat problems sprouting up like weeds?  Well, today we had to do some weeding.

      Em and I raised the anchor while Kathleen took the helm.  But just as we put the engine in gear to motor out of the inlet, the steering chain broke.  So here we were with the rudder hard to port driving in circles.  After the second circle, we dropped anchor--now much closer to the rocks than I'd like.  Next we took down the dinghy and motor and got that ready to go in case we'd need to try to tow Uliad further away from said rocks.  Then I got to work on removing the access panels to see what had happened to our steering.  A friendly boater who had undoubtedly been enjoying the show came by to ask if we were having trouble and Kathleen kindly carried on the conversation while I focused on how I would try to repair our steering.

     Now Uliad has both a hydraulic helm below decks and a cable driven helm in the cockpit, so if it came down to it, we could still drive from below.  But I didn't like the idea of trying to park at the marina from the limited visibility that you have below.  And after looking at the problem, I figured out that I could remove the broken chain link, reconnect the ends and then adjust the steering cable for a chain that was now one link short.  While doing all that I noticed a few other small cracks in the I'm still going to need to replace the whole thing when we get back, but I think we'll make it for a few more days.

       So the three hours it took to fix the steering precluded us from sailing to Great Barrier Island again today, so everyone enjoyed a lazy afternoon in Woolshed Bay again.  Feeling bold from my successful repair, I found the courage to go back in the water and finish scraping barnacles.  Then after a good hot shower, we all took the dinghy to shore and hiked along a trail through a cow pasture to a pretty little sandy beach called Smuggler's Bay.  One can see how it got it's name.  It's a pretty secluded, remote spot where one could anchor and a quick hike through the cow pasture gets you and your contraband access to the road.

Hiking to Smuggler's BayUliad escapes the marina: anchored in Woolshed Bay

      Then this evening, I fired up the generator and the watermaker.  I had just replaced the membranes that separate the salt from the fresh water and was looking forward to a trial run.  But a few seconds after I started it up, one of the hoses blew, so that gave me one more project to complete before bed.  In the end, the watermaker seems to be working and putting out 20 gallons of pure fresh water per hour, and despite a few tense moments, all is well on board.  I guess they call these "shakedown cruises" for a reason.  We'll see what's shakin' tomorrow. 


October 31:

     We finally got ourselves out into the ocean again!  After several days of problems, we finally motored out the mouth of the Hatia river and pointed our bow toward Great Barrier Island.  The Pacific Ocean met us with steep choppy waves that had us bouncing around like we were sailing inside a washing machine for the first few hours, before easing off to a slightly more regular 5 foot swell as we got further offshore.  So we were all feeling a bit queasy for most of the day as we tried to get accustomed to the motion of the ocean again.  And did I mention that the wind was on our nose the whole way?

     But as far as good news goes, the steering chain held up and nothing else fell apart the whole way there.  So we pulled in right around 5pm to a beautiful quiet bay and anchored (appropriately enough on Halloween) next to a little place called "Grave Island".  Our guidebook explained that this island was where some early pioneer families planted their dead, but after our long, pounding sail, I didn't have the heart to add any more spooky details to the story. 

     No matter where we are in the world, Emmett has always managed to throw together a costume and find some way to get his Trick or Treating in.  But this year, on a remote offshore island, in a country that doesn't celebrate Halloween, and with no other cruising boats around, he finally had to do without.  Em never mentioned missing the usual festivities, but I still feel bad about it.  Trouble is, I'm not sure if I feel guilty for having him out here where we can't celebrate his favorite holiday, or am I feeling a bit of remorse that he's growing up and not as interested in "kid stuff" so much...



                                                                                                                                              created by Steve Erickson 2007-2012
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