Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Journal Entry – February 1, 2007 - NZD – New Zealand Dollar

Author: Pam

One of the cultural experiences that has certainly been different everywhere we have been so far is the money. In Mexico it is pesos, French Polynesia is the Pacific francs and the Cook Islands and New Zealand’s currency is the NZ dollar, made up of 100 cents. In Tonga we dealt in Pa’anga. When we arrived in NZ in November 2005 there were 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2 coins and $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. They have not had a 1c coin for many years. When we arrived back in NZ in December 2006 we discovered they had abolished the 5c coin in October and are now making the 10c coin out of copper and the 20c and 50c coins are now virtually the same size, however the 20c coin has a scalloped edge to help distinguish them. The former 50c coin was very large and very heavy, I am sure it was very expensive to produce.

I find it interesting that they still price items with .99, so if an item costs $9.99 and you pay with $10.00 you receive no change. The other day we returned an item to the grocery store that cost $2.85 and was part of a larger purchase paid for with a credit card. The refund in cash was $2.80, they round down to accommodate for not having a 5c coin.

The bills are made of plastic and are all different sizes and colors. They definitely considered people who are blind and visually impaired when they designed their money. If you accidentally wash your wallet, the money comes out looking fine, perhaps just a bit cleaner.

They do not have a name for each coin, in fact we were chatting with Barbara the Marina owner’s wife and she expressed how confusing she found the names of the coins in the US. She couldn’t keep straight which was a penny versus a dime. I honestly had never even thought about the fact that the coins all have a name, some of them not obviously descriptive.
Outside the United States you use the exchange rate, the rate at which one currency can be exchanged for another to determine the value of your money in the country you are visiting. Today 1 NZD = 0.695048 USD, which means if you buy something in New Zealand it would cost .31 less than it would in the United States. The whole thing makes my brain hurt.
We have been saving coins from each country we visit. We decided we couldn’t afford to keep the bills, so from now on we will rely on photographs to refresh our memory. So far our favorite coin is a triangular two dollar coin from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands depicting a Tangaroa (a well endowed fertility god). There are so many more currencies and coinage to experience throughout the voyage!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Journal Entry – January 29, 2007 – Bottom’s Up

Since our last post life on Starship has continued to be chaotic. We ended up hauling the boat out of the water on Tuesday of last week, definitely much sooner than we expected our next haul out to be since we had only been back in the water for a little over a month. Unfortunately, the newly installed centerboard (drop down keel) was sticking and not raising and lowering properly. The contractor who was responsible for the repair decided the best way to deal with the issue was to put Starship back in the sling to grind down the sticky spot caused by the anti foul paint. Well, that would have been simple enough, but another issue had raised its head in the meantime. When we put Starship back in the water several of the sea cocks began to weep. A sea cock is a through hull valve, a shut off on a plumbing or drain pipe between the vessel's interior and the sea. The boat was not going to sink, but this problem made it difficult to operate the sea cocks properly. . We decided we would change all of them the next time we hauled the boat out, presumably in Australia. Well, one month later she is getting lifted, so we decided to go for it and replace all ten bronze sea cocks with plastic ones. It took some major psyching ourselves to undertake another project and financial commitment after an almost 12 month refit that we thought we were at the end of. We were supposed to be “on the hard” from Tuesday until Thursday, but best laid plans of mice and men seem to always come into play when you are working on a boat. The centerboard grinding went quickly and smoothly (no pun intended) and they were off and running on removing the sea cocks on Tuesday. On Wednesday the new ones arrived only to be the wrong ones, this changed the splash day to Friday, they need 24 hours for the Sikoflex to dry.

In the meantime, we had decided to also undertake the other project we were going to do the next time we hauled out. We had purchased new instruments, but had only installed the wind instrument. The decision was made by several people that we did not need the speed and depth instruments at this time, since we could get this information from the GPS and Fish Finder. It meant putting two more holes in the bottom of the boat to install the paddle wheel and transducer. With all of that said, we decided to wait on the instruments to only realize after the fact that we would not be able to keep a distance log without keeping our display screen on all of the time. This was not going to be feasible at a power usage of 3.5 amps per hour. Long story short we now have all of our Raymarine instruments installed and we should hopefully always know how fast we are going, how far we have gone, how deep the water is and if there is a whale under the boat, in some cases we have three different ways to find out this information. If we ever run aground it will be very embarrassing.

Ok, that is not the end of the our saga on the hard. On Friday after the mud that had attached itself to Starship’s newly painted bottom dried we were able to see that some of the new paint had already peeled off. Yikes! We did not go back into the water until Saturday afternoon, 24 hours later after about a foot of the bottom under the waterline was sanded, primed and repainted. You can imagine our surprise to find paint already gone after only being in the water for a little over a month and the boat had not even been moving. It appears when the bottom was prepared for painting they did not take off enough of the old paint for the new paint to stick to old waterline. Scott helped sand this time and besides changing the color of his skin to black from the paint dust, breathing in way too much dust, not feeling well for the rest of the day, he believes the new paint should stay on for the expected year. He will never sand the bottom again without the proper protection, he paid a price for his eagerness to jump in and help.

We spent the rest of Saturday cleaning the layer of dirt that quickly accumulated on the boat in the yard to make her feel inhabitable again. It always feels great when you are back in the water, the dirt mostly washed off, you have running water and the use of the heads again. Unfortunately, all is not perfect with the new sea cocks, several of them are weeping from one of the connection points. Hopefully an issue that can be resolved by speaking to the manufacture, and not one that makes me weep. Today is a holiday (Provincial Anniversary Day – a holiday to celebrate the founding days or landing days of the first colonists of the various colonial provinces), so the contractor won’t be back until tomorrow.

It isn’t all work and no play. Last Friday we went to the movies and saw Blood Diamond. It was one of the most intense movies I have seen in a long time. I had no prior knowledge of the issue of child soldiers in Africa or the history of the diamond industry. I almost had to leave the theater and during many scenes was wishing I had chosen Happy Feet, the animated movie about the penguins. In the end, I think Blood Diamond is a well done and well acted movie, but definitely powerful. After the movie we went to Bogart’s for dinner. We ordered their “famous” pizza, carefully choosing one without egg, beets or pineapple. A few minutes later the waiter came back and very sheepishly said “I have a bit of a strange request”, we of course were expecting a change needed to our order. He continued, “that table over there is a Hen Party and the guest of honor has a list of challenges to complete this evening”. We look over and realize the “Hen Party” is a bachelorette party and the bride to be is heading our way, just as the waiter finishes telling Scott she needs to kiss a man wearing white socks and as luck would have it he met the criteria. Scott agreed and after also getting my blessing she mustered her courage and planted a big kiss on his cheek and in the end mine as well. We realized that finding a man wearing white socks is a worthy challenge, since most people in New Zealand wear jandals, their word for sandals.

Will we ever go sailing? Yes! We have now transitioned into the very exciting preparations for our maiden voyage on Starship. If all goes well the next few days we will be heading out for a twelve day sail to Great Barrier Island (40 miles from Whangarei) with friends on three other boats. Everyone that is going has not been sailing for a year or more and there is much excitement as we all make our homes ready to be at sea. We are very excited to find out for ourselves what Starship is capable of and to shake down all of the work we have had done over the past year. We both certainly need to shake down ourselves as well. It has been thirteen months since we have been at sea. Stay tuned for news away from the dock.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Journal Entry January 18, 2007 - “Get your tongue out of my ear mate…”

Author Scott

They say sailing around the world is really all about fixing your boat in exotic places. This past month has sure lived up to this viewpoint. We have settled into serious project management trying to get all of our final projects completed prior to leaving New Zealand. Our days start around 0730 as we try to drag our carcasses from below deck to meet the boat contractor(s) of the day. Once they arrive they make themselves at home removing our treasures from lockers, lying tools around the boat, and generally creating chaos aboard starship. Yacht tradesmen seem to have a psychic link to predict when the other tradesmen (who are usually missing in action already) will show up out of the blue, creating a impromptu work party, with each of the workers dancing to stay out of each other’s way while they issue taunting insults to each other. The other day we had two workers squeezing through the hatch to the engine room, ribbing each other about who had whose tongue in whose ear… The days are full of supervision, decisions made on the fly, and quality management, leaving us exhausted by noon.

Around 1630 the workers depart and Pam and I start the process of post nuclear cleanup, just so we can have the boat tidy for the next day’s onslaught of worker cyclones. When we aren’t managing boat work we have been trying to sell items on Trade Me, New Zealand’s version of Ebay. So far so good, not only are we downsizing all of our extra gear, but we will have our PhD in Kiwi‘s shipping techniques before our departure.

We have also had a few special events in recent days. First, there was the Intergalactic Holiday of Pam’s 45th birthday (can you believe she is a full five years OLDER than me). We were fortunate to have a visit from our friend Gill who we meet in Nuku Hiva last year. Gill is a Kiwi (now living in Utah) and she was visiting New Zealand. We had a nice visit which included our indoctrination to the experience of eating the finer quality of meat pies that are consumed by the truck loads in New Zealand. When Gill found out that we did not like meat pies she was shocked and determined to introduce us to the genuine savory pies loved throughout the county. We found adequate specimens at an Pahia bakery and had a lovely picnic lunch grazing on steak and cheese pies in the grass – mooooooo. Gill also introduced us to lime milkshake, another Kiwi specialty. I like the lime and Pam is not too keen.

Finally, the other headline news event in our lives is the addition of two kittens that have turned up and captivated the entire marina. Christine and Phantom (both female) are gray tabbies and I must admit they are really cute. Pam has been known to spend hours each day with the kitties. If Pam didn’t have a fear of kitty overboard I am sure we would be making our first ark acquisition. Otherwise, life has fallen into a nice cruiser routine. We have our Tuesday night cruiser dinner at Reva’s, Sunday BBQs, and many new and old friends to talk with about sea toilets and the best way to keep a cabbage fresh for a few more precious days.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Journal Entry January 8, 2007 - Don’t Wash Your Hands in the Mussel Water

Author: Pam

While cruising there are many cultural experiences you expect and some you may not think about in advance. Well, going to the grocery store has proven to be a cultural experience and somewhere we have actually spent a fair amount of time. In Mexico and French Polynesia we struggled with reading labels in Spanish and French, thank goodness pet food usually has a picture of a dog or cat on the box or can. In New Zealand we are able to read most labels. However, there are some very interesting differences at the grocery stores, whether it is a different word, phrase or name of food items. There is also a difference in the way the Kiwis use signage such as when selling dog food or enforcing hygiene standards.

First of all, when you arrive at the grocery store you get a trolley, not a grocery cart. We shop at three stores in Whangarei, New Zealand. The best deal for meat is at the Mad Butcher. You can always count on the Kiwis to come up with creative and extreme names. If you want to make cheese burgers, you buy mince; they do not call it hamburger or ground beef. The primary meat eaten in New Zealand is lamb, however we have heard they export the best cuts. We are both still warming up to lamb, but last night at the weekly BBQ we were introduced to “lamb popsicles” (rack of lamb renamed by Bill & Yvonne). They do not have much meat on the bone, but the flavor is mild.

We shop at Pak n Save when we don’t have a ride to the store, it is within walking distance to the boat. Pak n Save has a warehouse feel and philosophy. You bag your own groceries and pay ten cents per bag if you don’t bring your own. We have been to several grocery stores in the Cook Islands and New Zealand that have a large refrigerated room for the dairy section. It is very cold and not somewhere I am interested in browsing, I usually grab the milk and run back to the warmth of the rest of the store. Pak n Save has a design flaw in our opinion, when you enter the store you are forced to walk through the produce section, which means there is only one way to get back there if you forget something. Unless you enjoy feeling like you are swimming up stream or on some days taking your own life into your hands you usually don’t go back. Pak n Save also gets the prize for my favorite sign so far (they love their signs in NZ, there seems to be a lot to say). There is a tank of fresh green lipped mussels with a posted sign that requests for “Dear Valued Customers, for hygiene reasons please refrain from washing hands in mussel water, thank you”. I have only one question, why would you want to do that?

We also shop at New World, the more up market grocery store. The first time I walked into New World last year after cruising, the word WOW actually came out of my mouth. It is the nicest grocery store we had seen in over a year of cruising. We often go to the store with our friend Yvonne on Sunday and the list is usually mostly food and beverages in jars, cans and bottles that are too heavy to carry if you are walking, with of course the yummy bread and very expensive meats from the deli thrown in. However, Scott needs managing in New World as he stealthily slips almond cookies and chocolate coconut logs into the trolley in the blink of an eye.

Being resourceful and not wasteful is very important to the Kiwis, hence the many options for dog food. It appears perhaps no parts of the animals go unused. Next to the ham and bacon you will find the dog food in the refrigerated section. They are 5-6 pound large sausage-like rolls of dog food, such as Hound Log or Wag. The casual shopper not paying attention could easily end up frying up some wag in eggs on accident.

Eggs are designated by the numbers 6, 7 or 8, which equate to medium, large and jumbo. If you are a potato chip lover some of your choices include, lamb & mint, chicken (very popular), baked ham & Dijon mustard, zesty lime & black pepper and onion & balsamic vinegar. It is very difficult to find my all time favorite BBQ. Meat pies are more popular than the all American apple pie. They are not only sold at the grocery stores, but the gas stations and every café and bakery. We have heard, but have not seen that there are meat pies made with possum, an animal that is causing a national problem and is far from endangered. Possum or any other kind of meat pie is not even close to making it to my favorite food list.

If you are looking for zucchini, you have to look for courgettes, portabella mushrooms are flat mushrooms, turnip is Swedes, cantaloupe is rock melon, papaya is paw paw, eggplant is aubergine and kumara are the local sweet potatoes that are gold, orange or red. I have never liked sweet potato, but the kumara are really quite delicious.

Once you have finished your shopping the checkers are very friendly, they are always sitting down and they will ask you if “that is the lot”.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Journal Entry January 1, 2007 - Update - Back In New Zealand

Happy New Year friends and supporters of The Blind Circumnavigation!

It has been some time since you got one of our little updates in your inbox. Some of you might even think that we were swallowed whole by a giant sea squid with purple spots and slimy green tentacles, or perhaps you thought we were marooned on some tropical island subsisting on lobster, coconuts, and pina coladas. You might even have thought we threw in the towel to raise rescue hippopotami in Zimbabwe. Well, absolutely none of that is true. If you will kindly read along for a bit, we will give you a recap of our past year and some insight into our continuing voyage.

Let’s set the Wayback Machine to November 10, 2005. On this significant date in Blind Circumnavigation history we arrived in New Zealand after sailing over 9,000 nautical miles, visiting six countries, and most significantly crossing the Pacific Ocean to become the first legally blind people to accomplish this milestone.

Upon reaching New Zealand we decided to retire our trusty Valiant 32 Tournesol, to live out her remaining days in the warm tropical waters of the South Pacific, and we became the new owners of Starship a Pearson 390 cutter rigged swing keel sloop. It wasn’t that Tournesol needed retirement, in fact we weren’t even looking for a new boat, but serendipitous cosmic forces came into play and we found ourselves on a new old (1973) boat with more living space and a whole new list of boat projects.

As 2006 approached we also had Mother Nature to deal with and she inconveniently hurls a few cyclones each year during the summer season down here in the Southern Hemisphere. So, with a new boat to refit and the cyclone season to wait out, we decided that our cruising kitty could be better fed by working in the United States, besides we really weren’t cut out to be kiwi farmers or sheep herders. On February 10th we boarded a plane to the states, and after thirteen months of sailing we retraced our voyage in just thirteen hours.

We arrived in the states with no home, no jobs, and no real plan. I guess our transformation to blue water sailors was complete, but as fate would have it and with some wonderful intervention from some of our dear friends we found ourselves with plenty of work, living in a cozy flat in San Francisco. Pam found work at Backroads an adventure travel company and I worked as a technology and management consultant working with many of my friends and past business associates. Our life in the states was drastically different from our sailing life. We jumped back on the rat wheel with gusto. We quickly became cell phone talking, marathon commuting, workaholics. We could eat whatever we wanted, we could find virtually anything we wanted to buy, there was always a wireless network connection, showers were warm and did not come from an insecticide sprayer, and of course there was Starbucks. Ahhh - life in America can be bliss.

While we were back in the states boat work continued in New Zealand, and we were keenly reminded there really is no free lunch. Although we purchased Starship at a very reasonable price it became clear that lack of maintenance and poor attention to safety from her prior owners made the refit of Starship much more complex and therefore expensive than we had originally anticipated. We could practically hear, and we certainly could feel the money sucked to down under to feed the boat projects.

All together we ended up spending nine and half months in the states. We worked hard, had way too little time for our friends, and we were reminded of how fortunate we are to come from such a prosperous country.

On December 4th we arrived back in New Zealand fueled with ambition to get back on the water and to continue our circumnavigation. Our many upgrades to Starship seem to be real improvements and we feel she is now a safe and reliable blue water cruiser. For us, she feels huge! It is hard to image that we will actually have a place to hang out below deck while the off watch person gets some shut eye in the aft cabin. And though we know that things will always break down aboard Starship, for this is the nature of boats, for now we have all of her systems in good order.

Since returning to New Zealand we have been busy completing boat projects, sorting, organizing, and downsizing all the gear that was left behind on Starship. Even Pam with her proclivity for order is tired of organizing! Well, as of 1930 on December 29 we officially have a place for everything and everything has a place!

For the holidays we had a delightfully warm 70 degree Christmas that included a holiday BBQ with our neighbors on the dock, and for New Year’s we cooked up a gourmet dinner, rang our ship’s bell at midnight, then danced on the dock to bring in the new year.

So what now you might ask? A wise sailing quote states that sailors don’t make plans they have intentions. Our intention is to sail Starship on the east coast of New Zealand to shake out the bugs from her refit, then in late March or early April we will probably depart for Australia via the South Pacific, visiting some incredible places like Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Whatever we do our marvelous adventure continues and each mile sailed brings us closer to our goal of sailing back through the Golden Gate. We will now be making weekly journal entries to our new log-blog at, and then more frequent entries once we leave the dock. Please read along and share our voyage with us.

May you all have a safe and wonderful New Year!

Scott and Pam