Monday, February 12, 2007

Journal Entry – February 11 & 12, 2007 – Starship One, Fish Zero

Author: Pam

As we lay in bed and listened to the heavens open up and pour down buckets of rain that came as a complete surprise after the moonlit night, the thought of Scott sitting on the bow in his bright yellow jacket as we exit the narrow Man of War pass formed a very wet imagine in my mind. The plan was to pull up the hook and head out on Aspect of Arran’s heels at 09:30. We got up and prepared the boat as it continued to drizzle. Michelle and Aaron came over to say goodbye, they were staying another week at Great Barrier. We traded some favorite music, Jack Johnson for them and Nature’s Best (Kiwi music) for us. They also delivered the rest of the Kawhai, Scott’s prize fish.

We actually got underway at 10:00 and by then the rain had stopped and Scott was spared the drowned boat rat look. We followed closely behind Aspect of Aarran out through Man of War pass measuring .05 of a mile, this is represented by a minute strip of water on the GPS. The seas were calm making our exit a piece of cake. We are already getting into a rhythm on Starship for navigating the arrivals, anchoring and departures that lay ahead. Starship has a seat that hangs just slightly off of the end of the bow, it gives you an excellent vantage point from the front of the boat. We also have new headsets that we purchased while back in the states. They allow for a two way conversation and have solved the problem of not being able to interrupt the other person if you need to communicate something quickly and there is no interference or activation caused by the wind. These headsets have very quickly moved up to one of the most valuable pieces of technology we have on board and after one trip we have determined one set is not enough insurance. We will purchase another set as soon as we return to the marina and then figure out how to get them to NZ. So, with a safe and comfortable vantage point, the use of monoculars and the ability to clearly communicate even in strong winds we are feeling at least prepared for those scary and intense moments.

After exiting the pass we navigated around some of those rocks mentioned earlier that seem to sprout up near islands. Once we were a safe distance out we started preparing to put up the sails. Scott at the mast, boat into the wind, ok ready set go for our second time raising the main on Starship. The mainsail went about half way up and then came to a screeching halt as it got snagged on something. After some inspection Scott discovered one side of the lazy jacks (a rope system for managing the sail when you bring it down) had come loose and was causing the tangle. He lowered the sail, tamed the lazy jack and the second attempt went smoothly. The winds were light and almost dead behind us. The seas were rolly and the boat swayed and swooshed her way back. The wind finally came up to 15 knots and we turned off the engine and sailed the rest of the way to Urqhart’s Bay. We quickly lost sight of Aspect of Arran as they continued to motor sail. Though rolly seas are not the most comfortable sailing conditions, this trip was all about finding out how Starship responds.

During the past year one of the frequently asked questions was, do you fish? We have only been able to answer we are absolutely terrible at fishing. At the conclusion of our first year of sailing the score was fish 13, Tournesol 0. Well, on her second sailing day Starship is in the running. Once we were underway Scott put the line out to begin what he thought was a competition for the day with Jeff. The line was in about fifteen minutes and there was a strike. Scott was so excited and of course he was sure it was a big one. Ok, now what? I ran down below, got some gin, a bucket and his fish knife. All of my visions of the cleaning chaos came crashing to my mind. The fish weighed about five pounds and fortunately didn’t put up a big fight. Scott got it in the bucket, gave it a drink of gin in its gills and as he learned from Aaron started the bleeding process. I was torn between being excited we finally caught a fish and panicked that blood and fish parts were going to be from one end of the boat to the other. Once the fish was subdued (that sounds better) Scott called Aspect of Arran to report his catch. Jeff was congratulatory, but admitted he was not going to throw a line in today. At the conclusion of their conversation Aaron from Mawingo gave Scott a call and announced they were jumping up and down on Mawingo. Aaron’s enthusiasm came through the radio loud and clear. He then wanted a description of the fish, because of course Scott and I had no idea what it was. It had long, thin fins and according to Aaron it was a Skipjack, a member of the tuna family. Ok, next Scott needed a piece of rope to tie through the fish’s mouth so he could be put over the side to finish bleeding. Sitting in the cockpit doorway he threaded the rope and tied the fish to the boat so it was hanging over the side. Five minutes later Scott went to retrieve his catch only to find we had provided lunch to a hungry predator (probably a shark). There was nothing left at the end of the rope but the head and some innards. We both just stared at it and each other. Honestly, we were both a little relieved, we do still need to work out some of the fishy details. We have been told it doesn’t count if you don’t have a picture, we do have proof (coming soon to the website).

We arrived at Urqhart’s Bay at 20:00 and called Jeff and Raewin on the VHF to locate their whereabouts in the anchorage. We dropped the hook with no hitches and settled in for our last night out for awhile. We cooked our first lamb on the BBQ (good thing we had a backup), we are trying to get into the kiwi spirit of eating lamb. The lemon and garlic marinade did the trick and it was really quite tasty.

Monday morning we prepared the boat once again for the final leg of the trip, back up the 13 mile river to our home base at Riverside Drive Marina. You have to go up the river as the tide is rising, so Jeff and Raewin said we would leave at 10:30. Scott took his post on the bow, fortunately again the cloudy day did not dump rain on his parade. The two and a half hour trip was filled with trying to keep up with Aspect of Aarran (somehow Starships five knots was much slower than their five knots), moments of minor panic as Aspect of Aarran stopped to assess the depth and we had to quickly avoid a rear ender, while while the depth sounder was only reading 5’4”, yikes. Of course the lowest water is at the narrowest part of the river, where there are also boats anchored with their buts in the channel. It was a bit dodgy I must say. I think at this point my anxiety was starting to build in anticipation of the dreaded task of parking in our eminent future. Not only did we have to park the boat, we had to park the boat for the first time. As we approached the marina, Jeff called and said “just hang out there by the five mile marker, we will get our lines on and come down the dock to help you”. Well, I am here to tell you hanging out by a sign in a river that is flooding is no easy task. We were making tight circles, being pulled with the current and finding all of the shallow spots. Oh, and throwing a fender overboard to add to the excitement. Finally, it was time to park and Scott and I change positions. He took the wheel and I headed to the side of the boat. I looked over on the dock and you couldn’t fit another person next to where we were supposed to park. On the first attempt we were too far to port, so Scott tested Starship’s ability to backup. She did great. The second attempt he brought her in and I was able to hand (not throw) the bow line to someone on the dock. The lines were put on in flash and we were safely parked, thank you Ray for letting us park on the end. After many thank you’s and hugs we made sure everything was secure and then jumped in the dinghy to head out on the fender recovery mission. If you are going to accidentally (but I must say enthusiastically) throw your fender over, I highly recommend doing it in a river. We found it lolling near the riverbank just waiting to be rescued.

Our trip to Great Barrier Island was a very successful shakedown of Starship and ourselves (only a short list of things that broke). We want to extend a special thank you to Windsong and Aspect of Arran, our excellent guide boats up and down the river. We are energized for this cruising season and look forward to throwing our lines off in the near future for the final trip down the river, around the Whangarei Heads and off to places unknown.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Journal Entry – February 10, 2007 – Kawhai, Kingies and Crays, yum

Author: Pam

We had no idea that our trip to Great Barrier Island would be a Fishing 101 trip. Our new fishing guru, Aaron on Mawingo was hot to go to Whangaparapara, he had heard there were Kingfish there and he was keen on spearing one. With that said, we decided last night that Michelle and Aaron would host a fishing trip and we would all head out on Mawingo at 0830. We were up early packing the fishing gear and cooking tortellini’s with pesto for lunch. Jeff picked us up in his dinghy since his was designated as the biggest for fishing and for chasing after Aaron and his catch if he should be lucky.

No sails raised, we motored the two hours to Whangaparapara after going out through the VERY narrow Man of War pass and along the coast of Great Barrier Island. It is amazing how many rocks jut out of the sea near islands, I never really thought about it before negotiating them in a boat. In our path were some very large rock formations creating two options for getting to the other side, one very narrow and one with plenty of sea room. Of course the narrow option was the more direct and given the lack of wind and surf, Aaron chose that route. Scott and I took one look, looked at each other and said we would never go through that. As we approached Aaron said we will catch something as we pass through the center and he barely finished the sentence when there was a strike on Scott’s, yes I did say Scott’s line. After making sure we were safely through the gap, it became all about the fish. Scott reeled him in with a struggle, photos were being snapped as the 5 pound Kawhai (kawhy) was pulled on board. The fish was immediately taken to the bow and bled (I decided to skip this part of today’s lesson). Step two was to tie a rope in the fish’s mouth and drag it behind the boat for five to ten minutes to finish the bleeding process. I knew the killing and cleaning part of fishing was going to be difficult for me, it is now confirmed.

There were no more bites on the way to Whangaparapara, but no worries mate there was plenty of fishing goings on once we arrived. Scott and Jeff were busy trying to catch something big enough to keep. Unfortunately, they were not lucky, but I guess you could say the fish were that ate all of their bait. While they were feeding the fish Aaron suited up in his dive gear and with spear gun and his locater buoy he and Michelle dove in for a look for the infamous Kingfish, or Kingy as they are affectionately referred to. Aaron of course out lasted Michelle, so she came back to the boat while he continued to look under and behind every rock and crevasse. After nearly an hour Aaron clambered back on the boat and from down below I hear Michelle call out, Pam wait to you see what Aaron has gotten for you. Now being a girl from Maine, it was difficult to hide my enthusiasm for seafood, especially around an expert hunter and gatherer. When I reached the cockpit there was Aaron proudly displaying the three crayfish he had caught. He had given up on the Kingy since he hadn’t seen one and started looking for crays. Crayfish would be equivalent to lobster, except they have no claws and they have horns and spiny backs. They look like an alien creature, but that did not stop my excitement if they taste good. Crays are caught by either diving for them (which is Aaron’s technique) or in a cray pot, which is a small plastic trap set with a buoy. Aaron was so excited about his catch, even though he broke his cray hook (used to pull them out of there dark hiding places), he was jazzed to go down again and try to get three more so there would be one each. He was enthusiastically encouraged by all on board. He was gone another 40 minutes and came back with five more. He measured them, they have to be a certain length across their tail in order to keep them, there were two keepers making the total for dinner five.

It was time to head back, so after a hot day in the sun with a fish and crays on board we motored back with anticipation of our planned feast. On the way Michelle cooked the crays. After they were cooked she hung them by their tails upside down in a bucket to let the water drain out. This is not a technique I have witnessed before, but I wonder if it would work with Maine lobsters, it seemed like a very logical thing to do. As we were passing a small beach on the coastline Michelle spotted some driftwood and suggested going to shore to collect some. No problem, Aaron stopped the boat, Jeff, Scott and Michelle jumped in the dinghy and went ashore and came back with the dinghy half full of wood. What for you may ask? Well, Scott’s prize fish is best eaten smoked, so the plan was to give the smoke house at Smoke House Bay a workout.

We arrived back at our boats and after getting all of our gear back on board pulled up the hook and we all headed around the corned to Smoke House Bay to anchor for our last night. After anchoring we scurried around the boat and gathered our gear and food for a BBQ on shore. It could not have been a more perfect end to our time at Great Barrier Island and spending time with our new friends. We had a Kaimoana (a seafood feast). The fire in the smoke house was stoked and the Kawhai was set to smoking. The BBQ was lit and the snapper Jeff and Raewin had been given the day before and portabella mushrooms were cooked to perfection. When we sat down everyone began their meal with their half of crayfish generously provided by Mawingo. They had cut them down the middle, making it very easy to see how much meat they have up into their bodies. The tail of course offers the most generous portion. The meat was very tender, but there was a distinct difference from Maine lobster for me. I didn’t find it quite as sweet, but they were really good and I would never turn one down. After we had eaten the crays, snapper, mushrooms, cole slaw and bean salad, it was time for dessert. The Kawhai was finished smoking. We all sat around the table with forks in hand and with the fish in the middle. The brown sugar coating (Aaron rubbed it with brown sugar and salt) and smoky flavor combined with the tender fish was delicious. Scott even liked it and he isn’t usually keen on anything smoked. Maybe it had something to do with finally catching a fish. This trip to Great Barrier truly has been special and hanging out with our Kiwi friends was educational in more ways than I could begin to describe. I can say we learned more about New Zealand in the past few days than we have the entire time we have been here. Thank you Raewin, Jeff, Michelle and Aaron for making our first trip on Starship unbelievably special.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Journal Entry – February 9, 2007 – Bumps, Scrapes and Seafood Wrestling

Author: Scott

Who would have thought that our first collision with another boat on the voyage (and hopefully our last) would actually happen without us moving, or that we wouldn’t be at fault? This morning as I was tidying up the cockpit I heard a voice call out to me. I looked up and saw a boat close, I mean really close, with two people aboard. They were calling out a big hello and I didn’t have a clue who they were. I finally had to ask “who are you”. They responded (and will remain anonymous in this journal entry) and it turned out to be another boat we knew from cruising. Just about when recognition dawned on me, I realized that they were actually still moving and that a collision was eminent. It was one of those weird slow motion situations, I could tell they were going to hit, I knew they could not turn away in time, and when they finally did hit (forward on the starboard side) it felt like they scraped along Starship forever. It would turn out later that the awful noise the collusion made was due to their stainless steel fender holder rubbing along our rub rail and finally meeting a grisly twisted end to its life on our very stout bow roller. The other boat immediately gained control and headed away from us to sort out their damage. They were very apologetic and agreed to pay for any damages, which turned out to be minor.

After all the excitement we prepared to move the boat. We agreed to move with Aspect of Arran and Mawingo to a new bay. We pulled the hook and followed our friends as they gave us a guided tour of the bay. We decided to have a look at Smokehouse Bay, a place that had been recommended to us by other cruising boats before coming to the Barrier. Smokehouse Bay certainly lived up to the reputation and soon became one of our favorite spots on the voyage so far. We dropped the hook and had a quick lunch. After lunch I took a snorkel and with Pam on board we tested out our newly rebuilt centerboard (swing keel). After a touch of work was complete we climbed in the dinghy and met Mawingo on shore to investigate Smokehouse Bay.

What a phenomenal place! Smokehouse Bay has been a cruiser haven on Great Barrier Island for many years. Unfortunately, last year the little bay experienced a mudslide from the heavy rains which almost completely destroyed the existing structures and even eroded away the sandy beach. No worries mate, with some donated dollars from the cruising community and a lot of Kiwi ingenuity, Smokehouse Bay has been completely rebuilt to exceed its former glory. So what is this Smokehouse Bay you may ask? Smokehouse Bay is a small cruiser settlement of very basic yacht services, located in a charming bay with a newly imported white sandy beach. Prior to the mudslide there was an outdoor bathtub, bathhouse, a wood stove to heat water, sinks and hand ringers for washing laundry, clotheslines, a campfire, pilings with piped water to refill boat tanks, and of course large smokers for smoking fresh fish. All of this has been rebuilt with just a few new touches, like LED solar lights in the bathhouse and a death defying rope swing that is launched from high within a tree growing out of the hillside. But I don’t think it is the facilities that make Smokehouse Bay so remarkable, it is the fellowship and connections this magical place breeds. Within minutes of our arrivals we were chatting away with people from two other boats, sharing stories, just as if we knew each other for years. Cruisers already seem to be universally friendly and supportive to one another and Smokehouse Bay serves as a beautiful venue to bring people together. Certainly the friendships and memories generated over the years have served to fuel the impressive rebuilding and rebirth to this special spot to many. While at Smokehouse Bay we got to know Richard, a Kiwi who has been cruising around New Zealand for ten years. He told us that over the past year he has only spent 11 days at a marina, and that he comes to Smokehouse whenever he can. He demonstrated the rope swing, and as his ankles missed whacking the tree roots by millimeters he calmly said “I better have a go at those roots and cut them away”, Spiderman eat your heart out.
We finally returned to the boats and headed off to a more protected bay that Aspect of Arran had staked out for us all. We were the only three boats to anchor in our own little private cove. We all met later on Mawingo for a feed of cockles and pipis (they are both similar to clams) collected the day before. Things got a little silly as shells and watermelon rind accidentally ended up in each other’s dinghies. Soon there was a spontaneous game of shell and rind basketball that took place, but we had to all settle down when Pam and Jeff started to wrestle for the few remaining Pipis. You should have seen how many sea creatures were consumed In a single feeding and to think that Jeff and Pam couldn’t get enough or share more appropriately. After getting sent to their own corners we made a plan to go fishing the next day on Mawingo with Aaron our hunter gatherer to guide us. I would bet anything that Pam is going to get another feed of seafood!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Journal Entry – February 8, 2007 - Great Barrier Island

Author: Pam

Great Barrier Island is the fourth largest island making up New Zealand, population 800, 100 of which live on the north side of the island. At 8:30 am we crawled into our dinghy and headed to shore followed by Jeff, Raewin, Michelle and Aaron. We had all agreed to share the cost of hiring a van and spending the day checking out the island by land. We actually were expecting to end up with two cars, there were no vans available the day before. However, when we arrived they couldn’t find the keys to one of the cars, so suddenly the van that was being used as the school bus would be back in 15 minutes and would be available for us for the day.

The van arrived, all six of us piled in with Aaron at the wheel (where he happily stayed for the day) and off we went on the one road around the island. As to be expected Great Barrier Island is made up of bays, beaches, camping spots and walking and tramping tracks. There are four small towns, Port Fitzroy (where we are anchored), Claris (the capitol), Whangaparapara and Tryphena. The towns are on the don’t blink or you will miss them tour, some having five buildings and Tryphena the biggest may have up to ten.

The roads are mostly unsealed (unpaved) and very bumpy. Our first side trip off of the main road was down to Motairehe Beach, which has the biggest right hand surf in New Zealand. Aaron was keen to check it out, he had brought his surf board along for the day in case he found some good surfing. The waves were big and you could not get there by car, so we were unfortunately not treated to his surfing prowess. On our way down Motairehe Road we picked up a young woman from Germany who was out trekking for the day and headed to Katherine’s Bay. She hopped in and joined us for an hour or so of our adventure, we ultimately ended up dropping her off so she could hike along the coastline.

After the beach we headed to Katherine’s Bay and discovered a beautiful bay with a couple of houses that have a beautiful view, but are in desperate need of “doing up”. We quickly learned that life’s tapestry changes with each passing moment. In one moment we went from six intrepid travelers to seven, we had to weave our way through a herd of cows that had no concern for an on coming car and encountered a car that at the moment only had three wheels. We pulled up behind a white car that was for lack of a better description literally falling apart. The driver was a Maori woman (Aunty Himo) who explained that she was driving along when something white flew past her windshield, it was her tire. Apparently her thirteen year old daughter had put the tire on the other day (after a flat), but had not tightened the bolts. Of course the fact that there were only two bolts may have had something to do with the mishap. The men rose to the occasion, found a jack in our hired van, some tree branches to use as braces and put that tire back on, as well as tightened the two bolts on the other three tires while they were at it. Aunty Himo was in good humor, very appreciative for the assistance and posed for a picture with her saviors. She stowed her walker, got back behind the wheel, closing the door that was falling off of the hinges and headed down the road to the school, her destination. We followed her, given it was a single lane road to make sure she made it. It was a priceless New Zealand experience.

We continued on our way to visit Claris, the capitol of Great Barrier. It was time for lunch and it appeared our choices were a Thai restaurant and The Claris Texas Café, which was voted as the winner. After a lunch of nachos and paninis (grilled sandwiches) we continued our tour of the island. We visited Tryphena, the largest small town I have ever visited. In reality all of the towns on Great Barrier revolve around their bay and the fishing and cruising boats that visit or live there. Great Barrier has a very rugged coastline, at times reminding me very much of highway 1 in California.

After a long day of riding in the car and one beautiful bay and view after another, the remaining highlights were the silliness of taking Scott and my picture under the sign for Blind Bay. Everyone thought that was the perfect photo opportunity. We then visited Blind Bay, which apparently is often the cause of mishaps, because seaman often think they are in the adjacent Bay and end up in a wreck. We decided we would keep out visit to land.

On the way back to the boats, Aaron took a detour back to the second beach we visited and he was thrilled to see it was low tide. It was time to learn how to gather pipis. I fortunately had two plastic grocery bags, the perfect holder for the fruits of efforts. We walked what seemed like a mile out to the waters edge and were instructed to scoop our hands under the surface of the sand to reveal the pipi. We discovered we were not in pipi territory, but there were cockles. Almost as good according to Aaron. All six of us were turning over handfuls of cockles, as Aaron headed down the beach in search of pips. Michelle looked up to see him waving his arms and beckoning the gang down the beach to where he had found the pipi haven. Pipis and Cockles look (and I am hoping taste) like clans. Cockle shells are rounder than Pipis, but both have shells like a clam. In a very short time we had more than we thought we could eat, we even put some back. It was definitely easier than the last time Scott and I visited Maine and watched my Mom break her back for less than half a hod of clams. Mom, you would love “digging” for pipis.

We took our booty and crawled back in the van for the twentieth time and headed back to Port Fitzroy and our dinghies. We ended the day with a hearty thank you to Aaron, Michelle, Raewin and Jeff for the opportunity to see more of the island than we often get to without being able to rent something with wheels. It was a very memorable day and we can definitely say we “did” Great Barrier.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Journal Entry – February 5-7 , 2007 – Squash Zone

Author: Scott

Did we say that Great Barrier Island was spectacular? Let me clarify, Great Barrier Island is windy, rainy, sometimes cold, and the only fish here are dwarf snappers that cleverly suck your bait off the hook and occasionally allow themselves to be caught just so they can mock you on the surface because they are all too dinky to keep.

Bad attitude you say, well we just spent the past three days wallowing around on the anchor with winds so fierce they broke the wind generator. What kind of wind generator gets broken by wind, can you tell me that?

Seriously folks, the Barrier is still awesome but we have had miserable weather over the past three days. Jane and Roger’s decision to go home a day early was a good one. A high pressure system has formed to the northeast of Barrier while a nasty low has been creeping up from the south. When the air is pulled from the high pressure system to the low then you get a squash zone between the two systems, and baby let me tell you, we have been squashed plenty!

Monday morning started out normal enough. Pam and I took the dinghy over to Port Firzroy to inform the owners of the Boat Club that there would no longer be a Super Bowl group at noon, as Wings n Strings had left to avoid the weather. We also wandered around the fragment of a town, checked out the little store, bought bread, and I bet you guessed it, we found the local cheeseburger that was billed as the best in the world. Let me tell you right here and now, if ever you travel to Great Barrier Island, the school lunch tasting, mystery meat wrapped in a bun, smothered with beetroot, spewing that pink watery stuff they refer to as ketchup, excuse for a cheeseburger in paradise is vastly overrated! Get the chips (fries) and call it good.

The rest of Monday was spent on the boat working on inside projects like sorting manuals and Pam’s favorite sport of cleaning. The high point of the day was when Aaron and Michelle arrived on their boat Mawingo. We were invited over to Aspect of Arran for drinks and to welcome the new arrivals. Mawingo would not only turn out to be great new friends but also the source for Pam’s need to eat anything that lives in the water and wears a shell.

Tuesday was more, more, more of the same weather. We stayed on the boat all day. We did invite the group over for drinks, appetizers, and a rousing game of Chicken Foot. Friendships and rivalries were made at the flick of a domino and fun was had by all.

Finally the weather improved slightly and we were invited by Mawingo to go look for scallops on their boat. In truth, it could have been blowing a Force 10 and Aaron would have gone to look for scallops. Not only is he the most enthusiastic hunter gatherer that I have ever met, but he was really board. Aaron the mighty hunter did find enough scallops for us all and this prompted a gathering on Aspect of Arran for a impromptu potluck dinner. Pam and I threw together some chicken in a Thai coconut and lime sauce and we joined the group. The night was full of LOTS of good food including the interesting orange rimmed scallops, many a sailing yarn, and much laughter, another example that even in the worst weather cruising is really about the entire wonderful experience.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Journal Entry – February 4, 2007 – Off and Fishing

Author: Pam

Getting out of bed and actually walking wasn’t as bad as I had envisioned this morning after the marathon uphill hike yesterday. My feet and ankles hurt so bad, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to walk three steps today. After breakfast the guys decided it would be a good morning to head out fishing. All four of them (Scott, Bill, Jeff and Roger) piled in two dinghies with fishing rods and bait and headed out for Scott’s first real dinghy fishing trip. He has been gathering information and input on Starship’s fishing gear for the past week, with anticipation of this trip and his chance to finally catch some fish. He is determined Starship will have a better score than Tournesol.

While they were gone I puttered around on the boat, tidying and cleaning. I was thinking about the comment a friend made about our prior journal entries and how I always seem to have something to say about cleaning and Scott’s entries usually include food. Well, I decided that probably won’t change, especially since Starship feels ten times bigger when it comes to cleaning her inside and out. Around 11:30 Jane called over the VHF radio and invited the ladies to shore for a post hike walk to stretch out those tired muscles. She came by in her dinghy and she and Yvonne and I headed to shore. Raewin passed, she had hurt her foot running across the boat when they arrived. We kept our walk to an hour and on the mostly flat surface of the road, a welcome sight after yesterday’s mountain goat trek.

When we returned from shore the guys were tied up to Starship, sitting in the dinghies and watching Bill and Roger intently as they cleaned their catch. Scott did catch a couple of snapper, but they were all under the limit, so he threw them back. No fish for Starship for lunch.

After lunch Scott was keen to head out again in our dinghy, he was sure there was at least one snapper in Port Fitzroy with his name on it. I agreed to go, but only as morale support. I could hardly stand the smell of the bait and I was not about to touch it, but I was supportive of any that would not be going back into the refrigerator. Off we went and anchored the dinghy beside the little island near where Starship is anchored. I spent my time keeping us off of the shore with the oars and watching Scott cut up bait in our brand new dinghy, that made me squirm worse than the idea of touching it. Scott spent his time feeding the fish, I am sure they thought they had died and gone to heaven as they stole all of his bait. He did catch four fish, he even caught two at one time, but again they were all under the limit. So, the first day of fishing leaves the score at Starship 0, Fish 1.

Tonight was Windsong’s last night and possibly Wings n Strings too, the weather is suppose to turn tomorrow, so they may leave a day early. The evening was spent on Wings n Strings learning how to play the domino games Mexican Train and Chicken Foot. It was lively and I dare say quite competitive. Jeff won the Mexican Train game, but there was much suspicion at the end when three dominos were found between the cushions next to him. It was a classic cruiser day and it ended with hanging out in the cockpit of Starship under a huge, bright full moon, life couldn’t be more perfect.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Journal Entry – February 3, 2007 – The Dam Hike!

Author: Scott

After our hike from hell on Bora Bora, Pam said she was done with mountain climbing. Time must heal all wounds because today found us balancing across streams, pulling ourselves up steep inclines on our hands and knees, and most challenging of all descending down steep terrain while getting the oh so attractive “brown butt” look. When we woke to our second day on the Barrier we got a radio call from Bill on Windsong asking if we would like to go for a three hour hike up to the Kauri Dam. Apparently the Kauri Dam was used early in the 20th century as a way to bring massive Kauri logs from atop the mountains to the sea. The loggers would pull the logs to the dam with horses and when a sufficient quantity of logs was attained the dam would be released and the logs and water would flood down the mountain tearing trees, rocks, and anything else in the path down to the bay.

The hike or tramp (in Kiwi) was along the Kaiaraara Track and the map said the round trip would take us approximately three hours. Sounded like a great way to see the island to Pam and I, so we quickly agreed to join in the fun. We packed our snacks, water, first aid kit and other tramping gear and headed to shore in the dinghies. We pulled the dinghies up on a grassy embankment just as the rain started to pitty patter on us. The gentle sprinkle turned to real rain as we made our way over to the information station and we huddled under the porch for protection. When the rain returned to a taunting sprinkle we set out to find that dam. At first we were lured into believing the hike would be on well groomed roads and trails as we wound our way to the base of the mountain that would make up the remainder of the hike. The first real obstacle we encountered were various streams that needed to be crossed by jumping across paths of dry stones. With Pam and I both challenged with depth perception someone was finishing the hike with soggy socks. As the forest grew denser (apparently there are no vegetation eating possums on Great Barrier) the hill grew steeper it soon became clear that our gentle hike was to be an all out, crawl on all fours, slip slide and grapple, potential ankle twister! Our vow to avoid mountain climbing that was made in Bora Bora was now shattered on this dam hike.

For lunch we found a beautiful spot next to a waterfall and licked our wounds, and massaged our joints under a beautiful summer sky. We shared our various snacks and carefully savored our supply of fresh water. Another forty-five minutes brought us to the Kauri Dam and although interesting in an engineering sort of way it was not the spectacular vista we were rewarded with on Bora Bora after half a day of conquering the mountain. We all turned away slightly more informed on the mechanics of logging dams, trigger points, and mathematical stress calculations. Now our task was to retrace our path back down the hill without going for a tummy toboggan minus the slippery snow. We grabbed, groped, slipped, and slid our way back home. Now, you may recall that I mentioned earlier that the hike was estimated on the map to take approximately three hours, well that must be for eighteen year old Olympic marathon athletes, who have not yet been busted for stamina boosting steroids. There is no way that we were on a three hour hike unless the estimated hiking time is calculated using some complex Kiwi time space worm hole paradigm that we were intellectually incapable of working out for ourselves.

Upon our return to earth we found that someone had moved the coastline because somehow the edge of the water had miraculously moved out to sea about a quarter of a mile leaving a muddy bog for us to cross in order to return to our boats. The slog across the muddy sand gave Pam and I a chance to test out our new dinghy wheels and overall they did the trick without sinking into the slime.

We spent the evening recovering from the ordeal over on Windsong. We shared drinks, snacks, and company and as the sun was setting our friends Jeff and Raewin arrived on their boat Aspect of Arran. Jeff and Raewin joined us and they were deluged with stories of the Dam hike.

Journal Entry – February 2, 2007 – Ah, Sailing Again!

Author: Scott

I’m sitting at the table in the salon with the wind raging outside as Starship drunkenly wallows on her anchor chain. We are anchored out at Port Fitzroy, one of many “protected” anchorages at Great Barrier Island (the fourth largest island making up New Zealand). Last night we had to sleep on separate ends of Starship to better monitor our anchor situation. I was tucked up in the forepeak in a nest of blankets listening to every moan, groan, and lurch of the anchor chain. Each vessel has her own song made up of the many sounds produced by the outside environment, her many systems, and the unexpected. Being aboard Starship, Pam and I have tuned into a new radio station and we are not yet familiar with the music made by our new Starship. Last night we had horses running in the mast, anchor chain gnawing away on the bow, wind singing in the shrouds, and of course the many mystery noises that we have not yet identified. It was a night of unease and yet we are loving it. We are back at it, as they would say here in Kiwiland.

On Thursday February 1st we threw off the dock lines and continued our adventure, this time aboard Starship. In the early evening with plenty of daylight we motored up the thirteen mile river closely ghosting Bill and Yvonne’s yacht Windsong. Somehow the mood made the normally muddy river glisten as I sat on the bow seat guiding Pam our pilot, while we chatted on our new headset radios. We wound our way down the river to Urquhart’s Bay, an anchorage just inside the Whangarei Heads, with the open sea waiting for us just outside the bay. Thursday night was our first night on anchor in over a year and it felt great. So much work has gone into the refit of our boat and the continuation of our voyage; work in the states, endless boat work, communication with contractors, severing the ties with our family and friends again, and as we sat on the hook on a beautiful full moonlit night the past year’s efforts evaporated into the peace that comes rarely when you are completely content with your situation in life, and with the thrill and anticipation of the continuing journey.

This trip is only the first of our New Zealand shakedowns but we are in action again and it feels wonderful!

Friday morning we set out on a forty mile trip to Great Barrier Island. In theory Starship was ready, but this trip would be our first opportunity to find the bugs before attempting a blue water passage. The engine was humming away (a welcome sound) as we rounded the point of the Whangarei Heads and heading out into the sea. Starship clung to the edge of the shipping channel and wouldn’t you know it, there was a container ship steaming in to the port of Whangarei. The ship wasn’t a threat to us but she was a sobering reminder of the many threats that lurk at sea.

The first challenge we encountered came when we went to raise our mainsail for the first time. Normally when we would raise the main on Tournesol, Pam would steer into the wind and as the boat turned to windward I would often cheat the main part way up the mast. This maneuver would allow me to shorten the distance the sail would need to travel up the mast before there was significant load on the sail, allowing me to finish the job quickly when we came fully into the wind. No can do with Starship! Starship has a full battened main (for our armchair sailing readers, this is a sail with battens or flexible strips in the sail that provide a more ridged sail and shape). As I cheated up the sail the first batten got caught in the lower shroud (the lower wire holding up the mast) and it was stuck real good. Fifteen minutes later and a climb up the mast to the spreaders, the problem was solved, and we were underway again.

On the trip over to Great Barrier Island we were traveling in a convoy of three boats. Windsong quickly took the lead, followed by our friends Jane and Rodger on Wings and Strings who we met at the anchorage on Thursday night. We took up our favorite position in the rear. As we sailed we refined many things. The fairleads were not adjusted properly and after making some changes we picked up at least 1.5 knots. Our friends saw dolphins that we unfortunately could not see. We prepared and ate our first meal at sea in over a year (grilled cheese). Overall, we had a brisk sail with spot on waypoints to follow with the GPS. We arrived at Great Barrier Island at 1630. The entrance to Port Fitzroy anchorage is through what looks like a pin hole size pass on the GPS, but in reality there was plenty of room, however as you approach you have to trust that there is in fact a channel to pass through. I felt like I had to say “Open Sesame” to have a rock wall secretly slide away and provide us entrance. We wound our way through two more turns and laying ahead of us was a small island with a handful of yachts peacefully anchored between the shore and the small island. Bill from Windsong came out to greet us (and guide us) into the anchorage. We thoughtfully picked our spot and I let the anchor fall, unfortunately it only dropped about five feet and then came to an abrupt halt. Here we were in our boat, now boldly lettered with on the side and we could not release our anchor. Apparently our pile of anchor chain had shifted after falling into the chain locker and it required me to pull free the chain from below as we could not get any purchase on the chain from above. In total, we had to make three attempts and one pass outside the anchorage before Starship was safely moored in her new home on Great Barrier Island. I felt like screaming “she’s a new boat and that is why we could not anchor the first time”. Oh the challenges of sailing a new boat!

Our first night at the Barrier was under a full moon with a gentle breeze blowing across the bay.