Where are we

Sunday, 21 May 2023

Ho Hum, still in New Zealand

It is a bright, mild and sunny winter’s day down here and we’ve left the marina and are motor sailing up the river toward Whangarei. We’ve stopped at the halfway point for a couple of days as more rain is expected. We’ll then continue up to Whangarei where we’ll anchor in the river and dinghy ashore for shopping, river walks and swimming in the public pool.

The next batch of wet and windy weather isn’t expected for almost a week.  A LOW approaching that we will be going into a marina for.  As the LOW passes, the winds reduce and become southwesterly - perfect for heading north. 

The big HIGH over Australia (if it still looks as good in a week’s time) should carry on the favourable southwest winds that we would picked up from the back of the LOW as it moves across New Zealand.  We won’t know till much closer to the time.

The boats that left a week ago had a mixed bag of too little wind, too much wind, wind from the wrong direction, uncomfortable sea states and periods of rough conditions in Minerva Reef with strong winds. 

We had such a lovely passage to Fiji last year, we’d very much like to duplicate it and are willing to wait.

We are now anchored off Limestone Island, a nature reserve. It has some interesting ruins and great walks.  Tim is off walking now but I’m all walked out from yesterday. 

I like to exercise early. Tim likes to walk in the afternoon. Yesterday, I did both.

More later when we know more weather-wise.


Saturday, 13 May 2023

Likely departure for Fiji - Monday the 22nd of May

Blog started Monday, the 4th of May. 

We really do have quite a good forecast for the upcoming weekend, though you wouldn’t know it by our current weather. Since we arrived in Marsden Cove, Whangarei Harbour, for a brief stay we haven’t been left due to strong northeasterly winds, which will not quit. 

Last night our electronic barometer beeped to let us know that the air pressure had dropped fast enough that a gale was imminent.  This is quite a nice thing to hear when you’re paying marina fees.  The Bay of Islands has lots of protected anchorages but there is barely a handful down here.

 It’s been like living in a cloud. The mountains in the background are located behind at Urquhart’s Bay where we often anchor. 

Fiji is slightly to the northeast of New Zealand so we are looking for winds with some south and west in them.

All change! Today is Sunday, May 14. We are still in New Zealand and looking for the next weather window to Fiji, but at the moment we have sun and clear skies.

Our hoped for weather window became less and less desirable as the day approached and we decided to wait another week for the next one. There is a big Low Pressure that will make things nasty mid passage if you are in its path. One option is to get to Minerva Reef and wait it out. Minerva Reef a is huge reef south east of Fiji and south west of Tonga about 2/3s of the way to either. I’ve pinpointed it by the dot at the end of the wind speed indicator.  It will fit in a lot of boats, which is just as well as will need to.

To shelter from the Low, one would need to be in Minerva Reef by Thursday the latest. The bigger boats left last Thursday in strong winds and the very big seas that such winds kick up. They opted to suffer the big seas probably to be able to sail for a larger part of the passage. The smaller or more conservative boats left on Friday. They didn’t get battered about but are now motoring due to lack of wind and might well have to motor till they reach Minerva.

The Low that will affect Minerva Reef will also affect New Zealand. It’s a big old thing! We are currently at anchor but will get ourselves back into Marsden Cove Marina to wait it out.  There aren’t as many good anchorages in Whangarei Harbour as there are up in the Bay of Islands. 

We are now eyeing Monday the 22nd or Tuesday the 23rd.  The Low continues moving East and a nice big High Pressure is moving in after it.  The front of the High should have moderate to light winds with a day or two of motoring as the calm centre catches us up. 

With any luck, it will be exactly like last years passage which we enjoyed from start to just off Fiji when we became very impatient to arrive. It also gets more stressful - after days of nothing to run aground on suddenly there are islands, reefs, strong currents, fluky winds and the last 100 miles always takes longer than you think it should.

Right now we are anchored in Urquhart’s Bay. We dinghied ashore yesterday for a walk around the headland. The cows here now are a new group of handsome young steers enjoying the rich grazing while we tippy-toed around the cowpats and churned up muddy paths. Cows like the easy route as much as we do. 

Today we are heading up the harbour to Whangarei.  Jeremy and Susie on Joy or Shamrock are heading back to the UK and we’ll be seeing them this evening.

First in the ‘Items of Note’ department, we got a phone call from Bruno’s Girl via Starlink. It sounded like they were calling from a landline anywhere! Amazing!  

Our Iridium Satellite Phone has that awkward long distance delay, the Starlink connection had none of that. At sea, the Starlink costs $2 US per gigabyte.  Here in NZ our Starlink is $195 NZ a month for unlimited data.  We had been paying $55 NZ for unlimited data via a modem.  The only downside is the amount of power the Starlink uses.  It’s great when you are in a marina, but we at anchor or under sail we turn it off when not using it. I think the Starlink is going to ‘life at sea’ changing.

Second Item of Note - I finally finished a sewing project that I started pondering years ago when our first Fender Step perished due to sun damage. We use ours a lot as we climb into the dinghy from the side of the boat and it’s a big step without one. The step is expensive and what a waste to allow it to disintegrate in the sun. I couldn’t find any covers ready made on the internet.

The sun makes the surface tacky and the dirt from feet becomes part of the surface. Our old way to protect it is to use an old T-shirt with the ropes sticking out of the arm holes.  The last one, I stitched snuggly to the step but it only lasted one season before getting worn through.  

I tried to make a template for step but it’s such an awkward shape, I couldn’t get anywhere with it and gave up.  I hate the idea of buying good fabric that I’m likely ruin as I’m such a terrible seamstress. All the rules you have to follow and little scope for just winging it. It really isn’t me, but picking up likely pieces of fabric in colours that suit Larus from secondhand shops is.

I had picked up a square remnant of ‘linen’ coloured fabric, very like our sprayhood and cockpit cushions colour.  I didn’t want to doing any cutting till I was sure of what I was trying to achieve. By holding up the fabric to the step while thinking ‘how do I make this square thinner in the middle so that it lies flat against the step without scissors, and pleats came to mind. The pleats also triple up the amount of fabric protect the step and its stitched with UV resistant thread, which should extend its life.

And four months later, after many ‘two steps forward and one step back’ and even the odd ‘one step forward and two steps back’, we now have a very fancy fender step. We’re waiting till we get to the tropics where we will have clean bare feet before we try it in earnest. Tim has said during the making that we’re going to need a cover for the cover and I’m still pondering that. :)

Third Item of Note - We have been eating a lot more plant based meals and I am always on the hunt for new recipes of meat free meals. These are a few of our favourites. 

I make this falafel recipe regularly. It looks like a lot of work but it gets easier and I get faster each time I make it.  I don’t often have access to the fresh herbs the recipe calls for but use a similar amount of frozen chopped spinach. I shallow fry it in little patties now, though I used to deep fry it and it came out exactly like the falafel from the kebab shop. Sal on Capal Mara suggested that I stopped deep frying and shallow fry instead and I have. It takes longer to cook but is healthier and wastes less oil. I always make a double batch because once cooked they freeze so well.  If I don’t want to cook the falafel right away, I have found that you can refrigerate it for a couple of days, but leave out the baking powder and baking soda until just before cooking so that they are nice and light. You could probably freeze it as well though I haven’t tried.

We use the falafel in lots of different way - in a sandwich, on a salad, even as a canapé.  I once made tiny pita breads that once cut in half made a pita pocket just the right size for a bit lemony Lebanese coleslaw, two or 3 falafel halves, a slice of cucumber and a dollop of garlic yoghurt sauce.

Now in a full size pita we also have pickled hot peppers, pickled beets and hummus. They’ve gone from really quite nice to ‘best ever ’ said Philip from Bruno’s Girl.

The first ‘bean ball’ recipe we tried is one we have often. It is a recipe of many parts but includes a sauce recipe that is easy and wonderfully fresh tasting. The walnuts and sun dried tomatoes give the balls texture and tang.  I use whole wheat spaghetti. I’d always thought never ever ever would I, but we actually really like it and it’s very forgiving to cook.

This is a new recipe for us and I’ve only made it once.  I’ve tried a number of beanie burger recipes but they weren’t as firm as I’d hoped.  This one was much better though and I think with a little experimenting with cooking time and ingredients might solve that problem. Once again, this a recipe of many parts, but it made a wonderful burger, though by ‘burger’ I mean the whole experience of toasted sesame bun, mustard, sliced dill pickle, pickled beets, lettuce, garlic yoghurt, hummus and the burger in the middle of it all. The patty itself browned nicely and got firmer as it cooled. Maybe a second cooking…. ? We’ll see.

I have quite a lot of recipes that I’m very fond of and it feels mean not to share. :)

We’ll keep you updated with our eventual departure plans.

Nancy and Tim

Thursday, 20 April 2023

Looking forward to being Fiji bound.

On the whole, it’s been a cold wet NZ spring, followed by a cool wet summer and we are just easing into a cold wet winter. We’ve had a lot of wind to contend with as well, not even including Cyclone Gabrielle.  Today, we are anchored near Russell in the Bay of Islands sheltering from a strong Easterly that has been blowing for the past 3 days.

A pic of Tim and I outside the Christ Church, Russell over the Easter weekend. You will think I’m lying about all the rain we’ve been having, but there really has been more wet and windy weather than there has been sunshine and blue skies.

This has nothing do with NZ but everything to do with Easter, and I wanted to show off my sister Laura’s gorgeous homemade Babka - traditional Ukrainian Easter Bread.

I’ve been trying to come to grips with the effects El Niño and La Niña here in NZ and it’s in no way straight forward. I found this an interesting article - El Niño and La Niña.  And this is a RNZ.co.nz news report on what what influences La Niña has had over the last 3 years - Rare Triple-dip La Niña is over.

We have managed to do a little sailing, some boat work and quite a lot of socialising.  Many friends who left their boats back in 2020 to sit out the pandemic at home are back onboard and preparing to head north for Fiji too. 

We did some repairs on our two year old Coppercoat when we came out of the water for a week in Marsden Cove.

I still find it amusing to see Larus rise up out of the water, trundle up the ramp, across the road, around the bend and into the hard standing area.

I like this picture as it is of 3 boats all built during the 70’s. The hull shape with those pointy bows and swept back keels shows the close relationship. Larus is the little bow peeping out from behind the 50+ foot yacht in the foreground.

Home is where you leave your shoes at the door.

Two years ago we tried a new product called PropSpeed and we’re very pleased with it. It’s is a gel like layer applied to propeller, propeller shaft and ‘P’bracket that stoped any little critters trying to get a foothold - so no barnacles and no coral growth. 

The first time we used it we used a professional do all the prep and application, but this time we did it ourselves.  We use a hard rubber grinding disk first to removed all the old product and any barnacles and coral. 

Applying the PropSpeed is a bit of a dance even for two people so there are no photos.  We watched the application video on YouTube several times in preparation. There are strict times between processes and coats and we were unsure if we were up to it. First you chemically etch and degrease the prop. Next you paint on the yellow base coat and lastly the glossy clear topcoat that makes a gel-like coating. We were pleasantly surprised that once dry it looked just as it was supposed to.

No matter how careful you prepare the hull any dips and bumps can lead to a bit of the copper popping off. We were lucky to have some days of fine weather to sort it out.

Our rudder is another of our problem areas for keeping critters from growing. It’s always full of water, is a little leaky and the Coppercoat just will not stick properly. 

A closeup of the rudder before patching. I think there is something quite beautiful about the colour of fresh copper with the older green copper and the glossy kinda creepy reaction from a tiny dribble of seawater. Colour and texture-wise, it reminds me of the glaze on a piece of Mom’s Raku pottery.

As does this - a copper mine on Kawau Island that we visited with Bruno’s Girl during a spell of fine weather after Cyclone Gabrielle’s visit.

A coppery cave.

It really was a glorious day.  The chimney from the mine looks very fine against the sky and we look very small standing at its base.

We’ve made a couple purchases of note in the 6 months since we arrived.

We now have a new dinghy. Though our previous dinghy was only about 5 years old, its seams were glued and in Fiji we had a lot of trouble with slow leaks caused but the glue failing and seams opening up. 

Welded seams are the solution to this and we were quite impressed by an NZ designed catamaran type dinghy designed by True kit.nz. It is very popular here. We kept seeing them around and got to talk to a lot of owners.  All who rave about it. It is taking a little getting used to. It feels and handles a little differently to a regular dinghy, but it is lighter, gets on the plane quicker and has firmest, most non-slip floor we have ever run across.

We did have a scare yesterday when it seemed to have developed a slow leak.  Tim is very experienced at finding and patching slow leaks, but that was not the point.  It was our new dinghy!!!!! Waaaahh!!!!!

Once it was back onboard and Tim had a good look, he was much relieved to find very pleased that one of the air valves was a little loose.  All he had to do was get the valve spanner from in the handy dandy Truekit repair kit and tighten it up. 

Rather topically, we are the curious owners of one of these….

…. a Starlink Satellite Internet receiver. 

Amongst the cruising community there is a huge amount of interest. Being able to get high speed internet hundreds of miles from land is pretty exciting. The monthly charges are pretty steep, though you can stop and start at anytime, but the receiver itself was ridiculously inexpensive - $199 NZ - and that made it completely irresistible to almost everyone we know.

It worked in Whangarei Harbour and it is working out here at anchor. This bodes well, but we will continue using our Iridium Satellite phone on long passages as well.

Topically, just before heading up here to the Bay of Islands we anchored in Urquhart’s Bay for an early start north. We had dinner on Bruno’s Girl with Philip and Claudia. During dinner someone mentioned seeing satellites in the sky at night.  I said I’d never seen one, so Philip took me out on deck and after just a minute or so I could see a tiny light moving slowly past the stars and planets. Very pleased we went back below. Philip also mentioned a trail of lights across the sky that they had seen and on investigation discovered that it was a group of Starlink satellites being launched.  Very interesting ,but then dinner was served and I forgot all about it.

As we were getting ready to head back to Larus, I was the first on deck. I looked up and saw this.

This is not our photo but this is what I saw, a line of bright dots of light moving up into the sky. Honestly, I blinked, looked away, looked back and it was still there. The rest came up on deck and it was exactly what Philip had been talking about just minutes before.  We watched them move across the sky, so far away that they were being lit by the sun that had set for us hours ago.

Back on Larus, I did a search and found this - SpaceX launches 56 Starlink Satellites. As excited as I am dismayed at the liberties being taken with the skies above us. It’s hard to sort out the good from the bad when it comes to progress.

Last but not least, I was able to get the new omicron specific booster on the first of April. The post-jab waiting area has an art gallery.

  I particularly taken with Jasper’s artwork. 

: D

That’s all for now but we will post again as things start happening. 

Nancy and Tim

Monday, 13 February 2023

Gabrielle moves South East

Just another 12 hours or so of wind and rain for us up here in the Upper North of Northland. We have been safe and well for the duration of the storm.

If you see a flooded BP station in any news videos, that gas/petrol station is just a short walk down river from Town Basin Marina where we are spending the strong weather. It is known to be vulnerable even in less extreme weather. Ditto the riverside walkway.

Whangarei Flooding

This was High water yesterday.  Water rises as the tide comes in, and recedes as it good out. Inland areas that have flooded won’t be so fortunate.

The worst of the rain is over for us and the wind will die down in another 12 hours or so. Southern and southeastern areas of the North Island with have continuing wind and rain until Garbrielle moves farther offshore.

Often these storms, which form in the Coral Sea off Brisbane, Australia, particularly in an La Niña year pass New Zealand with little affect.  We still have a big High pressure off to the southeast which is to blame for blocking the storm from heading east and passing over the top of New Zealand. Instead, it was direct south and it will affect southern and eastern areas for some time yet.

There is still a lot of flooding and power outages in Northland but we do have sunny days ahead that will help the situation enormously.

Friday, 10 February 2023

Good grief! It has been a while.

 Hello!  All is well here in Whangārei where we are in tucked into the best berth Town Basin Marina.

We will be seen worldwide as the boat in the foreground of people’s photos of 
the Hunderwasser Art Galley and Cultural Centre.

Not only are we as close as one could possibly get to the the marina toilet block, woohoo, it’s also in a very good position should you be expecting a big blow. 

And we are waiting for a big blow thanks to Cyclone Gabrielle, now lurking in the Coral Sea off the West Coast of Australia.  It looks like it will be passing fairly close to the east coast of the Upper North of the North Island. It had been forecast as a direct hit to the Upper Northland, but every day the track seems to be moving further to the East, offshore of our location.  A big High Pressure to the southeast of New Zealand had been keeping Gabrielle tracking toward south but as it moves further southeast so does Gabrielle.

It is a big system though and will bring lots rain and strong winds to much of the North Island.  According to the last forecast we are expecting periods of wind speeds between 20 to 30 knots with the potential for gusts up to 50 knots.  Days ago the forecast was suggested gusts up to 70 knots so things are definitely going in the right direction.

We don’t really expect anything like that where we are. We are the red arrow near the top left of the screenshot. 

Most of the concern about this storm is for Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula. These areas have taken a beating in the last few weeks and we are expecting a lot of rain. 

Having said all this, there are still several days before the system will reach us and the weather models will become more accurate as it approaches.

While we wait, we aren’t taking anything for granted and are erring in the side of caution.  I’ve been found some useful sites regarding cyclone preparedness. This was my favourite - 18 Steps to Prepare for this Cyclone Season. We won’t have anything like cyclone force winds but it’s good practice and makes you better prepared to respond to a really big blow.

Today and for the first half of tomorrow (Saturday) we are having hot dry weather. Which is just as well as we can expect varying amounts of wind and rain until Tuesday or Wednesday. 

The three day forecasts are quite accurate but anything after that is subject to change. Right now the system is heading southeast, which is the right direction. 

I’m posting this now just so as not to worry anyone if it starts to appear in news cycles. 

We are safe, well and settling in for a wet and blustery few days when I’ll have lots of time to gather up the bits and pieces since January and write them up.  There were some lovely moments despite the unseasonably and unrelenting wintery summer. 

Lots of love 

Nancy and Tim

Tuesday, 13 December 2022

Too wet, too dry, too hot, too cold….what is climate change?

Settling into NZ cruising isn’t going quite as one would hope.

When we left Fiji Tim had the beginnings of a nasty cold. He coughed his way to NZ, but a Covid test mid-passage assured us that it was just a cold, which improved as we went along.

I’ve been pondering where the heck he could have picked it up.

Living on a boat, usually at anchor, means we spend little time mingling with the general public and when we do most of it is in the open air. The chance of catching anything is quite slim and there is little Covid around to catch anyway.  I remembered eventually our last provisioning trip from Denarau Marina to the shopping in Nadi was on the Saturday before we departed. 

The bus trip was, as usual, a handful of people on a bus with large windows, wide open, Nadi, however, was heaving. There was a fun fair being erected in the open space by the market, there were lots of people on the street but the open air market wasn’t any busier than normal. Some far so good.

With market and supermarket shopping complete, Tim suggested a taxi back, but the bus is so easy. It’s only $1.50 each, there was one waiting for us, and we climbed on board. Added bonus, the bus was nearly empty, however, by the time of departure, it had filled considerably. Subsequent stops on the way out of town filled it to standing room only and we were squeezed together like sardines. At this point, a woman in the back of the bus started sneezing explosively and repeatedly. She then snuffled wetly for the rest of the journey.  

The bus was full enough that there was no way to get to our face masks in my backpack, so we pointed our noses to the open window and hoped our Covid top ups would do their job.  

Fast forward to NZ. Arriving after a passage, once you get through the excitement of clearing Immigration and, most particularly, BioSecurity, you can finally relax. Anchored in our favourite spot near Opua, I lay down for an after lunch nap and woke up 5 hours later with a scratchy throat, headache and tickly cough. 

My Covid test was negative too, though as Tim hadn’t had Covid it would have had be by via immaculate infection.

Two weeks later, Tim still has the occasional cough and mine still wakes me in the night, but we’re much improved and I’m finally feel good enough to whinge about it. 

We arrived on the first of December. An auspicious day as New Zealanders consider it to be the first day of summer.

Winter 2022 has been a rough one for NZers. Unseasonal spring time Lows have been barrelling across the country causing wind and rain and, I assume, keeping the tropical highs from bringing the ‘normal’ New Zealand summer at bay.

In the two weeks we’ve been here, we’ve probably only had 3 days of ‘summer’. Even the Pōhutukawa: The New Zealand Christmas tree is not yet in full bloom. 

For my part, I’m actually really enjoying not sweating all the time. It’s so nice to wear a cuddly fleece and sleep under a duvet.

Today, we had planned to head out to anchor in Parua Bay. We’ve done what we needed to do in the marina - repaired the leak in the water tank and visited with Zoe and Bill on Into The Blue - and had no further reason to stay. It was lovely yesterday when we decided this; today we are back into a proper NZ winter day with uncomfortably cold winds and rain. Another day in the marina is a very good idea.

I’ve done some research on the mystery or the mess on our deck mid-passage.

These are the photos I took. It might not look like much but click on the photo to get a close up.

First sight, ‘What the heck is that?’

Second sight, ‘WHAT the heck IS that???!!!’

Well, from a website I can no longer locate…
‘When a whale let its breath it can travel at incredible speeds but it also reaches up 30 feet in the air, creating a cloud of mist or spray that almost every person on the ocean is looking for.


Now when these whales let out these mighty blows they aren’t releasing water from their blowhole they are letting out air, because their breath is so powerful it causes the water around its hole to create a cloud of mist. Well that mist isn’t just water it actually contains mucus and oils, it’s almost like the whale has a cold and is blowing its nose, gross…. Those whale blows can also be very stinky!
And in case you are still interested, How to tell a whale by their blow.  I’m guessing that a sperm whale passed close to us in the night, and gave a mighty ‘blow’ to the right, as suggested by the spatter pattern.

Back in Fiji, Thant Zin catches his own weight in Trevalli. Thank you, Colin, for the amazing photo.

If you are still shopping for holiday gifts, a charitable donation on behalf of a family member or friend is always a much appreciated gift.  

One area in need of immediate assistance is the Horn of Africa, https://www.unocha.org/horn, but there are many out there to choose from both near and far.

Keep safe and well,

Nancy and Tim

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Arrived and cleared in

Yippee! Here we are in NZ, safe and sound. 

We arrived last night at about 2200. The customs process started this morning.  It was painless but quite thorough.  We had the same agent we had when we arrived in 2019. Once the procedure ps were completed we filled up with diesel. We used 300 litres to get here. That is eye watering. Normally we’d use that in about 6 months. It needed doing though as we would still be out there beating into a strong southwesterly and very very unhappy. Instead we are anchored in Opua, about to have a very nice looking steak and mushroom pie hot from the local shop, followed by as long a nap as we like.

It’s very nice to be back. :)