Where are we

Tuesday 30 May 2023

Just left Whangarei Harbour

Eleven boats have left Marsden Cove today on their way to Tonga, Fiji, New Caledonia or Vanuatu. 

Those of us going to Tonga or Fiji will be making a stop in Minerva Reefs about 800 nautical miles from the mouth of the harbour. In a weeks time there might well be a squally system passing through bring winds from completely the wrong direction. Minerva Reefs is a good place to wait it out before carrying on in our case to Fiji. It should take us about 6 days to get Minerva Reefs.

 There’s no wind at the moment but we are ready for when it comes.  Light winds are expected in the coming days.

The pink lines on the chart plotter show every trip we’ve made in and out of the harbour.

Once we passed Whangarei Heads and out into open water, we texted Customs to let them know we were on our way.  When we left Opua last year a Customs launch came out to the Bay of Islands to keep track of all the boats leaving.  In Marsden Cove there was only Customs agent, Andrew so the onus was on us.

Andrew also checked us out of Opua last year.  It’s hard to not remember his charming Scottish brogue.

We are still using our HomeHub router and will continue to do so until we lose the signal.  We’ll then see if the Skylink router works as well.  If not, there is always the Iridium to fall back on.

You should also still be able to see our progress on the map at the tiptop of our blog.

We are still motoring up the coast at about 5 and a bit knots in about a two metre swell. It’s a little bouncy but over night the wind is due to pickup and the seas to reduce, so with any luck we will have some pleasant sailing.

Thank you for all your good wishes.

Nancy and Tim 

FYI we have just enough wind 8 knots or so for a close hauled sail in not quite the right direction. Tim says the wind will ‘come around’ over night and then we will will be. :)

Just received departure photo complements of Francis and Rob on Alia Vita.

Sunday 28 May 2023

It’s official. Departing tomorrow May 30.

Well, this is exciting. :)  The process has started for our departure from Fiji. Tim has booked our clearing out time with Andrew from the NZ Immigration office. It’s 1400 hours tomorrow and we need to be on our way within the hour. Tim also booked us into get our pre-departure duty-free fuel today at 1300.

We have been preparing from weeks now, but when you’ve drawn out the waiting period to month, food gets eaten and our needs and desires can change mostly depending on how much space we have in the freezer.

Many meals are frozen into one litre ice cream containers from Antigua where we ate a lot more ice cream than we do now. They stack and fit perfectly into our freezer.  The remaining free space is filled with bags of frozen vegetables, quite a lot of walnuts (they are hard to find fresh and, besides baked goods, a lot of vegetarian patties recipes use them) and various bits and pieces like little tablets of garlic and ginger purées. We aren’t allowed to bring fresh fruit and veg into Fiji and peeled and frozen are okay.

We’ll do a final laundry and general stowing and readying ourselves for the off tomorrow. 

We won’t be going off with a bang. It will more of a saunter away from the coast in light winds that are expected to gradually fill over night into very respectable way making winds.

We had a productive time up in Whangarei.  We booked into the marina for one night. Our plans to dinghy a mile up to the Marina dock didn’t seem as appealing with rain and cold southwesterly winds.   

Now for a very Antipodian experience, I introduce you to Possum Man.

I have walked by this shop many times, but it was only on this last trip from Countdown Supermarket back to the marina that I noticed the other advertisement.  It took a while to compute, now I can’t even think of Lone Star’s ‘Johnny Cash Stash’ without feeling queasy.

Shopping done and miserable weather passed, we headed back out anchor at McCleod Bay. Tim had planned to walk to Mount Aubury one last time, but opted to give the hull a final wipe with a scratchy pad. He would be very unhappy if he had to wonder for the whole passage if we might well be going a 1/2 knot faster if he had he cleaned the bottom. 

The next day the weather started to close in for the next big blow to come through.

Local swallows knew what was coming too as they chose to spend the night on the leeward side of Larus, protected from the worse of the wind and rain.

The day has over taken the blog and we’re just back in out berth after fuelling up Larus and filling the cans that are lashed on deck.

The laundry room is non-stop and I’d like to wash everything before we leave, so I’ll start early tomorrow morning.

Baking is done as is tonight’s dinner and the curry that will be our first dinner underway.

That is all for now and we’ll let you know when we actually on our way.

Nancy and Tim

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