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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 canapĂ©.  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

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