Monday, June 4, 2012

New Zealand, part 1 (2011)

We arrived in Opua in the Bay of Islands around noon on November 14th.  With cyclone season approaching, cruising boats were flooding in from the tropics, and the Island Cruising Association had events planned for cruisers.  Much of our first week was spent attending seminars and social events, which was a great way to catch up with friends and also get information about New Zealand.

Then it was back to work, cleaning the boat, doing laundry and working on a few projects before heading back to the US for five weeks.  We installed a solar regulator to make sure our batteries didn't get damaged from overcharging while we were gone, and we also did some work on the bilge pumps.  Over the last couple months, the float switch on our primary bilge pump had been turning on occasionally, even with no water in the bilge.  We didn’t want it pumping dry while we were gone, so Andrew repaired it and installed a new float switch on our back up bilge pump as an added layer of protection.

After we finished our projects, we made sure Saviah was secure on the breakwall and then hopped on a bus to Auckland.  We spent the evening of November 30th in Auckland before catching our flight out the following day.  It was a 13 hour flight from Auckland to LA, and then another three to Houston, but it was exciting to be home.  It was nice to have a vacation from our vacation and especially nice to see our family again.

The first week we spent with Andrew’s dad (Bill), stepmom (Nancy) and sisters (Dana and Abbie).  The weather was warm and dry, and we did some running to get back into shape again.  Our friend Eric from Seattle was in Houston for a business trip, and we enjoyed catching up with him as well.
Our families are spread out over Texas and New Mexico, so after a week in the Houston area, we rented a car and drove to west Texas to see Di’s family.  The first night we spent in Lubbock with her brother and his wife, Ben and Amanda.  Di’s sister Val also flew in from Michigan to see us.  The next day we all drove to Dalhart to spend a week with Di's parents, Jack and Terry, and grandmother, Gammo.  It snowed the day after we arrived - talk about a shock after spending six months in the tropics!
The next stop was Las Cruces, New Mexico.  This is home to Andrew's mom, Dorothy, and Andrew's sister and her husband, Rachel and Joel.  Andrew's brother, Adam, flew in the night we arrived.  We had a nice stay in New Mexico and after about a week headed back to Houston, with quick stops in Lubbock to see Andrew's aunt and uncle, Dayle and Jerry and then on to Austin to stay overnight with Andrew's brother and his wife, Adam and Dee.  Then we were back in Houston a few days before Christmas.

We spent another week and a half there to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s with Andrew’s family.  It definitely felt more like the holidays being around family and friends.  We enjoyed the good food and all of the amenities that we have really come to appreciate after living on a boat for the last 18 months.   
While we were there we also spent a few days ordering parts for future boat projects, which are much cheaper in the US.  Andrew spent some time helping his dad build a fence, while Di spent time catching up on her required hours of continuing professional education for her CPA license.  After five weeks back in the states, we said our goodbyes and headed back to New Zealand.

Back in New Zealand after the holidays, we started our first round of upgrades on Saviah.  After sailing nearly 10,000 miles, there were quite a few changes that we wanted to make so the boat is safer, easier to sail and more comfortable.  To that end, we decided to relead almost all of our running rigging.  We only had one line (our main sheet) leading to the cockpit before, so we decided to add deck organizers and rope clutches and move a mast mounted winch back to the cockpit as well.  This way we were able to get six lines back to the cockpit, including the main halyard, boom vang, topping lift and both reef lines.  The reef lines were the biggest improvement, as reefing before when we were heeled hard over often meant winching in the halyard and the reef lines from a precarious position at the mast. 
Then we shifted focus to the headsails, and began the process of adding two roller furlers.  We replaced both the forestay and the staysail stay, and installed the furlers rather easily with the help of Jerry on Challenger and a former cruiser who now lives in New Zealand, Bob Fassio.  Then we tackled the more difficult part of the project – converting our headsails from hank-on to furling.  The first step was to remove all the old hanks and grommetts, and then we borrowed a sewing maching and sewed on the luff tape.  This would have been no big deal in a sail loft, but feeding our sails through the sewing machine in our tiny cabin turned out to be difficult task.  In all, we converted four sails from hank-on to furling.

working on upgrades
We spent almost a month in Opua working on projects.  We were thinking it would only take a couple of weeks, but as usual, boat projects are much harder than expected and take twice as long as it seems like they should.  For example, we were running low on propane and needed to fill both of our tanks.  We brought them to the propane filling station, but learned that our fiberglass tanks are not an approved type of tank in New Zealand and they won’t fill them.  Our vented propane box has a narrow opening in the top so a standard size steel tank won’t fit.  Instead, we had to buy a new tank and drain it into our fiberglass tank using a gravity feed process.  Then back into town to refill it and drain it into our other one.  Fortunately we were able to sell the steel tank to another cruiser when we were done, so it didn’t cost us much extra, but the amount of time it takes to do such a simple task can be a little annoying sometimes. 
A decision weighing on our minds during this time was where we would go from New Zealand.  With Adam visiting us in February, we had an opportunity to have charts for the next leg shipped to him so he could bring them to us.  So, we spent a fair bit of time mapping out the various options, studying the related weather patterns, and looking at our budget.  We basically looked at three options:  continuing west through the southern Indian Ocean and around South Africa, continuing west through the northern Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and Mediterranean, or working our way back through the Pacific.  The Red Sea route was ruled out quickly due to the piracy issues. 

We decided that rather than sailing some hard miles against the prevailing winds of the Pacific, we would continue westward on the route around South Africa.  The downside of this route means we have to sail 10,000 miles from May to November, translating into lots of sailing and less time to explore different places.  However, a big upside is continuing to travel with the prevailing winds.  Our current plan is to leave New Zealand in May and arrive in South Africa by November, with stops in Vanuatu, Australia (Darwin), Indonesia (Bali) and Mauritius along with a few other small islands in between.  We will then continue on to Brazil in February or March 2013 if all goes as planned. 
After we decided on a route, we went online and ordered paper and electronic charts and had them shipped to Adam.  By ordering them from Bellingham Chart Printers in the US, we were able to get cheap prints of charts that saved us a whole lot of money. 

After we finished our route planning and our first round of upgrades, we stowed the tools and got the boat ready to head down the coast.  The only trip Saviah would take in New Zealand was 500 miles down the coast to the Hawke’s Bay area to visit our friends Matt and April.  This would also be a good opportunity to test our new gear.