Rain Delay…

Brief post…very short.

As of Monday AM the forecast in New Zealand was for rain for the next four to five days.  Which means the yard would be able to do little work, and we’d be sitting on the hard over the weekend and into next week.

We decided to wait for a week, so we’ll haul next Monday instead and hope to get back in before the weekend.

In the meantime…the freezer stopped working!

And of course we let all the food run down in anticipation of the lack of refrigeration…

On the plus side, a friend has offered us the use of their car for a bit which is fantastic!

Posted in On the Hard, projects | 3 Comments

Hard Times in New Zealand

The day I have dreaded for weeks has almost arrived.  Tomorrow at 1:00 in the afternoon we’re pulling Evenstar for a week and putting her on stands on the hard. Hopefully no more than a week.

We’re doing this for a few reasons, but mostly because we are getting the bottom re-painted and you can’t do that in the water. But we’re also replacing the chain, as the brand new chain we bought in 2012 is inexplicably rusting out and metal is coming off it in chunks.

What I am really dreading, though, is the time on the hard.

The Bad News on the Car

Via our Facebook page a couple of weeks ago we told people about our car being stolen. It was parked near the marina in Opua, New Zealand. We’d left Opua for a while and were anchored a few miles down the bay in Russell. I got a call from the Opua Cruising Club that the police were looking for me about my car.  Uh-oh.

How the Kawakawa police found our car

How the Kawakawa police found our car

As it turns out, someone had stolen our mini van. Then used it to break into a Honda dealership and steal a motor bike, which they jammed into the back of our car for the getaway. Somewhere out on a gravel road then drove our car off the road, and into a ditch while hitting a tree.

New Zealand is lovely, but it’s not an easy place to get around with if you don’t have a car. We were deciding what to do with the car anyway when we went South, as cruising in a boat and a car is a bit of a nuisance. We’d figured to sell the car at some point, and had just put new tires on it. Now the problem is settled for us for the most part, since it looks like the cost to put the car on the road is unlikely to be recouped if we sold it later. We can rent a car when we need to, later.

Which brings us back to hauling the boat.

Living on the Hard

The last time we hauled the boat here in NZ it was on the hard for almost two months as various projects were done.  We had a car, and we rented a house out in a town called Kaikohe. We took the time to do some car touring and camping, and put a lot of Kilometers on the car driving from Kaikohe to the boat in Opua.

This time, we hopefully will be out of the water no more than four nights. We are planning to stay on the boat for this time.

The marina has bathrooms and showers, an outdoor grill and a kitchen with a microwave.

Our problem is on board we have so many systems that rely on being in the water. Our toilets bring in seawater to flush, though it can be done with fresh water there is no way to get them emptied or pumped out either. The refrigeration is cooled by seawater. So we have to turn off the fridge and freezer and empty them. We do not have any “Chilly Bins” (the Kiwi word for “cooler”). They are quite expensive to buy and impractical to own on a boat. All of the sinks drain straight out into the water. Now they will drain into the parking lot. The generator is sea water-cooled; we will have no way to charge batteries if we can’t plug in to shore.

And I’m in no way sure that we’ll be able to plug the boat in anywhere to keep the lights and computers on. Or the internet…

Practically speaking, we will have a difficult time washing things, cooking, eating, and storing perishable food on board. Using the restroom will involve climbing up and down a sixteen foot ladder.

In the Opua marina area there is one place that serves dinner – the Opua Cruising Club, and one Cafe that serves lunches and breakfast. Depending on the time of year, the club isn’t open every night. There is a little, rather expensive store with some basic supplies that also has some hot “savouries” (pies, sausage rolls, etc.) and pizzas some nights. Without a car that is all that is in reach.

To stay off the boat, we’d need to rent a car. To eat…we may have to rent a car.

But with the requirement to rent a car combined with the need to eat off the boat…all of a sudden adding another $100+ a night for a motel (on top of the $50/night to store the boat on land) and this exercise is costing $3-400 a day to happen. So we decided to tough it out and stay on the boat to save a few hundred bucks.

Since they spray the bottom paint on here, there is likely one or two days where we want to be nowhere near the boat, either. So we go touring or shopping.

It will be kind of like camping, if you couldn’t cook or wash and had to climb a small cliff to pee. They beds will still be comfy though.

To Do List

As always, there’s a to-do list. The first step is getting the boat ready to haul. We have to lower the wind generator and prepare the backstay for detachment so the travel-lift can pick up the boat. Take the engine off the dinghy so it can be pulled separately. Fill the water tanks and empty the heads.

The big project for the yard is painting the bottom, cleaning up the sides, and refreshing the Propspeed on the propeller. Propspeed is a coating designed to minimize growth on underwater “running gear” – propellers, shafts, and the like.

Our main project is the new anchor rode. This is a 100 meter (~330 foot) lenght of 12mm chain. Our old chain was sized in standard Engilsh sizing (7/16”) because we replaced it in the states. The original chain was 12mm, and we have secured the original hardware for this new link size.

100 meters of 12mm galvanized chain is heavy – 3.3 Kg per meter.  Over seven hundred pounds. And we have to get rid of a 300’ length of rusty 7/16” chain. The process is pretty simple.

  1. Lower the old anchor and chain to the ground with the windlass.
  2. Remove the old chain
  3. Service the Windlass (clean, lubricate, etc.)
  4. Replace the 7/16” “gypsy” with the original 12mm gypsy. This is the cylinder with grooves shaped to hold the specific chain link size.
  5. Hoist the end of the new chain about 16 feet in the air though the bow roller
  6. At 33’ into the chain, apply chain markers measuring 300’
  7. Slowly bring the chain up to the boat
  8. Stop every 25’ and apply chain markers. We use “Osculati Chain Rainbows” to mark the chain. They are the only chain markers we put on in 2012 that are mostly still there today. They were the only method that was still reliable after a year.
  9. Re-attach the anchor
  10. Figure out how to dispose of a 600 pound pile of rusty chain

Chain markers. The markers, and the chain, get grotty pretty fast but they don’t fall out.

Along with the chain, we have a few other things to do. We’ll be replacing all the sacrificial zincs, and cleaning off the dinghy bottom. And just doing spot checks on everything under the water to make sure it’s all good.

The chain choice involved a fair amount of research. In 2012 we went with what was regarded as the de facto standard for top quality anchor chain in the U.S. at the time. We were shocked when it started to rust a year later, and when chunks started falling off it. Being in New Zealand, a metric country, 7/16″ isn’t easy to come by. We’d had problems with our original 12mm gypsy in the states with the 7/16″ chain and had to replace it. We didn’t think we’d be buying new chain for at least another decade, so we dropped the old gypsy off at Marine Consignment of Wickford to sell.

And here is where they earn a HUGE shout-out. In the months leading up to our departure I was over at Marine Consignment of Wickford weekly dropping off carloads of stuff we wouldn’t use or didn’t want that was still worth something. Over the following years I’ve been in touch with them from time to time and they’ve sent us occasional checks for items sold. It’s how they work, they will hold stuff for years and track your credit, it’s better than some of the dodgy home goods consignment stores we dealt with that want to claim your stuff if they don’t sell it fast.

A couple of weeks ago I called them in a panic; a new 12mm gypsy looked like it would cost something like $900 or more. So I decided to check and see if they had sold my old gypsy. With one phone call and about five minutes, they were able to find the gypsy and tell me it was still available. And they owed me more money. I sent them a NZ address, and they mailed it out the next day along with a check for my sold items less the cost of shipping the gypsy. So it cost me about $48 to get my old gypsy back, and I ended up net positive since they sent me a nice check to boot. I can’t say enough good things about dealing with these folks. They have a wildly eclectic mix of old and useful boat stuff in their inventory and I’ve found a few things there I couldn’t get elsewhere too.

In the middle of this work, we also have to get passport pictures taken and apply for our visa extensions.

It’s going to be a busy week.

Posted in haulouts, heads, hell, liveaboard, maintenance, misery, New Zealand, projects | 3 Comments

The Prodigal Post – Getting Caught Up

My apologies for not posting for nearly two months. It’s been busy since coming back to New Zealand, and I’ve been wrapped up in some other things that have kept me from updating the blog. And, as usual, when we get someplace we stay for a long time, blog updates slow down. Why? Because we get in a routine, and you don’t want to hear me post “Go up, had breakfast, Danielle did school while B.J. wrote, made dinner, etc. etc.” every day when we haven’t done anything exceptional.

Visit Home from University / Holidays

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Decked out in Christmas lights

A few days after I got back from the U.S., Will was scheduled to arrive in New Zealand for the holidays. He only got two weeks though, so we determined to make the most of it. Our original plan was to get the boat to Auckland before he got in, but that got shot to pieces when I had to travel. It didn’t matter, we hadn’t seen him since July and were thrilled he was coming home.

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Ridiculous NZ Christmas Crackers!

As it turned out, we spent a pretty mellow family holiday together, and it was great. We took Will out to some places he’d missed, and went out into the Bay of Islands again for Christmas. We had a small amount of running around to do, but not too much. Christmas on the boat is a much more mellow affair. We’ve gotten away from the massive pile of presents Christmas morning. Part of that is our kids aren’t little any more – their toys tend to be smaller and much more expensive! And it’s tough to make a big pile under a two foot tree. But most of it is the scaling back we started doing when we moved on board in 2012; we just don’t do the same Christmas insanity that is so prevalent in the U.S. None of the countries we’ve visited around the holidays do it up quite like the U.S. does!

Will and Kathy continued what may become a Christmas tradition if we’re near someplace with a campground next year – they headed off on Boxing Day day to sail off in the Pudgy and spend the night camping on an island. Danielle isn’t an enthusiastic camper, and Will and I don’t fit in the Pudgy together, so camping by sailing dink has become a mother-son tradition. Danielle and I stayed on the boat, made snacks, and binge watched on movies we know Kathy would hate (vampire flicks and goofy slapstick).

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Campsite on Urupukapuka Island. Evenstar is across the boat, in the cove made by the two outcropping points of land in the upper right.

We also took some walks, played some games, took some expeditions and just spent timing enjoying feeling…complete…as a family again.

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A pair of dolphins Will and B.J. saw cavorting on our way to the snack bar on Urupekapeka for a beer.

We expected the New Year’s eve the weather to be lousy. A trough (low pressure pattern) came to move through, with high winds and heavy rains. Our initial plan to spend New Year’s off of Russell like we did last year didn’t seem like such a good idea. We were hoping to see all the boat lights and the fireworks again.

It was protected enough, but we had to get in the car on the 2nd and drive to Auckland to put Will on a plane, and we didn’t want to have to re-anchor the boat in the predicted thirty-five knots of wind and torrential downpours. Getting the four of us and his luggage to shore in the dinghy in those conditions would be enough of a challenge. So we exercised some discretion and came back to Opua. It was still a nice evening, we ate a nice dinner in the middle of the night, opened champagne and laughed a lot.

Two weeks are still too short, but we’ll have the whole summer break starting in May!

Other Excuses for Not Blogging Much

The primary reason my blogging output has dropped dramatically though isn’t visits from children, holidays, passages, or other things. It’s because I’ve done a lot of writing.

Some that have read this blog have suggested I should write a book about our travels. This is not that writing. It may happen, some day, it may not. There’s a lot of blogs-turned-books about cruising out there and I’m not sure the market needs another one enough to justify the time it takes. And writing a book takes a lot of time.

Instead, I’ve tried my hand at fiction. Since sometime starting last July I’ve written about 140,000 words of fiction, comprising two separate novels and starts on two others. Now, I’m focused on fixing and polishing the first one so I can try to sell it. And turning the second one into from a first draft into something more rich and coherent. This takes up a lot of time, and a lot of my spare time that I’d otherwise be blogging or pounding the keyboard on social media.

I won’t go into too much detail on these projects, as they may never go anywhere. But it’s something that, like probably half the people out there, I’ve always wanted to try. Everyone’s a writer, or so it seems. But actually finishing a story…that’s a lot of work. Even if it sucks, it’s a nice milestone.  So I am trying to write every day, in fact I usually AM writing every day – my target is 3,000 words per day. But I haven’t been writing blog posts.

If it seems that the writing will be meeting some commercial success some day, I’ll be screaming it from the mountaintops here. Mostly that will be links to an author website.  But I’m not going to turn this blog into a writer’s rumination page.

Going Forward

So outside of writing, visits from Will and the usual day-to-day tasks that’s most of what we’ve been up to in New Zealand.

We’ve got some projects coming up that I’ll talk about in another post: replacing our anchor rode, painting the bottom again, and some very gripping stories about the boat plumbing.

So sit tight, I’ll be back in no time with you favorite stories about rebuilding plumbing systems in exotic places!

Posted in dolphins, Family, Good Times, New Zealand | 2 Comments

Guest Blog – Sailing to the Channel Islands

Today we’ve got the first Guest Blog on Sail Evenstar. A few weeks back I was approached by Tom Ward, a marketing assistant at Marine Super Store in Portsmouth, England, about a guest post. Marine Super Store is a large chandlery with two stores in the UK and an online shop.

This isn’t something we make money off, but is does give us a chance to “cross-pollinate” our reader base with theirs, giving the blog more exposure to new readers which is something I’m always up for!  Yeah, there’s a link or two…helps my search results and theirs; they are a chandlery after all.  But you get to hear about some cruising grounds on the other side of the world from where we are…don’t mind the British spelling!

Sailing to the Channel Islands from Southern England

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https://pixabay.com/en/ship-boat-lake-garda-italy-sea-952292/

It cannot be denied that we are currently experiencing something of a mild winter and temperatures are more in line of what we see in early spring. Unfortunately for the majority of us our boats have long been winterised and stowed away; I am sure that more than a few of you have already had thoughts enter your mind about getting back out on the water during this surprisingly mild period.

That being said, we all love spending a bit of quality time with our friends and family over the Christmas period and enjoying the festivities. It also gives you a chance to review your collection of badly-sized sailing jackets that you received from members of your family. While I am sure that their efforts are fully appreciated, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it makes us yearn to get back out on the water and feel the wind in our faces.

With that in mind why not look to the future and start planning your next UK sailing holiday? Luckily for those of us who are based in the UK there are numerous beautiful sailing routes around the whole of the country. From the South coast of England we have easy access to the English Rivera, The Channel Islands and even France.

In order to whet your appetite in the build up to the spring, we have decided to compile our favourite list of sailing destinations that are reachable from the south coast of England and will be presenting to you in the coming months.

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The Channel Islands

Those for you, who like us, are lucky enough to live on the sunny south coast have easy access to so many beautiful sailing routes. From the navigational challenges of the Channel Islands, to the stunning beauty of the English Riviera, it is hard to claim that Britain does not provide us nautical lovers with plenty of happiness and avenues of exploration.

As we all know sailing to the Channel Islands can be something of a challenge due to the pilotage and navigation challenges that awaits us. This is especially the case if your boat can take the ground due to the fact that this allows numerous drying anchorages to be implemented.

Unless you have a relatively powerful vessel, then you are often required to wake up early in order to catch the tides. Due to the fact that the area is inundated with strong tidal streams, sailors are required to plan fairly conservative offsets in order to avoid being set down tide of your intended destination.

Dangers

Although relatively few dangers present themselves, this is something which needs careful consideration before setting sail. You can expect to encounter poor visibility around 10% of the time and relevant precautions need to be taken. You will find numerous small islands dotted and hazardous rocks often extend up to 5nm offshore. Luckily these are well marked and so any risk is kept to a minimum.

If you have GPS setup correctly then you should encounter very few problems and will enable you to approach most harbours in poor visibility. However cross tides can often change in the area and often require changes of around 20 to 30 degrees in order to keep you on track.

http://www.destination360.com/europe/uk/images/s/channel-islands.jpg

The Islands Themselves

If you have been before then you will be aware of just how beautiful the islands themselves are as well as the coastline. You are also not too far away from a variety of other French islands as well, which are just as, if not even more beautiful.

As you would expect, the most popular time to visit is during the summer months, with July and August being the busiest times. If you do decide to visit during this period then you will be rewarded with spending some time lazy on the beaches and enjoying the mix of French and English holidaymakers.

There are many marinas located along the coasts and they are more than prepared for coping with the busy yacht traffic. Or, if you prefer, you can anchor off the relatively quiet beaches due to the protective headlands.

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https://pixabay.com/en/bollard-pier-port-catwalk-sea-589043/

Upon Arrival

Due to the islands’ diversity, there are a wide range of experiences awaiting! Whether you are after something more than a little lively, then St Peter Port and St Helier certainly have more than enough life about them! Or, if you prefer, there are also the sleepy areas such as Sark and Herm.

There is plenty of free information available for visitors written in both English and French. While the islands are English, luckily the food is more French and you sample for exquisite seafood.

Another consideration that needs to be made is that the Channel Islands do not have VAT, and are therefore popular destinations for tourists picking up goods fairly cheaply. As the Channel Islands are British Crown dependencies, and therefore outside of the EU, and therefore outside of the EU VAT zone. However, just to ensure that you are even more confused, they are part of the EU Customs Union. You are therefore required to fill in the relevant UK Customs forms.

Please check back for our next Guest Blog, a closer look at the French territories near to the Channel Islands!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cruising, Guest Blogger, UK Sailing | Leave a comment

Catching up in New Zealand

Apologies to all for dropping off the face of the earth after our last post off the coast of New Zealand.

One thing I did not mention is that while we were en route to New Zealand I got word from the states that my ninety-seven year old grandfather had taken a turn for the worst and was hospitalized. By the time we reached New Zealand it was evident that I needed to get to the U.S., and quickly.We cleared into New Zealand on Thursday and spent the next few days scrambling to retrieve our car (and get it road ready…new inspections and registrations), and catching up on a few things that needed fixing before I left Kathy and Danielle alone on the boat. We weren’t able to secure a slip or a mooring before I left, so we had to make sure they were ready to stay at anchor.  On Sunday they drove me to Auckland to catch a flight to the states. I just returned a couple of days ago and seem to finally have my body clock back on antipodean time.

Blog updates were…not on my mind.

I did not make it in time to see my grandfather before he passed, but spent two weeks stateside with his funeral and helping my parents get things sorted with the funeral and after his passing.

Having a grandparent until you are almost fifty is something special. I was very, very lucky in that I was able to have adult relationships with all of my grandparents. My grandfather (on my mother’s side) was my last surviving grandparent, and my kids had the joy of getting to know him while growing up. He came to dinner at our house every week for years and was always around for holidays and other times.We visited him at the beach where he lived and saw a lot of him. One of the hardest parts of the decision to go cruising was knowing that we’d not have the regular contact with my grandfather that we all loved. Our kids had a special relationship with him, and it was tough with all of us spread over the globe.

Until a few weeks before he passed he still lived in his own house, on his own with only minimal help. He’d relocated to Virginia, to an assisted living facility near my parents, but only lived there a few weeks before his condition started to slip. Up to the end of his life he did it his way, strong and fiercely independent. He was a special man that played a large role in all of our lives, and will be sorely missed.

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One of my favorite pictures of my grandfather with Will and Danielle.

The Rest of the Trip

If you’ve been waiting for three weeks to find out how he trip ended…maybe you should Like the Facebook page! I did do some quick updates to let everyone know we were alive over there. Social media is a lot less work than blogging…

The last day, finally, the wind picked up again. After a morning of lighter winds it picked up and had a good, solid fifteen knot breeze from the Northeast. As we approached New Zealand though we sailed into a fog bank, and we didn’t end up sighting land until we were inside the Bay of Islands at about a distance of a mile or so from shore!

The last day was the most fun sailing of the trip, with visits from a couple of Albatross to go with the breeze. With the wind, fuel did not turn out to be a problem at all as we sailed from shortly after daybreak until we dropped the sails to motor up the channel into Opua.

Guest Blogger

We’re going to try something new in a couple of days. We’ve been approached by the Marine Super Store, a UK based chandlery, to do a guest blog post. So you can look forward to a piece from England about sailing in the Channel Islands. Those of you in cold, dank climes this time of year will be able to read about a bit of summer sailing and traveling. I know its someplace I’d like to visit after reading their piece.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Day Six to NZ – Oh Look! More Motoring!

Distance to Arrival: 146 NM
Current ETA: 3:00 PM (+/-), Nov. 25th

This will be a brief post, I’ve waited until later than usual to get it out there and I need to get to bed before watch.

The wind hasn’t filled in much. The prediction is we might see NW winds of up to 10 knots before we get to NZ. For us, that equates to maybe four knots of sailing off the wind – if it even happens.

The Northerly has filled in a very small amount, we’ve seen some short frenetic fits to almost 10 knots, with a Westward shift. This has allowed us to do “limp sail motorsailing”, in which we continue to motor, but fly both sails trimmed for the apparent wind. The wind looks like 5-7 knots on the beam. This configuration looks silly in my opinion, but the headsail being out and trimmed and the main eased adds about another 1/2 a knot to our speed. I’ll take it, as we’re very concerned about fuel and have cut back on the engine RPMs.

By our current estimate we have about twenty-four hours of engine run time left in the tanks, and no real prospect of wind. With the conditions we’re in with wind, currents etc. our arrival time is estimated sometime tomorrow late afternoon – about twenty to twenty-two hours from now.

It’s going to be close, in other words. If we don’t get any wind tomorrow we’ll likely dump in a couple of jerry cans just to make sure we don’t run the engine out of fuel. That’s a nuisance in a diesel, it means I will have to go into the engine room and bleed all the cylinders before I can restart it. I don’t want to do that in the open ocean if I can avoid it.

So every few hours we stick a yard stick into the primary fuel tank to see how much it dropped. Over the last five hours and twenty minutes it dropped an inch and a half. That’s about .3 inches per hour; we’re using 1/2 inch per hour to be safe. We’ve got just over twelve inches left in the tank, hence the “twenty four hour” estimate, though I can not tell you for sure there’s no taper in the bottom of the tank, it could be less.

But we do have another twenty gallons in the cans on deck, which is reassuring. We’d sail in at 3-4 knots before we use the last ten gallons of that up. We need to have the reserve for maneuvering when we get close to docks and moorings. We’ll get in, it just will take longer.

As of now we’ve got 98 hours on the engine since leaving Fiji. With 20-22 hours left, we’ll end up running the engine some 120 hours or so on a seven day (168 hour) trip. Maddening, but that’s what it is – we knew there wasn’t going to be much wind on this trip. It looks like we got a day or so less than I expected. If you recall what I estimated our range to be a few days back – I said about 130 hours of motoring time.

So a few times tonight we’ll run the yardstick into the tank and have a look, just to be sure. In the morning we may put a few gallons in to keep moving.

We’ll be close, but we’ll make it.

Posted in Diesel, Fuel, New Zealand, passages | Leave a comment

Day 5 to NZ – Motoring, Motoring Now We Go…

Distance to Opua, NZ: 347.5 NM

ETA: Some time Wednesday afternoon, 11/25/15

Still no wind. At one point we had a hint of some maybe wind late this morning when it crept up to six whole knots of breeze. But this was from the North, directly behind us. The only real effect was to make it hotter on the boat and make the main flop around more. Imagine riding a bike at 10 mph with a 10 mph breeze at your back – it would feel like there is no wind at all.

At least with half a knot of wind we still get to feel a seven knot breeze in our faces from the boat’s motion.

We we motor like this we almost always have the main sail out. There are several reasons for this. First, there may actually a few knots of errant wind. In any direction other than right in front or dead behind us that may actually get us a small wind increase. But the second and more important reason is roll stabilization.

When I say it’s “flat” out here, that is relative. It’s not flat like a mill pond on a windless morning right after sunrise. The ocean is always lumpy and bumpy and even without wind driven waves there is frequently some long, rolling swell coming from somewhere. This swell can give the boat an unpleasant rolling motion if it’s from the wrong direction. With no sails out the motion can be quite violent. The main sail can act like a giant stabilizer or air brake that greatly muffles the rolling motion.

This morning I took the three a.m. to seven o’clock watch for a change. Just after sunrise at six o’clock we were briefly joined by a small pod of dolphins, but they were far off and didn’t stick around to visit. I only saw them surface twice, it wasn’t enough of a visit to justify waking anyone up for it.

Sometime in the next few hours we’ll transfer the fuel from the reserve 300L tank into the main tank which is now less than half full and has plenty of room in it. That should be our big excitement for the afternoon. The process isn’t very time consuming; I turn on a pump and run it until the reserve tank gauge reads empty. If I’m feeling ambitious I can open up the floor and look in the tanks to eyeball how much fuel is really left, and to make sure I moved all 300 liters into the main tank.

There is one other reason we cruisers hate motoring. It’s not just the noise of the engine, the smell of the exhaust (when the wind is from behind), and the motion of the boat. Refueling is also an expensive nuisance and can be a lot of work. Fuel in Fiji is sold at a fixed price by location – from $1.68 to $1.72 FJD per liter. One Fiji dollar is currently just under $.50 USD, which amounts to a cost of about $3.20/gallon which isn’t bad. New Zealand will not be so cheap to re-fuel, though the dollar is stronger this year compared to last.

One added fun feature of fueling in Savusavu is the lack of any waterfront fuel facilities. In Port Denarau there was a floating fuel dock we could pull up to which makes fueling easy. Someone pumps while someone looks in the tank with a flashlight to monitor the fuel level until it’s full.

Without a dockside pump it’s jerry cans and jugs. We did this in Trinidad once, where one was allowed to buy up to 100L of fuel per day at a gas station and jug it to your boat at a cost that was about 1/6th of the “Tourist Boat Price” at the fuel dock. It was our first time like this and it took days of going back and forth in the dinghy with five 20L jerry cans. Then the jugs had to be poured into the tanks, a sloppy, smelly, and grueling process trying to to make a mess while holding heavy, dirty jugs to pour.

In Savusavu a local gas station would, for a 10% surcharge, deliver their own 25L jugs to the dinghy dock of our choice and put them right in the dinghy for us. Back on Evenstar, all be had to do was lift the jugs up on deck and move the fuel to the tanks. We had discovered hand pumps we Tahiti for transferring fuel that functioned as siphons. Brilliant little things – the hand pump just primed the siphon if you kept the tank elevated and the fuel ran in on it’s own. That whole process was a lot quicker and easier than the refuel in Trinidad, thanks to the cheap siphon pumps. We ended up taking on about 645 Liters into the tanks before we left, not including the 80L on deck in the four jerry cans.

Other than that it’s no real change from yesterday. Unexciting is good, if expensive.

Posted in New Zealand, passages | 2 Comments

Day 4 to NZ – Bye Bye, Wind.

Miles to Go: 516 (Well past half way!)

So what I’m thinking is that the front/trough/whatever we hit two days ago was moving a little than predicted. It caught us a day earlier that we expected, and has now disappeared a day earlier than expected as well.

That’s my theory anyway, I’ve been unable to download a new GRIB file to confirm this since we found all that wind on Friday. But it sort of fits.

But as of about 7:00 am this morning (Sunday 11/22/15 on this side of the world) the wind petered off to nothing and we had to turn on the engine once again. We’ve been motoring ever since.

We had over thirty-six hours of excellent sailing conditions though, which should definitely put enough miles in the bank to make sure we don’t run out of fuel before we get through this hole in the wind.

Wildlife Report

One thing of interest to report today is what we believed to be a sighting of a Beaked Whale, though we weren’t close enough to tell if it was a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale (most likely) or a Blainville’s Beaked Whale. It looked to be about twenty feet long and brown with white spots. A small curved dorsal fin was visible, and the brown color was quite distinct and is a possible color for the Cuvier’s. Geographic ranges precluded a few of the other beaked whales in the book. It was considerably larger than a bottlenose dolphin, so definitely a small whale, and was on it’s own – also a common way to come across older male Cuvier’s whales.

That’s our tentative identification though. We’re still scanning the skies for our first Albatross as we approach closer to New Zealand.

Arrival ETA

With the lack of wind and rough seas and the fact that we are motoring now we’re able to start to pin down a more likely estimated time of arrival in New Zealand. We’ve got just under seventy hours left motoring at 7.5 knots, which should put us in early afternoon on Wednesday the 25th (NZ Summer Time)

Of course things could still change. I’ve got to stick my head in the bilge and check the fuel levels to re-assure us that this pace isn’t burning it up faster than expected. More weather could blow up, though it isn’t expected. Depending on the weather, we could either be slowed down a lot (wind from the Southwest), sped up with favorable winds, or slowed down a little if there is enough wind to sail but not to sail quickly.

Trouble Getting the GRIBS

Above I mentioned that I have had trouble getting updated GRIB files. This is not a technical failing, everything is working well. It also should not be taken to mean we don’t have access to any weather reports – we do. We have several text based subscriptions of regional weather reports e-mailed to us every day.

It’s the GRIB files we haven’t updated yet. When I am communicating from offshore I am using my shortwave (SSB) radio to send and receive e-mail via radio over the amateur radio bands. There are radio stations out there that are connected to the internet, they listen for our calls in the ether and connect with handshaking and error checking protocols to send digital data over scratchy, static filled, narrow bandwidth SSB radio.

This is not fast. For those of us who used PC’s in the 80’s and early nineties connecting to Compuserve or other BBS software with 2400 Baud modems.these speeds would usually seem slow.

A GRIB file can be huge, depending on how much geography you want to include in it, how much detail you want to include (You want sea surface temperatures, wind, air pressure, sea currents, rain, and so on), and how many days out you want to go. When I am sitting at anchor connected to shore Wifi or Cellular I’ll grab a great swath of the South Pacific thousands of miles on a side so I can watch the weather patterns move over the next two weeks in detail. These files can be a megabyte or more.

Offshore like this? I basically need to request a GRIB for a tiny swath of ocean that covers where I plan to be for the rest of the trip, and only about four days out. The last request I sent was for a file about 44,000 bytes in size. I couldn’t secure a fast connection, and it was estimated to take 3-5 hours to download this. The fastest connection I can get take maybe twenty minutes to download the file.

It’s also important to note that one can not simply connect to someone else’s hardware for free and hog it up for hours. There’s a fair amount of equipment and cost to running one of these stations, and they are shared by all amateur operators free of charge. But there are limits – set both out of manners (don’t be a pig), and also by the operators of the radio station. The best radio station I can reach out here is in Wellington, NZ. I can establish a “High Speed” (meaning about like that 2400 baud modem or a little faster) connection there, but I am limited to forty minutes time connected each day. Other sites give you more time, but they still usually kick your connection off after half an hour to make sure others get a chance to use the station, so you have to call back and reconnect to continue your download.

To add to it, there aren’t that many radio stations doing this in the South Pacific. My primary contacts are with stations in New Zealand, Hawaii, and Australia. Weather, atmospheric conditions and time of day limit which stations I can reach and when, but in general I’m limited to about eight stations in those areas. I can not just sit down any time during the day and establish a connection, mid-day for example it is near impossible and night time is best.

So yeah, it’s slow. Slow is the normal. Some much so that I ask anyone e-mailing me out here to make sure to NOT quote my original e-mail when replying to me because it makes downloading the e-mail reply double or triple in time.

Hopefully we can get a GRIB from yesterday by tonight!

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Day 3 to NZ – So THAT Wasn’t in the GRIB File!

Distance to go: 694 NM

GRIB File: Short for “Gridded Binary”, these are the files that contain weather data that sailors download to predict future weather. There are several sources of them, but the most common are the “GFS” model and the “Euro” model, representing the source of the weather prediction model that is used in the file.

Evenstar has tools for numerous sorts of weather information available to us in order to predict what to expect on a trip. Our plotting software, Maxsea, has an excellent “Routing” tool that is sophisticated enough to provide a rough expectation on what weather conditions, expectations and trends to expect along a given route at a given time. These predictions would probably prove quite adequate if the GRIB files I downloaded for it had any bearing on reality.

Yesterday was a good example. Based on the latest GRIB file I downloaded an hour before we left Savsavu we were to expect light conditions for the first couple of days. Some sailing, but Thursday and Friday would have little to no wind. Come late Saturday some wind from the S to SE was expected, in the range of 15-17 knots, which would swing East over Saturday evening to provide some comfortable reaching through Monday where the winds would die out and mostly disappear for the rest of the trip.

Nothing about DUE SOUTH winds. Nothing about 25+ knots, gusting to 30.

Backing to to where you left us yesterday, we were hove to and looking to see how this abrupt shift in weather would pan out.

Keep in mind we were NOT sitting this out for the wind strength, 25 knots isn’t dangerous in a boat like Evenstar. From the right direction twenty-five knots is an absolute blast – you just hang on tight and go like hell.

We were looking for a shift in direction. While twenty-five knots on the nose isn’t dangerous at all, it is annoying as all get out. Sailing as high upwind as we can requires a human driver. We were looking for the wind to clock a little to the East, which would let us “crack off” about 10-15 degrees from upwind beating and allow the autopilot to do it’s job without exhausting us.

So we hung out for a while, took some naps, had some dinner. After about four or five hours of this the wind had indeed moved to the East (or “to the left” since we were heading South) and we could carry sails and use the autopilot on a course that would actually hit New Zealand at some point instead of New Caledonia.

So with sails reefed the the Fun Meter (or “Wind Speed Indicator”) pegged around thirty knots we started sailing again. It was kind of a wild, lumpy night, but we made decent forward progress. By morning the wind has eased a bit into the low to mid twenties. When I took over again at 0600 the wind was light enough that our reefed sails were too small. So I eased the sails, shook out the reefs, and we speed up again and have been maintaining seven and a half knots or so on a close reach every since.

According to my GRIB file, however, the wind should still be flat and I should expect it to gradually increase to fifteen knots around eight o’clock this evening. So I’ll keep an eye out for when it starts to drop.

Posted in New Zealand, passages | 1 Comment

Day Two to NZ – Careful What You Wish For

DISTANCE TO NZ: 803.5 NM

No wind, engine running. Keeping it slow to save fuel.

There was wind, from the perfect direction, but it was less than eight knots. Usually more like four or five knots. Forget making it to New Zealand by Thanksgiving, sailing in that sort of wind would put making Christmas in doubt.

So we puttered along, putting up really short days for us and going slow. Hoping for more wind.

It was certainly comfortable, though we’ve been burning up dinosaurs faster than we wanted to. The wind continued flaky and variable, but this morning we awoke to cloud cover instead of clear blue skies.

But still no wind. You’d think with the clouds a little wind would come. Nope.

As the day progressed we spotted some rain on the horizon, coming at us. Great, but rain like that usually is associated with less wind, not more. The light rain came, but most of it misses us. The wind stayed light but crept forward.

Around 2:00 pm we suddenly registered wind! On the nose, to be sure, but we saw thirteen knot! We can sail in this. Engine off, sails up. By the time we got things stowed we decided to leave a reef in the head sail as the wind was up to sixteen with more gusts.

Ten minutes later we’d reefed the main in, and reefed more jib. The wind was know breaking twenty knots (on the nose, of course). We reefed in a little more main as the wind worked up to a steady twenty five knots, with gusts close to thirty.

The autopilot can not sail in this direction. Dead upwind is a manual steering situation only, there is too much variability and the poor autopilot can’t handle “sailing on the edge”.

“Sailing on the Edge” is fun. For a little while. As a rule we cruisers avoid sailing dead upwind. The reasons for this are several, including that it is a nuisance since the auto steering systems don’t do well with it, it is uncomfortable since the boat is really, really tipped and you tend to pound through waves, and all the tipping booby traps out closets and breaks things.

We decided to take a short break and let this blow over. So we’re “hove to” as I type this. “Heaving To” is a way to set the boat up so that you are basically parked, or at least dramatically slowed. The boat’s motion is much kinder, tilting is a lot less, and you are more comfortable. It’s not fast and it sometimes takes you away from where you want to go. But it puts a stop to all the pounding and tilting while you want for the bad upwind sailing to blow over you.

We won’t likely stay this way for long, the sun is shining again and the winds are dropping down to the low twenties. I’m looking for the shift back East that will let me sail the way I want to go again, but we may not get it. But at least with winds will calm down for us and we won’t have to do so much pounding.

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Posted in New Zealand, passages, Wind | Leave a comment