Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Delivery part 3 - East cape to Gisborne and engine dramas.

Thursday - East Cape to Gisborne
Day 7

Its 2am and we're holed up in Gisborne for the night. We ran out of water yesterday because the tap in the bathroom sink was on and the sink works on a foot pump - the water doesn't some out unless you pump it and I guess it didn't get turned off. So when we were on a big lean to the starboard side, the bladder our water supply lives in was higher than the sink and all the water ran into the sink and down the drain. So no water. Luckily we have about 60L in reserve under the cockpit, but it's a pain in the ass not having water out of the tap. Which is why we're in Gisborne at 2am, to refill the water and fuel.

I noticed a few days ago that our batteries don't charge when the motor is on. This was worrying, but our little solar panel fills them up all day, and they slowly die during the night. Then the sun comes up again! Unfortunately, we had to stop here at midnight and then when we tried to turn on the engine to leave again it wouldn't start. I'm just glad it didn't fail when we ran out of wind, were drifting towards rocks and needed to motor - the thought of not having a secondary means of propulsion makes me very uneasy.

We're assuming the problem is lack of power, but we started it for a few hours just before sunrise this morning - before the solar power kicked in and it worked fine. I just hope it's a simple fix and we can get going again ASAP - we need to be in Wellington by Sunday night. We've got 2 1/2 days left if we travel at an average of 4 knots, so we should be okay, but don't want to cut it too fine.

As much as I want to get going, it's really nice to be stopped. The waves out there are big, the sea is rough and I was feeling pretty rotten before we came in. Everything is drenched from the spray, including our bed - there must be a leak somewhere. To be fair, half the deck was under water for most of the day. We've been beating upwind since this morning, which means lots of tacking and the boat has been on a nasty lean. I've never minded it before when we're racing, but not bring able to stand or walk through the boat without crashing into something is less than ideal. The boat has been smacking up and down waves all day with a horrible crunching sound every time we land and I was scared something would break. Maybe all that shaking just pulled something loose somewhere.
The calm before the storm

Big waves

And none of us were dry that day...

Mike looking like a salty sailor
So it's nice to lie down properly for at least one night before we get going again. Let's just hope we can sort this out in the morning and it's not too much of a big deal.


It looks like we'll be able to deal with this quickly then get underway again. We've been lucky with repairs so far - I think Mike is just very persuasive. He got a guy down here first thing this morning and he thinks he can fix it. Both the alternator and starter motor are screwed - the alternator was broken before and the starter motor obviously just decided to stop working last night. We're all well rested and ready to get going again. The forcast looks good for today with a 15 knot southerly which will hopefully move around to a south easterly for a nice reach all the way home. Much better than the 25 - 30 knot headwinds we had yesterday. We were beating into them all day with our oversized no.1 genoa out (we think it's 160%) so that wasn't a very comfortable leg. The winds were supposed to die off after Gisborne, so we stuck with the big sail.

This morning I put on my togs and had a shower on the dock with a hose and soap. That was fabulous, although freezing cold. I hadn't had a shower or brushed my hair in at least 7 whole days, a new record of disgustingness. So at least I'm clean if not warm.


We're still here. The engine does not look good. The electrical guy has called for backup from an engine guy, so it's starting to look pretty serious. If we don't fix this today Garth might have to take a bus back home to be at work on Monday. There's talk of water sitting on top of a piston and I don't know what that means. There's also a possibility that we have a cracked head which is pretty much maximum bad. It's looking like we'll have to do a whole engine refit, which is super expensive. I had a feeling we would have engine problems but I was still hoping it would be okay. We would have been in a lot of trouble last night if the engine hadn't started to bring us into Gisborne, because we needed water and fuel and it's a nasty little narrow channel. There aren't many other places to stop along this coast.


The engine is fixed! there was water in it somewhere which is now gone. It took a while for it to kick over and that engine noise is the best thing I've ever heard. Our guy fixed the alternator as well, so our batteries are now charging properly. It was just a loose wire into the battery. If anybody ever gets stuck in Gisborne with a broken engine, the guys from Bensons are amazing.

We got a lot of things sorted while we were stopped today - we dried everything on board, which had gotten wetter and wetter over the days. We solved the leak problem in the v berth and dried everything - there's a compartment aft of the bulkhead that's open through to the v berth. It would get water in it and then when we were on a nice heel ramming through the waves it splashed up everywhere and drenched the bed. Mike also fixed a leak in the outgoing pipe of the toilet and David reorganized the cockpit locker again so nothing can disturb some random wires in there. So our list of things to do is growing but we're getting stuff done along the way which is really exciting. Now we're all dry and rested and ready to go sailing! I expect to spend the next day or two huddled in the cockpit feeling horrible, so I'm just hoping the seas aren't too rough. But they will be.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Delivery part 2 - days 3, 4 and 5

Sunday - Gulf harbour in Auckland to Coromandel Peninsula
Day 3

Gulf Harbour marina in Auckland
We had an exciting day today, but I'm glad to be snuggled up in bed. We've parked up in a little bay along the Coromandel Peninsula, surrounded by towering black shapes along the skyline. They're almost ominous. It's weird to pull into somewhere different in complete darkness not having any idea what it looks like outside. It will be interesting to see what the morning brings.

We didn't leave until around 2pm today, because we had a lot to get ready for the trip ahead. Garths wonderful family were nice enough to run around after us all morning, gathering things and ferrying them to the boat.

Sorting out the dinghy
We made use of the time by pumping up the dinghy and taking our giant genoa down, which took an hour or two. I would not want to do that in heavy winds! It's a furling genoa, so we had to unfurl it (unroll it so the sail was up while we were tied to the dock) then bring it down. It was horrible. The bloody thing was flapping around in the wind and then we couldn't fold it properly on the boat because it's so big and new and stiff. We ended up getting a random cruiser to help us refold it when we couldn't fit it back in the door. Boat people are so nice!

We eventually left in 25 - 30 knots, with a medium headsail and 2 reefs in the main (that decreases the power in it). The wind was behind us and the waves were 2 - 3 metres high - we surfed on them for hours. They weren't like normal rolly waves though - they were really steep and choppy. I'd look behind us and there'd be a wall of water before we were picked up and thrown down. It was pretty fun for a while, but hard work. I especially loved driving with the boat being knocked around, waves spraying into the cockpit, drenched from head to toe.

Lots of splashes in choppy waves

Then it got dark. I haven't sailed at night much, and only in wellington harbour. The huge waves continued, except we couldn't see them very well. It was terrifying steering while Garth was navigating us around rocks, waves chucking me around, scary black outlines of land everywhere. Eventually I got used to it and it wasn't so bad, but I can't imagine a week of that with just the two of us. My arms are buggered. I was constantly turning the wheel to deal with the way the waves were throwing us around. It would be the same as driving for ages through an obstacle course with no power steering - hard left, hard right, hard left.

As exhausting and scary as it was, it was amazing looking up at the stars from the middle of nowhere with only the dark outline of the sails breaking up the sky. It's beautiful out here.

We also saw a dolphin jumping out of the water right next to the boat, and as I ran to look he was gone and there was a rainbow in his place. Then tonight there was a shooting star. I also got to pee off the side of the boat like a guy (using a female urination device). That was freaking awesome. I was too scared of getting seasick to go downstairs to the toilet, so I was really glad I had it. Best $10 I ever spent.

So all in all I think it was a successful day, but tomorrow we're going to start sleeping in shifts and sailing nonstop. It's at least 6 days of 24 hour sailing until we get home, and we're hoping to get there on schedule. I'm just hoping I don't get seasick and that we catch some fish. And that there's more dolphins.

Across the Bay of Plenty - East Cape
Day 5

Yesterday was awful. We only anchored up for around 4 or 5 hours and I hardly slept at all. The boat kept swinging around in the wind and pulling on the anchor line with a horrible creaking noise. I thought for sure we were going to come off our anchor and crash into rocks. I must spend nearly all my time worrying about this boat.

I was feeling a bit off on Sunday, but not compared to yesterday. I spent the whole day shoveling down ginger and seasickness pills and trying not to throw up. I'm sorry to say I spent a lot of time wishing I could just get off this damn boat and onto something solid. I didnt go downstairs all day, because thats what makes you really ill. About an hour after our watch ended and i was supposed to go to sleep, I decided I just wasn't going to be sick anymore and went down to get my pjs. I didn't even have time to grab them before I was back on deck with my head over the side. So I brought my sleeping bag into the cockpit under the stars and had the best sleep since before we left on Friday.

Yesterday afternoon a big pod of dolphins swept past our boat, taking it in turns to play in the bow wake before moving on. They did little barrel rolls and turned upside down so their tummies get the rush of water over them. It was magical.

Then after another beautiful sunset, just as the last light was leaving the sky we got a bite on the line we'd been trawling all day. David was in his boxers trying to change into his night gear. With his long johns around his ankles he dove for the rod and spent quite a while wearing the fish down before reeling it in. He said it wasn't very big, so we were ready with the net when it surfaced. It was a giant tuna, and the net could hardly fit his tail. Garth struggled to untie the gaff (a big sharp hook for bringing in fish), while I tried to take the wheel and David kept reeling him in with his pants around his feet. It was utter chaos.

We have a system in place for fish - take them to the deck, bleed them and cut them there, and don't bring any of the mess near the cockpit.

This didn't work. The tuna was around 15 - 18 kg and it was all David could do to get him in the boat at all without being pulled over himself. The giant guy landed in the middle of the cockpit, spraying blood everywhere. It took quite a while to sort out.

The really sad part was that we don't have our fridge hooked up yet - just an ice box. David cut off two fillets (less than half the meat) and had to throw the rest overboard. The meat he cut off was too much for 4 of us to eat for 2 meals - for breakfast (and then lunch) we all just had a giant plate of tuna. David called it the breakfast of champions and it was fabulous.

David's obligatory shot holding up the fish
Today was spent lying in the sun, napping and reading. We sorted out our windvane steering yesterday, so the boat now steers itself. I'm feeling much better today, I think it just takes a few days to get used to the motion of the boat. We've been keeping 6 hour shifts with 2 of us on a shift, so we're on watch for 6 hours then we can nap or rest for 6 hours.

We're almost at East Cape, wherever that is. We had another pod of dolphins join us this afternoon, which I loved immensely. They really love playing in the bow wake, so I sit right out on the front and they swim inches from my feet when the bow is low in the water. There were hundreds of them, coming in from as far as I could see - the flat horizon was broken up by fins dipping, diving and occasionally jumping out of the water. It was beautiful.

I'm looking forward to tonight, because last night was so lovely. It's peaceful and quiet, with nothing to look at but the stars. It's kind of fun steering the boat to the stars, like Captain Cook and all the explorers who lived in times before chartplotters would have.

We were out of sight from land for a day or two, which was different to what I had thought. You would expect it to be a frightening feeling being all alone out at sea. But all you can see is water in every direction, with a very flat, definitive horizon line. So instead of feeling small and isolated I just feel like I'm in a little bubble. I'm sure this would change in bad weather.

I'm going to get into some warm clothes and watch another beautiful sunset as we round the cape and start pointing towards home. If we make good speed it should be another 5 or 6 days. I just hope the weather stays nice and we get some more wind.

Sleeping in the cockpit

White Island, being all smokey and volcanoey

It's been a while since I brushed my hair...

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Delivery part 1

It started raining AFTER we were tied up to
our berth. Win! 
Well here we are safe and sound in Auckland. It took two days with light winds and a few hours of motoring but we made it. Now our crew are at a concert and Garth and I are alone in our snuggly little boat listening to the pitter patter of rain outside. I love the sound of rain, but I can't help worrying that it's getting in somewhere. I doubt very much that our boat is an impenetrable fortress.

When we got on board in Whangarei our bilge pump had a hard time pumping out all the water which had gotten in during the crazy weather they just had, and the head (bathroom) was totally full of water. That's where our mast comes down, and water always finds a way of getting into the mast. Usually it empties itself into a bilge somewhere, but our boat is special. It just builds up on the floor of the head which doesn't have any drainage as of yet - so we had to pump it all out by hand. Actually when I say we I mean David, so cheers for that!

Looking aft as we loaded stuff onto the boat - Garth refused to sit still for a panorama
When we got on board we also found out that the hot water isn't hooked up, the taps in the sink don't work at all, our lights were more broken than we thought and there's no door to the toilet (as the only girl, I'm the only one who seems to care about this). Before we went anywhere the boys spent some time fiddling with the engine to make sure everything was in working order. We cleaned out all the water then hunted around the boat to find out what was on board. It turns out there's a lot and all of it is useful for something, I'm sure. I just have no idea what.

The boys playing with the engine
We found a cockpit shower, which is fabulous because I can cross that off my list. It's also our only supply of water because the taps don't work. So to get water we have to hold the shower over a water jug, get somebody to turn the pump on, fill up the jug, turn the pump off and use jug water for everything. This is annoying. After the boys left this afternoon Garth managed to fix the taps, because he is fabulous, but we'll still have to fiddle around with the water system when we get home. Hot water would be nice. I don't think that so many things not working is a bad sign - they probably have the water set up how they do to make sure not a drop is wasted down the sink.

Remember how I was worried about getting onto a boat and not knowing what it had on it or where that stuff was? That was a legitimate concern. The fridge was full of towels and paint, and it took Garth about 10 minutes just to find a can opener. Mind you, most of the cutlery drawers are filled with tools. I'm ashamed to say that tools make me happy - there's tools and pipes and random things shoved in every little compartment. This means the previous owners knew how to fix things and exactly what to do with 7 different tools that look exactly the same to me. It looks like they loved this little boat and looked after it really well. I'd be more worried to find 3 drawers of useless cooking implements.

Yesterday we motored a lot of the way, which was dissapointing, but we had to be in Auckland by today and we weren't making good enough time to do that going at 2 knots under sail. I was exhausted because it was day time and I was awake after only a few hours sleep (I work nights at a bar), so I ended up feeling a bit shit sitting on a boat all day rolling over the swells. I lodged myself in between the lifelines and the cabin in the middle of the deck and napped most of the day. If anybody feels the need for a daytime nap on a yacht, this is definitely my favourite place.

Garth made us dinner while we were under way, because he is amazing. We stuck the boat on autopilot and ate in the cockpit under the setting sun, which was really lovely. We anchored in a nice little bay near Kawau island after dark, which was pretty cool because we got to follow the lights in. It's probably a bit nerdy to get excited about lights, but we've just finished our Boatmasters course and it's exciting to be sailing along knowing what all the lights mean and where they are on the charts. I'm so so glad we did the course before we brought our boat down.

As we were anchoring I discovered there was phosphorescence in the water, which is the one thing I was really really hoping we'd see on this trip. I've never seen anything like this in Australia, and it's seriously awesome. I missed out on swimming in it at New Years last year and I was really excited about the opportunity to play with sparkly stuff. I think it's a form of algae that glows when the water is disturbed so when you throw something in the water there's lots of little glowing dots everywhere. When you're motoring around in a dinghy, the wake is really pretty because there're little glowing waves rolling out behind you. If you get a bucket of water and throw it over the side of the boat, there's a trail of glowing dots after it. It's kind of like fireworks in the water and it takes me a long time to get bored with it!

So of course we jumped in. I wish I had pictures, but it's too hard to photograph (but I found some here and here and here and here). It's something everybody has to do at least once in their lifetime. Closer to the waters edge where your arms are moving there's thousands of little glow in the dark dots around you as you're moving. Under the water where your legs are, it's like a blue aura is surrounding your body like something out of an alien movie. I loved it a lot.

Our first sunset on Heartbeat
Before I went to bed I was reading the bumfuzzle book (which is a great read btw, there's not that much sailing jargon in there and a lot of interesting travel stories). I've read most of their blog, but felt like reading about sailing while I was sailing. Terrible, I know. As we were going to sleep, there was a continuous crackling noise like somebody rustling something or like light rain. I ignored it for a about half an hour, and then I realised it wasn't rain and wondered what the hell was going on. Then it clicked when I realised I'd just read a bit of the book where the Bums had experienced the exact same thing - they said it turned out to be barnacles attaching themselves to the bottom of the boat. Garth said it might be fish nibbling on the bottom. Either way it was a bit freaky, and it made it worse reading the book - he described it as crackling bacon and then that was all I could think about.

Pulling up the anchor at dawn
We woke up to the sunrise this morning and sailed all day, making good time and arriving at Gulf Harbour at around 1pm. There was a nice amount of wind and it was a picture perfect day of sailing. Mike managed to find us an electrician to fix our nav lights, everybody helped shuffle more food and gear aboard and then we were all alone.

And we're sailing before I had time to get dressed

Sunrise at Kawau island
Garth getting stuck into the sink
So it's been a really awesome day. After Garth fixed the sink we passed out for a few hours, got dinner and then passed out again. The boat seems to be in pretty good order now for the rest of our trip, which hopefully should take about 4 or 5 days.

So far, I really love this lifestyle. I keep bumping my head and everything is cramped, but just chilling out in the sun and lounging around on the boat has been fun. I really love other cruisers - everybody is so friendly and nice. It's a cool feeling hanging around a marina knowing you're meant to be there - I'm so used to sneaking around and staring at the boats and then heading home to my cosy house and bed. I like wandering around in my gumboots like one of the cool kids, instead of hiding under an umbrella and staring.

The wind is supposed to pick up to 35 knots tomorrow, so I'm not sure we'll be going anywhere. After sailing in Wellington that much wind doesn't really worry me, but it's a solid 10 hours at 6 knots until we can anchor again, and we don't want to get stuck if it picks up much more than that.

Love Monique

David pumping water out of the head

David thinks the compass cover is a hat...

Mike thinks it's that way