Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ladybug's Third New Zealand Christmas Cruise

First let me wish you a very happy and prosperous new year in 2015!

It is hard to believe that this is the third Christmas season I have spent on board Ladybug in New Zealand. The only sad part is that Rani is in the UK again this year, so we were apart again for Christmas. I am lucky to have good friends to share the season with. Just over a week ago I left Whangarei. The last days prior to departure were jam packed with selling a few items that we can't carry home and looking over two larger steel boats for my friend Randall who is planning a back to back circumnavigation of the Americas and Antarctica (see his Figure 8 Voyage site).

On Saturday evening, I drifted down the river with the last light at the start of the ebb, dropping the anchor off One Tree Point near Marsden Cove. I was up early to catch the next ebb tide and ghosted down the channel past the big refinery and wood product docks. My departure was marred by a run-in with a tug that was assisting a container ship to enter the channel. The tug took a run at Ladybug, its operators gesturing and yelling, even though we had moved out of the channel to let the ship pass. I was surprised and shaken by this aggressive and very unprofessional action. The bow wave from the tug Takahiwai almost came into Ladybug's cockpit and I came damn close to striking a channel buoy that I was near when the incident occurred. I called the tug on VHF but she declined to respond so I have reported this to Maritime New Zealand. I have had to deal with heavy commercial traffic and tugs in several countries and never seen anything like this before!

Fortunately the day improved and the wind filled in for a nice run up to Tutukaka. I met Melody off the entrance to the harbour and we sailed in together, anchoring under sail near Annie Hill's Fantail. All three boats share supper on board Melody. Over drinks we agreed to sail north for Miniwhangata Bay.

Melody sailed into Tutukaka
The next morning around 6 am I woke up with a fuzzy head to the sound of Melody hoisted her anchor chain as Fantail ghosted past Ladybug.

Fantail ghosting out of Tutukaka
We sailed in company to Minwhangata, a delightful anchorage off a long striped sandy beach that displays mosaics of shells at low tide. We spent the afternoon walking along the beach and among the hills of the peninsula.

Melody en route to Miniwhangata

Fantail sails into the anchorage at Miniwhangata

Melody anchoring under sail.

We spent the evening on Annie's little junk rigged boat, sharing drinks and supper and talking about the usual things that cruisers and 'boaties' in general talk about - boats, and sailing, and how to live a good life. At one point, I recall that we had a lengthy and heated debate over the difference between contentment and happiness.

Roz and Holger on board Fantail

Annie and Roz below on Fantail
We left Miniwhangata the next morning and sailed north toward Whangaroa. We broke our passage at the Cavalli islands where we anchored in Papatara Bay on the big island of Motukawanui. The wind was aft all day, so I sailed most of the way with winged out jib in order to keep all the sails filled and pulling.

Ladybug coasting north to Whangaroa, wing and wing.
Motukawanui island has stunning hiking trails and we had an early morning climb along the Ridge Trail to the highest point on the island. You can see an earlier post from my last visit here for panorama pictures from this point.

From the Cavalli Islands we cruised north again with 15 knot easterly tailwinds and a rolling swell. Again I used the pole and Ladybug really kicked up her heels and enjoyed spirited sailing in occasional rain showers, maintaining 6-7 knots for long stretches. We arrived through the narrow entrance into Whangaroa with tall standing waves kicked up by the out-coming tide against wind. The cliche of calling this a boiling cauldron would not be far off and it was very exciting to sail through these waves while negotiating the entrance running almost straight downwind.

Ladybug and Melody spent Christmas in Whangaroa, visiting different anchorages, eating too much and attempting to walk it all off before returning south to the Bay of Islands where I am preparing for the delivery trip south.

Ladybug at a nice angle of heel beating into harbour. Photo by Annie Hill.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Haul Out, Survey, and Sale

I returned to New Zealand late in November to prepare Ladybug for sale. She had swung around a mooring for 8 months under the watchful eyes of Rob and Jo - cruising friends off Blue Moon who have built a house in McLeod Bay. It took a few days to clean her up but on the whole she was in good shape and I motored up the river to Dockland 5 boat yard where she was hauled out at the end of November.

Apart from the usual bottom paint I planned to replace a ball valve on the head discharge and buff and wax the hull. A potential purchaser had hired a surveyor to take a look at her while hauled out and I was fortunate to be given the use of a locker to store gear and sails in to allow the surveyor easier access to the hull inside.

New reinforced nylon ball valve - made in New Zealand

On haul out I found a couple of blisters on the skeg beside the area  I had repaired last year. I must not have gone far enough in addressing the delamination I had found on the last haul out. I ground these, removing the unbonded laminate and filled with epoxy. Removing the old head discharge ball valve proved to be difficult and while freeing this up, I twisted the bronze through-hull, breaking its seal with the hull. So I ended up removing the through hull fitting as well and cleaning this up and rebedding it. Doing this showed me how thick the lay up is at this point in the hull - about 18 mm or more than 5/8 of an inch, I was also fortunate in being able to buy a locally made ball valve fabricated from fiberglass reinforced nylon. This should not corrode like the bronze one.

Through hull hole showing thickness.

Murray Reid, a surveyor from Keri Keri, arrived on Sunday morning and spent a good part of the day poking around the boat. He found a few things during this survey and a later one that I am glad he spotted, including corrosion issues in the propellor strut and its mounting bolts that required removal and rewelding of the strut and replacement with new bolts. Getting at the nuts on the other end of these bolts was interesting. At first I thought I might have to remove the fuel tank, but fortunately the builders of Ladybug had thought about this issue and provided access in the cockpit locker that required unscrewing a plywood sheet and moving an exhaust hose out of the way. A local welder ground out the old corroded weld and renewed this and I put it together casting in place an epoxy shim to re-align the strut with the propellor shaft. Bolting the strut back on and re-bedding it was a challenge as I was working on my own and had to use vice grips on one end of each bolt and run up and down the ladder a dozen times to tighten the nuts evenly.

Propellor strut removed so I can work on it.

Corrosion in weld - probably due to leaving welding detritus in between two welds (one per side) when the custom strut was fabricated

Corrosion in bolts - possibly due to galvanic corrosion from painting the bolts with copper bottom paint

This is what the bolts should look like.
Other things I dealt with during haul-out were to replace two additional through hull ball valves thaty Murray condemned and to re-zinc and grease up the Max-prop. Brian, the potential purchaser did the latter work and helped out during the launch day, having arrived the night before to look over the boat. Brian stayed on Ladybug for 4 nights going out for what may be a record test sail of three days duration.

Since the launch, I have re-aligned the engine, restitched the UV strip on the small jib (thanks to Roz and her Sailrite sewing machine!), stitched a dodger zipper back on, and rebedded a couple of ports. On Brian's last day on board, one of the galley sink drains fell off, so I have replaced the corroded metal parts with plastic (thanks to Rob for the parts for this job!).

Brian has decided to buy Ladybug and I have offered to help him deliver her to her new home on the South Island. Brian and I will sail as far as Picton together and I will then fly back here and on to Auckland and Canada shortly after.

Ladybug looking at her best with a waxed hull and new bottom paint

It is sad to be leaving Ladybug and finding a home for all the things we have on board will be my job for the next few weeks. I will carry home three suitcases as excess luggage so am quite limited in what I can take. We looked into shipping goods to Canada from NZ but the cost was $2000 for 8 modest boxes...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bitter Sweet Recap

Captain Kurt Lorenz and Jamie Orr on the approaches to San Francisco
I am just back from a delivery run from Victoria, BC to San Francisco. The trip was a repeat of the first long passage that Rani and I made on Ladybug in 2008, only this time we took the near shore route and did not stop until we reached Drake's Bay just north of San Francisco. It was a good trip both weather-wise and in terms of crew, but it felt sad to be closing a chapter in our cruising lives, since this will be the last long trip for a while.

Trawler passing astern

Here is a brief synopsis of the voyage, the purpose of which was to deliver Raven, a West Sail 39 owned by friends of ours (Kurt and Nancy) to San Francisco. We met Raven and her owners in Mexico a few years ago and cruised with them on board Ladybug in the Sea of Cortez and on Raven in the Gulf Islands. Nancy did not fancy the trip south, so Kurt asked me and our mutual friend Jamie Orr, to join him for the delivery.

We left Sidney around 10 am on Sunday, motoring south between James and Sidney islands, past the Darcy Islands, and through Baines Channel, past Oak Bay and Trial Island. Crossing the strait to Port Angeles, we cleared customs and bought fresh provisions at a nearby organic market. We departed Port Angeles at dusk and motored to Neah Bay, which we entered around 4 am and tied to the fuel dock.

Jamie piping us into Drakes' Bay

Monday morning we refueled, topping up 6 jerry jugs, which we lashed to shrouds. A fishermen at the fuel dock on a small wood double-ender said we were lucky with the return of summer weather pattern after weeks of lows. He told us that it was usually not a good idea to leave after Sept 15 on this passage.

We motored out of Neah Bay, but soon had the sails set and were beating into a south wind. The wind then died and swung into the NW and we reefed and proceeded south under about half sail. Crew were sea sick and not much cooking was possible. Much fishing traffic that night. Humpbacks and later, gray whales were sighted.

Wind continued N (NW to NE) as we rolled down the coast. We ran off to the south under main and jib, tacking downwind and sailing between 20 and 60 miles out from the coast. As the wind rose to 20+ from the NNE we struck the jib and ran down under prevented 2 reefed main. The 2nd reef line had come undone inside the mast so we tied the clew in with a spare mainsail tie. The below deck autopilot handled the small main well despite following breaking waves.

Morning coffee

The wind rose to 28-32 knots sustained so we turned north into the wind under motor and struck the main. We rolled out about 70 sq feet of jib and ran off under this. Some rolling in seas to 3 meters but much better on the helm and less danger from an accidental jibe. The boat was quite dry with only a few breakers slopping into the cockpit. Took some spray through the open main hatch once. Boards were left in after that. Crew recovered from sea sickness and able to eat hot food and enjoy life again.

Approaching the Golden Gate

Motoring under the Golden Gate Bridge - Video by Kurt Lorenz

Wind died to 10 knots and less, directly aft, so after an initial attempt to sail, tacking downwind, we turned on the diesel and motored for 36 hours, hoisting sail near Bodega Bay. We sailed the last few hours into Drakes' Bay, which we reached on Saturday evening, anchoring in heavy fog in company of several boats. We made much use of AIS and radar on our approach.

San Francisco Bay!

Up at 4 am to motor in fog through salmon fishing boats and under the Golden Gate Bridge its fog shrouded piers just visible. We turned across the shipping lanes and ran to the Presidio area to avoid oncoming commercial traffic. Much use of radar and AIS. Fog thinned and we put out the jib alone to sail dead downwind past Fisherman's wharf, Alacatraz, and Angel island. We passed Treasure Island and ran down to the Berkeley Marine where we tied up in the early afternoon. Commercial shipping was light but there were plenty of yachts to avoid.

Raven safe and sound in Berkeley Marina

About 800 Nautical miles - Est 64+ hours (approx 3 days) of motoring, 15 hours at 2 docks and anchor, and about 90 hours (3.5+ days) of sailing. The passage from Neah to Drakes took from Monday at about 8 am until Saturday at 6 pm or 5.5 days. We were lucky with having good following winds and clear weather for much of the passage. The GRIB (weather forecast) files we downloaded on passage showed that a low offshore interacting with one below us was causing the stronger winds we experienced, but these disappeared when the Great Basin high returned. So we were able to sail behind the low and use the nice North winds at its top left edge for a few good days.

Food eaten - homemade granola, bread and cheese, pasta and beef/sausage, chili, roast potatoes and omelette, tortilla eggs, potato cheese hash, salads, porridge, chicken coconut curry, many energy bars and 4 large chocolate bars. One bottle of wine and a few tots of whiskey during the last 2 days.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ladybug II For Sale

Sorry to say that we will be taking a break from cruising for a while. We need to go back to work and want to spend more time with our parents. Ladybug is for sale in New Zealand.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sentence handed down in Nuku Hiva for murder of cruiser

When we visited French Polynesia en route to New Zealand in 2012, rumours were flying of a German cruiser had recently been murdered and possibly eaten while pig hunting with a local guide. The cannibalism was juicy material for tabloids but was not proven during the trial. This article describes the sentencing of the Polynesian man and outlines what happened.

Our friend, Randall was in the area at the time and has a more detailed report you can read on his blog.

Stormy weather in the bay

Just received an email from friends, Jos and Logan, who have a boat moored next to Ladybug in McLeod Bay. They attached this picture of their boat and a couple of others that was featured in the Northern Advocate, a local newspaper. Ladybug is just out of the picture to the left, and our friends tell us she is still there and OK!

Storm in McLeod Bay, North Island, New Zealand

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New Blog

I have started another blog to document some of what we are up to outside of the cruising world. It is called "Go The Wrong Way" and can be found here.

The first main thread will look at the building of a gypsy wagon on our lakefront lot in Nova Scotia. Actual construction will begin in June - I am currently deep into the design phase.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Off to Canada

I am now back in Canada, leaving Ladybug in the capable hands of my friends Jo and Rob in McLeod Bay. Preparing her for her extended stay in New Zealand took a good part of 5 days. The picture below shows the interior 1 day before departure, drying out the spinnaker after rinsing it, packing, and folding other sails. A bit crowded!

This blog will be quiet for a while. We plan to return to New Zealand for the next cruising season.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Limestone Island

Limestone Island is well named - for it is almost entirely made of Limestone. Once the site of a quarry, it is now managed by the municipality of Whangarei with support from a local cement company. There is a caretaker on the island and much work has been down to restore native vegetation, stabilize historic structures, and provide paths and signage. While I was ashore visiting, a tour boat arrived and 20 or 30 visitors rambled around the ruins and walked the paths that circle the island.

I anchored off one of the quarries and rowed ashore, landing on the beach under Victorian ruins of the manager's house. The quarry here is small by modern standards and I am glad that the mainland provided a more suitable place for a quarry early in the last century, preserving this little island for visiting boaters and tourists. Following are pictures I took while walking around the island.

The edge of the quarry reflected in an excavated hollow - now a thriving
 pond. The broad leaved plant is flax, which was once cultivated here and grows all over the island

I like the edgy textures of the rock contrasting with the soft bushes above.

Panorama from the quarry looking toward Whangarei. Onerahi is to the right. A derrick at the water edge was used to load the limestone on barges.

Manager's house. This was abandoned after a decade and the residence moved to the mainland quarry operation. It was re-roofed and occupied in the 1950's by a family who mined limestone here for fertilizer.

House as it would have appeared in the late 19th century. What a difference a roof makes!

Walk to the cement works and lime kilns on the other side of the island. Shipwreck beach lies just past the flax plant.

Iron from the wreck of the Victoria - a coastal scow wrecked here more than 100 years ago.

More great textures and colours (with saturation increased for effect)

Lime kilns used in cement manufacture appear to be in good condition

I love the echo between the curve of the vine and that of the brick arch

The structure of some of the columns is laid bare by the weather making interesting patterns

View back to McLeod Bay with old cement wharf to left

A Maori Pa (hill fort) looks out over the new cement plant on the mainland shore. These wooden survey marks are common in NZ.

Returning along the central ridge - Onerahi to the left. An airport covers the flat top of the hill just out of the frame.

Leaving Limestone Island.

Just half a jib and making 5-6 knots in 20 knots of south wind.

Shopping Triathlon

Living on board an ocean going sailboat at a mooring and going to 'work' every morning is loses some of its novelty after the first few weeks. It feels slightly wrong to stay in one place on a boat that is used to seeing different pastures every week or two. So, rather than do the sensible thing and cadge a ride into Whangarei to do my grocery shopping, I decided to take Ladybug out for a little exercise and sail up the river. The rains had finally let off by early Saturday morning but a thick mist hung over the mountains and the other side of the estuary was but a faint outline.

A tiny breeze filled in around 8 am, so I peeled off the sodden sail cover and hoisted the full main. Of course the wind then went elsewhere, so I made breakfast and waited 'sailing' at the mooring. Around 9, I gave up and turned on the engine, dropped the mooring line and motored past a steel schooner which had just arrived in the bay.

The navigation at the mouth of McLeod Bay is tricky - a sandbar fills much of the bay and then, if you head straight for the channel, another one lies in wait in what looks like perfectly clear water. I checked the chart and ran between the two bars, passing a succession of small fishing boats out for their weekend session.

A very faint waft of SW wind filled in and I optimistically unfurled the jib, but the breeze when elsewhere and half an hour later I resorted to the engine, which got a good run on the trip up to Onerahi. I had intended to anchor further upstream, but the anchorage off Limestone Island looked interesting, especially when a scan with the binoculars revealed it was a DOC park.

The second leg of the triathlon was a row across the river, being pulled gently upstream by the tide. I hauled out Ladybug on a rocky shelf just above the tide line and tied her off to a post. Hoisting a a backpack full of shopping bags and consulting a sketch I had drawn of the roads into central Onerahi, I began the third leg of my triathlon, walking the mile or two up the hill to the town. Much of Onerahi is populated by native (Mauri) - the first place in New Zealand where I have walked through such a community. I was reminded of the south sea islands we had visited when I passed yards full of several families exuberantly sharing a meal on the front lawn and spreading out into the street.

One thing I used to do when I lived a more regulated life was to try to see something unusual and noteworthy each day on my trips back and forth to work. I thought of this on the walk into town and found my noteworthy items in a graveyard. Several graves were in the form of the most beautiful sculptures. One sandstone carving depicted a mother lovingly embracing her boy child - echoes of Madonna and Christ - over the grave of a boy who had died as a teenager.

I picked up some sticky black tape to make a temporary fix to the hatch drip and filled a small cart at the New World, being careful to buy only as much as I wanted to carry back down the hill. The humidity was high and it was sunny and about 28 degrees as I sweated my way back to the dinghy. The waterfront was now full of swimmers and picnicking Maori families. A big fellow swimming off where I had hauled up the dinghy offered to help me put her back in the water, and despite a shoreline of sharp rocks climbed out of the water and lifted in one end of the boat. The kindness of strangers can make life so much easier - it had been a real struggle to get the boat out onto the ledge and the tide had gone out since then.

It rained heavily last night, and the new sticky tape was given a good test. With any luck the hatch will remain water tight until I replace or re-seal it. Today I plan to visit Limestone Island. I will bring a camera and post something on this later.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wet Times in Port Fitzroy

We have had two days of rainy weather - the first very windy also and the second very wet. I managed a quick walk ashore on the first day, hiking the Warrens Track to some small but pretty waterfalls. This can be done as a round trip using the road to Port Fitzroy from the campground. I approached the falls from above (the route from the village of Port Fitzroy) and missed the round trip aspect of this, which requires that you walk down the stream bed for a ways before finding the trail again. So I walked in again the other way from the campground so as to see the whole loop. A recommended hike if you want something less strenuous than the typical Great Barrier tracks that always seem to climb serious hills

I did not think to lower our solar panels despite the gale force winds forecast. The wind was so gusty where I was hiding under the lee of a high hill that one gust broke the plastic clip I use to suspend a panel. Another gust actually bent the aluminum cross bar that secures the panel to the stanchion rail. I bent it back today, so no harm done, but next time I will bring the panels down and tie them off.

The rain yesterday was impressive and filled the dinghy to the brim. I baled her out around 11 pm and then noted the leak I had been chasing for a while had made its appearance again - dribbling water into one of our clothes closets. We had noted this problem on only one or two other occasions and always after the fact. This time I was able to watch things in action and learned by removing ceiling panels and trim that the leak is the same one I have on my list to fix in the seal around the hatch acrylic lens that is over the passage to the v-berth. The hatches on Ladybug are are good quality (but probably original) Lewmar Ocean Series and the seal has dried out on one. I will see if I can re-bed this before I leave Ladybug. If not, it will be a tape and tarp solution until we get back.

Today the rain and mist cleared and I did a wash to make use of the fresh water. I also hiked to what I thought by its name would be an easy track - the Old Lady Track. Well because of the rain, the streams it crossed required nimble feet and some cunning to stay dry and upright. It also climbed a goodly hill and I took the easy way out on the return trip and walked down the lovely winding road back to Fitzroy.

Panorama from Lookout Rock over Port Fitzroy

Port Fitzroy harbour. Ladybug is just out of sight to the left.

Lovely lush vegetation -  I can see why, with all the rain they get here!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hike to Hirakimata

Hirakimata as the Maoris call it or Mt Hobson by its English name is the highest peak on Great Barrier Island. A nice day hike can be had from the anchorage in Kairara Bay by landing at Bush Beach and walking in to the Kaiarara Hut and thence up to the Kauri Dams.

Tree Ferns and Tea Trees dominate the lower elevations

Remains of a Kauri Dam. The rivers were dammed to make it easier to transport logs to the sea. The logs filled the dammed pools and were released when there was plenty of water. The resulting cascade was apparently terrifying to behold.

Historical photo of this dam

From the dams you proceed up endless flights of beautifully built stairs until you reach a small viewing platform at the top.

View out over the bays of Port Fitzroy with Little Barrier Island in the distance. Ladybug is somewhere in the center bay.

Wider panorama shows the lush green estuary lands on the other side of the island. There are also impressive beaches on this side. 

This time of year is the season for cicadas to make a real din. I suspect they are mating. The noise is almost deafening in places - a shrill pitched chirp combined with clacking multiplied thousands of times.


Kaka - native brown parrot eating insects.

Same kaka. Sorry for the quality of pics - these were the best of about 50 shots if you can believe that.

Coming down I took the gentler route via the South Fork track - longer and still heaps of stairs, but most of the stairs are over quickly (by the time you reach the hut that lies at the head of the valley) The trail then follows the rim of an ancient volcano before joining Forest Road and returning to the Kaiarara hut.

I have been working on re-bedding windows on Ladybug. It takes about three hours for each window and I did the hike today because my hands were so sore from doing two yesterday. I finished another one just after sunset tonight. Only 8 to go.