Whangarei, New Zealand - November 2012 to April 2013
years ago, both of us re-read Jimmy Buffett’s book A Pirate Looks at Fifty,
which is a non-fiction account of a trip Jimmy took in his sea plane, traveling
through Central and South America and the Caribbean. We'd both read this book
when it first came out about 15 years ago, but reading it for the second time
was especially fun for us because we had sailed to and were familiar with some
of the places he visited. Additionally, we found a
statement in his book that really hit home for us: "A flying boat in
these surroundings just can't help but conjure up dreams and visions of
romance and adventure, but ... it's more work than one
might expect to keep it looking fun." The same can be said about a
flew back to New Zealand from our six-month "sabbatical" in the U.S., we knew
we had some work ahead of us. We had now lived aboard Slip Away over 10
years and sailed her over 28,000 ocean miles. Although we've done boat maintenance and repairs along
the way, and we've made a few major improvements (including the new engine in 2007 and the gelcoat/paint
job in 2009), we still had a "to-do" list which had grown quite long.
Slip Away was ready and waiting at Norsand Boatyard in Whangarei.
in New Zealand on November 1, and our plan was to spend a few months doing
boat work, and then cruise through some of New Zealand's northern islands for a bit
before taking off for the tropics in April or May. But, as so often
happens, our boat
projects took longer than anticipated, so our cruising in New Zealand was
minimal. Although we spent most of our time on this visit to NZ buried in boat work, we did find a few
opportunities to get out of the boatyard and enjoy ourselves.
The work we
did on Slip Away is covered on our
Refit Page. This page covers more of our general day-to-day life
during our six months in Whangarei.
Arrival in New Zealand
arrived at the Auckland Airport, we had a few hurdles to clear with officials. First,
we needed to satisfy
Immigration requirements since we didn't have a return airline ticket for the U.S.
Instead, we had a letter from Norsand Boatyard stating
that they had our sailboat on their property, and that we would depart the country on it.
Immigration stamped our passports and welcomed us to New Zealand. Next up was Customs. We were quite relieved when all eight of our 50 lb (23
kg) checked bags showed up on the luggage carousel, and we loaded up two
luggage trolleys and went to speak to a Customs officer. Slip Away was
temporarily imported to New Zealand, and NZ Customs allows us to bring items for
the boat into their country duty-free since these items will leave with us on the boat. We
produced our import paperwork for the Customs Officer, he was satisfied and
sent us on our way.
The final step was not difficult, but it ended up being a bit of a bottleneck. Customs x-rays all bags to make
sure no one is bringing in forbidden items - fruits and vegetables, meats,
live animals. We were not carrying any contraband, but the Customs guys at the x-ray machines were
curious about all the stuff packed in our bags. They were quite friendly, and one guy was a boater and asked us a lot of questions - what kind of work were we doing on the boat, where
was the boat, how long were we staying in New Zealand, where did we sail from,
where were we headed next, and so forth. We didn't mind, but the
passengers in line behind us grew a little impatient.
Rich with our 400 lbs. of luggage
late in the afternoon, and since Slip Away was a couple of hours away in the
town of Whangarei, we opted to spend the night at a hotel near the
airport and continue on the next morning. Although hotels are generally
expensive in New Zealand, the one place where a good deal can be found is near
the Auckland Airport - nothing fancy, but clean, reasonably priced and with an
airport shuttle. The shuttle picked us up promptly and by about 6 p.m.,
we were checked into our room. There was a restaurant on the hotel
premises, but rather than eat there and spend as much on dinner as we did on
the hotel room, we went for a walk and found a small market where we picked up
a couple of beers and snacks. We slept well that night, and the next
morning, we awoke to birdsongs. When we traveled in New Zealand the
previous year, we found the songs of the local birds to be some of the
prettiest we've ever heard, and hearing them our first morning back in the
country was a nice welcome back.
was included in our hotel room price, so we grabbed some cereal and fruit at
the buffet. There was a Chinese bus tour group staying at our hotel, so
the two of us looked a bit out of place! We had arranged for a van
service to transport us and our bags to the boatyard, and later that morning,
Stan from Stan's Van's picked us up, and we headed north to Whangarei.
Home Sweet Home
stop for lunch along the way, we arrived at Norsand Boatyard in the early afternoon. The folks at Norsand told us they had
a very wet winter, but when we climbed aboard Slip Away
and went inside, we found her to be in very good shape. While we
were away, one of the Norsand employees checked the boat once per month,
opening the hatches and airing her out on a sunny day and when necessary,
changing the dehumidifying pellets we had placed in the v-berth, salon and
stateroom. Slip Away had been well cared for - she was dry
inside, with very little mildew, and no bugs or rodents having taken up
thankful that the sun was shining on the day we arrived, so
we could open the hatches to get some fresh air in the boat and organize things a bit before bringing the
luggage on board. To help maximize air flow and minimize
mildew while we were away, we had left the stateroom mattress and settee cushions turned on end, and
all cabinet doors and drawers open. We put things in their place, made the
bed and then hauled the bags on board with a halyard. Now, where do we
put all this stuff?? It took us several days to sort things out, and even then it was just a matter of finding spaces to shove stuff
temporarily so that we were not tripping over it. Much of the time,
boaters find themselves living in chaos when in a boatyard. Some folks
can't deal with it, and they rent a flat or hotel room to live in temporarily,
but that wasn't in our budget.
Slip Away at Norsand Boatyard
getting our bags on board, we turned on our refrigerator and decided we should
make a run to the grocery store. Another item that wasn't in our budget
for this year was a car, but prior to our trip to the USA, we had purchased some second-hand bicycles from
our friends Neil & Kathy (s.v. Attitude), and Murray & Jo (the owners of
Norsand) had graciously stored them for us while we were
away. We sprayed a little Corrosion X on the chains and
gears, grabbed our backpacks and rode off to the Countdown store which was
just a few kilometers down the road. We felt pretty productive for our
first day back, and it was so good to sleep in our own bed that
night. We were very, very happy to be home.
night sleeping on Slip Away was quite comfortable temperature-wise, and we were pleased that
New Zealand didn't seem as cold as we remembered. Those thoughts were
short lived. Our second night sleeping on Slip Away was downright cold,
every blanket we owned was put on the bed, and Jan was sleeping with long
underwear under her flannel pajamas.
Life on the Hard
first few weeks in New Zealand, we didn't wander far from the boatyard.
We were working on the boat seven days a week, but we were so happy to be home
and getting Slip Away ready to go cruising again that we didn't mind.
in November was pretty typical - chilly and sometimes rainy. There were several
mornings when it was 50F (10C) inside the boat. Brrr!! We don't
have a heater on Slip Away, so it was hard to crawl out of bed on those mornings.
Also, the rainy days were frustrating when we were trying to work
on outside boat projects. But, by early December, summer had arrived.
Temperatures warmed up
quite nicely and we were seeing very little rain. We ended up being
quite fortunate as this was one of the driest summers on record in NZ, with mostly pleasant daytime temperatures (mid
to upper 70'sF, mid 20'sC). There were a few hot days, but really only a
few, although most Kiwis would probably disagree with that statement! These were drought
conditions for the New Zealand farmers, but they were perfect conditions for
us to do boat work. Also, with NZ's location in the higher
latitudes, the sun was rising early and setting late, so there were lots of
daylight hours for working on the boat.
Beautiful sunset view from our perch in the
after our return, we had a couple of important "paperwork" tasks to
complete - getting an
extension on Slip Away's temporary import permit (expiring in mid-December),
as well as visitor visa for the two of us to extend our allowable time in the country beyond the 90 days given
to us when we arrived at the airport. The visitor visa was fairly easy.
We had gone through this process last year, so it was familiar to us. We submitted
the completed application with
proof of sufficient financial means (i.e. copies of bank statements), and a
couple weeks later, they advised us that we were good to stay until May 1.
The temporary import permit extension was a bit trickier. NZ Customs
allows foreign yachts to remain in their country for one year duty-free.
If a boat stays beyond the year, duty must be paid (a large sum of money).
In order to keep a boat in New Zealand for longer than a year and not pay
duty, one must either pay a bond (also a fairly large sum of money, but it is
refunded when you depart the country) or get an
extension, which is granted only when one can justify the need, e.g. family
emergencies or doing substantial boat repairs. Jan wrote a letter to
Customs outlining the boat work we planned to do over the next several months,
and Norsand Boatyard also provided supporting documentation advising Customs
of the work that was being contracted to them. After a couple of follow-up calls to the Customs
officer in charge, we were granted our extension - a huge sigh of relief!
intended to get around by bicycle during this year's stay in NZ, we ended up
having access to a car for several weeks - actually a car and a van. Our
friends Michelle & Bernie (s.v. Momo) have become residents of New
Zealand and were living in Whangarei. They flew back to
the U.S. and Canada to visit family for the holidays and asked if we wouldn't
mind looking after their car while they were gone. No problem!
Then, our friends Heather & Jon (s.v. Evergreen) arrived in NZ on their boat
and bought a van. They too were flying home for the holidays and needed
a place to keep the van while they were gone, so we offered to look after it
for them. This all worked out quite nicely. We ended up using the
"Momo-mobile" for transportation, and the Evergreen van as a storage unit, so
the chaos inside Slip Away was significantly reduced for a few weeks.
first few weeks of nothing but boat work, we started getting out a bit more.
Jan drove the Momo Family (Michelle, Bernie and their daughters Lola & Jana) to the Auckland
airport when they flew home for their holiday visit, and she had an
opportunity to spend a few hours with our friends Sasha Kyd, her kids Kiara &
Tali and their grandmother Marion Dixon before driving back to Whangarei.
Our friends Jim & Linda (s.v. Chesapeake) returned to New Zealand after a
season cruising in Fiji & Vanuatu, and we had a couple of delightful
evenings with them. Also, we were thrilled when our friends Jon &
Heather (s.v. Evergreen) sailed into NZ - we've been friends since
meeting in the Caribbean in 2008. While sailing across the Pacific,
Jon & Heather became friends with Richard & Ali (s.v. Vulcan Spirit), who hauled out at Norsand
Boatyard in mid-November and became our best boatyard pals.
Jan in Auckland with Marion, Sasha, Kiara & Tali
Celebrating Jon & Heather's arrival in Whangarei
with dinner on board Evergreen
was a great location for us to be based during this time, and we settled into
life here quite nicely. It's a small town with a population of about
80,000 and very capable local vendors for boat work, but it has a lot more to
offer. It has a very pleasant city center
area, as well as a developed riverfront area where the Town Basin Marina is
located, and both areas have good restaurants and
shopping. For a few weeks in December, Jan attended some evening yoga
classes at a local studio (a birthday present to herself). Also, there are excellent medical services
available in Whangarei, and both of us took care of a few doctor appointments,
which cost us significantly less here than they would in the U.S. Rich
was on a first-name basis with the dermatologist - Dr. Bruce Cottee - who is
not only an outstanding doctor, but a really nice guy.
has an excellent Farmers' Market every Saturday morning, and Jan went each week, usually with Ali (s.v. Vulcan Spirit)
and/or Pauline (s.v. Changing Spots) to buy freshly picked, locally
grown produce. It was
summertime in New Zealand, so we were enjoying delicious tomatoes, avocadoes,
corn on the cob,
strawberries, blueberries, and peaches, as well as other fruits and
veggies. Locally raised meats, locally produced cheeses and freshly
caught seafood were also sold at the market, and we enjoyed a few meals of
green-lipped mussels (a NZ specialty).
also has some great hiking trails, many of which are accessible from the city
center or Town Basin, and once we had access to a car, we had even more
options available to us. We then decided that Sundays should be a day of
rest from boat work - well, mostly rest. We'd often finish up a project in the morning
and then go for a hike in the afternoon. We celebrated Jan's birthday in
early December with a hike to Whangarei Falls, and a few days before Christmas,
we drove out to Whangarei Heads and hiked the beautiful Bream Head trail.
Our other outings in the Whangarei area included a hike to the Mt. Parihaka
Lookout, a day of tramping in the Pukenui Forest with John & Heather (s.v.
Evergreen), a visit to Kiwi North (a kiwi-bird preserve and cultural
museum), and one Friday night,
we rode along with
Richard & Ali (s.v. Vulcan Spirit) to the Tutukaka Coast for a late
afternoon hike and dinner out.
Just one of the stalls at the Whangarei
Whangarei Falls - a nice place to celebrate Jan's birthday in December
Rich with Jon & Heather (s.v. Evergreen) in the Pukenui Forest
The two of us with Ali & Richard (s.v. Vulcan Spirit) at Tutukaka
Jan hiking at the Bream Head Scenic Reserve
One of the kiwi birds at Kiwi North
New Zealand's Christmas flower on the Pohutukawa tree
Agapanthus thrived in the New Zealand climate
We spent a
quiet Christmas in the boatyard since all of our friends were out of town
for the holidays. Cyclone Evan had just
wreaked havoc on Samoa and Fiji in the South Pacific and was headed for New
Zealand. The cooler waters in these more southern latitudes caused the
cyclone to lose its
punch, but its remnants brought us a fair amount of wind and rain for a couple
of days. We'd been working pretty
hard wrapping up some projects with the boatyard before they closed
down for the holidays, so we were happy to have some downtime. We had
planned to hike at Whangarei Heads on Christmas day, but when rain was
forecast, we went a couple days before and it was beautiful and sunny.
We spent a rainy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day hanging out on Slip Away,
baking Christmas cookies, watching movies and calling family. In the
afternoon on Christmas Day, the rain abated, so we drove into town and walked
along the Town Basin river walk, but it was completely deserted.
that the week between Christmas and New Year's would be a quiet one. The
boatyard was closed until early January, so we felt this would be a good
opportunity for us to tie up some loose ends on projects that were underway
and get started on a couple of new ones that we wanted to do ourselves.
However, just before the boatyard closed for the holidays, they hauled out a
huge steel fishing trawler, which they planned to water blast and spray paint
over the holidays. The water blasting started on December 26, and the
noise was deafening. The two of us were attempting to remove the
sailtrack from our caprail, with Rich inside the boat and Jan on deck, trying to
communicate to undo fasteners, but we couldn't hear each other above the noise of the
water blasters. There were only a few of us living on our boats in the
yard at this time, and by the end of the week, we were all a bit frazzled.
week between Christmas and New Year's, with most of the boatyard workers off
for the holidays, those of us living and working on our boats had a bit more
time to see and talk with one another (and vent about the noise from the water
blasting). All of us had been working hard on our boats, and we hadn't
really been socializing much. We thought it would be fun to get together
and have a happy hour, so Jan posted a note on the mirror at the bathroom
sinks inviting everyone to get together on Friday evening. Everyone
brought their own drinks and an appetizer to share, and we gathered at the
yard's outdoor, sheltered eating area, which has picnic tables and a couple of
barbeque grills. There were only eight people at our first gathering,
but we enjoyed it so much that we decided to make it a weekly event.
After a couple of weeks, we changed it to a potluck dinner and barbeque.
After the holidays, as folks returned from holiday travel and more boats came
into the boatyard, the Friday night crowd grew. It was a great way to
celebrate the end of the work week and created a very nice camaraderie among
the boatyard residents.
Friday night barbeque and potluck at Norsand Boatyard
Waterblasting on this big fishing boat disturbed what we thought would be a
peaceful and quiet period between Christmas & New Year's
and Evergreen returned from their holiday trips to North America, we offered
to drive down to the Auckland Airport to pick them up, feeling that was
only appropriate since they had lent us their cars for several weeks.
Also, we assumed that, like us, they would be returning with a fair
amount of luggage, so the bus would be difficult, and the van service was
pretty expensive. Evergreen emailed us their itinerary, which indicated
they would land just before midnight on December 30. They made a
reservation at a hotel near the airport, and we were to pick them up there on
the morning of the 31st. We got up early, drove to their hotel in
Auckland and didn't see them, so we called their cell phone. They
answered, but they were still in Australia! Their travel agency
had forgotten to adjust their arrival date for crossing the date line, so we
were at the hotel a day early. Now what to do? We had just driven
2˝ hours to Auckland and didn't relish the idea of driving back to
Whangarei and doing it all over again the next day. Besides that, with
the price of gas at $2 per liter, it would likely be cheaper for us to get a hotel
room in Auckland for the night than to drive back and forth. We had
plans to see our friends Kerri & Andrew (s.v. Mariposa) who live in Auckland later in the week
when we came to pick up Momo, so we called Kerri & Andrew and asked
if we could move our plans up by a few days. It worked for them, and we ended up
having a very nice New Year's Eve with them, and Kerry's mum and uncle.
Andrew cooked a great seafood curry for dinner and afterward, we played
Dominoes and celebrated the new year with champagne, although we were all in
bed sleeping before midnight. The next morning, we picked up Jon &
Heather at their hotel and drove them back to Whangarei with an empty van.
The airlines had lost all eight of their checked bags! They eventually
did get them all, but only after many phone calls and hours of frustration.
A few days later, Jan drove down to Auckland to pick up the Momo
family, and that airport
pickup went much more smoothly.
holidays, we looked at our "to-do" list, and although we had crossed off
some big items, there was still a lot on it. We had tentatively
scheduled our launch date for early February, but we realized we wouldn't make
that, so we asked the boatyard to put us on the calendar for a couple of weeks
later, and we went back to our seven-day work week. Over the
next several weeks, our launch date became a moving target, but we
finally went back in the water on March 7. Rich would have been quite
happy to spend another couple of months in Norsand finishing up the list, but
Jan reminded him that our NZ visitor visa was expiring in eight weeks (May 1),
and we needed to be ready to leave by then. At this point, Slip Away had been on hardstand for 10 months, the longest
we've ever had her out of the water. We were pretty sure that there
would be some glitches in the systems that were "mothballed" for the past 10
months, and we needed to be in the water to work those out.
Additionally, our bank accounts were just about empty.
always a bit of a struggle between the two of us when it's time to get
underway after an extended period of boat work. Jan is often pushing for
us to get out of the yard or off the dock, and Rich is usually resisting
because there are things he still wants to get done. We found a quote which
accurately describes our situation: "It's the optimist who gets you off the
dock, while it's the pessimist who keeps you from losing the boat" (an insight
attributed to circumnavigator Evans Starzinger, s.v. Hawk). We're
lucky to have one of each on board Slip Away.
date came with a forecast of fine, clear weather and thankfully light winds.
High tide was mid-afternoon, so we had the morning to tie up some loose ends.
Just before lunch, Slip Away's cradle was hitched to the tractor, and
shortly after, she was moved to the launch ramp and then slowly backed into
the water. Slip Away's engine started right up, and we had no leaks - all good.
We backed out of the slipway and motored the couple miles up to Town Basin
Marina, where we had a berth reserved. Robbie & Neville (s.v. Catwagon) drove down to the marina from the boatyard,
took our lines as we came in and helped us tie up to the dock. We were
After pulling into our slip, we found out that three of Norsand's employees
lived nearby on their boats, so we felt quite at home.
Now, it was
time to get Slip Away back into sailing shape. Our sails came out
of storage, we installed them on their spars, and
Jan got to work sewing new sailcovers for the main and mizzen. She also made
several runs to the Countdown and Pak n Save grocery stores to start stocking up with provisions. Rich shifted his focus to the engine and
genset and quickly found our first hiccup - the generator would not start. We had a
local mechanic scheduled to help us with some engine maintenance, so this got added to his list.
After new glow plugs and a new run solenoid, the genset was running
again. Fortunately, we had a used run solenoid in our cache of spares
because a new one in NZ would have set us back $700.
Launching Slip Away after 10 months in Norsand
We had been
looking forward to a couple of weeks in the Town Basin Marina because it's
such a great location near the center of town. When we were in the
marina the previous year, we had an end-tie berth near the center of the
marina, and it was quiet and
pleasant. However, this time we didn't score such a great location.
We were the second boat in from the dock entrance gate, practically on top of Riverside Drive
(one of the busiest streets in Whangarei) , and we felt like we were in a fishbowl. We were still
consumed with boat projects, so we didn't have time to enjoy being close to
town or any of the nearby hikes. Jan
was lobbying for us to get out to Great Barrier Island, about 50 miles off the
coast, and our mechanic agreed that it was a good idea for us to take a trip
out there so we could give the
engine a thorough shakedown. After three
weeks in Town Basin Marina, we were finally ready to get away from the dock.
It was Easter weekend, and although we would have preferred to visit
Great Barrier on a non-holiday weekend, we were going anyway.
We had one
last item of business to take care of before leaving Whangarei - it was time
to sell our bikes. Although friends we made over the past several months readily offered us
rides to the grocery store or even the use of their cars if we needed them, we
tried not to take advantage of their generosity too often, and the bikes had been
put to good use. We were using the bikes on a daily basis when we were in Town Basin, so we waited until the last minute to
try and sell them, and weren't sure if we would be successful. When Jan
was out running errands on one of our last days in Whangarei, she posted "For
Sale" notices on the marina bulletin board and at the Pak n Save grocery
store. When she got back to the boat, she hung a "For Sale" sign on the
the dock. About 30 minutes later, Doug from s.v. Freycinet was
walking down the dock toward their boat a couple of slips down from us,
stopped and bought the bikes from us. Excellent!
A vivid double rainbow seen from our berth in Town Basin Marina
Our bikes were great for getting around in Whangarei
we were preparing to leave Town Basin, Rich ran into Jon &
Heather (s.v. Evergreen) who returned the previous evening from their road
trip to the South Island. Darn it! We had a miscommunication - they thought
we'd already left Whangarei, and we thought they were still a couple of days away.
It would have been nice to spend a bit of time with them, but we promised to see
each other again soon. Mark & Ann (s.v. Blue Rodeo) and Doug (s.v. Freycinet) helped us with our lines as we departed the dock - maneuvering was
tight since we were close to the sea wall, but there was no wind and with a
good push on the bow, we were headed in the right direction. As we
motored past Norsand Boatyard, we blew our horn, and Robbie & Neville (s.v. Catwagon) and Richard (s.v. Vulcan Spirit) waved as we went by.
Town Basin Marina is located 14 miles up the Hatea River from the coast, so
our first day we just motored down the river and spent the night anchored at
Urquhart's Bay. It was our first night at anchor in eleven months -
where did the time go?
Barrier Island (March 30 to April 6). The next morning was
rainy but calm as we weighed anchor and headed offshore. There wasn't
much wind in the forecast, so we expected it would be a motor trip, and it
was. The distance from Urquhart's Bay to Forestry Bay in Port Fitzroy on Great Barrier
Island was 46 nm, and we dropped our anchor at 5 p.m. It was Saturday of
Easter weekend, and there were a number of boats around, but it wasn't overly
different in many ways, Great Barrier Island reminded us of Catalina Island in
Southern California - a rugged and remote island off the coast of a major
city. One of the big differences is the nearest city to Great Barrier is
Auckland, with a population of 2 million people, and Catalina is near Los
Angeles with a population of 15 million. Also, Great Barrier gets more
rain, so it is greener, and it also has much better and much less crowded
anchorages than Catalina.
James Cook named this island Great Barrier in 1769, but it's Maori name is
Aotea. In the past, copper, gold and silver were mined on Great Barrier,
kauri trees were logged and whaling stations operated on its shores; however,
today the great majority of the island is Public Conservation Land.
Great Barrier has approximately 800 year-round residents, and a number of
native animals and plants thrive here due to the absence of the many
introduced pests and species found on the mainland.
We spent a
week at Great Barrier Island. We had good intentions to do a few small
boat projects, but we never seemed to get around to them. We found a few
friends among the other boaters here, including Martin & Angie (s.v.
Katie M II) and Catherine & Mike (s.v. Falbala), and enjoyed some
get-togethers with them. There are numerous hiking trails on Great
Barrier, and we hiked several of them, including the Warren's Track, Glenfern
Sanctuary and the challenging trek to Mt. Hobson. Our legs were sore for
days after Mt. Hobson! Despite the sore muscles, this was a much-needed get-away for us.
The very scenic and well protected anchorage at Port Fitzroy on Great
Great Barrier has beautiful beaches along its eastern side,
as seen from the Mt. Hobson hike
This family of brown teals visited us every day
The Port Fitzroy General Store
week at Great Barrier, we headed back to Urquhart's Bay, where we spent a
couple more nights at anchor. A short distance from Urquhart's is
Marsden Cove Marina, our next destination, where we had a follow-up visit
the engine mechanic. Before going into the marina, however, we
wanted to get our watermaker up and running. Rich started it up, and
everything ran well for about five minutes, when a high-pressure hose burst.
Dang it!! Add that repair to the "to-do" list.
Cove Marina (April 9 to 30). Marsden Cove is a relatively new and
very nice marina. It's location is great for the locals because it's on
the coast, whereas the Town Basin Marina is 14 miles up the river. But
the downside of Marsden Cove is that it's pretty much in the middle of nowhere,
and a car is essential to run any errands. Our friends Mike & Catherine
(s.v. Falbala) were also in Marsden Cove and had a car, which they
generously offered to us if we needed it.
intention when we pulled into Marsden Cove was that we would finish up our
engine maintenance with the mechanic and then sail up the coast, cruise the
Bay of Islands for a bit, and depart for Fiji from Opua. However,
the watermaker issue added a bit of time to our planned stay in Marsden
Cove, and there were a number of other items we wanted to tie up
before our departure as well. We looked at the calendar - we were already into
April and our visitor visa was expiring at the end of the month. We wouldn't have enough time to cruise the Bay of
Islands, which was disappointing to us, but at least we had gotten out to Great
We stayed in Marsden
Cove Marina and focused on getting as much as possible done before our
deadline at the end of the month. Jan rode up to Whangarei with
Catherine and Mike (s.v. Falbala) several times as she shopped in earnest to finish stocking
up on provisions. Our engine mechanic, Tim Brown, helped us get the
needed parts for our watermaker. One of the things we really like about
New Zealand is that the people there often go out of their way to help others
- so refreshing!
were somewhat isolated down in Marsden Cove, we enjoyed the quiet
surroundings, and we had regular happy hour gatherings and a few dinners with
Mike & Catherine (s.v. Falbala). Through them, we also met and
enjoyed the company of a couple of
locals, Andy & Irene on A Slice of Heaven, a beautiful motor cat which
they had built themselves. We managed a couple more get-togethers with Jon & Heather (s.v. Evergreen) and Richard &
Ali (s.v. Vulcan Spirit), including an evening when they drove down to Marsden Cove for dinner
on board Slip Away. We were all hoping to meet up again in Fiji, but there's always some
uncertainty when it comes to cruising plans.
We also had
an out-of-town visitor while we were in Marsden Cove. Our friend Helen (s.v.
Dolce Vita) who lives in Christchurch on NZ's South Island came up to
Whangarei for a few days. Her daughter Hazel had recently moved to
Whangarei temporarily, so she came up to visit with Hazel, and we got to meet
Hazel and spend time with both of them. Unfortunately, Helen's husband
Phil was unable to get away from work, so we missed him. Mike &
Catherine (s.v. Falbala) also know Helen, so it was a nice reunion.
Girls' day out and a hike to the Mt. Parihaka lookout -
Jan with Hazel, Helen (s.v. Dolce Vita) and Catherine (s.v.
During our stay in Marsden Cove, the French boat, La Loupiote,
put on an acrobatic performance. After the show, they passed the
and they used those donations to finance their sailing adventure.
diligently to tie up loose ends and get Slip Away ready for departure.
By now, we were well into Fall - the air was cooler, days were shorter, and
the weather was less settled. While we were in Marsden Cove, a storm
came through with 50-knot winds - we were glad to be tied up at the dock
rather than at anchor in the Bay of Islands or Opua.
contacted Bob McDavitt, the local weather guru and secured his services to
provide us weather routing for our passage from New Zealand to Minerva Reef,
where we intended to stop off for a
bit (about 80% of the way to Fiji). By some stroke of luck, he recommended a departure date of April
30 (our visas expired on May 1). We contacted NZ Customs and emailed to them our "Advance Notice of
Departure." We were ready to go. We were expecting that Falbala
would be departing at the same time as us, but at the last minute, they had a
problem with their satellite phone. Since they use their phone for
weather updates during passages, and they had a couple of weeks left on their
visitor visa, they decided to stay and sort out that problem before departure.
morning of April 30, the NZ Customs Officer stopped by our boat and completed
our departure paperwork. Shortly afterward, Garrit (s.v. Fruits de Mer,
a Dutch boat) stopped by our boat and told us they were also departing, and we
agreed to keep in touch on the radio. Some other friends who had
departed from Opua a few days earlier had given us their radio sked times and
frequencies, so we had others with whom we could also keep in touch while
after lunch, Falbala came over to say good-bye. They helped us
untie our docklines, and we backed
out of our berth, headed out of the marina, and then motored out the mouth
of the Hatea River and past the beautiful Whangarei Heads. Once clear of
Bream Head, we set our sails, turned off the engine, and we were on our way.
Our departure was bittersweet - we were excited to be on our way to Fiji and
the tropics, but we were sad to say good-bye to New Zealand. With the
exception of Mexico, we'd spent more time in New Zealand than any other
country in our travels. We'd spent almost a year in New Zealand, and it
had been a great place to call home.
Ready to go - the morning of our departure
Good-bye New Zealand! Sailing past the Whangarei headlands.