April 2015 - New Zealand

1 April 2015   Whangarei, New Zealand
After our travel medicine advice yesterday, we dug out our medicine boxes and did a stock take.  We have four courses of Malarone to treat Malaria, which is good, but no test kits, so I've ordered four kits on-line.   We've got some Povidone Iodine and Ethanol for disinfecting a wound as protection against Rabies.  We also have over 100 Immodium tablets and various antibiotics to help if we get a serious bout of Diarrhoea, so we’re pretty well set up –fingers crossed.

I did more research into the clearance formalities for Papua New Guinea and decided that we’ll be in a much stronger position, if we already have visas in our passports.  So I began to fill in a visa application form which went fine until I discovered that I needed a passport photograph for both of us, which we didn't have.

Fortunately, I’d ordered a small Canon Selphy C910 colour photograph printer, which arrived this morning, so I had an excuse to play with it.  What a brilliant bit of kit.  At only 8” by 5”, it’s a very compact printer and produces 6” x 4” postcard-sized prints using dye sublimation technology which makes the colours last longer and there’s no ink cartridge to dry out.  It produces great photos very easily by plugging in an SD card from my camera or wirelessly from a PC, camera, phone or tablet.  I'm looking forward to being able to print colour photographs for local people that we meet over the next year.

By the time that I’d printed the photographs and cycled to the Post Office to send our passports off to the New Guinea Embassy, it was mid-afternoon, so gave up for the day and chilled out. 

Glenys returned to the drawing board and started again on her dinghy cover.  This time she’s using some bright yellow, rubberised material that was left over after she re-covered our horseshoe buoy.  It’s a lot thicker than the bed sheet material and doesn't stretch, so the templates should be more stable.  She’s getting sick of this project now and is starting to have sleepless nights thinking about it.

2 April 2015   Whangarei, New Zealand
We’re hoping to leave Whangarei at the end of next week (heard this before?), so I need to get us ready for sea and the first thing is to get our propane tanks filled.   Back in December, I tried to get our USA propane tanks tested and refilled but they wouldn’t do it, so we bought a cheap NZ tank.  I've got one empty tank and one half full, which need to be filled before we leave New Zealand, so only option is to decant the propane from the NZ tank to our USA tanks.

Decanting Propane

Steve from “Scott Free” gave me a lift in his car to get our New Zealand tank refilled.  I bought two POL fittings to screw into the tank valves and I've made up a hose to connect the two tanks together.  The idea is that I’ll hang the full tank upside down and the liquid propane will run by gravity into the empty tank below.  

I've never done this before, so I spent an hour or so reading up on how to do it and working out what the markings on our propane tanks mean.   I'm going technical now, so you can skip this next paragraph…

Our tanks have two significant codes, TW=13.2 lbs and WC = 47.6 lbs.  These mean that our tank weights 13.2 lbs when empty and can hold 47.6 lbs of water.  Propane weighs 42% less than water for the same volume, so our tank can hold 47.6 * 0.42 = 20 lbs of propane.  Therefore to avoid overfilling, I need to check that the tank weighs no more than 13.2 + 20.0 = 33.2 lbs when full.  Interesting, eh?

Having worked all this out and set up the rig, I bottled out because there was no wind and I'm scared that if there’s a leak, the heavier-than-air Propane will collect in the bottom of our boat and Alba will explode when Glenys lights her oven tonight.  So, I'm waiting for a windy day.

The first batch of our upholstery turned up today and it looks well made, but it looks very strange after living with the old material for four years.  Glynn from Palmer Canvas gave me an hour’s warning that they were coming, so that I’d have time to remove the fixed seat backs, but that wasn't long enough.  By the time they arrived, I was completely at a loss on how to remove the last two.  

Glynn gave me a hand and we eventually had to take a knife to the upholstery and cut it open to see how they were attached.  It turned out that the seat backs are actually screwed to the wall through two small holes cut into the sides of the cushions which were hidden from view.  I’m not looking forward to putting it all back together.

Glenys carried on struggling with the damn dinghy cover.  The local residents walking back and forth from their boats on this dock must wonder what the hell we’re doing.  By mid-afternoon, she was still struggling and totally demoralised, so I took over the job for her.  

I first put some masking tape on the dinghy to give me some reference datum lines and then started to tape the templates accurately in position, cutting them to an exact size with the edges of the templates being the sewing line.  It’s amazing how moving one panel a few millimetres throws everything else out.  By the end of the day, I’d done the front three panels – they look okay, but we’ll only really know when Glenys starts sewing.  

3 April 2015   Whangarei, New Zealand
I actually ticked a job of my To Do List today – I went up the mast and replaced the front deck flood light with a new LED lamp, then I was then back on the damn dinghy cover.

After four hours slaving away, I now have one side done apart from a long straight bit that should take me an hour tomorrow.  It must have taken me two hours just to do the semi-spherical end of the tube – what a nightmare.  Anyway, it looks like Glenys may be able to start sewing tomorrow.

Templates finally finished on one side

Glenys got on with some sewing jobs, making various flaps and a tensioning strip for the dinghy cover.  This job is consuming both our lives and we’re weary of it – perhaps we should have paid for someone to do it for us.

4 April 2015   Whangarei, New Zealand
Winter is coming. It’s consistently cold in the mornings - I'm having to put on socks and a fleece and then turning on our Webasto heating system for half an hour to take the chill off the air.

I had another day working on the damn dinghy cover.  Now that I've made all the templates for the port side of the dinghy, I removed them and stuck them on the starboard side, just to make sure that the dinghy is symmetrical.  I found that the first panel on the starboard side had to be a slightly different shape, so I made a separate panel for that.

All the others seem to be a mirror image of the port side, so we can reverse those templates to get the shape for the starboard panels, although the handles and row-locks are in different positions.  Later in the afternoon, we made a little prototype of the seams and worked out how we’re going to attach the 3 mm line which will keep the outside edge of the cover tight. It’s a labour of love.

Glenys went to try to get some Vanuatu currency, but failed miserably.  Only the Post Office seems to be able to provide the currency and they need a passport to be able to change over $1000 NZ dollars – our passports are still away at the Papua New Guinea embassy.  Typical, this is the first time in two years that our passports have been out of our sight and we now need them… 

5 April 2015   Whangarei, New Zealand
It was the end of a tax year in the UK, so I did some administration in the morning and brought our accounts up to date.  We've completely blown our budget over the past year, mostly because we've spent so much money on the boat here in New Zealand.  Going to the UK and spending three weeks travelling around South Island was expensive too.  Ah well, this next year should be a little bit cheaper while we’re travelling through Indonesia

Glenys most of the day working on the dinghy cover.  She cut out the first three panels from sunbrella and then sewed it all together to make the actual cover. It all went very well and it looks like we might have cracked it.  Unfortunately, she discovered that she hasn't bought enough sunbrella, so the job ground to a halt mid-afternoon.

6 April 2015   Whangarei, New Zealand
Glenys had a day off the dinghy and went out to so some serious shopping - it’s Easter Monday and it’s the end-of-summer sales.  With the boat to myself, I continued looking through my tools and spares, throwing out useless or duplicate things and adding to the list of things to buy before we leave Whangarei.

I went out in the afternoon to do a bit of bargain shopping.  I wanted a shorty wet suit and a new pair of sandals, but I struggled because those things are summer items and the main stores have run down their stocks.  I eventually found a wet suit, but couldn’t find a decent pair of Keen sandals – I was cursing myself for not buying them a couple of months earlier.

7 April 2015   Whangarei, New Zealand
We had another shopping day, I managed to find a pair of sandals – they’re not quite what I wanted, but there’s not much choice left in the shops.  I then spent most of the day running around buying spare parts to top up my stocks.  Glenys had a great time buying things to take up to Vanuatu for the cyclone victims.

A few more spares

Paul from “The Beguine” has arranged for a local guy to fill one of our propane tanks, which is completely empty.  So I only have to fill our half empty one and we’ll be sorted out.

In the evening, we went out for a pizza with “The Beguine” and “Grasshopper”

8 April 2015   Whangarei, New Zealand
We’ve been living on Alba for exactly four years today, so I worked out a few statistics.  In the past twelve months, we’ve sailed 7,736 nautical miles bringing our total to 19,951 since we moved aboard.  However, we’re only 126 degrees of longitude to the west of Grenada, meaning that we’ve only done 35% of our around-the-world voyage.  In four years, we’ve run the engine for 1,831 hours, which at 5 knots equates to 9,155 miles, which (surprisingly) means that we’ve spent 45% of our time motoring – I guess all the motoring in the USA and going down rivers has bumped that up.

It was windy this morning (for the first time for four days), so I set up my propane decanting rig and filled our second tank.  It already had 10 lbs of propane in it, so it was half full.  I was quite pleased with the process because after 3 hours, I’d fully charged the tank with 20 lbs of propane - it seemed to go a little quicker when I soaked a towel in cold water and draped it around the lower tank.  This lowered the pressure of the receiving tank and increased the flow.

Our passports arrived yesterday with our Papua New Guinea visas, so Glenys went into town and ordered $2,000 NZD worth of Vanuatu currency.  We’ve promised to take some money out to Vanuatu for Katie from “Tenaya” and hand it out to some of her friends there.