March 2015 - New Zealand

1 March 2015   Twizle, New Zealand
The plan was to go sea kayaking on Tasman Lake, where there are icebergs which are formed when the Tasman Glacier calves into the lake.  Unfortunately, the forecast was for high winds reaching gale force, so the guides running the trip cancelled it – they said they don’t do epics… We were very disappointed, but no one can change the weather.

We decided to walk up the Hooker Valley Track, which is a very popular trail up a hard packed gravel path.  There were hundreds of people doing this three hour walk and most of them were Chinese.  It’s amazing just how many Chinese tourists there are in New Zealand – some of the locals believe that the Chinese are going to be running New Zealand within a hundred years.  The Chinese are currently being blamed for the high prices of houses in Auckland because of speculative buying of property.

Nice place to stop for lunch

Despite the hordes of tourists, the walk was very pleasant.  There is supposed to be a fabulous view of Mount Cook from Hooker Lake, but the low clouds and rain hid most of the high mountains.  It only took us three hours to do the return trip, so we went to Tasman Lake to have a look at the icebergs.  We were gutted to see that the lake was as flat as a pancake – the forecast gale force winds hadn’t materialised.  At least we got to see the icebergs from the shore.

It was grey and overcast all day in the Mount Cook National Park, but as we drove towards Twizle, the skies cleared and fifteen minutes later the sun was shining.  The road goes along the side of Lake Pukaki and the view across the blue, blue waters to the misty mountains was lovely. 

2 March 2015   Twizle, New Zealand
The forecast was for rain and high winds again in the Mount Cook National Park, so we drove to Lake Tekapo and did a really nice three hour hike up Mount John.  The small mountain sticks up above the surrounding glacial plains and there are fabulous views from the top of the blue lakes and mountains surrounding the sweeping grasslands.  It looks very much like the plains of Rohan in Lord of the Rings.

We had great weather all day, but “Laragh” had overcast and windy conditions for their hike in the Mount Cook National Park – it’s amazing how the weather changes within just 30 miles.

3 March 2015   Twizle to Christchurch, New Zealand
After cleaning up our mess after staying in one place for more than a couple of days, we drove to Christchurch, which took nearly five hours.

Earthquake damage on Christchurch Catherdral

The motel that we booked into was in the university district a mile or so out of town, so after checking in, we drove into the city centre to have a quick look around.  

There was a major earthquake in February 2011, which hit the city badly. 185 people were killed and many of the buildings in the central and east side of the city were damaged.   Even after 4 years the city centre looks like a huge building site with half demolished buildings mixed in with new buildings being erected.

The cathedral was badly damaged and is still propped up by a steel framework, but the city has built a temporary Cathedral made from shipping containers and huge 2 metre diameter cardboard rolls.  It only took 18 months to construct the building, which is an interesting structure.  Many buildings are propped up by shipping containers and there’s even a shopping centre where all of the shops are built from old shipping containers. 

We were very naughty and had an Indian curry for dinner to celebrate our fabulous three week break in South Island.

4 March 2015   Christchurch to Whangarei, New Zealand
We travelled back to Whangarei.  There were no problems this time - we dropped the car off, the plane to Auckland was on time and we only had a 40 minute wait for the plane to Whangarei - we were back on the boat by 1430.

Fortunately, the boat hadn't sunk, so we unpacked and started to rewrite our To Do Lists - it’s back to work tomorrow.

5 March 2015   Whangarei, New Zealand
I ran around in the morning doing a few errands.  The turbo for the engine had been refurbished and tested okay, which was a relief - I’ll have to refit it in the next few days, which I'm not looking forward to.

Back to Whangarei Marina

I called in to pick up the window for our windscreen, but it’s still not ready.  The receptionist couldn't find out what was going on because the boss was out.  They sent me an email later saying it that there had been a mistake with the glass and could be another ten days, so I sent a stroppy email back pointing out that I was planning to leave on the 16th and so far they’d had this little job for 12 weeks.

I ordered a new AIS Transceiver.  We already have an AIS Receiver that shows us the position, course and speed of nearby vessels, but we feel that we need to be able to transmit our position as well.  Nowadays, ships are relying more on AIS than Radar and this should alert shipping about our presence better than Radar.

After lunch, I completed the wiring for the new radar and all works well.  I now need to get the radome down off the mast again so that we can paint the bracket.

Our new AB dinghy arrived, so we unpacked it all by the marina office, inflated it and rowed it back to the boat.  I immediately put it on the foredeck, but unfortunately it doesn't quite fit between the mast and a set of stainless steel bars in front of the inner fore-stay.  The bars used to protect a dorade vent which we have sealed off, so I'm now going to have to remove the bars and plug the holes in the deck - bummer.

6 March 2015   Whangarei, New Zealand
I had a bit of a restless night worrying about the damn window.  If they screw it up and/or damage the hinge moulding then we’ll be buggered - we can’t sail anywhere without the window in our windscreen.  So after breakfast, I went round to the window manufacturer to piss and whinge, but they immediately took the wind out of my sails by telling me that they are working on it and it should be ready in a couple of days - I’ll just have to trust them.

Laragh join the band

Back on the boat, I remove the dorade bars and the dinghy now fits nicely on the foredeck.  I still have to plug the holes in the deck.

My sister Yvonne and her husband Stuart called in for a visit.  Their son Ben lives in Wellington and they've come over from the UK to visit him for a month.  We've not seen them for a few years, so we had a lot of catching up to do.

In the evening, we went to the wedding of Phil and Sara from “Loch Marin”.  We met them in the Marquesas and have ben bumping into them sever since.  It was a good do with lots of cruisers there.  Phil is Scottish and arranged a band that played reels and line dancing tunes, so it was great fun. "Laragh" just had to join with the band.

7 March 2015   Whangarei, New Zealand
The new laptop that I bought in the UK came with Windows 8 installed and it’s been driving me mad for the past week.  Our wireless internet antenna plugs into a USB port and the computer keeps disconnecting it every few minutes.  I've discovered that Windows 8 has a problem with USB ports with no apparent solution, so the only answer is to install Windows 7.  I spent the morning copying data from my new PC to my old PC ready to format the new laptop - damn Microsoft.

In the afternoon, I went up the mast and removed the radar radome and prepared the bracket for painting.  I then finished off the new cupboard door for the aft heads and fitted the hinges and lock.  We’re now ready to start painting.  I also tested the pressures in our two fridges and, thankfully, they seem to be holding their pressure after I had the screw-fit connectors removed.

Hugging our lovely new dinghy

Glenys spent most of the day with her head down in the bilges or in cupboards, while she wire brushed and cleaned all of our 21 sea-cocks - they all seem to be in good condition once cleaned up. 

8 March 2015   Whangarei, New Zealand
It was Glenys’s birthday, so we had a chill-out day. This year she actually got a present - a pair of Jade earrings that she selected in Hokitika. Glenys worked hard at lounging about all day, but I couldn't resist having a play with our new AB dinghy.

It’s has bigger tubes than the Apex dinghy that we bought in Tahiti; has a deeper V-shaped aluminium hull and sits a lot higher at the bow, so I'm hoping that it will be plane quickly and be much drier.  I attached our 15hp outboard engine hoping to go for a spin but, after a 3 month lay-off, I can’t get it to run consistently and I’ll have to strip down the carburettor. 

“Laragh” are leaving Whangarei tomorrow and heading up to Opua to get ready to sail to Australia next week, so in the evening, we went across to the marina office where David and Katrina had organised a barbecue with a group of the other cruisers.