Friday, November 24, 2006

Guest Entry: The Godfather arrives in Auckland

So the Godfather and Godmother (not sure whose but I bet she is some lucky kids') arrived safely. At around 1.30 pm on the 12th November Kika sailed into Auckland Marina. By the time Tess, my daughter, and I had found the correct pontoon a fair sized crowd had already gathered.
helping hand
I assumed they were antipodean relatives of Ellen's who had just interbred a little too much but thankfully they turned out to be a group of very concerned boat owners. Nick and Ellen it seems had been making their way through the Marina in quite an erratic fashion and boaties were having to fend off Kika in order to save their own babies. Anyway Nick finally, after a year and a half, managed to master the gears and throttle and bring Kika safely (sic) into the correct berth.
tying up
It looked like a sailing performance from a couple of complete novices so you can imagine the look of shock on the crowd's face when I told them that Nick and Ellen had in fact just sailed half way round the world. Some of them crossed their chests and praised the lord, some knelt down and wept and thanked Jesus that their boat hadn't been sunk by Kika who at 13 tonnes (this is apparently very heavy for a yacht of her size) was not going to be taking any prisoners and some just didn't believe me and the irrefutable fact that miracles can still happen.

Anyway after that entry and a year and a half on the high seas the captain and his able sea lady looked a little shell-shocked. They needed time and drink before recovering and finding their bearings plus excuse for their entry which they attributed to the gears on the engine not engaging and finding it difficult to get Kika into reverse.
How they could blame 'she' that has so valiantly looked after them through some of the world's most treacherous seas did surprise me a little but I think being isolated out on the ocean for so long can do strange things to the mind and perhaps on reflection they will take a long hard look at themselves and try to sharpen up on marina entries (something they had apparently not done since their days in Spain).Of great sadness and shock to us was obviously the news that my very own Posh and Becks (please forgive me but any visitor who sails here on a boat from England gets treated like royalty) had split up somewhere in the Pacific. I don't understand it because they looked so fantastic on arrival and were a joy to spend time with even if the story of their voyage did go on a little too long - however I would just like to reassure all relatives in England and friends all around the world that they both seem in very good spirits and just need some time alone.
It may be quite a long time that they want to spend on their own but please respect their wishes and give them all your love and support. As a man of modest relationship experience I would just like to add a philosophical note here and say that it sometimes seems that those nearest and dearest to us are both the thorniest and horniest.

So Ellen is currently trying out a new mode of transport in the form of a camper van and Nick has just started to strip Kika's engine. Luckily he began this project after a fantastic weekend of sailing on Kika with me and my two boys (Charlie and Tom).Nick slept in the stern (back) of the boat, Charlie in the bow (front) and Tom and I took the deluxe double bed in the main cabin where the table drops and becomes a bed (marvellous design).Tom slept on the left (starboard) and I slept on the right (port). Now I have this awful nagging feeling that I may have got that the wrong way round but Nick isn't around to check these facts with. Anyway this evening I tried to encourage my wife to come and spend a night on the boat with me because I have always fancied having her on the table but she refused.

A huge round of applause for Auckland's very own Posh and Becks who have done something truly amazing.

Over and out from your correspondent in the antipodese.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

New Zealand arrival

As dawn broke, we could see the outline of Cape Brett on the horizon. Despite having made numerous land-falls, the first sight of land after days at sea, has yet to loose its excitement. Our first sight of New Zealand was especially thrilling.It could be that we've been anticipating this landfall throughout our Pacific trip, knowing that it's the chance to rest and recuperate (for us and Kika), with the added pleasure of meeting long-lost New Zealand friends. Then again it could be that Zeferin's enthusiasm for their homeland has infected us with talk of amazing seafood, beautiful anchorages and stunning scenery.
The weather remained calm and clear as we motored into the Bay of Islands and up the river leading to the customs dock at Opua. We were briefly joined by some passing dolphins and received a "welcome to New Zealand" from Des at Russell Radio when we called-in to update our arrival time, all adding to the growing anticipation.

Customs and quarantine were completed in a blur of officials boarding Kika, form filling, passport stamping and confiscating fresh food and Panamanian pop-corn. All very efficient, friendly and straightforward.

Though the marina looked inviting we anchored off; it seemed a shame to start paying marina fees, which we've carefully avoided since the Canaries - not difficult in the Pacific - marinas are few and far between. We completed the day in true Kiwi style thanks to Kathleen, a New Zealander we met on-board Quantum Leap, who invited us for a welcome to New Zealand "fush and chups" supper.
The following morning we found the river obscured by mist and caught sight of our breath in the cabin - a first for us since leaving the UK. We're not equiped for such weather - winter/spring clothing needs purchasing. It's certainly a change from the unrelenting sun of the tropics. Fortunately the diesel heater fixed itself (I wish that would happen more often) and as the morning sun burnt off the fog, we enjoyed the emerging view from the comfort of a cosy boat. The landscape appears to be a mix of Cornwall, Scotland and Ireland; boats swinging on moorings in estuaries bordered by soft green rolling hills. It's hard to believe we're half-way round the world - the landscape, weather and temperature are so familiar, on the other hand the birds, trees and foliage feel exotic and the accents are unmistakably antipodean.
As I write this, almost a week has passed since our arrival. We're currently heading down to Auckland to meet up with some of our New Zealand friends. We've spent the last week exploring some of the anchorages in the Bay of Islands, sampling oysters (we managed 30 each one evening), diving unsuccessfully for scallops (needed a more substantial wet-suit) and being surprised by familiar sounds and sights; sheep bleating, sea-gull calls and mobile phone ring-tones to name a few. The weather seems a little Irish, four seasons in as many hours with some horrendous gusts (50 knots briefly). Fortunately the holding has been good and our anchor has held firm.

meeting the locals
meeting the locals
We're slowly adapting to a more land-based existence and we now have New Zealand numbers for our mobiles. You can contact us on:

Nick: +64 211880714
Ellen: +64 212362621

Saturday, November 04, 2006

New Zealand in Sight

It's Sunday morning and we are 20 miles from Opua. We've had a long windless night but all is well. The sea is flat and there's plenty of blue sky.

We can see Cape Brett on the north east of New Zealand and it looks very dramatic. Opua is in the Bay of Islands and we're not really sure what to expect other than lovely scenery. We don't know how commercial it is nor how busy. I'm hoping for a level of development that may include a cafe and laundry (what's new?) and if it is so developed that it has hot showers, I won't grumble. Nick is very excited because he hasn't washed his hair in 10 days and in that time, he believes it has started to 'self-clean'. Hmmmm....I fear it won't be long before this 'self-cleaning' miracle spreads to other areas such as washing up and bedlinen! Oh woe!

Most of the boats we know chose to make this their landfall, so we're hoping for some friendly faces to cheer us in. More later.

Distance to go - 20 nm
Position @ 07:38 S34°58' E174°24'

Friday, November 03, 2006

Albatross watching

It was bitterly cold last night and the morning didn't promise much of a reprieve with a grey overcast sky. We were so cold we thought we'd try the diesel cabin heater which has remained idle since we left the UK. After some time we received some warm but burnt-smelling air and hurriedly switched it off again having decided that the burning smell probably wasn't a feature. The result was we put on a few more layers and added "cabin heater" to the list of boat jobs.

During the day the sky gradually cleared and the bitterly cold wind lost its edge; perhaps we're acclimatising. We're spending more time out of the cabin and saw our first albatross.
It was some distance in front of us, but had an unmistakably huge wing span and effortless flight. We're hoping for some closer encounters tomorrow with this magnificant bird.

As the skies cleared so the wind dropped, until by late afternoon we were making less than 5 knots in light winds. Fortunately there isn't much swell so the little wind there is remains in the sails. However the initial conservative estimate I gave to the NZ maritime authorities yesterday started to look optimistic so we called the authorities again with a revised (later) estimate and hope we don't keep the customs and quarantine authorities waiting on the dock for us on Sunday morning.

It's currently a calm, clear, bright moon-light night, we're making between 4 and 5 knots. It's so peaceful out here that it's difficult to imagine the same stretch of ocean as a rough and wild place that frequently causes yachts hove-to for hours while waiting for gales to pass by.

Position at 22:50 (UTC +13): S32° 39' E175° 41'
Distance to go: 158

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Countdown to Landfall

Today the sea has been pretty big and the waves are hitting us on the beam making the motion on Kika quite uncomfortable.It has been sunny, however, and we had fishing success this afternoon in the form of a lovely tuna. Nick was catching up on some sleep and I was relaxing with my book when the winch began to scream as the fish took the line out. Poor Nick had a rude awakening but it's nice to have some meat.

Though the radio scheds are still dominated by the weather prognoses, there is now more talk and speculation about what landfall is going to be like in NZ. Ragtime (Will and Alyssa) reached Opua in the Bay of Islands last night and say that it is really beautiful. They also mentioned that they were welcomed by several albatross and three dolphin pods. We called up the NZ coastguard today to notify them of our imminent arrival and they seemed very pleased to hear from us, so we already feel we're going to like it there. Fortunately, the weather is looking ok for the next few days with no sinister developments to speak of so let's hope it stays that way.

The drop in temperature is taking some getting used to. We haven't experienced cold like this since the spring of 2005. Suddenly my 'wardrobe' is looking very inadequate. I love the feeling though of being on watch and getting chilly, then dashing down below to warm up in my sleeping bag.

Noa and Zeferin are pretty far ahead now though we feel Kika has been making good speed. We should arrive on Sunday morning in time for Bonfire Night with is apparently celebrated on the other side of the world!

Position at 20:45 (UTC+13): S30°39' E176°52'
Daily run: 150
Distance to go to Opua: 292