JANUARY , 2012

December 5 – 15, 2011

We ended up spending two and a half weeks at the Town Basin Marina in Whangarei.  As always, when we return from the Tropics, there was a lot to accomplish.  Immediately, Paul removed the broken dinghy davits and sent it off to a stainless steel shop to have the broken brackets repaired and the entire piece strengthened.  This involved removing the solar panel after carefully removing the electrical wires from the stainless steel post.  James was still aboard while that was happening and he was a very valuable assistant.  Mary was glad that she didn’t have to be technical assistant on that job, as James is much taller than her and could reach everything without too much effort.  The repair was accomplished within three days but we waited until the next weekend when James and Di were coming for another short visit to remount the davits.

We also had a sail maker repair the UV cover on our jib (the foresail) as it was tattered in several places.  We had him use the same colour of Sunbrella (grey) as on our mainsail cover and now the colours all match.  He did a good job of reinforcing all of the areas that get extra chafing.

We then had Colleen, our favourite canvas worker, aboard to discuss recovering our cockpit cushions and the helm chair.  This is a job that she will complete in April or May when we are back at the marina for our pre-passage planning.

And, of course, a stay at the marina wouldn’t be complete without countless trips into the shopping district to whittle away at our list of things to buy, and after six months in the Tropics the list was very long.  Thankfully, James and Di were aboard a couple of times and had their car and they happily drove us anywhere we needed to go.  Thanks James and Di! 

For the entire time that we were at the marina the basin was being dredged.  Every morning at 0630h, the machines were started up and they worked all day.  We were on the end of a finger dock so we were basically in the thoroughfare for the dredger.  We tried not to look as they went by with their load of mud, with only inches to spare.

The last few days before we left the marina, the dredging area was getting closer and closer to Bella Via.  The marina staff said that they would find us another berth on the Monday, but we planned on leaving on the weekend.  We took this picture on our last evening at the marina as the dredger scooped out the mud right in front of Bella Via.  Paul was not impressed, as he had just finished scrubbing the deck and black oooozzzy mud was spattering on his spotless white deck.

Before we left the marina, we were able to catch up with a couple from Whangarei who we met in Tonga when they were vacationing.  Mavis owns and trains several miniature horses and we had been asked if we wanted to come out and see them when we were in Whangarei.  We had a lovely evening with Mavis and Lester and hope to see them again the next time that we are around.  The next morning, while we were at the grocery store, Mavis and Les dropped off several avocados from their garden and a basket of fresh eggs from their chickens.  We found the produce in our cockpit when we returned.  Such generosity!

Here is Mavis with two of her horses, one of which recently won first place in an agricultural fair.
Mavis took one of her horses around the track to show us how she trains them and what they have to do at competitions.  Paul then gave it a try.  He did quite well for a novice.

On Sunday, December 11, we left the marina at high tide and travelled down the river to Munro Bay, one of our favourite anchorages in Whangarei Harbour.  The weather was not conducive to crossing over to Great Barrier Island (GBI) and we were prepared to wait.  And wait we did.  It started raining and didn’t stop for four days.  Mary looked back on the 2010 calendar and noted that the same thing happened last year when we finally left the marina.  We had to wait almost a week to cross over to Great Barrier Island. We spent the time finishing more projects on the ‘to do’ list and baking and decorating the boat for Christmas.

Paul doesn’t get homemade pie very often since we moved aboard.  Mavis had given us some rhubarb from her garden so Mary made a rhubarb–strawberry lattice top pie.  Yum!

December 16 – January 19, 2012

Finally, the rain stopped and the wind was in a perfect direction for travelling to GBI.  We started out motor sailing but after an hour and a half the wind picked up and we were able to sail the rest of the way.  We had the two foresails out wing and wing and the full main and were travelling at 11 and 12 knots.  The wind was behind us and we surfed into Whangaparapara Harbour in the afternoon.  We would be here for several months.  We will be leaving Bella Via on a mooring in February while we go home to Canada for six weeks.

We immediately went over to visit Tony and Carol on Argo and catch each other up on our year.

While we were in Tonga this year, we had some t-shirts made for the badminton players at the old whaling station.  We chose the name for the players, “The Whangapara Racqueteers”.  Here is Paul with Des, Tony and Carol on the court.
Here is the back of the badminton team t-shirt.  We thought that the decal on the back is very fitting for the old whaling station - a picture of a sailboat, a whale’s tale and the sea and palm trees.
Just as last year, we had a picnic lunch on Christmas Day at a Department of Conservation campsite, called ‘The Green’.  This time, more residents of Whangaparapara Harbour joined the festivities and we had three tables full of people.  We also brought along the badminton rackets.

Whangaparapara Harbour, we discovered last year, is a good place to dry out the boat.  Paul checked the condition of the boat’s bottom and discovered that it is in such good shape that we can delay hauling the boat out of the water for another year.  So we decided to dry the boat out at the next spring tide (Boxing Day) and add a coat of paint and work on the sail drives.

Boxing Day is also Mary’s birthday and, although working on the bottom of the boat is not a preferred activity on her birthday, she recognized the importance of the timing of the high water and cheerfully worked on her special day. 

Hours of preparation go into such a drying out operation. The task must be completed when there is a tidal range of at least 7 feet with low tide occurring at mid day, thus allowing us to work on the bottom in daylight. The location must be fairly flat and the seabed must be firm enough to support the weight of the boat.  The process began at 0800h when we motored into position and secured Bella Via with 6 lines leading to various fixed points.  This was made easier by the presence of the two derelict boats seen in the next picture.  As the tide began to drop, Paul was in the water with snorkel, fins and wet suit, strategically positioning large blocks of wood under the keels to help stop the keels from burying themselves into the seabed.   As soon as the weight of the boat was taken by these blocks of wood, Paul, still wearing his wet suit, went to work sanding the waterline with wet sandpaper and cleaning the entire bottom with a green scouring pad so that it would be ready for paint as soon as the bottom dried.  Fortunately the weather cooperated and the bottom was dry by the time masking tape was applied at the waterline and a brief break for lunch was completed.  Then both Paul and Mary went into painting mode.

This clearly depicts what we mean by “drying the boat out”.  The painting needed to be done as quickly as possible to use what little time is available before the water rose and refloated the boat.

The painting was finished by about 1500h which left enough time for Paul to remove the propellers for servicing which could be done onboard, overnight.  By 1800h Bella Via was once again surrounded by three feet of water and Tony picked us up in his long boat to bring us aboard Argo for Mary’s Birthday dinner.

After working outside on the bottom of the boat all day, the last thing Mary or Paul wanted to do is cook a birthday dinner.  Thankfully, Carol and Tony had us over for homemade pizza and a birthday cake.  It was much appreciated.

After dinner, Paul went to work on reconditioning one of the two props before retiring to deep sleep.  Overnight, Bella Via would once again spend approximately 6 hours dried out while we slept aboard and would be floating again shortly after dawn.

As the tide fell on the morning of the second day, Paul was once again in the water making sure that the keel again landed squarely on the blocks of wood.  This day was spent by both Paul and Mary applying a second coat of paint, Mary cleaning barnacles from the second prop and Paul replacing the anodes on the props and saildrives and draining the gear oil from the saildrives.  This work took all day with only a short break for lunch.  The work on the props was completed just in time for Paul to reinstall them on the saildrive legs as the water level rose around Paul’s ankles and Mary prepared some comfort food, a pot of hamburger soup, for dinner. 

Once again, due to the rise and fall of the tides, the boat floated and then dried out while we slept. By 1100h the morning of the third day Bella Via was once again afloat, the lines were cast off and we returned to our mooring for a most deserved day of rest.

Life on the HARD is hard work.

Side Bar Note: By drying out on a shore rather than hauling out at a boat yard, we saved approximately $600 for little extra effort.

One of the disadvantages to drying the boat out instead of hauling it out at a boatyard is the amount of mud that we had to work around.  Luckily, Carol loaned her tall gum boots to Mary, as she had nothing appropriate to wear in the mud.

The remainder of our time before we travel to Canada on February 1 was spent in a variety of ways – boat maintenance and cleaning, playing badminton, enjoying the company of Tony and Carol and Des, attending a New Year’s Eve party at a local resident’s house, lunch at the Lodge with Tony and Carol, enjoying the many Whangaparapara walks, and the occasional trip into Claris (30 minutes away) for grocery shopping.

While we were at GBI we put up our latest acquisition – a Canadian flag decal that we applied to our wind generator.  We have always thought it quite attractive when we have seen other country flags on wind generators and finally remembered to have the decal made in Whangarei.

Fishing at Whangaparapara at this time of year is addictive.  All one needs to do is troll a lure and let the Gannets show you where.  The most prolific fish to catch while trolling is the Kahawai.  These are usually about 18 inches long and weigh about 4 to 6 pounds.  They are similar in shape to a large pickerel.  They are an amazing sport fish because they are strong swimmers and almost always dance on their tails as they try to shake the hook, which they often do.  To catch one of these on 10 pound test line is a real battle.  However, Paul can’t risk using 10 pound test line when at any moment, a 40 pound King Fish may bite.  Even with 25 pound line he has lost three lures in two weeks.  However, during that same time, he’s landed nearly a dozen “kingies” with the help of the dinghy.  This means that the initial strike often takes almost all of the line and he must react quickly with the dinghy and motor toward the fish to regain some of the line that he has lost.  Of course he could use heavier line but it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

On a good day, Paul, with twins Oliver and Riley, caught these two Kahawai and a King within 2 hours. Although these boys and their sister have cruised the tropics and New Zealand aboard their family’s catamaran, Division II, for three years and participated in catching big fish on a heavy hand line, this was the first time that they have ever caught fish of this size on a rod and reel.  They were ecstatic.

When Paul thought the fishing couldn’t get any better, it did.  One day the water was so thick with schools of bait fish that you couldn’t see the bottom.  These fish were being rounded up by the Kahawai and King Fish while thousands of Gannets were diving at amazing speeds, striking the water with a large splash and surfacing 5 seconds later with a 6 inch Jack Mackerel in their beaks, and swallowing it as they flew off for another run.  The feeding frenzy was unimaginable.  Immediately in front of us and all around us more than 20 Gannets were striking the water every second.  Yes, every second and this went on for hours.  It was sometimes frightening, for if one of these birds should miscalculate, their beaks could be deadly.  Paul fished with our friend Tony in the dinghy for three hours and it never took more than 2 minutes for a “fish on” for one or both of their lines.  Within 3 hours they landed the legal limit of 6 kings of legal size and turned back 2 undersized (less than 750 mm).  They couldn’t keep track of the number of Kahawai that were caught and released.  It surely numbered in the dozens.  There is no limit on the number of Kahawai than can be kept but Kings are the better tasting.  At one point they watched three big fish and a Gannet all fighting to get at Paul’s lure only 10 feet away from the dinghy.

This is a photo taken last year of Gannets diving for fish.  As hard as it is for us to believe, this year’s display was even more stupendous.  We have once again witnessed one of the great wonders of nature.

January 19, 2012

Well, that’s been our life at Whangaparapara Harbour since before Christmas.  There will be more of the same until we fly home to Canada at the end of the month.  This has been a very enjoyable time.


    Journal 2011