APRIL , 2013

This month’s journal is dedicated to the memory of Loretta Major,
Paul’s mother, who died on May 7, 2013 after a brief illness. 
She was a wonderful person who loved life and was so proud of all of her family.  We will miss you mom but we know that you will be up in Heaven

with dad watching over us as we continue to cross oceans.

Here is almost all of Paul’s family (a few grandchildren were not able to be at the party).  Look how proud she looks to be with her family.  This was taken in February and, although looking a bit frail, she was still quite healthy.  We really thought that she would be with us another year at least.

March 28, 2013

Well, we made it back to the boat but what a comedy of errors along the way.  We would have been great subjects for a television Sitcom!

Our troubles began at the Spokane, Washington, US, airport desk when we tried to check our large duffel bags right through to New Zealand.  To our surprise the combined total of the bags was 11 pounds overweight – 5 in one and 6 in the other.  We had used a borrowed bathroom scale in Nelson at Jeremy and Jenn’s house and obviously the scale was wrong.

The ticket agent was very nice and worked hard at getting us out of this dilemma.  First, she looked up what the cost of an overweight bag would be on an Air New Zealand flight - $150.00 for each bag.  After a few seconds when we stood there in shock, she suggested that we transfer some of the weight to our carry-on baggage.  The problem, we told her, is that when we get to San Francisco to board the Air New Zealand flight, they always weigh our carry-ons and they can only be 15 pounds each.  “Well, she said, worry about that when you are in San Francisco – you can always load up your pockets, carry your coats, switch your shoes for the packed hiking boots, etc... before you weigh the carry-on baggage at the other desk”.  So that’s what we did – we loaded up our carry-ons.  They were so heavy we could hardly pick them up to put in the overhead bin!

We had two flights to San Francisco and both left on time and the flights were smooth.  We had several hours layover in San Francisco and we had time to deal with the overweight carry-on baggage.  We found a quiet spot and followed every one of the previous agent’s suggestions.  Paul made many trips back and forth to an empty weigh scale to check the weight of the bags.  Finally, we had them each down to 15 pounds (7 kg).  Mary’s book bag, which is usually quite light, now weighed 15 pounds as well, as it had been loaded with a new lithium battery for our right-angle drill, the bag of cords and adaptors for the various electronic devices that we own, the new GoPro camera, and many more small items.  Thankfully they never weigh that, or Paul’s computer case, which also had many small bits and pieces added.

Off we went to the NZ check-in counter.  It opened at 1700h for our flight at 2030h and we were first in line.  For the first time in 4 years, since the boat has been in New Zealand, we were questioned more than usual at the desk because we did not have a return ticket.  We were only flying one-way to return to our boat.  Our NZ visitor visas had expired at the end of February while we were in Canada.  We knew that we would get a three-month stay with this flight and that would take us to the end of June, well after when we would be leaving for the Tropics.  Usually all we have to do is produce our ship’s registration papers and a letter from the marina or boatyard where we have left the boat and the airline makes a photocopy of the documents.  But not this time – the agent said that we would have to wait while she called New Zealand Immigration.  We weren’t sure that the agent fully understood what we were asking for because she kept asking us when we would be returning to the US.  We kept explaining that we lived on our sailboat and the sailboat was in New Zealand and we were not returning to the US.  She told us to step aside and she would call the manager as she did not have a phone available at the desk.

When the manager arrived with his cell phone, Mary stepped up immediately and explained the situation before the agent (who was dealing with another passenger by then) could possibly make things worse.  When Mary explained that, in the past, photocopies of the documents were made and that was sufficient he agreed and went off to the office.  When he returned he handed us our documents, our passports and our boarding passes and we chatted for a few minutes.  He asked us about our boat and our lifestyle.  Just as we were leaving he asked us if we wanted to spend our waiting time in the Air New Zealand Lounge because he was the duty manager and he could invite us as his guests.  Well, of course we said yes.

But before we went off to find the lounge we had to go through security again.  And guess what – for the first time our carry-on bags had not been weighed at the desk!  So before we stepped up to security, we found a couple of chairs and repacked the carry-on bags again.  Hopefully, we told ourselves, for the last time.

The Air New Zealand Lounge was very pleasant and we enjoyed our time there.  We chatted with several people, including a New Zealand rock/soul band called ‘Six60’ who had just been touring the US.  We tried not to like the lounge too much, knowing that our budget does not extend to buying Business or First class tickets and this was a one-time experience. 

Thirty-eight hours later we were back at Norsand Boatyard and Bella Via.  We were disappointed to see how dirty the deck was from the boat’s location next to a factory that produces cement lamp-posts.  If the wind blows in a certain direction, lots of dust blows into the cockpit.  Paul was able to take care of the dust and dirt by power-spraying for three hours the next morning.

We were anxious to see our new stainless steel counter top in the galley which was to be completed while we were away.  Imagine our surprise and disappointment when we opened up the boat and saw that the work was not completed.  Paul had even called the owner from Nelson, British Columbia, and asked how the work was going.  We had been assured that it would be completed on time. 

Paul set off immediately in the car that Dave and Margaret had left for us to get some groceries for dinner that night before the stores closed.  On his way, he stopped in at the stainless steel business and expressed how disappointed he was to the owner.  The owner apologised profusely and said that they mixed up our return date.  He stated that he would be working on it personally that weekend and the counter top would be installed right after the Easter long weekend.  That meant that we had to wait four more days until they arrived at the boat with the counter top.  So we continued to do without running water in the galley and wash dishes in the bathroom sink.

On Tuesday morning, after Easter, Steve and Rob arrived at the boat with the counter top.  The plan was to lay the stainless steel counter top over the existing plywood and synthetic top.  However, when they placed the new top down, it stood up about ¼ inch too high.  There was nothing to do but cut out the original top.  More delays!  Paul warned them that we were booked to go back in the water on Thursday and that booking could not be changed. 

So, doors were closed and plastic sheets were mounted in the galley to try and contain the dust that would be created.  Unfortunately, Mary had already dusted and cleaned the inside of the boat over the Easter weekend.  The plastic sheets did not really help.  They used a vacuum while they were sanding but the dust still got everywhere in the boat.

Here is the counter top after the original top was removed.  It will be difficult to see in the picture but there is a fine layer of dust on the floor and everything else in the galley and most of the boat.  The dust was caused mostly because they had started out planing down the original top with a router but then reverted to cutting it out instead.  We did close whatever doors we could but there were several open spaces.

The work was completed on Wednesday and Mary set out to reorganize and clean her galley for the second time in one week.  In the end, we are very pleased with the workmanship – it is a thing of beauty.  We received a 15% discount from the quote for our troubles.  Even with our troubles, we would recommend this company to others.

Here are Steve, in the background, and Rob proudly showing off their workmanship.  Steve was the main craftsman of this piece and a fine job he did. 

April 4, 2013

Mid-afternoon we were launched back in the water.  The boat was spic-and-span, the diesel tanks were full from the delivery that morning by the diesel tanker, and a month of provisioning was completed.  Now it was time to go cruising again!

Here is Bella Via, looking as good as new, just before launch.  Even the underside of the boat was waxed and polished this year.  Usually we run out of time for that task.  Note the anchor at the bow – it was re-galvanized along with the anchor chain.

We stayed at anchor for one night right across from the boatyard – we were exhausted and just needed to relax a bit.  The next day we continued on downriver to Munro Bay, near Whangarei Heads.  We needed to wait for the right weather to head for Waiheke Island and eventually Great Barrier Island.  We passed the time by doing the pre-passage rigging check, continuing with the never-ending ‘to do’ list, revising the passage planning food lists, and preparing our annual Income Tax file.

The winds continued to be light and variable after a few days but we were anxious to get moving so we headed for Waiheke Island.  It was a distance of about 60 miles and would be a very long day in light winds.  So Paul, who doesn’t sleep much at night anyway, decided to get up early and get underway.  He hauled anchor at 0430h and when Mary got up at 0630h the boat was out of the Heads and into a mild swell.  We motor-sailed all day and finally arrived at Waiheke Island at 1530h.

We were meeting friends there for lunch the next day – Ian and Cynthia from ‘Whitehaven’.  We also needed to exchange a Merino sweater that we had bought for our daughter and visit our favourite butcher.  Ribs are very hard to find in New Zealand and we were hoping that he had some in his freezer.  We were able to buy several strips that have now been packaged for the freezer and we enjoyed a rib and salad dinner with garlic toast that second evening at Waiheke.

April 10, 2013

We had a fast, rowdy, sail to Great Barrier Island (GBI).  The forecast called for southeast winds, which would have been perfect, but we were getting northeast for the entire passage.  We were close-hauled and moving along at 7-8 knots.  The seas were on the beam, which caused us to rock and roll.  Mary was taking advantage of full water tanks and our ability to make water while travelling to do a few loads of laundry.  It was very difficult to remain upright while standing in the cockpit.  Paul practised with the new GoPro camera and got lots of good footage.  We arrived at Whangaparapara Harbour at 1430h, with a very salty boat.  We quickly hung up the laundry and went over to ‘Argo’ for tea and coffee with Tony and Carol.  It was nice to be back in one of our favourite places.

We were able to play badminton almost every morning at 0630 for the nine days that we were at GBI.  The settled summer weather allowed us to play for almost an hour every morning before the breeze kicked in.

While we were at GBI, Paul took advantage of having Tony’s machine shop nearby and we designed a bed frame for the aft bunk for our grandson Miles to sleep in when he visits in June.  The frame will be set across the opening and a white mesh door will be fabricated for easy access to Miles and yet keep him from falling out of the high bunk.  Mary has also purchased an inflatable baby pool for the foredeck, a booster seat, diapers, baby wipes, a bowl and spoon, crib toys, and a UV shirt to protect Miles’ sensitive skin.  We had forgotten how expensive babies are!

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.  A low was approaching New Zealand and strong westerly winds were predicted in a few days.  We decided that we should return to the mainland before the west winds started.  So we said good-bye to our friends in Whangaparapara Harbour and sailed back to Whangarei Heads on April 20.

We had also been notified that morning that Paul’s mom had become seriously ill and was in hospital.  It was good that we were heading back to the mainland because we had no telephone coverage at GBI and we needed to be in close contact with Paul’s family. 

On April 24, we went into the Town Basin Marina and here we will stay until we leave for Tonga.  Our list of things to do before setting sail was quite lengthy and Mary still had 6 months of provisioning to do.  Our crew for this passage is our friend Bob Broome, the owner of All Marine Chandlery, and we had asked him to be ready to go on the first weather window after May 15.  If a weather window presents itself the week before, he said that he could be available and was busy clearing his desk at the chandlery just in case we left earlier than the 15th.

While we were working on readying the boat for passage, we took some time out for play.  We managed a few Tuesday night sessions at the Irish Pub and many sundowners with our friends, Dave and Margaret, who were also at the marina on their boat, ‘Freespool’.

On one weekend, we were treated to a special event.  A French sailboat advertised an Acrobatic Circus and two shows were to be held on Saturday and Sunday near the foot bridge that spans the river not far from the marina.  We headed over to the bridge with Dave and Margaret and were not disappointed as the couple amazed us with their acrobatic prowess.  The couple and their young children are travelling the world and this is how they fund their journey.  All they ask for is a donation, which we happily paid.

This was the venue for the acrobatic show.  It was a perfect setting.  The stage was the yellow sailboat to the left of the picture.  On the bridge there are almost two hundred people waiting for the show to start.

Here are the stars of the show.  Without a safety net or harnesses, they demonstrated increasingly harder and more complicated moves as the show went on.  We were reminded of the Cirque du Soleil shows that we have attended.  What a novel way to travel around the world!

One of the big projects that Paul wanted to tackle was to replace Bella Via’s lifelines.  The lifelines are eight years old and made of plastic-coated wire.  It is difficult to check the integrity of the wire with the plastic coating.  As lifelines are a very important safety feature, especially on passage, we decided that they should be replaced this year.  Instead of wire, Paul used Dyneema, a synthetic rope that is equal in strength to stainless steel wire of equal size.  The most tedious part of the job is the splices that he needed to do.  Our lifelines consist of three rows, each row has 10 individual segments of wire (soon to be rope) and each segment of rope requires a splice at each end.  That means that Paul will have done 60 splices by the time he has completed the job.  So far he has only had enough time to finish the top row of lifelines, 20 splices down, 40 to go.  The remainder will be completed in the next few months.

May 7, 2013

We were notified this morning of Paul’s mom’s death, after only two and one half weeks of a serious illness.  We were glad that she did not linger as no one wanted her to be in pain.  With Paul’s siblings help, he has been given the honour of writing the eulogy and he has been busy all day attending to that task.

The weather is being studied closely.  Right now, we are not sure if we will be leaving on the 15th but, hopefully, shortly after.  When we next write, we should be enjoying the warmth and scenery of Tonga and be in the company of our friends on Lape Island.

May you always take a moment to tell people close to you that you love them.  You may not get another chance.


    Journal 2012