Archive for March, 2012

March in Whangarei

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

The marina staff trying to clear a log jam forming in front of Conner’s boat.

Well I’ve been back in Whangarei for over a week now and very little’s got done. My computer is down in Auckland waiting for parts and the weather is just atrocious. We had 50 knot winds and heavy, heavy rain all day yesterday, but it’s not supposed to be much better for a week yet. All the rain raised the level of the river and floated tons of logs and debris down river. There’s so much crap in the water that they had to shut down the marina until they can clean it out. It’s just too dangerous to maneuver a boat through here right now.

I have got some work done on the boat. I’ve been carrying around a makeshift dodger for the last 6 years, but it never really worked. Water would go over the top between the dodger and my awning and what water didn’t go over the top rolled down into the companionway. So I sewed a zipper and some extra fabric in between the awning and the dodger and also sewed a skirt into the bottom or the dodger and now have some functioning rain protection. It’s still not great, but I can at least leave my companionway open in moderate rain. I’ve also fixed my bow pulpit. The bases had cracked from all the stress of the years, so I had a shop make up 4 new feet and weld them on in place of the old bases.

The latest configuration of my franken-dodger:

I’ve got a few hikes in as well. The weather was good enough the other day to make the 8 mile trek up to Whangarei Falls and back. I’ve also make a couple of trips up to the top of Mount Parihaki.

Rope swing over a bend in the Hatea River:

Trail along the Hatea River. It’s one of the great things about hiking in Northern New Zealand. It always looks like you could be attacked by a Velcro-raptor at any time:

Whangarei Falls:

Over the last few days, what I’ve really got into is relief carving. Rob Grennan, on of the captains at Western Towboat, got me into it a bit last summer when I was home working, but I’ve been so busy with working on Bodhran that I haven’t really had any time to pick it up. Well the last 3 days of rain had me carving with a vengeance. I’ve finished a rosewood compass rose that I started on the tug Pacific, and now have made a koru and a turtle out of an piece of teak that was once part of my companionway stairs. There’s a dip in my cabin top that doesn’t have any headliner covering it on the inside. I’ve been thinking of doing something with it for years. Now I think that I’m going to cover it with these carved wood tiles that I’ve been making. It should keep me busy for many more rainy days to come.

Here’s the rosewood compass rose. This is my first attempt carving from scratch

Teak koru that I based off a necklace that I saw:

Sketch for the turtle that I drew based on my Tahitian turtle tattoo:

Here’s the turtle roughed out:

And here’s the finished turtle:

I wanted to install the radar and do some painting while I was in town, but the weather just hasn’t permitted it. Still I’m stuck in Whangarei until they fix my computer. Afterwards I’ll be heading up to the Bay of Islands to get ready to jump back up to the tropics by the end of next month.

Great Barrier Island 2012

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Quiet night by myself back in Town Basin after 3 weeks with house guests

I’m back by myself on old Bodhran after 3 fun filled weeks with boat guests. Delaware Johnny and his girlfried Sarah quit their jobs in Franz Josef last month, packed up the car and drove on up for some adventure on the high seas. So we spent about $300 on meat, veggies and plenty of booze and took of for Great Barrier Island.

Seriously we had another cart full of food, but this one was more photogenic:

Barrier is a 110 square mile island 62 miles NE of Auckland with enough bays, beaches and hiking trails to keep you occupied for months. The sail down from Whangerei is more like 50 miles and was as pleasant and uneventful as you could wish. Especially as Johnny and Sarah both had popped some Dramamine and dozed most of the way during the 9 hour sail from Urquhart Bay to Port Fitzroy.

A gale was forecast for the next day, so after taking a short hike and collecting some cockles at Bush’s Beach at low tide, we settled in for the evening. I think we were into about the 3rd episode of Breaking Bad, when I heard voice from outside. To my surprise, Ricky was standing there in his skiff. I hadn’t expected him until the weather cleared up, but apparently he threw caution to the wind and single handed Guava Jelly down from Tutukaka in 40+ knot winds to come and hang out.

Guava Jelly

I’ll put up some pics, but for the next 2 weeks, we fell into pretty pleasant, but repetitive routine. When the weather was good, we’d hike. When we were low on food, we’d fish or collect mussels and cockles. When the weather turned bad, we found a good bay and tucked our heads down until it passed. During the 3 weeks at Barrier, we had 3 gales pass us by, one with forecasts that were calling for over 100 knots, but we never saw more than the mid 40s. In general the weather’s been pretty poor down here this year. By some accounts it’s the worst Summer in 50 years. So we definitely had some rainy days hanging out on the boat, but with some good company, lots of booze and an endless supply of seafood, we all had a pretty good trip.

Of course there should be pics here, but I just don’t take pics of bad weather

We did do a few notable things out at Barrier. First we (mostly Johnny) made up some ratlines up the starboard side of Bodhran’s mast. We spliced eyes on either end of a ½ piece of nylon and then lashed them to the lower shrouds using seine twine. They make a great viewing platfor for finding rocks and reefs and I’ve jumped off them a couple of times, but the rope is a bit tough to stand on with bare feet.

Johnny lashing up ratlines:

The finished product, with some tails that still need to be cut off

We also hiked up to the top of Mt Hobson again this year. Johnny and Sarah decided to spent the night in the Mt Heale hut just down the other side. The hike was quite a milestone for me. I was seriously sucking wind at the end of the hike last year. This year I made it up to the top in half the time, drank some beers and whiskey at the top, came down the other side and was none the worse for wear after getting back to Bodhran. It’s a really good feeling to see the progress that I’ve made healthwise in the last year.

View back down the trail to the boats in the distance 2/3rds of the way up to HobsonJohnnySarahJasonHobson

The crew at the top of Hobson

Another view from the top

A good deal of time was also spent out at Smokehouse Bay again. Of course we went there for the hot, wood fired showers, BBQ for cooking our mussels and cockles and just a good place to hang out with other cruisers and play music. But this year we actually used the smokers too. We had sailed down to Whangaparapara to change things up a bit and ended up catching 4 good sized Kahawai. They’re a local pelagic fish that, to me, has a similar taste to tuna. We tried them first as shashimi, then pan fried with salt and pepper and then with a ginger soy marinade, but all the Kiwis were telling us that they were best smoked. So we cured 4 fillets overnight in salt and brown sugar and put them in the smoker for 5 hours. It was my first time smoking fish, and we probably used too much salt, but it turned out pretty damn well.

Me and my first fish caught on my new deep sea rod

Johnny concentrating very hard on not losing his fish:

Johnny and another Kahawai

Smoking Kahawai at Smokehouse Bay:

On March 4th, my friend Amber flew up from Christchurch to meet us. We were going to try to make it back to the mainland to pick her up, but the westerly gales had kept us pretty well pinned out at Barrier. So she caught a little hop from Auckland out to the island to meet us. Public transportation from the airport to where Bodhran was was a bit challanging, but eventually we got together and went back to Kaiarara Bay for a pizza and pan fried mussle feed before hiking up to Cooper’s Castle the next day. Tiffany and I had done Cooper’s Castle a couple of years ago and it was quite the death march. This time around, once again, I smoked it. Not to beat a dead horse, but it feels good to be in shape. It was also nice to get onto a less developed trail. The route up to Mt Hobson has over 2000 stairs that have been put in place over the last few years to handle erosion, but the Cooper’s Castle track was still a nice, steep muddy trail that dissappears every once in a w to Whangarei and it’s continued to rain for the last 3 days. Johnny and Sarah have made their way over thile and keeps you on your toes. The view from the top was once again magnificent and good ole Rick had cold beers in coozies ready to go when we got to the top.

Amber, Sarah, Johnny and Rick putting my new cockpit table to use

Rick and I on the way up to Cooper’s Castle

Rick and Amber atop Cooper’s Castle

Johnny and Sarah returning with the days bounty after not going hiking with us:

The next day had a forecast for 15-25 knot southeasterlies and all 3 of my crew members needed to get back. So we took advantage of the tailwind and had another great sail back to Urquhart Bay at the mouth of the Hatea river. Then the rain set in. It was a wet and cold sail the next day the rest of the way upo Brisbane where Sarah’s got a job lined up and Johnny’s got a work visa. Amber is back down to Christchurch and now I’m sitting in the rain trying to figure out what to do. I’ve got a lot more projects and a lot of possible destinations to consider. Rick and I would like to buddy boat up to Fiji and beyond, but I’m still not sure exactly what my cruising plans have in store. I’m sure I’ll let everyone know when I figure it out. For now, my computer crapped out on me out at the Barrier and I’ve mailed it down to Auckland to get repaired. So I’m in Whangarei until they get it back to me.

Amber steering us around Busby Head and into the Hatea River

In the meantime my good friend Beth is having some serious health problems back home and has been flown from Bosie out to OHSU in Portland. Which kinda puts my little problems with weather and where/if I’m going to leave the boat to go to work, into perspective.

Here’s a little video of Bodhran sailing down to Whangaparapara that Rick took: