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Friday, December 25, 1998

December 26, 1998-Boxing Day Cruise

A day on Auckland's busy harbor, Kiwis are boating crazy

Boxing Day: The Day after Christmas. The kids are out of school, summer is coming, the family festivities have all happened, so it's time for...a boating get away!

We joined the crowds and untied the dock lines ourselves. After all we just couldn't sit there and watch the marina empty out, which it literally did. We knew it would be crowded on the water but we needed to go sailing, the day was beautiful, and when everyone was heading out, we just couldn't resist.

Auckland harbor was like the Oklahoma Land Rush. Sailboats sailing, sailboats motoring, powerboats speeding, wind surfers, rowers, charter ferry boats, every floating thing you can imagine, all heading out. Out to the Hauraki Gulf and it's lovely cruising grounds. The only people who stayed in were the America's Cup boats. They took thier holiday away from the water. Not a one was to be seen.

We sailed. It was a beat, a nice one, and we crossed tacks with some boats for a couple of hours, and then we stopped at the first "destination" outside of Auckland.

Drunken Bay.

What a name. Amanda told us about it, having been one of her family's frequent stops. She said it could get crowded. We thought that the Kiwis would be heading farther a field, but Amanda was right. It is crowded. We arrived at 4:00 PM and it was pretty full, maybe a hundred boats. We found a hole and anchored, worrying a little about maybe being too close. Not to worry mate, plenty of room. Seven more boats anchored inside of the spot I thought was just barely big enough for us. And maybe 100 more boats arrived in the harbor total after we anchored. I don't know where the drunks are tonight, but they aren't evidently in Drunken Bay. This place, crowded as it is, is quiet, it seems like mostly families.

I remember however one occasion in Turtle Bay, Baja, when some Canadian yachts gave us on WINGS a big lecture for anchoring too close, at 100 yards. Those guys would have never believed that 25 feet is about the correct distance here in New Zealand, on Boxing Day.

I also remember one anchorage in the Channel Islands, Fry's Harbor I think. It had room for about eight boats, with minimum swinging room, and before the afternoon was ended, there were 37 boats there, all anchored bow and stern to keep them from touching. Somehow I never guessed that Los Angelinos and Kiwis would have something in common.

It's all a matter of supply and demand.

We still haven't warmed up yet in New Zealand. Sometimes the sun is warm but the air is still cool. On the sail over here we both got stiff necks from sailing in a cold wind. (That plus the tension of sailing in a crowd in waters we didn't know, where the depths are fairly shallow, like 25 feet!) So we got here, put the boat away, and came down stairs to get warm. Meanwhile our neighbors donned swim trunks and went in. Boy, these Kiwis are a hardy bunch. Maybe they are more than hardy; maybe they are a little crazy.

Maybe we just got our blood thinned out by two years in the tropics.

So this is Boxing Day:. Anchored in a pretty harbor called Drunken Bay with a couple hundred Kiwi boating families. It could be worse. We heard from person who just flew in from Seattle that it is snowing in the Pacific Northwest.

At least it is not snowing.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Auckland

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Friday, December 11, 1998

December 12, 1998-Auckland

We never tired of this skyline

(To the tune of Paul Simon's Graceland)
We're going to Auckland, Auckland, here in NZ.

WINGS is in Auckland, city of sails
The bay of Kevlar Mains & #3 jibs, Friday night races bring out 60 yachts,
Crossing tacks up the city front, ducking at the last minute,
Green water and whitecaps, stiff wind racing every day.
This is what made Kiwi sailors so damn good.
High speed catamaran ferries speeding every direction,
Thirty foot inflatable boats purposefully heading...where?
The Sky Tower up there over downtown, barely higher than
the mast on Michael Faye's "Big Boat".
Every other Kiwi has a cell phone against their ear,
There is a mini mall on every corner, and traffic over the bridge would be hell,
but for the reversible lanes.
A small country though, it seems like everyone knows Jean Shipley, PM.
Talk radio, Rush's simpatico, is here, (the schools these days are just appalling, appalling).
Mauri names, Takapuna, Tutakaka, Houhura, Whangeri, Whangamumu.
Driving on the left side of the road. The streets are OK, but how many times will I find my self in the wrong side of a driveway or parking lot, (car park, here)?
Layaway is Lay-by, Take-Out is Take-away, a powerboat is a launch,
a shopping cart is a trundle, a dock cart is a trolley, a freeway is a motorway, a camper is a caravan, and French fries are chips,
and none of this begins to address the accents which we hear in New Zealand, (N-Zed) which is delightful, but sometimes hard to follow.

Well, we are here, we love it, and we'll write more when we get settled.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Auckland


Thursday, December 10, 1998

December 11, 1998-Refer Madness

We've been hearing from friends who have been having problems with refers on their boats. Nice expensive units which fail and have to be fixed and replaced. It reminds us that we have a good refer story to tell:

We get our cold beer from a funny old refer which we bought from a guy on "F" dock in Seattle in 1987 for $25 at a swap meet. We would have paid his asking price of $40, but when trying to demonstrate it for us he hooked up the wires backwards and smoke billowed out through the wire screen case. We offered him a reduced amount and bought it anyhow. For 11 years it ran virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It took a fair amount of power, but not an outrageous amount unless you consider that stuff was cool, not really cold. And it shakes the whole boat. It makes the stove shake. It shakes wine glasses in the rack. Any number of people have asked us, "What is on?", thinking we have some sort of new gen-set or something. No, it's just our old $25 refer. Since it never stopped we thought the thermostat was broke and that the capacity of the unit was diminished and that was why stuff never froze even though it ran all the time. We always planned on getting a new one as soon as this one quit. But it never did. In Mazatlan one day Judy got tired of the scruffy lining of the box and ripped it out (without warning or previous discussion, I might add), forcing me to redo it immediately (no bars at Marina Mazatlan you know, and one must keep his own beers cool if he wants one from time to time).

It was down for about 36 hours, which was its first and only Mexican vacation. Suddenly, upon restarting, the thermostat started working. Not much colder, but using less power, and maybe the cervesa was just a little colder. Cold enough anyhow. So we kept it on board. On the crossing it really sort of failed altogether. Ran continuously and stuff was barely below 50 degrees. It turns out that it was just seasick. A day or two after arriving in Marquesas stuff got cold again. This continued all the way across the Pacific.Our refer never really found its sea legs, but always recovered in port. Now we hit New Zealand. Damn, it turned into a freezer. It freezes meat! Beer has ice sometimes. We actually turned it down (Up?). So anyhow, we know a new unit would be better, maybe make ice cubes, take less power, but we sort of like this old friend, and we think he's earned his spot on WINGS. Besides, I am having trouble finding a new one for $25.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Opua


Tuesday, December 01, 1998

December 2, 1998-New Zealand's Northland

The rolling green countryside, more than anything, typifiies New Zealand's Northland

We've already written about our first impressions of New Zealand, and after three weeks, it hasn't changed a lot. We still like the beautiful scenery, still think it is too damn cold, still think the ocean here is dangerous but exciting, and still plan on staying here for a long time and coming back next year. How's that for consistency?

We cruised for a week in the Bay of Islands, but spent 4 days hanging on for our lives anchored in a small cove with 40-60knots of wind howling outside. The other few days we had there were beautiful. We spent a couple of days at an Island called Urupukapuka, which Fred renamed Urupukapukapukapukapukapukapukapukapuka.....and so on until people start to scream, in memory of the single cylinder Yanmar he had in a KIWI 30 several years ago. This island is government owned and managed as a recreation site, has many nice coves to anchor in, beautiful beaches and rugged cliffs, lots of hiking paths, and many many sheep on it, kept there to keep the grass mowed so people can walk around without getting their pants wet in the wet grass, (seriously, the ranger told us this). It has the typical New Zealand Northland deep green rolling hills and scattered forests of trees. It also has the constant sound of "Baaa" every where, all the time, which actually goes nicely with "Urupukapukapuka..." well, you know.

We traveled south from Bay of Islands to Tutukaka, some 1/3 of the way to Auckland, where we are as we started to write this email. It was an uneventful trip except the entrance into Tutukaka Bay. The entrance is sort of hidden back in between some rugged headlands, you can't really see it until you are well into the bay, and the waves on that day, (left over from all the storms in the previous weeks) made the approach scary. You get where you think the entrance is (hoping you have identified the correct pair of headlands) and you turn to make a direct run straight in, between huge crashing waves. As we did it the wind increased to 20 knots, just to help us speed up I guess, and Bob, who was following a quarter mile back radioed that he was "90% sure" we were going into the wrong place. Gulp! But we thought it was the right place, so we forged onward, watching the depth sounder and wondering if we could turn around in the surf if it got too shallow, and wondering what "too shallow" would be. There were a few, "Oh Man, Oh Man’s” going on. A few moments later the pass in the rocks appeared and we motored in to the marina channel, only to run aground at a kink in the channel which we missed because the marker was missing. But we wheeled around and went back a little ways (still inside the bay, out of the big surf) and waited for the tide to come up a little. By 4:00 PM we had tied up in the Marina and found the bar in the Fishing Club where they serve a nice dark ale, of which we drank several. The next day we bused over to Whangarie and picked up the nice little mini van that Jim and Kathy left for us and started to get introduced to the fun of driving on the wrong side of the road. Ho Ho I'll bet I can scare you. Just imagine, free left turns and most traffic lights have right turn signals. And when you look to your left to see behind you in the left side rear view mirror, instead you see the heater controls. That takes some getting used to. Now we just have to get the thing licensed, checked for fitness, and convince some insurance company that we should be insured. Not to worry mates, we're safe as a box of birds, as they say down under.

Another funny thing, in NZ the Maoris have a "Pffit" sound which they use to start many words, but somehow the Europeans used the letters WH to start off those words. So Whangarie is pronounced,,,"Fonggarai" and funny is spelled whunny. (now that's whunny).

Just so you don't think that the USA has a lock on silly local governments: In the Auckland area, where many marinas have been build and most marina operators, as well as virtually all of the marine related businesses are looking forward to a huge influx of foreign yachts for the America's Cup, the Auckland Regional Council had decided that they don't think it is proper for "liveaboard yachts" to be in the marinas, and they have also decided that all foreign yachts are "liveaboard" since people stay on them for more than two nights in a row. So, while the PR folks are busy advertising all the attractive things for yachties to do and all the services available to them, and the marina operators have been trying to figure out just how high the moorage rates can be pushed up, and everyone is counting on the huge influx of yachts for the America's Cup, the local government has said, "Fine, but they can't stay here in any marinas."

This impacts our immediate plans since we want to stay in Auckland for the next few months. Now we have to hope that the restrictions are eased, soon!

Fred & Judy, SV Wings-New Zealand


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