Reflections on Season 5

We got home safe and sound last week and were a bit shocked by how cold it was. We recovered over the first few days and watched our first snow fall in years through the windows whilst huddled in front of the fire…  Reflecting on our last season, I thought I’d break it down into chunks.

We were delayed in Guatemala by waiting for spare parts but this gave us the opportunity to go to the orphanage on Christmas Eve which was a very humbling experience.

Finally moving on we headed to Roatan and had some good times in the sun whilst waiting for a weather window towards Panama.  And of course we mustn’t forget Cheeky the monkey…

Then it was the nervous passage through pirate alley around the coast of Honduras and Nicaragua. We were relieved to arrive safe and sound into Providencia which was a lovely place.

We then moved on to Panama and dodged all the ships entering into the canal zone. Whilst in the marina we got ourselves provisioned up and prepared for the passage to the Galapagos and beyond.

We went line handling for two boats prior to going through ourselves and, despite keeping them safe, we were sadly unable to stop Morphie getting damaged on the wall.

On the Pacific side we did some temporary repairs and cleaned the hull before leaving for the Galapagos and also spent some time out exploring Panama City.

This was our first long passage of this trip – around 1,000 miles – and we were very excited to cross the equator and to finally arrive.

What an experience – we had an amazing time visiting three of these unique islands getting close to some of the local wildlife.

After the Galapagos we headed toward the Marquesas, part of French Polynesia. The 3,000 mile passage was challenging particularly for the last 10 days when we had to hand steer as our autopilot had failed. We managed it and were relieved to arrive in Hiva Oa, despite the constant rain!  We hauled Morphie to have the arch welded although we did manage to get the autopilot fixed – but then the windlass completely disintegrated – so we lived up a ladder in the mud bath and were pretty demoralised by this point.

We splashed and headed straight to Tahiti, sadly missing the other Marquesas and the Tuamotu islands. We arrived into Tahiti and, straight away, things picked up with parts arriving from both the USA and New Zealand and we were assisted by human dynamo Guy who helped us do all the repairs. He also spotted a few other issues which we then got resolved quickly. So, finally, after a month in a marina we moved out to start having fun again.

Tahiti grew on us after a while and we enjoyed Papeete, particularly attending the Hiva festival.

We had fun at the other French islands and finally waited in Bora Bora for a weather window to make the next passage. French Polynesia is undoubtedly beautiful but there are limited opportunities to go ashore and we found the whole place a little boring.  Apart from some other holiday makers we had little interaction with locals as French Polynesia is so expensive the locals cannot afford to frequent the bars and restaurants.

We finally had a weather window which then closed down but with customs not playing ball we left anyway….and endured some feisty conditions….so were pleased to arrive safely in Palmerston. This was an amazing place with the families living a simple life. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.

Then we headed to Nuie and enjoyed watching the whales in the anchorage….but didn’t enjoy winching dink up and down the dock, particularly when the ship was in the harbour. Enjoyed great food and some lovely walks.

Next stop was Tonga where we stayed around Va’vau for the Blue Water Festival and enjoyed the festivities after having done some diving. Two highlights have to be the school brass band followed by the visit to the local school where we were entertained by the children and fed a Tongan feast by their parents.

Then we visited a private island and had an amazing time…..including swimming with humpback whales….. Just plain wow!

Then the weather changed again so we headed back to Va’vau to sit out the rain and celebrate Richard’s 60th birthday before heading down to Nukuʻalofa, the capital of Tonga on the island of Tongatapu.

We enjoyed socialising at Big Mamas bar on Pangiamotu but this was for a very short time before we then started our final passage of the season to New Zealand.

This is a notorious stretch of water so we were very careful picking our weather window – hence our early departure from Tonga – and run pretty much straight to Opua. We had some wonderful sailing days and some rough weather with big seas.

An amazing adventure and although it was tough at times we had an incredible journey and feel very proud of our achievement.    In New Zealand it felt all very English and we enjoyed socialising before putting Morphie to bed on the hard for the season.

So what lessons can we pass on to others planning to follow our footsteps?

Preparation, preparation, preparation is the key word. Everything needs to be checked end to end and if there is any age or wear you need to replace it even if it is working perfectly. You also need to have a way of running downwind either with a poled out genoa or a spinnaker / cruising chute. The stress on the boat of travelling 9,000 miles in mainly following / breaking seas and high winds should not be underestimated and the creaking noises down below are quite scary. Carrying spares is essential and you need to have as much as you can afford to store as access to parts in the South Pacific is limited and importation (apart from into Tahiti) is difficult, expensive and time consuming. The mantra for any South Pacific passage has to be reef, reef and then reef again and before the weather kicks in – once it is upon you it is too late. When we arrived in Tahiti there were very few boats – from tiny 28 footers through to 70 foot Oysters and larger yachts – who had suffered no failures or breakages. Lots and lots of shredded sails too. But if we can do it, so can you! Go for it….just be prepared…..and enjoy every moment along the way.

So what are our plans for the next season? Well, we need to do some upgrades to Morphie – particularly her electronics. So new radar, new AIS, new plotter, new autopilot, new wind / depth / speed instrumentation is on the cards. The original plotters are nine years old and failing and the charts are no longer supported by Garmin so we are moving over to Raymarine products. There are lots of other things we want to do too….as well as explore New Zealand properly. So, for Season 6, we’re going to stay in New Zealand – buy a car – do some land travelling and some sailing but no huge sea passages. We’ll also do some other land travel to and from London to make the most of being in this part of the world just like we did on return with our trip to Hong Kong.

So our intention is to leave the UK in March again so please return to the blog around that time and, to make sure you don’t miss it, subscribe and you’ll get an e-mail when I make some changes. So bye for now and I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.


Exploring Hong Kong – part 2

Sunday morning we weren’t sure what to do. We knew that Sunday is Hong Kong’s busiest day and when the territory’s Philippine ‘maids’ have the day off. Apparently these women come here to earn money to support their families back home often leaving their children behind with other members of the family. They then earn meagre wages as maids / nannies / cleaners for wealthier Chinese and other ex-pats, often sleeping on the kitchen floors of their employers. So on Sunday they all congregate on the pavements around the City and enjoy being together with some of them just catching up on their sleep. What an existence….definitely a darker side.

Before we headed out we enjoyed watching some yacht racing in the harbour as they tried to avoid the commercial traffic, including the arrival of a cruise ship. This was all watched from the privacy of our lovely hotel bedroom.

We finally decided to do the double-decker hop-on hop-off bus tour as this meant we could avoid doing as much walking and still see some new sights. So we headed off over to the island on the Star Ferry and immediately came across some of the maids enjoying their leisure time.

We decided to go on the ‘green line’ as this took us away from the city and into the more rural areas of Hong Kong island.

We travelled through the Aberdeen tunnel, went through the beautiful Repulse Bay and then arrived at Stanley. This is a world away from the hustle and bustle and we enjoyed walking the seaside promenade and seeing all the boats.

The promenade was lined with small cafes and we found one and had a really nice Chinese lunch although we are both getting a bit tired of noodles LOL.  Interestingly every restaurant we go into here in Hong Kong from small cafes to top-end establishments give you a menu so that you can tick off the items you want to order.

We headed back up to the bus stop through the fancy mall. You can really shop until you drop here and it appears that most of the residents and mainland Chinese tourists intend to do just that!

The next stop was Aberdeen where we went on a Sampan boat ride through the fishing boat village. These people are not indigenous Chinese and are of Malaysian extraction and continue, despite intervention from the ruling bodies, to live their traditional life on their boats. All very interesting…and the living conditions look pretty harsh, however, when you realise that many people here live in a parcelled-up flat with just a bed in a cupboard to call their own….the relative freedom of having some space onboard is certainly a more attractive proposition.

This harbour is also home to the famous Jumbo Floating Restaurant which ferries in customers from all over the territory.

We then returned to Central. Not wanting to tour the City any more – as we think we have covered most of it on foot by now – we headed back across the river to Kowloon. We hopped on the bus doing the ‘blue’ route and watched the huge crowds swarming across the streets and into the markets – certainly didn’t fancy getting off at this point LOL.

So we continued people watching until we arrived at the Sky100 building and left the bus. We got into the lift to take us to the observation deck and were whisked up into the sky at a huge rate of knots which takes just 60 seconds to ascend to the deck which is 393 metres above sea level.

We wandered around the deck enjoying the views, especially as the sun was low in the sky, before taking the lift back down. This time the exit escalator took us into another fancy mall full of designer shops and people were shopping like crazy with fancy shopping bags full of genuine Gucci, Luis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada, Versace and other designer labels…..there is some serious cash being spent here!

We decided not to return to the bus station so, instead, headed off on the MTR back towards the hotel. It was about 7pm by now so we decided to eat out first and queued up to get into the Outback Restaurant for dinner. We just fancied some simple fare and a nice steak with a jacket potato and salad was a real treat – along with the really cold draft Carlsberg to wash it all down with. We eventually returned to the hotel around 9pm and had an early night.

Monday morning we headed off on the MTR again – our destination this time was Ocean Park. We don’t usually visit anywhere that has captive dolphins but this place, allegedly, is really into conservation of the planet and is a major researcher into different species. The real reason we wanted to visit, though, was that they have Giant Pandas and this may be our only opportunity ever to see one. We arrived at this gaudy looking theme park and got our entry tickets…… immediately heading off to do some rides before the crowds built up. We were twisted upside down, inside out and generally thrown around which was great fun.

Afterwards we headed into the North and South Pole enclosures and saw different type of penguins. Didn’t realise just how large some of them are and they are so graceful in the water it was lovely to see.

We also enjoyed the seals and the huge walruses. You could watch them on the surface and below the water and when we went down to see them underwater we caught the walruses having sex – seriously – and all of a sudden the Chinese were ushering their kids along LOL. The exhibits were, to our surprise, all about saving the environment for these creatures and how global warming is the biggest threat to their continued existence. All very worthwhile and they are obviously trying but then you walk back outside to a gloomy day caused by pollution being blown down from mainland China. Sigh….

We then headed back down the park on the cable car admiring the views and spotting a yacht mooring field…….and got into the queue for the pandas. But at least we had pretty flowers to look at whilst waiting.

The people in the queue were really excited and almost exclusively Chinese. There did not seem to be many almond-eyed tourists around and we got lots of looks and smiles. We shuffled forward being pushed around by the crowd as the Chinese really do not have an idea of how to queue for anything despite notices saying ‘queue nicely’ LOL. Finally we were inside and saw the pandas which were bigger than I expected. We also saw the cuter red pandas who were a little more active in the daytime.

Through the Amazon exhibit we came across some pygmy monkeys and other critters including a very large two-toed sloth and lethal frogs.

We then headed to the giant aquarium and were amazed by all the different goldfish and then into a huge tunnel and watched manta rays, hammerhead sharks, southern sting rays and loads and loads of other fish. Would prefer to see them in the wild but hey ho. Again the signs were very encouraging trying to educate people about the food chain and the essential role of coral. We didn’t go anywhere near the dolphin enclosure and was pleased that the whole exhibit was closed ‘for maintenance’.

Leaving the aquarium we hot footed it up the hill again to see the Golden Snub Nosed monkeys which we have never seen before. The male was clearly in a mood and strolled around exerting his dominance including having sex with the female…..Chinese kids exit left LOL…..and we loved watching the baby play around in the enclosure.

By now it was getting late and the park was about to close so we enjoyed the dancing fountain with lights and music before we headed to the MTR station.

We changed stations / lines three times – clearly this was rush hour as the trains were very busy – and we finally arrived back to the peace of our hotel lobby at around 7pm. We headed to the bar for a few cold ones and then had an early night.

This morning, Tuesday, and it is our last day in Hong Kong. We have no plans other than to visit the pool area if the weather warms up enough and generally to relax before our 13 hour flight home later tonight.

So what did we think of Hong Kong??  Well, it is a fascinating place and if you like cities and shopping opportunities then this should be high on the bucket list. The cost of the transport system is both amazingly cheap and easy to navigate.  We have travelled extensively around the MTR network every day including ferries, buses and trams – and spen only £16 each.   For example a six-day Oyster adult travel pass in London would cost you £118.15!!!

The juxtaposition of rich and poor shows itself up in many ways – from the shiny new glass buildings towering into the sky next to a ramshackle falling-down apartment and the maids sleeping on the streets next to shoppers queuing outside luxury stores. The shops are luxurious whilst the markets are full of low-end tat. And that covers everything from clothing to watches to handbags to shoes…. Chinese people aren’t good at queuing so be prepared to sharpen those commuter elbows to get around. Interestingly, unless they are heading to work, they all wear trainers and are constantly on their phones, including the older generation. They are watching videos, reading cartoons, playing games and are constantly texting each other. That’s probably why the escalators and pedestrian crossings all emit this annoying beeping sound to let you know when you are getting near / safe to cross. This is the only time the residents look up from their screens LOL. Oh yes and babies are carried and dogs travel in prams!!!

Overall we had a great time and are glad we came – there are many highlights of this trip, particularly the temples and learning a little about their culture.   But the top thing has to be the amazing night time view across the harbour which is just simply stunning.

But now it is time to go home and we are very excited about seeing our family and friends, especially to share Christmas with them, which will be for the first time in five years. When we reach home I’ll do a wrap-up blog about the last season and share our future plans.

Bye for now


Exploring Hong Kong – part 1

Friday afternoon we had a late lunch at a nice Chinese in the Whampoa Gourmet plaza and I found a place to have my hair cut.  Hurrah!

Later on we headed out to visit the Temple Street night market.   When we arrived in the area we encountered beggars for the first time and a young girl around 15 years old sat on the pavement with no fingers or thumbs on either hand. She was clearly traumatised as she rocked backwards and forwards and we realised with horror that she had probably been deliberately maimed as her injuries were just too similar to have been caused by accidental means. Sickening….

We walked through the ‘golden mile’ of jewellery shops admiring the craftsmanship but not sure that the designs will travel LOL. Above the stores were loads and loads of flats and it seemed like it might be washing day….

We finally arrived at the night market. This was full of bling and lots of copies of designer items such as bags. There really wasn’t anything that took our eye and, if we did buy electronic gifts, we would want to make sure that it survived longer than being taken out of its packaging LOL. So we declined and walked end-to-end….

We had hoped to eat street food but the hygiene standards and the smell of the cooking oil in these places put us off big time.

We worked our way through the crowds and ended up back at the MTR so took the line towards central on Hong Kong island where we stopped to watch the LED light show on the buildings.

We then walked to Soho where we found a very popular local restaurant and had some great noodle dishes although found eating this soup-like meal with chopsticks a little challenging LOL. After our meal we took the Star Ferry back across the river and the bus back to our hotel where we had a couple of cold ones before turning in for the night.

Saturday morning we headed out on the bus and got the Star Ferry back across to Hong Kong Island. We walked across the road towards the Hong Kong station and caught another tube to the island of Lantau. We got off at the end of the line at Tung Chung and walked to the cable car terminal. Sadly it was a little cloudy (or polluted?) but there were still fantastic views across Tung Chung Bay to the airport and then through Lantau’s North Country Park. We continued on this ride until we reached the Ngong Ping terminal.

At the terminal there is a new village which has been built specifically for tourists. We walked through until we came to the corridor of 12 Divine Generals each of whom symbolises the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac and represents two distinct hours of the day. Here are a few of them.

We then took our breath before tackling the 260 steps up to the Big Buddha statue who is sitting on a lotus leaf. We found it hard to walk up at this altitude and couldn’t believe it when we came across a woman who took the steps one at a time on her knees praying all the time. Amazing dedication.

We enjoyed our visit with Buddha and the views out, particularly the deities that surround him. Then it was time to work our way down the steps again….

Having reached the bottom we admired other gates and statues – as well as talking to a couple of wild cows that hang out here – before taking ourselves off to the Po Lin monastery.

This was a series of temples and each one was more beautiful than the other….with numerous gold statues and the most ornate carvings and woodwork. Oh yes and we had to sneak a couple of photos despite the signs LOL. Just stunning…

Having had our fill of temples and saying a final farewell to Big Buddha we headed back into the village and had some Turkish food. Then we found a bus to take us to the fishing village of Tai O. We took a boat trip through the stilt houses that adorn this area and then out into the South China Sea looking for white dolphins. We knew that these were pretty rare so were not surprised we failed to spot any.

After the boat trip we walked through the village into the fish market and our senses were assaulted by the smell of the street food and the dried remains of certain fishes – a few were recognisable like squid – but we were horrified to see ‘gills’ as we know of the Chinese liking for manta ray gills as they are supposed to strengthen respiratory tracts. This place also had crispy squid which Richard had taken a liking to in our hotel bar but I think seeing it in its raw state might have put him off eating it in future LOL.

We returned to Ngong Ping and took the cable car down the mountain trying to keep warm from the chilly wind. At the bottom we headed back to the MTR station and took three tubes to return to our hotel. We had a few hours relaxing in our room enjoying the oasis of calm away from the manic craziness that is Hong Kong. Later on we headed to the outside bar to watch the evening laser show over the harbour.

By now we were hungry so we headed back down to the Courtyard restaurant for dinner. Again there was live music and again the app didn’t work. But I managed to get the cashier to give us a bucket of beers so that we didn’t need to return and queue to order more. The Indian food was fantastic again but the band cleared off at 10 pm. Not wanting to sit in an empty restaurant we carried the beer to our room to finish it off.

Bye for now


New Zealand to Hong Kong

Monday morning we were up very early and completed our final checks. We then climbed down the ladder for the last time and said a sad farewell to our girl…. Take care Morphie – see you next year – enjoy your rest, you’ve earned it!

We were ready to go so took ourselves off to the marina cafe for breakfast and then into the cruisers lounge to surf the net while we waited for our shuttle. This turned up right on time and we drove towards Kerikeri Airport about half an hour away.

We arrived at the small regional airport to be told that our hand luggage was overweight as, although our bags were within the size requirements, they had stringent restrictions. So we just moved it all around and carried it differently so we got it all onboard within the rules – crazy or what LOL?!?

Our small plane was on the tarmac and we boarded on time. We enjoyed the short 45 minute looking out over the familiar-looking landscape and the amazing future cruising grounds.

We landed smoothly at the domestic terminal at Auckland International Airport. Our bags were off pretty quickly and we then followed the walkway through to the international terminal. This was a long way…around 25 minutes…which was primarily due to airport expansion activities. We arrived – checked out where we needed to go in the morning – and then crossed the road to the Novotel Airport hotel.

The hotel was smart and our room was nice. We had a nice afternoon chilling out before heading downstairs for dinner. Didn’t really fancy the smart restaurant so crossed back to the airport and, I’m ashamed to say, we had Kentucky fried chicken for our evening meal LOL. We then returned to the hotel and had a couple of glasses of wine – but the bar was pretty poorly designed so ended up in lounge chairs but didn’t really feel comfortable there either – so took a bottle of wine with us and returned to our room where we curled up in front of the TV which, at this stage of the season, was a real treat!

Tuesday morning we were up early and headed across the road. We visited the weigh station first to ensure we were packed up within the tight limits of Hong Kong Airways and then got in the queue to check in. Most people had bags and bags and bags….so we were pretty easy to process. We then went through security which was quite normal to us as it replicated the UK set-up but clearly others were having a problem with the no liquid rule. We then had a coffee and a pastry while we waited for our plane.

We boarded on time and settled down. I think that at least 80% of the passengers were Chinese in origin so the chatter sounded quite strange in their sing-song voices. The 12 hour flight passed quickly with us both watching numerous movies – sadly the dining experience was disappointing – but the seats were pretty comfy. The really annoying thing though was the state of the toilets with wet floors and I don’t mean with water. Yuck!!!!

We arrived into Hong Kong and took the train to the arrivals area – followed the endless spotlessly-clean corridors adorned with fresh flower Christmas decorations – and arrived at immigration. Our electronic passports got us quickly through the barriers and we then found the baggage collection area. As soon as the belt came to life our cases turned up – probably in the first 10 bags off the plane. Woo hoo! We cleared customs and found the Shangri-La Hotels check-in desk. They gave us a Chinese language card for the Kerry Hotel and told us where to pick up a taxi. We followed the well-signposted route – stopping off at an ATM for some cash – and found a taxi. The whole process from landing to taxi leaving the airport was less than 40 minutes! Amazingly efficient.

The taxi ride was a bit of an eye opener with manically-busy roads – up to four lanes wide – and high-rise maximum density housing. The units looked tiny and all looking over each other. The sheer volume of traffic and people was quite overwhelming. Did you know that 7.4mn people live in Hong Kong alone which is 44,000 people per square mile.

We arrived at our fancy hotel and checked in. Our room is lovely but the best thing was the view over to Hong Kong island. We got unpacked and then headed to the bar with an outside terrace – still wrapped up in our jackets against the chilly wind – and sat on the verandah having a couple of cold ones enjoying the scenes below. We watched the boats come and go – from the tourist dinner cruise boats to tug boats towing barges. And the skyscrapers. OMG the whole vista exceeded our expectations.

Wednesday morning we got up early – aided no doubt by the time difference – and decided to go out to a locally-recommended restaurant Dragon Court for breakfast. This is where the locals go to eat and we sat down under the amused eyes of all the other patrons – clearly not used to seeing almond-eyed tourists amongst them. Many of them spoke English and helped us with the process of ordering. We drank copious amounts of green tea and chose our food. We tried fried dumplings, prawn and cheese bread, steamed dim sum and some pastry twists. Not our normal fare but when in Hong Kong you know….. Sitting chatting we noticed that most people washed their cups, bowls, plates, spoons, chop sticks in tea – there was even a big plastic bowl on the table to facilitate this. All very strange and we assumed it was a cultural thing. Eventually we had to ask one of our helpful neighbours and they explained that it was because they didn’t trust the restaurant to wash the stuff properly so we promptly did the same LOL. The food was amazing and it was certainly a great experience.

We then walked the promenade all the way to the Star Ferry terminal enjoying the sights of the local fisherman, the views across to Hong Kong Island, and the continued works here to reclaim land from the sea.

Here we found the tourist board and was given some great advice by one of the volunteers – so armed with ideas of what to see and how to get around – we found the large shopping mall and wandered there. We couldn’t believe the range of high-end stores like Gucci, Hermes, Prada to name a few with some more surprising ones like Marks & Spencers of London LOL. There were even Jamie Oliver restaurants too. All felt very familiar and clearly there are some very wealthy people here living alongside poverty, evidenced by the really old pensioners (both men and women) working as street cleaners.

By now we were fading so we took a bus back to the hotel. We had a couple of hours chilling before getting ready to go out again. We got the MTR tube train to Central which is on Hong Kong Island so we must have gone through an underwater tunnel. The system is quite small compared to London so we found it easy to navigate through the different lines. We then walked up the road and picked up a tram which took us directly to the Happy Valley racecourse.

The tram passengers were surprised, again, to see tourists on their cheap transport – it actually only cost 27p for a 45 minute slow stop-start journey. We crossed the road and entered the racecourse which is huge and in the middle of the city surrounded by large blocks of flats. It was only £1 to get in each and we wandered around enjoying the sights.

We found a food stall we fancied the look of so we had a takeaway and made ourselves comfy on the elevated seating. Then Richard went off and got a pitcher of beer to go with it.   We sat watching the crowds arriving – this is clearly a weekly event for many locals – with some arriving straight from work in their smart (designer) suits. I went off to find out how to bet and a very helpful lady cashier talked me through the process in filling in the slips…. So all set I made a small bet on two horses and returned to Richard – he really isn’t into the betting side but I quite enjoyed it. The place was filling up and we watched the racing. Between races we refilled our pitcher and listened to the live band.

Was great fun and I had beginner’s luck coming out ahead at the end of the evening – woo hoo!   We left the racecourse after the last race and managed to grab a taxi all the way back to the hotel for about £20 – which was quite extravagant but neither of us fancied the public transport system late at night. We arrived back to our hotel at just before midnight and had a last drink on the hotel bar verandah. What an amazing day!

Thursday morning we decided to eat breakfast in the hotel. The restaurant was split into different zones with fresh offerings being done by liveried chefs – we ended up visiting a number of the zones and we both over-indulged and grazed for over an hour. Oh well, never mind!  We went straight off out afterwards and walked to the Whampoa bus station. We got the bus to the Star Ferry terminal and – using our newly-purchased and pre-charged Octopus passes – we took the ferry across the water from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. Was a great experience and something else to tick off the list!

We then turned left out of the terminal and waited for another bus amusing ourselves with the giant shark statue….and admiring Hong Kong’s version of the London Eye.

We got a bus to the lower tram station and joined the huge queues to buy tickets and get onto the platform.  Have to say that the locals really don’t seem to understand the concept of queueing and I got pretty fed up with a few of them pushing in. Oh well…never mind.

I enjoyed reading about the history of these trams which were primarily for the upper class in early British rule of the territory. We eventually rode the tram up to Victoria Peak and into the Peak Tower and followed the escalators to the viewing platform on the top. Amazing views!

We stopped for a while and took it all in while having a bit of fun on the way back through the building….

After a restorative coffee we took the return tram back down to the city.

We then walked for about 20 minutes to the bottom of the mid-level escalators which are 800 metres long and the longest free moving walkways in the world taking you up.

We rode it all the way to the top and then started the long walk back down – down and down steps, steps and more steps. This was very tiring and we did a few stops along the way but our legs were starting to feel the pace. We reached the SoHo area and enjoyed walking around in the market having a look at the Chinese curios on sale ranging from very expensive huge urns to small pieces of carved jade and traditional little tea sets although most of the shops / stalls had a ‘no photography’ sign up.

Then we followed the signs for the Mo Man Temple and enjoyed our visit here. The smell was amazing from the sandalwood incense coils…….

After the Temple we had had enough so carried on walking – amazed by the sheer number of Chinese medicine stores selling unimagineable items – until we found the nearest MTR station and took three trains to return to Whampoa, which is the nearest to our hotel. Phew….made it back….

We decided not to go out for dinner so we checked out the different hotel offerings…looking for something a bit casual rather than one of the fancy formal restaurants. The Dockyard restaurant appealed the most offering a range of different kitchens including Indian, Korean, Chinese etc.

We decided on the Indian but this is place is an e-eating experience – seriously! You have to download the app, order and pay online, and then the food would be delivered to your table. Of course the app didn’t work properly so we gave up and found a cashier – by this time the queue was growing – and we placed our order. We sat down and waited for the food which, actually, was excellent. The band weren’t bad either. However to get another drink you have to go through the whole ordering thing again and we really couldn’t be bothered so returned to our room for an early night. Had been quite a day.

This morning, Friday, and we are having a later start as we’ve not quite decided what to do today yet. What an amazing place – so much choice!!!

Bye for now


Life on the hard in New Zealand

Sunday evening we headed into the Cruisers Club for our roast dinner – pork with crackling and apple sauce this week. Was great! We had a few cold ones with Chris and wandered back to Morphie having said our farewells to him as he was heading south on Tuesday.

Monday morning we were up really early and were delighted that the wind was light. We radioed the boatyard to make sure they were ready for us so around 9.15 we slipped away and motored through the marina towards the haul out area.

We managed to drive straight into the area without being bothered too much by the tide which rips through here at times…. and the guys were ready with the strops and their hooks and we were pretty soon snug in the travel lift.  However, the front strop was on the sloped leading edge of Morphie rather than under the flat part of the hull – and to move it back would mean problems with the clearance of our fore stay. So having looked at the plans of our hull they decided to tie ropes to the front strop on both sides and we then winched them tight back to the cockpit to ensure that they wouldn’t slip whilst we were being hauled.   When they were happy they took us off in a dinghy from the transom and dropped off at the boat yard dock.

We watched nervously as she was lifted up out of the water – it was quite a long way – and then into the cleaning area. The guys were delighted with how clean our hull was and pretty soon they had cleaned off the thin layer of slime and we were ready to be moved to our spot.

The cradles here are pretty unusual and substantial and we were happy with our allocated position as it means that we will not have to be moved during our stay.

So Morphie arrived around the corner and they got her in position quite quickly. These guys move around 17 boats a day in and out and their experience showed. We were delighted that they also took the time to ensure we were level otherwise water would not drain through the scuppers properly.

Phew – nervousness over – we were safe and set. Hurrah….. We got our ladder sorted out and checked nothing had fallen over during her travels. All was good. Later on we headed out to talk to a few trades. Total Yacht Care came by and gave us a quote for cleaning, polishing and protecting the hull which they are going to do after Blue Fix have done our gel coat repairs – primarily the transom to properly repair the damage done in the Panama Canal. There are a few other bits and pieces we’d like touched up too….especially the stern helm seats as they have cracked along the rail. We then rubbed down in preparation for another coat of varnish. Whilst out and about we registered for the Opua All Points Rally as there were lots of social things planned that we could attend during the week. Having had a long tiring day we stayed on board for the evening and, out of the wind, it was actually quite pleasant and warm and we enjoyed our view. We slept well feeling very secure in our cradle.

Tuesday morning and Richard got on with the varnishing while I worked down below cleaning the oven and its surround which is always a fiddly job. He had almost finished varnishing when there was a light shower. So he stopped and then restarted again later. Finally we had a coat done and then, shortly afterwards, it drizzled again. Frustrating or what!?!  We’ll just have to see the results in the morning. We decided to go to the Cruising Club on Tuesday night after eating on board and had a few cold ones before retiring for the night.

Wednesday morning the weather was cold and grey and the forecast was not looking conducive to more varnishing. So we checked out Tuesday’s efforts. The varnish was a bit dull but the wood was well protected so we decided to call it a day and removed the masking tape. We also removed all the canvas and took it into the Opua Canvas Store who are going to wash, repair and re-waterproof for us in our absence. Richard also got the main sail over to the sail loft and we agreed a price for a complete valet and replacing the sunbrella UV protection on all three sails.

We then worked hard on the gel coat. We started with the non slip areas which we had previously cleaned so this time we used Woody Wax to give them a protective coating. This took a while. When that was finished we started cleaning and cutting the rest of the gelcoat to remove oxidisation and restore the gloss. This went on all day…..

In the evening we headed to the Cruising Club for the Rally welcome evening and had some great nibbles and received discounted beer / wine vouchers for the whole week so were pretty happy we had decided to sign up LOL!  We had a nice social evening to round off a busy day.

Thursday morning we got our refilled gas (LPG) tank back – the NZ company issued us with a temporary 3-month certificate to enable us to get refills so that was a relief as we were worried about that. And we still have some left in the other bottle….so all good for when we return after our trip home. We finished the work on the gelcoat and it was time to give it a protective coating using the locally-recommended product Mirage. So I applied it while Richard came behind me and buffed it off.   Have to say Morphie is looking pretty good!!!

Thursday night we went to pizza/pasta night at the Cruising Club and enjoyed some good food but the promised comedy / talent evening was a bit of a damp squib and fell flat after a particularly inappropriate joke!  The Gilbert & Sullivan type singing wasn’t really to my taste either…. Oh well, never mind.

As soon as the food stopped coming out most of the cruisers exited left but we stayed and enjoyed another social evening.

Friday morning we were up early again and we caught up with SeaPower and made arrangements with them for some engine maintenance – particularly injectors – for our return in March. That was the final thing to organise so we were feeling quite ahead of the game. The weather was variable so I headed off to the laundry laden down while Richard did some more laying up jobs on board. Later on we applied and buffed off the second and final coat of Mirage on the gel coat.

In the evening we headed over to Burnsco for the sausage sizzle and enjoyed chatting to other cruisers again. They had loads of sausages but very little beer so after a couple we headed to the Cruising Club….but not complaining about free food and drink!

We were sitting on our own just chatting when we spotted this boat arriving from overseas – the wind was blowing quite hard – and they had clearly had a bit of a difficult passage evidenced by the state of their genoa. Good time to arrive just before dark as they will get a chance of a good night’s sleep before they have to be ready for customs in the morning.

Saturday and it was raining cats and dogs. Luckily we had already designated this paperwork and packing day! We retrieved our bags from their hidey holes and started organising our clothes. We had laundered everything we wanted to take home with us so that was straight forward – then we cleaned out all our other cupboards and vacuum packed those items being left on board. The lockers were cleaned out and then it was time for paperwork and electronics. We worked out what was staying (removing the batteries etc) and what was going with us and that was another job ticked off the list. The final job of the day was to organise the food / cans etc and dispose of anything going out of date in our absence. Phew another job done!

Later on we went out to the Cruising Club for dinner and a couple of drinks before returning to Morphie for an early night. The relentless schedule was clearly catching up with both of us.

This morning, Sunday, and we are into the final push…. Everything staying is cleaned and stored, everything going is cleaned and packed. That just leaves us with some incidental items like another pile of laundry and topping up the water tanks…. The laundry is in the machine and we have both enjoyed long hot showers and are now in the cruisers lounge feeling satisfied if not a bit achy! We are going to head to the Cruisers Club for their Sunday roast later and then an early night.

I always have mixed feelings at this time of the season – especially this one which was tough on both us and Morphie. So feel sad to stay goodbye to her but we have given her lots and lots of tender loving care to ensure she enjoys her rest here on the hard in Opua with more upgrades planned for our return – particularly a complete electronics overhaul.

Monday morning, at 10.30, we are being picked up by a shuttle bus to take us to Keri Keri airport where we are catching a small plane to Auckland. Getting quite excited!!!

Bye for now


Prepping for haul out in New Zealand

Sunday early evening we headed to the Cruisers Club for our Sunday roast dinner. It was lamb – yay – with an unusual mix of roast squash, potato and green beans all topped off with mint jelly. Was delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed it. When it got dark we went out onto the verandah and watched the little firework display put on by the Club. Was a fun evening.

Monday morning we got the marina’s courtesy bus into Paihia to check out the local town which is a bit touristy but full of charm with loads of little boutiques to wander in and out of. We found new deck shoes for Richard, some warm socks for us both, a couple of tops, shorts and a handbag for me plus some groceries. We also found the Post Office so finally shipped the Iridium Go! Unit back to the USA for repairs but was a tad surprised at the £40 cost for the tracked, insured post. Afterwards we went to Jimmy Jack’s for lunch where we indulged ourselves in ribs and wings. Very tasty!  By now the sun had come out and, despite the chilly wind, we actually took our jackets off and enjoyed an ice cream while waiting for our return transportation.

Back on board and we realised that we had lost the fancy boutique bag with my three new items in.  Not funny….hadn’t spent any money on clothes for a while…..and these were for our upcoming trip to Hong Kong.  I was quite upset and to Richard’s annoyance actually started crying.    We racked our brains to remember our exact movements and started looking up telephone numbers. At this point my phone rang and it was the boutique letting us know that Richard’s ordered t-shirt was in stock as they had now unpacked their latest consignment. So I asked them if we had left the bag there – and the answer was no – so they asked us where we went next. We told them about Jimmy Jack’s and the girl said she would check with them. She walked down the street – recovered my bag that we had left on the seat – and called me back with the good news. OMG so grateful to these kind and honest people!

We then opened the envelope that we had found taped to Morphie on our return…which invited us to sundowners on Plan Sea a fellow Island Packet in the marina. We were also joined by the crew from Gigi, more Packeteers. We had a nice evening and were surprised to find that they had both also cracked their stainless steel arches on the passage across the Pacific.  Was all very interesting and we even took our fleeces off because Plan Sea have a completely enclosed cockpit so was actually quite warm LOL.  Oh yes and my head looks weird in this photo – must have been the angle as I pressed the button

Tuesday morning and Richard offered Dink to the first person who wanted him over the radio. We had failed miserably over six months or so to fix his numerous leaks and he is really too big and heavy. We’ll buy a new one when we return….there are quite a few options here. Within five minutes I had a mum and two children on the dock – so we were introduced to Callum. He is a local lad who had dreamed of owning his own dinghy for the last two years and borrows his dads to go fishing regularly. So we agreed that he could have it and we would let him know when he could collect, as we wanted to use it to tape up under the rail and clean the stainless. Felt good to make Callum’s dream come true!

Richard then hopped onto the courtesy bus to pick up his t-shirt and my lost items from Paihia. I got on with the stainless. Later on we had a message to call the NZ Post Office – what now?!? Apparently they are not able to send to a company without a specified addressee – the RMA department wasn’t good enough – so had to scrabble around to find someone to send it to. So that got sorted out thankfully, as I had thought it might be something to do with the complicated customs form I had had to fill out. Phew!

We had got really cold working outside during the day but were pleased to have got both genoa and staysail down and bagged – under the beady eyes of the local seagulls – so had long hot shore showers followed by an early night.

Wednesday I cleaned the freezer and finished the stainless steel. Richard taped up the whole of the boat while I started working on the textured gel coat to remove stains and oxidisation. Was surprised how good the local product Grunt Klenashine was as the result was pretty good!  By the evening we were both shattered so long hot showers again were followed by a movie night on board.

Thursday morning we popped out to the marina stores for a few things like more sandpaper and confirmed that the dinghy was ready for collection.  OMG the little lad turned up with his tiny outboard and wearing his life jacket within about 10 minutes. We formally handed it over and Callum was so excited I thought he would burst.

He also confirmed that he would keep the name – as he thought it was cool – and would fix him up, love and cherish him. We felt really good although quite emotional as he drove away waving madly… Who would have thought it, Dink has emigrated to New Zealand LOL.

We started rubbing down and by the end of the day we had got a coat of varnish on.

Later on we headed to the Cruisers Club and bumped into Scallywag who had just arrived from Tonga. We had a good fun evening although Gloria ended up a bit sozzled as, like us, they don’t drink on passage and she enjoyed a bit too much wine LOL. Was lovely to see them again.

Friday and the forecast was dire. There was a gale warning – with up to 50 knot gusts expected – and rain was supposed to come through in the afternoon. So there was no point varnishing. Richard got on with cleaning the cockpit cushions and the sun blinds while I carried on working on the gel coat – this time in the cockpit. Oh yes and Richard also managed to get the mould out of the grouting in the heads….. I had tried for a long time to do this and, with one wave of a toothbrush and another NZ product, it was banished. Absolutely amazing!

Later on we headed over to SeaPower who were hosting a sausage sizzle (BBQ). We chatted with other cruisers and enjoyed the hospitality – although it was freezing cold – and the locals (wearing shorts and sandals) were teasing me about my two fleeces LOL. Guess I haven’t acclimatised yet having been in the tropics for the last five years.  We then headed up to the Cruisers Club and were enjoying the views when Phil and Sarah came in so we stayed a bit longer. Another good evening. Oh yes, and of course, it didn’t rain all day!!!!

Saturday and the forecast had worsened – the gale warning remained – and more rain was forecast. So we got on with other jobs.  I carried on working outside and spent quite a lot of time on the coachroof and transom cleaning, polishing, cutting the gelcoat etc etc. Richard in the meantime started on the interior – he used water and vinegar on all the gelcoat down below to stop mould forming in the humidity as we’ll be leaving Morphie on the hard throughout the NZ summer. Then he started treating all the interior wood. By the end of the day we were pretty tired but satisfied that we are ticking jobs off the list. Oh yes and, of course, no rain again which was very frustrating.   We rounded the day off with a few beers at the Cruising Club.

This morning, Sunday, and we lay in bed realising that, for the first time, the wind had completely died. So we got up as it got light and swiftly took the main sail down and flaked it on the dock. We then went to the cafe for breakfast before we returned to Morphie. We rubbed down and escaped below decks as the rain threatened yet again. But it appears to have passed so Richard is now varnishing while I’m blogging. Then we’ll call it a day and head off to the Cruisers Club for their traditional Sunday roast.

Tomorrow, Monday, we are hauling first thing in the morning. A bit daunting as they have asked us to drive in forwards with no fenders or ropes, apparently they catch the boat with hooks!   We are hauling earlier than originally planned but we moved the date forward as much of the work we have left to do requires us to be out of the water. The boatyard were happy too as we are going into an outside space and they do not intend to move us – so once we are in and settled they can fill the spaces in front of us. So we’ll be living up a ladder for the next week…sigh….

Bye for now


Early days in New Zealand

Our passage to New Zealand was pretty good overall despite some cloudy wet days, grey days, and high winds.

But to counter that we also had some of the most perfect sailing conditions and some great sunrises and sunsets.

We also had some wonderful star-lit nights. We had some pretty feisty downwind sailing conditions towards the end when we arrived to a gale warning but our weather routing was spot on giving us a better ride than many others. And we mustn’t forget to mention the dolphin encounter.

The biggest challenge of the passage was actually arriving in the dark as finding and getting on the Quarantine Dock in the pouring rain wasn’t the easiest manoeuvre. It was freezing cold and I thought we would go straight to bed but Richard decided we should, after all, celebrate our achievement so we did have a couple of beers before retiring for the night about 4.00 am on Tuesday morning (31 October).

At 8.00 am on Tuesday 31 October I was awoken by a ‘hello’ from the cockpit – customs were on board already. OMG we asked him to give us five minutes while we got quickly dressed and cleared a space for him to sit in the saloon. We went through the paperwork and it was all very efficient including our temporary import licence which gives us access to duty free goods and services here in New Zealand for two years. That’s 15% off which is a great boost as we have a long list of things to do. Next was biosecurity which were the guys we were dreading – but they were pretty quick and apart from some horrid hotdogs we had left in the freezer, one tomato and some onions which were confiscated we were good to go even receiving praise for our clean hull.  There is a big customs presence here in Opua with head offices plus numerous boats passing through.

The wind was blowing hard so we helped a few other boats get onto the quarantine dock as they started coming in before we escaped to our slip. We had been allocated one based on 37 feet – which is the official length of Morpheus – but the marina girl wanted us to go into a 45 foot one as the rule here is that no boat is allowed to exceed the length of the slip and overhang.  This is because there are very strong currents running through at tide changes so boats often get caught out and the idea is that they hit the pilings and not other boats – providing they are side on of course LOL. Clearly it is a serious issue though as all the pilings have rubber rings around the bottom and the piers have ‘bumpers’ at each end.

Our slip was difficult to get into as we were being blown off in 25 knots and into the middle pilings that separate us from the boat in the slip next door. We got pinned a couple of times – hurrah for those rubber rings – but managed to sort it all out. It is not helped here by the ‘D’ type fixed rings rather than cleats on the dock – that makes tying up in a hurry or braking a boat difficult. Never mind…we got in….no one got hurt and Morphie didn’t get damaged so all was well.

And that was the end to our season – we sailed 8,920 miles this year through 10 countries, lots of islands and crossed an ocean! Woo hoo…. We are on the other side of the world from home and we did it in a little yacht called Morpheus. The reality of what we have achieved is still taking some time to sink in LOL.

We went to the marina office to check in, got our codes for the pier doors, the cruiser’s lounge and the toilets/showers and headed to see Paul who was at the Boatyard office to organise our haul out. Job done – 17 November it is – and then headed into the cafe on the way back to Morphie. We ended up having hot sausage rolls and coffee as we couldn’t stop ourselves being tempted by the delicious looking pastry. Yummmmm…..

Back onboard we had a bit of a tidy up and went to bed for a while. Later on we hit the cruisers lounge for hot showers and an internet fix before wandering down to the Cruising Club for a beer. We were joined by Chris at this stage as he had arrived in New Zealand just before lunchtime. When we got there we walked into a kid’s Halloween party which was pretty funny but we just sat in the corner, ate chips, and enjoyed being on solid ground. There was quite a crowd by the time we ended the evening and everyone was in a pretty good mood having arrived unscathed despite some boat and rigging failures. Lots of torn sails too…..

Wednesday morning we had a late start and did some general wandering around the marina site. We had been led to believe that there wasn’t much here in Opua but we found pretty much two or three of every type of service that we were interested in like sail makers, canvas guys, electronics, riggers, mechanical guys etc along with every amenity that we would need so pretty happy to stay here for a while.

We then had some lunch in the cafe and spent the afternoon in the cruiser’s lounge using the internet and sorting out flights.  New Zealand is a long way from the UK and, as we have arrived earlier than we expected, we are going to break the long trip home up by spending a week in Hong Kong which we have always wanted to do. So we booked: shuttle to local airport; local flight to Auckland; overnight hotel in Auckland; flight to Hong Kong; hotel in Hong Kong; flight to London; and taxi home from Heathrow.

Phew, was quite a task, but we are very excited to be going home to see family and friends.  It has been a long season.  So folks we’ll arrive home on the 29 November.  Of course all this planning and booking means that we have now put ourselves under pressure to get Morphie ready to be hauled.

We later on did the laundry in the spotlessly clean and modern marina facility – the cheapest for a long while too.

Wednesday evening we headed back to the Cruising Club, watched the racing out the window, and enjoyed another social evening. Oh yes and did I tell you how cold it is here?!?   We are wearing jeans and fleeces and have multiple blankets on the bed with all hatches closed and fans off and are still feeling a tad chilly when we wake up. And this is Spring in New Zealand!

Thursday morning the electrician turned up. Our systems have to be tested and certified to New Zealand standards before we can be plugged into shore power. Well, the first thing we found out was that we are not allowed to have our step-down transformer (240 volts to 110 volts) on the dock as it has, by law, to be on the boat. Well, our lead isn’t long enough so it became obvious we couldn’t go forward. Eric – lovely Dutch chap with lots of stories to tell – agreed to come back Monday while we went off to the marine electrical shop to get a longer lead made up.

Whilst out doing that we organised quotes. There is a lot to sort out, for example:

  • All three sails need their Sunbrella sacrificial strips replaced as there is some signs of wear, particularly on the staysail. They also need to be valeted.

  • The canvas needs to be checked over and repaired. There are a couple of spots of wear, some sticky zips and Velcro fastenings showing signs of age. Amazingly the guys thought that the acrylic glass in the dodger – which is nine years old – was still good for a few more seasons. The canvas is also going to be professional cleaned and re-waterproofed.

  • We swapped out the alternator and the direct drive autopilot during the course of the season so want the originals serviced, if possible, so that these then become our spares for the future.

  • We want the waterline raised so the Awlgrip strip needs to be removed and repainted higher up the hull. The anti-fouling will then need to be raised to meet this new painted strip.

  • As we are under time pressure we have asked for a quote for a thorough clean and protective coating of the hull once we are out of the water – we’ll do the topsides, the stainless steel and the varnishing ourselves. UV damage here in New Zealand is a much greater risk to the gelcoat than usual due to the depleted ozone layer and the products we usually use are not available here so very much a learning curve.

  • We are planning a complete electronic overhaul – dumping Garmin in favour of Raymarine. We have identified what we would like and have asked a couple of people to quote us for supply and fit (although we may pull the cables through ourselves to reduce some of the fitting costs).

  • Ink cartridges for our Epson XP-630 printer are available here in New Zealand so we purchased an entire set so we can print and copy onboard again.

  • We want a quote for gel coat repairs – especially to replace the temporary patch we had done in Panama to cover the damage we did to the stern in the canal.

  • We need to source six Lifeline AGM batteries – five house and one engine – as ours are now five years old and are almost at the end of their life.

  • We are looking for some spares for the engine, especially a new starter motor and a fuel lift pump as these are things that have failed on other people’s boats and we don’t want to get caught out down the line.

  • We also want our rigging inspected yet again and will probably replace the outhaul and the inhaul which have some chafe damage.

  • We also want to get the stainless ‘prettied’ up as the welding job we had done in the Marquesas on the arch was adequate to get us here but could look better.

So all in all we have a lot to organise in a very short period of time. The trades here are very responsive and we had all sorts of people crawling over the boat getting details – so we expect to get all the quotes in by Monday so we can go ahead and organise everything including the logistics of scheduling stuff. Most of it will happen on our return next year but at least we’ll be in people’s diaries and parts will be ready to go.

After all that activity we headed back to Morphie and I started washing the topsides after we got dink off the bow. The wind remains too strong to get the sails off so they remain in situ for now. Richard started on organising storage down below.

Thursday night we didn’t go out so had lovely long hot showers and had a movie night onboard instead. We also did some more catching up on the internet as all our annual insurances – house / travel / car / yacht etc are up for renewal in the next few weeks – obviously timed for when I’m usually at home. I also made the arrangements to return the Iridium Go! unit to the USA for the warranty repair or replacement. They are going to return the unit to us at home so that works out well as I can take time to get it all up and running again before we return to Morphie in 2018. Oh yes…and we have just found out that all three of our Kidde Fire Extinguishers have been recalled in the USA…so just trying to get in touch to find out whether there is a New Zealand distributor for them. Luckily this can wait until we get back too….

Friday morning we were up early and Richard carried on organising stuff down below while I started spot cleaning the topsides. It is really nice to work in a colder climate so that, actually, there are more hours in the day to work without keeling over from dehydration or heat exhaustion LOL. In the evening we went out to the Cruising Club – watched some more racing out the windows – and had a nice lamb shank dinner.

Saturday was more of the same – still too windy to remove sails – so I finished spot cleaning the topsides and moved onto the stainless steel while Richard serviced both the generator and the outboard. He also continued to sort out storage.

So we have not seen anything of New Zealand other than the views of the marina.

Check out the view from the Cruisers’ Lounge – could easily be somewhere in the UK don’t you think?!?

The marina remains under construction with new apartment buildings and more facilities being built – it is already an impressive size and beautifully fitted out. Best showers ever.  We are happy we decided to come here. The people are really friendly and the little on-site store has made me a very happy girl with recognisable brands products. Clearly provisioning here is going to be a dream as usually I carry lots of stuff like tea bags with me in the luggage but we won’t need to do that anymore.

So that leaves loads of room for essential things like more fleeces, thermals and sailing boots that we left at home not believing that we would need them down here LOL. It is nice to be in a first world country and an English speaking one too. So much easier getting quotes when you don’t have a language issue to resolve. Really excited about having the time to explore the country properly next year on our return as well as to give Morphie the upgrades that she needs to continue our journey in the future.

Sunday we awoke to pouring rain so had a bit of a lay in. Then the rain cleared and we realised that the wind had died down – the first day since we had arrived in New Zealand. So we quickly got Richard kitted up and I winched him up the mast so that he could fix the bulb in the steaming light and, hopefully, fix the main sail jam. Well it went perfectly – the sail was just caught up where the tension had eased whilst we were furling. Thank goodness, as we were both worried about that.

We then removed the genoa and the staysail and flaked them into their bags. We seem to have done quite a lot of our haul-out list already and there is still time to go….so fingers crossed for better weather so that we can tackle some more varnishing as the rail is looking pretty tatty in places.

We are in the lounge right now and later on we are heading to the Cruisers Club for a traditional English Sunday roast followed by fireworks for Bonfire Night. Really looking forward to it.

Bye for now


Passage to New Zealand – part 5

By 17.00 on Sunday (29 October) nothing much had changed – the wind continued to be between 17-25 knots and we were steaming along downwind under a single reefed genoa. The seas were large and we were sideswiped a few times by rogue waves breaking over us and sending us rolling wildly from gunnel to gunnel but most of the time we were surfing up and down the waves ahead. The sky remained gloomy although the sun did make the occasional albeit brief appearance. For the night we moved our shifts back – starting at 19.00 – as the sun sets now around 19.30. It is nice to see longer than the standard 12 hour days that we had become used to in the Caribbean….feels much more seasonal. We also double reefed the genoa in anticipation of the strong winds forecast.
The conditions remained largely unchanged throughout the night although we were getting pushed off course by a combination of the waves and current – so we had to tweak our heading to remain on our rhumb line. The winds strengthened during the night to 27 knots but only for a few hours – the rest of the time they were in the 17-25 range as before. Of course 27 knots downwind is actually about 35 knots if you were sailing directly into it and you could tell the difference by the white foam coming off the top of the waves….
Early Monday morning (30 October) and we’d broken through the 1,000 mile mark almost 36 miles ahead of our route schedule. Woo hoo! We saw 9.2 knots surfing on the waves earlier so are looking for a double digit one today if the winds pick up as forecast. We are expecting the wind to increase to at least 35 knots so will leave the sail as is. Interestingly the reefs are making little overall difference to our boat speed although they might if the seas continue to build and/or change direction. The temperature has dropped again to 19 degrees C so we’re feeling it! We have big fluffy clouds today instead of the gloom so there are patches of blue sky around although the sea remains grey and slightly menacing.
We keep resetting the AIS because we are sure there are other boats out here apart from us. So far nothing other than SV Sea Bear and SV Taranga who we left behind a few days ago after briefly being in company. Where are the fishing boats we have been warned to watch out for? Where are the commercial vessels or even cruise ships? What about other cruisers using the same weather window as us – or did they all stall at Minervous Reef LOL? Where are the sea creatures: the whales migrating south with their new born calves; the dolphins; the flying fish and the kamikaze squid? All very strange……
By 14.00 we had a container ship cross our bow 20 miles ahead and a large yacht crossed our stern. Another yacht signal turned up behind us doing about 5.5 knots but it went off before we could identify him. What a strange turn of events…. At 17.00 I’m cooking dinner and came up for a breather and we were met by a pod of dolphins! Fantastic….always puts a smile on our faces. Do you think they’ve been reading my blog LOL?!?
We had a couple of ships after that….and one actually changed course to go behind our stern. We approached New Zealand carefully in the pitch black night – and, of course, that was when it started to rain. We worked our way gingerly through the channel – assisted by two local fishing boats who gave us some useful hints and tips. During this night navigation exercise there was a gale warning issued by the NZ radio. Just in time – phew! Hope Chris and all the others are OK.
We finally found the quarantine dock to the Bay Islands Marina and got ourselves alongside and secured. So, at 03.08, we officially arrived in New Zealand!! We did it…..we crossed the South Pacific!!! Woo hoo….. Too cold for celebratory beers it’s time for bed.
Bye for now Jan

Passage to New Zealand – part 4

At 15.00 on Friday (27 October) we were heading south east as suggested by Bob the weather man. This was opposed to everything we have read and heard about this passage. Usually one sets a waypoint north of the tip of New Zealand’s North Island and then, as the wind and currents switch to the west as you get further south, you run downwind towards your destination also gaining some shelter from the island. So to go south east at this juncture – giving up our westing in effect – felt wrong. However Bob is warning of a large high giving strong ENE winds early next week and all four PredictWind models agree so the new course should allow us to ride these winds rather than having to beat into them. Although we do expect confused seas as the wind will be opposing the current. Only time will tell whether this strategy works.
The benefit of this course change was that we were running constantly on a broad reach, our fastest point of sail, and were eating up the miles. The weather was beautiful and crisp with blue skies and flat deep blue seas with a steady 15 knots of breeze. Wish all sailing days could be like this.
At 1.00 on Saturday (28 October) the conditions remained the same although a north element was creeping into the wind as expected but we held our broad reach despite being pushed further east. At 3.00 we turned south directly towards Opua and were running downwind under a full genoa only. In 15+ knots of breeze we don’t need to deploy the pole to keep the sail full and the main – which we could carry wing on wing – is safely furled back inside the mast. We don’t want to get caught out in stronger winds with the main tied down especially with its furling problem so we have decided to protect it from damage.
By 6.00 the sun had come up and it was really cold….bitingly so…under a cloudy grey sky. I’m now wearing two fleeces over a tee shirt and fleece-lined waterproof trousers plus socks and am still cold. May have to dig out the thermals soon. The temperature is actually 20 degrees Celsius – which would be a nice day back home in the UK – so it is not that bad but I reckon the wind chill factor takes it down to zero LOL.
We were making good speed so were hoping for a Tuesday morning arrival. At 10.00 the clouds had lifted slightly to give us a glimpse of sun but it had no warmth in it. The best thing about the cooler temperatures is that the fridge and freezer are more efficient as they are keel cooled and sleeping snuggled into blankets is so much easier than sweating in the tropics!
During the day the wind and sea started building along with the rolly movement from side to side. There were a few rogues out there bashing us up but Morphie did brilliantly and just pushed us along refusing to be intimidated by some of the huge towering waves behind her. Mares tail clouds dominated the blue sky and gave us an indicator of what was coming. By 18.00 the wind was pushing 23 knots so we reefed down the genoa and continued on. There was a spectacular sunset around 19.30 and the temperature dropped yet again. The wind remained steady in the low to mid 20s throughout the night.
At 6.00 on Sunday (29 October) the sun came up and the sky was red below the grey clouds. You know what they say….red sky is the morning….. Yep we’ve got all the warning signs thanks! The sun disappeared into the gloomy grey sky so it felt like sailing at home in the Solent. The conditions remained unchanged and we’ll have to see what comes next. Right now we are enjoying this sail and are comfortable in our shift patterns. I have noticed, however, that the ‘optional’ two hours set aside each per day in case we need to snooze, is now a regular feature of the day as we both rush to our warm blanketed beds instead of staying in the cockpit together LOL.
Bye for now Jan

Passage to New Zealand – part 3

Wednesday night we motor sailed in very light airs but, sadly, the wind decided to shift against us so we were slowly being pushed away from our rhumb line. To tack would be useless as we would end up head on into the waves – slowing us even further – and there are reefs south of our rhumb line to be avoided. So we continued pressing on.
By Thursday morning (26 October) we had a stormy sunrise but patches of blue sky around later gave us hope for brighter weather. The wind was still being difficult with too light airs and in the wrong direction so we continued motor sailing. Suddenly around 10.30 the wind kicked in at 16 knots but the cloud cover regrouped and it started raining again. And that set the scene for another cloudy rainy miserable day with the only bright spot being the 22 knot wind that the rain brought with it. The angle was pretty tight so we were close hauled and beating – but at least we were making good speed in an OK direction. When close hauled we like to utilise the staysail but this is out of action right now because the dinghy is on the bow and blocks the running rigging to the Hoyt boom. And leaving dink on the arch for long ocean passages isn’t recommended after our previous experience…. Never mind, it is what it is!
By 16.00 the wind shifted in our favour – hurrah! – and clocked around to SE so we were able to finally hold our rhumb line. We passed our last mid-ocean waypoint and it is now just one long straight shot from here to Opua so we were excited about reaching that milestone. Our speed had improved significantly and, at 18.00, was boosted further when the wind clocked to ESE. The sky was lighter ahead so hopefully we had finally got away from that trough…. Fingers crossed!
The sun set on a miserable day. During the evening and throughout the night, the wind remained steady at 15 knots from the ESE and the seas flattened. We sailed on a broad reach running parallel with our rhumb line and made good progress. Not sure we had completely left the poor weather behind us as the night was very dark and gloomy with the odd spot of rain. But definitely an improvement in sailing conditions although the temperature dropped by a few degrees so we might be forced to dig out the socks soon LOL.
At 6.00 Friday (27 October) the great conditions remained the same. We think the trough has finally left us as the skies are cloud free and we had a beautiful sunrise. To our starboard, on the horizon, is another yacht and we were delighted to see on the AIS that it was Sea Bear. The last time we saw Chris was off Big Momas when he left on Friday afternoon – in the Western Hemisphere – and we are both now in the Eastern Hemisphere. Another milestone ticked, not sure what it does to our Golden Shellback status but will check it out and let you know later. Oh yes it is even colder today so I’ve finally succumbed to socks!
By 13.30 the wind had dropped and was now behind us. Sea Bear remained off to starboard and we have been joined by another boat behind us. We have just received a weather update from Bob our weather guru…and he has advised us to head further east before then running directly towards Opua. We are expecting strong winds on Monday / Tuesday now so forewarned is good!
Bye for now Jan