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