It’s been nonstop work on Escape Velocity. In addition to the much needed antifouling we prepared the hulls for new waterline striping to give the old girl an updated look.
Jack tackled a long list of projects like replacing the autopilot tiller pin, servicing the winches and installing a new cleat on the stern.
Inbetween we inventoried the lockers to offload excess weight and redistribute what’s left. It’s amazing what we’ve been carrying around for no reason. And now that we have paddleboards, kayaks and bikes (yes, bikes!) we really needed to make room for all the toys.
The bikes came to us with no effort on our part, like a magical karmic gift. The first bike was given to us by Nell and Phil of Moondancer as they went through their own decluttering and we were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Jack fixed it up and happily did errands far and wide with his newfound range. A few weeks later we sold some unused equipment off EV and the very next day we saw a notice on the bulletin board at the supermarket for a folding bike for sale asking the same amount of money we’d just received for the excess gear. Win-win, we said and suddenly we are the owners of two folding bikes. We wouldn’t survive the haulout without them since the yard is too far from town to walk and we can easily go shopping for parts and supplies and provisions.
Back on board we had a rigger check our entire rig from top to bottom and he pronounced us perfect in every way. Good to know.
Our Yorkshireman diesel mechanic came back with our direct-from-Brussels bearing housings and gave both engines a new lease on life. We’re back up to our former vim and vigor.
And finally we got a highly recommended upholsterer to replace the crumbling covers on the saloon cushions with ultrasuede I bought off eBay. He’s so good we had to wait six weeks for an appointment but he showed up on time and promised to deliver the finished work in three days. I got busy remaking the rest of our throw pillows to coordinate. Yes, by hand.
No matter how much we do the list is never done but we feel good about this haulout and confident in EV to take us through the coming cruising season safely and comfortably.
Boats take us to amazing places but they do it in a harsh environment that’s mighty tough on all the systems. Every year or two Escape Velocity, like every other boat, needs to come out of the salt water so we can sand and recoat the bottom with antifouling paint, check on all the underwater bits and repair or replace whatever’s necessary. We continue to live aboard but a boat out of water is an uncomfortable business. First of all, we are up in the air and need to climb a ladder to get on and off, not too bad a proposition for catamarans because we have relatively shallow keels, but it can be downright terrifying in a deep-keeled monohull. Some of the fancy boats rate proper stairs but even those aren’t tall enough for some boats. And imagine not just going up and down all day, but carrying tools, parts and provisions every time, and especially realizing in the middle of a job that you’ve forgotten the essential item that’s still up there in the boat. It’s a good workout using muscles we’ve nearly forgotten about.
We can sleep in our own beds but we can’t use our own bathrooms. The boatyard has clean toilets and coin operated showers ($1 for five minutes of welcome hot water, double up if you’re extra grimy) but who wants to get fully dressed in the middle of the night (it’s cold!), climb down the ladder and walk a hundred yards just to pee? No one, apparently; you can see boaters taking the walk of shame every morning to empty a trug, bucket or jug.
Then there’s gray water, the stuff you’ve washed with. Normally water from the kitchen and bathroom sinks just comes out the bottom of the boat but you can’t do that in the boatyard or before long you’d be living over stinky puddles. We run hoses from the sink drains into big jerry cans on the ground, which then have to be dragged on a cart to a specified wastewater drain. We do that every day or two, depending on what we’re cooking and how many dishes and pots and pans we’re washing.
This is an environmentally clean yard and there are strict rules about the use, collection and disposal of all the toxic materials and chemicals boats require. We protect ourselves, too, with masks, respirators, gloves or even full bunny suits.
Every boat around us is doing the same thing so for weeks we live in a cacophony of scraping, sanding, drilling, grinding, pounding and cursing, punctuated by the hydraulic whine of the boat lift and the rumble of delivery trucks. It’s a lonely business, working all day under the boat, but we celebrate each other’s victories, take breaks to kibitz and meet on the grassy knoll for cold beers at the end of a long day.
Moving day suddenly got real when David the Slipway Man at Norsand Boatyard called and made an appointment to check out Escape Velocity for our scheduled haulout. I decided that there are two ways to look at this; either he’s being very thorough or it’s touch and go with their hydraulic trailer haulout thingie, or maybe a little of both. Ok, three ways to look at it but we were reassured by the time he left. Our home was long overdue for expected maintenance, engine bedevilments left over from the dismasting, and a few projects that can only be done out of the water, but we had to wait for high tide the next day. Even though Whangarei is miles up the river it still has a tidal range of two meters or more.
We left a little early in a wild rainy wind squall, of course, barely making three knots fighting the incoming flood while hauling our own marine growth exhibition on our bottom, EV’s not mine, through the muddy water. We had to call Whangarei bridge control to ask for passage under the Maori hook-shaped bascule bridge, padding our reported mast height a little due to their reticence to raise the roadway any more than absolutely necessary, rounded Kissing Point and maneuvered into Norsand’s dock to wait for the squall to pass and more tide to flood.
Eventually EV was coaxed into position over the hydraulic trailer thingie and David sculled the yard’s jon boat, Gypsy, over to EV and ordered us off. This is not Trinidad where you can just ride up and out of the water in your boat. EV slowly emerged from the brown brackish water like the Creature from the Black Lagoon ready for her first power wash in over two years. Not as bad as I would have thought but still full of yuck. We spent the night on the trailer on full display.
The following day David double parked EV in front of several boats in various stages of refitting, all of us pretty much doing the same long deferred maintenance, a few wouldn’t-it-be-nice-ifs and several honey-do’s and blocked us up, tail down, which caused us to stumble, bruise, and bark all our tender bits the entire time we were here. Our water tank wouldn’t fill all the way. Doors that normally stay open close as if by magic, and in every unguarded moment we inexplicably pitch about with a Hitchcock-like vertiginous lurch and fetch up against some bit of nautical cabinetry. It’s amazing what an inch or two can do.
Vacation’s over. It’s full on NZ list. Knowing about the eye blinking thing, we got an early start on it at Town Basin and two weeks on the hard sounds like a lot of time but it can really get away from you. We have experience at this so it’s 24/7 for the handy bloke. However I’ve found that I no longer do 24/7 so I thought an early start was in order. First, my trusty Bosch random orbiter sander threw up its expensive clutch pad, sold only in the USA. Welcome visits by crews from Oceanna and Enki II saved us from any danger concerning overly ambitious exertion those first days. Jobs that were originally slated for professional yard workers lost their budget due to must-repair Volvo engine bills. So once more into the breech goes the handy bloke. The list is massive so I gotta go!
While we’re holed up in Whangarei we’ve been lucky to have some of our cruising friends stop by for visits. Mark and Sue of Macushla met us for lunch and Diana and Alex of Enki II accompanied us to the Saturday farmers market, then took us on an expedition to Bream Head. Whangarei is 12 miles upriver and hours by boat from Bream Head but Diana and Alex had a loaner car and we drove through the beautiful North Island countryside back to the point of land we passed when we sailed south.
It’s always interesting to see by land the places we navigated on the water. I remember the thrill when we stood on the mountain in St. Thomas looking at the vast and empty sea we sailed when we first sighted land after our long passage from the Bahamas to St. John back in 2013.
Bream Head is a landscape painter’s dream of dramatic rock-studded rolling hills and we followed the twisting track from one breathtaking view to another. We were in no hurry, just enjoying each other’s company and peppering Kiwi-native Diana with questions about the birds and plants we encountered along the way.
Every once in a while we stopped to orient ourselves to the islands of the Hauraki Gulf to the southeast, Escape Velocity’s next destination once our boat work is all done.
Every moment with Diana and Alex is precious to us because Enki II is now offered for sale and her crew are returning to land life in Sydney after an epic journey from Turkey to New Zealand. We met the day they made landfall in the Marquesas and we shared the pleasures of French Polynesia, from our hike to the Vaipo waterfall in Nuku Hiva, to pearl shopping at Heiva in Rotoava, to drift snorkeling and beach bumming at the South Pass, to our Tahiti road trip, the shrimp farm in Moorea, with long talks about life and art and books over sundowners all the way to Bora Bora. When I injured my back, Diana and Alex enveloped us in their generous hearts, helped us puzzle out our next steps, and kept eyes and ears on us even when they had to follow the weather and move on. Diana’s daily emails while we were at sea kept us sane and focused, and Alex’s pharmaceutical expertise guided my confusing medication choices.
We meet a lot of amazing people and make a lot of wonderful friends. We share life-changing experiences with people who will forever be associated in our minds with special places. But we especially treasure the friends who are there in rough times because they see us at our worst and jump in with both feet anyway. Diana and Alex are friends for life and we’re not letting them go no matter where we are.
We’re enjoying our town life catching up on shopping and little boat jobs that require six trips to the chandlery or hardware store but inbetween we’ve got to have some fun. Bruce and Di on Toucan are always up for a walk in the woods so we packed a picnic lunch and headed north up the river.
New Zealand is a hiker’s paradise. There are beautiful well-maintained tracks everywhere. I dream of tackling the longer dramatic trails on the South Island, but for now these local paths are a tonic. As always the kauri trees are carefully protected with viewing platforms and wooden walkways.
Despite our collective boatwork-sore muscles we continued up a steep climb to a waterfall. It was cool and quiet under the canopy and the day off was refreshing and restorative.
We must have some kinda sickness for the grand quest. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of time, effort, and energy we’ve spent searching for the exact thingamabob that we just had to have or else a hole would exist in our otherwise complete lives. Some of our quests have felt kinda foolish like Marce’s endless search for Chuck Taylor All-Stars in any style or color at a steep discount, but some are quite noble and worth every effort, like my heart’s desire, a French Polynesian carved war club. But nothing compares to our quest for water toys that we can take with us on Escape Velocity while traveling around the world. Specifically kayaks.
We’d noticed happy kayakers paddling carefree around anchorages leaving us green with envy watching the fun. Sometimes it’s too shallow or rocky for our big heavy dinghy, or we face the dreaded wet landing on a tiny islet, but the kayakers can poke their noses anywhere, onto deserted beaches or up shallow winding rivers. Our budget doesn’t include a line item for kayaks but all the way through the Caribbean we were sure we’d run into a resort or vendor that would have a previously enjoyed kayak they’d be happy to let go for a price we could manage. Blank stares, head scratches, ear tugs were the usual response as we turned island after island upside down.
After our dismasting, and while we were awaiting our new rig in Costa Rica, we got this email from Marce’s cousins, intrepid travelers who’ve knocked off many of the 1000-places-to-go-before-you-die list.
Up until you left the Galapagos Islands the first time, we had been to most of the places that you have been although we had been either on land vacations or sailing on a cruise ship. The Galapagos Islands were one of our favorite vacations.
Now that Frank has trouble flying long distances we have reluctantly scratched Australia and New Zealand off our bucket list. But we have no doubt that you two will get there and we will be able to experience it through your eyes. That brings me to a story about the remodeling that we did to the kitchen in our West Amwell house. When we were planning the remodel, Aunt Lillian Tinney said that she had always wanted a special drawer in the kitchen that you pulled out and there was a trash can. She asked us to price the cost of this special drawer and she wanted to pay for it. So we did and she did and for all the years that we lived there we always referred to the trash drawer as the Lillian Tinney Memorial Drawer.
Well, I know you are not remodeling your kitchen — you are remasting your boat. And I don’t know what things on a boat cost, but Frank and I want to send you some money with the understanding that whatever you purchase with that you will name the Jean and Frank Fellow Traveler.
We were touched and grateful, and decided right away that if insurance covered our rerigging costs we’d use the windfall to finally get kayaks. It did, and we started shopping. We looked in Costa Rica but couldn’t find any for sale. During our trip back to the states we could have bought them in a number of places but the airlines declined to let us bring them back on the plane, and shipping was prohibitive. We looked in El Salvador then all across the Pacific in French Polynesia, Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Tonga. No joy. We needed to find kayaks small enough to fit on Escape Velocity, light enough to get on and off the boat, but sturdy enough to hold up in the harsh conditions.
Then soon after checking into Opua, New Zealand, we saw it. The Ozzie. A proudly made in New Zealand, not too big, not too small, not too flat, not too round, not too expensive, on sale Kayak. Could you make a deal for two Mr. Sales associate? Why yes, he could, but the concept of deal sweeteners has not reached New Zealand shores. Like they say down here, “It is what it is” so there were few extras, like no help with delivery and the store was a hike from the Town Basin.
Our friends on Toucan overheard us planning a circus balancing act through town using a dock cart and bungee cords with disaster written all over it, and with true cruiser generosity they jumped right in.
It’s been four and a half years, eighteen countries, 19,000 miles. Dear Escapees, meet Jean and Frank, Fellow Travelers.
On February 6th we rented a car with Toucan and drove up to the Bay of Islands to join the celebration of Waitangi Day, the anniversary of the signing in of the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document of modern New Zealand. It was a dreary, miserable day but we were determined to enjoy the celebration.
As we walked toward the Treaty Grounds we first saw this enormous waka, or traditional canoe. From http://media.newzealand.com/en/events/celebrating-new-zealands-waitangi-day/
Ngatokimatawhaorua, one of the world’s largest Māori ceremonial waka (war canoe), sits on the grounds at Waitangi. The 70-year-old waka was refurbished and relaunched for the 2010 celebrations.
Each February, Ngatokimatawhaorua must be prepared for its Waitangi Day outing prior to the big event. Made from massive trunks of New Zealand’s giant kauri trees, the gigantic waka – which weighs an incredible six tonne when dry – must first be moved by human force across the Treaty grounds and down to the sea. It is then moored in the water for up to two days allowing the wood to swell and become airtight, thus doubling the weight.
Carried out and blessed by members of the local iwi / Māori tribe, this is a tradition that happens only once a year to celebrate Waitangi Day. The enormous wooden vessel, with room for 80 paddlers and 55 passengers, is an impressive sight both on land and on the water.
When all the paddlers disembarked and assembled on the beach we were treated to a series of hakas, the traditional war cries. Our Aussie friends told us each movement or cry is signifant; we just appreciated the spectacle.
The media were out in full force and Bruce and Di were corralled by a radio reporter for their impressions.
This young man took advantage of the crowd to do a little fundraising. He was pretty good!
There was food, crafts, community services and music throughout the treaty grounds.
We eventually made our way through the drizzle to the carved meeting house, a gorgeous example of Maori art built in 1940. The treaty was signed on the rounds nearby.
As we left the meeting house we heard that a protest march would be arriving soon so we sat down to wait. A large gathering of mostly Maori were declaring opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in song and speeches, all in Maori. There was a liberal use of the middle finger salute throughout, so we got that they’re against it.
By this time the drizzle was turning into rain and given that we’d sampled a fair amount of food and music, we trudged back through the crowds to our car on the outskirts of town. I’m sorry the weather didn’t cooperate more, but it seems we’re the only ones who minded.
It’s mostly boat work and planning boat work these days but one day last week we teamed up with Toucan and drove across the island to the Waipoua Kauri Forest to see the big trees. When we reached the west coast Jack and I got our first look at the Tasman Sea and for someone who spent childhood summers playing in the shallows of the Atlantic Ocean on the New Jersey shore it gave me goosebumps that we made it this far around the world.
Kauris are some of the largest trees on earth, ranking right up there with giant redwoods, sequoias, cypress and gum. They’re also some of the oldest. We set our sights on the oldest known kauri in New Zealand, the Lord of the Forest. It’s about 2500 years old. Kauri trees have relatively shallow, delicate roots for their size and can be infected with a disease believed to be spread on shoes or by forest mammals. Any time you enter a kauri forest there are cleaning stations where you’re expected to scrub and wash the soles of your shoes.
I’ve stood under the giant redwoods and marveled at the California sequoias and while these kauris aren’t as tall or as big around they are massive, stately and imposing. The trunk rise for a long way before branching off, and the branches are short, giving the impression of a giant stalk of celery.
The canopy hosts hundreds of species of parasitic plants. A forest ranger told us that twice a year an arborist goes up to the top to clean out the debris in the canopy in an attempt to reduce the mass the tree bears. The trunks show diagonal stress lines from the weight.
After seeing the oldest tree we went to a different part of the forest where the kauris are more dominant. The bark is unlike any I’ve ever seen and it looks more like hammered copper than wood. Maybe it’s because I spent most of my life in a heavily forested area but it’s in the forest that I feel most at home and this forest was a tonic after years in the tropics. We were all struck by how silent it was. Not only did we not hear animals or birds, but the trees themselves were silent. There was no rustling of leaves, no creaking of branches against neighboring trees, no tinkling of small twigs dropping to the forest floor. There was an eerie peace among the giants and we were happy to just sit and appreciate their majesty. Now when I do the yoga tree pose I’ll imagine I am a kauri, unbending, enduring and peaceful.
On the way home we stopped at a woodcrafter’s shop and the trees outside were decorated with knitted stockings. We’ve seen this before around town so it must be a thing, but it’s a thing we haven’t encountered anywhere else.