Monthly Archives: March 2016

 In Auckland

On the advice of a fellow cruiser we left Escape Velocity at anchor and took the 35-minute ferry right to downtown Auckland. We hope to visit the city later by car but for today we planned to join a free walking tour that gets rave reviews on Trip Advisor. We made a quick stop at the tourist office to get a map and some recommendations for lunch. 



Our tour guide was young, educated, enthusiastic and knowledgable about all things Auckland and Kiwi. He was also a great storyteller and regaled us with tales of notable New Zealanders and Maori history and culture. 


We walked past new plantings of kauri trees, barely recognizable as the same species as the old giants we saw further north  and our guide pointed out new architecture and the ways Auckland is connecting indoor and outdoor spaces. 



We love that you can’t walk one city block in New Zealand without passing bookstores and cafes. It’s a paradise for Jack and me, and we wondered how many decades you’d have to live here to try every one of the inviting coffee shops. 


We originally planned to ride the needle to the top — it’s the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere — but our guide recommended instead the view from Mt. Eden, something better done when we have a car, and easier on the budget. 


The art museum is beautiful, and the ubiquitous cafe called to us, but that’ll have to be later, too. 



We stopped whenever we had good shade on this glorious warm sunny day while we listened to stories of the Treaty of Waitangi — we’d been there! — and of the ways that Kiwis have embraced Maori culture and language. 

Our group included tourists from Germany, France, Canada and Chile, and ranged in age from 19 to 60s. We were the only yachties and they were all impressed that we’d sailed here on our own boat. It’s been refreshing to be apart from the cruising community for a bit and see ourselves from the other side. It reminds us that what we’re doing is rare and adventurous, something we forget when everyone we’re with is doing the same thing. 


Craig pointed out this oops on a memorial plaque. Read carefully; it gave me a good laugh and my congenital proofreading family will appreciate it. 


We ended  where we started, back at the waterfront. After lunch, we were pretty knackered and took a very leisurely stroll along the quayside where the super yachts dock, and past yet another little library, this one in a shipping container. 



We took the ferry back to Waiheke when we couldn’t walk any further. As we came into the anchorage we were a little annoyed that a local boat anchored quite close to us. That’s going to bear watching. 



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Waiheke Island

We awoke to the promise of a sunny day and we aren’t getting too many of these lately. We hooked around the top of Mototapu Island and across the short channel to Waiheke Island and dropped the anchor in Matiatia Bay, chosen in anticipation of predicted high winds in two days and for the ferries that land here. We failed to find a marina berth in downtown Auckland and decided we’d leave EV here and visit the city by ferry. It took a few tries to find a comfortable spot in this tight and very crowded anchorage and we stayed aboard until well after lunch to be sure we were secure and a safe distance from other boats.  



  Waiheke is an island of hippies, artists and wineries, the perfect place for poking into little shops and studios and stopping for coffee and gelato. And as you know, that’s our kind of place. We joined the tourist passegiatta before settling in to enjoy the absolute best gelato I’ve had in over thirty years, and I mean that. Mandarin Thai Basil and Chocolate Orange Coconut, both incredibly creamy (the chocolate was vegan!) and flavorful. I may have to move here. 



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Pit stop

We left Kawau destined for Waiheke Island but as we ventured further away from shelter the sea kicked up into an uncomfortable chop. We’re not accustomed to the motion after being in such quiet waters for so long and we diverted to Waikalabubu Bay on Motutapu Island about five miles short of our goal. There were already a few boats in the anchorage and by late afternoon a few more joined us but there was plenty of room and while we didn’t go ashore we had a quiet, peaceful night surrounded by beautiful scenery.  






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The view from the back porch


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As luck would have it

It was more of a coin toss than an actual decision. After leaving our peaceful river home of 2-1/2 months in Whangarei we kept our first day’s run short down to Omaha Cove which was nothing more than a convenient pit stop along the way, and a rolly one at that. We really wanted to check out Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf, but should we spend a day in North Cove and then try to see as much of Bon Accord Harbor as we can, or just skip North Cove altogether? Well, we’re here so let’s poke our nose in and see how we like it.  

It’s a short run from Omaha Cove to North Cove so even with the holiday crowd and a rare glorious sunny day we had Escape Velocity’s anchor down by eleven o’clock. Stand up paddlers, kayakers, tiny colorful sailboats called optimists each sporting a bright blue sail, smallish sport fishing boats, and local sailing yachts plied the surface of the harbor. It’s just a different vibe when you need a boat to get to a town.  

After a quick look see, I sat down in the cockpit, seeking a skipper’s natural rest after a job well done but immediately heard, out of nowhere, a woman’s voice calling,”Hello, did you sail here from Annapolis?” We hopped up and peered over the side to see a tiny woman with a long black hair in a funky old launch. 

“Yes, we did!” we answered. “I’m Lin,” she said, “Why don’t you come by about 5:30 and introduce yourselves?” And she waved vaguely toward the head of the bay. “You’ll see this boat tied up.” 

It was none other than the famous two-time circumnavigator and cruising author Lin Pardey, the signature mane of curly black hair framing the friendly face peering up at us. Why, yes Lin, we would love to partake of cocktails at five thirty on the veranda. It’s not like a famous author asks us to sundowners every day. We turned and she was gone out of the bay in a curtain of spray leaving us marveling at our brush with fame. The Pardeys’ books helped keep the dream alive for us even in our darkest days and about half their oeuvre occupy precious bookshelf space on Escape Velocity.  

We splashed our kayaks, Jean and Frank, and quietly glided around the harbor in search of the Pardeys’ boatyard home. It was Marce who first noticed Cheeky, their Fatty Knees dinghy, just like ours back in Miami, tied up to a floating dock. (Theirs was the original and used as a mold for ours and subsequent production.) This must be the place, and quite a place it is, a modest two stories of glass, wraparound balconies and natural wood nestled near the end of North Cove facing the bay. It calls to you, just like the strange and exotic nocturnal sounds that emanate from the dark rich green forest that surrounds North Cove. 

After our reconnaissance kayak we tidied up, dug out a bottle of wine and tried to decide which book we’d take with us to get autographed. We already have one signed book that we bought at the Annapolis Boat Show a year the Pardeys had their gorgeous wooden boat Taleisin on display for charity donations and gave a talk we attended. We decided on their first book, “Cruising in Seraffyn,” about building a 24-foot wooden boat and the beginning of their first circumnavigation. 

In the afternoon a beautiful wooden cutter motored slowly into the anchorage and then out of the bay again. It was “Thelma,” built in 1895 and restored by Larry Pardey for local racing, and yes, that’s Larry Pardey aboard. He is, by all reports, in failing health and it’s nice to see him on the water.  

 We watched for both Lin and Larry to return to home, but 5:30 came and went with no Pardeys. It was Easter Sunday, we reasoned, and the yacht club is in the next bay over and they’re no doubt having fun at an event. Eventually Lin putted back in her launch and waved as she passed by but it was nearly eight o’clock and we didn’t feel right arriving for sundowners after the sun was down. 

We toyed with the idea of staying another day just so we could show up at 5:30 and do our fawning fan thing, but our time remaining in New Zealand is short and the conditions favor a move south. We returned “Cruising in Seraffyn” to the shelf unsigned, drank the wine and restowed the kayaks on deck. It was enough that we accidentally happened to anchor near the Pardeys’ adopted home and that Lin extended a hearty welcome to fellow voyagers. 

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Wet road trip

After all those weeks of head down boat work we teamed up again with Toucan for another day of road touring. We’re still in the very north of the North Island but we picked a few places within easy drive miles of Whangarei and left the now fabulous looking EV at the Town Basin for another day of land roving. The weather did not cooperate. 


We started at the big waterfall, the one we didn’t quite make it to on our very long hike a couple of moons ago. By car it took no time at all; by foot it would have taken us all day. That just gives you perspective on how our touring usually goes, since (a) we rarely have a car and (b) most places we go don’t even have roads to the waterfalls. We were trying to squeeze a lot of things into the day and decided to forego the descent to the bottom but rather popped back in the car and zipped to our next stop. It felt like we were on a bus tour; parking lot, photo op, restroom break, back in the car, next!



The next stop was the thing we all really wanted to do, see the kiwis. The birds, not the people. Kiwis are nocturnal and shy and nearly impossible to see in the wild. A museum/nature center called Kiwi North has an artificial habitat where day is night and night is day and you can watch the fluffy round birds dimly from a gallery behind glass. We had a few blissful moments watching a couple of kiwis foraging around their enclosed world before two school groups moved in and crowded out the peace and quiet. I felt bad for the birds all closed up like that, but happy that the children could see their national bird and learn about it. We, on the other hand, fled. 


Kiwi North also hosts a wild bird rehab center and we visited the current patients. We were hoping for a tired albatross or some other rare bird but we got these guys. I don’t know what they are so feel free to enlighten us if you recognize them. 


The other thing we all wanted to do was go caving to see the famous glow worms. By this time the temperature had dropped and as we parked the car a chilly rain fell and we waited out the shower in the car before starting down the muddy path toward the cave entrances. We sheltered under the trees every time the constant mist turned to rain and queried the hikers returning up the path. It’s wet in there, they said, and most said they hadn’t gone in and would come back on a better day. Only a few went the distance and they were soaking wet. 

I’m not so much into caves, despite the fact that I’ve been to a lot of the famous ones in the States, both during summer vacations as a kid and around the mountain area where I went to college. But those have lighted stairway entrances and wide walkways and every stalactite has a name and the gift shops at the end sell geodes and rubber snakes. This is not that. Bruce volunteered to be our canary and climbed down the steep entry and disappeared. As we waited for him to return we made sure he hadn’t taken the car keys with him and asked Di if she could handle their boat on her own. The two people we saw climbing back out said the water was chest high in places and sure enough, as Bruce hauled himself up the rocks he panted that we were not equipped to be doing this today. We’d need waterproof footwear, a change of clothing, headlamps and helmets. Ok, so not today.


With our touring options curtailed by weather we did what every cruiser does when circumstances thwart our efforts but we’re in possession of a car. We went grocery shopping for all the heavy and bulky items that we struggle with on foot or bikes, like beer, wine, sacks of flour or paper towels. By four o’clock we had cashed in the reward stamps on our frequent buyers card at the ice cream shop at the Town Basin. We have our priorities, you know, but some sunshine would have been nice. 


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As promised, Steve Green delivered our reupholstered cushions in three days.  

Look how much nicer Escape Velocity’s main cabin is. I never liked the old brown vinyl but it served us well until it started to crumble. The new ultrasuede promises to be tough and easy to maintain and the lighter color brightens the cabin. 


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She swims again

Our relaunch day finally arrived and we quickly got things stowed and tidied before David the Slipway Man lifted EV onto the trailer and drove us out of the yard. We were a week longer than we expected but that was more a function of the tidal restrictions of the slipway than us. The yard can only do one or two boats a day because it has to be done at high tide and during the busy season they get very backed up. 


Bruce and Di came to celebrate the relaunch with us. We were eager to learn if our waterline striping is straight, especially after our massive weight reduction and redistribution work. It wouldn’t do to have a bold new waterline stripe if we didn’t lie even in the water. 

Once EV was nearly floating David ferried us back on board and we waited for the tide to lift us off the trailer. Jack tested the engines and we checked to make sure we weren’t leaking anywhere. Thumbs up on everything and we’re looking fine to boot. 


We spent one night at anchor just outside the boatyard to get organized then moved upriver back to our old pile mooring in Whangarei to wait for the new upholstery and do some grocery shopping. A few days later we were celebrating a successful haulout with eggs Benedict for breakfast. Life is good. 


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