Back in the Water and on the Move.
At last I was about ready, jobs done sails and running rigging fitted, it was time to launch. Hoisted in slings overnight there was time to dab on some anti-foul on where she had been sitting all this time.
Then early next morning Sea Bear was lowered into the water, First thing to check for leaks and a little adjustment on the stern gland that I had repacked with stuffing and deliberately left a little loose. Adjusted too tight runs the risk of excessive wear on the propshaft and damaging the stuffing, a controlled drip is the thing to aim for. All well then a short motor to tie to a pontoon, time to get used to being afloat.
After a few days it was time to leave. A little shakedown cruise in order and to see a bit more of NZ by sea. The problem of the van was solved by Mark offering to store it on his land so looks like I will be heading back to NZ next cyclone season, and why not still plenty to explore there. It felt a little strange slipping away from Whangarei on the top of the tide and heading down the river. I have spent so much time there over the past year and a bit it almost feels like a second home to me.
The weather didn’t seem quite as forecast as I neared the river mouth. Much stronger winds than expected and my proposed anchorage at Urquharts bay not as sheltered as hoped for. Still I tucked in amongst the other boats at anchor and used the new windlass for the first time, out rattled the chain, the new anchor bit right away and there I was bobbing on the briny. I stayed there the next day to give a chance for wind and seas to moderate.
It was a longish haul to my next destination so with a scant 12 hours of daylight I was up at 3am hauled in the anchor and away. Motoring as no wind but the channel out to the clearway buoy is well lit. Some wind arrived with the dawn so all sails were set and being new they looked well. I was hard on the wind but could almost set the course I wanted south down the coast. I had to make a few tacks to round Cape Rodney though and then across Omaha bay to Takatu Point. Here the wind died but it was just a fairly short motor through North Channel then around the corner to enter Bon Accord Harbour, Kawau Island. My hunch proved correct and I spied Morpheus of London with friends Jan & Richard at anchor here. True to form they invited me to join them ashore at the Kawau boat club for drinks.
I stayed at anchor here for a few days, we had a high over NZ with very light winds and I dont like motoring much. I went for a couple of nice walks across to Mansion house bay and to the old copper mine.
It was quite and peaceful here with just a few boats but Easter arrived and with it the crowds, at quick count there was over a hundred boats at anchor here.
Rain and wind last night when that clears over next day I will move on. It’s getting close to time to head north to the Bay of Islands where I will wait for a suitable weather window to head off on passage to the Islands.
Not (quite) all work no play
They say a man can’t live by work alone so it’s not been all work and no play. More work on Sea Bear yes, a SS bash plate for the bow. I thought the existing anchor a little on the light side so a new 15kg Manson supreme anchor with 50 m of 8mm graduated chain and 50m of 14mm anchorplait rode to complete the new anchoring arrangement. I replaced a lower shroud which was mysteriously bent. Stripped re-painted and re-assembled the pumps for the heads and cleaned and regreased the seacocks. Stripped and overhauled all 8 winches.
For a break I headed north in the van up to Maitai bay on the Karikari peninsular. I had been there before but such a beautiful place and good campsite it was worth a second visit. A lovely spot for a swim and I also took a long walk along a deserted beach then a track up to Tapakakeno hill with great views up and down the coast.
I also visited Puheke beach and walked up Mt Puheke again good views. I hadn’t been my intention but I found myself drawn to visit Cape Reinga, almost the most northerly point of North Island. It is wild empty country up there.
A steepish gravel road for which NZ is famous for took me to a campsite at Tapotupotu beach.
Next morning it rained so I headed back south but stopped awhile at the Te Paki giant sand dunes, the rain stopped and I had an exhausting climb up the highest dune, one step up then sliding backwards in soft sand.
Resumed working on the boat, much cleaning, some revarnishing. I fitted some lazy jacks to help handle what would be a very slippery and stiff new mainsail. Refitted the stripper rope cutter to the propshaft. Rebuilt the spare autopliot with new drive belts. Eyespliced a chain hook to a length of 3strand rope for an anchor strop. Stripped and greased furling system.
Checking over the engine, I replaced the water pump hoses, decided I needed a new water pump for it. Took off the monitor self steering for a crack in the tubing to be repaired.
More cleaning, cutting back and polishing the gelcoat of the topsides and cabin so Sea Bear looking much better.
Starting to think of the coming sailing season it was time to review my stock of charts. Another trip in the campervan down to Auckland to visit the chart agent and buy some charts and pilot books. I took the opportunity to visit the Waitakere Ranges to the west of Auckland, I had been rained off here last year. It was a shame that quite a few of the tracks were closed due to Kauri dieback disease but did get a nice walk in through the forest. Off then to Piha beach, a great west coast beach famous for its surf, Walked up Lion rock.
Another walk up the Kitekite valley to get to the Kitekite falls. The plunge pool at the bottom was just too inviting so a bathe was taken – refreshing the verdict.
Next stop was Karekare beach, a short walk through trees to the black sand beach. The sand was just too hot for my bare feet. It’s a big empty beach with wild surf and dangerous rip currents so I didn’t swim here. Back over to the East coats and Snell’s beach then up to Goat Island marine reserve. The idea was to swim with the fishes but soon after arrival a rain squall turned up, heavy rain and a choppy sea. A section of gravel track over the hill took me back northwards, this one not dry and dusty but muddy slippy and running with water and it rained all the way back to Whangarei and most of the next day too.
Good weather soon returned though, it is still very warm here in the day, still shorts and vest weather but you can feel a gradually change of the seasons, the nights are drawing in and the odd morning is a little chilly at first.
I thought that by now I would have already been back afloat, but there is still awhile until the end of the southern cyclone season and the time to sail away from NZ. Most of the work is now done on the boat but there are always little jobs like checking the navigation lights still work – ah well then lets check the deck plugs, ah a bit of corrosion, a broken wire sounds simple but takes hours to fix, my soldering iron is not working so a visit to the second hand tool shop for one, new plug needed – off to the chandelery for one, before you know it the day has gone.
I swarmed up the mast today to check all the standing rigging swages, clevis pins and split pins and lubricate the halyard sheaves. The climbing know how helps here and a harness and a shunt on a tied off halyard makes it safe enough.
Work on Sea Bear
Sometimes when you are working on a boat, progress seems painfully slow but gradually it gets done. Progress was not helped by the long Christmas break that some business in NZ take, but after all it is the middle of their summer and they want to take their summer holidays, escape to the beach or whatever. So I was held up waiting for parts and rather than getting one job finished I had about 3 or 4 jobs on the go at once, all waiting either for bits or for someone else to do something.
The fitting of a new log was one of those that should have been simple but… it was a NMEA200 instrument so required a backbone cable installing, thicker wires so that the existing holes that the wire passed through had to be enlarged. A new through hull fitting installed, again a bigger hole needed. I could just swop the log with the old log but instead had to use the old depth sounder position, moving that to a new through hull fitting on the other side of the hull and the wires for that re-routing. Of course the instrument head needed a bigger opening in the instrument console and of course to route the new cables the hatch garage had to be taken off and also 3 of the cabin ceiling panels and the switch panel radio panel and plotter AIS panel. With half the lockers having to be emptied as well the inside of the boat was in turmoil whilst this was underway. To compound matters work was underway to install the windlass so all the forward stowage area was emptied out. The inside of the boat and the cockpit was like Steptoe’s yard and made living a bit difficult. Still it will be a good incentive to get rid of some stuff.
Installing the windlass provided its own set of challenges. 2 big holes had to be cut through the foredeck. Not having the required hole saws and they being expensive to buy for just one use I got Bruce to do this for me. Lots of measuring, use of a made up template and pondering before the holes were cut as it wouldn’t do to get this wrong.
Once the holes were cut the edges were sealed with epoxy and glass-fibre tape to safeguard against water ingress to the plywood deck core. Reassuringly the deck is almost an inch thick, they are solidly built these Vancouvers.
With the windlass all fitted time to fit the solenoid, circuit breaker, up/down cockpit switches and foot switches. Then it was just a matter of wiring it all in, not a simple matter routing two 25mm battery cables from battery to the windlass solenoid plus the switch wiring, much head scratching was required but at last all done. Low and behold the windlass runs. I just have to make good the deck where that old hawse pipe ran.
With the forward stowage empty I repainted it with white bilge paint. Horrid process, hot, cramped, airless and very fumy. It was like painting the inside of the black hole of Calcutta white.
An interlude from working on my boat was to give Noel and Mark a hand to pick up some timber for the new boat that Noel is building. Noel’s boat was very near mine in the town basin marina when I first arrived in Whangarei, it is a beautiful 50ft something wooden ketch that he built and which he sailed around the world including Cape Horn. He has decided as he is getting older (he is my age) he is going to downsize so building a new 35ft boat. Mark is restoring an old wooden boat next to me in the boatyard and it has been fascinating watching the work progress.
Anyway Noel was buying some Oregon Pine for his topside planks so we drove up to Russell in the Bay of Islands to pick it up. Now the biggest was a serious bit of timber 20” wide by 8” thick by 40 foot long and it took some handling to get it out of the stack and on to the trailer.
2 more pieces 10’’ wide by 8” thick by 40 foot long completed the load. Offloading at Noels plot of land where the boat will be built was thankfully easier.
To tackle the replacement of the cutlass bearing I had at first to remove the rudder so that I could draw the propshaft. With the rudder off I could replace the delron rudder bushes which where showing signs of wear. One of the great things about re-fitting in Whangarei is that you can source most everything so a visit to a bearing shop soon supplied new bushes which were easily fitted.
Drawing the propshaft revealed a badly worn shaft. It had obviously been once repaired by grinding down and building up again, this had failed big time. Nothing for it but a new shaft. Mark told me the man to see and soon I had a new shaft machined up at what I though a bargain price.
Removing the cutlass bearing proved a little tricky but careful investigation revealed the grub screw which held it in place and then careful work with a hacksaw blade to make 2 lengthwise cuts and out came the old bearing. A new one was soon fitted. Meanwhile I had taken the opportunity to check over the engine, I like these careful checks as you can often spot potential problems, in this case a partially cracked & perished fuel return hose. I also replacing the sacrificial anodes in the engine and repainted a few rusty spots. The bilges were also cleaned with the bilge pump hoses removed and cleaned. In the process I found a screwdriver lodged in the bilge pump hose, one that I knew I had dropped into the bilges at some time but had been unable to find and had forgotten about.
Before refitting the propshaft I repacked the stern gland.
Refitting the rudder was a little tricky on my own as it weighs a fair bit and you have to align the 2 rudder pintles and the heel bearing but a little ingenuity saw it done.
The sorely neglected outboard engine was due some tlc. But I was pleased that with a clean spark plug and some petrol it started and ran and even cooling water flowed through it. It was looking rather tatty though so after a partial disassembly I scrapped of the flacking paint and primed and painted it so it looks respectable again.
One major job on my long list was to redo the copper coat on the hull which was wearing time in places. This was a job that I didn’t feel able to tackle myself so I employed Bruce to do it. After a light sanding of the hull Bruce and his 2 helpers put on 5 coats of copper coat in one day- each fresh coat has to be applied whilst the previous coat is still tacky and the special epoxy, hardener and copper particles carefully mixed in smallish quantities as the pot life is only about 20 mins and the copper must not be allowed to settle out. I helped with the mixing but watching them work I realised that i had made the right decision to not try it myself.
Ronnie is making a new spray hood and is just putting the finishing touches to it. I suppose the old one has done well but I didn’t think it had another season left in it.
There is still much to be done before Sea Bear is ready for the water again but I feel all the major stuff has been tackled and we are getting there.
Back in New Zealand
It was good to be back with Sea Bear in New Zealand, welcomed by warmth and sunshine, even though the 44 hours of travel involved was somewhat draining. I needed to acclimatize to the weather, leaving a cold and damp UK to here with the temperature up to the 30’s, Nice to be back to shorts and vest for everyday wear.
The boat was was as I had left her although looking a little grubby and neglected. At first work on the boat was on hold as I had to get the camper van back on the road.It had sat neglected in the car park for all those months but at least it started once some petrol had been put in the fuel tank. It need some work doing before passing its WOF and then I could hand it over to my son Ged and Haley who were borrowing it for a holiday in NZ.
Attention back to the boat. Time to get to work and bring her back to full cruising trim. I sat and compiled a list of things to do, all the maintenance plus some improvements that I had been pondering. It was long list but I could set an order of works as it were.
A small problem with the stove prompted me to fit the new burner I had purchased and I was pleased that this burned nice and clean.
Christmas came early for Sea Bear in the form of a big cardboard box containing a new windlass.
Before I have had to haul the anchor & chain by hand so hopefully no more “way hey heave ho my hearties put your back into it”. Of course fitting it will be tricky but Thom on “Fathom” who has the same set up has given guidance and photos by email. From the flimsy paper template supplied I made a plywood template which will help with the positioning – rather crucial in view of the position of the forward bulkhead. It will also act as a template for the teak plinth needed for mounting and for a backing plate too.
An unwelcome discovery was that the fuel tap for the fuel tank had been leaking whilst I was away. dripping diesel onto the propshaft and so along it to the stern gland and cutlass bearing. This means more more that I had not anticipated. Oh well nothing for it but to empty the fuel tank of its 120 litres of diesel into some borrowed jerry cans and replace the fuel tap. That job went better than expected but still leaves me with the stern gland and cutlass bearing to deal with.
The through bolts for the hull anode were looking dodgy. Crawling into the port side locker revealed their true nastyness. Just mild steel bolts had been used yuk. I got some new SS studs made up and fitted them. Not a fun job in the confines of the locker.
Half Way Round
After some time back in the UK I will soon be returning to NZ to rejoin my boat Sea Bear. I thought it might be a good time for a brief summary of the trip so far, after all we are halfway around.
Some 2 months after retiring I left the UK in August 2014 aboard Sea Bear singlehanded. My plans was to head for Panama with a loose aim of a circumnavigation, but nothing was written in stone and I was keeping an open mind whether I would enjoy a cruising lifestyle. I had done the necessary preparations, studied the pilot books and passage notes, bought the charts and stocked up with provisions and spares. I had singlehanded before, mostly day trips but this would be the first time I was setting out on a long trip on my own. There was thus a degree of trepidation particularly since I was heading to cross the Bay of Biscay.
After a landfall in Northern Spain I coast hopped south to Portugal then Spain again. At Cadiz, Merel joined me for the trip to Morocco and then the Canaries. She had wanted to cross the Atlantic with me but found she suffered badly from seasickness so sadly but wisely disembarked here.
At Gomera, 2 new crew presented themselves and they came with me first to the Cape Verde Islands and then across the pond to Martinique. Singlehanded again I had originally thought to push on through to Panama but I was seduced by the delights of the Caribbean and spent the next two seasons exploring here. I spent the hurricane season in Trinidad then sailed up the chain of the islands to Cuba. The next hurricane season found me in Panama after a tough passage from Jamaica. Then it was decision time – through the canal or not? After a visit to the delightful Guna Yala islands, I took the plunge, transited the Panama canal and set off to cross the Pacific. A stop over in the Galapagos fulfilled a lifetime ambition then the long haul, 34 days to the Marquesas. It is a long time to be on ones own, hats off to those sailors who tackle the challenge of solo non stop round the world. French Polynesia was wonderful the Tuamotos, Tahiti, the Windwards, Tonga and so eventually New Zealand in time to miss the South Pacific cyclone season.
New Zealand – Feb – March
In February most delightfully, Wendy joined me again for a month, we planned a road trip in the camper van and to do some walks. We did not have much luck with the weather as the day after she arrived it rained and rained for the next 4 days, the tail end of a cyclone sweeping over NZ. It turned out that by the time I left 3 cyclones hit NZ, an unprecedented number this year. We had wanted to spend time in the Coromandel but the weather forecast was bad for North Island for weeks so we headed south where the weather promised to be better. It was not much fun driving down to the ferry at Wellington with the rain and mist and no views to be had but once across to Picton we had sun again. Did a lovely walk out to the end of The Snout, a long peninsular that stretches out from Picton into Queen Charlotte sound.
Heading further south we stopped off at Kaikoura and had another delightful walk around the peninsular there.
We were heading for the Mt Cook area and another long drive took us via Fairlie across to Lake Pukaki and up it with the views getting better and better
before arriving at the DOC campsite at the foot of the Hooker Valley.
It was a beautiful afternoon with no clouds so we grabbed the opportunity to walk the Hooker valley track up towards Mt Cook. A brief visit to the Tasman glacier next day and then we started to head over to the west coast. You have to head a way south and cross the Lindis Pass before you can turn west but the views over the lakes you pass are wonderful and we stayed by the side of Lake Wanaka, just a bit spoiled by the gale force winds we were experiencing.
We hit the west coast at Hasst, it really is the wild west out there and Haast a tiny little place. Unfortunately the weather was not good when we past by Fox glacier and Franz Joseph glacier areas with rain & the clouds very low so we pressed on up the coast to Greymouth
The weather news was that cyclone Gita was headed for NZ and on track to hit the top of south island on the day that we were booked on the ferry back to North Island. We managed to change our ferry booking and hunkered down in Greymouth, staying in a holiday studio whilst the Cyclone passed over. It was nice to have a bit of luxury and it proved a wise decision as the road south of Greymouth and Fox glacier area was cut off, there was extensive flooding and a camper van was rolled on the road.
Once Gita was past we headed on up to Nelson here we visited WOW, the museum of wearable art, walked up the hill to the centre of New Zealand and swam on the beach. We took the very scenic Queen Charlotte road which followed Pelorus sound and the Queen Charlotte sound back to Picton and the ferry back to Wellington.
One of our big wants was to walk the Tongariro Alpine crossing and it looked like we had a small window of opportunity to do that so we drove up to Turangi. Early next morning were were picked up by the shuttle and taken to Mangatepopo for the start of the walk. It turned out to be a beautiful clear and sunny day but with a cold wind, but it is an amazing walk passing the volcanoes and craters.
Next day the cloud was down and there were no shuttle buses running so we really had managed to grab the chance.
On to Taupo and then to Rotorua, the campsite here having pools with volcanic heated water
The Te Puia geyser at Rotorua thermal park was another must see, it was a grey drizzly day but it didn’t matter so much, the geysers, the bubbling mud, the hot rocks were all worthwhile.
The weather looked liked remaining wet and cold up on the plateau so we headed off to Whakatane. The weather precluded a boat out to White Island, NZ’s most active volcano, but we did a great walk from Whakatane Heads along the coast to Ohope.
We revisited Mount Maunganui as earlier in our trip it had rained nonstop there, this time we walked up the mountain for great views and also walked around it.
On to the Coromandel where we did the short walk to Cathedral Cove, a popular spot this, but lovely despite the crowds.
Escaping the crowds we visited the beautiful and deserted Otama beach, a beautiful place for a swim and then to the more popular but still fairly quiet New Chums beach
It was time for Wendy to return to UK so we had a last day in Auckland to walk up Mt Eden and visit the art gallery. We had driven about 4,500 kms in the camper van in our month together and we had had a wonderful time despite the weather.
With Wendy’s departure I drove back up to Whangarei and next day I moved Sea Bear to Riverside Drive marina for a lift out. I spent a few days laying up Sea Bear then caught a plane back to UK. I have things I must do back there and it will be good to catch up with family and friends.
I cannot pretend that the trip across the Pacific, single handed with all the reefs, squalls, storms and big seas did not take it out of me a bit. Yes I had some delightful times, some wondrous experiences but I don’t deny I found it hard at times.
I have decided to have a break from sailing for a while whilst I decide what to do next but will return to Sea Bear in due course, meanwhile this will be my last blog entry until then.
January 29th Pictures from road trip North Island
I took the camper van for a little road trip up through the Far North. A mixture of forest visits for the magnificent Kauri trees, swims and walks along beautiful beaches, tramps through remote forest tracks. Lots of beautiful views.
10th Jan – Some New Zealand travels
I have done a little travelling in the campervan.
I went down to Angies beach first to return a couple of charts of NZ to Ted who had lent me them back in Tonga. On to Auckland mainly to get the bottom bracket replaced on the bike as there had been a recall for a batch of faulty ones. It was grey and rainy there and it continued for my visit to Waitakere Range. I had been looking forward to some walks here but the storm that hit NZ at this time put paid to that. There were roads flooded and closed and pretty bad conditions. I just hunkered down and had to wait for it to pass. By then I was down in Thames, once a gold rush town, in the Coromandel.
I went up the lovely Kauaeranga valley.
The area was extensively logged for Kauri trees, there are few of these left but now it is a conservation area and native forest is re-establishing itself.
Here I walked up the Pinnacles (759m), described as challenging in the book but there are steps, iron ladders & rungs to help progress. Mind you returning to the valley I did feel a little weary after about 7 hours on the go.
The old gold mining area of the Karangahake gorge was next with some more gentle meanderings along walkways cut into the gorge sides and exploring some of the old mine tunnels.
After that a beach visit seemed in order – At Waihi the 9 km long beach backed by dunes is pretty idyllic and uncrowded.
Further south by Tauranga, Mt Maungani beach was very popular and heaving with holiday makers, but a walk up the mountain gave fine views over the harbour and coast.
I passed through Te Puke, which if you didn’t know is the Kiwi fruit capital of the world, to Rotorua, renowned for its thermal activity. I will go back later to see its famous geysers.
17th Dec- Around and about Whangarei
More work on the boat, a project that had been on my mind for a while was to be able to extend the starboard bunk to a double. Almost finished – just need to get the infill cushion covered.
Meanwhile I have also been getting out and about a bit. A visit to the Quarry gardens by bike, a walk in the Coronation scenic reserve and a visit to the Tutukaka coast for a walk and a couple of swims.
17th Nov – 7th Dec – Varnish, walks, waterfalls, vistas & van.
I thought that Sea Bear deserved a bit of TLC, it had been a hard 10 months since Panama. The area around the galley was looking a bit tatty so I decided to revarnish it. I scraped off the old and chipped varnish, sanded down and gave 4 coats of clear varnish and 2 top coats of Ephifanes rubbed effect. This gives a lovely satin finish and is a perfect match for the existing varnish work in the cabin. Of course once you started you realise that the top of the engine cover/companionway steps is looking tatty too as well as the teak strips bordering the cabin sole, the cabin sole itself and the saloon table. So soon there was no flooring the cabin and no steps either making clambering in and out of the cabin a trifle difficult, still all in a good cause. Days later I was thoroughly sick of varnishing but all was done and the cabin looking much better. Well when I say all done there were still some small areas untouched but they will have to wait.
I had long been frustrated by the outside loops for the guard wires on the 2 sternmost stanchions as they had succeeded in doing was to put holes in the old spray dodgers. A stainless steel workshop just down the road had cut off the loops and drilled and sleeved holes in them for me, a smart and professional job.
Meanwhile I had taken the old ripped and tattered spray dodgers to Ronnie at Undercover canvas just down the road and he had made me up some new ones. Fitted they improved Sea Bears appearance.
It hadn’t been all work, I had been for a few nice walks. One up along the river through woods and a treetop walkway to Whangarie falls.
Another short walk around Pataua, on the coast near Whangarie Heads
and another up the Ross track
to Mount Parihaka, (241m) an old volcanic cone, once a Maori stronghold, from where there was a great view out over Whangarei harbour.
In the marina I was visited daily by a duck and her 6 little ducklings, at first no more than little balls of fluff they rapidly grew. If I wasn’t in the cockpit when they came a calling they would paddle around quacking till I appeared and fed them with my stale bread. Somehow I have a soft spot for ducks and mother duck would hop onto the pontoon and take the proffered bread from my fingers.
With a view to taking in some of inland New Zealand I also bought a camper van. To pick this up I had cycled out to Parua Bay. One might have thought it would be relatively easy being a road that follows the harbour out towards Whangarie Heads, but they can be surprisingly hilly these coastal roads and this was no exception. I even had to get off and push at one stage, add the fact that it rained hard too and it wasn’t as pleasant as might have been. Still I rewarded myself by stopping of at Parau Bay Tavern in a lovely setting with a great view out over the estuary and had fish & chips and a beer.