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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tom and Mary's Visit

March 30 – April 10, 2009

On the 30th, Frank and I anxiously drove to Auckland's international airport to pick up Tom and Mary.  What a joy it was to see them!  For anyone reading this who doesn't know, Tom is my brother who is married to Frank's sister, Mary.  We kicked around the city, ate seafood and ice cream and then got them tucked away on Destiny.  That very same day, Andy and Melissa had returned from the South Island. So on Tuesday night the 6 of us dined at our favorite Indian Restaurant down in Parnell, "Oh Calcutta!"  Although they humored us by letting us pretend that we knew what was on the menu and offer input, we happily let Andy and Melissa actually order for us all.  These two are experts when it comes to Indian food selection.  Following a gut-splitting, delicious dinner we walked (waddled) down to the Chocolate CafĂ© and gorged ourselves on dessert decadence.

April 1 – no fooling! – we said goodbye to Andy, Melissa, Auckland and Bayswater and began our sailing trek to Opua.  Tom and Mary are easy sail mates, and Tom is a perfect First Mate, giving me freedom to hang out with Mary.  Our first stop was a little island just half a day's sail away that other cruisers had told us not to miss, so we dared not.  We approached in very high winds, took a mooring ball and sent Tom and Frank out for a beer and a recon.  When they returned to the boat they delivered us a verdict that the anchorage had nothing to offer, leaving us completely underwhelmed.  Having no other choice, we stayed aboard and dined in.  Early the next morning we set sail for Tutukaka, which was a full day away.  Although this anchorage is said to be a protected one, we found it quite rolly; however, were excited about the prospect of using our new Rocna anchor.  We were told that it sets within a meter and sets good.  Ha ha!  I found very quickly how true this was when I stepped on the windlass button to release the chain (which lets down the anchor), and at least a hundred feet of scope (anchor chain) shot out of the locker and kept going!  Frank was yelling for me to stop, Tom was trying to help me make it stop, but it was free flying like a bat out of hell!  It would not stop!  I jammed on the brake and caused a real jam.  The windlass was obviously not working properly and then it was not working at all.  Quit.  Shut down. Finito!  We were only in a depth of about 8 feet of water with over 150 feet of heavy chain plus an 80 lb anchor sitting on the bottom.  Yes, the new anchor sticks well.  Frank and Tom finessed and cajoled, finally giving up on the motorized windlass, bringing in some of the scope by hand, while mulling over the prospect of hauling this thing up and what amount of time that would take.  We quickly realized that making a leisurely hop, skip and jump up to Opua would not be happening.  This anchor would only be brought up once: upon departure from this bay and left up until we pulled into a berth in Opua, hence there would be no more stops in between.  No problemmo!  There is always beer to ease the pain of pondering.  Right?  At least so for Tom and Frank.  Mary and I no longer imbibe, so we settle for chocolate and a good book.  We enjoyed a great meal at "Schnappa", a local delectable restaurant, and settled in for the night.  The next day revealed weather and seas much too rough to set out for Opua, so we ventured to shore for lunch and a lovely hike to the top of the Tutukaka lighthouse.

On Sat, April 4th, we sailed in to Opua arriving just in time to get checked in with the marina office before closing time.  We headed over to our favorite restaurant, The Blue Water Grill, for dinner to discover that the previous gastronomic emporium had "dumbed down" to a diner with hand printed Xeroxed menus!  We were utterly shocked, and when we inquired about the change were told that indeed the economic hard times had come to roost and to lay rotten eggs in and throughout this lovely seaside resort area. Proprietors, Matthew and Shana were just this side of ruin and, in an effort to stay afloat were in the process of overhauling the business from a gourmet eatery to a takeaway biz.  We happened along during the very week of this transformation, so after much begging and pleading, Matthew agreed to prepare one last special dinner because, after all, Spectacle was due to arrive soon bringing Andy and Melissa.  Matthew loves to cook for Andy and Melissa.  So on the very night that Matthew and Shana had declared the restaurant was now officially a takeaway express, the 6 of us dined on spectacular - way off the menu - gourmet fare.  Other patrons shot us unhappy looks as we yummed our way through our special meal while they were unwrapping burgers, fish and chips, etc.

Opua became a jumping off point for us to make some very nice day trips with Tom and Mary.  We paid a visit to the Kauri forest, which is one of the most awe-inspiring experiences we could hope to have had with a tree.  The ancient Kauri trees are true miracles of nature.  They literally take 100's of years to grow at least as large as a 15-year old oak tree.  As far as we know they are native specifically to New Zealand and are stunningly majestic and beautiful, growing very large and for thousands of years.  Interestingly, as they grow taller, the lower limbs are shed away, leaving the wood impressively knot-free.  Large, unblemished logs have been made into some of the finest furniture in the world, although because of over-deforesting by early settlers, it is now illegal to cut down or to harvest a living Kauri.  A small bowl, carving or candle holder will sell for a princely sum and may be produced only from the long ago fallen trees which are now being excavated from swampland.  Thus a gift of ancient Kauri in any form is a precious one indeed.  We literally spent nearly a day trekking through the beautiful and lush forests seeking out some of the more famous Kauri's.  All are named and held extremely sacred. 

Generally we did a lot of driving and sight seeing, going all the way to the top of the North Island to Cape Reinga where we witnessed the convergence of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean from high above on a bluff.  We stood in silence and awe taking in the powerful, beautiful and spiritual experience of that place.  On the way back from the Cape we drove over to 90-mile beach to watch the sand-surfers.
We toured the Waitangi Treaty grounds and museum where the treaty between New Zealand's Maori people and England was signed, saw a giant Maori war canoe and watched a cultural performance in which Tom portrayed the appointed Chief of our tribe!  Each of us got to participate in the performance; Frank and Tom got to perform the Haka (war dance) then Mary and I got to twirl while balls in the air with the women.  We had such fun!  That same day we visited a restored Maori fishing village and watched historic films of the strife and struggles at Keri Keri.  We just couldn't seem to get enough of this captivating country's culture and history.  We even ventured to the vast Kauri museum on our way back to Auckland where we spent our last night with Tom and Mary at a downtown waterfront hotel.  The day of their departure, April 10th, we drove to Maretai beach for a late breakfast and to take in the last vestiges of the morning before Frank and I dropped Tom and Mary off back downtown. It was difficult to say goodbye to them, knowing that it will be quite sometime before we make another trip back home; however, being Easter weekend we had quite a tedious drive ahead of us back to Opua.
while at sea: (note:the sender must include the character sequence "//WL2K" in the subject line of the message.)
Skype ID: frank.barb.gladney

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

March 16 –30 2009 Just Us Two Again

Monday night we had made arrangements to meet Billie and Grant Biel for dinner. We had intended to take this opportunity to thank them for their wonderful Kiwi hospitality.  Billie had chosen the venue and so we agreed to meet them at Euro, which is a top restaurant down on the quay of Auckland's harbor.  When we arrived we were very pleased to see that their son and daughter, Blythe and Qwilton, and Martha (Billie's closest friend), were also there.  What Billie didn't tell us when we made the arrangements, was that it was her birthday!   We felt very honored to have been included in this intimate family gathering.  The meal was magnificent and being able to spend this special evening with them was dear.  Frank and I will miss them greatly when we leave New Zealand but definitely plan to stay in touch and to see them again.  In fact we are strongly considering a return visit to NZ at the end of cruising season this year.

Frank and I spent the next week tidying up the boat and taking care of general maintenance issues, getting Destiny ready for Tom and Mary's arrival on the 30th.  During that time we made a few day trips to visit friends in other anchorages and to just regroup.

On Saturday, the 21st, one of our friends from "The Lady Leah Quartet", Mike, and his wife Karen stopped by for a visit and to let us know that he was trying to get the boys and their wives together to meet us for dinner at their boat club.  These are the guys we had met in Great Barrier Island's Port Fitzroy at the end of November 2008.   This event had been in the making for quite a while so we were looking forward to seeing them all again.  When the weekend rolled around we drove over to Stillwater.  It is a lovely place about an hour outside of Auckland, tucked away into a very peaceful anchorage (hence the name I suppose).  Sadly, Pete and Rod couldn't make it but Mike and Scotty were there with their wives, Karen and Linda, and as well many of their good friends and fellow boaties.  They had prepared a special dinner just for us and brought over so many friends for us to meet that our heads were spinning.  We ate and then watched a Warriers rugby match with the gang.  It was yet another very special night for us.
while at sea: (note: 1st time senders must include the character sequence "//WL2K" in the subject line of the message.)
Skype ID: frank.barb.gladney

Friday, April 17, 2009

March 3 – 15, 2009 – Karen Gladney’s visit

Bayswater was a great marina for visitors arriving into Auckland, providing a number of amenities. Its only negative is that it juts out from the end of a point and is exposed to wind, waves, boat wakes and tides. We did not spend a lot of time hanging around at the marina however. We stayed busy, and thanks to Andy and Melissa, had scheduled quite a lot of events to keep Karen entertained during her visit. Of course we had to incorporate shopping and good eating into our agenda so right away we set off for Parnell, one of the many very trendy areas around Auckland, where we three girls browsed and shopped while the guys watched Cricket, drank beer and discovered Bluff Oysters. The very best, most unusual oyster we have ever eaten and one of the costlier at an average of $45/dozen, the Bluff is outstanding. For dinner that night we dined on gourmet pizza and Bluff Oysters. Thereafter, whenever and wherever we could find them we feasted.

Our first big outing was on March 4th to Auckland Cup Day at Ellerslie Racecourse, which is the equivalent of our Kentucky Derby. The $300.00 per person ticket included seating in the President's Lounge providing us unlimited champagne, beer, wine and cocktails (I should have gotten a large discount!), private sports book, outstanding gourmet lunch, afternoon high tea, lots of goodies and trinkets, and the list goes on! For Frank and I, one of the highlights of the day was being seated with Billie Biel and her friends Martha, Rex and Diane. Frank and Billie immediately hit it off, and by the end of the day we had been invited to Billie's home for Sunday dinner.

Thursday we attended the Auckland Boat Show in the Viaduct Harbor. Easy ferry ride going over, but then the winds began building and the rains came. Our day at the boat show turned ugly and continued to deteriorate. Walking along the docks was becoming a serious danger as the waves began to heighten, causing twisting and buckling of the passageways. Buildings were shuddering and tents were creaking and pulling at their anchors as the wind blew the rain sideways. We finally threw in the towel and headed for the ferry dock after hearing that because of deteriorating conditions, gale warnings and small craft advisories in the bay the ferries may be halted. If this happened we would have been relatively stranded downtown. We caught the last ferry back to Bayswater and to the warmth and comfort of a rocking Destiny!

Friday the weather calmed so we spent a day in downtown Auckland – mostly at the Sky City Casino & Tower. Later that evening we met Bill and Judy (BeBe) for dinner at Tommy Wongs – highly recommended! Saturday, we attended a rugby game, which was great fun! The Auckland Blues v the Sharks form South Africa. What a carnival atmosphere that was. Sadly the Sharks crushed the Blues. Afterward, we went for dinner at a local pub, which was crawling with fans and a large group of guys having a stag party. Melissa and I made a game of drooling over all of the hunky guys and rating them, "1-10", while Karen seemed to be unhappily distracted by the flirtations of members of the bachelor party. Frank and Andy – well they ate and drank beer.

Then on Sunday we all piled into the car and drove to Billie's house where we spent the afternoon and most of the night having dinner and visiting. Billie's husband Grant had just returned home from his many days away working in Australia, to fight the horrid forest fires which were devastating the area around Victoria. The Biels own and operate a business called Heli Harvest Ltd., NZ's leading heavy-duty helicopter service. They handle big jobs including logging, fire fighting and so on. Martha, Diane and Rex were also there. We had a fabulous time with them. Their home is lovely and so are they.
On Monday the 5 of us piled back into the car for a road trip (back) to Rotorua (our 3rd time), renting a charming lake house on Rotoiti. Our first night was spent grilling steaks and watching hours of television (never realized what a treat that would be!). Then on Tuesday we hit Rotorua for a day of adventure, which included the gondola, the luge of course, a local nature preserve complete with wild lions, and then ended the day at a Maori Village featuring a cultural show and dinner. Wednesday we casually departed for Hamilton to attend our first live professional Cricket Match: The NZ Black Caps v India. It is amazing how festive Pro sports are here in New Zealand. We got caught up in the thrill and the adrenaline of the day. Sadly, it stormed on and on and after the second rain delay, we left to find a pub in town that was showing the game on TV. The weather had deteriorated to the point that the game was eventually called, and India –
rightly deserving – was awarded the win.

We left Andy and Melissa in Hamilton to catch a train for the South. Frank, Karen and I drove back to Auckland. Returning to Bayswater we took it easy for a couple of days, cooking on the boat, watching movies and showing Karen the sights around here including Devonport.
On Friday, Frank needed a day without us on the boat in order to replace the macerator, so Karen and I spent an entire day walking around downtown Auckland shopping and just having girl-time. We ventured quite far actually, ending up on Ponsonby St., which is known for its unusual shops and varied in vogue eateries. We stopped in at Murder Burger for a shared lunch. Frank, Andy, Melissa and I had seen it and put it on our list of places to try. It looked good. It looked promising. It was intriguing and inviting, yet Karen and I found it to be the absolute worst burger either of us had EVER tasted. We took one for the team!
On Saturday, although the bad weather persisted and rains threatened, we drove over to the Pacifika Festival. Billie had told us about it. Each year native citizens representing nearly all of the islands of the South Pacific set up their villages in the park. They offer various kinds of entertainment (musical entertainers, dancers, singers, culture shows), they exhibit and sell their wares, foods and so on. It is extremely joyful and festive! We eventually lost momentum from the persistent rain and left after just a couple of hours but truly had a nice time and were happy to have had the opportunity to experience the many cultures.

Sunday arrived before we knew it! For her last day in NZ, before we took Karen to the airport we lunched at Soul on the Auckland waterfront, downed our last plate of Bluff Oysters together and bid Karen a safe journey home.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Feb 27 - March 3, 2009 – sailing to Auckland

In spite of the dire storm warnings and the fact that in some areas this gale was very ugly and destructive, we drew the lucky card in that the winds came from the (only) protected side of our marina's bay. It was uncomfortable for many hours but endurable, nonetheless.  Afterward, on February 28th the day of our scheduled departure from Tauranga, we discussed post storm sea conditions with Ian and Julia on Moasi and unanimously decided not venture out until the seas laid down from their 4 - 5 meter heights.  They were due to sail to Great Barrier Island (NE), and we were aiming directly north and somewhat west.  New Zealand's maritime weather gurus were discouraging any sea travel for a few days until the winds and seas settled and adjusted.  The morning of March 1st (despite maritime weather guru bulletins to the contrary), Frank announced that we were leaving around mid-day and that I should prepare for departure.  Of course I issued my string of protests that this would not be "pretty", and why not wait another day as discussed, etc., and so on.  He said he wanted to get to Auckland in time to meet Karen when she arrived, so..."plan on an overnighter".  This means of course sailing all night to get there before sundown on March 2nd.


We headed out at 1 PM, and the minute we cleared the protective waters of the bay Destiny began to roll and pitch violently.  The waves had not settled down much to be sure.  During the first 4-5 hours we had fair winds helping to push us along through the large confused waves.  When we cleared the point, however, and tacked more northward, the wind was directly on our nose.  I continued to voice objections to my captain as we motored, pitched, tossed, bucked and fought the current, wind and waves making very slow forward progress.  I let him know as many times as possible and feeling a lot like Gladys Cravitz admonishing Abner, although I didn't care how I sounded because I was not happy at all, that this had not been the best idea, and that Karen would have been fine with Melissa and Andy for a night had we waited one more day to do this thing.  He never admitted it but I know he agreed on some level.  We continued onward.  As dusk approached we both realized that this particular coastline had an inordinate number of large rocks jutting up out of the water that may or may not be marked or visible at nighttime, so Frank adjusted our course to veer well outside of the denser area of obstacles, adding several miles to our journey.  This still brought no large amount of comfort as we blindly navigated these waters using only our electronic charts and radar to guide us.  It was a very dark moonless night.  The current on our nose was some 5 knots.  The 18 – 20 knot wind was also on our nose, causing us to make between a 1.5 and 2.8 knot forward progress with the engine running nearly 2500 RPM.  During my last watch that night I observed the same light on shore in nearly the same position for most of that 4-hour period.  We had missed the window of opportunity to arrive at Bayswater during slack tide, which meant we would have a heck of a time getting berthed.  To add insult to injury our macerator was not working and the head tank was FULL, meaning that we would need to hit the pump-out station at Bayswater before going into our berth.  This required us to dock twice.  Ugh!  Not easy in these very strong currents and tide washes.  We radioed Andy and Melissa on Spectacle asking for assistance at the fuel/pump-out dock.  Thank God our bow thruster was once again operable.   


These two are always a sight for sore eyes!  When we had a visual on the marina, we noted Melissa jumping up and down on the fuel dock like a cheerleader, waving us in.  After great effort we got tied off and were able to empty the head tank.  Then Andy boarded while I disembarked to walk around to our slip with Melissa in order to catch Destiny's lines.  What a mess the current was at this time.  We had a heck of a time getting the boat safely into the slip, and in the process bumped a piling, jarring the BBQ grill nearly off the rail, but made it safely in.  We celebrated our successful arrival and then passed out from exhaustion. 


Bayswater Marina is located on the North Shore between the towns of Devonport and Takapuna, directly across the bay from downtown Auckland's waterfront and harbor.  From the marina we can reach Auckland in 10 minutes, via ferry, or in 30-40 minutes, via car.  Obviously we did not yet have a car to drive, therefore Frank got up early the next morning, taking the ferry to downtown Auckland in time to meet Karen while I finished tidying the boat from the trip up.  We got Karen settled in and then set about to familiarize ourselves with the marina and surroundings.
while at sea: (note:the sender must include the character sequence "//WL2K" in the subject line of the message.)
Skype ID: frank.barb.gladney

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Coastal Road Trip - North Island

On February 24th we finally caught another (get away) break, and realizing that we had been so boat-bound by repairs and maintenance, we loaded the car for a road trip to the southeastern coast of the North Island, via the Pacific Coast Motorway. Frank and I needed some time just to ourselves for a few days before taking Destiny up to Auckland. Driving the Pacific coast Highway we took in the beauty of New Zealand's rolling hills, timberland, farmland and ranchlands, stopping wherever and whenever the spirit moved us – no plans other than to turn around when it was time to head back. We visited Gisborne, New Zealand's easternmost city and dined at The Works (5 stars in our book), which is the only remaining structure of the once largest freezing and meat packing plant in New Zealand. It has been preserved and converted into a delightful wine bar/restaurant featuring gourmet fare and a dessert bar. Crossing into Hawke's Bay we took in the
beauty of the black beaches. Then on the outskirts of Napier we visited a produce farm that displayed its freshly harvested fruits and veggies for sale. The owner came out to greet us, offering a personal tour of his orchards. We loaded up on a large variety of fresh fruit and homemade jams, marmalades and chutneys before venturing off to Napier.

We found Napier captivating! It is a charming and well-attended seaside village, which in 1931, was rocked by the biggest earthquake in New Zealand's recorded history, with more than 600 aftershocks, changing the geography of the entire area. The city was devastated by the quake and consumed by fires. Today's Napier is completely restored beyond her original beauty, and is one of the most inviting towns we have yet visited. We booked a room at a hotel that was one of the few structures to survive that quake; a brilliantly restored art deco called The County Hotel. It is also the only 5-star accommodation in the area, boasting a 5-star restaurant at which we happily booked dinner.

The following day after a photo-op walk, we drove back to Tauranga taking the inland route through Rotorua stopping off at the Polynesian Spa for a dip in the thermal pools. It was a perfect and peaceful ending to our road trip.

When we returned to Destiny we were pleasantly surprised to see Ian and Julia (Moasi) still around. They had not yet departed for Whangarei because of approaching inclement weather. We in fact realized that our own departure for Auckland's Bayswater Marina was going to be pushed back. This posed a bit of a problem for us mainly because we had wanted to sail out of Tauranga on the 28th, making a couple of stops en route and arriving on the 1st or 2nd of April in order to be firmly settled in for Karen's arrival (Frank's daughter) on the 3rd. The day after our return, however, the marina announced that we were to expect a gale on the scale of HUGE blows, much larger than the one of Feb. 20th. The entire fleet of berthed vessels was busy securing their yachts and rigging, scaring us half to death. So we followed suit, getting Destiny ready for this monster of a storm. We made arrangements with our friends, Andy and Melissa (Spectacle), who were
already at Bayswater to accommodate Karen in the event she arrived there before we did, and informed Karen accordingly. Then we hunkered down, once again, ready to protect our home from Mother Nature's furious attack.