Once back at Destiny, the putting back together of our engine, toilet, generator and sails resumed. Activity flurried around us, as again I felt like a foreigner on my own yacht. Thankfully, the engine and generator repairs were not major (cleaning fuel injectors, exhaust valves and replacing a solenoid), although as I mentioned previously the prices were over the top for everything we had done but the toilet repair. Frank just whipped out his wallet and let the dollars fly. At some point, he mentioned to a fellow cruiser, "I will leave a trail of green when I depart Opua. With all the money we spent here, they will be able to track us for miles".
By the third week of Dec., we were ready to head out with Earl and Marsha (Mahurangi) for the top of the North Cape to await a good weather window for sailing to the South Island. Our friend, Billie Biel had invited Frank and I to spend the Christmas holidays with her family at their beach house on the Coromandel Peninsula, even offering us our own cottage. It killed us to say "No thank-you", but if we didn't set off for the northland now, we would never make it to the South Island this year, and that was our big goal. First stop, only a couple of miles away was Russell, which was the very first capital of New Zealand. Our first night at anchor, the four of us set off in Destiny's dinghy for the Boat Club wharf, with intentions of going to the Duke of Marlborough Hotel for dinner. As I was putting one foot on the dock, a powerboat's wake rocked the wharf, causing our dinghy to pitch away from the dock, tossing me into the water. One of my legs was still in the dinghy, my arm still holding the painter, and the other half of me got rammed up under the slime and oyster encrusted dock. I surfaced to whimper, "Somebody help me". Earl sprang into action, hauling me out and onto the dock. I was a little banged up and covered in filthy muck. My foul weather jacket was indeed foul! We sent Earl and Marsha into the bar, and then Frank turned us back to Destiny so that I could clean up and change. We got about halfway across the anchorage when our brand new motor began sputtering and losing power. We barely made it back to the boat, where thankfully, Earl and Marsha had tied off their dinghy. We took theirs back into shore and proceeded into town for one of the best T-bone steak dinners I've ever had. Little did we know that this would prove to be the beginning of a nightmare for the new dinghy motor and us.
We made a run for Whangaroa – a very large, beautiful bay toward the northern part of the North Island, where we had arranged to meet Bob and Kim DeMattia of Northern Winds. We spent two awesome sailing days getting up there. This area is absolutely one of the best sailing and fishing grounds about. We hiked several fabulous trails with spectacular views, dug for clams and mussels, picked fresh oysters right off the shore and also had the pleasure of being given 6 fresh-caught flounder from a local named David. We had big plans to go diving for Crayfish (New Zealander lobster). We had lots of big fun plans that got foiled by the faulty new dinghy motor. It is a long a weary story. The short version is that we got stranded in the middle of this very, very large bay several times. We would be riding along and then the darn Yamaha would just lose power and die, then would seize up so that it could not be restarted. Our dinghy is large and heavy, and extremely difficult to paddle when in waves, winds and strong currents. This bay was all of the above. Frank, Bob and Earl spent countless hours trying to figure out the problem, changing fuel lines, spark plugs, and so on. Finally we admitted defeat. Frank spent countless more hours - and about $50 of mobile phone Pre-pay minutes talking to the Dealer (Chris) who was located back in Opua. Of course it is Holiday Season and most services are closed through the 1st week of January, so we got him on his cell phone, asking him to please replace this "lemon". He did not want to do that. The thing had less than 2 hours run time on it, isn't even broken in yet and the guy is arguing with us over this? Finally he tells Frank to just bring it in and he will take a look at it, still unwilling to just give us a new one. Frank agreed and then realized here we were in a bay with lots of villages, couple of resorts, and no rental car agency. We asked Chris to please come pick it up. "No." So Frank and the boys borrowed a car from a local, loaded up the motor and took it to Opua. As fate would have it, Chris's grandfather died and the shop was closed, so Frank got his home address, and then all he could do was drop the motor off at the man's house, returning with no motor, no refund, just a hope that Chris would honor his product. Earl and Bob both carry spare 3 hp outboards so we used one of those and got on with our holiday plans.
This was to be our first Christmas on Destiny and we intended to enjoy it to the max. I had bought and decorated a very small fiber-optic Christmas tree, and put up garland and Stockings for us. We wrapped gifts for each other and for our friends on Mahurangi and Northern Winds. We had a huge potluck dinner on Northern Winds, trading gifts and carrying on as though the 6 of us were one big happy family. How Blessed we are to find such precious friends out here cruising. After Christmas, we continued to phone Chris, sending our sympathies to him for the death of his grandfather, but persisted in our plea for a new motor. He claimed that he could find nothing wrong with it. Isn't this just the way it goes? We've all been there. By now we had given up our plans to be in the South Island by New Year's and made a booking for New Year's Eve dinner at the Kingfish Lodge. The chef is renowned and the food is rumored to be absolutely top shelf. We were resigned to just let go of worrying over the dinghy motor and enjoy our time in Whangaroa until something got resolved. In the meantime, we hiked, read books, watched movies, and ate tons of fresh seafood.