Sunday, May 14, 2017

Shake Down

We have learned that after any significant work is done, it is imperative to have a shake down cruise so we can identify any issues before leaving the area.  So, on our 200 mile round trip from Whangarei to Auckland and back, when we discovered a problem with the propeller shaft seal that had just been replaced, we scheduled a return to the boatyard to sort things out.  We entered Whangarei Heads with 20 knots blowing against a 4-5 knot ebb current in the channel.  

The boisterous conditions did not deter a school or large porpoises that escorted Moonshadow from 2 miles outside of Whangarei Heads all the way to our anchorage at Urquharts Bay.  The entire way these playful friends were jumping, doing back flips, and splashing water onto our foredeck.

The next morning, after a 1.5 hour ride up the river, Moonshadow was ready for her brief time out of the water for a quick fix.  We were down below gathering sunnies and flip flops when the TraveLift pulled Moonshadow out of the water and over to the edge of the pier.  The unfamiliar and unnatural sounds of the straps taking the full strain of our home were loud and seemed a bit rude for such a pretty lady.  When you look at a Marine TraveLift for the first time, it seems like a terrible idea.  Surely you can’t seriously think this silly contraption will lift a big heavy yacht without something breaking just at the worst possible time.  But in reality, this is the state of the art machine for lifting boats, and you see them in boatyards all over the world.  

By contrast, John’s first exposure to the art of hauling yachts was back in the sixties when his father had Mystere, a 40 foot Newport ketch, hauled in Honolulu.  Way back then, boats were wedged into a steel and wooden cradle that creaked and groaned as it was winched up a pair of railroad tracks sloping from the boatyard down into the water.  In the center of the yard the boats in their cradles came to rest on a turn-table which swiveled around until aligned with one of a dozen tracks radiating out from the center.  From there the whole lot was nudged off onto a track where all the fun work could begin.  There is nothing terribly natural about taking a boat out of the water, but it must be done.

But back in the water our home seems like the most natural thing in the world.  Just ask our friends the porpoises who discover simpatico swimming alongside Moonshadow.

Soon enough, after an overnight stop in Tutukaka harbor, we were rounding the jagged rocks of Cape Brent.  Just around this cape is the Bay of Islands.  

The invincible rocky cape reminds us of the enduring "Land’s End"
at Cabo San Lucas

Land's End - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Once anchored in a cove at the island of Motorua, we realized why the Bay of Islands is renown for cruising.

There are scores of snug little anchorages among dozens of islands, that are unspoiled and beautiful.

Even on a cloudy, overcast day, the rocky cliffs and outcrops...

…and rugged islands, all remind of why we venture on.

Across a small sound created by two islands is a private residence with evergreens that look like they must be artificial props from a movie set.  The regularity of the symmetrical limbs seemed too perfect to be real.  

The next day broke out clear and sunny, perfect for a hike.

The tracks (we call them trails, but here, they're "tracks" - tomato/tomaahto) are well maintained with several climbs, sometimes through shady woods...

...which lead to high ground with views worthy of the effort.

The tracks then plunge down into fertile valleys with an ever-present song in the limbs overhead from the hundreds of bird species making a comeback to the islands thanks to efforts of the local conservationists.

After a welcome descent, the track breaks out onto another amazing and deserted anchorage.  Our track repeated the aforementioned up-down business a half dozen times - enough to convince us we’d earned a cool beer back aboard Moonshadow.

After a few days in the Bay of Islands followed by a wonderful day ashore in the lovely little town of Russell, we brought Moonshadow into the marina at Opua, where we'd arrived from Fiji last October.

Since our October arrival, the marina has been busily adding several new docks and many of them were filled with cruisers who, like us, are waiting for the perfect weather window for departure to places all over the South Pacific.  Some are headed East to Tahiti, some West to Australia, but most are interested in sailing North to either Tonga or Fiji.  We are returning to Fiji.

But that weather window was anything but perfect.  In fact it was more like an iron door that was closed tight.  

That's because not one, but two tropical cyclones were brewing up in the islands where most cruisers had set their sights.  

Cyclone Donna grew to a Category 5 as it wandered around Vanuatu and New Caledonia.... 

...while TC Ella, a Cat 2, was happy to sit and spin north of Fiji

Call us old fashioned, but we kind of have a rule that we won't leave a safe harbor to sail into hurricanes.  That has worked out well so far.  So well that we are applying the same rule for Cyclones.  The thing about weather windows in New Zealand is there's always another one, just around the corner.  About every 7 or 8 days a new weather system comes rolling across the country offering a new chance to get things just right for a passage.

So before sailing off, we've had time to jump in a car hired from the Rent-A-Dent in Opua and catch up on the progress of Autumn in New Zealand.  With the cold temperatures we'd recently had, the Autumn colors in May are full on.


Penpenhad said...

Keep it coming. I enjoy reading about your adventures

Unknown said...

Hi John and Deb
Nice to get your recent blogs and to catch up on the Moonshadow 'goings on'.
Sorry to hear you had a seal leak that required you to lift M S out of the water again. I hope it is all O K now. Also those cyclones don't look like much fun. I hope all is well with your sailing plans.
Where will those plans take you for the foreseeable future. Are you staying in the south Pacific?
Robin and I are back from a road trip in the Gus Bus. All went very well. We stayed in C A and did a loop that took in Paso Robles, Monteray / CArmel area then on to Napa Valley and Sonoma wine districts. From there we went to Yosemite then southward to Simi Valley where we visited Pres Reagan's library(museum). This was out 3rd visit to that pres library and we really enjoyed it again. The location is stunning - in the mountains of the Simi Valley area.
Beat wishes from us both to you both and we wish you safe travels.
Cheers from S D.
Aidan and Robin

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