It's 2:10 in the morning as I sit and listen to the persistent banging of a halyard coming from the foredeck and the low moan of something stretching to it's absolute max. That something is the harness on our chain that keeps the pressure off our windlass when we are anchored. I'm trying not to imagine it breaking - a real possibility even though it's 5/8" 3-strand line with chafe protection. It's under incredible load as the wind has been howling in the 30's for over 12 hours and the fetch is causing the boat to hobby horse like a bucking bronco. Something else bangs in the dark and I quickly glance up at the wind meter......36.8 knots. Well, I think.....at least it's not 40 knots.....yet.
I'm on anchor watch and as the wind gusts again what I'm REALLY thinking is how thankful I am to be here. That we are not at sea in these conditions, out there in this storm where some of my friends are right now. I send up a prayer that they have made it far enough to avoid the worst of it. I'm worried sick for them, but trying to keep the faith as they are excellent sailors.
We are anchored in a tiny little outpost called Minerva Reef. It's a popular stopover for cruisers making the long passage between New Zealand and Fiji and a good spot to duck into during a storm. Not that you can actually hide, since there is no real land to speak of. It's simply a low-lying ring of reef that is almost completely awash at high tide, but just high enough to keep the huge rolling waves temporarily at bay. It's about as close as you can get to anchoring in the middle of the Pacific ocean and I'm incredibly thankful to be here.
As the fetch from the waves hits our cockpit enclosure because the tide is high and the waves are growing, I try not to let the noise overwhelm me. I try to distract myself from thoughts of the other boats breaking free and hitting us or of our boat coming loose and crashing onto the reef....of losing everything. So far we are all staying put and the holding is very good - I just need to get through this night. I'm not safe at home, the boat is not tied to the dock and I can't walk away no matter how scary it gets. This is the life I have chosen and there is no other place to be tonight other than out here in the middle of the ocean. And so I write this post to help the time pass and to give you a chance to see another side of our life at sea.
Just another day living the dream. Living the dream.
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Saturday, May 10, 2014
|The birthday boy with Cape Brett in the background.|
|How many candles on that cake Brett???|
|Having fun with John and Kathy from Mystic Moon.|
As I sit in Opua trying to get our blog up to date before we leave tomorrow for Fiji, I've spent a lot of time reflecting and reliving our time here in New Zealand. While it's been a little tough to swallow how ridiculously expensive it is here (imagine spending an entire years budget in just 6 months), we've also had some amazing esperiences and cruised in some beautiful areas. I have been truly impressed with the locals we've met here - they are funny and kind, but also will tell you EXACTLY what they think about pretty much anything. No political correctness here - and that's really refreshing! They will not hesitate to invite you into their home and their lives, even when you've just barely met. Again - refreshing!
So while we are now significantly poorer financially for having come to New Zealand, the friends we've made, the places we've seen and the time spent cruising this beautiful north island were worth every penny to me. And while I am very ready to go, I will still miss it here after I'm gone.
|Goodbye New Zealand!|
|How could something so cute be endangered?|
|Early morning fog lifts at Wairahi Bay|
Unfortunately we found out that was likely because it gets a little rolly at night. I felt like I was back in the La Cruz area with all the rocking and rolling we did! In the morning we both looked at each other and said enough of that! So off we went, motoring the short distance to Wairahi Bay where we suspected our friends on Mazu were anchored. We were happy to find not only them, but our friends on Exit Strategy too and happy hour was quickly organized for that evening. Thanks to Mazu for hosting - it was great to catch up with both boats since we hadn’t seen them since Tonga.
Unfortunately the next day I came down with a minor cold, so Brett had to go hiking without me. While I was definitely sorry to miss his trip up the Wairahi River (which sounded pretty great) I will admit to enjoying a lazy day of reading and napping all by myself. Thankfully I was fully recovered in just a few days and was soon investigating the area on my inflatable paddleboard. Even though the water was pretty murky I spotted three different manta rays within about 20 minutes. Cool!
|Hiking up the Wairahi River|
|Who knew this little guy could be so loud!|
|How cute is this Brown Teal Duck???|
We ended up meeting a fascinating local – a Brown Teal Duck (Pateke), which is actually endangered. This little guy was so cute we were immediately taken in by him. They are amazingly friendly – especially when you…..ummmm….feed them. Our little buddy popped by to see us every day and he definitely had our number. This was clearly not his first rodeo and he was highly skilled at working the anchorage. But damn he was adorable!
|The amazing Kaiaraara Dam|
|Brett crossing a huge suspension|
bridge while hiking up to the dam.
Unfortunately the 15-20 knots of wind showing for our trip across ended up being more like 25-35 with extremely lumpy seas (imagine being inside a washing machine and you’ll know what it was like). Since it was only an 8 hour trip I had decided I would be fine without seasickness pills. BIG MISTAKE! I was fine for the first couple of hours, but suffice it to say the next five hours were pure misery. I have NEVER been that seasick in my life!
|Feeling GREAT while hiking!|
I don't like being completely useless as a first mate and Brett hated watching me feeling so miserable. Suffice it to say that I've learned my lesson about assuming I’ll be fine just because it’s a "short" trip. From now on I WILL take the drugs, no matter how short the trip – thank you very much! But the thing that really gets me fuming? I’ve been getting worse instead of better! WTF??? But it’s true! I never used to get sea sick and have done countless trips with no problems. And yet the longer I’ve been out cruising the more issues I’ve had – even in conditions I used to scoff at! How bizarre (and frustrating!) is that?
|This is how they build some bridges, |
one piece at a time. Impressive!
Regardless of how it ended, we LOVED cruising Great Barrier Island and only wished we had more time to spend there exploring all the nooks and crannies it had to offer. Maybe some day we’ll be back to do just that.
Friday, May 9, 2014
|The view from Cable Bay Vineyard|
|A classic example of a one-way bridge in New Zealand|
seen while hiking. These are found everywhere!
|A view of Sandy Bay|
|Islington Bay on Motutapu Island before the hordes |
from Auckland descended - people outside Auckland
call them JAFA's (just another #$%^ Aucklander).
|The back side of the gun battery on Motutapu Island|
|Where the gun sat, looking out towards the Pacific Ocean.|
|Looking down into one|
of the magazine areas.
After thoroughly exploring Motutapu, we made our way over for a week or so at Waiheke Island – located just a little to the southeast. What a great island to explore – so many different things to see! Being a short ferry ride from Auckland and absolutely chock full of great wineries it is a VERY popular spot for city dwellers to get away for a day or two. We stayed in three different bays on Waiheke – Oneroa, Rocky and Man O’War Bay. We loved all three for very different reasons. Oneroa was our first stop and this is located right off the main “town” on the island (aptly named Oneroa!). Think quaint but upscale seaside village and you will have the picture in your head. Very sweet with lots of little shops, cafés and expensive restaurants, not to mention a bus service that will take you to one of the dozen or so wineries on the west half of the island - how great is that? The all day bus pass is only $14 NZD.
|Reading to start tasting!|
|A great sunset at Rocky Bay - note Auckland to the left!|
|The great mussel gatherers.|
|All done cleaning - do we get to eat them yet???|
cruising in New Zealand…..
|Hiking on Motutapu Island - incredible views!|
Thursday, May 8, 2014
|Okay, we'll start with one that's fairly easy...|
|This on is a little tougher...|
So take a look if you think you can handle it and lets see if you can figure out what they are! All guesses are welcome. And if you.....ummmm......don't like it, than simply skip this post!
|And finally the real challenge!|
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
|View of Whangarei from the ridge above town.|
|Heading out of Marsdon Cove - note |
how narrow the channel is!
|These little guys loved to greet us in the mornings....|
|The beginning of the Hatea River Walk|
|Hiking at Abbey Caves|
|How cute is he???|
|Cool cave pic - nice work Brett!|
|Stacey facing her fears and wading into|
the water in Abby Caves. Pretty good
considering I get claustrophobic, eh?
|Fern trees are everywhere here!|
|An overview of Town Basin - note the huge grocery |
right across the street - awesome!
|Bella Vita on the pilings next to Ganash - Fatty Goodlander's|
boat. If you don't know who that is, just Google it.
|Our friends Katie M II during low tide at Riverside - wow!|
|Yep - the tides get pretty low in Whangarei...but |
that's okay...it was well worth the muddy keel.
Friday, April 11, 2014
|Bella Vita on land - not normal!|
Brett and I have been living on Bella Vita for almost five years now, almost two of those out cruising, so we are very aware of all the systems on our boat and how everything works on a normal day. That said, hauling out in New Zealand would be our first time living on the boat OUT of the water. Not really an experience that either on of us was looking forward to.
|It doesn't look too scary|
from this angle, but
trust me, it's steep!
Okay, so I’m relieved to report that there were toilets located about 400 feet from where they put our boat (soooo thankful they didn’t put us in the back 40, which is like a 1/4 mile from the bathrooms!!!), so at least isn’t wasn’t too far to travel EVERY TIME the urge struck – but not exactly fun at 3am either.
|Some of the daily chaos inside...|
|The galley is not exactly |
ripe for meal prep, eh?
A real positive was that the yard had showers that were nice and clean, so for a mere dollar a day (each) we could have 6 minutes of bliss with a hot shower after a long day of hard labor.
So other than no toilets at hand, no refrigeration and no hot water on the boat – how was living on the hard?
|Where do we sit and eat???|
|I can't even get out without|
climbing over something!
Overall, some good, some bad, but something we had to do regardless of how we felt as we have to maintain our boat and that’s where we live. So you you suck it up and make the most of it. Think of it as camping out, right? And it puts us that much closer to being out on the water again for more adventures.
But I won’t miss that ladder at all!