Merry Christmas!

Waiheke Island, New Zealand

By: Kerry

I hope this finds you soaking in the Christmas cheer (though if you’re literally soaking in it, then I’m afraid you’ve peaked too early).

We are anchored off Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf, near Auckland. We’re in a little bay called Owhanake and there isn’t a breath of wind at the moment. Very peaceful.

We sailed down from Whangarei last Saturday, in company with the Kiapas, the friends with whom we buddy-boated from Fiji.

Our plans for Christmas are, at this point, a little loose and weather-dependent. We’ll spend the day with the Kiapas (plus Suzie), and we are all in full-on hunter-gatherer mode as we’re hoping to catch a seafood feast for Christmas Day. Yesterday we gathered a pile of huge green lip mussels (turned into delicious bouillabaisse last night, with the addition of some kingfish caught by Damian the day before) and tonight we’re doing mussel fritters. The fishing lines have been out at every opportunity, but so far not much luck: we’re hoping to hook into a few snapper sometime in the next 24 hours.
The pressure is on, and the fishing comp points tally stands at Salty Lemons: 6 (1 for a hookup plus 5 for the Kingfish), Kiapas: 0.

Oh, and a warning… Damian is having an op on his schnoz in early February (he’s been looking through the catalogue, thinking something pert and upturned might be nice) so we’ll be in Oz from then until around the end of Feb and we’re looking forward to seeing as many friends as possible!

Meanwhile, we’re sending Christmas cheers and best wishes for the coming year.

Love from Kerry and Damian.

PS I was just joking about pert and up-turned. His op isn’t going to be quite so glamorous!

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Fiji, Here we Come!

Marsden Cove, New Zealand.

By: Kerry

Man, it’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally leaving tomorrow for Fiji!

Since the last email, when we just launched, we’ve had further ‘issues’ – including having to be hauled out of the water again because the boatyard hadn’t installed a through-hull fitting properly. The name says it all: ’through hull’. Fairly critical that it’s water tight. But its lack of watertightness didn’t become apparent until Damian tried to fit a pipe to it and the whole thing twisted…Better to find it then than later, but it meant motoring back up the river and yet another week lost.

We finally did our second sail trials last Monday and that all went swimmingly.

We’d have liked to do a more substantial shake-down cruise before we left, but the weather has been atrocious. In fact, it’s been so bad, we’ve effectively done our shakedown while tied to the dock!

We got back in from sailing around 4pm on Monday and by later that evening it was blowing 50 knots. It got worse… and worse… and blew a full hurricane all week. Worst storm in living memory, apparently. The wind topped out at 76.5 knots but that wasn’t just a one-off – it was in the 70s fairly frequently and in the 60s fairly consistently for four days straight. We were – literally – pinned to the dock. Made working on the boat – not to mention doing the provisioning – pretty interesting.

I drove into town on Thursday to do all the provisioning (been holding off, waiting to be sure we’re going, so had to do four months’ worth of food shopping in one day, in a full hurricane). On the way into town, there were waves (white caps) on the flooded fields; I saw a man standing in a puddle up to his neck, and the state highway was a slalom of huge pot-holes.

Anyway, we’re finally sorted and we’re heading off tomorrow for Savusavu in Fiji – on the south coast of Vanua Levu, the second-largest island. We haven’t had time to do any research on what to see or where to go, but we’ll figure it out and I reckon we’ll find somewhere nice to hang out for a while!  Can’t be that hard, right?

We’ve had the forecast from our weather guru, Bruce Buckley and he reckons we should have a nice, boring trip – perfect!! We’ve had enough exciting passages to last us for a while!

Weather depending, we should take around 7 days – it’s 1200 nautical miles as the crow flies, but of course, that’s not how sailing works, but we’re hoping to average around 180-200 miles a day. A 747 sounds pretty tempting, doesn’t it?

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We’re Afloat!!!!!

Urquharts Bay, New Zealand

By: Kerry

At last! It’s been six loooooong months, but on Friday we finally had splashdown. Yes, it was Friday (sailors’ lore: never leave port on a Friday) AND it was the 13th, so considering our luck, we were probably pushing it, but it was also a full moon – and the last time June 13 fell on both a Friday and a full moon was 1909 or something, and the next one is 2049, so an auspicious day after all.

Do I sound a tad desperate???

We have had so many hurdles, high jumps and other obstacles to negotiate, we were beginning to think we’d never float again. Anyway, everything went smoothly and we’re now anchored in Urquharts Bay – just near the bach we rented. That seems like a lifetime ago!

Sel Citron is looking like new, with new paintwork all over (topsides, decks and anti foul); new mast, standing and running rigging; new window screens, signage, solar panels (we can now run a small town with our solar bank); new forebeam, trampolines and lifelines… We’ve done a huge amount of work on the outside of the boat, which is matched on the inside: Damian has spent weeks (literally) running new cabling for new navigation instruments, engine controls and lighting. We have new electric toilets (as opposed to the pump variety we had before); new ceiling panels and – best of all – new upholstery in the saloon! I can finally throw out the horrid covers that were on the couch when we bought the boat.

In keeping with the subtle exterior, the new couch is burnt orange. I have just finished sewing all the new scatter cushions, so it’s all looking very groovy.

It’s been an incredibly frustrating time, with many, many long hours (we haven’t had a day off since Damian’s birthday back in March) and too many setbacks to count, but hopefully we’re now nearly there. We are still waiting on sails, which are ready, but the sailmakers won’t release them until they’re paid for (strangely enough) and we are waiting on the $$$ from the insurance company.

We’re now at the argy-bargey stage with the insurers – there’s already been some back and forth and now Mike, our loss adjuster whose recommendation is what is supposed to guide the insurers’ decision (they are UK-based), has gone on holidays for a month so can’t answer any of the insurance company’s questions…

Ice on the deck in May! Time we were gone...

Ice on the deck in May! Time we were gone…

We are hoping that it all gets resolved this week, and we get our sails. The plan from here is to do some sea trials and – assuming everything works – head to Fiji as soon as we can. Like I said in an earlier email, I’m not doing another Kiwi winter – and it’s already mid-June!

So please keep all fingers and toes crossed for us and hopefully we’ll be tropics-bound very soon!

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Happy Birthday to Me

Whangarei, New Zealand

By: Kerry

So…. 2012, 2013 birthdays were ‘special’ in their own way, but in 2014 my special day started in the boatyard to the sound of Toni Minitankers pulling up alongside. In the freezing cold, I held a greasy diesel hose while we filled the tanks. Other highlights of the day included shuttling buckets of bilge water as we emptied our hot water tanks ahead of replacing the pressure valves, and helping to heave our new mainsail on board. A stellar glamour day, really!!

But on the up-side, I did receive a few large parcels: a new mainsail, two new trampolines and our newly upholstered saloon sofa cushions in a slightly-more-startling-than-expected orange. They look great, very bright!!

Not quite diamond baubles*, but all steps towards getting back on the water SOON!

I was reeeeeaaally hoping my birthday would happen afloat, but alas… We were due to go in on Friday (after every other deadline has whooshed on by), but the weather has turned to poo, and we are still un-anti-fouled, so it’s now looking like Monday. (I am trying hard not to say, ‘I told you so’ since I pushed to do the anti-fouling last week in the beautiful weather, but was overruled). We are still holding out a glimmer of hope for Fiji – will have to see what adventures await once we are afloat. We’ve been out of the water for six months, so not really expecting everything to still work…. Fingers crossed!!!!

Damian took me out for a lovely dinner at Top Sail, over at the Onerahi Yacht Club – lovely meal with a glass of delicious NZ spark and a bottle of lovely NZ Syrah. So all good on the alcohol front this year!

* Baubles arrived a few days late, in the shape of a pair of beautiful earrings – aren’t I spoilt!

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The Big, Black Erection.

Whangarei, New Zealand

By: Kerry

It’s been frustrating. It’s been a steep learning curve. It’s been exhausting. We could have bought a whole new boat for the price of it. But we now have a very big, black, shiny new mast.

It’s quite different to our old mast, save that it’s also built of carbon fibre. This time around, we’ve taken steps to ensure it ain’t going to topple over again: we now have spreaders (as opposed to a free-standing spar) and newly-engineered chain plates on the coach house roof (a failed chain plate was what caused the dismasting) and it’s now black instead of white. There are numerous other modifications, and the erection process was a tad nerve-wracking (see pix) but suffice to say it’s now upright and we’re ready to rock and roll.

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Anyone for a Coming Out Party?

Whangarei, New Zealand

By: Kerry

After being dismasted 925 miles from home in the middle of the night, it’s taken five long months to fix the boat.

This week – at last – we came out of the shed and got to see our new livery in all its blinding glory.

Pretty sexy, huh?

Now all we need is a mast and sails…

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View from the Shed – Part II

Urquharts Bay, New Zealand

By: Kerry

Since we’ve been back we have been flat chat on re-building the boat. While we were away, Sel Citron went into the shed at the boatyard in Whangarei and had her topsides repainted. Oddly, people ask me what colour we chose this time around.  YELLOW of course!  It’s grown on us and now we can’t imagine anything else!  So now we’re even brighter than before.

Unfortunately, that was about all that got done while we were away and now it’s a fight and a race to get all the other repairs done, mast built and sails made etc, and get back in the water in time to sail away before winter sets in. (There is NO WAY I am spending another winter in NZ – just for the record!). We are really up against it, with a huge workload and it just seems to be one step forward, one back.

One of the biggest jobs at the moment involves repairing the decks, which were badly dinged and damaged in the dismasting. The original plan was to cut out the damaged parts and replace them with moulds taken from other sections of gel coat on the boat. To cut a long and very painful story short, that ended up not being possible. We looked at every alternative, but we’ve now resigned ourselves to having to sand all the (acres) of decks back to smooth and then paint them with a non-skid paint. It’s a huge job – weeks worth of work.

To give you an idea of the ‘one step forward, two back’ kind of progress we’ve been making, here’s a précis of a typical couple of days.…

(If it’s less painful to stick pins in your eyes than read this, skip to the *** below).

In preparing for the deck repairs, Damian spent the best part of a week trying to take off all the deck fittings – blocks, tracks, staunchions, pad-eyes, cleats, etc etc – you never realise how many they are until you start taking them off. And of course, none of them want to come off and when they do, they reveal further ‘issues’ underneath…Let’s just not even go there!

We also have to replace the solar panels, since – of course – they don’t make the old ones any more. We actually only ‘need’ to replace two of the eight, but you can’t mix different types, so we have to replace all of them. And the new ones are different sizes, which means the custom-built aluminium brackets that hold them in place on the bimini roof and cabin top have to be re-built, which means the holes in the deck where they were bolted, and the bigger holes where the old electric cables exited, have to be filled, fibreglassed, painted….

Damian spent about a day trying to get the ‘ceiling’ panels off the underside of the bimini in order to access the electrical cables for the solar panels, but couldn’t budge them (someone’s used the wrong glue to stick them on with). So the alternative was to drill yet more holes in the top of the bimini (near the ones that have to be filled from the old solar panels). He started on that, but his favourite electric drill caught fire….Eventually, he cut the holes, only to find he still couldn’t access all the cables, so he had to spend another 2 days getting the ceiling panels off, after all…

Meanwhile, the solar panels have to come in from Australia (of course!) and I spent the best part of a day trying to organise to have them airfreighted – not difficult, you’d think… but you’d be wrong!

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

***

Here she is, Glad-wrapped, mast-less, missing trampoline and in the shed…

On the up-side, we finally had our meeting with the mast builder last week. The designer FINALLY delivered the technical drawings – only 9 weeks late – so Bart the builder can now finally get started on building the mast (it was supposed to be done by now). He reckons he’ll go flat out from here, but I reckon it will be 4-6 weeks away, which is starting to cut it fine to get in the water and get away.

We can now also finally push ‘go’ on ordering sails – and hope that there aren’t any delays there!

It took two attempts to fit the new forebeam (the old one was bent and twisted in the dismasting). Here’s the second attempt, with Damian (who isn’t a fan of heights) on the forklift. OH&S would probably have had something to say about the methodology, but it got done at least!

So it’s been a bit grim, but at least we’re not living on the boat while it’s in a snow storm of sanding dust!  I found a little ‘bach’ – a kiwi beach house – in Urquharts Bay, across the river from Whangarei, It’s very simple – as a bach should be – and very cute and right on the water: as I sit here looking through the French doors, I can’t see the water’s edge as it’s so close it’s below the edge of the verandah. Check it out:

http://www.bookabach.co.nz/baches-and-holiday-homes/view/24498

And if there was any doubt as to why we wouldn’t want to be living on the boat, here’s one more reason: this is the state of the saloon…

View from the Shed-5493

It was Damian’s birthday the Sunday before last and we had a few friends over for dinner – beef wellington and orange poppyseed birthday cake with candied orange peel, a la Kerry – and had a fun night. Luckily, Cyclone Lusi had blown through the day before, rather than on his birthday – winds of 67 knots at Marsden Cove (our usual hang) and all the catamarans in the boat yard had to be tied down to enormous concrete blocks, one at each corner. But not us, since we’re ‘indoors’ .

So there’s an upside to being in the shed!

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View From the Shed – Part 1

Urquharts Bay, Whangarei, New Zealand

By: Kerry

Where did the first quarter of the year go? No moss growing on these rolling stones – though it’s quite surprising we weren’t mouldy by the time we left England!

We spent just over seven weeks in Ol’ Blighty and I think it rained on all but two days of it. West Sussex, where we spent most of our time, was flooded from a week before Christmas until we left at the end of January: it actually got worse after we left, which is hard to believe! Wherever we went we forded flooded roads and the surrounding fields were vast lakes. We did get to spend lots of time with Damian’s family, none of whom I’ve met before other than on Skype – they were all very pleased to see the prodigal son and made me feel very welcome as well.

While the weather cramped our style somewhat, we did manage to get out and about, including very special trips to see friends in Derbyshire, Devon and Bath, various exploratories around the nearby countryside, and to see a few of the sights, including having lunch at the very swank Amberley Castle, twice; climbing the Shard in London; and seeing the latest Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall.

I haven’t been to London for about 25 years, which I can hardly believe. But even though it was the middle of winter and bitterly cold, it was fantastic wandering around – the very eclectic mix of old and new architecture is fascinating and incredibly impressive. We went up the Shard – the highest building in Western Europe – which seems impossibly high, with uninterrupted views right across London – then discovered that it’s only the same height as Sydney Tower!

We did get a few moments of sunshine here and there, and here are a few happy snaps to prove it…

But this is what it was like more often…

Around about mid January, after a month of being restricted to indoors, shifting from couch to couch – not to mention suffering vitamin D deficiencies – we decided to do that most English of things: take a ‘Mini Break’. I guess we haven’t quite embraced the concept so heartily in the antipodes, since you can’t get anywhere really exotic and back and actually have a holiday in three days (not even Lord Howe!), but that is the beauty of living in Europe with cheap Easyjet flights to anywhere!

Damian gave me about 48 hours notice but didn’t tell me where we were going. Turned out to be a three-day trip to Marrakech, and after a three-hour flight we were in warm sunshine, mad markets and clashing colours – a total contrast to rainy rural England! Spent our time getting lost in the souk, marvelling at the architecture, eating tagines and couscous and getting lost in the souk again. It was great – the only bummer is that, living on a boat, I couldn’t buy a house full of cool stuff!

We flew back to Sydney for a whirlwind visit that – sadly – didn’t include much socialising. It was more about all the boring tasks you have to do annually, but squeezed into the smallest possible amount of time: tax, accountants, dentists, doctors… Damian got very ill in England and then worse in Oz, with a severe respiratory bug that saw us running around getting chest x-rays, CT scans, blood tests etc. Eventually they decided they didn’t know what it was, but that it wasn’t life-threatening, and he should just man up and get over it. Which he did by the time we got back to NZ.

PS. Click on the Images page to see our full England and Morocco photo albums.

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