Merry Christmas!

 

kiwi-christmas-7630

Pohutakawa – Kiwi ‘Christmas Tree’

Wishing all our friends and family around the world a very Merry (Kiwi) Christmas and a happy, healthy, fabulous New Year!

It’s Saturday morning and we have finally finished the repairs we needed to do after the passage from Vanuatu: the sheave box is re-installed and we’re set to go sailing. It’s been hard yakka, Damian spending a lot of very uncomfortable time at the bottom of the anchor locker, and finally finishing late last night. Given our late finish, we’re going to be in the Bay of Islands for Christmas Day, hoping to be somewhere that looks something like this:

kiwi-christmas-7627

(Look carefully and you can see Sel Citron in the bay – I took this photo a couple of summers ago).

We’re looking forward to doing a bit of this for the next little while:

kiwi-christmas-7634

Plans, as ever, are loose, but we’re basically going to be cruising around the North Island: Great Barrier Island, Bay of Islands and places in between. Looking forward to catching up with some cruising friends and visitors are welcome!

Also hope to get back to Oz at some stage over the summer, so hope to see many of you soon.

Lots of Lemony Christmas hugs from us.
Kerry and Damian

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

Advertisements

Welcome to Inzud…

FROM THIS:
Leaving Aneityum in our wake…

new-zealand-07613TO THIS…
Landfall in New Zealand, Bay of Islands

new-zealand-07676

G’day from slightly soggy Inzud!

In my last note, we were leaving Port Vila, headed for Aneityum as a staging post to head to NZ. By the time we got there, there was a Tropical Low (the possible genesis of a cyclone) starting to spin up in the Coral Sea. We could have left and tried to outrun it, but last time we did that, we got smacked (en route to Tonga in 2013). So we elected to stay put and let it blow through.

We spent a relaxing week with our buddy-boating mates on Kiapa: snorkelling, walking and swimming…and generally making the most of our last days in the tropics. Continue reading

Palm Trees Out the Porthole at Last

Port Vila, Vanuatu

aneityum-drone-shot

Ahoy from Port Vila, Vanuatu!

If you managed to follow us on yit.nz, you’d have read that – by and large – we had a pretty good passage from NZ, considering it was the middle of winter and weather windows at this time of year are more like louvres than bifold doors! The wind didn’t shift aft of the beam the whole trip, so it was mostly beating to windward in 20-25 knots or motoring, but the seas weren’t too big which made it bearable.

We arrived in Aneityum, the southernmost island of Vanuatu, on July 9, feeling pretty weary since it was just the two of us on the trip. We were greeted by our friends on Field Trip, with fresh island bread, pawpaw and coconut, and more palm trees than you can poke a stick at! It’s a very pretty village and anchorage and the local ni-Vanuatu people are really friendly. The Field Trips had already been there three weeks, and had been adopted by the village – their son Michael was even attending the local school!

It’s incredibly remote (no internet, hence not posting our arrival) yet, bizarrely, it’s more ‘connected’ than most places in Vanuatu, thanks to the idyllic little island across the lagoon referred to as ‘Mystery Island’ (see above photo, thanks to Mark on Field Trip and his drone). It’s the most-visited place in Vanuatu: 180 cruise ships a year stop by and offload their hordes for a day at the beach. While we were there, two arrived, a day apart.

Since we’re so far behind ‘schedule’ (such as we have one), we didn’t stay that long, and headed north via Tanna and Erromango Islands and arrived in Port Vila the day before yesterday. We had a great couple of days sailing on the way up – finally! – and Damian caught a cracker of a Spanish mackerel, which has been feeding us (and friends) for the past four or five days.

Erromango was an interesting stop. We met Chief Jason and his son, Junior, who took us to see a cave full of human bones. Erromango is legendary for its historical hospitality customs, as in ‘Come for dinner!’…. where the guest is on the menu. The caves had a lot of bones scattered around in varying states of decomposition, including a number of skulls, all with perfect teeth (obviously from before the white man’s sugary diet was introduced!) and a corroded belt buckle that had presumably once belonged to a tasty European. Fortunately for us, that tradition hasn’t survived and the locals are now well fed and friendly!

We’ll stay in Port Vila for a few days – we’ve got a few jobs to do, and it’s likely to be our only opportunity for reasonable internet for the foreseeable future. We’ll then start to make our way north and hope to catch some of the marvelous festivals that Vanuatu hosts each year.

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

Vanuatu Bound

It’s been a long time between blog posts (I haven’t even looked at it myself in months) and scant communications generally from this end – sorry about that. Truth to tell, with a few notable exceptions (see below), it’s been a fairly disappointing first half to the year and I haven’t felt like sharing the pain. Well, ‘disappointing’ would be something of an understatement, actually…

It took Damian, working with York the electronics guru, from early December when we arrived, until early March to sort out and repair our electrical fry up: all 14 circuit boards, and their daughter boards and sister boards and basically their whole extended family had to be re-built, during which time, the boat was totally pulled apart. An expensive and frustrating exercise. Meanwhile, we were tied to the dock in Fairway Bay, unable to venture anywhere, which put paid to our summer season of exploring the waterways of NZ. On the positive side, Damian is now a reasonably competent electronics engineer…

The first ‘notable exception’ to the grief was in early February, celebrating our friend Lionel’s 60th birthday party, followed by seven of us hiking the Waikaremoana Great Walk (one of NZ’s nine Great Walks) – I’ll post a separate story on this on the blog, but here are some piccies.

It was sensational: a five day walk essentially circumnavigating the lake, passing through beech forests and silver fern groves shimmering with mist, staying in the Department of Conservation huts along the way. The huts were fairly basic and you got to sleep reeeeally close to a bunch of complete strangers (nose to nose) but we organised for water taxis to deliver our packs to us each evening for the first three days, which happily meant we could drink wine every night. The only way to ‘tramp’, really!

Back on Sel Citron, the electrical work finally concluded and we decided to jump in the car for a much-needed break from boat sh*te. We drove down to Wellington for a couple of days, visiting the breathtaking Gallipoli exhibition, where Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) and his wizards have installed eight, 4x life-size figures, each telling a different Gallipoli story. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a trip to Wellington just for that.

We took the car ferry across to the South Island and spent a couple of weeks exploring around the top end of it. We walked the full length of the Abel Tasman Great Walk, which I’ve wanted to do for years, and would have done the Heaphy Track as well, but we bumped into Easter and all the huts were booked.

We were on a walking binge, so we also did a day of the Queen Charlotte Track, and a couple of walks around Nelson Lakes, including (not quite intentionally) a 35km day hike around the lake, backed up with five hours straight up a mountain the next day.

In the midst of all this, our car broke down (it wouldn’t be a Lemons adventure without something breaking down!) and we had to borrow a car from the mechanic: a beaten up old banger with no matching panels but a spoiler on the back. So we toured Inzud looking like Starsky and Hutch for a week, putting over 1000km on the unsuspecting mechanic’s jalopy. Meanwhile we were in Golden Bay for the worst floods in living memory (of course – we were cut off from the rest of the country for a day), and the garage where we’d left our car (on the other side of the mountain) was the worst hit area of all. When we arrived to pick it up, it was high and dry (luckily) but surrounded by sodden wrecks…

While we were in  Golden Bay, we did a day trip out to spectacular Wharariki Beach…

 

Anyway, we had a lovely time. Back on board, we headed up to Whangarei to haul out, ahead of a bottom paint and some scheduled warranty work. That all went as OK as yard work ever does. It was when we went back in the water that the fun really began…And guess what? Bart the mast builder was involved! I can’t even bring myself to write about it yet, it was just too much agony, but suffice to say, I hereby bequeath the word ‘Bart’ to the world as a new four-letter word. Please feel free to use it in whatever expletive form it works.

I’ll write more while we’re at sea, but right now I’ll have to keep you in suspense as I have to run: we have FINALLY (only six weeks later than intended) weighed anchor and we’re heading out to sea, bound for Vanuatu. Usual story: should take us about 6-7 days. Bruce the weather guru is predicting a less than lovely trip – a lot of strong head winds, which will be pretty unpleasant, but that’s what happens in the middle of winter.

Hopefully next time you hear from us we’ll be somewhere warm with palm trees out the porthole.

 

Happy New Year!

Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

By: Kerry

We are anchored in Man o’ War Bay, Waiheke Island, in the Hauraki Gulf. It’s calm, sunny and very, very beautiful. We were here for NYE and – much to our surprise and delight – there were no dragged anchors, drunken fools, or badly behaved yobs, despite the wind swinging 180 degrees soon after midnight, with the potential to cause complete chaos. In fact, we were the last boat to bed at around 2.30. We had friends on board for drinks and a BBQ and a bevvie or three. A really fun evening.

And we shaped up well enough to do a hike today to Stoney Batter on the NE tip of the island – stunning scenery and the Pohutakawa trees are all covered in crimson flowers!

Christmas 2014-1603Plans from here are… vague. We’ll hang around here a few more days – the sun is shining (though the water’s too chilly for my liking!) and the fish are biting.

Christmas 2014-7590In case you were wondering, we managed to hook a couple more snapper on Christmas morning, just in time for five of us to have one each for lunch! Yummo.

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

Winter in Whangarei

Marsden Cove Marina, New Zealand

By: Kerry

Another wonderful windy winter’s day in Whangarei… 60knots is officially a hurricane. It’s been gusting over 70 knots for the past 24 hours and we’re not done yet…

SY Sel Citron~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

What a Difference

August 29, 2013

Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga

By: Kerry

Ngau Island

Amazing what a difference some decent weather makes! Since the last update from the Ha’apais, we haven’t seen anything like the relentless 30 knot winds (those euphemistically named ‘enhanced trades’). It’s been positively benign, with plenty of sunshine and protected anchorages that have greatly increased the ratio of decent nights’ sleeps!

It really is GORGEOUS here. It’s very different to the Ha’apais, which are mostly coral atolls and therefore don’t offer much protection from wind or waves. Here, it’s a tight group of more substantial islands – kind of like Pittwater in the Tropics in Technicolor. Everything’s close together, it can be blowing like stink but there’s always a sheltered little bay to escape it. We have to keep pinching ourselves at the sheer beauty of it:  we’ve dropped anchor in two or three metres depth and floated suspended in colour that ranges from luminous turquoise to deepest cobalt and it’s so clear we can see starfish on the bottom in 20 metres.

Many of the limestone islands that are strewn across this dazzling blue have been eroded by the sea into mushroom shapes and other weird rocky outcrops. Almost all are thick with coconut palms and virulent green forest and creepers and the fringing beaches are glaringly white. Unlike most ‘tropical paradises’ these days, there is very little development – most islands are deserted or have small villages; there are no large resorts and the few small resorts are very low key.

We’ve been doing lots of exploring: there are dozens and dozens of perfect, deserted beaches that are better than any brochure; there is great snorkelling with beautiful corals and myriad madly-coloured fish (yesterday we were ‘herding’ a school of several hundred tiny, iridescent blue chromis fish through the water) and walks through forests of coconut palms (Damian is getting pretty good with a machete: Cut down coconut. Chop top off coconut. Fill with rum…).

We still haven’t swum with whales, though we’ve seen plenty – a couple of days ago we were anchored and a mother, calf and escort came within a few hundred metres of us, showing us their tails. Even better, we have been woken up at night on a few occasions by them singing! It’s the most eery sound and reverberates through the hull of the boat.

Rock gift-wrapped in anchor chain

Rock gift-wrapped in anchor chain

And we’re feeling so much more confident (cautiously confident, I should say,) with maneuvering the boat – particularly anchoring, after our debacles in the Ha’apais. Having said that, our anchor chain did manage to crochet itself around a rock the other day. This time, we hauled the rock to the surface – it must have weighed about 60-70 kg – and it came up looking like it was gift-wrapped in chain. Damian managed to break it up with a bit of help from a crow bar and chisel (yes, we had both on board…).

We’re even getting more confident at negotiating some of the er, ‘interesting’ passes through the reefs: particularly interesting when the marker buoys have totally disappeared, the waypoints in the cruising guide are inaccurate, the channel is only a couple of metres wider than the boat and the charts have us going over green bits (i.e. ‘land’). One of us stands on the bow keeping a lookout while the other is steering and watching the chart plotter. The interesting bit starts when all of a sudden there are reefs where they’re not supposed to be and no reefs where the chart says there should be…

There’s a pass that has to be negotiated to get out to the Eastern islands, which we had some fun with last week. Usual story: markers have vanished and charts are off by an indeterminate distance. We’d come through the same pass (which does a double dog leg around barely submerged reefs) a few days previously, but it was at high tide. Coming back, at low tide, we tried to follow our same track in reverse (following the chart plotter). Damian was driving and following the track. I was on the bow eyeballing the actual route. It got interesting when I said, ‘turn right’ and D said ‘no, that’s not on our track’. I said, “TURN RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!”  as I could see barely-submerged coral just ahead of us. There was some short, colourful negotiation, but eventually (just in time) he turned right…

The fishing, unfortunately, has been pretty disappointing. Damian has caught a couple of skipjack tuna, but after eating one, we’ve tossed the others back – fussy, perhaps, but they really weren’t nice… This past week, we’ve had friends from Sydney – Pete and Gwyn – on board, which has been fantastic. Damian and Pete got into the fishing, with the result that they caught a dog-tooth tuna as we came through a pass in the dinghy. I should say that ‘caught’ is a relative term: poor fish was jagged through his side, and had been dragged sideways over the rocks so he came up all scuffed and was dead (presumed drowned) within minutes of landing in the boat. Nevertheless, he was delicious!

We caught him just as we were returning from Mariner’s Cave, a partly underwater cave accessible by diving down (with snorkel and mask) about three metres, swimming through a hole in the rock face and coming up inside the cave. Once inside, the exit to the outside is framed by black rock in the shape of a heart, while the water is the sort of vivid refracted blue that you see in the Blue Grotto in Capri. And when the swell comes in, it compresses and condenses the air in the cave so that it forms a mist with each wave – it’s like the ocean is breathing!

On the downside, the ripples of the GFC are still being keenly felt here – the economy is in shambles and the ‘town’ of Neiafu is very run down. But the people we’ve met have been upbeat, friendly and welcoming. The yachtie community is very strong and tight knit, which is fantastic. Each morning on the VHF radio there is a ‘cruisers’ information net’, hosted by local businesses who volunteer their time. It starts off with any calls for emergencies – more on that later – and covers the weather, then moves on to ‘buy, sell or give away’, where anyone can ask or offer just about anything, from spare parts to spear guns, yoga mats (we donated one of ours to someone who needed one) to empty glass jars for a local man who’s starting up a honey business. Improvisation is the name of the game here: so many things that you take for granted back home are impossible to acquire here – even the simplest of spare parts – so everyone bands together to help each other out.

MV Dorothea hauling stranded yacht, Paje off the reef

MV Dorothea hauling stranded yacht, Paje off the reef

A few weeks ago, a Canadian boat went up on a reef (we’re still not sure why – they went up at 04:30 in the pitch dark, when everyone knows that the first rule of sailing among the islands is ONLY do it in daylight). The call for help went out over the cruisers’ net. Over the next three days, so many people volunteered their time, equipment and labour to get the boat off – it was amazing to see. Luckily, there was a super yacht in town which was able to pull it off without too much damage – if they hadn’t volunteered to help, the Canadian yacht would undoubtedly still be high and dry.

Enough already! Suffice to say, we’re having a great time, feeling a whole lot more relaxed and feeling – finally – like we’re doing what we set out to do.

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

PS: Click on Images in the menu bar to see our photo album of Vava’u.

We’re Off!

May 28, 2013

Marsden Cove, NZ

Only a year later than expected, we are finally sailing out today, headed for Tonga. Down to the wire – our NZ ‘visa’ for the boat expires tomorrow, but we’ve had a few more challenges, and only just got them (well, most of them), resolved in the last day or so, plus we had to coordinate with a good weather window. The stars are finally all aligned (we hope) and we’re off.

Definitely time to go – there was ice on the dock this morning and the weather the last few days has been VILE, but it’s sunny today and we should get a good run. Not sure when we’ll get in to Nuku’Alofa, but probably around the 5th of June. Don’t panic if you don’t hear from us, though – we may stop off in Minerva Reefs for a few days if the weather is good. I’ll send an email when we get in and get connected to internet.

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~

A Fair Wind, a Fine Day and New Sails!

August 10, 2012.

Bream Bay, NZ

By: Kerry

At last. Our new (repaired) mainsail arrived, along with the sunshine, which has been largely absent lately. We headed out into Bream Bay, and set sail for the first time since we’ve owned the boat. Woo hoo!

And don’t those sails look sexy???

(Click on the images to expand to a slide show).

The main and jib are carbon membrane, while the gennaker (the big headsail, a cross between a genoa and a spinnaker, aka a screecher) is made of Spectra, which is lighter and more suitable for a light-wind sail. The black edge is a sacrificial canvas strip to protect the sails from UV when they’re furled on the roller furling head stay and halyard.

So exciting to finally get out on the water!

~~~ ><(((°>  ><(((°> ><(((°> ~~~