Friday, March 20, 2009

We are currently in Gulf Harbour Marina. It is across the bay from Auckland and seems quite lovely. We are here because we are meeting a couple of cruising buddies tomorrow. They have sold their boat and wanted to send their EPIRB home to sell so asked us to take it to family in Seattle. We agreed but now it ends up they will be there for a wedding before us so they want it back and it is in our car in Whangarei so we had to engineer a get together so we can give them a car key and they can drive up and get their EPIRB, complications, complications!!
Did I tell you that we met friends from Yellowknife the other day?? I can’t remember if I mentioned it but we knew they were in area, we had been e-mailing back and forth. They were vacationing on the South Island mostly. I had just read all my e-mail after 3 weeks away and there was a couple from them asking where we were and could we get together. Well, I went grocery shopping and lo and behold there they were in the store in Warkworth. It was virtually unbelievable, that we would both be there at the same time. They were just passing through on their way to a cottage for a few days and just think of the odds of us meeting.
Anyway, they came on board, we took they for a lovely sail around Kawau Island and spent a pleasant evening together at anchor. It was great to catch up with them and Barry got his fix of NWT office politics. The next day we headed over to a small set of islands and went exploring ashore there. The anchorage was great and Barry even tried fishing this morning. We headed over to the marina after figuring out how to get a hold of these buddies on the Sat phone. I must have tried every combination of numbers. You have to leave a number out if it is a cell phone, it is quite bizarre and frustrating.
Unfortunately, there will be no more pics for awhile. I have managed to destroy another camera. I can’t believe I keep doing this. This one happened to be in my pocket when I went in the water to rescue one of my fake Crocs after the dinghy flipped over in the wind and the shoe blew out. It is true, every word!! I, of course, forgot about the camera and just waded in and swam after the shoe which was heading for the mainland, (this took place on Arid Island). I have the $8.00 shoe and wrecked the $400.00 camera, good one Ann. You would have really enjoyed the pictures of the penguins swimming around in the Hauraki Gulf as well as the very small hammerhead shark I saw today. Also there are very huge boats in the yard here, I am talking at least 70 foot sailboats up on the hard, huge, even humungous. Anyway every time we see something exciting Barry says, “We should take a picture.” and I fell bad all over again about going swimming with a camera in my pocket. Until next time.......

Monday, March 16, 2009

Arid Island Yacht Club

Greetings from two of the newest members of the Arid Island Yacht Club. Arid Island is located east of Great Barrier Island which is about 40nm northeast of Auckland, NZ. We had been cruising around Great Barrier Island for about 2 weeks when we decided to visit Arid Island. The cruising guide indicated the anchorage on the island would hold about a dozen boats. It was early March 2009, equivalent to our September, the kids are back in school, the weather is cooling off, we figured the place would be deserted. We had a gorgeous sail over to the island. Our new genoa was pulling the boat along at 7 knots with wind on the quarter, a super sail. As we got closer to the island we could see a number of masts in the anchorage and were quite surprised.
Upon our arrival we discovered that all the boat were flying the same burgee and I wondered if a group from Auckland had raced out there. At sunset there were 11 boats crammed into a well protected little anchorage, I didn’t notice any other women!. The next morning a lone sailor rowed his dinghy over. He had on a set of horns and invited us ashore to take part in the AGM of the Arid Island Yacht Club. He said the only criteria for joining were that we had arrived under our own power and that we were invited by the Commodore, which he was.
As we rowed into shore I noticed that the cast of characters were all male and that they all had on white shirts and blue shorts. The meeting was called to order, the first point of order was that the picture of a bull, that was beside the commodore, was hung incorrectly, it was right side up, the correct way, we were informed was upside down! Once having corrected that fault the reason was explained to us.
Arid Island was purchased after WWII by a pilot. He could afford to buy the island because the cattle that had been left on the island before the war had been left to fend for themselves. When the fellow bought the island, he got the cattle for free, so he shipped them to market and he made enough to come up with the purchase price for the island. The owner would invite all his cronies to sail out to the island at Christmas time and they would indulge in some story telling and would hoist a few beers. At first the men would bring their wives but the wives complained about the fact that this was just another excuse to get together and drink beer, so the men changed the date of the get together to the first Monday in March, when all the kids were in school and the wives were no longer welcome.
Well one day the owner, who was making a go at farming on the island needed a substantial part for his tractor. He had to contact Auckland to get it, once it was available he got a hold of one of his sailing buddies who was a pilot, as well, and asked if he would fly the part over to the island. The planes they flew were Widgeons, an aircraft that is capable of landing and taking off from the water. The plan was for the guys to land in the anchorage, off load the part, have a few beers and the next day be on their way. The wind picked up and they were not able to land, but the fellow really needed the part so they decided to shove it out the door on a fly by. They managed to get the part out the door onto land and flew back to Auckland. The next day they received a telegram from the owner of the island; “Part arrived safely, bull dead.” When they had shoved the part out the door it had hit the owner’s bull on the head and killed him, thus the picture of the upside down bull.
I looked more closely at the AIYC shirts. The logo, which I had assumed was an outline of the island, was actually a bull with his four legs in the air. There was a lot more bull flying about that day! We had a reading of the former poet laureate’s rendition of an ode about a farting competition. The new members of the club were made to grovel in the sand for several meters and then crawl up a sheep ramp to be hammered on the shoulder with a 1 meter plastic hammer,
along with the command to rise. We were welcomed into the club and given a jar full of bull semen (cream and whiskey) to swallow. I had given my camera to another member to have a pictoral memory of my grovel. He had taken a marvelous picture of me belly down in the sand as well as one of my ass high in the air as I knelt before the commodore awaiting the gentle touch of the hammer. At the AGM the dues were voted to be suspended for this year as it was the 25th anniversary of the founding of the club. (Someone whispered in my ear later that in former years the dues were sometime doubled or tripled and the motion was always voted in because no one ever collected the dues.) There was also a report from the club architect that the 49th floor of the club building was still under construction and as the yacht club rooms were going to be on that floor the meeting the next year was going to have to take place at Arid Island once again.
This being the 25th anniversary of the founding of the AIYC, they had commissioned medals. We purchased our medals as well as a club shirt and we were given a club burgee in honor of the fact that we were the first offshore members to join the club. We had a wonderful time and attended the dinner held on Tuesday evening at the Port Fitzroy Boating Club on Great Barrier Island.
What a strange coincidence, us sailing into the harbour on the only weekend of the year that the club meets in that location. It was super meeting some real Kiwi sailors, one fellow had completed 5 Sydney/Hobart races, and another was a boat designer whose son runs his boatyard now. We are going to check out the yard and may leave our boat there while we are home in Canada. We are invited to the former commodore’s home in Auckland as he is dreaming of cruising and would like to pick our brains. I am continually amazed at the wonderful people we are meeting in our travels and I think that they will be what I will always remember.

Blog written about 2 weeks ago. We are now in Sandspit awaiting John and Gail Borkovic from Yellowknife who are going to join us. We knew they were in the area and yesterday when I was grocery shopping, there they were in the store, unbelivable.

We are cruising around Great Barrier Island, which is located about 40 miles east north east of Auckland. We left the dock last Wednesday and we have been out here ever since. The weather has been a mixed bag; it is getting to be fall here so out of the 9 days we have been here we have had 4 of beautiful weather and 5 of hiding out waiting for gales to pass and enduring the gales. The anchorages are very good and there are lots, we also have a good cruising guide which lets us know which anchorages to go and hide in when the wind is from a certain direction. After 2 days of being stuck below, listening to the wind howl and the rain beating on the deck we are ready for some sunshine.
I went hiking up to a kauri (a huge native NZ tree) damn; they have excellent tramping (as they call it here) trails throughout the island. The damn was about a 2 hour walk to it and then about 1 and ½ back. There was also a path to the top of a mountain but I did not want to go on a 5 hour hike or longer by myself. I also went for a swim the other day, my first since arriving here. I was in the water for over a ½ hour and had my wet suit on, I imagine I would have been fine without it, maybe will try that later.
There was also this terrific spot at Smokehouse Bay. There is a smokehouse there but even better there is a bath house!! Do you know I did not have a bath in 2008, not ONE. The bath house has a wonderful old bathtub in it available for all cruisers to use. You have to light the fire and then wait about 2 hours while you heat the water and then you get to luxuriate in the wonderful fresh hot water. Wow, what a treat, made all the better by chopping the wood and feeding the fire to heat up the water. There are also facilities to wash your clothes, basins with a wringer in them and clotheslines.
We are going to wash our clothes tomorrow I think. The land was bought and then donated for the use of boaters and when the facilities were ruined in a mud slide a few years ago, the boating community rallied and rebuilt the area. There are picnic tables and a BBQ, it is the most unique, useful thing that I have ever come across, what a wonderful surprise. I may have another bath before we leave the area.
We are planning on going to the town on the island, Port Fitzroy, this afternoon. Maybe I will be able to post this and then we are going to have a meal and a few beers at the Port Fitzroy Boating Club. We are planning on circumnavigating the island starting on Monday. The wind is switching around to the west for a few days and this should be a good time to head to the other side. We will probably cruise to the Hauraki Gulf after that but not too sure when yet. Hope all is well with everyone in Canada.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

We had a great time cruising Great Barrier Island. I have 2 great blogs written but they are back on the boat. The boat is anchored in Kawau Island and I am in Warkworth. I came over in a water taxi to do a bit of shopping and check our e-mail. I slept in this morning and only just made the taxi forgetting the stick with the pictures and blogs on it. There was no internet access on Great Barrier that I could find. Highlights of the visit was Smokehouse Bay, a spot that the cruising community had built. It had basins for doing your laundry, with wringers attached and a ready water supply, as well as clotheslines. The best part was the bathhouse. You had to chop wood, lit a fire, hang about for about 2 hours chopping and feeding the fire and then you had enough hot water to have a bath. We were in the area long enough to do our laundry and I managed to have 2 baths, 2 more than I had in the whole of 2008!!! I was in heaven.
The Kiwis have a wonderful system of walks all over the place. I tramped all over the island up to a Kauri dam and to the top of a few ridges where you could gaze for miles. We ran into a bunch of crazy sailing Kiwis when we went to visit Arid Island and ended up being inducted into the Arid Island Yacht Club. I have a whole blog about that but just to tease you a little there symbol is an upside down bull, the commodore wears horns to the meetings and you have to grovel in order to become a member of the club.
It is getting into their fall season and so far we figured out that it means the weather is changable. You get 3 or 4 days of lovely sunny weather and then it blows up a gale and we would have to take the boat into a protected cove and hunker down for a couple of days. Fortunately Great Barrier had a number of good anchorages so although we spent about a third of the time there waiting out big winds we were always in a different spot.
Kawau Island is in the Hauraki Gulf and we plan to spend some time here, exploring the islands in the gulf. One of the Arid Island bunch invited us to visit when we get to Auckland so we may well do that and try and see a little more of that city. Hopefully I will get near a computer some time soon and will be able to upload those lovely blogs I wrote and some of the pictures. We are really enjoying being out cruising again. I've had some nightmares about going back to work, hadn't realized I was worried about it. Our time on the water seems to be very short, we will be pulled out in less than a month and then we have to return to our old life, HMMMMM!!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Hello to all, Trish here.
Just received a message from Ann. They asked me to post a quick blog to let you know that all is well. They are currently cruising Great Barrier Island and to date the weather has been fairly mixed with the good, the bad and the ugly (there has been the odd gale). But overall sounds like decent weather and I am sure they are happy to be out cruising once again.