Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Kiwi Christmas

Christmas eve, I was invited by Nigel to have dinner with his family at Parua Bay. On the way, I was stopped by police who were checking on DUI's. Fortunately, this was on the way to the party, not coming back !
Nigel lives in a house with a fantastic view over Parua Bay and the sunset. The house itself is an old house, very well renovated, which used to be the post office. Nigel explained to me that at the time, there were no cars and people would come by boat to the post office, which is why it is by the water side.
Dinner was polish, prepared by Nigel mother in law Adela. I don't remember exactly all the courses, but I remember that it started with a very nice herring, there was a beetroot soup, there was some fried fish and a cake made with seeds and from a recipe from Lithuania.
Nigel's brother, brother in law, mother and family were there and it was a very pleasant dinner and conversation.
As I was about to return to the marina, I realized that I had forgotten the key that opens not only the restrooms but also the gate to the pontoon where my boat is. Nigel's house being full, the only reasonable alternative was to go ahead and find a way around the gate. In fact, it was easy. The visitor's pontoon is not locked and there were several dinghies there. I borrowed one to get to my pontoon which was like less than 10 feet away.
On Christmas day, we had Benjamin, Karin and Rex for dinner and I had prepared a bunch of pancakes to have with ham and cheese or with sausages, and also for dessert with strawberries jam or just sugar. I always enjoy evenings with other boaters.
Boxing day turned out to be a quiet day during which Guillaume gave me a hand to wash the outside of the boat. There is a road on the other side of the river and after a while dust from that road accumulates on deck and the boats need to be washed regularly.
Today, since it was boxing day in the US, I called my fellow brothers of the coast while they were having their traditional Boxing Day party. I miss it very much and I know it is always a lot of fun. It would take too long to explain.
I also went back on my bike. I took it especially easy as I am still worried about my knee, so I avoided the hills and did one hour on the flat and at idle speed. I seems OK and I will try and ride a little bit everyday. I need it to regain some kind of shape.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A short week not so busy !

Well, still no bicycling ! But I am conviced that all it requires is patience. Today the pain has practically gone away, except when I have to walk down the steep ramp leading to the pontoon with all my weight (which had gone heavier in the last six months) bearing on the knees. But a few more days and I should be OK. Anyway, while I am reduced to walking and spending more time on the boat, it gives me time to progress for all those small projects that add up anyway. Varnishing on the outside is done, the bunk behind the chart table is almost done. I only have to put back the lighting and hide the fill pipe for the water tank. There is not much overhead space and whoever will use that bunk can forget about bending his or her knees while there. But, on the other hand, I think that in terms of movements and dryness, it will be a very good bunk.
The whole system of controling gaz leaks and shutting down the Propane bottle throught the solenoid has been fixed. Actually, I replaced the control unit and the wires which turned out to be badly corroded in a place totally inaccessible. Works well now. I replaced on my computer the DVD player which had given up.
The control box in the cockpit for the Navico autopilot could not be replaced as it is impossible to find spares. But the electro
nicians here did a very fine job. It turned out that the LED not only had become d
efective, but also there was a faulty connection which might explain why the pilot would from time to time quit. I will see once at sea, but one thing for sure, the unit has to be protected from water.
The only two items left for the electronicians are the AIS receiver which quits with no obviou
s reasons, and the SSB that I want to be working well and reliably for the trip around South African. This will be done either between Cristmans and New Year, or during the first half of January.
The pontoon has been deserted by its usual occupants. Bertrand, on Rackham, has gone back to France until early February. Very kindly, he has offered to let me use the car that he purchased here (a Toyota Camry in good shape) which will be a very great help for shopping but also touring. Dider and Chantal Beauchene on Sea Lance have welcome children and grand children and have left for Auckland and probably some cruising in the islands. Cat Mousses has gone to the other side of the river, before leaving for a local cruise. And Christian, on Cosinus, has left some time ago al
ready and would probably come back late January.
So, I am expecting to spend a quiet Christmas here, which suits me well. It also gives me time to call family and friends on the phone, although for the last two days the internet connection has become very unreliable.
I have not decided yet whether I will go to Barrier Island for the New Year's Eve. I will play it by ear

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Quiet week

The whole week I have been hoping for this damn knee to heal and at first it looked like it was not going to happen. But since yesterday Thursday I began to notice some decrease in the pain and I feel more comfortable in the evening that I used to. Hopefully this will be behind my come next week.
I have now done 7 coats of varnish and serviced three winches (the ones in the cockpit). I will do the remaining three winches tomorrow and hopefully by the end of the week-end will be done with the 10 coats of varnish. I will then be able to concentrate on the electronic projects (autopilot, solenoid, AIS, SSB and the DVD drive on the computer). Also, now that the bunk on the watertank is almost done, we can move forward, redo the lee cloth in the main cabin and finish with the leaks in the V-Berth. If time allows, I also want to redo the chain locker, first of all the partition between port and starboard. But also, I would like to have a floor above sea level built and evacuate the water directly to the sea through the hull rather than in the bilges.
Yesterday was Guillaume's birthday which we celebrated on Sea Lance with a chocolate cake. But this time, I tried to be careful with drinks and restricted myself to one glass of wine.
It's a little bit scary to think that it is already December 18th, with still so much to do. I know that the rigging will be done while on the dry, but there are still other things to fix before then.
The weather has now changed drastically into summer. It's nice and warm during the day but still cool during the night for a good sleep.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Time out

After a good week-end and another wonderful evening aboard Papy Jovial, I am taking time off today. It's raining, my right knee is hurting like hell and I don't feel like doing much. I will make an exception for my spanish lesson.
Saturday was also a wet day
and it gave me a chance to sort out the mess that had accumulated on top of the water tank on the port side, which is going to be converted into a quarter berth for navigation in heavy seas.
We will be four for the trip Whangarei-Sydney. Anne from Montreal, Philipppe from Noumea, Debbie from Nova Scotia and myself. If the weather cooperates, the V-Berth will be available, probably for Anne who is coming for the long haul and will need more space for her belongings than Philippe and Debbie who are joining in principle only up to Sydney. But if we have to go into the weather with rough seas, then the V-Berth can only be used for storage and I need t
hree bunks in the main cabin. I think this quarter berth on top of the water tank will probably the most comfortable bunk of all.
Sunday was a very nice and sunny day, although not hot at all. I was able to put in a nice ride around the airport but I probably put in a little more efforts into the climbs and I hurt my right knee. I will have to rest for a few days to prevent it from getting worse. On the other hand, I don't have that much riding time ahead of me. Mid January I am going to play tourist for 10 days, and after that we will be leaving. So basically, only four weeks left. I wish I can at least get back to doing 60 miles ride.
Monday was a little wet, so I jumped at the opportunity to give the varnishing a rest. Instead, I worked inside on few small projects. I had invited for dinner Didier and Chantal from Sea Lance and Bertrand from Rackham. So the trip to the super market and the prepar
ation took most of the afternoon.
As we had started with cocktails, Thomas from Ilo showed up, wanting to talk to Didier. He was with Malika and Louisiane, two young ladies from France who are on a 1 year working visa to visit New Zealand. We asked them to join us, Michel having declined the invitation to catch up with sleep. Bertrand brought in some salad, I prepared a big fillet of salmon with rice and Chantal had made a huge bowl of chocolate mousse. Obviously, all that needed some liquid, both white and red to go down smoothly. The conversation was lively and entertaining and went on way into the night. Which is why I need to take time out today...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Satisfied at last

Last night, evening aboard Rackham, with Guillaume and Bertrand. Rackham is a huge cat having something in common with me, since the shark used for the log of Jovial Tiburon and then Papy Jovial is the same one that the one on "Le tresor de la Licorne", "la Licorne" being the wreck of the boat of Rackham Le Rouge (Rackham the red). After dinner Didier joined us and told us about his adventures in the antartic aboard Pen Duick VI. More than 65 knots of wind for 5 days on close haul, not my kind of sailing. That story did not make me want to go there.
Today was a good day. I got up at seven, with enough energy to get on with the program of the day. It starts with breakfast with Guillaume. Then I did my mail, took a shower and took my bike and rode to the airport and back. I found that apart from the road that goes around the airport there is another one at sea level. Next time I will go around twice, one on top and once at the bottom. That adds as well a little bit of climbing which will do me good.
Then, back on the boat, I did my spanish lesson which today was much longer than usual and I made to many mistakes. I will have to do it again tomorrow.
After that, I went to the supermarket do the shopping for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow. As I went back, Gary was there to provide me with details on the meetings of Christmas and New Year at Barrier Island. Unfortunately, it appears that there won't be many brothers for the Christmas one and Guillaume can't be with me for the New Year. I am not sure I want to go solo but I will see what happens.
After that, I had a quick lunch with Cheshire Cheese and Branston Pickles, reminding me of the 70s when I use to eat that stuff all the time.
After a quick nap, Debbie arrived with a charming friend to look at the boat and get answers to a few more questions. They did not stay long as they were on their way to Opua and Bay of Islands.
There was no delaying it any more, I had to get on with the fourth coat of varnish. Fortunately for me, Guillaume was coming back from work and gave me a hand to do it quickly.
Tonight, dinner aboard Sea Lance, which means that my alcohol free week will have to wait a little more.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I am disappointing myself big time. On Tuesday, woke up at 5, then thought "well, let's wait for the alarm to go off at 6:30". At 6:30, the alarm goes off. I think, "well, it's early, let's wait for 7:00". Finally, a little after 7 got up. Made breakfast. Messed around a little on the computer, answered and sent email. Then did my spanish lesson on Rosetta Stone. Then, time was saying almost 11:00. At that point, knew I had to get on my bike which I did. I went this time for a little climbing and a little more distance than on Sunday. Came back to the boat at 11:00 and thought that it was too late to start the varnish. Went for lunch. Came back and felt that it was time for a nap. Tried to nap but fortunately I had that day more visitors than I have had in the first two weeks and I had to give up the nap. Then Guillaume came and there was no more procastinating and I went on with sanding the wood for the varnish.
I can't believe that I am that lazy ! Next day, almost same story except that I did not have to do a bike ride (I have planned one every other day). But I did not do my spanish lesson and did nothing on the blog. Then, since I had invited Bertrand for dinner, it was time to go to the market and get something for the dinner. For the whole day, all I can claim is to have completed the sanding and have applied the first coat of varnish. Still so much to do and I am doing so little. I need to find a way to get more energy . . .

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The bike is out

Finally, finally I did my first ride after 6 months of inactivity. Actually, the bike was in Auckland since we got here as it had to be serviced seriously after such  long time at sea.
This morning, I was feeling very lousy waking up and my body was forcefully telling me to put an end to all this partying and wine drinking and to get on with getting back in shape. Although the weather was beautiful, it took me some time to gather enough energy to dress up, prepare the bike and go. I only did 12 miles and at a relatively slow pace, and I felt like I did when I first started riding back in 2001. Fortunately, I have a little bit of experience and I won't make stupid mistakes like overdoing it and be forced to stop for a long time. My next ride will be the day after tomorrow, and I will gradually increase the mileage until I get back to almost regular rides.
Projects on the boat are progressing, not at a tremendous pace, but progressing anyhow. The work on the sails is over, the connection between the dodger and the bimini is no longer leaking between zipper ends and the rigger has done his first preliminary inspection.
I am seriously considering changing all the standing rigging here. It is more than 10 years old and it will have to be changed soon anyway, and here is probably the best place to do it, pricewise and qualitywise.
Yesterday was a busy day. It started with cooking lessons on fried eggs and mayonnaise at Beryl and Gary. Then a little bit of work to remove the tape on the shrouds for the rigger's inspection and then it was off to a barbecue at Rob's with Gary and Beryl, Peter Youngman and Cathy and of course the hosts Rob and Marg.
It is supposed to rain tomorrow, which gives me another excuse not to start with the varnish outside, but I probably can work on the winches.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

R & R

After two weeks of trying to get projects started on the right foot, and actually completing one project (servicing the heads), I was off to Auckland first to participate in a boucan of the New Zealand table, second to meet with Debbie who will sail with us to Sydney, third to meet with Wayne Johnson, a friend of Tom whom I met in Wrightsville Beach, and finally to get to visit Auckland a little prior to making a real tour in January.
The brotherhood boucan was a great one. First, we had a meeting during which the New Zealand brothers conducted the business 
of running their brotherhood, then, as always there was plenty of excellent food, especially the New Zeala
nd beef, and many different wines from New Zealand. Great evening.
Our host, Jim, had organized accommodation for everybody, even using a neighbour's cottage, so nobody had to use hotel or motel fa
Next morning, they were waiting for me ! This was the day of THE game, I mean rugby game opposing the All Blacks and France, and I was kind of pushed to bet for the french. Adios my money ! The french were trashed and I lost my bet. However, the loss was compensated again by great food and wine.
In the afternoon, Gary and Beryl took me to Nigel's who was hosting what could be the beginning
 of a long serie of Christmas parties. Apparently, like at home, Christmas starts at Thanksgiving, almost . . . .
After that, Gary took me to my hotel, the Rainbow hotel, which was OK and inexpensive, but quite noisy as it is full of chinese guests who are even noisier than the french.
I barely had time to settle in and squeeze in a short nap, before going out again to meet Debbie who will be sailing with us to Sydney and maybe a little bit while sailing north to Darwin.
Next morning, Wayne, a friend of Tom whom I met in Wrightsville beach came to pick me up and give me a tour of Auckland. Although the w
eather was not great, raining hard at times, it was really great to have someone who knows the place show me where to go when I come back to do some real touring. We had lunch at a very busy chinese restaurant, full of chinese patrons obviously quite happy with the quality of the food, and so was I.
After that, I walked a little bit in the downtown area, returning to the marinas and strolling along Queens Street. It is a big city, with all that you find in a big city, with sidewalks, but with a culture very much anti pedestrians. You better watch it and cross only in pedestrian crossing and with the green light for you, otherwise, they will aim at you . . . . 
After that, I had dinner in a french restaurant named "Pastis", with gigantic prices and microscopic servings. Certainly my first and last visit there.
Next morning, I was very lucky as Nigel's mother in law was driving back to Whangarei and could give me a lift, and I was back on the boat by 5:00 in the afternoon, ready to start working.