Monday, January 25, 2010

Super fantastic show !

Waouw !
No way I can describe in extenso those last four days. Too much ! Only one thing to say, if you ever have a chance to come this way in the southern hemisphere, not visiting New Zealand would be a big miss. I know that whenever you miss something great, you actually don't know what you are missing since you are missing it. But I am telling you, do not mis
s New Zealand, it is one of the most rewarding experience that I have lived so far. I have in my life travelled
extensively and seen a lot of the world and unfortunately, I am becoming increasingly harder to impress. Well, this tim
e round, I was impressed. Go and have a look at the New Zealand album. Still, it won't give justice to what we saw. You have to do it by yourself.
After Auckland, we flew to Queenstown on the 22nd. Only minor negative of the whole thing, was the hostel , called here a "backpackers", but this one being downtown Queenstown, turned out to be a central meeting point for most of the young people being in New Zealand to party at the end of their school holi
day. And partying they do well. They start at around 10 p.m. and keep at it until 4 in the morning, making sure they produce a maximum amount of noise, which we can hardly ignore since the disco is within the premises of the hostels ! And to spice it up, a fire alarm at 2 in the morning the first night. But, nothing bad enough to spoil for us what is to come.
On the 23rd, early in the morning, after breakfast at the local bakery, we leave by bus for Milford Soun
d on a 300 kilometres journey along a super super scenic route along the lake Wakatipau (the sleeping giant or something close) and then across the montains and through a tunnel towards Milford Sound and the Tasman sea. Once we got there, we went onto a small cruising boat that took us to the entrance of the Sound and back. It is hard to describe the majestic beauty of that place, the tall mountains, the snow cap, the water falls, the crystal blue water, and so on and so on....
After the cruise, we then flew back to Queenstown using a "scenic" flight in a 10 seater, kissing the top of the montains with the wing tips, or so it seemed, and again being bombarded with wonderful sceneries.
The next day, almost same scenario, with an early start, this time for a short bus ride to Glenorchy at the northern end of the lake, foll
owed by an exhilarating ride on a Jet Boat 20 miles up the river, in sometimes no more than 8 inches of water, brushing the rocks seeded here and there in the middle of the river, all that at more than 40 knots. This mixtur
e of superb sceneries, somehow scary ride, a little bit of exe
rcise on a 20 minutes walk up the river, the nice personality of the driver, all that results in a cocktail of very pleasing experiences like I have never felt before.
Back in Queenstown on the same bus ride, we took a 90 minutes cruise around the bay in Queenstown, just to relax and allow our mind to digest all that we have experienced in those two days.
We flew back to Auckland the next day, bought some fish that we know we won't find in Whangarei, and after lunch with Nigel and Joanna we drove back to Whangarei.
Back to work ! As soon as I stepped in the marina, I was told that they had to replace the seal on the raw water pump and that they could not find a single one in the whole of New Zealand and ordered one from Singapore, of all places ! Fortunately, by noon today, they found one in Auckland and I should be able to leave the marina and go and get the mast restepped on Thursday. So, we are still on track . . . .

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The tourist

With Papy Jovial back in the water, waiting to be remasted, it was time to start playing tourist.
Bertrand having lent me his car, I took off from Whangarei on Sunday late morning, relying on my GPS to get to Nigel's house in Auckland. Along the way, I stopped to pay the 2 dollar toll at a booth at the entrance of the toll road, with quite a few people standing in line to do the same. After I had paid, I went back to the car and found the GPS off. I tried to switch it back on, but had no success. I was in for a few minutes of panic, since I had relied 100 % on the GPS to find my w
ay to Nigel's place, having no maps, and Nigel being still in Whangarei. Anyway, I drove on, thinking that I would find a way to get there once in Auckland. Meanwhile I started fumbling with the device and e
ventually removed the batteries and reconnected to the car cigarette lighter, and it worked ! Big relief !
Once at Nigel's, I explored Newmarket with a few eating places and shops, all open on a Sunday afte
On Monday, I w
ent to the harbour, and took my computer there to regain access at the C-Map for the US and the Bahamas (I intend to come back), and to have the map for Australia installed. Once back at Nigel's, I played potatoe couch and watched TV, something I had not done since I left Virginia back in May last year.
Tuesday morning, I got up early, and went to the airport to meet Anne and drive her back to Nigel's. Then, after she had time to settle down a little, we drove down to town to visit the downtown a little and then do a one and a half hour cruise on a sailboat in the Bay of Auckland. I parked the car in one of the "pay and display" spots, and coming back, I found a $200 dollar ticket because the registration of the car had expired on Jan 6 and I had not noticed it.
It took a little bit of scrambling to renew the registration, since I am not the owner of the car and I don't know Bertrand licence's number, but eventually was able to renew it for three months. As for the fine, I requested on line for it to be waived and I have to wait for the answer of the auckland city authority to reply.
On Wednesday, Nigel took us on a tour in town and on the west coast, after what we had an early dinner at a top of the range restaurant named "french cafe" with nothing french about it except the name, but serving top notch food.
Thursday, we packed in the Auckland Memorial War museum and a cultural Maori show, after which we went to "Sheep World" learn how to guide sheeps with dogs and how to sort them out and shear them for $1.8 per sheep !
Then, back to Nigel's, this time for a home cooked dinner with Nigel and Joanna, and a chance to watch on TV Serena Williams play at the Australian open.
Tomorrow, we fly out to Queenstown for more touring .

Friday, January 15, 2010

Afloat again !

That's it ! Since this morning, Papy Jovial is back in his normal environment. It still looks like a barge or a pontoon without the mast, but at least, she is in the water. This did allow me to clean her a little bit as she had suffered a lot being on the hard in the yard. The deck was more black than its normal colour.
Apart from getting the mast back in, which will happen on Jan 27th, the only projects left are installing a dedicated starting battery, doing the 600 hours check up for the engine and the genset, and I am also rebuilding the partition in the chain locker so that I can put back the second anchor rode.
But to do that, I had to move mattresses, pillows and bedsheets to the aft cabin. So, I won't be able to get the boat looking her best upon returning from Auckland. But at least, all projects will have been completed, and we will onlyhave to do the provisionning and watch the weather before leaving for Sydney.
There was a minor problem with one of the Propane bottles, which should have been recertified last Wednesday. Noting has happened and I don't know why. I will know by phone on Monday. I am not worried as I still have two full bottles and I can get this one recertified in Australia.
I am having great difficulties concentrating on the boat. The terrible catastrophy that has destroyed Port au Prince is ever present in my mind. I appreciate the pledges from various governments including ours to provide hte one of the largest relief efforts ever. However, I can't help but wonder if all those nice promises will still be kept after the event disappear from the front pages of the media. Having spent so many years in Haiti, I know that what is called for is an effort of a very large magnitude and over the long term, otherwise all that will be done will be short lived.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Low morale

Once again I find myself a little depressed ! My right knee is still bothering me and I am unable to ride. I can see it coming that I will have to pack the damn bike, put it back in the boat and forget about it until I get back to the US and find a way through a doctor to solve the problem, if it can be solved. Otherwise, I have to start training in a wheelchair.
And then, to be on the hard in a yard, chasing the various technicians so that I can go back in the water Thursday or Friday is no fun, but it has to be done.
This being said, there are lots of good news. The work on the mast is going very well and the handling of the sails, reefing and so on is going to be easier. The nipple for the spreader on the port side has been repaired (new weld) and the whole thing looks very good. I also took the opportunity to have a tricolor put on top of the mast.
The new SSB is installed (Icom IC-M802) but of course I have to wait for the mast to be back in to set the antenna.
For the accomodation, not much had to be done. The quarter berth on top of the water tank is done. I have tried it, and although you will not be able to bend your knees as the ceiling is very close, it is quite comfortable and the best is that it will be very dry.
Today, the shaft is going back in with a new intermediate bearing. SKF in the US were asking a ton of money for that bearing (480 kiwis + tax + freight), so we are putting in a different one that will be blocked on the shaft. Since the shaft is out, I will also replace the packing.
The connections to the freezer were in bad shape as the water from the condenser was dripping on it. So they were renewed and moved to a drier location. Both the freezer and the fridge were checked and found in perfect shape. The A/C unit needs to be cleaned as it is almost clogged with dust, but I have to wait until we are in the water and it will be cleaned with a combination compressed air and vacuum cleaner.
The last 2 or 3 days of January are going to be pretty busy although I wanted to do some touring in the North. We are putting the mast back in on the 28, and I will have a starting battery installed to prevent fluctuations in the voltage which are not good for the computer and the instruments.
We are already Tuesday and I am driving to Auckland on Sunday. Pressure is mounting . . . . .

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sweet and sour

The year had started so well . . . . On the 4th, different story. This damn knee is bothering me again, whether because of the bike ride, or the round of golf, or both, but I really feel lousy. And it went on all day on the 5th, so I just rested and produced absolutely nothing. I did not event do my spanish lesson !
On the 5th, it was all hands on deck to prepare for unstepping the mast. It started very well and fast. Take the main out, undo the bottle screws on the shrouds, remove the lifelines. Then, it came to prepare the connections at the foot of the mast. The riggers being intent on cutting the radar cable and wind instruments, I told them that I was going one to email Tom, previous owner of the boat, whom I know is very fast in answering me, and two, I was going to remove the drawer box on the side of the companionway where I suspected the cable was going through that space. Alas ! Before I could say Jack Robinson (as they say in english, b
ut I would have said before I could say Tom Diekmann), the cable was cut. And within mi
nutes, Tom's reply came at lightning speed, telling me where the dry box was (as I suspected insid
e the companion way space). Too late. And Tom's diagnostic was frightening "If you cut the radar cable, just throw away the radar and start over. It is phase matched."
I hope that this time, Tom will be a little off (has not happened so far) and the tech
nicians will be able to splice the cable back and that the radar will work. We'll see . . . .
After that incident, we went down the river to a yard (Dockland 5) where a crane was waiting to remove the mast. I am changing the whole rigging and fittings except for the "stay lock" fittings which are still in perfect condition. I am also getting a spinnaker boom to replace the whisker pole so that I have the option to use it either way. I found, at the cost of the whisker pole, that with more than 12 knots of apparent wind and with the wind on the hind quarter, the windvane works best with the gennaker rigged as a spinnak
er on the pole.
I am also changing all the lif
elines for the sake of safety.
After Dockland 5, I went back to Riverside Yard where I am supposed to haul out. Unfortunately, there was some misunderstanding between the rigger and the yard, and the new date is now 7th. That's one day wasted, but for the time being, I can afford it.
So on the 7th around noon because of the tide, we hauled out and found some blisters on the hull, more on the keel, most of them on the port side. This can be fixed temporarily, but once I get back to the States, I think it will be prudent to remove all the paint down to the fiberglass, let it dry, and repaint.
Again for the sake of safety, I am going to drop the rudder to make sure everything is clean and well lubricated and possibly pull the shaft. I am not sure I want to do that as there does not seem to be a lot of damage on the cutlass bearing and it might be sufficient just to remove it.
All that has to start happening tomorrow morning, but except for the rigger and the painter, I am not sure how fast the mechanics are prepared to complete the work. I will prioritize here what has to be done out of the water, and if need be, complete the work in Australia, in the water.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fast start

Great beginning for 2010. On the 2nd, I finally managed a ride longer than 20 miles ! Don't laugh ! Yes, it is a far cry from the 830 miles of Paris Brest Paris, but at least, it almost looks like a real ride.
Then for the evening, I had prepared a full dinner to welcome Didier and Chantal. On the menu, shrimps cocktail with a home made cocktail sauce (make a mayonnaise as firm as you can, drop the volume of 2 tea spoons worth of boiling cognac in one go while stirring the mayo, color it with some ketchup and add a little bit of cayenne pepper), then savoury crepes (like in britanny, France) filled with either ham, cheese, smoked salmon or a combination of those items. I had planned for desert to serve strawberries "a la Wimbledon", i.e. with thick cream and sugar, but since we had first crepes with lemon and sugar, there was no room left for the strawberries which can wait for tomorrow. Of course, we did not drink water with all that, and we went to bed a little late.
Next morning, up at 6:00 for breakfast and time to prepare my golf bag and dress accordingly. At 7:30, we arrived on the golf course, Didier and Chantal playing with rented equipment while I was for the first time since I left Florida using my own.
I shot 105 ! Don't laugh ! As I
just said, my golf bag had not gotten out of the boat since Florida back in June, so in fact I was almost pleased with that score. Anyway, it was a gorgeous day, on a course overlooking Arua Bay with a splendid scenery. Golf was almost just an excuse for the outing.
Back on the boat, while Didier and Chantal were winterizing their boat, I worked on preparing another dinner with the left over from yesterday, starting with a fabulous cantaloupe very fruity, sweet and almost as good as the ones found in France. More crepes and finally for desert, the strawberries, the cream and the sugar. And again, although we had intended otherwise, we did not drink water . . . . .
So when I woke up this morning, I felt very lousy. My body is creaming and complaining very hard about my diet. I better listen to it and get serious if I want to be in shape before my crew starts coming in.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year in the summer

It's fun to get to the other side before everybody else. I enjoyed calling friends and family in the US and in Europe before their New Year's eve but after mine and telling them how 2010 looked like !
And while they have to go through New Year's eve in a cold winter, here summer is here to stay. Temperatures in the morning are edging above the 70s and in the afternoon get up to 88.
Other than that, it's been a very quiet year end and I am glad that it was like that. At some point, I had been considering joining a party on Great Barrier island, but I was not feeling like having another night of drinking.
Instead, I have resumed riding everyday and I have become temporarily a teatotaller, until I feel good again.
There is not much more to do on Papy Jovial, except for what has to be done one I haul out. In fact, now that 2010 is here, I am beginning to feel the pressure of time. In four days time, we un step the mast to change the rigging. Then I haul out to do the bottom paint, but also drop the rudder, pull out the propeller shaft, check everything carefully and put everything back together. I hope to be back in the water around the 15th or 16th. On the 18th, I drive to Auckland to meet Anne who is arriving from Montreal on the 19th morning. Then we will have 8 days of touring Auckland and Queenstown before returning to Papy Jovial on the 26th, keep on visiting the area for another three days and then get ready to welcome Philippe and Deborah and to leave for Australia. It's still one month away, but I am sure that it will happen very very fast.
I don't mind as I feel the urge to get moving.