Slip Away

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Logbook:       Whangarei, New Zealand - November 2012 to April 2013

A couple years ago, both of us re-read Jimmy Buffett’s book A Pirate Looks at Fifty, which is a non-fiction account of a trip Jimmy took in his sea plane, traveling through Central and South America and the Caribbean.  We'd both read this book when it first came out about 15 years ago, but reading it for the second time was especially fun for us because we had sailed to and were familiar with some of the places he visited.  Additionally, we found a statement in his book that really hit home for us:  "A flying boat in these surroundings just can't help but conjure up dreams and visions of romance and adventure, but ... it's more work than one might expect to keep it looking fun."  The same can be said about a "sailing boat".   

When we flew back to New Zealand from our six-month "sabbatical" in the U.S., we knew we had some work ahead of us.  We had now lived aboard Slip Away over 10 years and sailed her over 28,000 ocean miles.  Although we've done boat maintenance and repairs along the way, and we've made a few major improvements (including the new engine in 2007 and the gelcoat/paint job in 2009), we still had a "to-do" list which had grown quite long.  Slip Away was ready and waiting at Norsand Boatyard in Whangarei. 

We arrived in New Zealand on November 1, and our plan was to spend a few months doing boat work, and then cruise through some of New Zealand's northern islands for a bit before taking off for the tropics in April or May.  But, as so often happens, our boat projects took longer than anticipated, so our cruising in New Zealand was minimal.  Although we spent most of our time on this visit to NZ buried in boat work, we did find a few opportunities to get out of the boatyard and enjoy ourselves.  

The work we did on Slip Away is covered on our New Zealand Refit Page.  This page covers more of our general day-to-day life during our six months in Whangarei. 
 

Arrival in New Zealand 

When we arrived at the Auckland Airport, we had a few hurdles to clear with officials.  First, we needed to satisfy Immigration requirements since we didn't have a return airline ticket for the U.S.  Instead, we had a letter from Norsand Boatyard stating that they had our sailboat on their property, and that we would depart the country on it.  Immigration stamped our passports and welcomed us to New Zealand.  Next up was Customs.  We were quite relieved when all eight of our 50 lb (23 kg) checked bags showed up on the luggage carousel, and we loaded up two luggage trolleys and went to speak to a Customs officer.  Slip Away was temporarily imported to New Zealand, and NZ Customs allows us to bring items for the boat into their country duty-free since these items will leave with us on the boat.  We produced our import paperwork for the Customs Officer, he was satisfied and sent us on our way.  The final step was not difficult, but it ended up being a bit of a bottleneck.  Customs x-rays all bags to make sure no one is bringing in forbidden items - fruits and vegetables, meats, live animals.  We were not carrying any contraband, but the Customs guys at the x-ray machines were curious about all the stuff packed in our bags.  They were quite friendly, and one guy was a boater and asked us a lot of questions - what kind of work were we doing on the boat, where was the boat, how long were we staying in New Zealand, where did we sail from, where were we headed next, and so forth.  We didn't mind, but the passengers in line behind us grew a little impatient.  

   


Rich with our 400 lbs. of luggage

We arrived late in the afternoon, and since Slip Away was a couple of hours away in the town of Whangarei, we opted to spend the night at a hotel near the airport and continue on the next morning.  Although hotels are generally expensive in New Zealand, the one place where a good deal can be found is near the Auckland Airport - nothing fancy, but clean, reasonably priced and with an airport shuttle.  The shuttle picked us up promptly and by about 6 p.m., we were checked into our room.  There was a restaurant on the hotel premises, but rather than eat there and spend as much on dinner as we did on the hotel room, we went for a walk and found a small market where we picked up a couple of beers and snacks.  We slept well that night, and the next morning, we awoke to birdsongs.  When we traveled in New Zealand the previous year, we found the songs of the local birds to be some of the prettiest we've ever heard, and hearing them our first morning back in the country was a nice welcome back. 

Breakfast was included in our hotel room price, so we grabbed some cereal and fruit at the buffet.  There was a Chinese bus tour group staying at our hotel, so the two of us looked a bit out of place!  We had arranged for a van service to transport us and our bags to the boatyard, and later that morning, Stan from Stan's Van's picked us up, and we headed north to Whangarei. 
 

Home Sweet Home

After a stop for lunch along the way, we arrived at Norsand Boatyard in the early afternoon.  The folks at Norsand told us they had a very wet winter, but when we climbed aboard Slip Away and went inside, we found her to be in very good shape.  While we were away, one of the Norsand employees checked the boat once per month, opening the hatches and airing her out on a sunny day and when necessary, changing the dehumidifying pellets we had placed in the v-berth, salon and stateroom.  Slip Away had been well cared for - she was dry inside, with very little mildew, and no bugs or rodents having taken up residence. 

We were thankful that the sun was shining on the day we arrived, so we could open the hatches to get some fresh air in the boat and organize things a bit before bringing the luggage on board.  To help maximize air flow and minimize mildew while we were away, we had left the stateroom mattress and settee cushions turned on end, and all cabinet doors and drawers open.  We put things in their place, made the bed and then hauled the bags on board with a halyard.  Now, where do we put all this stuff??  It took us several days to sort things out, and even then it was just a matter of finding spaces to shove stuff temporarily so that we were not tripping over it.  Much of the time, boaters find themselves living in chaos when in a boatyard.  Some folks can't deal with it, and they rent a flat or hotel room to live in temporarily, but that wasn't in our budget. 

   


Slip Away at Norsand Boatyard

After getting our bags on board, we turned on our refrigerator and decided we should make a run to the grocery store.  Another item that wasn't in our budget for this year was a car, but prior to our trip to the USA, we had purchased some second-hand bicycles from our friends Neil & Kathy (s.v. Attitude), and Murray & Jo (the owners of Norsand) had graciously stored them for us while we were away.  We sprayed a little Corrosion X on the chains and gears, grabbed our backpacks and rode off to the Countdown store which was just a few kilometers down the road.  We felt pretty productive for our first day back, and it was so good to sleep in our own bed that night.  We were very, very happy to be home. 

Our first night sleeping on Slip Away was quite comfortable temperature-wise, and we were pleased that New Zealand didn't seem as cold as we remembered.  Those thoughts were short lived.  Our second night sleeping on Slip Away was downright cold, every blanket we owned was put on the bed, and Jan was sleeping with long underwear under her flannel pajamas.   

Life on the Hard

During our first few weeks in New Zealand, we didn't wander far from the boatyard.  We were working on the boat seven days a week, but we were so happy to be home and getting Slip Away ready to go cruising again that we didn't mind.   

The weather in November was pretty typical - chilly and sometimes rainy.  There were several mornings when it was 50F (10C) inside the boat.  Brrr!!  We don't have a heater on Slip Away, so it was hard to crawl out of bed on those mornings.  Also, the rainy days were frustrating when we were trying to work on outside boat projects.  But, by early December, summer had arrived.  Temperatures warmed up quite nicely and we were seeing very little rain.  We ended up being quite fortunate as this was one of the driest summers on record in NZ, with mostly pleasant daytime temperatures (mid to upper 70'sF, mid 20'sC).  There were a few hot days, but really only a few, although most Kiwis would probably disagree with that statement!  These were drought conditions for the New Zealand farmers, but they were perfect conditions for us to do boat work.  Also, with NZ's location in the higher latitudes, the sun was rising early and setting late, so there were lots of daylight hours for working on the boat. 

   


Beautiful sunset view from our perch in the boatyard

Shortly after our return, we had a couple of important "paperwork" tasks to complete - getting an extension on Slip Away's temporary import permit (expiring in mid-December), as well as visitor visa for the two of us to extend our allowable time in the country beyond the 90 days given to us when we arrived at the airport.  The visitor visa was fairly easy.  We had gone through this process last year, so it was familiar to us.  We submitted the completed application with proof of sufficient financial means (i.e. copies of bank statements), and a couple weeks later, they advised us that we were good to stay until May 1.  The temporary import permit extension was a bit trickier.  NZ Customs allows foreign yachts to remain in their country for one year duty-free.  If a boat stays beyond the year, duty must be paid (a large sum of money).  In order to keep a boat in New Zealand for longer than a year and not pay duty, one must either pay a bond (also a fairly large sum of money, but it is refunded when you depart the country) or get an extension, which is granted only when one can justify the need, e.g. family emergencies or doing substantial boat repairs.  Jan wrote a letter to Customs outlining the boat work we planned to do over the next several months, and Norsand Boatyard also provided supporting documentation advising Customs of the work that was being contracted to them.  After a couple of follow-up calls to the Customs officer in charge, we were granted our extension - a huge sigh of relief!

Although we intended to get around by bicycle during this year's stay in NZ, we ended up having access to a car for several weeks - actually a car and a van.  Our friends Michelle & Bernie (s.v. Momo) have become residents of New Zealand and were living in Whangarei.  They flew back to the U.S. and Canada to visit family for the holidays and asked if we wouldn't mind looking after their car while they were gone.  No problem!  Then, our friends Heather & Jon (s.v. Evergreen) arrived in NZ on their boat and bought a van.  They too were flying home for the holidays and needed a place to keep the van while they were gone, so we offered to look after it for them.  This all worked out quite nicely.  We ended up using the "Momo-mobile" for transportation, and the Evergreen van as a storage unit, so the chaos inside Slip Away  was significantly reduced for a few weeks. 

After our first few weeks of nothing but boat work, we started getting out a bit more.  Jan drove the Momo Family (Michelle, Bernie and their daughters Lola & Jana) to the Auckland airport when they flew home for their holiday visit, and she had an opportunity to spend a few hours with our friends Sasha Kyd, her kids Kiara & Tali and their grandmother Marion Dixon before driving back to Whangarei.  Our friends Jim & Linda (s.v. Chesapeake) returned to New Zealand after a season cruising in Fiji & Vanuatu, and we had a couple of delightful evenings with them.  Also, we were thrilled when our friends Jon & Heather (s.v. Evergreen) sailed into NZ - we've been friends since meeting in the Caribbean in 2008.  While sailing across the Pacific, Jon & Heather became friends with Richard & Ali (s.v. Vulcan Spirit), who hauled out at Norsand Boatyard in mid-November and became our best boatyard pals. 


Jan in Auckland with Marion, Sasha, Kiara & Tali
 
 
Celebrating Jon & Heather's arrival in Whangarei
with dinner on board Evergreen

 

Whangarei was a great location for us to be based during this time, and we settled into life here quite nicely.  It's a small town with a population of about 80,000 and very capable local vendors for boat work, but it has a lot more to offer.  It has a very pleasant city center area, as well as a developed riverfront area where the Town Basin Marina is located, and both areas have good restaurants and shopping.  For a few weeks in December, Jan attended some evening yoga classes at a local studio (a birthday present to herself).  Also, there are excellent medical services available in Whangarei, and both of us took care of a few doctor appointments, which cost us significantly less here than they would in the U.S.  Rich was on a first-name basis with the dermatologist - Dr. Bruce Cottee - who is not only an outstanding doctor, but a really nice guy. 

Whangarei has an excellent Farmers' Market every Saturday morning, and Jan went each week, usually with Ali (s.v. Vulcan Spirit) and/or Pauline (s.v. Changing Spots) to buy freshly picked, locally grown produce.  It was summertime in New Zealand, so we were enjoying delicious tomatoes, avocadoes, corn on the cob, strawberries, blueberries, and peaches, as well as other fruits and veggies.  Locally raised meats, locally produced cheeses and freshly caught seafood were also sold at the market, and we enjoyed a few meals of green-lipped mussels (a NZ specialty).  

Whangarei also has some great hiking trails, many of which are accessible from the city center or Town Basin, and once we had access to a car, we had even more options available to us.  We then decided that Sundays should be a day of rest from boat work - well, mostly rest.  We'd often finish up a project in the morning and then go for a hike in the afternoon.  We celebrated Jan's birthday in early December with a hike to Whangarei Falls, and a few days before Christmas, we drove out to Whangarei Heads and hiked the beautiful Bream Head trail.  Our other outings in the Whangarei area included a hike to the Mt. Parihaka Lookout, a day of tramping in the Pukenui Forest with John & Heather (s.v. Evergreen), a visit to Kiwi North (a kiwi-bird preserve and cultural museum), and one Friday night, we rode along with Richard & Ali (s.v. Vulcan Spirit) to the Tutukaka Coast for a late afternoon hike and dinner out.   

   


Just one of the stalls at the Whangarei Farmers' Market

 


Whangarei Falls - a nice place to celebrate Jan's birthday in December
 
Rich with Jon & Heather (s.v. Evergreen) in the Pukenui Forest

 


The two of us with Ali & Richard (s.v. Vulcan Spirit) at Tutukaka Bay
 
Jan hiking at the Bream Head Scenic Reserve

 


One of the kiwi birds at Kiwi North
 
New Zealand's Christmas flower on the Pohutukawa tree
 
Agapanthus thrived in the New Zealand climate

We spent a quiet Christmas in the boatyard since all of our friends were out of town for the holidays.  Cyclone Evan had just wreaked havoc on Samoa and Fiji in the South Pacific and was headed for New Zealand.  The cooler waters in these more southern latitudes caused the cyclone to lose its punch, but its remnants brought us a fair amount of wind and rain for a couple of days.  We'd been working pretty hard wrapping up some projects with the boatyard before they closed down for the holidays, so we were happy to have some downtime.  We had planned to hike at Whangarei Heads on Christmas day, but when rain was forecast, we went a couple days before and it was beautiful and sunny.  We spent a rainy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day hanging out on Slip Away, baking Christmas cookies, watching movies and calling family.  In the afternoon on Christmas Day, the rain abated, so we drove into town and walked along the Town Basin river walk, but it was completely deserted. 

We thought that the week between Christmas and New Year's would be a quiet one.  The boatyard was closed until early January, so we felt this would be a good opportunity for us to tie up some loose ends on projects that were underway and get started on a couple of new ones that we wanted to do ourselves.  However, just before the boatyard closed for the holidays, they hauled out a huge steel fishing trawler, which they planned to water blast and spray paint over the holidays.  The water blasting started on December 26, and the noise was deafening.  The two of us were attempting to remove the sailtrack from our caprail, with Rich inside the boat and Jan on deck, trying to communicate to undo fasteners, but we couldn't hear each other above the noise of the water blasters.  There were only a few of us living on our boats in the yard at this time, and by the end of the week, we were all a bit frazzled. 

During the week between Christmas and New Year's, with most of the boatyard workers off for the holidays, those of us living and working on our boats had a bit more time to see and talk with one another (and vent about the noise from the water blasting).  All of us had been working hard on our boats, and we hadn't really been socializing much.  We thought it would be fun to get together and have a happy hour, so Jan posted a note on the mirror at the bathroom sinks inviting everyone to get together on Friday evening.  Everyone brought their own drinks and an appetizer to share, and we gathered at the yard's outdoor, sheltered eating area, which has picnic tables and a couple of barbeque grills.  There were only eight people at our first gathering, but we enjoyed it so much that we decided to make it a weekly event.  After a couple of weeks, we changed it to a potluck dinner and barbeque.  After the holidays, as folks returned from holiday travel and more boats came into the boatyard, the Friday night crowd grew.  It was a great way to celebrate the end of the work week and created a very nice camaraderie among the boatyard residents.


Friday night barbeque and potluck at Norsand Boatyard
 
 
Waterblasting on this big fishing boat disturbed what we thought would be a
peaceful and quiet period between Christmas & New Year's

When Momo and Evergreen returned from their holiday trips to North America, we offered to drive down to the Auckland Airport to pick them up, feeling that was only appropriate since they had lent us their cars for several weeks.  Also, we assumed that, like us, they would be returning with a fair amount of luggage, so the bus would be difficult, and the van service was pretty expensive.  Evergreen emailed us their itinerary, which indicated they would land just before midnight on December 30.  They made a reservation at a hotel near the airport, and we were to pick them up there on the morning of the 31st.  We got up early, drove to their hotel in Auckland and didn't see them, so we called their cell phone.  They answered, but they were still in Australia!  Their travel agency had forgotten to adjust their arrival date for crossing the date line, so we were at the hotel a day early.  Now what to do?  We had just driven 2˝ hours to Auckland and didn't relish the idea of driving back to Whangarei and doing it all over again the next day.  Besides that, with the price of gas at $2 per liter, it would likely be cheaper for us to get a hotel room in Auckland for the night than to drive back and forth.  We had plans to see our friends Kerri & Andrew (s.v. Mariposa) who live in Auckland later in the week when we came to pick up Momo, so we called Kerri & Andrew and asked if we could move our plans up by a few days.  It worked for them, and we ended up having a very nice New Year's Eve with them, and Kerry's mum and uncle.  Andrew cooked a great seafood curry for dinner and afterward, we played Dominoes and celebrated the new year with champagne, although we were all in bed sleeping before midnight.  The next morning, we picked up Jon & Heather at their hotel and drove them back to Whangarei with an empty van.  The airlines had lost all eight of their checked bags!  They eventually did get them all, but only after many phone calls and hours of frustration.  A few days later, Jan drove down to Auckland to pick up the Momo family, and that airport pickup went much more smoothly.

After the holidays, we looked at our "to-do" list, and although we had crossed off some big items, there was still a lot on it.  We had tentatively scheduled our launch date for early February, but we realized we wouldn't make that, so we asked the boatyard to put us on the calendar for a couple of weeks later, and we went back to our seven-day work week.  Over the next several weeks, our launch date became a moving target, but we finally went back in the water on March 7.  Rich would have been quite happy to spend another couple of months in Norsand finishing up the list, but Jan reminded him that our NZ visitor visa was expiring in eight weeks (May 1), and we needed to be ready to leave by then.  At this point, Slip Away had been on hardstand for 10 months, the longest we've ever had her out of the water.  We were pretty sure that there would be some glitches in the systems that were "mothballed" for the past 10 months, and we needed to be in the water to work those out.  Additionally, our bank accounts were just about empty. 

There's always a bit of a struggle between the two of us when it's time to get underway after an extended period of boat work.  Jan is often pushing for us to get out of the yard or off the dock, and Rich is usually resisting because there are things he still wants to get done.  We found a quote which accurately describes our situation:  "It's the optimist who gets you off the dock, while it's the pessimist who keeps you from losing the boat" (an insight attributed to circumnavigator Evans Starzinger, s.v. Hawk).  We're lucky to have one of each on board Slip Away.

Our launch date came with a forecast of fine, clear weather and thankfully light winds.  High tide was mid-afternoon, so we had the morning to tie up some loose ends.  Just before lunch, Slip Away's cradle was hitched to the tractor, and shortly after, she was moved to the launch ramp and then slowly backed into the water.  Slip Away's engine started right up, and we had no leaks - all good.    We backed out of the slipway and motored the couple miles up to Town Basin Marina, where we had a berth reserved.   Robbie & Neville (s.v. Catwagon) drove down to the marina from the boatyard, took our lines as we came in and helped us tie up to the dock.  We were floating again!  After pulling into our slip, we found out that three of Norsand's employees lived nearby on their boats, so we felt quite at home. 

Now, it was time to get Slip Away back into sailing shape.  Our sails came out of storage, we installed them on their spars, and Jan got to work sewing new sailcovers for the main and mizzen.  She also made several runs to the Countdown and Pak n Save grocery stores to start stocking up with provisions.  Rich shifted his focus to the engine and genset and quickly found our first hiccup - the generator would not start.  We had a local mechanic scheduled to help us with some engine maintenance, so this got added to his list.  After new glow plugs and a new run solenoid, the genset was running again.  Fortunately, we had a used run solenoid in our cache of spares because a new one in NZ would have set us back $700.  

   


Launching Slip Away after 10 months in Norsand Boatyard

We had been looking forward to a couple of weeks in the Town Basin Marina because it's such a great location near the center of town.  When we were in the marina the previous year, we had an end-tie berth near the center of the marina, and it was quiet and pleasant.  However, this time we didn't score such a great location.  We were the second boat in from the dock entrance gate, practically on top of Riverside Drive (one of the busiest streets in Whangarei) , and we felt like we were in a fishbowl.  We were still consumed with boat projects, so we didn't have time to enjoy being close to town or any of the nearby hikes.   Jan was lobbying for us to get out to Great Barrier Island, about 50 miles off the coast, and our mechanic agreed that it was a good idea for us to take a trip out there so we could give the engine a thorough shakedown.  After three weeks in Town Basin Marina, we were finally ready to get away from the dock.  It was Easter weekend, and although we would have preferred to visit Great Barrier on a non-holiday weekend, we were going anyway. 

We had one last item of business to take care of before leaving Whangarei - it was time to sell our bikes.  Although friends we made over the past several months readily offered us rides to the grocery store or even the use of their cars if we needed them, we tried not to take advantage of their generosity too often, and the bikes had been put to good use.  We were using the bikes on a daily basis when we were in Town Basin, so we waited until the last minute to try and sell them, and weren't sure if we would be successful.  When Jan was out running errands on one of our last days in Whangarei, she posted "For Sale" notices on the marina bulletin board and at the Pak n Save grocery store.  When she got back to the boat, she hung a "For Sale" sign on the bikes on the dock.  About 30 minutes later, Doug from s.v. Freycinet was walking down the dock toward their boat a couple of slips down from us, stopped and bought the bikes from us.  Excellent!


A vivid double rainbow seen from our berth in Town Basin Marina
 
Our bikes were great for getting around in Whangarei

The morning we were preparing to leave Town Basin, Rich ran into Jon & Heather (s.v. Evergreen) who returned the previous evening from their road trip to the South Island.  Darn it!  We had a miscommunication - they thought we'd already left Whangarei, and we thought they were still a couple of days away.  It would have been nice to spend a bit of time with them, but we promised to see each other again soon.  Mark & Ann (s.v. Blue Rodeo) and Doug (s.v. Freycinet) helped us with our lines as we departed the dock - maneuvering was tight since we were close to the sea wall, but there was no wind and with a good push on the bow, we were headed in the right direction.  As we motored past Norsand Boatyard, we blew our horn, and Robbie & Neville (s.v. Catwagon) and Richard (s.v. Vulcan Spirit) waved as we went by.

Whangarei's Town Basin Marina is located 14 miles up the Hatea River from the coast, so our first day we just motored down the river and spent the night anchored at Urquhart's Bay.  It was our first night at anchor in eleven months - where did the time go? 

Great Barrier Island (March 30 to April 6).   The next morning was rainy but calm as we weighed anchor and headed offshore.  There wasn't much wind in the forecast, so we expected it would be a motor trip, and it was.  The distance from Urquhart's Bay to Forestry Bay in Port Fitzroy on Great Barrier Island was 46 nm, and we dropped our anchor at 5 p.m.  It was Saturday of Easter weekend, and there were a number of boats around, but it wasn't overly crowded.   

Although different in many ways, Great Barrier Island reminded us of Catalina Island in Southern California - a rugged and remote island off the coast of a major city.  One of the big differences is the nearest city to Great Barrier is Auckland, with a population of 2 million people, and Catalina is near Los Angeles with a population of 15 million.  Also, Great Barrier gets more rain, so it is greener, and it also has much better and much less crowded anchorages than Catalina. 

Captain James Cook named this island Great Barrier in 1769, but it's Maori name is Aotea.  In the past, copper, gold and silver were mined on Great Barrier, kauri trees were logged and whaling stations operated on its shores; however, today the great majority of the island is Public Conservation Land.  Great Barrier has approximately 800 year-round residents, and a number of native animals and plants thrive here due to the absence of the many introduced pests and species found on the mainland. 

We spent a week at Great Barrier Island.  We had good intentions to do a few small boat projects, but we never seemed to get around to them.  We found a few friends among the other boaters here, including Martin & Angie (s.v. Katie M II) and Catherine & Mike (s.v. Falbala), and enjoyed some get-togethers with them.  There are numerous hiking trails on Great Barrier, and we hiked several of them, including the Warren's Track, Glenfern Sanctuary and the challenging trek to Mt. Hobson.  Our legs were sore for days after Mt. Hobson!  Despite the sore muscles, this was a much-needed get-away for us. 


The very scenic and well protected anchorage at Port Fitzroy on Great Barrier Island
 
 
Great Barrier has beautiful beaches along its eastern side,
as seen from the Mt. Hobson hike

 


This family of brown teals visited us every day
 
The Port Fitzroy General Store

After our week at Great Barrier, we headed back to Urquhart's Bay, where we spent a couple more nights at anchor.  A short distance from Urquhart's is Marsden Cove Marina, our next destination, where we had a follow-up visit scheduled with the engine mechanic.  Before going into the marina, however, we wanted to get our watermaker up and running.  Rich started it up, and everything ran well for about five minutes, when a high-pressure hose burst.  Dang it!!  Add that repair to the "to-do" list. 

Marsden Cove Marina (April 9 to 30).  Marsden Cove is a relatively new and very nice marina.  It's location is great for the locals because it's on the coast, whereas the Town Basin Marina is 14 miles up the river.  But the downside of Marsden Cove is that it's pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and a car is essential to run any errands.  Our friends Mike & Catherine (s.v. Falbala) were also in Marsden Cove and had a car, which they generously offered to us if we needed it. 

Our intention when we pulled into Marsden Cove was that we would finish up our engine maintenance with the mechanic and then sail up the coast, cruise the Bay of Islands for a bit, and depart for Fiji from Opua.  However, the watermaker issue added a bit of time to our planned stay in Marsden Cove, and there were a number of other items we wanted to tie up before our departure as well.  We looked at the calendar - we were already into April and our visitor visa was expiring at the end of the month.  We wouldn't have enough time to cruise the Bay of Islands, which was disappointing to us, but at least we had gotten out to Great Barrier Island.

We stayed in Marsden Cove Marina and focused on getting as much as possible done before our deadline at the end of the month.  Jan rode up to Whangarei with Catherine and Mike (s.v. Falbala) several times as she shopped in earnest to finish stocking up on provisions.  Our engine mechanic, Tim Brown, helped us get the needed parts for our watermaker.  One of the things we really like about New Zealand is that the people there often go out of their way to help others - so refreshing! 

Although we were somewhat isolated down in Marsden Cove, we enjoyed the quiet surroundings, and we had regular happy hour gatherings and a few dinners with Mike & Catherine (s.v. Falbala).  Through them, we also met and enjoyed the company of a couple of locals, Andy & Irene on A Slice of Heaven, a beautiful motor cat which they had built themselves.  We managed a couple more get-togethers with Jon & Heather (s.v. Evergreen) and Richard & Ali (s.v. Vulcan Spirit), including an evening when they drove down to Marsden Cove for dinner on board Slip Away.  We were all hoping to meet up again in Fiji, but there's always some uncertainty when it comes to cruising plans. 

We also had an out-of-town visitor while we were in Marsden Cove.  Our friend Helen (s.v. Dolce Vita) who lives in Christchurch on NZ's South Island came up to Whangarei for a few days.  Her daughter Hazel had recently moved to Whangarei temporarily, so she came up to visit with Hazel, and we got to meet Hazel and spend time with both of them.  Unfortunately, Helen's husband Phil was unable to get away from work, so we missed him.  Mike & Catherine (s.v. Falbala) also know Helen, so it was a nice reunion. 


Girls' day out and a hike to the Mt. Parihaka lookout -
Jan with Hazel, Helen (s.v. Dolce Vita) and Catherine (s.v. Falbala)
 
 
During our stay in Marsden Cove, the French boat, La Loupiote,
put on an acrobatic performance.  After the show, they passed the hat,
and they used those donations to finance their sailing adventure. 

We worked diligently to tie up loose ends and get Slip Away ready for departure.  By now, we were well into Fall - the air was cooler, days were shorter, and the weather was less settled.  While we were in Marsden Cove, a storm came through with 50-knot winds - we were glad to be tied up at the dock rather than at anchor in the Bay of Islands or Opua. 

We contacted Bob McDavitt, the local weather guru and secured his services to provide us weather routing for our passage from New Zealand to Minerva Reef, where we intended to stop off for a bit (about 80% of the way to Fiji).  By some stroke of luck, he recommended a departure date of April 30 (our visas expired on May 1).  We contacted NZ Customs and emailed to them our "Advance Notice of Departure."  We were ready to go.  We were expecting that Falbala would be departing at the same time as us, but at the last minute, they had a problem with their satellite phone.  Since they use their phone for weather updates during passages, and they had a couple of weeks left on their visitor visa, they decided to stay and sort out that problem before departure. 

On the morning of April 30, the NZ Customs Officer stopped by our boat and completed our departure paperwork.  Shortly afterward, Garrit (s.v. Fruits de Mer, a Dutch boat) stopped by our boat and told us they were also departing, and we agreed to keep in touch on the radio.  Some other friends who had departed from Opua a few days earlier had given us their radio sked times and frequencies, so we had others with whom we could also keep in touch while underway. 

Shortly after lunch, Falbala came over to say good-bye.  They helped us untie our docklines, and we backed out of our berth, headed out of the marina, and then motored out the mouth of the Hatea River and past the beautiful Whangarei Heads.  Once clear of Bream Head, we set our sails, turned off the engine, and we were on our way.  Our departure was bittersweet - we were excited to be on our way to Fiji and the tropics, but we were sad to say good-bye to New Zealand.  With the exception of Mexico, we'd spent more time in New Zealand than any other country in our travels.  We'd spent almost a year in New Zealand, and it had been a great place to call home.   


Ready to go - the morning of our departure
 
Good-bye New Zealand!  Sailing past the Whangarei headlands.