Friday, December 4, 2015

Yes- we made it! and we're already immersed in NZ Land Life!

South South Pacific Sunset

Hello!  I cant believe its been a week already since our arrival in New Zealand in Opua.  We had a great passage finale, pulling in to the Opua quarantine dock at 7:15am in the morning. Alina won the closest guess on the passage crossing, as we went faster than all of us expected, and actually sailed in at under 6 days for 1142 miles:  5 days, 22 hours and and average of 8.05 knots The "Q" dock is very long (600ft) and is connected to nothing, but is tantalizingly close to land and all its enticements.  It was great to be able to tie up and hop on the dock, and compare notes with the 16 other boats that were on the dock.    New Zealand Customs and BioSecurity were wonderfully efficient and pleasant, especially given the anxiety of what you can and cant bring in to NZ, but aside from some very old black beans, ginger and salami, and a few other small items we kept the rest of our stores. By 1030 we were done and were allowed to go on land.

Stepping on to land in a developed country was a pretty surreal experience.  There were paved roads, and street signs, and new buildings with abundant marine stores and services, and importantly, a wonderful cafe and general store.  We enjoyed lingering in each of these, and having our first New Zealand lunch and beers, followed by ice cream.  The other notable change was the weather, where the cold lingered and New Zealand's summer still hasn't kicked in, but that also left the surrounding islands and countryside a brilliant shade of green.  It reminded us a lot of the San Juan Islands with beautiful islands and bays, and farms and pastures dotting the hillsides.  We quickly found our "dreamhouse" which had a great old Colonial building at the water level, complete with a dock and beach, and behind it was a  farmstead that stretched up the hill.

Over the next few days we enjoyed being stationary, catching up with other boats we knew from across the Pacific, and getting our bearings on NZ.  On our second day we got a cab to take us 15 minutes up the road to Pahia, and then took a small ferry across the bay to Russell, which is a great little town that used to be the "Hell Hole of the South Pacific" when it was the southern hemisphere's largest whaling port many moons ago.

 There is still quite a bit of history there including, New Zealand's oldest surviving church and hotel and the Montpellier mission.  We enjoyed playing tourist and took the tour of the Mission and its gardens, which was started by the first Catholic contingent from France. To spread the word they created a Maori translation of the bible that they printed themselves with a press from France, and they also operated a Tannery to get the leather to bind the books.  It was fun to see how interested the kids were in the short tour, and the hands on part of the press.  We counted it as homeschooling for the day.

the kids got to use the press

Conveniently, Russell also has a nice looking tattoo studio on the main street, called Bay of Islands Ink, and Sailing Heather (as she is now known) got a more permanent memory applied to signify the crossing of the Pacific (and sailing over 10,000 miles).  Its a Manta Ray (good luck) with Family motifs and even something signifying the husband, so I finally made it on a tattoo!

After spending a few more days in Opua, we headed down to Whangerei, which is where we will leave the boat for a few months as we travel home.  Its usually a two day trip, but we were restless at 2:30am, so Heather and I decided to head out on a friendly outgoing current, and thankful for first world navigation buoys with working lights, and no hidden coral reefs.  Whangerei is a working 53,000 person town two hours up a river from the coast, and getting there reminded me a bit of sailing up the Delta back home.  The Whangerei Marina is right in the middle of the Town Basin, at the center of town and is an awesome spot for us.  The town has put a lot of improvements in over the last 10 years, and we are right next to a huge brand new playground (score!), walking and jogging path (pointless :-)) and a gigantic grocery store right across the parking lot.  Within walking distance are tons of marine services, and the town has a great library. movie theatre and collections of shops and restaurants.  We've thoroughly enjoyed exploring it every day, and have already watched two movies, eaten sushi and shopped for warm clothes!  Mornings are still quite crisp here, but the sun does come out enough to wear shorts later in the day.

Cool clouds over the Cape at Marsden Cove and the entrance to the river to Whangerei
"Dont leave us George!"
Sadly, we also had to let "Super Crew" George leave us and start his exciting work in Auckland, so we packed him up one morning and put him on the two hour bus down to the "Big City".  From his facebook posts we know he is doing well, but we certainly miss him up here.  He was an amazing crew and is a more amazing friend and companion to everyone on the boat

In between we still get to see boats we have met before somewhere in the Pacific and also get to meet new ones, like ones we have been tracking for a long time.  We had heard about Lil' Explorers when we bought our boat, as the previous owners had met them in Panama, and we had checked out their blog, and communicated a few times through email.  When we pulled up in Whangerei, we realized we were right across the way from them, as they are quite recognizable with their 58 foot cat complete with two swings on the foredeck, complete with children endlessly climbing all over the boat.  Like us they are a large family out here cruising and in their case they have their 6 kids (5 under 10) with them, which finally makes us not the "big family" in the vicinity.  They came over to introduce themselves and we have already visited their boat for an aggressive game of Uno and some great cookies.

We're trying to catch up on homeschooling, and are making some progress, and we're lining up all the boat work we need to do, or get done.  We are now less than a week away from our return home, which is awfully exciting and also a little overwhelming as we try and tackle planning, packing and prepping the boat.

Time will fly by this week, but we'll hope to post some where and get away for a few local adventures! CHRIS

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