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 Tuesday, April 15, 2014

After a three-month circumnavigation of New Zealand's South Island, we're back in Wellington. We first visited here in January, after spending a few weeks in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. On our first visit, we arrived in unusually calm conditions for "Windy Welly" and anchored for the night off Oriental Bay, with beautiful Carter Fountain as a backdrop. The following day we moved to Chaffer's Marina, an excellent facility right off downtown Wellington, and we returned there directly on our second visit.


Wellington Harbour is a busy commercial port. Both at anchor and from the marina, we enjoyed watching ships come and go. Seas can be extreme in Cook Strait, between the north and south islands. The ferries that ply this channel, pictured third and fourth below, look built for serious weather.




The city is bordered on one side by its harbour, with steep hills around much of the rest. We took our bikes up 196-meter Mt Victoria for 360-degree views. The picture at the top of this post was taken from there.


West of the city center, we rode the cable car up to Kelburn. Wellington is so steep that expanding the city was difficult--the cable car was installed in the early 1900s to encourage residency up the hill in Kelburn. Victoria University is there as well.


Wellington has among the most beautiful downtown waterfronts we've ever seen--they've done a fabulous job in converting it from it's commercial roots, but still letting some show through. Along the waterfront and throughout the city are literally dozens of sculptures and other artwork. We discovered something new every time we went out.



The city also is full of excellent restaurants, with heavy emphasis on outdoor seating. We had a hard time leaving the first time, and we're having similar difficulty this time around.



Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations and more on a map, with the complete log of our trip to and stay in Wellington.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 9:17:41 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [0] - Trackback
On the Water
 Friday, March 28, 2014

When we traveled from Fiordland to Stewart Island earlier this month, we rounded Southwest Cape, our first of the five great capes. The other four are Southwest Cape, Tasmania; Cape Leeuwin, southwest Australia; Cape of Good Hope, Africa and Cape Horn, Chile. We also reached 47 degrees 2 minutes, the farthest south we will be in Dirona for a very long time. Of the five great capes, only Cape Horn is farther south at nearly 56 degrees latitude. For those of you familiar with the Seattle area, 47 degrees south is as far south as Olympia is north. From Harvard Glacier in Prince William Sound, at 62 degrees 16 minutes north, Dirona has now traveled across 109 degrees of latitude. That's getting to be a good slice of the globe.

Dirona at Harvard Glacier, Prince William Sound

We also recently reached our most westerly location so far: 166 degrees 24 minutes East, between Dusky Sound and Chalky Inlet in Fiordland. Our most easterly position so far has been 117 minutes, 1 degree West, at the Port of Lewiston in Idaho. This also has been our highest location in Dirona as well, at 738 feet above sea level, after passing through the eight navigable dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

Entering the Lower Granite Lock and Dam, the final navigable dam on the Snake River, to reach 738 feet above sea level.

Shortly before arriving at Stewart Island, we crossed 4096 hours on the main engine. In four years, that's the number we had put on the previous boat in nearly eleven years. Almost half of those hours were put on in the past 18 months. Since leaving Seattle on September 7th, 2012, our main engine has run for 1960 hours without a hiccup, and consumed 13,455 gallons of diesel at an average speed of 6.9kts. We've traveled 13,987 nautical miles with an average fuel economy of 1.04nm/gallon. We need to, and do get, much higher fuel economy at sea, but we tend to sacrifice fuel for speed when operating in coastal cruising mode.


As we prepare to leave Stewart Island for "New Zealand" (as the Stewart Island locals refer to the rest of the country), we're in the rare situation of having more water on board than fuel: we're down to 353 gallons of diesel. Since our last fuel stop in Wellington, we've traveled 1,265 miles and the main engine has consumed 1,154 gallons. At an average speed of 6.4 knots, our fuel economy was 1.1nm/gallon. Because we've been so far long out of port at over eight weeks, the generator will have consumed a fair amount of that fuel. During this period, it's run 294 hours. And because we've dropped and raised anchor as many as three times in a single day, exploring Fiordland and Stewart Island, the wing engine that runs our hydraulics has run for 46 hours. We expect to arrive in Dunedin, where we will refuel, with only 150-200 gallons remaining--the tanks haven't been that low for several years. It's been a great experience to be out using the heck out of our boat for eight weeks and be pulling into port with everything in perfect operating condition.

A special dinner of Peppercorn-Crusted Beef Tenderloin to celebrate rounding Southwest Cape and reaching 47 degrees, 2 minutes south.

Friday, March 28, 2014 1:21:52 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [4] - Trackback
Nordhavn | On the Water
 Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Before visiting New Zealand, our main knowledge of the Hauraki Gulf was that big body of water where the 2000 and 2003 America's Cup races were fought. But it actually is a major cruising destination and marine protected area. The 1.2-hectare Hauraki Gulf Marine Park comprises more than 50 islands and includes Great Barrier Island to the east and Coromandel Peninsula to the south.

Our first stop in the park was at Great Barrier Island where we spent Christmas. There we hiked an impressively well-maintained, but strenuous, track 2,057 feet to the top of Mt Hobson. Along the way were boardwalks, small footbridges, and several suspension bridges.


And stairs--lots of stairs. But the view from the summit was worth the effort. The picture at the top of this post shows the view looking west across the Hauraki Gulf to Little Barrier Island.


We also rode our bikes over an 800-foot pass to the east side of Great Barrier Island and had a picnic lunch at Whangapoua Estuary.


And we enjoyed pints and meals at two pubs in the island: the Boat Club Tavern at Port Fitzroy and the Currach Irish pub at the south end of the island in Tryphena Harbour.


We spent New Year's Eve at Tawharanui Marine Park, on the gulf's western edge. The beautiful beaches there were packed with people on that sunny day, and we hiked all over the park enjoying the view.


We did another excellent view hike at Waiheke Island to the old battery there. The panorama below (click on the image for larger version) shows the view where we stopped for lunch on the way to the battery. Fort Stony Batter was built in World War II as a counter-bombardment battery system. It mostly is underground, with over a kilometer of tunnels connecting three gun pits.



On Rangitoto Island we did a relatively easy climb to the top of island for excellent views to Auckland. And we explored some old lava tube tunnels near the summit.


After spending eight nights at Viaduct Harbor in Auckland, we continued to explore the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, this time at Great Mercury Island in "The Mercs". People who have seen both say Great Mercury Island's soaring white cliffs are whiter than those at Dover.


Along the east side of Coromandel Peninsula, we visited Cathedral Cove--a large arch in the shoreline that attracts boatloads of tourists. In the second picture below, Dirona is the leftmost of the three visible boats. The catamaran just visible on the right is SV Sophie of Seattle, owned by James and Jenna Utzschneider. The two James know each other from Microsoft. It seems kind of unlikely that two people who worked together for years and kept their boats in the same marina (Elliott Bay) could end up anchored together off the same rock in New Zealand.


Our last anchorage before running south to Wellingto was at Mayor Island, just outside the marine park. The anchorage was small, but quite appealing, and we had a great hike around the crater rim and to the summit for views across the Bay of Plenty. The way down into the crater, at Devil's Staircase, included climbing chains and eventually a ladder where it was too steep for chains even.


Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations and more on a map, with the complete log of our trip through the Hauraki Gulf.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 5:36:18 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [0] - Trackback
On the Water
 Monday, January 13, 2014

Auckland's Sky Tower stands 1076 feet high and is the tallest freestanding structure in the southern hemisphere. On a clear day, the views from the tower are spectacular. Besides several restaurants and observation decks, visitors also can experience the tower from the outside, either through a Sky Walk or a Sky Jump. Sky Walk participants are tethered to a ring that circles the permiter of the tower, and take a full-circle outside tour on the edge, 646 feet up. A Sky Jump is a bungee jump from the same height to street level. Bungee jumping is popular in New Zealand. Kiwi A. J. Hackett, invented the activity here inspired by the land divers in Vanuatu. The pictures below show a Sky Jumper leaping from the tower, viewed from street level.


Below are some views 636 up from level 53. The cone-shaped mountain visible in the distance across Auckland Harbor is the inactive volcano on Rangitoto Island that we'd hiked up earlier.



Level 53 also is where the Sky Walk and Sky Jumps take place. Participants are dressed in special jumpsuits and transferred to this level through a dedicated elevator. For Sky Jump, they are taken to a staging room that is locked from the jump room. One participant at a time is brought into the jump room and carefully connected up for the jump. Below are a couple of photos of a group in the staging room while the first of their party makes a jump.


The video below shows the Sky Jump process from start to finish, starting with a group at ground level in their suits, then with shots from level 53 as a jumper is prepared and jumps, and ending with a view down from the Sky Deck to Sky Walkers and a jumper. The spool that releases in the bungee cord is cone-shaped with different "gear" levels that decrease the amount of line let out per rotation to slow the descent near the end.

Sky Deck, at 722 feet up, is the highest of the publically accessible levels. The views there were even better. In the last picture below, Auckland's second harbour, Manukau Harbour, is visible to the west of the city.



Even the tower elevator ride was interesting. Through the glass floor, you can watch as the elevator ascends and descends. This video we shot of the descent looks like something from a science-fiction movie.

We bought tickets that allowed for a second entry within 24 hours, and returned after dinner for an evening view as the sun set.


Monday, January 13, 2014 10:39:06 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [0] - Trackback
Off the Water
 Saturday, December 21, 2013

We love Whangarei. It's a beautiful town, we enjoy the restaurants, and we have the primo spot in the Town Basin Marina in front of Reva's restaurant. Another advantage of Whangarei is you can get great service work done at reasonable prices. A broad selection of trades is available in Whangarei and that is a big part of why we ended up coming here. Dirona needed bottom paint, zincs, and other service items and, for that work, we selected Norsand boat yard. Getting a boat lifted out of the water and work done on it is always a bit of a stressful process in that mistakes are always possible. Norsand are professionals and the work done was excellent.

The combination of good availability of chandleries, specialized engineering firms, and specialist in hydraulics, filters, fasteners, etc. make Whangarei a great place to get boat projects done, so we decided to take on a few additional jobs. An important one was the replacement of our house battery bank after one battery suffered thermal runaway. The bank is five years old, which is arguably early for replacement. But they have done far more than the manufacturer-estimated 1,000 cycles down to 50% charge lifetime, so we can't complain too much.

Sourcing the batteries yielded some surprises. We needed eight Lifeline GPL-8DL and, when buying in that number, price is important. The quotes we were able to get around New Zealand were very fairly uniform around $1,175 NZD (about $980 USD) per battery. Almost all quotes were for the standard New Zealand retail price, without any discount for buying eight batteries and spending more than $9,400 NZD in a single purchase. The US quotes for eight batteries were just over $625 USD per battery--more than 35% less. We expected that the cost of shipping a half ton of merchandise, however, would exceed the price advantage, so our natural inclination was to not even consider shipping them.

The interesting lesson here is that shipping can be amazingly cheap. The batteries were shipped from DC Battery Specialist in Florida to Auckland New Zealand for only $553.18 using sea freight. The disadvantage of sea freight is it is slow, taking just a bit more than 30 days, but it is incredibly cheap. We prefer to buy locally when we can but, in this case, we saved just over $2,000 purchasing batteries in Florida. The local installation was done expertly and carefully by McKay Marine Electrical of Whangarei.

On the day the batteries were scheduled to arrive, we emptied all non-fixed items from around the banks in preparation for the install. We had a huge amount down there--the contents practically filled the cockpit.


We took advantage of having the lazarette emptied to give it a good scrub-down. Six of the batteries (banks two, three, and four), are in the aft section of the lazarette, pictured above. The other two batteries (bank one) and the start batteries are port-side in the forward section of the lazarette, in a cabinet to James' right in the picture below.


When the batteries arrived later that morning, the truck driver dropped the pallet off just behind the marina office. So far, so good. The batteries looked correct and without damage after their trans-ocean crossing. The next problem was how to get the half-ton of batteries (8 at 156 pounds each) from the parking lot to the boat. Jennifer has a rule, admittedly violated when moving our 135-pound Mirage M-3si speakers years ago, that she won't help move something that weighs more than she does.



The Whangarei Fire Department came to our rescue. Two trucks just happened to be here, and the firemen offered to carry the batteries down for us so long as they didn't get a call. They made quick work of the job, and seemed to be having fun with it--certainly more fun than we would have had. And the emergency call did come in, right after they'd finished the hard work.


In the first photo below, James and Ben Haselden of McKay are sliding out the six aft-most batteries that make up banks two, three and four. The second photo shows the area after the batteries have been removed.


A large void area is underneath the batteries, but unfortunately the only access is through the top where the batteries sit. This is an unfortunate waste of space--we might put in an access panel at some point.


Because we can switch each bank on and off independently, a nice design on Nordhavn's part, we were able to do the whole job without having the boat's power down for more than a few minutes: bank one supplied power until we had replaced and enabled bank four. After Ben slid in two of the new batteries for bank four, James hooked them up and enabled that bank so we could disable and remove bank one. Standing next to Ben in the third and fourth photo below is Ben's manager, Denis Crene (pronounced "crane") of McKay, who came down to help with the job. Denis amazingly could lift one of those 156-pound batteries from the lazarette and up to the deck on his own--he says it's no accident his last name is Crene.



All eight new batteries installed:


The final result, with the banks labelled and the lazarette equipment all back in place:


McKay disposed of the eight old batteries for us. From battery arrival to final disposal, the entire job took only three hours. Shipping took just over a month, but we weren't in a rush and the total price was much more economical than sourcing the batteries locally. When looking at purchasing options, don't rule out sea freight as an ingredient in the solution.


Saturday, December 21, 2013 12:03:45 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [5] - Trackback
Nordhavn | Ongoing

Our cruising guide, Waggoner sister publication Cruising the Secret Coast, is available at local bookstores and online. Click book image for details.

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