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What Happens Now?

There is no doubt the world is in crisis and our realities are changing by the second. Sometimes it’s overwhelming and difficult to even think of what is happening and what could happen down the road. Of course everyone is dealing with this whole Covid-19 thing in his or her own way. Here on Dazzler we’ve taken a pretty positive approach to the whole thing. I mean really, what else can you do in times like these?

You’re probably wondering how this type of crisis affects people like us who are nomads roaming the world and drifting from island to island at the whim of the wind and sea. Fortunately for us we are here in New Zealand right now and not on some remote island where food shortages are possible and medical care is mediocre at best. And, even more fortunate for us is that we got Dazzler back in the water and into a marina before the proverbial shit hit the fan.

So, here’s a little info on what life is like here on Dazzler in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

Let’s see, the first thing I’d say is that if we have to be somewhere during all this we’re very glad to be here in New Zealand. Based on what we see in the news and I mean news from a myriad of sources around the world, it looks and feels like the Kiwis really have a great handle on this. At a very early stage they enacted policies to prevent the hoarding and chaos we’ve see in the stores in the US and other countries. Even before the mandatory 28 day lockdown they were limiting the amount of food and paper products you could buy. They had a two maximum limit, which obviously prevented people from buying out entire stocks of things.

In the few days prior to the lockdown we did find quite a few bare shelves in the grocery store. Mostly it was meats, paper products and baking products like flower and sugar. But we went back to the same Countdown Market that we had been to the prior day and the shelves were fully stocked again so I think it was just the initial call that a lockdown was about to be in place that sent people out to buy up food. And even at that we never saw carts teeming over with groceries. It was people buying a week or two worth of food at most.

Honestly, I’m not even sure the average Kiwi would be the kind of person to go out hoarding food and toilet paper anyway. What we’ve found here is a country full of people who are more concerned about each other and doing for the whole of the community than they are for themselves. We’ve watched as people in long lines in the grocery stores stop to allow an elderly person in front of them so that person is exposed less to the crowds. People are orderly and everyone is friendly and smiling. Better yet, we’ve not heard a cross word from anyone as they stand in line and wait their turn to be helped. It’s really quite refreshing.

The Kiwis have even started a nationwide Bear Hunt for children. All over the country people are putting stuffed teddy bears in their windows for children to see when they go on walks with their parents. It’s helping to lighten the mood for the kids and gives them something to look forward to each day. We’ve even seen a few on our travels. 

As of last Wednesday evening we’ve been put on a minimum of a 28 day lockdown. What does that mean? Well, it means for the most part only grocery stores, gas stations, the post office and a few government offices are open. There’s no take out food here and you can’t just go hang out at the beach with your friends. Even us cruisers have been advised that we are not allowed to move about on our boats unless it’s absolutely necessary. We’re in a marina and here is where we will stay until the lockdown is over. 

We can take walks around town (it’s a ghost town now) to get exercise but the police are watching to be sure we are not “grouping up” and they can stop you at any time to ask for identification and determine what you are doing out and about. A fellow cruiser told us on the net yesterday morning that they were stopped and questioned by the police while on their walk a day earlier. One top NZ official made it clear that if you aren’t comfortable on your couch at home they have a nice hard bench in a cell for you. I’d say they are pretty serious about this lockdown stuff.

We took our first walk to get some exercise and it was rather surreal. It felt like we were in an end of the world movie as we walked down virtually empty streets going blocks on end without seeing a soul. The sound of the silence was peaceful yet a bit disturbing as our minds tried to grapple with the fact that what they were seeing and hearing was not how it should be. We saw police driving by and even in their cars they wore masks and gloves. The thought came that the masks and gloves could be a bit of a show to make people take this seriously but then maybe not. Either way it’s clear they aren’t messing around here.

We did our first post lockdown run to the grocery store yesterday, which was quite interesting. They are only allowing a certain number of people in the store at a time. People are lined up outside waiting their turn to get inside. When it’s your turn they have already sanitized the shopping cart handles as there is someone standing there doing it to each one before you grab it. We’ve noticed that the Kiwis are quite keen on following the rules. As we all know the rule is to be socially distanced by at least 2 meters. At gas stations and in the grocery store line we noticed that without having to be prompted they automatically are spacing themselves out. Of course it makes the line appear much longer than it really is but that’s okay. We’ve been asked by the government, that whenever possible, only one member of a family go into the store as to limit the number of people. Guess what? We didn’t see even one incident where people or families were trying to break this rule. It was incredible. I swear these people inspire me to be a better, kinder person each day. 

Dan went into the store while I sat in the car watching the show. He said all the shelves were fully stocked and only a few produce items were a bit light. He said the people were all moving about quickly and quietly and everyone kept their distance. At the cashier stand there were tapelines on the floor denoting where you should stand in line and you had to bag your own groceries. All in all it was a very good experience. 

For now we’ve been given permission to use the shower, head and laundry facilities here at the marina as long as only one person or “isolating family” is in the building at a time. That could change as we now have our first death in the country and there are two confirmed Covid-19 cases here in Whangerie. Each day we wake to check the news and FB pages that provide us with information as to what the next restriction will be. But, you know what? We are all, and I mean all (visitors and Kiwis alike), okay with this. We are working through it and doing what has been asked of us because it has to be done. It’s the right thing for ALL of us.

As for keeping busy on the boat, well, if you know boats you know that is never a problem. We’ve got more than enough boat projects, cleaning and blog stuff to keep us busy. Dan’s been working on sewing projects this week. He made new covers for our gas cans that sit on deck and now he’s deep into sewing new chaps for Sparkle…our dinghy. Me? Well, I’ve worked on my taxes, done some reading and writing, worked on some Fiji Book Fundraising stuff as well.

To keep connected with other cruisers there’s the morning radio net where we all share information as to what we’ve heard or know about things that are going on in the area. And, our neighbor on SV Evenstar set up at 5 pm Virtual Happy Hour where were all log into a video meeting and chat from our boats. Everyone has their cocktails and snacks and we just chat about our families, the world, boat projects and the like. You know, the normal sundowner topics. 

What’s going to happen this year as far as cruising goes? Well, we really don’t know. Honestly, it’s anyone’s guess at this point. With the borders closed in the islands and places we’d hoped to visit we are in a holding pattern. Fortunately New Zealand extended all visitor visas until 25 September 2020. That makes it a bit easier but the thing is we really can’t take off that late in the year as we’d be heading into cyclone season on November first. So, we are just taking it a day at a time. If the borders start opening up earlier than expected we will just do a short season and head on to Australia as planned. If not, we will apply for a longer extension and wait things out here in New Zealand until next year. Of course it gets pretty darn chilly here and we don’t have the clothes for that so we’re hoping the lockdown ends before it gets too cold. We’re going to need to pick up some clothes. We did pick up a small ceramic heater for the cabin a couple of weeks ago so at least we can stay cozy and warm on board. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even take out one of my new bikinis and wear it INSIDE Dazzler. 

For now, just like everyone else, we are praying this ends soon so we can get back to our normal lives. Until then we will keep busy and continue to follow the rules because, well, we’re rule followers and that’s what we do!

Until next time…

Jilly

P.S. When you see our frontline workers like doctors, nurses, police, firefighters, EMTs, military, grocery workers, postal workers and other “essential personnel”… PLEASE take a moment to thank them for what they are doing. A little “thanks” can make a big difference in their stressful days away from their families. 

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Sparkle’s Makeover

Sparkle BEFORE!

Sparkle has been Dazzler’s trusted Apex tender since 2005 when she was purchased new. Relatively speaking that’s a long life for a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) tender. In 2009 I made chaps for Sparkle and they lasted through the harsh climate of the northern Sea of Cortez during the summer months and all the sun exposure during the rest of the year.

When we departed Pacific Mexico for the South Pacific islands and other countries, her chaps were in good condition or so we thought. LOL. While in the Marquesas some local kids were jumping off all the tenders tied at the wharf, including Sparkle, and her chaps became ripped beyond repair. I know that things around the sea water and in the sun don’t last forever and I had been preparing myself for the inevitable thought of having to replace Sparkle and her chaps somewhere in the South Pacific. The chaps part was easy as we stored extra fabric to make new ones. The new tender was a different issue. While searching through the Apex website, I saw that there was an Apex dealer in Papeete. Great! We’ll try to get one there.

Well, the Apex website was inaccurate. Yes, the local boatyard/chandlery did sell Apex tenders at one time but not anymore.

So why didn’t we just get a different tender. Well, I’ll tell you Shouty! Sparkle’s outboard is a 20 HP Yamaha that we weren’t planning to replace, so a new tender had to accommodate the size, weight and trust of the 20 HP outboard. Second, and more importantly, we only have so much deck space to store Sparkle on the foredeck while we are making passages so we had to find one that would fit.

Those of you that know me know I don’t rush into large purchases. So we spent over two years looking for available tenders, their price points, Dazzler specifications (space and outboard) requirements, how many more years of cruising we are planning to do and of course it had to look pretty. LOL. All the while we held our breath hoping that Sparkle’s glue joints would keep holding air.

Fast forward…We arrived in New Zealand last November and it was looking like we would be spending close to $6000 NZD (@$4000 USD) for a new tender here. And just like that, the clouds parted and a light shone down from above and it delivered unto me the answer. “Dan a small NZ company called Seafarer Inflatables can replace the existing inflatable tubes of your RIB at a fraction of the cost of a new tender.” This was something I hadn’t even considered with my new age western mentality of replace rather than repair. Wow! It was an incredible possibility. What do I have to lose with an inquiry? Nothing, right! So, during one of our trips to the Auckland area visiting our friends, Jilly and I stopped by the modest facility of Seafarer Inflatables and met with the owner Neil Curtling. Neil was gracious with his time and spoke with us about the cost of having Sparkle’s tubes replaced with a new fabric called TPU. Neil quoted us a price of $2400 NZD that would be about $1500 USD with current exchange rate. Say it all together with me now…“WOW!” That’s a savings of over half the cost of a new tender.

I have to say Neil’s newly constructed tenders are nothing but gorgeous as well. But, for us we were a bit more focused on budget and quality tube replacement.

I know what you’re thinking. “What about the 15 year old fiberglass hull?” I’m with you. If you go to Neil’s website www.seafarerinflatables.co.nz you will see that as a part of re-tubing the tender, his specially trained technicians will also make any repairs needed to the hull while it’s all apart. In Sparkle’s case this turned out to be an added benefit.

What’s not to like about this home grown Kiwi business? Neil told us that his average turn around time would be about 10 days depending on any repairs needed. We arranged to drop off Sparkle at Neil’s makeover salon before we left for the states in January so she would be ready to pick up after our return.

A bit about the Valmax TPU fabric choice we made. We could have chosen between PVC, Hypalon or TPU. Neil highly recommended the TPU fabric for all tenders spending time in the tropics. Neil’s website states, “We only use the finest quality German Valmax PVC & TPU fabrics, welding these fabrics is our specialty with our unique duel lap seam welding system. Our thermobond welding machine has been customized to suit our manufacturing systems to enable the most reliable high quality welds & allow us to 100% thermobond weld the tubes.”

Additionally, at the EREZ website you can read more about the fabric specifications.

A side note that has some level of importance here. We were faced with the dilemma of transporting Sparkle to Neil’s facility and then getting her back up to Whangarei. We were going to rent a truck but when our good friend and Scottish Kiwi Allan Gray found out our transportation issue, he gladly volunteered to use his van. Not only did he use his van, but he actually took off from work and drove Sparkle and I to and from Neil’s. Wow! Not many people today do things like this. Thank you Allan and Wynn Fraser Paints!

Thank you Allan!

After returning to NZ we retrieved Sparkle from Neil’s tube make over salon and dropped her off on the ground next to the mothership at Harbourside Boatworks in Whangarei. What an amazing job Neil did! Neil did have to make some fiberglass repair on Sparkle’s sides. Apparently, her joints between the hull and the interior floor had become separated. Neil prepared, epoxied and clamped the separated joints for an additional cost of $250 NZD.

All we had to do now was give Sparkle a new paint job to complete the transformation. Off to Wynn Fraser Paints to get supplies. A good quality linear polyurethane primer, and a top coat paint and all the consumables. For the non skid areas I used my favorite paint product of all times, Kiwi Grip.

I had a plan of completing the interior first and then the bottom and aft edge of the transom. All in it took about 10 days from start to finish with only two days delay due to rain. And the results…Amazing! Sparkle looks like a brand new tender. Even Nick and a few other workers at Harbourside thought it was a new tender. I guess I got lucky. They say even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while. LOL

That’s it! All in, the upgrade make over was about $2000 USD for what looks like a new tender that can handle the 20 HP outboard motor and is ready for new adventures to wherever the winds blow us. The only thing left to do is make a new set of tube chaps. That’s a story for a different post.

Until then, keep the water on the outside and your beer cold! Cheers!

Captain Dan, SV Dazzler

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2019 Rocked!

Well 2019 was certainly a spectacular year for the crew of Dazzler. It started off with a bang as our dear friends, Jack & Mary flew in from the states to join us on a three week road trip around New Zealand. We covered a whole lot of ground making it all the way down to Queenstown and back to Whangarei and we saw many wonderful sites along the way.

That trip ended and we were off to the states for a month to visit friends and family in California and Florida. Yes, having family on both coasts makes for a lot of traveling but we got it all in and still had time for a little sightseeing along the coast of California where Jilly got to see hundreds of Elephant Seals up close on the beach in San Simeon.

FIRST TO CALIFORNIA

THEN TO FLORIDA

After seven long weeks of traveling we returned to Dazzler who was on the hard. There was no time to rest as Dan got to work immediately preparing and painting the bottom as well as working on some other projects like replacing a thru hull and cutlass bearing.

No sooner had we completed all our work and it was time to start provisioning and preparing for the trip back north as our visas were about to expire. At the end of April we cast off our lines and headed back north on the nine-day passage to Tonga where we spent a month traveling the islands. We learned that we really love the Vava’u group of islands the most. And, we especially love the eastern most island of Kenutu. On one side of the island the Pacific Ocean crashes onto the craggily coast with the fury of God and on the other the bay is as flat as glass. It’s spectacular! The Tongan people are very kind and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them.

By the end of May we were headed north to Fiji where we spent the next five months. Fiji is a spectacular place! We fully circumnavigated the northern island of Vanua Levu with our German friends Lutz & Gabi on SV SuAn. We visited islands and villages where they had not seen outsiders in years! One village was so excited to have visitors that practically the entire village came to the shore to greet us. It was fabulous to get a chance to visit these remote places and get to know the people there. Most have little to nothing. They live in tiny box like homes with no windows or doors, just cloths hanging over the openings. Most have no furniture to speak of except maybe a mattress on the floor where they sleep. They have community kitchens that are usually set up in the middle of the village and all cooking is done over open fires.

The villagers live on the fish they catch and eat the hogs, goats and chickens they raise. The have some solar power that is provided by the government and their fresh water is collected from the rain. These people have virtually nothing but we can tell you this…we’ve never met more genuine, honest, hardworking and selfless people in the world. If we’d have asked they would have given us, total strangers, the last of their fruits or vegetables and never once asked for a thing in return. It was quite humbling to get to know these fine people.  Each village we visited we had the same experience. In fact, in one village the Chief had his son, Soniala take us on several hour hike up to Tavora falls while his wife, Elizabeth, fixed us a huge lunch to have when we returned.

We visited the island of Makogai where they grow clams as big as humans! This island was once a Leper Colony where people with Leprosy from all over the world were brought to spend the remainder of their days. It’s now a marine conservation station where they grow coral and giant clams and even sea turtles to release back into the wild. We enjoyed several wonderful days here. We found some electrical items, line, clothes and other things on Dazzler that we donated to the village. We also gave the kids a brand new volleyball. They loved that! Dan played volleyball and soccer with them for several hours while I enjoyed the afternoon chatting with the ladies and learning about their culture. We intend to return here next season to spend a week or two helping in the village.

After a month of traveling Vanua Levu we headed west toward Vitu Levu, the Mamanucas and the Yasawas. WOW! What absolutely stunning islands and waters we experienced here. There were places we could see the bottom 200’ below us!

We spent a significant amount of time at the island of Malololailai also known as Plantation Island. There are three resorts on the island and one, Musket Cove, is particularly popular with cruisers as it has a marina and their famous Island Bar. The bay here is well protected and they have very strong moorings as well. We spent so much time here because Dan had to go back to the states for his youngest daughter’s wedding and I was left on the boat for 16 days. If a girl has to be left alone someplace this isn’t a bad spot at all.

Don’t worry, I wasn’t alone the entire time. I had my friend Donna fly in from New Zealand for ten days. Donna and I enjoyed our “girl time” on the boat. Donna isn’t really a boater so teaching her to get in and out of the dinghy and how to conserve water and power aboard was a bit tricky but all worked out swimmingly.

Once Dan returned from the states we took off for the Yasawa Island Group. These are the northwestern most islands in Fiji and also the most beautiful. We visited several islands and met some incredible villagers. We happened into the village at Noboro Pointe on the only day of the year that they hold their church fundraiser. What a wonderful experience this was for us. All three villages on the island gathered together. The goal for them was to raise $21K FJD. This is equivalent to the salary of two people working at a resort for one year. That’s a lot of cha ching for people who make between $100-$300 FJD per week. ($50-$150 USD)

We were treated to a kava ceremony to celebrate them reaching their goal. It was by far the largest one we’ve ever attended with forty or more people sitting on the woven mat drinking kava. It was an exciting and very enlightening day for us. We were honored to be a part of this special day and can’t wait to return next year.

Before we knew it the time had come for us to leave all of our dear Fijian friends and head back here to New Zealand. This is a passage that neither of us was really looking forward to making. You see this passage is known to be one of the toughest in the world. You pass through an area where the Coral Sea, Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean all meet. This makes for some pretty interesting weather systems and often times turbulent seas. Sailors who have made this passage all say the same thing… “This is not a pleasure cruise. This is a get there safely as quick as you can passage.” Just prior to our departure two sailboats sank making the passage. One was just south of Fiji and the other off the northern cape of New Zealand. In that sinking a man lost his life.  As you can imagine we just wanted to get it done.

Our eleven-day passage was, at times, filled with rough weather and more than half of the trip was fraught with issues including a large wave that crashed over the top of us literally swamping the entire cockpit sending water down the companionway. 

On three different occasions we had to heave to in order to work on the water lift silencer which ended up with several holes and a large crack. The first night we were bobbing in the sea in the middle of the night while Dan tried to diagnose the issue. At one point we lost all power, which really freaked me out. I had visions of the Navy coming to rescue us. As it turns out Dan accidentally hit the kill switch. He thought it was hilarious. Me….not so much. Thanks to an amazing little product called Minute Mend Dan was able to patch up the unit and make it work to get us to New Zealand. 

And let’s not forget the leaking jury can full of diesel fuel that we dealt with in the middle of the night or the leaking chain plate that allowed water intrustion into our lockers. Or, there’s my absolute favorite…the morning I was catapulted off the head with the seat attached to my bum as I slammed face first into the head door. Yes, this was quite a trip.

By day eight we were both exhausted and ready for our passage to end. Seems God must have sensed our exhaustion and blessed our final three days with amazing sailing and beautiful weather. We arrived in Marsden Cove Marina almost exactly eleven days to the minute from when we left Momi Bay in Fiji. I could have kissed the dock and probably would have if it hadn’t had bird poo all over it!

We now have the boat tied up at Whangerie Town Basin Marina. Dan has been working on many projects not the least of which was to replace the exhaust lift silencing unit, fix the leak at the chain plate and rebuild two teak hatches in the cockpit.

Of course we have taken a little time to enjoy being back in New Zealand. Our Thanksgiving was simply spectacular. We made a full Thanksgiving dinner on Dazzler which is quite the feat in a galley that’s only about three foot square. We enjoyed a wonderful day of laughter, family, food, drink and music with our wonderful German friends from SV SuAn and SV Rebell. Dan played his ukulele and I played my Irish tin whistle. If we couldn’t be with our blood relatives this was the next best thing. As we like to say, “ We had an American Thanksgiving in New Zealand with our German family!”

We spent Christmas in Auckland with our Kiwi family there. We had three lovely and relaxing days of family time and even met another wonderful new couple who have become the newest addition to our Kiwi family. Jilly got the new Huawei P30 Pro phone that has a 40 MP camera so you’ll see a lot of really great photos in the future. (Note the difference of the ones below) Dan got a custom made, hand-carved flagpole created for him by Macu, a wonderful Fijian carver from the Lau group of islands. Of course he says it’s too nice to put out in the elements so it’s become a beautiful piece of art that is displayed below deck on Dazzler.

Now that the holidays are about over it’s time to get back to work. Dan’s working feverishly on varnish while I’m working very hard on our Book Buying Fundraiser for the children on the remote islands of Fiji. During our travels to the remote villages of Fiji we were blessed to get to know many of the families and tons of children. On Kia Island when we visited they let the kids out of school early for their afternoon meal to visit with us. Two of the young ladies grabbed me by the hand and rushed me across the lawn to see their new library. It is a wooden building about 20’ x 10’. I could smell the freshly cut lumber and new paint. These girls, about 13 or so, were so excited to show me their new library but as we walked in I immediately noticed that the beautiful wooden bookshelves were virtually empty. I broke my heart!

More and more kids came pouring into the library. Each was as excited as the next to tell me all about it and how everyone in the village participated in building it. Still I kept looking at the empty shelves. Later Dan and I spoke with Epeli, the headmaster, who told us that reading books are what they need most. It seems the Fijian government provides textbooks, paper and pencils but no reading books. Before we left we asked the kids what they would like us to bring back to them when we return next year. Each and every child replied, “BOOKS!” They could have asked us for anything else in the world but all they asked for were books. As we visited more villages along the way we heard this same request over and over from the children. 

This experience touched us both very deeply and we made a pledge that we will  return to these villages next season with as many books as we can buy and carry. As of today we’ve raised $1405 USD which brings us just short of 50% of our goal but we’re not done yet. We will continue to take donations through March 1stand we truly believe we will get there with the help of our fans, friends and families.

If you’d like to help us help the kids of Fiji, please CLICK HERE to make a donation

Well, that’s about all from the Sovereign Nation of Dazzler. If you want to see some photos of our adventures be sure to check out our Dazzler Art Photos & Videos Page by CLICKING HERE We’ve recently posted several hundred photos. We’re also working on a book of our travels, which we hope to have ready this year.

We certainly hope you all have a Fabulous and Propersous New Year!

Cheers,

Jilly & Dan

P.S. Grape Ape also had the time of his life this year. He is growing rather quickly and acts much like a teenager wanting to spend more time exploring on his own than hanging out with us but then that’s kids for ya. He does enjoy riding in the dinghy when we pull it behind the boat though. He loves his Uncle Lutz of SV SuAn and he’s made quite a few new friends this year. He’s looking forward to seeing what 2020 has in store.