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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…


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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And Now For Some Good News

Well these are some crazy times we are living in to be sure.  Of course this isn’t going to stop us from continuing our mission to help the children of Fiji. As they say, “Adjust, adapt and overcome.” This is what we are doing so we thought we’d provide everyone with a little update.

First lets start with the good news. Thanks to all of our fabulous contributors we not only met but exceeded our goal of $3500 USD. Thank you Captain Lawnboy for jumping in after our last post and making up the difference with your very generous donation! For books $3500 may not sound like a lot of money but our dollar goes a long way here in New Zealand so that’s actually more like $6000 USD and that my friends will get a lot of great books!

Thanks for all of your help Dave!

Of course in addition to buying them we have our generous book donation partners who stepped up to help. Thanks to Dave at All Marine for coordinating with Irene of Zonta International and the Kokopu Elementary School we picked up close to 700 books a couple of weeks again. Also, Judy Allison of the Lions Club coordinated helped us to acquire another 400-500 books. The community support for this is unreal!

We picked up the first boxes of books from Dave a couple of weeks ago and our first order of business was to get some organization going. To that end we needed to pick up some smaller, more uniform boxes. It’s important for the cruisers who will haul and deliver them to have them in smaller, manageable size boxes that store easily on a boat.

Since Dazzler was still in the yard we took the books we picked up from Dave back to the boatyard and set up a sorting station there. For several hours Jilly went through the books checking for ones with torn or missing pages and organizing them to be boxed. Dan did the boxing and heavy lifting. We filled each box with a variety of books for kids of all ages. In the end we had 12 boxes of books ready to be handed over to the Cruiser Angels who will be the making deliveries.

Of course we don’t have the ability to get them to everyone just yet so we needed a place to store them. Our dear friend Allan Gray at Wynn Fraser Paints offered to store them in a storage area at their store. Thanks Allan!!!

Thanks Judy! Love the great journals and other books!

Just this week we picked up 7 more boxes of books from Judy Allison, the District Governor for the New Zealand Lions Club. While the books from the school were fun reading books, the books from the Lions Club included a couple hundred reading journals for teachers to use in addition to a couple hundred other reading books. Looks like we probably have somewhere around 1200-1400 donated books. This was completely unexpected but certainly a blessing.

So what are we doing with your donations? Well, Jilly spent days and days on the computer researching and reading about children’s books. We ordered a couple of hundred brand new books and some large, wall maps of the world. Maps are big for these kids as they like to see where they are in the world.

Since we have tons of great reading books including everything from Charlotte’s Web to Br’er Rabbit (one of Jilly’s favorites), we decided to spend the donated funds on good, educational books including Children’s World Atlases, books on animals and some really great ones that talk about people and cultures across the globe. There’s some science books and other fun learning material on it’s way to us as well AND we still have more money to spend on new books.

We figure by the time we are done we should have somewhere around 2000 books to deliver to the deserving children of Fiji and you are part of this great accomplishment. Thank you!

Of course as we’ve said, given the state of the world at this moment, we have to adjust, adapt and overcome. So what is the current status of delivering to the islands?

Well, honestly all of us cruisers are in a state of suspension right now due to the coronavirus. Borders are closed all over the globe and Fiji is no exception. Right now we are not even sure we will be permitted to sail to Fiji this year. It all depends on when the borders are reopened. For those of you who are not sailors, it’s not just of matter of them opening the border and us taking off. We have weather and seasons to think about.

Being in the southern hemisphere Spring starts at the end of September. With Spring and then Summer comes the potential for cyclones. Cruisers with any sense of sanity don’t sail north between November 1st and the end of April. So, if the borders do not open up for six months or more we may be required to stay in New Zealand until next cruising season. If this is the case then we will find a small storage unit and store the books for the year. We have every intention of delivering these books personally to the children. If the worse case scenario occurred, we could ship them but due to the weight of this number of books it could be a very costly proposition. As much as we’d like to get them over there this year it may have to wait. Obviously the health and safety of everyone involved is our top priority.  

So, at the moment, we are hovering about in a holding pattern. We will keep everyone updated as the days and weeks pass but don’t worry we will get the books to the children one way or another!

In the meantime, stay safe, be healthy and keep smiling!


Jilly & Dan

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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 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