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Hallelujah! Land Ho!

First off we’d like to offer our apologies. You see we’ve been in New Zealand for several days and unfortunately didn’t get back to filling you in on the rest of our trip. We’ve received several emails from friends and followers asking how we are and we’re very sorry for not staying on top of this knowing you are all out there worrying about us. Please forgive us. This trip really took it out of us. Anyway, here’s our final entry from this year’s passage to New Zealand.

The last couple of days on the water have been pretty nice all things considered. The winds and swell died to next to nothing although the temps dropped a bit so it’s been a might chilly once the sun goes down. There were times the sea was as flat as glass. You honestly couldn’t tell where the sea ended and the sky began. It was so beautiful. Of course with these conditions we had to motor but thanks to Dan’s exhaust fix and our new friend Minute Mend motoring was not a problem.

The sea was so flat you couldn’t tell when it ended and the sky began!

As I sat on watch on our last night of this crazy passage I reflected back on all that had transpired.

Day one was filled with 30 knot winds and 3-4 meter short frequency seas. We had water come down into the companionway not once, but three times. I had a meltdown but soon recovered. 

On Day three we had to heave to for six and a half hours to wait out some wind and swell and then we ended up having a problem with our exhaust lift silencer and also had to replace our impeller. Both of which had to be taken care of in the middle of the night because, you know, that’s the time that everything decides to breakdown. With those two items repaired we got underway and then had to deal with a leaking 50 liter jug of diesel fuel. Yes, THAT was a fun evening. Can’t imagine anything we’d have rather been doing that night…you know, like sleeping or the like.

The slick we made when we were hove to.

By Day 5 our Engels freezer stopped working for a time but fortunately that was just due to something getting shifted in the locker and shutting off the timer. At least some of the challenges we faced were simple ones.

When Day 6 came around we got to deal with water ingress in two of our lockers. We assumed these leaks were coming from a leaking chain plate, which is something we simply could not fix at sea so we emptied the lockers and delighted in having clothes strewn hither and yon across the salon for the rest of the trip. Not really but hey…got to find some humor here. 

If you don’t have this or something like it on your boat…run, don’t walk to the nearest supply store and get it!

And by Day 7 we were again dealing with the water lift silencer leaks and had to heave to for the second time and on Day 8 we were finally able to get a semi-permanent fix to it after heaving to for the third time.

Fortunately Days 9-11 proved to be much better both in terms of weather and challenges aboard Dazzler. Oh yes, the morale improved exponentially as well.  

Among the more humorous things that happened was that I was literally catapulted off the thrown in the head with the toilet seat attached to my bum. (Sorry, no pics or video of the acrobatic show.) That’s not something you land dwellers will ever have the joy of experiencing I am quite certain! It is something, however, that brought a great deal of laughter to both Captain and Mate. I think Grape Ape even spit his juice out when he heard mama telling them what happened.

We did run into something that is quite rare and rather interesting which is that we got to see a bit of the pumice raft that was generated from the underwater volcano that erupted near Tonga earlier this year. While we only saw very small pieces of it, it was still pretty cool given that this is something so rare that most people in the world will never get a chance to see anything like it.

We survived it all just as Dan said we would. Intellectually I knew it too but there were moments when I just needed his calm reassurance. After all, if Dan couldn’t get us here safely, who could?

We arrived at Marsden Cove Marina early on the morning of Day 11 far ahead of the low pressure system we’d been racing. It was cold and overcast as we made the turn into the Hatea River. There were several ships at the port loading and unloading their wares. As we passed the port one ship was preparing to leave. It was at this very moment we were taking down our mainsail. Of course I was a bit on edge as I felt we were in the way of the tugs but Dan said we were fine so we finished our job and moved on.

As we entered the narrow and shallow channel into the marina the sun came out and it warmed up beautifully. In fact, by the time we docked at the Customs dock we were both peeling clothes off like we had landed on the sun.

It was a popular day to arrive here in New Zealand. We were boat number four to arrive at the dock. Everyone was tied up and waiting their turn for the officials to check them in. Two more boats arrived while we waited. Everyone was on the dock talking about their passage challenges and the weather. We, of course, had our celebratory anchor down beer. Never has a cold beer tasted so amazing! It was truly the taste of success!

It took a couple of hours to get completely checked in with Customs and BioSecurity. We didn’t even mind the time it took. It was sunny and warm and we were in New Zealand! Maybe knowing that a wonderful hot meal with beers and a great night’s sleep was ahead is what made us so patient. It certainly didn’t hurt anyway.

As always the officials with Customs and Immigration as well as BioSecurity were truly terrific. Many cruisers complain about the process but we actually find it to be rather easy. It’s all in what you make of it. They have a job to do and we respect that. We do everything we can to make their job easier by having the forms filled out, printed and ready to go when they step on board. We, all too often, see cruisers who don’t have the first form prepared which means they are taking up the valuable time of these officials. These are the very cruisers that invariably complain about the process.

We go so far as to have a spreadsheet listing every single food item we have on board, how much of it is there and exactly what locker it is located in. We hand that over to BioSecurity and let them tell us what they want. This year we did have a bit more meat on board which they took. She did tell us that if the meat had been in its original packaging so she could have seen where it was processed we may have been able to keep it. Unfortunately the butcher we purchased from in Fiji prepackaged the meat in vacuum sealed pouches. Oh well. It wasn’t much and we knew it was coming. She also took our frozen mangos (very sad face) that we use to make Mango Margaritas. And they took our eggs, some dried beans, Kava root (not the powdered stuff), popcorn and honey. None of this was really a surprise and it didn’t bother us a bit. As always, we received apologies for the fact that they had to take anything at all. The way we look at it is we over provision on some things to be sure that in the unlikely event we were to get stuck at sea we still have food. If we get here and have stuff they need to take it means we made it here safely and weren’t stuck at sea! BONUS!

After checking in we made the two hour trip north up the river to the Whangerie Town Basin Marina. Cruising under the Hatea River Bridge and up to the marina felt almost like coming home. As we passed the marina office Nadine was there waving and giving us a big welcome. We docked Dazzler and as we sat in the cockpit enjoying our final anchor down beer of the season we smiled and toasted each other on another safe passage.

Later we got our Guinness Stew and a few cold brews at McMorrisey’s pub and then it was back to Dazzler for some relaxation and an early bedtime. 

Needless to say we are happy to be “home” again in New Zealand. We’re looking forward to spending some time cruising the islands around here this year but before that can happen we’ve about thirty boat projects we need to get completed. Not the least of which is replacing the water lift silencer unit. Boat work is a neverending process for the cruiser…that’s for sure!

For now, however, we are going to take a week break from writing as we get settled in and begin to amass the supplies and tools we need to get working. Don’t worry though there will be plenty of upcoming articles from Captain Dan as he does everything from replacing the water lift silencer to varnishing to repairing and re-teaking the hatch to our lazerette. Of course these are just a few of the projects he’ll be talking about.

Thanks for following our passage and most importantly thank you for all your prayers and well wishes along the way. Hearing from our family and friends made the bad days so much better.

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

P.S. Having hove to eight times in this 1200 mile journey we are pretty certain we do now hold the record for the most times a boat has heaved to in a journey such as this. Of course we’re still waiting for the officials to provide us with our trophy.

Here’s a video of the passage. You know, just in case you couldn’t visualize the trip!

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What Was That Noise?

So, it’s my last night watch for a while. We’re just a little over 20 NM from the entrance to Savusavu. I’ve literally been on deck for about fifteen minutes. For crying out loud, my eyes are barely open and I haven’t even had enough time to get a little sugar and caffeine going. All of the sudden I hear a couple of thunk sounds and then something that sort of sounded like gurgling. Of course it’s dark up here so I grab my phone and turn it on for some light. I start looking around the cockpit first. It’s not uncommon to have flying fish land on deck or even in the cockpit so, of course, that’s what I’m expecting to find. The only thing making me think it is something else is that I have yet to get a whiff of that awful stench that says a flying fish has arrived.

I scan the port side and find nothing. Then I hear a fluttering sound off to my right. As I look to the starboard side I see a bird sitting on deck looking a bit disheveled. I think he is as shocked to see me as I to see him. His wings are spread out and he sort of looks like a sailor who had just stumbled out of a bar after a night on shore leave. 

Of course I had to snap a pick. Now the poor thing has flash vision. LOL! He’s just looking at me like “Who the hell are you and why did you just do that to me?” He starts stumbling across the deck and then I hear another couple of thunks. What the hell? I look just forward of my new friend and another bird has hit the deck. He also looks a bit flustered and even more so once I document his visit with a flash. Now they are both looking at me like a couple of drunk sailors as they stagger along the deck. I can’t help wondering if they had too much Kava tonight or if they are just really bad pilots. Either way I’m pretty sure they both hit the sail. If it was the wind generator I’m sure I’d have seen a lot more feathers flying about and they may not have survived.

I hurry below to get a real flashlight and by the time I return they have found their way off of Dazzler. I searched the water around us but they are gone. I guess I can say we have now officially met our first Fijians. They were White-Tailed Tropicbirds. We’ve seen many of them on the sea. They look absolutely beautiful when they are in flight. Of course that’s before they crash into a mainsail on a boat going five knots. I guess you just never know what will happen during your watch. It’s always an adventure.

I’m getting excited for sunrise although I’m exhausted! Can’t wait to see the amazing sights of Savusavu, Fiji.

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

Feature Photo by: Richard Crossley found at Wikimedia. Click Here for more information.

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Tales From The Doghouse

We all chase that one thing that seems to always be just out of our reach.  No mater how hard we try, it eludes our grasp and becomes our Achilles heel.  For me it is Dazzler’s Watch Commander.  This is a wonderful 12 volt electronic device that acts like a countdown timer.  It can be set for time periods of 3-90 minutes.  I obtained and used this device for all the single handed passages I’ve done over the last 10 years.  You see it has this really awesome feature that starts emitting a lovely soft beep for about 30 seconds before a 130 decibel alarm cracks through the silence of the night air.  Alarm might be too soft of a word.  Perhaps siren would be better.  You know, the kind on the front of a Fire Truck.   Kind of hard to sleep when that goes off. Whether it is accidental or planned, it’s very effective for waking you up from your sleep.  I’ve tried egg timers and phone alarms, but they didn’t seem to be loud enough and they were too easy to shut off and ignore.  Additionally, it helps remind you on those long passages to stop doing what you are doing and give a good look around and do an electronics check to make sure all is well and everything is where it is supposed to be.  You know, like islands, reefs and any other boats.

All that is well and good.  You see, being a single hand sailor for so many years I got used to the alarm occasionally going off and it never really bothered me.  And besides, who would turn the boat around and look for me if a fell overboard anyway?  The thing is, it seems to always go off when you leave the cockpit to go to the head or onto the foredeck to do something there.  

Well, it obviously isn’t very considerate for it to go off when you have crew onboard.  Especially crew that immediately thinks the worst when it just might accidentally happen to go off….occasionally.  

We use this device to alert crew that for some reason the on watch crew member didn’t push the button before the alarm started and something may be wrong.  That someone, ME, doesn’t always hear the warning beeps because I might be on deck making an adjustment or more importantly relieving myself from the jug-o-coffee I’ve consumed and I didn’t get to the button in time.  The frequency of this device catching me literally with my pants down is uncanny.  There I am mid stream writing my name in the ocean and looking at the stars when the blasted alarm decides to go off.  I just about zipped my thing up in my pants.  What do you do?  Do you pinch it off and race back to the cockpit to deactivate the bloody thing or finish your business and then shut it off?  I can tell you that option one most definitely IS the right answer.  

Once it goes off the awful thought crashes down on you like an avalanche.  Do you think she heard it?  Oh yeah, and remember to gather up your britches first so you don’t trip and really fall over the side.  Besides you can always go finish up after you turn off the alarm.  Oh, and remember too, you can’t un-ring the bell or alarm in this case.  How does it know at the exact same time I decide to answer the call of nature to bypass the warning beeps and go straight to full alarm?  Additionally, why does it always seem to be when Jilly is in the bunk sleeping?  I am starting to believe that it is the handy work of a gremlin or Grape Ape having a bit of fun.  Perhaps neither as it may just be the dreaded old timers hearing reduction disease.

Picture if you will a sexy creature slumbering peacefully while dreaming of her man rubbing endless supplies of lotion on her back whenever she desires only to have the dream crushed when she is violently awakened by a 130 decibel alarm.  You would have thought I had put Floridian fire ants in the bunk with her.  When she hears the alarm, she thinks the worst has happened and I am bobbing like a cork somewhere in open water in Dazzler’s wake watching her sailing off into the South Pacific.  Although possible, it is more likely an old man with diminishing hearing abilities just didn’t hear the blasted thing.  I try to explain that I’m not perfect and it’s just one of my faults.  We both have strengths and weaknesses and this seems to be one of my weaknesses.  Perhaps twenty minutes is too short a period?  Well, any longer than that and your ability to find someone who may have fallen overboard decreases with each passing minute.  Even if we do fall over the life lines, our tether attached to the jack-line should keep us attached to Dazzler. Why does she always have to assume that I’ve gone overboard anyway?

I now call this device the Crew Wake Up Angry Device (CWUAD), our safety feature.  But, I’m telling you it cuts deep when the love of your life is steaming mad and could probably knockout Mike Tyson because her beach dream of endless back lotion has been abruptly interrupted.  I wish I was better at the timing thing with the warning beeps.  I don’t want it to go off, it just does.  I’d like to thank that little gremlin or whoever it is for making me look bad.  Well, actually I’d like to kick its ass! To my sweetheart, I apologize for letting the CWUAD wake you up and interrupt your back lotion therapy session.     

We will continue using the CWUAD for passages.  In the meantime, I’ll be sleeping in the doghouse every time the blasted thing catches me off guard and wakes up the lovely sleeping soul in the V-berth.  Who knew an electronic device could be so evil that it could transform even the sweetest creature into a fire breathing dragon looking to tear up the south end of a northbound tiger (me)? Who knew?  I didn’t know, but I do now!  It’s a good thing she loves me and thinks I’m so damn cute.  Right?

Until the next story from the high seas and bliss in paradise, this is Captain Dan from the doghouse in the South Pacific.  


Captain Dan and Jilly

PS  It’s a good thing there isn’t a CWUAD in the doghouse.  LOL!