January 2 - June 6, 2008

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HIGHLIGHTS

We Move to Massachusetts! (Can you Guess Why?)

Ken Gets a New Camera and Promises Better Pictures

Hell Freezes Over

Ken Gets Electric Shock Therapy

We Discover an Extra 500 pound Battery on Board

We Can Now Pressurize Flamethrower Tanks

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January 19 - March 5, 2008

Trip Home To The U.S. And Ken's Brilliant Idea

We set off for a visit to the States in mid-January. We planned to be gone for 3 weeks, but it turned into 6! A few days before we were supposed to return to New Zealand, Ken woke up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea -- let's move to MASSACHUSETTS!!

Many people think a trip like ours is a scary proposition. And being out in the ocean all by yourself can seem a bit intimidating. But truthfully, the most scared we've been was when we lost our health insurance. We have been unable to purchase private health insurance since our COBRA coverage expired over two years ago. We aren't spring chickens and we felt really hung out with no insurance. What if we got some really nasty illness that required extensive hospitalization? We could be wiped out.

Massachusetts is the only state that requires ALL residents to get health insurance, because Mitt Romney -- remember him? -- actually got the job done. This means that insurers in Massachusetts can't turn you down. So... we established residency in Massachusetts -- we found a place to rent, got new driver's licenses, registered to vote, and -- TA DA!!! -- we applied for and received health insurance coverage. The application process was a breeze! The insurance costs about the same as our very expensive COBRA coverage and we are happy to pay it.

Our new "home away from home" We found a room to rent in a delightful old homestead. Keith (right), our new landlord, is a closet sailor and was very enthusiastic about our trip. Keith, our new landlord

Depths of Winter

Visiting the U.S. in January is always a shock. And this was a particularly brutal winter. But, we did have to admit, the winterscapes were beautiful.

Ken finally got a "real" camera (a Nikon 40 DX), and had great fun shooting in the snow.

Wisconsin winter...

Windswept snow in Wisconsin   Breathtaking stillness after big snowfall

 

Blankets of snow ...and of course, the Wisconsin beer that makes winter tolerable... Wisconsin gusto

Massachusetts winter...

We felt right at home in Massachusetts, after experiencing bracing temperatures in Wisconsin.

Fragile, ice covered branches   Ice covered snow

 

Classic New England church   Mr. Snowman

 

Sparkling ice covered snow Lacey ice Afternoon shadows

 

Heavy equipment required Look out below! Cars dwarfed by snow

 

Who had the bright idea to stay here for the winter?   Hardy ducks adapting to Massachusetts winter.

Interesting patterns...

Study in wood Tree fungus onslaught Decaying stump

Philosophy, Revolution, And Religion

The Boston area is sort of the cradle of US history.

We walked completely around Walden Pond, home of Henry David Thoreau's experiment in solitude.

A barbed wire fence surrounds the entire pond. Kind of the opposite of what Thoreau had in mind.

  Walden Pond

 

Replica of Thoreau's home in the woods Thoreau lived for two years in this very tiny one-room cabin, writing and thinking about political philosophy. Sparse interior of Walden's home

 

Old North Bridge -- where revolution started  

This is where our country got started -- the famous bridge at Concord.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood

Their flag to April's breeze unfurled

Here once the embattled farmers stood

And fired the shot heard round the world

 

First Parish church

We also visited Plymouth, MA, where the original Pilgrim settlers came ashore.

Tombstone from long ago

The Pilgrims wanted to found a theocratic state rather similar in concept to modern Iran. But the colonists were an independent bunch and the church hierarchy didn't keep its power for long.

Hell Gets Cold

We were home in the thick of the early primary season and we got sucked right into all of the dramas. After being away from American politics for so long, we got totally hooked. Obama went from nobody to the front runner in the six weeks we were home.

Republican debate...

McCain during early debate Huckabee making a point Romney up at bat

Democratic debate...

Hillary on immigration Many of our foreign friends assumed Hillary would get the Democratic nomination and win the presidency. But not so fast... Obama makes a response

Fortunately, we have a great internet connection back on the boat in New Zealand, so we can indulge our political fixations until we leave for the tropics.

Beth has become "Obama Girl" (she got hooked after reading Obama's books on the plane trip back to the States from New Zealand). And even Ken is thinking about voting Democrat. The cracking sound you hear under you is Hell Freezing Over.

Connecting With Family and Friends

We loved being home and visiting family and getting a chance to see some friends. The time always goes way too fast and we never get to see everyone we'd like.

Beth was showered with chocolate by Cathy and Rob (Ken's sister and brother-in-law) and their friends. We both gained WAY too much weight on the trip home and resolved to ration our food intake when we returned to New Zealand. This was the first time that our normally high metabolisms couldn't do the job. Our bodies just weren't used to the HUGE portions you get at restaurants in the U.S. (at least that's our excuse).

Beth with an ambundance of chocolate

Beth's parents moved to a retirement community a month before our visit and we were asked to give a talk to the residents about our sailing adventure. About 40 people showed up and they were very enthusiastic and interested. We had a great time.

Presentation at retirement community  

Ken is a bit of a perfectionist about presentations, so we probably put in close to 40 hours of preparation for a one hour talk. But it paid off.

We added up our miles, and were stunned that we've journeyed over 24,000 miles by sea so far! At about 8 miles per hour!

March 6 - June 6, 2008

Back To New Zealand And The Long Project List

Prices in the U.S. are REALLY cheap. Like 1/3 of NZ prices for imported goods. (Partly because of the big, competitive U.S. market, and partly because of the dollar's collapse.)

So we brought back huge boxes full of boat parts and goodies on our tourist visa. We didn't have to declare anything, because we are a "yacht in transit."

The X-ray operator at the airport asked about an odd shape in one of the boxes. Turns out it was a toilet seat for one of our heads. They let us through -- guess it's not unusual for tourists to bring their own toilet seats to New Zealand.

Beth with toilet seats and other goodies.

Then we got to work on boat projects. Of course, there was the usual set of "unusual" problems.

Ken Gets Shock Therapy From Our Very Own Cattle Fence

Shortly after we got back, Ken heard a strange intermittent buzzing noise coming from the steering compartment. He went to investigate and when he reached out to touch the Spectra watermaker, he got blown across the compartment! It was kind of like a cattle fence shock.

Our watermaker has a black box called a "Z-Brane" which puts a very high (25,000 volt) electrostatic charge on the watermaker membrane. This high voltage (at very very low amps) is supposed to keep critters from growing on the membrane. It turns out the cable carrying that high voltage had failed inside the plastic casing (not visible to the naked eye) and shorted out on the high pressure case for the watermaker. Fortunately Ken was not hurt.

Also fortunately, the voltage leak did not appear to cause electrolysis problems elsewhere on the boat.

Watermaker housing eaten by breach in electrical cable The voltage leaking through the breach in the cable ate a nice big chunk (white spot in middle of picture) out of the case of the high pressure housing.

Ken ripped the whole watermaker out, and brought it to the dealer, and they were happy to fix it under warranty. We have to say Spectra has really stepped up to the plate whenever we've had an issue.

We Discover An Extra 500 Pound Battery On Board

We have two big forklift truck batteries, each weighing almost 500 lbs. They are rated at about 1100 amp-hours total. But we've noticed the voltage drops quickly even at a moderate load (moderate for that capacity, anyway). When we check the battery water, one bank is always cold and never seems to need water.

For years we've tried to figure it out. Finally, this year, we really got serious about testing and took an entire day to sort it out. We isolated each battery and did a series of load tests. The results were startling.

When we measured the voltage of the forward battery, the number was 12.7 volts. However, voltage measured at the distribution panel 10 feet away from the battery was 12.2 volts! This drop only appeared with the battery isolated and under a very big load. But a drop of .5 volts is HUGE.

We traced the entire run from the battery and found that an obscure lug deep inside our distribution box had not been properly swaged. The lug at left in the picture shows the bad crimp. The lug on the rightmost cable shows Ken's proper crimp. Old and new lugs -- you really have to crank on the crimp tool to make an adequate connection

That tiny little problem took the 500 lb forward battery out of service for the entire 12 years since Eagle's Wings was built. The battery would not get called to duty unless the voltage on the "good" battery dropped very low. And since we'd recharge the batteries when the voltage got too low, the "bad" battery never got used!

We are totally excited that we've now essentially DOUBLED our battery capacity without doing anything other than making a proper crimp!! We'll see if our theory pans out....

Other projects included servicing our big alternators. It turns out that one of the brushes on the motor of our main engine alternator was completely worn down. So we could only charge at about 1/2 the normal rate. A bad problem, but easy to fix.

Brand new engine starter

We had to replace the starter on our main engine when it began needing two or three trys before it cranked. The old starter lasted 12 years, so we shouldn't complain.

Here's the spare, which came up shiny and clean after four years in the bilge. You have to love vacuum sealing!

Flamethrowers And Other New Toys

We now have a dive compressor!

We bought a reconditioned military compressor (with a brand-new Honda engine) from the States and had it shipped to New Zealand.

It looks big and clunky but weighs only about 65 lbs
Multipurpose unit -- dive compressor AND flamethrower! Technically speaking, this compressor isn't for diving. It's for charging flamethrower tanks! But it will work fine for breathing air, once we put a proper filter on it.
We bet not many sailboats have instructions on how to destroy their equipment to prevent capture by the enemy!   And just in case the going gets tough, we can consult the destruct instructions

The compressor only weighs 65 lbs, so that soldiers can carry it in a backpack, but it's still big and bulky. However we found a place where it can live very happily..

We decided to convert our old liferaft bracket on the stern to hold the compressor. Nick from the yard's stainless shop is modifying the base of the old bracket by cutting and welding an extension to the existing stainless. Nick modifies stainless bracket to hold compressor
Ken mounting the compressor   Here's the finished installation. Not exactly pretty, but very useful.

 

Lawrence displaying his handiwork Lawrence, a local fiberglass expert, made us a very lightweight watertight box. Our boat now looks a real cruising boat -- with lots of odd, chunky stuff hanging on it. Finished box is nice and watertight but rather an eyesore -- we will put a cover on it to try to disguise it

Chafe-Free Cleats

We had a really bad experience two years ago in the Tuomotus, when our anchor snubbers chaffed through and broke. Ken has never forgotten that night.

So this year we decided to create a totally clean way to cleat our snubbers, by welding cleats onto the stainless steel bowsprit. We'll let you know how it works.   New cleats on bowsprit -- our campaign for chafe-free snubbers

Chafe-Free Mooring Lines

Last year in Tonga, we sat on a mooring for about three months. We had to lead the mooring line over the side of the bow, and the line really chewed up the paint on the bow, (And removed all the bottom paint from the first four feet of the hull.) We couldn't lead the mooring line out the bow roller, because the anchor was in the way.

Stainless fitting to combat mooring line chafe   So Ken came up with this idea -- a removable fairlead that can bolt onto the anchor. Now the mooring line can come onto the boat far away from our poor abused paint! We'll let you know if it works.

New Sails

After our (very expensive) Cuben Fiber sails failed, we had Calibre Sails of Whangarei make a new main, genoa, and staysail from "Hydranet" -- a mix of woven Dacron and Spectra.

Waldo, owner of Calibre, sewing up a storm The sails were built with great care and attention to detail. Eisin and Tim assemble the main

The new sails look terrific. Soon we'll see how they sail.

Cruising Friends

It is impossible to be lonely when you're a cruiser. Everywhere you go, you have instant friends. We were happy to see many cruisers we'd seen last year in New Zealand or along the way. We enjoyed them for a brief moment and then they all dispersed...

Sandy of Aloha

Sandy and her husband, Gwyn, sailed from Canada on their boat "Aloha".

Sandy used to be a nurse specializing in hand injuries and she taught us proper bandaging techniques for finger ligament injuries. (Since we each had one.)

Gwyn of Aloha

 

Laura of Chantelle We first met Laura and Bill of "Chantelle" in Tonga. They decided to "swallow the hook" and return to shore life back in the U.S. Bill of Chantelle

 

Britta from "Vera" We spent many enjoyable evenings with Britta and Michael of "Vera". They are on a fast track trip and plan to sail back to Germany by 2009. Michael working on his boat bottom

 

Ginger and Peter of "Marcy" Ginger and Peter of "Marcy". Ginger has one of those megawatt smiles. Ginger emerging for air after a job in the anchor locker

 

Jerry and Joni of "Lotus'  

Joni and Jerry, waited a month to get their steel boat sandblasted and painted, with the yard down the river promising them "any day now" the whole time.

But they kept smiling.

We are kicking ourselves for not getting pictures of all our wonderful friends here. It really is sad to think we will never see most of these folks again.

Gorgeous New Zealand Wildlife

The great thing about New Zealand is that you can see fantastic scenery right in your back yard. Everywhere you look there are great photo ops...

Kingfisher with crab lunch   Swallow landing on our lifeline

 

Was I assembled wrong?   Stirring at sunrise

 

Gull with flounder snack   Bad hair day

 

White-faced heron stalking in the mud flats   Getting ready to strike

 

Basking in the cool breeze   Got to satisfy that itch

Local Exploring

In between working on projects, we took time to take a few kayak trips up and down the Whangarei River, near our boat.

Limestone features on "Limestone Island" Here are remains of a limestone processing plant (right) on Motu Matakohe (also known as "Limestone Island").

 

Boat in mud at low tide A tidal range of more than 8 feet leaves boats high and dry in the Whangarei river. Boat firmly planted in the mud at low tide

 

Shag surveying the river at low tide You definitely can't travel by keel boat at low tide! Boats along the Whangarei River shore

This year we only explored near Whangarei. With our extended trip to the States, we didn't feel we could afford the time to go on a big excursion. But there is still plenty to see near the marina.

Willowy plants catch the sun Graceful plants in the sun. Fern canopy

 

Lovely beach at Monganui Beautiful Monganui, north of Whangarei.

Racing

One Saturday, soapbox derby fever descended on Whangarei. For hours, young kids raced cars (they call them "trolleys") down the main street in town. The cars were purchased from the American Soapbox Derby Association. Each school had one car and several team members -- so lots of kids got a chance to give it a go. The rules are very strict about what you can and cannot do to the cars. They even restrict the kind of grease you can use.

Match racing in Whangarei Parents offered strategic advice: "Go downhill" Mom giving pointers

 

Traveling at breakneck speed around the track

BMX racing draws kids of all ages (up to about age 60) to try their luck at jumps, banked corners, and bumps.

Girls too.

Jumps and curves

 

You have tomboys, and then you have the young ladies.   Local girls enjoying the festive scene

New Friends

Last year when we visited Niue, we met a Kiwi farming couple, Albert and Felicia, who graciously invited us to look them up when we got to New Zealand. After our return from the States, we took them up on their suggestion and spent a few days at their farm in Kaiwaka.

Still dawn From their backyard, we could see trees, fields and sea -- as far as the eye could see. Sunrise on farm

 

Dan-e being curious   Our friends own a couple of very friendly dogs. At first we were a bit intimidated by "Dan-e", a VERY large but affectionate Great Dane. He weighs considerably more than Beth.

But it was soon clear he was very playful and extremely gentle.

He also had a habit of running through your legs -- you find yourself swept off your feet, riding on his back!

  Ken getting a ride on Dan-e -- who was pretending to be a horse

 

Dan-e getting a treat Felicia giving Dan-e a treat. That's one big dog!

Albert and Felicia join other local hunters to "follow the hounds" on horseback, chasing hares across the rough NZ dairy farming countryside. (Complete with spiffy red riding jackets and those white pants, big black boots and cute little hats!) Sort of like fox hunting in England, but without the elite "class" implications.

Many farmers lower fences along the hunting route to make it easier for the horse to jump. (Farmers hate hares, since they eat the grass.)

Preserving Maori Culture

New Zealand's native Maori people retain a strong sense of identity and culture.

A local Maori group put on a dance ceremony to thank the foreign cruisers in Whangarei for visiting (and spending money in the local economy.)

Maori warrier during welcoming ceremony  

A Maori warrior (left) does a carefully choreographed display as part of a welcoming ceremony to our group.

The basic choice is pick up the little sprig of leaves, to signify you come in peace, or get whacked with a big club.

Our representative picked up the leaves.

Beth performs "hongi" (nose kiss) with a Maori local. The "hongi" -- a Maori greeting custom

Singers and dancers really got into their work. This was obviously a labor of love -- not just something they do for tourists.

Very expressive Maori singers Dancing with poi balls Singing traditional songs about Maori history

 

Maori warriors used extreme body language to communicate their ferocity and intimidate strangers.   Very intimidating Maori warrier

Getting Ready To Head North

The end of our season here in New Zealand is fast approaching and we're looking to finish up projects, buy provisions, and head north where it is WARM!

Critical provisions  

Last year, Beth ran out of her chocolate supply within a month. Ken made a big sacrifice and shared some of his.

This year, she won't have that problem. We have more than 30 pounds of chocolate on board!

Our plan is to visit Tonga and American Samoa before returning to New Zealand later in the year.