October 15 - December 31, 2010


* Our Best Passage Ever To New Zealand

* Boarded

* Gay Marriage, Goose Style

* High Altitude Bombing

* Eagle's Wings Gets Torn Apart -- In A Good Way

* Breaking Chain For Fun

* Attacked In The Shower


October 15 - October 18, 2010

Goodbye To Fiji

For several weeks we lay at anchor in Savusavu, Fiji and slowly recovered from our flu's. We finally got off the boat after a self-imposed quarantine of almost 2 weeks. Stir crazy.

We explored a road that wound its way up into the hills overlooking Savusavu. Once again, we were delighted with the friendliness of the Fijian people.

Fijian boys having a good time.


Local farmer walking his favorite goat. He invited us to visit him at his home and we hope to take him up on that next year when we come back.


We decided to stick to the path after running across these monster Golden Orb Weaver spiders. This guy is probably six inches long, counting the legs.
A hilltop view. That's Eagle's Wing on the left.

We planned to spend another few weeks exploring Fiji. But then nature intervened.

Normally we spend up to a month waiting for a good weather window for our passage to New Zealand. So when the best weather window we'd ever seen suddenly appeared, we decided to grab it. Within two days we were on our way!

October 19 - October 26, 2010

Our Best Passage Ever To New Zealand

What a window! We had a big high pressure system that provided moderate easterly winds for the whole trip. Usually we would have hit the center of the high and gotten becalmed, but this time the high kept moving south just in front of us.

So, after about 20 hours of motoring at the beginning, we had steady winds of about 15-20 knots on the beam for the whole trip!

This felt more like the "milk run" passage from the Galapagos to the Marquesas than the potentially dangerous run to New Zealand.

Hard to beat those gorgeous sunsets.
Ken caught the usual mahi on the second day out.  


And we also had flying fish and squid visitors. We could have eaten them if we had discovered them before rigor mortis set in.


If all trips were this benign, everybody would be out cruising oceans.

October 26 - October 27, 2010

Boarder In The Night

We arrived after hours at Opua in New Zealand and spent the night tied up at the "Q" (for quarantine) dock. The Q dock is totally isolated from shore and surrounded by water.

So, we were quite surprised when we heard the patter of tiny feet around midnight. At first we thought it was a bird or a cat.

But here's what Ken saw when he went up on deck. Turns out the visitor was a possum!


New Zealand possums look cute, but yikes -- we cringed when we saw those big sharp claws digging into our furled up sail.

We couldn't do anything about this guy while he was up in the rigging, so we went back to sleep. But an hour later we heard a noise in the pilothouse.

Possum had decided to move right in. He didn't respond to gentle prodding, so we left him alone. Next morning we found him snug and curled up asleep in a corner (right).

When the NZ authorities came on board in the morning, they asked the usual question about whether we had any invasive species on board. We said "HELL YES! -- one of yours invaded us!"

The officials were reluctant even to enter the pilothouse with this guy in there, because possums can be vicious. But our furry guest just wanted to sleep, so we got on with business.

And then, unfortunately, we had to get rid of him. So Ken went mano-a-mano, armed with a boat hook, gloves and ski goggles. Possum didn't want to leave, so there was lots of snarling and hissing -- mostly from Ken. Eventually our furry visitor jumped overboard.

But instead of swimming to shore, he made the mistake of trying to get back on the Q dock, where he met his demise at the hands of an angry mob of cruisers and officials armed with oars and such -- nobody wanted him on their boat. Plus the Kiwis hate possums, because they really ARE an invasive species with no natural enemies in New Zealand, and they're very destructive.

But we were sad about the endgame, because he'd behaved ok until we attacked him.

  As we left Opua, we noticed a boat named "Wetnose" tied up at the Q dock. Their logo looked like a memorial to our visitor.

October 27 - December 31, 2010

Back Home To Whangarei

We took a few days to get back to Riverside Marina in Whangarei, where we'll plant ourselves again for the season. We never tire of the beautiful New Zealand landscape.

Gay Marriage, Goose Style

We found some old friends at the marina. "Squeaky" and "Braveheart" were as tight as ever. They took turns sitting on a clutch of eggs at the edge of the parking lot. Unfortunately, since both geese are girls, the eggs never hatch.

Which doesn't stop them from fiercely defending their turf. Every time we went to our car, we had to face their combined fury.

Eventually, at great risk to life and limb, Ray (the marina manager), removed the eggs to let Squeaky and Braveheart get on with their lives. Otherwise, they probably STILL would be sitting on those eggs.

"The girls," as everybody calls them, did this last year, too, and geese mate for life. So it looks like this will be an annual event.

Time For A Major Refit

Usually we use our time in New Zealand for maintenance projects. This year we decided to go whole hog and undertake a major refit.

EW has gelcoat cracks, all over the deck, caused by overly thick and brittle gelcoat on top of a very strong but stretchy vinylester lay-up.

Apparently TPI had this problem for a while during the mid-1990s.

The cracks aren't structural -- they don't go into the strength layers of the fiberglass -- but boy, do they look terrible!

So we decided to fix the cracks. But like all boat projects, one thing led to another. To fix the cracks properly, we had to remove all the deck hardware, including the pilothouse. But that allowed us good access to the engine room, so we decided to make a few changes there.

Like get a new engine!

Here's a summary of the work planned:

  • Repair cracks on deck
  • Replace engine with more powerful model (from 88HP to 110HP)
  • Remove genset to solve belt alignment (and dusting) problem
  • Install engine driven emergency pump
  • Re-bed all deck hardware and seal core where needed
  • Re-bed all windows
  • Replace corroded window frames
  • Add a hatch in the forward shower
  • Add raised combings around hatches forward
  • Paint deck and hull

Quite a daunting list. But we had signed up an amazingly talented guy, Steve Eichler, to manage the work for us. We wouldn't have attempted this project without his help. Steve is primarily a carpenter but he's good at everything (we like to say he is a nuclear physicist masquerading as a carpenter).

Steve has an unusual combination of brains, motivation, and organizational ability. Plus he's not emotionally involved with EW, so it's easier for him to rip her apart than it is for us.

Unfortunately, Steve speaks Kiwi, so half the time we can't understand each other. But we highly recommend him.

Steve helps Beth loosen corroded fittings.
Before we could go in the shed, we had to remove the solar panels, bimini, pilothouse, and mast. And we needed to remove tons of stuff from below. At left, our boat, before the massive disassembly process.

Beth Experiments With High Altitude Bombing

We worked feverishly for weeks to get as much stuff off the boat as possible. At right, Beth is at the top of the mast, removing instruments. You might think it is dangerous to be 70 feet up in the air. Actually, as long as you are tied in securely, the biggest danger lies below...

...and to anyone who might be standing at the foot of the mast.

Beth dropped this screwdriver and it penetrated right through the top layer of fiberglass.

Good thing we planned to redo the deck!

Fortunately, Ken was standing safely back by the pilothouse. He's thinking of adding a steel plate to the top of his hat.

Off with the solar panels, bimini canvas (left) and later the bimini. At right, Gerry the rigger prepares for removal of our mast and boom.


We motored the boat down the river to another yard, where the riggers had access to an enormous crane to remove the mast and boom.

Along with Steve, we were fortunate to have Dave Berg involved in many stages of the project. They both worked like demons removing hardware, getting the boat ready to go into the shed.

Dave has also done a lot of work for us in the past, and is fast, careful, and skilled at all kinds of boat work. (He's also a delivery skipper.) We felt like we really had the "A" team on the job.

The pilothouse was glued on with 3M 5200 -- the mother of all adhesives.

Steve and Dave use creativity (and fishing wire) to saw through the adhesive.


At left, the travel lift picks up our pilothouse.

At right, EW looks pretty bare. She's also floating about 6 inches higher in the water!


With the boat practically gutted inside and out, there was no way we could continue to live on her.

So we found a nice place on the lower level of a home owned by a lovely Dutch couple, Martin and Jeanne (at left).

They have a great garden and they have treated us to silver beet, lettuce, and beets.


We spent quality time "dumpster diving" for cardboard boxes to store our stuff.

The Kiwis recycle cardboard in special dumpsters, so you can pull out nice clean boxes.

We rented two 10 ft x 10 ft storage rooms and a shipping container 20 feet long and 8 feet wide to store all of our stuff. But we still had to store scores of boxes in our apartment. How did we ever fit all this stuff on the boat?

Did we mention we have too much stuff?

We're seriously going to make an effort to get rid of things...like our big spinnaker (left). Its big, heavy, and we've used it only once since we got to the Pacific.

On the other hand, we decided to keep the big Bruce anchor as a spare. We may get rid of a big Spade anchor. That would still leave us with 4 anchors!

Both the Bruce and Rocna anchors are bigger and heavier than Beth. They also do a better job of hanging on underwater, so Ken has stopped threatening to use Beth as an anchor!

We had to remove all the interior panels to access fittings holding deck hardware and windows in place.


Beth was scandalized by mold uncovered when we got behind cabinetry and panels. Steve introduced her to a Kiwi product called "Exit Mould" and she went on a cleaning rampage inside the boat.


Ken was so impressed by Exit Mould that he volunteered to help clean ALL of the interior panels. At right, a small fraction of the panels we took off and cleaned.

After cleaning, the panels looked brand new.

Eagle's Wings Goes Undercover

With the big external items gone, we hauled EW (left) and put her into the shed (right). Steve, Dave, and other workers spent days removing the remaining hardware.

With the hardware gone, Steve and Dave inspected all of the holes in the hull, identifying places where the core hadn't been properly sealed during the original boat build.

Dave used an allen key as a bit to ream out the core around each hole so it could be filled with epoxy.

Engine Aerobatics

While the boat was being prepared for the crack repair, our engine projects kicked into gear.

Steve (left) helping direct the removal of our engine and generator. At right, Gary, our engine mechanic, guides the engine out of the boat.


Grant, who owns the yard's engine shop, lifted the engine and generator out with his special hi-lift truck.


Here's our beautiful new Yanmar 110 HP engine.


Gary discovered a transmission alignment issue when the old engine came out. The misalignment caused serious scoring on our transmission coupling shaft.

In addition to the transmission misalignment, Tim, our marine engineer, found that our aquadrive CV coupling wasn't aligned properly (it had a 13 degree bend -- but the max spec is 8 degrees!) -- and was about to hemorrhage.

EW had a special transmission setup not found in other Sundeer boats, and it hadn't been implemented right. We dodged a bullet here.

Gary modified our engine mounts to reduce the CV joint angle.


With the old engines out of the boat, the engine room really showed its grimy underbelly. We spent days degreasing the floor. We know how to have a good time.


After our labor -- a noticeable improvement.

Work Begins On A Facelift For Eagle's Wings

The deck crack repairs proceeded with lightning speed.

Workers ground away the gelcoat in areas with severe cracking.

At right, epoxy filler over a new layer of fiberglass builds back the surface.


Steve, along with Lance (from the yard's boat builders, at right) added another small hatch (near Lance's foot) to vent the forward shower and they added raised combings to both of the small hatches (in front of ladder) and also on the forepeak hatch (front).

The coamings will allow us to secure covers over the hatches, making for better watertight integrity at sea. (Our other hatches all came with coamings in the original build, and we love them that way.)

The Joys Of Data

For a long time, we've wrestled with the appropriate anchor chain setup for our boat.

Most boats our size have at least 3/8" (or 10 millimeter) chain (bottom). But Steve Dashew, our boat designer, specified smaller 5/16" G70 Acco chain (top) for our boat. This chain looks small but, because of the "G70" rating, should be stronger than the "G30" 3/8" chain that most sailors use.

The smaller chain has caused some problems over the years. (Mostly of the marital variety.)

First, it looks tiny, so we get a lot of grief from other cruisers.

Second, chain manufacturers discourage regalvanizing G70 chain, as the process can weaken the chain. If we can't regalvanize the chain, we are forced to replace it frequently, at great expense and inconvenience.

Third, Beth just never believed it was strong enough. (Did we mention that it's tiny?)

So we decided to do some testing.

We cut several feet off our chain and sent short sections to two different Kiwi companies for regalvanizing. We also kept two sections that had not been regalvanized.

Then we went to Cookes, a local chain supplier that has a facility to test chain.

We had a great time working with Benjamin.

Here Ben sets up for one of the tests.

So we put our chain to the test, starting with the stuff that had not been regalvanized.

Ben attached the chain with the best shackle available for 5/16" chain. The shackle has a rated breaking strength of 19,845 lbs, and he was sure that would be plenty strong, because normal 5/16" chain (G30) would break at only 7600 lbs.

(For comparison the stuff everybody else uses -- 3/8" G30 -- breaks at about 11,000 lbs.)

Ben cranked up the machine until, at 16,988 lbs, we heard a loud explosion. The shackle pin had broken!

So while the metal in the shackle might break at 19,845 lbs, the threads on the pin make a weak spot.

Meanwhile, you might notice, our chain didn't break. Ben was impressed.

We need to explain that chain and shackles always specify safe working loads. For most chain the breaking strength is four times the working load, and for most shackles, including this one, six times. That means the specified safe working load on this shackle was about 3308 lbs -- and it broke at about five times that rating. So it didn't get to its theoretical breaking strength, but no problem if you stayed within sensible load ranges.

But we focus on breaking strength because that's what we can measure, and that's what really matters to us in the end.

For the rest of the tests, Ben laddered together super strong hammerlock links and chain hooks instead of shackles.

In the next test, our original chain broke at 17,439 lbs -- 130 percent stronger than ordinary 5/16" chain, and almost 60 percent stronger than the 3/8" chain that other cruisers use.

The regalvanized chain (at the best regalvanizer) lost about 4% of its strength, but that seemed acceptable to us, so we will go ahead and regalvanize the whole chain. (And then re-test a few pieces to make sure the new galvanizing job works ok.)

Since a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, we were happy to see that the six bits of regalvanized chain we tested all performed consistently and that none broke at the welds. In fact, every break occurred at the chain hook. That's very encouraging, since we don't use chain hooks in our system!

Of the two regalvanizers, one was noticeably better than the other -- so it does matter exactly how the regalvanizing is done. You don't want super high temperatures, as it draws the temper in the G70 chain.

Finally, we have always solved the problem of shackling the chain by using a G70 "big link" which allows us to fit a giant 5/8" shackle.

The big link has to be factory welded onto the end of the chain.

We had a spare big link from the end of the chain that we cut off, so we tested it, along with a 5/8" shackle.

The big link broke at 28,500 lbs! So that solves the shackling problem!

We learned a ton breaking all this chain: First, we were very impressed with our 5/16" G70 chain. Second, we can regalvanize. Third, you can't trust the 6x ratings on shackles. Fourth, we learned that "hammerlock" links -- even those small enough to fit through our chain -- are massively strong. They are made of super strong steel (G100) and didn't have any problem surviving repeated pulls during our tests. (Unfortunately, you can't buy galvanized hammerlock links, and you really wouldn't want to regalvanize G100 steel.)

Here are all of our results:

Chain Sample


Breaking Strength (Lbs)






Factory galvanized 11 mm Shackle w/ 13 mm pin 16998 Shackle pin broke, chain elongated
Factory galvanized Chain hooks 17439

Chain broke at chain hook

Re-galvanized (Whangarei) Chain hooks 16491 Chain broke at chain hook
Re-galvanized (Whangarei) Chain hooks 16336 Chain broke at chain hook
Re-galvanized (East Tamaki) Chain hooks 16998 Chain broke at chain hook
Re-galvanized (East Tamaki) Chain hooks 17020 Chain broke at chain hook
Re-galvanized (East Tamaki) Chain hooks 16777 Chain broke at chain hook
Big link (11.68 mm) 5/8" Shackle w/ .75" pin 28550 Big link broke, shackle fine

Comment: All chain is ACCO 5/16" G70, which actually measures about 8.7 mm. Shackles are Van Beest Green Pin

The testing was so much fun that we may try some more.

Beth Attacked In Shower By Giant Insect

Yeah, really. She was taking a shower in our apartment when she noticed something moving on the floor. It was big, but without her glasses she couldn't tell what it was. So she reacted like any tough cruising woman would.

She leaped in the air and screamed.

That brought Ken on the run, and we captured this fellow.

This is a "weta," an insect that exists only in New Zealand, thank heavens. Its body is 2.5 inches long, and with legs and all it's probably six inches total. And ugly?

Notice the horns coming out the back end!

The thing is as big as a field mouse, which is basically what it is, since mice didn't evolve in New Zealand. They don't attack people generally, but have a pretty good bite if you provoke them. Like, by stepping on them in the shower!

Wetas are endangered, so we let this guy go. Outdoors. Far away.

Anyway, that's it for now. We hope by the next update to report on more progress toward getting Eagle's Wings back into the water where she belongs.