September 20, 2012 - December 31, 2012



* EW Hits A Reef

* Diving In The Mud

* A Disaster At Sea (But Not Us)

* Sheep Racing And Other Stuff We Like About New Zealand

* Dad Turns 100!


September 20, 2012 - November 10, 2012

When we left off, we were in Savusavu, Fiji, in September 2012!!!! Man, we are REALLY out of date here! Anyway, we had just limped back to Savusavu with a broken watermaker, and sat there for a few weeks while we waited for parts, and while Beth went home to visit her Dad. Finally, by late September we were ready to start off on a new adventure. We were about to get more adventure than we wanted.

Navigating by Satellite Pictures

Here's a satellite picture of the North Island of Fiji (called Vanua Levu), with our track starting at Savusavu. You can probably see the huge barrier reef up on the North side of the island. After the great barrier reef in Australia, it's one of the biggest in the world, and Beth got a hankering to go dive on it.


Ken was bit dubious, since we hadn't really heard a lot of good things about it from other cruisers, but the Admiral won out. So off we went, following the track on the picture.


You can see that we had to pass through some areas where there's a lot of complex reef -- here's a blow up. The problem with this kind of area in Fiji is that the charts may not have anything to do with reality. Our charts showed most of these reefs, but not with exactly the right shapes or locations -- just rough approximations.


Enter Google Earth. More and more, cruisers are using satellite pictures that show the actual reefs, where they REALLY are, and linking the images up with GPS to get real time navigation. (In a place like Fiji, with slow and spotty internet, you have to download the images ahead of time.) You still need reasonable visibility to move among the reefs, as you can't count on seeing every coral head from 100 miles up (and sometimes there are clouds in the pictures), but the satellite pictures are a huge help.

Navigating By Bumping Into Stuff

But we screwed it up anyway.

We were really trying to do everything right, by only moving when the sun was high and the sky was clear of clouds. All it takes is a light cloud cover, and bang, you can't see the reefs at all. Bang, indeed.

We had clear conditions when we dropped the hook in about 50 feet of water where the "X" shows on this picture. Unfortunately, our chain immediately got tangled in a bunch of rocks, so we really couldn't stay where we were. And by the time we got untangled and pulled the anchor up, it had clouded over. But we were only planning to move parallel to the reef about 100 meters...




And we smacked right into the reef, going about 1.5 knots! Beth was driving, but she couldn't see the chart plotter from the helm. Ken was on the bow, but he couldn't see the reefs because it was cloudy. Ken saw them at very last minute and yelled a warning at the top of his lungs, but too late. Fortunately we don't have a tape recording of the next few minutes...


Also fortunately, EW is a very strong boat. (We know of a sister ship that smacked a reef down near Pitcairn Island while going seven knots -- a hit that would have sunk many boats. They dinged up the keel, but no structural damage.) So we were hopeful.


We backed off the reef, dropped the hook in clear water (by now the sun was back out), and Ken went right over the side, and took these pictures. These pictures show the leading edge of the keel, with some fairing knocked off the lead, but no significant damage.




And this last picture shows the trailing edge of the keel, up where it joins the hull. If you're going to sink the boat, it would happen here when the top aft end of the keel gets smashed up through the hull. We've seen boats get damaged like that (see our January 1 - August 2, 2011 (Part 2) update), but EW came through with flying colors -- no sign of damage in or out.



With hindsight, we had made two key mistakes. First we didn't plan the 100 meter move with enough care, because we had just seen the reef a few minutes earlier, when the light was good. But we needed to take a very close look at the chart/sat picture, and then take compass bearings, since we couldn't see it anymore. We got complacent, and we got disoriented, and we got smacked.

Second, we didn't have a way for the helm person to see the chart software, which lives on a computer inside the pilothouse. The sat picture and the chart both showed us doing exactly the wrong thing, but neither of us could see that at the time. We resolved to get a daylight viewable screen that we could set on top of the pilothouse, within easy viewing range from the wheel. (We did this for the 2013 season, and we love it.)


Anyway, a scary lesson, but we're still floating. That's better than a lot of boats that hit a reef in Fiji -- like "Touche" from our last update.



They say that "wise people learn from the mistakes of others, ordinary people learn from their own mistakes, and fools never learn." Guess we've established that we're not in the first category.



Much subdued, we continued on the next day -- in good light and veeeery carefully -- and ultimately maneuvered EW into a perfectly sheltered lagoon. We had some villagers come by and say they had never seen a yacht in there -- and we could see why. We wouldn't have attempted it without the satellite pictures as a guide.


Diving in the Mangroves

Turns out there's a reason that not many boats go up where we were. The big city of Labasa (pronounced Lambasa, as the "b" in Fiji is pronounced "mb") is just too close. The agricultural runoff from the Qawa river has silted up the reefs for miles around its mouth, and the fleet of small fishing vessels that constantly flogs the reef to feed the urban market has pretty much decimated the larger fish.


Fortunately, it doesn't take much to keep us amused. We actually like diving and snorkeling in mangrove swamps, as it's a totally different environment, with different creatures, than a coral reef. Here are some of our pictures.




These pictures capture the atmosphere in the mangroves -- shallow, murky, mysterious. We like this kind of thing partly because nobody else does it.


And you can see some pretty interesting stuff. For example, this is a shrimp goby, poised on the edge of his burrow, ready to duck into the hole. OK, that's not so strange by itself, except that shrimp gobies don't dig burrows. Instead they work out a deal with a shrimp (which look a lot like an American style crayfish).




The shrimp does all the work -- here you can see one shoveling up a load of coral like a miniature bulldozer. In return, the goby, which has much better eyesight, stands watch.





When the shrimp emerges, it feels around for the goby's tail. If the goby is there, and if he doesn't twitch his tail, the shrimp knows the coast is clear. We don't know how the shrimp and the gobies find each other. Maybe Craigslist.



And here's a small barracuda that followed Beth all around the mangroves like a puppy dog, just hoping she would stir up lunch.






And finally, here's a surprise that Beth found -- a grouper which was probably 2.5 feet long, easily the biggest edible fish we saw in this area.






He was hiding up in the mangroves in three feet of water. Beth and the grouper sat and stared at each other for a long time, both fascinated, going blub, blub, blub...

Beth captured a short video of her zen encounter with the grouper. You can see it here on YouTube.


We're not saying exactly where we found this guy -- may he live long and prosper.

Had we moved farther west along the outer reef, the conditions would probably have changed. But most of this reef offers no anchorage for a sailboat, and the coast is too far for day trips in the dinghy. The island of Kia would have been an interesting stop, but we spent too long diving in the mud, and soon it was time to think about heading to New Zealand again.

Almost A Fire

So we went back to Savusavu and got ready to leave. But first we had to fix a few problems. To start, our Glacier Bay refrigerator/freezer compressor suddenly stopped running. We only use that compressor for backup, so we didn't lose any food, but obviously we had to fix the problem. Here's what Ken found when he opened the control box.

These wires were part of the original installation -- they've been in there since 1995. Probably they have been on the verge of blowing up for a long time. We're just really glad that we didn't have a fire. Ken rewired the system with much heavier wires, eliminated some unnecessary connections and also replaced the big relay with a new one. The GB has run fine since.

The $1100 Cooling Fan

Next, the cooling fan quit on our 1800 watt Prosine inverter. We have a backup inverter, but we really like the Prosine and didn't want it to burn itself up in the tropical heat. Cooling fans get a lot of use, and they don't last forever, so we didn't think this would be a big deal.

But Prosine had been bought out a while ago by Xantrex, and we'd had friends tell us that Xantrex wasn't very helpful. Specifically, they tended to say "that unit is not repairable, but we have a special on our new model for only $XXX."

So we called Xantrex, and they told us "that unit is not repairable, but you can replace it with our new model for only $1100." Yikes! The service guy on the phone sounded kind of beat down -- like he expected people to yell at him. Can't imagine why.


So Ken went to work, disassembling the inverter. (If you ever do this, be sure you allow about half an hour for the capacitors to discharge, and check with a volt meter before you touch anything.)




It turned out that the inverter has the same computer fan that we use for some other applications -- so we had the exact spares in our inventory. It took Ken about half a day to make the change, but he says he could do it in 45 minutes next time. The fan cost seven dollars.



So we saved $1093. As an economist, Ken says he would normally include his time in the repair cost. Except that these days his time is worth exactly zippo. :-(

Chilling In Our Favorite Spot

So now we were ready to sail for Whangarei. We even had a beautiful weather window shaping up, and we hurried to get ready.

And then the weather models started predicting an early tropical storm, which would brew up over New Caledonia, and drop down diagonally (heading SE from New Cal) across the route to NZ.

That was a show stopper. There are times when you can take some chances with tropical storms -- we'll talk about doing that during our return to the tropics the next May. But this one was hopeless -- if we tried to go early and get by in front of it, it might drop out of tropics ahead of schedule and nail us. Lows spin clockwise in the southern hemisphere, so the leading winds would be northerlies, which would prevent us from running back North to Fiji. And the storm would almost certainly track to the SE, so going either S or E wouldn't reliably get us out of the way. And W would take us straight into it. That kind of uses up all the available directions...

So we had to suck it up and spend an extra week and a half scuba diving in Fiji, while the storm passed and the trade winds filled back in after its passage. Life can be hard... :-)


We went to one of our favorite places in the world -- the wonderful reserve at Namena, just 25 miles from Savusavu. It's an enormous, horseshoe shaped reef, with a lagoon about twelve kilometers long and four kilometers wide -- and no fishing on the entire reef!



And the storm's distant passage made perfect diving conditions, as the westerlies on top of the low canceled and disrupted the SE trades, giving us very light, calm conditions. Not good for sailing, but great for diving.

The pictures mostly speak for themselves.



A field of small eels who live in burrows in the sand -- called grass eels.






A Napoleon wrasse. He's about three feet long!






A very pregnant black tip shark.





A spotted sweet lips extending his mouth parts so that two cleaner wrasses can do a thorough job of cleaning off the parasites and dead skin. For fish, these "cleaning stations" are sort of like manicure shops. Very soothing.



A turtle (maybe 2.5 feet long) pulling a heavy load of three remoras. This picture gives us a chance to revisit that huge turtle we saw in Vanu Balavu in 2011.




From 2011: The remora just forward of that turtle's hind flipper would have been about the same size as these three -- which gives you some idea of how big that turtle was!






And finally, two squid laying eggs in the sand.






We spent a long time watching them dance.




Disaster At Sea

But a few days after the storm had passed, the trades began to blow and Namena began to get uncomfortably rooOOooOOoollly. So we packed up and headed back to Savusavu to clear Customs and leave.

Imagine our shock, when we got back, to learn that the storm had smacked right into a whole fleet of boats headed to NZ from Tonga and Fiji. One boat -- a 38 foot Beneteau named "Windigo" -- got rolled and set off their EPIRB. Another boat, "Adventure Bound," was asked by the rescue coordination center to go back and stand by "Windigo," while a commercial ship diverted to take the crew off. "Adventure Bound" valiantly made their way to the scene, and stood by for about 24 hours in really bad conditions, suffering some damage themselves in the process. Fortunately the crew on "Windigo" got off safely, although the boat was abandoned. Many other boats in the fleet were also damaged, and everybody had a miserable time.

("Windigo" washed up intact four months later on the coast of Australia -- sailboats are pretty tough.)



"Adventure Bound" in Opua





We don't usually criticize other people's mistakes, as it takes all our time just to talk about our own. And we know this is a family website, but -- WTF was everybody thinking???? Unexpected storms can always pop up -- this one was forecasted way in advance.

We understand that there was a week-long rally event planned in NZ, and that some people felt pressure to get to it. We also know that a well known weather router in NZ, who shall remain nameless, advised people that they could route themselves around the forecasted course of the storm. This guy is a brilliant forecaster, and we have hired him ourselves as one source of information. But he's not a sailor and tends to be unrealistic about what sailboats can do. We wouldn't think of taking his advice if we didn't agree with it.

Also, for many sailors just coming across the Pacific, the run to NZ is the hardest passage they have ever made. So there tends to be a lot of angst and group think, where people surrender their individual judgment to the crowd.

And many sailors take on extra crew for this passage -- often friends flying in from home. But these crew members have real lives to get back to, so waiting weeks for a weather window isn't practical. Plus, with all these extra people crammed on the boat, life gets tedious and people get on each other's nerves.

The phrase we hear a lot is "we just got tired of waiting."

We hate those words.

We never get tired of waiting. There's always plenty of work on a boat, and a delay just means that we do more work (or scuba diving) in Fiji and less in NZ. That's not the end of the world. We once waited four weeks to leave Tonga. And our all-time waiting record is five weeks to leave NZ. You've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em...

November 11 - November 19, 2012

If Sailing Were Always This Nice Everybody Would Do It

And actually, once the storm passed we didn't have to wait very long. We got a nice high pressure system and took right off.

Ideally these systems give you a few days of good sailing in the SE trades, lighter air sailing as you get close to the center of the high, and finally a few days of motoring through the center. And, if you time it just right, northerly winds as you approach NZ in the trailing edge of the high. That's the theory -- reality usually works out differently.


But this time we got lucky. What a nice passage.







Sailing in the trades and liking it.






And then, as the air lightened up, we had about two days of the most gorgeous, pleasant sailing you can ever get. Warm, sunny conditions, calm seas, 10-15 knots of wind a bit forward of the beam -- perfect. We even went to full hoist on our main, which doesn't happen often on EW.




A rare sight -- EW's main at full hoist. We rarely need this much canvas:

Of course, we had a few minor problems. Ken always feels the face plate on the water pump when he starts either the engine or genset -- if it gets cold then you know that the water is flowing. This time the genset didn't feel right.



And when Ken opened the pump, here's what he found.




The big question is "where did all those missing impeller fins end up?" You have to find them, since they usually go straight to the heat exchanger and plug the water tubes there.



So Ken had to do more surgery on the Kubota.






Yup, four fins in the heat exchanger. That wasn't going to work.



And then, as expected, the wind dropped off and we started the engine. With our new engine we can motor efficiently at 7 knots (and a bit less efficiently at 8 knots), (and really, really inefficiently at 9.7 knots). Going to and from NZ, we always start the engine when the air dies. This is one passage where you don't want to bob around, waiting for something to come and smack you!




Here's one of our homemade fishing outriggers in action. These things allow us to run two fishing lines at once without tangling them.





Things got so calm that we decided to fix our water speed paddle wheel, which had stopped working when we left Savusavu. This repair is kind of a big deal, since we have to take lots of stuff out of the forepeak locker, take out some floorboards, and then pull the through-hull fitting out and plug the resulting hole in the boat. We wouldn't try this in rough conditions.




Lots of gear on deck as we dig out the forepeak.






Fortunately we always carry spare paddle wheels.





Here's the through-hull fitting before and after the repair. You can see that the old paddle wheel had broken completely off -- maybe from hitting some floating junk.






And here's the through hull, back in its hole,







We also noticed a lot of pumice floating in the water -- sometimes patches would go for miles. They are evidence of an undersea volcanic eruption somewhere, and this year there were tons of them.




Out of curiosity we got out a net and fished some up.




There were some healthy sized rocks out there. Sailors who went through the storm complained about being hit in the face when waves and wind flung these things at them. We didn't have that problem, but we did pick some small ones up in our sea strainer.



And then the wind picked up again as we got close to NZ. That was fine with us, but it was nice to have the hard dodger to keep us dry.



We always know we're close when we start to see ships. We rarely see anything out at sea.




And then we were back in NZ again. We didn't actually take any pictures of our arrival, so you'll have to settle for these artsy shots.

If you squint really hard, you can see the Opua marina, upside down, in the water drop.

November 20 - December 15, 2012

Why We Keep Coming Back To New Zealand

This was our sixth time arriving in NZ from the tropics. (And now we're up to seven, as of 2014). Obviously we like the place a little bit. We thought we would show you some of the reasons.

Good Clean Fun at the Fair

Let's start with a rural fair. What would you expect to see at a New Zealand fair?

Well, sheep racing, of course. We thought this was good, clean fun -- until the public announcement that they train the sheep to run fast by having Australian men chase them with their pants down!

And lumber jacking competitions, since NZ has a huge history of timbering. (Sadly, it's mostly history, as they cut 99 percent of the big old-growth trees before they got green and went to cutting second-growth stuff.)

This tree-topping competition is even harder than it looks. The guys first have to climb this three story pole by chopping notches and inserting footboards, working their way from one level to the next.


And of course, Scottish dancing competition for the kids.


And lots of livestock competitions. We liked the pretty alpacas, although they really didn't have much going on upstairs. Good material for blond jokes.


And then there are the intense thrills of lawnmower racing.


Part of the game consisted of intimidating your opponents with fierce names like "Kiss my grass," "Turfinator II," and "Kick'n grass." But we liked best the name you can see by clicking on the picture at the right. Now there's a scary idea for Kiwi blokes!



NZ doesn't have a rodeo tradition. But they know a good thing when they see it.


And what's fair without balloons? (Who knew there were kids anymore who would wear those hats?)





No fair is complete without a snake-oil salesman.






Then there's the love affair between girls and horses.

Sometimes it looks easy, sometimes it doesn't.




And we'll finish with Ken's 58 year old version of getting wild and wooly. Ken says it's Indianapolis next year.





Fun With Don And Janet

The Kiwi passion for having fun doesn't stop with fairs. Take our good friends Don and Janet Barker (the sign on their mailbox says "barking mad"). Janet is a senior ER nurse -- who really lives for helicopter rescue missions. Don is an engineer who quit his job recently so he could spend more time on his hobbies.

We became friends with Dan and Janet thanks to the odd, but very nice, New Zealand tendency to invite total strangers home to dinner if you talk to them for longer than ten minutes.

Don and Janet like things that go fast. They used to do lots of sailboarding, and they have a big touring motorcycle and a little yellow two seater sports car.

They also took us "blokarting."

Don sets Janet up for a run. It's hard to get a feel for the speed from these pictures, but the wind was blowing 25-30 knots, and the carts were probably hitting 40 mph.



We used to fly a hull when we sailed cats. These things fly a wheel.





Here's Beth, locked and loaded.


But Don's the real expert.

Ken loved these things too. But he wouldn't let Beth use his new Nikon D800 amongst all the blowing sand and salt water spray. So, alas, no pictures of him...

And then there's flying radio controlled stuff.

Here Don explains the fine points of his jet to some buddies. That plane has a real jet turbine in it -- with a turbofan which hits 160,000 rpms! And here another friend flies a drone, using wireless goggles which stream real-time video from an on-board camera.



The jet can hit about 100 mph in a dive.


Did we mention the helicopters?



Here Chris, another friend of Don's, gets a helicopter ready to fly.





Here's Don flying his. He compares flying one of these things to learning to juggle while standing on a beach ball. In some ways, they're more difficult than the real thing.


This need for speed thing is inherited, too. Here's Don and Janet's son Tom (who is also one of our sailmakers), practicing for competition on his foiling Assassin Moth.

You could just see all the young boys looking at this moth with big eyes. This is why little New Zealand puts so many sailors into the America's Cup.


Then there's the vibrant art scene, and we've found several times that if you buy somebody's work in New Zealand, they don't just want to take your money. They want to make friends and take you home to show off their workshop. (And serve you dinner, of course.)

This is Kathy Mortimer, who has invented a unique form of painting which mixes acrylic paint and beach sand into vibrant, swirling patterns. She collects sand from beaches all over the North Island, as each type has its own look and texture.

Here's some of Kathy's work.


The one on the left is a triptych, which would look better with a proper background.




And here's the one Kathy created for EW. She claims she channeled some of our energy into the picture.




We've also bought hats from Judy Cartright (Hokianga Hats) and jewelry from Gabrielle Nona (The Glass House). (And when we get back to NZ, we'll have to take and post some pictures of them.)

Here's Beth wearing one of Judy's hats and a piece of Gabrielle's jewelry. The jewelry (and the nice shirt) were entirely Ken's idea -- he thought Beth should stop looking like his twin, at least some of the time. The picture on the right shows you how she generally looks.

Fun Outdoors

Kiwis are just crazy about the outdoors.

Here's a paddleboard race in Whangarei.


This was Whangarei's first race, and lots of the competitors were novices -- but that didn't stop anyone.

And here's another thing about NZ. You see somebody paddleboard racing, or maybe just out for an evening paddle as its getting dark, and they're likely to be a young kid, or else somebody's grandma.


But there were a lot of serious competitors, too.


The overall winner was NZ's paddleboard champion Annabel Anderson. She's a machine, who routinely beats the best men. Notice in the second picture that Annabel is headed back to the finish line, while all the other racers are still going the other way. Like that famous line in the first America's Cup race, when the Queen asked "Who is second.?" "Madam, there is no second!"

And, since there's nowhere in NZ that's farther than 100 miles from saltwater, the Kiwis tend to own a few boats.



Here's a boat storage facility in Auckland. They use giant forklifts to get the boats in and out.




In little Whangarei, things are a bit lower tech. Here a bunch of Sea Scouts set out for an evening row.

We're not really sure what the picture on the left was about -- some kind of blindfolded Kayak race in the mud. And if that were us on the right, we'd be worried about that cute kitten's little needle-sharp claws on our inflatable.




We like to get into the act with our new inflatable kayak. This peaceful looking creek runs right through the middle of Whangarei!



And then there's fishing. (Not to mention diving for scallops and lobsters.)

We don't think these kids were catching much. But the big guys know where the fish live.





Tim Brown, our excellent diesel mechanic, stops by to show us a kingfish that he and his buddy caught.





They also caught a few snappers. (We got one for dinner!)

The Big City

New Zealand has city life too, in places like Auckland.

Fine old buildings and churches, mixed with...

...the weird ambience of the Civic mall.





Some Auckland street scenes. It's not really our cup of tea, but the younger crowd loves it.




A Beautiful Place

New Zealand doesn't have the variety of scenery or wildlife that we have in the US, but it sure has a lot in a very small place. We gasp every time we go over a new hill. (Of course, maybe we're out of shape!)







These shots were all taken (in 2013) around Cape Reinga, at the extreme north end of NZ.





Here's Beth, at an old WWII gun emplacement near the mouth of the Whangarei river. Sunset on the South Island.


Scenes from the South Island.


A yellow-eyed penguin chick on Steward Island (about as far south as you can go in NZ), and a Weka checking us out near a fiord on the South Island.

And there's lots of nature around Whangarei.


These guys just loving sitting on our lifeline, enjoying the view. With their tails hanging over the deck, doing you know what! We put up with them because they're cute, and because, frankly, we haven't figured how to get rid of them.


Some idyllic river scenes from Whangarei. Well, maybe not so idyllic for the fish and crabs that these guys hunt.

Here are some more hunters.


All told, NZ is just a pretty nice place to hang out.

Good People To Work With. And Tragedy

Earlier, we mentioned Tim Brown, the best diesel engine guy we've found anywhere -- highly competent, knowledgeable, honest, can-do, and an excellent supplier of fish. We should mention a few others. It's certainly possible to fall into the wrong hands in NZ, like anywhere. But we've been around long enough to find out who's good. This isn't a complete list, by any means, and we apologize to the many people we're leaving out. We regret we don't have any pictures of our sailmaker, Dave Parr, of Calibre Sails. (We already showed you a picture of his right hand man, Tom Barker.) Dave and Tom built our beautiful sails and do maintenance work for us every year. Also, unfortunately, no pictures of Scott Williams, our electrician.

Here are Victor and Nick, our go-to welders. Both work for Terry at Alloy Stainless and Marine.



Dave Berg is a delivery captain who does all kinds of boat projects, including varnishing. Dave also watches EW when we're in the USA..





And Brian, our rigger, who has uncovered lots of problems before they fell down on our heads.





Here's Gavin, whose crews have painted every inch of the the outside of our boat -- deck, topsides and hull. Gavin is a great painter, and a good man, who stands by his work. And by his grand-daughter.





Here's Steve Eichler, whom we describe as a nuclear physicist masquerading as a marine carpenter. (Imagine solving geometric problems all day long -- on a boat, where there are no right angles and no straight lines.)





He does fantastic work, charges less than the usual rate per hour, and works twice as fast as the competition. Even more importantly, Steve's jobs never end up the way we planned, because he always finds a better way. He's saved us, and his other customers untold thousands of dollars by suggesting simple, elegant solutions instead of complex and expensive projects. How often do you find that attitude in the marine industry?





Steve at eight o'clock at night -- still working.





Steve's problem-solving abilities are not limited to carpentry -- he can solve pretty much any physical problem on a boat (though he doesn't do electricity or engines). He also makes everybody around him, including us, work harder. He project-managed our big refit in 2010, which we would never have attempted without him.

The only problem with Steve is that he has to work 14-hour days to keep up with demand. Ken (ever the economist) once told him that too much business was nature's way of telling him to raise his prices. Ken hasn't said that again, for fear of being lynched by our cruising friends! A whole flotilla of cruising boats returns to Whangarei every year specifically to do business with Steve.


Ray Roberts, who owned the marina we stay at, watches while Karl, his son, sets up microscopic tolerances on the cradle for EW. We wouldn't trust many people to do this. Karl is an artist with the travel lift, who now runs the marina in his father's place. Here he trains up the next generation.

Ray was a totally blunt straight shooter, who always thought three moves in advance. If you stayed in his yard, then you did things his way. And as long as you did that, he took care of you and your boat, and watched out for your interests.



Very sadly -- shockingly, in fact -- Ray died in early 2014, of brain tumors which were probably brought on by an earlier duel with melanoma. We felt like we had been kicked in the stomach when we heard that he was going to die. Ken took this picture about a month before the end. Our thoughts go out to his family.


Change is always hard. New Zealand is losing a lot of its young talent to Australia, where people can earn twice as much in the mining boom. Most of our go-to guys are getting on a bit, and all complain about not finding young people to work with. (Brian will retire in 2014 to sail his own boat to the tropics. Victor keeps getting called to the Middle East to weld super yachts for Arabs.)

Right now New Zealand is a great place partly because everybody really is middle class, and because jobs like farming, plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, welding, rigging, and so on are highly respected. On the streets of Chicago we often felt some tension between "the suits" and the guys digging up the sidewalks with jackhammers. We don't feel that in NZ, where nobody seriously thinks that working in an office beats doing practical stuff -- and where it usually doesn't. But the winds of change are always blowing, and we can see things starting to change here.

Probably we've been coming back to one place too long when we start complaining about how things aren't like the good old days, and when our good friends are starting to retire and even die... Ken likes to say that cruising is a totally unnatural life, because you are constantly moving on, a stranger everywhere you go. And consequently, if you stand in one place for longer than ten minutes, you can feel little rootlets sprouting from your feet, trying to tie you down.

So we'll finally have to move on... One of these years! :-)

December 16 - December 31, 2012

Beth's Dad Turns One Hundred

We flew back to the US in mid-December because on December 27, 2012, Beth's Dad turned 100!

We were sure glad to see him again! Here's what a cake looks like with 100 candles.


And here's what it looks like after you light the candles! We almost couldn't get them lit, because the heat got so intense that it burned our hands.

Dad managed to blow them out before somebody called the fire department.



The cake looked a bit fried. But we thought the melted wax added a pretty touch to the frosting!







And then it was time to party, with over 100 guests. Dad kicked things off by announcing "If I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!"








And then he proceeded to dance with over twenty different women. Not bad for a guy who was born the same year as the Titanic! (Obviously he was designed better!)




The party ended with Dad leading everyone in "God Bless America." It was a special night.