Thursday 29th November - Early Days in NZ

Jon & Carol Dutton
Thu 29 Nov 2012 01:44

Thursday 29th November – Early Days in NZ

Apart from a quick report saying that we’d arrived on the morning of Friday 23rd, we left you on the evening of Wednesday 21st having just temporarily sorted out the recurring diesel leak and having just discovered that the domestic battery bank alternator wasn’t charging.  After a bit of fiddling about we got it to work, but only if the engine cover was off and then only for a while.  Starting the auxiliary generator was an option but not whilst the engine was running because Mr Perkins, who shares a fuel line to the fuel tank with the generator, nicks most of the available diesel and leaves too little for the generator.  OK, but the domestic bank is important – it drives the lights, auto-pilot (primary means of steering on a short-handed boat) and the chart plotter (primary means of navigation).  So, by Thursday evening we were getting a touch twitched about getting some ergs into the batteries somehow.  We stopped Mr Perkins for a while and tried to start the generator.  No joy – it was pretty obviously a fuel starvation problem of one sort or another – but not related to greedy Mr Perkins.  We tried to investigate the problem.  So Jon was head down in the relevant cockpit locker, bum out, unbolting the various bits and pieces of the generator connected by the fuel line.  No sooner had he disconnected a few bits and bobs than the wind filled in and we were closehauled in 20 – 25 knots of wind, well heeled and dealing with a bit of a sea.  So, no go.  It obviously wasn’t going to get much better so we stopped fiddling around and pressed on, using as little battery power as we could, hoping to make Opua before the whole lot closed down on us.  And we did. 

We came alongside the quarantine berth, to join at least a dozen other boats, at about 0730 on Friday morning and were cleared in by customs, immigration, bio-security and all that a little later that morning.  Zero hassle.  We knew they’d take away any fresh foods and anything else they feared might infect NZ but were prepared for that.  Nobody probed too deeply about the cleanliness of the underwater hull but it was clear that we were reasonably clean.  However, we couldn’t connect up to the shore power until Saturday because the boat needed to be inspected by a chap qualified to issue a Warrant of Fitness to verify that we wouldn’t blow ourselves or anyone else up with dodgy DIY electrics.  Apparently that’s because Kiwis, being resourceful chaps, are apt to ‘have a go’ at installing boat electrical installations themselves.  And, in the past, that hasn’t always worked quite as intended.  So, Friday night was a bit dark on board and the Cruising Club provided light, dinner and pleasant company.


                    Arnamentia safely tied up on the other side of the world – note grey skies to remind us of home!


                                                                        Opua Harbour in the glorious Bay of Islands

Opua is a bit out in the sticks but the marina has a fairly comprehensive set of marine engineering businesses on site as well as a couple of chandleries, laundry, cruising club, café and so on.  So, Friday saw engineers both electrical and mechanical aboard and stuff getting sorted.  We also had both outboard engines serviced and Mark, who serviced them, was very happy to have Jon as an apprentice to learn how to do it.  Most outboard engine user manuals describe in detail what fuel to use and how to put it in, wax lyrical about ‘elf’n’safety and tell you to take the engine to a professional to get anything much more complicated than refuelling or changing a spark plug done.  Changing the impeller?  Drowned your engine?  Oh, much too difficult for numpty customers.  Yeah, right.  It ain’t always that easy to find professional help when you need it.  A couple of hours with Mark, a camera, a notebook and a pencil whilst Mark worked on our own engines and answered the ‘what ifs’, was time massively well spent.  In common with all the Kiwis we have met here, either in a private or a professional capacity, he is extremely friendly, knowledgeable, has time and is delighted to help in any way possible.       

We might even get the new Lopolight fitted here.  This is a LED tricolour/anchor light mounted at the mast head.  It’s excellent and uses very little power.  We had one fitted in about 2008.  Recently the white LED elements failed so that we had neither a stern light nor an anchor light.  We did have port/starboard side lights.  No real problem – we have alternatives for stern and anchor lights – but it needed to be sorted in due course.  Whilst in Tonga, Jon e-mailed the Danish manufacturers.  They confirmed that, given the symptoms, the problem obviously lay within the 4 year old sealed unit fitted atop the mast.  There was no quibbling, no demand for proof of purchase, no talk of warranty periods.  All they did was request that we send them an address to which they could despatch a new unit free of charge and immediately.  Oh, and by the way, would it be more convenient for us if they attached 30m of cable to it so that there was no cable join within the mast?  By the time that we’d arrived at the Copra Shed Marina in Savusavu, Fiji, it was sitting in customs awaiting our arrival.  Now that, all you manufacturers of marine kit, is what we yotties would describe as SERVICE.

Personal mobility is an issue in NZ and you need to solve it if you are going to be here for any length of time.  It was more or less as cheap to hire a car from Rent-a-Dent (“Quality Rental Vehicles”!) for a day as to take a return taxi ride to the nearest town – about 5 miles away.  We did that over the weekend and had a day out on Sunday.  Firstly we visited Russell, the original capital; it’s a pleasant little town in a delightful bay very much geared up to the tourist market.  One of the major sights is the Pompallier Mission.  Before, the British grabbed NZ, the French were trying to make their mark here too.  Pompallier, a determined French RC bishop, spent some time living with the Maoris, learning their language and culture.  The Maoris paid more attention to him than the Wesleyans because they thought that he looked a lot more impressive in his purple silk robes than the Wesleyans did in their black and austere attire.  So, he was, they felt, probably further up the food chain to Him.  Bishop Pompallier translated the bible into Maori and built a printing press, tannery and book bindery (?) all from scratch.  The original house has been recreated along with all the presses, binders and tanning pits – everything works and is quite authentic down to the use of wattle and urine in the very whiffy tanning pits.  It was there that we learnt the origin of the phrases, “skiving off” (shaving the leather was considered an easier job than rubbing it down whilst simultaneously stamping on newly tanned hides), “a dab hand”, “to coin a phrase” and “cut to the chase”. 

The afternoon saw us driving through switch back roads, some gravel, through a hilly, verdant landscape bordering the Bay of Islands.  There is an extensive variety of flora – we’ve regularly seen deciduous trees, conifers and ferns - a couple of palm trees would make it a full house.


                                                                                            Very rolling farmland


                                                                                        Pacific coast near Cape Brett

The longer term solution to mobility is to buy a second-hand car and there are plenty of these on offer from companies that specialise in selling these and guaranteeing a buy-back price after 6 months or so.  So, we’ve done that and the upshot is that we have a 2 litre Honda in good nick for $6,000 NZ which will be bought back from us for $4,000 NZ.  You could undoubtedly do the sourcing and re-selling of the car yourself and save most if not all of the $2,000 NZ.  But . . .

So, our first impressions of New Zealand, as expected, are very favourable.  Some of the prices have been a shock after Fiji, particularly the fruit and veg, though petrol is cheaper and marina prices are half what they are in the Solent.  And as we are non-resident yachties’ we don’t pay the 15% tax on any goods or services connected with the boat.  One surprise has been the absence of Anchor butter – having been buying it in Panama and everywhere else in the South Pacific, you can’t get it here – something to do with takeovers and lack of competition means that the brand name can’t be used for the time being.

It’s been lovely to meet up again with boats that we first met in Bora Bora and have been bumping into (not literally)  ever since.   We’re eagerly anticipating the arrival in NZ of Sockdolager, a beautiful, 24 ft (yes, feet not metres), tough Pacific Seacraft Dana which friends, Karen and Jim sailed from Washington State to Mexico and through the Pacific to Tonga.  Unfortunately, Karen was taken ill there and has spent the past two months in Auckland, though thankfully she is now much better.  Jim is now sailing with a friend, Tom, and is about 800 miles from NZ.   We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the usually inevitable low that may come there way won’t be too vicious.

In the meantime, we’ll crack on attacking the list of chores which runs to about 50 items; so far it’s one winch serviced and 15 to go!

And finally, we don’t think that the UK yachting press would get away with this one!