After New Zealand

JJMoon Diary
Barry and Margaret Wilmshurst
Sun 7 Jun 2009 00:18
It was a terrible wrench to leave New Zealand.  Not because it is a beautiful country, although it is.  Not because there are lots of interesting things to see (whisper it: there aren't too many), but because the people are as friendly as it is possible to imagine, particularly to Brits, and their laid back way of life is wonderfully attractive.  The Joneses, with whom so many of us Europeans strive to keep up, have never emigrated to New Zealand and most people seem happy and contented with a comfortable life free from raging ambition.  Largely due to Mags' social skills, and often arising from her attendance at St Paul's church in Paihia, we made lots of good friends and enjoyed a varied and interesting social life.  For me, I think our experiences at the golf club were typical of the country.  Originally just to keep Mags company I joined her in investigating the pleasures of golf and the facilities at the Waitangi course.  We took a lesson with the assistant pro. and were encouraged to join his weekly "clinic".  There were between 2 and 10 attendees each week, some beginners, others club members who had been playing for some time.  The cost was about £4 each and they would lend us a club and 20 balls to practice with as often as we liked, free.  When we became confident enough to try a few nine-hole rounds (a full round would have taken us all day!), the green fee was about £12 each and they let us borrow a set of clubs and a trundler, again free of charge.  Not only that but the senior professional would select the clubs we preferred, load them on to the trundlers for us and send us away with a cheery word.  All for a couple who were due to leave in a few weeks and would never become members of the club.  Of course, we tried to behave well and always let "real" golfers through, but they never passed without a word of thanks and some cheerful encouragement.  I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I know practically nothing about golf elsewhere but I cannot imagine better treatment at less cost.
Beautiful country; great people.  Mags says she could happily live there but I would not go that far.  It is a small country, population 4 million, and I would miss some of the opportunities, the facilities and the "buzz" of the medium sized countries of Europe.  There is nowhere like Bath in New Zealand, or Wells, or Totnes, or London.  When sports-mad Kiwis are reminded that Twickenham holds 82,000 people, that 76,000 fans sit down at Old Trafford for every game their eyes glaze over.  However much I was enjoying myself during recent months I was still as keen as mustard to read The Times on Line every day.  But for Brits with six months to spend there cannot be a more congenial haven and we have spent two extremely happy seasons.
This year we sailed north with a crew.  We "caught ourselves unawares", as my mother might have said, having been softened up by a nice French boy who was touting his skills round the marina.  When our good friends Garry and Maureen put in a word on behalf of Garry's son we quickly agreed to meet him and, all being well, give it a go.  It worked out well.  Clinton is a 36 year old pilot with some time on his hands looking for adventure.  We explained that we took all possible steps to avoid adventure but I think in the event there was enough incident to satisfy him.  We enjoyed his company and really appreciated the additional sleep at night and time to socialize during the day.
Farewell to Opua
Our last view of Opua wharf with our friends Maureen and Garry ready to wave farewell.
The passage was much easier than last year; we enjoyed light winds and had to motor a good deal.  The new reefing winch worked well - we didn't have to tail with our teeth - and stood like a fine little stainless steel sculpture on the aft cabin top. 
Our new winch proudly reflecting the Red Ensign.
Proudly stands our new winch.
However, we had our problems and plenty to keep us on our toes.  A few hours out of Opua I realised that the engine was not charging the batteries through the large alternator.  I started the generator but after a few seconds it coughed and died.  This was a potential turn back situation - we need battery power to navigate through the computer, make drinking water, and communicate with the outside world.  After considering the options I realised that I could charge the house batteries by switching on the link to the engine start battery and charging the lot with the smaller alternator. This worked fine and we would have proceeded with confidence except that at about the same time the autopilot became temperamental and we had to steer by hand throughout the first night.  Boring.  We set up the wind-vane self-steering gear but this only works when there is a sailing breeze, not under power.  The autopilot's performance  improved as time went by and the fault became no more that intermittent.  We learned to live with it.  We slowed down deliberately during the last twenty-four hours while we enjoyed good sailing winds and arrived at the pass just as dawn was breaking to light our way among the islets and reefs within the lagoon.  We tied up soon after the marina office opened on Sunday morning , a little under seven days after leaving Opua.  We were reminded that if one loads the boat with wonderful labour-saving electronics and electrical devices one must have back-up, and back-ups for the back-up.
Northward ho!
Northward Ho!  Clinton at the wheel as we head to Noumea.
Dawn breaking behind Amedee lighthouse, New Caldonia.Great cloud formation.
Just 2 nice photos as dawn breaks and we arrive inside the reef at the Passe de Boulari. 
Since we arrived in Noumea we have had to install a new course computer, the brains behind the autopilot, and a new alternator.  Very expensive.  Both items are probably repairable, but not here and not in the time available.  The fault in the generator was traced to a broken wire.  We are running out of time if we want to get to Darwin in time to have a few days with Aussie friends Ross and Sue before the start of the Sail Indonesia Rally on 18th July.
So far we have been too busy to enjoy Noumea to the full.  In addition to the faults that arose on the way we have disconnected and reconnected the diesel filler pipe (we found fuel in the bilges during re-fuelling in Opua) and repaired a fault in one of the winches.  As I write a new technician is repairing one of the fridges.  The technicians arrive on board commendably promptly but they never have good news.  And things are very expensive in New Caledonia.  Now the forward holding tank or its pump is blocked. Ugh!
It is not all bad.  We have re-met some old friends and are enjoying the warmer weather and the French atmosphere.  We were particularly pleased to bump into the owners of Ocealys, Maurice and Sophie Conti, the heros of the Timella rescue last October.  I was able to shake their hands and offer our congratulations as they filled in some further details.
Now we are getting ready for something a bit more challenging.  To meet our schedule we must put some serious miles beyond our wake so we are heading for Thursday Island in the Torres Strait.  This is the northernmost port of entry to Australia, just north of Cape York, about 1,600 miles from here.  It should take us about two weeks so we can look on the last passage as a "shake down".  Bob McDavitt the weather guru has predicted a depression crossing New Caledonia next Tuesday and Wednesday and has suggested we leave on Thursday 11th.  In spite of our anxiety to be under way I think we shall wait.  From Thursday Island we shall probably sail directly to Darwin, another 700 miles away.
UPDATE:  Friends who have visited Opua will be glad to know that our local restaurant (see previous blog) has enjoyed a partial recovery.  The new signs have been torn down, the original signs restored together with the old standards of cuisine and service, albeit with a reduced menu.  We enjoyed several good meals before we left and wish the proprietors every success.