A Final Test Sail

Jan 24, 2016| 0 Comment

We know he is getting old, slowing down, with good days and bad, but at 14 years, Jake is doing very well for a Golden Retriever.


Here he is, over the Holidays, on a snowshoe hike with us on our ranch.  Slow, yes, but he’s game.  We had figured he would chose instead to return inside to his bed placed strategically by the fireplace.  Not our boy!  Out in the snow?  Wait for me!


Four weeks later, January 19th, Jake’s life is quietly ended.  Cancer tumors were found in his lungs and brain.  He was not in pain.  He just could not function.  Our timely instructions to our Vet and his wonderful caregivers were no heroics and do not let him suffer.  Thankfully, they did so without question, and for that, we are extremely grateful.

Out here on the boat so far away, there is an ache knowing he is gone.  He was a wonderful dog — the absolute best.  We are so fortunate to have had him in our lives.

Cruising as we have chosen to do on the other side of the world and into many remote spots is for us full of the adventure and risk that, for some reason, we both seek.  There is not a cruiser amongst us, however, who does not know the downsides of this lifestyle.  There is much back home that we all have been forced to miss.  Births of grandchildren and those same children growing up not before our eyes but at a great distance.   Illnesses or, worse, deaths of family and friends for whom and with whom we wanted to be there.  Ceremonies, memorials and special events are missed because distances are too great in time or money needed. A secure spot to leave the boat is not to be found while often, schedules or weather demands are too pressing to just leave a boat unattended. Country by country, rules and regulations must be adhered to, and many times, word is not received in time because there is no internet access.  Added to all this is the stark reality that with The Captain turning 70 this year and The First Mate not so far behind, the remaining time we have out here on Avante is approaching. There is a bittersweet side to our adventuring, and it is one us open-ocean cruisers have had to accept.

Life does go on, however, and for that, all of us must truly be thankful.  Here, then, commences our travels for 2016:


Tuesday, January 12th – We land in Auckland at midnight and get through Customs without a hitch except we must explain the 1 kg bag of Starbucks French Roast beans we have with us.  We did declare the beans, but why bring them?  The Answer:  We just had not been able to find a really good dark-roasted bean in New Zealand for our morning cappuccinos.  There’s priorities, you know!

Friday, January 15th – It cannot be put off any longer.  The Captain has completed everything on his “return to boat task list” except one.  The task he has been much dreading must be tackled:  changing the electrodes in the LectraSan waste treatment unit in the aft head.  It is not changing the electrodes that causes him to cringe.  It is the contortions he is going to have to go through to wedge his body into the 14” x 21” opening in the cabinet below the little sink where the unit is located.  Once through the opening, he will have to reach back and under to get at his target.  As fate would have it, he must remove the vacuum generator for the VacuFlush toilet and a number of hoses in order to get at the LactraSan unit.   This is the first time the LectraSan has had to be removed in the 10 years we have owned Avante, and it is arguably the least accessible system on the boat.  Additionally, the LectraSan is connected to thick marine hoses which are going to need a bit of persuasion to leave their accustomed spots.  Drawing a deep, resigned breath, The Captain commences.

A rabbit’s warren of hoses, wires and grit remain after the 2 units are removed.  The key now is to remember how it all came out and how it all goes back together.  These units don’t just slide out or in once disconnected.  They must be rotated and twisted to fit through the opening and into position.  The Captain marvels that somebody once conceived a plan to fit it all into that small space in the first place.


Changing the electrodes out in the fresh air in bright sunlight is relaxing compared to what he has been through.


Now to put it all back together.  The Captain is hopeful that changing the electrodes will fix the problem.  Everyone has told him that this task needs to be done periodically and was the likely cause of the issues we had, but The Captain really wishes there was a way to test this “fix” before reassembling everything.

Two days the job took, but on the second day, we both listen with relief and pleasure to the purring whirr of the LectraSan as it goes about its frying work.  A job well done — that’s my Captain!

Tuesday, January 19th – We want to take Avante out for a short 3-day cruise to check her systems completely before we finally leave Gulf Harbour to sail north to the Bay of Islands.  A friend of ours from Telluride, Angela Mallard, is supposed to be landing shortly in Auckland. We have been in touch in hopes that our travel plans would coincide.  Would they?  They do.  She arrived in Auckland 5 days ago, bought herself a van and, with a few days to spare, would love to join us on Avante.  What fun!  Off we go.


With winds expected to be light, The Captain thinks that we may just travel up the coast, but when we get out in the bay, winds are up and in the right direction for a great sail.  Destination is changed.  We are going to Waiheke Island and Man O War Bay which we so enjoyed last November.  What a fun run, and we even get Angela to take the helm where she proves herself a natural!


Anchored in one of the lobes in Man O War Bay, we know that somewhere on shore there is a trail which, though steeper and more direct than the one we used last year, goes up to the top of Stony Batter.  Can we locate it?  We do.  Heading up it, we find that not only is it steeper, it is less trail and more a dirt rut made by water run-off and ever so slick and muddy from yesterday’s heavy rain.  Through dense vegetation, we forge on upward.

The First Mate soon discovers that the soles of her hiking sandals are stiff and totally non-gripping from years of storage on the boat.  In short, they are useless.  Disgusted as usual with The First Mate’s choice of shoes, The Captain forges on ahead leaving her to slip and slide as best she can.  Lost in the vegetation up and above, he yells down that the trail is now a real trail both drier and more level.  One just needs to get up the initial eroded steep part.  Okay.  So, pulling up on limbs, vines, anything attached, she hauls herself up the muddy incline, knowing that the way down is not going to be pretty.  Think about that later, ole gal.

Out of the woods and into the pastures above, we are greeted by sheep, cows and fantastic views.   It was well worth the effort — so far at least.


We hike up until we can see Avante quietly anchored below us.


Back down we march. Those vines and limbs which served to pull her up the hill do little to help her now other than stopping a full out bottom-slip down the muddy decline.


And a number of times, they don’t even do that!  It’s a humbling experience.


Wednesday, January 20th – The plans were to sail around the area today, but with the completely still air, the idea of a boring motor trip doesn’t interested any of us.  We relax on board for the morning, reading and talking.  In the afternoon, we head ashore to the tasting room at Man O War Vineyards.  We enjoy the wine, a delicious repast and conversation with the assistants who are mostly from various South American countries visiting in New Zealand on a 3-month work visa.

Thursday, January 21st – A great return sail to Gulf Harbour, and then the three of us hit the ground running with things to do.  We bid adieu to Angela who, after studying our New Zealand guide books and listening to stories of our land-based travels, is eager to set out in her newly acquired van.  For us, the next 2 days will be filled with preparations for the 3-week cruise we plan to take on our way north to the Bay of Islands.  We are pleased that nothing has shown up needing attention on Avante.  Even the water maker which had been pickled and unused for more than 18 months sprang into life after a bit of the usual prodding from The Captain.  Upon completion of a final provisioning, laundry and trip to Auckland to return the rental car, we will be ready to go.

Saturday, January 23rd – Kay and Ron Stephenson, whose m/v Second Sin is berthed next to Avante, invite us to their home for one last dinner together.   What a fun evening we had, and how nice it is to be invited into the relaxed comfort of a friend’s home!  Fondly, we say good bye assuring them we will see them in 2 years when we return to New Zealand — or maybe sooner if they follow through on an invitation to visit us in Telluride this summer or next.  Tomorrow we are off and away!

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