Snake Bit

Apr 27, 2018| 0 Comment

Several years ago when our dream to sail across the Great Southern Ocean to French Polynesia was in its formative stages, the plan was that we, our cruising friends, Lyn and John Martin, and Avante would be ready to leave New Zealand at the end of March, 2018. We would arrive in French Polynesia by mid-April and, for the next 3 months, we would travel through the more remote and less traveled islands of French Polynesia. “How wonderful!” thought The First Mate. “Three full months in Paradise!” Not for just those 3 months either, for Avante would remain in French Polynesia with us going back and forth between her and the States for a year at least, and then we would sail north to Hawaii, eventually arriving on the shores of North America 2 to 3 years after leaving New Zealand. It was a great plan, an even greater adventure, and because we would be in locations not known for high quality boat service, we were going to have our 18-year old boat in top shape before leaving New Zealand.

Our ambitious plans have been slowly eroding over the last 6 months. It initially started with the weather forecasters who predicted a much longer cyclone season across the South Pacific. Their recommendation to hold off departure for at least a month reduced our 3 months in Paradise to 2. Lyn and John found that they, too, were running into a time crunch due to business opportunities they had taken on after the sale of their cruising company, and they were going to have to leave us sooner than originally planned. The issues with the work on Avante were also cutting into the schedule. Would we even be able and ready to leave as now planned?

The First Mate does not remember the exact day, but sometime in early April, the 4 of us hopeful French Polynesian cruisers met for a consultation and decision. To go or not to go? We had all been feeling that too much was conspiring against us. With the delays, we all realized that it would be at least the middle of May before we could leave. The still unsettled weather bothered us. The difficulties in getting Avante ready and the number of new systems we had installed had us concerned about initially setting off so far afield. Perhaps a year of less challenging cruising (to and from Fiji for example) would be a smarter alternative. The decision? We are not going this year, but all four of us are committed to sailing forth next year, hopefully, leaving earlier and cruising all those wonderful, remote islands as initially planned. We breathe a sigh of relief. The pressure has been taken off all of us.


And so it goes on …… With the advent of the 4-day Easter Weekend, The First Mate ventures that perhaps we can follow the direction of our Kiwi friends and take a little break. The Captain looks at her incredulously. Does she not know how much work still needs to be done? Yes, she does, but we just can’t work on the boat nonstop. She uses “we” here knowing full well that it should be “he”, for there is so much on the boat she cannot do. She hates that she fits the stereotypical image of a girl. Try as she has, she cannot comprehend electricity. Amps, ohms, voltage – their definitions just will not stick in her mind. There’s no way she could work the wiring on the boat. Engines, motors – she understands basically how they work, but to work on them? She would not know where to begin. She understands how to read the instruments and charts on the boat, but how they all connect and talk to each other is something he knows she should not even attempt to get into, for the end result would be an impossible mess. She has neither the skill set nor the patience with inanimate objects that don’t fall in line and do what she wants them to do. The Captain has the necessary skills, and incredibly, he has the patience to work through all the electrical, mechanical, computer tied-in problems on the boat. She brings other skills to this life of theirs on the boat. They just are not the ones, at the moment, that are going to get Avante out of the marina and onto the seas.

Monday, April 2nd – The Captain finally agrees that one day off would be good. A ride in the country will refresh both body and mind. We’ll drive up the coast to Manganui and have lunch at the “World Famous Manganui Fish Shop.” It’s an iconic place where big orders of fish and chips are served up wrapped in sheets of newsprint paper. Eating is done at long picnic tables out on the deck looking over the bay. We remember it fondly. It looks just as we recall, though management has succumbed to either rising costs, environmental concerns or health regulations. Newsprint is no longer used. Instead, food is now served up in reusable wire baskets on small squares of waxed paper. It is still fun, but just not as memorable!

On the return to the marina in Opua, we take the scenic route south along the coast. Upon approaching Kerikeri, The Captain recalls that Barack Obama recently was hosted for a dinner near here at the place called The Landing. We have spent some time in the area but never heard mention of it. He googles it and decides we are going to drive out there to take a look. For over 30 minutes, we follow a winding gravel road through pasture land. As we near the end of the road, well maintained fencing starts, and the whole area becomes definitely upscale and polished. A paved road veers off to the left. There’s no signage. No private property sign. We take the road up and around bend. It doesn’t go far before a strong iron gate stops us. Unmarked, we still know we have found The Landing. The owners and guests of The Landing arrive here by helicopter. They don’t bump along this gravel road. What a remote, isolated and beautiful spot!

Just down the road from The Landing is Rangihoua Heritage Park. A “Place of Accord” it is called, for it was here in 1814 that local Maoris living in a nearby pa (hilltop fortress) joined European missionary settlers to celebrate the first Christmas service in New Zealand. The service was lead by Christian missionary Samuel Marsden who had earned the respect and protection of Chief Ruatara, an influential and powerful leader. Not all was always peaceful between the Maoris and the English, but at this spot on that particular day, it was. We walk the paths of this park with eyes riveted on the view down and out across the bay. No wonder it is called the Bay of Islands.

Monday April 9th – Over the last week, our various boat workers finished up all their work, and the boat is made ready to head out into the bay where the new engine will be checked. Once it passes this certification, we can finally use the thing. That event is scheduled for Tuesday morning, but consistent with our spate of bad luck, the weather does not cooperate. It is raining slightly by our scheduled mid-morning departure. Rain alone is not enough to stop us, but the 25-knot winds blowing from the worst possible direction do. Avante has not been out of her berth in months. We know her bottom is foul with barnacles and other sea growth. How well will she steer? We do not know and have no desire to find out in these heavy winds. The testing is rescheduled for Thursday.

 Thursday, March 12th – The certification run is on — at last! The local Yamaha dealer and one of the mechanics from Seapower, the company that installed the engine, come on board. Lines are dropped. We head into the bay. Steering is not all that bad, though it feels like there is an obvious drag from the dirty bottom. Out in the bay, the engine is slowly revved up while the men check the engine and the gages. The First Mate does not know what they are actually testing. The engine is running fine as far as she can see and hear.  All goes well until the last test when she is told to push the throttle up to maximum. There’s no thumbs up signal from the men below eyeing the thrumming engine. They appear to be in consultation. What’s wrong? She soon finds out. The engine, at full throttle, is running above its upper speed limit. That’s not good at all, she is told, for an engine running above its design limits will eventually burn out. Can’t we just tune down the engine or fiddle with some other adjustment?  No, what needs to be done is to change the pitch of the propellor. Not having a mechanical cell in her body, The First Mate wonders how a propellor could have anything to do with the running of an engine. The propellor is powered by the engine, and its job, form her perspective, is to hang there, spin when told and propel the boat forward or backward. She soon learns that in regards to the engine, the propeller has another very important role. The load or resistance from the propeller serves to keep the engine from revving up too high. Our engine has been designed to run at a certain max speed, and it is the load coming from the propellor that keeps it within that designed range. Until our propeller is adjusted, the engine cannot be certified, and we are not cleared to use the engine. We shake our heads in dismay. This can’t be happening, but it is. Snake bit,” The Captain calls it. “Bad luck and more bad luck!”


As fate would have it, there is no easy way to adjust a propeller without pulling the boat out of the water to remove the prop. Then, it is sent out to a specialist who by basically twisting or changing the angle of the blades creates more bite or drag in the water. A disturbing fact The First Mate learns is that this precise adjustment is not an exact science. It takes someone with experience and a feel to do it properly. We are told not to worry as our prop is being sent to an older gentleman who is really good at this. It all sounds like old-fashioned dowsing to her where a forked stick is used to find underground water. That’s all built around feel and experience, too. To her surprise, she next learns that the only way to test the result of this gentleman’s experienced tweaking is to screw the prop back on, put the boat back in the water and run up the engine. “Add in a lot of finger crossing, too,” she thinks. She finds it hard to believe that something as important as not allowing an engine to burn out is left to “feel.” Why can’t the designer of an engine build top speed into the engine itself without relying on a silly prop? Not for her to question why, ……… ! Avante will have to roost on land for the 3 days it will take for the prop to be modified.

We obviously want to get the propeller modification done as soon as possible, but the lift is fully booked for the remainder of Thursday.  There is an opportunity on Friday, but Avante, because of her almost 9-foot draft, can only access the lifting dock an hour on either side of high tide.  Failure to acknowledge that means she’ll be stuck in the mud. High tide on Friday is in the late afternoon. We know that if she’s pulled then, she’ll just end up sitting on land waiting until Monday morning for any work to be done on her, and we’ll be cooling our heels in a hotel somewhere eating dinner out again. We decide to wait until first thing Monday morning to pull the boat.

“Oh, NO!” suddenly exclaims The First Mate. “What about all the frozen meat we have on board that we ordered because we were going to be out cruising for 3 weeks by now? Can we run the refrigeration on land?” That sounds simple, for there are electrical hookups in the yard, but we have a marine refrigerator which requires the boat to be in water where the sea water is cycled through to cool the motor. Cruising friends, Jan and Kevin Burnell, with whom The First Mate hikes several times each week, lend us a portable freezer. We’ll plug into electricity in the yard and be able to use their freezer on Avante. That takes care of most of our meat while Seapower offers us the use of their employee refrigerator/freezer for the overflow. We will use that refrigerator for other items like cheese and veggies that need to be kept cool. Jan and Kevin’s home refrigerator will take care of the rest. It’s only for 3 days. The rest of the stuff on the boat like potatoes and onions will keep.

The weekend is spent getting Avante ready to be pulled rather than what we had planned on doing: cruising the Bay of Islands. While The First Mate organizes the distribution of meat and veggies and finds a decent local hotel for us to stay in for 2 nights, The Captain struggles with the removal of both furling forestays. The lift can handle all 18 tons of Avante, but it cannot handle her length and deep keel unless we remove the two forward sails’ attachments. Since the rigging had just been adjusted, everything is tight — as it should be — and loosening up the screws and bolts that hold the sail apparatus is not easy. He finds that he needs some extra hands and muscle and finally resorts to asking cruising friends for their help. What frustration!



Monday, April 16th – 0800 – Avante is pulled. As we expected, after over 4 months in the marina, her undercarriage in coated in green slime and barnacles. It’s not a pretty sight, but, frankly, it is better than we expected. The barnacles are only small ones, not the big ones we have seen in the past





The prop is removed, but to our frustration, we learn that the promised expedited service of the prop we had been told would be requested had not been done. The propeller specialist is quite busy. There is no way he will get the prop back to us by Wednesday. Thursday afternoon by the earliest, maybe Friday. We decide that since the boat is going to be up on the hard (as they call a boat on land), we might as well have its bottom sanded and re-painted. Polish the sides, too, while you’re at it. What’s another few more thousand dollars? We have always opted to have the very best, and most expensive, antifouling paint put on Avante, but our recent experience has been that it doesn’t last much longer than what other cruisers have experienced with paint at 1/3 the cost. We opt for the less expensive paint, mainly knowing that we are going to pull the boat again next year for another antifouling paint job before setting off for French Polynesia. Even so, that bill alone is another $3,000 NZD. The First Mate has given up even considering what we have spent in the last 5 months on the boat. It’s more than our first house cost! She could be flying business class for the rest of her life! The things she could be doing with this money. It’s a good thing she loves this boat and this life as much as he does.

Over the years, we have traversed and re-traversed the north end of the North Island. We have seen what there is to see. We know not now what to do or where to go. Friends suggest that we drive north to Carrington Resort on the Karikari peninsula. It’s really nice. You will like it. Our dear friends, Jan and Keven, initially lent us one of their cars for the 3 days we were going to be commuting between the marina and a motel, and when they learn it is going to continue until Friday, they tell us to keep the car until then. Having decided to leave for a short road trip, we offer to pay them what a car rental would cost. Their car is better than anything the local rental agency offers. This agency used to be called Rent A Dent (you get the idea), but in the last year or so, they have changed the name to RAD. Different name;  same sad cars, but they are the only game in town for us here in Opua.



The New Zealand countryside, as always, is beautiful with deep green rolling hills. Driving down the Karikari Peninsula, we arrive at the entrance to Karikari Estate Vineyards, park and walk up to the entrance. The First Mate is surprised to see so many flowers still in bloom here into fall and enjoys the view across the flower beds to the vineyards below in the distance.








The tasting, conducted by a knowledgeable young woman, is fun and good. We walk out with several bottles to add to Avante’s stock.







We then drive the short distance to Carrington Resort. It’s a small resort, but elegant in its finishes and furnishings. The room is perfect, and the view from the lodge across the golf course is impressive. The course looks in great condition, beautifully green and well manicured. It is inviting, though we have neither golf attire, shoes, clubs or balls.






The receptionist tells us about a hike we can take across the golf course and down to the beach on the other side. Eager for exercise and to walk off our vineyard luncheon, we set off.  The golf course does not disappoint us as we walk across it. Looking back at the resort on the hill, our eyes scan over the beautiful fairways and the challenging natural terrain bordering them. There are enough water hazards to intimidate any ball! “Wouldn’t it be fun to play?” we both ask each other.


The huge expanse of sand dunes and beach on the other side is well worth our effort. Walking down on the beach, we are the only ones to be seen for miles and miles. It’s great down there, but looking out across the water, we moan that out there is really where we want to be.

Walking back across the golf course admiring its layout, we decide that, if the weather holds tomorrow, we will play a round before our return south. Back in the office, we are told that the course is wide open tomorrow morning. Just come on in. We’ll outfit you with clubs. You’ll be set. We tell them we’ll be by in the morning around 9:30.

Dinner that night is superb. This may not be what we want to be doing, but since we can’t at the moment, The First Mate is not complaining about our present circumstances.

Though the golf course is well-groomed and maintained, their rental golf clubs are another matter. Old, tired, well used, even a Salvation Army thrift shop would think twice about offering them for sale. The people at the clubhouse acknowledge that the clubs are in bad shape and tell us that new ones are on order. We are told to put together a set you can play with, and we’re not charging you for the clubs. The men’s selection is questionable, but the women’s is even worse. The First Mate puts together a mixed match set. As long as she has a driver, a rescue wood, a 7 iron, 9 iron, pitching or sand wedge and a putter, she’ll be fine. Neither of us has played golf in months. This outing is just to get out there on what looks to be a very interesting course that will have no players on it but the two of us. For what more could one ask?




Well, maybe a grip that doesn’t slip!










After golf, we drive south to Kerikeri where The First Mate has booked us into an inexpensive Airbnb accommodation because it was near to one of our favorite restaurants, The Pear Tree. They have the very best soft shelled crabs, and as we expect this to be the last time we’ll be dining here before we set sail, they are ordered first without even a look at the menu. Dinner is delicious as always, but this is the last time she attempts to economize on accommodations. The place really was fine with her. It was spotlessly clean. The bed was comfortable. The towels were new. So what if there wasn’t a place in the living room to put a cup of tea, a reading light by the bed, or somewhere in the bathroom to put our toiletries other than the floor or the toilet seat? Sparsely furnished it was, but we weren’t going to be living there! However, she does not think she’ll ever hear the end of it from The Captain. He still brings up his displeasure whenever the opportunity arises, and it really wasn’t all that bad! She cannot understand how he dare moan over this while failing to hear her moans over flying coach. Someone explain that to her!

Friday, April 20th – As we drive to the marina for the 11:00 return of Avante to the water, the phone rings. It’s Tina, the gal who runs scheduling at the yard. They are having a problem with the lift. It’s not working right now, but it should be fixed by noon. That will still be close enough to high tide for Avante to splash, as dropping a boat back in the water is called. Dismayed we continue on to the marina where our worst fears are confirmed. The hydraulics on the lift are “stuffed”. That’s Kiwi for broken. They need a new pump which must come from the States. The manufacturer is shipping it out express to Los Angeles where there just happens to be a person associated with the New Zealand lift company flying from LAX to Auckland this weekend. He will receive the part and hand carry it with him. The part should be up here by the beginning of the week, and the lift should be operational by Tuesday. There are an awful lot of dots that have to be connected for this to work, but we have no choice but to resign ourselves to this further delay and come up with a plan B — or is that C,D, E even?

Let’s take the ferry over to Russell. We’ll go to the Duke of Marlborough Hotel. The hotel is booked, but a table in the restaurant is available. A very nice hotel nearby is available. They only have one room available, and it is only for the one night, but she takes it knowing he’ll be pleased with this place. The large room overlooks the water and has 2 very comfortable chairs in which to sit. The bathroom has shelf space for his essentials. The Captain will be happy. Phew!

Saturday, April 21st – Back in the early 1800’s during the height of the whaling days, Russell was called the “Hell-hole of the Pacific” due to the number of brothels, bars and the general lack of law. Today, it is a delightful, little tourist town on the bay. It has New Zealand’s oldest church built in 1835, and the Duke of Marlborough Hotel holds the country’s oldest liquor license. On top of Miaki Hill overlooking the town stands a flagpole that was cut down 4 times by Chief Hone Heke in protest over the way his people were treated after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. We spend the day walking around the town and then take the car out for a drive through the area. It’s a restful day for a restless couple.



We move to The Clendon in the nearby settlement of Okiato which for a short period, between 1840 – 1841, was the first capitol of New Zealand until Auckland was made the capitol in 1842. James Reddy Clendon ran one of New Zealand’s most successful trading stations from here, and it is after him that The Clendon is now named. Rooms here start at over $300/night, but for some reason on, they are priced at just over $100. The First Mate jumps at it. He’ll be happy here with a step-down sitting room, huge bath, king-sized bed and a delightful porch area overlooking the bay. It turns out that we have stumbled onto a bit of good luck for a change. We are the only ones in residence. Our room is upgraded because the wing where we were supposed to be is having work done. We are shown the kitchen, living room and bar. It feels like we have rented a home, not a room. There’s eggs, bread, juice, and coffee. Help yourself in the morning. Please use the eggs, for they are getting old. In the bar, we are told to finish up any opened bottles of wine and just add to the tab any other items you use. This is off season, and they do not have a future booking until November. We are in heaven.

Sunday, April 22nd – Another round of golf? Why not? We book a tee time at Waitangi Golf Course which overlooks the bay with fantastic views. The clubs here are in much better condition, and we have a fun outing on another day of cooling our heels waiting for the lift repair.

Monday, April 23rd – Devastating news! The replacement part did not arrive in time. It did not make it on the plane to Auckland. Sure, they are now sending it by expedited shipping, but it will now have to go through Customs clearance. That could take days or longer. Never fear, though, they are working on another fix with a hydraulic specialist, and he says he’ll have the lift running by Thursday or Friday. High tide for Avante is at the end of the day. They will splash us then, and don’t worry about that being past closing time. Avante is not the only boat pressing to get back in the water.

We are past being mad. There is nothing to be done about it, but if we had known it was going to take this long, we would have made plans to travel further afield on land. We could have even flown to the South Island, for there are places there we would both like to see. Instead, we are faced with another 3 days of figuring out what to do and where to go knowing that we can’t get too far away in case that lift miraculously gets un-stuffed.


Paroa Bay Vineyard has a very nice restaurant which is open for dinner. We invite Australian friends Annette, Ron and Steve from s/v Freewheel to join us tonight. They take the walk-on $1.00 ferry ride from off the marina area to Okiato where we can pick them up. Annette and Ron are leaving for Australia tomorrow. Who knows when and where we’ll see them again? We enjoy a great meal and a wonderful evening together.





Tuesday, April 24th – Each morning of our 3 days at The Clendon we head into the commercial kitchen to make our breakfast. The First Mate feels right at home. While The Captain makes French press coffee, she whips up a cheese omelette and toast. We eat outside in the sun overlooking the bay. She really is sorry to be leaving this morning, but both of us want to be on the move. Go some place. Do something, anything. We just don’t want to sit and wait.




We decide to drive south of Auckland to Hawkes Bay, one of New Zealand’s prime wine producing regions. Some of this area, we toured through in 1996 on a 3-week New Zealand trip when The Captain first retired. This drive will be too far for us to take our friends’ car so we resign ourselves to a Rent-a-Dent (no, excuse me) a RAD car. We take the ferry back over to the marina, exchange some dirty clothes for clean ones, pick up the rental car, return the other car and head south to Auckland. Rotorua is our destination today. We remember that it was in Rotorua that we visited a Maori village and received our first New Zealand cultural experience. We don’t feel the need for another such experience, but we do enjoy walking through the thermal park right in the center of town.




Wednesday, April 25th – Taking the Thermal Highway south to Lake Taupo, an interesting landscape unfolds with vents of escaping steam visible in almost every direction. This was formerly an important area for the Maoris where ritual purifications were held, and for the local villages, the hot pools were a great place to cook the evening meal.





The flatter land of thermal activity gives way to a mountainous drive down to Taupo. Approaching Lake Taupo, we take a detour to Huku Falls where a short hike takes us out to a dynamic view. Remembering the heights from which we had just descended, it doesn’t take much to realize from where all this water came.






From Lake Taupo, we drive on to Hawkes Bay where we have luncheon reservations at the Black Barn Winery. Today is Anzac Day, a day celebrated in Australia and New Zealand to commemorate all those who served and died in service to their country. It was difficult to find a vineyard that was open on this holiday, but Black Barn, which was highly recommended to us, was open and had a spot for us. Sitting outside under a grape arbor in the warm, dappled sunshine, we savor one of the very best meals we have had in New Zealand. Not just New Zealand, the meal is in the top 10 of all our gastronomic enjoyments. The First Mate loves to cook and create interesting meals, but she is no gourmet chief. She truly appreciates the effort and skill that goes into creating such a meal.





The night is spent in Napier, a city known for its Art Deco architecture, In 1931, a devastating earthquake and the ensuing fires wiped out the city. Resilient to the core, the people rebuilt the city in the Art Deco style that was popular at the time. Though some of the buildings were replaced in the 60’s and 70’s with more contemporary structures, a movement started to preserve the original buildings and to celebrate the style. Napier and the area around South Beach, Florida are now recognized as the two best examples of Art Deco architecture in existence today. Napier is also the primary seaport in northeastern New Zealand. We had not realized how large the port was until we drove around it later that evening in search of the casual Pub at which we had dinner reservations. To further expand our Art Deco experience, The First Mate had booked us into a private Bed & Breakfast in a beautiful home that had been meticulously and lovingly maintained in the Art Deco style. Though not a style that speaks to us, it was an interesting experience, and we enjoyed talking with the owners who used to sail themselves.


Thursday, April 26th –  It’s time to head back north to locate ourselves closer to the marina just in case the lift gets fixed tomorrow as they are hoping. We head out of Napier following the coastal road as far as Wairoa and then head north to Frasertown where we pick up State Highway 38 which will take us up into the mountains to the beautiful, remote area of Lake Waikaremoana. The road travels generally north along the eastern side of the lake. It should be an interesting drive.





State Highway 38 may be a road, but it is far from a highway! We find ourselves on an unsealed dirt and gravel roadway that twists and snakes around the lake. We had expected pullover viewpoints of this beautiful mountain lake, but they are few and far between. Perhaps that is a very good idea since eyes must really be concentrated on this narrow road. It is listed as a two-lane road, but to The First Mate that often requires a great stretch of  imagination, especially when going around corners. Thankfully, due to the area’s remoteness and the road itself, there is little traffic either coming or going. We mostly have the road and the mountains to ourselves, and motoring along without pressure from other vehicles, it is quite the experience.







The road runs high above the lake, but there are occasional side roads leading down to the lake with boat ramps, for the lake is open to boating and fishing.









A waterfall catches The Captain’s eye as we rounded a bend, and we pull over at a wider part in the road to walk back for a look.







We finally find a pullover with a view over the lake and across to the mountains. We stop, for the scenery is truly impressive, and after all, why else would one travel on this dirt road? There are much more civilized roads between Napier and Auckland.

Leaving the mountains and attaining a real road, we also drive into an area with phone service. We need to call the marina to see how the lift is doing. We have two numbers to call. One is to Tina who schedules the lift’s operation, and the other is to Chris, an electrician who works for Seapower and has been helping with any electrical issues regarding the lift. He is our “inside” guy who should have more pertinent repair information for us than Tina, the scheduler. The Captain calls Chris and is told that everything is set except the hydraulics, but, not to worry, an hydraulics specialist will be here first thing tomorrow morning with extra parts. By mid morning, the lift will be running. There are no “show stoppers.” Are we reassured and confident? Of course not. We have heard similar statements before. We don’t want to drive all the way back to the marina only to find that there is still a problem. We will call tomorrow morning. As far as Avante is concerned, they have all day to fix the lift because high tide does not occur until late afternoon. She is scheduled to splash at 5:00.

In the early evening, we drive into Hamilton which is New Zealand’s largest inland city. Running along the banks of the Waikato River, it looks to be an interesting city . Unfortunately, we don’t have time to tour the city, for we are a bit road weary after our mountain driving, and knowing (hoping) tomorrow will be a busy day, we opt for an early dinner and a good night’s sleep. The hotel directs us to Victoria Street which is known for its exceptional restaurants. The area is buzzing with people. We park and walk around figuring out where we want to eat. There are several inviting shops that The First Mate would like to explore, but closed now, she knows there will be no time tomorrow. An Italian restaurant catches our eyes. “Perfect,” we think and in we go.

Friday, April 27th – Google maps shows that travel time between Hamilton and the marina is 5 1/2 hours, but we know that a detour caused by a mud slide last February has added 30 minutes onto that trip. Deciding that we want to arrive at the marina around 3:30, we are on the road by 8:30.

Driving to and around Auckland, as with any major city, can sometimes be time-consuming, but it all goes smoothly today. By 12:30, we are driving into Town Basin in Whangarei where we plan to stop for lunch. Located on the Hatea River, the area is a marina with many boats tied out in the water or nestled next to the quay. Restaurants, shops and galleries dot the area. Locals and tourists alike flock to the area, especially on a sunny day. We have been here many times, know that parking is relatively easy and obtaining a simple luncheon is even easier. It is just what we want on this quick-paced trip north.

Before stopping for lunch, The Captain calls Tina, the lift scheduler. The lift is still not up and running, and she has no word from the lift operators. She will call as soon as she has news. This is not looking good. If they don’t get it running today, the weekend starts tomorrow. Nothing will then be done until Monday. It may sound like a crazy quandary, but we really don’t want to return to the marina until all is set to return Avante to the water. If we are going to be “homeless” for another weekend, we would rather not drive all the way north to the marina to find out.

1:30 – Our friends, Jan and Kevin, send us an email saying that there was a messy accident on the road into Paihia, and a detour had been set up around it. Plan a little more time. So in addition to the detour due to the mudslide, now there’s a detour on the detour. Knowing of our desire to head offshore, they end their email with “You guys just aren’t meant to leave!” Such encouragement! But our guts are telling us the same.

2:00 – Still no word from Tina. “No news is good news” is not the axiom here. The Captain decides to call Chris, though we know he is now out of the loop since there are no electrical issues. As we expected, Chris has heard nothing, but he said he would try to find out and will call us as soon as he learns something. Having no other choice, we continue on to Opua while The First Mate starts another hotel search — just in case.

3:20 – Chris calls with great news. “The lift is finally on the move” It’s up and running.

3:35 – Tina calls to say the lift is running, and we are on schedule for 5:00. Please be there before 4:30 to pay your bill so she can tell the lift operators that Avante is clear to splash. After keeping us waiting for over a week due to their broken lift, we find it slightly nervy to now be told to get there early to pay our bill. Why? 4:30 is closing time, and she is not staying late. Such a short-sighted thinking attitude should not surprise us anymore, but it does.


We arrive at the marina by 4:00, pay our bill, pick up our food in Seapower’s refrigerator and head over to Avante. She truly does look beautifully impressive if somewhat out of sorts braced up there on land rather than floating serenely on water. Her bottom is sanded smooth and freshly painted. Her sides are shiny and reflective in the sunshine. “Hold on, dear. You’ll soon be floating,” consuls The First Mate.





While The Captain is securing things on deck, The First Mate wanders under the boat to take a look at the prop. It does not look any differently to her. If it was tweaked, it appears to have been a very small tweak. Will it work? Guess we will soon find out.





With the lift in position and the slings raised into place, Avante is secured and ready to begin her slow procession to the dock. It’s not quite like moving a NASA rocket to its landing pad. It’s faster, yes, but the comparison still fits. A boat as high and big as Avante draws a crowd of lookers even in this yard full of people who have spent their lives around boats. Being that she is now looking almost as bright and shiny as a new boat, she attracts even more attention. All that aside, The Captain and First Mate will be relieved when she is slipped into the water. This is never an easy time watching one’s boat being moved around on land, and knowing that this lift was “stuffed” not too long ago doesn’t help us any.







The Captain eagerly follows his boat out to the water where he has to climb aboard and move some lines as the boat is lowered.














Just a few more inches to go.









The Captain quickly climbs on board to move the lines that have been holding the mast in place so Avante can be lowered the last few feet into the waer. That done, The First Mate climbs on board, starts the engine, and when given the all clear, we slowly back out and down the fairway. At the end, we turn around and motor to berth B28. We have been in that berth so long, it ought to have our name on it!  It is almost dark when we arrive.

It is Friday evening. With the weekend, there will be no checking of the prop until Monday. Fortunately, The Captain has enough work to keep him occupied. The two forestays have to be reattached. Both of us have some continued cleaning to do. We’ll be busy until Monday morning, and then we will take Avante out into the harbour again. There this “touchy/feely” tweaking of the prop will be tested, and then, maybe, hopefully, we can start sailing.  Between having to adjust the prop and the problems with the lift, we have lost an additional two weeks and are now a month behind schedule.  If we had not already decided to postpone our trip to French Polynesia, there would be no question about having to do so now.

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