Still in the marina – 4 months and counting!

Apr 07, 2018| 4 Comments

Friday, February 23rd –  After 3 weeks spent in the marina working non-stop on the boat, we are headed home. In order to organize and schedule all the various work projects that are to be completed while we are gone, The Captain has put together a list and a schedule of what needs to be done, who is doing it and in what order it is to get done. All the contractors have a copy, and all understand that timing is of prime importance.  The goal is to have Avante ready to sail to French Polynesia at the beginning of May. Prior to departing New Zealand shores, we need a good 3 – 4 weeks of test cruising to make sure all the new and old are working and coordinating together as they should.  We plan on returning to New Zealand around the middle of March and to be out sailing by the beginning of April.

The Captain knows he has done as much as he can for now. We head home for what feels to The First Mate as R&R from the chaos in and around the boat. Her boat? There’s no hot water, no cooking, no place to sit other than roosting on her bed, no cleaning because there is no room to clean. Yes, though she’s ashamed to say it, she is happy to leave the mess behind for a few weeks. It’s got to be better when we return. Wearily, we pack our bags and fly off.

Home in the States for a short 3 weeks, we divide our time between golfing and friends in Scottsdale and ranch work and friends in Telluride. There is still no real skiing, for snow fall has been sparse and sporadic this year. We wonder about the lack of snow pack and the water table going into this summer and are thankful for the 3 very large cisterns set up in a row which are filled from our well.

Back in New Zealand, a number of things are happening on the boat, but the generator is still not putting out electricity. Before we left to go home, the problem was thought to be a small component that would be easily fixed the following week. Unfortunately, the issue turns out to be more complex. The electrical side of the generator is disassembled and tested. All this takes time, and it is the busy season for boat work. Three working days before we are due to fly back to New Zealand, The Captain receives an early morning email with a last minute update and request. They have found the culprit. The generator needs a part which is not available in either New Zealand or Australia. Can he get one from the manufacturer in the United States and bring it back with him? The Captain is infuriated with the timing. The generator manufacturer is on the east coast while we are in Arizona. The order will need expedited shipping, all 44 pounds of it. The company is called. Yes, they have the part. Can they ship it out today? Incredulously, they ask if he realizes that the east coast is digging out from under yet another major snow storm? Nobody even worked yesterday! Well, if The Captain pays for overnight shipping, the order will have priority. That is the only way it could possibly make it to Arizona. Might as well be buying it a seat on the airplane! The part is ordered, and we keep our fingers crossed. It arrives. Oh, wonders never cease!

Sunday, March 20th – We do not fly back to New Zealand in our usual manner.  The Captain wanted to leave on Friday, but he finds the flights that day unusually expensive.  After a little research, he learns that American Airlines is now flying to New Zealand with their new 787’s.  They even have business class available for milage.  We have not seen that for a long time.  The seats are booked.  The First Mate, for whom The Captain’s refusal to fly business class is a source of contention, is ecstatic. She has to admit, though, that she understands. She doesn’t like it, but she understands. Business class gets a bit costly when you’re flying to and from the South Pacific three, sometimes four, times a year, especially when you’re booking within a month of departure as we normally do.

The only hitch to our travel plan is that we have a very, very short connecting time in Los Angeles.  Our initial flight from Phoenix boards on time.  The doors close, and the engines are started.  Suddenly, the engines shut down, and the pilot announces that we have just been given a 30 minute gate hold. Ouch! Finally, we are airborne, but we are still 30 minutes behind schedule when we land at LAX.  Another delay: our plane is told to cool its wheels out on the tarmac because there is another airplane in its assigned gate.  Our flight to New Zealand leaves from a different concourse, but fortunately, we don’t have to go through security again, for there is a back way. We race down the corridors as if we’re being chased rather than chasing our flight. Everyone has boarded by the time we get to the gate, but the doors haven’t yet closed. We are welcomed onboard.  The new business class seats are heavenly, but it is the newness of the plane that delights us. We can’t remember when we were last on a new plane, though we can recall a lot of doggie ones. The whole thing even smells new! The First Mate, who rarely gets more than 3 or 4 hours sleep on these international flights, happily open out her bed, spreads out her blanket, fluffs up her pillow and gets a good night’s rest.  We arrive in Auckland on Tuesday morning refreshed, though with the nagging worry that our luggage may not have made the flight. The wait is forever. We are just about to give up hope when one then another of our luggage shows up. Our prime worry is the part for the generator, but there it is trundling down the conveyor belt.

We drive the 5 hours north to the Bay of Islands. As we had expected, though things have progressed on Avante, little has been fully completed. The Captain’s painstakingly prepared schedule is posted where he left it. Only two items can be totally crossed off. Everyone else is behind schedule.

Wednesday, March 21st – On our first full day at the marina, The Captain hits the ground running. The generator part is handed over to the mechanics. Next, he’s off to the canvas man to find out the status of the new sail cover. He has the new flexible solar panels installed on the bimini and minor repairs have been made to the dodger, but where is the sail cover? Then, he hurries off to see how far along the new stainless steel anchor roller is. Our craftsman was going to start it 4 weeks ago. Has it been started? When can we expect it?

The new hydro-generator is here. That’s good, but what about the mounting brackets? The list goes on and on. One of the interesting characteristics we have noticed about the work force here in New Zealand is that few people think ahead to plan the coordinating steps of a project. A part will be ordered, but any thoughts on the issues of installation remain unconsidered until the part arrives, and thus what often follows is a delay in the installation of the new part as doing so needs to be worked into the schedule.

At day’s end as we walk to the Yacht Club to meet friends for dinner, The Captain delivers a bomb shell: the part for the generator, so dramatically ordered and delivered in the States, is the wrong part! The First Mate stops short. She feels like she’s been gut punched. How can it be the wrong part? We bought the exact part number that was requested and checked that it was the correct part for our generator. There was a communication snafu between 2 shops working on the generator. One of them now owns an expensive part that can’t be used, and we have a non-working generator.

Now what are we going to do? The Captain does not know. The thought of having to buy a new generator is floated. Is that even possible without incurring weeks, maybe months of delays? A new generator is expensive. The overhaul/tune up/troubleshooting work done on the old generator already totals $10,000 NZD. Are we going to have to absorb both costs? It’s mind boggling to The First Mate. Feeling like she’s going to a wake rather than an evening with friends, we continue on to the club. We do enjoy our time with people we had not seen in years, but it is hard to party when our minds are occupied with this now very costly and schedule-altering disaster.

Thursday, March 22nd – To everyone’s surprise, new generator is located. It can be delivered next week. The Captain reluctantly decides that buying a new generator is what we must do. Everyone, honestly, is feeling bad about this fiasco, but, as needs be, we’re recovering. Taking our cue from our boat’s name: Avante which in Portuguese means to move forward, that is exactly what we do. The new generator is ordered. Now what about the removal of the old generator which is not an easy task? “Let’s not wait until the new one arrives,” diplomatically suggests The Captain. Oh? Good idea! Cardboard is taped to walls, steps and the newly varnished threshold to protect from possible dings when moving the very heavy, unwieldy generator. Tubes, hoses and wires are disconnected and removed.


It takes 3 men to coordinate the removal of the old generator. A rope sling is placed around it, and a bar is used to lift it. Taken out of its compartment, the unwieldy thing looks like the complicated heart of some gigantic robot.  The Captain reminds the First Mate that this is only the diesel engine part of the generator. The electrical generator parts had already been removed.












One slipped grip could not only smash an unprotected foot, it would put a good gash in the boat.











They have wedged it up and out of the companionway and, with sighs of relief, can set it down for a moment’s rest and a chance to flex tightened muscles.









One last obstacle: lowering it off the boat to the waiting trolley below. Done! The old generator is history. Its old location awaits the new one.










Over the weekend, The Captain will clean and paint the generator’s spot in the engine room.







Not that anyone should think there were no fun and games on Avante during this ordeal with the generator, we are invited to join friends, Lyn & John Martin, at the Omata Estate Vineyards to help with the end of season picking of their grapes. Thinking of a Lucille Ball vignette of her and Ethyl stomping red grapes, slipping and sliding, covered in red stain, squawking and yelping as only those two could do, The First Mate decides to go. She has never picked grapes. This should be fun. The Captain declines. It’s finally sunny, and he has another 100+ piece electric winch to clean.




This is a project that has to be done outside in the open air. Each of the 100+ pieces of gears and screws has to be removed, soaked in kerosene, wiped clean and then laid out in the order in which it was removed. It is a tedious task, certainly one that The First Mate could do, but he dares not allow it. He knows her. Her agile mind could never stay on task, pieces would not get lined up correctly or she would forget and knock over the whole assemblage. He would never get the winch back together. No, better to get her off the boat, out of harm’s way. Go pick grapes, please!






Off she goes. They take the ferry for the short ride from Opua across to Okiato. Omata Estate Vineyard is located just a few miles up the road. The view across the rows of vines down over the Bay of Islands is impressive. What a delightful place to live and work! The vines are full with dangling clumps of purple blue grapes. It’s a perfect day, sunny but not too hot. About 20 have shown up for this final picking. We work up and down the rows until a midmorning tea and pastry break. Back to work, finished by noon, lunch is served to us all along with copious amounts of very good Omata Estate wine. Marian and Collen, owners of this vineyard, are also cruisers having recently sailed their boat from Japan east to Alaska and down the coast to where it is now in San Francisco waiting their return. We have a great time talking as only fellow cruisers can do.





Here are Marian and Lyn enjoying good food, good wine, good friends and the afternoon sun of a beautiful day.






A Thing of Beauty! ……………..

Thursday, March 29 – The new generator arrives. It is the exact same generator as the one we removed from the boat, so installation should be fairly straight forward.  The biggest issue is how to get the new generator into the boat without having to disassemble much of it as was done with the old generator.  The doors into the aft-cabin are only 16 and 1/4 inches wide, while the complete generator is 19 inches wide.  Added to the fact that 19 inches does not fit into a 16 and 1/4 inch space is the disconcerting fact that the complete generator weighs 400 pounds. If the mounting rails, the engine alternator and an electrical connection box are removed, maybe it can be slowly wiggled through the narrow door opening and into the compartment where it will live.  The Captain has his doubts, but the mechanics, having done this kind of thing many times before, are confident.



Unlike last time when the old generator had to be hand carried up and out of the boat, this time, the boom of the sailboat and a winch will be used to do the lifting.  Off comes the dodger for the third time in the last few months.  All the cardboard padding for protection goes back into place.  Two large wooden blocks that will be used to rest the generator on while it is wiggled through the door opening are positioned.






Up in the air, it is now carefully swung over and lowered through the companionway into the boat.












The first big struggle is to wiggle it through the door into the aft cabin where access to the middle compartment where both the engine and generator live is located. Back and forth they wiggle it until, 15 tiring minutes later, they manage to squeeze it through the door frame.














Getting it from the aft cabin into the engine room proves even harder.  Though the opening is much wider, the space for the men is much more restricted making lifting that heavy, unwieldy thing awkward.





By 4:00 the new generator is in its place, and a tired work crew is heading home for the Easter Weekend Holiday. Here in New Zealand, it is celebrated as a 4-day break. Nobody works if they can help it. Official holidays are supported by government legislation. Businesses that want to be open must submit reports stating why their operation is essential, and if approved, they must pay their workers overtime. In restaurants, customers are charged an extra 15%. Holiday time off is taken very seriously around here.  Thus, we know that the mechanics will not be back until Tuesday to connect the generator with all its hoses and wiring. It is actually not until Thursday, April 5th that the generator finally is fully operational, humming along and putting out electricity.

Saturday April 7th – In retrospect, though we felt most unlucky with having to order a new generator, we know we should consider it short of a miracle that in a mere 2 weeks (14 days) not only was the generator we needed found, it was shipped from Australia to Auckland, trucked up to the Bay of Islands, installed and is now humming away in the bowels of Avante. Wingeing aside, (that’s Kiwi/Aussie for complaining), we are most grateful. During those 2 weeks, most of the other projects were also finally finishing up.




Chris, our stainless steel artist-craftsman, finally completed the replacement anchor roller, and it is installed.










The hydro-generator mount has been fabricated and attached to the boat.  Wiring for the solar panels and hydro-generator is still in process but will be finished on Monday.








Our new dinghy had been ready for over a month, but we did not take delivery, as it would just have been in the way. Russell, the designer and founder of OC Tenders, delivers it and enthusiastically takes pictures of it next to Avante. He’s delighted to have one of his tenders cruising around on a J/160. As soon as the new motor gets delivered, we can’t wait to take it out for in inauguratory run.

We are beginning to get out boat back.  Hot water is again heating with a working generator allowing The First Mate to start some much-needed, intensive cleaning. Now that the mechanics have completed work in the engine/generator area, we can put things back into one of the aft cabins freeing up sitting and dining space.  Tonight, we will have a home-cooked dinner on Avante for the first time this year.

The end is in sight. A few more incidental items need to be completed or delivered. We are scheduled to take Avante out in the bay on Tuesday, April 10th, for the final testing and certification of the new engine. We should be out cruising by the end of that week. In preparation for this, The First Mate had ordered and now has a good 3 weeks supply of frozen meat and fresh vegetables on board.  By the end of the week, we will be out sailing – miraculously only about two weeks behind the schedule we set in February. Still in the marina — yes, but the end is in sight!

    Comments (4)

  1. That’s a lot of perseverance. However, if anyone could do this, then how much fun would it be?

    Good luck and thanks for the story-telling!

    Davis and Ann


  2. I think I would have given up a LONG time ago. You two are amazing! So glad you had the break in Arizona the end of February. My children were in Telluride – no skiing over Christmas. When they returned the end of February, they did find enough snow for fun.
    I leave for Telluride on the 24th of May and will again be there the entire summer. Will organize the Fun bridge soon after my arrival. Susan, let me know when you are ready for bridge. I have two new male friends this year. One, a sculpture, is coming for Chamber Music in August. The other, is a retired OBGYN from Salt Lake City. Warner Paige and Judy Hall came from Telluride for a Symphony Concert here about six weeks ago. Judy seems to be doing well. She is taking medication after completing her chemotherapy. Hope to play tennis with her this summer in Telluride. Look forward to seeing both of you this summer.


  3. Rhoda & Brad Green

    Only you two could accomplish all
    that you do. Congratulations! We love reading about your adventures. Happy travels. Love, R & B


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