Wednesday, November 30, 2011

News From The Bilge

The last week I've finally started seriously doing some maintenance on Twister. The engine came out Monday giving me unhindered improved access to the propeller shaft stuffing box (seal that lubricates the propshaft as it spins but keeps most of the water out) and the automatic bilge pump (and the float switch that should turn on the pump when the water level in the bilge reaches a couple of inches). I replaced the stuffing (teflon-treated thread/rope) and discovered that last time I had only pulled out two of the four rings of stuffing. I re-did all the (potentially) underwater electrical connections to the bilge pump and float switch. Amazingly the pump and float switch had worked before even though the person who installed them had simply wrapped the soldered connections in black electrical tape. Then a check-valve or non-return valve was installed in the hose through which the pump pumps the water out. Previously the last couple of liters of water would always drain back down into the bilge after the float switch had turned off which would turn the pump back on resulting in a dead battery if left unattended (so far the new check-valve is working as planned). The engine throttle and gear-shift control had to be replaced which turned out to be relatively painless. Calibrating the barometer turned out to be ridiculously simple. Removing the air bubble in the compass was also pretty simple. The whisker pole is now almost good as new. As anyone who has spent time on Twister can attest, the toilet has not been problem-free. I had intended to replace the valves, seals, etc, but they were not be found in NZ. Also I spotted a crack in the pump housing. So Twister now has a shiny new toilet. I've left the engine work to the professionals . Sorry for all the jargon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NZ trivia

This year, NZ had a net loss of a few hundred people from immigration and emigration. Most Kiwis move to Australia where wages and salaries are higher. It seems NZ IS in need of skilled labor in several areas--construction and the medical field are high on the list. I've met 3 doctors from the UK and one paramedic from the US who work here. So if you're interested in moving to NZ, now might be a good time. If you're under 31, you can apply for a working-holiday visa which is good for one year, I think. Bats are the only native land mammals.  Now there are ~40 million sheep, ~10 million cows, ~4 million humans, and lots of rats, mice, dogs, cats, and I don't know what else. Everywhere you can see signs of or signs warning of rat poison and other eradication efforts as the Kiwis try to keep some nonnative mammals under control and native species alive. My nonscientific survey indicates that Germans constitute the largest percentage of foreign tourists in NZ.

Friday, November 18, 2011

our NZ camper car
Opoutere Beach
Tongariro Crossing
Adrianna was kind enough to come for a brief visit to New Zealand. We had considered sailing around Hauraki Gulf--Great Barrier Island in particular--but the weather forecast did not look ideal (it's never ideal in New Zealand as far as I can tell). So we rented a Nissan hatchback set up for camping (the camper vans and cars of NZ deserve a post of their own) and set off down the road. On day one we drove around the coast of the Coromandel Peninsula where we saw penguins standing on a rocky beach. We camped by idyllic Opoutere Beach on the SE end of Coromandel. The following day we made our way to Tongariro National Park and hiked the popular Tongariro Crossing, a ~12.5 mile hike along volcanoes, snow, steaming rocks, and lakes.
We made our way down the SW coast of the North Island and ended up in Wellington where we only stayed for a few hours while I checked out the anchoring/mooring/berthing options for Twister. We did see the local Occupy Wall Street protests there as well as in Auckland. Neither has been evicted as of today. Our next stop was in the just appropriately quaint town of Martinborough, popular for its wineries. We stayed in NZ's wine region as we continued towards Napier in the Hawke's Bay region. On the way we stopped at Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Center where we got to see a couple of Kiwi Birds (in captivity) as well as some other cool NZ wildlife (shrieking eels). We also stopped at Junction Winery and had a few samples. We camped on the beach in Te Awanga just south of Napier, known for its art deco architecture. We returned to Auckland via Tauranga, where the container ship Rena is stuck on Astrolabe Reef 12 miles off the coast.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Road Trip

Mount Ruapehu
Yesterday evening Gary and I returned to Auckland from a 4-day road trip to Tongariro National Park and Raglan, a small town on the west coast, known for its left hand point break(s). We had planned to take advantage of the reduced lift tickets on the last couple of days of the ski season on Mount Ruapehu. Unfortunately the lifts were closed both days we were there due to high winds. We were joined by four of Gary's friends from Wellington and stayed in a lodge in the quaint mountain town of Ohakune. We did have a nice 3-hour mountain biking expedition in the national park. Later that evening at a bar we bumped into many of the actors from the movie "The Hobbit." They were having a crew party (I guess to celebrate completion of filming?). Both Gandalf and Bilbo were there (I don't know their real names) along with a bunch of other soon-to-be famous actors. After two days in Ohakune, Gary and I drove to the small town of Raglan where we had  nice evening surf session at Manu Bay. Gary's friend, Laura, was kind enough to let us spend the night at her (and her roommates') place. The next day we had another surf session at a beach break nearby and hit the road back to Auckland. Here are some photos.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kiwi phone

Hi everyone. I've got a New Zealand phone. The number is (country code 64) 0221346789. please call (you may have to leave off the first zero).
Oh, I've changed the settings so now anyone can leave comments without having to sign in.

one door closes another opens

I received some disappointing news today:  The 2012 AMLR antarctic research cruise has been cancelled. Major bummer. On the plus side I now have more time to cruise around and explore New Zealand and Australia.
Yesterday I got in touch with my friend Gary from the sailboat La Cueca. He left La Cueca and Rory in Fiji and flew to NZ to work for a while to finance another year of cruising. He bought a camper-van and is heading south for some snowboarding. I've decided to join him for a couple of days. I'll be back in Auckland by the 8th.