A Day at the Races


Jenna and I attended the annual Boxing Day horse races at Ellerslie track in Auckland yesterday, and we had an absolute blast. Leo kept referring to the event as the Boxer Day races, but it was more about horse racing than men’s underwear. We actually had a babysitter for the kids and spent the entire day in an outdoor summer Christmas party. What could be better?

For starters, it gave us a chance to dress up, something that we have done exactly once so far on the cruise.


I went with the same ensemble that won me the best-dressed male at the Opua School fundraising tea, except I swapped out the skinny gray tie for a wider silver checked tie from Barney’s. I also wore cufflinks fashioned from 5 cent kiwi coins that our host Misti gave me for Christmas earlier in the week. Jenna wore the coral dress she wore for my 50th birthday party along with vintage white gloves that were a gift from Becky and some Prada platform wedge stompers.


We all liked the way her shoes complemented her ray tattoo.

We attended with our friends Scott and Annie, and Nigel and Misti. We actually had tickets to a lounge area that featured a series of fashion contests throughout the afternoon in between the horse races.

We arrived too late to register for the competition, and which was a shame because I think my skinny jeans would have put up a decent fight in the men’s group.


But we were really there for the ponies, and we would sit around our table and diligently go through the data on each horse and then bet on the one with the coolest name. Jenna was especially good at that. It was the gloves.


We would then go outside and sit on a balcony to watch the race. We had never been to a horse race before.


The races were run on grass and varied in distance.


It was SO MUCH FUN. Here is what I looked like after my horse Abideswithme won his race.


Any horse with a name that refers to The Big Lebowski requires a bet, and I had him to win and to place.

Jenna got into the winnings as well. She liked it.


But as much as we were enjoying the horse racing, the more we were there, the more we realized that the day was all about the clothes. In the women’s fashion contests, the successful strategy was to go vertical.


Those aren’t hats on their heads, by the way. They are called fascinators. Some were pretty elaborate.


We are obviously a long way from Tonga.

We’ve written in these pages about our good friend Randy Daniels from Seattle. He has developed a brilliant habit of posing with interesting-looking people at parties around the world. I decided to channel Randy’s spirit and do the same. Here is a shot of me with the model who posed for the event poster at the top of this blog. She didn’t enter any of the contests, but her dress was stunning.


Here is a shot of me with Paris Hilton and her friend.


Even Jenna got into the action and posed with a couple of guys whe had entered the best-dressed contest.  The guy on the right is named James and was really bummed he didn’t win. He had a nice cane, though.


All in all it was a day of silly fun, capped off with Jenna’s Minnie Driver imitation from “Good Will Hunting” She won the overall competition for best dressed at the event. At least in my view she did.

Have I mentioned how lucky we are to be on this trip?


Auckland’s Red Light District for Sailors: A Photo Essay


We’ve had Sophie docked in Auckland’s central Viaduct Marina for the last few days. It’s a lovely location, and the boat is looking great. We also are enjoying our new privacy screens, because tourists seem to be stopping by every few minutes and taking our photo. We can see them, but they can’t see us.


We are also enjoying our proximity to Auckland’s Central Business District, and we get to park our minivan right next to the boat.

Sophie has made some new and big friends in our marina.


Some are even too big to fit into a single photo using the camera that Jenna lets me use.


That is indeed a private yacht. (In the back.)

But I digress.

Throughout millennia, whenever a particular harbor becomes a popular destination for ships from far away, various “support industries” spring up to support the needs of the sailors onboard, usually men whose pockets are filled with cash and whose hearts are filled with loneliness. These business are usually found in seedy neighborhoods where men go without telling their wives to drink and then spend all of their money in the pursuit of pleasure.

I discovered on a walk today that Auckland is no different.

I was a few blocks away from Sophie, heading towards a park, when I stumbled into this sidewalk sign.


I was immediately tempted to go in and spend all of my money. But it’s Christmas Eve, I am made of stronger stuff, and passed by the sign.  But then I turned the corner and immediately saw this:


And then this:


… and this


… and this


and this …


and this …


and this …


and this …


… all on the same block!

I turned the next corner, and there was more.

Like this


… and this


… and this


… and this


And then it dawned me!

We’ve now spent 4 days in Auckland walking through the central downtown area, and I realized that I had not see a single marine, diving, or fishing store in the entire city. Auckland is the commercial center of New Zealand, and boating is a foundation for the way of life here. What was going on?

Auckland, just like Amsterdam and other forward-thinking global cities, had decided that the best way to deal with modern social issues like marine and fishing addiction was to concentrate it in a single targeted geographic area within the city. That way it is easier to manage the behavior while at the same time keeping the rest of the city clean and free of vice.

It’s brilliant urban planning when done properly, and in Auckland it appears to be working.

The more I walked, the more I saw how Auckland is just like Amsterdam. Some businesses in the red light district here advertise their wares in storefront windows. IMG_0067

And others practice their craft out in the open in the middle of the street in broad daylight!


There are marine ATMs nearby so patrons don’t have to leave the district to get cash. IMG_0077

Even the public health service gets involved. IMG_0058 IMG_0059

Throughout the entire district, it was impossible to avoid the quiet-yet-persistent sidewalk solicitations. They knew why you were there. It was all above board but unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else in the world.











Even after a while it was still difficult for me to grasp the scale and depth of the activity and services offered here.






Some of the businesses even looked like they were managed by people hailing from Massachusetts, where Jenna and I both grew up.


Concentrated business districts like this one apparently can attract entrepreneurs from around the world.

But regardless of where they come from, the sailors red light district here in Auckland is a source of considerable civic pride. They have built something unique and great here.


I clearly need to spend more time walking the blocks in this neighborhood — with an appropriate level of restraint — marveling about what is taking place here in this special corner of the world.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Holiday Cheer

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas summer! Today is the longest day of the year and official start of summer here in New Zealand.

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It’s a little surreal for us that Seattle has a snow day while Leo and Hazel are sporting their togs and jandals, slathering on sunblock, and chanting “4 days to Christmas.” We’re going Kiwi-style! For the first time we will celebrate Christmas with just the 4 of us on the boat, and Sophie is ready.

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The lights are LEDs of course. Inside, we have a cute little tree. IMG_1383 (683x1024)
We only brought four ornaments with us, but ended up getting a few more to avoid looking like a Charlie Brown tree.
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The kids have had so much fun at Opua School and made lots of holiday projects. They are quite proud of their calendars.

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There is a Christmas Parade in Pahia and this year’s theme was fairy tales. Opua students could come as their favorite fairy tale character or their school uniform. Remember the one when Batgirl helps Cinderella find some lost forest friends? We do.

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Leo donned his school uniform instead.

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The Peter Pan float from Pahia Elementary was the most elaborate and won first prize.

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Opua School had a small storybook float and most of the kids walked in front.

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The little pig faces in the window were the cutest.
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No Christmas parade is complete without some Maori cheer.

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And of course Santa.

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Apparently the real Santa is already on his way here.  According to Hazel it takes 17 days for reindeer to fly to New Zealand from the North Pole so the sleigh is en route. Here is her letter to him:

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After the parade, the kids ate ice cream and went on the car ride. Leo kept hitting cones. After three warnings, he was banned from the ride. Best time ever.

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One of our favorite sights are the Pohutukawa, or New Zealand Christmas tree. They were plain green when we arrived, but in the last few weeks have burst into bloom.

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The path in Whangarei was red from so many petals on the ground.

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We’ve also done some holiday baking. Leo and Hazel’s friends Bailey and Boston joined us on Sophie for a pizza party, cookie decorating, movie night and sleepover. Holly, you missed out on Home Alone. The gingerbread cookies turned out way better than I expected, and were pretty easy to decorate.

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The kids did the ones around the outside, and I did the ones on the board.

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In addition, we decided to make a gingerbread house, our first one from scratch. Hey, we’re on a boat and not working so if we don’t do this now, when would we? I found a recipe online, designed a paper pattern, and made three batches of dough.

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Trimming the pieces a second time right after they came out of the oven worked great and made the house fit almost perfectly together. Royal icing took care of the rest. The kids decorated most of the house and garden and then our good friend Heidi helped with some of the finishing touches.

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Here’s the completed house:

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The gingerbread house didn’t last long. The kids brought it to school on their last day before summer vacation and it vanished within minutes.

Over the last couple days we’ve sailed from the Bay of Islands south to Auckland where we’ll spend the holidays. As I type, Jamie is playing Christmas music for the kids who are bouncing on the trampolines and getting soaked in the spray kicking up in 25 knots of wind right outside of Auckland.

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Here is Hazel, post trampoline:
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We’re excited to explore a new part of New Zealand and looking forward to having Christmas dins at our friend Misti’s house and then dressing up for the horse races on Boxing Day. We wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season!

Sophie’s Refit (addendum)

Here is a quick update on the final bits and pieces on our Opua refit.

Code Zero (one of our sails)
For starters, the local riggers at Northland fabricated a new mount for our bowsprit and then mounted the new bowsprit that Troy and Maureen hand-carried to Fiji last August. We use this bowsprit to attach the bottom of the code zero to the boat.The mount consists of a flat stainless steel plate attached to a fabricated piece of black nylon with a curve that matches the curve of the cross beam. I think this is a better design than the original.


We also spent some time with Roger Hall from the local North Sails loft trying to figure out the best way to rig the sail permanently. The answer had been sitting right in front of us for the last 5 years!



We are going to run the continuous furler line sideways to one of our spinnaker guy snatch blocks on the starboard bow, and from there to the bow cleat. It gives us the perfect angle to keep tension on the line as we unfurl and furl the sail. We also have reconfigured how we run the line through the furler, using the correct set of line entrances and exits this time. We think this approach will eliminate all of the tangle problems we’ve had with the sail since we commissioned Sophie. We also decided that we don’t really need sun protection on the sail if we leave it out for a couple of days at a time during a passage and then put it away when we are in port. We’ll try this approach as we sail down to Auckland between now and Saturday.

The stopper block that holds the code zero halyard has not been working well, so we are going to replace it with a new stopper to make sure we have as much tension on the halyard as possible. This block has been giving us trouble since our Marquesas crossing.


Luckily, we have a spare.


We replaced our jib sheets. Too much chafe. Same color, size and material.


(And those of you with keen eyes just noticed Sophie’s Christmas lights in this photo. Yes, we are fully decorated, and yes, Jenna’s holiday photo bog essay is on the way …)

Our heater works! That’s the beautiful sight of diesel exhaust coming out of the heater exhaust vent.

It was fairly straightforward for the local sparkie to install the new heater. He had to install a new diesel return line to the tank.

He also installed a new fuel-water separator to help us avoid water damage in the future.

Unfortunately, the new heater’s combustion chamber did not match the fittings for our old unit, so I have to carry that part back with me when I return to Seattle for some stuff in late January. I don’t think I will disguise it as a pink purse, though. They also may not allow me to hand carry it onto the plane, given its shape and its warning label.

But we understand that April autumn mornings can be quite cold in Opua, and we are very happy about this repair.

We had the rebuilt ETD and the rebuilt (and repainted) Cat Power pump installed. Here’s the pump.

We still have to bleed some air out of the lines, but I assume that this will all be working tomorrow.

We had the guys from a local boatbuilder dig out the sealant cracks around the salon panoramic windows.


They then resealed the holes using the same material that Lagoon originally used.

Jenna and I then sprayed a jet of water at the repair area for 5 minutes, and not a single drop of water crept into Sophie. I think we fixed this one. A dry boat is a happy boat.

Sophie has a 4 zone stereo system (salon, aft cockpit, fly bridge, forward cockpit) that stopped working during our Pacific crossing. Too much salt and wave action were the likely culprits. In hindsight, this created a great deal of stress for us because it turns out that music is quite important to our lives. We wound up using a little, battery powered speaker attached to a phone for most of the summer, and it’s just doesn’t create the same ambience we used to enjoy when 40 people danced on Sophie’s decks during the Thursday night races back in Seattle.


Well, our stereo system is back in action and better than ever. I took apart all of the cabling, cleaned the connections, and then reassembled all of the leads going into the system’s main amplifier.

The speakers in the forward cockpit (also occasionally known as the makeout cockpit because it is a cozy spot for couples) were basically trashed.


It turns out that extended exposure to green water shortens the lifespan of stereo speakers. We’ve now replaced the speakers with new ones and they sound great. We are looking forward to having Troy and Maureen give us feedback on the space’s ambience when they return for a visit in February.


Aft Cockpit Enclosure
We had new sunscreens made here in Opua, and they are wonderful. We may wind up leaving them permanently installed for the next four years. The local canvas shop used the existing winter enclosure as a template, so the new screens map directly to the existing cockpit hardware.

You get a really nice view from the shaded interior.IMG_3356

But from the outside, people can’t really see in, giving us a certain degree of privacy.


We will be docked in Auckland’s Viaduct Marina over the next couple of weeks, and we understand that this is a popular spot where thousands of people walk the docks during the holidays. It will be nice to be able to watch them without having them watch us.

Getting Ready for a Busy Year
It now looks like we will be having friends and family visit us in February, March, May, June, August, and September. We love the company and the opportunity to share our boat and our lives with people who are close to us. With all of the additions and repairs we’ve made here in Opua, Sophie will be ready and waiting!

Sophie’s Refit


Believe it or not, it’s coming up on 6 years since we first received Sophie in a shiny new package from the Lagoon factory in Bordeaux, France. Actually, she didn’t come in a shiny new package, she came covered in soot on the deck of a freighter from Belgium. But she was new, she was ours, and she arrived the same week as Hazel.


Since then we sailed Sophie for 5 happy years in the Pacific Northwest, and after that sailed her 7,000 offshore miles from Seattle to New Zealand on the first leg of our family adventure. Over the course of our Pacific crossing we encountered in aggregate about a week and a half of heavy weather sailing involving 30+ knots of wind and 5+ meter seas.

We have met friends on other boats who did the Pacific crossing over the last year and lost things like their mast, rudder, sail drive, autopilot, self steering, windlass, and navigation systems. Sophie has held up extremely well and suffered no catastrophic damage. But now that we are in New Zealand, we decided to take advantage of the skilled local workforce and have Sophie undergo a bit of a refit after all these years. Let’s walk through some of the work we are having done.

Forward Lockers
As I mentioned in a previous post, we experienced some problems with the bulkheads (walls) in the forward lockers behind each trampoline. The pounding over the course of our Pacific crossing caused the walls and floors to separate, ultimately allowing a decent amount of seawater to drain into our starboard bilge on our last passage, from Fiji to Opua. This is a phenomenon cruisers try to avoid. We use these lockers to store spare anchors, anchor chain, and piles of extra lines and rope which all became quite heavy when wet. I now believe this added weight contributed to the damage.


We asked a local builder, Peter Sowman, to do the repair. His guys, including “Big Rob” shown here, had to grind out the bedding and glass in the lockers to prepare them for the repair.


He reglassed the walls together and sprayed hardening foam under the floor for extra support. The result is a pair of lockers that are now stronger and drier than the original.


As part of this repair we asked him to fabricate and mount four stainless steel rails on each side of the lockers. These will enable us to hang lines in a manner where they will be able to stay dry (and therefore remain much lighter.) We also won’t use these lockers to store chain or spare anchors any more.


Aft Vent Covers
On Sophie’s transom are 2 plastic covers that partially protect the intake for air vents that go down into each of the engine rooms. They are mostly cosmetic but unfortunately over the last 5 years had faded into two different colors. One became tan, and the other became whitish. Having two-tone rear panels became annoying, but the Pacific Ocean solved this problem for us by ripping off one of the covers on the passage from Bora Bora to Rarotonga. Peter replaced both covers in matching white.


Over the course of the journey we developed identical leaks on either side of the main salon, right where the stairs go down to the port hull on one side and to the owner’s cabin on the other side. It’s fairly normal for cruising sailboats to develop little leaks, but it can be a real pain to find them, because water can travel a long way from the hole it uses to enter the boat to the hole it uses to enter the cabin. The leak on the port side was worse and usually occurred when we had a strong wind/wave action on the beam, which happened on our passages to Rarotonga and to Opua. Just this last week we had a violent and torrential rainstorm with swirling winds right here at the dock, and both leaks occurred simultaneously. We knew we needed to get them fixed.

So the next day Jenna and I removed ceiling panels in each hull and started doing some leak sleuthing, a process involving spraying jets of high pressure water on different points of the boat while hoping to spot the hidden location where water drips in. We were relieved to see that water wasn’t coming down from the flybridge because that could have been a much bigger problem to find and fix. After a while we spotted the problem: water was coming in from the seal around the panoramic side windows in the salon and then through a bolt hole used to hold the flybridge to the deck.

Here is the general area where the water comes in.IMG_3253

And here is a closeup of the hole in the window seal. It’s amazing how such a small pinprick in the window seal can result in such a large amount of inflow when you are offshore in beam seas.


Once the water gets inside of the window seal pinprick, it travels along the fiberglass base of the window in search of any kind of opening that gives it the opportunity to enter the cabin and make the floor slippery and wet. We found a tiny hole in the seal right here, where a bolt goes through the fiberglass in order to connect the flybridge to the deck.


We will have the inner and outer seals resealed this week.

Sophie’s tender is way more than just our “dinghy”, it’s our car, pickup truck, ski boat, and remote fishing/beer-drinking platform. We use it a lot, and it’s never let us down.

steve board

Except for when we punctured one of the air tubes by bouncing off a semi-submerged steel plate protruding from a concrete pier in Tonga. Or when the engine’s choke cable seized, resulting in our having to pull the cord 15 times to start the engine in the morning or late at night. Or when we left the dinghy in the water overnight a few times in Musket Cove, resulting in a nice shiny green undercoating on its normally bright white hull.

Back in San Diego we had a canvas cover fabricated for the dinghy. It preserves the life of the inflatable fabric. Unfortunately in the Marquesas — Hiva Oa  to be precise — I left the dinghy tied to a stone jetty, and in 10 minutes a hole had rubbed through the canvas cover on the port bow. Over the course of the summer this hole increased in size and was joined by 2 additional ones at the forward davit strap and on the starboard bow.

Needless to say there was a need for some serious dinghy love. So here in Opua we had the dinghy engine completely serviced, including re-drilling the screw holes on the bottom cover (remember those, Dan?) so we can now remove and change the oil filter. More importantly, we had the canvas cover repaired and added a new insulated canvas cover for the engine. It’s teal, matching the color of Sophie’s lettering. I also scrubbed off all of the green from the hull. Overall the dinghy is looking pretty sweet and runs great.


Cockpit Table
Sophie’s aft cockpit table has been the gathering point for many really fun dinners and some late nights over the years. We use the table so frequently that we simply leave it out all of the time, and the tropical sun combined with the Pacific’s salt has not been kind to it. So here in Opua we had the table stripped and re-varnished.


We will also start leaving the cover on most of the time.


While we were table-less, our friends Jeff and Melody from Double Diamond came over for a drink and brought their Lagoon 440’s aft cockpit cocktail table with them. It fits in the exact same holes as Sophie’s big table and was a fun alternative, creating more of an aft cockpit lounge vibe. So we are going to look into having a small cocktail table made, either from a small surfboard or wakeboard, and use that for special occasions. We need to have this ready before Randy and Susan’s next visit.

Sophie still has it’s four original sails – mainsail, jib, code zero, and spinnaker — and all of them remain in very good shape. The mainsail is big (almost 1,000 square feet) with a full roach, full battens, and 3 reef points. If you recall, we put a small tear in the main on the passage to Rarotonga, and the repair we had done there has held up well. However we did experience significant chafe along the upper batten pockets where the sail had rubbed against the shrouds while running on a reach.


There is a new North Sails loft here in Opua, and they replaced the mainsail batten pockets with stronger material (above), and also added a reef block and a batten car attachment point.


I am now convinced that the leading source of damage to sails offshore is the use of electric winches for reefing and trimming. All of that extra power in the wrong hands can cause things like canvas, lines and blocks to break. That’s how we lost a reefing line on the Marquesas passage, how we tore the sail on the way to Rarotonga, and how I broke a downhaul in Fiji. Personally I have become much more gentle in how I use the electric winches offshore, relying way more on a sense of touch rather than brute force.

Anyway, taking down or putting back up our mainsail is a half-day job. Here is Jenna with an allen wrench and some pins.


The jib needed some work as well. North Sails replaced the tape that runs along the foot and leach, repaired some damage to the sunbrella, and reinforced and enlarged a chafe patch where the sail can hit the spreaders.


Later this week we will decide whether or not we will reconfigure our code zero and leave it permanently rigged to our bowsprit. Having multiple furling sails is becoming increasingly popular, including on all new Lagoons, because it provides added flexibility. For us to do so on Sophie will require at least the addition of a strip of sunproof fabric along the edge of the sail. We will also need to rig a permanent solution for the continuous furler, and some of our guest crew have given us some good suggestions on how to do this.

Our spinnaker that we have used extensively, made with love by Carol Hasse’s team up at Port Townsend Sails, needs no work and is still a wonderful sail.

The jib is rigged with a Facnor furling system that includes an aluminum foil that extends up the entire length of the forestay.

This foil is fabricated from 6 foot long pieces of extruded aluminum that are bolted together using inserts as connectors. Over the course of a lot of miles some of the holes in these forestay pieces and the holes in the inserts worked a little loose.


This looseness caused some aluminum dust and stains would appear on the jib after heavy rainstorms. More importantly, looseness increases the risk that the entire furling system could break, which could result in bad things happening to Sophie in a heavy storm.

So we had some local riggers remove our forestay and furler, and then remachine all of the holes in the foil pieces and connectors in their machine shop.


It’s all back together now and as good as new.


I must confess it was a little disconcerting being on Sophie on a dock for a few days with heavy winds blowing and listening to our mast creaking back and forth because our forestay was in a machine shop up the street.


We had 3 halyards tied to the crossbeam to help stabilize the mast, but it still wasn’t the same as having a forestay. And it wasn’t just me and Jenna feeling a bit of unease, some of our neighbors joked that they were worried Sophie’s mast could come crashing down on them. But everything worked out OK.

The riggers found a few more areas that needed attention. They re-machined the gooseneck fitting where the boom meets the mast, eliminating a bit of play that had developed there.


They replaced and/or repaired the sheaves at the top of the mast, at the end of the boom and on the traveler. They replaced the main halyard (chafe at the top of the mast) and the spinnaker halyard (too stretchy, especially if we are going to rig the code zero permanently). They now look nice and are Christmas colored. Here is the spinnaker halyard:


And here is the main halyard (with a new block).


It’s amazing how prolonged exposure to the sun and salt can damage canvas. Back in Seattle, we had a canvas and vinyl enclosure for Sophie’s aft cockpit, and we would use this from late August to late June. But we put it away in San Diego, except for one small piece that protected the area directly behind the aft cockpit sink. The zipper, canvas webbing, and threads on this one piece were destroyed over the course of our crossing, so we had a local canvas shop repair the entire enclosure. We’ll probably put it away again until we return to Seattle, but we will do so knowing that it is intact and ready for to keep us warm in 10 months of cold rain per year.


We also have a flybridge bimini on Sophie, and historically we used it from late June to early August in Seattle and then put it away for the rest of the year. Well, the bimini went up in San Diego and has remained up ever since. The tropical sun damaged some of the stitching and canvas webbing, so we had the local canvas shop replace them. The bimini is back up now and looks great.


We also have a mainsail cover made from the same Sunbrella fabric as the bimini. Over the course of the crossing the cover crept forward along the boom, causing the forward edges of the cover to come in contact with reefing lines, which resulted in some significant chafe damage.


We had the local North loft repair the chafe damage, and we will do a better job in the future to secure the mainsail cover to prevent creepiness.

When we were in San Diego, we went to a Home Depot and bought some inexpensive deck shading material, and en route to the Marquesas we fabricated some makeshift aft cockpit shades. These turned out to be ugly but practical, and a lifesaver during late afternoons when the temperature was still in the high 90s. We decided to splurge and have the local canvas shop fabricate some permanent sunshades using the same fittings used by our winter cockpit enclosure. We hope to have these done and in place in time for the after party we’ll wind up hosting on Sophie after we attend the Boxing Day races with in Auckland with Misti Landtroop in a couple of weeks.

Shore Power
Like most US sailboats, Sophie is a 110 volt boat in a 220 volt world. Because of this we haven’t been connected to shore power since San Diego, putting 940 hours on our genset since March. Needless to say, we enjoy the creature comforts that 110 volt electricity brings to our lives.

But we are on the dock here in Opua so we decided to save wear and tear on the genset and switch to shore power. Fortunately when we commissioned Sophie we installed an isolation transformer that protects Sophie’s metal from marina-induced corrosion while also offering the capability to convert 220 volt Kiwi shore power to 110 volt Sophie power. So we hired a mechanic to reconfigure the transformer and we assumed we were all set to plug into New Zealand’s power grid.


But we weren’t all set. It turns out that New Zealand’s government requires all boats that connect to shore power have a government-issued “Warrant of Fitness” for their electrical system AND their power cable. Now back in the US I am all for liberty and freedom and all that “don’t tread on me” stuff, but it turns out in New Zealand they enjoy all of those freedoms AND have lower boat insurance rates and virtually no electricity-induced marina fires because the government makes sure that all boats are properly wired. It’s a good system and I like it. We got our sticker and plugged in.


But our problems didn’t end there. We kept tripping the circuit breaker on our transformer when Sophie asked for too much power from the dock, something that usually occurs when we turn on the clothes drier, dishwashers, or Nespresso machine. We used to encounter this problem on the floating docks at Point Hudson Marina back in Port Townsend and would simply adjust down the amount we would draw from shore until the transformer would stop tripping. Except that here in New Zealand we tripped the transformer so often that we wore out the transformer’s circuit breaker in a couple of days. It turns out that part wasn’t designed to trip more than a handful of times.

It was clear that our isolation transformer was undersized, limited to just 16 amps  @240 volts. The local sparkies (Kiwi term for marine electrician) offered to upgrade our transformer to a 32 amp version of the same unit and install it at a good price, all on the next day. We agreed, but when the sparkies inspected the new part they realized that it wasn’t internally configured according to the documentation and the model number painted on the outside of the box. Victron Energy, the manufacturer, has recently relocated their manufacturing to China and are experiencing some teething pains as a result. It also turns out that the local sparkies are really really good  at what they do. They got a loaner part from the manufacturer for us to use for a few months, installed a separate galvanic isolator, and we no longer lose shore power when we brew a long shot. Our new permanent and properly configured replacement is on order, to be installed after the holidays.

We used Sophie’s watermaker to produce all of the fresh water we consumed from San Diego to New Zealand, with the exception of one tankful in Rarotonga (dirty harbor) and then another right before we left Fiji for Opua. The general view held by all of the cruisers we meet out here is that it’s not a question of whether or not your watermaker will break, it’s a question of when. Overall we are extremely happy with the performance of our system, and the need to make fresh water is a main reason why we ran our genset so frequently. But as we prepared to leave Fiji for New Zealand, the throughput of our watermaker fell from 22 gallons per hour down to 8 gallons per hour and then it basically stopped working. Its “energy transfer device” — a system of pistons that low-power watermakers like our’s use create enough pressure to strip the salt from salt water as it is forced through a series of filtering membranes — wore out and needed to be rebuilt. That’s been done. We also needed to rebuild the 110 volt Catpower pump that drives the water into the system. It turns out that it suffered salt and sediment damage, and we will install an additional 25 mm prefilter in front of the 110 volt pump to prevent that from happening in the future. All of this should be up and running by the end of the week.

Diesel Heater
We have a Webasto diesel cabin heater that we ran for 4,000 hours over our 5 happy years in Seattle, and it stopped working the day we left San Diego for the South Pacific. This wasn’t an immediate problem for us when we were sweating in the Marquesas, but it was COLD when we reached New Zealand a month ago and we missed our heater. We thought it was simply an electrical problem, but the local sparkies took it apart and learned that the burners had basically worn out due to 4,000 hours of usage combined with some water damage. We had installed the heater without a fuel-water separator (Racor filter) in the fuel line between the tank and the unit, and water from the fuel tank occasionally wound up getting mixed with the fuel that was being burned, and this is apparently not good for a diesel furnace.

Since there is no one in New Zealand who can rebuild these systems, it wound up being easier for us to simply (and reluctantly) order a new unit from Seattle. Our friends Ian and Becky hand carried the diesel furnace on their flight to Auckland, cleverly disguising the unit as a pink handbag.


We are having the new heater, along with a new fuel-water separator, installed this week.

We love our Fischer & Paykel dishwasher, and Kiwis love them as well because they happen to be designed and manufactured right here in New Zealand. We also looked forward to using it every day in New Zealand, now that we were going to be attached to shore power and shore water for a few weeks.


Unfortunately, the day we arrived in New Zealand was the day Hazel engaged in some liquid soap/jewelry making/stuffed animal parade game, and to clean up her mess she inadvertently put her liquid soap covered cups into the dishwasher. As the dishwasher began to run, it produced a funny noise, wouldn’t turn off and displayed an “F1” error message.

I looked it up on the web, and the F&P F1 error message indicates machine flooding, and some life hacker sites described how you could fix the problem with a hair drier. So I took the drawer out, dried it with a hair drier, and the error persisted. After a day or two, I called Fischer & Paykal customer service. When I described the problem to the woman who answered the phone, she said “Oh, it’s flooding. You’ll need to get a technician out there with a hair drier to fix it.”

She referred me to a couple of local firms, and we finally got one of them to come out to the boat. (Their appointment was conveniently scheduled right as some of their friends next door were about to go out fishing, and they finished on Sophie at the exact same time as when the beer arrived on the neighboring boat. Kiwis have a high quality of life, you know.) Anyway, there were two repairmen, an older guy and his apprentice. They disassembled the dishwasher drawers (turns out more could be disassembled than what I had done), looked at the pumps, then looked up at me and asked “Have you got a hair dryer, mate?” They pulled out a circuit board, used the hair dryer to dry it off, then put it back into the machine. Repair done, and no new parts. I now know how to repair an F&P F1 error.

A Better Boat
That wraps up the main list of things we had addressed here in Opua over the last month. We also had the boat detailed, polished and waxed. We did a thorough spring cleaning of the interior and examined the contents of every cabinet on the boat. We reorganized how we store food and spare parts. All of the wine and liquor now fit in just one of the forward bilges — there has been some shrinkage, as they say in the retail industry. Most importantly, we feel that we know the boat much better now than we ever have in the past and are learning how to live on her full-time.

We are so lucky to be doing this trip, and to have a boat that holds up so well. Next stop, Auckland!


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Every fishing trip is a composite of all other trips, and it holds irresistible promise for the future. That cup cannot be drained. There are always greater fish than you have caught; always the lure of greater task and achievement; always the inspiration to seek, to endure, to find; always the beauty of the lonely stream and the open sea; always the glory and dream of nature.

Zane Gray, Angler’s Eldorado

Zane Gray wrote these words after spending a year fishing for marlin off the North Island of New Zealand over 90 years ago. Today the Sophie crew is located in the exact same spot in the world, and I am sitting here marveling at how the lure and excitement of fishing has became such a central, foundational experience for everyone we’ve had the pleasure of hosting on our boat over the last year. Not just for my long-time fishing buddies like Dan Rogers and Steven Fell (both pictured above) — they’ve known the secret their entire lives — but for everyone who has spent time with us over the last year.

I knew when we planned this trip that fishing would be an important and fun and protein-necessary part of our life offshore. But I never anticipated the shared sense of emotional power and emotional connection it would create across all of the different people who were able to join us on our adventure. And it had a cumulative effect, a variation on the cumulative effect that Gray writes about, because it was shared by different people, many who didn’t have a connection with each other except that they were our friends or our family. But as more and more people joined us and caught fish on this trip, more and more people who subsequently joined us really wanted to catch fish on this trip. There was a connection. People were getting hooked.

I guess it started with my brother Rich, whom I love but never really thought of as a guy who was into fishing, but man did he become so happy when he won the fight against a 20 pound yellowfin tuna at sunset 1,500 miles offshore on our passage to the Marquesas, doing so at the exact same time that Dan was pulling in that tuna’s 15 pound little brother. This resulted in Sophie’s first ever “double takedown”, and I now realize that Rich’s fish is the model for the tattoo that graces both my right arm and all Sophie fish photos that grace this blog. It was a physical manifestation of the shared sense of excitement that has become a part of the life we share with others.

And this shared sense of excitement spread. It spread to our friend Rebecca, who landed and dispatched a coral trout outside the reef at Moorea with a surprising and somewhat alarming sense of vigor and glee. It spread to our friend Karl, who could transform albacore on-the-line into sashimi-on-the-plate with world-class speed. And it spread to North Dakota Troy, whose grin at catching his first saltwater fish, in Fiji no less, was as big as his home state. And it spread the next week to our friend Randy, whom we normally think of as a funny, well-dressed triathlete-kind-of guy. But all he wanted to do when he joined us was fish, fish, fish. And he was so happy when he reeled in a couple of tuna as we traveled back and forth between Malolo and the Cloud 9 floating surf break lounge scene and nightclub.

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So it shouldn’t have surprised us when it happened again last week with the arrival of our friends Ian and Becky. But it did.

We first met them through the Seattle Yacht Club, and they quickly became good friends because they shared our love of sailing, wine, food, and adventure. Becky even joined us on our passage from Seattle to San Francisco.


But we never really thought of them as a couple who were into fishing. We had never discussed the topic with them back in Seattle, and it didn’t come up in the planning emails and Facebook messages we exchanged in advance of their visit.

They had already spent a week in New Zealand by the time they had joined us in Opua and had done things like mountain luging, airplane fjord tours, vineyard visits, and fine dining in Auckland. So our plan for their visit to Sophie was to spend a couple of days doing more of the same followed by a couple of days anchoring out in the Bay of Islands to celebrate the American Thanksgiving holiday. Sophie is undergoing a bit of a refit right now and has no sails, and besides, the kids are in school. So unfortunately we couldn’t spend the entire time with them cruising.

As Jenna mentioned in her blog this week, on the first day of their visit she took Ian and Becky on tours of the big trees, and on the second day we all hiked a waterfall. On both nights we ate well and stayed up way too late. So I was a little surprised on the morning of the third day when I asked Ian and Becky what they wanted to do, and they both answered at the exact same time “I WANT TO GO FISHING!”

Hmmmm. That would require motoring 5 miles down the river and out into the actual Bay of Islands in a Sophie covered with spare lines and parts boxes, and then go drift fishing for snapper, something I had never done before. In the rain. But Ian and Becky were adamant that they wanted to go fishing, so I walked the kids up to school and then stopped at Cater’s Marine to buy a 2kg bag of frozen herring along with some ice and snapper hooks, and we took off.

I have to confess it felt good to be driving a boat again, and the Bay of Islands are beautiful. Once we got out to the fishing area we had 3 lines in the water, each baited with a frozen herring using 2 hooks in a rig similar to what we sometimes use to catch salmon (and always use to catch dogfish) back in Seattle. We drift fished for the next 3 hours, in what basically turned into a futile exercise of fish feeding. We kept losing bait and sometimes bait and hooks, oftentimes without even feeling a tug on the line. But Ian and Becky were having a fabulous time, and with each lost herring their level of excitement increased, even as the rain picked up.

Personally, as their host and guide I was starting to feel some pressure to actually deliver. I decided that the current rig simply wasn’t working, so I switched to a marlin hook (much bigger and sharper) attached to a steel leader (so fish can’t bight it off) and a heavier weight (so the bait can fall deeper into the current).


Within 2 minutes I got a hit, and although the fish didn’t fight like a tuna or mahi mahi, it was beautiful and soon in the boat. That’s what counts. Cue the obligatory fish shot:

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I was happy, but Ian and Becky were ecstatic. I handed my pole to Becky, re-rigged Ian’s, and their lines soon went back into the water. Even as it rained Ian and Becky continued to work their poles from the shelter of the aft cockpit. When time ran out and we had to head back to the dock in order to collect the kids from school, Ian insisted on trolling on the way back just in case. They had that “glory and dream of nature” going, and they had it bad. But we landed no more fish that afternoon.

The next day was Thursday, and we headed out for an anchorage in the Bay with the kids on board this time. We didn’t fish for snapper on the way, but I did fry up the previous day’s catch in gluten-free bread crumbs and served it with a trio of dipping sauces. It was excellent. Once we had the anchor down in a nice cove we went out for a hike, played on the beach, paddle-boarded, and collected oysters. Ian and Leo had every pole on Sophie working along with a couple of hand lines in the water. We tried herring, artificial lures, different sized hooks, even casting with bobbers but had no luck other than a couple of very small fish that Leo caught. We were anchored in only 15 feet of water, and the fish in the bay were clearly too clever for us.

The next day was Friday in New Zealand, meaning Thanksgiving Day back in the US. Our plan was to motor 3 miles back out into the Bay, drift fish for snapper, then head over to another anchorage to cook some roast lamb for our Kiwi version of a Turkey Day celebration.

It was sunnier but much windier than our previous day on the Bay. I had marlin hooks rigged on all three poles this time, but we still had a problem with bait falling off. At one point I was reeling in my line to check the bait and saw a big fish following my hook. I stopped and jigged 5 feet below Sophie’s transom steps, and then wham Wham WHAM he finally took the bait. It turned out to be a four foot-long shark! I fought him back and forth on our trolling pole with the 80 pound braided test line, and he kept running and fighting for 10 minutes. It was a blast. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, but we took a couple of photos and then he eventually solved the problem by biting through the line and swimming away, quite angry with me.


At this point Ian and Becky were in a complete fish frenzy. We moved the boat a couple of times, tried different combinations of bait while watching the clock with the shared understanding that at some point we would have to stop fishing, drop an anchor, and start cooking.

We continued to lose bait and were down to our last 3 herring. Finally, I decided to use a short length of 10 pound test line to tie a herring up and down the shaft of Becky’s marlin hook. She dropped it 20 feet directly below the transom step and then stopped.

Tug. Tug Tug. Tug Tug Tug.

“I’ve got a fish … I’ve Got a Fish … I’VE GOT A FISH!!!!” Becky slowly reeled up her snapper while I worked the leader, and the result was this 10 pound beauty.

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For the next 10 minutes Becky was kicking her feet on the deck like a 3 year-old girl eating her first lollipop. “I caught a fish! I caught a fish! I caught a fish! I want to go fishing again! I want to go fishing in Seattle! I want to go fishing with Dan! I caught a fish!”

It was pretty funny.

We loaded the fish in Sophie’s new fish box (under the grate in Sophie’s aft cockpit … thanks for the suggestion Jeff in Kirkland!) and doubled down on our efforts to help Ian land his fish.

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No one likes getting skunked, especially when it’s the wife having all the fun. But we were out of herring, the wind and waves were building, and Jenna still needed to start work on our Thanksgiving stuffing, kumara pie and apple crisp. (I was going to do the lamb). So we reluctantly turned the corner and headed for the next cove.

Once the anchor was down, we had four lines back in the water. Ian really wanted his fish. Becky and I cleaned the snapper, which attracted a 10 foot shark who swim past Sophie a few times. There was also a big dolphin sleeping nearby. But no fish. We ate the snapper for lunch, went to shore, cooked, played games, ate our feast, talked, drank wine, and hung out. The whole time we left the four lines in the water, but still no fish.

The next day was our last with Ian and Becky. The plan was to go to shore for a hike, collect some oysters, then motor the 5 miles to Paihia and put them on their bus to Auckland. And hopefully help Ian catch his fish.

We all hiked and took photos on the shore, then Ian dropped me off to snorkel by the oyster beds while he rejoined the rest of the crew. As I swam back to Sophie with a couple of dozen oysters and a conch shell, I spotted a stingray laying on the ocean floor 15 feet down. I yell out if anyone wanted to come and see it, assuming Jenna and Becky would simply get in the dinghy carrying a couple of masks and come over. But apparently Becky still had the adrenalin surge from the previous day and asks Jenna if it was too far to swim there. “Of course not,” says my adventuress wife.

So Becky grabs the wetsuit, grabs fins, grabs a mask and jumps in. I’m 100 meters away. She starts swimming a very splashy stroke, and Jenna starts waving her arms yelling “NO! STOP!” From my perspective in the water, I assume Jenna is simply telling Becky to not attract the shark that was giving us indications of interest in that exact same spot 24 hours earlier. Eventually Jenna stops yelling, and Becky arrives. I assume everything is all right.

The splashing had apparently convinced the stingray that it was a good idea to fly away, which is always a very cool sight, but Becky didn’t get a chance to see it. We proceeded to swim around for a bit and soon spotted another one. In Becky’s haste to leave Sophie she forgot to bring a snorkel, so we swap masks and she gets to enjoy the experience of floating directly over a stingray, an experience that scientists now believe produces the exact same endorphins as those produced while landing a fish. Needless to say, Becky is in a good place. Or so we think.

We swim around for a bit more and then swim back to the boat. Becky gets out first. When I pull my head out of the water, I hear Jenna saying “Are you alright?” while I realize I am at eye level with Becky’s ankle pierced by a brand new 1 cm barbed bait hook attached to 5 cm of 20 pound test line. It turns out that in her rush to get into the water and over to the stingray, Becky snagged one of the hand lines and proceeded to stretch it tight and then snap it without ever feeling a thing. A horrified Jenna got to watch the whole experience and had been yelling to Becky “No! Stop! You’ve snagged a fish hook!” Becky never heard Jenna and never felt a thing the entire time she was chasing stingrays.

So I am still halfway in the water while Jenna and Becky discuss what we should do next. They decide we need to push the barb all the way through Becky’s skin, cut the hook in half (the eye of the hook was to large to push through the hole created by the pointy end) and then pull the remaining hook out.

But Becky, who is back in her endorphin-induced three-year-old-with-her-first-lollipop mode, screams “Get the camera! Jamie, roll up your sleeve! We need a shot of my foot with the fish tattoo!” Jenna gets the camera along with some wire cutters, and takes some photos.


I am a surgeon’s son and veteran pig stitcher, and I am also closest to Becky’s foot, so I do the procedure. I must confess that pushing the hook through her skin looked exactly like pushing a curved surgical needle through the skin of a pig when preparing it for a pig roast. Becky never stops smiling, but she does urge me to do it quickly.

I get the hook out without any tearing, and we all look at the wound wondering if we should irrigate it or apply medicine or some herbal therapy. It looked kind of like a snake bite, but none of us felt like sucking out the poison. We wiped it up instead.

The smiles never left, and the adrenalin along with Sophie’s magic healing power helped keep the situation pain-free. A big irony here is that when we first met Becky on her birthday at the SYC’s Port Madison outstation two years earlier, she was hobbling down the dock with a sprained ankle, looking for some Advil to help alleviate the pain. She is now the first person in the world who can tell a Sophie story about each one of her ankles.

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Meanwhile, Ian was down below in his cabin taking a shower, oblivious to all of the activity taking place. Hazel was feeling mischievous and decided to pay him a visit, saying “So Ian, why are you down here taking a shower WHILE YOUR POOR WIFE IS UP ON DECK WITH A FISH HOOK STUCK IN HER FOOT!!!” I am certain Hazel had her hand on her hip while she asked the question.

(I have no idea what we are going to do with that girl in ten years, and welcome any and all advice from my mother or anyone else on how we can best prepare.)

We proceeded to shower off, drive Sophie through a 25 knot chop for 6 miles over too Paihia, drop a hook and then ate a nice, typical Sophie lunch (fresh oysters, marinated green lipped mussels, and organic pumpkin and leek (gluten free) risotto, all washed down with a chilled rioja.) Then I took Ian and Becky into town, put them on their bus to Auckland, from where they flew on to Seattle. It was a great visit, we have new stories to tell, and we miss them a lot.

For me, sharing the “irresistible promise for the future” is what drives us to do this journey, and doing it with friends makes it more meaningful for us. Fishing is now core to this shared experience, and we look forward to having more of our friends and family joining us and “getting hooked.” But if you are planning to do so, please don’t take this suggestion quite so literally. We promise to do our part and will try to no longer leave unattended fishing lines in the water while at anchor. Because we’re all for experiencing the glory and dream of nature, but we want to continue doing so without anyone getting hurt in the process.

Have we told you lately how lucky we are to be on this trip?

Kia Ora!

You may have noticed that we haven’t posted to the blog in the last 4 weeks while sightseeing, hiking, taking kids to school, fishing, boat projects and hosting friends. We’re having an incredible experience so far here in New Zealand.
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For the first couple months here we are on a dock at the Opua Marina. While I love anchoring out, I have to say the convenience of jumping off the boat without having to dinghy in to shore has been a big luxury. Also, with all the boat projects we’re catching up on, you can’t beat our location at the end of the Ashby’s Boat Yard dock.
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When we arrived, we cleared customs Tuesday morning just before Game 5 of the World Series. Needless to say, our first priority was to find a place to watch the game. Six of us squeezed into a tiny beater of a car we borrowed and drove to the Roadrunner Tavern where we enjoyed some of the best burgers we’ve ever had and watching the Sox win.

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And of course we went back two days later for the epic Game 6. IMG_0943 (1024x683)

How could it get any better than a Red Sox World Series championship? David Murray, what a brilliant idea you had to watch it again while cooking on Thanksgiving. Wish we could have too.

It may surprise you to learn that Jamie has always wanted a minivan. I on the other hand, although I fondly remember great times driving one with my friends and sisters during high school, have always loathed the idea of getting another, so it figures that the best cheap used car here was a 2004 Kia Carnival, and we are now the proud new owners of this sweet ride.

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With new wheels and a sense of adventure, we headed off to explore the Northland with Fred and Frank, our wonderful crewmates who stayed for some vacation in New Zealand after our crossing from Fiji.

We hopped a ferry to the quaint town of Russell and visited the museum, Pompellier Mission and Duke of Marlborough Tavern that served up some amazing local fried oysters.

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Russell is also home to Christ’s Church, the oldest church in New Zealand.

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The Pompellier Mission is remarkable. They still operate the tannery, printing press and book bindery that has been in operation since the 1800s. We got a demonstration of the entire process and history from a Maori guide. Leo and Hazel tried out scraping leather and typesetting.

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The kids also ran the printing press.
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In Kerikeri we stopped by the Stone Store, the oldest building in NZ.

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It’s spring here and flowers are in bloom. Everywhere in the Northland looks like a gigantic English garden.

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We headed to the west coast to see the giant Kauri trees. En route, we stopped near Opononi at the lookout over Hokianga Harbour for our first glimpse of the Tasman Sea.

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On our way to Waipoua Forest, our “two day old” car lost power and then overheated going up a steep hill. We discovered the radiator cap blew off and had to wait for the car to cool down. We managed to go another few kilometers before it overheated again. Almost every car that passed us stopped to check and see if we needed help. Kiwis are so friendly! Luckily we broke down within a few kilometers of the only garage in the area, so we enjoyed a great lunch at Morrell’s Café in Waimamaku while the mechanic checked out our car.

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It turned out that there was no coolant in the system, only water (Jake our used car guy rectified this and more back in Opua and also paid for our garage stop). The Carnival ride has run perfectly since, for a minivan that is.

We wanted to get the car back to Opua, but we were so close to the Kauri forest that we made a quick stop to see Tane Mahuta, the biggest Kauri in New Zealand. It is huge! The forest reminded us of our road trips last year to the Olympic and Redwood National Forests, only more tropical.

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We made a second trip to Russell to watch the annual Russell vs. Waitaingi rugby match. Our bartender at the Duke of Marlborough plays for Russell and told us about the game, and they won!

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Leo and Hazel got into the action too.

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We spent a low key Halloween at the Opua Cruising Club here in the marina. The kids made their own costumes including drawing their own face paint. Some local friends aka supermoms we met at the Cruising Club took them trick or treating around the neighborhood in between dumping rain showers and then gave out little handmade bags of candy to everyone.

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We heard such great reviews of the local school that we decided to enroll Leo and Hazel for the last 6 weeks of the term. Opua School is quite used to cruisers joining classes this time each year and they welcomed us with open arms.

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The kids love being with so many children and learning about New Zealand culture. We were a little overwhelmed with school activities and being back on a schedule the first week. On their first day we learned that they needed costumes for Show Day the following day. Luckily we found some supplies at the two dollar store in Whangarei while the kids were at school. That night they designed and made their own costumes for the second time in less than a week.

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Hazel went as a strawberry and Leo was a bunch of carrots.

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The theme for Show Day was “5+ Fruits and Veggies a Day” and included a school-wide costume parade and dance party. Some students also decorated their bikes and scooters.

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Show Day coincided with Guy Fawkes Night and the Melbourne Cup, so the kids got to stay up late with us to celebrate with dinner, horse racing, and fireworks at the Cruising Club.

Later that week Jamie and I attended the Opua School Tea Party fundraiser. Jamie won best dressed man (of course!) and a raffle basket of Christmas goodies. Without gloves and a fur, I didn’t stand a chance, but thanks to Becky Hoppins who brought me some beautiful vintage white gloves I could be a contender next time. The food was fabulous and all handmade from scratch by moms in the PTA. The school performed a Maori Kapa Haka for us and Jamie and Frank danced with some of the girls during the ballroom dancing demonstration.

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One weekend we walked on to the car ferry and hiked to the Omata Winery with Frank and our friends Jeff and Melody from Double Diamond, a Lagoon 440 from Kirkland, WA. The wine wasn’t our favorite, but the food and view were spectacular.

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We are working our way through the AA list of 101 things all Kiwis must do. One must see is the Wairere Boulders, a valley of basalt rocks that claims to be the only place in the world where you can see basalt erosion. It was a beautiful hike and the kids loved searching for boulders that looked like animals.

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See the dinosaur?

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See the crocodile?

My favorite moment was when Leo stopped, looked down and said, “Mom, look! We’re where the red fern grows! Do you suppose they could belong to Old Dan and Little Ann?”
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Jamie and I took the kids on another hike to Rainbow Falls in Kerikeri.

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Hazel giggled nonstop while chasing chickens across the field.IMG_1184 (1024x683)IMG_1181 (1024x667) IMG_1192 (1024x683)

One day I volunteered to help chaperone Leo’s class on a field trip to Adventure World, an amusement park in Pahia run by former circus performers. Leo and his friends absolutely loved it.

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At first, Jamie and I weren’t sure what to do with all our “free time” while the kids are at school. We started with a deep clean and organization of everything inside Sophie and then some boat cleaning and maintenance projects. More on this in another upcoming blog post. We also started short day trips to hikes and restaurants. One day we ate lunch at the Duke of Marlborough Restaurant before streaming the Pats game.

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Another day we walked from Opua to Pahia on the coast track (90 minutes one way) followed by lunch at 35 Degrees South, then walked back again following the beach almost the whole way since the tide had gone out.

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Another day after morning boat chores we stopped at Marsden Winery for lunch. Feels like we’re dating again. We had just started tasting when Jeff and Melody walked in with a couple friends so we had lunch with them.

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We also did the coastal drive to Whangaroa and hiked to the top of St. Paul’s Rock. Both have spectacular views in all directions.

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We spent the week before Thanksgiving attending the All Points Rally in Opua, going to seminars, catching up with friends we’ve made across the South Pacific, and meeting a lot of other cruisers who came to NZ for the season.

We have been so fortunate this year to have so many friends and family join us for parts of our voyage. Becky Hoppins and Ian Campbell joined us for Thanksgiving (Becky also did our initial ocean crossing from Seattle to San Francisco last year). We hiked up Flagstaff Hill in Russell.

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The next day while Jamie worked on the boat, I took Becky and Ian to Hokianga Harbour and the Waipoua Forest to see more of the Kauri trees.

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On the way back, we stopped in Kawakawa to see the famous Friedensreich Hundertwasser toilets. Yes Frank, we finally made it there.

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We hiked again to Rainbow Falls followed by oysters and white wine at lunch.

Hazel started an after school gymnastics class and just adores it.
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The kids have also practiced the Kapa Haka and performed with their school at the annual welcome to cruisers at the Opua Cruising Club.
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The weather has warmed up significantly since we arrived and it almost feels like summer again. After almost a month on the dock doing boat projects, we were so happy to take Sophie back out on the water for fishing one day while the kids were at school. Jamie caught our first red snapper and it was delicious.
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Last year we spent Thanksgiving in Monterrey, CA on Sophie with just the four of us. We’re mostly observing local customs, but it didn’t feel right for the kids to just do a regular school day on American (or “amirican” as the Kiwis say) Thanksgiving, so we took them out for a couple days and anchored out in the Bay of Islands for a proper celebration. The dolphin seemed to like this. Becky and Ian did too.
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We anchored at Urupukapuka Island, and the water was warm (enough). We have really missed the water!
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We all hiked the loop track to the top of the island.IMG_1261 (1024x671)
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One other boat left shortly after we arrived, so we had the anchorage all to ourselves. This is apparently unheard of after school gets out for the summer.
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There were oyster beds along the rocks so Jamie is now an expert oyster harvester and shucker. I think we’ve eaten at least 4 dozen in the past week.
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In the morning we fished some more. Becky caught a spectacular red snapper and Jamie reeled in a four foot shark (let that one go).
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We decided to have our Thanksgiving meal at the same time as everyone in the states (Friday here in NZ). We anchored at Roberton Island and ate fresh fried snapper for lunch and then paddle boarded and played on the beach while preparing Thanksgiving Dinner. Instead of turkey we had roasted lamb with baked kumara pie, stuffing and corn bread, and started with fresh oysters Jamie had just pulled out of the water plus some 1997 reds from the cellar.
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On Saturday we hiked to the lookout on Roberton Island and then spent some more time in the water.
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In her eagerness to see the stingrays, Becky inadvertently hooked her own foot while diving into the water. She didn’t notice until she got back to the boat. Luckily it was only skin deep and we were able to clip and remove the hook. In a surprising reversal of roles, Jamie played surgeon this time instead of me. Never a dull moment.
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We watched some of the slideshows from our trip on Becky and Ian’s last night here. It struck us how much healthier we are now than when we left a year ago. “Who are those big people? Oh my, that was us.” Jamie is steady at 100 push-ups a day and I’m holding my own. After the slideshow, Becky told us the photos that we’ve posted to the blog aren’t nearly enough given all the amazing things we’ve seen so I promise more going forward.

It was sad to motor back to Pahia and say farewell to Becky and Ian. We had such an incredible time and miss you already! Thanks for a wonderful Thanksgiving.
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We feel so fortunate to have so many great people in our lives and hope all the rest of you can join us soon. Everyone should try cruising. We’re back at the dock in Opua, relaxing and playing games with the kids who have two more weeks of school before summer.

We are the luckiest people on earth and still loving every minute of this incredible journey.
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