BIG Update! 30th April - 16th May 2010

   Sunrise over North Island on way to Nelson past Farewell Spit, South Island - Cook Strait entrance close by to the South.
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30April - 16th May 2010: On through Bass Strait past Tasmania and across Tasman Sea to Nelson, South Island, New Zealand - Into the Pacific Ocean!!

30th April: Headed through Bass Strait in good winds (SW 20-25 knots overnight, 15-20 later) after heaving to several times in the stormy weather of the previous week while crossing the Great Australian Bight. I passed unexpectedly close to the gas platform 'Nyacine' near the edge of the shallow Bass Strait shelf and on past the shipping lanes off Wilson's Promontory by dawn... Not many ships around and none at all once I'd sailed on to between the Hogan and Kent Groups of islands north of Tasmania, since they all seemed to be hugging the coast whereas I was headed across the Tasman Sea. Amazing numbers of albatross were seen for a day or so as I passed north of the Kent island group. Also Mutton birds - smallish birds, dark on top, white underneath, who seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time underwater, occasionally coming to the surface where they pattered across the water with stumpy wings beating furiously, before diving under again.

I gradually found myself chatting on the HF radio to a lot of people from Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand which made life on board very sociable. It got to the point where I needed to write out my daily 'contact list' to avoid missing a 'sched' in between all-important (non-computer) weatherfax downloads!! I chatted to Mary Kay of Smithtown Radio on 4483 every night all the way over to N.Z. after she'd given out the weather (she was the one who identified the 'Mutton birds' for me & told me all about them) - and then I usually found Coast Radio Hobart and others coming up on frequency for a chat also! Allan of America River Radio on Kangaroo Island also kept in daily contact from Tasmania to N.Z. and gave me lots of useful weather info for my passage. Occasional check-ins with Tony's Net in N.Z. led to chats with various other people in Oz and N.Z. also. I was in constant contact with Graham, ZL2ABN, the Wellington Winlink sysop (himself a sailor) both by email and finally on HF radio. He has been extremely helpful in contacting people in N.Z. for me - initially to see if I could stop without a food problem (I needed to know that my long-term stores wouldn't be confiscated if I were to stop for a short visit - MAF in Nelson were very understanding and said they could seal in a secure place until I left those items they might otherwise take away) and, once my stop here was agreed, he contacted lots of others to organize things ahead of my arrival... I'm really grateful for all the help I've had from him - Thanks a lot for all your time and effort, Graham!!

It's turned out to be a good thing I decided to stop here in Nelson in order to get a variety of important items seen to - including more rigging and ongoing sail problems (...!), a first engine service for my new engine ..... and, unexpectedly, a replacement needing to be sent for the vane on my windsteering gear which I found broken off a few days out from Nelson. Graham also found a Nelson Ham, Brian ZL3BCO, to look at my 'dead' computers and fix the connector on a dodgy 12V charger - so one laptop at least is now functioning fine and I'm able to email from onboard again - thanks so very much for that, Brian! Another 'Thank you' is due to Nelsonian Peter Halifax of 'Electronic Solutions' who very kindly gave freely of his time to mend corroded connectors both on my VHF radio in the cockpit and also on a handheld GPS. (I've had a lot of kind words from well-wishers here in Nelson, especially after the local paper splashed a photo of me on their front page...!!) I also want to give a big 'Thank you' to Graham Griggs, ZS2ABK, of the South African Maritime Mobile Net who daily posted my position and weather reports to the Winlink website all the way to New Zealand from text messages I sent him daily using my satphone, so everyone would know where I was and that I was safe while my computers were down. Also I'd like to thank the friends who sent me text messages to my Iridium phone - those were lovely to receive when I couldn't get emails! (Unfortunately some didn't give me a phone number to reply to...) And, of course, I also want to thank Bryan, who has made such a great job of my website over the last few years, for posting occasional news to my website when I was unable to.... My cryptic, abbreviated text messages got quite challenging for him to interpret at times!

My crossing of the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand was almost without incident - just one cold front halfway across causing a bit of a problem with NNE winds at 25-30 knots for 2 days. I hove to for a very short while when the wind strengthened to 30-39 knots & was forecast to be stronger, with nasty, short, steep seas and was then able to sail on once things had calmed down, with the wind backing first to SW & then to SE. (The seas crashing onto us caused pasta to jump & be spilled everywhere out of two containers in the galley & I spent several days finding lots of pasta shapes in different places!) Mostly, I was fortunate to have good sailing winds, lots of sunshine and lots of birds for company as usual - but different ones: Grey-headed & Black-browed Albatrosses.... and two days from landfall, I was thrilled to see a pair of New Zealand Wandering Albatrosses around 'Nereida" for a time.
       Cape Petrel soars past "Nereida"

New Zealand is the 'Land of the Long White Cloud' - and I felt privileged on my last complete day offshore, with the sun shining from a clear blue sky overhead, to see a long line of white clouds over land in the distance... I looked through my binoculars and was amazed to see high mountains above and below the line of clouds .... What a landfall!! (It's my first visit here.) To cap my feelings, several beautiful Cape Petrels turned up to keep me company for the rest of the day, to add to the big flock of prions & several albatrosses & other petrels I already had nearby.... I was exhilarated,... ecstatic ..... singing out loud for joy!! Overnight, I headed around Cape Farewell & the long sandy Farewell Spit, and as Day 62 from Cape Town dawned, with a cloudless sky & beautiful sunrise over North Island in the distance, I made my way south towards Nelson, already visible in the distance...... Greetings, New Zealand!

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Mon-Sun 10th-16th May 2010 Notes from Port Nelson Marina, South Island, New Zealand

Mon 10th May
10 o'clock - tied up alongside tug for Customs and MAF paperwork - 6-mth visa (standard) plus form to exempt boat purchases from GST. Calm & sunny day. On to marina berth D22. Ambled over to nearby chandler to look around & on to organize timing of pre-arranged engine service. Cousin Stephen arrived in afternoon - he hadn't realized it was me he'd watched coming in to the marina earlier! Took me to my aunt's place - fresh fish&chips on way - lovely!

Tuesday 11th May
Laundry!! Cousins and aunt came by to see boat in morning. Interviewed by 'Nelson Mail' plus photographs - publication on Wednesday.
Graham (ZL2ABN) arrived to help with jobs on board. Also Brian, ZL3BCO, came to take computers to see if repairs possible... and 12V charger for repair of connection to PC.
John (sailmaker) came to check sails and discuss reefing problems and broken battens - need to replace several broken ones and change position of cuts in sailcover to re-position 1st & 2nd reefing lines where tied around boom.

Wednesday 12th May
Brian brought computers back - one is now fine. Also brought Nelson Mail and the local Ham Radio club's Newsletter - in which he (as President) had printed photos of 'Nereida' coming in towards Nelson on Monday, from AIS screen!!
Engine first service carried out. Hydrovane vane arrived. Graham R. placed ferrites on variety of leads to attempt to stop interference from AP and instruments and also from Iridium on SSB radio. Checked Winlink on radio and downloaded emails outstanding. Later, walked over to chandlers & on into town for Internet - having problems with slow connection, failing to get laptop online to download emails.
Heavy rain and strong gusty wind overnight.

Thursday 13th May
Peter repaired VHF radio connection at helm - had corroded power terminals. Took handheld GPS unit away to see if repairable - corroded metal in battery compartment from leaking battery. Refused payment ... very kind. Gave me lift into town to see about seeing to mobile phone/NZ simcard - new NZ simcard bought.
Library for Internet... slow! Walked back & on over to Tasman Bay Cruising Club - very welcoming.
Back to boat - rigger John was waiting & was highly impressed both by my lovely seaboots and the red ski socks I was wearing - a feature of Kiwi sailors after Peter Blake set a trend, he said. The genoa foot shackle was replaced - pin had gone when retaining ring disappeared. Other rigging issues looked at - split pin gone from clevis pin at foot of lower shroud on starboard side, emergency forestay needs fixing, some shroud tensions need adjusting & there's chafe on 1st & 2nd reef lines at exit sheaves in for'd end of boom - sheave edges seem to be too sharp.

Friday 14th May
Heavy rain on & off over night and day... Library for Internet - too slow to achieve much... Went & bought new cellphone - old one misbehaving. Sail battens replaced but sailcover couldn't be cut for reeflines 1 & 2 because raining too heavily all day long.. hoping to do on Sunday.
To Tasman Bay Cruising Club with aunt and cousins for meal - lots of people there, all very pleasant & friendly.

Saturday 15th May
Cousins drove up from Christchurch to visit me on boat - had good long chat. Spotted leaking overhead hatch - very wet bedding ... needed drying out... useful to have loan of electric fan heater for that. Too wet for rigging jobs to be finished, postponed re-fuelling to Monday for same reason. Stocked up with lots of the 'Back Country' dehydrated meals I'd heard several good reports of, in readiness for my 6-7 month 'around' repeat attempt from Victoria B.C. later this year. Got them mainly at the outdoor store 'Mountain Designs' where Manager Mike kindly gave me a good discount . Then took time off for a small tour by car of countryside around Nelson, including Trass Valley area where family had been brought up, & saw some other relatives I'd never met.
Back on board to get on with jobs over the evening - but totally sidetracked by visit from friendly Richard McBride who came along waving a bottle & suggesting a pizza, but who then stayed for a long, thoroughly enjoyable, 'sailing-stories' chat, ending with going off to nearby 'Anchor' for a lovely meal of Marlborough mussels.... Back to try to catch up on jobs, but no joy - postponed to Sunday!!

Sunday 16th May
More heavy rain overnight and day.... I'm being told it's unusual...!!! Discussion with Graham of timing of possible French Pass transit towards Cook Strait over Tuesday/Wednesday for leaving N.Z. towards Hawaii. I'd hoped S winds would have died away by then - but late morning heard that weather forecast is for strong S winds into late Tuesday/Wed ... so now definitely being held up by weather... will see what forecast is later today. Still several jobs to do onboard but will be frustrating if weather stops me from leaving for several days now. Trying hard to get this 'blog' (finally!) written up - about to head into town to Library which I believe is open for Internet now... then on, in cousin Vivien's car, to supermarket for provisioning ready for leaving - whenever that might be..... 

Written by : Mike

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