The last 3 months have been busy with a combination of being sailors and landlubbers!
Having sailed Pipistrelle from Opua to Whangarei, making a short detour to Great Barrier Island in late January, we had her hauled out for much needed beauty treatment at Norsand Boatyard where we left her while we travelled home.
Mid-February we flew from Auckland and arrived back in the UK to a blanket of snow that covered the Midlands to as far south as Heathrow, brrrr!
We were delighted to meet up with so many of our friends and family, which was great fun and a social whirl. Highlights were the christening of Bob’s first grandchild Florence, on the Isle of Wight, and in March a visit to Sweden to stay with our friends Ingemar and Ann-Britt, at their home in Lidkoping and then their summer holiday home on the west coast at Ulebergshamn, near Smogen.
We thought that spring had arrived in Sweden as well, but the weather was colder than the snow we found in the UK. Despite that their hospitality was exceptional, and we loved seeing a country we hardly knew, and meeting many of their friends. We enjoyed dinner parties at their home in Lidkoping, and another at their holiday home on the west coast, very close to where they moor their yacht, Lady Ann III.
Lidkoping is on the largest lake in Europe, the Vaennersee, midway between Goteborg on the west coast, and Stockholm on the east coast all joined by the Gotekanal. What surprised us having sailed the west coast with its high rocky outcrops, is how flat the interior of that part of Sweden is. But there was a lot to see and do, and before flying home we were entertained by their daughter Anna, son-in-law Alf, and their family who we had met in 2009.
The next highlight was Elaine’s father Denis’ 90th birthday celebration, which took place over two consecutive weekends. This was a great event, though was very unfortunately marred by his wife Muriel being too poorly to attend the second celebration, and being hospitalized the following day.
The Offshore Cruising Club, (Overlord), had their Commissioning Party the same weekend, and it was a great opportunity to catch up with all the members who attended.
All too soon our stay was drawing to an end and it was time to return to Auckland. Pipistrelle was waiting for us at Whangarei, and Norsand Boatyard had completed almost all the work they had agreed to do. The refit is certainly the biggest that we have been involved in, and major improvements have included:
- A super smooth bottom to the lead keel
- New mainsail and genoa
- A freezer with a rebuilt door that will now close and keep the cold in
- A second autopilot
- Reconditioned autopilot motor and windlass
- Chart table chair that is comfortable and closer to the nav station surfaces
- Replacement digital radar and chartplotter
We were delighted to find that Mike and Hilde on Quicksilver were still in the boatyard, and that Quicksilver was being launched shortly after Pipistrelle. Having loaded the last of the equipment, and tested the new autopilot, we set sail for Opua with a stiff southerly behind us. Blowing from the Antarctic, it was cold and we were clad in fleeces, hats and gloves. We stopped for the night at Whangamumu, a delightful natural harbour immediately south of Cape Brett, and the site of an old whaling station.
The short sail into the Bay of Islands was delightfully warm, and gave us the opportunity to hoist the new mainsail for the first time. On arrival in Opua we were greeted by Kathryn and Anthony on Cobalt, old friends of the previous owners of Pipistrelle. It is such a small world!
We were joined for the weekend by our friends Kate and Wayne from Auckland, who had been so hospitable to us at their home earlier in the year. They were able to enjoy an excellent and sunny day’s sailing with us in the Bay of Islands on Saturday, before rain came through on Sunday. The new radar was then fitted, rigging work completed, and we were able to meet up with several of our friends.
Our final weekend was spent at an avocado orchard near to Whangarei, the home of another Wayne who installed our new electronics. He has 220 trees that supply a considerable tonnage of fruit. The trees become enormous, and Bob had been invited to help ‘stag horn’, or prune some of the trees. This in fact is drastic surgery, cutting the majority of the tree down to its short trunk, whilst leaving one branch intact to feed oxygen and light to the remaining shortened branches, which then sprout to form new growth. Avocados take 2 years from flowering to harvest, and the ones from his orchard were just deliciously creamy. We also learnt to eat them at breakfast, spread onto bread, with salt and pepper to season, yummy!
May in NZ is the equivalent of November in the UK. We had incessant rain, strong winds causing us to drag our anchor one evening, and, brought to life by damp conditions, sand flies even invaded us afloat. Their bites are vicious. We were therefore extremely pleased to spot a weather window for the passage north to the tropics, giving us just enough time to finish making Pipistrelle ready, provision and tie up loose ends before departure.
On Friday 18th May there was even a queue of yachties at Customs, all wanting to check out to take advantage of the weather, and a considerable number of us finally got away. The brisk wind from the SW was not the best of angles, a dead run for us, but we soon fell into the rhythm of life on passage. By the 3rd day north of 30S we felt the warmth of the sun, but nights were cool, still dictating the need for our warm clothing and duvet.
A day by day, blow by blow (literally!) account of Pipistrelle’s passage from Opua to Tonga follows!