The Long Goodbye

15th May 2016
Where do you begin when it’s been six months since our last Sea Mail? And how do you keep to a length that won’t have everyone glazing over and falling asleep as you ramble on? Well not sure how to answer either but here goes…
We last wrote having left Fiji after England’s very disappointing Rugby World Cup. Thankfully Mr Jones seems to have come over the hill with the cavalry and turned our boys round into Grand Slam Champions. Even Michael Lynagh tipping is them to win the series coming up in Australia, could be the stuff of dreams. And we had a dream sail from Fiji to New Zealand – engine off two miles out from the marina at Denerau and it stayed off for the next thousand miles until we got to the Hauraki Gulf outside Auckland, passages don’t get much better than that. It was good ‘coming home’ to Auckland, catching up with friends and making the inevitable list of things ‘to do’ before we sail away for the last time.

But before that there was a short cruise to Great Barrier Island in wonderful weather for Christmas on the water. Again we were reminded of the fact that Aucklanders have one of the best cruising grounds in the form of the Hauraki Gulf on their doorstep. It’s a well-kept secret with most people outside of NZ only hearing about the Bay of Islands. Don’t get me wrong it’s a nice area, but we’d rather sail in the Hauraki Gulf any time. We had a wonderful time exploring old and new anchorages, most of which we largely had to ourselves as Kiwis tend to have Christmas at home, taking to the water on Boxing Day - our cue to head back into Auckland for New Year’s Eve aboard with friends.
We had planned to sail down to South Island for a cruising club meet. But did we really need the extra miles given we were starting the trip home this year? In the end we decided ‘no’, booked flights and went back to Great Barrier Island, where we sat watching whales swim past our anchorage – beats slogging round Cape Reinga. Flying to South Island also meant we could enjoy another favourite activity – staying on a vineyard, this time outside Nelson, sampling the local produce – well it would be rude not to. Travels took us to Farewell Spit the northern most part of South Island and one of the longest sand spits in the world.

One of the joys of air travel is you can actually plan things like leaving on the day you plan to. This novel approach to travel meant we could arrange to meet cruising friends in Wellington. Although getting accommodation proved a little challenging as we hadn’t realised there was a food and wine festival on and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo (complete with pop up castle) was in town, but good old Quest Apartments came up trumps again with a studio in a very central location.
Whilst we were there we went to the Gallipoli Exhibition at Te Papa, the museum in Wellington. It was one of the most extraordinary exhibitions we have ever been to.

As you walk in there is a 2.4 times life size model of a soldier, his arm shot to smithereens and his words both spoken and projected on the wall around the model. He’s not a fictitious character but one of the real people from WW1, whose stories are told using their words – diaries, letters etc. to explain what it was like, what people went through and some of the emotions they felt. These characters kept cropping up throughout the exhibit, so you felt you really got to know them and, as Mike said you sometimes felt you were trapped on the peninsula with them. The quality of the eleven models was extraordinary from finger prints and hairs on the arms to sweat and grim on the skin. But most memorable of all – the look of shell shocked horror in their eyes.

Maybe not surprising considering they were created by the Weta Workshop (who did all the Lord of the Rings models). It was due to close this year on ANZAC Day to end the year long centennial commemoration of Gallipoli, but has proved so popular they are keeping it open for another five years. If you have a chance to see it do, we defy anyone not to be moved by it.

Holiday time over and time to knuckle down to work. Well actually we had cheated a bit and left people working on the boat whilst we swanned off to South Island. The thought of scrapping the entire keel and redoing the Coppercoat rather lost its appeal (if it ever have it). Before leaving we had had the rather unnerving experience of watching guys we had only just met walking off with our rudder.

Not something we had planned on doing but the team preparing the keel discovered rather a lot of water in the rudder – like it took 4.5 litres of resin to fill the gaps. Still their job was made a lot easier by Oyster’s wonderful support and efficiency in the form of Eddie Scougall who, within hours of us asking if there were plans for the rudder had sent through all the technical drawings so the guys at this end knew where to drill, and Oyster After Sales had new bearings fabricated and shipped over to us before we got back from South Island. Guess every cloud has a silver lining as Oyster do recommend checking the rudder bearings about eight years on.

Given we were about to sail half way round the world it made sense to look at all the jobs that needed doing or were going to need doing in next year.
We decided to bring several forward so we could do them here where we have a wonderful network of people who have supported us and helped us keep Sea Rover the sea worthy boat she has always been.
Think it might not go amiss to say a very big ‘Thank You’ to everyone who has supported us during our many visits to New Zealand since we first arrived in 2009.Whilst we have had a marvellous support from most people the ones we would like to say an especial ‘Thank You’ to (in no particular order): Glyn Dickson, Steve McCabe, Dave Gutry, Craig Torckler, Greg Lewis, John White and Nadina Thwaites, you folk have all helped keep us afloat.

On the list of things we’ve been doing : upgrade the forward toilet to an electric one, replace all the batteries and our mass combi, redo the non slip paint on our decks (much safer in wet weather) and service everything that moves and some things that don’t. See told you it wasn’t all one long holiday.
And North Sails have modified our cruising chute – something we have rarely used – so now it’s a top down furler which should be much easier to put away … and believe it or not, I’ve been heard to say that I’m looking forward to flying the chute, we’ve even had a little practice!
Despite your doubts that we mean it, we are going to start the sail home this year – yes we are aware we have said this before, but this time we really are leaving NZ. Even have a berth booked in Cape Town for Christmas, Rosie has her tickets booked to come out and join us for Christmas and some of Mike’s family are coming out for New Year, so guess we really do have say a final farewell to NZ.
Of course it hasn’t been all work and we have found time to enjoy The Auckland Arts Festival and Comedy Festival not mention St Pierre Sushi and Yum Char at the Grand Harbour, dread to think just how much we must have spent between these two establishments over the years, just wish we had shares.
One of life’s happy coincidences was finding Tom and Christian moored in the Viaduct here in Auckland, they took ownership of their Oyster 56 – Astahaya on the same day as we became proud owners of Sea Rover, we hadn’t seen them since we had finished the ARC in the Caribbean in 2008 and here we were half a world away planning the next stage of our respective journeys. So of course some socialising was called for – well it would have been rude not to.

After a brief visit home over Easter so I could have a check-up at the Brompton, they’ve decided I’m so OK they don’t want to see me for two years, it was back to the final preparation to leave, jobs to finish, food to be bought and cooked and of course friends and farewells. It will be hard to leave for the final time (though we both suspect we will be back by air rather than boat) it feels very much like one chapter ending and another beginning. We are both looking forward to the next part of the adventure even if sad to be leaving, mind you we have had enough practice at it so think we should get it right this time!


Photo comment By Tania Sweet: We will miss you so much. Have a really fantastic sail home. Lots of love from us both.
Photo comment By Tom Lansner: Wonderful pics, as always...and the adventure continues... NYC soon...?

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