WINTER SOLSTICE NEW ZEALAND

 21st June and the shortest day of the year.  Its wet and cold in Auckland and work on Truce has declined to a snail’s pace.  My casual job at Burnsco, travel for Marine Consultancy work and the short daylight hours all conspire to keep me off the boat for days at a time.

From now on the days will get longer and hopefully more productive.  I have a long list of maintenance jobs I want to complete this winter before my next summer of adventure.  The boat needs painting inside and out, the mast needs refurbishing, the rigging needs replacing and there are a thousand and one small jobs on the radar.  One of my major tasks is to skim off the top layer of the deck and apply new epoxy and glass fibre cover.

To keep the decks dry and protected I have put a plastic shrink wrap over the boat.  It cost a few hard-earned dollars but is a lower cost option than hauling out into a shed and allows me to work on the boat at the dock.

Inside Shrink Wrap. Photo, Ray Penson
Inside Shrink Wrap. Photo, Ray Penson

Boat Cover and Access Door. Truce.nz
Boat Cover and Access Door. Truce.nz

So far this winter I have refurbished the toilet area or head to give the correct nautical description.  Everything looks nice and clean with crispy new white paint and sanitation pump.  I am also in the process of painting the inside of various lockers and cupboards, a very time consuming, messy and convoluted process.  A small leak in the filler hose for the Dickenson cabin heater had caused the outside of the ply tank to become saturated with diesel.  I will replace the old tank with a new aluminium one and the previous lingering diesel odour in the wardrobe will be no more.

Refurbished Head. Truce.nz
Refurbished Head. Truce.nz

 Next week I will be travelling to Saudi Arabia for a short job, it should be quite warm and put some heat into my old bones.

 After that I am looking forward to getting stuck into the refurbishment and planning for the next seasons trip to the South of New Zealand.  At the moment my idea is to sail up the East Coast and around North Cape before heading down the West Coast to Golden Bay.  From there to Fiordland and Stewart Island before returning up the East Coast to Auckland.  My plans are pretty sketchy at this stage but one thing I don’t want to happen is to have any deadlines or schedules – just go with the flow.

CHRISTMAS DELIVERY

My arrival back in Auckland was a quiet affair, the wind disappeared and I motored into the harbour in sunny calm conditions.  Truce is now berthed in Bayswater Marina where she will spend a couple of months until I find a more permanent berth in the New Year.

Heading into Auckland with no wind
Heading into Auckland with no wind

It was good to settle back into New Zealand life, especially as the summer weather is on the way and days are long and warm.  As usual there are a heap of odd jobs to do around the house and garden, but no hurry, I am just taking it easy after my Pacific crossing.

However, it wasn’t too long before I was packing my bag for another trip overseas.  This time for a ship delivery from the Netherlands to India.  In mid-November I left Auckland in sunshine and arrived in a wet, cold and dark Amsterdam – quite a shock to the system.  A taxi ride took me to a hotel in Rotterdam where I joined the rest of the crew, a mixture of Dutch, Belgium and Indonesian.

The next day I headed out with the other crew to join the ship and prepare for the voyage ahead, 7,000 miles to India which will see us spend Christmas at sea and arrive at our destination before the New Year.  The ship is fresh out of the shipyard and as usual everywhere was buzzing with technicians doing final installations and testing of systems.

The ships crew started the task of preparing for the upcoming voyage, receiving provisions, preparing the voyage plan, getting familiar with the ship and its systems, safety training and drills and of course the volumes of paperwork and certification that are part of modern seafaring.  After two days on board we were ready to sail – but not before a good night’s rest.

The next morning the Pilot boarded, the gangway was sent ashore and we let go the mooring lines.  I carefully manoeuvred the ship away from the berth into the Nieuwe Mass River, very aware that a lot of people were watching from the shipyard.  Taking a new ship for the first time is always interesting and a steep learning curve to establish quickly how she responds to engines, rudders and thrusters.

Before reaching the sea we had to pass three bridges in Rotterdam.  This involved lengthy waits in the river for bridge opening times – which are coordinated with traffic conditions to avoid more congestion than usual in the city.  After an hour wait we passed the Van Brienenoordbrug and then had a lengthy wait in the river for the second bridge, the Koninginnebrug, to open.  During this wait we were passed by the old tug the ‘Spanje’ with Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) on board.  Zwarte Piet is a traditional Dutch Christmas character – who in recent years is becoming controversial with his blacked up face and curly wig.

Tug Spanje with Zwarte Piet on board
Tug Spanje with Zwarte Piet on board

 The next bridge we passed was the Koninginnebrug before entering the Koningshaven.  We waited in the confined area of the Koningshaven for half an hour before passing the Erasmusbrug (nicknamed the Swan bridge) and finally being free to head towards the Hoek van Holland and the North Sea.

By late afternoon we dropped the pilot at Maascenter.  The weather forecast was not too good for the southern North Sea.  After the pilot departed we spent some time securing the anchors and double checking all was secure on deck before picking up speed and heading off to start the voyage to India.

ANCHORED AT MANSION HOUSE BAY

After a couple of peaceful days in Whangarei whilst the wind blew outside I sailed this morning, passing under the lifting bridge at eight forty-five – the first opening after the rush hour.  I rode the ebb tide down the river, past Marsden Point and out the shipping channel, passing the fairway buoy three hours after departing the town basin.

The south westerly wind was blowing at fifteen to twenty knots and we could sail close hauled on starboard tack at between six and seven knots.  The sun came out around mid-day and we had a great sail down the coast past Cape Rodney to the north channel by Kawau Island.

Just after six this evening we anchored in Mansion House Bay on Kawau Island – good sheltered anchorage from the south westerly wind.  There are six other yachts sheltering here – there is plenty of room for everyone.

Tomorrow I expect to make the final hop down to Auckland, now less than thirty miles away.  As I write this I realise this is my last night anchored out and solo.  Tomorrow I should be sleeping ashore in a static bed.