Friday, March 16, 2012

Morning Fog & Ants & Securite Warnings

February 28 - March 5

Griffyn woke me up this morning to see the fog. We were socked in. It was a completely still sunny morning. The sun, low in the foot hills north of us (upstream) was just peeking. Everything was covered by large drops. It was chilly. The wet deck felt cold on our bare feet as we walked around the cabin house shivering, watching the fog lift all around us. 

We have been battling ants for some time now, the ants we brought with us from Tonga. We didn't drag our fruit and veges through the water (off the side of our dinghy on our way from the market) as we should have. And we brought lots of critters on board. After we noticed the ants crawling off our pineapples, we started to submerge our fresh produce. The bananas were a haven for everything from large millipedes to huge spiders and of-course ants. The only pests that really moved in were the ants. We have successfully killed 4 nests now. There was a nest under our starboard winch in the cockpit, a nest in a hole near the galley on the port side of the cabin house, a nest in a food storage locker under the starboard settee and a nest under a large gray sail bag in the bow - that one I killed today!!  It was completely exposed once I picked up the sail bag. I squashed the queen, the eggs and every single ant I could find. I keep scratching my head and clothes. It feels like they are crawling all over me - ugh. 
I have discovered, I relish killing ants almost as much as nonos (and of-course mosquitos.)  (Postscript - The ants are gone!)

In Waipapa (a small town beyond KeriKeri, 1 hour north of Opua) on the first Friday of each month at 7PM, there is a Ceili (pronounced Kalee) a Scottish/Irish Line Dance (with a caller who calls the steps out for everyone). The 'Yachtee Shuttle' driver who lives in Opua and usually goes to the Ceilis, offered to drive his shuttle to the Ceili.  So back in January, the kids and Owen along with the family from S/V Pegasus danced at their first Ceili. I stayed home that night just too tired to go. Each family brought something to share (Owen brought chocolate covered short bread) which all the kids gobble up. Around 11PM, Tamsyn, Griffyn and Owen came back jumping up and down excited about all the live music and dancing. Tamsyn described the most amazing dance in which the dancers form the parts of a sail boat, the men were the main sails and the women were the mizzen sails and they dance around each other as the boat sails. Owen told about dancing a traditional old line dance we have all seen in the opening scene of 'Pride and Prejudice' where Kiera Knightly and her sisters first meet Mr. Bingly. Griffyn and Tamsyn were so excited that they had to eat a small meal before they could settle down enough to feel tired. 

Some how we managed to miss the Ceili in February. We just weren't listening to the morning net and missed the announcements until the Saturday morning after. That day I got a calendar and highlighted the next Ceili (March 2nd). I was determined not to miss it again. We listening to the morning net all week. We tried to meet up with the Yachtee Shuttle driver on Wednesday, but he didn't show at his regular time. On Friday morning, the shuttle driver announced over the VHF that he would not be driving to the Ceili - there wasn't enough business this month. He has cancelled his service until April. We were all heart broken, myself especially. I plan to bring a camera to the next one and share it with you.

"Securite Securite Securite" (pronounced with a French Kiwi accent: 'Say-cur-e-tay')
Have I mentioned the winds? or the rough seas or the rain showers or the swells or the gusts?

We must get a gale here every week at least. Perhaps the shuttle driver didn't want to go to Waipapa for the Ceili because a 45 knot gale was expected and he knew no yachtee in their right mind would leave their boat. 

March 4th was a cold Friday morning. The barometer had dropped. There wasn't a breath of wind. The water was so calm that everything sat as still as if we were on land. It was erie, considering we weren't. Owen was chilled. He suggested that I bake today so that we would have bread (in case we were trapped on our boat for the weekend.) He taught Math while I put yeast, sugar and warm water into my large plastic canister. The nonos bit my ankles. The barometer dropped again. After I kneaded my second batch of dough and both were rising (about noon), we decided to made a quick trip to shore for butter, fresh fruit and vegetables. The kids had brought their scooters and were racing around in the parking lots. When we told Griffyn it was time to get back to the boat (only 30 minutes on shore) he lost his temper. I was looking out at the water across the marina when Tamsyn started to cry, holding her head. We ran over to her and asked her what happened. Griffyn had rammed his scooter into her while she was petting a dog. She had a scrape on the side of her head. We stormed over to Griffyn who was crying also and demanded to know what had happened. He admitted that he had driven in to Tamsyn on purpose because he wanted to ride his scooter longer. I was so upset I wasn't sure what to do. We had to get back to the boat. We grounded him and took his scooter away while applying fresh raw meat to Tamsyn's head. In New Zealand there is a law against spanking a child. If a child says he was hit by an adult the adult can go to jail. Hmm.

When we returned to the boat, we raised and secured the motor and the dinghy. I made lentil soup for lunch and finished baking (dinner rolls, two loaves of bread and cinnamon rolls.) The securite warnings came over the VHF regularly now each slightly altering an updated weather forecast. In each case, the winds were expected to get a little higher. The barometer dropped again. Owen checked his email to see if our Visa Extension had been approved. He got an email that said they needed more documents by Tuesday at 2 PM or we would have to start over. The Visa Extension form for visitors to New Zealand was 25 pages. Owen remarked that it was harder, required more details about his life, than the annual taxes for the IRS. He was a little stressed that they wanted more documents - copies of our passports, boat papers, things that were not requested on the application. He would have to go ashore and find a copy machine on Saturday and hope that his documents would arrive in Aukland before Tuesday. It was a bit of a downer, we had heard how easy it had been for other boaters and were not thrilled about having to risk leaving the boat during a gale. 

At 4 PM David (a local fisherman) stopped by our boat offering us two kicking snapper. We accepted and thanked him. Owen cleaned the snapper and cooked us dinner. While Owen cleaned the fish, Griffyn asked lots of questions. Owen showed him the parts of the fish. I could hear them above me while I was below in the V-berth. I was  still feeling badly about what Griffyn had done to Tamsyn. Owen and Griffyn were so gentle while they were cleaning the fish, so good to one another. 

I wanted to bring some fresh cinnamon rolls to David. This was the 4th time he had shared his catch with us. Owen was hesitant, the water was getting rough, the sky was darkening. But I felt so dreadful, I needed to do a good deed to make my day better. Owen agreed to go, so we tried to lower the motor onto the dinghy. The waves were bouncing the boat up and down as much as three feet. It was hard to position the motor so that it's blades wouldn't pop the dinghy as it was being lowered. We finally managed and everyone piled in. I brought 4 large warm cinnamon rolls to David. He was very pleased. Then we went to visit Sylvie and David (S/V Puddy Tat), they always welcome us and I needed a glass of wine. She and I talked about Griffyn's behavior and she agreed that a firm hand was necessary. That night we we put him in the 'dog house' and explained the new rules. 

Owen took the bimini, the rain catcher and the clothes rack down, so they wouldn't blow away. He tidied the cockpit. He stowed things that could roll. By midnight there was still no wind, the barometer continued to drop. We went to bed. Many boaters had napped during the day to be able to stay up all night - to be awake when the gale hit. 45 knots is the highest wind advisory we had heard in New Zealand. Sometime in the morning the winds began to blow. I woke up, Owen had moved to the starboard settee (closer to the GPS unit which is supposed to beep if our anchor drags). I was feeling a little seasick, the V-berth was pitching and rolling. The winds were howling through the shrouds, the halliards were slapping the mast hard. As we rolled one direction, I could hear the anchor chain stretching out, each metal link creaked as it pulled against it's neighbor, transferring the metallic sounds up through the hull. The boat healed deeply as the end of the chain yanked on the anchor. I held my breath, would it hold? A bucket crashed above rolling along the deck. The anchor held. The boat heeled deeply again, this time the other direction, the chain links crunched. We held. After a few bouts of this I was able to relax a little, I knew Owen would get me if he needed my help - if he woke up. I kept falling in and out of sleep until dawn. The winds had calmed.

Saturday March 5th, Owen had to go ashore to send more visa paperwork. He left the boat after Math class. He warned me that the swells would increase as the tide turned, I was to expect to feel a significant change in the waves. I started Griffyn's reading lesson while Tamsyn wrote about what she liked about La Paz. It was hard to concentrate, the winds were gusting higher. I finally gave up on the lessons and went up to the cockpit and turned on the wind speed indicator. The water was choppy, the swells higher. I looked behind our boat expecting to see S/V Far Star but he was way way behind us, just then someone came on the VHF saying a boat was definitely dragging. Far Star was so far behind us I thought he must have moved. We tried to hail him, but he didn't answer, we tried again, "Kennedy are you there?" Then we saw him on the bow working with his anchor. I felt anxious, where was Owen? I went down to check our GPS to see if we had drug. It wasn't on! I couldn't turn it on! Damn. I decided we would have to keep watch in the cockpit while Owen was gone (Griffyn and I above and Tamsyn below.) The winds were so loud we couldn't hear the radio in the cockpit.  Bob (S/V Kudana) was able to reach Far Star and Kennedy (S/V Far Star) had dragged. He thought his anchor, plowing up the river bed, would catch so he let it drag, but it didn't. When he was in 14 feet of water, he put out a second larger anchor with 200 feet of chain and it stuck. The wind indicator was beeping regularly now (it beeps at 30 plus knots.) I felt awake like I hadn't felt since we sailed into the Bay of Islands. 

I kept measuring our position in relation to other nearby boats (S/V Kudana and a German boat south of us.) The waves rushing past our boat were so loud that I kept looking for our dinghy. Owen didn't show up for another hour, while we sat watch and listened to other anxious calls on the radio. S/V Spirit of Yamiyami was dragging. Yamiyami is 50 plus feet and it's windlass isn't working. Don can't pull the chain alone. Two other boaters had jumped into their dinghy's and rode over to help Don. They just got it under control before it hit another boat. Finally I saw Owen coming across the water. He stopped at the aluminum French boat and told them they were dragging before he came home. When he got on board we quickly raised the motor and the dinghy. There was a white boat just ahead of the German boat (directly in front of us) that was dragging a lot. When the white boat was much too close to the German boat, the owner finally pulled anchor and moved the boat away. We breathed a sigh of relief. The German boat was unattended - no one on board. If they dragged, they would hit us.  Owen decided it was time to put out bumpers and pull the dinghy up on deck (so it wouldn't be crushed if the German boat let loose). The wind was now topping 40 knots regularly - it was hard to stand on deck. We were holding steady. Later that day the winds calmed and I felt exhausted.

Postscript - the Visa extensions came through.  Yeah!

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