March 6 - 16
We had submitted our Visitor Visa Extension Application to NZ immigration a week ago and heard only that they wanted more stuff. Every day Owen got up and checked his email hoping for some answer - our time here was running out. Owen felt compelled to get the steering pedestal fixed so that if we were denied we would at least be able to steer our way out of NZ waters (as safely as possible during hurricane season.) Friends kept reassuring us that we would get an extension, "They can't send you out during hurricane season - there's no where to go." But still Owen worried, checked his email and worked on the pedestal.
He had to completely rebuild the pedestal - it couldn't be repaired. The aluminum cap of the steering column was also cracked, but mostly intact - that could be repaired with aluminum putty and some reinforcing steel plates. He designed a new pedestal to be made out of wood and plexiglass. (pictures). He cut the wood at the local wood shop and brought it back to the boat. As each engineering problem was solved, a new problem was discovered - for instance, after measuring everything precisely, drawing up plans, cutting the wood, gluing it and installing one half of it, - he found that the teak cockpit floor was cupping. The pedestal had to be adjusted or remade. He worked from dawn to dusk on the pedestal everyday that it didn't pour down rain - there have been a lot of rainy days. Everyday the cockpit was full of power tools, hand tools, sand paper, carving tools, appoxy, glues, aluminum putty, metal plates, etc. We could barely enter or exit the cabin without getting in his way. And still we heard nothing from Immigration.
Apparently this is an unusual "summer" for NZ - it's much rainier and cooler than usual. The last three weeks have felt more like Seattle (in the fall) than any form of summer I have ever known. We are cold when we wake up, cold during the rain and cold when we go to our damp beds to sleep. I have come to one certain conclusion, I could never live on a boat in the Pacific Northwest. The most frustrating part about the rain is that it is almost always a gale when it rains, so we cannot collect water and we are stuck inside the boat hoping the anchor will hold.
The list of things that needed to get fixed loomed before we sailed anywhere and with the number of rainy days we were experiencing, we couldn't count on any specific number of repair days. Everything became unpredictable. If only Immigration would let us know. Owen started calling them. "We're working on it," they would say. Owen was no longer available to teach school - things had to be fixed and the dry sunny days were becoming infrequent. I needed a Math and History curriculum for Tamsyn and workbooks for Griffyn. We needed a new home school plan short one teacher. Flexibility was the issue, so I started only teaching on days when we had to stay in the boat because getting off the boat was a matter of sanity (as well as getting supplies). I tried to teach 5 out of 7 days of the week but no longer paid attention to which days those were. And because our work days don't end at 5 PM rather they end at dusk we were sleeping later and we started school after breakfast whenever that was.
Griffyn burns holes in his shoes, rips through his clothes, and is growing. Tamsyn is more gentle, she simply outgrows her things like a weed in a wetsuit, (4 inches this year.) When I was invited to go with Sylvie & David (S/V Puddy Tat) and Bob & Dawn (Sylvie's parents on S/V Kudana) in their borrowed car (from Don, S/V Spirit of Yami Yami) I couldn't pass it up. I have quite a list of things I'd like to find at "pop shops" (the thrift stores) rather than buy new. This is the first country we have visited that has thrift stores. Bob & Dawn picked me up in their dinghy that cool misty morning on our way to shore. The mist turned to rain as we huddled under the awning at the Opua Cruising Club waiting for Sylvie & David. David rowed slowly through the rain - his outboard on the fritz. After they docked, we walked over to Don's car and put our purses and jackets next to the enormous 175 lb. anchor in the trunk. (Just carry an anchor in your trunk next winter - it works better than sand bags - and if you get stuck you already have the tow hook.) Don's anchor has an tiny cotter pin holding the shaft of the anchor to its head. Imagine a 175 lb. anchor (that's a huge anchor) resting at the bottom of a brackish river, attached to 300 feet of chain. Then imagine 40 knots of wind blowing a 40 ton ketch around. I can see a weak spot. The safety of the whole boat was resting on the strength of this little rusty cotter pin.
None of us are big people but the car definitely bottomed out as we drove out of the parking lot. The opp shops are run by volunteers, retired women who totaled purchases by hand - and credit cards weren't accepted. I found nice clean sheets ($3) and lovely pillow cases ($1) and cool kids clothes for a dollar (1 kiwi dollar = 80 cents U.S.) I sure miss having a house to fill. I love thrift stores, there are always a few things that attract my attention. I have to pick them up, to feel them and smell them. I imagine the object in my kitchen or bedroom. I want to know who used them before me. I can see a hand on an old egg beater turning it. I love that whatever I find - it is really cheap. I can afford it. I love that I am not part of the big new consumer market - rather that I am helping a local charity. And if I make a mistake with a shirt, I didn't invest much, I can give it to a friend. I don't worry about getting a spot on it.
At the paper stores, I found school work books for the kids (beginning reading, problem solving, fractions, spelling, vocabulary, and grammar). This stuff was new and expensive ($150.00 - but still much cheaper than the $250 / week tuition at the local 'public' school). We hit the hardware store, the grocery store and then checked out an organic market on the way back. I found Kale!!! We haven't had kale since the U.S. It's always a full day when I get a ride to go shopping. Sylvie and David were so kind, they told me not to rush at each store we visited. I was the only one with lists. We arrived back at the dock at 6:30 PM. I had bought a lot of groceries, I had too much for a ride with another couple. Dawn sat with Tamsyn and Griffyn on Madrona while Owen drove our dinghy out to get me. By the time we got home, dropped Dawn off at Kudana, and unloaded it was near 7:30PM and everyone was hungry.The kids really wanted to see what I had bought for them. Dinner would wait. Here's our favorite Kale salad.
Kale Salad (4 servings)
Kale, 1 bunch
Virgin Olive Oil (non-virgin will also work)
Nuts, roasted chopped (pecans are best, but walnuts or cashews work)
Dried Fruit, chopped (prunes are best, but apricots, craisins or raisins work)
1/2 tsp. Salt (or more)
Black Pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
1 Egg, hard boiled & chopped
Steam the Kale until wilted (5 minutes in boiling water - covered). Drain and chop into bite size pieces. Put into a large serving bowl. Pour the Olive Oil over the Kale until it is fragrant plus a little more. Then add the Balsamic Vinegar slowly tasting it. It should be sweet and tart but not over-powering. Add salt and pepper. Dry roast a large handful of pecans in a heavy frying pan over low heat until they are fragrant. Add to the bowl. Add a large handful of chopped prunes. Add the chopped egg. Toss everything well. Sprinkle Parmesan over everything until it is all covered. Toss again. Serve.
While Owen worked on the pedestal, I spring cleaned. I had not had the time or the motivation to really scrub the bathroom since we bought the boat. In the beginning, in La Paz, we had too many other more pressing projects before we sailed across the Pacific. In French Polynesia and Tonga we needed to sight see - that was the point of the trip right? But here in NZ, stuck in the boat for days on end, I had to get serious about that little room that smelled all too often. I had found a squirt bottle on the last shopping trip (I couldn't find one in French Polynesia and all of ours had rusted). I had also found "Simple Green". I now had rolls of paper towels, a vinegar and water solution in a squirt bottle, and Simple Green in a squirt bottle.
I was finally prepared to tackle a big cleaning job. (In Tonga, Griffyn had broken the head. He had enjoyed making a brown fountain shoot up above the bowl of the toilet after her pooped that day as he pushed and pulled on the handle. The poop went everywhere. Of course we had fixed the head and cleaned thoroughly but the head in a boat is a tight space and it's hard to get everywhere especially without a squirt bottle. Today I would try again. I wanted to 'know' what was in and around my bathroom. I cleaned everything. I polished the brass, I dusted the vented doors, I washed the walls and the wood work. And I left nothing on the toilet untouched. It smelled good in there and now we would have a new routine every time we flushed. After flushing #1 - squirt the bowl with the vinegar water solution (vinegar dissolves calcium deposits which stink as they build up), after flushing #2 - scrub the bowl with Simple Green and flush again, then squirt with the vinegar and water solution.
Inspired by my shiny success in the bathroom, I continued to clean. There are 26 vented doors on this boat - each collects dust on it's slats. I hate dusting, but in a boat, such a small cramped space, clean feels more spacious than dirty, dusty or cluttered. We work daily at reducing the number of items on this boat. Every time we go to shore we bring a couple items off the boat. The free box at the laundromat has provided us with tons of reading material - which we must read and return as quickly as possible lest the already packed book shelves breed.
Free clothes have been my downfall. I have a hard time resisting free things in general, but clothes that fit me and look half way decent are almost impossible to resist. I bring them home, try them out and if I don't absolutely love them (and am willing to get rid of something similar) bring them back to the laundromat. I have found pants, shirts, shorts, jackets, a purse/backpack, bathing suits, undershirts, foul weather gear, hats, shoes - all in very good shape. If you are about to purchase a boat for a long cruise - don't bring too many clothes they all sour or get mildewy anyway. And you will either find free things or buy souvenir clothing along the way. Or you will want to buy all the gorgeous tropical fabrics and make your own things. (I wanted to buy a bolt of fabric in Tahiti, but settled for 8 meters of two different floral patterns).
The next day it was sunny so I decided to really look into the wet locker. Our foul weather coats and pants had mildewed a couple times now since we've been on this trip. Since we have been in NZ, I've been opening up that closet - leaving the doors ajar - every time we left the boat. And still our jackets and pants - even our boots were covered with small black specks. I was so frustrated. I pulled everything out, wiped the locker down with Dettol (an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial solution), taped over the seam in the removable floor board, soaked all the foul weather jackets, coats, pants, and boots in Dettol and hung them out to dry in the sun. (Of-course it wasn't sunny long enough to thoroughly dry the jackets so they hung around inside the cabin for a couple days as it rained.) I hate this weather.
3 days before our Visitor Visas expire, we get the official email - our Visitor Visa extension has been approved. The pedestal is not finished. It's still raining.