Autumn Update From Auckland

As the summer “down under” is edging into autumn, I have been spending a bit of time over the last week reflecting upon my last few months in New Zealand. It has been, as they say here, “full on.”

I have received a lot of email from you (thanks!) asking about the progress on Moonshadow, what I have been up to and my plans from here. Here goes!


We initially had some delays due to insurance hassles, poor weather, hassles with the insurance company and yard capacity. Did I mention there were hassles relating to insurance? My insurance company excels collecting premiums, but has absolutely zero interest getting my boat repaired and paying for said repairs! Cruisers, I’ll be ecstatic to tell you all about it, and recommend some alternative underwriters.

Anyway, we are quickly approaching the end of an unbelievable ordeal. Moonshadow’s hull is repaired, her new rig is completed, her rewiring is 75% finished, the creamy leather cushions and new padded headliner are ready to install and she has just been moved to the paint shop and received the first coat of shiny white paint on her topsides (hull) and a base coat on the deck. She is like a lovely lady putting on her final makeup for a second debut.

The gang at Salthouse Boatbuilders has been a delight to work with. The craftsmanship has been excellent and they have been great about providing fresh ideas on how to improve and/or update all of her many onboard systems. It has been really exciting to see significant progress during my daily visits. In a matter of weeks, she will truly be better than new. Oh, and the prices are like Mexico and the quality is as good, if not better than in the States.

Meanwhile, we completely emptied her of her contents. Holy cow! They more than filled a forty foot shipping container. I have taken this opportunity to “lighten ship” by examining everything with a critical eye. I have spent countless hours sorting, cleaning, repairing, replacing, wrapping boxing and labeling boat stuff. Anything that has corroded beyond recognition or not been used, read, eaten or otherwise needed since we left San Francisco was donated, sold, swapped or tossed out. I expect Moonshadow’s waterline to drop by at least an inch.

She should be splashed by the end of March and be commissioned and ready for sea trials by mid to late April.

The home for wayward sailors

Also known as the “Hotel No-tell Parnell,” the townhouse I have been renting in Auckland has been a focal point for visiting cruisers. I have been receiving mail, boat parts, phone messages and acted as an Internet Cafe for cruising friends, old and new, passing through the City of Sails. 

Among the visitors have been my buddy boating friends, the Annapurninans Buddy and Ruth, kindred spirit Kristin Sandvik, who sailed here on her boat Hio Ave, from Mexico, John Frei and Vince Schwab, two college/sailing buddies who popped in to the first country to see 1999 and to do some “land cruising” in New Zealand, and Sarah Dashew and Ginger Leigh, the hot singing duo from Austin, Texas who did a five week musical tour of New Zealand and performed in the huge Sweetwaters Festival. Sarah grew up on a boat and circumnavigated with her parents. You can check out a sample of the music at Sarah Dashew – Welcome to my world. We have all had loads of fun and even a party or two! 

Christmas Eve was spent at home. No decorated tree, just the native pohutukawas outside starting to blossom red, no Christmas carols, just sikadas (crickets), no colored lights, just the stars. Lots of friends, old and new, Yanks and Kiwis, sailors and earthlings, and a great big Kiwi bar-b-que on the back porch on a warm summer night. As it should be!

Not all work

Hard as it is to believe, I have managed to eek out a bit of fun and sightseeing.

The Honda ‘lude and I have put about 14,000 kilometers of winding New Zealand road under our seats in the past six months.

While John and Vince were here, in just a few days, we managed to squeeze in a trip to beautiful Waiheke Island, a suburb of Auckland, for some scooter riding, wine tasting and lunch at the serene Stonyridge Winery, New Year’s Day at the horse races (QUITE the social event-we even saw the Prime Minister walking in), 18 holes at Gulf Harbor, site of the last World Cup of Golf, and Blackwater Rafting along with most of the America True America’s Cup team (thanks to Dawn Riley and Tom Zinn).

OK, you ask, what the heck is Blackwater Rafting? Well, you put on a wetsuit, a helmet with a light on it, and a pair of wellies (boots) and climb down into a cave. Not just any cave, the Waitomo Cave, located in the center of the North Island. It is a very special cave with a river running through it and glow worms on the ceilings. You sit in an inner tube and cruise along for a couple of hours, hundreds of feet underground, sometimes with only the “glow” of the glow worms illuminating the way. Sort of a longer version of Disneyland’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” without the repetitive music. OK, we did sing it a bit. A photo is attached.

Kiwis have a penchant for festivals. Music festivals, wine festivals, jazz festivals, gay and lesbian festivals, food festivals, and even an Art Deco festival. On any given weekend during the summer, there are festivals all over the country for all sorts of interests. The good news is that with so much going on, and only 3.5 million potential attendees nationwide, nothing gets too crowded. As it should be!

As I mentioned, Sarah and Ginger came over to play the Sweetwaters Festival. They were kind enough to get me a free pass for the four day event and a backstage pass for their gig. Sweetwaters was quite a large event, which involved hundreds of artists (among them Elvis Costello, UB40, Cowboy Junkies, Grant Lee Buffalo, the Neil Finn and Donovan) playing on six stages spread out over the rolling, green, 800 acre Puhinui Reserve, which overlooks Manukau Harbor, just twenty minutes south of Auckland. There was nonstop music from Friday afternoon until midnight Monday. It was sort of like a more reserved version of Woodstock with less mud and more porta-loos. Add a dose of good weather and plenty of good Kiwi food and wine and you have the makings of a great long weekend. Unfortunately, attendance was about 10,000 short of the anticipated 35,000 and the whole affair has become a financial debacle. Not my worry, I had a blast!

My good friend Cate and I drove down to Napier (the Deco City) to hear Sarah and Ginger’s gig there. It just happened to be the same weekend as the Hawke’s Bay Wine Festival-what a coincidence! We and a group of friends hired a van and appointed a designated driver and we were off to do a bit of tasting. After six wineries worth of Chards, Sauv Blancs, Cab Sauvs, Merlots and Gewurtzs, with a port or two thrown in, we ended up at the expansive Church Road Winery for an evening jazz festival. Great jazz, gourmet munchies, nice people, stars in the sky and a little buzz from the wines. The Kiwis know how to do it right!

Art Deco

Two weeks later the ‘lude and I did the scenic, five hour trip to Napier once again. The scenery along the way melts from city to farm, and then goes from the very English countryside style of the lovely little town of Cambridge to the green forests and mountainous terrain surrounding the great Lake Taupo. After cresting the mountains beyond Taupo, the winding road drops down into the Hawke’s Bay district along the Pacific Coast. The rich soil and ideal weather make this one of New Zealand’s premier viticultural regions, sort of like a Napa Valley-by-the-sea.

This trip was for the Art Deco Festival.

As I mentioned a couple of newsletters back, Napier was flattened by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in February 1931. The earthquake was so powerful that it actually lifted the entire area up by six and one-half feet! This turned thousands of acres of marsh land into hard real estate. Amidst a depression, the people of Hawke’s Bay rallied to rebuild the their lovely seaside city in the predominant style of the day, Art Deco. It is reminiscent of a smaller Santa Barbara. All gussied up, it remains a beautiful example of the architectural period. Just the week before the festival, Napier hosted the International Art Deco Conference, which, in the past, has been held in cities the likes of Paris and San Francisco.

On this particular weekend, Napier wakes up as if it were 1935 all over again. There are all sorts of activities on. I enjoyed a guided walk of the city’s deco district, the parade of vintage automobiles, people walking about in thirties costumes, a visit to the Hawke’s Bay Historic Museum and live 30’s music going on all over town. I ran into my Napier friends Karen and Nick and enjoyed an afternoon of jazz, food, wine and conversation with them and their friends at the beautiful Sacred Hill Winery, located about 25 minutes outside of town. The name definitely befits the lush hilltop estate. They took me under their wings for the “Cafe Crawl” that evening. This is a progressive dinner that starts with a champagne reception and then moves on to three art deco style restaurants for each course of dinner. I got acquainted with lots of fun Kiwis as we supped on a variety of gourmet foods and excellent Hawke’s Bay wines. We ended the evening at a hip little cigar bar called Churchill’s. The next morning, after a breakfast at Karen and Nick’s home on Hospital Hill, overlooking the blue Pacific, it was back to Auckland. A stop in Taupo at the Replete Cafe and Deli for a scrumptious bite of lunch and a cappuccino has become a ritual. Yum-yum!

Sailing in “the City of Sails”

The center of the sailing universe is moving to Auckland, at least for the next year or so.
The Around Alone (one person on a boat around the world) fleet made a stopover here and were tied up at the America’s Cup Village. Mega yachts are starting to arrive from all over the world. Others have taken advantage of the strong currency exchange rates and quality Kiwi craftsmanship by having boats built here to be launched in time for America’s Cup, which starts in mid-October. A half dozen cup syndicates are on site and are practicing regularly out on the Hauraki Gulf. This week, there is a “Road to the America’s Cup” regatta, which is sort of a mini cup series using the three Team New Zealand boats. The fun and games have begun! Tales of practical jokes and nasty deeds are starting to fuel the rumor mill and appear in the local newspapers. Ah, sailors are a feisty lot.

I have continued to do lots of yacht racing out on Waitemata Harbor and the Hauraki Gulf, three to four days a week on various boats. I am really enjoying getting more into the racing side of sailing and just love the Kiwi competitive spirit. Out on the water, it’s “take no prisoners,” but in the yacht club after it’s “can I shout (buy) you a rum, mate?” I plan to shake down Moonshadow on some of the longer races once she’s back in action.



Here’s but just a few more examples of Kiwi ingenuity and things that otherwise make New Zealand unique:

Some Kiwis call New Zealand “Godzone,” as in God’s Own. You’ll see why if you ever visit here.

Some golf courses use sheep to maintain the lawn. I suppose they fertilize too.

IBM makes house calls to repair personal computers.

Cab drivers will usually round your fare down to the nearest dollar and don’t expect tips or do a faux fumble for change.

Most wineries sell food or have a restaurant (many are excellent) on the premises.

On busy weekends in some areas you can take a regularly scheduled shuttle bus to go wine tasting.

You can call on Friday afternoon and get a table for that evening in even the most trendy of restaurants, generally at the time you want. 

You won’t get your restaurant check until you ask for it, and you won’t get nasty looks for lingering.

Christmas vacation is in the summer. 

Many Kiwis go to the beach for New Year’s Eve.

Kiwi girls are accustomed to, and usually offer to pay their way on dates.

Many people here still do business on their word and don’t ask for deposits or contracts.

New Zealand paper currency increases in size as the denomination gets larger and all the bills are different colors. There are $1 and $2 coins and no pennies.

There are places with names like Cape Kidnappers, Poverty Bay, the Bay of Plenty, Great Barrier Island, the Poor Knights and Balclutha that evoke romance of the days of Captain Cook.

As it should be!

The long and the short of it

The Kiwis have a penchant for shortened versions of words with a “y” at the end. You remember mozzy (mosquito), brolly (umbrella) and sunnys (sunglasses) from past letters. How about:

chippy=fish and chip restaurant
trolly=shopping cart
flattie=flatmate (roommate)
the Squaddie=the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (temporary home of the America’s Cup)

Shortening squared: Something yucky is just “yuk” and something yummy is just “yum.” Y don’t I quit now.

The Plan

We plan to sail from Auckland in late May or early June to the Austral Islands and on to Tahiti. From there I will continue along the “Coconut Milk Run” to Tonga and then return to New Zealand for America’s Cup in October. So far, for the passage to Tahiti, “we” are past Hawaii to San Franciso MooCrew Dale Rogers and Steve Moore, along with Phyllis Moore, MaiTai, me and possibly a Kiwi or two. From Tahiti, the crew plans are cast in Jell-O.


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