Every day, for the past month, it’s been Garry’s morning coffee ritual to analyze 2 different weather sites, trying to predict when a favorable weather window will open. We will soon embark on an 1,100 nautical mile journey across open sea and expect the trip to take about 6 days, give or take a speed of 9 knots/hour. Weather patterns are predicted by magicians and sorcery up to 14 days in advance, but can change rapidly, depending upon who is dealing the tarot cards. Garry’s challenge is to peer into that crystal ball far enough into the future, to predict fair weather on both ends of the upcoming voyage. Our best scenario is a warm front moving in from the west across New Zealand, with the counter-clockwise winds and waves pushing us from behind, towards Vanuatu. A following sea makes for a comfortable and fuel-efficient journey. But first, we need to get the boat off the hard, and back into the water!
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Typical winter weather patterns have hunkered down for the duration in New Zealand. Cold, blustery rain storms move in quickly to blot the sun, chill our bones, then clear and warm just as fast. It’s been sprinkling down lightly and continuously on Garry as he ratchets in the final tweaks on the steering system. I’ve run out of inside cabin jobs, so I have to brave the rain now. I slap on a coat of cerulean blue anti-foul paint, thick as honey, onto the rudders, while a random boat yard employee paints the new brass props with some kind of expensive, magical chemical sealant that simultaneously prevents marine growth and provides the inventor’s children with university education. We both trying to staying dry, beneath the boat.The two-week annual routine maintenance on November Rain has dragged out to a very long and costly 6 weeks, the price of the boat’s parking space is comparable to a vacation stay in an airbnb cottage . We have been dying to get back on the water, and today is finally the day we can slip back into the pool. Props have been replaced, rudders tuned and remounted, engines overhauled, bearings replaced and bottom painted with the anti-foul.
The Travelift has been scheduled for 2:30 this afternoon. We can see the giant lift, standing over at the boat ramp, and hear the operator start her engine up. I’m under the boat, trying my best to pry the metal lid off of the 5 gallon can of anti-foul paint. Garry comes down the swim ladder to help me. The Travelift slowly makes its way over and into place. Once the boat is in the sling and lifted, we quickly glob on paint on the bare spots, where she rested her bottom on the wooden blocks. The Travelift operators patiently waits for us to finish. No rain yet, but it looks imminent. Thunder and lightening in the distance.It’s only a 5 minute drive for the 110 ton boat lifter to move the boat to the ramp. It is so impressive to see this, and I almost ask the operator if he enjoys his job, is it like a kid who wants to drive dump trucks when he grows up? But I decide to not distract from their work with stupid questions.
I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing a giant vehicle capable of carrying another giant vehicle. The Travelift looks like a creature out of a Star Wars movie. The lift operator maneuvers the boat over the ramp and begins lowering the slings cradling the boat into the water.
Splash! We are in the pool. Garry and I step off the dock, climb over the bow rail, onto the boat. Garry’s now down in the starboard engine room, I climb up the ladder to the fly bridge, and start the engines on Garry’s cue. Within a few minutes, engines are sputtering at first, then rumbling, before settling down to a contented purr. We breathe a sign of relief in unison. It’s not possible to adequately test the engines prior to entering the water, because of the need for seawater cooling. There is a risk that something not right, and we will have to be lifted out and placed back on the hard for more repairs. Again, the Travelift operators are patiently waiting, holding on to the rail of the boat with a boat hook, keeping us from drifting off the sling and out to sea, until we have confirmed power and steering.
Garry gives the “thumbs up” sign, and the operator releases the slings. We are off, spinning on a dime, one engine forward, one in reverse. We head out of the marina, past the breakwater and into the bay. Immediately, Garry comments on how much better the bite is with the bigger props. He’s happy with the performance, the bigger props produce more speed at lower engine revs, and should help with fuel consumption. There’s a little bit of loss on the top end of the speed curve, but it will be more efficient overall. It’s pouring now, the rain is torrential, the wind shield wipers squeaking. Oh yeah, we need to fix that too. Put it on the list…
After the test run, Garry drops me off back at the dock. He’ll drive the boat across Auckland Harbor to Bayswater Marina by himself, where we have a temporary berth. I will meet him at the dock to help him tie up. But first, I have to drive his car across the Hibiscus Coast peninsula and toward Auckland in peak hour traffic.
As an American, I am still struggling with driving on the other (right or wrong) side of the road, but my biggest difficulty is in the reverse placement of the turn signals and the windscreen wipers. I go to turn left, and my wipers come on. It starts raining and suddenly, I’m indicating to turn right. Such was the case this evening, causing a road rage incident on the Hibiscus Coast.
As one lane split into two, I choose the right hand lane (the left lane was a turning only lane). Before I move into the lane, I look in the rear mirror and see I have plenty of room to move over, turning on my wipers as I eased into the lane. Apparently, my actions upset the driver behind me, who blares repeatedly on the horn. I have witnessed this type of type of behavior 3 times already this week, and sadly, have come to believe this is normal communication for JAFAs (descriptive word for Aucklanders). The light turns green and I soon forget about the insult. 10 kilometer down the road, a Range Rover cuts in front of me and slams on the brakes at the red light. A doughy middle-aged grandma type, storms out of the luxury vehicle, angrily stomps toward the car, repeatedly pounding her fists against my window. I roll down the window and she lets loose, screaming.., asking me if I’m drinking.., where’d I learn to drive. “America”, I offer, thinking it will buy me an excuse, then I try to apologize but she’s still screaming at me, not listening. I roll up the window, she’s still screams through the glass. The light had turns green now, she’s holding up traffic, the cars behind me start blaring their horns at us. I can’t help thinking that kind of confrontation in the U.S. would likely end in a tragedy, given our current gun laws.
As I drive away, towards the city, trying to settle my nerves, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. Auckland’s traffic is horrible, having to waste hours out of your day is enough to drive even normally laid back Kiwis insane. Mix in the cold, wet and gloomy weather of May, add a dollop of overpriced city real estate, combine with a longer commute, stir in a tourist with a poor understanding of foreign car dashboard controls and Viola! – it’s a Master Chef recipe for Road Rage Fricassee. I just can’t wait to return to the serene life style of cruising the Islands with Garry. How luck am I? Damn Lucky! I know it.
Now it’s off to help Gaz with the mooring lines. It’s dark, it’s raining, it’s cold, I’m standing on Dock C in the wind. I can see the red and green sidelights of November Rain as she slips around the breakwater of the marina. What a beautiful sight she is, with the lights of the city behind her. Garry eases the boat alongside the dock, climbs down from the bridge and tosses me a mooring line. I wrap it around a bollard and take up the slack. The outgoing tide pushes the boat away from the dock. It takes us a bit of effort to secure all lines and get the fenders out. It’s wet, cold and dark already at 6 pm. We are both hungry now. I couldn’t be happier. We are leaving for Vanuatu at the first good weather window. Damn Lucky! Now let’s have another look at that windty.com for a decent weather window.