Living the dream does require some work now and then. Here’s what goes on to keep Whistler in offshore cruising condition.
First on the agenda was to haul out at Norsand or Marsden. We knew Norsand well but Marsden was a newer option after purchasing a trailer and setting up a yard with several trades in residence. Trades at both yards were short staff and very busy.
The urgency to haul out was excelerated by alarming news from our insurance agent in Opua that the company that had been covering the boat for the last four years was no longer covering offshore boats from Canada or US. They were reacting to the massive claims made when the hurricane hit the BVIS a year or so ago. We hastily used our contacts and sent out applications to three or four other companies and were given quotes that were two to three times the prior year’s premium, with high deductibles and in some cases, very unreasonable terms. They all seemed to require an out of water condition and valuation report by a marine surveyor. We tried to line up the surveyor who had done our pre-purchase survey but he was going on holiday. Then we found a guy that was not a certified marine surveyor but a former boat builder and well regarded by Norsand and another friend we trust. We lined things up with him.
Our insurance was expiring before hauling out anywhere and we needed liability insurance to go to a marina. After getting no response from the Opua broker, we turned to a Vancouver broker, Dolphin Insurance, who was able to get us coverage with Lloyd’s.
In advance of deciding on a yard, we asked Mark, the foreman at Norsand, if they would warranty the work they did to install the new cockpit hatches in 2018. I sent photos of the cracks in the gelcoat around them and the drips coming from the hatches. They agreed. So we decided to proceed with a March 20th haul-out date at Norsand.
We moved to Whangarei Marina to position ourselves for an 8am haul-out. We called bridge ops the night before to request an opening time of 0700, just before the closure for traffic at 0715. We left the marina in the dark to get to the bridge by 0700. Monty kept an eye on the bow and sopped up dew on the windshield as I negotiated Whistler down the channel. It went smoothly enough.
Once lifted and washed, we met with the International Paints rep who happened to be in town. He looked at our anti-fouling and gave instructions on prep and what antifouling to apply. That afternoon, the foreman and a couple workers had a look at our hatches. It was agreed they had to be taken out and the area around them reinforced.
The work on the hatches was underway, but a long way from completion on the weekend. The boat was not exactly in show condition and the out of water survey was scheduled for Monday!
Luckily, on Saturday, we got word from Dolphin that they had organized a renewal of our original insurance policy with the same company, terms and provisions and Lloyd’s as the insurer, just as before. No survey required but our standing rigging had to be less than 10 years old and it was 12 years old. More on that in a coming blog. Dolphin offered to cancel our liability policy as we had adequate coverage with the boat policy. Thank goodness, Global Yacht Cover had had a change of heart! And thanks to Sean Thompson at Dolphin for going to bat for us. A call to the surveyor and the survey was off the list!
With the yard short on workers and running full tilt on other boats, we had to do some grunt work ourselves. We were told all the little white bits left behind when the barnacles were pressure-washed off had to be removed. Not an easy job. You have to “persuade” them to fall off with some hard chipping and scraping!
It took 2 full days but we got it done.
Next we taped the hulls at the waterline and started working on prepping the hulls for the waxing. We had a day before the painting team would start the antifouling work. The yard had waxed the hulls in our absence the prior year. At our request, they use Collinite Fleetwax, a marine and aeronautical wax last year. It lasted really well, so we decided to prep and apply another coat.
I researched the application process, as no one seemed very clear about whether to use a machine or not. I bought some applicator pads and special polishing cloths, similar to what you would use for a paste wax on a car. Our way is labour intensive but effective. Monty and I did the lower areas we could reach, standing on whatever we could find to gain some height. It was tiring with a lot of work at or above shoulder height. A young yard worker called Harlem was sent with some scaffolding to help. He spent the better part of a week on the project stopping when the occasional shower passed over. It looked good when it was all done.
Those two hulls have a lot of area to cover, but we used less than one tin at a cost of about $45NZD if you purchased it there, much cheaper in Canada and the US.
Friends on a yacht called Someday bought a tin from us and had Harlem do their hull. We heard that the foreman was coming around to the idea of using it instead of “Juice” which they had been using. We will see.
Painting day: We were lucky with the weather. It didn’t rain, and it clouded over the morning they started so they could roll the antifouling on without worrying it would dry too fast and crack. We had them apply recommended International Paints’ latest product called Micron AP which is supposed to better protect against growth and those aggressive NZ barnacles. We will see how it does!
He would have liked more time so he could have taken the rope cutter off and done a more thorough job. We will make sure he gets more time next haul-out! He applied a fresh coat of Propspeed Foul Release Coating. Propspeed slows the growth and barnacles from attaching to our shafts and props.
Living on the hard is not much fun, but we prefer being “in residence” to getting a motel room. We like to be able to keep an eye on the work being done and our bed is probably as comfortable as any motel beds in Whangarei. We didn’t cook much on board, just Monty’s cappuccinos and cereal in the morning, and light lunches that don’t require many dishes or clean up. All grey water goes through a hose into a tub that has to be carried to a special drain. It is a pain. Though the yard allows cruisers to use the coffee room and bbq after hours it is not that simple to organize eating there.
At a live-aboard rate of $2/day, we could afford to rent a car to get around and treated ourselves to dinners out. Whangarei has lots of dining options and we often met other cruisers for dinner. One of our favourites was a Vietnamese cafe but you need to be careful on the level of “hot” you order. “Kiwi Hot” is seriously hot!
The yard provides us with a ladder. We tried to keep the area clean and some staff kindly used special covers on their boots but some just took their boots off and walked around in their socks. A lot of gravel and dirt was getting ground into the gelcoat on the steps and non-skid deck so we washed the deck at the end of every day. No easy way to keep the yard dirt off the boat.
One dark night, we heard a thump and then something walking on the deck. We had a visitor! Monty jumped up and went outside to see what it was. As he went to the bow, I saw an animal look in at me through the hatch in the back of our cabin. It was bigger than a cat but squattier. When it saw the splendour of Monty’s naked silhouette in the moonlight, it got a fright and jumped off!
Next time I saw Murray, the owner of the yard, I enquired about what animal may have visited us. He said,”oh, that would be Peter, the Possum”! A fairly long story ensued. Another boat had had one bothering him, so Murray set a trap. It was not the kind that killed the pest. When caught, Murray took him down the road a mile or so and let him loose. The next night, they caught another, and this routine went on for a week. It became clear it was the same possum. Then Murray decided to take him in the other direction across the river and the possum never returned. The other story he relayed was about a woman living on a boat in the back of the yard who invited a possum into her boat and fed it cat food! Murray said he would set a trap if it concerned us. We let it go and the possum never visited again. Seeing Monty must have been enough!
I had been a bit hasty in trying to open the machine after a wash and broke the handle. Fortunately, we were able to order the part from Oregon, have it couriered to a friend in Vancouver and be flown to NZ by other friends. Thanks to Carol, Beth and Norm!
I must mention Neville at Norsand. He was the fellow that looked after Whistler when we left her on the hard. He is a gelcoat specialist, a real artist. He told me he was retiring. Since he was already making gelcoat to match the hatch surrounds, I asked him to fix a few other little spots on the decks. What a nice man he is. We will miss him but wish him well in his retirement.
Time flew by but the jobs were getting completed by the end of the week.
Norsand crew had kindly organized our launch to allow us to get to the bridge before it closed for traffic hours. We blasted back up river and made it in time to get through. The marina assigned us a slip at the end of the dock so it would be easy to negotiate if we missed the bridge (and slack tide) by a couple hours. The winds were not too strong and the current slack when we tied up so we were very relieved. Thanks to Norsand and the Marina staff for accommodating us.
As an expression of thanks, I ordered a rich chocolate cake from the grocery store and delivered it to Norsand for “smoko”, the name for a coffee break in NZ. We got a nice thank you note from the office saying it was the largest cake they had ever received!
We tried to keep fitness on the mind, but it was hard. A couple times, we hiked up to the top of the Mount Parahaki which overlooks Whangarei. It was easier this year with newly built stairs along the steeper sections. Wonderful job they do on the tracks there. The scenery is amazing along the trail with massive ferns and tall kauri trees.
Back at Whangarei Marina, there was a social at the Barge Inn at the foot of the dock. We saw lots of familiar faces at the marina and made some new friends too. We have found Whangarei Marina is a great place to meet other cruisers.
The Barnacle Pluckers were performing for the cruisers. They had been practicing for weeks. Quite a talented group of cruisers in residence.
On the weekend, we drove to Marsden Cove to see Lisa and Frank on Mango Moon. We took them to Waipu for a pizza and beer. We are little sad as they are selling Mango and moving back the states but we will reconnect with them again in the Pacific North West. We have had a lot of great times with them over the years. They have a true spirit of adventure and zest for life! We wish them well with their sale, weddings and other family stuff back home.
A bit of history on Waipu, a town with some Nova Scotian ties. It even has a “Nova Scotia Road”! In the 1850s, over 800 Scottish settlers arrived in Waipu from the Highlands of Scotland, via Pictou and St. Ann’s in Nova Scotia. They were led by a Presbyterian Minister, Rev. Norman McLeod. In March each year, Waipu celebrates their Scottish heritage with the Waipu Highland Games. (If you are wondering why I mention this, I grew up in Nova Scotia.)
Back to boat projects, we had ordered a new trampoline but Brendan from Canvas and Covers wanted us back in the water to install it, in case he or Matt fell in! That was the main reason for coming back up to Whangarei Marina after the launch. Didn’t want to think of someone falling onto concrete from our deck!
We made good use of our time in Whangarei doing lots of provisioning. In Countdown, I came across this expensive Chardonnay, labelled “Isabel”. I had to buy a bottle! We will sample it today, which happens to be her birthday! RIP, Mom!
Up next, we head to Opua, more boat projects and a few fun outings. Look forward to your comments and please keep in touch! We love to hear from our friends near and far.