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From Anchors to Air Fryers: The Whirlwind of Getting Shipshape for a 5-Year Ocean Odyssey

As we count down the final weeks for our upcoming departure, sail date June 15th, we are getting a lot of questions from the peanut gallery about our progress on the preparations. To say I’m bloated from porking out on elephant stew is an understatement. Throw in the ”regularly scheduled events” in life and I feel like we are spinning plates on sticks, trying to keep everything up in the air.

Fortunately, we finally have our crew sorted out, along with a “will call” back-up list for the next 12 months. A post on NZ Fishing Community’s FaceBook page got us huge exposure and I began to feel like a Internet celebrity when my phone dinged out over 900 notifications in a single day. Thank you to everyone who has signed up to our blog and as well as those that responded to our requests for crew.

Last week, we had another run down to Pine Harbour, to finish up some jobs on November Rain. As we traveled down from Whangaroa, we were treated to an huge work up of gannets, mutton ducks, whales and dolphins.  We were trolling lines on the way down, and while we didn’t get a hit, we enjoyed the spectacular show.

Around 8:30 at night, we slipped into Islington Bay on Rangitoto, right at the bottom of low tide, which coupled with a new moon, necessitated us chilling out at anchor for a couple of hours, before we could attempt the shallow channel. With no moonlight, the new night vision camera earned its keep in visualising the entrance and the massive barges parked just inside. Unfortunately, once inside the marina, it also clearly showed us several small boats lined up on the work berth, parked in our previously promised space.

Garry skillfully backed November Rain in alongside the fuel berth in near total darkness, where I stepped off and temporarily tied off the stern end of the boat. The two of us worked over the next half hour, untying, moving forward, and retying seven different trailer boats, all to make enough room for November Rain's 57' feet to sit alongside the work berth.

The next few days, Garry was head down, tail up at work with Ryan and his team at Pine Harbour Electrical, installing a spare auto-pilot as well as fixing the faulty one (a software update did the job) and repairing the genset (faulty oil pressure gauge). They also installing a new compass and adding electrical outlets in the cockpit for electric reels and our new electric dredge reel.

Pipi, our dog, and I busied ourselves with exploring the area’s beaches and mangroves. Pipi’s finally developed the confidence again to jump from the duckboard onto the dock, a feat that previously had a near catastrophic outcome last year, when she was an unwitnessed MOB or more fittingly, "DOB". Fortunately, Garry found her drenched white tail, flagging out from the underside of the dock, where she was desperately clinging to the resident oysters. Since then, she’s understandably been a bit wary of the water.

Papillon dog with stick
Pipi the Papillon

Our generator had been non-functional for a couple weeks, impeding our ability to desalinate water. This meant that we had to “pollute” the port tank with “city water” for showers, cooking, washing muddy dog, etc. “City water” can be problematic for back-flushing water makers, even trace amounts of chlorine can ruin the expensive membranes.  We had a bit of “good” water in the starboard tank, but that was reserved for the water maker flushing. Unfortunately, we were parked starboard side to the dock when we ran out of water, and the dock hose wouldn’t span across the deck to the port tank. So, rather than find a longer hose, we started the engines, untied the boat, and spun around to fill the port tank.

Turning the boat around at the dock caused confusion for Pipi, who had a hard time understanding that duckboard of the boat had moved position, and where she normally stepped off the dock onto the boat, was now where the bow of the boat sat.  After returning from her mangrove spa mud bath one afternoon, she kept insisting that she should board on the bow, which towered above her. How could a dog so smart be so dumb?

After the week’s work was wrapped up at Pine Harbour, we motored across the bay to the Auckland Viaduct to take on fuel that turned out to be more expensive than Pine Harbour’s fuel dock. We also caught up with a CAT1 Surveyor, who made notes and recommendations of what requirements and hoops we had to jump through to qualify for CAT 1. For those of you outside of New Zealand, all New Zealand registered ships must demonstrate that they are equipped for any and all possible emergencies at sea, in order to be granted permission to depart NZ waters. It is a rigorous process that can cost into the thousands of dollars for compliance, and if even you are granted approval, the CAT 1 certificate expires in one month of certification or at the next port of entry. We have participated in this circus in our three previous off-shore forays, but the requirements seem to increase in difficulty year after year. In most countries, you are free to exit the county in a bucket of rust if you wish. Not so in NZ, which requires a full survey of safety equipment, a physical inspection of the integrity of your vessel, as well as determining the experience of the crew. It's all designed to improve safety at sea, but only NZ boats are required to meet the standards. Thus, more and more boats are registering offshore in order to avoid the regulations. And while Kiwis often jokingly refer to Brits as "POMs" (Prisoners of the Motherland), I think Brits should consider the nickname "PONZ" in retaliation.

We have booked ourselves into the required 2-day Advanced Sea Survival course as well as the Advanced Off-shore Medical Training. We’ve already replaced our previously condemned EPIRB, re-certified the 6-man off-shore life raft, procured new fire extinguishers, restocked the ditch bag with fresh flares, new handheld VHFs, radar reflector and fresh water. The life-jackets have been serviced and certified, the appropriate safety and informational stickers have been plastered around the boat.

After the CAT 1 consultation, we motored over to Half-Moon Bay Marina, where the water maker was given a big birthday with two brand new membranes installed.

The weather was deteriorating as we left Auckland in the afternoon, 15-20 knots, with a prediction of up to 30 knots for the following day. There was a real hurry-up to beat the weather or we would have to hole up somewhere and lose another couple of days. I reminded Garry I had a lodge to run, with guests checking in to what would be dirty rooms if I didn’t get home in time. Garry upped the limit on his credit card and we bounced along at 18 -20 knots for a few hours, finally cruising into Whangamumu Bay around 9:30 at night. The night vision camera complemented our radar in navigating in the pitch black. We pulled anchor early the next morning, hiding behind the Cavelli islands for the last couple of hours home to Whangaroa. The next day was a wash out for getting things done, as we were in recovery mode from the boat bashing.

We’ve been busy adding and subtracting all kinds of gear from the boat. The ultimate goal is to remove all unnecessary weight, which will improve NR's performance and efficiency. The 15kg rods and reels have come off, but we’ve replaced them with 60kg outfits which weigh three times as much. We’ve pulled up a small TV out of the master cabin that we haven’t watched in 6 years and replaced the hole in the wall with an air vent for the new air conditioner. We saved 2 kg on the TV, but added 15 kgs with the air-conditioning compressor. We swapped out the pokey 6 HP dingy outboard motor (25 kg) for a 10 HP (45 kg), which will allow us get on the plane with 2-3 people aboard. Trading out 100 meter of rusty galvanised anchor chair for new shiny stainless, net change - zero kgs but safety and cleanliness of the deck will be improved. Somehow, we are moving in the wrong direction with weight management.

While I’ve been compiling the policies and procedures manual, muster rosters and restocking our off-shore medical kit to suit the CAT 1 requirements, Garry’s been sorting out the spare parts to carry with us, considering every possible scenario we might encounter over the next few years. An abbreviated list includes; two spare alternators, two spare califonts (on demand water heaters), a starter motor, exhaust riser and elbow, steering pump, multiple anodes, water pumps, cutlass bearings, impellerers, raw water pump, five bilge pumps and float switches and a macerator. We carry a full workshop of tools including specialised ones such as the prop puller, various lubricants, nuts and bolts, general carpentry tools, dingy and fibreglass repair kits. Then, there are the two dozen boxes of oil filters and multiple gallons of motor oil. Garry’s figured we will need forty oil changes by the time we have circumnavigated the globe. He’ll carry enough supplies for the first three oil changes.

A big concern is what to do if we have an engine problem, somewhere in the middle of nowhere? Our engine bays are really tight and pulling out an engine may be the only way to work on a problem. In New Zealand, with the help of a crane, Garry can pull both engines out in a day. But that might be an impossible task in Madagascar or the Seychelles. Experience tell us, you will never break down in front of a well equipped chandlery and boat yard with expert technicians. Garry’s solution, carry an engine hoist with us, just in case, and so, a 1000kg rated hoist was ordered from an outfit in Auckland. Two days after we got back to Whangaroa, Garry hitched up the trailer and drove back to Auckland, where the hoist was forklifted into the back of his station wagon. That left room on the trailer for the two brand new fishing kayaks which will also going with us. I figure we are up another 200kg. The hoist will have to be modified and cut down, so we may earn a few kilos back on that.

When you are looking at being gone for five years, the question becomes: What can you live without? My sewing machine would be nice, but it’s not essential and takes a lot of room. Electric guitar will just get wrecked in salt air, so into storage it’ll go. My KitchenAid stand mixer didn't make the cut, nor did the food processor. Do I need to bring a fancy dress and heels? Probably not and if by some chance, I do, I’ll just have to buy one along the way.

Electrical appliances might be harder to add on down the road, as by the time we need a new toaster, for example, we will be in a country that doesn’t use the same electrical standard as New Zealand. That would mean buying the toaster AND the electrical adapter. I have my own list of “spares” which are competing with Garry’s list for space.

I’ve decided that instant coffee for the next five years is depressing and so, unbeknownst to Garry, I have ordered a tiny espresso maker from Amazon, along with 6 months worth of coffee capsules. While we are at it, a table-top ice maker would so improve our experience in the tropics. And being gone for five years, well, the settee and all the cushions are going to get very dirty, wouldn’t a portable steam cleaner do wonders with the upholstery? I’ve added an induction hot-plate to the galley on the very likely chance that we won’t be able to find propane in some markets. And speaking of markets, shopping in the Pacific Islands can be a bit daunting. Experience has taught me that you may have to canvas several stores to find your provisions, one-stop shopping is not a thing. In our past visits to the islands, a member of the crew would follow me around town, lugging heavy bags laden with pineapple, kumara, potatoes, and other provisions gathered from the Chinese fresh meat market (think Wuhan), the local fresh veggie market and the imported foods emporium. Often, I would have to commission a local micro-taxi to crawl behind us, as we hiked from store to store, just to carry our extra bags. I believe I’ve come up with a better solution, found on Temu, a large collapsable canvas shopping trolley, with extra large wheels for the rough terrain, complete with cargo net. The trolley, when collapsed, is small enough to fit into the dingy, but should hold a couple of weeks worth of provisions when expanded. Only 8 kgs added to the boat, and what a convenience!

Finding space on the boat to store all our “essentials” is becoming a problem. For instance, I’ve been struggling with finding a place to keep plastic food storage containers. My current hidey-hole is a blind corner under the galley sink. Accessing the space requires me to crouch down on hands and knees, slide out the rubbish bin, the 5kg flour bin, sugar bin, fire extinguisher, various cleaning supplies and a dust pan. A re-think and I’ve decided to mount my extensive array of herbs and spices onto the galley backsplash, freeing up space in an overhead cabinet for the plastic ware. Another order placed to Temu for decorative spice bottles and racks. And while on Temu, I’ve found some cute fruit and vegetable hammocks to hang off the galley walls. This frees up space on the bench top for the bread maker, soda stream, air fryer, waffle iron, panini maker, ice maker and electric kettle. ALL ESSENTIAL ITEMS!

We are barrelling down into the last 7 weeks before launch date, and given that we are a spending a week in Queenstown for a wedding, two full-weekend courses in Auckland, Crystal’s 30th Birthday party, a full week in Kona, Hawaii to collect more fishing gear and boat parts, a vet visit for Pipi’s rabies vaccine, two personal doctors visits, Garry’s U.S. Immigration Medical and subsequent interview with the US Consulate, add in a weeks' worth of food prep for the crossing meals, installing new deck fittings for the dingy and kayaks as well installing new window clears, swapping out our anchor chain and finally, preparing Kings View Lodge for the hand off to our house sitters, we have already run out to time.  Garry seems non-plussed to the ridiculous timeline, and keeps an eye the weather, just in case there is an opportunity to head to the Wanganella Banks for a week’s fish. I've married a madman.

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