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How to Eat an Elephant - one bite at a time

As you may have already heard, Garry and I have decided to take the big leap and head off into the wild blue yonder, planning to circumnavigating the world aboard our 56’ Sport -Fisher Motor Cat, November Rain.  It’s been a long time dream that got somewhat shelved and convoluted during the two year madness of COVID lock-down, coupled with a huge side-tangent which had us somewhat impulsively buying a fishing charter business in Kona, Hawaii.

While Kona was beautiful escape from New Zealand’s arctic winter, we were a bit disappointed in the fishing (it was an unusually slow season) and even more disillusioned with the daily ins and outs of running a charter business, dealing with non-angler tourists, as well as the State of Hawaii’s rigid regulations. Our passion was quickly turning into a job!  We also quickly got bored of fishing the same ground day after day, albeit in beautiful, sunny and calm weather.  Call us crazy, but we missed a bit of variable weather as well as exploring new ground.

Garry’s health took a tumble when he ruptured his Achilles Tendon playing the senior-centric sport of Pickleball, complicated by a DVT (deep vein thrombosis). In an instant, we had to cancel all forth-going charters as well as hire a Captain to manage maintenance on our 37' wooden charter boat, SAPO.

We returned to New Zealand in October, Garry navigating the airport, using a moon boot, knee crutch and occasionally, a wheelchair.  Once home, boating was pretty much off the table due to Garry’s injuries. Confined to the sofa for the next couple of months, Garry’s secretly began hatching a plot as he spent hours scouring the Internet and Google Earth. The second he divulged his plan to me, I was on board. We lunatics stick together.

Of course, we have a lot of obstacles to hurdle to make this adventure happen and we have started eating this elephant, one bite at a time. What to do with our New Zealand AirBnB Lodge, Garry’s new concrete business, our four cars, our rural NZ home, the Hawaii charter business, our Kona home, the dog, the chickens….?

A quick international call to the Hawaiian Yacht Broker, and three hours later, we had a signed offer on our charter business and its' chief asset, a 37' Rybovich Sportfisher named SAPO.  One thing off the list… Keep chewing on that elephant…

A wish list for November Rain began to be formulated.  What would we need to add to November Rain to be comfortable and safe? How long would the journey take? Where would we go?  To Suez or Not to Suez? What about pirates? What insurance company would supply us? Where would we get crew? Do we need hostage insurance? What would happen if we were forced to return to New Zealand for health reasons? Where could we leave the boat overseas? How do we export and import a dog into 65 different countries? How would we pay for it all? It's a pretty big elephant.

Garry focused on mapping out a rough 5-year route for our world tour, targeting key global fishing areas, planning our arrivals to be in peak fishing seasons, while also having to take into account optimal weather windows for ocean crossings.  No dates are set in stone as everything is written in sand at low tide, but we have a semblance of a plan.

Fortunately, November Rain had a huge refit in 2017 and back then, we had the foresight to make her over into a world cruiser.  Renovations like new and bigger engines, bulbous bows, tuna tower, completely gutting and renovating the interior,  adding additional refrigeration, extending the flybridge, moving the helm aft, adding a fishing platform and increasing buoyancy to allow for the added weight have transformed the “old November Rain” into a comfortable, world-class blue-water motor cat. But as always, there’s room for improvement, along with new technology that has comes down the pipe line in recent years.  As such, November Rain is currently on the hard in Pine Harbour Marina getting a few new upgrades:

New bottom antifouling which should last us at least 5 years.

A second membrane is being installed to our water maker, allowing us to double our water-making capacity while simultaneously reducing work load on our aging generator by half.

Air conditioning was added to the cabins to allow for comfortable sleeping in the tropics.  Ducting into the cabins and a new thru-hole was added.

The engines were hauled out and given a big birthday by Garry.

Alternators re-conditioned

Shafts were re-aligned and re-sealed.

The props pulled and sent out to Bri-Ski’s for a wheel alignment

StarLink antenna and router added, allowing us to access internet at sea at reasonable rates

Solar panels are being upgraded to newer, more efficient models which doubles our power to 1.1 Kwatts, helps to feed the new technology as well as my numerous kitchen appliances (currently in a 12-step recovery program for my appliance habit).

Time-Zero weather forecasting added, allowing real-time, up-to-the-minute weather forecasting

Night Vision radar will allow us to see and avoid collisions in the dark

New clears on the flybridge have been measured and ordered, the ones from 2017 refit have already become opaque from the harsh NZ sun.

The most awaited and costly addition, is the Simrad Omni-Scan 360 Sonar, a modern fish-finding technology that will hopefully allow us to get on top of the marlin with scientific precision.  The new sonar required quite a bit of modification to the left hull, with a huge gaping hole cut into bottom of the boat. The sonar transducer will be deployed down a tube, dropping 600 mm below the hull during operations. In addition, we are adding a 24' monitor to the helm station. The craftsmen at Harkin Boat Building had done a phenomenal job working alongside with Simrad Marine to make all this happen. This new 360 degree scan technology is being adopted at such a rapid rate within the sports fishing fleet, that it’s somewhat akin to when Electronic Chart Plotting usurped paper charts in the late 1990’s.  We saw this conversion in Hawaii first hand, where every boat in the Kona sports fishing fleet has or is having Omni Scan technology installed.  They just can’t compete in big money tournaments without it. A couple of boats in NZ have already adopting the technology, but we will be one of the Simrad pioneers in New Zealand's recreational market. We're now busy slogging through the 500 page user's manual.

We are under a  serious deadline to be back in the water on Feb 15th, when the new systems will be sea trialled.  Whether all improvements pass or not, as long as the boat is water tight, Garry will whip the ponies into a gallop and high-tail it home to Whangaroa over the next 36 hours to start off the Nationals.

The week-long New Zealand Nationals fishing competition launches on Feb 17th. It's the only comp that we participate in religiously, year after year.  It’ll be our last Nationals for some time, so we want to make the most of it. The pressure is on everyone at the boat yard, leading to too many bodies trying to work in a limited space. The Sparky is tripping over the Painter who’s tangled up with the Boat Builder who's dancing with the Simrad Tech. Garry’s choreographing in the middle, all while trying to piece the engine bays back together.  There's cardboard, plastic, tape and electrical cords everywhere. I hide in the car parked beneath the boat, trying to stay out of everyone’s way, occasionally walking the dog down to the beach to escape the fibreglass dust, paint overspray and the noise of the rattle gun.

We had weathered a big scare when the only travel lift large enough to lift November Rain, blew its engine. Fortunately, a new motor was quickly sourced and installed, our splash date is still scheduled for the 15th. Fingers crossed that the engines purr, the sonar pings, the water maker desalinates, the solar panels collect sunshine, the shafts turn; the rest can wait until after the NZ Nationals are done.  Then, we’ll have time to enjoy another helping of elephant stew.

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