Thursday, February 14, 2013

Christmas in Opua, New Zealand 2013

Merry Christmas and a Fun-Filled New Year
from Opua, North Island, New Zealand

This year we have sailed our catamaran 'Puddytat' to Fiji and back. This is the first time we have visited Fiji and it's definitely not going to be the last.
A Bun Starfish.
A Lion Fish
Coral in various stages..
A Sweetlips?

I can hardly believe that I'm going to start my 13th year of cruising in January, and Sylvie's 11th. A good friend of mine told me I'd get bored and suggested that I settled down and continued to run my consultancy/surveying business. Well, I'm glad to say that he was wrong. The cruising life-style is one that is going to be hard to give up.

By far the greatest reward of cruising is the cruising community itself. Forever changing, but also remaining constant. We now have hundreds of friends stretched around the planet; most still experiencing the cruising life, and all the experiences will be different. Some that we have lost touch with, but hope to meet again ….. or hear about from others.

At this time of year I get annual news letters from land based friends who are leading radically different lifestyles to ours, but are equally fulfilling. Reading these letters often reminds me of what my life could have been like, making me wonder if, given the opportunity, I would swap ….... but then the answer would simply be 'No' because I have changed.

Last Sunday we sailed into Opua after leaving Fiji to face the ravages of cyclone Evan at category 4 or 5 …. 110-140 knot winds. We had a little less than one weeks warning. Other cruisers were going to stay and 'hunker-down'. Many locals, including officials, new nothing of the forecast cyclone …... and even when I told them, they didn't believe that Fiji would be affected. We had an uneventful sail, averaging about 7.5 knots. We have had little news from Fiji, but we hope that our friends over there are well and have had little or no damage.

Last Christmas was a different story. We were at sea, crossing from Tonga to Opua via Mineva North reef. Hence I wasn't able to get out a timely newsletter of our travels. We'd stopped in Nuku'alofa to clear out of Tonga and to obtain a NZ visa for Sylvie. Sylvie's parents had already sailed to Minerva North in their catamaran 'Kudana'. We were enjoying the company of our crew, Roz, who'd joined us at Palmerston Island.

Whilst still in Nuku'alofa we got a message that Kudana had hit Minerva South reef and were partially disabled, but trying to make for Opua. To cut a long story short, we managed to find Kudana at about 450 miles from Opua, towing her in for the last 100 miles on a 100ft nylon bridal with Puddytat powered with a reefed genoa at 5.5 knots! Kudana had suffered the loss of both keels, had only half of one rudder, only one blade on one propeller, and had significant but manageable seawater leak from the starboard saildrive.
Amazing job to sail about 800 miles before asking for a tow!
We spent our days in NZ meeting up with old cruiser friends and swapping stories, drinking the local wine, and doing repairs on Puddytat and others.

One of the big pluses with NZ is access to good materials and parts …. at a price. My credit card was flexed to the max: acrylic and seals for the hatches and windows, wood for the starboard centre bunk, and spares, spares, and more spares. We borrowed a car to get about ….. NZ public transport doesn't get to Opua.

After Kudana had been fitted with new keels, rudders, and propellers at Ashby's boat yard, Sylvie and I set about refurbishing her saloon. It was my first attempt at veneering …... although I had picked up a lot from watching my father at his marquetry, I had not actually done any. Our friend Owen from the yacht Madrona offered some friendly know-how, and I did some research on the internet. The result was pretty good ….. better than most production finishes, but I've learnt a lot too (another way of saying I'll do better next time!!).
David's and my work.. It was very interesting to do.
My Mom and I made a cover for it :^D
Sylvie, her mother, and I had a break from the cruising life and hired a car to visit Sylvie's brother in Nelson on the North coast of South Island. We took the chance to have leisurely trip back to Opua, staying at back-packers and B&B's. Unfortunately the weather was wet when we got to Roturua ….. so had to pass on many of the sights.

I remember NZ from a visit I made back in 1992. I remember the beautiful scenery, the colours, the waterfalls, and the clear skies. Unfortunately this year could not match the memory, but it is still a fine place to visit. This year we intend to do more cruising, especially around the Bay of Islands and Northland.

Fiji on the other hand is gorgeous. The people are very friendly, the waters are crystal clear, the coral is vibrant, and the fruit is sweet and tasty. Hopefully it won't be much changed when we visit there next season. Oh, I nearly forgot, the cost of living in Fiji must be the lowest in the South Pacific PROVIDED you eat 'in -season', stay off alcohol and aren't tempted by imports. Coffee beans are hard to find, even though they grow it here. Most of the Fijians drink kava which is a sedative ….. so coffee isn't wanted. Nescafe is fairly easy to come by though …. but I don't regard that as coffee.
Male Dancers entertaining us.
Beautiful female dancer ... :^D
Me taking kava at a ceremony at Robinson Crusoe Resort …. not very traditional, but it would not be politic to take a photo of an authentic ceremony at an island village. Sylvie decided against trying this one …. we'd recently been through an authentic ceremony at Beqa and kava isn't very pleasant.
Those mats take several weeks to make and last several years.
What Fiji is famous for ….. and it is NOT an aquarium!!
Sylvie is busy with her fabric designing and marketing them on the internet at:
The photos don't do her work justice.
This is a photo of one of my fabric designs printed by Spoonflower.
Hand Painted and up on
I've include a few photos give you some idea of our 2012. I hope you've enjoyed them.

If you are wondering what has become of my other boat, Quoi Ca Dit, in Trinidad; and the claim for damages ….... The case was found in my favour, I have still received no money, I am suing my attorneys, and the boatyard won't let me have the yacht back unless I pay them US$36,000. The details are more interesting and painful ….. but not for this newsletter.

Have a wonderful 2013 and don't forget to write. We should have a guest cabin available soon so drop us a line if you fancy dropping in.



  1. Great stories and adventure. Miss our boat and sea travels but don't miss the storms!! Safe travels!

  2. Thank you so much Patricia! Yes I agree about the storms. I'm trying to get David to make our cockpit a dry area, we have no dodger and wind, rain and green water all pours in there. I hate going out in bad weather to the cockpit.. and that's usually exactly when you HAVE to be out there. :-p
    We're very careful and will endeavour to travel safely. :^D