Cold January in Portland (and Seattle), Boat Work in Whangarei

It was COLD in the Pacific Northwest! We’re not used to it after more than a year in warmer climates. We wore fleece and wool the entire time we were visiting our families and friends in Portland and the Seattle area. Randy in his favorite (dorkie) warm hat while visiting his dad.

More than two months have gone by since our last blog entry. A busy two months, as close friends and family know. A trip back to the U.S. in January & February allowed us to enjoy visits with loved ones we have been missing. We were grateful to be able to see and have face-to-face time with our son, parents, and siblings, and to reconnect in person with so many friends who are dear to us. We love that we’re able to cruise to faraway places, but living this life comes with a down side: We miss our families and friends “back home.”

Before leaving New Zealand, and continuing after our return, days were spent preparing to have Velic hauled out at a local boatyard in Whangarei. The main job is getting the bottom cleaned and new anti-fouling paint applied. But we also have a list of additional projects inside and outside the boat that we’d like to take care of. If you are interested in what kinds of things we’re improving or fixing, you can read more in the second half of this post.

Our trip back to the U.S. in January was wonderful, and packed with visits and travel – the time flew by too quickly. Except for the time spent actually flying. Those are LONG flights. We put up with air travel only because it’s fast. But honestly? I would rather cross an ocean in a sailboat than fly over one in a jet. Yes, it takes a lot longer in a boat. But we can sleep stretched out, watch the birds soar, take in the setting sun and the rising moon. Besides, it’s a lot quieter sailing with no jet noise and the wind vane steering.

The Trip, in summary: We left Whangarei on Tuesday, Jan. 10, for the three hour bus ride to Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. Lots of local people take buses to get around the country; in fact, most of the people on board were locals, traveling between cities or towns. The inter-city bus stop was just a block off the water front at the Whangarei Town Basin, so it was incredibly convenient both ways. The three hour ride through Northland was very comfortable, and scenic, and included a civilized stop midway for a “cuppa.” We had a transport layover of about five hours in the city of Auckland, so took the opportunity to do a bit of touring and visit the New Zealand Maritime Museum, which is very well done, before continuing on to the international airport out in the suburbs.

At 328 meters tall, the Sky Tower is an iconic structure that instantly identifies “Auckland” to people familiar with New Zealand’s largest city. It serves as an observation and telecommunications tower, crowning restaurants, bars, casinos, hotels and theater below. We didn’t buy tickets to the viewing deck, but it’s possible to sky dive from the top if you have the inclination and the price of a ticket.

We saw construction going on all over the core downtown area.

The Maritime Museum is located on the waterfront and some of the exhibits include boats in the water. Other exhibits focus on race boats – big ones, and small ones – the history of immigration, of boat building in N.Z., and an entire exhibit paying homage to Peter Blake, one of New Zealand’s famous yachtsmen.

KZ1 stands outside the entrance to the Maritime Museum. It was the largest monohull the America’s Cup rules allowed. Not surprisingly, this radical Bruce Farr design lost anyway to the multi-hull Stars & Stripes. Catamarans are inherently faster than monohulls and some still feel the contest wasn’t a fair one. It’s pretty impressive to stand below, looking up.

An entire hall devoted to examples of racing dinghies built and avidly raced in New Zealand.

One room replicated the interior of an early passenger ship carrying immigrants from, mostly, the British Isles to New Zealand, looking to make a new life for themselves. The floor slowly rocked in this room, and sound-effects replicated the creaks and groans of a wooden-hulled sailing ship.

Looking up at the hull of Steinlager 2, which was raced by Sir Peter Blake and crew in the 1989-90 Whitbread Round-the-World Race, taking 1st place.

Our flight itinerary included a stopover for a few days in Hawaii to visit Rand’s mom, who lives in Kailua. Our flight arrived in the early morning and Claudia was soon there in her car to pick us up. We had a very enjoyable visit with her, which included a dinner to celebrate her 80th birthday (and yes, she is still driving her own car!). After a too-short visit, we were back in an airplane and continuing on to Portland.

It was good that we had a “transitional” stop in Hawaii. When we arrived in Portland, snow and ice were on the ground and it was VERY cold. Portland has had an unusually cold and snowy winter 2016-17, but we were prepared with warm clothing pulled out of lockers where it has been buried since September 2015. Thankful that we’d packed warm clothes for this trip, we wore layers of fleece and thermal underwear during the entire visit.

Over the next several weeks we divided our time between Portland and the Seattle area, staying as guests with family and friends.

Winter sky over Seattle from the ferry deck. We drove from Portland to Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula to visit family and friends and then took the ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle. More friends to see on this side of Puget Sound, and a stop to look over the Seattle Boat Show while we were there.

We thoroughly enjoyed catching up with their lives and doings (new jobs, new babies, new projects …). It was wonderful. We are especially grateful that we were able to have long visits with our dads. But, the month was soon over and it was time for us to head back to New Zealand, carrying warm and happy memories with us.

Back in Whangarei, Velic moved from the Town Basin Marina to Riverside Drive Marina boatyard on Tuesday after our return. We hauled out Wednesday morning at 0830. A pressure wash took off thousands of small barnacles covering the hull. The Town Basin is on the Hatea River, which is about the size of the Willamette River in Salem. But it’s best understood as a tidal estuary. Whangarei is only a few miles inland, and the warm, slow moving salty-brackish river water flowing by carries a lot of ‘fertilizer’ run off from farms, sheep, and cattle, resulting in a very nutrient-rich environment.

A few of the 1000s of small barnacles and other gunk on the bottom. Only three months earlier this bottom had been clean of all growth!

Getting a pressure wash that took off most of the growth.

We spent Wednesday wet sanding the hull in the boat lift slings over a drain and sump. By 1500 Velic was settled into a secure hard stand. We could have used another two hours in the slings to detail wet sand, but they had a schedule and other boats to lift. Environmental rules are strict: No wet sanding off the concrete drain pan and sump, i.e. not after the boat is on a hard stand, out of slings. Dry sanding is only allowed with an attached shop vacuum to control the dust. Okay, good at home; but we don’t have all that kit now. After a day or two, we figured it out: Other boaters and independent boatyard workers are very accommodating and will loan or rent equipment around the yard, if needed, and on very easy terms. We found a sander and shop vacuum this way, and did the final pre-paint sanding ourselves. We were able to buy plastic sheeting, paint rollers and pans, haz-mat gear, and everything else we needed at nearby shops.

Cleaned hull showing patches of primer paint, waiting for us to apply coats of anti-fouling. The first big job on the list.

In spite of all the rules, we see guys applying bottom paint with a brush and no drop cloths. So rules and actuality may be a bit different, as is sometimes the way. But, as guests in the country and not wanting or get ourselves or the yard into trouble, we were careful to manage our waste appropriately.

The best part of this haul-out is that we have found a wonderful small house to rent only a 10 minute walk from the boat. So we don’t have to live aboard on the hard and amid the mess of projects. The home owners are multi-generation Kiwi yachties and outdoor people. Every conversation uncovers new shared experiences and connections. It’s very comfortable. And very much more pleasant to be in a small house, completely furnished with hot showers (!), refrigerator, and a clothes washer while working on boat projects.

Living here …

Not living here.

Another wonderful thing about hauling out in Whangarei is that Rand was able to connect with a local boatwright/cabinet maker. John’s work shop is only a few blocks away and he and Rand have been working together on the interior projects, including the overhead cabin liner. More on projects, below.

John, in his work shop. He was amenable to Rand working alongside on various projects. They have developed a comfortable relationship and had several interesting conversations.

We expect to continue working on Velic for at least a couple more weeks. Here’s a short list of some of the projects:

  • Replace various lines (ropes) that are worn out
  • Top coat and, in a few places restore, the external bright work
  • Re-bed the port handrail, which developed leaks
  • Install a mid-deck cleat or foot rail on the foredeck
  • Install folding pad eyes at the base of the mast
  • Renovate the foredeck hatch on the dinghy (the existing hatch leaks)
  • Replace/restore the dinghy’s worn out corner guards
  • Add a metal rub strake to the dinghy’s keel
  • Install (finally!) an overhead liner in the cabin
  • Fix a stove squeak and install gimbal damper and lock to control swing
  • Add shore power
  • Remove a water trap in the holding tank vent line
  • Install a door for the under-counter locker in the head
  • Replace the sealant for glass port lights (windows that leak)
  • Add a coolant expansion tank on the engine
  • Replace hose from fresh water tanks to sinks
  • Replace the LED indicator light for the propane solenoid
  • Replace failed running lights with LED
  • Install new solar panels
  • Move the GPS antennae feeding position to radios from an interior cabinet to the stern rail
  • Install a cover panel to the watermaker locker
  • Buy various pieces of new or replacement equipment (e.g. soft tool bags, wrenches, handheld depth sounder, a kellet & big bow shackle for bow anchor, engine flex mount spares, new Makita 18vdc drills & chargers, dive weights, etc.).

Clearly, not all of this will get done. The list is prioritized by the following criteria:

  1. What is critical to the safe operation of the boat?
  2. What is critical to the safety of the crew?
  3. What is necessary to protect and extend the life of the boat and its equipment?
  4. What can only be done when in a boat yard, on the hard, out of the water?
  5. What will make life aboard more pleasant and comfortable?

Surprisingly, #5 is quite important. A well fed, rested, and happy crew will sail better, handle the boat better, and be generally safer all around. Why is #1 not #2? Are not the human crew more important than the boat? Well, yes. But without a boat that is safe to sail and operate, the crew is put at more risk. So, #1 supports #2 implicitly.

Below are pictures of some of these projects-in-progress:

Preparing to install folding pad eyes at the base of the mast.

The original hatch cover in the dinghy’s foredeck was gasketed and held in place by turn-screws. The gasketing leaked, and we decided to install a water-tight, screw-in hatch instead. This photo shows the old hatch with the new, yet-to-be-installed one on top. The old hatch lid will be gooped in and repainted, so it will disappear.

The dinghy’s two halves. The aft section (on the left) showing the skeg that needs a metal strip to protect it from chafe.

Forepeak overhead, with pattern pieces fitted. The new liner will cover the exposed green-brown fiberglass. It will be painted white, like the cabin sides, and trimmed with varnished strips. The bright “light” overhead is a glass deck prism, which illuminates the entire forepeak area with daylight. The lockers, and open cubbies below, are where most of our clothes are stored. The forward-most door opens to the anchor locker in the bow.


8 thoughts on “Cold January in Portland (and Seattle), Boat Work in Whangarei

  1. Have been following your journey the entire time, and have thoroughly enjoyed it, as well as learning about what is involved in sailing! Retired last June from PP&R, as did quite a few others. Take care, and I’ll continue to read!
    John Reed


    • Hi John,
      It’s great to hear from you and we’re glad that you’re following along. Congratulations on retirement. You would love NZ. The flora is amazing and parks are wonderful. Seeing new trees and shrubs on every walk is like turning a new page from Dr. Seuss. It’s a sub-tropical climate here. There are apples, pears, mandarins, and bananas all growing in the neighborhood. Along with all the plants I can’t identify. It’s a lot of fun.


  2. Enjoy your posts. Mom “still” driving at 80? I’ll be 90 this coming Sunday, March 12. Yesterday I got my driver’s license renewed for eight more years. — Cousin John


  3. The to do list never ends, does it? Still, it must be nice to work on all of those projects in such beautiful surroundings. I’m glad you flew back to Portland for a bit (though sorry it was during the frigid snowstorm)!


    • My job is now maintaining the boat. There is always an ongoing list of preventive or routine maintenance, plus repairs and new ideas for improvements. And the cycle of preventive maintenance is much, much shorter when cruising in warm salt water. No complaints, though. It’s the price of living the way we want to live now in paradise.


  4. Glad to hear that you where able to visit “home”. The weather this winter has been awful. Today is the 6th of March and we have awoken to snow the last two mornings. Forecast is for rain all week and thankfully, snow in the mountains. Timberline had two feet in just the last 24 hours. Enjoy the warmth! Kathi


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