Autumn in Northland

It is April 17 and autumn is well underway here in Northland. Days and nights are a bit cooler now, 21C to 23C during the day and down around 13C to 15C at night (that’s 69F to 73F and 53F to 55F, respectively). Cool enough to pull on a light sweater during the day and throw the duvet over the bed at night. And we’re having more rain, sometimes quite heavy downpours, or what they call “heavy falls” here. Last week Cyclone Cook swept over Northland. It was late in the cyclone season, which traditionally is considered to end April 30. Fortunately, by the time it moved over Whangarei much of its energy was spent; we had rain most of the day but little wind, for which we were thankful. We’re watching the weather closely while continuing to wrap up projects on Velic. We hope to be on our way north again in about a month.

Our last post concluded with a long list of the projects we wanted to complete here in Whangarei. Many of them have been checked off the list, some have been postponed, at least one had to be done twice, and another has been removed altogether, at least for now. The project with the biggest impact on day-to-day living aboard has been that of finally installing the missing overhead liner in the cabin. Soon after we purchased Velic we removed the large pieces of formica that lined the overhead. This was part of remodeling the interior. They had remained removed – exposing the raw greenish-colored fiberglass and all the stainless steel fasteners, electrical wires, etc. – until now. It was easier to work on remodeling the interior, new fittings, wiring, etc., with the fiberglass exposed but it wasn’t very nice to look at. When we left Portland in 2015 this last bit of remodeling was still incomplete. Sometimes, you just gotta go …

Below is a photo of the overhead liner project in progress. On the left you can see the exposed fiberglass, wires, etc.. This is what we have been living with for years. On the right, in contrast, some of the new overhead panels have been installed. The soft white finish really brightens up the interior of the boat, and will be easy to wipe clean. The carefully-sized panels are easier to remove than the old ones, too.

New overhead liner project, in process: Old on the left, new on the right. The starboard settee has been set up as a temporary workbench.

The new painted plywood sheets are smaller than the originals and more logically placed, making removing one to get access to wiring, etc. much easier. We are almost done installing the new liner and varnished trim, and are happy with the way it looks:

Main saloon overhead nearly complete. Settee cushions are all piled onto the V-berth in the forepeak to get them out of the way.

And only six of the more than four dozen trim strips had to be re-done!

As part of this project, Randy installed LED strip lighting over the V-berth.This area is brightly illuminated during the day by a deck prism but when the sun goes down it gets very dark up there. The new strip lighting provides bright illumination whenever we want it. There are both white and red LED strips – red preserves night vision. It’s wonderful to now have good lighting when rummaging in those forward lockers after dark for an extra fleece pullover or clean shirt.

There are two strips on each side over the head of the V-berth: 1 white, 1 red. A switch toggles between white and red. Red helps to preserve night vision. This is taken while sitting on the berth looking back through the boat toward the main companionway.

Rain has made it challenging to complete all of the exterior teak re-coating. We will probably end up working on this job, piecemeal, as we cruise this season.

The dinghy’s plywood foredeck hatch has been replaced with a screw-in, water-tight plastic hatch. The previous plywood hatch leaked. A bit of filler and paint and you can’t see where the old hatch was:

New, water-tight hatch in place. Remember this is a only half of a 2-part nesting dinghy; you can just a bit of the back half in the corner of this photo. This new hatch is smaller, but still large enough for anything we’d want to put in the compartment.

Previous hatch, with the new one on top for comparison. The previous hatch had a gasket all around, but it was insufficient for keeping water out.

The dinghy also gained a bronze rub strake on the keel as well as graphite coating to help resist abrasion. Coral beaches can be tough on dinghies.

New bronze rub strake mounted on keel. Graphite patch just forward. This all needs to be cleaned up yet.

We have two new solar panels. These replace inexpensive and experimental panels we left Portland with. The old panels were experimental in that we weren’t sure that solar  would provide enough energy input, so bought cheap, to try it out. But solar energy has proven to be more than satisfactory for our needs, and so we replaced the cheap, and failing, panels with new, higher quality ones that ought to last much longer. There are two more portable panels to replace, this year or next.

New primary solar panels and their new frames mounted on the stern pulpit either side of the tiller, where they can get plenty of sun.

Lots of other small projects have been completed or are being wrapped up. We decided not to install shore power, at least not at this time. We are already stretching our budget limit, so shore power can wait until next year.

Ruth took in a local excursion with a couple of friends and their kids on one recent rainy day. These are the “Pizza on the Reef” kids, from Jade and Enough. Both boats are in Whangerei. We went to the Kiwi North museum, which includes the Kiwi House and museum in one building, surrounded by an extensive Heritage Park with historic buildings spread over landscaped grounds. She watched Kiwis being fed (no photos; they are nocturnal birds and their area is kept dark to encourage activity). Kiwis are surprisingly large, about the size of a turkey, and move fast on strong legs. The museum was interesting; full of artifacts illustrating the natural and human history of North Island from prehistoric times to the 19th and early 20th centuries, when people from western Europe began to arrive and settle.

Outside of the museum and Kiwi exhibit, we wandered around the Heritage Park and gave the kids an opportunity to burn off energy while the grownups investigated the historic buildings. All the buildings were furnished as they would have been when in use in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There were family homes, a schoolhouse, chapel, and railway station, along with smaller outbuildings. In addition to the historic buildings on display, the park accommodates several active local clubs and societies, including the astronomical society, the vintage car club, the amateur radio club, the vintage farm machinery club, the steam and model railway club, and the rock and gemstone club. There is also a native bird recovery center, which was not open to the public when we visited.

Today is the Easter Monday holiday in New Zealand. Both Good Friday and the Monday after Easter are holidays here. Quite civilized, in our opinion. We enjoyed a potluck Easter dinner with our friends, the two families from Jade and Enough, yesterday. The family from Enough are now renting the house that we were renting until last week, and hosted the dinner. This provided ample and very comfortable space for all. It was an indulgence to spend the entire afternoon lounging and visiting while the kids had their egg hunt and played games. I think the guys felt a bit guilty about not doing boat work but, after a beer, they seemed to reconcile themselves to a day off. We sincerely hope all of you reading this had as pleasant an Easter Sunday as we did, wherever you were.

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