Monday, September 22, 2014

Opua: a forgotten factor; reordered

        I am aboard GANNET on the inside of the marina breakwater dock.  The wind is howling.  Yesterday it lifted the Avon RedStart from the water onto the dock.  I left it there.  Today it has at times, and is now, so strong that I wouldn’t be able to row the ten strokes to reach the end of C Dock and land.  
        Winds offshore are forecast to be 60 knots from Auckland north.  If I had not made it in Saturday, I’d still be out there.  I knew that, so I did my best not to be.  The wind is supposed to ease tomorrow; but who knows how far offshore GANNET might have been blown by then?  I might not have reached port for several more days.
        As I’ve been writing the wind has increased further and is now shrieking and rocking GANNET as though trying to blow her onto the dock.
        Steve, another sailor planned to leave Neiafu for Opua the same day I did.  We did not consult one another on this, but both independently arrived at the same decision.  (Wind just fell calm.  It is that kind of day.)  He did not get away as earlier as I.  He is an experienced sailor.  We had several conversations and I respect him.   But he has a traditional heavy boat.  He is not here.  Probably he is out there enduring extreme unpleasantness.  I hope he went into Minerva Reef and is happily snorkeling.  I’ll be relieved to see him again whenever.
        Essential to my reaching Opua just in time were those three 60 to 70 mile days when we were under high pressure.  60 to 70 miles is slow; but few boats other than GANNET and extreme racing designs would have come close to making half that.  She is so light that she glided forward on wind I could not feel.  She was sailing on fumes.
        Others might say, “Not a problem.  We would have turned on the engine and powered across the high.”  My response to that is too obvious to need stating.  

        I poured the last two glasses—unfortunately plastic—of Laphroaig Saturday evening on the Q Dock.  I had arrived after hours and knew I’d be cleared the following morning.
        I stood in the companionway and looked around at the familiar and was struck by how quiet Opua is.  (When the wind is.)
        I watched the lights of the car ferry cross a quarter mile north.  I turned to where my mooring was.  I had emailed asking to rent it, but the reply suggested other locations.
        GANNET’s cabin has never been wetter or messier.  Broken floorboard.  Broken pipe berth.  Two wet sets of foul weather gear.  A sodden sleeping bag.  Wet clothes.  A saturated towel.  And much more as I would in time discover.
        I managed to wipe the starboard pipe berth somewhat dry and slept there soundly.
        Customs and Biosecurity officials came by Sunday morning.  I am on a first name basis with the Customs Official and know the other.  It all went quickly, with only one surprise:  New Zealand has very reasonably extended the time a foreign yacht can remain in the country from one year to two.
        The temptation to linger an extra year here, as I did in San Diego, rose instantly.  Opua and San Diego’s Mission Bay/Mission Beach are the two places I would most like to live in the world.  San Diego has the better climate; Opua the better sailing and all those great anchorages.  But at my age I don’t have so many years that I can afford to linger another; so I won’t.
        After moving GANNET along the inside of the breakwater to the marina end, I pumped up the Avon and in a lull made it to shore where I had salt and pepper calamari with a fresh salad at the Marina Cafe for lunch, checked in with the marina office, and had my first real shower since Honolulu.  It was wonderful, particularly the hot water on my neck and shoulders which were stiff from steering the day before.  And still are.  Then along to the General Store for a bottle of wine and a few other necessities before returning to GANNET in chaos.
        Rain began falling, and the only way to sort out the cabin is to move stuff out into the cockpit, so I huddled amid debris, read, drank wind, listened to music and went to bed.  
        This morning, after Skyping Carol, I began to reestablish order.
        Moving everything near and under the pipe berth to the cockpit despite light rain—it was all already wet anyway, I managed to return the pipe berth’s pipe to its cradle.  It should be held in place by a screw that is missing.  I would say I don’t know how, but GANNET did take some heavy blows.  Still, unscrewing a screw?  Replacing it will be tricky, but the berth is fine as it is here in port.
        I removed the cracked piece of floorboard.  Then moved stuff from the v-berth aft, wiped down the v-berth and overhead, wiped down the various waterproof duffles, moved them to their harbor position on the port side of the berth, then moved my  pillow and heavy sleeping bag forward to the starboard side of the v-berth.
        GANNET would not be a good boat for a Bay of Islands winter.  I spent some winters here on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, but I had installed a thin layer of insulation when we lived aboard in Boston.  GANNET’s overhead and hull are unlined, and I noticed condensation forming on the inside the last two nights at sea.  When I woke Sunday morning the cabin temperature was 52°F/11°C and drops of water were falling from the overhead.
        Order restored to GANNET’s cabin—and I am very happy it is—I made it ashore for an excellent chicken burger for lunch at the cafe, bough a piece of quiche at the General Store for dinner, and have arranged to have GANNET hauled out and stored on the hard at Ashby’s Boat Yard while I’m back in Evanston, to which I will fly the first week in November. 

        I will get to the passage log soon.  
        Some days have to be typed from the version I wrote by hand while underway and couldn’t risk the computer.
        And Saturday will have to be written.  My hands were otherwise  occupied that day.