Monthly Archives: December 2022

Town Basin Marina Whangarei

Town Basin Marina is conveniently located in the heart of Whangarei.  There are shops, restaurants, marine stores, markets, bakeries, and all sorts of places to spend your money all within walking distance.  And it is just so beautiful at night with all the lights twinkling and reflecting in the water.

We had massive rains and floods during our stay.  Locals said they had not seen it rain like this in over a dozen years.  Unfortunately, with the heavy rains, comes the debris, broken trees, branches, trash, and muck down the river.

Lucky for us, the marina returned to its normal beauty within a few days.

The tide is between 2-3 meters at the Town Basin Marina making the ramps fun to walk on.  Notice the difference between the gazebo and Sugar Shack and the angle of the ramp.

Claphams National Clock Museum

Just pas the marina office is Claphams National Clock Museum which includes one of the world’s largest sun dials and a working ball clock!

Not sure I ever figured out how to tell time using the sun dial, but it sure is a work of art in the center of Town Basin, Whangarei.

The Whangarei Ball Clock

Is it a kinetic sculpture? Or is it a cultural attraction? Is it a clock? It is all these and much more. The Rolling Ball clock is now in place in its prime location adjacent to the museum. The time is indicated by balls that roll onto timing racks with markings for hours, minutes and seconds. There is always something to marvel at anytime during the day!

Inside the museum is a rare collection of unique and funny clocks.  As you enter the museum, you are greeted with everyday household items and musical instrument clocks converted into clocks.

Telling time using the balls

The Town Basin Time Ball 

Many small and unique clocks that surprise and delight the eyes.

Great old grandfather, grandmother, and grand daughter clocks line many walls inside the museum.

Do you have any interest in a clock museum?  Normally, I would say, well….not really.  However, I found it rather interesting to learn about the evolution of the clocks.  And it was great fun to see the variety of crazy clocks this man collected.

Glass Artistry

One of the many stores boasts of beautiful, colorful hand blown glass work.  I marvel at the beautiful colors, shapes and designs.  This store was unique in that it allowed you to view the hand blown glass technique first hand.

Hundertwasser Art Center

Hundertwasser Art Center is a marvel in its mere presence in the marina!  We always know how to get back to the boat, just by looking for the big gold icon!

This museum is dedicated to Wairau Maori Art.  The museum also honors and promotes the legacy of visionary, painter, ecologist, and architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser.  It was great fun wandering around the grounds and facilities

Car Show

One Sunday, Matt and I stumbled on a small car show in a parking lot.  They had a really nice variety of collectable cars!

Gypsy Fair

A caravan of gypsies came to Whangarei offering treats, games, and artisan pieces.

The Canopy Bridge

the Canopy bridge lies at one end of the marina.  The sails, masts, and spares of the boats at Town Basin Marina inspired the look and feel of the bridge.  At night the Canopy Bridge lights up in vibrant colors in a beautiful art show.  The Whangarei community comes together periodically for festivals, art shows, and markets held at the Canopy Bridge.

Te Matau a Pohe 

Matt and I had the opportunity to walk across the Te Matau a Pohe (fish hook) bridge several times as we cross from one side of town to the other.

The hook bridge is simply beautiful whether you walk on it or sail below it.  And this beautiful star tree just takes my breath away.

Artwork All Around Whangarei

Many beautiful tikis are scattered around the parks of the city.

I loved this piece…

So many beautiful sculptures and artwork around Whangarei.

This is one of my favorite pieces.  The Camera Obscura is a huge structure that winds you inside into a dark center where the light (lower left corner) reflects everything it sees from the outside inside, but upside down.

And this young lady just seemed to speak to me

One of our tasty meals at The Butter Factory

Town Basin Marina at Whangarei is a cultural hot bed and shopping Mecca all at our fingertips.  A quick hop, skip, and a jump from our slip at the marina.

Events from this blog occurred in early November.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind actual events.  In our last blog, we are welcomed into the country of New Zealand.

New Zealand Welcomes Sugar Shack

As luck would have it, we arrive at Marsden Cove, New Zealand around 3:00am.  Not a good time to navigate new waters in the dark of night (not even a full moon out).  Tricky, do we attempt to go in without tracks or knowledge of the area or do we motor in circles until daybreak?

As we are contemplating our options, another boat called Only Time pops up and look like they are heading to the same place as us.  Sweet.  We call them on the radio and ask if we could follow them in.  Not ideal, but certainly better than circling around for hours!

Marsden Cove has a beautiful statue of waves lit up at night.

Once tied up to the “Q” dock or Quarantine Dock we grab a few hours of sleep before the officials come aboard.

The next day, we are greeted with customs, immigration, maritime/border control and bio security.  The first three went super well as we had all the documents completed and prepared ahead of time.  I was sorely disappointed that they did not ask to see proof of a clean bottom!  Especially since I spent over 4 hours cleaning it before we left.  Ugh!

The last person to come onboard is bio security.  NZ is very, very strict about what you can and cannot bring into the country.  You have to declare everything and they have the right to take anything that is on the list.  For example:

Prohibited Items

  • Fresh fruit, produce, vegetables
  • Eggs, dairy, milk, cheese, creams
  • Meats of any kind
  • Passage meals.  Yep, all the meals that we made for the passage that we not consumed, got tossed in the trash.  Over 8 meals!
  • Honey
  • Nuts, seeds, rice, popcorn, bay leaves
  • Sea Shells, wood products, feathers (yes, I have them all onboard)

So, after we filled two trash bags full of prohibited items he left.  Our fridge and freezers are now empty…good thing we are in a place where we can replenish them.

We are now officially allowed to cruise the New Zealand waters!  Success!  

After we are cleared into the country, we have to get off the Q dock and we can take down our yellow Q flag and put up the NZ flag.

Town Basin Marina

We untie from the dock and make the 2 hour motor from Marsden Cove Marina to Town Basin Marina which is up the river.  As we motor along, we are greeted by beautiful green hillsides and lovely homes.  

On the way to Town Basin Marina, we have to cross under the Te Matau a Pohe (Fish Hook) bridge.  So, we hail the bridge operator and ask him to stop traffic, raise the bridge, and allow us through.  Pretty cool experience.

We tie up to the visitor dock as our regular spot is not available yet (we arrived 4 days earlier than planned).  But we are tied to a dock and near shore!  Super excited! Sugar Shack is right in front of the marina office with the red roof (with fenders out).

This marina has several side tie slips and then slips on poles where you tie to a pole in front and behind you.  We opted for the side tie slip which is more convenient, but more expensive.

We make a quick run to the grocery store, “Pak and Save” where we find Stubbs BBQ and Vegimite!  There is a nice cafe right on the dock where we stopped for lunch (see Sugar Shack in the background).  Can you tell we are very much enjoying New Zealand so far.

Stay tuned for next week when I show you all the cool things to do in Town Basin, Whangarei!

The events from this blog occurred in early November 2022.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind actual events.  Did you read about our passage from Fiji to New Zealand in our last blog post?

Passage to New Zealand

The passage from Fiji to New Zealand is known to be a difficult and challenging one.  The biggest problem is the weather and the fact that you have to cross through two systems (a high and a low).  Within these systems are storms, high winds, and big seas.  Nothing you want to be in the middle of while on a passage.  So, the trick is picking a window where you can squeeze between the systems.  It is “tricky” and hard to do.

We spoke to many, many cruisers about  picking the “right window.”  Finally, we came to a consensus about a departure date, 26 October 2022.  Now, we are in a rush to finish preparations:

  • Pick up small amount of fresh produce, eggs, tortillas for the passage (small because they will be confiscated when we arrive)
  • Print out all NZ documentation for entry
  • Send updated forms to NZ agent, Craig Roe (RYS) with departure date, arrival date
  • Notify Marsden Cove Marina of arrival date (where we clear in)
  • Notify Town Basin Marina of arrival date (where we will stay for a month)
  • Sign up for Passage Guardian (he tracks our progress and assists in emergency)
  • Prepare ditch bag, medical bag, jack lines, PFD’s, and foul weather gear
  • Put out jack line, stow anchor bridle.
  • Reschedule blog posts to not post until after passage (allows for live posts to post)
  • Prepare valuables in waterproof bag: documents, cash, jewelry, etc…
  • Email family and friends Passage Information
  • Update Facebook (personal and Sugar Shack page) going dark
  • Make and pre-cook passage meals.  Enough for 2 people for 10 days (20 meals)
  •       Matt made: pulled pork, cajun pasta, gumbo, chicken parm, eggplant parm, Roti,               
  •       schwarma, Bahn mi
  • Make bread dough and put in fridge 
  • Make cookie dough: snickerdoodles, gingerbread, and chocolate mint and store in fridge
  • Snack Basket (so we don’t have to go down below)
  • Last thing is to clear out of Fiji

More Preparations

New Zealand requires proof of a clean bottom (not the ones we sit on, but the bottom of the boat).  We have to show proof that there is no hard or soft growth on the hulls, between the rudder and hulls, on the props, seacocks, or waterline.

Since Matt’s ear is still healing it falls to me to do this massive job.  We just did our bottom in May so it was not terribly bad, but it did require me to wipe down both sides and the bottom of both hulls including the water line.  That is 15 meters x 4 = 60 meters of cleaning.  I cannot do it with just a snorkel so we get out the hooka (which is similar to scuba gear, but attached to the boat).

It took me over 4 hours to wipe it all down and I was exhausted afterwards.  But it looks great now!

Departure Day

We arrive for our scheduled appointment time to clear out of Fiji and are surprised to find a huge line outside of Customs/Immigration.  We discovered that one of the agents went to Musket Cove to clear out the Outremer Rally and the other agent was late.  She showed up 2.5 hours later, but they cleared the line fairly quickly.  We were hanging with our friends on Eastern Stream, Rhapsody, and Sea Tramp.

Waiting in line to clear customs/immigration in Fiji

Waiting in line to clear customs/immigration in Fiji

We pick up our delivery of fresh goods from Farm Boy and we head out!  Whoop Whoop!   It is about 3 miles from Port Denarau to the pass.  We hoist the main with 2 reefs and set the jib. 

A friend of ours captured Sugar Shack leaving the pass…

Strangely enough we are surrounded by boats.  We look at our chart and there are 18 boats departing with us.  Not including the other 7-8 boats that are departing later in the afternoon.  I guess this is a good window!  We are the red arrow and the green ones are other boats heading to NZ.

In the Middle of Nothing

A frequently asked question….Where do you anchor while you are underway?  We don’t.  We sail 24/7 for as long as it takes to get from Fiji to New Zealand.  Usually after the 2nd day we lose sight of land and proof of life (birds, fish, other boats).  Periodically, another boat will show up on AIS, but usually too far to see with the naked eye.

This is a screen shot of us in the middle of the Pacific.  Nothing out there, not even charts on Navionics (see gray area)!

One night, this boat popped up on our charts at 3 miles away and yet we could not see it.  In the photo it looks like he is right on top of us…

Personal Best

Sugar Shack is a really amazing boat!  She is comfortable, safe, and fast.  Usually we do not push her as we are both conservative cruisers.  But this trip we had to push in order to get to NZ before a forecasted storm.  Even though we had either 1 or 2 reefs in the main and jib, we were still flying!

We had two days where we sailed over 200 miles – that is like the illusive unicorn showing up in your backyard.  Rare!

Many beautiful nights with a partial moon.  Unfortunately for us, he went to sleep before 10:30-11p each night.

We also had many beautiful sunsets

We went through the closet during this passage.  Started out in shorts and a tank top, wore our foul weather gear (and dry suit), and then to warm weather clothes.

The Passage

We ended up arriving in 6.5 days which is ridiculously fast.  We anticipated 8-10 days underway and grossly over estimated.    But we did have a pretty direct route from Fiji to NZ.  If you start at the center top of the image, Fiji, you will see our red line go south toward NZ.  The yellow marks are storms that we dodged.

Where is Waldo the Wind?

We found the blue hole where there is no wind!  We turn on the motors and continue on.  The strong, yet not too strong winds spoiled us by catapulting us at great speeds toward NZ.  But them they just disappeared.  So, we motor sailed, motored, then motor sailed, then motored.

We ended up with at least one engine on the last 2 days.  Bummer.

What Broke?

On Day 2 during a particularly windy period around midnight, 1:00am, we noticed something flying around the top of the mast.  What the heck?  It appears our VHF/AIS Antennae no longer wanted to participate in our reindeer games.  Matt tried to lasso it with a halyard, but within 3 minutes it was gone into the deep, blue sea!  Crap!  Good thing we have a backup.  It is not as good, but it will still send out our position which is what our passage guardian and our charts use to track our progress.   You can see the ripped cable that used to hold the antennae and to the right the new one on a temporary mount by the helm.

The starboard side wind instrument also decided to stop working.  It showed some of the data, but it lost its little arrow which tells you which direction the wind is coming from.  Grrrrr.

Once we got to NZ we were able to reboot the unit and it came back to life.

Almost lost the pin to a car that holds the main.

Check in next week for more on our safe arrival to New Zealand.

Passage Details

  • Total Miles:  1131
  • Max Speed:  13.3kt
  • Average Speed: 7.2kt
  • Total Time at Sea: 6 days 8 hours
  • Port Engine Hours: 51
  • Starboard Engine Hours: 55

If you missed it, check out Matt’s live blog during our passage. They are really, really funny!  They published October 27 thru November 1.

The events from this blog occurred in early September 2022.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind actual events.  We visit Yalobi in Waya and are rewarded with many beautiful waterfalls in our last blog