Thursday, 26 April 2012

Shore leave in Paihia

Between refit and sailing the Tasman, there has been zero time off.  Thankfully, even with the short turnover before our  next voyage begins, all crew were allocated 24 hours away from the ship. My time started at 6pm Sunday night and ended 6pm Monday.  So what to do with a day off the ship?

First you book a room at a motel in Paihia, a quick skip and jump away from Opua. Aloha resort was everything and more we could have wanted for our stay. Near town, large clean room, TV, kitchen, shower, free Internet and a patio area. Oh and its also cheap as, god love off season prices.

Then you add a little alcohol.

You take a lot of long showers.  None of them are less than 30 seconds.

Perhaps order a takeaway - Indian is preferred.

oh and you'll find yourself glued to the music videos and realise you have no idea who any of the artists are.
You probably will sleep in. The double is too much to resist after life in a single bunk.  But when you do start to stir (and have had your morning coffee), its worth walking to the beach...

The morning is beautiful, the people far between.

After checking out late (already prearranged), you buy a few bits and pieces you 'need' before hitting the Pacific islands. i.e Snorkel gear, sunblock, antiseptic and sunglasses. You buy more coffee, just because you can.
Rain comes in and its time to share a pizza.  But you guys might stop there and leave the wine alone, maybe that's just me.

You also need a haircut, those split ends are terrible. Even though you are more scared of Hairdressers than dentists, you go through with it. It ok, you survived.  have another coffee to calm your nerves. 

And then it was time to head home to the ship, meet our new voyage crew and return to my bunk (good bye double bed, it was great while it lasted!). 
A town like Paihia was the perfect place for our shore leave. Set up for tourists, we could easily feel comfortable without having to ask  around and unnecessarily explore. 

But now, our next journey begins. To Rarotonga we go!!!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Exploring the bay of Islands

The next day we moved over to New Zealand's oldest European settlement, Russell. A sleepy tourist village, after doing some food shopping for the ship, I had about 40 minutes free time.

 I chose to spend my time buying a hat and drinking a little coffee. 

Other crew members decided on another approach....

Yep, two of our deck hands decided that what they really needed to remind them of their ocean passage was matching yellow smiley faces on their arses. No, I am not joking.

After Lunch and all parties were back aboard, The Soren cruised over to Robertson Island, where one of Soren Larsen's old skippers is now care taker.  When I went a shore, I made the decision not to take a camera. Some times we can get so caught up in capturing moments, you're not really present. I walked the beach, looked for interesting shells and sat by a calm lagoon.  It was great to have time alone and not be thinking about anything in particular.  I have to say that island was one of the most beautiful places on earth.

That night we ate mussells, cockles and a BBQ. I was also introduced to fig-eras which tasted amazing.  In the morning there was some sailing to be done - and the ship was taken out to see for the day. Setting anchor at Russell, the voyage crew left on the Friday morning. It was sad to see some great people leave to move on with their travels.

And now, its turn around time. Sitting along side in Opua, all hands are busy setting up the ship for our next big voyage - our 32 day trip to the Cook Islands.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Arriving in New Zealand

A day after sighting land and making our way down the coast, we anchored at Opua to be processed by customs and then stay the night. Have to say, arriving in a new country via a Tall ship is probably the coolest way I've crossed a border.  With a break in the watch system, voyage crew could let off some steam. For me highlights included driving the tender (I am determined to become a pro by the end of the season) and hopping on land to get an ice cream. After the rough seas of the Tasman, the bay of islands welcomed us with calm waters, finally we could make pancakes! Sounds trivial but breakie ideas in a rolling ship can get quite hard to come up with. ....

And the next day, we went to explore the bay of islands further...

Monday, 23 April 2012

Sailing the Tasman sea: From Oz to New Zealand

 Ten days without seeing land - eleven until we anchored.  After leaving the heads of Sydney, we were greeted by a massive swirl...and sea sickness took hold. For the first few days to say I was a little useless was not an over statement. Getting used to the roll of the ship down below and in the galley took some time. The exhaustion from working in a moving environment - holding onto pots and yourself and in fear that some thing will hit you on the head (some thing random like a cheese grater) meant all you want to do is sleep. And then on day two and day five the Tasman unleashed its storms. With the lightning, 40 knot winds and crashing waves, I feel lucky to be alive. But we are and with all that included I wouldn't take my time on this journey away. Because once I got into the routine of ship life, you can appreciate what's around you.

Predominantly, this is a lot of blue ocean.  Everyday the same view, except for small differences. This is usually the weather.  You are alone, maybe every third day you'll see a tanker on the horizon. However sometimes you'll have the odd visitor.....

 Dolphins, I'll never get bored of seeing them play around at the baow of the ship. And there were other wild life. Having  pilot whales near the ship was a great surprise (I had never heard of them before and thought they were some demon dolphins!) and spotting an albatross for the first time was a pivotal moment.

When the sky was clear and the water a little less 'rolly' than usual, being aboard the Soren Larsen in the Tasman seas was a gift.  Sure this was an endurance test rather than a pleasure cruise, but it made me realise I could do this.  And then, land ahoy! on the tenth day, I woke up to see New Zealand for the first time.

Finally, we had arrived...

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Farewell Sydney

 Behind us is a city. Its one I never expected to like much or find surprises. I thought I was a Melbourne-nite through ad through. I expected a world of brash glamour obsessed with greed and tanning. In some ways i thought Sydney would be an 80's pop video. perhaps it is, but now I'll forever have a soft spot for this part of the world.  The harbour has got to be one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. By the end of my six months harbour cruising, I did get pretty tired of it, but on a sunny day and all the sail boats come out, it still made me feel good inside.

 Its Sydney's closeness to the natural world that really impressed me. For all the glitz, bling and industrial power, you were never that far from the mountains, the beaches and open water.

 I also liked the hidden treasures in Sydney. like the alley way off George street with the bird cage artwork. My favourite cafe in the rocks, the fine food store and is it strange to say the Anzac bridge holds more sentiment for me than the harbour one?

See you later Sydney. xxx

Friday, 20 April 2012

Leaving the heads

And so, this is it.  On a Friday we picked up the voyage crew and had a day sailing the harbour, getting everyone aware of emergency procedures and working the sails.  For the first leg of the south pacific challenge, we would be sailing across the Tasman sea to the top of New ZeaIand's north island, and heading down through the bay of islands towards Auckland. It was estimated the sea crossing would take around 10 days, leaving days to anchor along the coast.  This journey wouldn't be for the faint hearted and if I'd had time between working the day sails and refit to think about what I'd signed up for, I may have thought twice.

However, during the initiation day I spent a lot of time rushing around doing galley 'things' and attempting to get my head around this cooking malarkey.  On this night we slept along side the timber wharf on Campbell's cove, right next to my old home, the Southern Swan.  She'd been out on the harbour that day and watching her being handled by a new crew. For a large portion of the crew, the southern swan had been not only a place to live, but the first chance to get into Sailing.  It was weird to know that I'd moved into another phrase of my life.

The next morning, waking up between the opera house and the harbour bridge, between running about lashing down all we could and checking food, there was time to say goodbye to some great people I honestly don't know when I'll see again.  
This time we motored out of Campbell's cove but did not turn around at shark island. This time we kept going, right through the heads of Sydney harbour and out to meet the Tasman Sea...

Friday, 6 April 2012

Soren Larsen Refit

A few weeks a go I collected all my belongings off the southern swan (and there's a lot of them) and moved onto The Soren Larsen.  From here Refit officially started. After four months cruising the harbour, there was a lot of work to be done on this old girl.  This included;

 Taking out a mast....and then putting it back in again...

mending sails....and then putting them back on again.....

 oh and putting an engine together, painting cabins and mending sails. There were a few mishaps (like a head cook dropping out and another stepping in), which is pretty scary when you're the next in line!

We worked long hours...

but the sunrise was one of the good moments of the day.

 After a lot of blood sweat and tears, refit is over. And now its time to sail away, out of 'the heads' and into the Tasman sea, all the way to New Zealand.

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