Westhaven Marina

March 2, 2004

Dear Friends and Family:

The Kiwis have been keeping statistics since about 1840, and this was the worst February EVER. Something like nine major storms crossed the islands during February, and rain was four times normal. People keep saying to us, sort of wistfully, "February is supposed to be our best month!" Or, more tongue in cheek, "Enjoying all the rain?" We’ve relocated to the head of "U" pier, very close to the gate, so lots of people wander by between the rain showers, commenting on the boat, or asking us how we’re enjoying New Zealand. So far we’ve had two hopeful inquiries whether we’re selling the boat (Not a chance!)

When the wind really gets howling through the marina here, Sequoia tugs against her lines, and we’re frequently going out to check. Last weekend, three boats in a nearby bay sank. Our worst casualty is that the dock lost power for most of a day. No big deal for us – we’re set up to operate for long periods of time without being connected to shore power. In fact, we weren’t connected to shore power between the West Coast of the United States and here.

The awful weather gives us no excuses: I’ve gotten our tax information assembled and sent off to our CPA; I’ve put together a health insurance claim (it was quite something, assembling receipts in French, converting CFP to dollars, and trying to write a coherent summary that may persuade some Oregon functionary to reimburse us for a few prescriptions). I completed a few sewing projects, including a leather lined sheath for our big meat cleaver (I have had visions of it coming loose in rough weather and decapitating someone…) Craig has been working on various boat improvements, engine repairs, making some rigging changes, and splicing some new halyards. We’ve made some delightful new friends on the docks here. Last Saturday we enjoyed a Mexican dinner on the boat with Aussies Chris and Margie of Storm Bay, while the wind howled outside at 40 knots and the rain came pouring down – the remnants of tropical cyclone Ivy, which devastated Vanuatu before it "sputtered out" over New Zealand.  



We’ve learned to watch the forecasts for weather windows. One day a week ago, we saw a good day coming, and we drove out to the Coromandel Penninsula. We stopped at the little town of Thames, which has a Victorian wild west feel about it. An open bookstore lured us to its sale tables, and we stocked up on books for rainy days.
We had enjoyed a nice bottle of wine from a Cooks Beach vineyard, and decided to have a look at it.  We noticed that the vineyard was for sale, the vines all loaded with grapes, and protected from the birds with great swaths of white netting. It would be quite a place to live – the big house up on the hill, overlooking Mercury Bay, and the carefully tended rows of vines below.

We drove to the top of Shakespeare Cliff, overlooking Mercury Bay, and tried to imagine Captain Cook anchored out there in the Endeavour, making his astronomical observations. We walked along Cooks Beach, a gorgeous, sunny place which was nearly deserted, picked up shells, and got our feet wet. We drove through the beach resort of Hahei and stopped to look at a newly built modern house that caught our interest. The owners were glad to show off their new place, and were interested (as people always are) to hear that we crossed an ocean on our own boat to get here.

View south from Shakespeare Cliff
New beach house in Hahei We’ve watching now for a weather window of at least several days, so that we can head out on the boat and explore Hauraki Gulf. Maybe tomorrow?

All is well here – we look forward to hearing from you, and hopefully our next email will have some sailing to report!

Best regards to all –

Craig & Barbara Johnston

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Left:  View to the northeast from Shakespeare Cliff, overlooking Mercury Bay.

Below:  Plaque at the Shakespeare Cliff lookout point.