We are at the start of our second season on Atea, and so time to get the fingers tapping and some of the stories of recent activity recorded. After the conclusion of our first expedition in September 2011, we settled our waterlogged roots in Bayswater Marina, Auckland, for a Kiwi summer as we charted new territory as a fledgling family.
We were graced with six full months ashore amongst our whanau and I feel such gratitude for our friends and family who’ve turned Braca’s arrival into such a spectacular celebration, and for the support in making our transition into parenthood a smooth and joyous one. Thank you for all the generosity, the fun, the love, and the connection. In parting, I already look forward to our return!
As the kiwi season turns to autumn, the days get shorter and the nights colder, we prepare for our journey north. Prior to the pace of preparations hitting it’s apex, Braca and I packed our bags and headed for the States, leaving John to do the hard labour. Again, it is my firm belief that most wouldn’t be able to accomplish what John has been able to pull together to get Atea ready for the demands of our upcoming season. Over the past several months John would cast suit as a PM during the day and don grubby garb in the evening as PM on his own personal campaign: Readying Atea for the 2012 season, and whatever lay ahead for us beyond that.
My return to New Zealand was planned around a 1st May departure from Auckland to meet up with the ICA, a rally of cruising boats heading through several island groups together. Braca and I returned to a flurry of final preparations and farewell parties and then the three of us set sail four days later for the Bay of Islands to meet up with the group. Caught half way with poor weather and an unknown amount of diesel in the tank, we sheltered at Kawau and began our feeling of a mad rush to wait. Through the next few days we kept chanting the mantra, “Rush Rush Rush Wait.” We rushed out of Auckland to wait out the weather in Kawau, then rushed up to Opua to find ourselves waiting again. We’d left in a mad dash to arrive in Opua on the dates specified by the ICA to find little activity and another delay in departure due to weather conditions. Rush rush wait. Our intended departure from Opua to Anatom, Vanuatu was planned for the 5th of May, pushed back to the 9th of May, and currently set for the 10th of May. Due to certain unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances, we may not even make that timeline. Stay tuned.
Skippers Notes – “Why is a ship called ‘She?’”
So if Atea needed a quiet summer to rest and recuperate – she got it. Not so my wallet though, and it seemed that our budget for boat work needed to be continually revised upwards.
Firstly, there was the maintenance identified during the trip south – salt water in the diesel meant the injectors and fuel tank needed cleaning, and a valve was installed to prevent future water ingress. The genoa roller furler needed replacement, and the BBQ (washed overboard on the way south) needed repair.
With those vitals taken care of, we turned our attention to enhancements identified during the previous season. The cockpit was often too hot, so we put in a hatch for ventilation. The batteries took a hammering and discharged very quickly, so we replaced those with new ones. Continuing on the electrics, we made a serious upgrade to the solar panels. The new ones are not only ample for our power needs, but we received an added benefit as it casts a significant amount of shade over the aft deck where we spend much of the time.
Since the little stowaway is now out of the oven and increasingly active we’ve installed a travel cot and tie downs, and seemingly every drawer I open is filled with toys to keep the boy entertained. We also have a 30-meter roll of safety netting to install later in the passage. Since Braca is just beginning to crawl, we must tie the netting around the guard rails before he learns to move too fast. To keep the grandparents (and other interested parties) informed of Braca and Atea’s progress we upgraded the electronics so that we have the ability to send and receive emails at sea, which will also allow us to update our position on the blog daily.
To keep the adults entertained, we added a new stereo and cockpit speakers, so can now crank up the sounds and frighten off the seagulls. Santa provided a clever new VHF radio, so hopefully our cruising colleagues can hear us too. Legislation in Singapore waters requires us to have an AIS transponder… another $800 gone. The alternator needed reconditioning, the mainsail has been serviced, the water pumps needed replacement and so the list goes on. Those who own boats will understand this, and the old adage of “a boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money” has never seemed more apt.
And finally, in the week before departure, we’ve carried onboard six vast shopping trolleys of stores – aiming to have all the basics for a seven-month voyage. Unlike last year, we are also well stocked up with grog. The tins, bottles and bags have finally disappeared into lockers, bilges and other secret stowages, and I think we’re ready. With all this weight of food, fuel, water and wine, Atea is lower in the water, but I think she is in good shape and her systems are enhanced to keep the three of us in safety and comfort. It’s time to go. Time to stop spending money, and start sailing.
Post script: We found a leak in the diesel tank five days after leaving Auckland, so Atea is in the boatyard for repairs. I am reminded of the following quote: “Why is a ship called ‘She’? Because it’s not the initial cost that breaks you, it’s the upkeep.” We are feeling this acutely and hope there are no more delays before departure.