18/12/2014 – It never rains but it pours (both literally and metaphorically)

Our camping weekend started damp and got steadily wetter throughout Saturday. It actually stopped raining at about 1300 hrs, long enough for us to find a picnic area to eat our pasties and stretch our legs. From there I took over driving, first time behind the wheel since May 2013, first time in an automatic since my Oldsmobile Cutlass in Waseca in 1984! To add to the challenge, we were in a gorge area where the hills and twists and turns were challenging and continuous, especially as the weather deteriorated. My driving can't have been that bad because John managed to doze a little. He claims it was nervous exhaustion. Our first destination was Cape Reinga on the NW tip of New Zealand. It is a very special place for the Maoris, the point where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea, where they believe their ancestors leave New Zealand to return to the country they originated from which has a name not unlike Hawaii. It wasn't raining as hard as it had been but the visibility was poor so we didn't bother to walk out to the point. We camped overnight in a DOC campsite beside the beach and a river, just a few km from Cape Reinga and priced very reasonably at NZ$6 per person about £3 each. Cooking was a little challenging in the rain but a tarp from the boat draped over the tailgate gave me enough protection. Overnight the rain was torrential and the winds up to gale force. Fortunately John had to get up to answer a call of nature at about 1.30, just in time to rescue the tent which was blowing away! Sunday was a slightly better day with only a few showers during the morning. We struck camp and headed off to the Karikari peninsular, taking a couple of detours. Between showers we visited the huge sand dunes but, unsurprisingly, nobody was surfing down them. We also visited the 90 mile beach. It was pretty impressive even though the visibility was poor. Our campsite was another DOC one, rather larger and with marked out pitches, again alongside a beach albeit above it! We had a lovely afternoon and evening with no further showers. It even stayed dry for breakfast. Monday we struck camp and intended to visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds just north of Opua but the rain returned. In Opua we had a meeting with Alan, a naval architect. We have a problem with the deck sinking on starboard side and the internal woodwork moving. The door to the forward cabin does not close. The plan is to reinforce the beam supporting the mast post once the mast has been removed and the deck jacked up to its proper position. We tentatively agreed to return Starblazer to Opua in January. When we got back to the boat in Whangarei we discovered that the bilge was full of water. We pumped out immediately, again at bedtime and every 3 hours overnight. Tuesday morning John arranged for Starblazer to be lifted out at Dockland 5. By 1330 we were out of the water being hosed off. Charlie, the manager, noticed that the rudder shoe was wobbly...another problem. The slight gap at the front end of the keel closed up when the boat was lowered onto blocks and propped up leading John to suspect our water ingress problem was caused by the keel bolts. Next morning there was even more water in the bilge. Hmmm, so maybe the keel bolts are innocent! The water also tasted quite fresh. Eventually we believe we have found the major cause. The gas locker was half full of water, down to the level of a couple of holes where a restraining strap had been removed. The drain in the bottom of the locker was blocked. We have had an awful lot of rain and we believe the water overflowed from the gas locker into the cockpit locker then through some holes where cables go, into the bilge. We still need to do something about the keel bolts, or at least the joint between keel and hull, and the rudder shoe. The keel bolts are inaccessible! We uncovered two of the fifteen when we removed the water tank. Next task is to remove the (full) fuel tank. John syphoned the fuel into three 200 litre oil drums yesterday. Today he removed the freezer; fortunately there are several freezers here which we can use. Tomorrow's job is to dismantle some of the woodwork, remove the table (again), lift the floor boards, remove the cross beam and, somehow, lift the tank out of the way. Keep your fingers crossed for us! Cruising is 'boat maintenance in exotic locations', so true! Joyce

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