Friday, February 13, 2015

Land Ho! New Zealand At Last!

Here we are at the dock in Opua Marina.
It feels much better to be at the dock once again. Life is calmer now that I am back on land. The sail from New Caledonia was very much like a trip down the Atlantic across the Gulf Stream to the Virgin Islands. I have really enjoyed the sailing in the Pacific Ocean because most of the time the wind is favorable to my comfort level and stomach!

It should have been a nice reach, but ...
It wasn't so much the height of the sea, but rather the beating into the wind and confused waves. And with that storm to our east, we had to had to take it on the nose to get to New Zealand rather than Australia! Normally, the winds would have been from the southwest and would have given us a nice reach. But the winter weather coming up from the Antarctica has been bringing high winds all season.

One of the boats in our fleet had to turn back with engine trouble which delayed them for about 10 days before another weather window opened. However, the weather was good but no wind so they had to motor the whole way. Their ride was smoother, but a lot slower.

Enjoying one of the social events with World ARC NZ.
The last night in Noumea was celebrated with a WARC New Zealand dinner. It is always fun to have these rendezvous and share time as a group. Once we reach our check-in destinations, we all head out in different directions until the next rendezvous. Our group of eight boats has become a tight knit group now. We are the only Americans, as there are three German boats and three British boats with us. One of the other British boats had to leave their boat in Fiji to go home for a family medical situation. We miss them and are looking forward to their return when we get back up to the islands in the spring.

Land Ho! New Zealand - a welcome sight!
Welcome to New Zealand. Opua is our first landing.

Dennis taking down the Q flag after we
finally cleared into New Zealand.
Every country gives us a new experience when clearing in to their Customs and Immigration process. Most of the time the experience has been pleasant and the officials helpful and welcoming. The real challenge comes from the Bio Security officials. While we understand the need to protect their countries from foreign pests, etc., some of them are more difficult than others. We had heard that New Caledonia would be tough and take away a lot of things. Fortunately, we did not find it true - but then, it depends on which officer you get.

The Opua General Store is the only grocery store here.
More stores in the next town of Paihai.

Australia is supposed to be the toughest and New Zealand not as bad. For us, that was not the case! We drew the short straw and got officers who normally worked at the airport and not at the docks. They didn't seem to know what could stay and what had to go, so they took everything fresh - including the salad we were planning to eat for lunch! They came earlier than expected so we didn't get to eat first. The guy just dumped it into the black garbage bag even though I tried to explain we were just about to eat it! He didn't care! Then they brought the sniffer dog on to go all over the boat. Fortunately, he did not find anything of concern.

The Ferry Dock in Opua
Unfortunately, by the time we were cleared in, the only restaurant at the marina was closed and we had nothing to eat for dinner. I guess I could have opened a bunch of canned veggies but that is not very hearty after a long passage and frustrating day.

We heard that the Opua General store makes pizzas, so we headed over there. It was 15 minutes from closing and they don't make pizza on Mondays and Tuesdays! The owners were very helpful in offering to cook a couple of frozen pizzas for us and they stayed open later so we could get a few things, too. That was a more pleasant welcome to New Zealand than the one from the officials!
Hoisting the flags: New Zealand on the right and Old Point
Comfort Yacht Club, Ocean Cruising Club and Seven
Seas Cruising Association burgees on the left.

We next had a friendly welcome from John and Lynn Martin who run the Island Cruising Association and the All Points Rally. They host the Opua Cruisers Week so we were introduced into the group and met many new people. Of course, we also saw a number of sailors whose wakes we had crossed up in the islands. It is beginning to feel like old home week when we arrive in new places now. Familiar faces are always a welcome sight to see.

Here in New Zealand they have the famous Kiwi Burger. I was working on the Internet in an office and smelled something delicious coming from the next office. They told me it was a Kiwi Burger (made with beef and not bird!) and the Café next door would deliver one if I ordered it. So I did - sight unseen. I was shocked when it arrived. It was HUGE and had a large beef pattie, a fried egg, and more! It was good, but too big for one person. Bigger than a Whopper or Big Mac, but much tastier. I haven't ordered one since.

Always nice to see a friendly logo from home!

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