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Touring New Zealand 2008 - Part 1

Having arrived in New Zealand on the overnight flight from Los Angeles, we went straight to Rental Car Village to collect one of their white economy campervans. Again they found us a good one - with sliding doors on both sides and only recently arrived from Japan. After two days sorting out our stuff and dealing with banking, we set off on the vehicle ferry from Half Moon Bay to Kennedy Point on Waiheke Island. We wanted to see the rest of the family, and they had promised us a week sailing on their trimaran, Almarge, the Piver Lodestar Trimaran they have purchased last year, as our Christmas present. She is 37' long and has been extensively refurbished including all new rigging just before we took her out. Almarge sails beautifully and it so nice to be able to walk round the decks in relative safety, everything seems much easier to operate and more leisurely than on the Raven 31 we have enjoyed sailing so much in the past.

On Wednesday evening Kev took Almarge around to the fuel jetty at Matiatia Bay where Pete joined him and was briefed on the way back so we were ready to set off from their mooring in Putiki Bay. Thursday morning we loaded a weeks supply of food at the wharf and turned towards Ponui Island at the end of the Tamaki Strait to get used to sailing her. During the next 8 hours we traveled 25 nautical miles, almost half of which was extra due to tacking, eventually mooring back in Rocky Bay which is the next bay to Putiki Bay.

We had already spoken with our friend David, who also has a Piver Lodestar but a slightly smaller version than Almarge, and were meeting the next day on the water with him and Christine to compare sailing performance. David built his trimaran himself and it is newer and a slightly different version with a fuller bow than the elegant shape on Almarge. He keeps the boat in the Tamaki River, just beyond Half Moon Bay, so it was going to take him some time to reach us. We went back to Kev's mooring to wait and also pick up some of the fishing gear we had forgotten! Eventually we saw him in the distance and joined him just off Motuihe Island. We sailed together for some time until it was time to agree on a suitable place for mooring overnight. has been modified to have a slightly deeper keel and more sail area and one could detect the difference into wind when they would gain a few meters ever mile whatever we did - it is however a very good way to see the effects of small changes to the settings of the sails. Pengwen also has a much larger rudder as Almarge was modified at one point to allow her to dry out (sit on the bottom as the tide goes out to allow work to be done) safely.

Home Bay on Rakino Island was proposed for the night, and we soon settled down for a cold beer and supper. We logged 30 nautical miles. Almarge is well organised for groups, with sleeping space for 5 in the main saloon and 3 in the back cabin. There was lots of space for sitting and eating, and we talked until dusk. It was then that the wind direction changed and we reluctantly decided to raise anchor and go across the water to Station Bay. That is the recommended change of mooring for when the wind changes. We therefore had an hour of night hours to add to our log book.

In the morning we separated; David had to go back to his mooring. We wanted to visit the Coromandel, to set a course for Te Kouma harbour and settle down to enjoy sailing on a broad reach. Our destination was in sight, with the entry to the harbour hidden behind the Cow and Calf islands. We travelled 26 nautical miles.

The weather changed again and it was rough and windy. We ventured out far a short sail, hoping it would get better, but returned to Te Kouma when the visibility also started to deteriorate in the rain. Just 13.6 nautical miles but we had learnt how stable she was even in rough seas.

Weather changes quickly and the next morning we were aiming to get back towards Waiheke but first explored Coromandel Harbour. We had never been inside or moored there and so it was interesting to see the options. There were two delightful beaches which would be good for overnight in calm conditions. We set our course for the Ruthe Passage and our final destination was going to be Man Of War Bay. 24.6 nautical miles which we reached early hoping Jenny and Kev would be able to come and join us for a barbeque - in the end their commitments made it impossible.

On our final day we decided to take the long route back to the moorings by going along the north coast and then down past Matiatia Bay. We would then have seen all four sides of Waiheke Island. Unfortunately the weather was changeable, and there were two patches of heavy rain with very bad visibility. Fortunately there were few other boats about and we were well off shore. During the first deluge Pauline hove-to and we were tempted to stop in Oneroa Bay, but decided to take turns getting into dry clothes and keep sailing. The second lot of rain was less heavy but just as the sun came out afterwards we noticed a fluffing on the water behind us like a shoal of fish on the surface, there were even Gannets diving into it. We were motoring past Matiatia Bay with a mainsail, and soon found that the ripples on the water were made by a nasty wind which was whipping the surface and heading straight for us from behind. It was however approaching us faster than any possible fish movement and looking rougher by the second.

It then became clear that we were about to be hit from behind by a small twister. It hit us square on ripping the main sheet out of the cleats, lifting and turning the boat through 90 degrees and accelerating us to an incredible speed towards the coast - Pete had just about got the sheet caught and Pauline had a semblance of control before the winds reversed 180 degrees causing a high speed and virtually uncontrolled gybe before it has passed and all was quiet again. It probably only took 30 seconds in all. Lines had been lifted and dropped over the fishing rods which fortunately stayed in place although one of the boathooks was not to be found.

Whilst Pauline got us back on course Pete grabbed the camera and got a sequence of pictures just before the twister hit the coast showing how fast it was changing in shape with one clearly showing water being sucked up although we did not see any funnel cloud above. We saw another in the distance and rapidly dropped the main sail. It looked as if it passed close to or over a stationary fishing tinny, but he seemed undamaged by the experience. A close look over the sail and rigging showed only minor damage to a couple of pulleys on the main sheet with the sail itself looking intact. We motor sailed back to wharf at Kennedy Point, unloaded an put Almarge back on her mooring. If we had been a long way out at sea I am sure we would have been able to work round the damage and after that sort of interesting experience we would now be happy to take Almarge almost anywhere in almost any conditions - the Lodestars were designed to be capable of round the world trips although that is beyond our current aspirations!When we reached the mooring we had completed 26.3 nautical miles.

We had an excellent time and managed to sail under a wide variety of conditions, all reefs and all quarters plus various exercises to gain familiarity such a heaving to, anchoring under sail and departing under sail. Almarge sails beautifully and we would now be confident that we could take her anywhere we have been so far. There are differences of course and with the small rudder and broad beam she is definitely less maneuverable and in light winds one sometimes needs to gybe rather than tack. Reversing off a wharf is less easy but the ease of setting sails with the huge safe working area is delightful. I would not be confident to reverse Almarge into a marina berth which I did later in the year on Zig Zag in the Sounds but with the shallow draft who needs marinas!

We got back to Auckland the following day and then split, Pauline drove down to Napier, a six hour drive, whilst Pete flew down in the Catalina from Ardmore to Napier airport where she will be flying in association with the Art Deco Festival. A large number of Catalinas (3200) were built in the war but less than 100 survive and under 20 remain airworthy of which only this one is certificated for passenger flights. The large observation blisters at the back have almost as good a view forwards as the pilots and better in every other direction. The Catalinas had many roles, they were thought of by many as intelligence and rescue aircraft but 70% of their missions were offensive against shipping and mine laying. They were painted black for night operations and known as the Black Cats. They were slow with a cruising speed of 112 knots (max 162 knots) but had a long endurance (26 hours) and range carrying out raids and mining as far away as Hong Kong. After the war many were converted for fire-fighting by water bombing as well as for passenger carrying.

It was fantastic flight although a little rough through the mountains after Taupo where one was looking up at mountain tops and down at clouds as we wove through the valleys. The first part was much smoother and Pete spent most of the time lounging in the blisters taking the occasional video or picture. The trip was very fast, only just over an hour from take-off to over Napier although we did a tour of the area to wake everybody up and make them aware she had arrived. There was a very strong tailwind and although the usual cruise is only 112 Knots we had a ground speed averaging 150 knots. Pauline just got there in time to see Pete land.

Napier now known as The Art Deco Capital of the World started life as a copy of an English seaside resort. It is renowned for its warm sunny climate, location in Hawke's Bay and its Marine Parade is lined with tall pines. It had fine hotels, botanical gardens and bands playing in a rotunda in the square. All that was to change at 1045 on Tuesday, 3rd of February 1931 when a violent earthquake struck - in less than three minutes Napier crumpled to ruins. Both Chemist shops caught fire and a brisk easterly wind spread the flames. The earthquake destroyed almost every water pipe and the fire brigade could do little and only a small area was saved from the flames. The earthquake registered 7.9 on the Richter scale and 258 people were killed mostly by falling masonry from highly decorated buildings with overhanging structures.

Napier the Victorian town was gone and England offered no inspiration to the re-builders with their clean slate in 1931 but the architectural journals of America were full of interesting ideas in particular Modernism which we now know as Art Deco. Nowhere else do we find so many similar style buildings built over a period of only a couple of years to a common plan. Many of the buildings remain and even in the time we have been going to Napier the restoration and painting has further enhanced the city. It is well worth staying in Napier for a day or two to savour the atmosphere. It is also an excellent centre for the Hawke's Bay area, famous for its wines. There are references to an excellent book on Art Deco Napier and links to web sites on our site - search for Napier or Art Deco.

from the airfield just in time to get ready to attended our initial function of the Art Deco Weekend - the Opening Soiree which officially opens each Art Deco Weekend. Deco dress was de rigueur and everyone was showing off their finery. There was a complimentary glass of Brookfields wine. There followed the usual speeches by the organisers, the local MP, the Navy and the Mayor. Then it was open house for a light meal - good value for $20 and an indication of the real enthusiasm of locals and visitors and the scale of the event. We had booked in October as many functions, including the Opening Soiree, are popular and can be fully booked within days of booking starting. After the soiree had finished we strolled down the Marine Parade and admired the many vintage cars now parked along the Parade and throughout the centre of town and listened to the bands in the sound shell.

One of the major problem in attending the Art Deco weekend is choosing between the many overlapping activities. On earlier years we have concentrated on the buildings and tours such as 'Deep in the Art of Deco', a guided tour through 12 of the best classic Art Deco buildings most of which are normally not open to visitors. These tours inside the buildings have given us an excellent overview which one can not get from books alone. There are other tours which involve walks round the various districts but they can to some extent be duplicated using the excellent Heritage Trails information sheets so we did not book any of the tours this year.

We have taken two steam train trips in the past so we decided to give them a miss this year although we did regret not be able to arrive early enough to take the all day trip to Wairoa on the Thursday. Last year we went across to the station to see the steam train depart and Pete got a super picture of it leaving with lights on and the engine emerging from a mass of steam - we showed it to the manager of the Art Deco Trust and we found they had used it in several places in their publicity.

Saturday was the day the Queen Victoria was due in for her maiden visit - we had done some matchmaking last year because neither the Art Deco Trust nor Cunard were aware of the overlap. Cunard appeared to have ignored the opportunity and the passengers were completely unaware of the Art Deco Festival - perhaps they would not have taken so many tours if they had known. The opposite was true of Napier and aerobatic displays were laid on as she arrived and many of the old cars paraded past. We joined up with Dennie, a friend who was on the Queen Victoria for the afternoon.

We missed the Vintage car parade through the centre of town which is an absolute must on ones first visits. We have however seen it twice and have hours of video and hundreds of pictures already. It is however where one really begins to understand the scale of the weekend. This year there were over 300 cars, mostly from the 1920s and 1930s all in showroom condition as well as being in full on-the-road condition. There were also many other vintage cars from a later period, many brought from England, which did not qualify for the parade but still added character to the town - everywhere one walked there were old cars gleaming in the sun.

The parades are always led by the Royal New Zealand Navy band. The Navy takes their relationship with Hawke's Bay very seriously because of the presence of HMS Veronica in the port when the earthquake struck and the important and courageous work done by the Navy in the days that followed. We got back into town with Dennie after the formal parade had finished but in time to see all the cars on display ready for the judging to be announced in the Sound Shell at 1500 and we had a chance to look at the ones we had not found earlier round the town.

Some of the functions are very popular but this year we got in as soon as they opened bookings and once again secured a place at the Charleston Dinner Dance at Brookfields Winery for the Saturday Night. We were collected from town by a red double decker bus ex-London. Compared to last year we were a little disappointed; the portions were small and the wine more expensive, perhaps they had different contractors in this year. We will give it a miss for a year. The return trip on the top deck of the bus was an exceedingly jolly affair with much singing after the bus driver turned the lights out to try to silence everyone.

In the morning we went to Brunch with the Navy at the Thirsty Whale which used to be one of the New Zealand Shipping Co Ltd warehouses. Last year we sat with Chris Holmes, the Captain who commands the Devenport site and had a number of interesting discussions with him and his wife who is a teacher. This year we stayed downstairs so we could listen to the Navy band and found we were sharing the table with them so we gained a different set of insights. It is a function we will repeat - it is well worth while with lots of interesting conversations as well as the brunch which this year was on a self service basis so we managed to contain the damage.

We were planning to go out to Esk Valley to buy some wine and have a chat to Sue but decided that we should stop off at the airfield on the way to see how they were getting on with the Catalina. We found there was a spare single seat they could not fill on the next flight so Pauline got to fly the Catalina as well. She got a grandstand view of the Art Deco Festivities from above and a few of the pictures of the centre of town showing the crowds are below.

We had barely got back to the hotel room and started into town when the flying displays started - they including aerobatics from 5 Harvards followed by the RNZAF display team, the Red Checkers who put on a nice display with their 5 trainers including many of the set piece close passes and formation aerobatics with smoke - it was a perfect day with little wind or convection to destroy their writing in the sky.

The Gatsby Picnic is to many the highlight and archetypal event of the Art Deco Weekend and Pauline had spent much time in antique and junk shops over the years gathering together suitable attire and equipment. Every area of grass from the War Memorial centre to the Sound Shell is filled with elegantly laid out picnics many under gazebos and taking many hours to set up. Some look more as if an elegant period living room has been transplanted to the shoreline complete with period furniture and wind up gramophones. The owners of the elegant displays finally settle at about 1430 in full 1930s attire to sip their tea from delicate china or more often indulge in a glass of champagne from cut glass and indulge in a few of the tiny sandwiches and little cakes and delicacies displayed on the multi-tiered cake stands and curved gleaming chrome tea trolleys. The Jazz band strikes up in the Sound Shell and vintage cars pull up bringing more guests to the picnic. As the afternoon progresses there are strolling groups of players mixing with television cameras and judges. The prime slots are filled early in the day, we suspect it is like an English sale in the morning.

Last year we set up our table and chairs for our relatively simple tea down by the sea front. Pauline had been building a collection for this throughout the years so we had bone china cups and saucers and a vintage crochet-edged linen table cloth, originating from Pete's mother, although we had to settle for a thermos jug of coffee to go with our plates of cakes and scones. This year we were still so full after our Brunch that we decided to forego our own picnic and to just admire those of others.

The last of the formal events is the return of the Veronica Bell and thanksgiving service at 1700. The Veronica Bell, from the HMS Veronica, is installed in the Veronica Sun Bay on the Marine parade for the afternoon, guarded by sea scouts and is then carried back in a procession led by the Royal New Zealand Navy Band to the St John's Cathedral where the thanksgiving service follows. We tried to get into the service but found that people must have been queuing for hours.

The saga continues in Part 2 - the Backroads from Napier - the Inland Patea and the Forgotten World Highway, Mountain House and walks round Mt Egmont, Wanganui and Wellington

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