Posted by: Carol | January 8, 2009

Auckland and Waiheke Island

2009 New Zealand

p174027603-2We had a perfect trip over to New Zealand – although there’s nothing to be done about the length of time it takes to get here!  We left the house around 1 p.m. (let’s not discuss the part about me getting stuck in the truck in the middle of Sabino Creek, requiring a tow truck for a rescue!).  We laid over several hours in LA, then boarded our Air New Zealand flight for the 13 hour trip to Auckland.  Door to door (our house to hotel) travel time was about 22 hours.  The good news is that the departure time from LAX at 7:30 p.m. allowed for a nice dinner with wine, a movie, followed by a good night’s sleep, waking just in time to land at 5:25 a.m. in New Zealand, except an entire day lost in the process.  Either way, having had a good night’s sleep on the plane, we arrived awake and ready to go.

Since we arrived too early to check into our hotel, we set off on foot to wander around Auckland’s waterfront, especially Viaduct Basin where the marine industries are located.  At 1:30 we had an appointment at North Sails to talk about a new concept for an emergency “get home” system to install on the new FPB64 in case of an engine failure at sea.  It is, of all things, a kite sail!   Enormous versions of these are already in commercial use on heavy cargo ships, providing a 20% savings in overall fuel for ships that go through 10,000 gallons (or liters, not sure which, but still a lot) of fuel EACH DAY!  Interesting info at Skysails website .

We had a nice visit with two sharp young engineers, one of which was on his way to Singapore the following day to sell the concept to the Volvo high performance Round-The-Globe racers.  In addition to a good discussion of the project and it’s concepts and stage of development, we were also given a tour of the “loft” – a slightly archaic term as this is a huge warehouse where sails are cut and assembled.  Raven’s mainsail measures some 800-900 square feet, and large megayachts could easily have a sails with square footage the size of a house.

By late afternoon we were fading fast, so hiked back to our hotel to check in.  On this trip we’ve elected to stay in small boutique hotels recommended by our travel agent, but were still startled to find a grand piano and a fireplace in our room!  Mollie’s Hotel is a lovely old Victorian house owned by opera afficiados.  Opera played throughout the buildings day and night, with a short live performance each night before dinner.  A little different from the usual Holiday Inn experience.

The food was delectable, and we are going to have to do a lot of walking to keep from putting on some vacation pounds!  And New Zealand capuccino puts Starbucks to shame!  Fortunately we’re signed up later in the trip for a five day walking tour of Abel Tasman Park on the south island which should burn a few calories – so we’re trying to get fitted up for that adventure now by using our feet as our primary mode of transportation.

True to that premise, the following day we caught the ferry to Waiheke island, a 35 minute commute from downtown Auckland.  It is an idyllic island studded with art studios, wineries, and multi-million dollar estates in a pastoral landscape.  Our morning adventure was a guided 4-hour sea kayaking tour along the Waiheke coast – Mike and I sharing a two-seater hard shelled kayak.  It was an interesting comparison to the inflatables we use aboard Raven.  We kayaked some 14 kilometres round-trip with a short beach stop where our guide cooked up some capuccinos over a little propane heater.

For the remainder of our day on Waiheke, we hiked around the bay to Cable Bay Winery, enjoyed an elegant late lunch/early dinner at the winery accompanied by Cable Bay’s own label of wine, then tramped back to catch the 4:45 p.m. ferry back to Auckland.  And from there we hoofed back to our hotel.  Our bathtub had a spa feature and it really felt good by the end of that day!

Thursday we checked out of our Auckland hotel and drove to Whangarei where we will be for the next six nights.  Driving of course is on the “wrong” side of the road, requiring some mental gymnastics to navigate the highways until we get used to it again.  The real giveaway for us as Americans is that we are constantly turning on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal!

Today we plan to find some more hiking trails, and at some point we will drop in on Circa Marine and get our first look at the new FPB64 hull under construction.  Very exciting!  We have more in-depth visits scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, including fabric and color selections and I’m sure lots of technical discussions for Mike to enjoy.

Hope this new blog works well as a means of communication!  Any problems, let me know.  And be sure to click on the link at the beginning of this post to see the photos.


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