Cyclone Gabrielle Comes to Gulf Harbor

We had a nice brisk downwind sail from Great Barrier to Gulf Harbor. The wind was starting to pick up, but when it’s behind you, 25 knots is actually quite comfortable. Less so when we pointed into the wind to take the genoa down, outside the marina entrance. Even protected by the peninsula, we had a bit more wave action up at the bow than we’d have preferred, and we definitely weren’t going to get that thing folded cleanly. We got it down, and rolled it into a huge ball, which sat in the cockpit and got in the way.

Once we got into the marina the wind was a good deal calmer, which is good because we had to turn around in the narrow fairway when we realized that the slip they had booked for us was absolutely not going to fit us. It went fine, but it was a bit of a spectacle, with Jazz holding a spring line around a piling and shouting (ignored) directions to a dock hand, while Andrew tried to eke steerage out of the stern drive leg. The lady in the office was surprisingly huffy about having to move us, when she came back after the weekend, as we had not told her our dimensions properly despite them being the very first thing we’d sent.

Anyway we were moved to the overflow “T” dock, which is far from all the marina’s services, but has the advantage of being spacious, far from most other boats, and a short walk to a couple of restaurants. Once we were tied up, we wasted no time in folding up the genoa and pulling down the rest of our canvas. It’s weird seeing Villa so naked.

T dock is adjacent to a walking trail, so Captain got to get off the boat for the first time in what felt like ages, and stretch his paws.

He’s not the only animal to go through there on a leash, which means he got to do some intense staring and guarding the boat.

At this point the storm was still a day away, so we were getting a bit of bluster but not yet rain. The forecast was showing its projected path essentially following our boat’s trail, as is our traditional luck. But we were feeling pretty good about our tie-down, so we were fine taking a break from our preparations for a surprisingly good bowl of pho at Cherry Cafe. (We were also fine with all the nearby boats’ tie-downs, which helps with peace of mind, although we note with amusement that very few sailors here seem to know how to tie a cleat hitch.)

The storm came through, and brought lots of rain and a good bit of wind, though less than we’d been expecting. A few boats had sails come untied, and there were a few “high velocity gift exchanges”, but we didn’t hear about any really major damage in the marina. Outside was a different story, with several boats blown off their moorings or caught out in the storm surge. We remained safe and dry, if maybe a little cold around the ears, and took the time to go through some of our inventory for excess things. Probably we wouldn’t need our collection of old, half-broken phones any more, nor our assortment of Caribbean sim cards.

On night one of the storm, with the worst of the wind blowing through and shaking the trees like mad, we looked out our window and saw what looked to be a house on fire up the hill from us. We went outside to see better, and watched for a minute or two as it seemed, despite the light rainfall, to be growing bigger. The responsibility instilled in Jazz by her childhood in fire country kicked in, and we looked up roughly where it was on a map and called the local emergency line (111) to report. They said this was their first report(!), and assured us that a truck would be there in a few minutes. So we went over to tell our neighbor-friends on Paws Time… and it turned out that from two boats further down the dock, we could see what was actually happening: a tree had fallen, and its thrashing neighbors now only partially obscured a big, brightly lit bay window. So we called back to EMS, chagrined, to let them know it was a false alarm, and they thanked us for reporting and for calling back to recant. Unrelated, hopefully, we started to see some on-topic ads popping up…

On the second day of the storm, we visited our neighbors on Paws Time for a drink. Captain came along and made himself right at home. He loves exploring new spaces, so a visit to a new boat always makes him happy. An extra shout-out to Paws Time for telling us about the drop-off laundromat adjacent to Beer Spot, which two connected facts would both save us time and greatly improve our happiness.

We woke on the fifteenth to find that the storm had passed, and all Villa’s moving parts were still attached. So we set about putting Villa’s clothes back on, at which point we discovered that our brand new Profurl furler was not holding together properly. This was not a huge surprise: when we were putting it together back in Fiji, we had found that some of the joiners between the sections had been drilled wrong. We’d put it together anyway, having basically no other option, but instead of the screws holding it together fitting nicely into the pre-drilled holes in the joiners, they were basically just pressing into flat aluminum. Still, we’d expected it to hold up long enough to get warranty replacements going, so we were annoyed when the sections separated and we had to send Jazz up the mast to get the sail up. We got it done, though, and celebrated with a walk to the store via a slightly distressed walking trail. (A full write-up of our horrible experiences dealing with Kiwi Yachting will take up its own post later, but if you’re just reading this, steer clear of these idiot-clowns.)

And then we started packing. Or really, re-packing, because we’d done a lot of organizing into our storage bins earlier, but only just gotten our cardboard boxes along with the rental van we would use to take them to our new storage area. Andrew helpfully ordered plenty of boxes, but neglected to look at the sizes beyond “small” and “medium”, and it turned out that the “medium” box was too large to move around the boat. At least it fit through the door, barely. So Andrew set off to find more small boxes, which ended up being a saga of visiting different hardware stores where the boxes we needed were there, in the computer and in the store, but not available because they were on a high shelf and nobody there was certified to operate the right kind of forklift to get them down. Andrew hinted about a quick climb, and was pointedly told not to do that, please and thank you.

Anyway we did eventually find more boxes, and we packed lots of our homeward-bound gear into them and sent it off to the storage unit. Which helpfully had a freight elevator, making the journey out of the van much easier than the multiple dinghy rides over to the van from our remote dock.

We got the van back on time, and headed out to the nearby bar for a drink with the same neighbors and a couple of their friends. It turned out to be karaoke night, and Andrew may have slightly stolen the show. People were requesting that Andrew sing, and gave up their songs and even had their slots moved up so they could hear Andrew again.

We spent the next day showing the boat, and of course playing with Captain. We were treated to an excellent post-storm sunset, reflected in the finally-still water.

We had even more showings the next day. It turns out that giving detailed tours is really draining, not least because of all the sadness about parting with our baby. Every tour took at least two full and grueling hours of a mixture of compliments and questions, many of which were useless and stupid, leaving much fear for the future of our beloved Villa. So we had a nice relaxed evening, took the cat for a walk, and found an owl and another great sunset.

We took one more day in the marina, to get set up for cruising again and to wait for wind, and then it was off to Waiheke!

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