Orcas at the Te Pahi Islands on Christmas Eve

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On Christmas Eve, as we were sipping our margaritas in the cockpit, we received a fine Christmas gift of a pod of Orcas swimming along the shore nearby, then right past ADAGIO. It looked as if the Orcas were catching sting rays, which is their favorite food. We had both of our SLR digital cameras at the ready by the cockpit door, one fitted with 17-85mm and the other with 70-300mm lenses. Between the two of us we managed to get a few photos of actual Orcas – not just “where the Orca used to be” or “what is that blurry splash?”.
These Orcas were not as large as the ones we have seen in the San Juan Islands and in British Columbia.  There was at least one baby, swimming close to its mom.  I think they were females except possibly one young male.  Theirs is a matriarchal society, and the family stays together for many years.  One of the photos shows the tail flukes in the air of a very young Orca next to its mom.  You will also see that one of the Orcas has a golden-brown patch on its dorsal fin.  
After the Orcas had swum away, I telephoned Ingrid Visser, New Zealand’s (and the world’s) Orca expert on her Orca sighting hotline (0800SEE ORCA).  Ingrid answered the phone and I described our sighting. She has photo identified all of the Orcas in New Zealand, and studied Orcas in Antarctica and elsewhere.  She said that she and her team of Orca researchers will try to come up to this area soon, to follow up on our sighting and to try to find the Orcas again. We will send her all of our best Orca photos so that Ingrid can send us the names of the Orcas.  
Ingrid’s web site is orcaresearch.org, and her work was featured in a very interesting BBC documentary last year. Having read her book “Swimming with Orca” twice it was time to send to our granddaughter to enjoy.

2013 Holiday Newsletter

ADAGIO had a break from passage making this year while we took a bit of a holiday from boat maintenance. Only a three month break, but a healthy work-play balance we think.

January and February we spent aboard ADAGIO, continuing her 13 year refit at the Town Basin in Whangarei, New Zealand. With the help of Dave Berg, we applied new coats of varnish to our interior bright work. Steve Eichler worked his magic repairing and improving refrigeration to deck hatches to galley functions. Palmer Canvas replaced most of ADAGIO’s exterior canvas. We had our anchor chain re-galvanized. We replaced our 13-year-old Mastervolt inverter and one of our Mastervolt chargers. And rebuilt our Spectra water maker.

Doyle Sails built a new reacher-screecher and Solent jib, and repaired some manufacturing defects in our almost-new mainsail. Steve redesigned and rebuilt the drive mechanism in our mainsail boom furler. Town Basin is an excellent refitting location: almost everything we needed was within a bicycle ride, and a pleasant riverside location in the CBD of Whangarei.

Our social lives were filled with new friends from many different countries, including Norway, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Estonia, England, France, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and more.

On 10 March we departed Whangarei for the Bay of Islands, and sailed in light breeze to our first anchorage in Assassination Cove just east of Ururupukapuka Island. In the morning we sailed to Te Puna Inlet to anchor with MAGIC DRAGON. Wine and nibbles with Jane and Shelly DeRidder in ADAGIO’s cockpit brought us back to what is best about the cruising life — time spent with good friends.

Beautiful, still mornings interspersed with bouts of wind and rain, with outbreaks of sunshine. Welcome swallows on our lifelines. Terns and Australasian Gannets diving around the boat. Oystercatchers flying busily across the bay, crying out their distinctive calls and a honey bee or two drinking from the dew drops on ADAGIO’s coach roof. Cormorants popping their heads out of the water occasionally, coming up for a breath of fresh air, and fish leaping free of the water to escape the hungry Cormorants. The little Morepork Owls hooting to each other across the inlet, and Shining Cuckoos serenading us from the hills. We sit in ADAGIO’s cockpit, enjoying the sunsets, occasionally taking a photo as the colors develop then fade. All the while, the local racing boats are silhouetted against the far shoreline, or gliding past where we are at anchor.

Our friends Adrian and Josephine came aboard for a four day cruise. We had joined them aboard Adrian’s Dutch barge in France two years previously, and this was the first time Adrian had sailed aboard ADAGIO. Visits to Urupukapuka Island and the Te Pahi Islands were very popular with the crew. It was fortuitous to have Adrian aboard when the lower mainsail batten popped out the aft end of its improperly stitched batten pocket. Adrian’s height, as he stood on our low stool, placed on the bow of the dinghy, enabled him to reach the batten and pull it safely out of the sail.

We had last seen our friend Commodore Tompkins in Mooloolaba, Australia. Following the great fun we enjoyed together in Town Basin, Commodore  invited us for a visit to the Craig Partridge yard in Waipapa where Commodore is undertaking a major refit of his unique Tom Wylie designed FLASHGIRL. Commodore is doing most of the work, while Craig takes on the jobs that require his specialized skills and equipment. Adjacent to C Partridge Yachts is Ian Stewart’s yachting painting operation – which has contributed to FLASHGIRL’s flash appearance.

We secured ADAGIO between pile moorings in June and flew to the US to visit family and friends. A quick trip to Texas for a family get together. Then we stayed with friends and with our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren in California. Such a busy family, and we joined in all their activities. Dorothy’s sister and her husband arrived to visit their new granddaughter. We rode our bicycles all around the area of Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Stanford campus. Dorothy joined Kim for Zumba classes. The new Exploratorium in San Francisco was an extraordinary experience. Our grandson turned sixteen years of age, and performed on his cello for us. Our granddaughter turned thirteen and invited us to watch her riding lessons, her lacrosse games and her violin playing. We shared with our family many music concerts in Menlo Park and on the Stanford campus.

In July, the precursor to the Americas Cup races, the Louis Vuitton Cup, began on San Francisco Bay. From the beach at Chrissy Field, we had easy access to watching the catamarans zipping past, while our granddaughter and her golden retriever cavorted on the beach in the foreground.

In August our grandson played cello in the orchestra and in an ensemble with violin and piano at the music concert at Cazadero Music Camp.

It was time for us to begin taking the Americas Cup racing seriously, so from Menlo Park, we took Caltrain to San Francisco and walked to the AC Park. We watched one of the Louis Vuitton races between ETNZ and PRADA, mostly on the big screen, sipping NESPRESSO coffees, then live at the finish line. The Kiwis won again, as we enthusiastically waved our New Zealand flags.

As clients of the New Zealand marine industry we were invited to a special event at the Emirates Team New Zealand AC72 base. We watched the racing at the America’s Cup Park, then scampered on foot down to the ETNZ base just as the AOTEAROA was being hoisted out of the water by crane, the wing sail lifted off, and the hulls and wing being rolled into their “hangers”. Beautifully and calmly executed – the team made this complex and risky operation look easy.

This was followed by a seminar including talks by the NZ Consul, the lawyer for the team, one of the team’s technical gurus, and more. We learned a lot about what it takes to organize and execute a challenge for the Americas Cup.

Commodore and Nancy Tompkins invited us to join them for AC34 racing at the home of old friend from Reed College, overlooking San Francisco Bay from Pacific Heights. Live viewing plus television coverage plus viewing the AC app on our iPads, gave us all the coverage we could have wished for. With lunch on the tables nearby. What a life!

Our daughter organized a visit to the open house at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. We saw impressive remotely operated vehicles, and had access to the engineers who designed and built them, and to the operators who drive them. Kim took us to art galleries, parks, events, music performances, and more. Such fun!

The Americas Cup Finals began on 7 September. We watched every race, until we flew to New Zealand on 14 September. In New Zealand the Emirates Team New Zealand efforts were the focus of intense discussions in the sailing circles. Every race day we joined our Town Basin sailors for a tight-knit group that were all on the empathy frequency with ETNZ. Without ETNZ, Oracle’s efforts to bring the cup to San Francisco would have been much less of a spectacle. New Zealand made the entire series a big success by providing real competition, displaying admirable sportsmanship and by showing all of the other teams how to foil the AC72’s.

From the New Zealand Herald, “Despite the loss by Emirates Team New Zealand at the 34th Match to Oracle Team USA, Auckland City gave them a phenomenal welcome home on October 4. Over 11,000 amazing fans lined the wharves of downtown Auckland and filled Shed 10 and the cloud on Queens Wharf.”

After another six weeks of boat projects at the marina in Whangarei, we enjoyed a lively and fun sail north to the Bay of Islands. We shifted from one anchorage to another, depending upon the forecast wind direction in the blustery spring weather. When near our old hometown of Russell we made daily dinghy rides to the dock at the friendly Russell Boating Club. From there we walked and bicycled into town for mocha coffees and free WiFi, grocery shopping and visiting with friends.

Click the thumbnail for complete gallery of the newsletter photos!

Cruising with friends among the Bay of Islands and exploring ashore in the mornings or afternoons. We climbed to the ridge tops to enjoy the expansive vistas across the bays and beaches to the shores and “mountains” in the distance, with white sails dotting the waters. The trails were well sign-posted and quite civilized under foot. Away from the mainland, the water was crystal clear. Billowing Pohutukawa trees graced the shoreline, covered with buds, ready to form bright red blossoms at Christmas. The beaches slope gradually up the shore, making landing and launching a dinghy an easy job. It is wonderful to be enjoying cruising again.

We plan to continue to sea trial all of ADAGIO’s systems over the next few months. Departure for our second passage to Alaska is planned for April or May. Our trusty crew mates have already signed on for the adventure.

Wishing you Very Happy Holidays, Safe Travels, Many Adventures,
and Lots of Love,

Dorothy and Steve