Ted’s new job- Preparing Southern Star for the South Pacific

When I ‘retired’ from my job at Garmin at the end of the year, I pictured spending time on the boat doing those projects that have been on my ‘To Do’ list forever. This included polishing the flybridge cowling, re-painting the aluminum door frames, re-finishing the teak cap rail in the cockpit, and having a sneaky beer. But since splashing (relaunching after being in the boat yard) after the 5-week stay at Oram’s, I have been as busy as a one-armed paper hanger. And I still have not had a chance to do these nice improvement jobs.

Preparing to depart for the long trip to the South Pacific- to Fiji specifically has kept me super busy just running down administrative jobs, grabbing parts, and doing the odd repair job. I need to get the boat fully prepared for the trip. This means, of course, updating so many items, that I thought we had just done a few years ago.  

The fire extinguishers were all out of date and needed to be replaced. The flares were also out of date and needed to be replaced. The life raft (purchased in mid-2019 at the Ft Lauderdale Boat Show) needs to be re-certified. The EPIRB (emergency positioning device) was out of date, and the technology was too old- so a new GPS-enabled EPIRB was purchased. The EPRIB that lives in the ditch bag- same story. I replaced it with a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) also GPS enabled. I was updating the Offshore First Aid kit. I had to take our SCUBA gear to a dive store to have it serviced (it hurt to pay someone to do what I did for over 20 years).

We joined the Island Cruising Pacific Rally for the trip. We are not really ‘Rally people’, but we have found that this, so far, has been an excellent resource. We have met another member going to Fiji on his Nordhavn 63, David and Kathy. There are also at least two other Nordhavns joining the rally from Australia. The Rally, run by Viki Moore, has been a wealth of good information, reviews, and contacts. https://www.islandcruising.nz/home

I have reached out to several insurance brokers to try to get some Blue Water insurance options, that are affordable. This is ongoing- and has taken a huge effort- as every time I have to fill in a new set of forms and submit them. I think I have narrowed it down to one agency- Pantaenius.The annual premium is eye-watering. But there is little choice.

We updated our Offshore Medical Kit- using the preferred medical supplier. We’ve watched some training videos for preparing for offshore work- a good review for us. Jenny recently did a First Aid Course through work.

We signed up with a crowdsource scientific research project, called Citizens of the Sea. This project uses cruising boats, super yachts, commercial trawlers, and fishing boats to gather DNA data from ocean water samples.  https://www.citizensofthesea.org/news/edna-is-powering-a-new-wave-of-citizen-science.  The interesting thing about this is that they are a part of the Sea Keepers Organization. My old boss, John Englander who owned Dive Provo in the Turks and Caicos Islands, was the CEO of Sea Keepers some years ago. I recall him mentioning this project more than 25 years ago. It’s a small world.

So, my retirement from an income-earning role has grown into unpaid General Manager of Southern Star.  I am doing administrative work daily, following up on quotes, on purchase orders. I am running around dropping off equipment for updates or repairs, or picking up more gear. I ordered new ‘boat cards’ with our current contacts; and ordered a ‘boat stamp’ for officials who like to have the official registration # stamped on their customs forms.

We have also been busy provisioning for the potentially 5-6-month cruise. Vikki’s rally has the information for the customs and bio-security requirements going into Fiji. We learned we cannot take any pork into the country, and all meats need to be packaged and labeled with the origin, preferably ‘New Zealand’ or ‘Australia’. This is irritating, as we have always bought in bulk and repackaged into smaller portions, saving space in the freezer, and ridding lots of packaging trash, that will now need to be disposed of in Fiji, potentially at some cost.

Last weekend we drove out to Onehunga (South Auckland) to purchase a Lava-lava for me to wear in Fiji villages when we meet the Village Chiefs to seek their permission to anchor in their local waters, access their beaches, and any island walks.

I am also doing essential maintenance projects on the boat. I had to do some work on the wing engine last week. I needed to get the water maker technician in, to repair the Clark pump. I needed to splice new lines on the fenders.

So retired life has not been quite as relaxing as I pictured. Today is an admin day, and I carve out some time, to write this post. I want to get more focused on writing and sharing this experience.

I spoke to my middle sister, Martyne the other day on WhatsApp. It was an interesting discussion, as the true impact of where we are planning to go hit her. She quizzed me relentlessly on how we were going to remain in contact. Who can she call to find out if all is ok on the boat? Who do we call if we have an issue? Is there a Sea Tow service that will come and get us, if we have a breakdown?

Her concerns, which I think I was able to alleviate, brought home to me, the gravity of the trip. And it also reinforced for me the reason that I am working full time now on the project ‘Southern Star’.

We went to Christchurch last weekend to see Jenny’s mom. It was a special and poignant weekend saying goodbye. We are realistic with our plans, and they may well include a return to NZ before our winter trip ends. Eleanor, at 93 years old, is very old-school re-communications. She does text but has no email or internet. So, we showed her grandkids and others how to track and communicate with us.

So, part of preparing to go offshore, besides preparing the boat and yourself, is to share this preparedness with others who are concerned and care about you.  I hope that we can do this, temper the fear of the unknown and replace it with the spirit and excitement of the adventure ahead.

One of the most reassuring tools in the tool chest is the ability to communicate. This is due to Starlink, which we have been using now on the boat for 5-6 months. We have traveled out of the Auckland region and it has worked flawlessly. Reports from other cruisers show that it works very well in the Islands. Jenny is continuing to work out her notice period, logging in remotely from wherever we are, including while underway, to attend meetings, and perform her role.

With Starlink, we have tracking via the Predict Wind app, which we have subscribed to. Predict wind offers real-time weather information. Weather is the single most critical item that can affect our trip, both from a safety or more likely a comfort perspective.

https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/MV-SouthernStar

The App also has weather departure route planning.  So, this is an amazing tool.

The Rally also uses a weather router, which will track the Rally fleet and act as a point of contact for us if anyone needs assistance.

Within the next week or so, we plan to leave Auckland for the Bay of Islands. We have reservations in Opua, where we kept our old sailboat, Defiant, for over 10 years. So, it will be nostalgic to go back to our old home marina, but instead with our amazing Nordhavn.  In Opua, we will meet others involved in the Rally. We are going to do some training for the Citizens of the Sea project… and we will wait for the weather window so that we can head northwards to the Pacific.

In the meantime, we continue to make plans and are planning to make a stop at Minerva Reefs (named after a whaling ship that foundered on her reefs in 1829) en route to Fiji. Fiji is approximately 1100 miles from Opua. Minerva Reefs is made up of two atolls that rise from the deep Pacific Ocean, with a semi-closed circular coral reef that just breaks the surface at low tide. Minerva is about 700 miles from Opua, and should (hopefully) offer us a rest from the otherwise 7–8-day ocean passage to Fiji.  https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/empire-of-the-sea/

We hope to spend a few days there, with some diving and snorkeling activities, and then finish the last leg to Savusavu (Fijian pronunciation: [saβusaβu]), where we will clear into Fiji and receive our cruising permit. This should be another 3-day passage from Minerva. From there… we are island cruising mon.

Fiji’s Hidden Paradise

I am now finishing this article from the wheelhouse, after our two-day hop from Auckland to Kawau Island to Whangarei. After all the planning and preparation (and expense) it is beginning to feel ‘real’ now.

I need to get back to work. Bula.

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