Saturday, April 22, 2017

Two Four Twenties

Flying from Alaska to Auckland no announcement was made that we were crossing the international date line, and that we would be in tomorrow, while it was still yesterday at home.
 Maybe no one said anything because the crew was just as tired as me  from being in an airplane for hours and hours, or maybe it because it was american airlines, and they really didn’t give a dam and figured you knew anyway.
Crossing the dateline on this ship we get not one but two 4/20’s and I think if we were a ship full of marijuana smokers this would be a really big deal, and everyone would be loaded for two full days, but since we are not I think all it will mean is that the ships  steam room still will be broken tomorrow even though it is still today, but I now have a nifty certificate to prove I crossed the dateline, and  alas the steam room is working on this the second 4/20.
The last day in New Zealand was spent in Auckland. Only this time I knew my way around a wee bit, and we had a list of chores, that included going to the Countdown supermarket and getting some pot set yogurt.

Dairy is a huge industry here, and I got to tell you the yogurt is excellent, nothing like the loaded with sugar stuff that passes for yogurt back home in amerika.
At the end of the day my compadres phone said we covered aboot 6 miles of the city that lots of New Zealanders say isn’t really a part of New Zealand. I guess they say that because Auckland is sprawling, large, and getting larger, and is very cosmopolitan.

No one seems to care that we are 7 billion or so going on 8 billion, so I guess the city will continue to grow, well at least until the human population crashes the environment.
Construction Auckland

Back on our Emerald ship we headed out of the harbor and out across the blue Pacific the burning of bunker fuel laid down a thick cloud of heavy  blue smoke that as it fell into the ocean contributed to climate change, but we are off to  Pago Pago an american territory, where according to New Zealanders the citizens  their drive on the wrong side of the road.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Dolphin 453

We made three crossings of the notorious rough Tasman Sea this voyage, and this last one the sea finally settled down from a raging full boil to just a mild simmer. Even Cook Strait turned out to be a smooth passage, and as we approached the more populated side of the north island the water flattened out to appear almost glass like in the early morning light. 

The passage was not without extreme hardship as we had to move from our luxurious “mini suite” on deck 9 up to a regular “balcony state room” on deck 11. The suite was a new experience and after moving upstairs I had no idea just how ghetto the regular rooms were. We had to ask for robes. The towels are thinner. We have no tub and are forced to bath in a shower, that doesn’t even have a “emergency call” cord. We have only one flat screen tvee, and no hide a bed couch with two throw pillows that our room steward would arrange twice a day so their corners would point up, and I would have to move to one end preferable the port end to rest my head.

Our first stop of this homeward bound voyage was the Capital city of Wellington. Our last time here it rained hard the entire day, but on this morning the skies were clear.

We took the port shuttle into town and got off at the first stop. It was still early in the day so coffee was needed, and luckily, we were near Cuba street that has many such establishments.
Water Scoop Fountain

It was still early and not many shops were open yet and some would not open at all as apparently having a day off in observance of the easter superstition is a big deal in Wellington. Fortunately, a heathen coffee shop that roasted their own beans was open and served a most excellent expresso beverage.

Public art is everywhere in Wellington. Some like the scoop fountain is just darn right fun, and other pieces like the metal sculpture on top of the Ta Papa museum darn right interesting.

On the plaza surrounding the Ta Papa museum the local VW car club was having a car show. Some rare and interesting models were on display, and lots of beetles.

Most of the cars were in pristine condition and only a couple were as well traveled as this blue one loaded down with matching luggage.

At the war memorial, a couple of fellows from the fire brigade were programing their drone to fly around the perimeter of the memorial, for what reason I don’t know but the chief was quite interesting to talk with, and had genuine grief that amerika was now being led by a man more insane than the ruler of North Korea.

It was a great day in Wellington, and aboot the time we walked up to the second shuttle stop the rain started. The stop just happened to be sheltered from the rain, so this time we arrived back at the ship dry.

Internet access on this ship is poor at best. Will post more as I can.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Globe Stumbling

Well I have been stumbling around the part of the globe that has Australian and New Zealand on it. This has involved several crossings of the Tasman Sea, today being the third such crossing.  When sailing, ships used to traverse the Tasman they would call it the roaring 40’ts in reference to the strong winds that always seem to blow here. Peaceful waters these are not.

Before sailing back to Sydney a few days ago, we sailed around the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island and into the national park Fiordland.
The weather as we sailed into Dusky Sound was perfect, the seas were perfectly flat, even the naturalist on board commented that in his 50 years of working in Fiordland this was a rare day indeed.

Dusky Sound
A pod of “Dusky Dolphins” led the way as we glided over the flat water. Like all fiords, the banks are very steep, and here support some of the last native plants thought to still be alive in New Zealand.

Making Wake

The park is also home to the Kakapo an endangered large flightless parrot and the Takahe a thought to be extinct flightless rail.
We sailed all day through Breaksea Sound, Doubtful Sound, Thompson Sound and finally Milford Sound where the ship waited for a few passengers who had gotten off the ship the other day and traveled overland to meet us here.
Fiordland is a natural gem in a country that has few wild places left. Cruising the flat water makes the stumbling days on the Tasman worthwhile.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Jostled At Sea

It was all so peaceful and serene as the harbor ferries stopped in their wake and the big ship swung off its berth and across the seaside of the Sydney opera house.

Not very far out to sea it started to rain, and the wind picked up

As we sailed back to New Zealand we met up with the remains of the cyclone, and so for two days we had force 5 winds and seas of 7 to 8 feet.

Auckland was old familiar, territory to us. It was even warm and sunny, and that made walking around seeking coffee and free wi fi even better. 

Sailing out of Auckland heading to Tauranga, where our mission was to paddle kayaks around thermal pools. We were gearing up for the adventure when the cabin phone rang, and we were told that the vendor canceled our adventure because of weather.

Tauranga is still a beautiful place even in the rain, that turned to pouring rain when we were aboot as far away from shelter as one could get. This is also the day when I suspected my motor company rain jacket might not be as waterproof as it once was.

No worries though as we sailed towards Gisborne, and our next adventure, that also got canceled as the ship was unable to run the tenders, required to get to shore, because of strong winds.

Again, no worries as we sailed to Wellington the capital of New Zealand. A capital city with a cruise port, that is not being used because it was damaged in the last earthquake. But the ship tied up to the industrial dock and we were bussed away to Zeelanda.

Zealanda encompasses all the land surrounding one of the former lakes used for the city’s water supply. The lakes were decommissioned because the dams lie right on the earthquake fault that damaged the cruise port. But Zealanda  is making the best of it by building a predator proof fence around the entire place, removing all the non-native plants, and restoring the habitat to its pre-European pristineness. They say they have only 500 more years to get the job done and seem in no way discouraged by the fact that humans only have aboot 100 or so years left on this planet.

Sailing out of Wellington the seas got angry. The local pilot was unable to get off the ship and crossing the Cook Strait and for most of the night we had force 9 winds and 12-15 foot seas. Needless to say, our next port Akaroa where tenders were required was our second missed port. The seas didn’t quiet down until the next morning approaching Port Chalmers.

Port Chalmers is a great place to spend some days. We only had one and rode the tour bus to Natures Wonders, where the previvors take you by bus or Argo down to the protected beach where fur seal pups frolic among the rocks.

They even have habitat for the Little Blue Penguin that was molting in its den high up the hillside.

The ship is headed to the bottom of the South Island today. Fiordland for “scenic cruising” then it’s back across the Tasman, back to Sydney for a turn around that will end up in San Pedro California.