We arrived in Whangarei a week ago for boat maintenance. Since then, I've helped with a few boat jobs, but I've spent most of my time volunteering for a local family and exploring the surrounding area.
As I mentioned in my previous post, after the boat was hauled out of the water at Dockland 5 Services in Whangarei, my Hosts (Clare and Aaron) picked me up and took me to their home, just a couple of kilometers away.
I stayed with Clare and Aaron for four nights in their guest unit – a fully equipped one-bedroom apartment at the rear of their property. During the week, I helped them tidy up their garden by weeding, pruning, and raking. (You can find their rental listing on Airbnb here.)
Upon arriving at their house, I was going to immediately get to work, but Clare and Aaron first welcomed me with a cup of coffee, and then a cold beer!
I still put in two hours of work that first day, and was then rewarded with a tasty home cooked meal of meat, potatoes, and vegetables. It’s going to be a good week, I thought!
And it was. I found the gardening to be very therapeutic. I methodically weeded and pruned and raked, then hauled the clippings and leaves across the road to an empty lot. The weather generally cooperated. Even when it rained, it was more of a constant drizzle – nothing that my rain shell, work pants, and boots couldn’t handle.
Each day, I worked about 8:00am to 1:00pm, stopped for lunch, and then had the afternoons and evenings off. I've included a few "before" and "after" pictures here. While the work may not seem like much, my contribution enabled Clare and Aaron to focus on a local business they were in the process of acquiring, instead of worrying about overdue yard work.
In my downtime, I explored the small town of Whangarei (locally nicknamed “Whanga-rainy”). It’s very industrial, with a lot of auto and marine shops and also big box retailers (comparable to Costco or The Home Depot).
There is a “cruising community” of sailors moored in the Town Basin area, an area which caters to those sailors by providing touristy cafes, restaurants, and art galleries. There is also more of a locals’ downtown area that is (sort of) bustling during weekday hours; but on the evenings and weekends, it’s really, REALLY quiet. I struggled Sunday evening to find a place open for dinner!
Nearly by process of elimination (because everything else was either closed or empty), I typically had the same routine in the evenings. Dine at Mean’s Vietnamese Café or Turkish Delight Café and then venture over to the one decent pub, McMorrissey’s, for live music, a few games of pool, and a few Guinness beers.
We were supposed to be here for just the week, however due to rain delays, we’ve now stayed through the weekend. As of today, Monday, the boat still isn’t ready, and we may need another couple of days for the anti-fouling paint to be applied and dried. We are leveraging the time by doing other boat jobs. Today, for example, we lowered the dinghy to have a possible leak repaired. Tomorrow we’ll take the dinghy's outboard motor in to be serviced to make sure it's in top working condition. (I posted a short time-lapse video of our activities today. You can view it here. Most exciting part is at the 1:00 mark for the anti-fouling spray. Unfortunately I missed the first coat application, so this second coat isn't as dramatic a color change.)
Meanwhile, my volunteering gig has ended. My Hosts had other guests coming into town. So I’ve resorted to the local Bella Vista Motel. It’s convenient, but a little out of my intended budget.
I’ve emailed other possible Hosts for volunteering, but have not received any responses. So I’ll continue to stay in the motel. (I could stay on the boat, but it’s a little scary while it’s hoisted 7-feet out of the water and precariously balancing on its keel and side support struts.)
Without the volunteering, I find myself passing time strolling around the marina looking at all the boats and taking a few nature walks in the surrounding hills. My favorite hike was adjacent to the Whangarei Quarry Gardens which included a historic "pa" or Maori fortification overlooking the entire river valley.
I joke about being "stuck" in Whangarei. There just isn't a whole lot going on here. But after a week here, I have to admit the little town has grown on me a bit. The city has done a nice job renovating the river front boardwalk, and there are plenty of parks around.
BUT, I'm still anxious to get sailing again. We might head south to Auckland again for a final inspection and supply run, then back up north and on to Fiji. Wind and weather will be key factors of course. For now, we're just taking it day by day in Whangarei...