April 2001
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Departing NZ - April 2001

Well, it has been a busy 6 months for us.  We sailed back to New Zealand early last cruising season to attend Jody and Brady's wedding (Jeff's sister/brother-in-law).  The wedding was wonderful.  We got to see lots of our family and meet our new family (mostly from the east coast.)  We stayed in Los Angeles from the end of October until mid-January so that we could enjoy the holidays.  It is our favorite time to be home because friends and family are off work and the kids - grandkids, nieces, nephews - are not in school.  We arrived back in New Zealand in mid January.

Los Angeles

Even though it seemed like it would be a long time in Los Angeles, it passed quite quickly.  One of things that really kept us busy was getting our product, the Watch Commander, off the ground.  Check out www.SailSafely.com when you get a chance.  We had a lot to learn and do to get it off the ground.  We got the circuit boards designed and tested, ordered all sorts of samples for packaging, identified parts and suppliers, getting a website up, etc.  Designing the circuit and making it work turned out to be the easy part.  Once we returned to NZ, we had to find some local suppliers for circuit boards, some parts, face plates, etc.  We built 25 units and sold them before we even got to ship any units to our commitments in the US.  We had to reorder parts to build more and it wasn't until April that we caught up and got stuff shipped to the US. 
 
While we were designing/debugging and running a factory inside Sea Witch, we also were getting the boat ready for this season.  We deferred so much work last season - basically, we fixed almost nothing during the cruising season - that we had almost no time to go touring in NZ.  Oh well.  We'll just have to come back here.   The boat runs from the next dock  to TiriTiri Island, a bird sanctuary and home to most of the remaining 200 Takahaes - large flightless birds that aren't scared of their predators; you don't have to wonder why there are only 200 left.
 
We did manage to have some fun here.  19 cruisers hit the go cart track for Alan on Heartsong's birthday.  It was amazing to see how aggressive adults can get when turned loose like that.  No thought was given to running a close friend off the track or slamming into him to get by in a turn.  A similar size group descended on the bowling alley.  And, we all tried not to miss Tuesday nights a the movies; that's discount night and cruisers will always try and save a buck when they can. 

Ready to Depart

We're ready to leave.  We've enjoyed NZ so much.  After two seasons here it feels like we're leaving home again.  We've sold our car and are getting ready to head to Opua and wait for a weather window to head north.  This season, our plans are to stop in Minerva Reef ( a reef that barely breaks the ocean surface 750 nm north of NZ), then Tonga for a few weeks.  We're meeting friends there that are chartering a boat and have another friend staying with us.  We'll head for Fiji around the middle of June and probably spend a month or so there.  (We did the southern half last season.)  From Fiji, we'll head west to Vanuatu and probably spend the bulk of our season there.  Then, some time in New Caledonia before we head for Australia in December. 
 
We plan on visiting Los Angeles for Christmas if we can work it out.  Beyond that, "we have no plans and we're sticking to them".  We will need to decide this season which way to go to get Sea Witch back to the US.  Unless we stop somewhere for work, we'll probably need to be back in the US in 2-3 years. The Watch Commander will pay for a few toys but will never make us rich.  So...   
 
We've been trying to decide whether to head west or east to get back.  Still kicking around lots of ideas.  West would mean either Africa or the Red Sea/Med.  East would be more of the Pacific Islands.  Tough choices but somebody has to do it.  Oh well. 
 

Misc things that didn't fit anywhere:

We both upgraded our ham licenses to Extra class and have become Volunteer Examiners.  We helped with one ham test and are running another in Opua.  We've now also helped with 85 pactor installations for Sailmail or Winlink (non-boater friends: this is the radio email link most of us use) and spent some time working with ZL1MA (the ham station in NZ) to get lots of weather bulletins up and available to cruisers.  We're also working on rewriting the weather map software that many of the boats use.  So, we've got some fun projects to keep us busy.  And, there is still plenty to do on the boat.  This season,  we plan on doing more maintenance during the season so that the off-season is not so overwhelming. 
 
We'll try and send out a few newsletters this season.  When we get time, we'll get some of our newsletters and dig-pictures up on our website.  We've also shot and produced a 50 minute underwater video that is getting some good reviews.  We'll probably make that available through the web "someday".
 
OK. So we've written.  It is your turn now.  Keep in touch...jpc & gail
 
Jeff & Gail Casher
Sea Witch
Departing New Zealand