Chronologically Challenged Couple Cruises the South Pacific

Welcome to our blog.  Here you’ll find stories, pictures and hopefully a little helpful information about traveling around on a small sailboat.

To some, our blog may seem chronologically challenged, but it’s really not.  You see, our resident Capricorn, Cyndi, posts everything in the exact order in which it occurred.  Rich, with his short attention span, posts stuff the moment it occurs to him.  While we’re now in New Caledonia, Cyndi is still finishing posts about the Sounds.  Rich has already lost interest in last Monday. To sum it up:

Cyndi is writing about our time in the ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK in 2016.

Rich is writing about the here and now, in AUSTRALIA.

Rich and Cyndi


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Develop Your Digital Images?

December 7, 2016

What we see is very different from what our cameras capture. Even the best cameras are seldom able to match the images we hold in our minds.


I think one reason for this might be the missing dimension in camera images. What we see when we look around as we motor past an amazing beach or up a heavily forested inlet is a composite of what our eyes take in over time, not the camera’s image from one instant in time.

Another related reason is the much greater dynamic range of our visual system – eyes and brain. Basically, dynamic range is how great a range of light to dark we can distinguish. Is there detail in the darkest shadows as well as in the brightest whites? If so, there’s enough dynamic range for the subject.

Our eyes best the camera by adjusting the amount of light coming in, opening and closing the iris, and our brains composite what it receives into a single image, impression or memory. In bright areas, out irises close down to limit light and they open when we look at dark areas to gather as much light as possible. A camera uses one iris setting for the whole image. (An exception to this is a camera’s HDR or high dynamic range mode in which the camera takes multiple images at different exposures and puts them together into one picture, much the way our brains do.)

In one way, what I’ve said above isn’t exactly correct (and I’m sure those paying careful attention have already spotted this and are poised to send me a letter of complaint!). The camera does capture more details in the whites and blacks than we see in the picture. If it didn’t, developing the image wouldn’t help. Here’s an example…


On the left is the original image with a black area with no visible detail. On the right is an enlarged and adjusted image of that section, bring out the amazing amount of detail that was hiding in the darkness. It’s there. It just needs some finesse to make it visible. (Even more detail is hiding in photos taken in a camera’s raw mode than is in these jpg images, but that’s another story.)

When we observe this scene from the dinghy, we see the detail in the shadows. When we show friends our undeveloped images, it’s gone and the scene isn’t nearly as magical as it was in our experience.

All this is why I think you need to “develop” the pictures from a digital camera; to make them match what you actually perceived when you took the picture. And by “develop,” I mean photoshop them, or adjust them.

Photoshopped images get a bad rap as in “That’s not real. It’s been photoshopped!” I would argue that the only way to make a picture more real is to photoshop it.

Below is a gallery of original and photoshopped images from one of Cyndi’s recent blog posts. See for yourself. (Click an image to enlarge, then you can scroll through the pictures.)

These are all captured on a pocketable, point-and-shoot camera. Nothing special. This was a particularly hard batch of photos as there was a huge dynamic range that the camera didn’t capture well. The bright whites of the dead wood in the forest blew out the images while a lot of detail hid in the shadows. I’m not saying that it’s the best photoshop job that’s ever been done, but the pictures look a lot more like our memories of this dinghy ride.


photoshop-boxThe price of Photoshop came down not long ago, from thousands of dollars to an annual subscription price of about $10 US a month. For this, you get all the updates as well. For me, this is well worth the price.

There is a learning curve with Photoshop but it’s a very well done program and for as powerful as it is, it’s very intuitive and pretty easy to learn. To make it easier, there are thousands of tutorials online. I constantly refer to YouTube videos when I need to learn (or re-learn) how to do something.

Also included in the subscription is a program called Lightroom. It’s probably easier than Photoshop to learn and with it, you can do almost everything that you can with Photoshop. I don’t use it simply because I’m a long-time Photoshop user and it’s not what I’m used to.

For us cruisers that don’t always have an internet connection, the software lives on your computer and just needs to phone home a few times a year to verify an active subscription. In two years of using this plan, I’ve not had a single problem.

I know I sound like a Photoshop ad. I am a big fan, but there are many other programs that will help you develop your digital images. Google Picasa used to be one of them but it’s been discontinued, though I think you can still download it. There’s a free image viewer called IrfanView for the PC that allows a pretty nice range of image adjustment, though you’d never call it photo editing software.  I’m sure there are about a thousand options on the Mac. There are even some great editing apps for phones and tablets.

Some programs and apps have a push-button approach to correcting and enhancing pictures. Some of these will make images look almost as good as you can with Photoshop. Whatever you use, if it makes your pictures look better, and you like using it, it’s the right program.

“But all this takes so much time!”

Quit your whining. As I seem to say a lot, what else are you going to do? Scrimshaw? (OK, I stole that from someone and I don’t remember who, but it sums up a lot of cruising activities for me.)

Processing these images in Photoshop is one of my cruising creative outlets. Cyndi takes most of the pictures on our blog for two reasons: she loves doing it and she’s good at it. My contribution is making her pictures look as much like the scene did in real life as possible. -Rich

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A Quick Walk in Torrent Bay Lagoon (Able Tasman National Park, New Zealand)

April 24, 2016

In our dinghy ride around Torrent Bay’s lagoon, we came across a small cove with an intriguing path leading up from the water. We decided to tie off our dinghy and follow it to see where it might lead. It turns out we’d found a route off the Able Tasman Coast Track. It’s the track hikers take if they opt to cross the lagoon at low tide instead of going all the way around it. Wow, it was hard to imagine our “lake” would become so dried out that people could trek across it.

For now, we followed the trail up and over the small area of land separating the lagoon from Torrent Bay. We found ourselves at the far west end of Brown’s Beach with a view of the boats across the bay. Our curiosity satisfied, we headed back.

It was tempting to take the main trail to an area called Cleopatra’s Pool, one of the many highlights in the park, but it would take an hour and we had a lot more to do yet. Next up, we planned to visit the “township,” whatever that means, and see if we could find some coffee. Below, a gallery of photos from our little walk (click to enlarge/scroll) –Cyndi

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Torrent Bay Lagoon (Able Tasman National Park, New Zealand)

April 24, 2016

We had a few things on the agenda today, and when I say “we,” that actually means “I.” Being the unofficial tour guide, I do most of the planning; so Rich gets to be surprised. When I say “surprised,” I actually mean “dragged around.” Rich is a good sport about it, though, and gets to reap the benefits when the places I choose turn out to be gems. Occasionally, though, I have a miss, in which case I get ribbed about it endlessly. (I’m still hearing about the Seattle bed and breakfast fiasco of 1995).

The first thing on the agenda today was to take our dinghy into Torrent Bay’s lagoon. We had to make sure to time this well because what appears as a lake at high tide gets completely dried out at low tide. (This is of particular concern to hikers who have to take a longer route if there’s water in the lagoon.) It was a beautiful day, it was high tide and it was time to head over there.

We entered the lagoon and began to make our way around near the shore. It was heavily forested, with numerous small rocky coves with pretty green water. If we hadn’t just seen Falls River and Frenchmans Bay, we would have considered this gorgeous, but after those two, it was relegated to the “really nice” category. Below, a few photos from our dinghy ride (click to enlarge/scroll).–Cyndi

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NSFW (not safe for work)

Saturday, November 3, 2016

We left lovely Lavender Bay early in the morning hoping to find a vacant mooring in Athol Bay (below the Sydney Zoo). We were in luck. Just two other boats and five moorings. The bay was peaceful and quiet, with the peace broken only by the occasional kookaburra outbursts. That changed a couple of hours later…

This was strange indeed. There were at least two boats with loads of fully dressed guys and one to three topless young ladies (not much in the way of bottoms either!). They appeared to be engaged in deep, serious conversations with the guys, mostly oblivious to the hoots, hollers and chants from the neighboring boats. What could they be talking about? Awkward!

Here are some pics from the chaos…

In a previous post, we lamented the broken promise of toplessness in the South Pacific (well, I did, actually). Who knew that Sydney would turn out to be the naked breast capitol of the South Pacific?

The evening ended (we thought) with the usual weekend fireworks display. Nope. The music went on ALL night! -Rich


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Torrent Bay (Able Tasman National Park, New Zealand)

April 23, 2016

Torrent Bay is, without a doubt, the most popular place in Able Tasman National Park. It might be more accurate to call it a harbor since it encompasses three bays plus a rather large lagoon behind a sandspit. The stars of the show are the long curve of Brown’s Beach at the head of the bay, and an area known as The Anchorage just inside the protective arm of the peninsula that forms the east side of this harbor.

Boundary Bay
North West Bay
Torrent Bay Township
Torrent Bay Lagoon
Brown's Beach
The Anchorage
Te Pukatea

Since Torrent Bay is the only “all-weather anchorage” in Able Tasman National Park; everyone makes a beeline for it when easterly (or otherwise disagreeable) winds are forecast. This is where the problem comes in. The peninsula does create easterly and northerly protection, but only for those who get a spot right alongside it. By the time we arrived, boats were layers deep and so far towards the middle of the bay there was no longer northerly protection, not good in that strong northeasterly winds were forecast.

We motored around trying to see if we could find another place to tuck in, with no luck. We finally ended up anchoring outside the pack. We’d get the effect of the wind and some of the chop but hoped to be out of the way if anyone dragged. Then we went below, drowning out the sound of the escalating wind with a movie and a bottle of wine.

As the wind went west, some of the boats that had been protected were now getting the effect of the wind and chop. A catamaran anchored next to us, dragged, then decided to move elsewhere. Another boat came and anchored right on top of us, dragging after they did. We were now starting to drag a bit ourselves. We decided to move.

The wind was now gusting up near 30 knots. We went and moved away from the other boats to the middle of the bay, got our anchor well set, and now were just fine and out of the fray of boats moving around as the wind backed. If there’s one thing we learned about Torrent Bay, it’s that it is NOT an all-weather anchorage.

The wind finally eased up during the night, and we had some rain. In the morning it was blowing from the south but predicted to lighten as the day went on. As promised, the sun came out and the wind lightened, which would give us a day to explore this bay. -Cyndi

Below, some photos from The Anchorage, all showing various aspects of Brown’s Beach behind us. Click to enlarge/scroll.

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Enchanted Cove (Able Tasman National Park, New Zealand)

April 23, 2016

The cove sits at the base of a steep ravine full of mossy rocks and thick forest. Its inner area is a celadon green pool, with large black rocks at its head. Here, we found four baby fur seals cavorting in the water. Their parents were nowhere to be seen, probably out hunting for food.

We cut the engine and padded in, and the pups, incredibly curious yet understandably cautious, stuck their heads up to check us out. We sat quietly, and when they decided we were OK, they swam over to our dinghy. They played around us for a bit, then something startled them and they darted back to shore. When they decided it was all clear again, they came back out to play, then once again got startled and swam back to shore.

The third time they came out, they were more comfortable and began swimming dreamily around our dinghy. (Below a gallery of photos from the cove–click to enlarge/scroll–and a video.)

This whole scene: the surreal beauty of the cove, the quiet stillness, and the baby fur seals, was like something out of a dream world. We sat still, wanting the moment to last as long as possible. Inevitably, they got excited again, jumping away towards shore. Sadly, it was time for us to go.

We turned and silently headed back out through the lagoon. Reaching the outer bay, we saw the wind had picked up. It was a long bumpy ride back to our boat, during which we nervously watched Legacy as she was pitching and rolling quite a bit. The front was arriving and it was time to head to a protected area: Torrent Bay just south of us. –Cyndi

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High Water Alarm

November 30, 2016

Early on in my boating life, I discovered why a high water alarm might be a good idea. I was on a friend’s boat, sailing (well, motorsailing) from San Diego to Catalina Island. It was an overnight trip and all was fine on board. The four of us were in the sitting in the cockpit late at night, talking and laughing when the engine quit. I went below to investigate and stepped into water – water about six inches above the floorboards.

We got busy with the emergency hand bilge pump and formed a bucket brigade. We made fast work of the water. The cause of the water, and the engine quitting: the prop shaft gland had started to leak when the packing material shredded and extruded from the gland, and the shredded packing plugged up the automatic bilge pump, and the high water actually floated the huge, metal fuel tank up and off it’s mounts, and the fuel feed line broke. No disaster, just a middle of the night, pitching and rolling boat repair project.

The point of this? If we’d had some warning that the water level was too high, we would have had smaller problems. The solution: a high water alarm.

I’ve carried this memory for years and while browsing through a home improvement store, found my solution. They make small, really inexpensive alarms designed to detect water heater leaks. (Yes, I’m sure there are alarms designed for boats, or for that matter, I could have used a bilge pump float-switch and an alarm buzzer, but you saw the “inexpensive” part above, right?)

4162zqbdmkl-_ac_us160_ This is what I used the first time, at less than $10 each, and they lasted about three years. I say “about” because I’m not sure how long it was actually functional during the last year. I change the battery anually and last time, I found that the battery wires had corroded off of the circuit board. A quick solder job and it was functional again.

To make these work on our boat, I soldered wires to the pc board to extend the sensor. I stripped the two loose ends of the wire and fastened them about 6 inches above the highest water level I ever expected to see.

41ek7-5l8l-_ac_us160_I bought one like this to replace our original alarm. It has a remote sensor wire so no modifications are necessary. I bought this from Amazon as they are unheard of in NZ and Oz.

They run on a 9 volt transistor battery that lasts at least a full year. When activated, they sound a very loud alarm that would be hard to miss. No more worries about stepping down onto floating floorboards! We also use a bilge pump counter, but that was the subject of another post . -Rich

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Frenchman Bay and Its Inner Lagoon (Able Tasman National Park, New Zealand)

April 23, 2016

After emerging from Sandfly Bay Lagoon, we had one more place to visit before heading on: Frenchman Bay just south of here, close enough to go by dinghy. Frenchman Bay is similar to the Sandfly Bay area, with an outer area, an inner lagoon and a waterway.

Frenchman Bay
Frenchman Bay's Inner Lagoon
Cove with baby fur seals.
Boundary Bay

Frenchman Bay’s outer area is well protected by a reaching headland that gives it a somewhat enclosed feeling. In prevailing winds it’s so well protected that the water becomes flat and glassy near the strikingly pretty white beach along the shore. The lone house there gave us a good case of house envy–what a beautiful place to live! (Below, a gallery of photos of the outer bay; click to enlarge/scroll.)

Next, we headed in through a short pass to the lagoon. While not as stunning as Falls River, it was still very pretty, the white beach stretching from the outside bay right into the lagoon. Here, the water was very still and clear, and the place felt very peaceful. (Below, a gallery of photos of the lagoon.)

Lovely though all this was, we still had one more place to go. We’d gotten a tip from the kayakers: be sure to continue across the lagoon and head up the waterway to its far end. Follow it to find a cove with baby fur seas. We were anxious to go look for them!


There are numerous coves tucked in along the water. We wished we had more time to explore.
There are numerous coves tucked in along the water. We wished we had more time to explore.
Looking back as we headed up the waterway.
Looking back as we headed up the waterway.

We reached the end of the waterway and started to search the coves. Soon, we saw the telltale silvery rings of something playing in the water (the subject of the next post). –Cyndi

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Falls River (Able Tasman National Park, New Zealand)

April 23, 2016

Falls River lies deep in a gorge, surrounded by the hills of Abel Tasman National Park. As we headed in, we found ourselves surrounded by walls of dense foliage. The mix of trees was striking, the leaves spanning every shade of green, the trunks ranging from dark to light. Some trees were tall, towering over us, while others were low and squat. All of it was highlighted by moss hanging off branches near the water. The shore was thick with ferns and keikei, and occasionally we’d spot the red flowers of a vine-tree called a rata. This profusion of plant life was magnificently reflected, mirror-like, in the still dark water.

We made our way up the river further, discovering a suspension bridge high above us, the hikers looking down at us while we looked up at them. As we continued on, the water became green and so clear that we could see logs on the bottom. Boulders began to appear along the shoreline, getting more prolific as we neared the unnavigable end of the river. The quiet here was broken by the sound of rushing water over the rocks just beyond. We turned here and made our way back down the river, passing a couple of kayakers on the way.

In all, the trip up Falls River took about 20 minutes each way. When we started I’d been concerned about the coming front, whether Legacy was anchored well enough where she was, whether we had time to get to Frenchman Bay next door, etc. In circumstances like these, I generally try to quiet my mind and focus on my surroundings. There are times, however, when scenery can be so fantastic that it overwhelms the chatter in my head, like overloading a breaker. That chatter can’t compete with this new load of information, so it shuts down, leaving a void. In comes a feeling of having my breath taken away, of being awed, spellbound, and enchanted. Nothing else exists but the enormity of the vision I’m seeing. My body chemistry actually changes in response to the surroundings, totally without effort on my part. I guess I’d call this a state of rapture.

For all the beautiful places we see in our travels, this feeling is still surprisingly rare and very special. Falls River is definitely a very special place. –Cyndi

(Below, a gallery of photos; click to enlarge/scroll).

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