Recent Sailing Adventures and Photos
New Zealand 2004
Back in New Zealand after nearly 3 years in the Pacific, and it feels like a homecoming in many ways. This is where we met, where we bought 'Moet', and where we started planning and dreaming and getting ready for voyaging. We've come back with a fresh perspective after 3 seasons in the islands, and now feel like veteran cruisers, able to share tales and offer advice to those just getting ready to go sailing.
But no sooner than we're back we're making plans for cruising again, itineraries that change quicker than the weather. Next time it will be with a new, permanent addition to the crew, as we expect our first child in June. So cruising is postponed for a while at least, while the little one gets its sea legs!
We spent a sunny Christmas and New Year with friends in the Bay of Islands while we got things ready on the boat for sailing in January. For our first trip we were joined for a month by a Canadian, Jeff, and an American, Doug, also known as 'The Dude'. Doug will be best remembered swinging in his skychair (a wonderful contraption) which he would hang from various spots in the boat and off branches of trees on shore. Jeff was by far the most enthusiastic sailor we've had on board for a while - no matter how exhausting the day, or how little sleep we'd had, or how much wind was blowing, he'd always wake in the morning keen and ready to go sailing. But by the end of the month when we'd had several days of gale force winds and spent days in wet weather gear and nights resetting anchors even Jeff was losing his enthusiasm! Luckily we made it safely to Tauranga in time to meet our next crew, although we suffered two ripped sails on the journey down.
Apparently, it had been one of the worst February's on record, and 15 days out of 29 there were gale or storm warnings for the area we were in - several days the forecast announced 'gale warnings for all sea areas of New Zealand'. Not what we were expecting for summer time! Still, I remember the weather as being warm and sunny a lot of the time, and we still got in lots of swimming and snorkelling and hiking. One calm, clear, moonless night there was an abundance of phosphorescence in the water and Jeff and Doug jumped into the dark sea to watch the sparkly water bounce off their skin. Then we got in the dinghy and whizzed around the bay, making silvery trails behind us, and seeing fish streaking like blue comets under the water.
By the time our next crew arrived, ex-cylclone Ivy was approaching NZ, and we tucked ourself into a marina, expecting the worst. Fortunately it all blew over in a few hours - leaving us with some sunny weather, and a huge 6m swell. Surfers from all over the country headed to the coast, and Tauranga, being one of the prime surfing locations, was packed with people in the water. 18 year old Antony, who had just arrived from England with a 6.5 shortboard, was very impressed. He and the rest of the new crew, Jasmine (American), Dave (Canadian), and Kai (American) got to enjoy a few days of surfing, kitesurfing and hanging out on the beach before we went sailing.
Organising these sailing trips is a really good way of introducing people to boat life, and for us to see more of the country we are in. If we hadn't had crew join us this year we could have easily spent several lazy months in the Bay of Islands and not been to any of the interesting places we visited on these trips. And for those crew who would otherwise be travelling around NZ overland it gives them the opportunity of exploring places they would have not have been able to get to any other way. And we all get to meet interesting local characters along the way. At Mayor island, an extinct volcano, now covered in bush and swampland, there exists a small Maori community devoted to protecting the island from development. When we arrived there was a school camp there and the children were learning fishing, kayaking, and bush survival skills. They invited us to join their campfire barbeque and the children had heaps of questions to ask our foreign travellers - What's America like? How are the street gangs? What animals are there in Canada? And the Maori children had plenty to tease Kai about - being that his name means 'food' in their language!
We visited caves and waterfalls, bathed in fresh rivers, surfed, skurfed and windsurfed in isolated locations, dived and snorkelled, fished, spearfished, hiked through forests and farmland, soaked in hot pools, and saw heaps of wildlife. I bought myself a bird book so I could identify some of the creatures we saw - my favourites were the stumpy flightless Takahe which made strange mumbling sounds as they munched on grass and flowers, as if they were talking to themselves; and the little blue penguins, which we would see out at sea during the day when we were sailing, but which would return to land at night to sleep, and make haunting wailing cries as they swam in at sunset. In addition to these birds, our friends on the sea included dolphins, sharks, the enormous sunfish, octopus, sting rays, dive bombing gannets, shags, terns, luminous jellyfish, red billed oyster catchers, flying fish (one landed on deck during the night and was served up for lunch the next day), brown teal, tui, fantail, parakeets, bellbirds and even one whale. We dined on several types of fish; snapper, lobster and mussels being the favourites, and Frans's breadcrumb and coconut battered fish often being dish of the day. It is good to be able to survive from the food you catch yourself, but we were saddened to see the amount of New Zealand 'sport' fishers, killing huge amounts of fish in a quest for the largest catch, yet not using the fish for food. It is little wonder that the fish population is declining in these waters, and it is sad for the local people who depend upon fish as their staple food as the motorboat fishermen deplete the local waters.
After hearing the stories from Dad and Margaret, Margaret's daughter Vicky and her husband Ian decided to join us for a month in April. The days were getting shorter by this point and we had to wrap up warm for some of the sails, but since Ian and Vicky were used to sailing English waters on a little Flying Fifteen they were used to wet weather gear and woolly hat sailing. Ian is training for his Coastal Skipper certificate, so we gave him some interesting challenges, coming into anchorages at dark and navigating by beacons and lighthouses. We wonder how long it will be before he buys his own cruising yacht - he's already left his job, which is the first stage towards sea-gypsydom and freedom!
So now we are renting a house for a few weeks to be close to the birthing centre for when baby arrives. We have bought ourself a cheap campervan and have been able to explore overland a bit as well - so much quicker than by boat! We'll be spending winter in the Bay of Islands on 'Moet' with our little coal stove chuffing away to keep us warm, and us dreaming of going back to the tropics again...