Thursday, November 29, 2007

Back home

It was a magical sail back to Whitianga, and we took two days over it, trying to prolong the time away. Practically no wind at all from Barrier to Mercury Bay, so we motor-sailed along with sails up on auto pilot, watching the view, having a cuppa and reading away.

Then the dolphins found us. I'd never seen so many this year, as well as NZ's wee blue penguin. Always an absolute delight to see them all popping up everywhere. Penguins are smaller in size the further north you go - with the warmer waters - so New Zealand's are quite tiny creatures, compared with Antarctica's beauties.

A day after returning to Whitianga and enjoying the garden and views for the last time, we drove to my sister Clio's in the Waikato for an early Christmas, after visiting mum's memorial stone on the way, and then up to Auckland to fly away home. Rather special was that my mum's three older sisters, all living in Auckland, crammed into the car and saw me off at Auckland International. A few more obligatory tears. They're all in their 80s as well, widows, one with severe MS, and you just don't know if you'll get to hug them again.

I arrived in Los Angeles before I'd left Auckland; and 24 hours after leaving NZ, I was sneaking into bed, at midnight, with the family fast asleep. Home's fine.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Further north

We turned the bow north, up to Great Barrier Island (Aotea), colloquially known as "the Barrier" (or "the bloody Barrier", as a local song goes) . About 900 people live on the Barrier, commonly thought of as all a bit kooky - folks who may not normally want to fit into a more urban, commercially oriented lifestyle. I mean, there's no bloody power on the Barrier! Everyone has to have their own generator - that's kooky enough ;) But if you're into small diesel-powered generators, this is the place to be - they're wonders of machinery and many an hour is spent, over a few (home-brewed) beers, tut-tutting over one another's old fly-wheeled generators (can you hear 'em?).

Tryphena is normally our destination at the Barrier - dad has good friends there - Bro's moved on, but Brian's still there. He rowed out and had a cuppa (tea) and a slice or two of my sister-in-law's marvellous Christmas cake - dad and Brian can talk boats for hours, and I always enjoy catching up with him. He has Hobbit feet - hasn't worn shoes for decades - but he's found that Crocs can sometimes be useful, except on pine needles.

The sail up was great - not quite enough wind, so we kicked in the diesel to help us along and keep the bow up. Looking back to Mercury slipping behind us, I checked on the chart to find out the distance between Mercury and the Barrier - 23 miles. It struck me that what has always seemed to be "way up there" was now a distance that I normally paddle in a day; and during an Everglades Challenge, can be sometimes a third of a day. In fact something that absolutely grabbed me this trip home, was the absolutely fabulous sea kayaking around the NZ coastline and offshore islands. Sigh.

Just before Tryphena we stopped for a few hours in a secluded bay. Dad's been cruising this coastline for nigh on 65 years, and me near 40, but neither of us had visited here before. It was magic - a sandy yellow beach with its own stream, nikau palms and tee-tree. Quite typically we even left dad's jumper on the beach, which we picked up the next morning.

Our last morning in Tryphena was one in a million - flat calm with not a breath of wind, and a clear view of the bottom - not often one gets to see one's own anchor nesting below.

We headed back south...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sailing away

Nearly a week after I arrived, dad and I packed up the boat and headed off from the marina. The forecast wasn't brilliant - stiff westerlies to nor'westerlies - but we were keen to get away. A following wind took us out Mercury Bay (so-called by Captain James Cook as this was where he observed the transit of Mercury) and around the point. We decided to reef with some good looking swells and white caps charging across between the point and Great Mercury Island, our destination. We were plastered! A tight board with 35-40 knots, we were glad of the extra reefs as the spray flew. And typically, we loved every minute of it.

We spent the next six days stooging around the island, before we headed north to Great Barrier Island. Nary a fish, cray, paua or mussel passed our lips - so much for my plans to live off the seas - with high springs and a metre easterly swell, the best laid rocks and plans didn't quite work out. But amazing what one can do with potatoes, carrots, kumara, pumpkin, eggs, a tin of salmon and a pinch of curry powder. And some wine...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Time with the whanau

Just returned from a few weeks back in Aoteoroa visiting whanau, primarily dad to check up on a few health issues, and then hopefully a week or so out on the boat up the coast. My sister Clio very kindly picked me up from Auckland International, after the obligatory few tears as the big wheels touched town, and drove me to dad's, tucked away in Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula. We spent a few days resting up, visiting the clinic, listening to the ever-wonderful Kim Hill on National Radio, and soaking up a few rays. For someone born in 1921, the old man's looking remarkably spry (with a local friend who sometimes comes to visit).

I'll post a few tales and photos of the trip over the next few days, but to wet your whistle, here's a panorama from the deck of the house, overlooking Mercury Bay and Whitianga township.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Me too!

Okay, that’s it. I’ve had enough of all these sheilas heading off to NZ and paddling in MY waters. I’m going too, tomorrow. To Aoteoroa, the land of Minties, Jaffas, Pineapple Lumps, real chocolate, hokey pokey ice cream and the best vino. And spring.

For the first time dad’s admitted that he’s starting to feel his age. Not bad for 86. But if I could just get him to lay down the chain saw for his winter season’s supply of firewood and pay someone to lug all the rolls up the bank, I reckon he’d feel a lot better, and perhaps even reduce what he calls his “cardiac incidents”. But it’s hard to convince someone of this who indignantly proclaims that he’s always done every thing for himself, ALWAYS!

So I’m leaving the family and paddle at home – we’ll take his new grandson back some time next year, when he’s crawling and really creating havoc – and spending a few weeks to catch up. And hopefully we’ll even get away up the coast in the boat for a week or so.

So this ol’ blog will probably be a bit quiet until after Thanksgiving. But dad and I’ll raise a glass to you all.

And the photo? That’s dad’s home built sander, out in his workshop.