Where is Gromit?
17 December 2011
It's COLD here!
Holiday Greetings from the Gromiteers!
As we left Huahine Island in French Polynesia last July, we had a plan to spend the cyclone season, which starts in November, in a country near the equator where cyclones don't go. Some options we were considering were, 1) the Solomon Islands near Papua New Guinea, 2) the Kiribati and Marshall Island Groups which span the equator north of Fiji, 3) Fiji, even though it is not outside the cyclone belt - it has some fairly secure cyclone holes (safe spots) and 4) the much lobbied for by the kids, New Zealand.
In the beginning, the Solomon Islands were the number one choice, but, of course, we were keeping our options open! Over time and after some research, we decided that the Solomons were not where we wanted to go. Next, we seriously considered the Kiribati and Marshalls, but decided against that direction, too. Fiji posed too great a risk, as many of the cyclones originate in or around Fiji. And New Zealand was too far in the wrong direction for us, who want to sail to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand next spring. What to do??? Well, as usual, we flip-flopped many, many times, but in the end, New Zealand won out. But we only made our decision about 1 week before we left. Yes, just a little last minute! So here we are in the land of the Kiwis! Our last few months reads like a good mystery novel; lots of twists and turns and suspense, but not for the purpose of knowing "who dun it", but rather, to find out where the Gromiteers were going to end up!!!
We left Fiji on Michael's birthday , with the strongest winds we've ever sailed in. In the first 24-36 hours we saw winds up to 52 mph (75-88 km/h), but mostly the winds were in the 35-45 mph (50-70 km/h) range. It was very bumpy and uncomfortable sailing, because we had to sail close hauled, which means the bow of Gromit was pounding up and down into the waves. Most of our sailing so far had been more or less with the wind behind us, not on our bow. The winds eased and the next 5 days of sailing were the most beautiful, 'doesn't get better than this', kind of sailing we've ever done. But, in the end, during the last two days, we got slammed again. I've dubbed this passage the "hearty whole grain peanut butter sandwich" passage; hard and crusty on the outside (beginning and end), and smooth as silk in the middle!
So, we've been in NZ for two weeks now. We arrived in the town of Opua on North Island. Check-in was quick and easy. NZ is very strict about what is brought in, so we lost all our fresh food and any meat in the fridge and freezer. We didn't have much of either. They also took away our popcorn, dried beans and anything that can sprout, as well as our honey.
We left the quarantine dock around 2pm and anchored and tidied the boat a little before going to s/v Riada II for dinner. We had been sailing with Riada II and Solara since Makogai Island in Fiji and we all left Fiji together. Riada II arrived in NZ a day before us and as soon as they were finished checking in, they headed out into the Bay of Islands to go fishing. They had emailed us a dinner invitation while we were still out on the ocean. We marvelled at their energy, because we are usually exhausted after a passage and take a day or so to rest up. Not the crew on Riada II!
What a dinner! Mussels in oil and vinegar, a huge plate of sashimi, mussel fritters, scallops cooked in their shells with garlic and butter, fish soup with scallops and then came the main dish; two pans from the oven! One, with tender, white fillets of fish topped with a breadcrumb-cheese crumble and the other, a whole fish dressed in lemons. Rice. And pumpkin pie (made by Zoe), for dessert. Oh!My!Gosh! Every bit of seafood was fresh from the bay, that day. What a feast! I can't even find the words to describe how delicious everything was. Thank you, Dave and crew!
The next days were spent getting the boat back into order; organizing a surprise belated birthday get together for Michael, with Solara, who arrived a day after us and a bunch of our friends who had also come to NZ; organizing a birthday party for Maia's 11th birthday and going shopping for some FRESH food! The highlights in the 'fresh' department were the strawberries and whipped cream and lettuce. We hadn't had strawberries in years. Boy, were they delicious!!! Not complaining though, because we've had mangoes, papaya and pineapples!
Maia had her biggest birthday party ever! There were about 20 people there, all friends we've met since leaving French Polynesia. Zoe baked Maia's birthday cake; chocolate with mocha icing and we had snacks and juice and fun and games. We celebrated at a large picnic table at the marina with lots of room for the kids to run and play and the adults to chat and get caught up on all their adventures. We hadn't seen some of our friends since Suwarrow and American Samoa! It was a great day and one of the few where the sun came out!
Way back in August of 2010, when we sailed into Huahine, we met a family, Phillip, Unilda and their daughter, Mishell, on their boat called Xtazy. Our plan was to sail to NZ with them, but of course, that didn't happen as we decided to stay in Huahine. On one of the evenings we spent together on Gromit, fishing for dinner, Phillip said to us that he had a business plan that he wanted to run by us. So we listened. He wanted to offer cars to cruisers arriving in NZ, with a guaranteed buy back when they sailed away again in April/May. It sounded good to us, so we gave him a 'thumbs up'! We met up with Phillip in the first few days after arriving in NZ to find his business thriving and him exhausted. October, November and December, when most of the cruisers arrive, are his busiest months. He and Unilda invited us to their beautiful home overlooking the rolling green hills of NZ. We ate a fantastic meal and enjoyed hours of 'boat talk' and New Zealand news. It was a great evening! Thanks, Phillip, Unilda and Mishell!
We left Opua last Tuesday with Solara and Mystic, on our way to rendezvous with Riada II at Great Barrier Island. We arranged with Dave on Riada II, who is from Auckland, to meet here on the 17th to do some fishing and mussel and scallop collecting. Dave has been coming to the Barrier, as they call it, for years and he knows 'all the good spots'. Yesterday, we went out on Riada II and did some drift fishing, Michael and Liam speared some fish and Dave dove with scuba tanks and found some crayfish, which are just like lobsters, but without the claws. He also got some scallops and abalone. Can you imagine the feast we had!!!! Oh!My!Gosh! Again!!!!!!
Today we were going to set up 'long lines' to catch fish and fish with bait to see if we could get some snapper. The weather has turned cold and rainy again so we aren't sure if we'll do that today.
After Great Barrier Island, we are going to sail to Auckland - about 80 km away, and celebrate Christmas Eve in our usual way on Gromit, with a chicken or turkey dinner, and all the fixin's. Then we'll open presents and go to bed in hopes that Santa finds us sometime in the night! On Christmas Day, we have a Christmas Day lunch invitation in Auckland from a long-time friend of Michael's, whom he hasn't seen in over 20 years. We are all looking forward to that.
So, that's the update.......cold but happy in New Zealand!
We wish you all a very peaceful and happy holiday season.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!