01/14/2013, North Island, New Zealand
A few days ago we dropped Lolo's parents back off at the airport after a 2-week visit. We cruised the Bay of Islands, dove for scallops, collected green mussels and rang in the New Year at Motorua Is. with our friends aboard Moonwalker. We hiked and swam in the beautiful, but refreshing turquoise water and enjoyed some pretty nice gourmet meals aboard Radiance. For the second week, we parked Radiance on a mooring (graciously offered by our Soling race friend Barry), packed all four of us into the Alpha Romeo and motored around the North Island visiting as much as we could manage. Our trek took us south and west to Hellensville where we stayed at Malolo House, a charming old building that once was the town's hospital and maternity ward. We enjoyed fine dining and decent beer at Hallertau Brewery - which labels their beers in the most benign manner - #1 through #4. We next continued on to the thriving metropolis of Hamilton - visiting the excellent museum, a beer at "The Bank", the amazing Hamilton Gardens and then enjoying good Indian food at the acclaimed Indian Star Restaurant. Next morning we were the first customers at Westbrooke Winery and picked up a few bottles of their excellent Pinot Gris before visiting the Kiwi Birdhouse Zoo where we got to see several Kiwi's and many other native birds and animals. We stopped for lunch while ordering her "toasty", Annie heard the options "ham, cheese and eek" to which she replied "eek?" before realizing it was egg. We then visited the Waitamo Glow Worm Caves and took a tour underground to see the stalactites and stalagmites before drifting via boat on an underground stream to see the glow worms. They really looked just like stars in the night sky and were quite impressive in spite of the crowded tour. Next, our drive took us to the coast where (after asking permission) we visited a traditional Mauri Marae, or ceremonial meeting house. It was decorated in the customary manner with red painted wood carvings. As we drove along the windswept coast, we reached stopped at Mikes Brewery and sampled perhaps the best beer yet encountered in New Zealand including a Belgian strawberry sour. Mmmmm! Unfortunately we had only 15 minutes there before they closed for the evening - so continued on to the large town of New Plymouth for dinner, then on to Stratford for the night. Next morning we made for the "Forgotten World Highway" and wound our way to Whangamomona, a section of New Zealand that managed to secede from the country. We stopped at the local watering hole, had a local beer and got our passports stamped before heading on to Taumarumanui Holiday Park to stay for a few days and celebrate Lolo's 35th birthday. We enjoyed a lazy lay day on Lolo's b-day, swam and inner-tubed down the river and cooked her birthday dinner in the crowded communal kitchen, but all turned out great. We all enjoyed a bottled of Champaign and chocolate fondant birthday cake - ending the night with a fireside chat. Next morning, we continued on to Rotorua to visit the geysers, hot pools and boiling mud of the extremely geothermic area. A highlight was attending a traditional Mauri greeting and dance show at a Marae inside the park where dancers performed in traditional dress in dance and song. They were most gracious posing for photos with all who were interested. Next day we continued back up the east side of the north island along the Coramandel Coast, hiking to Cathedral Cave and enjoying a beach picnic. We parked the car and took the ferry over to Whitianga for a visit and ice cream. On the way back we stopped at Mercury Bay Winery before heading to Coroglen Tavern for what was to be pretty bad hamburgers and a long game of really bad pool. The Sea Breeze Holiday Park was our last accommodation before heading north again to Auckland. But we managed to squeeze in one last attraction on the list - a Kauri Grove walk where hiked in the forest to some very old (and now rare) Kauri trees. The trees it seems were exploited across the country for their excellent straight timber and also for their gum - which is essentially like amber. The term "gum boots" is often used here in reference to rubber boots or sea boots, but dates back to the days when rubber boots were used by the kauri gum collectors. After the short hike, we headed to the airport and said our goodbyes, thus completing a successful, if a bit harried whirlwind visit.
12/23/2012, Opua, NZ
T'was the day before Christmas and all through the bay
not a critter was stirring, nor making hay
The yachts were nestled all snug on their moorings
while rain pelted down and sailors still snoring
The forecast called for merely a gale
Would anyone in their right mind want to sail?
I sprang from my bed at half past seven
To teach sailing in remnants leftover from cyclone evan
When what to my wondering eyes should appear?
But two students decked fully out in boots and raingear
Emry and Oslo beamed and were ready
in spite of the weather that hung o'er the jetty
So off we set with a reef in the main
the jib no more than a kerchief came
we tacked and we gybed all through the day
dodging and weaving the yachts in the bay
our 20-foot Tiri screamed right along
and we wondered what might possibly go wrong
When all of a sudden I heard such a clatter
That I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter
The rain needled down on the backs of our jackets
And the wind in the rigging made quite a racket
The little yacht healed and the helm was hard over
45 knots ...and not a not lower
I let go the main sheet in a mighty big hurry
As the gods unleashed their full furry
Emry and Oslo looked quite concerned
But I reminded them of all they had learned
So we sailed on that day in the absence of others
And they passed their course with all flying colors
12/15/2012, Waitangi, Bay of Islands, NZ
12/09/2012, Opua, NZ
The sky was clear and the sun was beaming in a beautiful morning. We (I) awoke and rolled out of bed today with anticipation. Today was to be our first day of employment in New Zealand. Without trying, Laurence and I had somehow been offered jobs as sailing instructors and could think of no reason to say no. So we packed our lunch and drove the dinghy over to the sailing school, eager to meet our assigned students. We would each be taking a pair of adults out for two days of instruction aboard a couple of twenty foot sloops. With any success, we'd then turn the new sailors loose for 3-days of cruising in the Bay of Islands - alone. Laurence chose her boat and met here students - a French woman and her Australian boyfriend whose last name is coincidently Blakely. My students were a Scotsman and his English partner, Michelle, both now living in Wellington NZ. We each spent about an hour going over boat systems and safety equipment then kicked the dock to begin our lessons. The school concept is to put students at the helm right away and basically just coach them through everything - starting from scratch. It's mostly hands on from the get-go for them. But with terminology, sail handling, points of sail, tacking, jibing, reefing, anchoring, motoring and docking, we have our hands full. Luckily, we had eager and able students. The day flew by and we actually got paid to teach and sail for 7 hours in one of the most scenic and maritime rich environments on the planet. Cool! We'll see how tomorrow goes, but it's good to be at least making a little cash to supplement the cruising kitty. We're definitely getting our sailing in - racing Solings Friday, then Opti's yesterday and Davidson's today. I told my students today "this is like heaven to me." Now we've just gotta figure out a way to get some sailing in on Radiance soon.
12/04/2012, Whangarei, N-ZED
Banking into yet another tight turn on the winding road, I glance down at the speedometer and chuckle to myself as it reads "100." Tall Norfolk pines, giant fern, various palm and assorted flowering trees whiz by as we head south along this coastal road. "Look at that bird!" exclaims Lolo, but I can't take my eyes of the road long enough to see anything but a flash. I've not seen any signs depicting large wild mammal crossings, but the Alaskan in me keeps my eyes peeled for the dark patch telltale signs of a moose about to leap. Apparently I don't have to worry about that here. We are en-route to Whangarei to check out the Irish music session at McMorrissey's. Soon the landscape opens up to wide rolling hills dotted with sheep and cattle, green as green can be. By now, I'm mostly used to driving on the wrong side of the road, but driving from the wrong side of the car is still a bit off-putting. I find myself instinctively looking to the right (out the window) for the rear view mirror, and reaching for the gear shift with my right hand only to whack the door. Lolo laughs every time I turn the windshield wipers on when attempting to signal for a turn, but I'll eventually get used to it. We stop for gas and I am somewhat floored to find gas here is about $2.20-something per liter - which works out to something like $9/gallon......yes, NINE DOLLARS A GALLON. I know I've been off the grid for a while, but wow. Good thing we bought an economy car! We can't resist passing a sign that reads "The Mad Butcher" so park the car to take a gander. I am somewhat puzzled by the labels on packages of beef reading "scotch cut", "beef schnitzel" and "mince." Also odd were the bulk packages of pre-cooked sausages stamped with "Perfect for that family barbeque." I didn't bother asking about the one labeled "pet mince" but assumed it was for rather than of-pets. Mince pies are a staple here. Lucky for me I love pie. These pies closely resemble what we Americans would call pot pies and there are a wide variety ranging from beef, lamb, and chicken to fruit mince pies -the latter of which I've taken to eating with my coffee for breakfast. They are like little tiny mince-meat pies with raisins and spices - just the thing in the morning (better watch my waistline.) We locate McMorrissey's and since we're early, head down the street to the noodle place for bite to eat. As we wait for our food, we watch a little bird repeatedly fly in the front door and back behind the counter to steal food, and then fly out the door. The staff ignores the bird, apparently having given up on shooing him away. I wonder how the bird figured out he could get away with that in the first place. After gorging ourselves, I grabbed the fiddle and we walked down to the session to sus it out. Hm.......one, two, three fiddlers - check. One two three mandolins......ok. One concertina player and a tenor banjo player, check. Two guitar players and two wind players, fine. I sat the fiddle down and ordered a pint of Guiness for $8.80. Jeeze! We won't be drinking much beer at the bars here. There were a bit too many of the standard Irish pub songs for my liking and not enough tunes, but I eventually got the fiddle out and played some planxty's, waltzes and polkas with them. After a while I asked if they played any jigs or reels and was told "we're not good enough to play those." I had hoped for a good row of tunes, but the closest we came was a half speed version of "The Flowers of Edinborough." Ah well. At their insistence, I played a set of reels including "The Concertina" (hoping to interest the concertina player), but ended up playing solo. The fellow that was leading all the songs bought me a beer and I played along with the rest of the songs for a while. The crew launched into a rousing version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"?... a first for me at a trad session. Before leaving, I asked about other sessions and learned of an upcoming folk festival in Aukland that sounds a bit more promising. Will try to make that. We're hanging aboard today as the forecast calls for 35 knots with gusts to 40. But we just ripped 200 movies - so might have to check some of them out.
The Opua Cruising Club was kind enough to throw a Thanksgiving feast for arriving American yachts. The only trouble was the tickets were all sold out by the time we got 'round to buying them. Seems like more than a fair share of the attendees were native New Zealanders, wanting a piece of the Thanksgiving action (or pie as it were). This was slightly annoying at first, but we decided to crash the thing anyway and at least have a cocktail before the meal started. Though the effort was nice, the atmosphere was more of a mess hall and the emcee announced "be sure not to take too much food so the others can have enough." That really seemed to go against the grain of a true American Thanksgiving. Instead, we were kindly invited to join Bill and Becky aboard Water Music. They had only just arrived and were also unable to get tickets. Other guests in attendance were Russell and Trevor (Moonwalker) and Linden. There were a gaggle of kids down below, so the adults took over the cockpit. Dinner fare was steak, tuna, mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Lolo made two deserts: a pear tarte and the apple pie crust thing (always a hit). Linden also brought a "Pavlova" which was a cross between angel food cake and meringue, served with fresh whipped cream and kiwi slices. Not turkey, but we had a much better time drinking wine and telling stories with some of the nicest folks on the planet. Next day, we were whisked off to the Paihia Yacht Club for some dinghy racing. Lolo and I joined Russell aboard a Soling with a chap named Shonte and raced against 3 other Solings. We were quite pleased to whip up on the local twenty-something's, beating them soundly 2 out of the three races. Pete was officiating and joined us at Karin and Russell's for dinner afterward. Pete owns a classic 1800's gaff rigged sloop called Undine that he sails 2-3 times per week and we were promptly offered a ride the next day. Saturday dawned bright and sunny - a perfect day for just such a relaxing sail and we cruised around the bay amongst other classic schooners, modern trimarans and the incoming stream of foreign yachts pouring in from the pacific. It's good to be here and Russell was square on the mark - telling us about the warm hospitality we'd encounter in New Zealand. Don't think I've met a nicer bunch of people anywhere. Hope it stands true for the rest of New Zealand. We've moved the boat to an anchorage across from the Opua marina and have an appointment with a sail maker in the morning. I think we'll then move a bit down the bay and visit the town of Russell - the first English settlement in all of New Zealand. It's supposed to have the oldest church and the oldest pub in the country. Funny how they seem to go hand in hand.