How could you keep cruising for so long? That is a question we heard just slightly less than, “what about pirates?” Variety, that was our answer, adding new adventures afloat or on land, moving into other people’s lives, getting to know their culture, sometimes moving ashore for a few months at a time in a place we found interesting (or sometimes where we found work.) Our present situation brings back memories of those times.
We decided to rent a studio right in the center of Auckland for six weeks as winter settled in to see what city life would be like. We made sure all of the varnish work on Taleisin was touched up, removed her mainsail and stored it below decks so we could have a canvas specialist use the old mainsail cover as a pattern for a new one. (The old cover, made of dark blue fire-retardant sunbrella type fabric lasted almost 16 years before needing replacing. Lighter colored sail covers had rarely lasted us more than four or five years at a time. Seems dark colors are less prone to UV induced breakdown.) Next we removed the mast from little Felicity, and secured her winter cover in place. It was a wet, cold winter day, in fact the shortest day of the year when we climbed on board the local ferry, headed for the mainland.
Talk about a change of life-style. With a studio apartment right in the middle of Ponsonby, one of the quieter neighborhoods next to downtown Auckland, we have no need to climb into a dinghy just to visit a friend. No need to consult ferry schedules, tide books or a weather reports just to go out for dinner at a café. No need to buy enough food to last two or three weeks at a time. If we run out of something, we can walk out to one of a dozen cafes or I can walk two or three blocks to an assortment of food shops. There is a fine array of films and live music to fill our evenings (Besides some working projects and health issues that have brought us into the city, the International Film festival helped us determine our timing.) But it seems sailing and the waterfront still draw us like nothing else can.
I have been out sailing on Auckland harbor with a fine crew on board the beautiful restored 34 foot New Zealand classic, Gypsy. Larry and I have been involved with this New Zealand classic since long before she was ingloriously sunk after being rammed by a careless sailor who powered his 65 footer through a huge fleet of racing boats just over a year ago. (www.gypsy.org.nz) About ten years ago, when John Pryor was considering buying Gypsy, he asked us to do a survey and determine what work she needed to insure she stayed in good condition. We put the boat up on one of the tidal grids next to our Kawau Island boat shop and let the tide fall away so we could look over every inch of her hull. Then Larry climbed on board and tapped all along the inside of her hull, checking for any soft timber – leaking fastenings. After an hour or so he asked for my help. “Lin, my shoulders are too wide. I can’t wiggle past the fuel tank behind her cockpit to check out the lazzarette area (the area just inboard of the transom).” I got down on the cockpit sole and tried to shove my way through the opening under the cockpit seats. Tight fit, almost there. But, my sweat shirt kept snagging on things, my pants kept catching on rivets and I couldn’t move freely enough to reach the spots I needed to tap. I wiggled back out and took off my top and, for good measure, my shorts. Then I started over. Under Larry’s guidance I tapped every inch of the underside of the deck, the hull, the transom framing.
All in fine condition – in fact, other than a bit of dust the hull looked as if it could have been built within the past five years when in reality it was over 70 years old. “Larry, get me out of here,” I called. I felt him grab my feet and begin to pull at the same time as I heard a tap on the hull from someone standing on the sand below the boat. Then I heard Larry say, “Yup, Lin’s here too. She’s the one who keeps the schedule. You can ask her in a minute.” Then he looked down at me, laying nude except for underpants on the cockpit soul. “Might want to cover up before you sit up, we’ve got company.” I thought we’d done a good job of cover up until my neighbor who lives up on the hillside directly across the bay, rowed by later that day. “You deserve extra pay for that survey job – had a good laugh as we looked down from our verandah to see you climbing into a cockpit locker without any clothes.” Yes, I know Gypsy quite intimately and it was a pleasure to be out on her checking fairleads, adjusting sails, helping John get her ready for the first race of the classic boat regatta.
We’ve often had letters from cruisers who are headed towards New Zealand, asking if we thought it was still possible to find some work so they could stay and get to know the country. Yes, is the answer, well proven by another encounter we had and look forward to repeating while we are in the city. We spent a special afternoon on board Wondertime, the 38 foot ketch owned by Michael and Sara Johnson from Seattle, Washington. Michael had gone cruising for two years with his father when he was a teenager. Sara came to love his addiction and together they fixed up three different boats, each bought for less than most people spend on a family sedan. In 2011 they’d packed their two young daughters Leah and Holly (now 5 and 7 years of age) into the
simply outfitted 1985 Benford ketch and set off with an open schedule. When they reached Tonga, they began researching the possibilities of finding work in New Zealand, then Michael began sending out resume’s. Encouraged by what they learned, they decided to sail southward. Not only did Michael find answers waiting for him the day they sailed into Opua in the Bay of Islands, he had to rush down to Auckland for eager interviewers. Within a month of arrival, Wondertime was settled into a berth almost in downtown Auckland. The two girls were in schools that delighted both parents and everyone had resident visas. Sara has written out what she calls, How to move to New Zealand in 31 easy steps and posted it on her website at http://www.svwondertime.com/2013/07/03/how-to-move-to-new-zealand-in-31-easy-steps/
The minute we came on board Wondertime, Holly and Leah wanted to take us on a tour of the boat. One thing was very clear. Having a truly separate space for the two girls in the V berths right forward, one they could close off with a curtain, definitely made life afloat work well for this family. Though most of us would dislike sleeping right up in the bow at sea, these two delightful youngsters seemed completely unconcerned by the motion. What they liked, as their parents did, was being able to get away into their private cave where they could spread their toys far and wide. New friends they brought home from school found their unique bedroom pretty special too.
One of the concerns Michael and Sara had when Michael found a job he liked in Auckland was the note at the main marina saying they could only live on board for a maximum of six months. But once ensconced they found, as others have – local folks helped them find an adjacent marina where again they could live on board for another six months. We look forward to further visits, especially when spring arrives and they can sail up to Kawau Island for some of the school holidays. Be fun to teach more cruising youngsters how to sail in little 8 foot Cheeky.
Larry just said, “don’t to forget that opening line about Pirates.” Yes the most often asked question. When folks ask me I tell them of the strategies we used to avoid the small number of areas where piracy was known to exist such as in the Gulf of Aden, south of Trinidad and the Sulu Sea when we were near those areas. But just as I start getting all serious, Larry usually chimes in, “Don’t worry too much, all the pirates have retired, moved ashore and are now running yacht chandleries.”
On that note, I’ll sign off for this month.
Lin and Larry
P.S. If there is any chance you will be sailing or playing near a fresh water lake please read this month’s cruising tip