“Well imagine meeting you here,” a lilting Irish voice called as we waited in line to order our dinner at the Opua Cruising Club in the Bay of Islands. We’d just sailed in from a week at Great Barrier Island where we’d joined a large group of international voyager to celebrate the New Year. Now both Larry and I struggled to place the face. Roy Dixon quickly introduced himself and said, “You probably don’t remember me but we met in Howth, Ireland when I was just dreaming of setting of cruising and here I am just sailed in from Fiji!” It took only a few minutes to recall the evenings we’d spent together back in 1997. As we waited for dinner, Roy told us a story that we just have to share.
“Yes, I did want to get sailing before I was too old, but then my father developed Alzheimer’s. He was a gentle soul. I moved in to his little house in Dublin and it was so easy to care for Da. When I suggested he move into a care facility he said, ‘I like it here, why would I move?’ I often took him with me when I went down to the boat. He was as content there as in the house. I don’t think he really knew where he was as long as he was comfortable. So I said to myself, why not just take him with me. And that’s what I did. Instead of setting off across an ocean, I decided to stay near places where medical assistance was relatively easy and went down to the Med. Da was happy as a lark. He spent hours watching the dolphins, chatting to the seagulls. I doubt he really knew what was happening or that we’d left Ireland. In fact, almost every day he’d say, “well it seems a bit of a hot spell has set in.’ Then one day I left Da napping after lunch while I went to buy some provisions. Came back two hours later and he had drifted off. Da had just turned 87. Last time I went home to Ireland was to take his ashes back so he could truly rest in peace.”
Our holiday season, indeed almost all of spring and the beginning of summer seemed to be full of special moments such as this. Several of the friends who flew in from overseas to share Larry’s 70th on Halloween, stayed on to explore New Zealand. Our home became like a central clearing spot and Thanksgiving saw these overseas folks joining an exceptionally interesting group of sailing friends for our traditional turkey feed. We knew Amanda Swan and John Neal would be sailing in after finishing their annual work of voyaging through the Pacific training potential cruising sailors. Amanda’s parents, who have sailed to all parts of the world, live just north of the island and often sail their classic cutter over to share dinners with us. Most of the other attendees had crossed oceans and just before dinner was to start we had a grand surprise.
A handsome 35 footer anchored near our jetty and three folks rowed in. We didn’t recognize any of them when they landed. Then we realized why- last time we’d seen Lorraine and Robby had been on board their 36-foot classic ketch Southern Cross in Apia, Samoa when all of us were wearing shorts or sarongs. Now they were bundled up in jackets, long pants, sailing hats and scarves. They were sailing with a local farmer and of course got included in our evenings festivities. Best coincidence of the evening, Amanda had been taught how to swim by Lorraine. They hadn’t seen each other in almost a decade. Even the two non-sailors, Gael and Foster Archer, favorite neighbors of ours, found the talk fascinating – far off places, skin diving, sailing, interesting encounters with native people.
Larry loves projects, I love watching and helping with them. We seem to have lots of fun visitors, so to add more confusion to our lives, he decided to build a small guest cottage at the far end of our property. Tim Barnes, a local builder set to work with him, plus a small digger and three weeks later with the Christmas holidays approaching, the retaining walls and earthworks were done and the little 10 by 14 foot building closed in. Then I said, enough – I want to go sailing and so does Taleisin. With Christmas Holidays and summer happening at the same time, the vast majority of New Zealanders shut up shop and set off to play for a month. We set off sailing with no plans except to head to Great Barrier Island, 30 miles due east of Kawau. We’d been invited to a New Years Eve party to celebrate the 10th anniversary and 70th birthday of Helmut and Meryle, two voyagers who like us, have a home base in New Zealand.
Boy it felt good to be back on board. I left my computer behind on purpose. I accidentally left my phone charger behind. So for the next weeks I was a true cruiser, no schedules. We planned our day by the weather or who we happened to meet, or what book we were reading (some were so good we lay in the bunk most of the day reading.) We chose our destinations based on wind directions. And as the short story at the beginning of this letter shows, we met a lot of interesting old and new friends along the way. But that is fodder for the next newsletter.
May 2010 be a fine year for you,
Lin and Larry