From summer to winter and back again, from sailing to talking about sailing then back to sailing again, that could be a twitter description of our lives over the past weeks.
After 20 years of voyaging to far corners of the earth, Taleisin once again carried us eight miles from our home base to the Mahurangi river for one of the finest regattas in the southern Hemisphere. The Mahurangi Cruising Club is a pretty casual affair. Anyone is welcome to join, dues $20 a year. There are few rules; occasional meetings take place at different pubs or wineries. In accord with its constitution, the club cannot own more than $5000 worth of anything, trophies, racing marks and left over yearbooks included. There are 100 members who meet up to coordinate and participate in the yearly regatta. In 1986 when we joined, 15 boats were gathered to race twice around a 5-mile course then return for a barbeque on shore at a beautiful riverside farmstead called Scotts Landing. Now there over 130 classic yachts joining plus 30 classic launches and about 100 dinghies and rowing skiffs joined in for a two day event complete with a 14 piece dance band for prize giving night. It still happens at Scotts Landing, its still friendly and fun with a chance to see who has restored what beautiful classic boat, to catch up with friends seen just once a year, to plan rendezvous for later in the summer when school holidays are over and folks have time to slow down and share a day or two together in an out of the way river or island anchorage.
Back home at Kawau, Larry set to work finishing the beautiful little cedar guest cottage that had been framed up before the holiday season. I had a few assignments from sailing editors, but at the same time I began looking at the projects I had been putting aside over the past years as we spent the majority of our time voyaging. Now we’d both agree, was the time to stay put for a year, enjoy local sailing and write, write, write. One project I’d outlined but had been pushed aside for almost 15 years because of more important seeming how-to books or DVD’s. It’s a memoir about the time Larry and I spent building Taleisin in a desert canyon, far from the nearest paved road, far from phones and electricity. “If you settle in and write that,” Larry suggested, “then you will have your mind clear to write about the grand sailing adventures we had on Taleisin. Besides, I like hearing you read the chapters you’ve written about our canyon life. I think our sailing friends will like that too.” How could I resist such encouragement? So, just as when we were building Taleisin, the early part of each day became filled with writing, the afternoons with local forays around the lovely waters near here on board Taleisin, and visits with friends who sailed in – some overseas cruisers, some city folks off for a holiday cruise and some islanders from other bays.
But the highlight of this year, one that will be hard to beat, was our trip to New York to receive the Far Horizon Award, courtesy of the Cruising Club of America. I am slightly embarrassed to say that I ended up in a complete tizzy when I tried to decide what to wear for such an important occasion, one far outside the range of my normal wardrobe. Fortunately Catherine Miller, the mother of my locally adopted God Daughter Lexi, decided to take me in hand. I took two days off the island and learned what real clothes’ shopping is about. Cath didn’t let me skive off to book shops or walk in and out without trying anything on – but in the end, it was my 5 year old god daughter who choose the clothes I finally wore- shimmering colors that I’d never have chosen for myself but ones which drew compliments for something I’d never been complimented on before, my dress sense. (Yes, I did admit Lexi did the choosing.)
My neighbors got together the night before our departure to put on a dinner to celebrate our award and send us on our way well primed. Larry took me to one of Auckland’s best restaurants on the way to catch our midnight flight out of Auckland. The Cruising Club of America sent a limousine to meet us at JFK airport when we arrived very late at night and our reception at the New York Yacht Club where we would stay for the next four days, was warm and immediately put me at ease. Though I should have slept most of the first day to get over 21 hours of flying and 7 hours time difference, I couldn’t resist piling on the warm clothes I’d brought along to stroll 3 blocks to Times Square where I joined the throngs in the cold wintery sunshine to gawk like the tourist I love to be.
Later that first evening I put on the bright burnt sienna colored, New Zealand designer blouse Lexi chose, plus a long velvet skirt and, escorted by an elegantly dressed husband (Larry has only worn a tie three times in the 45 years we have been together) wandered through the history laden rooms of this Beaus Art building, then joined a small party of truly remarkable sailors for a laughter and wine laden day-before-the-awards dinner. Our host, Bob Drew, was past commodore of the Cruising Club. He and his wife are both amazing sailors, talking of races to Bermuda as casually as jaunts up to Iceland or Norway. The current Commodore of the CCA was there. Sheila McCurdy had been introduced to us almost 30 years before as one of the best sailors on the east coast. Over the years, both with her partner Dave Brown, on their own boat and on other people’s boats she has raced to Bermuda 30 times, trans-Atlantic a dozen times. Now she is the first woman and the youngest person to become Commodore of the Cruising Club of America and an important contributor to the United States Sailing Association. I embarrassed myself completely when I asked to be introduced to the one person in our party of ten that I didn’t recognize. Annie Hill wasn’t fazed at all, “Lin, we met twice before, once in Falmouth, England and a few weeks later in Brest, but I definitely wasn’t dressed like this,” she laughed. Annie had also come from New Zealand to receive a different CCA award. (Her partner Trevor Robertson with whom she shares the award, had a hard time flying out of Chile due to the earthquake there so didn’t arrive until a few hours before the actual awards dinner.) She looked an elegant lady, far different than the rambunctious jumper clad, windblown sailor we’d met afloat.
I had no trouble at all recognizing Sir Robin Knox Johnston, in spite of having last met up 14 years. He immediately put me at ease by telling everyone how much he had appreciated me helping with his laundry back in 1974 when he and Larry competed against each other in the Round Britain Race. That sent the memories flowing as we all talked of the simplicity of the boats they’d raced, (Larry who at that time was 35 years old, had been on a Sparkman Stephens 30 with his partner Leslie Dyball aged 68. Robin had also been 35, racing on 65 foot British Oxygen with Gerry Boxall aged 36. Robin and crew won Line Honors and class handicap honors, Larry and Leslie won over-all Handicap honors and of course, class honors.) We talked of the changes sponsorship and high technology have brought into the sailing world, about favorite cruising destinations, favorite sailing days, then all agreed with the quote from Wind in the Willows about there being nothing quite so grand as just messing about in boats. The food was wonderful, the conversation even better. The only problem was the evening fled past far to fast and jet lag sent us up to our rooms long before we could listen to Robin’s dulcet tones reciting long stanzas of Robbie Burns poetry (we heard about it the next day though.)
I admit to being a bit nervous as we dressed for the awards ceremony, one which would be attended by many well-known sailors who were also powerful and successful movers and shakers in American life. My first impression of the elegantly dressed crowd when I entered the magnificent and highly historical History of Yachting and the America’s Cup Model room definitely made me feel a bit like a country hick. But within a few minutes of being seated at one of the head tables I happened to ask the man to my right, “what kind of boat do you sail.” his description of the Swan 38 he had owned for 40 years brought up the subject of varnishing. “What kind of varnish do you prefer?” Ross Sherbrooke asked and soon I felt surrounded by a like minded bunch of sailors as the discussion of best varnish turned to best brushes and then, of course, to varnishing mishaps.
A truly memorable event, thank you CCA, we feel honored to receive your award. And thanks also for the chance to visit some special friends in the week following the big dinner. Yes, we did take in four Broadway plays (standing in line with hundreds of people at the half price ticket office as rain poured down and we learned that a slow moving line means talking with the interesting people around you.) We took the time to visit my very favorite editor, Patience Wales who worked with Sail Magazine for 17 years and taught me a tremendous amount. Lillian Jarmon-Reisch who I first met in Rhodes (you can see her photo in Seraffyn’s Oriental Adventure) took the train up from Baltimore with her husband Michael and we spent a wonderful afternoon savoring the rhythm filled play, Fela, a leisurely evening at a fine wine bar reminiscing about our youthful foolishness at the Turkish baths we shared 30 years before in Rhodes, Greece.
To end a memorable trip, a short story. In 1970 when we were moored among half a dozen other cruising boats in Cartagena, Columbia Larry came back to the boat one afternoon and said, “Would you mind if Peter comes over for dinner and stays on board tonight? He is leaving that big schooner he’s been crewing on and needs a bunk for one night.” Six-foot tall Peter’s one night stay on board 24’4″ Seraffyn lasted almost six weeks. It was wonderful fun and by the time he left he called me Mom. He still does every time I call and even now, almost 40 years later. Peter treated us wonderfully when we took the train out to join him and his family near Mystic for a few days. He still loves sailing but his boatbuilding company has morphed from sailboats to special projects such as experimental buoys and drones used in gathering weather data in extreme climates.
Only the extreme winter weather of early March made us happy to leave the warm friends of New England, with out the heavy rain and wind that filled our last two days there, we might have been tempted to take up some of the fine invitations that came our way. But then we thought of the perfect sailing weather waiting for us as soon as we returned to the best months of summer in New Zealand.
Lin and Larry