Our flurry of work projects on Anthea was followed by a mad dash by bus to Auckland. A blog post solely about that trip would have been called “Money, Money, Money!” We bought a gently used ten year old car, fresh off the boat from Japan, and made our way across the bridge and beside the sea of masts to the southern side of Auckland Harbor. We stayed with friends Nigel (the professional sailor who crewed on Anthea for our big win in Tonga) and Joanna in their lovely townhouse with sweeping views of the city. Over the next two days we searched out every sale on backpacking gear and hemorrhaged money in an unfathomable way. Not a single sales clerk was from New Zealand; Brits, Israelis, USians, and Eastern Europeans all helped us spend our money on hiking boots, rain jackets, sun glasses, foam sleeping pads, a backpack and head lamps. We tracked down a used tent, and then Nigel saved the bank account by generously filling in many missing pieces with loans from their trekking gear. Their hospitality, including a delicious meal by the pool and gourmet breakfasts, kept us going. For six months we’ve hardly had the opportunity to spend money beyond basic provisioning, and in only three days we broke the bank. While we’ll put all this gear to good use, we felt like shopping zombies when we stumbled back to Anthea.
Shortly after our return, we got a taste of the Bay of Islands on a brief, two night cruise to Oke Bay, near Cape Brett. Meeting up with a Norweigan family on a 45 foot boat named Ghost, we shared a dinner and played an epic game of ultimate Frisbee on the beach. We, the old folks, aided by Emil, their middle son, won the game (ok, it was 5 against 4, but they had most of the youth and talent on their side). We were so hot we jumped in the water and had our first swim outside of the tropics. We only screamed for a moment then enjoyed ourselves – not bad!
The coastline is beautiful here, with numerous bays nestled within rocky cliffs; red-flowering bottle brush trees and gnarled, broad-branched trees laced with white flowers flow down hills spotted with green bushes and grass. A few rugged trees cling to the cliffs, roots draping the rocks, and hover above small, sandy beaches. The black and white Tui bird with its melodic song weaves its melody among the seabirds’ cries. Small sea caves open up into tempting darkness, inviting kayak explorations. Mark barely escaped a survival story when a swell rebounded inside the narrow cave he had entered in our inflatable kayaks. I turned my head away as I saw the breaking wave behind him and the large cresting wave in front. Looking back to assess the damage and initiate a rescue, I saw him paddle out, totally swamped, but no worse for wear and sporting a wicked grin.
This brief cruise ended abruptly as we returned to dock to see our friend Charmane from Vlakvark (with whom Devon stayed in Tonga). She had come to sell her boat and organize the gear to ship to Australia. We helped her close a chapter of her life – 14 years of boat ownership, including cruising the Antarctic several times – providing meals and support and listening to her many stories along the way.
With only a few days before Anson was scheduled to fly out for his first backpacking trip, with friends Kathy and Yannai, and with Devon signed up for a local sailing camp, we decided, reluctantly on my part, to stay dockside once more. Mark, ever focused on keeping our nearly 40 year old boat in Bristol condition, launched a project of cleaning and sealing our teak decks. We became a project boat once again, the sealant supplies vying for space with Anson’s backpacking equipment. (The decks look almost new now, and another project that didn’t even make it on the “to-do” list is complete.)
Anson set off on his adventure, Devon finished his camp, and we stayed yet another night at dock, as laundry still needed to be washed and provisioning completed before setting off for a 10 day cruise. It was only reasonable to stay, but I felt like a caged animal, my chance for escape cut off. I don’t know why I find it hard to be content to stay tethered to land, when my children are happy and the boat is being cared for. I only know that a yearning for the sea is buried deep within me, quenched solely by the feel of the boat, sails trimmed, slipping through the water.
The next day, although we set out in a drizzle, with the wind light and variable and the sky a dull grey, I smiled and let out a chortle of joy. Free again! While tacking into stronger winds, we crossed paths with Fluenta, a Canadian boat with three kids aboard, and made a plan to anchor together. Soon we were hiking to an overlook across the islands and making plans for an evening of sweets and Christmas carols. Devon baked a spice cake and their 14 year old daughter Victoria made fudge, which we devoured between songs.
This morning Mark and I kayaked around Moturaohia Island, threading our way between rock outcroppings and into the channel to play with the dolphins. A pod of 14 of these majestic beings swam by our kayaks, parting to pass on either side. Awe-struck by their size and power, we sat still and opened all our senses to their presence, drinking in the sound of their breath, the break of the water, the curve of their dive, and the baby’s leap as they passed us by.
A late morning sail, tacking in flat seas and 4-7 knots of apparent wind, brought us to Paradise Cove, on Urupukapuka Island, where we’ll be spending Christmas along with Fluenta, several other cruising boats, and a host of Kiwis.