Monday, December 31, 2012
A Little Land-Time in New Zealand
Happy New Year!
May good health and simple pleasures abound for you in 2013, and may day-to-day ordinary acts of kindness help mitigate the world’s unrest and turmoil. Perhaps if we begin such mitigation in the turbulence of our own minds by being kinder to ourselves, by limiting the amounts we absorb, of toxic programming, poisonous political exchanges, and wearying adinfo-blizzards, we might have more time to enjoy being alive and in the world.
Among the biggest gifts of 2012, for us, was time to think and reflect on how we spend our lives. Living your dream of crossing an ocean in a small boat comes with the rich reward of learning things about the world and yourselves, including what realities you like and don’t like about your dream.
Ensconced in this lovely little flat in Devonport, New Zealand and serenaded by Tui birds, with Sockdolager safely tucked into a marina, we continue that practice of reflection. One thing we’ve realized is that even at 5 knots we’re still going too fast to see everything we want to see. There were so many places we wanted to spend serious time in, so many people we wished to have gotten to know better, but the pressures of the advancing season hurried us along. With one tropical storm and two big cyclones so far this season, it’s good we did, but still…
We’ve got miles of new things to see here, and we hope our new friendships are strong enough to last a lifetime. Meanwhile, we miss the friends at home. Ah, choices!
Meanwhile, back in time: To spend Thanksgiving at Lin and Larry Pardey’s was to learn why their name rhymes with “party.” Wowzer, can they ever put on a feed! Keini, Lin’s adopted daughter from Tonga, plus her family and me and a few others helped Lin cook two 15-lb turkeys and fixins, peel a pile of yams, find pots to cook everything in, clean the deck and move the bird feeders, set a table for 30, and then stand back and enjoy the sight of cruising boats coming in to anchor and a stream of people arriving via their neighbor Dave’s little ferry. The party went into the night with much laughter, singing, and guitar playing. Keini also took time to take me on a little trail hike. I really enjoyed spending time with Keini and her family as well as Lin and Larry. Here are some photos from Kawau Island for your enjoyment.
Keini, Lin’s adopted daughter from Tonga, who knows the paths along the foreshore at low tide, and over the hill into the forest.
A common species of beach rockweed in NZ, but completely new to me. It looks like a string of pearls.
The flightless (and endangered) Weka bird feeds along the shore at low tide and is locally common on Kawau Island. They will also walk right into your house and steal bright-colored stuff if you leave the door open!
In case you ever wondered why Kiwi birds were rare, here’s why.
Entire trees were in flower. Here’s a close-up.
The Kereru, NZ’s giant pigeon, perched in a tree. Very pretty iridescent plumage.
Gorgeous bromeliads growing on a tree trunk along the trail, which in NZ is called a track. Hiking is called “tramping.” I like that.
Cycads, or tree ferns, are all over. NZ’s “silver fern” symbol comes from looking at the underside of these ferns, which are silvery colored.
Forest canopy near the top of the hill.
Early morning view of North Cove from Lin’s office, which was converted to a temporary guest room for me. Taleisin is visible at the end of the pier.
Peaceful early morning view of Taleisin.
While waiting for Jim to arrive at Marsden Cove at the mouth of the Whangerei River, I stayed in this secluded little cottage in the town of Whangerei for a few days. It’s called Kereru Cottage (named for the famous NZ giant pigeon) and it’s a complete little house in a lush garden. Sue and Richard Gillard are wonderful hosts. I recommend it if you’re in the area—google them for contact info. The other place I stayed, the Continental Motel, was basic but spotlessly clean and I can recommend it, too.
Kereru Cottage Photo credit: Sue Gillard
One of the finest sights of 2012 was Jim and Tom coming into the channel on sturdy little Sockdolager after a 12-day passage that threw just about everything their way, including weather rough enough to make sitting in the cockpit feel like buckets of water were being dumped on their heads. At one point Jim and Tom, who were sitting side by side, lost sight of each other as a wave of green water passed between them! But Tom’s fabulous camp cooking skills saved the day.
I admit to bursting into tears at this sight of them early that morning.
Sockdolager coming in from sea to Marsden Cove, New Zealand
My composure was quickly recovered when our friends Don and Deb from Buena Vista, who’d driven me down to meet Jim, agreed that a proper mooning might be just the thing to welcome the old Sockdolager and her crew. The three of us turned our backs, leaned over and began fiddling with our zippers, which elicited a big “WHOAAAA!” from Jim and Tom, who were just about to do the same to us, except that it was really chilly that day and the channel was narrow and we didn’t want to cause a grounding due to inattention at this point, so everyone decided at approximately the same moment that maybe we’d just better wave and holler at each other instead. But it was close.
Jim catches our drift, if you know what I mean.
After a few days Tom flew back to Colorado (thanks Alex for letting us borrow him for this trip) and Jim and I enjoyed being on land for a few more days. But soon it was back to the boat and… several days of high wind and rain. Oh well.
A friendly Kiwi of the human persuasion named John, on a neighboring boat, took us on a tour of NZ’s only refinery, which is on the seaward side of Marsden Point. He once worked there, and though safety consciousness is much in evidence, a refinery is still a dangerous place to work and live near because it’s chockablock with highly explosive material contained in a system of pipes limited by the weakest of its many parts. Here’s a model of the refinery, which is utterly bewildering in its complexity, especially when compared to the simplicity and safety of solar and wind technologies. Still, after living on a boat whose systems are run by a 175-watt solar panel whose output varies by the amount of cloud cover, Jim remarked one day, “There’s an astonishing amount of energy contained in one gallon of gas.” That’s the rub, unfortunately.
Tankers dock at the pier, and oystercatchers (a bird) roam the beach. Oil companies tend to claim credit for wildlife that lives or nests within their boundaries, but really, most of the wildlife was already there before they were. When we thought about the number of jobs linked to and dependent on the oil industry, we wondered what it will take to make societal-level changes to cleaner energy, given the current political unwillingness. For this reason, the refinery tour was an eye-opener.
A ship offloading oil at the refinery pier. Whangerei Heads in background.
John also took us along the coast and we visited some beaches and the historic town of Waipu. Finally the weather cleared and we took off, a couple days ahead of much more weather with Cyclone Evan’s arrival, and headed for the shelter of North Cove at Kawau Island, and another visit with the Pardeys.
On the way, it was birding heaven. Big rafts of petrels and shearwaters, too big to go around, were casual about our approach and allowed some good photos.
Seabirds a few miles east of Bream Tail. The little ones that look like they’re standing on water are White-Faced Storm Petrels, whose trampoline-style hop-flying across the water is mesmerizing and comical. We were told that these birds hunt by sense of smell, and it seemed that each time the odor of fish was strong, White-Faced Storm Petrels were nearby.
There are more than 50 species of shearwaters and petrels that frequent New Zealand waters! Identifying them can be a challenge. I lost track while flipping bird guide pages and sighting so many new birds. What fun!
They seemed not to mind us and only moved when we got close. I think these are mostly grey petrels with a few common diving petrels and fluttering shearwaters in the mix at the fringes. Seen just north of Cape Rodney.
At one point near Cape Rodney I got a good glimpse of what at first looked like a small black albatross but turned out to be a giant petrel. I couldn’t tell if it was the southern or northern species. Wow!
Arriving at Kawau on a perfect December summer day (yes we are still trying to get used to that), we were invited to take a mooring and go ashore for a hilarious evening of wine and cheese at Lin and Larry’s, with Daniel and Michelle, a young cruising couple on a Westsail 32 whom we’d met in Tonga. They were doing some varnish work for the Pardeys. A couple evenings later it was our turn, with Lin and Larry coming aboard Sockdolager for more good conversation. Just before Christmas they left to go up-island to visit friends in Opua.
On a spectacular pre-cyclone day, Jim gets ready for a little fishin’. Unfortunately, he didn’t do any catchin’. In the background, Taleisin is hauled out on the tidal grid at Mickey Mouse Marine.
Did you know that Kawau Island has three species of flightless birds? The Kiwi, the Weka, and the blue penguin. We saw the latter two and heard all three calling at night. There’s something about these flightless birds, especially the penguin, that gives me a distinctly unscientific but irresistible urge to cuddle them.
The cyclone took its time but then gave us several days of gale-force winds and rain. We realized that Christmas would be spent on the mooring at North Cove. Dave and Helen Jeffreys, neighbors and ferry owner-operators, had kindly offered their mooring to us, and in the wind gusts we were grateful. Then they invited us to drinks one evening, and then for Christmas dinner. We had a lovely ham, they had a big salmon and a groaning table full of food, and with 4 other guests we had a marvelous impromptu Christmas dinner, the kind you remember for its sparkling conversation and laughter. Dave and Helen also operate the Kawau Lodge, and if you wanted a great all-in-one getaway, this would be it.
Taleisin’s lovely reflection
We said goodbye to our new friends on Boxing Day and headed for Auckland. Turns out Boxing Day is the day that hundreds of boats leave Auckland for summer holidays in the Bay of Islands in the north. At one point during the busy day I decided to count boats; we were surrounded by 59, all northbound. The Bay of Islands will be busy for awhile.
Auckland was quiet as churchmice when we arrived. Nice! The Sky Tower was lit up with fireworks as we celebrated being in the first time zone to ring in the New Year. We hope 2013 is a good year for everyone.
NZ has some great sunsets, too.