The leaves are falling off the trees and there’s woodsmoke in the air. Sure signs that I’ve stayed in New Zealand too long. Cyclone season officially ended a week ago. There was one mediocre weather window last week. Another one will be opening up Wednesday evening or Thursday. It doesn’t look that great, but I’m anxious to get Bodhran back up to the tropics. I have all four of my blankets on my bed. I’m going to have to start adding sleeping bags if I don’t leave soon.
Rick had to fly home to take care of some business, so I’ve spent most of the last month cruising solo. After spending just over a month waiting for Asus to replace a fried motherboard on my new laptop, I finally made it down the Hatea River and out of Whangarei about a month ago. The forecast had been for 35 knot southwesterlies and it was no time to leave, but I was anxious to be underway again. So I moved halfway down the river and hid in the nook off Parua bay for a few days. Once the wind settled a bit, I had a beautiful sunny downwind sail up to Mimi-whangata where I spent almost a week hiking, taking pics, and getting some painting done on Bodhran. After an abysmal March, it was the best little bit of sunny weather that I’ve had all (austral) summer.
I’d wanted to move up to Whangamumu after that, but the forecast was calling for northeast winds to fill in. I decided to make it around Cape Brett and into the Bay of Islands before they did. Two days later I found myself back in civilization anchored off Opua. I set out walking around trying to find out about a weekly music session that Dave on Sidewinder had told me about. Of course it’s just a bunch of guys playing at a house up on the hill and there’s nothing posted about it. Fortunately this Scottish ex-pat, Rachael, recognized me as I was walking by the Opua Community Hall. She’d seen me playing at the Irish Pub down in Whangarei and invited me up to the house jam on Friday night. It always amazes me when these coincidences occur.
The next day (Friday), I ended up meeting a couple of woofers ( woofing = working on organic farms, a cheap way of traveling where you trade labor for room and board ) in the marina parking lot. Dave, from Wales, is a guitar player and aspiring sailor. His partner Kerttu, from Estonia, was really keen on getting out sailing as well. After a few rounds of beers out on Bodhran I invited them up to the music night that I was going to and to head out into the islands for a few days afterward.
It was a lot of fun having a couple of people really psyched on sailing on board. Kerttu, Dave and I spent 5 days out in the Bay, sailing, hiking, fishing and playing some music. They had to get moving on and I wanted to go to the music night again, so Thursday morning we went back in to Opua and they hitched their way to Kawakawa. The weather was looking like it would be good for the following week and I really enjoyed having some crew with me. So I moved up to Paihia, the tourist hub for the Bay of Islands. I put up a flyer offering free day sails at 3 of the backpackers (hostels). As I was walking around town, I saw an interesting looking tattoo parlor and decided that it was time to add to my Maori tattoo. The artists weren’t in, but I set up an appointment the next day.
I had two tattoos on my leg. One from Huihine in the Society Islands and the other from Whangarei. They are both pretty meaningful to me, but they didn’t fit together well. I asked Lani, the tattoo artist to tie the two together. I told him about my father passing this last year and my new energy and exuberance with my diet and life changes. He ended up embellishing the original Maori tattoo to fit the style of my Tahitian turtle and added a Maori guardian figure and a new lifeline between the two original pieces to tie it all together. I’m really happy with the result. I’m sure that my Mom is shuddering a bit as she reads this, but I’ve now got half of my lower leg done. I’d like to eventually fill the whole lower leg with different tats from Polynesia, but we’ll see. I’d forgotten how much they hurt and I probably won’t be ready for another one for a while.
My flyers at the backpackers ended up getting 4 responses, but I only got two of them out sailing. The day after getting my leg done, I took a couple of young Scots, Mercedes and James out to the Black Rocks on a beautiful downwind run. We weaved our way through the rocks to a nice little anchorage where we stopped to get a little fishing in. We caught a few snapper, but only one keeper. We were only 5 miles out of Paihia, so I pulled up the hook an hour before sunset thinking we’d be back in plenty of time. Of course the wind was blowing 30 right on the nose by the time we got around the rocks and back into the bay. To make matters worse, the tide was ebbing. Fortunately I know the Bay well enough to be comfortable sailing back in the dark. We bashed into a good head sea for an hour until the sun went down and the wind went with it. It took us another two hours to tack our way under a ¾ moon into the anchorage off Paihia while taking a slug off a bottle of scotch on each tack to keep hypothermia at bay.
I’ve met up with Mercedes a few times since our sail. She’s done some work on delivery crews and aspires to get into cruising and ocean racing. I’ve really enjoyed having some fresh, enthusiastic people around the last few weeks. Mercy’s excitement for sailing and eagerness to learn is hard to resist, so I’ve invited her to sail with me up to Fiji. I’ve never taken on crew that I didn’t know before, but I’ve got a good feeling and I’m sure it’ll work out well.
Rick made it up here a couple of days ago. We’ve both been finishing up our pre-departure maintenance and getting ready to leave. Hopefully the window will open this week and my next blog post will be coming from Savusavu, Fiji. It’ll probably take 10-14 days depending on weather and whether we decide to stop off at Minerva Reef on the way.