Friday, March 2, 2012

Boy Noises, Hiking to Paihia, Helping Puddy Tat, Winds that Drag

February 23 - 27

Every morning Griffyn wakes up before us all and goes up on deck. He shouts, "waves coming!" as boats come near. We are anchored in the middle of a river - boats are always going by. Early in the morning it is mostly small fishing boats who wave as they go by. Griffyn shouts out to everyone - a true Irishman - ne'er a one goes by without his pronouncement. After seeing what is happening outside, he comes back down and begins to set up a war. He has a tons of figures, he collects small sticks and other sharpish things (swords and other weapons). He can spend an hour setting up his two armies and 10 minutes in a whirlwind of explosive sounds deciding the battle. Griffyn has an amazing array of boy noises. He loves to ambush any unsuspecting or sleepy person exiting the head in the morning. He loves to spit loudly over board (it is banned indoors unless brushing his teeth - we can't seem to stop those explosions - but generally they hit their target.) He reminds us a lot of Calvin (& Hobbs). He loves to tell stories (it is hard to stop the story once he has your attention.) He keeps me chuckling if not outwardly - always on the sly.

School is going well - this couple of weeks the elective subject is History / Geography. Mostly the kids are learning about U.S. History (Tamsyn gets a little world History too). A couple of our Art days have become Hiking Days. We were feeling restless after being sick and so we went for a hike along the waterfront, from Opua to Paihia. It's listed as a 2 1/2 hours (one way) hike - it took us all day. It is a beautiful hike (not as stunning as the last one) but lovely - through mangroves at high tide, lowland forest, back yards and sandy beaches. No one owns the beaches (high tide to low tide and more) so we can walk along the water anywhere in New Zealand. We walked to a camp ground where there is a small play ground. The kids played there while I sat at a picnic table and stared out at the water waiting for Owen (who took pictures along the way) to catch up. It feels so good to stretch your legs, feel the heart working, and breathe deeply.

Starting out along the shore in Opua.

We loved these flowers.

Here there be dragons.


Mind the dinosaurs...

Intrepid hikers.

A peek into the Bay of Islands from a rise on the trail.

You remember this....

Mangroves at high tide.

The yellow brick road.


Watch out she'll bite your head off.

Being in one place - New Zealand - for a long time (it will be 5 months when hurricane season in the tropics ends and we can sail North again), has been a bit hard psychologically. This is a small space, we get seasick on the windy days as the boat bounces funny at anchor, and then it rains, but not enough to collect water - which means Owen hauls 40 lb. gerry cans of water to the boat from the dock every week. We can only do laundry (when we have enough water on board) on days that aren't rainy or too windy, which means that we do not change sheets weekly or even every two weeks. We cannot go to shore when ever we want, some days it is just too windy. We don't shower on deck (too windy) like we did in the tropics or below deck like we did on passages. It's too cold here. We pay for hot water showers ashore about twice a week, so we itch now and then and it isn't just from the nono bites. We have bedhead. It feels like camping and that gets old when you are not distracted by sailing to a new island, or exploring your way around a new town, or fighting head winds. The things we worry about - boat repairs, the high cost of everything, our diet, dental check ups, a mammogram - pray on us. A local cruiser went to a dentist here and was charged $380 for a single "temporary" filling. She was supposed to come back in a month and pay another $400 to get the "permanent" filling. What the hell is a "temporary filling?" She hasn't gone back. I don't even want to check on what a cleaning would cost for 4 people. We are in the "first world" once again. I read in "Latitudes & Attitudes", a sailing rag, that the delivery costs of their baby (in a hospital) in Fiji or Tonga (a 'third world' country) was only 50 cents!  Medical care is completely socialized here - but we are foreigners. Maybe we get special prices. The kids are both loosing baby teeth so often these days that I figure we have some time before their adult teeth need a good cleaning. We brush and floss daily.

Our friend, Sylvie (S/V Puddy Tat), is an artist who makes her living selling her paintings online. She was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwee) and has had to flee her country twice (due to political unrest between whites and blacks) leaving everything behind. She seems well suited to the cruising lifestyle. She has found that less of her paintings go missing (via standard international mail) if they have children's drawings all over the envelopes. So she is paying Tamsyn and Griffyn to make pictures on her manilla envelopes. Tamsyn and Griffyn love their first payed job. David (S/V Puddy Tat) asked Owen to run their engines (a catamaran has two engines) for them while they were on South Island visiting with family. David said his engines needed to be run daily for 15-20 minutes in the morning to keep the batteries charged. So Owen was over at Puddy Tat every morning for the last 10 days - some of those days were cloudy and rainy and their single small solar panel wasn't generating enough power to keep their frig/freezer running and store enough to charge the battery bank. So towards the end of their vacation, Owen was spending as much as two hours a day over at Puddy Tat. (They left us some cash and food as a thank you.) Once again, I am grateful that we have 4 large solar panels. 

The local elementary school in Opua, held a regatta (like a carnival fundraiser) Saturday morning. Tamsyn and Griffyn bought tickets (for unlimited time) to two inflated rides (the giant slide and a pirate ship) while Owen and I wandered around and watched races. Every New Zealand event seems to have a sausage sizzle - think bangers and mash. (Kiwis do not like spices or too much flavor - bangers are finely ground meat with lots of added cereal and few spices.) There were tables piled high with stuff for sale (like rumpled old clothes at a rummage sale), raffle tickets for 'meat packs' (packages of assorted frozen meats for a BBQ), and races: dinghy races, swimming races (all ages) and the most anticipated race - the raft race (rafts made by kids). One raft made of bamboo trees with four highly disorganized gangly boys barely floated and the boys kept slipping off (reminding us of "Gilligan's Island"). The boys had a big bag of water balloons aboard which distracted them from winning. They came in 5th out of 6. A miniature catamaran named 'Double Trouble' won the race. These well prepared kids had a lot of help from their adults. Another raft splashed with black and white paint made of old used gerri cans lashed to a center board kept loosing its' gerri's (which floated away and had to be retrieved by the referee boat) as it was waddled through the course. Those girls still came in ahead of 'Gilligan's Island'. By the end of the race, kids were throwing water balloons everywhere (many more balloons had appeared) and falling into the water (lots of good clean fun).

Speaking of fun....
Here Carrie & Griffyn rock out with some tunes.

These pictures are not chronological.  It just seemed a good place to put them in - editor.

Saturday the water was very choppy, by noon the winds had picked up to 35 knots. Owen, looking anxiously out towards the anchorage, saw Madrona positioned much too close to that heavy trawler, Craig Isle. So he jumped in the dinghy and drove back to her, leaving us ashore (the kids were playing with the boys from S/V Bonne Aire.) When Owen got to Madrona, our bow line had been secured to a mooring ball. Benjamin (our closest boat neighbor) had come aboard and attached Madrona - no doubt because we were dragging. (It is customary to board and secure boats in danger when the owners are missing. Owen went aboard a large cat in Atuona, on Hiva Oa, French Polynesia, that was banging into another cat, the owners of both boats were away.) When Owen boarded Madrona, she was 20 feet from Craig Island!  Owen turned on the engine and the windlass, then released the bowline from the mooring float and hauled anchor as quickly as he could. As soon as the anchor was up he raced back to the cockpit to steer her away from Craig Isle. He drove Madrona further up the river and re-anchored. Hours later when he came to pick us up, he was exhausted. I can't imagine moving the boat by myself - usually it takes both of us, one in the bow using the windlass and the other at the wheel - especially in a dicey situation. I am so grateful for Owen's quick thinking and strength - he keeps our home safe. It is quieter anchored out here and we are bracing for yet another wind storm. I have to remind myself that all this wind is much milder weather than the tropical storms fed by the warm waters north of New Zealand. That we are in fact much safer here in the Bay of Islands - than we would be in Figi, Tonga or other warm water hurricane holes.

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