“So… when are you leaving?” It’s the question we’d all like to be able to answer accurately, but invariably unexpected problems and uncooperative weather continue to make liars of us all. In the last few weeks, we’ve been traipsing about the Hauraki Gulf of northern New Zealand, sailing when wind and weather have been decent, and hiding out at various anchorages on the days between, fixing up the boat.
Still fixing up the boat? you say. That’s right. The problems weren’t all solved and didn’t go away when we left the boatyard. The list of projects seems to be entropic – constant and ever-expanding. For every problem fixed, another one arises. We find new leaks faster than we can seal the old ones. (Before anyone begins to worry, e.g. Mom and Dad, let me assure you that none of these leaks are going to sink the boat. Or at least not within the next ten years. They are just slow drips in heavy rains, with resulting inconveniences such as all of my clothes never quite being dry, or some of the food getting slightly damp.) As Doug says, “Cruising is really better defined as ‘fixing your boat in exotic places’.” That suits me just fine though, because I’ve no idea how to have a relaxing vacation anyways.
I confess to a peculiar enjoyment of fixing the boat – I feel like in the process of fixing it I get to know the boat so much better. I like finding out how it works, how the parts and systems fit together, where all the little nooks and crannies go. At times it’s hard work, at others it’s dirty work – but at the best of times, it’s a combination of sleuthing out the source of a problem, coming up with a creative way to solve it, and working with my hands. (At other times still, it’s just a matter of watching Doug mensa his way through something really technical and applauding afterwards.) But most of all I like watching things come together. There’s not much more satisfying than seeing something you helped to make or fix work properly at last.
Of course it’s not all work. On Kawau Island, some old cruising friends of Doug’s invited us to a party at the island’s yacht club, to celebrate the 65th birthday of a fellow we had never met. We gladly crashed the party, and spent a fantastic night dancing up a storm with complete strangers. There was food, there was drink, and there was pole dancing by people of all ages on a pole that was both a) highly unstable and b) supporting the roof of the tent. To my amazement and relief, no hips were broken, and the tent only collapsed half a dozen times in the course of the evening. Mr. Patty, the guest of honour, spent his night continuously forcing shots of sake on unsuspecting people, while Mrs. Patty was putting teenagers to shame on the dance floor with her moves. Those folks sure knew how to party. By the next morning, when we paddled our dinghy into the yacht club, the birthday boy and several stragglers were still (or already) at it, beer in hand and greasy food on the table. Island life, apparently…
We’ve managed to explore several islands on sunny days, and one or two on miserably rainy ones. No matter though. Even on our rainiest, coldest hike, on the nature reserve island of Tiritiri Matangi, the birdsong from the tree tops and the dances of cheeky little fantails flitting all around us kept us in good spirits until we arrived back to the boat and some much needed hot tea.
In the mean time, we’ve been learning to sail the Illusion. I’ve got the most to learn, not having sailed since I was a teenager, and never having sailed on ocean waters. The learning curve is steep, and now is the time to start climbing it. Sometimes the steering is challenging – trying to find the right balance between speed and target direction, between surfing a wave and falling off it. And then sometimes the steering is easy, but the navigation and surroundings require constant awareness and attention. But also sometimes it is ridiculously fun – when you’ve caught that wave and are just managing to stay on it, or when you feel how just a little shift in angle changes your speed and the pull of the boat.
We’ve had several good days on the water, and a few great ones. The best day so far in my mind was the day that three dolphins raced alongside the bow – I’ve never seen anything like it! We whooped and hollered at them, and they seemed to respond to our enthusiasm, jumping in and out of our wake and taunting us to go faster. Later that same day I caught my first fish ever – a 24” kawahai! The hour and a half spent untangling fishing line the previous day was suddenly worthwhile. In case you wondered what a kawahai is, let me describe it for you in one word: delicious. Sashimi, ceviche, baked in lemon dill butter sauce – no matter how you eat it, it’s tasty. That was a feast not to be forgotten.
Now we’re back in Auckland, with a few more parts to pick up and a few more provisions to restock once again. It’s easy for patience to wear thin, as we’re waiting for the right weather window to escape the Auckland area and head out to French Polynesia. It’s easy for patience to give way to frustration. The frustrations of being repeatedly delayed, of fixing things and then having to fix them again, of mistakes being made, of money being spent, of being cooped up inside in a small space with the same people day after day, of being out of touch with the people we love, of hearing the raindrops hammer on the roof and the drip drip of those pesky leaks (just occasionally enough that you never quite forget they are there), of listening to the monotone voices on the radio report more bad weather coming up, of timing being what it always is. It’s easy to dwell on things like what if and we should have and if only, and the mistakes we’ve made in the past that can’t be unmade. It’s easy to just sit and wait for things like weather and time to be on our side, and harder to stay focused on the things that are in our control and still need to be done. But living on a boat means concessions must be made, and exact timing seems to be one of those things. Works for me though, I’m never on time for anything anyways.