“I’ve got to stop naming things.” Leslie tells me as we drive North one last time to Whengerai. In the last couple of weeks in New Zealand, we are both feeling the nerves that come with upping anchor. Leslie puts down roots easily and quickly. Plant her in a spot longer than a week and she is naming vehicles, plants, houses. For me, this near constant change is one of the beautiful parts of the sailing lifestyle. I like the new and unique. “If you don’t like where you are, raise your sails and go to the next place. If you do like where you are, raise your sails and hope the next place is as beautiful.”
But, even as a new landscape is intriguing, we both struggle leaving people we love behind. We felt all this when we cast off our lines from San Diego, and New Zealand is proving to be just as difficult. We are saying “catch you later” to some of the very best sailing friends we made this year.
We originally met Eric and Vandy (from Scoots) in the Marquesas last June. We delayed departing from one of our favorite anchorages by approximately three days because quick sundowners the evening of our first intended departure turned into “Elevenses” (afternoon coffee), which turned into Tacos for dinner the next night, which turned into a birthday party aboard Athanor the next night, which turned into a beach picnic the afternoon following. They helped us prove that Grin is the Unsinkable-Grin in Tonga, and we never run out of things to talk about. They sailed to New Zealand and have kept Scoots in a marina in Whengerai. So, we stopped in for a few days of wandering that area. Cocktails aboard Scoots, a hike to the Whengerai Falls and the tree-canopy walkway. We are saying catch you later to Scoots because they are planning to sail to Tonga then Fiji starting May 1. We aren’t likely to still be in Tonga that late. (At least we are hoping not, we have to move if we are going to make it to Thailand before December!)
We even spied the famous sailing vessel, Guppy, in the Whengerai Marina. If you ever want to watch an inspiring movie, watch Laura Decker's documentary Maiden Trip. How many times have I said to myself: "If a fourteen year old girl can do this by herself, certainly I can do it, too!" Guppy is the supporting star, and I was so excited to see her in person.
We also met a walking stick bug. "You can't see me, nothing to see here...."
"Darn, you caught me."
We enjoyed sundowners in Scoot's cockpit and If we weren't already "homesick" Scoots just reminded us how comfy Sonrisa is, and made us all that more ready to head home.
We also checked in with our friends Peter, Karen, Sean and Sara on Batu. Batu is Sonrisa’s sister ship, a late 70s vintage Valiant. We first found The Batus on a common dock in Tahiti. Always happy to meet a fellow Valiant owner, we eventually grabbed dinner with them in Tonga before they departed for their sail to New Zealand. We stopped into Bay of Islands and Opua area to have dinner with them, hear their Sea Stories from the New Zealand Crossing, and sneak in a mountain bike ride while we were at it. They are completing their Pacific circle (southward) this year, and sailing all the way from New Zealand eastward to the Austral Islands, then North to Tahiti, then Hawaii, then home to the States. Upwind. But don’t worry, they are sailing a Valiant. If you want to read a blog about this amazing family, check out www.thevoyaginglife.com
(Batu's Photos, not mine. Used with permission!)
While in and around Opua, we squeezed in two great mountain bike rides and a hike through the Waipu Caves. Glowworms everywhere! Still no great pictures, but this time I at least got to keep my camera to give it a fair try. Man, I wish I had packed my tripod!
We circled Southward to Coromandel area, to enjoy our last bit of New Zealand Exploration. Beaches, beaches with hot springs, pampas grasses, and a brewery within walking distance of camp. Not too shabby.
We got to spend some quality time with Jonas the Swede when our stint in Auckland overlapped with him. Phil and Laura (The Lufis) had a full house, hosting the OddGodfreys and Jonas. We had barbecue, brewed beer, and Jonas made many Kallenbuler (Swedish Cinnamon rolls) from scratch! So fun. We are still hoping to catch Jonas this year in Vanuatu, so we don’t really have to say “Catch You Later.”
Also at the Lufi’s house, we made good friends with Max the Cat. Even Leslie, who is deathly allergic to cats found she is not allergic to Max at all. I can pet him, hold him, let him knead my head with his very sharp claws, or wear him like a scarf and Leslie doesn’t mind. Even Osmond and Tasman (our new Adventure Kiwi) made friends with Max. So, we will miss him, too. Though, I’m not sure he will miss us as much.
Leslie was pretty irked when I put the bikes on the internet for sale, and her bike sold in approximately five minutes. She had to go on one last ride and take some photos to say goodbye.
And last, but certainly not least, the Lufis. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll remember our crossing to the Galapagos was a trying experience. We were the only sailboat on this route at that time (maybe ever - who jumps straight from Cabo to Galapagos?). The crossing was 21 days without anyone to talk to who could really understand the difficulty of sailing. Next up, we were facing a crossing from Galapagos to the Marquesas that could take up to 28 days and although it was supposed be in trade winds which were going to “gently push us along,” we weren’t necessarily looking forward to it. But, in the Galapagos, we met these two wonderful people who were about our age and had a boat that would sail a similar speed to us. Now that we were on a more normal route and timeframe, we would be able to participate in the “Pacific Puddle Jump Net” - which is a set time when all sailors in the area get on the Single Side Band Radio (SSB) and report their location, weather conditions and status of crew on board. So, now we had someone we could “race” and talk to and meet at our destination once we all arrived safely. That half hour morning and night of human contact out in a remote ocean where it would just be Leslie and me in 3000 miles of open ocean was a valuable treasure.
The Lufis left about an hour after we did, the winds started light as the Galapagos Island are in the doldrums, but I was amazed to see them coming up on us at nearly double our speed! We had to be doing something wrong with our sail trim, they couldn’t be gaining on us that fast. After changing sails, adjusting trim, changing sails again, adjusting trip again - like we were out on an afternoon race, I finally decided to call them up and see how they were going so fast. The response that they were using the engine should have come as no surprise in retrospect….
Over the next few weeks, we checked in with the Net and tracked the Lufi’s progress along with ours. Even if they were 10 or 100 miles away, just knowing there were other crazy people out in the never-ending blue was extremely comforting. In the end, we chose different islands to land at initially, so it was well over a month before we saw them again. When we did, though, they both reached out and gave us big hugs. We met them for dinner and we all recounted our war stories that were not part of the net check in. After that, we again chose different islands and different speeds for a good while. That is just how this sailing life works.
We met them again in Raitaia and I got to put a few hours of breaking in our new dinghy motor by leading them through the long pass into the anchorage there. We spent an evening over dinner and drinks, then off to our separate paths. We were sailing together again a month later as we left for Maupiti for Rarotonga, the land of awesome hamburgers and scooters. We hosted each other on our boats for dinner, drinks and even movie night. We introduced them to Captain Ron! We all laughed together whenever anyone fell in as a result of the crazy port we were moored in, and we found Phil a great 40th Birthday present at the Rarotonga Prison Craft Shop. We split our route to Niue, but landed at the same anchorage ready for a week+ of scuba diving, me driving the rental van on the wrong side of the road, and sipping “flat whites”. We are our own captains, but we were definitely becoming friends.
Their sail was a prolonged honeymoon, eventually moving them from London to New Zealand where Phil could take up his Kiwi heritage once more and import his exotic British wife. So, while we were visiting friends and family in the US, they were setting up a house, jobs and a new life in New Zealand. We joined them again with their generous offer to let us stay in their house while we acquired our van and bikes. We visited Phil’s parents and brother in Wellington who were also generous to take in a couple of van based sailors for a few days of rest. Phil’s brother, Mike, showed us around the comedic underbelly of Wellington (“Welly”), kept us well fed and caffeinated. Generous is something that I try to be, failing most of the time, but these friends have set a very high bar that I can only hope to repay someday in the future.
And, now the hard part has arrived. Our life path leads us back to Sonrisa to continue westward for a few more years and we have to leave the Lufis in NZ. This next year will feel different without them. When we part ways, we all say goodbye with a tone of hope that we will see each other again soon, but New Zealand is very far from my future tracks. With life’s busy and twisting paths, I can’t be sure. If not, all I can do is hope that other people in New Zealand get the opportunity to meet this wonderful couple and I will be lucky enough to meet friends of this caliber as I continue the journey I am on.