Tauranga, Bay of Plenty

2nd November - 17. December 2008

 

It is been half a year and I have not writen an arcticle about new Zealand yet. What a shame. It is not because there was nothing to write about. Not at all. When I was there, I was too busy with working in my boat. When i left NZ I become too busy with the icebergs and lot of exitement in the South pacific, Antarctic and the Drake passage. After arriving to Falklands I was too distracted by the civilization temptations. It is time now, no more excuses!

 

 

My visit in NZ was an unusual one. Hearing a lot about the beauties of the landscape it seemed to be a crime to spend 99 percent all my time in the boatyard or shopping for parts for the boat. I commited this crime because I wanted to sail to the Antarctic and for many reasons I had to do it summer which wasn´t just knocking on my door but already in its best. Thanks to my friends I was able to visit Auckland in a fantastic weather weekend. No doubts I have to come back one day after that. Anyway, I did not waste time. Working in the boat I had a unique opportunity to watch the skies and especially sunsets in Tauranga, amazing variety compositions of the distant mountains and clouds, paradise not only for gliders. Prisoners must have this option (or priviledge?) to appreciate a small part of the world just thrue one window but as well as nobody.

 

The country of boats

 

Staying in the boatyard is not a complete madness. At least in New Zealand. It is a country of boats and people are mostly here to keep them nice and sailing. If you own a boat you will not be suspected of being a snob. If you live in a boat you will not be regarded as weirdy. (However this might happen if you are not around your boat on weekends). Auckland is said to have more boats per inhabitant than any other place in the world. I do not know because counting the people would take too much time, not even mentioning counting the boats. This would certainly be the most unfortunate madness. All I can say is that most entries in my NZ phonebook consist of the first name and the boat name. I also observed something more interesting: I saw more wives comming to the boatyards than anywhere else. They seemed to be really happy or at least quite happy even if their husbands were busy with the boat trailer, painting antifouling or struggleing with a rusted bolt. One of them said: I am happy if he is happy. (I almost belived that this kind of wisdom comes hardly before an afterlife!). Another wife was wearing a light blue jumper, matching the color of the family yacht perfectly (you could not get a better matching paint if you decided to buy a new can for a paint touch up). I was explained that it was a "pure coincidence". Of course "wife calls" are happening. It is a kind of ringing of someone´s mobile phone which ends all boatwork for the day and puts all negotiation out of question. But such call are usually happening at a reasonable hour or later. Sometimes I was nearly sleeping when I heard my neighbours´ phones. I do not know a better description of a country of boats. Another reason to come back.

 

 

Bob the manager promptly found a place in the busy travelift schedule for my boat so I could start to work almost immediately after my arrival. Andrew the space shuttle pilot (he kept his former profession as a secret but I found out when I watched his precise handleing of the marine travelift) put Waterbird in place where another Antarctic going boat was prepared some time ago. Welding an ice protector around the propeler, building an waterproof structure above a companionway with inside steering, rails over my cocpit to hold solar panels on the top and myself under in a case of knockdown, installing new radar, reinforceing the rigging, painting, painting and keeping busy with many other smaller projects I was having many visitors. Graham the farmer who drove me shopping around and later dove for my tangled anchorchain in the harbour. (It was cold that I would rather leave the chain there and go sailing forever not being able to anchor anymore). Dave the Antarctic sailor who did not talk much except one sentence, many times repeated: "what else do you need?". Thanks to him I got a simple but reliable and great heating for the boat (he let me have his own bus blower since no other suitable was around), SSB radio and other things. Mike the nightguard who lent me his bicycle for all the time I needed it "leave it in the shed when you go away", he gave me an allen key to tighten the pedal once a while. A bicycle may have saved my life because I did not have to use my roller blades anymore. (Going downhill, the only way how to stop was aiming into a trafic sign post. A crossing without a sign would be probably my last crossing I would ever see.) Gregg and his brother Andrew from one of the few boats as pretty as Waterbird let me use their tools and also did the blessing of distracting me from my work and having some beer with them, Gregg also let me have a radar and a good liferaft (mine old one looked rather like a deadraft), a fertiliser bag which, as it showed later, replaces a parachute anchor and other things. Lot of stuff which did not fit in my boat is now stored in his garage (plenty more reasons to come back). Yvonne the nurse made the best curtains I could ever immagine. They fit the interior (blue), they match from outside (white), they are thermoinsulating and they allow me to sleep comfortably in the daylight (not bad at all in high latitudes). Barbara saw me just once but she did not forget to come to the boatyard with her husband to bring me some food and the same did one nice girl who (as I was told later) wants to become an adventurer and whose name I stupidly forgot. Stuart did not know what else I could need but he was trying to send his mother in law to the Antarctic with me. Clive gave me old halyards from his new boat and unsuccesfully tried to cure my work addiction by taking me out for dinners.

 

 

Bryan the new boat happy owner who gave me a bilge pump (he also painted on my deck), took me to many shops and fought for discounts with such a bravery which I could only watch, my hearth trembeling. Sometimes I rather payed more to spare the bussines from terrible wounds. He also tought me that you do not have to be a sissy by having a carpet in the boat. I appreciated the carpet later on in the cold waters and I still belive that it was originally ment for his new house (such a nice carpet it was). The only thing I refused was a magical detergent to clean my awfully dirty deck. "Southern ocean will do it for me" I said. Nothing could have stopped him in his kind help, not even the fact that he nearly lost his wonderfull wife in my boat, respectively under my boat to be more precise. He was on board when I was leaving, assisting fueling Waterbird in a gale(what a timing to leave!), with Gregg and his daughter maybe 8 years old. After that I nearly had to take all of them to the Antarctic because manouvering in the marina become too difficult to let them go back ashore.

 

 

Second week in the Tauranga marina I had an unexpected visit. The customs, the same guys I met during my entry came to the boatyard. They were friendly but I was slightly uncertain about the purpose of their visit. It was still two weeks before my planned departure (and at least 3 before my actual leaving). After some courtesy questions about how was the work going I was informed that some foreign sailor was trying to leave NZ illegally without checking out with the customs. "His boat was seized" they said proudly. It seemed that the purpose of their visit was to tell me "Make sure you call us before you go". I found it quite amuzing because I had absolutely no reason to go without telling them. (They knew about my difficulties in Niue and they solved the resulting gap in my papework professionaly but how they got the impresion that I am leaving all countries in such a manner I do not know. Perhaps as one fireman said long ago, I still have a "kind of a cheaky forhead".) Whatever reason they come for they left me in doubts wether my illegal leaving would be a worse problem for me or for them. It was like half warning "Do not dare..." and half pleading "Please do not...". Whatever it was it was certainly done with good intentions. Maybe they were just checking me out and of course they did not find anything. Workaholism was my only offence. My time was about to come and killing an innocent lady was still going to happen.

 

 

Her name was Ainsley and one lovely sunday afternoon she asked me wether she could see my boat inside. And I had to say no. It was not a polite excuse to hide a common mess. It was the only option. I could not say yes because the condition of the boat did not allow to think about anything else. After 3 weeks of welding, cooking, painting, making bread, cutting everything cuttable and breaking everything even the unbreakable. (Unfortunately I broke also a bottle of an excelent Czech beer Budvar, which is the only proper, right and good Budweiser ever made. Americans are using the name for entirely different liquid). I was also sprouting beans there... Many other processes started without my intervening, mostly concentrated in the sink area. Few things could hardly improve the interior better: stepping on the fire extinquisher. I made it work immediately but I did not stop it that quick. It was a chemical one Oh! Unfortunately one fire started several days later when the extiqusher was desperately empty so I had to use alternative means like T-shirts. Later they made a suitable decoration in my post atomic explosion salon. Add grinding, sleeping almost every night, repairing radio, glueing nearly full dieseltank, looking for a half million spareparts and food or otherwise speaking doing everything except washing, cleaning and making love. I could not allow any woman to enter. No matter of her age, beauty, level of her civilised manners or hearth condition I simply couldn¯. She told me about all filthy places she has ever visited. When she mentioned her adventures in some Asian country, her own adult daugther looked at her with mixture of surprise and disgust in her face. I almost changed my mind and let her go in but I did not. Something was telling me not to. I noticed the dissappointment I caused and started to make things in the boat better every day.

 

 

I got about a week before Ainsley come again with her husband Bryan. I tried my best to make it just moderately disgusting. I was not worried about Bryan. He transported 3 thousand lamas over whole Pacific in a cargo ship (the number of alived animals was still about the same when he arrived to New Zeland from South America) so nothing can surprise him really. I was worried about Ainsley because sometimes it is the only thing you can do if a woman decides to do what she wants. And she was horrified. She did not admitted but I noticed. The shock lasted for a while and perhaps it was a reason why she fell from the ladder while going of the boat. The other reason was that I did not tie the top of the ladder and nothing could stop it from falling. (I always do tie it now and I always will since that day, believe me.). The deck was more than 2 metres above the ground. No, it is more than 2 meters above the damn hard paved boatyard asphalt. I can not give detailes of what followed. Even the least strict online filter would not let this page pass and nobody would be able to read about my eventfull stay in NZ. You do not have to be a doctor to know that the back of the neck is not built to land on. Neither is the spine. Few things looked good in the first moments. When she was entering the ambulance it was getting better. She even asked for a kiss. Luckily the memory loss was only temporal and back injury not serious. Doctors digged a piece of glass out of her head. I was the only who new that it was a piece of a bottle - the proper - Czech Budweiser. But it did not make me feel better.

 

 

It may seem unbelivable to somebody but this New Zealand story is true. I did note add anything. Sometimes I exagerrate a bit but I am astonished how little. A thriller under my boat ends like a fairy tale. Ainsley came again after few days. The boat was in the water, nearly ready to set sails. She made a huge Christmas cake for me which lasted 40 days on a long solitary voyage. It does not say anything about cake´s qualities. It says a lot about its size and about my extaordinaly developed Chrismas cake self-control. New Zeland is a dream country. One of the last evening Gregg and Andrew came to see me and made a little party. I felt as if they were my own brothers. I was so happy and also sad I was leaving. I was so moved that I forgot the allen key in my pocket instead of giving it back to Mike. Good thing I did not forget to call the customs. New Zeland is a wonderfull place. I must come back!

 

 

I met many other people around in those days. They may thing that I was doing a crazy thing, sailing that far south on my own but what I often felt was that they wished me the best. Leaving Tauranga I got a text message from my father. He wrote about a crisis in the middle east and potential danger for the world. The message was that the world does not look good at all. I looked back and I saw Tauranga and many still fresh memories came to my mind. It is not that bad with the world. You´v been watching news too much, they lost a sense of proportions and they need a bit of a balance. So I have to write something about this visit.

 
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