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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tom and Mary's Visit

March 30 – April 10, 2009

On the 30th, Frank and I anxiously drove to Auckland's international airport to pick up Tom and Mary.  What a joy it was to see them!  For anyone reading this who doesn't know, Tom is my brother who is married to Frank's sister, Mary.  We kicked around the city, ate seafood and ice cream and then got them tucked away on Destiny.  That very same day, Andy and Melissa had returned from the South Island. So on Tuesday night the 6 of us dined at our favorite Indian Restaurant down in Parnell, "Oh Calcutta!"  Although they humored us by letting us pretend that we knew what was on the menu and offer input, we happily let Andy and Melissa actually order for us all.  These two are experts when it comes to Indian food selection.  Following a gut-splitting, delicious dinner we walked (waddled) down to the Chocolate Café and gorged ourselves on dessert decadence.

April 1 – no fooling! – we said goodbye to Andy, Melissa, Auckland and Bayswater and began our sailing trek to Opua.  Tom and Mary are easy sail mates, and Tom is a perfect First Mate, giving me freedom to hang out with Mary.  Our first stop was a little island just half a day's sail away that other cruisers had told us not to miss, so we dared not.  We approached in very high winds, took a mooring ball and sent Tom and Frank out for a beer and a recon.  When they returned to the boat they delivered us a verdict that the anchorage had nothing to offer, leaving us completely underwhelmed.  Having no other choice, we stayed aboard and dined in.  Early the next morning we set sail for Tutukaka, which was a full day away.  Although this anchorage is said to be a protected one, we found it quite rolly; however, were excited about the prospect of using our new Rocna anchor.  We were told that it sets within a meter and sets good.  Ha ha!  I found very quickly how true this was when I stepped on the windlass button to release the chain (which lets down the anchor), and at least a hundred feet of scope (anchor chain) shot out of the locker and kept going!  Frank was yelling for me to stop, Tom was trying to help me make it stop, but it was free flying like a bat out of hell!  It would not stop!  I jammed on the brake and caused a real jam.  The windlass was obviously not working properly and then it was not working at all.  Quit.  Shut down. Finito!  We were only in a depth of about 8 feet of water with over 150 feet of heavy chain plus an 80 lb anchor sitting on the bottom.  Yes, the new anchor sticks well.  Frank and Tom finessed and cajoled, finally giving up on the motorized windlass, bringing in some of the scope by hand, while mulling over the prospect of hauling this thing up and what amount of time that would take.  We quickly realized that making a leisurely hop, skip and jump up to Opua would not be happening.  This anchor would only be brought up once: upon departure from this bay and left up until we pulled into a berth in Opua, hence there would be no more stops in between.  No problemmo!  There is always beer to ease the pain of pondering.  Right?  At least so for Tom and Frank.  Mary and I no longer imbibe, so we settle for chocolate and a good book.  We enjoyed a great meal at "Schnappa", a local delectable restaurant, and settled in for the night.  The next day revealed weather and seas much too rough to set out for Opua, so we ventured to shore for lunch and a lovely hike to the top of the Tutukaka lighthouse.

On Sat, April 4th, we sailed in to Opua arriving just in time to get checked in with the marina office before closing time.  We headed over to our favorite restaurant, The Blue Water Grill, for dinner to discover that the previous gastronomic emporium had "dumbed down" to a diner with hand printed Xeroxed menus!  We were utterly shocked, and when we inquired about the change were told that indeed the economic hard times had come to roost and to lay rotten eggs in and throughout this lovely seaside resort area. Proprietors, Matthew and Shana were just this side of ruin and, in an effort to stay afloat were in the process of overhauling the business from a gourmet eatery to a takeaway biz.  We happened along during the very week of this transformation, so after much begging and pleading, Matthew agreed to prepare one last special dinner because, after all, Spectacle was due to arrive soon bringing Andy and Melissa.  Matthew loves to cook for Andy and Melissa.  So on the very night that Matthew and Shana had declared the restaurant was now officially a takeaway express, the 6 of us dined on spectacular - way off the menu - gourmet fare.  Other patrons shot us unhappy looks as we yummed our way through our special meal while they were unwrapping burgers, fish and chips, etc.

Opua became a jumping off point for us to make some very nice day trips with Tom and Mary.  We paid a visit to the Kauri forest, which is one of the most awe-inspiring experiences we could hope to have had with a tree.  The ancient Kauri trees are true miracles of nature.  They literally take 100's of years to grow at least as large as a 15-year old oak tree.  As far as we know they are native specifically to New Zealand and are stunningly majestic and beautiful, growing very large and for thousands of years.  Interestingly, as they grow taller, the lower limbs are shed away, leaving the wood impressively knot-free.  Large, unblemished logs have been made into some of the finest furniture in the world, although because of over-deforesting by early settlers, it is now illegal to cut down or to harvest a living Kauri.  A small bowl, carving or candle holder will sell for a princely sum and may be produced only from the long ago fallen trees which are now being excavated from swampland.  Thus a gift of ancient Kauri in any form is a precious one indeed.  We literally spent nearly a day trekking through the beautiful and lush forests seeking out some of the more famous Kauri's.  All are named and held extremely sacred. 

Generally we did a lot of driving and sight seeing, going all the way to the top of the North Island to Cape Reinga where we witnessed the convergence of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean from high above on a bluff.  We stood in silence and awe taking in the powerful, beautiful and spiritual experience of that place.  On the way back from the Cape we drove over to 90-mile beach to watch the sand-surfers.
We toured the Waitangi Treaty grounds and museum where the treaty between New Zealand's Maori people and England was signed, saw a giant Maori war canoe and watched a cultural performance in which Tom portrayed the appointed Chief of our tribe!  Each of us got to participate in the performance; Frank and Tom got to perform the Haka (war dance) then Mary and I got to twirl while balls in the air with the women.  We had such fun!  That same day we visited a restored Maori fishing village and watched historic films of the strife and struggles at Keri Keri.  We just couldn't seem to get enough of this captivating country's culture and history.  We even ventured to the vast Kauri museum on our way back to Auckland where we spent our last night with Tom and Mary at a downtown waterfront hotel.  The day of their departure, April 10th, we drove to Maretai beach for a late breakfast and to take in the last vestiges of the morning before Frank and I dropped Tom and Mary off back downtown. It was difficult to say goodbye to them, knowing that it will be quite sometime before we make another trip back home; however, being Easter weekend we had quite a tedious drive ahead of us back to Opua.
while at sea: (note:the sender must include the character sequence "//WL2K" in the subject line of the message.)
Skype ID: frank.barb.gladney

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