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Friday, October 30, 2009

October 25 -31, 2009 - Hello Norfolk Island and chance encounters!

I am never surprised by the fact that although two people will have the same experience (together), they may take away different memories and perspectives of the event. If anyone is reading our blogs, you will note that Frank has gotten over his "writer's block" and has recently been inspired to get back to journaling. In reading the posts he'd sent in I had to laugh because what he highlighted in his notes were a bit different than what I would have (and vice versa).

So we left Noumea with a small group of yachts determined to sail direct to Opua, NZ, but planned a contingency stop at Norfolk Island. Besides being a choppy journey with the wind on our nose most of the time, I remember mostly that the fuel leak reared its ugly head again. It is no picnic being in rough seas anyway. Then you add to that recipe these factors: can't open hatches or portholes because the water is washing up over the yacht… this makes it real stuffy below…fuel leaks leave ghastly fumes that can't go anywhere but up the companionway and into the cockpit when the hatches are all closed…generally we are in the cockpit or sleeping in the saloon during a crossing so the fumes pervade every breathing space. This was my most vivid memory of the 3½-day passage to Norfolk Island. We were very happy to see this tiny little island in the middle of the ocean, perfectly situated halfway between Noumea and Opua. We did not stop because of the fuel leak. We stopped because we needed to get out of the "washing machine seas" and wait for the winds to shift around for a better shot into Opua.

Norfolk Island has a very interesting history. It reminds us somewhat of Niue, which has ties to New Zealand. Norfolk Island was originally discovered and named by Captain Cook, claimed by the Australians, used for a penal colony and then later to relocate the Pitcairn Islanders. The Pitcairn Islanders were the surviving mutineers from The Bounty. Fletcher Christian's bloodline is alive and thriving here on Norfolk Island. It is tiny, but loveable! There is a beautiful golf course, which Frank and John from "Windflower" played along with Toby and Kath from "Solstice". While they golfed, Lynn (John's wife) and I went touring. There are prison ruins, lots of museums, shops, boutique hotels, B & B's, spas and duty-free shopping galore! There are many very good restaurants and sweet shops. It is a jewel in the middle of nowhere, and we are so glad to have found it. The 1300 or so islanders are mostly all related to the original settlers - either of the penal colony, the military & supply ships that wrecked here or from the Bounty. They are adorably friendly and hospitable. The entire island is nothing but a holiday & vacation venue for loads of Aussies and Kiwis with a few Americans and other nationalities thrown into the pot. One local man and his wife left a car at the wharf for any of the cruisers to use who need transportation. There really is no crime here, no worries of car theft or otherwise. The livestock, cows mostly, just roam free and all driveways and roadways have cattle guards to keep the cows from where they aren't supposed to go. It is simply beautiful.

Our second day at Norfolk, while bringing the dinghy into the wharf one of the local men walked over to Frank, offered him a hand and spoke to him like they were old friends. I did a double take, realizing it was Dean Burrell from Hutcheson Boat Builders down in Tauranga, NZ. I walked over to him, leaned in close and said, "Dean?" He threw his head back and just laughed, gave me a hug, saying what a strange coincidence it was to see us. He had grown up here, and is a descendent of one of the original families. He and his wife had recently bought a holiday apartment complex and had just relocated here from Tauranga to raise their little boy. He had heard there were yachties in Cascade Bay, so he wandered over to find out if there was anyone he knew among us. The World just keeps getting smaller.
The only downfall is that the anchorage is the rolliest we have ever encountered in our nearly two years out cruising. Many of the yachties are on seasick meds while at anchor. I asked Frank if it is possible to suffer a knockdown while at anchor. He just shrugged and said, "Well, I guess it is possible". When we do go into town, someone in the anchorage is always on watch for the boats in the bay. We do not leave the boat at night, although Dean had offered us complimentary use of an apartment in case we wanted a calm night of rest. We declined his offer but were deeply grateful.

It is looking like the winds are favorable for a Sunday departure. All Saints Day - well, perhaps they will be looking out for us on this next 400-mile leg of our journey back to The Land of the Long White Cloud. In the meantime - Happy Halloween to all back home.

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