New Zealand- Land of the long white cloud

Whangarei Marina in Town Basin proved to be an excellent choice of base for my stay in New Zealand, right in the centre of town, with main bus services nearby, a large well stocked supermarket 5 minutes walk away, and all the trades I needed for some extensive work on the boat after crossing the Pacific last year. It is situated 11 miles up the Whangarei river, safe from storms and strong wind where I could safely leave the boat while I toured the country, it just couldn’t have been better.

My transport!

One of the first things I did was to buy a road bike to get around town and explore the surrounding countryside. New Zealand has its own version of Ebay called Trade Me and I soon found a good bike and a second hand camera as my trusty little Panasonic had died on me.

Peter, the single hander off Melipal was moored behind me and as we were both on our own and both had bikes so we teamed up to tour the surrounding area going to the waterfall, upstream on the Whangarei river and the Abbey Caves. I also toured the various trades to obtain quotations and decide who I wanted to carry out the work. In between times I attacked the 170 to do items on my boat maintenance list and gradually whittled down the lower cost and longer term items.

Christmas was a round of boat invites, a cruiser party organised by the marina and a competition for the best decorated boat. Some of the boats were spectacular, some plain tacky but it was good fun. I competed with lights overall but stood little chance against the best. The Pohutukawa trees with their prolific red flowers line the marina basin and look spectacular.

Christmas flowering Pohutukawa trees that lined the Town basin marina in Whangarei

Laura Dekker the Dutch girl who was the youngest person to sail around the world was moored just behind me with her new husband on Laura’s 27 ft boat Gumbo as were David and Gita on Aros Mere and in front Sven and Lisa our Swedish friends we met in Easter Island. Sadly David and Gita have decided to sell their boat here in New Zealand and go back to their home in Comrie in Scotland, however David has reached the venerable age of 83 and deserves to hang up his lifejacket. Before they left they unloaded their copious medical supplies (Davids a retired GP and Gita a midwife) on the understanding that I distribute these to the villages when we return to Fiji in April.

David and Ghitte exploring North Island

David and Uver, a retired German ships captain who took us off exploring in his car

I wondered how I would spend my time in Whangarei when not fixing the boat and one Sunday I passed a Volunteer Northland stall offering unlimited opportunities for volunteering for a whole range of projects. I selected two which were to prove quite propitious. One was Sailability the “sailing tuition/experience for mentally and physically disabled people” on a weekly basis and a one off opportunity to help out setting up and running the Waipu Highland Games around the 1st January.

The first to come up was the Sailability day at Whangarei Sailing Club and I biked down one Thursday before Christmas to meet the crew who ran Sailability New Zealand. Ron the founder and organiser introduced me to the others who included another newbie, Nick, a retired English barrister from England who had come out with his consultant doctor wife Jan who was on 3 months locum duty at Whangarei Hospital, from the UK. We became good friends, sharing many experiences together, a really nice couple.

Nick Ron and I getting a Sailability boat ready

Out sailing with an excited crew

On this first day they bravely gave me one of the dinghies to sail with some of the local mentally handicapped people. These two person boats are unsinkable but do heel a lot in the gusts which made some of my passengers a bit nervous but after a few tacks all where thoroughly enjoying the experience and two of them took over the helm. It was very rewarding to see the enjoyment on their faces and here the whoops of joy when they managed a successful tack. I can imagine their lives are quite routine and this was a very different experience for them. Only one individual out of four days sailing asked to go back. I was told I should have got him to repeat “I’m OK, I’m alright” to reassure himself, you live and learn.

My second volunteering for the Waipu Highland Games proved equally interesting. I contacted the organiser Pat Hadlee to say I was thinking of biking the 30 kilometres down the A1 from Whangarei and as all accommodation was booked, asked for advice on where I could stay. Pat replied saying no way could I bike down but to come by bus as the safer option and that I could stay in the separate cabin in her grounds. I arrived at 7.00am at the Caledonian Park and was put to work marking out whitewash lines for the running track but no sign of Pat. Eventually we met up and she introduced me to a few of the other volunteers of which there were around 30. This was the 146th anniversary of the games and they expected a crowd of about 6000 people the following day. We worked all day setting out the park with stands, tents, stages for pipers and dancers, tables, judging boxes and chairs and finished around 6.00 pm. In the evening they held the Helen McGregor free style piping competition, Pat was on the door and I got the job of preparing the food in their massive kitchen in the Celtic Barn, all went to plan and the evening was a great success with some amazing displays of piping.

One of the competitors at the Helen McGregor open style piping competition

We retired to Pats place up in the hills behind Waipu for much needed rest before the big day. The views are stunning and I mean really stunning from her property up in the boondocks. The house, which has a huge veranda, sits on the crest of the hill in 10 acres looking down to the beaches and sea three miles away. Most of the land is virgin bush and the neighbours either side are 200 metres away, my kinda place. We were up early at 6.00am and down at the ground by 7.15 to put in the final preparations before the public arrived. I was given the task of putting up all the flags and pinched one as my Scottish badge.

The fabulous view from Pat’s house above Waipu

The games were very well done, you would be hard pressed to find better in Scotland. The heavy weights tossed cambers, carried loaded milk churns, putted the stone shot, tossed sheaves into artificial lofts and threw the hammer while pipers piped, dancers danced and the public lapped it up. The only disappointment of the day was the haggis which tasted like mushy sausage meat.

Tossing the caber in style

One of the finalists in the piping competition

In the evening the Society held a Ceilidh in the Caledonian Hall but Pat and I decided we were too whacked to raise the enthusiasm after two days of very hard work so we stayed home and sank a few and chewed the fat. Next morning it was back to the Park for the teardown which helped to ease our hangovers and I caught the 1.00pm bus back to Whangarei and home to the boat. A really fantastic experience and I met some nice people along the way. Pat and I were to become really good friends from here on.

Pat took me out on several excursions over North Island and we visited among other places The coast around Tutukaka. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, small sandy bays, lush green bush, white sandy beaches.

The lovely coastline of Tutukaka

Whale Bay

Nick and Jan asked me if I wanted to explore the North with them in their car and take in the Tall ships race at Russel, I jumped at the chance and booked us into Judith’s BnB in Kerikeri. We spent a day walking and exploring Kerikeri Judith’s Introduced me to Camilla a Swedish girl who was staying with her and keen to go sailing. She had her own boat at home and was desperate to sail the Pacific Islands. I already had four potential crew lined up but asked Camilla to come down to see the boat and talk it over in case anyone dropped out.

The Tall Ships Regatta at Russell

Nick and Jan at a kissing gate – any excuse!

On the way home we visited the glow worm caves at Kawiti The ceilings in the caves were brilliantly lit by the glow worms who compete with their luminescent fishing lines to catch passing insects carried in on the down draft. You could actually see by the light of the worms which looked more like beetles with glowing abdomens lit by a phosphorescent chemical they produce to attract mates and prey.

Entry to the Glow worm caves near Kerikeri

Glow worms looking like a night sky constellation

To catch passing insects in the cave the glow worms drop phosphorescent fishing lines

Then we visited a Maori fort and battle ground at Ruapekapeka where they held out against the British bombardment and repeated attacks. The British forces eventually captured the fort after heavy bombardment but only after the Maoris had made a tactical retreat. The fort was cleverly constructed with interconnecting tunnels so the Maoris could pop up unexpectedly and fall back as necessary.

Entrance to a Maori Pa (fort)

Remains of the trench fortifications

Back on the boat I was gradually knocking jobs off the list and had set up the main tasks of sail repairs, re- rigging, mast removal to fix the deck leak which turned out to be down to botched work by an Italian yard when the mast was replaced in 2006, removal of the anchor plate to fix storm damage and repair of the exhaust system etc so I could go travelling. Pat Hadlee kindly offered to drive me down to Auckland to buy a new dinghy to replace my old Tinker Star Traveller which had served so well over the last four years and take me to the airport for a flight to Dunedin where I would begin my travels of South Island. Pat had given me the benefit of her knowledge of New Zealand and between us we planned my route back from Dunedin to her place in Waipu, North Island.

I liked Dunedin, it had a nice feel to it and it was a bit like being back home, many of the street names were the same, there was Princess Street, George Street, Athol Crescent, Stafford Street, York Place, Dundas Steet, Howe Street and many more, a real home from home. I decided to take the hop on hop off bus service around town and visited the steepest street in the world. The street is the venue for an annual event called the Gutbuster where hundreds of runners sprint up the hill and back as a test of fitness. Each summer they race roll chocolate eggs down the hill to see who can get down the fastest. Each egg has a number which identifies the owner and potentially the winner.


The steepest street in the world

Next I visited the lush botanical gardens along the banks of the river, the Otago Museum with its fascinating planetarium showing the southern night sky we had seen so often on our journey below the equator and an amazing tropical butterfly house where the butterflies land on you and you have to be inspected as you leave to make sure there are no escapees. After a few more stops I decided my visit wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Speight’s Brewery, as the son of an Edinburgh brewer who often frequented McEwans Brewery in Edinburgh as a child I couldn’t resist the same experience on the other side of the world. As it turned out the guide, Graham was from Carluke in Scotland and we got on famously.

The following day I made my way to the railway station to join the Tairei Gorge railway which ran from Dunedin to Middlemarch through some spectacular country. I had toyed with the idea of cycling from Middlemarch to Clyde, about a 140km over four days over the now disused part of the track but decided it would take too much time. Instead the railway sent a taxi from Queenstown a further 80 kilometres to pick me up and take me back all included in the fare. My driver was a really nice Dutch guy called Danny who had a terrible stammer. In our 5 hours in his taxi he took me to all the sights along the way stopped to allow photos and explained the history of the area we were passing through. If I had been paying a normal fare it would have cost a small fortune. Danny dropped me at the door of my Airbnb owned by Neta a larger than life Brazilian woman who had a live in boyfriend called Marco, also Brazilian.

Taieri Gorge seen from the train

From Queenstown I took my first Intercity bus trip to Milford Sound in the famous Fiordland National Park. The bus left at 7.15 and fortunately Marco who was going to work gave me a lift down to the bus station in town. It was a journey of spectacular scenery, soaring mist covered mountains and some clear with snow capped peaks, huge forests of beech and pine, surging rivers crossed by narrow bridges, tumbling waterfalls, you could see why they made Lord of the Rings here it’s just awesome. I decided not to take the cruise around the sound but to walk around the perimeter. This proved to be a good decision as those on the cruise saw nothing in heavy rain, whereas I saw several seals on my walk and many different birds but disappointingly no penguins.

Misty mountains of Fiordland

Another damp day in Milford Sound

After a day in Queenstown I headed north to the pretty town of Wanaka the next town going north on a lake of the same name. Intercity offer a pass where you buy hours on the bus and each journey has a predetermined number of hours which are deducted from your pass as you travel. I had bought a 50 hour pass to get me back to Whangarei from Dunedin and this proved just enough. It’s a great way to travel the buses are modern and quite luxurious, making regular stops for food, drink and a leg stretch. It gives you a chance to watch the scenery and chat to your fellow passengers. While walking through the craft market in Wanaka I noticed a heavily bearded guy of about my age offering massage to relieve stress and pain. I’d been suffering from sciatica for a couple of weeks and thought I’d give it a go. After 40 minutes of stretches, pummels and massage I felt great and the pain had gone. He recommended I take up yoga to keep my body supple while travelling on the boat and to take magnesium tablets for muscle tone, since then I’ve done both with good results. It was good advice!

The following day it rained so I went to the sports pub down the road only to watch Scotland get beaten by France at rugby, the end of our grand slam hopes. The great thing about New Zealand is it’s love of rugby and good beer.

I did some food shopping and went back to cook dinner at my hostel. I was in a 6 bed dormitory with four noisy girls and a very withdrawn young guy. The room was tiny measuring 4m by 3m with a toilet and shower off the beds creaked and groaned every time you moved and once everyone opened their bags there was nowhere to step. This was first experience of staying in a hostel which fortunately was to be the worst of my trip. The kitchen had two, four ring cookers so it was a nightly competition to grab a ring and some table space to work but it was good fun with lots of banter between the nationalities and communal eating and story swapping around large tables. Most of my fellow travellers were on gap years and most were female, the majority being German but I found many nationalities gathered in the hostels I passed through, British, French, Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Canadians, a few Americans, South Africans, Swedes, Finns, Philippinos and South Koreans all living in perfect harmony and sharing and enjoying each other’s culture.

A Hobbit house in Matamata where they filmed Lord of the Rings

Franz Josef glacier was a five hour bus journey from Wanaka and the terminus is a small village at the foot of the glacier valley. I was booked in for two nights and met up with a young French guy called Nicholas over cooking our respective dinners. In the morning at 9.00am we climbed up to the glacier along the river bed. It was a glorious morning bright and crisp, Nicholas set a cracking pace and we covered a 3 hour walk in under 2 hours. The end of the trail was a vantage point about 500 metres from the wall. It wasn’t safe to go further because of the heavy rains which had made the glacier face unstable. On the way down we filled our water bottles from glacier melt, water never tasted better. All around us were glorious views of the snow capped mountains and tumbling waterfalls. In the afternoon I visited a Kiwi preservation centre where they reared chicks to return to the wild. The eggs were gathered from wild Kiwi nests to save them from stoats and weasels, introduced to kill the rat population but no, they ignore the rats and eat birds eggs to the point of extinction. I didn’t know how you tell the difference between a stoat and a weasel – weasels are weasily recognised and stoats are stoatily different so now you know! When the chicks which are reared in a darkened artificial woodland reach 6 months they are returned to the wild with sensor tags which tell the rangers when they have laid another egg. I saw Rowi Kiwis of which there are less than 200 left. The centre puts around 40 back in the wild each year and lays traps for vermin.

The walk up to Franz Josef Glacier

The closest we could get to the face

This was the first time in 9 years the glacier hasn’t retreated

That evening I was feeling a bit stiff from our walk, so a quiet night was in order, Nicholas caught a bus at 4.00pm and I returned to the hostel and had dinner with two young Kiwi couples out on a weeks holiday.

The next morning I caught the bus at 9.00 am for Punakaiki. I met Emma Jones a young British girl back-packing around New Zealand and we were staying at the same hostel. Emma had a lot of luggage for one person so I helped carry some of it down the hill to the hostel. Emma and two Canadian girls staying at the hostel decided to go for a three hour hike up the river so I decided to join them. We started at the famous pancake rocks to watch the blow holes before walking a couple of miles up the road to the start of the trek. The scenery was lovely with the river as a backdrop.

My lovely companions, Olivia, Erin and Emma

The blow holes at pancake rocks

Olivia and Erin posing

When we arrived back it turned out Emma didn’t have much food so I split my beans and sausages (how the rich live!) between us. In the evening after dinner there were eight of us gathered around the table, it was to be one of the most memorable evenings, the chemistry just worked. We went round to the pub first of all to stock up and bought a few crates of beer retuning to party. In the group we had; two guys who were friends and artists, one Kiwi, Tom and one American, Jake; two Canadian girls, Olivia and Erin who were both artists at the same university; Mailie, an air hostess with Swiss Air; Paivi a Finnish teacher; myself and Emma. Olivia came up with the idea that we should each create a painting, the artists had all the materials so there was no way out. Some of us, myself included were a little reticent to say the least – just paint anything the artists said, so we did, on small cards. I think it’s fair to say mine was the worst, it never was a skill of mine but it was good fun and everyone was very kind, nobody said it was crap but it was!

The artists at work

Then we all had to tell two truths about ourselves and one lie and the others had to guess the lie. You then got to choose a painting. I picked one of Jakes to give to Pat. I wimped out at 2.30 armed with the plan that we were all getting up for beach yoga at 8.00am, some of the others went to bed at 5.00am. Come the crunch hour only Tom and I made it for beach yoga, a sorry looking pair, we shuffled our way down to the beach where we met Jacky climbing out of her camper van, a very fit young South African. It turned out we were the only two that morning for her session, me for my first time and Tom, really experienced so Jackie put us through our exercises for an hour . I found out how challenging yoga can be but it felt like the right path to keep fit and supple on the boat and watching Jackie demonstrate the moves was a feast for the eyes, even in our state!

And the finished works of art

Back at the hostel some were moving on. Mailie wanted to do the three hour trek we had done the day before but didn’t want to go alone and asked me if I would come with her. She also wanted to go to the pancake rocks so I said I would after I’d helped Emma take her bags back up the hill to the bus stop. I think portering is a new potential role for me, Emma thought so too!
Unfortunately the wind and tide were low so the blowholes didn’t perform for Mailei but we had a good walk in glorious sunshine. That night Mailei, Paivi and I had dinner in the pub after sampling a few of their fine ales, the steak was great.

Mailei on our 3 hour hike

In the morning we were all leaving the hostel, Mailei was heading south to the glaciers, Paivi, Emma and I were headed north but Paivi had decided to hitchhike so we left her by the road and made our way to the cafe on the top of the hill and to the bus stop. It was a shame to lose everyone after such a great time but we were able to keep in touch through fb as we travelled our different paths. Emma’s bus to Abel Tasman left an hour before mine. My bus took me to Nelson where I stayed in a really posh new hostel in the centre of town. I had booked a bus, boat and hike tour around Abel Tasman national park for the following day. I got up at 06.30 and crept out of the dorm to catch the early morning bus to Abel Tasman, a journey of 2 hours. At Kaiteriteri the boat was waiting to take us up the Abel Tasman coast to my drop off point at Anchorage bay. When we got there however the tide was too low and we couldn’t get in. The ferry took me 5 km further north to a bay they could access and dropped me off. I was alone on this deserted beach with no idea where I was or how to find the trail back to Maurau, my pick up point in six hours time. The trek from Anchorage would have been four hours so an easy walk but I reckoned I was now 6 hours away from base with a much tighter schedule. I made a few mistakes, adding further mileage before I found the track. A guy leaning and resting on his back pack on the next beach set me on the trail.

After that it was a heavy climb up to the plateau with two wildlife interludes, the first was a wild pig which broke cover 10 metres ahead of me and casually trotted up the trail ahead of me until he was lost to sight, the second encounter was a Weka which looks very like a kiwi and is also a ground living bird but much more common than Kiwis. It seemed quite unperturbed by my being there and ambled off through the bush. For three hours I saw no one else as I passed through spectacular scenery through valleys and sub tropical bush, over small bridges, crossing ravines with tumbling waterfalls which made good places to stop and refill my water bottle with cool clear stream water. At the end of the trail in Maurau where I was to meet the bus, lol and behold a pub which sold some excellent beer, an answer to a weary footslogger’s prayer! Here I relaxed chatting to a sheep shearer about his life and how he had had to give up recently because it was physically too hard. He was now a bush ranger spending most of his time in the wild, living rough and loving every minute.


The view from the plateau overlooking Abel Tasman

One of my room mates a Japanese girl called Yoko was travelling to Picton on the same bus so we headed off together and managed to grab the two front seats behind the driver for a better view when Emma got on and took the seat opposite. The four of us, including the driver, chatted throughout the 3 hour journey. He was a mine of information and kept us entertained with anecdotes, Kiwi history and information on the countryside we were travelling through. Yoko and Emma were staying in Picton but I was booked on the afternoon ferry to Wellington and North Island again. It was a beautiful day and the scenery as we travelled through the islands was breathtaking.

The islands off Picton, South Island

In Wellington I was staying in an Airbnb for a bit of spoiling with Casey and Matt, a lovely young couple who had recently bought their three bedroomed house and were letting out the spare rooms to help pay the mortgage. Matt was a biologist employed by the government in river Bio management and Casey was an HR manager for an energy company. The house was on the outskirts of Wellington necessitating taxis to get into town so I joined Uber for cheaper rates , around town. I loved the app which shows a map and the Uber taxis moving about and I could see my taxi coming ever closer to pick me up. I left the house, walked down the driveway and there he was waiting for me, brilliant! I went up the cable car to the heights above the city for some spectacular views and a walk through the botanical gardens. Emma was arriving on the morning ferry and we’d arranged to have lunch together and explore town.

An amazingly lifelike model in the Gallipoli Exhibition in Wellington’s museum

Street art in Wellington

The timekeepers house in Wellington where all ships clocks were set from, in Wellington

The following day we both got the bus for Taupo and stayed in the Tiki Lodge hostel. That afternoon we walked up to the ….. falls and came back to the hot pools for a swim. We decided to spoil ourselves since we could buy for two and bought a whole snapper, two stakes and some sausages for a bangers and mash and onion gravy dinner over the next three nights and of course some beer and wine to wash it all down.

The next day Thea the Welsh receptionist persuaded me to take a combo skydiving and white water rafting package, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Emma had already been skydiving but wanted to do the whitewater rafting in the afternoon. After a troubled night’s sleep I was whisked off from the hostel in a huge stretched yellow Hummer which was completely black inside with one large curve sofa and a bar. I was on my own for the 20 minute ride to the airport which gave me plenty of time to rue my decision, in what seemed like a hearse! I was torn between the fascination of doing something extreme and fear of the unknown. When we arrived I was introduced to Alan my jump buddy who was a good foot shorter than me. I did wonder whose legs would hit the ground first. He briefed me and got me togged up in my jump suit and we walked out to the plane with three other skydivers and their buddies and a cameraman who was jumping to film the young girl in front of me. I had opted for 12000 feet but the others wanted to jump from 15,000 feet so the plane kept on climbing. It was a long way up! When the door opened the others went first, the camera man positioned himself ready for filming, standing on a bar outside the aircraft hanging on with one hand in the slipstream waiting for his subjects to jump. When they went, he let go, so casual. We wriggled forward and I sat on the edge with my feet hanging out, a tap on the shoulder and we launched into fresh air. The first thing that struck me as the plane vanished above us was the sheer speed of the drop. The wind pressure forced the goggles hard against my face, another tap on the shoulder and I splayed my hands as instructed which slowed us a bit now we were clear of the aircraft. Time to look around over Lake Taupo and over to Mount Doom of Lord of the Rings fame in the distance. The ground seemed a very long way down and our free fall took some time. Another tap on the shoulder warned me the shute was about to be deployed, the suddenness and force of the jerk still took me a bit by surprise but all was quiet now as we drifted towards the ground still some 5000 feet below. It was quiet enough for us to chat and Alan pointed out the landmarks around as we descended. The bit I was most worried about was the landing and how hard that would be on my ageing body, we twisted and turned to line up with our landing spot back on the airfield. I was surprised how fast we approached the ground, loosing height quickly, Alan shouted for me to lift my legs and I landed on my bum skidding across the grass until we came to a halt. It was the gentlest of landings, just such an exhilarating experience and I was so glad I had done it.

That’s a long way down, well here goes

Only one way down for me!

The “hearse” took me back to the hostel where I had time for a bite of lunch before heading off with Emma for some white water rafting on the Tongariro river which flows into Lake Taupo. We were togged up in wet suits, helmets, boots, life jackets et al and piled into the van towing our raft behind. After a 30 minute drive we stopped beside the river and launched the boat. Our skipper, Angus was a mad hairy man with a wicked sense of humour and who drilled us in the various commands in an attempt to keep the boat right side up. So we went through our paces of different paddle strokes, leaping around to shift weight in the boat, ducking to miss low hanging branches, standing up, just for the hell of it to ride the rapids, how to recover people, what not to do when you went in, how to stow your paddle so you didn’t knock out your crew mates in the rock crashes and how to read the river. The first rapids were a nice gentle start which gave us time to practice Angus gave us the heads up on each set of rapids as we approached and shouted instruction to move us around the boat to keep upright, to his credit no one fell out of the boat.

Emma and I getting wet

Shooting the rapids on the Tongariro river

The following day I headed back to Pat’s place in Waipu and Emma took a different bus to Rotorua before going on to Auckland and before flying to The Philippines for the next stage of her backpacking adventures.

After a couple of days at Pats I headed back to the boat to carry out the last of the work to get her ready for our trip to Fiji and beyond. I met some great people of all ages on my travels, it’s much better to be able to share the experiences, so thanks to all who added to my enjoyment of the trip.
I took Romano down to Dockland 5 where she had her mast and new rigging fitted by Matthew of Cspar. I applied some touch up Copper Coat antifouling after the heavy barnacle fouling had been jet washed off and I had pinged hundreds of little white calcium discs left behind and sanded the whole hull to expose more copper. I just hope it works better than the past. I’ll send some pictures to Copper coat, I bet they don’t show them on their website.

On the 22nd March Melinda joined the boat to crew with me until July. The pair of us tackled the fast reducing job list with Mel proving her excellent technical skills. It’s much easier with an extra pair of hands and eyes. It’s much easier with an extra pair of hands and eyes and it was a good way for Mel to learn about the boat’s systems.

On Friday 31st March Graham, Pat’s ex husband arrived with my new dinghy which we stowed on deck and I left Mel on the boat to go down to Waipu for Pat’s 70th birthday party with Graham. We stopped off along the way to pick up the barbecue spit, hired for the occasion. It just fitted into Graham’s trailer. Pat had hired the Lodge which slept 13 and Ruby Way which slept 4, all adjoining properties to her house. We gathered for a family dinner on Friday night and Pat had made a curry and a spaghetti bolognese to feed 16 of us. Mel and I had organised the music for the party days into easy listening and dance which we played through the lodges extensive sound system.

The following day the weather was glorious we prepared the lodge and grounds for arrival of the other guests who brought our numbers up to around 50. The hog roast and lamb were cooked over the spit, tasting delicious.

Carving the barbecue roasts

After lunch Pat’s family and friends had prepared a wonderful series of skits and musical tributes and these were delivered with great gusto and a lot of hilarity.

Two news reporters announcing Grandma Pat’s birth

Pat in her early years

The guests left in the early evening and the family gathered round the open fire in the garden, reviewing a very successful day with a very happy Pat.

On Sunday morning the traditional annual game of cricket took place at the Hadlee oval, Pats garden featuring the Hadlee’s versus the Lesbians, not being a Hadlee I joined the Lesbians to even up the numbers. However, the game had to be abandoned after an hour due to injuries. Gwen, Pats daughter in law’s mother was taken to hospital to have her badly cut leg stitched up and Pat was laid up when a well struck ball by her daughter hit her full pitch on the calf. Out came the ice pack and compress and I’m pleased to say she has fully recovered.

Pat batting for the Hadlee’s just before being laid low

I got a lift back to Whangarei but left again two days later in a hire car from Rent a Dent to collect David from Auckland airport. He arrived on time and it was great to see him after three years, albeit bleary eyed after 38 hours of travelling. I had delayed our departure for a few days so he could recover and see a bit of North Island. We completed the last few jobs on the boat went for walks, shopped for provisions for the voyage and topped up the water tanks. 

On the 15th April we cast off for Marsden Cove Marina at the mouth of the river. I gave Mel and David a shot of the wheel with strict instructions to follow my track in and went down below to make tea when the boat came to a sudden stop. David had put us on a mud bank, steering by the marker poles rather than the track on the plotter. No matter what I did I couldn’t free her and by now the tide was falling, when my friend Peter hove in site on his boat. Melipal. I radioed him and he agreed to try to tow us off. After a couple of attempts and both engines at full bore we came off much to everyone’s relief. The following day we left bound for Opua our port of clearance from New Zealand, anchoring over night in Whangararuku Harbour a useful half way point which gave the new crew a chance to try anchoring. All went well and we spent a peaceful night at anchor.

Mel and David on station coming down the Hatea river

The next afternoon we visited Roberton Island in the Bay of Islands where Captain Cook first landed in New Zealand and kayaked ashore to climb Lookout Hill for a great view over the Bay of Islands. 

In the morning we sailed the remaining 8 miles to Opua and cleared customs to leave the following morning. We completed last minute shopping, sorted out a faulty plotter, topped up the water tanks, refuelled, ready for the off in the morning. It was a beautiful morning but no wind as we motored through the Bay, taking our leave of New Zealand, a wonderful country, great memories, made some really good friends, lovely people but in a restless way glad to go. New horizons in the offing and a new crew to share them with. Next stop Fiji!