New Zealand. A country Roy has always wanted to visit, but one Elaine had no real desire to see; For no particular reason, other than the fact that her first impressions of New Zealanders was that of a very unsavoury character whom she had to work for in London and there appeared to be far more interesting places on earth to see, but for Roy, it was a place of intrigue.
It was also a country that did not appear anywhere on our circumnavigation itinerary, but fate changed that when we decided to slow down and leave the World ARC in Tahiti. That meant, as for every sailor in the South Pacific, we had to make a choice of where we would spend the hurricane season, or as it’s known in the southern hemisphere, the cyclone season. Two choices existed; head north to the islands closer to the equator, like Micronesia and the Marshall Islands or head south to New Zealand, along with the vast majority of other sailors. The latter it was!
It would be remiss not to acknowledge that Elaine’s impressions of New Zealand have possibly been tainted by her preconceived feelings, as well as her in-depth exposure to the New Zealand healthcare services, but as the author of this article, she will attempt to provide an unbiased opinion by documenting our experiences, which for every lowlight, there was definitely a highlight.
After leaving Fiji on 24th October 2016 and ”running the gauntlet” to cross the South West Pacific Ocean, we arrived safely in Opua, New Zealand on 31st October 2016. We were in good company for this passage with Talulah Ruby III (Andy and Paul), whom we first met in Bonaire in 2014, Blue Summit (Kate and Steve), whom we met on the World ARC and Whistler (Margy and Monty) whom we had met in Fiji, amongst a number of other yachts whom we had not yet had the pleasure of meeting in person.
Besides the huge and very convenient customs wharf that we tied up to and the very professional officialdom process we encountered the following day, it was the weather we experienced on arrival that became a lasting impression of New Zealand for us. While we looked forward to a good night's sleep, the temperatures had plummeted, which certainly forced us to reconsider our sleeping arrangements, if we were to survive the summer in New Zealand. Yes, you read correctly, the summer! So, another first; we hauled out our spare blankets and ran the central heating. After 15 years in Arizona and 3 years in the tropics, the very cold weather was definitely an unexpected shock! It didn’t help matters that the next day we woke to a bitterly cold morning, with a thick mist hanging over the water. It was definitely time to unpack all our winter woollies, never mind the blankets.
On our first evening we headed ashore to the Opua Cruising Club for drinks and dinner, where we were pleasantly surprised to find Blue Summit. In the warmth of a log fire, we exchanged passage stories, reminisced on a wonderful sailing season and looked forward to discovering our new home for the next 6 months.
The following day was spent getting ourselves settled in. That included getting to the nearest town, Paihia, in order to get to a bank and pick up some groceries, getting access to all the marina facilities, obtaining membership to the Opua Cruising Club and getting some high priority issues resolved like our depth sensor and wind generator bracket.
On the evening of 31st October 2016, after one week at sea, with Talulah Ruby III (Andy and Paul) just ahead of us and whom we hadn’t seen until the start of this passage since first meeting them in Bonaire in 2014, we arrived safely in Opua, New Zealand after a very tiring and difficult passage. While we looked forward to a good night's sleep, the temperatures had, however, plummeted. It didn’t take us long to realise that the only way we were going to stay warm was to actually sleep together in the same cabin. It was snug alright, but at least we got the well deserved rest we both needed. What struck us though, as we snuggled, was the silence. After the roar of the ocean and wind in our ears for a week, the silence was remarkable.
The next day we woke to a bitterly cold morning, with a thick mist hanging over the water. It was definitely time to unpack all our winter woollies. Unfortunately poor Roy had no long pants to wear, so he had to improvise with “long johns” under his shorts. Definitely not very fashionable, but at least he was warm.
Once we were given the all clear from biosecurity, customs and immigration, we manoeuvred to the fuel dock to fill up with diesel and water as well as give Paw Paw a much needed and well deserved freshwater wash down. Then it was off to our prearranged mooring ball, where we spent the rest of the day returning Paw Paw to a home and packing away all of our safety gear for the season.
We did, however, realise that we definitely needed a new sleeping arrangement if we were to survive the summer in New Zealand. Yes, you read correctly, the summer! So, another first; we hauled out our spare blankets and ran the central heating. After fifteen years in Arizona and three years in the tropics, the very cold weather was definitely an unexpected shock!
Given that the weather remained miserable during our first few weeks in New Zealand and being told that it would probably remain that way until the new year, we decided it would be best for Elaine to spend her time in a cold climate with family and visit the UK en route to Arizona, instead of waiting until January to do so, when the better weather was expected in New Zealand. The icing on the cake with this new plan would be Christmas and New Year with Keenan, Brooke and the grandchildren. Definitely the makings of a wonderful holiday season!
The only outstanding matter then was to get Elaine’s injured ankle seen to. So, with the doctor’s examination and assessment of her ankle completed, a set of exercises received from the physiotherapist to tide her over during her travels and having completed all the jobs which required both of us to be onboard, the long journey to visit family and friends commenced; A four hour bus trip to Auckland, followed by another hour to the international airport. From there a seventeen hour flight to Dubai, followed by another eight hour flight to London. Although the initial intention was to complete a circumnavigation by crossing the world's oceans on a yacht, it seemed Elaine would, instead, complete her first circumnavigation by air.
Elaine arrived in the UK safe and sound after a very pleasant journey, largely due to the type of aircraft, the A380 and the airline, Air Emirates. Although she was definitely rather nervous to fly on this huge aircraft, having the additional space and comfort outweighed any reservations. Couple that with the service provided, which, without a doubt, put the panache back into flying and the fact that, on both flights, she was fortunate enough to have open seats next to her, made for a very pleasant experience all round.
As planned, Justine was at Heathrow to greet Elaine and before long Elaine had enjoyed a nice hot shower that didn't have to be "army style", had had a bite to eat and was snuggling with Judy (Justine and Paul’s dog) in front of a toasty log fire, catching up on all the news, since last seeing Justine and Paul some 16 months previous in Guadeloupe. She was later soothed to sleep by the sounds of the neighbourhood owl. Oh, the joys of the little things in life! There was, however, one point during the night when she woke up and had absolutely no idea where she was. Once the initial panic had passed after she was eventually able to think through the fog of sleep, she went straight back to dreamland. Unfortunately, while Elaine savoured this little slice of heaven, Roy was still freezing in New Zealand as another storm hit.
It seemed while “time waited for no man” and our visits to England, Ireland and America simple flew by, there was, however, one common theme with each visit. Over a delicious meal and great wine, enjoying the warmth and laughter in the company of loved ones, the years in between seemed to melt away as the chatter continued into the wee small hours, closing the miles that had separated us. It is these moments, regardless of the different directions our lives take us, that are priceless and it is these simply activities that are truly treasured!