Sunday, 29 December 2013

a landlubber's eye view

Dana, our friend and photographer

A lovely old friend joined us on Nyon for the month of December. Of course we took her sailing and explored some of the islands in the Bay of Islands. The following photos were all taken by Dana, in the islands of Urupukapuka and Moturua.

Friday, 20 December 2013

the road files: when left is right

Off we go!
Our inaugural road trip in New Zealand began on the twisting road outside Opua where, unbelievably to us, the speed limit is 100km/h. Rick quipped, “Well this is different. I’ve spent the last two and half years moving at 8 km/h or less…” It certainly put things in perspective for us. To top it off, in this country they drive on the wrong left side of the road. Including this first road trip, we have now both driven a few hundred kilometers in rented cars. In the beginning, we'd chant "driver in the middle!" every time one of us had to make a turn. (Thanks for the tip Kate!) Except for the occasional signalling left with the windshield wipers, we now have it down. (Well, parking lots still cause some heart palpitations at times and forget parallel parking...) 

A little tense but getting the hang of it!
Back to our first road trip: we rented a car and left Opua one very rainy morning. We were going to the big city (Auckland) to visit friends and to pick up our bonus crew at the airport the next day. That first leg, there were a few anxiety riddled "Not too far to the left, not too far to the left!" and "Turn right here!" from the navigator with the driver pointing to the left saying "Right here? You mean turn right here?" "No, that right!” (With the navigator pointing to the actual right.) Poor Rick, he was translating right to left when he didn't need to...

The big smoke!

Reunited with a lovely friend!
Auckland was a whirlwind of reuniting with friends: We reconnected with the crew of the yacht Wondertime, a little family we met when we first crossed the border into Mexico in 2011. It was great fun! Dana arrived from Canada bright and early the next day. A regular visitor on Nyon, we were thrilled to have her back. Following a brunch date with our buddy boats, we headed back for Opua. After Auckland, Opua seemed miniscule, and that’s because it is. And of course, Dana’s first day in New Zealand began with a big enough downpour for her to discover the leak at the foot of her berth.

Gotta have an arty shot

Our first road trip behind us, we were ready to head out to the islands, for more of that island pace we’ve grown fond of. And that’s just what we did.

Our Canadian ambassador (a.k.a. bonus crew) has arrived!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

a tall ship, quirky birds, and tasty seafood

In good company

Nature boy
It’s not every day that we share an anchorage with a Tall Ship. The Picton Castle showed up one morning and we admired it from our cockpit. To my amusement, Rick pointed out, “You know, Nyon is older than that ship…” We had anchored off Roberton Island the day before: the wind had veered to the north and our little hideaway anchorage just south of there had become uncomfortable. It’s a good thing we did; the north-easterly wind reached 35 knots within the hour. We dug our anchor in and burrowed in the cabin, working on boat chores. It was a second cup of coffee kind of day. Eventually the wind died down, and by the next day, a mild, slightly overcast morning that cleared to blue skies by the afternoon greeted us. We went ashore fairly early that second day, a good time to explore this island. It tends to attract tourists in various floating devices later in the day.

Can you see me? Can you see me?
Rick recently downloaded an Iphone application that describes some of New Zealand’s fauna, we’ve been having fun reading about all the various birds we see around here, including listening to sound bites of their calls. We’ve gotten as curious about local birds as we are about the fish varieties whose paths we’ve crossed under water. The dotterel is a quirky bird that runs around the beach. They are almost like a mechanized toy that stops and starts abruptly. We had read they kept their eggs buried in beaches and if they chase you or even “act” injured while coming toward you, you should carefully walk away. It means they are guarding their young. We found it hard to track their movements from a distance, they are quick and camouflage easily among the pebbles. We’ve also been observing black oystercatchers with their long orange-red beaks, squeaking as they forage for food. And when we hiked to the viewpoint, we observed a few more varieties of birds, including the fantail (piwakawaka in Maori), a bird that well, fans out its tail. It allows it to quickly twist and turn to catch insects while in flight. Those little birds are difficult to catch with a camera.

Oystercatcher looking for a little variety

Soaking in the island

After our forays ashore, we continued ticking boat chores of our to-do list until the yacht Leletty arrived in the bay. Jean and Stephanie are a French couple we met a couple times throughout the Pacific. They came by our boat to invite us to go mussel harvesting. I jumped at the chance, while Rick chose to continue puttering aboard. Now I can say I know where to look for the delicious green-lipped mussels of New Zealand. We had fun negotiating the swell and jagged rocks jumping off and on the dinghy, Stephanie and I ended up collecting mussels while Jean explored about in the dinghy. That was my first time “hunting” mussels as Rick likes to call it. Acquaintances that have lived here for the past year pointed out on a chart where to dive for scallops, I showed the location to the Leletty crew as we went by it. I was glad when they decided to go get some after inviting us for a mussel dinner. The wimps on Nyon aren’t quite ready to dive in the cold (to us) New Zealand waters. They found scallops and we didn’t have to get wet! Needless to say, we had a great feast that night.

Crazy for NZ

Happy campers, err, sailors

It turns out that we liked Roberton Island too. Only a few dozen more anchorages to go.


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