Written December 1995
CHRISTMAS 1995 ALREADY???
Hard to believe, did the year go this fast in the Northern Hemisphere? I guess it did, so here is the yearly wrapup for Bob and Judi aboardLong Passages. Last Christmas, we had just arrived in New Zealand at the beginning of the Summer Holiday period, and we set out to find work (interviews promised by over zealous head-hunters). Little did we know that New Zealand basically goes on Holiday from about December 20th until January 20th, so we bypassed the beautiful bays and islands of the North Island in the rush to get to Auckland, ...and wait for everyone else to enjoy their time off. We had a delightful Christmas dinner with Don and Donna on ‘Solitaire’, continuing a tradition started the previous year in Aruba. We spent a lot of January and February sending resumes, interviewing, and getting a lot of polite "...you have good qualifications but...". The rest of the time we used to get acquainted with this part of a beautiful country, and meet some real good friends.
New Zealand consists of 2 skinny islands which run roughly North-South. The North end, where we entered at the Bay of Islands, is at about the same latitude as Savannah, Georgia, and the Southern end of the South Island is at about the latitude of Nova Scotia. The North Island has semi-tropical areas as well as snow capped volcanoes and most of the people (1 million is Auckland, and another million is various cities, including Wellington, the capital).. The South Island has most of the sheep (70 million and counting) and beautiful high mountain ranges, picturesque English cities, ski areas, and lots of bungy jumping. They are linked by many daily jet flights and several ferries which cross Cook’s Strait, a treacherous 20 mile passage where the winds funnel between the islands in 60 mile-per-hour gusts.
We stayed in touch with a number of our cruiser friends of the Class of ‘94, and through Jonathan and Roxana of ‘XAXERO’ we had the good fortune to meet Russell and Laonie. Russell is from the South Island, Laonie from the North, so there is a little regional revilry there. They own their own freight company, and we have shared great times with them. They led all of us to the thermal hot springs of Rotorua. Aside from the natural wonders of bubbling mud and sulpher smells, we had one of our most memorable evenings so far. We were invited to a Maori ‘Hangi’ which is a ceremonial feast plus an evening of entertainment. The Maoris are the native Polynesians which inhabited New Zealand before the Europeans (known as ‘pakeha’) arrived, and had established a relatively comfortable society and were known as fierce fighters. The British realized they had made some mistakes in they way they treated the natives in other lands (such as the US), and so the Maoris were treated with more respect, trading was more even-handed and much of their culture remains. In this case, when one visits the Maori area (known as ‘marae’, same as a ceremonial area in Tahiti and the Marquesas) we were ‘challenged’ to determine whether we were friend or foe. We apparently passed the test, and were invited onto the marae for a welcoming ceremony where all men entered the house followed by the women, basically sexist but in keeping with tradition. After a funny evening, we had the feast, a large meal baked in an underground oven in the traditional way. All in all, it was a great weekend.
March was a big month: Jonathan and Roxana were married at their yacht club and one of us lucked into a job - helping a company to build software to US military standards (for an Australian railroad). After this, life settled down to a more normal style, more like working in the US than cruising. We went on an Auckland harbor cruise on an 89 year old ferry to celebrate ‘Auckland Day’.. We befriended the ferry skipper, Sally Fodie, the only female ferry master in Auckland. She is a very entertaining lady, and we have had some great times with her and her husband, Tony dining at their hillside home, paddling around in kayaks, and tramping through the forests among the Kauris. Kauris are big evergreen type trees, with trunks that can measure 20’ across and produce an almost rot-proof wood. Unfortunately, most were cut down last century for ship building, furniture, and housing, so the remaining stock is protected.
In April we took a long weekend to see the highest mountain on the Northern Island, Mt Egmont, also known as Mt Taranaki. It is a beautiful mountain, an extinct volcano about 3000’ high rising straight out of flat plains covered with sheep. We stayed in a quaint motel near New Plymouth, center of the natural gas district of New Zealand. Other weekends took us to Whangarei, a port town and yachtie center north of Auckland, and into the countryside around Auckland. We visited Piha, a small town on the West coast about 30 miles from Auckland with a rugged shoreline and breakers that roll in from the Tasman sea and create a perfect spot for the surfers. May was a big international sport month for New Zealand. The All Blacks rugby team made it through all of the world’s competitors for the World Cup in South Africa, only to be beaten by the South Africans in overtime, a heartbreaker for the Kiwis. And then came the America’s Cup races in San Diego, and the Kiwis dominated the races convincingly, and all Dennis Conner could do was watch the stern of Black Magic for 4 straight races. We took time off from work to go to the ticker tape parade (really just confetti) and it was a beautiful day with 300,000 people on the main street of Auckland cheering the team, and in particular Peter Blake, the campaign manager. After the fact, he was knighted by the Queen in London. In early June, Judi persisted in knocking on the right doors, and landed a well paying consultant position in Information Engineering with Telecom, the AT&T-like monopoly in New Zealand, so now we were both gainfully employed and for the first time, saving a little faster than we were spending for a change. The cruisers started to leave as Winter settled in, and the hurricane season moved out of the South Pacific into the North. Out friends Brad and Judy on ‘Wendigo’ left for Tonga, and their beautiful daughter Wendy went back to the US for a while. The effects of the warm anchorages of French Polynesia started to make themselves known as babies were born to the younger cruisers, including twins the our friends Chip and Leslie. And finally the cruiser slips were empty, and only those of us who planned to stay for the Winter remained.
And then it started to rain...and rain...and rain... Like most places, the New Zealanders told us "...it never rains like this around here..." ...but it did. The reservoirs which were only 30% full last year because of a 2 year drought were overflowing; green stuff was growing on our canvas, on our lines (ropes), and the deck, and we became sorely tired of it. With both of us working and having short days similar to mid-Winter in the mid-Atlantic states (but warmer, never below freezing), life settled into earning a living, and salting a little away for our resumption of sailing an about 2 years. One bright spot in all of this was that we stayed in the house of Russell and Laonie for 3 weeks while they vacationed in Hawaii, and it was good to get away from the green for a while. One of our evenings out was quite memorable: we attended a lecture on the Antarctic sponsored by a cruise ship company, and the keynote speaker was Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mt Everest. He was a very interesting speaker, and showed us his slides taken during his crossing of the Antarctic in the late 1950’s. New Zealand really does have more than its share of adventurers. By August it no longer rained every day, and the days started to become longer, and life resumed in New Zealand. Our friends Don and Donna from Solitaire went on a whirlwind tour of Thailand and Australia, and then the US, and came back with an offer to take the reins of the Australian subsidiary of an multi-national software vendor in Sydney.
At the end of September, we packed our bags and winged it to the US. Judi went North to Medford, Oregon for a few days of visiting the families of her brother and sister, and had a wonderful time with assorted nephews and nieces. Bob went South to Texas for a few days with his sister and her friends. And then off to Annapolis, and enjoyable visits with a multitude of friends ...too little time but we are glad we did it. And of course since it was October, we had to go to the Sailboat Show in Annapolis and take a peek at the new boats. The new Shannon’s look really good, but we’re kind of settled intoLP so no change this year. We did run onto Lee and Dee from ‘About Time’, friends from the Caribbean, and they are trading up to a Tayana 48’, and going back for more. We are happy for them. One highlight of the visit to the East Coast was a whirlwind visit by Denis (Bob’s son) who drove all the way from Tallahassee for a 1-day visit. We had a good time talking about old times, new technology, and burying the hatchet. We subjected him to further abuse by driving to Pennsylvania to visit his great-aunt, whom he had not seen in 15 years. Our wonderful hosts Dave and Nancy suffered thru our visit with grace and we shared a few meals, more than a few glasses of wine, and generally had a great time. They are preparing to get ‘Puff’ ready for another jaunt to the tropics in a couple of years, but have disavowed any intention of following Long Passages into the Pacific.
Back in New Zealand and a career change for Bob, joining Baan International as the country manager for New Zealand (an organization of 1 at the moment). Baan makes and markets computer software to help companies manage their finances, and to manage manufacturing and distribution. The company operates in 34 countries (this makes it 35), and is well respected in the industry. However since this is basically a sales and marketing job, it is really new. Judi finished her phase of the project with Telecom, and has moved onto a new one with a 20% increase in salary, so they are happy with her. We are currently getting ready to fly to Sydney for Christmas, and a short visit with Don and Donna to continue our new ‘tradition’ of Christmas with them.
All in all, we are happy with our lot in New Zealand, our only regret to date is that we have really seen very little of the country, and none of the beautiful South Island. The longer term plans are to work and accumulate funds until the end of 1997, quit at that time, and take a several month driving tour of the country. The Whitbread Round-the-World race will be arriving in Auckland at the beginning of 1998, and this turns into a month-long party, so we hope to share some of that excitement, and then leave for the islands around May ‘98. Sounds like a long way off, but time just seems to fly, so it’ll be here in no time.
Love to all,