Sunday, March 24, 2013

Keepin it Easy on Waiheke Island

It only really sank in how long it's been since I've written anything when I finally slowed down after my brother left. He took off from Waiheke two weeks ago and I've been hopping around anchorages here ever since. I'm not going to lie, it feels pretty good to be relatively stationary.

Ardea took us on a glorious tour of Great Barrier Island. We hit at least a dozen anchorages on the whole of the west coast, climbed the highest peak, hiked to the hot springs, which were too hot to touch in some places, much less to engage in any sort of prolonged bathing. One of the highlights was Smokehouse Bay, where a Kiwi fellow left the land and money for some facilities in one small bay. There are several large fish smokers, concrete basins with hand-crank washing fixtures, and a couple of baths, one indoors and one outdoors. The baths could be filled with piping hot water as long as one makes a little fire in the nearby iron stove. On top of it all, there was an excellent cockle beach nearby; cockles are a type of clam that burrow in shallow, sandy areas. We went at low tide with our friend Al and came back with heaps of them.

Mmmmm. Cockles and boxed wine...
A Tuerto mission to the mussel farms...

Was a shame Chuck brought the same Topsiders as I have.
 It was such a tough time figuring out whose were whose.

Ardea in Tryphena Bay at Great Barrier.
Coromandel Penninsula in the background.

Kauri, the famous NZ hardwood, rises
above the falls on GBI.

Hiking to the hot springs.
We spent around two weeks out there. Dianna left from Port Fitzroy and Charlie and I continued South, eventually jumping from Barrier to Colville Harbor on the Coromandel Peninsula, where we met some comical characters enjoying their vacation double-wides on the beach at Otautu Bay. It made for a pretty hilarious night.

We moseyed on down the Penninsula to Coromandel Town, where we met some more fine folk and spent several days. It's a nice town there, like Sausilito or Fairfax except more country, whatever that means to you. We rented a car there and explored the east coast of the Coromandel. We had a few hikes, tried to get a little surf, and ended the day at Hot Water Beach. There are hotsprings at one end of the beach that you can access by digging a hole in the sand at low tide. If you hit the right spot, the hole will backfill with super hot water. It was pretty righteous, sitting with the waves splashing into the sandy hot tubs scattered about. There were lots of people, but it didn't matter.

Finally we sailed over to Waiheke Island and visited Jon and Nia at the winery that they've been employed with for a few months. A day or two later, Chuck took off, and I had no further plans nor excuses for avoiding them. Still, I've had Jon and Nia, Claus and Tim, and new friends to hang out with. Chittick came up for a visit, too, and we reminisced and went kiteboarding and drank plenty of beers. It was a grand old time, but we both agreed we miss America. Still, I'll keep fishing and scallop diving and living it up the sailor way right up until it's time to leave.

On that, after much deliberation, I assure you, I decided to put Ardea on TradeMe, the kiwi sort of eBay deal, and head back to California. I thought about sailing back via the southern route to Tahiti then Hawaii, or heading to Fiji or Australia, but then I'd just as soon go back and start again. And, yeah, I've got three-foot-syndrome, but it's not just about getting a bigger boat in California. I'm getting pretty damned close to ten-thousand miles over ground on this little boat and the most consistent thing I felt about it all was how much I'd like to be studying the sea; will I someday sail myself to remote research locations? Can't know for sure, but I think I'll have a go at making something like that happen. In any case, I'm far from finished sailing and I feel I can start again with all the wisdom I've gained on this trip and have a much easier time of it. Mexico? Well that's pretty damned close by now, isn't it?

In some ways it seems ridiculous to leave Ardea now. After all we've been through and after all the work I've put into her, I'm sort of only just finally settled in. I mean that boat is pretty much dialed in. I know how to run it and I know everything that's good and bad and squirrely and quirky and everything else. I know exactly what I've got and I can fix any of it. So what's my rationale? Shit, it seems like I'm still sort of working on it. This whole thing has been challenging. Even up to now, trying to sell the boat, I'm learning every day. And that's exactly what I wanted. Sailing back to the tropics is very, very tempting, but I feel like I would like something to do once I get there, aside from all of the obvious and, admittedly, enjoyable activities that I've been doing for the entirety of this endless summer. So, anyway, it's back home with this sailor, looking for new challenges, with some new ideas, some new goals and, before too long, I'm sure, a new boat.

I'll be back in the Bay in a month or so, looking for some work and starting to figure out how to get to graduate school. I'm pretty excited for some change, though the thought of parting with this boat that has been so good to me brings me great sadness.

This site will stay up and there's a lot of things I'd like to share up here. I'll post from time to time, especially once I'm back in California and can do some video editing and use high-speed internet. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from whoever is out there and reading about this little adventure. This blog has been around for a little over a year and has 25,000 hits from mainly the U.S., but also several countries in Asia, lots of hits from the Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Australia, India, F.P., NZ, Russia, France, Lithuania... okay, only six hits from Lithuania, but still, it's pretty crazy to me.

At some point I'm sure I'll go back and read all of this blabber, as it will be interesting to see how it evolved. My mental space has probably been more apparent than I may have realized while writing, and it has changed so much throughout the vicissitudes of seafaring. It is still strange for me to think about that knowing that I post this stuff where anybody can read it, and it's probably pretty clear that I've become more comfortable with that over time. In any case, for those who read this or any of my rambles, whether one line or every line, thanks for your patience. For the minority who like the long, wordy stories, I may well have a yarn or two left. For now, though, I'll share a short verse that has always inspired me and leave you with some photos of beautiful New Zealand.

I read this in a National Geographic years ago. It was written by C. Day Lewis.

Those Himalayas of the mind
Are not so easily possessed
There's more than precipice and storm
Between you and your Everest

Threatened brown teals at Great Barrier Island.

Pilot whales breaching just off the bow
 near Whangaparapara Bay, GBI.

Trekking the fjord lands of South Island.

Along the Routeburn Track, South Island

Routeburn Flats Campsite, South Island.

Not a bad view...

Routeburn Track- approaching the Divide.

Lake Howden, Routeburn Track, South Island.

View from Mount Hobson, Great Barrier Island.

Dolphins in Whangaparapara Bay, GBI.

Ardea sails on.


  1. Great pictures of you, Charlie, and the beautiful scenery! I can really only begin to imagine just how bittersweet it must be for you to be selling Ardea and coming home, bringing an end to one incredible chapter in your life. If it makes it easier, you should know that the Bay, as well as SEATTLE and Portland, is very excited to finally have you back. We miss you! Thanks for continuing to keep us all updated!!
    xx Karin

  2. Read every word of every post. Enjoyed it all. Thanks. Best wishes on your trip home. .......Mr. Lovelady, Redwood HS

  3. damn that camping spot looks pretty epic. must have been tough deciding to part with your lady, but i'm sure you'll find a new one to which you know "everything that's good and bad and squirrely and quirky." i've thoroughly enjoyed the writings and noticing how they've evolved. hopefully some more stories will be shared over beers on the lake in new york.

  4. Beautifully written, Connor. It's from the heart -- and a bit melancholy as you prepare to say adieu to your companion and great protector, Ardea.

    We can't wait to have you home!


  5. Connor,

    I've enjoyed reading your posts from New Zealand---especially the ones where you were working on Ardea. It's hard to define the relationship between a man and his boat (or a woman and hers); but I find it strangely moving that you are selling Ardea after making the repair under the mizzen mast. It shows your fidelty to the boat: that you wouldn't sell her without making that repair. I understand your desire to do something meaningful while sailing. What grad schools are you applying to (in marine bio?). Best of luck to you, and keep seeking. Kirsten S/V Silhouette

  6. Connor,

    Congrats on your crossings and the following adventures. I was at first sorry to hear you sold Ardea, but your rationale in this post made perfect sense.

    We should get together and compare notes! rreeves0802 at gmail.

    Best to you!