Location: Opua, New Zealand
It’s been an adjustment to get our thin blood used to the cooler climes of New Zealand spring. We spent a few days in a slip at the Bay of Islands marina in Opua. There isn’t much of town here, the marina drew a tiny grocery store, a restaurant, and two dozen businesses specializing in keeping the boats that ply these waters off the bottom. The Bay of Islands is roughly one hundred and fifty square miles of coves and islets, a true mariner’s paradise. Green hills shine in the sun after rain squalls rip through and blend with the aquamarine of the bay like a patchwork quilt. The visibility of the water certainly isn’t as clear as we’re used to, but I suppose neither am I. Can you spot us?
We’ve been reconnecting with nature’s solid form with walks along the rocky shores and later when my legs remembered themselves, runs into the hills. I had to give them a little pep-talk. And promises of ice-cream. That’s what really did the trick!
This is the season when tropical storms start to menace the South Pacific islands like wolves around quivering sheep. Boats from Fiji, Tonga, and New Caledona make the often punishing passage to New Zealand because it beats the alternative of bracing on a hunk of coral and taking a typhoon in the face. New Zealanders have made the colonizers welcome, especially in Opua, the northernmost and favored landfall port for the influx. The Bay of Islands Marina here throws the All Points Rally for the occasion, a week-long fete with seminars, events, food, and libations. Of course libations! Rallies aren’t usually our scene, but we were working on several boat projects and ended up swirling in the tide pools with the old salts, many of whom we’d met throughout the Coconut Milk Run. Nice to catch up with old friends and swap tall tales with obligatorily exaggerated wave height, wind ferocity, and fish size.
The seminars were helpful and varied. Miranda and I sat in on a sail repair demonstration and ended up winning a full sail refit! We won by dumb luck; it sure wasn’t an award for most attentive participant! Why are teachers always the worst students? Doodling in class! I say!
In the cold of the morning, steam materializes like an apparition from the bay’s waters and haunts the anchorage until the sun burns through in the afternoon. When the chill gets a bit too sharp we fire up the alcohol stove which takes the bite off the air. If that fails it’s French onion soup, flame broiled with a blow torch! That’s sure to heat things up!
Capricious clouds ambush scenic picnic and work detail alike with blustery squalls. Still, it’s a welcome change to arguably be back in the real world where tomatoes need not be guarded jealously like an ogre’s hoard. New Zealand has plenty to offer, regardless of how one seeks happiness.