Farewell to Tayrona

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Author:  Pete
Location:  Coomera, Australia

Before leaving Australia for good, we went back to see Tayrona one last time. I’ve been thinking about how to say goodbye to our boat.  It’s a challenge because the role it played in our lives is fluid and unclear.  Is it a home?  An infant?  A guardian?

I’ve realized that Tayrona is the closest thing I’ll ever have to a dragon

Hear me out…  

Physically, Tayrona is a pretty good dragon match.  She’s got a pair of fifty-foot leathery wings that snap and flutter in the wind.  Her fiberglass hide, while not quite impenetrable, is tough as nails and topped by a scaly non-skid deck that has carried us to distant lands.  She accepts only those who are willing to learn her peculiarities and sends others cowering back to the shore.  Her race is of vain, moody creatures, mercurial, but without malice.  A contented purring and a silky glide under blue skies turns to a grumpy rodeo with nothing more than a passing cloud bank.  She instills abysmal fear in some, bottomless greed in others, but still, she’s an unquestionable symbol of adventure and intrepid spirit.  Tayrona possesses magical qualities too, speaking telepathically to others of her kind all over the world, and turning sunlight and wind into sweet water, tinkling icicles, and crackling electricity.

Sailboats, like dragons, are insatiable gluttons for treasure, with a ceaseless lust for that which is prized most by mariners.  Gleaming stainless, shiny black-gold, and the finest fabrics money can by: it’s the crew’s job to find such plunder, lest her humor turn foul.  But behind all this she’s a fiercely loyal friend, who would “wait dutifully at anchor” for us as long as her talons would hold her to the ground.  She’s fought across more than thirteen thousand miles of open ocean for us and she’d be ruined on the rocks before letting us come to any harm.  Does this make me sad to be leaving her?  Unequivocally.  Crushingly.  More than I can express with words.  But men aren’t meant to sail the seas all their lives and sailboats are.  So rather than mothball an immortal dragon’s wings, leash her to the earth, and make her wait for us to come back, we’ll find her new riders.  We’ll leave her to sailors who will point her bows again into adventure, who will sail her through the winding labyrinth of the Great Barrier Reef, anchor her off headhunter shores in Papua New Guinea, and send her purring out across the endless seas where she’s happiest.

So now it’s time for us to say goodbye to our good Tayrona.  Countless thanks to you for ferrying us safely to the other side of the world, for sheltering us against hammering rain and crushing waves, for the people we’ve become in two years before your mast, and for the many lives you’ve touched on this journey.  May you carry your new riders far and wide, my good friend.  Although they may call you by another name, you’ll always be our Tayrona.

Now enough nostalgia.  Go get that horizon, sweet girl!

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Whangling Down the New Zealand Coast

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Author:  Pete
Location:  Whangaruru to Whangarei, New Zealand

 

With friends to see and holiday festivities to rev up, we decided to leave the Bay of Islands and get a few more miles under our keels, working our way south towards Auckland through the comical sounding ports of Whangaruru, Whangamumu, and Whangarei.  Rounded Cape Brett under the lighthouse and inside Motukokako Island with its iconic arch.  Apparently some yahoo sailed though it once, but we though it unwise and opted against it.

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Cruising the coast has been a pleasant change of pace from big open water passages.  There’s more free time to play guitar, learn to splice line, and make new friends.  Our finny mate below is likely a Bronze Whaler interested in the chum slicks off of the fishing boats no doubt.  Sky-blackening flocks of gulls and turns show up for the slurry banquet as well.

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Craggy coastline makes for an impressive sail heading south.  A narrow channel leads out of the tumultuous sea to the protected harbor of Whangamumu where the ruins of an old whaling station lay waiting to be explored.  The old rusting boiler and cement vats where they processed the blubber are slowly being consumed by the brush.  The station was used on and off right up into the 1940’s.  Strange to think at that rendered whale fat was still being burned in lamps at the same time that Oppenheimer was splitting atoms for nuclear energy in Los Alamos.  Miranda and I also have been taking advantage of the well marked hiking trails abound in the area much to the chagrin of our atrophied legs.

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Whangaruru is the next big protected bay south.  Lots of campers enjoying the calm bay.  There’s a rain of plunging gannets.  Gannets and boobies are very similar, making up the Sulidae family.  So in a strange way, it rains boobies here.

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Pulled into Whangarei Heads and spent a few days on anchor hiking the bulbous green hills before making our way south into the Hauraki Gulf.

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Opua, New Zealand

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Author:  Pete
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?

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

Happiness