23 Oct New Zealand, our final destination – Saturday, 20 October to Tuesday, 23 October, 2001
Ao Tea Roa, “the Land of the Long White Cloud”. That is what the ancient Polynesian voyagers called New Zealand and that is exactly what it looked like to us as we approached the Northern Island at dawn of the last day of our five day passage from the Kingdom of Tonga to New Zealand. We were less than 40 nm from our final destination of New Zealand and we had traveled 10,287 nm since our trip began last November 11 in Seattle. At 1330 we were anchored off the customs wharf at Opua in the Bay of Islands.
After clearing customs we anchored in the harbor at Russell, just across the bay. It’s Saturday 20 October here, Friday 19 October for you, and there are about 100 sailboats just completing the “Coastal Classic” sailboat race that started on Friday night in Auckland, 130 nm south of here. This is the highlight of the Auckland sailboat racing season and we heard on the radio that only a fraction of the 250 sailboats that started the race have finished, with two boats dismasted and two on the beach due to those same strong winds that we experienced at sea. The difference is that the sailboats had the wind right on their nose and pouring down rain. Most of the sailboats have cushions and sailing gear scattered all over the decks and decorating their boom to dry. Deja vu, our sailboat racing memories, buried in the distant parts of our minds, come floating to the surface. Not Fun! We are happy to be on our “skookum” long distance cruiser, Starr. This weekend is a three day weekend which marks the beginning of the Kiwi summer, with Monday called Labor Day. Russell feels much like Roche Harbor in our San Juan Islands or Ganges in British Columbia. Maybe it feels a little like Victoria just after Swiftsure, with the exhausted but jubilant racing sailors all about. For Don and I it feels very strange and still a little unreal to have arrived at our end destination, one we have been traveling toward for almost a year. Since the MAF inspector (agriculture) took all of our meat, eggs, fruit and veggies, we go ashore to walk around and to buy a few fresh veggies for dinner. The scenery looks like home but the people talk a little funny. In the morning we have coffee on the flying bridge. The sun is out, there is a misty fog encircling the large bay but at a distance from our anchorage. The decks are cold and wet on our bare feet, the surfaces of Starr are wet with dew and now, we feel as if we are back at home. This feels like Seattle, the San Juan Islands and British Columbia in the summer. This is exactly what it is like. We have come home to New Zealand and best of all, the summer is just beginning.