Living Upside Down (Bumper Catch Up Edition!)

Fri 19 Jun 2015 00:26
35:44.405S 174:20.368E
Approaching Whangarei Heads

Good News! We aren’t dead, nor have we stopped our journey… we’ve just been rather busy and, apart from a month in the UK and a weekend in Paris, we’ve been in one place for a long time so I’ve lapsed as a blogger… Sorry! I sort of lost touch with my audience, but you’ve emailed me to check we’re still alive, that we’ve not given up on travelling, and to tell me you want to know what’s been going on and I’ve remembered why I do this.

We had a bit of a frantic time around Christmas as when we went to the opticians (on the list of Things To Do In New Zealand, along with dentist and replacing our leaking holding tank) we found that Phil didn’t just need new glasses - he needed new eyes. Cataracts had developed over the last few months: he had had his eyes checked in Panama and they’d been ok, just needed a new prescription for glasses, but 9 months later both lenses clouded and needed replacing. This meant much to-ing and fro-ing up and down to Auckland, where my mum gave up her own bed for recovery-after-operation purposes, but the really difficult bit was making sure that the boat was safe and sound whilst we were away. There were a lot of spring storms passing through and, what with those and strong currents, we didn’t want to leave Lochmarin on anchor, but moorings and berths were like hens' teeth as loads of cruisers were down to wait out the cyclone season and the locals were all launching ready for the summer. However we managed in the end and Lochmarin enjoyed a peaceful time alongside the dock whilst Phil had his left lens replaced and we enjoyed a wonderful sunny Christmas staying with my Sister and her family. That was the first truly alien feeling Southern Hemisphere happening for me: mid-Summer Christmas. When it’s light ‘till gone 9pm the sparkle goes out of the tinsel and fairy lights and the decorations look a little forlorn, as if they’ve been left out when Twelfth Night came and went. But the Christmassy feel was helped by some nasty storms coming though a week before, gale force winds and lashing rain. After all, Christmases in Dorset or Kent are often mild so there wasn’t a huge difference weather wise; Summer hadn’t really come into it’s own yet. We were pleased to note that the supermarket understood the upside down-ness of their Christmas, setting up their Christmas trees accordingly.

Upside down Christmas trees and big city sights.

Auckland City Centre - as seen from the ferry to Devonport.

Enjoying family time: Christmas holiday day out. 

After Christmas we sailed down to Whangarei (just so you know, 'wh' is pronounced ‘f’ here!) and strung Lochmarin between piles in the Town Basin, in time to return to Auckland for Phil’s right eye op. The change was almost miraculous for him - he kept looking around him and exclaiming at the colours and sharpness - reading number plates simply because he could. “You remember those viewmasters?” he explained ( “Well the whole world looks like that now!”.

On the piles in Whangarei Town Basin and the view as we sailed up the river.

The good news was that, even though Phil could see (me) properly now, he still wanted to go ahead with a little project we’d been trying to figure out how to do since Colombia: getting married. The problem was that we had friends and family in the UK, in NZ and in South Africa as well as all our sailing buddies so flying everyone to one location was going to be impractical and ridiculously expensive. We were planning to fly back to the UK whilst we were waiting out the cyclone season anyway, so we hatched a plan: get married here, with family and friends, then fly to the UK the following week to have a second wedding celebration with family and friends there. The Cape Town crowd will just have to wait ‘till we get there there by sail in a couple of years (probably Christmas after next - sorry!). So, alongside doing work on the boat, we started to organise the wedding, which we discovered (especially when you’re having two celebrations, one the other side of the world) takes more time than we thought. We’d figured we’d find a Scottish country dancing band (first priority), a venue and celebrant to marry us and all would be sweet. Luckily we had reinforcements to help: principally my mum and my sister, along with my good friends Sarah from Fieldtrip and Brenda from Scotia. They all helped in so many ways and ran around shops finding all sorts of essential items. Sarah was particularly good at spotting the things we didn’t even know we needed to remember, like "Wedding Favours” (I should explain, Sarah is American, but she’s lovely!). “Party bags?” Phil said “We need party bags at a wedding?! Do we put in a ballon and some cake?” Even so, our American cousins complained that we’d got it wrong on the day - we were s’posed to feed each other cake or some such… we had so much fun mixing up cultures, hearing what people do in all their respective homelands.


It was a fabulous day, 7 family members and 60 odd cruisers (you can read that sentence any way you like). Folks sailed from all over and flew from all over to be with us. Franz from Vela was best man, Mark on Fieldtrip was photographer. We were asked many times before hand what the dress code was going to be and each time Phil explained that, as it was cruisers coming, they’d probably be polishing their flip flops and wearing a new T-shirt. Indeed, some came in flip-flops and t-shirts, some in suits. But all the kids from the kid boats (11 of them) wore shades of blue to represent the sea and most of the ladies used it as a good reason to buy a new frock or skirt (and great shoes for Briana from Tusitala!).

Polished sandals.

A week later we flew back to the UK to see our children and friends and extended families and celebrate with them. It was a bit of a scramble - we only saw the venue for the first time 2 days before hand but all went well with the help of our friends and a lovely time with plenty of dancing (this time to English Country Dancing) was had by all followed by a wonderful month, including a week in Scotland and a weekend with Jonathan in Paris to celebrate his birthday. It passed in a flash though and before we knew it (and before we had a chance to spend time with all the friends we wanted to visit) we were headed back to NZ.


We’d picked our UK month perfectly. The trees were bare and there was still snow on the hills in Scotland when we went walking, but by the time we left the bluebells were out, with wild garlic, wood anemones and celandines, the trees were clothed with every shade of green and the birds were everywhere, bustling and building, chirping and cheeping. When we got to NZ Autumn had come. The few deciduous trees there are here were reds and golds, the persimmons were fruiting and the poinsettias were bright, Paradise Shelducks covered the lakes. There was a nip in the air and our long trousers and socks had to come back out. 


Since then, of course, it’s got colder and wetter and the days have shortened. The sun’s only considering getting up around 7:15am, and even then seems to like staying behind it’s blankets of clouds for most of the morning, and by 4:30 it’s getting dark. It’s mid-winter this weekend and with that in mind I’ve realised: there’ll be no Christmas this winter. No sparkly lights to brighten the dark streets, no gifts to bustle off in the snow and dark to buy, no excited stocking hanging. It’s just like Narnia under the reign of the White Witch, just imagine: winter but no Christmas.