New Zealand 2004/5
I'm sitting writing this in Fiji, with Dylan sleeping in bed, and Frans and Louis playing beautiful Spanish guitar in the cockpit under the stars. We are anchored off an uninhabited bay in the Yasawa islands and New Zealand seems like hundreds of miles away. Which it is! So much has happened in the last year - most importantly, the birth of Dylan, the newest and youngest sailor on Moet! Becoming parents is a great thing and every day you see the wonders of the world afresh through this special little person. Dylan is adapting well to the changes of sailing life, and now looks like a true beach baby with his blue eyes, blond hair and tanned skin.
After 9 months in Whangarei we were sad to leave the place. It was nice to have a base for Moet for a while and to do some exploring overland in our campervan. We had a good little routine going - Frans organised music nights in the Irish bar once a week which paid for our mooring and our food; then he busked a couple of times a week at the market and in town and we used this money to go on trips away to different spots in the van - to the lakes, the mountains, 90 mile beach and the sand dunes, the giant kauri forests... NZ is full of amazing scenery and it was fun taking Dylan to our favourite spots and discovering some new ones. His jolly jumper was hung from trees and porches all over the North Island. The music nights were a great way of meeting people (as music always is) and soon became the biggest night in town with new and talented musicians coming along every week. Lots of good times.
For a couple of months we were in Gisborne, East Coast NZ (close to where Whale Rider is set and filmed). Frans was working as a psychologist in the local hospital and we rented the most beautiful little beach shack about 15 minutes from the town. It had a huge deck overlooking the ocean and the surf, a veggie garden ( I grew silverbeet, lettuce and spring onions) and a quaint little outside toilet. The oystercatchers waded up and down the beach at high tide and the Maori family next door rowed out each morning to set their fishing nets. It was a perfect place to spend the summer, with the long days to swim and surf and the warm evenings sitting on deck with friends watching the sunset. We met a young couple with a baby the same age as Dylan who had just bought a small wooden sailboat and were living on board. The boat was built in the Shetland islands by 3 old Scots - no plans or sketches, just the hands of skilled craftsmen. It is a beautiful boat, and Julian and Shelley are trying to keep it as traditional as possible with oil lamps and a wood stove for cooking.
Then it was off to Tauranga to work on Moet before our visas expired. The stars were in our favour, for we had two coincidental and fortuitous meetings with two great people, who became part of life on Moet for several months, and almost like part of the family. Dave (English) was travelling around NZ by motorbike, and we picked him up when he was hitchihiking to a friends house. We got on well instantly. We talked about our plans for Moet, and the work we had to do, and Dave was keen to become involved. As an engineer, Dave's area became the hydraulic steering and the diesel engine. Dylan took to him straight away and 'Dave' became one of his first words! (Fire, moon, mama, dada, dave, dinghy....)
Dave sailed with Frans from Gisborne to Tauranga - his first sailing experience, around the notorious East Cape, with a heavy swell and strong winds. He must have saltwater running in his veins as the rough trip didn't deter him and he was keen to start work in the boatyard as soon as we arrived. The day we got there we met Louis (French - definitely very French). He was cycling around the marina looking for a boat to work on. 'Well, we can't pay you, but you can come sailing to Fiji if you like,' we said. Up for a challenge and an adventure, Louis was on the team straight away, with his guitar by his side. Days at the boatyard with the 3 boys consisted of alternating between working, joking and making new songs, and with the three of them there every day for 2 months, the list of jobs got ticked off easily.
With the 3 boys, plus Heidi, a French girl who joined Moet for the passage to Fiji, the boat was pretty full. Dylan and I decided to fly to Fiji as we hadn't done much sailing with Dylan in NZ and didn't want to put him off it by a potentially rough 2 week passage. And he was enjoying his new found freedom on his feet that I couldn't deprive him of the daily opportunities of running around! This year had been a bad one for the yachts sailing to the island, with several boats being caught in 80 knot winds on the way up. There were a couple of rescues and abandoned boats, though fortunately (as far as I'm aware) there weren't any lives lost. Moet had a wet and windy passage but without major incident. A snapped halyard and a lack of fish were the main problems!! Heidi had her 28th birthday midway on the ocean, which was a good excuse to crack open some of the duty free, especially as it was the first sunny day of the trip! Moet made good speed, and with the new sails we had bought in Tauranga did a personal best of 160 miles in 24 hours. Not so fast compared to the modern boats, but a real achievement for us! Anyway, I'll try and encourage Dave and Louis to write something of their experiences if I can drag them away from the guitars and chocolate cake...