This post is not about sailing. Hopefully, there will be oodles of that to come in the next year.
We have just flown back to our yacht in New Zealand after 2 months spent home in Australia.
It might be very hard to fly economy again. We didn’t even ask, but were told at the boarding desk that we had been upgraded to business class on an Emirates A380-800, and boy did it make the experience so much more exciting! I even felt compelled to drink champagne at 8 o’clock in the morning. Well, it was Moet et Chandon!
How to summarize our 2 months away?
We had some great memories. Staying mostly at Paul and Jenny’s home we treasured this time spent getting to know our gorgeous little grandson Max, who turned one on April 11th. We were thrilled to watch him tentatively take his first steps and by the time we left, he was mobile and off at a run whenever he had the chance. We truly fell under the charms of this cheeky little man.
Whilst we stayed with them, Frank helped Paul out with his continuing ‘owner builder’ renovations, adding on a new front deck and concreting, with help from Michael and friends.
We were able to see Michael’s son Arni, just 5 weeks older than Max, a few times in the first couple of weeks, before Michael and his partner sadly split up and were enamored with Arni’s huge blue eyes, beaming smile and his dad’s innate sense of adventure, wanting to climb anything that stood still. It is most apparent that Michael shares an incredibly close bond with Arni, and Frank and I are most impressed at the loving devotion he shows his little boy and Dante.
Being the main reason we had flown home at this time, in early March we drove down to Avery & Channie’s farm ‘Misty Mountain’ in the Coffs Harbour hinterland, to meet our stunning new grand daughter Wilder, who decided to share the same birth date as her cousin Arni and her maternal grandmother on Feb 27th. Wilder is a chubby little thing with kissable bow lips and lots of dark hair. We love the tranquility of ’Misty Mountain’ and so enjoyed our short stay, with lots of cuddles from Wilder who already seems to be showing her parents that she has a mind of her own.
Being such a difficult time in the family during this visit home, I must admit we were not conducive to being overly sociable. I predictably ‘go to ground’ when the going gets tough, but it felt as if our diary simply kept filling up with appointments, and lists of things to do before heading back to the yacht as well as catching up with as many friends and family as time would allow. However, we did have the bonus of meeting some amazing new friends who we know will be around for a long time.
We also had the thrill of catching with some very ‘old’ friends from my past- Annie was my best friend back in England at age 11, and we had lost contact many years ago when she moved back to Europe. Her friendship request was sitting on my faceBook for almost 3 years before I came across it accidentally a few months ago and contacted her. After meeting up when we were in our twenties in Sydney, living in different states, countries and locations across the globe, Annie and her husband Gavin now live less than 10 mins from our house in Brisbane.
My longtime pal from high school, Alice (who incidentally took me out on my 5th day in Australia to the wine bar where I met Frank, and the rest is history as they say….) invited Frank and I to an amazing reunion with another schoolmate Melanie who was visiting Australia with her husband John. We had last met when I attended their wedding in 1979, 38 years ago. I must say, it’s pretty satisfying to meet again after so long, find that you still connect really well and enjoy each other’s company.
With my 89 yr old father still as strong in spirit, if not quite as robust in body, I had my work cut out fulfilling all my daughterly duties sorting out a great number of business issues as well as organizing various family get togethers so that he could cuddle his great grand children.
After last year’s accusation that I had scarcely seen him during my trip home, this time I kept track and when the inevitable accusation came, I was prepared- “Daddy, I have been over 15 times to see you!” (some which involved pickups and return drop offs to the Nursing Home).
“But they were all short ones!” came the reply!
Next trip, I will need to note times as well as dates!
My father has had some health issues that are getting him down- meralgia (numbness in his legs causing painful pins and needles type symptoms) which even morphine based drugs do not seem to help. His 65 yrs of past smoking have caused him to have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) which gives him shortness of breath and he has had several bouts of pneumonia.
But many will smile when I say that despite spending a week in hospital under a geriatric specialist undergoing every test conceivable to check him out, Gp (‘Grand pa’ as we all call him) chuckled at his own sharp wit when he told me that he had duped the Dr who he was sure was trying to prove he was insane!.
“I sure showed him”, he proudly commented as I arrived to pick him up from hospital.
” In fact, I think I totally p…d off Dr Lu, get it- Dr Lu (loo, toilet), p…d him off?”.
Yep, I think my father has plenty of oomph left in him yet.
This was also displayed when the Home decided to rotate the key carers from their positions as ‘house mothers’ in each lodge of 13 ‘inmates’ as my dad calls them, thereby moving the very kind carer that had nursed my father for the past 3 years. He was so indignant that the residents were not given a say in the matter that he told me he was contemplating a hunger strike, wanted to contact the newspapers and has written a 10 page scathing letter to the Head of the Blue Care Nursing Homes Organization.
So the weeks flew by. We helped Arni’s celebrate his first birthday with Michael, Paul & Jenny and then a few weeks later, on April 11th, Max celebrated his first birthday with a huge swinging party he graciously shared with all his family, parents’ friends and baby buddies.
On April 20th, I turned the big 60, a milestone I enjoyed celebrating, but feel is only as important as you make it. To me, it is just a number as I feel the same in my heart as I have for the past 30 years, although in all truth, my body is only just now making a few grumbling noises! Hence, one non negotiable decision on this trip home also saw me go into hospital to have my gall bladder removed, since it had been causing a lot of problems over the past year.
I felt thrilled however, that all the family came together and made me feel very loved and I was honoured to receive scores of birthday wishes from around the world.
I simply couldn’t stop myself cuddling our grandson Max before we left, even knowing he had already passed on his cold to his mother and father- so it is not surprising that I have brought one last farewell gift back with me to New Zealand!
Enjoying a wonderful stopover with our friends’ parents in Auckland for the night, Frank and I were lucky enough to catch a lift the next day with our friends Marion & Colin back to the Bay of Islands and Stars End 2.
Apart from some mould on the unvarnished sections of the woodwork inside the yacht and a pervading musty smell from being shut up for 2 months, the yacht was in good condition and it only took a full day’s work to make her ship shape again.
Not so the case with the hull- Frank jumped in the water and found wafting great fronds of weed with soft coral formations along the bottom of the boat, and the entire hull below the waterline was infested with millions of microscopic, graduating to small, medium and larger barnacles. Never had either yachts we have owned, ever been affected so badly. Frank had scrubbed the hull clean before we left for Australia and it was only anti fouled with good quality paint 11 months ago in Fiji.
Here in New Zealand, we have been told by many ‘an old salty dog’ that every few years, the water temperatures, the currents or natural elements in the ocean all seem to converge to create a more volatile effect upon boats hulls and this year is one of those.
So two days after arriving back on our floating home, we were once again living high and dry, this time 20 feet up a step ladder on the ‘hard stand’ after having Stars End 2 hauled out of the water to repaint her bottom. It’s pretty inconvenient having no facilities on board (we can’t use the the fridge as it is water cooled, & the toilet and the shower cannot be used) and we have had some bad rain for the first couple of days on the slips. Third day in, the rain has mostly cleared, Frank has had to do most of the work for a change as I have been too sick to help. I have spent my time doing what I do best- organizing the yacht, putting away the million items we brought back from Australia, doing paperwork and making lists!
I still have a long list of items on my re provisioning list before we ship out. We had hoped to clear customs this Friday or Saturday but there appears to be a significant cyclone developing north of New Caledonia that is now predicted to head south.
Since we are bound for Noumea in New Caledonia, we may just be waiting to see what happens!
As for destination, Frank and I always like change, so for those that didn’t know, we have decided to change course and make passage to join the Indonesian Rally 2017. We will clear out from Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea for Debut, Indonesia arriving around July 20th and enjoy exploring through the islands until we reach Singapore in October.
It will be a long ocean passage of over 3,000n miles to reach Indonesia, but we are hopeful that for the first time in several years, we hope to be sailing with the wind. Watch this space.