Adrift (Shake down two, In the waters of the long White Cloud)

There is a feeling of uncertainty, instability (although the ballast works fine), dislocation. Darth Vader and occupants are a drift; Physically one might observe, mentally only they know, some might catch on… Lines have been cast and the tower that reaches to the sky, a needle filled with the rummaging hands of 24 hour poker players, has gone. It is not too far away but that is something the sea folk around here don’t speak about too loudly. Rangitoto with it’s dormant giants pass and with dying sun Hooks bay is reached. In it’s crook small bones and sea plastic are collected, still with frantic urban hands. A sea tossed dog bowl and intact Tupperware are found and will come in use.

As the sun rises the following morning Darth with sails set in gentle wind skips under a spring blue sky towards a wisp of form on the horizon- The steep hills of the Coromandel obscuring the view to the east, a scene hidden for now to the wider beckoning ocean. Faces shake off the city in big wafts of grey and eyes begin to reflect the is a slow process. The wisp grows bigger but does not live up to it’s name in translation, Aotea- White Cloud, today we spy you green. Landfall is made later by the dog tired anchor sinking snout into mud and Darth sits rocking in a bay of graveyards, bones begin a theme.

But the boat is now not so much a bag of bones. The boat has been revamped, overhauled and mended and the proud Owl and Cat are basking in the results although now once departed they seem to lull and a vagueness washes over- The feeling is something of a new dress but with nowhere to go sort of scenario.

The floors are varnished, the deck head painted, the workshop built, there is a water maker, an electric bilge pump, triple solar panels and wind generator, a garden, a Bimini shelter come bubble greenhouse, a table, a heater, electric refrigeration, brand new phone box red wet weather gear and a garden gnome in the shape of the dark lord himself. Thank you dear friends for the never ending Star Wars memorabilia… The plan has been to make the boat more self sufficient to enable The Owl and Cat to spend longer periods off grid and away from the necessity of shore ammenities. They still have to carry Diesel and Gas but are now hoping to use less of these precious, stinking fuels. The plan has also been to change and adapt some systems to make it easier for the pair to sail the boat double handed. A 2:1 purchase on the halyard and many tiny details such as different latches on cupboards..odd tiresome things that will make for more restful sleep.

They have achieved most of the installation themselves while living onboard (for the most part) and pulling the boat out around themselves, painting themselves into corners and tying their tails and tail feathers in knots.

So it is now day seven and the feeling of the new dress leaves (Agh we are starkers !) and the job list, which will be and is never ending, begins. The working week starts with sleeves rolled up…However, the motivation dwindles at times when the sun is out and fellow boats on anchors in the Port of Fitzroy appear to be on holiday. In the last seven days the Owl has bumped into, now at a total of, seven acquaintances and the Cat is a bit miffed by all the sociability, as cats sometimes do, for her desire was for a period of concentrated isolation to get on with things. The fire at Smokehouse bay* burns most evenings and you leave stinking of a strong wood musk. The bath house has a queue and this is not the visitors season. There seem to be others out here attempting to feign the land lubbers life. We are hiding on mass out here, in the wild, with it’s queues. A community of misfits and escape artists. The seven acquaintances however have brought good fortune with seven exchanges of kindness. There is a trade out here which uses no money and exchanges are made smiling between strangers. Trades/shares are: wood chopped, dinghy’s borrowed, pizza cooked, crayfish passed in boxes, mussels on the fire, fresh snapper leftovers, ash carted to the long drop, music exchanged and seven stories of seven seas told. We are happy and exisiting without the far.

The animals currently are a quick coming and goings of fisher people with large catches, quickly filleted and then hidden in ice chests. There are the old tax dodging drinkers and the French super yacht crew, the couple who kayak around and around the bay and climb the hills in matching blue rain coats. There is a man who went to sea for as long as possible and returned as a woman. We mix together around the fire and talk about the Kauri Die-back. The paths are currently closed because maintenance is underway to upgrade the tracks. Helicopters fly, as if dragonflies, traversing the grey blue hills at the other side of the bay carrying loads of gravel and wood. Long rope lines fall from their bellies with big bags swinging beneath. Heavy stalk wrapped babies on impossibly thin and long umbilicals. Kauri, a hard wood and native tree to NZ, has a disease and it is being passed by humans feet, animal paws and bird beaks. We can see the skeleton branches and trunks as evidence. The bones are there again.

In the next approximately eight, yes not seven, could be more months, the crew of Darth Vader will be shaking down around the waters of NZ. When they are ready and the cyclone season is over they can then cross to more tropical climes. A second attempt towards their imagined, long distance adventure into an unknown vista. In this period they hope to remain afloat for as much time as possible and fine tune the boat and their knowledge. So dear readers we follow this with further tales of our second shake down, of islands we visit and the inhabitants we meet in, on and amongst the back waters and front ones of the long white cloud. Must attempt to write shorter sentences…

*Smokehouse is a boaties secret hideout. There are no roads in. There is an indoor bath in a small bath house and an outdoor bath with hot water coming from a wetback system. Water is plentiful with rain caught in tanks. There are smoke houses for the catch of the day and pizza oven recently installed. There are four mangles for doing laundry and three washing lines. The boaties who use the facilities must also tend to them. Smokehouse is one bay in Port Fitzroy harbour, Great Barrier Island/Aotea. The harbour is very sheltered with two narrow entrances. The harbour lies like a huge lake surrounded by a mystical weave of mountains. There is a resident 12 ft bronze whaler shark who is apparently docile and well fed. As we jump into the waters we try not to think about him.

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