Moon Sickness (Shake down two, Aoteaora)

Sitting in a laundromat to write this, to try to remember the chaotic and illogical movements of the Owl and Cat over the last couple of months seems appropriate. It’s Christmas Eve and some machines are whirring, two are out of order, one clinks with hardware left in a pocket. There is a vibration in the Lino floor and an echoing hum drum in your head. There is a sigh of an impatient washer, fingers in eye sockets, waiting for a free machine. Someone is being hypnotised without consent. Everyone seems to have left their washing to this day of the year as well as their driving and shopping and hoarding and eating and talking and moving and drinking and carrying as much as they can. It’s madness out there, hot upside down Christmas, motorway mall mad. So stay inside or hide in a comforting laundromat with it’s nostalgic smell of soap. The memories start stacked up like the piles of dirty clothes then jiggled about, rinsed, dried and maybe ironed. The latter action mostly ignored by the sea folk.

You may recall that the Owl and Cat left the Island of Aotea/Great Barrier for Tamaki Makaurau/ Auckland to seek work. Work was found for the Owl, but in Tauranga, building electric boats. So off they went down southwards on sweet lady Darth Vader on a becalmed sea to the Bay of Plenty of Honey. As they motored down the coast the fires in Australia started and the sun sets, even with destruction 2000 miles away, burnt with a chilling orange dazzle. Red particle dust was reported and found settled on glaciers down south and we no longer need to alter our filters in our photoshops.

Arriving in the busy port of Tauranga the Owl and Cat realised they didn’t have anywhere to keep their boat so they anchored right in the middle of the port in a seaweed infested and strong tidal estuary. They soon realised this was not really the best place to live while they worked so they moved the boat again and then again and then again…The rest of the month can only be described in the diagram below:

Diagram of Boat and Crew’s movements Nov/Dec 2019:

Yes so that is what happened. It is what is happening to the Owl and Cat’s unmentionables in the machine right now. If you need further explanation read on but you could just look at this and know everything you need to know about this and that. The comings and goings of the confused Owl and Cat.

Long winded explanation of diagram:

The first part of this diagram describes (you will need to purchase and place said diagram under a microscope) in minute detail that the first anchorage in the port was within an industrialist landscape off a Sulphurous point. A white sand beach, becoming dune, stacked with shipping containers lay on their port side and hoards of seagulls animated the air at all times of day and night, which was illuminated with phosphor floods. To starboard lay an infinite wharf with pine log burdened container ships. Deafening creaks, moans and beeps sounded through the nights as logs were arranged and rearranged by giant cranes and long legged robots. The sound of heavy machinery finally exasperated both the Owl and Cat’s souls and after day three they up anchored.

The diagram now smooths to an arch where a mooring was found and tied to in the inner harbour. Surrounded by market gardens and mudflats a short peace descended on the two. Here the Owl and Cat were looked after by a family of friendly honey bears who generously gave them figs, avocados and bees wax from their most bountiful garden and taught them about the birds and the bees, in a literal sense, cough cough. One of the bears, bee obsessed (covered in stings) and also practical joker, decided upon finding the pairs dinghy, tied to the local fishing jetty, that he would decorate it with bamboo as a ‘gift’ for them. The joke was deserved in repayment for the Owl and Cat’s ‘present’ of tying his underwear to his flagpole. The inner harbour was tranquil but involved a very long commute by dinghy and car hitch so after two weeks the pair decided to go back to the port. They both congratulated themselves with this wonderful decision.

Here the diagram wavers in all manner of deranged patterns. A new location for the boat was found tied to a tug boat and a barge on a condemned wharf. The owner of the wharf was the Owl’s boss, a wild eyed sheep in Hi-Vis, so it seemed like a good plan. It just meant climbing over the tug, the barge, heaving yourself up or down a falling down wharf and climbing over two fences if you wanted to come or go.

The Cat, deciding she had had enough of this game for a little while, caught a number of buses down to New Plymouth to join a protest against an Oil company drilling in NZ waters. After three days tied to the outside of a building and suffering a little element exposure, rather different in an urban environment then in the ocean kind, the Owl said she must come back to work as a cook on a boat bound to the international waters line. So after a number of buses back (Still burning fuel I may add !) the cat then joined the Owl who had once again moved Darth Vader to a new and undisclosed location.

The Owl and Cat joined a small ship with a group of divers and took them out into international waters, about 12 miles off the Island of Aotea, to attempt to clean the dirty bottoms of container ships who had not been allowed into the country. In five days the divers had spent only five hours doing any work as the swell had been too big or the drift of the un-anchored ships too fast. It is intensely stressful coming alongside a container ship then sending some divers down with magnets on their hands to clean the crustaceans from sea chests and bottoms. In a matter of minutes you must be prepared to get the divers out and undo lines from the ship as it’s motion can suddenly build in a pendulum fashion, knocking into our ship with the swell. In the evenings they returned to Barrier, as the operations were in daylight, but the crew would have to be up at 3.00am to pull anchor to get back to the container ship by 6.00am- still drifting out in international waters. The divers and crew of the small ship sat and talked about the Volcano eruption that had taken the lives of some tourists. They had seen the ash cloud on their steam north. That same volcano was where the Owl had proposed to the Cat and would sadly never be the same location again. Once in remembrance of joy, now sadness.

The Cat, having to escape the ship, having had enough of this game too and mainly having to get back to see a long lost friend from England was made to hike at 3.00am over Great Barrier/ Aotea Island under a bright, full moon to get a ride off the island and back to the city. When she reached the top of the hill, before descending down the other side, she declared moon sickness and feeling silly to put hat and sunglasses on at such an hour, fell asleep in a bush instead. She witnessed the lights of the Owl’s small ship leaving once again over the horizon to meet his dirty bottomed clients and thought he was better in the night then her…even though she too was meant to be a creature of the witching hours.

After a number of days and once reunited back in Tauranga, Darth Vader was hauled out of the water so the Owl could drill his hole for the new water maker’s plumbing and the boat could be washed and given a new coating of anti foul. Four days later the boat went back into the briny and with anti foul under their finger nails the pair sailed as fast as they could to get back to Auckland for Christmas. A good steady breeze on the aft beam sent them flying out of Tauranga on a blue crayon sea. Planning to sail through the night the wind dropped at sunset and with a tide against them they decided to stop for some sleep at Port Charles. By dawn and on a calm sea they motored through Coleville passage- A passage that can at times be particularly treacherous as all the ocean pours in and out of its narrow gap and has sunk ships with it’s many lines of gnashing teeth. Looking at the horizon the cat thought it was oddly wobbly. The sea they were on was textured with little waves but certainly not curvy or undulating or jaw like. Rounding Coleville head the oddly wobbly sea proved to be a steep 3m rough sea shock and 35 knots building straight from 12knots which hit them right in the face. Both the Owl and Cat, wearing jeans and pyjamas, not at all prepared as the forecast had suggested otherwise, were suddenly in a matter of minutes battling with their boat and the sea. Both saturated with waves dumping right into the cockpit they managed to pull themselves together and put another reef in the main and get rid of the jib. They then took it in turns to go below to change into dry clothes and put on full wet weather gear in the jumping bowels of the boat. A quick wake up call and transportation to the middle of a stormy ocean. Lesson 589,000 noted. The Owl and Cat had made this journey now 9 times this year and it just goes to show you can not rest on your laurels or dirty bottoms or anything like that when it comes to the sea and weather.

A change of course required sent them on a screaming reach to Kauwau island for the night but they did make it back in time for Christmas and to wash their salt streaked clothes while recounting adventures in a little marina laundry. The Cat thinks she is just about over her moon sickness and sleep deprived month now but the Owl on reading this thinks otherwise. Perhaps he will take up writing in the New Year he thinks. Happy New Year to you all !