Sunday, 4 December 2016

sweet as

The R. Tucker Thompson
crew hard at work during
The can said “tomato sauce”. I should have known better, but I was in a rush and there was a hungry crew to feed. I already had mince (that’s what they call ground beef here), and some vegetables. All I needed was the tomato base to make Spaghetti Bolognese. I had gone to the dairy (corner store) to pick some up and cooked lunch. I think what surprised me the most, was that the crew ate what I gave them and didn’t complain, at least not to my face. Though, I also believe one of the crew’s dog secretly got a great feed that day. You see, in New Zealand, tomato sauce (pronounced toe-maw-toe sauce) is not pasta sauce. It’s ketchup. I made spaghetti sauce using ketchup.

I’m a Canadian expat in New Zealand. Welcome to my life.

Yes, they speak English here and it’s easy to assume it won’t be a problem to communicate. Let me tell you, that’s not true when it comes to the finer points. The first time someone said “Sweet as!” to me, I thought they were referring to my ass. You can imagine the look on my face. It means something like “No problem!” or “That’s great!”  The word as (not ‘ass’) is used as an amplifier to the preceding adjective in all kinds of combinations… I have heard “Cool as!” (very cool) “Cheap as!” (very cheap) and a myriad of variations since we sailed into the Bay of Islands. What got me at first, was that it, whatever it is, is not sweet as anything in particular.

New Zealand’s official languages are English, Maori and NZ Sign Language.  The way Maori and English are interchangeable in conversation here, reminds me of the Frenglish one hears in parts of Canada. Though England’s influence is felt more in New Zealand. For example, if you get a flat tire, you’ll need to get your spare tyre from the boot, not the trunk of your car. Oh, yeah, and don’t confuse tea (which they drink a lot here) with tea - That’s dinner. I’ve begun to pick up some Maori words too, and would like to learn more. I say Ai all the time now: that’s yes in Maori.  At least now when one of my Maori friends says, hoha, I know something’s annoying (hopefully not me), and of course, Kia ora is a very common greeting.

Expats together
Living in a new country involves a lot of deciphering. What’s polite? What’s rude? Why wouldn’t you use this expression in that circumstance? When you are an expat, you need to let go of the fear of making an idiot of yourself, (because you will). Since you are the foreigner, you get used to receiving blank looks. Kiwis love to laugh at your expense if you use “funny” words, like garbage can instead of rubbish bin. It took me a while to figure it out, but I think that “Yeah, naw” means no, and “Nah, yeah” means yes, and Yeah, naw, definitely – means it’s a sure thing. But I’m not entirely sure.

Sometimes, it’s just the Kiwi accent that throws me, not an actual word. For example, someone once introduced themselves to me as Been. I kept calling this guy Been, thinking, “What an odd name.” Until Rick asked me, “You know his name is Ben… Right?”

There is a lot a Canadian like me finds confusing in everyday conversation. It’s funny, because the North Island doesn’t feel so different from parts of Canada and at the same time, it is very different. The longer I live here, the more I become aware of what makes this land and its people unique, and I don’t just mean the lingo. I have come to appreciate certain traits of Kiwi culture. I don’t get every joke, but even to me, it’s obvious that Kiwis generally have a great sense of humour. It’s very tongue
Beautiful Bay of Islands, NZ
in cheek. Road signs, advertisements – they are not afraid to use a good pun or joke to drive the point home. We have also witnessed time and again, the “can do” attitude of Kiwis especially in the Far North. People figure stuff out for themselves, fix things in imaginative ways and make do with a very practical attitude. Maybe that’s why we like it here so much.

When I’m tramping (hiking) on Moturua Island, and I hear the Tui birds playfully taunting us… I realize this land really is inimitable. These days, I would say New Zealand is sweet as. I guess that's proof that I have fallen for New Zealand, even if I still think Canada is pretty skookum. (Try using that Canadian expression in New Zealand.)

No wonder Kiwis think I’m weird.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

a northland treasure

Whangaroa Harbour Entrance
Early morning in Whale Bay
Whangaroa (pronounced f-ong-ah-row-ah) is a gem on the east coast of the North Island. We sailed there on Nyon for the first time this past December. I had been there twice on the R. Tucker Thompson when I crewed on youth voyages over the winter. The first time we sailed the tall ship there we arrived under starry skies. The next morning, the fog was so thick we could barely see 2 meters ahead. My crew mate Wayne and I took our young charges for a tramp up to the Duke’s Nose. A short but steep hike later, we watched the blanket of fog slowly dissipate from above and oh what beauty!

Since that first time, I have repeatedly pontificated on how we needed to go up there with Nyon. And we finally did. As a result of serendipitous scheduling, we both managed to garner enough days off in a row to sail up and into the beautiful harbour. Of course, it is summer in New Zealand right now – our destination was much busier than my recollections. A deserted harbour in the winter, its many anchorages are festive with holidaying boaters in the summer. It’s noisier, but it’s still beautiful.

Our lovely new sails...
Sailor Rick
We had to motor up most of the coast in calm conditions under a bright blue sky. A small afternoon breeze allowed us to sail from the Cavalli Islands to the entrance of Whangaroa Harbour. We decided to drop the hook in Rere Cove (Lane’s Cove). This anchorage is at the base of the Duke’s Nose, the hike I mention above. 

In our happy place: On Nyon, together
After a leisurely evening, we got up early the next morning and rowed past sleepy anchored boats in the bay. It was early enough that we were the only ones on the trail. There was no fog this time, and once we arrived at the top, we ate breakfast while listening to birds and taking in the scenery by ourselves. It wasn’t until we were almost half way down that we saw other climbers.

The last bit before reaching the top

Breakfast with the birds

I guess this is alright, if you like that sort of thing...

The Inlet
With the tide still rising, we put our electric outboard on the dinghy (more on that later) and decided to go explore up the inlet – large sections of it dry out at low tide, but you can putter quite far inland when the tide is high. Our electric outboard allowed us to go a lot further than we would have had we rowed. We felt pretty stealthy as we quietly puttered our way further into the inlet.

Pretty reflections

Look ma, a New Zealand Christmas Tree just for you!

Checking out the scenery

Feeling stealthy with our Electric Outboard


It turns out the water wasn't very
warm yet... 
Upon our return to Nyon, we weighed anchor and headed over to Waitepipi Bay – a larger anchorage, with fewer boats zipping by, (until sunset, when all the fishing launches crowd into the bay for the night). The next day, we jumped in the water (and boy was it refreshing), read books, daydreamed in the hammock, explored a trail up a hillside in the southwestern bay and simply took it all in. Too soon, we sailed south again. But we’ll be back!

Last morning in Whangaroa Harbour

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

a year of moments

Nyon at anchor in Army Bay
This past year was not a year filled with adventures for us. At least, that’s what I thought when I first looked back on the last 12 months. What are adventures but moments of heightened awareness and fleeting rushes of excitement. I certainly feel most adventurous when I’m thrown into new environments, or forced out of my comfort zone. I also like to write about what that’s like. Judging by the very few times I’ve written in 2015, it appears that I find it more difficult to write about the small, ordinary moments of a more static lifestyle.

What I’m realizing after having been an expat for the past 2 years, is that if I spend a lot of time waiting for the next big adventure, then the present time begins to feel like limbo. I have finally grasped that being still and opening up to what is, is when the real adventure commences; it’s in that space that creativity can find room to expand. I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to come to that conclusion.

Following, is a collection of moments that captured my imagination in 2015. Sometimes simply paying attention is better than any escapade and more powerful than a lovely turn of phrase. And that awareness is a gift in itself. 

Waipu Beach, on a perfect day

Human connections

Working as a team
Meaningful work with
the R Tucker Thompson Sail Training Trust
(I'm in the green t-shirt)

Blissfully quiet morning at anchor

Family time

Rick's Birthday Sunset

The neighbourhood

Winter morning walk to work

The sacred post-anchoring beer in Rere Bay

Monday, 25 January 2016

christmas 2015 in pictures

A surprisingly uncrowded bay
Christmas Eve tapas

Sunshine on Christmas Day

Two happy sailors

Time for reflection

Lovely pohutukawa tree in bloom

A refreshing swim

Watching the R Tucker Thompson sailing past on
Boxing Day

Friday, 14 August 2015

boats, boats, boats

Some years ago - never mind how long precisely -
 having little or no money in my purse, 
and nothing particular to interest me on shore, 
I thought I would sail about a little
 and see the watery part of the world.
 (H. Melville, Moby Dick)

Sailing in the Bay of Islands
(with our new sails!)
When you are on the move, a sea gypsy traveling on an old yacht at the whim of Mother Nature, you spend a lot of time thinking about your boat. You think about the leaks, the worn out sails, you calculate how long it might take you to sail to a speck of an island in the middle of the ocean, and then you just go. All the while, you try to take care of your boat, try not to chafe that reef line again, or you hope that she’ll be able to handle steering with the wind vane even though the wind is close to dead downwind. You keep an eye on corrosion, provisions…

More than one person has asked me, “Isn’t it overwhelming and scary out on the open ocean?” To which I have replied, “Well, it’s like this. You eat, you sleep, you navigate, mark your position, keep watch, download weather gribs, check the systems aboard – over and over. It’s easy for the yacht you’re traveling on and its very immediate surroundings to become your entire world." Fear is not part of the routine. Of course, there are those times when you look at the endless waves and think of bigger things, but mostly, you are working with your boat and thinking about your boat, and living on your boat. And she takes care of you.

Nyon anchored next to Moturua Island
Since we’ve been in New Zealand, Rick and I still think a lot about our boat. We still live on her. We still sail her. And this year we are tackling a lot of big projects – Nyon is due for an overhaul. We have been busy saving money, and now we’re taking care of her. But, here’s the catch. Other boats have crept into our thoughts and conversations.

We’re not buying a different boat, that’s not it. We both work with boats. We live in a tiny place that is all about boats (it’s a marine industry hub out in the boonies,) and the Bay of Islands is considered a cruising gem among boaters. In fact, I write this anchored off Moturua, one of my favourite islands in the Bay.

Sailing on a tall ship
Yet, I have now sailed some of this coast on a much bigger boat – as crew on a tall ship. That ship has crept into my mind, and I can’t deny I have a soft spot for her now too. She’s not home, but she’s a training vessel for adolescents. She’s taught me to love traditional sailing, and performing as part of a larger crew. Though I mostly work from the office and not aboard the ship, I still get to talk and think about a tall ship all day. And right now, Rick is part of a crew building a large alloy catamaran… And that’s only one boat-related responsibility he has at work.

From the ground up
We can’t help it, most days, we talk about boats. I wonder if it’s because we’ve had a real taste of life on the ocean – our desire to go on voyages has not dimmed, perhaps that’s why we seek anything that involves boats – it keeps us linked to our family of sea gypsies.

I remember when I first sailed on a boat. I don’t mean the large ship that took my family across the Atlantic from the Netherlands to Canada many years ago. An actual sailboat. I was 12 years old – family friends had a yacht, and we sailed it on Lake Michigan for the day. I climbed down below and sat in the cabin taking it all in, even though I became a little seasick. Back on deck, I felt the boat lean from the wind and push forward. I was captivated. Though it wasn’t until 20 years later that I sailed again, this time, on the West Coast of Canada, and only for an afternoon. Between that and a tall ship festival – the desire to jump on a boat grew. It led us to crew on a small yacht in the Mediterranean for a summer. We sailed and anchored off France’s southern shores and the west coast of Italy. We both fell in love with the simplicity of the lifestyle, the immediacy. That’s when we decided we needed to leave land to see the watery part of the world.

When I look back on my life so far, boats have only really been a part of it for 10 years. But talk about being front and centre now. To put it simply:

Love boats. Live on yacht. Will sail anywhere. 

Friday, 20 March 2015

from the land beyond beyond

That's 3 Crouzats, not one
When you live in New Zealand, Canada is a far, far away land. (It’s 13, 056 kilometres away to be exact.) It took us over 2 years to get here. Granted, we did take the scenic route. 

It took them 29 hours. They misplaced a day on the way, traded their winter boots for sandals, and had to slap on some sunscreen in less than 36 hours.

Though it seems sudden from a sailor's perspective, this visit was a long time coming.*

Tramping about
Family is comfortable. Family is complicated. And family can give you a sense of belonging. Ultimately, family makes you realize there are others like you. When I see my mother walking in circles looking for her [fill in the blank], I realize how much alike we are. When my father gets excited about a new adventure (say, parasailing,) I recognize my appetite for new escapades. It’s interesting to see parts of yourself in your family. I have had three weeks to do just that. I have also had the chance to get to know my parents again. I can’t remember the last time I spent 21 days near them. It’s been many, many years. After all, we had lived 5000 km apart for over twenty years before Rick and I left Canada.

A memorable moment: parasailing with dad

Ready for adventure!
While my parents were here, we spent a weekend in the Bay of Islands aboard Nyon. For two landlubbers with mobility issues, I was glad to see how quickly they adapted. We added a step for them to climb aboard and borrowed a dinghy from Rick’s bosses, (a nice, stable inflatable dinghy as opposed to our unstable hard dinghy,) to help my parents’ transition onto Nyon. 

We showed them how to work the toilet, how to use a foot pump to get water, how to hop in and out of the dinghy at the beach. It was interesting to see my everyday life unfold before their surprised eyes. Rick and I had to laugh, we spent all winter rebuilding the settee so it could be used as a berth, and my parents begged us to sleep under the stars in the cockpit. They wanted an adventure.

Tramping on Urupukapuka

Sleeping under the stars... 
Mom at the helm

The gang of 4
We live a very simple life, and it’s an adjustment even for the most easy-going person. Yet, I knew my parents would feel the peace I feel when we are anchored out in the Bay. My love of nature is something I share with my them. They taught me to respect it and appreciate it. Sailing in the Bay was by far the highlight of their visit.

I miss my parents now that they are gone. And while I much prefer sailboats, planes are pretty cool too. It means loved ones can reach you in under 2 days, not 2 years.

Thanks for making the journey mama and papa Crouzat!

*I did spend a brief time with my mother in California prior to crossing the Pacific in 2013, but the last time I’d seen my father was in early 2011.


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