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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

A Dutchman and the Ahura

NEW ZEALAND | Sunday, 25 January 2009 | Views [1017]

For three days I've been searching, and today it paid off! This morning I woke up extra early at the crack of dawn so I could scout around for someone going across the strait. Yesterday I learned my lesson because I missed a catamaran by only about 20 minutes. Before the sun was up my alarm went off. I packed up my tent my all my stuff and carried it all with me to Waikawa Marina. I was thinking that I’d find at least one person that was going back to Wellington; tomorrow is Monday, meaning people have to get back for work. Nobody was around, so I thought I’d stick to hope that Eat My Shorts would be leaving today. As I pulled out some change to get a Red Bull, the turning point to finding a lift came. Margaret, a lady working at the Jolly Roger pub, and I were talking about my hitching experiences. She told me that about 15 years ago she picked up a hitchhiker and that he tried to steal her car. Margaret is about 50-something, blonde, with a fresh tattoo on her breast. We talked for a few minutes and then I headed out to the main road. The sun wasn’t even up over the hill, few people were driving by, and I just stood there. Margaret picked me up! I’m the first hitchhiker she’s picked up in 15 years! She was on her way to visit Dennis, a yacht broker/sailor whom I met yesterday while scouting around for a boat to get on. When we got there, I was invited onto his boat, Oceania for a cuppa. He was gracious enough to send out a VHF message to all the yachties in the area that I’m seeking a ride across the strait. Overall, this really has been an amazing journey! Nobody responded to the message but a lady gave the weather report at about 10:00 AM and at the same time let all the other boats know that I’m looking to get on a yacht. Still, no-one responded. Shortly afterward I called the captain of Eat My Shorts but he said that he had enough crew members already. Disappointed I was ready to give up and just try this another time. Suddenly a message came in that someone was interested in taking me across the strait! He was planning to leave around that time but decided to leave tomorrow instead because the weather forecast is looking better tomorrow! He was all the way out by the entrance of Tory Channel and said he could come back to Picton get me, but Dave (another sailor) suggested that he could take me in his motorboat, Infinity out to him and drop me off. I was really excited! This is my first sailing trip and I will have hitched across on boats both the Cook and Foveaux Straits. The only stretch I have to complete now is Auckland to Cape Reinga (and that’ll be easy). Dave suggested that I go get some food to share so I walked excitedly as fast as I could to the store. I got some Red Bull, bread, bananas, and some crackers. Getting up early paid off this morning! I was in the right place at the right time when I met Margaret, and she wouldn’t have picked me up if we weren’t talking this morning. With all of my gear, Margaret, Dave, and I got onto Infinity and we were off to sea. Dennis is the guy that I owe the most to because he sent the message out! Eat My Shorts was sailing out and I actually waved to the captain to let him know that I found a yacht. I got a photo of his yacht because Bart Simpson is on the side of it; my sister will like that. After more than an hour out to sea, I met Rudy, captain of Ahura.

He is originally from the Netherlands and has been away for 51 years! It’s really nice of him to do this! Just about all yachts have motors nowadays; there are very few boats similar to those sailed by Magellan, Columbus, Vespucci, and all those other sailors/explorers. On board, we made some peanut butter sandwiches. Rudy has a lot of long-life food, so he immediately got excited at the sight of fresh bread! He lived in Australia for nine years, has hitchhiked around Europe, and loves the nature of New Zealand. He had bypass surgery a few years back and he’s not only alive and kicking, but alive and sailing! Many people his age are sitting in their rocking chairs, but not him! The sails weren’t up so we had the motor going and we were on our way out to Deep Bay: a little inlet that’s part of Arapawa Island. As we motored out there Rudy made me a cup of tomato soup. The Marlborough Sounds are simply spectacular! Seeing them from a yacht is even better! Rudy gave me a lesson in “Sailing 101” telling me what to do in case of an emergency. He said to call over the radio “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday…Ahura, Ahura, Mayday.” He gave me other instructions on what to do if the boat overturns and things like that. Sailing accidents are probably even less common than airplane crashes, and many sailors have been sailing all their lives; it often runs in the family. My grandfather was in the U.S. Navy but I never became a sailor because my parents were never into it. When we moored in Deep Bay, Rudy got the dinghy out so I could row ashore. The difference between rowing and kayaking is that rowing you sit facing backward as you paddle instead of facing forward. Onshore, aside from vegetation there is a camping ground but not much else. There is no track or walkway; you can only get there by boat and it's only meant as a campground.

A bloke named Ken lives on his boat in the bay and grows vegetables onshore. The island is a DOC reserve so he has to grow the vegetables in buckets. He gave Rudy some fresh-caught fish so we could have fish for dinner. Wekas abound and a couple of them walked around me as I sat in the bush.

When I rowed back to the yacht, Rudy introduced me to the game of sudoku. It is a game of thinking and numbers. Puzzles are said to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. When it comes to the brain you either “use it or lose it.” I did a puzzle while Rudy went ashore for a bit. When he came back a nearby yacht Coriander blew its horn. The captain’s daughter was ashore (she’s about 11 or 12) and her dinghy drifted out into the bay. It took some teamwork; Rudy got into the dinghy and paddled ashore to get the girl while the captain of another nearby boat took his motorized dinghy to collect the dinghy the girl lost. The teamwork paid off and Rudy was given a beer. Sailors work as a team; it’s essential especially during an emergency. It is amazing out here because it is so quiet. As the sun was setting, Rudy cooked up a tea of fish, veggies, and mashed potatoes. Ken even gave us some fresh vegetables! It’s a novelty to have them out here. Dinner was really good (even though I had to watch for bones in the fish). I’m really exciting about crossing the Cook Strait tomorrow! For dessert we had some delicious fruit salad. After dinner we shared stories over a hot cuppa. Being on a yacht is fantastic!

When it was dark I watched the stars for a wee bit. They’re so beautiful out here! Inside the cabin I read Passages. The first chapter is about his journey in Tonga. He describes staying at a guesthouse that sounds very similar to Toni’s and about how King Tupou IV is an “extremely large fellow.” In detail he describes Nuku’alofa as a “dusty, old-fashioned town” and that it’s the “perfect location for a movie set in 19th century Mexico. I more or less disagree with that statement because the buildings are very different so Mexico’s, although it is old-fashioned in the sense that there is very little globalization. Today was fantastic but tomorrow is the true adventure! We’ll be going across the strait the old-fashioned way: no motor or power, just a sail. At whatever time, I decided to go to sleep. I have to get up early so we can secure supplies and set sail! 

Sailing Day! I woke up aboard Ahura at about 6:00 AM. I had the strangest dream last night. When I was in Milford Sound I found out there’s no way you can hire a kayak and go out there self-guided; you have to either take a guided tour or bring your own kayak. In this dream I rented a kayak in Te Anau and then sneaked into Milford Sound with it. Sandflies bit me up and I paddled as far out into the sound as I could. Then there was this gigantic floating city with futuristic buildings including one that was about a mile tall. In this dream I remember thinking “this is why they won’t hire us kayaks.” I could never have imagined a futuristic floating city off the coast of Fiordland. Anyways, sailing day! Rudy woke up at about 6:30 and we secured everything. If you leave valuables sitting unsecured on a boat they can easily get hurled across the cabin and they’ll shatter! My camera has seen a few close calls already and remember what happened with my first one in London last year. For breakfast I had some Weet-Bix: the quintessential Kiwi brekkie. I mixed some powdered milk to have a good breakfast. I was ready for us to set sail but Rudy said we had to wait for about an hour so I entertained myself with some sudoku! Boy those puzzles are addicting! Tetris was my addiction during my video game years; they say that Tetris is the only thing more addicting than sex. Rudy rowed ashore for a wee bit while I was glancing at a book written by Sir Francis Chichester. He was the ripe old age of 65 when he sailed around the world on Gipsy Moth IV. He sailed around the world in 226 days and only made one stop: Sydney. At 8:30 we were ready to roll. Rudy said we’d motor until we got out of the Tory Channel. When you sail the best thing is to not hear a motor. Sailors are in no hurry to get to their destination; they peacefully enjoy the journey. There are a few houses on Arapawa Island; there are no roads so I would imagine the only way to reach them would be by boat. The ferry across the strait takes about three hours, sailing takes about six. A few people have envisioned an inter-island tunnel connecting the North and South Island but New Zealand doesn’t have the population for something like that. It would take billions of dollars to build and there likely would be a huge heap of environmental consequences. There were a few yachts making the crossing today. When we reached the Tory Channel opening at about 10:00 AM we put the sails up and turned off the motor.

On a yacht (or any boat for that matter) you should always have one hand firmly holding something. If a sudden wave came in the boat could rock suddenly and you can get thrown over. The Cook Strait is a place you do not want to fall overboard in. The North Island was faintly in the distance and I was feeling a bit of seasickness. Ginger is very effective in combating the effects of seasickness, so he gave me some ginger-nuts (Rudy calls them "dunkers") and I fell asleep momentarily. When I woke up I was feeling better and I went out and enjoyed the sun, the ocean, and the breeze. Little do people know that I have a strong love for the ocean. Oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface. They are beautiful! We wouldn’t be here without them. A few selfish individuals treat the ocean like it’s a big rubbish bin, dumping their nappies and other refuse. For awhile I sat outside while Rudy went in for rest. He’s owned Ahura for 4 ½ years and this is the first time he’s ever had a passenger. This is my first great sailing trip (not on a motorboat). Next I hope to get to some of the Pacific Islands like Tokelau and some of the remote Cook Islands. For a long while I just sat there enjoying the peacefulness and serenity of the ocean. The Cook Strait is normally very rough but it was very calm today. According to the forecast the winds are expected to go up to 40 knots tomorrow. We were getting a bit close to another boat so I woke Rudy up. It was a surprise to him because that boat was so far away when we set sail.

I had a slight headache so I went inside and rested and ate some ginger-nuts. The ocean is simply amazing! When I woke up we were about half hour later we were about halfway between the two islands. The South Island was becoming faint behind us and the North Island was rapidly getting closer to us. We had our sights set on Karori Rock.

Once we were to reach there we would sail through an area called the “wind factory” where a lot of wind comes out from the hills above Wellington. We were making really good timing but there was no hurry at all. I was thinking that if we get to Wellington with enough time I can run into town to visit Rebecca and change my plane ticket. If everyone else had their way I’d be heading home in a couple of days. There are at least a half dozen yachts and many more ferries and cargo ships making the crossing today. Over the radio they said the weather is “brilliant” today! At about 1:30 PM (1330 hours) we passed Karori Rock and headed into the “wind factory.” When giving times on the radio, etc. sailors say “1500 hours” for 3:00 PM, “0700 hours” for 7:00 AM and so forth. Rudy really enjoyed my company and I was just as well enjoying the experience. Some people in Picton were probably thinking that I just wanted to save money by not taking the ferry but I totally wanted the yachting experience with a great big smile! When I call everyone I’ll have so much to share! As we got closer to Wellington Harbour (the mouth of the fish) we lowered some of the sails and turned on the motor. We were “motor-sailing” which is when you when you’re using some of the sails and the motor. During our journey Rudy and I talked about Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. I read that book in 8th grade and is what I model my journal after. One of these days I have to go back to the Netherlands so I can visit the Anne Frank House. As we went in we saw something in the water; we thought maybe it was a kayak but it turned out to be a couple of buoys used in a boating race, apparently they were forgotten in the water. We made excellent timing today and we made it to Seaview Marina at about 3:30. Rudy called Marlborough Radio and let them know that we made it safely to Wellington. When they asked how I like the voyage I immediately had an enthusiastic reply of “I loved it!” Rudy also wanted to get Ahura anti-fouled so we’d be sleeping on the boat out of water tonight. The sunset tonight was beautiful with a glowing red colour. Magnificent, photogenic, Aotearoa is beautiful! Rudy came back at about 9:00. He had a few glasses of wine with his mates. What a fantastic journey today! I’ve had a smile all day and no seasickness at all. I’ve finally grown sea legs! My next yacht journey hopefully will be to a place like Fiji, Bora Bora, or perhaps some of the remote Cook Islands. I love you New Zealand…I love you World! The world is my playground; I can travel around it freely and live in very free spirit! I shared some of my poetry with Rudy; he says I’m a fantastic writer. Tomorrow I’m going to head up to Whitianga but I’m going to go via the East Cape, so I’ll probably get there in a couple days. I can’t wait to see everyone up at the farm and tell them about my adventures. I have so much to share with them; walking Milford Track, kiwi-spotting on Stewart Island, jade-carving in Hokitika, and much more but perhaps best of all sailing across the Cook Strait on a yacht! We shared a cuppa and some Anzac biscuits as I was sharing my writings, and as a result we ended up chatting well past midnight!

Rudy woke me up at about 0730 hours. I was a bit groggy because I had such a long day yesterday. Rudy told me last night that he's feeling like sailing has become too much for him because there is a lot of work involved, but this morning he said he's thinking about getting a launch and boating around Marlborough Sounds instead of only sailing the yacht. I really admire him because he's done a lot for his age (74) and what he's been through (several bypass operations). He and George (a 70 year-old man I met on Milford Track) are two ol' Kiwis that I have great respect for; there aren't many people their age who would go out and do things like that. For brekkie I had some Weet-Bix and a cuppa. As far as milk goes I've been using powdered milk; very convenient for sailing, camping, tramping, etc. Journey concluded! Rudy had to go visit his son to pick up his car. He's a great guy and he did a lot to help me out on my journey. He says I'm welcome to join him again and that perhaps I could spend a few weeks in the Marlborough Sounds with him. That'd be amazing!

Thanks to Rudy, I've hitched the full way from Auckland to Stewart Island! All that's left now is the stretch from Cape Reinga to Auckland, and then I can say that I did the full length of Aotearoa by thumb! Rudy, you have given me a new passion that involves sails, the ocean, my free spirit, and my thumb!

Tags: sailing


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