Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Flipping through our cruising guide for the North Island, Peter sighed in despair. “JESUS,” he complained. “Rangaruru, Rangamumu, these names are driving me fucking crazy. It’s a dyslexic’s nightmare out here.”

And it’s true, the Maori place names can be difficult for English-speaking pakeha such as ourselves. Take Taumatawhakatangihangakoauau Atamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu, for example. Though it’s situated in Hawke’s Bay, which is a very lovely area that produces some rather famous wines, we’ll likely give it a miss. We’d crash the boat just trying to read the place name on a chart.

So we compromised, and sailed to Tutukaka instead. Actually, we weren’t trying to go to Tutukaka. We were trying to get to Mimiwhangata (the “wh” is pronounced as an “f,” just to make things easy for you). But we didn’t exactly make it there.

Allow me to explain.

The morning dawned calm and overcast, tendrils of fog slinking over the hilltops. We were right at the mouth of the Pacific, in a lovely little inlet called McLeod’s Bay. The New Zealand landscape is like England, with a twist: you see rolling hills and grazing sheep, topped by jagged peaks shaped like raunchy Polynesian sex gods. And then a penguin swims by, and you think: “Ah. We’re not in Brighton, after all. In fact, we’re rather a long way away.”

Here’s the view from our toilet, known to salty dogs as the “head:”

For three and a half months, we’ve been working, and spending our savings, and worrying about babies and buckets and all sorts of nightmares, and it hasn’t been fun at all. Then last night I went to have a pee, and I discovered this spectacularly beautiful sunset—the kind you see so often from a boat that you take them for granted—and I thought: “OH. THAT’s why we’re doing this. It’s supposed to be beautiful. It’s supposed to be FUN.”

And today was fun. At first.

To begin with, the passage was positively poetic. We raised anchor, and found to our surprise a collection of tiny green and purple starfish, clinging to the anchor chain. This would have been especially sweet and picturesque if the chain hadn’t already snapped off several of their delicate little arms:

Silas was raring to go. In fact, he wasn’t really interested in relinquishing the helm.

For awhile, he was content with peering out at his papa from the companionway.

Then he started to yawn, and I lay down with him for a nap. And it was at this juncture that the wise words of Douglas Adams came back to me: “A towel,” he wrote, “is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.” He was right, of course, and same holds true for people who sail with small children. Only in our case, six or seven towels, and a rubber sheet, would have possibly been more a propos.

Silas, I can tell you with authority, had a ham omelette, apple juice, and water for breakfast. In copious quantities. Soon, these ingredients—in liquid form—were all over Silas, his clothes, his mother, and our bed. The poor little nipper was seasick, and everything was covered in barf.

At that moment, Peter started hollering. “FISH!! I CAUGHT A FISH!!” he crowed from the cockpit. “Wanna come up and gut it?”

“Not now,” I called, cradling my rancid baby. “Can we have another towel?”

We stripped the baby down, and wrapped him up. Then I brought him on deck, knowing—with the wisdom of someone who has been seasick for a fair proportion of my own life—that the fresh air would make him feel better. On deck, in the presence of a large, gory fish, he fell asleep.

“Do you think we’re nearly there?” I asked, hopefully.

Peter looked perturbed. “Did I say one o’clock? Uh. Maybe I mixed up kilometers and miles. Hang on.”

He went down below, and came up looking worried. “We’re just about a quarter of the way to Mimi—Mimi—Mimi whatever the fuck it is,” he admitted. “It’s actually, uh, forty miles to get there.”

I held Silas tighter. “Can we pull in anywhere closer? I think forty miles is too much for the first day.”

Peter, because he is a hero and a gentleman, plotted a new course. Silas took an exceptionally long nap, as only seasick and dehydrated babies can do. And we pulled in to Tutukaka, which is a very beautiful bay, rimmed with rocky green hills and cheerful holiday homes.

A fleet—or perhaps they were a gaggle? a pride?—of kayaks greeted us as we set our anchor. Silas slept soundly. I made fish tacos. And Peter sipped a glass of feijoa wine, practicing silently to himself how to pronounce our next anchorage.


  1. Ah, the first day out. All that work, all that preperation and then your seasick for days. Those anchorages look amazing. Is it warm or are you in 72 layers? Is there wind or are you under the diesel genny? I seem to have forgotten I'm writing in a comment box...

  2. And that's why we do it.

    Continue to enjoy, you earned it.

  3. Coming into an anchorage was always my favorite thing. The physical and mental decompression, tidying up, wandering around the boat and checking out the new surroundings, popping open a bottle of wine (or pouring a glass of warm vodka mixed with bitters to be fancy--or whatever it is you happen to have aboard)...

  4. So you are saying it's paradise?

  5. Looks like a Barracuda.