Sunday, August 16, 2009


Sereia is ready. Or rather, she’s as ready as she’s going to get without an additional two months and fifty thousand dollars to burn. I’ve shelved my hopes for a deep flight submarine, and there’s still no washer or dryer on board. But where we’re going, we won’t need to wash our clothes, and we won’t need to change them, either. Like medieval peasants of yore, we plan to sew ourselves into our foulies, then burn them at the changing of the seasons.

Because instead of sailing to Fiji, we’ve decided to stay close to land. We plan to learn about this new country we’ve adopted as our own. And that, of course, means one thing:

We’re cruising to Invercargill. The frozen asshole of the world.

I’ve hesitated to tell people our idea, for fear they will call us stupid and crazy. The southern tip of New Zealand, is, after all, where we lived last year, and we just recently escaped with our lives. They have horizontal ice storms down there. They have a perpetually overcast sky, bleak with the smoke of coal fires. I’m only just getting over the rash I acquired in Invercargill, a sort of scrofulous skin rot that confounded the doctors and can only be ascribed to a prolonged bout of spiritual malaise.

In short, we didn’t like it. At all.

And it’s not just us. People who don’t sail can’t imagine why we would rather stay in chilly old New Zealand, rather than voyage a mere ten days to the north, where the beaches are made of white powder and the snorkeling is clear as air.

Then there’s the sailors, the people who actually know what they’re talking about. Like Ken, for example, our Kiwi friend who’s built several boats and sailed them all round these waters. The other day we were sitting at his picnic table, quaffing homemade fruit wine and chatting.

“NOW,” Ken declared, slamming his glass on the table. “WHERE YA THINKIN’ A GOING IN THAT BOAT A YOURS.”

Peter, who is more forthcoming than me, and who was also more drunk, gave him a straight answer. “Circumnavigating New Zealand. We’re going to circumnavigate New Zealand.”

Ken peered at him. “DAHN’T BE BLOODY STUPID,” he roared. “Right the way round? With that kid? You’re CRAZY.”

“You think so?” asked Peter.

“THE WEST COAST IS BLOODY AWFUL,” Ken declared. “Nowhere to go in. You’d need local knowledge.”

“Perfect,” I slurred, with the confidence born of homemade fruit wine. “We’ll talk to the sailors. We’ll get to know people along the way.”

“You serious?” Ken asked, squinting at Peter. “Christ, you’re serious. Right then, you’d better talk to Max. He’s done it.”

“Great,” Peter concurred. “He’ll tell us all about it.”

“He’ll tell you you’re BLOODY STUPID and CRAZY, is what he’ll tell you,” Ken replied. “Go to Fiji. Go where it’s WARM, fer Chrissake.”

So we talked to Max. That man is an encyclopedia about New Zealand waters. And he didn’t try to dissuade us. In fact, he lit us up with excitement.

“I’ve traveled all round the Pacific,” he growled, “and everywhere I go, they ask me what my favorite Pacific island is. They think I’ll tell them some bloody sand dune with coconuts. Na,” he shook his head. “I tell them I live there! New Zealand, mate! You can live off the bloody ocean here! Everywhere you go, you can catch your dinner! Where else can you do that, I ask you?”

His eyes narrowed. “But that West Coast can be a bit rough. Why don’t you stay on the East Coast? It would be a lot easier.”

I fully planned to dodge his question, but Peter came right out with the truth. “Because Antonia’s going to write a book about New Zealand. And this would make a great story.”

I cringed. But Max didn’t tell us we were stupid. And he didn’t tell us we were crazy. Instead, he started telling us where the good anchorages were to take shelter.

“What about Fiordland?” Peter asked. “I hear it can get pretty nasty down there, with those katabatic winds. Where can we pull in there?”

“If it really starts to blow in the Sounds, mate, an old friend of mine, who’d sailed there for years, he told me there’s just three places to take shelter. Remember that. Just three places ye’ll be protected, from whatever comes at ye.”

“Where?” we asked, in unison. I pulled out my notebook to jot them down.

“Precipice Cove, Precipice Cove, and… Precipice Cove. Other than that, you’re on your own.”

There was a pause, while we took this in. I looked down at the baby, who was clutching my leg. I thought about katabatic winds.

“But it’s nice there, right?” Peter asked. “I mean, if we go there, it’s worth it, right?”

“Fiordland? It’s bloody magnificent, mate. It’s like nowhere else in the world.”


  1. Hope flies don't gross you out.

    Do write though, a blog, or better yet a book.
    Back when I cruised, Pickmere was the bible.
    Good, but limited to NE northland and dry.

    I'm sure you and peter can surpass that.
    Note: Pickmere has good sketch charts. That's certainly fundamental for a cruising guide.

    Write the definite cruising guide (including the human element) and I'll be a buyer.

    As for the west coast... everyone waits for a slow moving high, scurries around cape regina and makes like hell for shelter south...which is a long way. (Nelson or new plymouth in a pinch). At least that's the prevailing wisdom. Please feel free to rewrite it if that is warrented.

  2. Yippee! Sereia underway! You can always head to the warmer direction later. See New Zealand while you can (and I like cold and damp. That's why I'm in Wales). When do you leave?