Life and death of a life raft

The Safety at Sea rep I called, to enquire about our life raft, nearly choked when I advised him when it was manufactured (1976) and last serviced (1991). He confirmed my suspicions they didn’t service life rafts that old, and with that information, I finally convinced Thomas it was time to part with our dodgy safety piece of equipment. But not before giving it a fair try on the water.

So, on Sunday morning, as the sun was shining, the water glittering, and the sky still bright blue and fairly non-threatening (we got rinsed shortly after our mission had completed), we took our venerable life raft for a tour at the beach nearby to inflate it one last time (if not the only one), for education and entertainment purposes, as well as offering it a decent end of life.

This life raft will be remembered for the successful morning full of suspense, surprises, and laughter it provided the whole family (and possibly some Sunday strollers too).

Then, we brought it (albeit very reluctantly) to the dumpster, and had a celebration lunch at Corelli’s in Devonport.

Now we need a new life raft!

Magic moments in Kawau

Initially, our ambitious plans for the Labour week-end was to go to Great Barrier Island… Thomas had even taken his Friday off to give us four full days of adventures. However, our religiously watching the weather situation the week leading up to our mini-holidays, did nothing to slow down the wind, which was still howling loudly on Friday, to the great delight of the Coastal Classic sailors.

As for us, we took it easy, relaxed at Takapuna swimming pool (hammam, sauna and spa), had a rest, and Thomas took the children to the Bayswater Halloween trail after school while I was preparing the boat for an early start on Saturday. We would head towards Kawau Island, under more reasonable conditions, and meet our friends on Cirrus. Nothing to be disappointed about with the turn of events, as we had quite a few magic moments all through the week-end that completely made up for the plan downgrade…

Magic moment #1 – Guests for breakfast
As we passed Northhead, I saw a couple of kayaks who were getting scaringly close to Obelix. I was at the helm and altered my course to ensure we were not going to crush them, but they followed, got closer, and settled right behind us! I could in fact clearly hear them casually converse. They were delighted to surf in our furrow and enjoy a record speed with little effort. As we were having breakfast in the cockpit, it almost felt like we ought to offer them a cup of tea! We had a bit of a chat while they enjoyed the ride, until our course not longer suited them. Unless they decided it was time for them to really start exercising…

Obelix’ pilot-kayaks

Magic moment #2 – Team New Zealand foiling show
Soon after, we noticed a tall and slim silhouette on the water, and recognised Team New Zealand’s sci-fi looking boat. As we didn’t want to miss the show about to happen, Azur took the binoculars to carefully monitor their progress. It wasn’t long until they got started and actually zoomed very close to us, flying above the water, one foil up, one foil down at great speed, followed by their escort of power boats. Being in the front row like that and, above all, hearing the sound of speed was exhilarating, so of course I screamed with excitement. Well, apparently, this was too painful for Zephyr’s ears and he retreated inside missing most of the action…

Magic moment #3 – Zephyr saving the planet
We arrived in Kawau at noon, less than 5 hours after leaving Bayswater and were greeted by Gaspar, Rocio & crew on their dinghy, off to explore the island. As for us, we took it slow, or tried to. After anchoring next to Cirrus, and fixing us a laid back pique-nique aboard, Thomas went for a nap, and the boys, who had slept most of the way, were full of energy and harassed me to launch the dinghy to rescue what they thought was a plastic plate floating around. Zephyr, chief of operations, took us there and back. It turned out to be a biodegradable paper plate but still, I could read pride in Zephyr’s eco-wise eyes, who had set his mind on a mission and had accomplished it without failing, rowing courageously against tide and wind to retrieve rubbish from the sea.

Magic moment #4 – Unexpected morning visit
The kids then left me alone and I took a well deserved rest lying in the cockpit (Thomas was still sleeping) until our Cirrus friends came back from their expedition. We had apero on their boat and dinner on ours. But a speedy one as they wanted to watch the rugby semi-final at the only pub on the island, as did all the other boaties who by then had filled the bay which looked like a floating village. I stayed behind to look after the kids and realised after all the grown-ups had left that I wouldn’t have a clue what to do, was anything to go wrong with the boat!!! Fortunately it was a quiet evening and by the time Thomas got dropped off by Cirrus crew, I was falling asleep in our berth in front of Rita & Chico. In the morning the sun was shining, I knew I ought to take a dip in the water before breakfast, but the fresh breeze was deterring me to jump in, when I saw Cormack and Sacha – Thomas’ workmate and his girlfriend, who I had met at their last work function, approaching on their dinghy. I then dived before they could reach our boat, not to show off (or maybe a bit), but mainly because I craved the alive feeling it provides and knew too well I would have lost the momentum after their visit. So they came onboard while I was still dripping, and even though we knew Obelix wouldn’t compare to the super yachts they’re both used to, we were proud to give them the tour of our new floating-mobile-home.

Obelix in Kawau
Zephyr & Azur on “magic” log

Magic moment #5 – Gaspar’s voice on Channel 6
After our own exploration of Kawau by foot and lunch break at the Governor’s garden under the hoot of peacocks, all the while observing Cirrus heading off North with their bright yellow spinnaker, around 4pm we set off ourselves and resolved to find them. Started a very laid back circumnavigation of the island under a barely noticeable breeze which allowed me to refine my landmarks identification skills. Approaching the northern bay where we were expecting our friends, everyone got a bit discouraged as we couldn’t spot any sailboat. But the sailing was pleasant enough, so we decided to carry on and go all the way to Burgess Bay, further South, to anchor for the night. We were nearly there when we heard a familiar voice on the radio. The VHF is not like a phone, you don’t know if or when someone will try to communicate with you, so in doubt I had ours on channel 6 (the one we had decided we’d use), but it had been silent until then and we had completely forgotten about it. So what a surprise to hear Gaspar telling us they were heading towards Burgess Bay too and would be there soon. Hallelujah, we would be reunited with our friends for the evening!

Cirrus appearing behind dragon rock, from Burgess Bay

Magic moment #6 – Dolphins party in Burgess Bay
We anchored just before sunset, in a very cute little bay with only one other sailboat and two pods of motor boats, just in time for another swim under the sun. I just went in and out in a blink, and started making dinner while the boys all set off for the beach on their different embarkations. Stand-up paddle board for Thomas, surf board for Azur and dinghy for Zephyr. And when I came back up on deck, I could hear strange heavy breathing as if someone with asthma was snorkeling nearby, I looked and then saw grey fins coming in and out of the water in cadence next to the boat. I immediately yelled “DOLPHINS!!!” to draw my mens’ attention, and the family fleet quickly came over paddling and rowing to look out for them as they they kept disappearing under the water and reappearing somewhere else. Zephyr took me on the dinghy and stopped rowing as they swam towards us and underneath the boat, letting us admire their grey and white graceful bodies. Definitely the highlight of the day, especially when, later on, when Cirrus had finally arrived, they started jumping around, and doing their trademark back flips. The camera battery was down so I didn’t capture the moment but Azur wonderfully illustrated it.

Spot the dolphins!
Five dolphins by Azur
Kawau Island chart + Obelix course

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