La Obelix vida es un carnaval!

Time to farewell 2020, a full-on year on so many accounts…

Despite unexpected global circumstances which culminated, in New Zealand, with a couple of lock-downs, near-closed borders, and ever changing game rules, we’ve managed to make new friends, reconnect with old ones, sail the Hauraki gulf quite extensively, get Obelix a new jib, staysail and lazybag making our cruising times even more enjoyable, install new batteries and solar panels able to power a fridge while sailing (yoohoo!), perform many other home improvement jobs, co-found a tree climbing club with fellow nature-enthusiasts Ines and Ann, celebrate Zephyr’s 10th birthday, see Azur & Zephyr’s first dance show with Pockets Rockets, learn some new Cuban salsa (rueda to be precise) moves with Thomas, and even, for me, start kizomba, take my girlfriends sailing, change jobs and qualify as a Waterwise instructor.
Pfew! Exhausting just thinking about it. Luckily we’ve got a whole month cruising to reset before attacking 2021.

But before turning the page, I want to share one of the highlights of my year, which would have deserved a post right there and then, had I dedicated more time to writing; a moment precious in its precariousness, as it would never have happened without a good dose of serendipity, and stands out like a desperate cry to remind me that I was born under a lucky star.

Imagine a grey Saturday, with occasional showers on the forecast and a storm coming later in the evening, and a tired crew waking up early at the marina, and deciding nonetheless to head towards Waiheke where our friends Ines, Raul & Co are spending the week-end on U Choose. We could have done many other things but we feel like honoring our friendship with a meeting on the water, and the decision is strongly seconded by Zephyr and Azur who not only go to school but are best buddies with Ines and Raul’s children Julian and Marco. So we set sails, and anchor in Blackpool around 2pm after finally spotting our friends’ boat but not them (they’re out walking), casually enjoy a late lunch waiting for them, and witness what appears to be the tight finish of a sailing race. A quick check on my phone confirms it is the Around Waiheke Island race, which, guess what, our other friends Tito and Rowena are taking part in. I send them a line to see if we could catch up with them too. Without waiting for an answer, we go ashore to stretch our legs (leaving the phone behind), as Ines family is back, and the kids are too happy to be reunited and play under the upside down dinghies on the beach. We spot a magnificent Pohotukawa tree waiting to be climbed on, only to realise that right under it is a tent, next to which is a bike, indicating someone is home. And indeed, almost instantly, a man comes out of the tent. He is rather short, tanned, with long black lustrous loose hair, dark eyes, wearing a turquoise blue indian kurta, wooden beads bracelets, and a wide smile, beaming as if he is wearing happiness as his main attire. We exchange greetings, his name is Somen, “So-many-men” he says for us to understand. He politely enquires about us, before we ask about the bike and the tent. That’s when we learn he has been travelling the world by bike since 2012, visited 150 odd countries, and is on a mission to raise awareness about AIDS, but has gotten stuck with Covid, unable to obtain a visa for his next destination (Fiji if I recall correctly) and complete the thirty or so countries he has left on his list. As we grow curious about his adventures, he shows us his portfolio of pictures in different parts of the planets and next to various politicians. The conversation carries on as we finally give in our urge to climb the Pohotukawa tree (Ines, Leo and myself that is), us from above in the tree, Somen from below. A shower barely distracts us, as we just take shelter under the tree or the upside down dinghy. I finally kayak back to the boat to start cooking dinner, and find a message from Tito and Rowena saying they are literally in the bay next ‘door’, and could come over to say Hi. So when Thomas and the kids retreat back too, and Thomas has convinced Somen to come fill his water bottles from Obelix’ voluminous tanks, there is already a party going on, with Tito and Rowena sharing their excitement of having won the race on Champosa, beating the record in the process. The music is on, salsa of course, and that’s when we decide we need to dance. So here we are, Thomas, Tito, Rowena and I, dancing on Obelix fore-deck on La Vida Es Un Carnaval by Celia Cruz, trying not to trip on hatches and ropes, and Somen captures the moment on Rowena’s phone. Shortly after oir guests leave while Ines’ family joins us for dinner which we wrap up with lotw of laughter during a game of mafia briliantly led by Leo. An oddity in this crazy year, with friends and strangers gathered on a boat, dancing close, sharing food, celebrating freedom, coincidence and spontaneity.

Video of us dancing : https://youtu.be/IpLYcblKDlw

To more moments like that in 2021! (Spoiler alert, being the 10th January when I write this, I can tell you we’ve been blessed with quite a few already).

Sunset-moonrise double-bill

Sunset picture taken too late

Sometimes the stars align, and all you need is to be outside to witness it. Like spontaneously casting the lines after work on a Friday, to honor the gentle breeze, still water and clear skies, with no other reward in mind than, trying our new jib, leaving the hustle and bustle of the week behind, and escaping the craziness of the world. And yet, a couple of hours later, the sunset astounds you when it paints the sky with remarkable shades of fluorescent pink, and almost simultaneously, a glowing amber crescent spotted on the horizon turns out to be the full moon beginning its ascend. The kids, who are called immediately on deck to have a look, are as ecstatic as me in front of the natural spectacle, Azur insisting on taking the ‘perfect’ picture, despite the swaying of the boat, and dusk dim visibility.

Azur’s perfect picture of the full moon

Realising that we’d anchor by night, even if stopping at the closest bay (Islington Bay), we have decided earlier, with Thomas, to take watches (for the first time) and push to Man O’ War, on the Eastern end of Waiheke Island, taking all the wind we could while it lasted, instead of motoring the next day when it was forecasted to have died off, and I smile, pleased that the Universe has for once agreed with our impromptu plans, offering us full visibility under the stars.

And so we sail, slowly but surely, alternating between helm and berth. On my watch, I feel the utter importance of the three souls I am responsible for, balanced by the calm, silence and peace that engulfs us all. At times the GPS is not detecting any movement and although we’re not making any progress, nothing would make me break the spell of this idyllic night.

When off duty, I relish the warmth of the blankets, the clement rocking of the boat, and the soothing sound of the water caressing the hull, yet I’m caught up in a constant battle, trying to slow down the gush of thoughts that assail my brain, to no avail. I’m still no good at finding sleep on a moving vessel.

By 2:30 am it is my turn again to extricate myself from the comfort of my bed. During his debrief, Thomas mentions a tide about to turn against us in the middle of a narrow channel with little to no wind and the need to anchor soon. A quick look at the chart shows we’re only a couple of nautical miles away from Man O’ War, so we finally turn on the engine to finish off the first leg of our circumnavigation of Waiheke in a rumble. By 4am we’re finally sound asleep in Man O’ War where half a dozen boats are also anchored.

Spirit of New Zealand on Waitemata (glittering water)

The next day, after an early rise at 7am, the kids agree to prepare crepes, which Thomas cooks with Zephyr, while we have a quick kayak and yoga-on-the-beach adventure with Azur. When we think life cannot get better, we receive a call from our friends Mathieu and Elodie interested in our whereabouts, as they’re on the water looking for a worthy destination. It takes them less than an hour to zoom to Man O’ War on their 160HP power boat and join us for tea and coffee. We spend the afternoon together, visiting a nearby private sandy beach, and going fishing on Te Kakahi (though the fish are smarter than us).

Such a summery vibe has to be extended to the Sunday, and Te Kakahi crew decides to come back, only earlier, and with more friends, so we end up being six adults and five kids. The more the merrier. After a brave ladies swim in the icy cold water, we indulge ourselves with a leisurely lunch at the local winery, followed by tea and coffee right on the beach, courtesy of Thomas who even thought of bringing sugar and biscuits. Kids are having fun while adults digest, soak in the sun and wrap up the day with a game of Molki. When our ‘guests’ depart, Thomas and the kids try their luck going fishing at the mussel farm once more, but all they catch is a starfish. Regardless, dinner is ready (our very own Mediterranean platter, directly inspired by the winery menu). What a week-end!

Mediterranean platter w/ home-made flat bread