"So Nadine… either we'll bring them
around to you or you can come and pick them up from us tomorrow
morning and then we'll go on to Opua somehow for our 9.30
start. Then in the evening we can work out some way of meeting
up… perhaps we can come to you or maybe we can sail up to
Kerikeri inlet and meet you there or if not maybe you could
bring the kids to us or if they're having a good time they
could stay with you overnight. Does that sound OK? Best
thing is to keep in touch by phone…. as long as we have
cell coverage which I'm sure we probably will."
That was as clear as it got but
somehow I was confident it would all work out. Nadine was
great with kids and the kids were really excited about their
big adventure away from Mum and Dad after six months with
us 24/7. I was pretty confident about the sailing too. I
know Kirstie had some big reservations but I was sure we
could work them through. Taking the children out of the
equation for the two days of instruction could only help.
Without them I reckoned we'd be able to gain enough knowledge,
skills and confidence to do three days solo around the Bay
of Islands. After all, if it was that difficult surely they
wouldn't offer a learn and sail charter like this. As a
final concession I agreed if either of us didn't feel we
could hack it after the instruction we would just walk away.
I knew I wouldn't be walking but had my doubts about my
mate's sea legs.
We started the charter with a couple
of child free lattes at a café in Opua. Our boat, Kakapo,
looked small and cosy on the water, a bright yellow yacht
with just a handful of ropes, winches and sails to master.
She sat gently on the water, her mast rocking gently in
the light breeze. "This will be fun," I said trying to convince
a nervous Kirstie. "We'll see," she replied withholding
judgment, "I'm really going to miss the boys though." "Really?"
I asked enjoying the peace of the moment and anticipation
of learning something new.
A little yellow dinghy was all that stood between us and
Kakapo, our luxury charter
Lunchtime on day one and we anchored
in a small, sunny and sheltered bay near Russell. Kirstie
looked dazed as Dave, our instructor, summarised the morning's
work, "You've done really well you know.. we've done setting
off and motoring, rigging and hauling main and headsails,
the six points of sailing, some basic manoeuvres and anchoring.
Do you have any questions?" Silence from the crew. "I know
it may seem a lot," he continued, "but we'll go over it
all again this afternoon. Let's have some lunch now." My
mind was buzzing and my bladder bursting. Instructor Dave
sat outside in the cockpit keeping an eye on things, Kirstie
sat motionless at the chart table in the cabin staring into
space and I sat on the marine toilet in the middle of the
tiny V shaped cabin at the bow hoping neither of them could
see me. A patterned cotton curtain separated us. The silence
and intimacy was a little unsettling.
I opened the curtain and shuffled
a couple of feet forwards to sit opposite Kirstie, right
next to the stove. "Anyone for a cuppa?" I asked trying
to get a little conversation going. "No thanks," said Dave.
"No" said Kirstie. I put the kettle on anyway, opened a
packet of salami, cut up some cheese and made a sandwich.
"Cheese and salami sandwich Kirst?" She took it and eat
it in silence. I sensed things weren't too well with her.
While I found the morning challenging,
I'd picked up a lot. For Kirstie it looked like a real struggle.
First she spent hours sawing back and forth on the tiller,
figuring out how to steer, then was thrown by the ever changing
wind direction around the Bay, and finally was floored by
confusing new yachty lingo. "Now turn to starboard," said
Dave as Kirstie hacked at the tiller trying to get control
of the boat as we headed towards a rocky Islet. "Is that
left or right?" she wondered out loud. "Into the wind, to
your right," he replied. "Which way is the wind coming?"
asked Kirstie now worrying about that. "From behind you,
turn to your right," said Dave ever helpful. "Ok turn right…
which way do I turn the rudder to go right and into the
wind?" "Away from you, away from you, on the tiller," said
ever helpful Dave reaching to guide her hand before we reached
By lunchtime on day one Kirstie
didn't look as if she'd found her sea legs yet
"I wonder how the boys are doing?"
I said trying to engage Kirstie and draw her out of her
trance. She lay down on her seat and closed her eyes. As
I sat there and she snoozed opposite I found it hard to
imagine how we might be able to sail this boat solo with
the kids in just 36 hours time. For the first time I wondered
if this whole idea really was too ambitious an adventure