2003 Nov 28: Christmas in Nelson, New Zealand

On November 28, 2003, after a rollicking passage from Hobart, Tasmania, we arrived aboard ADAGIO at the Customs Dock, “D” pier, in the Nelson New Zealand Marina and were met by Customs and Agriculture representatives at 2330 hours. This was our first visit to Nelson, although several of our friends lived there. Our long time friend from Russell, Eva Brown, came aboard as soon as she could. It was just like old times, and we had much catching up to do. She showed us around town, invited us into her beautiful home and introduced us to many of her friends.

Two very special cruisers whom we had been looking forward to meeting were Maurice and Katie Cloughley, of the sailing vessel NANOOK OF THE NORTH. Their small sailing vessel had carried them on several circumnavigations, including the Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea and Soviet Union east coast. They published two books of their travels, illustrated with Maurice’s exquisite woodblock prints and drawings. We made the short walk from the marina to their home. Maurice said that they had never owned a car and that this was their first house. They wanted to be within walking distance of the marina so that after a rainfall Maurice could walk to the marina to throw buckets of salt water onto NANOOK’s wooden decks to preserve the wood.

By December 4 I had completed most of my boat tasks, which consisted mainly of cleaning up salt water which had made its way into places we had never had it before. Just before sunset I biked along the waterfront and then to the grocery store for blueberries for the next morning’s breakfast.

On the way I watched Polynesian paddlers bringing their long canoe ashore after a practice session, and several rowing hulls returning to the Nelson Rowing Club. At the headland, a half dozen people had fishing lines in the water hoping to land a fresh fish for dinner.

The bike trail away from town follows an inlet across from the green cone-shaped hills which rise up behind Nelson, with small cottages nestled among the trees. Our friend Eva’s townhouse is on a hill behind the cathedral in town, and we visited her almost every day.

As I turned towards town, the Highland Pipe Band was tuning up. They marched out to the lawn for a run-through of their bagpipe and drum music. About 10 pipers, aged from their teens to their sixties, formed a circle around a very large drum on which a man beat the time. Nearby I looked into the windows of an arts center, and studied the arts calendar which was posted on the door.

Several casual lawn tennis courts were full of young players, and a concrete series of ramps and hills was busy with skateboards and bikes.

The following afternoon a dozen sailboats left the marina for the Wednesday night race. Nelson certainly is a sporting place, with something for everyone.

I collected calendars of events and brochures at the Information Centre. Holiday activities included music concerts, art exhibits, a ballet performance, and choral music.

Steve was just about back to normal, after suffering from a very sore lower back, so I was feeling more relaxed. We visited with some of our neighboring sailing friends, circumnavigators and locals, to obtain advice about which route to follow through the Marlborough Sounds and north to the Bay of Islands on the North Island. Meanwhile, we had more boat repairs to complete before we could go anywhere. Our tasks list included sending our two headsails to Auckland for cleaning and examination, replacing some of the running rigging, and last but not least updating our web site and perhaps writing a Christmas newsletter.

Our work list contained numerous boat repairs due to events that had occurred during our passage from Hobart to Nelson. I replaced the mainsail furling line and replaced the broken stitches in the head of the mainsail, which had probably been chafed by the reacher halyard during our exciting reacher incident while crossing the Tasman Sea in November.

Steve supervised the workers who reinforced the alternator brackets and reinstalled them and the alternators back onto the engines. This was the third time the Electrodyne brackets had failed. The result was that on the port side, the terminals had shorted on hose wires, fried the alternator, and cooked out grease that our crew member Pete had discovered on the sole of the engine room. This nearly resulted in a flooded engine room due to a seacock we were unable to close. When we get to Allan Legge’s yard in the BOI we are going to re-engineer these alternator brackets for good!

Steve inspected the entire steering system and tightened all the ram securing bolts. None were loose, as each could be taken up less than 1/8 turn. On the pump manifold, the forward input hose again showed a drop of oil. He snugged the inner mandrel and flare; did not try to snug hose to barrel. All else looked good. We don’t want that system to fail on us.

I squeezed through one of the holes under the winch console and removed the Lewmar electric winch controller box for Steve to send off for replacement. It’s a good thing I had lost a little weight during the passage from Hobart. We removed and inspected the second controller box as well. Steve found salt water inside the box, and no wonder, as a drain hole had been located directly beneath where the boxes were mounted, and no doubt salt water had been geysering up through that hole onto the boxes during our passage.

When we had the electric winches working again, Steve hauled me up the mast to send down messenger lines terminated with fishing weights in preparation for reeving the reacher and jib halyards. Steve secured the tails for the messenger lines at the bow. Then we both went in to town for the Nelson Saturday Market. When Dorothy returned to the boat the true wind speed was 31 knots from the north, and had blown the reacher messenger line out of the sheave at the top of the mast and into the water forward of ADAGIO. The messenger line for the jib had been blown half way out, so Dorothy pulled it out the rest of the way, to prevent it from becoming a hazard to navigation in the channel in front of ADAGIO. A second trip up the mast was in order as soon as the wind died.

As I was inspecting the salt water leaks from the chainplates in the starboard hull wet locker, I was puzzled by water having soaked the bosun’s chair that was stowed on the floor of the locker, but found no water standing in the bottom of the locker. I took everything out of the locker, and when I tilted the seaboot that had been directly beneath the chainplate, salt water spilled out and all over the carpet. The boot had been collecting most of the salt water that leaked from the chain plate! Another refit job for Allan Legge.

Before departing Hobart, Steve had cleaned and lubricated all hatch seals, using silicone grease. That’s why we had no leaking hatches during our passage.

We were once again enjoying the cultural diversity of this wonderful country. Our Hungarian friend Eva and her Dutch friend Edi and Kiwi doctor friend David Scott joined us for an amazing evening of “Cantos Nativos, Musical works inspired by Spain and its influence on the musical world”, performed by the local choir called “Polyhymnos”, a very talented group of a capella singers. The guest artists were Paolo and Sara Grossi, Latin Guitarist and Vocalist, a couple from Mexico, also friends of Eva, who have immigrated to New Zealand. The performance was held in the elegant English style Nelson Cathedral, perched on a hill surrounded by a park of enormus trees.

For a town of 100,000 people, the talent which surrounded us was outstanding. There were hundreds of painters, potters, photographers, wood workers, weavers, textile artists — you name it. Several galleries graced every street, and Nelson is the site of an annual international Wearable Art festival, for which they even have an elegant museum. There is also an accredited school of music in Nelson. We were fortunate to have friends there with whom we could share these treasures. Many of the artists exhibited at the Saturday morning market in the center of town, where the farmers also sell their fresh-picked produce. No hustle and bustle here, no traffic jams, no shopping centers. To top it off, Nelson is situated in a “Blue Hole” of fine weather.

The weather at Christmas in Nelson was splendid during that southern hemisphere summer, and we were enjoying spending time with some of the experienced local cruisers and seeking their advice for our further cruising plans.

Our friends Dick and Babbie, whom we had first met in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand five years ago, lived aboard their sail boat PHARON in the Nelson Marina. Babbie stood for office of Councilor in the local elections and won! So in addition to working for the local TV station, she was busy improving Nelson. Among other things, she and Dick were responsible for the colorful hanging baskets of flowers which line the main street of Nelson, complete with automatic irrigation systems.

We met Robin and Kelly who live aboard Hiscock’s original WANDERER IV, in which they have circumnavigated more than once.

We finally met face to face our friends Adrian Faulkner and Helen Tyson, with whom we had only corresponded by mail and emails over the years. While ADAGIO was under construction, Adrian had provided information about the excellent S.P.A.D.E. anchor. He appeared on the Nelson Marina dock beside ADAGIO one morning and introduced himself. We were delighted to meet him at long last. We visited his home and met Helen, and were invited to join them for Christmas dinner. We offered to bring our traditional Peking Duck with all the trimmings. It was the first time I had roasted a duck aboard ADAGIO.

Our Christmas was a quiet one this year. Santa brought pressies in the morning after breakfast: new sailing gloves, a small toaster, lights for our bicycles, reuseable wine bottle corks, and hats embroidered with the word “Adagio”. We listened to some irreverent but fun Aussie Christmas “carols”, with titles like “Deck the Shed with bits of Wattle”, “Father Christmas Showed Me how to Yodel”, “Santa Never Made it into Darwin”, “Santa’s Moving to the South Pole”, “Australians Let Us Barbeque”, and “Boombah The Snowman”.

At the home of Adrian and Helen, the other dinner guests were Ron, the New Zealand expert on the endangered kakapo ground parrot, and his wife, a young Chinese woman named Rebecca who had been in New Zealand for only six months. Before she had left China, her friends took her out to eat at the restaurants in Bejing which specialized in serving Peking Duck, convinced that she would not be able to find Peking Duck to eat in New Zealand.

So, unable to be in Bainbridge Island to prepare this meal for our daughter Kim and her family, the next best thing was for me to make this lovely Chinese woman feel welcome and at home in her new country, by preparing her favorite dish.

She inspected the jar of hoisin sauce, and approve it, then complemented me on my preparation of the meal, and even suggested an enhancement. She said that in Bejing, thin sticks of cucumber are served with the Peking Duck, to refresh the mouth between pancake-fulls of duck, skin, scallion and hoisin sauce. Rebecca’s husband told me that not very many Chinese families make their own Peking Duck.

Ron told us that the kakapo ground parrots were thriving on an island sanctuary off the coast of the South Island. Every three years or so the rimu tree on which the kakapos are dependent for food bear a bumper crop of fruit and seeds. 2003 had been such a year, and 23 baby kakapos hatched and survived. The male kakapos find a bit of high ground from which to display their attributes, in a performance called “booming”. The females come over to have a look. Out of about a dozen males on the island, four of the males fathered the 23 babies. So those four have what it takes to attract the girls. Kakapo ground parrots have a life expectancy of more than 70 years.

Rebecca worked in China for an international organization for the preservation of endangered species. She told us that in China, work is proceeding to save the Eastern Elephant, the Panda, and raptors.

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