Edge On, Bossed at, Keeping on the Move

“Where do you live?” the woman’s voice shouted angrily in our direction. We had just unlocked our bikes from the little three-post wooden fence around a struggling ornamental tree that had been landscaped a bit too optimistically within the marsh vegetation. We were about to get ready for biking the hilly 7km stretch from Sandspit Harbour, where Aluna was presently anchored, to the little township of Warkworth, where Beatriz has her job within the monetary civilization, at minimum wage, of course, and under the table, as a caregiver for an elderly Parkinson patient. While my better half was selling her soul to feed the family, my plan was to install my humbled self at the local library to get the bi-weekly internet fix. I was sincerely hoping to get some useful stuff done today, like searching for a bit more inspiring work with a tad more gratification than my first, and so far only, three day job as a helper directing a giant auger into the soaked clay of a hillside that had collapsed a year earlier and was now to be patched up with a hefty retaining wall.

Working the Kiwi way!

Don't come down on me...














I also needed to figure my way through the treacherous jungle of New Zealand’s complicated and honestly quite prejudiced immigration regulation. Then do a Google Earth flyover up the Mahurangi River in preparation of our conquest of Warkworth Town on the upcoming weekend, and some other forms of worthy mental distraction.

Now we had encountered a menace that wanted to be dealt with before we could get underway. The woman in her sky blue uniform had a notepad of some sort in her hand, looking menacingly like the one traffic cops use when writing traffic tickets. She stood in our way and definitely wanted an answer.

“We live right here, ma’m”, I decided to answer truthfully without making too clear what I meant by that. Aluna was just there, looking over my shoulder standing high and dry on the mudflat behind us. “Oh no you don’t, you can’t leave your bikes here,” our interloper now elaborated, “This is land under my authority! It belongs to the Council and is for parking cars with boat trailers!” So much I had understood myself. It was used as an over flow of the paid parking area further down the narrow spit of land that gave the harbor its name. After unloading their boats, the shiny SUVs came rattling with their empty trailers and parked themselves along the strip of mowed lawn that had been cut into the native estuary vegetation.

It was the first time we were made aware here in New Zealand that we transient wanderers do not belong somewhere, which after a good two months in the country is pretty darn spectacular. That is if you don’t count our friends who made it clear that we were taking their spacious house away from them by simply being there and needed to move on. Well, to be completely in the clear, we were apparently asking the wrong questions. After all this is once again culturally the territory of the British stiff upper lip and a sacrosanct Do-not-come-too-close-to-me attitude permeates the cool summer air. But you really can’t count that one, because they did open their home to us for a whopping month and a half for which we are truly grateful. Although the shift from being welcomed to being tolerated came soon enough and by a pinch they managed to transform us into yet another WOOFFer in the high quality organic orchard in their back yard. WOOFFers travel the world exchanging work for food and lodging. We paid for our food, but I guess you do have to pay something for the place you lay your tired body to rest at night, even if you have been invited in. Gone is the spirit of unconditional generosity that beautified much of the life out in the islands. Everything is measured and counted and justice is staked by making sure that you don’t have anymore than me.

During those six weeks of landlubber life Aluna got thoroughly acquainted with the pleasures of having her belly exposed twice a day by resting on the vast mudflats of Whangateau Harbor. The lunar tides here along the crooked coastline of the North Island varies from two meters during the quarter moons to just over three around the full and new moons. It was a novel experience for us to sail Aluna up the well-marked channel about an hour after high tide, then veer off to the side at a spot to your liking, and let her come to a smooth stop in the soft muddy sand. Then you could simply row two anchors out, tie up one to the bow and the other to the stern, paddle your dinghy ashore and come back two hour later to walk out to your boat! Scraping the bottom of the hulls is way easier done this way!

Back to live aboard our dear and trusted Aluna, so it was! We moved her from Whangateau Harbor around the Tawharanui Peninsula to Sandspit Harbour, where while anchored in the catamaran corner we learned that the local rules apparently state that you can stay anywhere anchored, as long as of course you don’t block traffic or do any other unruly activity, for up to 14 days, or a fortnight as it is called in good Kiwi slang. Then you should move somewhere else to give the place a break. But here we had stepped on land and we had to face this feisty piece of officialdom. She quite obviously earned her daily bread serving the local Council, the lowest level of government. Everybody we talk to seems to hate the Council, depicting its members as a self-serving bunch, a greedy lot out to reap fat benefits from their public office.

“People complain, you know,” our jolly officer now softened up, “They don’t have anything else to do!” “Well ma’m!” I chimed in with the most conciliatory voice I could muster, since we really needed to get going, “How about this! We are just about to remove our bikes from this area of your authority and we will not be intruding any more. Would that make your day?” “And a fine day it is”, she was all beaming now, “We finally seem to be getting a summer!” “A day or two of sunshine is good enough for us, isn’t it!”, we bade farewell referring to the lousy summer New Zealand is having to bear with this year. That wasn’t too hard after all! Easy enough, since we had already pretty much used up our two-week allowance at Sandspit Harbor and our plans were to leave the following day. No more need for a parking spot for our bikes in this neck of the wood! We happily pedaled to Warkworth and back and in the evening stored our metal horses aboard.

The next morning Aluna was afloat by seven in the morning and the anchors came up, which here in the land of mud is always a messy affair. Leaving the harbor we labored against the incoming tide, weaving our way through moored sail and fishing boats. Then back out in Kawau Bay where the sailing is smooth. The North Islands East Coast really is a sailor’s paradise. Plenty of sheltered waters with fabulous landscapes, excellent and very reliable charts, the weather forecast, like anywhere else you can never really trust, but the next protected harbor is only an hour’s sail away! The day’s wind started out of the Southwest and carried us past Snell’s Beach, Algies Bay and just a bit past Mullet Point, from where we needed to set a course of Southwest to follow the coastline. As if generously listening to our pleading the wind shifted slightly to the East of South, just enough to allow tacks with the longer legs towards our goal of rounding Saddler Point at the South end of the Mahurangi East Peninsula. Tacking into the wind always seems like a slow and tedious affair at first. But once we got going it was all enjoyable looking at the headlands from different angles and standing in awe of the fact that with a sailboat you can not only go where the wind blows, but with a good measure of patience you can go to where the wind blows from!

At the entrance to the vast Mahurangi Harbor we admired the aptly named Pudding Island, a glob of rock resembling a… well with a fair bit of imagination, an upturned flan of coffee flavor or maybe crème brulé sitting wobbly on a saucer. Then we entered the realm of tidal flows and even sailing wing on wing on a moderate breeze we only just crept into the vast basin. The waters of the entire river system up to Warkworth town were streaming by under our hulls out to sea. In two hours we had finally made it up to where the mile-wide tidal flats were about to narrow to the mangrove banked winding riverbed. No sense of going on from here! We dropped the hook in the mud and hunkered down for the night.

Early next morning came entirely new territory for Aluna and its crew. Motoring up a glassy river, the surface only stirred feebly by the now ingoing tidal stream. The tide had literally turned on us! Now with the outboard sputtering just barely above idle, always extremely skimpy with burning Mother Earth’s blood for propulsion, we raced up the river at three knots, following its many meandering bends, sensing its channel along the outside of the curves, admiring forested river banks, and chuckling at the pair gannets sitting stiffly atop each and every channel marker posts like important looking officials in bow and tie asking for due authorization of our passing by.

I wasn’t too sure about what we were about to do, so I had done quite a bit of scouting over the previous weeks, whenever I had a chance to go to town. There’s a small bight just off the main river and to the south of the immaculately groomed lawns of Lucy Moore Park. If able to anchor there we would be staying at a five-minute walk from town, yet tucked in between the park and jungle wall towering above the river’s East bank. The planning now paid off big time. After the boat yard the river made one last S-bend before leading into the straight part that leads to the towns wharf where the historic steam ship and the restored traditional sailing scow are prominently tied up. Just coming out of the S-bend I turned Aluna’s rudders hard over and forced her into the bight, dropped one anchor and paying out the rode let her slide towards the mangrove trees. Quickly we dropped Alunita into the murky waters and I rowed the second anchor further into the bight. A third line now holds Aluna close to shore being tied to a tree. Here we are, at our newest temporary home right in the heart of Warkworth town! The bets are on what officialdom’s answer to this one will be!

2 Responses to “Edge On, Bossed at, Keeping on the Move”

  1. Paz Says:

    Me alegro que no se dejen asustar con tanta regla y artificios!!
    Los grongis son unos neuróticos!!
    Felicitaciónes por ser tan ingenioso!

  2. rudy Says:

    You still need a blog for the multi paragraph challenged. Some of us are to stupid to keep up with where you are. I still don’t take the care in reading as you do writing. You mean to tell me that you are still eat in kiwi food. So when do you become one with th absolute underbelly of the earth?


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