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  • Writer's pictureSea Smiths

Great to have you aboard, Pops!

One of the things that we had thought about in our quest for a boat life, (while dreaming of palm beset islands), was the ability to have family on board and be able to share a bit with them. Coming from a family that was, despite being very hardworking - modestly comfortable and not particularly blessed with excesses. This was something that I would have a sense of pride in being able to provide, and share in.

As a father myself to two young boys, I am realising more and more, the importance and blessing of having a present and loving father. As obvious as that sounds reading it back, it has been said, that I have been afflicted with a fair amount of pigheadedness, which only allows for self reflection once being stared at in the face...

It came as quite a shock then, when we were in the middle of selling our house, that a routine biopsy conducted after a fairly normal medical procedure on my father, returned a malignant result...

In short, Dad was to have 4 rounds of Chemo, a break, and his stomach surgically removed, followed by additional chemo, potentially. Anyone who has undergone "the poison treatment", will know what kind of experience that is.

Dad navigated this in his usual stoic way, and by the time the initial 4 rounds of chemo were complete, we had just moved onto the boat. This last Friday in fact, was the final weekend before his surgery, and we gratefully, managed to get him up to see the boat and go on a little mini cruise of the Bay of Islands, in Northern New Zealand.

Before we set off however, as it often does, the weather had different ideas. Friday night, early Saturday morning was forcast for 30+ knot gusts, some models in the 40's... I found myself in a rather ironic position of having to be responsible for my Fathers wellbeing, certainly an unfamiliar feeling! On the one hand, I knew how much he wanted to get out and experience the boat, outside of the marina, but would not put any pressure on me to do so. He appreciated my concerns and responsiblity as skipper, and made me feel totally at ease about the prospect of simply riding the weekend out tied up to the dock. However, not for the first time this weekend, his calming advice was delivered, and I was told to simply do what I would have done anyway, with our without him.

I did want to get out, and I know from my albiet limited experience, that the Bay does have a lot of islands that offer various degrees of protection from most quarters, so I thought we could go out on Friday, and scope one or two, and head back if we needed to on the same day.

So one somewhat ungainly, marina exit (again) and a well placed fender later, we were on our way out into the bay.

Friday was awesome, we met a couple other family boats, Calypso and Moon River, and we followed their welcomed advice into Pipi Bay, which was well sheltered from the Northerly, backing to Westerly later in the evening.

Well, it did hit us, and it was certainly interesting. Some of us who are hard of hearing, slept soundly most of the time, but I could not sleep much at all. The winds were less than forcast, or at least in our position that is, but still had gusts in the mid to high twenties, and the boat often tugged on her anchor, which a most disconcerting feeling. The boat, the anchor and bridle, were totally fine, of course. The wind shifted around a lot more than we thought, and the boat was often spun right around 180degrees, only to receive a gust into the cockpit and blow everything that we thought was safe, over. The later received reports of the anchorage outside of the marina, sounded like carnage. Some boats even had to up anchor and leave, at night in a (approaching) gale. Not a decision for the faint hearted.

Thankfully though, it was all over by around 3am, and we had a beautifully calm morning. It was warm, and inviting. The kids fished with Poppa, I had my hand in the water, washing a knife, and got buzzed by a Bronze Whaler shark! I really could have touched his snout if my hand had remained in the water that long...

It was a good day for wind, and we were really lucky to be able to unfurl all the sails, and finally turn the engine off, and go sailing, proper. What a wonderful feeling that is, and for me, the highlight of the weekend. Dad was super interested in all the functions of the mechanics, helped out with an anchor issue, and pulled lines and was a very valuable member of our crew. So much so, that I feel a slight pang, when thinking about the next time we do the same, without his presence.

Later we shifted anchorages again, to Assassination Cove, for a really relaxed evening, ready for our early departure back to the marina.

The adventure was not over however, we encountered thick fog on our way back, and had to wait out a burn off, or a wind to blow it off. We circled the boat, and came across a huge pod of dolphins, which was an awesome experience. They played in the bows, and blew blowhole mist at the kids, and swam on their backs. It was a special end to the weekend.

You will be pleased to know, the marina entrance, went pretty well. It was fuller, the berth directly in front of us was now full, which was a little worrying, fleetingly. However, with the right tide conditions now learned and picked, we were fine, and I think did a pretty good job, spinning and backing her in to her berth.

Of course, the kids were delighted to have Poppa on board, teaching them fishing and other things, that recently (their) Dad had been a bit too preoccupied to spend with them. So in his usual way, he provided great value to all of us, and will be sorely missed next time we go out sailing.

However, it won't be the last time he and the rest of our family of course, are able to join us and have an experience.

Thank you Pops, and we will pray that the surgeon tomorrow does a great job - I am sure he appreciated your sense of humour asking him if he was going to make haggis from your stomach (the Surgeon has a Scottish surname)! As understandably apprehensive you must be feeling, know that we, and the rest of our family, are rooting for you, and we look forward to a healthy and prosperous future together.


Thick Fog and a straggler (Credit FB/Calypso - School of the Ocean)

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