November 28 – December 29, 2013
For Thanksgiving, along with s/v Elcie and s/v Sueño, we hoisted anchor and sailed to Roberton Island for the holiday celebration. A Thanksgiving turkey dinner was served aboard Full Monty, and it was great fun to be among good friends. Walks were taken ashore, and Wil attempted to dive for scallops. During one chilly and rainy afternoon, we enjoyed popcorn and a movie on Elcie.
By Christmastime, most everyone we knew had started to scatter to various locations across New Zealand, but we were fortunate to spend yet another special holiday with the Elcie family. We began the Christmas holiday with mussel collecting at Black Rocks out in the Bay of Islands, before dropping the hook in Russell for one night. The Elcie crew served up an awesome pre-Christmas Eve meal . . . steamed mussels for appetizer, mussels in cream sauce over pasta, and plenty of wine to go around.
The following day, we spent Christmas Eve walking around Russell, and doing some last minute Christmas shopping. The kids ran into Santa Clause, and the jolly guy gave them special coupons for ice cream or hot dogs from local restaurants. Unfortunately that day, I received word that an uncle of mine had just passed away, and I had to take some moments for myself on the Russell waterfront. Once we had accumulated a handful of gifts, and the remaining ingredients for a Christmas dinner, Full Monty and Elcie set sail for Oke Bay, a remote spot on the eastern side of the Bay of Islands.
New Zealand at Christmastime is very similar to Fourth of July in the U.S. It’s in the summer and everywhere you turn there are sausage sizzles on the barbie. Many Kiwis take their holiday from right before Christmas until about mid-January, and sometimes for longer. If we would have been on the road, we would have seen bumper-to-bumper cars creeping their way down two-lane roads toward the coastal areas. The Bay of Islands is a very popular North Island getaway area, and the number of boats and on the water rises tremendously. Therefore, we’d chosen remote Oke Bay for our Christmas festivities. However, there were only 4 boats (including ourselves) when we dropped the hook, and there were nearly 30 boats by the time Santa had arrived.
Not only did Santa and his reindeer visit for Christmas, but so did a very friendly pod of dolphins. When the dolphins showed up, the kids spent most of Christmas Day in the water and swimming with them. The dolphins would let the kids come close to them, and they would swim close to the kids. One even gave Colin a gentle bump with its tail as it swam beneath him. When the dolphins weren’t swimming near the kids, they were leaping and spinning out of the water as though they were giving us a Christmas Day performance.
After spending hours in the cool New Zealand water, playing with the dolphins and skurfing, the kids were completely exhausted by dinnertime. Colin even fell asleep at the dinner table. Something he hasn’t done since he was a toddler!
After Christmas, we needed to temporarily find a sheltered anchorage from strong northwest winds, and Elcie and Full Monty sought protection near the mouth of the Kerikeri River. It poured rain and the wind blew, but Jess and I still managed to do a grocery trip to Kerikeri in a borrowed car.
On our return trip to Opua, we dropped the hook for about an hour at Paihia, so I could make a quick run to the bank for some cash and to the liquor store for some beer. Once back in Opua, we had to focus on getting some extra school work done and provisioning the boat for some soon-to-be-arriving guests. My parents were coming to visit for 3 weeks, and we were all quite excited!