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new zealand ~ trouble in paradise

Posted by on February 17, 2015

January 23 – February 11, 2014

Brief Abstract: Cold and rainy, a depleted cruising kitty, no job possibilities, a minor car accident for Wil, and excruciating abdominal pain for me. We had suddenly hit a major low point in cruising. Thankfully, amidst it all, we were among good friends who helped us through.

sailing canoe moored on the river near Whangarei


With my parents’ visit and Cyclone June behind us, it was time to direct our focus toward some much needed boat maintenance, as well as a job hunt. Over 2 years of long-distance, offshore cruising was taking its toll on the boat, and the cruising kitty was nearly depleted. Whangarei seemed like a good place to get ourselves back on track. After all, New Zealand had been our goal. If things worked out according to plan, we’d find jobs and possibly stay for more than just one season. But, when does anything ever go according to plan?

During a brief interlude with s/v Sueñ0 in Parua Bay, we took a few days to organize the next phase of our lives. Since the Sueños had a van, they were kind enough to give us rides into town. One day, in addition to helping me deliver our torn jib to Calibre Sails, Nathalie dropped me at the laundromat, and we did some grocery shopping together. Nathalie was also pricing supplies for new salon curtains, and asked if I would like to have the job of sewing the curtains for Sueñ0. I was thrilled at the prospect!

Eventually, Sueñ0 needed to move up the river to CBW (Cat & Boat Worx, now Riverside Boat Worx) for their scheduled haul-out. At the same time, s/v Yindee Plus was in the yard at Norsand, just a mile up from CBW. While we were trying to decide which boatyard would best suit our needs, we chose to take advantage of the extra kid time, and we anchored near the boatyards.

an aerial view of the Whangarei waterfront

Boats tend to anchor near Norsand while waiting for their haul-out, or if they need a brief stop in Whangarei. We anchored near Norsand (at red buoy H2) in order to be a little closer to town, but it was still a good 2-mile walk to the nearest business district. Fortunately and thankfully, from our friends in Parua Bay, we were able to borrow their spare car for the remainder of our New Zealand visit.

Along with getting the boat ready for haul-out, Wil also began job hunting. He was offered a job with a landscaping company, but because his position was not on the New Zealand Immigration skill shortage list, he couldn’t accept the job. An immigration officer told him that if he were under 30 and/or if he was just looking for holiday work, it would be no problem. This was the beginning of what felt like a spiral downward.

Around this same time period, Wil was on his way into town when he ended up in a minor car accident within a roundabout. He had not seen any vehicles in the roundabout when he entered. Suddenly, he heard squalling of tires as a car accelerated to make it past him. Both vehicles were unsuccessful in their defensive moves, and Wil ended up hitting the back of the passing car.

Fortunately, no one was hurt. However, the mother of the kid who was involved in the accident saw the whole thing, and she was not a happy camper. She immediately ran over and let a few choice words fly towards Wil. Wil was extremely apologetic and eventually everyone calmed down. As more details became available, it was learned that the other car involved was not registered and had no insurance.

Details were complicated, but in the end, everything worked out. Wil was able to repair some of the damage to our friends’ car, and the insurance company on our side was able to handle a claim. And, since the car we were borrowing was old and had plenty of its own issues, our friends weren’t concerned with the minor dents to the fender. We could breathe a sigh of relief . . . even if it was only for a brief moment.

I was standing in the salon. Both kids were doing school, and Wil was standing nearby. The sharp pain in my abdomen came on without warning, taking my breath away. Everyone looked at me and knew something was wrong. I could barely stand or breathe and had to get to my bunk to lay down. I attempted to palpate the painful area just to the right of my belly button, but the rebound pain was excruciating. There was not a position to help ease the pain. I curled up on my left side and tried to focus on taking shallow breaths. The painful pain lasted for about 30 minutes before it gradually subsided. However, for the next couple of days, I didn’t feel completely well, and there was an occasional nagging ache.

This was finally a time to let my family in on a bit of news. I had actually had two previous episodes prior to this one. However, no one was onboard with me when they occurred, they weren’t nearly as severe, and I’d only thought they were due to something I’d eaten. The most recent had been in Tonga about a month before.

I’m stubborn about going to doctors for myself, but after a chit-chat with Sue (s/v Yindee Plus) who is a nurse, I finally decided to see a doc. My biggest fear was the possibility of appendicitis. The pain was on the border between the upper right and lower right quadrants, and not always in the exact same spot. My mom, who tends have bizarre presentations of some common illnesses, had suffered intermittent abdominal pain for a year before having an emergency appendectomy. Was I following in her footsteps? It would not be safe for me to go to sea if there was a strong possibility for a ruptured appendix.

After a visit to the doctor, some lab work, and an ultrasound, I was diagnosed with a “grumbling” appendix. Nothing was totally conclusive, and the physician could only give a best guess. A doctor friend of ours wasn’t satisfied with the results, and he felt sure that I was having problems with my gall bladder. Either way, choosing a course of action, as well as deciding whether to return to sea in my condition, was stressful to say the least.

anchored near Norsand on the Hatea River ~ looking south toward Ship Repairs NZ & CBW


We had major choices to make. The rain continued to pour. We were cold, broke, and with illness. Should we stay in New Zealand? Should we go? Where should we go? What should we do?

Every day for a week, we looked at the world map on the wall, we reviewed all possible world cruising routes, and researched job possibilities everywhere from New Zealand, to Australia, to Thailand, to US territories, and even mainland USA. Each day we came up with an idea for where we could go and what we could do, and each day our ideas changed. We did our best to think outside the box. Finally, there was one idea that brought smiles to all of our faces. We all became very excited about our new idea, and some of us even jumped for joy.

Hawaii . . . we would go to Hawaii! Hawaii was warm. Hawaii was known for good surfing. We would be US citizens in a US state without immigration issues. Hawaii had plenty of jobs available. Best of all, we would get to do a return trip through French Polynesia on our way to Hawaii! Immediately, we thought of all the French Polynesian islands that we loved, as well as all the places we had to miss because we had run out of time. We would get a second chance. We had a new goal, and it didn’t matter to us in which order we would see the world. Indonesia and Thailand could come at a later date.

A plan was laid out. For the time being, I put my tummy aches on the back burner. After all, if it was a “grumbling” appendix, there was nothing I could do about it until it spoke up again. We focused on what boat work would be done during our haul-out, and we enjoyed the time we had left with our cruising buddies. We continued to live life in Whangarei, and life felt good again.

Noemie's birthday (s/v Sueñ0) celebrated with friends at the local pool


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