It’s now January 18, 2016, one day past the two month mark of my arrival in New Zealand. Alvei was supposed to check out of Vanuatu, from Port Vila, two weeks after taking five weeks to sail to Nelson, but she suffered many setbacks. We had already been dealing with a bad starter on the Perkins, (large generator used for maintenance), which we needed to re-weld the sail track on the main mast. That was finally resolved, but not in time to keep the new crew from finding a fast catamaran to New Zealand.
By the time repairs were made, including the gearbox on the wheel, and new crew flew in from various points around the globe, Alvei finally set sail on December 23, 2015. Now, this “new crew” doesn’t consist of experienced deck hands, etc. It’s made up of anyone who wants a sailing experience, and is willing to join the cooperative that the Alvei is. So, with an inexperienced crew, save Esava, school was in session as they made for New Zealand.
No sooner than the crew learned how to come about, Jim Bandy contacted me to say Alvei was under threat of Cyclone Ula, and was back winding. When she stopped, Alvei was nearly to Aniwa, northeast of Tanna, positioning her at about -19.26S 169.55E. I wondered if Evan may take advantage of the southerlies and sail back to Port Vila, as close as she was, owing to the fact that Alvei had waited too long to escape cyclone season.
As of two days ago, Alvei was at -20.43 (South) and 169.05 East about to enter New Caledonia waters. That’s usual progress for Alvei, and would be fine if she hadn’t lost two weeks progress in the process—one week back takes another week to get to the point where they first encountered Ula. I can only imagine the words Evan had for Ula.
In the meantime, I’ve gotten to know Jim Bandy better. He, and his wife, Kyoko are positioned in Fiji, at ALSO Island. They were circumnavigating the globe, about 15 years ago when Kyoko announced that she wasn’t leaving Fiji, and that it was up to Jim to figure out visas. Of his many Fiji projects, “Rag of the Air”, to which Evan tunes first thing every morning is where yachts, in the South Pacific, get on the short wave, every day, and get individual weather reports for the coming week while checking on each other—especially boats that haven’t been seen in a while. Sometimes, I announce Alvei to surprise Jim and say hi.
I first encountered Jim the night I left the states on August 27th. I had just taken two flights to L. A., and was about to board another to Nadi, (pronounced Nandi), Fiji. From there I was to transit to Port Vila, Vanuatu, and make my way to Luganville on Espiritu Santo. But, alvei.org said the boat was at port in New Zealand. I knew that had to be wrong, but it was nearly dark out, and it felt like I was stepping into the abyss heading for the South Pacific at night. Jim Bandy was listed as Alvei’s emergency contact, so I called him, in a panic, not wanting to fly to the wrong country and all… Hearing Jim’s voice was like reaching a parent. He assured me the website needed to be updated, something I’ve come to know about Alvei. It was all right. So, I was all right, and stepped off the edge of the U.S. into a new life trusting the voice on the phone.
Jim regularly asks Evan about me, and I still feel a small umbilical cord that stretches over a thousand miles to him in Fiji. As Ula hit, I needed Jim Bandy again, as part of my new South Pacific family. The role Jim plays keeping us all connected is huge for yachties.
As I wait in New Zealand, I visit beautiful green hills, the sea, and spend time with Sean and Margo’s family. But, I don’t feel at home here, not like I did in Vanuatu. I suppose I expected too much as I had always thought of New Zealand as a special place, at the bottom of the earth, a place to go if the world got too bad-off. I realize now that would have meant that Kiwis would have to have kept their eyes shut to the world because we Americans are not popular here, at least not on the South Island. It doesn’t matter how much I tell them that Americans are not all the same—that I don’t look to make war everywhere I go. For one, wealthy Americans buy up pristine land. Then they ignore the culture by digging up whatever is there, plant grass, then post “No Trespassing” or “Private Property” signs. This flies in the face of Kiwi neighborliness. Or, we accidently drive on the wrong side of the road causing head-on collisions along with other travelers. Kiwis have a love-hate relationship with all tourists over this issue. But, they see Americans as the super power bully over all others, and some are quite open it. I realize no-place exists where I won’t have to account for being a post-9/11 American anymore.
To keep busy, I’m setting up Alvei on Airbnb New Zealand, and planning the media event that Evan has just requested. The extra time on the water is burning through the ship’s provisions, so we’ll need to make more money than usual in New Zealand this year.
A few days before New Year’s Eve, Margo’s brother, Alan, and I were returning from a 20k hike of some of Abel Tasman National Park, an area famous among world backpackers. Sore and tired, I saw a young woman hitchhiking, with a baby, in a car seat—very accepted in New Zealand. The mother in me couldn’t pass her up. I told Alan to pull over that we were going to give them a ride. Turns out the mother and her sister are aerial acrobats, and had a show coming up, on New Year’s Eve, in Nelson. They’d be performing their new pirate routine on long strands of silk suspended from a crane. It sounded exciting and like a good way to experience New Years in a new country.
On New Year’s Eve, we arrived at the balmy outdoor event at 8 p.m., when the show was supposed to take place, but ended up waiting until nearly midnight to see the Twisty Twinz. Man, am I glad I didn’t go home when I felt the urge. After watching the Twisty Twinz, I found myself inviting them to do their pirate show from the yardarms of Alvei. It just so happened to be their dream to perform this routine on a tall ship. So, when Evan asked for a media event, last week, he had no idea that one was already in the works. What if we had passed by the hitchhiking mother?
I suppose I’m experiencing culture shock. I knew Vanuatu would be very different from the states, so the differences didn’t bother me. They were adventures. However, I expected a respite by coming to New Zealand since it’s western like the states. So, right now the thing I’m learning is to get through. Culture shock sends many people home. They get tired of being away from everything that is familiar to them even when those things are the same. For example, they have vanilla cake, but it’s thin and hard-almost the texture of really thick pie crust. You can order bacon, but it’s the same as Canadian bacon. American bacon is called streaky bacon here. Even when things are the same, they’re strange. It’ll be nice when Alevi gets here. I really want to go back to the boat where I feel like it’s neutral territory, and everyone with me is also traveling.