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Carolyn and Fatty in Sydney, Australia 2001
Carolyn and Fatty in Sydney, Australia 2001

Doing the Hemi Hop in the Southern Hemisphere

Once again, we are in the Southern Hemisphere—this isn’t so bad, except for having to stand on your head all day. And the fact that everything is back-asswards. For instance, the south wind is cold and the north wind is warm. This ain’t so bad either, except it throws a lot of old English poetry off—not that most people ‘down under’ have heard of Billy Shake-A-Spear anyway.

… you should see the goofy maps! They have the less important bits (like America and Europe) marginalized, literally.

You have to hold ‘em upside down—unless, of course, you are standing on your head.

Yes, many of these ‘southern hemi’ dudes are total health freaks—perhaps their square-ish heads are benefiting from all that extra blood-flow.

Think about it: how would you like to live in a country where everyone is pretending to be Russell Crowe?

… all those flying phones are dangerous!

The worst aspect is that—since most of the sensible people on this planet live in the Northern Hemisphere, the competition down here is rather sparse. Thus, a stinky sock in Holland is called a stinky sock … but south of the equator, this same sock is called The Stinkiest Sock in the Southern Hemisphere!

Perhaps this is why I like the Southern Hemi so much—they don’t just exaggerate, they exaggerate a billion times, plus!

While in Auckland, I keep my boat at Westhaven, which is the largest marina in the Southern Hemisphere. (But don’t tell that to the marinas I frequent in Sydney or Cape Town!)

Basically, if you are an English speaker and you meet another English speaker—you better have a few thousand (million?) derogatory jokes at the ready. In order to be well-liked, very respected, and to be considered a real raconteur … just ask the person whether they are a Kiwi or from Aus … and then rattle off the standard racist joke about the other. (Same jokes; different cultural label.)

Of course, all social interaction isn’t so simple. For instance, never ask a Kiwi anything concerning sh**p. In fact, it is best to shy away from all references to genetics, DNA, and/or any relative or family-tree member.

… otherwise, well, somebody might look sheepish—which is just a nano-second from having the Kiwi fists fly!

Oh, the Kiwi farmers, in particular, are touchy!

I was attempting to tell one particularly pugnacious fellow not to be BBBBAAAAAD … but he socked me before I could get to the ‘d’ sound!

When dealing with Kiwis, of course, it is best to stick to subjects they can warm to—for instance, the America’s Cup.

Just recently, I said to an Auckland sailor, “Ah, it’s like… déjà vue! Yes, I feel like the Good Ole Days are back! Old Glory waves proud!”

“How so?” he asked, the bitterness obvious in his voice.

“Well,” I said, expansively, “It used to be—for a hundred years or so—that America would cheat and win the Cup … and then lately—despite how much we cheated, we couldn’t seem to win it—but thank God for Larry Ellison! Allegedly, he was able to cheat, cheat more, and blatantly cheat even more—and still win! America’s Back On Top! No other nation has learned to cheat/fudge/bamboozle as blatantly or consistently as we do! Gee, it makes me so proud—America Stands Tall Once Again!”

“Wait a minute,” said the Kiwi, “Didn’t Larry have some help with that?”

“Ah, yes,” I said magnanimously, “I suppose the cheating was a team effort! I tip my hat to the ‘other’ Russell as well.”

Another way to gain insight into a country is to look to its leaders. For instance, Sir Edmund Hillary, perhaps the South Pole’s most famous queue-jumper ever!

Actually, it was easy to get on Sir H’s good side—just carry his stuff. Once he perceived you as a Sherpa, you were golden.
Seriously, when we passed through New Zealand on our first circumnavigation in 2000, he sat on the TV censorship/rating board … giving a thumb’s up on any pro-Everest programming, and a thumb’s down to any programming mentioning Reinhold Messner.

Australia, of course, has Ned Kelly. He is their Billy the Kid, only Ned wore sheets of plate steel both fore-and-aft—this was before Kevlar vests, obviously.

Other famous Aussies are Rupert Murdoch—who is well known for allegedly tapping phones of murdered children.

But if you are a serious offshore cruiser and/or circumnavigator, you have to come-up-to-speed on the boats-and-booze etiquette.

When you invite anyone from Aus or New Zealand over to your boat, they bring everything. Ditto, in reverse. If you’re not expecting this, it can be confusing. The first time we were invited aboard for cocktails, we didn’t know we were required to bring said cocktails. Now, we do.

Before we go for sundowners with down-unders, we have a simple check list.

“Booze,” Carolyn says.

“Check!” I say.

“Pretzels.”

“Check!”

“Toilet paper.”

“Check!”

The reverse can be embarrassing, too. Once we innocently invited a couple from Perth aboard our engine-less Corina, and then sat for hours nursing a warm beer and eating stale Ritz crackers while they merrily said, “More Dom Perignon, my dear?”

“No, thank you, my captain,” said the wife, “I’m having too much fun munching on the pheasant, the foie gras, and the caviar.”
I was desperate to broach the subject of … well, sharing.

“Can I get you a paper towel,” I asked, pointing out to the male, “you have a drop of French cognac on your chin …”

“No need,” he said as he whipped out a monogrammed linen napkin that matched his shirt. Then added, “isn’t this fun?”

“Yes,” my wife Carolyn sniffed, “We’re gaining weight just watching!”

The Kiwi’s also have a strange way of speaking—which is, if you listen carefully, based upon English! (I am NOT making this up, I swear!)

They toss in the word ‘yeah’ after every sentence. Here’s how it works, linguistically speaking. All Kiwis who aren’t drinking (say two people on the North Island and one person on the South Island) are naturally shy and, well, somewhat unsure of themselves. Thus, they say a sentence aloud, repeat the same sentence internally, and then asked themselves if they agree. Since they almost always still do, they say, aloud, ‘yeah,’ to confirm same.

So, if I was pretending to be a Kiwi, I’d say, “My name is Fatty. (Pause) Yeah. I live on a boat. (Pause) Yeah. I like to write, although columns like this just might shorten my journalistic career. (Pause). YEAH!”

You can learn a lot by studying the environmental track record of Australia. For instance, that clever dude who, in order to prevent some tiny creature or other from eating his veggie garden, imported two rabbits. He named them Percival and Sheila, and they immediately fell in love … well, whatever! Regardless, they started doing ‘the nasty’ right in front of the startled farmer. Soon there were so many rabbits in his township that, if he wanted to kill one, he’d just fire a fixed shotgun bolted to his porch … and go out to collect the dead ones.

They actually have a rabbit fence in Aus that runs for thousands of miles. Yes, it is a strange place … where many vehicles (especially in the desert) have giant high heel shoes mounted atop them, go figure!

We won’t even talk about their Aborigines because when we Americans do, they just say smugly, “ … well, we didn’t just murder all of ours!”

Touché! (I always think it is a tad weak to come back with, “Well, we didn’t murder them all—we just subsidized the ‘fire water’ so the few semi-survivors drowned in a whiskey bottle!”)

Strangely, as fierce as the rivalry between the people of New Zealand and the thugs of Aus are (my favorite sports t-shirt while in Auckland reads, “I’m for New Zealand and any team that plays Australia), they immediately bury the hatchet if they happen to be together in the Northern Hemi.

For instance, the Aussies will point to the above paragraph as evidence of my prejudice against them—and the Kiwis (when in the Northern Hemi) won’t slap me on the back heartily for my good sense.

… that’s remarkable restraint, Kiwi-style!

Actually, seriously, I’ve found both the Australians and the Kiwis to have remarkably sophisticated senses of humor—except when it comes to them, their country, or their… (I am NOT going to stupidity insert a five letter word here—it simply would not behoove me to!)

One Kiwi snapped at me, “… stupid, dumb jokes like that really get my goat,” and I thought, “… gee, that bloke needs a new animal identification guide!”

Seriously, the worst part of saying ‘seriously’ before you tell another silly joke is that, eventually, nobody believes you are serious about anything.

Which is good, because I am not.

But the real reason I spend so much time ‘down under’ is because of how much I admire both the ‘can-do’ Kiwis and the ‘can-do-better’ Aussies. They are, from my personal, private perspective, what Americans were like just post WWII—proud, confident, and eager to take their place on the world stage.

And, frankly, the average sailor from either country has already forgotten more about boats than most of us Yankees and Poms will ever know. Let’s face it, the last four or five America’s Cups has been won by Kiwis, regardless of the flag flying on the transom.

They continuously strive for excellence, and often achieve it. Even while, amazingly, attempting to stay within the rules. It is this ‘old fashioned’ thinking which makes them so respected throughout the world and on the race course—not ‘whose billionaire has the most trillions’ at any given moment.

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