Ah, civilization! After five months of Polynesian bliss, we pulled into the Bay of Islands in New Zealand.
The first thing which struck us was THE RULES AND REGS. Kiwis love ‘em. Forty-eight hours before we arrived, while still in the deep ocean and in the midst of a full gale, we did a little ‘pre-clearance’ interview over the SSB.
Basically, I lied about everything. I told them I was a nice guy, Wild Card was a well-found yacht, Carolyn was a big-breasted trophy wife… and that I had (here’s the whooper!) plenty of money.
“Yes,” I concluded. “I’m lousy with credit cards, too. Oh, sure, I’ve got financial instruments up the ying-yang! And I’ve so many blue-chip and chocolate-chip investments, well, I just can’t keep track! The only thing I don’t have is tax shelters, no sirree! I LIKE paying taxes, fees and… MY VERY FAVORITE… hidden charges!”
“Excellent,” the Kiwi guy said, “you may proceed closer to the coast.”
There is nowhere in the world I know of stricter than New Zealand when it comes to clearing in. Three uniformed officials board you, and they are, immediately, ALL officious, official business.
“Here,” said the first one, “lift this case aboard!”
I did, just barely. Wild Card heeled with the weight of it.
Inside was a giant book. “Sign the end of it to indicate you’ve read it completely, understand it, and are in compliance,” he said.
Now, this was such a massive missive that a Methedrine-crazed, coffee-chugging speed-reader would take a month to skim it, but I gulped and signed.
“What is it?” I asked.
“The rules and regs,” he said reverently. “Well, some of the main ones, anyway. And the penalties…”
“Dismasting, disgrace, beheading and hanging,” he joked. Or, at least I THINK he was joking.
“Do you have any nuts?” he asked me.
“Just my wife,” I said.
He let that one go by and turned to Carolyn. “Any sprouts?”
“Yes,” said Carolyn. “On the tea kettle.”
“SPROUTS, not spouts,” he scolded her, then dug deeper with, “Do you do any canning?”
“Why, yes!” Carolyn said happily, proud to show off her preserving and culinary skills.
“May I see the jars?” the official asked.
“Certainly,” said Carolyn and made a big pile of them.
“Honey? Dairy products? Avian meat? Snake skins? Crocodile parts? Mushrooms and fungi? Noodles? Rice? Fruits? Limes? Bananas? Seeds, beans or pop corn?”
“Yes, yes, yes,” Carolyn chanted and the pile grew and grew.
“Do you have anything with feathers aboard? Bone? Shell?”
The pile was now a mound.
“Any drums? Musical instruments you shake? Flowers? Mats, baskets, or anything woven?”
The pile now contained, well, pretty much all the eatable stuff aboard Wild Card, and about half of the stuff which wasn’t.
“Fine,” the guy said happily, “I’ll incinerate all this for you in a jiffy!”
“Er, thanks,” I said.
“What type of bottom paint do you use?” he asked, and then rushed on. “I hope it isn’t one of the banned ones because you can’t have it on the boat AND you can’t remove it while in New Zealand!!!”
“No,” I said, and stuttered, “I don’t have… whatever you don’t want! I mean, I didn’t paint Wild Cardwith antifouling, which is sort-of mean-and-nasty to all those cute-and-cuddly marine critters, isn’t it? No, sir, I just sprayed her with… adhesive primer to help any marine organisms to hitchhike along with us. We’re sort of a ‘green, eco-friendly, slow-drifting raft’, really.”
“Good,” the guy said. “Do you have any shoes or bicycles aboard?”
“Yes,” I said, and gulped with the realization I didn’t know where this was heading.
“Did your shoes or bicycle tires ever come in contact with the ground?”
I froze. Damn. How was I gonna lie my way out of this one?
Carolyn and the guy just stared at me, as if I was failing an important test and about to be led away to oat-bran-smuggling prison.
“He thinks,” Carolyn hinted gently, “that perhaps you stepped on a mad cow or something…”
“Well,” I said, attempting to make a huge joke of it, “every cow I ever stepped on got mad!!!”
“Ha, ha, ha,” I laughed, “heh, heh, heh!” None of the Kiwis laughed. Oops.
“I need to see the shoes AND the tires,” one of the G-men guys said while whipping out a Sherlock Holmes-style magnifying glass.
I’m not sure what they were looking for but I am happy to report they didn’t find it.
Actually, they were all really nice guys and friendly as hell… just strict/strict/strict when it came to the rules, which seemed to encompass everything.
I glanced over all the massive book of regulations, and fantasied it began, “The Rules and Regs herein apply to all carbon-life-forms in this, and any other, universe…”
“Wasn’t so bad, really,” Carolyn said to me from the Quarantine dock as she waved the Kiwi custom’s officials good-bye. “We probably didn’t need about a ton of the stuff they confiscated anyway!”
I was just about to retort wittily when she screamed and pointed low at Wild Card. “What’s that?” she cried. “That red-covered-with-green-slime line around the boat?”
At first I didn’t recognize it either, then blurted, “It’s okay, hon! That’s just our boot top… the line our vessel’s designer stupidly thought she’d float on!”
Normally, of course, we’d anchor after clearing in. However, the anchorage in this case was tiny, crowded and filled with local moorings. So Carolyn asked, “Can we go to the marina? Please? I want to take a hot shower, have some place safe to leave the dinghy, check my email…”
Gee, Carolyn, my wife, navigator and partner-in-crime for the last 35 years, seldom asks for anything. And she’d been great through the series of stiff post-winter, pre-summer gales we experienced getting here. How could I refuse her?
So I called the marina on the VHF. Their rates weren’t too high, and, said the cheery lady, “we offer Wifi wireless internet connection, hot showers, unlimited water, free dinghy dock…”
So we went to the marina, tied up, dropped our credit card off at the office… and sashayed into town… for our first impressions of New Zealand…which were very positive. Everyone was very friendly. The Bay of Islands is absolutely, stunningly beautiful.
Unfortunately when we got back to the marina there was only a puddle of warm-but-cooling plastic where our credit card had been. I won’t bore you, gentle reader, with the exactly details of our ‘misunderstanding’ about the marina charges, let’s just put it this way: I won’t be pulling into another marina in New Zealand in THIS lifetime!
“Gee,” Carolyn said as we hastily dashed down to Wild Card in a swirl of discarded Visa and MasterCard slips. “I feel more like a ‘profit center’ than a human being!”
“They thought we were ‘cash cows,’ not cruising sailors,” I laughed.
“Don’t even MENTION cows, please,” she giggled.
“Ah,” I said, “ain’t it great to be back…”
“…in civilization,” she concluded.
** Cap’n Fatty and Carolyn are already cruising the Bay of Islands. “This is an absolutely gorgeous area to gunkhole and our Kiwi counterparts are treating us wonderfully,” he reports, “especially at the Opua Cruising Club and the Russell Bay Boat club.” **
Cap’n Fatty Goodlander lives aboard Wild Card with his wife Carolyn and cruises throughout the world. He is the author of “Chasing the Horizon” by American Paradise Publishing, “Seadogs, Clowns and Gypsies” and “The Collected Fat.” For more Fat-flashes, see fattygoodlander.com