Copyright 2005 by Cap’n Fatty Goodlander
Auckland, New Zealand, is called the ‘City of Sails’ because they can’t stop… there’s no place to anchor!
Well, there is one tiny spot. It is called the Watchman’s Anchorage. It is just inside (west) of the bridge. I wondered why it was empty. Silly me!
“Gee,” my wife Carolyn recently told me, “I don’t think we’re currently spending our precious cruising funds fast enough… what do you say we go to the Big City for awhile?”
The last time we circumnavigated we had spent half the summer at West Haven marina——right in the CBD (central business district). This time we couldn’t afford to.
We had just spent a month or so cruising the Bay of Islands and had slowly worked our way southward (chillier and chillier) to the Hauraki Gulf.
It is a lovely cruising area, like Maine without the fog.
But, alas, there was no place to spend money. My wife was worried our credit cards were getting cold. “They’re just like a heart muscle,” she’d often explain to me. “If you don’t use them, they atrophy!”
I’m not sure about her logic, but she is… which is all that counts, I suppose. Of course I could have refused her but I did not. Why? Because I, too, was motivated to go into the CBD… to score.
The sad truth is I’m (secretly) addicted to Starbuck’s Frappuccino. That’s right——I crave them, especially the large white chocolate mocha ones… which are decadently smothered in thick, rich whip cream… and poured voluptuously into a frosty 55 gallon drum!
It’s, like, my last drug, dude! I’m a flower child of the 1960s, and, culturally, I need to be addicted to SOMETHING, for gosh sakes!
So when my meanie-weenie doctor recently forbid me white sugar, dark chocolate, fast food, heroin, herb and booze… well, I wasn’t about to inform him of my ten-cup-a-day coffee addiction. That I liked to slurp it. And snort the grounds. While furiously sucking on a filter. (I don’t shoot because espresso clots the needles!)
Anyway, Carolyn and I decided to bring Wild Card, our 38 foot ocean-weary sailboat, into Auckland for a possible BDOB (Big Day Off the Boat).
We just happened to arrive at high tide. The anchorage was vacant. We could clearly see the defining element of Auckland’s skyline, the nearly vertical Sky City tower, shimmering in the distance. We could also see the lofty masts of the rich folk at West Haven, the largest marina in the southern hemisphere.
Everything seemed cool.
But then the tide started dropping and the wind came up. Of course, they opposed each other. Wild Card started spinning wildly, scribing huge, sickening circles in the wave-tossed anchorage.
Even I felt dizzy, wobbly and nauseous.
Thank gosh I had recently installed an anchor swivel or we’d have simply twisted up the anchor chain back into our bow roller!
And Carolyn was having some issues, too. “…it keeps blowing back on me,” she lamented, pointed to her speckled blouse. “There’s no loo’ard side!”
That was true. The moment she felt like barfing she realized she was in trouble. She, being an experienced offshore puker, knew enough to throw up downwind, to loo’ard. However, once she laborious crawled to the downwind toe rail… bulging her pulsing cheeks the whole way… it wasn’t anymore!
She let go anyway.
It hung there for a moment in front of her… like a yellow, chunky lace curtain… giving her some small hope… then dashed it as it blew back onto her and entire vessel.
I didn’t say anything, just donned my foul weather jacket and put up the hood.
A local Kiwi guy rowed out from the shore and said, “If you hit anything with your keel … just mark your position with the GPS, please… I think my vessel sank right around here last week!”
He was soon joined by another local guy who had rowed out from the opposite shore, “…and if you pick up a loose chain and anchor… that’s not HIS,” he huffed, “but MINE! Or, at least, it wasn’t on my vessel when she pounded itself to death last month on those rocks over THERE!”
Rocks started appearing closer and closer around us as the tide lowered. These were not benign rocks: not round and soft-shouldered boulders but sharp and horribly jagged rock-blades… just the sort of rocks a cruel set-dresser in Hollywood would design to introduce terror into an ‘about to be gutted like a fish’ ship’s captain.
Well, no matter. My Frappuccino called.
I flipped a coin, glanced at it, put it into my pocket and said to my wife, “Tough luck! You lose. I’ll go ashore first. Let’s hoist the dinghy into the water…”
We did, and I did.
The only problem was where to leave the dinghy. I couldn’t leave it on the rocks at low tide or it would float away. However, if I tied it to a seawall railing at high tide it would be a LONG way from the water six hours later.
I needed a floating dock and spied one a mile away. Actually, it was pretty popular, judging from all the people jostling for position upon it.
And they were helpful with docking, a dozen hands reached out to me.
…they were noisy, also.
“…calm down everyone,” I shouted over the din. “…every one will get a turn… you, there… the Maori with the full Snoop Doggy-dog facial tattoo…”
“…I touched your dinghy first,” he said, “and thus, by port law, I get to rip it off!”
“…okay,” said another guy, waving bolt cutters. “But I get the outboard and the gas tank!”
“…toss me your anchor,” shouted a smaller fella in the back of the crowd, “don’t be so selfish… I’ve got small mouths to feed!”
Normally I like passionate, enthusiastic, goal-oriented people… but this crowd seemed a tad raw——not to mention morally suspect. Thus I returned to Wild Card.
“Thank god you’re back,” said Carolyn who was still ‘Old Faithfuling’ at the toe rails. “…every second you were gone was agony…”
“I’m not back,” I said. “I’ve just returned so you can chauffeur me ashore and keep an eye on the dinghy.”
Suddenly it was calm. Carolyn stood up, wiped her chin and said happily, ‘Hey, what happened?”
What happened was low tide. Once the current stopped opposing the wind, the anchorage was fine. Well, actually, there wasn’t much wind, really, as the numerous exposed rocks where deflecting most of it.
It was nice.
For about two seconds. Or, until the tide started rising and spinning Wild Card in the OPPOSITE direction.
“Oh, no,” Carolyn was chanting, once again with chipmonked cheeks, “I think I’m gonna..!”
“…use the other side of yer mouth,” I advised her. “Ying and yang, honey! Like in yoga: if you do The Cat, you have to do The Dog, eh?”
She didn’t appear to be listening, intent, instead, on setting some kind of distance projectile record.
“Good one,” I shouted in encouragement, and then, “I think that was a Personal Best, dear!”
The trip ashore in the dinghy with her wasn’t as bad I thought it might be… once I opened the umbrella.
Starbucks was as good as I remembered, but to be fair I had to check on the competition: those six made a pretty good Frappuccino too!
By the time I returned to the Auckland waterfront and curtly summoned Carolyn with my HH-VHF… it was nearly dark. Carolyn arrived in the dinghy, ready to switch roles…. with her purse, city jewelry and six-inch-high hooker heels… yeah, all ‘made-up’ for shore!
“…my turn,” she said happily as she started to get out of the dinghy.
“…wait,” I said. “Not so fast! Let’s listen to the marine weather first.”
It was a typical Kiwi weather advisory. “…the wind will blow even harder,” it said, “and from a less favorable direction! Worse, a squash zone of crushed isobars is rapidly approaching. Take heed. No matter how bad it is NOW, it WILL get worse. Offshore skippers should immediately seek safe harbor or consider suicide. Inshore skippers should consider selling their vessels, over the VHF if possible. Skippers ashore should consider early burial…”
Yes, the weather reports in New Zealand can be a bit intimidating… especially once you realizing they are under-reporting the severity of the weather to help their booming marine tourism sector!
“Gee,” I said in mock-surprise. “It doesn’t sound good. What do you think?”
“Me?” Carolyn sputtered. “I think… I think… that ‘fair is fair’ and…”
“Okay,” I said. “I agree! Next time you can go ashore first!”
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