Saturday, 2 May 2015

NZ & American sojourns

Hi to all,
It is now almost exactly half way through Jim's visit downunder and more than that for Jean in Florida. Jean has been having a great time with her grandchildren and has also been visiting an old friend in Melbourne - a 3 hour drive north of Miami.
Jim sadly finished his visit to Christchurch and Charlotte, Jon, Lucia and Elsie. It was wonderful to see them all and live with them - however briefly. But since he left on 15/04 there has been some sad news. Charlotte's brother in law, Nick Wright who has been terminally ill for some time, passed away in his early forties from an inoperable brain tumour. We cannot imagine what it would be like to lose one of your own children at such an early age and our sympathies are with Max and Jane (Nick's parents) and all the extended family.
Upon arriving in Auckland, Jim acquired the VW Transporter campervan that had been booked and he drove to Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty via the Karangahake Gorge and Waihi and Katikati. A very pretty drive and the country looked magnificent with green farmland and many Kiwifruit orchards behind high shelter belts. Economically though things aren't so good with succeeding reductions in dairy payouts to farmers and rampant increases in real estate prices in Auckland due to unfettered buying by (mostly Asian) foreigners. They can buy land in NZ without any formal citizenship or residency status, whereas there is no way that we can go to China or anywhere else in Asia for that matter and freely buy land. NZ is lying down with its feet in the air and playing dead flies - and not really playing either. It's a disgraceful scenario aided and abetted by the present National government and will come to be regretted for years in the future. It may already be too late to reverse the trend of foreign (mainly Chinese)takeover. NZ is not the NZ we all once knew.
In Tauranga Jim stayed with Dennis and Rosie Bouverie at Mt. Maunganui. Dennis was one of 3 young owners of Tiare (formerly "Reflections of Wellington") when they launched her back in 1978 in Wellington - after a 31 year build by the first owner who passed away before she was launched!! Dennis has now purchased a French built Hood 38 and he and Jim sailed out to Mayor Is. The forecast was quite benign and so the voyage started out in some optimism. However, it blew up from the SE which is the coldest wind and it affected Jim and his thin SE Asian blood! They had to move in the late afternoon to seek alternative shelter which was rolly although sheltered from the SE. But getting in there in the pitch dark on chartplotter only was character building and completely different from sailing in the tropics. However, there was a bottle of Laphroaig which took a hammering once the anchor was down and dug in. All in all a great few days and it was good to have been sailing with Dennis again after he sailed with Jim from Bundaberg to the Whitsundays in Queensland in 2012.
Then back in Auckland with a raging cold and feeling totally miserable for a couple of days. Stayed at Rozanne's (Jim's middle daughter) who is a school teacher at St. Cuthberts College - a private girls school in Epsom. Rozanne and Chris (her partner) have 2 delightful young boys - Harry aged 4 (going on 50!) and Callum (18 months). They both work fulltime as teachers and so the house has to be run like a military logistical operation or it just wouldn't function. The boys go to Kindergarten and Creche and usually leave before 0730. The other day Poppa Jim took young Harry to Kindergarten on foot as it is only a block away. Poppa Jim made the mistake of failing to "stop look and listen" as they crossed the road and was roundly told off by young Harry. The educational facilities are first class and very impressive - as they are in Christchurch too for Lucia and Elsie. Managed to buy a new laptop but haven't even turned it on yet. Next job is to hopefully transfer everything from the old one which is 5 years old and making some funny noises to the new whizzbang computer.
Then it was up north to Whangarei. It must have been the slowest trip ever from Auckland to Whangarei (normally a 2 and a half hour drive) because it took 3 days with stops to stay with Jean's relatives - brother Keith and nephew Darryn and Jolene in Wellsford (Keith still shears sheep at the age of 71), Jenny Hastie and Clive inland from Waipu and Roy and Jane Vaughn who live on a tidal estuary at Mangawhai. Roy is a former master mariner and something of a maritime historian and has a wealth of knowledge of shipping in the old days and particularly on the NZ coast. Then on the way north once again to Whangarei. Going past Laings Beach in the early morning there was a huge sea coming in and one wouldn't want to be swimming! While in Whangarei stayed in the camper at Sara and Hamish's. Great to see all of them after quite a long time. Visited Noel and Litara on their gorgeous 53' timber built yawl "Sina" and also went to the Norsand Boatyard to renew acquaintance with all there. At one stage sat on a plank about 12' up in the air beside Noel as he was puttying the seams of a British wooden boat undergoing an extensive refit. Brought back a lot of memories of doing the same with Tiare back in 2008/9. As we were sitting there Jean rang from Florida and Noel spoke to her. He was relieved that she didn't tell him to "" this time!! Had a great meal on "Sina" with corned beef which is Litara's signature dish. Delicious. Also met Richard to go over our financial affairs and had a very pleasant meal with them and 2 women friends from Auckland.
Went to the doctor and learnt that Jim's sugar levels had spiked up so some remedial action is necessary. Not to very dangerous levels but enough to be concerning. Unfortunately our regular doctor is not available due to serious illness at the moment. He has cancer of the nose which spread to his upper jaw (apparently caused by the HPV virus) which is fortunately very rare. Hopefully it is now clear but he faces months of remedial surgery.
Finally it was time to get back to Auckland again. On the way stayed with another of Jean's relatives, Elizabeth and her husband, Colin just north of Waipu Cove. Once again great to catch up and everyone has been so kind and hospitable.
Back at Rozanne's and they've all got nasty colds - probably the one Jim brought which may have originated on the plane(s) from Langkawi. Such are the wonders of modern air travel. Now time to catch up in Auckland with relatives, do some errands for the boat and then back to Whangarei later in the week for a final visit and another doctor's appointment!
More to come as always.......

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