Sailing and Living

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Since writing last, there have been many adventures aboard the Fox II and in Akaroa!

My first two weeks on the boat were challenging to say the least. If I hadnt had such good guides, I dont know that I wouldve stuck around. The dolphins made every day worth it though!

Let me first dive into life as a crew member aboard the Fox II, and introduce the crew:

Roy is the skipper/captain, originally from Westchester, New York. He first found Akaroa when he and his wife, Sarah (recall nice lady from the first arriving here at the backpackers) first got married and traveled the globe for two years. When they got here, they thought to themselves this would be a nice place to retire. A few years later, Roy found himself back in New York, miserable and stressed as a research analyst for a software company. He and Sarah thought to themselves, 'why dont we just go now?' So about 7 years ago, when their twins, Max & India, were 3 years old, they made the move to NZ. Needless to say, this kind of bravery makes Roy one of my heroes. Roy and I have great chats and laugh a lot while were out at sea. He's always very keen to teach me new things, is very encouraging and supportive. Like yesterday we looked at charts (nautical maps) and he taught me triangulation. I've seen what he can do in bad weather and how he keeps a cool head and therefore trust him wholeheartedly as our skipper. Roy has a zest for life that is contagious, is enthusiastic about almost everything and likes his own jokes (I like his jokes, and I like how he reacts to his own jokes). Roy has many quirks that makes his skippering all that much more fun. For example, I have been introduced as Melanie: 'the female crew member', ‘The Canadian’, etc. Another example: at the end of the day, when we dock and let the last passengers off, we prep the boat to be put away for the evening (put away the jib, put the sail covers on, etc). Roy usually pumps a tune of choice, that’s how you know he’s pumped about how the sail went (usually if ppl applaud at the end). His favorites are Beach Boys, ‘Surfing Safari’ and The Who ‘Baba O’Reilly’. So the boys and I rock out to that while were heading over to the mooring. Roy used to insist that I be the coffee maker when it comes time to serve the passengers since I 'make the best coffee' and one of the rules aboard the Fox II is the captain always gets a coffee, but I think now he’s realized any of us can do a great job. ;)

Josh is from Devon, UK, and though sometimes from his actions/words you remember that he's 19, for the most part, especially on the Fox II, he acts with a wisdom and patience that's far beyond his years. For my first two weeks, and especially my first few days, Josh was my rock on board. Like if I was freaking out internally from intense weather, or needed a question answered or help with a maneuvers, Josh was there. Very a propos, since his last name is Rockey. Josh I would say taught me a solid 85% of what I know on board in those first two weeks. He was (is) a great teacher, always very patient, and now that I am able to understand almost any request complete with nautical lingo and follow through, is thanks to him. Josh has an intensely deep voice and beautiful british accent--the combination of which makes it next to impossible to understand him as a north american (the others feel the same), sounding much like the teacher in Charlie Brown. Good thing for us weve become such a tight crew we dont really need to talk anymore--we all just see what needs doing and do it--if someone's at the lines to raise the main or mizzen (big sail/little sail), we know what theyre about to do, and can go give a hand, etc. Josh is the reason I stuck around the first few days of intensely bad weather and feelings of physical insecurity and fear. He was so encouraging, telling me what a great job I was doing, how fast I was picking everything up, and always affirms to me, that if I got through some of the storms and weather we have been sailing in, and am still laughing and still stuck around, that I am indeed a true sailor. Josh is such a sweet person--for an example, I have been bruising a lot on the boat, probably mostly due to my own carelessness (the analogy I use is that Josh and Seth are like acrobatic monkeys and I am the ambling elephant. He went and got me some 'anti-flamme' cream to help ease the pain of the bruises 'b/c we take care of crew'. Almost every single day, Josh and I have a moment (or moments) together on the boat, where the sails are up, the sun is shining, dolphins are swimming around us, there are the beautiful cliffs and sea scapes of the Banks peninsula around us, and we just smile and affirm to ourselves and eachother how awesome our lives are, how we wouldnt change a thing, how its like a dream.

Seth is from New Hampshire, and I dont want to down play the magnificence of his personality by mentioning this first, but he is just gorgeous (I should mention Josh is super cute too-btwn the boys, the dolphins and the scenery, I get all kinds of eye candy on board). Seth is very much a 'New England gangster', in that he's got this aura of calm and cool, and is pretty constantly using his multi-tool, whether its widdling a bit of wood, teaching me how to make a monkey’s fist, or knotting rope into a net to save an endangered species or something. Seth was the original other crew member before I showed up, and he re-appeared when I was about two weeks in. I love having Seth on board. When he came back, it was like there was an exhale with the Fox II crew, and everything is gelled and as it should be. Seth's energy is always calm, and he sails the boat and moves around it like a fish in water. He will make a great skipper one day. I can ask Seth any question and he always explains it in a way I can understand (and usually his answer leads me to think of like 3 more questions, which he then happily answers, his response when I ask him if I can ask him a question usually being ‘positively absolutely’). I feel like Roy and Josh are the inhales on board and Seth and I are the exhales of the crew: all necessary for the breath of the boat. We laugh together all the time. Though its only been 3 weeks, there is a deep trust and connection, and I love them all muchly.

Gotten some tips on board, which is unusual in a country where no one tips, and more unusual still when you consider one of the tips came from Germans, another country where no one tips. One tipper was from Georgia, and when they got on the boat, I told them I loved their peaches and pecans. I think that may be a large reason of why we were tipped.

‘Chez la Mer Backpackers, Akaroa’ or ‘After we’ve moored the boat’

Life at the hostel is chill and beautiful. There is the ‘semi-permanent community’ of the wwoofers who live here, myself included, and there are the guests, people who’ve come from all over the world to feel and live the Akaroa vibe. For the most part, I am sick of backpacker questions: ‘how long are you in New Zealand for? How long have you been here so far? What are your plans afterwards? Blah blah blah. I still like the ‘where are you from?’ question, since as a geographer, I find that pretty interesting. Few Canadians overall. Many Brits and Germans, and then a mixed bag, you name it. There are some truly beautiful souls who pass through here, and I love meeting them and knowing they exist as people. Conversely, there are some whack job energy suckers (non threatening). Most people stay one or two nights and fall under the radar.

People repeat my ‘eh’ and my ‘out’, of ‘about’, ‘outstanding’ ‘no doubt’, ‘check it out’, ‘are we dousing the sails’, etc. back to me approx half the time, which has gotten old, but I understand its with love for the Canadian accent. (I have been asked how is it in: Ireland, Scotland, America, England, and South Africa). Everyone loves Canadian wildlife stories ‘one time, a bear…’, snow and cold stories ‘the snow went past the door frame’, and things you can do and eat with maple syrup (anything). All this to say, from backpacking around AUS and now here, everyone loves Canadians period. People really do perk up when you tell them where you’re from, their eyes alight with this unspoken understanding that you are automatically cool. Which, in all fairness from my experience with other traveling Canadians, is true. They also LOVE that you can speak French, and can switch back and forth. It makes for the most exotic of combinations in the eyes of most other world travelers. "A Canadian pirate will rob you and then say thank you."(-Josh)

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