Spring blues

S’s been gone for three days on a sailing regatta with the BHS team. We’re missing her, including Tasha, who’s never quite herself when S’s gone.

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This was the regatta that the BHS sailing team hosted last month here in Eagle Harbor. It was a rare bright day, so I watched for a while from Pritchard Park.

It’s been a cold, rainy spring, the wettest on record. It’s been a challenging time for many reasons, full of wakefulness in the wee hours of the morning. Latest book finished this way: Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot.

G and P are off to Boston for awhile; we went to a surprise party for them on the 7:05 crossing this morning. When the boat’s almost empty, ferry parties are perfect in some ways–no one has to host, and there’s a clearly-defined end when external forces prompt you to say goodbye to the departing ones.


Wrapping up

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A. did so well in his recital yesterday! He’s starting to make peace with feeling nervous and performing anyway.

Sophie at banquet June 2016

At the BHS sailing banquet: S. telling a story about her most memorable moment of the sailing season–during one regatta, the wind completely died down. All the sailors in the competition paddled their way towards each other, made a raft of the boats, and drifted around together.

Today’s Baccalaureate program for/by graduating seniors was so well-attended that we had to scramble to find enough chairs for all the students, let alone their family members.

We have a week and a half of school left in the year, and summer weather is already here!


Music, sailing, books

Through two shut doors, I can hear K warming up her voice. Tasha is in my room with me, resting her head on her paws, opening her eyes for a second whenever S hits a computer key louder than usual. S is stretched out on my floor, working on her homework, with Mozart’s “Lacrimosa” playing softly from her laptop.

S has only rarely been home before 6:30 p.m. since mid-March, but sailing is winding down for the season. It’ll be nice to see her more–many weekends the sailors leave for their regatta straight from school on Friday and don’t return until Sunday evening.

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A had a piano examination on Sunday, which spurred a terrific conversation between K and A afterwards when he told her about the strange and terrible stage fright he experienced for the first time, sweaty fingers slipping on the keys, a rushing in his ears during the ear training playback.

She reassured him and told him validating things about performing despite the nerves. 

I started a few new books during my quiet weekend. I’ve been making more time to tell my students about what I read for the sheer love of it as well as what I read because it’s informative or necessary.

It turns out I really like reading memoirs by neurotic people. (Running with Scissors, An Unquiet Mind, etc.) Susanna Kaysen’s Cambridge is proving to be a gently humorous, captivating vision of an eight-year-old’s world.

I’m reading another in this sub-genre (but not for long–it’s just a slip of a book): Carlyle’s House and Other Sketches by Virginia Woolf.



Kayaking Eagle Harbor and Crabs for Dinner

Today we spent several hours getting un coup de soleil (sunburn = a blow from the sun; isn’t that charming?) paddling tandem kayaks around the harbor. We saw a lot of birds, minnows, and crabs and the kids taught Tasha how to swim by letting her doggy paddle instincts take over several feet from shore.

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The seven of us pushed off from the dock at Back of Beyond.
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This afternoon, B’s colleague L brought us some fresh-caught-and-cooked crab–the season just opened on July 4th and already they have too much to eat. B washed off a wrench and cracked the shells and it made for a great summer dinner!

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Sailing Adventure

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We returned to the Bay of Islands this weekend, this time as guests aboard C and D’s sloop! As an experienced sailor, D was carefully watching the weather—we had a cyclone sitting just to the east of New Zealand, but high pressure from the west held it off long enough for us to make an overnight sailing trip.


C and D’s beauty, the Runaway Bay. It’s made of kauri, nearly 20 years old, and it’s taken them all around the South Pacific. D. was telling me that some sailors swear by steel boats, some by wood, and some by concrete. I had no idea there were concrete ships, but if it’s boat-shaped, it will float.

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Just outside Opua, we saw this beautiful tall ship.


We didn’t find much usable wind the first afternoon, so we motored as we made our way north-east toward Te Rawhiti Inlet to find a quiet cove for the night.


S. went swimming in the clear blue ocean before dinner. I went the next morning, first thing after waking up, along with C, D, B, and S. 23 degrees C (73 degrees F) is warm enough to get used to after a couple of gasps, and it feels marvelously invigorating to shower and towel off right on the deck in the morning light.






This was S’s favorite place to be, right in the bow.



K in the cozy cabin.


This is my best picture of the famous hole in the rock; at this point the sea was quite “rolly” as C. put it, and I counted myself fortunate not to lose my breakfast (C. wasn’t so lucky). I was hanging over the side of the boat for the better part of an hour, staying on deck for the sake of feeling fresh air on my face. This helps some, but if you’re susceptible to the power of suggestion, the heaving sea all around you only encourages that awful churning feeling inside. For some reason, my brain kept repeating the word “sloop” with every dip and slosh of the boat, and I’m still a little nervous about writing the word even now.

After lying down in the cabin for awhile, I felt better and in the meantime, D. had brought us to Oihi Bay and the Marsden Cross.


The cross marks the spot where Rev. Samuel Marsden gave his first sermon, Christmas Day 1814.




The next day we finally found some good wind and smooth seas. Here we’re under full sail, moving along at better than 6 knots per hour. A huge thanks to C and D for an unforgettable couple of days aboard!

Sailing and ceilidh

It was a gusty day for sailing yesterday. Though it was a little on the chilly side, I felt well-prepared in my brand-new wetsuit and the same little opti as my first sailing trip. As I headed out into the middle of the harbor, I felt the wind grab the sail harder than it had before and the boat responded by charging ahead, slapping across the waves and spraying me with salt water. It was a strange feeling, almost like riding a horse. I could control the direction and the speed, but only to a certain extent—I was flooded with an unexpected feeling of uncertainty as the boat raced and tilted. Suddenly, the wind changed direction just enough to grab the sail from the other side, swinging the boom across the boat and banging me on the head, hard.

I slid down in the boat, away from the swinging boom, let go of the rope, and waited for the sharp metallic pain to subside. I wanted to head in, I wanted so much to just make my way back to the beach and say I was done. I made myself stay until I could sail a horseshoe shape back to the beach to P. I told him I’d gotten myself bonked, and he had me just lie with my legs leisurely across the boat with the sail loose, just drifting. “Let the boat take care of itself. If you’ve got no tension on the rope, this dinghy will take care of you and you can just float there all day.” After a while, I felt like trying again rather than climbing out of the boat.

Things I learned:
How to position myself better: sit sideways, bracing my feet against the opposite side to lean when the wind really picks up.

As soon as the sail starts to slacken, be ready for the boom and turn the rudder to find the wind again.

Be comfortable with the strange sensation that the boat is a living entity that will leap, buck, charge, stop, and roll over.

After we showered and ate a hurried dinner, we headed to the Rawene Town Hall for a night of Celtic music and dancing, a ceilidh. It was the first ceilidh (say kay-lih) we’ve been to, and it was so much gorgeous fun. Celtic folk dances and a table full of potluck food, people in their family tartans, kilts, and dresses. After dancing a few in a row, breathless people gulping water and standing at the open doors with the cool evening air streaming in. A. and a little girl playing I-spy. “No, you have to geese it,” she prompted him in her Kiwi accent.

People seem to be more social here in New Zealand. Part of it must be the strength of Maori tradition and family ties. Part of it may be that NZ is a sort of Celtic and British diaspora, and their cultural events also celebrate this distinct heritage. And part of it may be that we live in this small town.

First-time sailing!

“A sailor’s joys are as simple as a child’s.” —Bernard Moitessier

The Hokianga Sailing Trust is a community group that supports new (me, B, J, D, and probably more I haven’t met yet) and experienced sailors. From an article in The Northland Age in August:

“Nine dedicated members deliver maritime education through sailing programmes in schools and weekend classes, the latter including social racing where budding young sailors can test their new skills.

The volunteers dedicate a great deal of their time and energy to teaching the craft to local youth, while the construction of a boatshed to house the fleet of Optimist, Sunburst and Laser sailing dinghies, which will also be used by the local Coastguard as a secure location for its rescue boat and a space for students to take woodwork classes and practise their boating skills, has been a major project.”

In August, the trust was the runner-up for a top community award.

S. picked up where she left off. However, here on the Hokianga the wind is far more changeable than in Eagle Harbor, so she’s learning new tacking skills.

That’s me, sailing for the first time! Go, little opti, go.

There’s P in the yellow boat for instruction and safety, J on the laser for the first time (she’s a complete natural), S, and me. It was a calm day, perfect for learning to jibe without getting conked by the boom.