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The work was done and we were ready for our first guests and some new adventures. First to arrive were Betty and her twin daughters, Kenzie and Marissa from Dallas, TX, here to spend the holidays aboard Shear Madness. They arrived in Auckland on Dec 20th and enjoyed a day of shopping at the Victoria Markets before departing on Shear Madness for a short trip over to Gulf Harbour Marina where we needed to pick up our dinghy after some frantic, last minute repairs. After a thorough cleaning and a new coat of bottom paint, a couple of valves on the tubes of the dingy had failed and it would not hold air at all. Finding someone to make the needed repairs in the week before Christmas was not an easy task, but we had finally found someone who could do it. All that remained was to pick up the repaired tubes, re-assemble the dinghy attach the outboard, launch it, and hope there were no other problems. It's not much fun to cruise without a dinghy as you have no way to get ashore from wherever you anchor.
All went fine until we launched and attempted to start the outboard. Of course, it did not want to start. If you've ever heard the expression "swearing like a sailor" you have some idea of what Bradley was doing. After a tank of new fuel and lots of tinkering by people who know nothing about outboard motors, it finally cranked over and after a test run, we were set to go on a short sail to Waiheke Island. After a short but lovely sail, we anchored at Oneroa Bay and ventured ashore for some exploration. Caught in a heavy downpour, we escaped to a coffee shop and watched the rain fall. Fortunately, it stopped in time for a trip to the beautiful beach. Kenzie and Marissa decided they would spend the next day at that beach.
On Saturday, Kenzie, Marissa donned their wetsuits, and along with Betty went to the beach and we made plans to rendezvous for lunch at a local cafe. After lunch, Kathy, Betty, and Marissa hiked to a local winery for a taste of wine that was not great! We didn't buy any, but the highlight of the hike was passing a llama (or possibly alpaca) farm. Most importantly, this was the last day of Chanukah and we planned to enjoy a traditional dinner. Kenzie and Marissa helped me to make macaroons, which we would enjoy for dessert. They also helped prepare a beef brisket and potato latkes. Over dinner, Bradley explained to our guests the story and traditions of Chanukah and we all received gifts. The macaroons were a delicious finish to a fine day!
Now it was time to head north to our ultimate destination, the Bay of Islands. After a good day's sail we arrived at Whangerei where we spent a peaceful night. The next morning was Christmas Day, and after raising anchor and getting under way, it was time to find out if Santa had come. Sure enough, he had left a small bag of gifts on board, along with a message that he had left the "big stuff" in Dallas. Among the gifts were Shear Madness shirts which fit everyone perfectly! After anchoring in Bland Bay Christmas dinner was a small turkey with mashed potatoes, broccoli, and special Bradley-made stuffing with gravy. Yum! The next day a short sail took us to Te Toroa Bay, where we went ashore for the girls to enjoy some more beach time while Bradley and Kathy went for a nice hike.
On Dec 27 we rounded Cape Brett, passing the famous Hole in the Rock and arrived in the Bay of Islands where we anchored at Deep Water Cove. Much to the delight of Kenzie and Marissa, there was another beach. And unlike beaches in the US, these beaches are almost private - it is unusual to have to share it with anyone! Kathy opted for a hike along the Cape Brett trail, which leads to the lighthouse. The sign says it is a 2 1/2 hour trip each way, so I wasn't sure how far I'd get as it was already afternoon. As it turns out it took me just one hour and 21 minutes to arrive at the lighthouse and just slightly more to get back. Meanwhile, the girls explored the beach and ventured a short way up the trail where they enjoyed a beautiful view.
The next week was spent exploring the Bay of Islands. Bradley demonstrated his spear fishing skill, getting several nice fish which we enjoyed for dinner. He also got some wonderful fresh mussels which everyone had a chance to try. It is now scallop season and we knew of a place where we got scallops last year. Betty is a diver so she was game to accompany Bradley on a dive for scallops. They were successful, though the scallops weren't as plentiful as last year. They also found some large clams, setting up a nice seafood feast. All was fine until after the dive. Betty slipped out of her dive gear which I hauled into the dinghy. As Betty was hoisting herself into the dingy, Bradley gave her a helping hand. Apparently not realizing his own strength, he propelled her forward, where her nose met her tank with some force, causing a small cut and some nice blood! But it was all worth it as the scallops and clams were delicious!
At Moturua Island, all the girls undertook a long hike around the entire island. Kenzie and Marissa have done some hikes before, but nothing of this magnitude. Would they be able to make it? Of course they would! During our two hour excursion, we climbed hills (many times), found several beaches, explored caves, listened to a symphony of cicadas and saw much fabulous scenery. Kenzie and Marissa earned special Shear Madness hiker certificates for their efforts. The next highlight was Kenzie and Marissa's birthday, as they were turning 8! The big question was which day should we celebrate it on as when it was their birthday in NZ, it was still the day before in Dallas. The answer was obvious - we would have two celebrations - one on Jan 29th in NZ and the other on Jan 30 in NZ which would be Jan 29 in the US! We celebrated with a special apple cake which we all enjoyed - fortunately we only consumed half of it, leaving enough for the second celebration.
After some more sailing, exploring, hiking, and a short trip to a very special beach island, it was time for us to reluctantly say goodbye to Kenzie, Marissa, and Betty. We arrived at the Opua Marina where they were to take a bus back to Auckland and the airport. The bus arrived right on schedule to pick them up and they were at the airport in plenty of time for their flight home. As we later learned, that trip home was not as smooth as we all had hoped! But that's another story and one the crew of Shear Madness can't be responsible for!
At the bus stop we met an American couple, Dan and Michelle, who own a house in Opua and spend several months a year there. Their daughter lives in Auckland and they were dropping her off at the bus. We invited them for drinks on Shear Madness and an instant friendship was born!