New Zealand to Norfolk Island

Posted in Featured on March 31st, 2010 by Caryn B. Davis

(This is an excerpt from my memoir “The Desire to Journey”, a work-in-progress, and yes, I am seeking a publisher!)

Last month I left off with how I had answered an ad in the back of WoodenBoat Magazine (http://www.woodenboat.com) that was seeking brave souls to sail around the world, and flew to New Zealand to crew on an old 127 foot cargo ship. I then went on to describe the month I spent living on the boat in Whangarei Harbor getting it ready to sail, and the crazy crew members I had subjected myself to.
So finally the day comes when we were ready to set sail, even though all of the necessary repairs had not been made on account of Vladimir rude and generally abrasive behavior towards the locals. With a broken water maker, and a confused electric panel we set off for our first destination, Norfolk Island, located off the west coast of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia in the Tasman Sea.

As soon as we leave sight of land, everything falls apart. The crew have not been assigned set watches, so we have no idea when we can sleep, or when we are expected to be on watch. After a few days of this we do whatever we want. There is no order, and at sea, order is absolute. Without order, everyone’s safety is jeopardized. Vladimir slowly transforms into more of a dragon than he already is and starts to become unglued. He doesn’t bathe, shave, sleep, or change his clothes for the entire two week passage, and takes to wearing his girlfriend’s scrubs.

Klaus has decided that exercise classes are a must for keeping our sea legs sturdy and muscles fit. He wakes the crew at 6am for calisthenics on deck. It’s really not as bad as it sounds. It’s nice to see the greenish, blue water of the South Pacific at that hour.

Bob and Dee have taken to catching dinner for us by fishing over the side. One day an albatross gets caught in the invisible line. It is too horrific to watch. I cry and cry as the albatross struggles to get free but in the end has become so mangled that he chokes on the line and dies. Nobody seems disturbed by this except me. It is similar to when Vladimir told me to throw the epoxy resin he had been using overboard. I refused, citing how bad it was for the environment and that I would have no part in it. Vlad laughs at me in a belittling way, insisting that the epoxy would not pollute the ocean nor have an impact on the creatures that lived in it, and how ridiculously stupid I was behaving to think it could. Again, I was the only one disturbed by Vlad’s act of throwing the hazardous waste over the side himself, as I would not.

One morning I am awakened quite early by Kurt and Daphne. They tell me to hurry up on deck and so I do. There, playing in our bow wave is a pod of white sided dolphin illuminated by the glow of phosphorescent that is surrounding them, and to my left is Norfolk Island. A strange and quieting feeling came over me as we approached that island. Here we were a shipboard community with our only reality and our entire world comprised of being aboard this 127 foot space.

So to come upon an island in the middle of the vast South Pacific Ocean with nothing else visible, was really mind blowing. There was nothing else around for miles and miles except this tiny, isolated island and the people on it. Just a little dot in the middle of nowhere with life happening all over it.

We lower the anchor just off the island as there is no harbor. Getting ashore can be really tricky as you have to time the tide just right to take you in, or you risk running aground and smashing your dingy into the rocks. The objective was to land at the jetty where a large crane with a hook on the end of it, extends a mechanical arm outward to pull the boat up and out the water. This is how the Norfolk Islanders unload cargo from ships that stop in route to and from New Zealand and Australia. In the event that bad weather makes it inconceivable for them to motor out to where the ship is anchored, they are forced to wait until the following month for another supply ship to stop.

While we are anchored off the island, things really come to a head. The crew had been promised time off because we had been working already for 6 weeks straight. Naturally, we all wanted to go ashore. After a much heated discussion, Vladimir informed me that he never intended to honor the agreement that we had made regarding my work hours prior to my coming to New Zealand. We had agreed that I would work 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, but since my arrival that had never been the case. In fact, I was working ten hours a day, 7 days a week. Part of the reason for the 8 hour work days was so that I could spend two hours shooting footage to create a promotional videotape that would entice paying passenger to sign up for different legs of the voyage.

As matter of principal I decide to get off the boat. Anyway, Vladimir was truly a miserable sod and I wasn’t having much fun. Being the despicable person that he was, Vladimir would not let me back onboard to say goodbye to my shipmates or pack and collect my own baggage. My baggage was packed by Klaus and delivered to me on shore, minus a few items that had mysteriously gone missing like my very expense malaria pills, and SCUBA equipment.

So there I was. Sitting on the jetty with more gear than I could possibly carry, not having a clue as to what I was going to do, but feeling well confident that anything must be better than what I had just experienced. All I knew was this: Going home was not an option! I had just quit my job, sold everything I owned, and I had only been gone just over a month. I wanted an adventure! I had two thousand dollars in my pocket. I thought I would take a hiatus and see this beautiful little island, and then fly to Australia and find another boat. Little did I know that I would never make it to Australia.

THIS MONTH’S TRAVEL TIP:
This month’s travel tip is about money. In the olden days one could carry travelers checks and if they were American Express travelers checks, you could pop into an American Express office, cash them, and take advantage of the other travel services that they offered to members in foreign countries.

But nowadays we have the ultra convenient ATM machine which has practically rendered travelers checks obsolete and eliminated the need for paying banks their conversion fees for changing your dollars into the local currency. The other advantage is that ATM’s are always open, unlike banks, especially those overseas that often close midday for siesta.

If you have a Liberty Bank near you, I highly recommend opening an account with them just so you can use their ATM card while traveling. Liberty Bank will reimburse you all the foreign ATM transaction fees, and all the conversion fees the foreign banks charge just for the pleasure of using their ATM to convert dollars to Euros for example.

If you are using a credit card while traveling, be aware that they charge between 3-5% in conversion fees every time you use the card, so whatever you are purchasing will actually cost you 3-5% more. It doesn’t seem quite right to me.

That’s all for now. Until next time, safe travels. Enjoy the journey.

Caryn B. Davis

Next Month: Norfolk Island, car rental

Caryn B. Davis is a commercial, editorial, architectural, marine and portrait photographer, and a published writer, with a studio in Chester, CT. Her images and articles have appeared in over 60 leading national and international publications. She is a member of the American Society of Media Photographers and teaches photography to adults and children. As an avid world traveler, Caryn enthusiastically and artistically photographs people, places and things at home and abroad. For more information log onto www.cbdphotography.com and www.thedesiretojourney.com.

This is an excerpt from her memoir The Desire to Journey, which is a work-in-progress.

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