Saturday, March 23, 2013

Port Sickness, And the Antidote

This happy fellow is just finishing the sail from the Auckland Islands to Akaroa - that's the coast of the Banks Peninsula in the background, with the sun setting just as we're about to enter the harbor.  We're just completing a mostly gentle 500 mile sail, a great finish to our adventure of visiting the subantarctic.

But, perhaps not surprisingly, our first day in Akaroa was a huge letdown.  It might have been something about trying to get a few practicalities accomplished in the very impractical environment of a tourist town that we were suddenly sharing with a cruise ship's worth of fellow-travelers.  It might have had something to do with the constant provocations of sharing life in a small space with a two-year-old.  It might have been tangentially connected to the fact that we're suddenly in a state where neither head on board is functioning.  And it very likely had something to do with the strain of keeping boat and family safe during our month in southernmost New Zealand, and the sudden switch to another set of concerns once we reached port, the concerns of my parallel life as family provider and biologist with a research career to nurture.  But for whatever reason, my mood yesterday was beyond (below?) toxic.

Readers of South From Alaska will know that I am a long-term sufferer of port sickness.  And the best antidote, I think, is to remember all the good stuff that we're earning via the endless trouble of boat life.

Things like, f'r instance, this school assignment that Elias wrote last week:

Alisa had just left Elias to work independently on this bit of school work while she was looking after Eric.  And Elias, on his own, came up with this idea for things he would not like to live without:

"Water and food and love from my family.  And I would not like to live without fishing hooks to catch fish."

That's a pretty good antidote for any lingering questions of whether all the trouble of running family life on a traveling boat is worth it.  And Enderby Island was a pretty good antidote as well...

Enderby is the northernmost island in the Aucklands Archipelago.  There's a clean-bottomed anchorage, which Galactic is anchored in above, and a beach that the strange and rare New Zealand sea lion breeds on, and a few huts (at the end of the beach in the photo above), now vacant, that are inhabited by sea lion biologists at the height of summer.

And there is a boardwalk taking you across the island that provides both perfect footing for two-year-olds and interesting things to pick up like albatross beaks.

The boardwalk goes right past royal albatross nests.

 Getting this close to a nesting albatross made for a very remarkable moment, for us and for the boys.

And this shrub habitat is shared by yellow-eyed penguins.

And then there's the beach - a perfect little hotspot for marine wildlife needing to come ashore to breed.

Pictures don't convey how much was going on at the beach.  Sea lions occasionally came charging down from the hills above, giant petrels and Antarctic skuas and penguins and pipits and white-fronted terns were constantly doing their thing.

Giant petrels are wary, and tough to photograph.

Elias' portrait of his mom.

And sailing back to a more protected anchorage at the end of the day.

Enderby is very different from the place it was before sealers and farmers and long-liners showed up in this part of the world, and our visit was after the peak season for seeing wildlife.  Nonetheless, we found it to be pretty jaw-dropping.  So different from anything we're used to, and, in spite of those changes, so vital, it did a very good job of standing in as the archetype of a Southern Ocean island, an oasis of terrestrial life in the vastness of this cold grey sea that stretches around the pole and meets itself again.

Not a bad thing to remember when you're having an off day in port.


  1. We love the last line. Just about to leave Istanbul, bound for Enki in port. It's been a long time between sails, and your blog has been - and is - the most wonderful tonic for hibernating cruising people such as ourselves. Beautiful photos. Amazing trip - well done Galactic!

    1. Hey Guys - we did our long hibernation between sails as well, as you know - it's hard to keep moving all the time! Enjoy being back on board, and it will be good to see what you guys get up to...