Galactic at rest at the Napier Sailing Club.
We've spent two weeks here - long enough that it's hard to remember the time when this little harbor seemed so unfamiliar, the way all new places do at first.
In our time here we've gotten the head gasket replaced and had a new bimini made and fixed the roller furling ourselves. And I've taken the opportunity of this period of stasis to put in a mad bout of work on my marine biology research. And now the endless west and northwesterlies that have made sailing around East Cape and across the Bay of Plenty so unappealing are finally meant to break, and we're making tracks in the morning.
There's a simple pleasure in this sort of travel - we plant ourselves in a fairly anonymous part of a country that we don't know well, and briefly get to know some everyday people who have nothing at all to do with the tourism industry, the sort of people whom you'd never meet if you were staying in a hotel in Napier for a night or three and then moving on...
The boys with Hans and Solveig. "Our friends!" Eric would say in the morning. "I wanna see our friends!" And as many days as not, Elias and Eric did see them.
Simpatico kids who also happen to have parents who are pleasant company
- that's what makes a port come alive for us these days.
Elias hoping to sell macroalgae to passersby needing to fertilize their gardens. "I'll get fifty cents from each person and I'll give you the money to help pay for the engine!"
I think we were fortunate in the outfit we found to do our engine work. They're a really big outfit, mostly doing construction equipment and logging trucks. But when I rang them up the day we arrived, I was put through to the service manager, and had the foreman in our engine room within a couple hours.
We were happy with the job they did, and the engine seems to have recovered fully. But today when I went to dip the fuel tanks I got this surprise - a bilge full of oil, presumably spilled during the job.
So my more-or-less planned-out day before departure suddenly had to accommodate an hour or two of cleaning out the bilge.
I took it in stride, mostly. I know that things like this happen when you're working on an engine... but if you spilled this much oil in someone's boat, don't you think you'd tell them? Oh well...
But then, while I was still in mid-clean, we had a visit from Customs. Alisa had called the local office, trying once and for all to get a straight answer on whether we have to pay GST on gear for the boat. (It's a long story - the Customs office in Christchurch told us we ABSOLUTELY have to pay GST on gear for the boat.)
But when Alisa called the office here, a couple of the local Customs agents came down to the dock to talk it over. One of them spent half an hour on the phone, trying to figure it out. Then, having gotten the final word that we're GST-free, the agents drove me to the shop that had done our head gasket, had the shop write me a new bill without the 15% tax, and then drove me back to the boat.
I'm confident that we've just had the best Customs experience of our entire sailing lives, past and future.