So our week-long stay in the Whangarei marina turned, by the immutable laws of boat time, into nine days. But on that ninth day my last pre-Christmas project (fixing leaky shower plumbing and replacing the bulkhead that had been soaking up water - for years, I think) was close enough to finished that we could leave. And, by the way, for this job Whangarei handily produced a no-nonsense plumbing supply shop and some good-natured chippies who could offered to knock up a new bulkhead by the next morning when they heard we were going out for Christmas, once again proving itself as that most valued place for people living on voyaging boats - somewhere where it's easy to get things done.
So we got down the long estuary that is curiously identified only as the "Whangarei Harbour" on the chart, back to the joyous existence of free agents with no fixed address, this time finding ourselves at the vaguely Middle-Earth Whangarei Heads. Here we had various adventures (a southwesterly blow; a seven-year-old with skin infection on the finger, spreading to the hand, and the implausibility of any sort of GP visit on the weekend before Christmas; parents playing stand-in GP with the ship's antibiotics; a long walk at the Heads the next day). And then we buggered off to Great Barrier Island (as named by James Cook) or Aotea (as named by someone long before).
Here the feared holiday crowds of Auckland yachts have failed to materialize. There are kaka flying through the forest and kereru displaying on the wing, and child-friendly tracks that lead conveniently to waterfalls. And, blessedly, there is no internet access at all. (Everyone is aware that Facebook is a fad, but I am prepared to stick my neck out and call the entire damn internet a fad, and one that we will all be embarrassed to remember.)
Here we have just finished another perfect Christmas, which is quite easy when you're one, prepared to be completely pagan about it; two, have little children to lend their enthusiasm to the holiday; and three, have a few shekels in hand to throw away on their presents. Santa left a bunch of Playmobiles (murderous toy knights) set up on the saloon table and that set the day off with 0600 squeals of boyish delight. Alisa recreated my grandmother's Christmas stollen ("how can you look so Lebanese and bake so German? I asked) and produced four varieties of Christmas cookies; it rained enough through the day to give us the perfect atmosphere for playing with toys and reading and napping, but not enough to keep us from a walk to the waterfall; and we have been discovering the pleasures of Marlborough Sounds pinot noir.
I find that I am falling for life in the Southern Hemisphere, and it may largely because of how much I find Christmas agrees with me as a summer holiday.