Sunday, December 1, 2013

Three Thanksgivings

Three Thanksgivings?!
So this is the story of how four expat Americans managed to avail themselves of three observations of that most American of holidays, Thanksgiving, even though they found themselves spending November in a country that observes Guy Fawkes Night.

The first Thanksgiving we owe to plain confusion.  It was a wholesome family affair - Alisa read some stories about the first Thanksgiving to Elias as we motored out to the Bay of Islands, and we had a family feast in our beautiful anchorage at Urupukapuka Island.

The only problem was that we were a week early.  Alisa had glanced at the calendar and mistakenly decided that November 21st was Thanksgiving.  Some American yachties eventually warned us of our error, but we decided to go ahead anyway - the large chicken had already been bought (turkey being hard to come by) and was thawing in the fridge.

We had a family dinner that was very low-key and also just perfect, and we figured that was our holiday.

But then the plot twists of the traveling life began falling down all around us...

First, through the offices of a kind reader of this blog and a string of quick emails, we found ourselves invited to an improper Thanksgiving dinner (Pad Thai) on the proper date (November 28th) on board the yacht St. Jude (named after the saint of lost causes).  The sharp-eyed reader will recognize this as the boat of famous American sailing writer Catty Goodlander, author of the best-sellers It's a Lazy Woman Who Can't Find Her Husband Two Jobs and Corporate Men Make Better Sailors.  Here are pics of all of us on Thanksgiving proper, as taken by Elias.  You can see everyone's reaction as we  That's Catty, of course, and her isn't-he-a-saint First Mate, Gary.

We met up with St. Jude in the neighborhood of Kawau Island, whence they had travelled to attend the annual Thanksgiving blow-out, given the Saturday after the actual holiday by another set of well-known American sailing/writing pair.  The cognescenti among you will know of whom I speak by the name of the cottage-scale boatyard in their front yard, famous around the world to those who honor the ancient tradition of ferro-cement boatbuilding techniques:

This of, course, would be the famous Parteys, who have launched a thousand sailing dreams with their famous motto: "You'll never regret having that extra piece of gear".


Ok, enough of the humor - I'll leave that to the professionals.  The folks in those pictures are Cap'n Fatty and Carolyn Goodlander, and Lin and Larry Pardey.

In France, mountain climbers and sailors achieve general fame.  Like, rock star-level fame.  In the States and Canada, though, climbers and sailors become well known only to other climbers and sailors, so they at the most become semi-famous.  Which these four are.

Elias and Eric pose with Taliesin, the Pardey's self-built, engineless, a hair-under-30-feet-on-deck cutter.  There are only a few famous yacht names - Joshua, Wanderer, Spray, Tzu Hang, Gypsy Moth - and I reckon Taliesin can hang with at least a few of that crowd.    

The Pardeys threw down, as we say in the home country, meaning that they were very hospitable.   Lin was kind enough to pass along an invitation to Galactic through the Goodlanders, saying that no Americans should be left out of the party. 

It was raining, so the tables were moved inside, and they achieved their biggest-ever sitdown crowd inside the house - 33 people.  There were two turkeys and all the traditional side dishes, though kumara was of course substituted for sweet potatoes.

And it was a raucous-fun group - Kiwi neighbors and American sailors, for the most part.  Lin remarked that all of the couples at the dinner save two were, or had been, voyaging sailors.  So the conversation was loud and non-stop.  We all had something to say to each other.

Alisa's contribution - pumpkin, pecan, apple
It was a real treat for me to grab a quiet chat with Larry in the pre-dessert lull.  The seamanship that he and Lin brought to bear on their own voyages...well, it's enough to say that they played the game at a different level from most of us.  If you've spent a year traveling on your own boat, close your eyes and imagine sailing on and off the anchor every single time.  And then imagine doing that since 1968, when they launched their first boat, Serrafyn.

When NewSouth asked me for ideas for people to blurb South From Alaska I came up with Fatty's name, and he graciously agreed.  It was a hoot to finally meet him and Carolyn on their new boat, Ganesh (that's the god of lost causes, a mere saint not being up to the task in this case).  The Goodlanders are great fun - plus, Fatty has a real sword on board, which our boys found irresistible.

Alisa and I have always enjoyed the company of sailors who have been going for decades, and still have a gleam in their eye to show how much fun they're having.  But you can also go a long time without running into those folks - most of our crowd are lucky to get away for a few years before heading back to what's reputed to be the "real world".  Meeting these four was a great validation of how well the sailing life can work out, how rich and fun it can be, even as the years turn into decades.

I'll say "thanks" for that, three times at least...


  1. Wow! That looks SO MUCH FUN. Fab-looking pies, Alisa, and best Thanksgiving story of 2013 so far from the funny scientist. Plus, it all happened in a place I can picture so to remember, Galactic.

  2. thanks, Diana - it was so much fun. And picture us just now, after having walked every track around the Grey mansion at Kawau, blowing around the anchor at Motuketkete, tucked in against a northeast gale.

  3. The first image that comes to mind is that oft-printed parody of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, in which Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and other icons are pictured together in the late-night diner. Great that you had such a good time.

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