Rutea at dock in Whangarei on ChristmasHappy Christmas, my friends! I hope yours was filled with the people you love and the activities you enjoy most in life. Although it was a little sad to be so far away from friends and family this Christmas, Dad and I made the best of it.
On Christmas eve we threw a dinner party for a bunch of yachtie friends on Rutea. The eight of us spent the afternoon drinking very alcoholic eggnog (homemade - you can't find eggnog here), eating delicious food, and enjoying each others' company. After all, these friends are the closest people to family we have around here. Dad made an amazing dinner of prime rib with wasabi sauce, creamed spinach and chocolate chip bread pudding with cinnamon-rum sauce for dessert. Our friends brought lots of good eats as well.
I must have consumed 5,000 or so calories on Christmas eve considering all the food and booze I enjoyed, so on Christmas morning I headed out to get a nice long surf session at Sandy Bay. It was the first sunny day in weeks, and Mark and I spent three hours in the water catching waist to chest high waves. It was a great way to spend Christmas morning - my favorite, in fact - although I did get very sunburned. I even put on two different types of sunscreen, but the sun is INTENSE here.
In the afternoon Mark and I headed back to Whangarei and spent the rest of the afternoon drinking eggnog and champagne with Dad, and eating all the bomb left-overs from the night before. All in all I would say it was a very successful Christmas, albeit different.
Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, is a big holiday here and there was a lifeguard patrol out at Ocean Beach so I decided to head out and spend the night out there. Although it was pretty windy and cloudy, the waves were decent and lots of people were hanging out, so it was a good time.
The most fun part of the day was when one of the lifeguards, Lindsay, took me out in the IRB (dinghy) to play - er, I mean "train" - in the surf. The lifeguards use the IRB to do rescues and have to be comfortable taking the boat out in all conditions, so even if the waves are huge the guys will take it out to practice.
The waves were only about head high for us, but I am incredibly sore today from launching off waves and slamming down the back of them, punching through walls of water and hanging on for dear life. It was pretty thrilling to be in the IRB out in the surf, especially since yachties usually avoid surf with their dinghies like the plague. Good experience for me if I ever need to land our dinghy in breaking waves.
The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful, although two of the lifeguards rescued a guy who had fallen on the rocks and broken two vertebrae (they used the IRB to pick him up). To show his gratitude for their help, he brought us a case of beer to the surf club as we were shutting down for the afternoon. We spent the rest of the evening drinking beer and cooking a communal dinner of pot roast, gravy and vegetables.
At around 11:00 PM, when the beer was gone and the whiskey was being passed around, Evan (patrol leader) decided we would do more "training" and go swim around the rocks on the south end of the beach. Now I am not opposed to going in the ocean at night - I love a good night surf as much as the next person (or probably more), but I usually try to avoid going near the rocks and usually try to go out when there is at least a bit of a moon.
Last night was pitch black, and there is not exactly any civilization to give off lights. Nevertheless we all ran down to the beach - the braver guards in their speedos or bikinis, and the rest of us in our wetsuits because it was freaking freezing. We started swimming through the pitch black water only to see our strokes illuminated by phosphorescence in the water. Coooool. The only way to know a wave was coming was to listen for it, as it was nearly impossible to see. Quite an adrenaline rush.
We swam over to the horseshoe, a channel through the rocks that the waves wash through. We swam around that for a while, climbed on the rocks, and managed to make it back safely to the surf club where we resumed drinking beers to warm up. The rest of the night was fairly uneventful, as was patrol today. I even left early because the weather was so cold and nasty out at the beach.
BUT, this cold business is about to change very quickly. In less than a week I am headed to Fiji, where right now the average temperature during the day is 95 degrees, with some horribly high humidity. To be completely honest I am a bit intimidated. There is a reason why people sail to far out of the way places (like New Zealand) for the tropical summer, and I guess I am about to find out why first hand. Wish me luck!