Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Great Barrier Island

We spent a week or so at Great Barrier Island. GB is in the upper right corner of the picture, with the city of Auckland about 40 miles away in the lower left. The area in between is the Haurki Gulf. Between dealing with the weather and the fact that it is the “silly season”, we didn’t see as much as we’d like of GB. The silly season is the summer holiday time. Kids are off school and almost every Aucklander takes their boat out on the water.
We did get in some good hikes (tramps in Kiwi talk). Here’s Chris hacking through one of the less used trails.
The winds picked up hard from the southwest so we decided to head to the back side of Great Barrier, aka east side. Great Barrier isn’t built up much, with the east side being even less built up. There were undoubtedly more people on the island when it was a major Kauri tree lumber site. The Kauri’s were used for shipping building and ship masts. The combination of heavy logging and Kauri Dieback Disease pretty much decimated the forestry.
Here we are tucked into Harotaonga Bay. It looks mellow, but in reality it is blowing hard by the small island in the center.
The beach is long and flat here. It’s really nice to have wheels on the dinghy to haul it out of the tidal range.
The beach was pretty lonely place to walk, just us and the birds
There are trails that lead past the sand dunes into Shaun the Sheep country. And stiles to get over the fences.
This is the DOC campground, a quarter mile in from the beach. DOC in the US is Department of Corrections. In Kiwi land it is Department of Conservation.
This spot was notable because as it is the first time we’ve seen hermit crabs in New Zealand. There’s a group of them living in small, efficient homes in this tide pool. All through the South Pacific the widespread hermit crabs have first right of refusal to all the collecting shells.
Caution Electric Fence sign to alert the sheep
These sheep asked us if it was still possible for kiwis to get visas for the US.
An Oyster Catcher among the grasses on the sand dunes teaching her young chic how to look for tasty snacks.
After a late afternoon hike we got back to the dinghy in this upside-down state. The wind was strong enough to get under the dinghy and flip it, engine and all.
We decided to head into the Haruki Gulf after some time on GBI, partly because of an expected NE gale coming. The plan is to come back out to Great Barrier after the kids go back to school and the bays empty out a bit.
(Pretty good, huh! Made it through almost an entire post without political commentary)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Inauguration Day - 1829

Now you might think that inauguration day, at least this one, is really special. Some might think it is the beginning of a disaster. But take a look at some of things said about President Andrew Jackson --- and remember we did survive his presidency.
“Americans tend to forget that Andrew Jackson was the first westerner elected president. Tall, lanky, with the rawboned look of a true backwoodsman, he wore the harsh life of the frontier on his face and literally carried a bullet next to his heart. Ferocious in his resentments, driven to wreak revenge against his enemies, he often acted without deliberation and justified his behavior as a law unto himself.”
“…president, he supported the forced removal of the Cherokees from the southeastern states and willfully ignored the opinion of the Supreme Court. Taking and clearing the land, using violent means if necessary, and acting without legal authority, Jackson was arguably the political heir of the cracker and squatter.”
“Democrat Andrew Jackson’s stormy relationship with Crockett was replicated again and again with any number of contemporaries over the course of a career that was built on sheer will and utter impulse. Most of his loyal supporters eventually ended up on the opposition side of the partisan divide”
“Because Jackson had relatively little experience holding political offices, his run for the presidency drew even more than the normal amount of attention to his personal character.”
“Whether supporters portrayed him as the conquering hero or his enemies labeled him King Andrew I, all focused on his volatile emotions. He certainly lacked the education and polite breeding of his presidential predecessors.”
“Jackson did not look or act like a conventional politician, which was a fundamental part of his appeal.”
His fiery temper and lack of scholarly deportment permanently marked him. A sworn enemy put it best: “Boisterous in ordinary conversation, he makes up in oaths what he lacks in arguments.” Not known for his subtle reasoning, Jackson was blunt in his opinions and quick to resent any who disagreed with him.”
So how will it turn out? I’m unfortunately betting on the image above.
Quotes from: Isenberg, Nancy. White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America (Kindle Locations 2365-2367). Penguin Publishing Group. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Gannet Spotting and Great Mercury Island

Gannet watching is one of the treats to being on the water in New Zealand. These birds seem perpetually hungry. They get up to altitude, spot a snack in the water then do a torpedo dive. The impact is clearly heard inside our boat. Sometimes they hunt alone, but usually they are in packs – or is it flocks – of dozens of them.
Going in! They can tuck their over 5 ft wingspan into a pretty narrow package for entry like a spinning iceskater.
And create a small enough splash for a high score in the dive competition.
They are even reasonably graceful on their exit after slurping down some small fish.
After spending some very windy days at Cook’s Bay in Whitiangi we headed out to Great Mercury Island. The island is privately owned by two of the wealthiest people in New Zealand, Michael Fay and David Richwhite.
Just to emphasize the wealthy part, here’s the black helicopter about to land. While the island is private the rules for visitors are very liberal. You can walk anywhere you want on the roads, trails or farmland. You aren’t supposed to go into the forest area.
And you can’t bring on any varmints. These are rat, stote and possum traps-- just in case there are any unwanted hitchhikers in the dinghy. The island has been de-ratted and de-possumed, making a good habitat for the ground-nesting birds.
The farmland is immaculately kept with lots of happy sheep, all named Shaun (as in Shaun the Sheep).
Shaun roams the roads. This is one of the best sites on the island – a clear view of the giant microwave tower between the boulders onthe hillside.
This is one of the shepherds moving her flock.
And the working dogs coming home after a hard day on the job. I assume the senior dog is the one riding on the Quad behind the driver.
Gt Merc has cows too. Not sure what variety, but they look fat and happy.
There’s some nice sandy beaches that rate a walk.
Boathouse apartments
No shortage of giant trees on the island—this is a pohutukawa, also known by the Kiwis as the ‘Christmas tree’ because they are covered with red flowers in December.
Shaunette letting me know I was too close to her grazing grounds.

And boss Shaun telling us it was time to go.
I’ve decided to rigorously follow the US Coast Guard Regulations concerning sailing blogs and limit my political commentary to once a month. That should be all that is needed once the swamp is drained.