It was more of a coin toss than an actual decision. After leaving our peaceful river home of 2-1/2 months in Whangarei we kept our first day’s run short down to Omaha Cove which was nothing more than a convenient pit stop along the way, and a rolly one at that. We really wanted to check out Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf, but should we spend a day in North Cove and then try to see as much of Bon Accord Harbor as we can, or just skip North Cove altogether? Well, we’re here so let’s poke our nose in and see how we like it.
It’s a short run from Omaha Cove to North Cove so even with the holiday crowd and a rare glorious sunny day we had Escape Velocity’s anchor down by eleven o’clock. Stand up paddlers, kayakers, tiny colorful sailboats called optimists each sporting a bright blue sail, smallish sport fishing boats, and local sailing yachts plied the surface of the harbor. It’s just a different vibe when you need a boat to get to a town.
After a quick look see, I sat down in the cockpit, seeking a skipper’s natural rest after a job well done but immediately heard, out of nowhere, a woman’s voice calling,”Hello, did you sail here from Annapolis?” We hopped up and peered over the side to see a tiny woman with a long black hair in a funky old launch.
“Yes, we did!” we answered. “I’m Lin,” she said, “Why don’t you come by about 5:30 and introduce yourselves?” And she waved vaguely toward the head of the bay. “You’ll see this boat tied up.”
It was none other than the famous two-time circumnavigator and cruising author Lin Pardey, the signature mane of curly black hair framing the friendly face peering up at us. Why, yes Lin, we would love to partake of cocktails at five thirty on the veranda. It’s not like a famous author asks us to sundowners every day. We turned and she was gone out of the bay in a curtain of spray leaving us marveling at our brush with fame. The Pardeys’ books helped keep the dream alive for us even in our darkest days and about half their oeuvre occupy precious bookshelf space on Escape Velocity.
We splashed our kayaks, Jean and Frank, and quietly glided around the harbor in search of the Pardeys’ boatyard home. It was Marce who first noticed Cheeky, their Fatty Knees dinghy, just like ours back in Miami, tied up to a floating dock. (Theirs was the original and used as a mold for ours and subsequent production.) This must be the place, and quite a place it is, a modest two stories of glass, wraparound balconies and natural wood nestled near the end of North Cove facing the bay. It calls to you, just like the strange and exotic nocturnal sounds that emanate from the dark rich green forest that surrounds North Cove.
After our reconnaissance kayak we tidied up, dug out a bottle of wine and tried to decide which book we’d take with us to get autographed. We already have one signed book that we bought at the Annapolis Boat Show a year the Pardeys had their gorgeous wooden boat Taleisin on display for charity donations and gave a talk we attended. We decided on their first book, “Cruising in Seraffyn,” about building a 24-foot wooden boat and the beginning of their first circumnavigation.
In the afternoon a beautiful wooden cutter motored slowly into the anchorage and then out of the bay again. It was “Thelma,” built in 1895 and restored by Larry Pardey for local racing, and yes, that’s Larry Pardey aboard. He is, by all reports, in failing health and it’s nice to see him on the water.
We watched for both Lin and Larry to return to home, but 5:30 came and went with no Pardeys. It was Easter Sunday, we reasoned, and the yacht club is in the next bay over and they’re no doubt having fun at an event. Eventually Lin putted back in her launch and waved as she passed by but it was nearly eight o’clock and we didn’t feel right arriving for sundowners after the sun was down.
We toyed with the idea of staying another day just so we could show up at 5:30 and do our fawning fan thing, but our time remaining in New Zealand is short and the conditions favor a move south. We returned “Cruising in Seraffyn” to the shelf unsigned, drank the wine and restowed the kayaks on deck. It was enough that we accidentally happened to anchor near the Pardeys’ adopted home and that Lin extended a hearty welcome to fellow voyagers.