Sailing day! We woke up early, packed for the sail, picked up some subway to go for lunch, and headed to the boat. I could tell we were in for a good time the moment we met our skipper, Avon, full of life and full of jokes and sarcasm! It was a small group for the sail, which was perfect. There was a family of five from England, and a group of three friends from Switzerland. We set sail around 10am to explore Mercury Bay, discovered and named by the explorer, Captain James Cook. Apparently Captain Cook was on an expedition to map the paths of Mercury & Venus, as they were visible on their pass across the Sun, which only happens every hundred years or so. Timing the planets’ transit between locations was one of the first ways of determining the distance of Earth from the Sun. Avon provided us hot tea & coffee and cookies, as we listened to story upon story along the way.

One of the first stories he told one of the young boys was quite entertaining. I guess Avon was anchored out at sea one night, sleeping below deck, when he heard some noises from outside. Upon checking around the boat, he found no sign of activity, and proceeded to relieve himself off the edge. While peeing, he heard the loud noise of a whale breathing through it's blow-hole.  There was a killer whale in the ocean right beneath where he was taking care of business! How many people do you know who have peed on an orca?

He then told us of his multiple run-ins with the law, as he was a big protester with green peace, against Brazilian drilling for oil.

Avon’s longest sail to date was 23 days to Fiji.

Avon has been divorced several times, and has multiple, adventurous children he spoke of. His son, Julian, is a six time champion of deep sea fishing/free diving. On the afternoon portion of our sail, Julian and a group of his buddies sped up to the sailboat on their small raft, after a day full of spear-fishing. He tossed a Spanish Maceral onboard to his dad, which Avon then proceeded to cut up for us to enjoy sashimi style…and I actually enjoyed it! If you know me, you know I don’t do seafood. I try and try to like it, but just can’t get past the fishy flavor. Maybe it was because it was so fresh, or maybe it just complimented the entire experience so well, but I almost liked the fish!

Avon is the epitome of someone who works their ass off, with little monetary reward, but is truly HAPPY. He spent his life savings on this boat- his beauty. I would dare say that she is his big love. Before skewing too sentimental, I have to note that the Kiwi's are a sarcastic people, and Avon was no exception. His quick wit and playful sense of humor was so refreshing and fun.

The day was unforgettable! Aside from the great conversations, the freeing feeling of sailing, and the phenomenal views, we actually got to participate in sailing. Avon taught me to tie a bow knot (which needs some practice before I master it). I helped lift a sail, and even got steer the boat into wharf.

After a sweet farewell with our funny skipper, we hopped into the car and were off to Waitomo! Our surroundings changed from the beaches of Whitianga, to mountains as we passed by the Pinnacles again, and then the back-country which reminded me a lot of West Virginia. It then transformed into miles of gorgeous vineyards lined with tall walls of trees, and the smell of honeysuckle brought up nostalgic feelings of Montauk for me.

The afternoon departure after a day of sailing was not a great idea in hindsight. We ended up getting a little lost, driving too far south into the Bay of Plenty region. Because we got turned around, we didn’t arrive to Waitomo until late, and after dark. We missed the check-in at our hostel, with no way to get into our accommodation. After driving around the desolate town of Waitomo, having no luck in finding another hotel that was open or in our price range , we decided our best course of action was to sleep in the car. It really hit me at that point how lucky I am to have a travel companion with a like “go with the flow” kind of attitude. I am grateful Jess doesn’t get her panties in a wad when things go a little off plan. We were able to laugh at ourselves and the situation. We even made a make-shift “tent” in our car, in attempt to have some privacy/peace of mind while we slept. You have to admit, sleeping in a car right outside of your hostel cabin is pretty good stuff.