Back in New Zealand





January 19, 2004

Orams  Boatyard, Westhaven Marina, Auckland, New Zealand

Dear friends and family:

Haul out at Orams

We just returned from a warm (but cold), wonderful six weeks in Oregon, Washington and California.  We did the I-5 boogie, driving north and south between Seattle and San Francisco, and a little bit to the east (to Ardenvoir, Washington).  We saw many friends and family members and were warmly received wherever we went.  Everyone seemed glad to see us, and appreciative of the stream of emails we sent out during our last sailing season.

The weather was perfectly awful at times.  For the first time, we used our maritime weather window skills to find safe times to travel the roads and highways.  We slipped between two snowstorms in the Siskiyous – both of which caused massive freeway closures before and after our passage.  Later, we headed south from Eastern Washington a day before another snowstorm was scheduled to hit – and when it did, there were 6-12 inches of snow in Portland, followed by an ice storm that left nearly an inch of ice on our car, and on all the area roads and highways.  We were safely tucked away in our Beaverton hotel room, supplied with several days of food and a free high-speed internet connection (isn’t that a comment on the modern traveler’s values!).

So, are we glad to be back in the summer time, getting sunburns in Auckland?  You bet! Of course today it’s raining, but we’re still in shorts.

Below:  with Nancy and Charlie in Ardenvoir

Above: after the ice storm in Beaverton

When we first arrived in the States we noticed the frantic pace of life – the never ending traffic jams, the desperation of Christmas shopping in crowded malls, and the need to get ten things done in one day.  As we were driving into the San Francisco Bay Area, the local classical music station aired an ad by a mental health practitioner offering stress relief, followed by an ad for some sort of calming drug, and then the station touted its upcoming hour of music as an “island of serenity in your frenetic life.”  I was struck, as I listened to this, by how little we needed the tranquilizers of one sort or another being offered over the air.  Somehow, the calming effect of a long sailing voyage had managed to carry over into the holidays.

But as our visit home drew to a close, we began to feel somewhat frantic after all.  We had our lists of what had to get done, and we hadn’t counted on our scheduled time in Portland being cut in half by the snowstorm and icestorm that shut down the city.  Boat items we mail-ordered in the last two weeks were delayed by the storms, and Craig spent the best part of our last full day chasing around after UPS and FedEx vans and delivery centers.  
Music makng was one of the things that I had missed intensely during our season of tropical sailing.  I had hardly touched the electric cello during our trip, for a variety of reasons:  we have it deeply stowed and it is a real project to get it out and set up.  I also found that what I missed was not playing by myself -- it was making msic with other people.  With that in mind, I leaned on my chamber music friends to set up several evenings of music making during our time in Portland.  We played trios, then sextets, then quintets, and each was a different, golden experience.  That's what will bring me back to land. Chehalem Chamber players
Making tamales with the Navas We spent most of our six weeks in California with Craig’s Dad.  Deb came from London for Christmas, Ian and Sibyl came from Seattle and David from Los Angeles.  It’s been a long time since so many of us Johnstons were together.  We spent our traditional Christmas Eve with Marcela’s family, making tamales, drinking ponche, and staying up late eating the cooked tamales. 
We made it all the way to Eastern Washington, where we spent a delightful few days in the snow, reacquainting ourselves with our former dog, Buffy (she’s still a dog, but no longer ours).  She makes her home now with my cousins, Charlie & Nancy, and their dog, Jake.  We walked up the Mad River road in the snow, and watched the dogs bounding about with uncontained enthusiasm.  We helped Charlie take down Christmas decorations, went to the movies, and caught up on the doings of respective offspring, and various eccentric relatives. We talked with Charlie & Nancy about our plans to build a house upon our return, and Nancy tried to talk us into buying the property next door – a beautiful wooded spot on the Entiat River.  It’s tempting to think about it, but I don’t really think we could live so far from the sea and from orchestras and chamber music. 

Right:  Buffy in Ardenvoir (photo by Nancy Cooper)

The Toyota Windom after completion of repairs.

The trip back to the boat was more or less uneventful.  Thirteen hours in economy class is unpleasant, no matter how you look at it.  Seeing the boat, climbing aboard, and finding that comfortable bed really felt like coming home. We spent much of the next two days sleeping, although we did manage to make it to the Ellerslie “car fair” where we got sunburned and bought a ten year old Toyota “Windom” (similar to a Camry).  In a stroke of bad luck, the car was rear-ended as we were starting our test drive, so it turned out to be very much more complicated than we would have wished.  We’re still buying the car, after it’s repaired, but there are lots more hoops to jump through.

This morning we had the boat hauled at Orams boatyard.  We’ll have the bottom painted, a few dings fixed, and we’ll undertake various small projects that can only be done with the boat out of the water.  It’s always exciting and a little nerve-wracking to see the boat being picked up out of the water by the creepy-crawler, and it’s hard not to have thoughts like, “what if they drop it??!”  Needless to say there were no problems.  They call this place Orams Marine Village, and the central yard is surrounded by small shops of various trades – stainless steel welding, painting, chandlery, and a small café with good food and cheaper prices than we’ve yet seen in downtown Auckland.  We’ll live aboard “on the hard” for a few days, climbing a ladder to our living quarters.

Haul out at Orams

So, in sum, we were glad to have the six weeks at home, but we’re glad to be back.  Best wishes to all of you.

Craig & Barbara Johnston

S/V Sequoia



Left:  Marcela, Barbara, Chelo and Salvador


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