February 21, 1999-Auckland Backwater
We stumbled onto a true backwater, and it has been delightful.
It started when we went looking for an inexpensive boatyard where we could do our annual haul out. Someone recommended West Park. Where is West Park?
A quick look at the map (the one which came with the van called "Lucky Lucy", thanks to Jim and Kathy who sold, donated, or left the van for us, depending on how you look at it) told us it was was up Waitemata Harbor, about 5 miles past the Auckland Harbor Bridge. We drove there in Lucky Lucy and found this nice quiet little boatyard next to a nice quiet little marina. The guy who runs the boatyard is Kevin Lidgard. I only talked to him for a couple of minutes before Doug Christy's name came up and we were talking IOR boats. He said he had five of them. Now that I think about it I remember Doug mentioning sailing on Kevin Lidgard's 50 ft IOR boat once or twice. I guess now we have completed a circle of some sort.
We hauled out on Friday and got right to work sanding the bottom, which is a hard, dirty job, but that is not the story here. It's the West Park backwater that caught us.
First we met John and Sara Peacock. They are Brit cruisers who have a cafe here at Westpark Marina. They are earning money for their next cruise while their kids finish school. They are the ones who called this place a "nice little backwater". They make good lattes and scones. We ate at their cafe each morning while we read the New Zealand Herald. They invited us to a meeting where another cruising couple were going to give a talk on cruising in Turkey.
In the laundry room there is a note from someone looking for charts of New Caledonia and Eastern Australia, and another advertising a used battery charger (trade for a solar panel or wind generator.)
Then we found our way into the Clearwater Yacht Club. It looked to us like it was really a restaurant, but they have a race schedule and some social events. We saw a news letter which mentioned that they were reducing the annual membership dues by about 50% which they thought will still give them enough to hold all the events which the club members were used to, since they had scaled down on a bunch of other stuff. Sounded good to us.
Sitting in the Clearwater Yacht Club bar tonight we overheard conversations around the room. At one table the owner of a race boat buying drinks for his new crew members after the first day together on the water. It was reminded me of some of our crew when they were younger and more naive then they might be nowadays to see these young, fresh faced, kids asking the owner if they owed him anything for the day's sailing.
Then Kevin Lidgard arrived and sat down with his wife and son, (I assume that is who they were, based on the family resemblance) and I could hear the younger Lidgard telling his dad about the dingy race he'd been in earlier. "...I caught my foot in the vang...It was awesome to be in the water but when I got back up it was nothin'. But I lost a couple of places and I couldn't get them back." I couldn't hear what dad said but I could see him demonstrate with his arms something which looked like a dingy sailor taking two hands full of main sheet and leaning back at the same time to get a little bit more with his upper body.
On the other side of us a couple were telling a third person about how their boat was for sale and they were going to get and outfit a big bus and go land touring.
Sitting there I enjoyed the ambiance of the Clearwater Yacht Club and watched the twilight fade while across the bay the lights of Auckland came one and the Sky Tower became a lighted needle. Judy went next door and took shower I had a few more beers, New Zealand Lion Red, and felt pretty good by the time we left.
On the way out we stopped by the bulletin board and read the race results and the letter from the Commodore, whose name is John Lidgard. So it's a family thing. While we were standing there reading it, someone must have seen us because the track lighting which illuminates it when on. I looked around but I couldn't see who was watching out for us.
It is a nice backwater at that.
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Auckland