Updated: Dec 10, 2020
CHATHAM ISLAND! After Avalanche made landfall on the North Island, NZ, we met a mob of native Maori sailors on a thirty-foot homemade catamaran called a waka. They were heading off to a place called Chatham Island! After Sir Chadwick returned from star racing, I suggested that we check this place out. It was a 600-mile sail from Auckland and we badly needed a bit of adventure so we cast off southeast into the "Roaring Forties"! The only land past Chatham Island in the Southern Ocean is Antarctica! We made landfall just before dark in a bit of a blow into a remote but protected cove. Since sailors rarely cruise in this part of the world, there was very little written about the island so Chad and I headed in by dink to the beach to explore on foot. We found a dirt road and started walking the wrong way! Ha! Soon Larry Reriti, a local policeman with two well-built mates of Maori heritage stopped their truck and pretty much interviewed us to figure out if we were drug or people smugglers. I guess we convinced them that we were actually just a couple of wayward American sailors so instead of arresting us, they offered us a ride into town in the opposite direction! They turned out to be terrific guys and gave us the lowdown of the island. They dropped us off at the only pub in the town. I, of course, entered and greeted the fishermen and farmers with my standard "Hi! I'm John Barry and we just sailed here from America!" Wonderful and friendly folks surrounded us with questions like "So you flew here? Really, how did you get here? Sailboats never come here! Are you mates crazy?" Apparently, yachts never venture to these parts of the Southern Ocean! We made friends with a great guy named Yuk Yuk and he offered us a ride back that night to Avy in her remote bay. The next day we sailed Avy to the cove where all the fishing boats were moored and returned to the pub to give Yuk Yuk an American Around The World Expedition hat as thanks for the ride. Word circulated around the island about the American sailors and we wound up meeting the nicest and most interesting folks that I have ever met after 90% of the world sailed! We couldn't even buy our own drinks! Yuk Yuk introduced us to an incredible character named Gutty, a fisherman who immediately invited us on a wild boar hunt. The island has a large population of these pigs that were originally brought in by Captain Cook! The next day Gutty introduced us to Horse, Peter, Ant, and young Harry! I explained to our new mates that even though we were Americans, we weren't packing any guns! Ha! Gutty explained that they don't use guns! They stick the pig with knives! Crap man! We climbed into their rigs, gathered the dogs, and headed off into the bush! After a few hours of bushwacking in the dark, we heard the dog's start to howl in a different pitch. Gutty took off like a bat out of Hell and the rest of us followed him into the darkness. By the time we caught up with Gutty, the dogs, and a giant pig, Gutty's favorite dog had ripped off the pig's ear and Gutty stabbed the boar in the heart before the pig had a chance to rip into Gutty with his dangerous tusks! We arrived to see the 187-pound pig take his last breath and check to see if any dogs were hurt. All good but the challenge of gutting and carrying the pig out to the hunting hut was still ahead of us! Dang it man, Gutty and his mates are some tough Island dudes! I'm very glad that we didn't piss these guys off at any time. The next few days passed quickly with taking out Gutty, Angela Bird, and a couple of kids sailing on Avy, attending an island dance party, and hanging out with our new Chatham mates. Before we left they loaded us up with heeps of delicious pork and Gutty threw four huge blue cod into our dink for provisions for our return sail to NZ. Another new buddy, Conrad, took the morning off from fishing to truck diesel fuel and water down to the town wharf. We worked around heeps of sheep getting loaded on to an old freighter and cast off for North Island, NZed in a mad sprint to blast Avalanche out of the path of Typhoon Debbie! That is the next sea story! Stay tuned!
Sir Chadwick and I were so lucky to meet all these terrific Island folks! Honest! Chatham Island is the place to go for an epic adventure and absolutely wonderful people. In a few months, the Avalanche crew will be returning to hang with our new mates again on our way to French Polynesia!
JB III, Avy's captain, reporting in from underneath Typhoon Debbie, Opua, NZed!