Jan 04

Wind, Water, Heart!

by in Drawing & Writing


The plan had been to spend our last day in Wanaka doing nothing, absolutely nothing, just sitting on the beach, doing nothing. The sun was more than accommodating to that idea. When a breeze picked up, though, everything changed.

Further down, and next to the pile of (abhorrent) kayaks, stood the proud masts of two, 14-foot catamarans.

The third was out on the water, and as the breeze turned into real, sustained wind, the boat ripped left and right across the lake. Hm. Then came the gusts, putting “cat’s paws” on the water, and even causing whitecaps. Onshore, the willow trees started head-banging. Goddamnit, LET’S SAIL!

The day before, when we’d rented kayaks, our first try was with a female operator who turned out to be a witch. When Antje asked about renting individual kayaks, she shook her head. “If you don’t have experience with them, I can’t let you do that. I’m responsible for you, and if you flip over….” More solemn head-shaking. In nearly the same sentence she also mentioned a “front” that was coming in, that it could get reeeeeeeallllly stormy out there, real quick. Hm. Not a cloud dotted the clear blue sky, and all other weather forecasts had mentioned nothing of a front. So then. Thanks for all your help, lady.

[we later heard that she chewed out one of her customers for putting on a life-jacket WITHOUT A T-SHIRT UNDERNEATH! JUST THINK OF THE BACTERIA! THE HORROR! THE HORROR! Seriously lady, WASH the life-jackets. And secondly, are you in the kayak rental business, or the scare-people business? You might try haunted houses.]

A hundred yards (meters) downshore, another kayak operator sat basking in the sun. His beach-dog’s name was Ziggy, and if a guy has a dog named Ziggy, you know everything’s gonna be alright.

Still, his sunbaked wrinkles showed concern. “You’ll want to stay over here, to the right,” he said. “You lose ground every time you turn, and these things don’t sail to well into the wind.”

I confirmed what he’d said, making sure to translate every non-sailing term for its equivalent in the jargon of sailing. It’s a tricky thing, renting sailboats, since sailboats are, well, tricky. If the sailboat operator doesn’t demand credentials–and the owner of Ziggy didn’t–he/she certainly wants to know that you’ll bring the boat back safely. A few well-chosen sailing words accomplish that.

He’d been watching the other catamaran. “Yeah, see–he’s got himself in trouble there. Keeps trying to come back, but–”

The wind was aimed like an arrow from us to the other catamaran. Whoever was out there had a lot of work ahead of him. It wasn’t impossible to get back, but it involved a whole lot of tacking.

We stayed windward, and it was good that we did. Catamarans are really, really fast, which is why people love ‘em. But they turn very slowly and can’t sail as “high” into the wind as a monohull can. As rentals, they also weren’t the world’s best, either: the daggerboards were chopped up from hitting rocks, increasing slippage, and the traveler couldn’t be clipped in; it just kept traveling. What that meant was a lot more zig-zagging back to shore than you might expect, but thanks to a turn of the wind and our windward start, we got there easily.

Ziggy-man greeted us, staring at the lake. “I almost asked you to go talk to him,” he said. The other boat was still out there, and was now luffing listlessly. “He e said he was a little rusty, but I didn’t know HOW rusty.” Antje suggested I offer to sail back out, but by that point Ziggy-man had called a friend who was on a jet-ski somewhere. “He should be able to talk to him,” he nodded, “give him some advice.”

The jet-ski zipped out more than an hour later. An hour after that, the catamaran had come home. I can only imagine how frustrating that must have been for him, stuck downwind, unable to sail back, burning cash.

Lesson learned: Don’t rent expensive stuff by the hour unless you can get it back.

As it was our last night in the hostel, we ate in and made waaaaaaaaay too much salad. Earlier I’d seen a thin, elderly man walking around, hands clasped behind his back, smiling at just about everyone. In the kitchen I offered the salad to him. “Oh yes, yes, thank you. I’m just a rabbit when it comes to vegetables.” He was English, and his scruffy white hair and bushy beard made sense when he explained that he’d just returned that day from a mountain hut. “All that… dehydrated food,” he said. “It makes one so excited to eat vegetables again. You can feel the vitamins just–dancing!” He was volunteer with New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, and a nimble vegetarian.

As Antje and I played board games, he sat at a table beside us, withdrew a surprisingly modern Apple laptop, and plugged in a large black pair of stereo headphones. Two minutes later he was slumped down in his chair, asleep. Five minutes later he awoke to change songs. Pleased, he drifted off again. Classical music drifted out of his headphones, and suddenly, he began humming it, “Hmm hmmm hmmm hmm hmm hmm hmm. HM HMM HMMM HMM HMMMMM!!!” His eyes were closed, his head bobbing in time. “Lalalalalala laaa laa LAAAAA!” A few hostelers looked over, then returned to what they’d been doing. “Hmmm hmm hmm hmmm,” he hummed, “hmmm hmm hm hmmmmmmmmmm.” The music faded. “Aaaaaahh!” he exclaimed. This one had nothing to do with music, just being tired, happy, and sitting in a sofa chair.


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3 Responses to “Wind, Water, Heart!”

  1. From Mom:

    Loved it, and love you two! More laugh-out-louds today–thanks!

    Posted on January 4, 2012 at 16:05 #
  2. From Esther:

    “Seriously lady, WASH the life-jackets. And secondly, are you in the kayak rental business, or the scare-people business? You might try haunted houses.”

    LOVE IT :) :) :)

    Posted on January 4, 2012 at 16:42 #
  3. From Shan:

    I thought the “wind, water, heart” was going to turn into a Captain Planet cheer or joke :)

    Posted on January 10, 2012 at 22:02 #