Monday, March 16, 2009

Arid Island Yacht Club

Greetings from two of the newest members of the Arid Island Yacht Club. Arid Island is located east of Great Barrier Island which is about 40nm northeast of Auckland, NZ. We had been cruising around Great Barrier Island for about 2 weeks when we decided to visit Arid Island. The cruising guide indicated the anchorage on the island would hold about a dozen boats. It was early March 2009, equivalent to our September, the kids are back in school, the weather is cooling off, we figured the place would be deserted. We had a gorgeous sail over to the island. Our new genoa was pulling the boat along at 7 knots with wind on the quarter, a super sail. As we got closer to the island we could see a number of masts in the anchorage and were quite surprised.
Upon our arrival we discovered that all the boat were flying the same burgee and I wondered if a group from Auckland had raced out there. At sunset there were 11 boats crammed into a well protected little anchorage, I didn’t notice any other women!. The next morning a lone sailor rowed his dinghy over. He had on a set of horns and invited us ashore to take part in the AGM of the Arid Island Yacht Club. He said the only criteria for joining were that we had arrived under our own power and that we were invited by the Commodore, which he was.
As we rowed into shore I noticed that the cast of characters were all male and that they all had on white shirts and blue shorts. The meeting was called to order, the first point of order was that the picture of a bull, that was beside the commodore, was hung incorrectly, it was right side up, the correct way, we were informed was upside down! Once having corrected that fault the reason was explained to us.
Arid Island was purchased after WWII by a pilot. He could afford to buy the island because the cattle that had been left on the island before the war had been left to fend for themselves. When the fellow bought the island, he got the cattle for free, so he shipped them to market and he made enough to come up with the purchase price for the island. The owner would invite all his cronies to sail out to the island at Christmas time and they would indulge in some story telling and would hoist a few beers. At first the men would bring their wives but the wives complained about the fact that this was just another excuse to get together and drink beer, so the men changed the date of the get together to the first Monday in March, when all the kids were in school and the wives were no longer welcome.
Well one day the owner, who was making a go at farming on the island needed a substantial part for his tractor. He had to contact Auckland to get it, once it was available he got a hold of one of his sailing buddies who was a pilot, as well, and asked if he would fly the part over to the island. The planes they flew were Widgeons, an aircraft that is capable of landing and taking off from the water. The plan was for the guys to land in the anchorage, off load the part, have a few beers and the next day be on their way. The wind picked up and they were not able to land, but the fellow really needed the part so they decided to shove it out the door on a fly by. They managed to get the part out the door onto land and flew back to Auckland. The next day they received a telegram from the owner of the island; “Part arrived safely, bull dead.” When they had shoved the part out the door it had hit the owner’s bull on the head and killed him, thus the picture of the upside down bull.
I looked more closely at the AIYC shirts. The logo, which I had assumed was an outline of the island, was actually a bull with his four legs in the air. There was a lot more bull flying about that day! We had a reading of the former poet laureate’s rendition of an ode about a farting competition. The new members of the club were made to grovel in the sand for several meters and then crawl up a sheep ramp to be hammered on the shoulder with a 1 meter plastic hammer,
along with the command to rise. We were welcomed into the club and given a jar full of bull semen (cream and whiskey) to swallow. I had given my camera to another member to have a pictoral memory of my grovel. He had taken a marvelous picture of me belly down in the sand as well as one of my ass high in the air as I knelt before the commodore awaiting the gentle touch of the hammer. At the AGM the dues were voted to be suspended for this year as it was the 25th anniversary of the founding of the club. (Someone whispered in my ear later that in former years the dues were sometime doubled or tripled and the motion was always voted in because no one ever collected the dues.) There was also a report from the club architect that the 49th floor of the club building was still under construction and as the yacht club rooms were going to be on that floor the meeting the next year was going to have to take place at Arid Island once again.
This being the 25th anniversary of the founding of the AIYC, they had commissioned medals. We purchased our medals as well as a club shirt and we were given a club burgee in honor of the fact that we were the first offshore members to join the club. We had a wonderful time and attended the dinner held on Tuesday evening at the Port Fitzroy Boating Club on Great Barrier Island.
What a strange coincidence, us sailing into the harbour on the only weekend of the year that the club meets in that location. It was super meeting some real Kiwi sailors, one fellow had completed 5 Sydney/Hobart races, and another was a boat designer whose son runs his boatyard now. We are going to check out the yard and may leave our boat there while we are home in Canada. We are invited to the former commodore’s home in Auckland as he is dreaming of cruising and would like to pick our brains. I am continually amazed at the wonderful people we are meeting in our travels and I think that they will be what I will always remember.