I’m a bit of a paradox (it sounds better than schizophrenic). A decade ago I lived with my pooch, Jezebel, aboard a classic 32-foot wooden powerboat. The 50-year-old boat was a continuous construction site. At one point, the portside deck was completely pulled up, exposing the innards of my sweet little home to the environment for nearly a week. I took cold showers during a frigid Connecticut winter while replacing the plumbing, and prepared hearty meals on a Coleman camp stove during the galley refit — and I loved every minute of it.
Yet, even while relishing the simpler life at home, I savored special, pampered moments during my travels. Snapshots include high tea at London’s famed Savoy (truthfully, I just go for the clotted cream), reliving blue-water adventures with friends over cocktails on the lawn of the Hotel du Cap in Antibes, and racing around St. Barths. The juxtaposition of these varying moments — T-shirts and tuxedos — fills me with rich memories I hope will quell any regret years from now.
In 2011, two such memories blending the simple with the pampered stand out as truly special — Great Barrier Island, New Zealand, and Scrub Island, British Virgin Islands. I was fortunate to experience both and hope you will too.
Escape on Great Barrier Island, New Zealand
On board Sundancer with owner Chris Ollivier and his girlfriend, Rose, I sit back in the worn cockpit, while the Indian summer sun warms the late morning air. The dry stack exhaust sends burps of smoke into the sky, while the chugging of the naturally aspirated diesel soothes my Type A jitters. I clutch a rust-dusted bottle of Heineken, absorbing my surroundings. Maybe this is what the Virgin Islands were like 80-plus years ago — turquoise water, lush topography, no development and wonderful natural harbors. I’d like to think so. It’s truly spectacular.
Great Barrier Island lies 45 miles to the east of Auckland. Today it is home to approximately 800 hearty residents who know how to live off the land and sea, and who are content with spending more time with Mother Nature than with bustling crowds of the general public.
If a trek to New Zealand on your own boat is not part of your immediate plans, consider booking a charter with The Moorings. Although the company closed its Auckland location, it offers one-way power and sail charters between Auckland and its base in Opua in the Bay of Islands to the north. It’s the way to go.
Ardent surfers will delight in the consistent break of Medlands Beach, while beachcombers will revel in nearly deserted, pristine shoreline. Stock your beach basket at the Wild Rose Café behind Pa Beach. The menu reflects the ethos of Great Barrier — green, clean living. During the season, the crowd at the waterfront Great Barrier Lodge is an eclectic mix of cruisers and weekend tourists from Auckland.
If you long for fine dining and accommodations, I highly recommend Earthsong Lodge. Chef/proprietor Trevor Rendle and wife, Carol, provide an unforgettable experience, from the food to the rooms.