Askari Cruise Page 24

Askari Cruise — As told to Diane M. Byrne — April 2003

The Time of Their Lives, Part II
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One thing we discovered about Russell after we arrived is that they had no New Year’s Eve activities in town. So we made our own! The crew decorated the aft deck in black and gold, complete with streamers, balloons, and confetti. Even the table settings were all in black and gold. As usual we had a huge dinner (osso buco) and dessert (key lime pie). After dinner we made our own little party on the aft deck. We had music (no dancing!) and lots of good conversation. We all relived the best times of 2002 and commiserated over the few rough spots during the year just passed. Thanks be to God, we had so many “best” times that we couldn’t fit them all in before midnight. We did our own version of the countdown to midnight and raised tall glasses of champagne and toasted to 2003—may it be a very good year. Hugs all around and one more glass of champagne, and we were all off to bed. Kate managed to stay up the whole time. Scott missed it—he was in bed with a cold.

Today we all piled into a van and took a driving tour. We stopped first in a small town called KeriKeri, which has a strong Maori influence. We took a hike along the KeriKeri river, up to small waterfall.

We then headed to lunch. About an hour up the road is a town called Kero and a famous local restaurant called the Texas Diner. Yes, you heard me right. The sign out front says “Best Little Roadhouse South of Texas.” We had to stop!

As we found out, a woman from Texas met a man from New Zealand while they were both living in California. She was in the restaurant business, he was in the fishing business. Eventually they moved to New Zealand and after a while decided that New Zealand really needed some good ol’ Texas food. The menu includes nachos, chili dogs, hamburgers, and even barbeque ribs! We went for the chili dogs and hamburgers. They weren’t the best we’ve ever had—but it was familiar, and that goes a long way when you’ve been out of the state for many months.

We made our way back to Russell via a long, winding road. For a short time, we were surrounded by the Kaori forest—tall trees, densely packed. Then we made our way further south to the pasturelands—bright green rolling hills as far as you could see in all directions. Saw tons of sheep (the story in New Zealand is that there are three to four times as many sheep as people), horses, pigs, chickens, and cows.

After a brief stop for ice cream in another small town, we made our way back to the boat.

What a great day and what a beautiful country.

Happy New Year.

We planned our whole trip so that we could be in Auckland for the America’s Cup races. After six months of traveling, we finally arrived in New Zealand around December 8, 2002 or so, two full months before the actual races. We were here for the semifinals and the finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup (the precursor to the America’s Cup). We’ve shopped at the America’s Cup store and have all the right clothes. We’ve been to the museum and know all there is to know about the history of the America’s Cup. We attended the “reveal the keel” days to see the boats up close and personal. Yesterday there was even a boat parade in the Viaduct Harbor (home for the America’s Cup boats), and over 400 boats participated. We all went to watch! Then we watched all the prerace news coverage with eager anticipation.

And today was finally the big day—the first race of the America’s Cup, between the defender, New Zealand, and the challenger, the Swiss boat Alinghi. This morning we braved the crowds (estimated to be in the tens of thousands) at Viaduct Harbor to see the two boats leave the harbor on their way to the race. We cheered their departure.

Askari pulled out of the dock by 10:00 a.m. (start time for the race was 1:15 p.m.). We plodded through the Hauraki Gulf with about 900 (really!) other boats, including three cruise ships, to get to the area of the race course. Then we spent about an hour jockeying for a good position with all the other boats.

Then after all this effort, the race finally started. And 20 minutes later it was over! As it turned out, the New Zealand boat had a number of structural problems and gave up the race. Needless to say, we were disappointed—but, I’m guessing, not nearly as disappointed as the crew of the New Zealand boat. After all, they’d been practicing and preparing for this moment for three years!

But, tomorrow is another day—for us and for the crew of the New Zealand boat. We will both be out at the race course tomorrow!

Special thanks to Fraser Yachts. To charter Askari, contact Debra Blackburn (954) 463-0600.

Previous page > Additional, Part 3 > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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