Day 30 - Picton, New Zealand. The temperature is only 64 this morning, but is expected to rise to the mid 70's. We won the contest for best docking spot this morning. We are docked along side the ferry and freight docks. The other cruise ship is anchored in the bay about 2 miles away. It is a smaller ship, but I have no idea which one. I can't even tell how many decks she has not to mention try and read a name.
Picton is a small town of about 4000 on the South Island, and is a major shipping point for people, cars, freight, and trains going between the South and North Island of New Zealand. It is also the most southern point of our voyage. There appears to be three ferry docks, two for vehicles and people, and one for rail cars. One cruise ship terminal, which we occupy, and additional docks for freighter cargo including raw lumber to Asia.
Our tour takes us through the countryside for about 30 miles, then we board what is locally called a "miniature" train. Actually it is probably about 24 inch gauge. The train takes us for another 10 miles or so along a river to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center. An excellent museum of working airplanes from the birth of aviation to the DC-3. Most of the planes are pre WWI, and they are in the process of adding more from the WWII era. Nearly every plane is airworthy, and they are flown several times a year. Unfortunately my camera battery died after just one or two pictures, so I guess I just have to come back.
The area we drove through had many dairy farms and lumber operations. Milk is converted to dry milk powder and exported. The logs from the pine forests are exported primarily to Japan and China. The other big agricultural segment is growing grapes for wine. There are literally hundreds of wineries of various sizes. There were several wine tours available, but I had to choose the tour with a train. I've got several great ideas for changes to make to the sectional layout at the Train Club when I return to Florida.
The weather turned out to be the best day we have had yet, not that I can say any of the other days were bad.
Our tour bus was about half full, or half empty whichever you prefer. In the process if getting on and off the bus only a handful of times I observed most of the proper tour bus etiquette.
Even though your wife stayed on the ship, turn in her ticket so the driver thinks he has lost someone before we even leave the parking lot.
When you return to the bus after each stop, take someones seat and if they have left their bag in the seat, hide it under the seat in front of you so it can't be found.
When boarding the bus, take the first seats in the front so the individuals that are using a walker have to climb over you to get to the back of the bus.
When the bus driver says be back on the bus at 1:15, at about 1:16 decide to go to the washroom so the driver can't find you when he comes looking.
That is enough for today, I have many more tours ahead, I'm sure I will learn more.
Back on the ship the workers repairing the lifeboat had a much easier day. They lowered the lifeboat so that it was in easy reach from the dock. Obviously patching has begun as resin fumes were present throughout the ship last evening and this morning.
Since I did not watch our arrival this morning, I plan to watch as we depart this afternoon for Melbourne, Australia via Cooks Straight. Every bay in New Zealand has dozens of tree covered islands. This is one area of the world where the harbor pilot earns his keep.
It probably will take us five hours of more to get to open water where we head almost directly West towards Melbourne. After about an hour the captain makes an announcement that he is pulling into a secluded bay and will be making a 360 degree turn, and then we will continue on our way.
No this is not a maneuver to throw off evil spirits, it is a procedure to recalibrate our magnetic compass. We actually have a "compass calibrator" on board, and he leaves the ship once his task is complete. I completely understand the need for this, but it is the first time I have been on a ship while this was being done. I wonder if all the refrigerator magnets I brought…..
We will be at sea for three days and then we arrive in Melbourne. Today we received instructions for our Australian arrival. As part of the inspection process to clear the ship every passenger must be interviewed face to face by Australian authorities whether or not they are disembarking the ship. Only after everyone is interviewed will the ship be cleared. Everyone will have a scheduled interview time.
So I can watch as much of the scenery of our departure as possible I will go to the main show at 8:00, and the piano bar at 9:15 instead of my usual 7:00.
The main showroom entertainment is Lee Bayless, a comedian, without a doubt one of the best I have heard in years. He flew from Tulsa, OK to catch the ship in Auckland, is doing the one show and two workshops and then flies from Melbourne back to Tulsa in a couple of days. I think about 10 times as many hours flying as working.
At 10 PM a small group meets with Alan Wright on the Sky Deck for some stargazing. No driving to get out of the city, just take the elevator to deck 9 and climb the stairs to deck 10. The sky is clear, and the light pollution from the ship is negligible. We see several constellations and stars not visible from North America. Orion looks upside down.
No alarm tonight, I plan to sleep late.