The HMS Hunter

“We bought a boat!”

I can’t explain how fun this was to announce to friends and family. I enjoyed thinking about them calculating how we could possibly quit our jobs (half of us anyway), spend thousands moving to the bottom of the world, and still buy a boat.

I mean how is it possible to just drop a bunch of cash on a high-quality, polyurethane, 4-person, inflatable raft? It’s just not done.

Witness her majesty.
Aboard our luxury liner.

Alas, after three trips down the Wairau River on this luxurious river queen, we realized a) it didn’t have a motor and b) boating isn’t all smooth sailing. When the water level was low and the current undetectable we paddled to exhaustion. With each stroke, one of us would make the boat go right and the other would make it go left, resulting in a divorce-inducing crawl in the desired direction of forward. When the water was high we almost lost our kid to some greedy trees overhanging the bank. When the water was just right, life was good and we ate cheese and crackers and lolled in the sun. However, we always had to ask Nana and Grandad to drop us off and pick us up, which was kind of a hassle all around. So the raft found a second life for a few months in the garage acting as a step to reach the top shelf.

For Sale: One Boat.

Luckily, in a land filled with and surround by so much water, it’s not too hard to offload a boat. I listed it on TradeMe and within a few days, Gord called and wanted to buy it. A few texts later, Gord had put $200 directly in my bank account, as bank details are offered about freely here. Not that there was much in there for Gord to make off with anyway.

Getting the boat to Gord proved the biggest challenge. Mailing it was not an option as the prices are out of this world. I think the mail system has purposely tried to drive away customers so they don’t have to do any actual work. Brilliant business model actually, unless you need to make money. Mailing internationally to/from New Zealand is definitely not an option. My sister once mailed me a box of chips and salsa, maple syrup, and a book. The postage stamp said $99 (gulp!). The prices are just as ghastly within the country.

So I had to go the freight/courier route. Now, I have ordered goods off the internet here and had them arrive seven minutes later via courier van – for free. Honestly, free shipping here is mind-blowingly fast, such a stark contrast to the mail system. So I thought sending a boat (deflated and boxed up) to Gord would be a breeze. Turns out those shipping deals are for companies, and I don’t mean Joe Average, Inc. I was quoted $275, then $120, and finally one courier company said, “Try FastWay, they’re located down the street at the video store.” Oh, of course they are. Why didn’t I think to stop by the video store?

That’s right, Blenheim still has a video store and it does a booming trade. I love cruising the aisles, browsing the faded covers of Jennifer Anniston and Jason Biggs comedies from the 90s. Mason can get seven movies for $7. They also have an arcade and a courier, as it turns out. Getting a quote was a cinch – $60. Sold! Realizing I had omitted a portion of Gord’s address, I had to return the next day to send it off.

Popping back in the next day, I waited in line while the mousy woman in front of me rented no fewer than 20 videos (none of which I had ever heard of). The counter clerk then ran each disc individually through the cleaning machine, which was only slightly more high-tech than breathing hot air on it and wiping it on her hoodie. She then went through the small-town guarantee of ‘how far do you live?’ (just down the road) and ‘feel free to bring them back if any are not working properly’. Finally it was my turn, but when it came to weighing the package this vidéothèque-cum-courier only had a little bathroom scale and my box was too big. Oh dear. She offered to price it by the measurements but wasn’t exactly sure how to do that and her boss wasn’t answering the phone. I eventually convinced her to let me weigh myself, then hold the box, and subtract out the difference. After her initial repugnance at this mystical math, she could see I wasn’t going away and consented.

Finally the boat was on it’s (second) maiden voyage to Gord’s house. Phew! Or so I assumed, it may still be at the video shop for all I know. By this time, I was late for dinner and tried to rush out of there, only to be stalled by a right turn (the hard turn here) onto the busiest road. What makes this routine task hard is that the average speed of the Blenheim driver is about 60 mph, which sounds normal until considering exactly half of the population is 20 years old and driving 100 mph. The other half is 100 years old and driving 20 mph. Inevitably, they are going in opposite directions which crushes all hope of ever achieving a right turn.

I found myself in the same position as Gord’s new boat, neither of us knowing if we would ever arrive at our destination.

Kiwi Glossary: Gasbagging. To prattle on, often about unimportant matters. If I’d waited around any longer for you to quit gasbagging I would have had to pack a lunch.


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