Thursday, December 10, 2009


Once upon a time in a city called Tiel (same population as my own town of Whangarei) in The Netherlands a man born in 1951 (same birth year as me) with a son named Niek (similiar to the English name Nicholas, as is the name of my son Nikolai) remembered a book that he had read when he was about 12 years old. The book is called "South Sea Vagabonds" and was written by a New Zealander Johnny Wray (Bens city of Tiel is not far from Zeeland in The Netherlands which is New Zealands namesake). I read this book myself at a similiar age and have a couple of copies of it. I was surprised that this book written and published in the 1930s had been translated into the Dutch language.

"South Sea Vagabonds" is the story of how a small ocean going yacht was built during the depression years using scavenged Kauri logs, second hand rigging and sails and good old Kiwi "number 8 wire" ingenuity and tenacity.

The name of Johnny Wrays yacht was the "Ngataki" and earlier this year Ben in Tiel in The Netherlands Goggled the name "Ngataki" and came up with only one link - it was the link to my other and now unused Blogspot called "Simply Sailing". It was from this link that Ben made his way through cyberspace to this Blogspot 'Stream Of Consciousness'.

At the time that Ben was doing all this, another domino in the casual link was falling into place - I just happened to be on a six week cycling tour of The Netherlands which included the province of Zeeland which is very close to where Bens town of Tiel is. Ben began commenting at this time on my Blogspot.
On my return to New Zealand Ben commented again that he was about to embark on a camper van tour for a few weeks in New Zealand before travelling to Australia to see his son. I gave Ben my phone number and was very pleased to get a phone call from him last week. As I am house sitting in Auckland at the moment it was easy enough (despite Aucklands horrendous peak time traffic) to find him in South Auckland.
I arrived at their camper van at about 7pm and left after 5 hours of wonderful friendly talk - how very nice it was to meet Ben and his lovely wife Renee, to laugh and wonder about the global cyberspace enabled connection and to talk about New Zealand and The Netherlands.

It was an interesting scene - I arrived with a big map of The Netherlands wanting more information about a land of water, canals, dykes, bicyles and that range of corpulent, beautiful, wonderfully, specifically, contextually evolved traditional Dutch yachts ---- and they were armed with a map of New Zealand with their route marked on it. They were well informed about where to go and I think (as I write the weather has been glorious for many days) they are going to have a very nice time.

Ben and Renee are warm and friendly people; open and straight forward; generous, intelligent and very, very interesting to talk to ---- I thought house sitting in Auckland was going to be a bit starved of interesting things to do - but meeting this couple was a bit like going to the biscuit tin thinking that everything has been eaten and then finding to your surprise and delight that amongst the old wrapping paper is a big fat chocolate macaroon biscuit - The Dutch would say of our meeting, "It was very Gezellig" - and that's what it was - very,very Gezellig indeed. :-)

I like dominoes and causal links and I hope the dominoes keep falling.


Renee and Ben said...

Hi, Alden a real feel good story!
We are enjoying ourselves very much.
Meeting you was a great start of our vacation. Love to share with you our ideas now and in the future.

Alden Smith said...

I am very glad that you are both enjoying yourselves and I hope the weather continues to be kind to you - take care, keep in contact

Katherine said...

I was going to say that! A lovely story of happenstance and feel-good. But Alden, is it as hot up there as it is here? Phew! 33ºC again today.

Alden Smith said...

Yes it is very, very hot - classic fantastic Northland summer weather - well classic number one i.e. withOUT the humidity - classic number two with built in humidity actually comes within a category whose name is unrepeatable in polite company.

renee said...

Hi Alden,
I use your blog to ask whether our E-Mails did arrive at the correct address.(Ours is
We came home from vacation two weeks ago. Lots of memories and lots of foto's to sort out.
Looking at your blog production, you must have been on vacation as well.
Greetings from a freezing cold and snow white Holland,

Renée and Ben.

Alden Smith said...

Ben and Renee - so very very nice to hear from you. No, I have not recieved any emails from you at all - my email address is --- BUT your emails may have been filtered out by my service provider (Telecom Xtra) - there is a way of accessing my account to check on this filtered and rejected mail - I will take a look - and I will email you and talk about this further.
Lovely to hear from you :-)