Grand old lady gets in the spirit

By Hannah Norton

Nia's going on 85 but she's not scared to doll up for Christmas, especially given the last time she did was in her home country of the United States back in 2008.

The 1928 American schooner is moored in front of the cafes in Whangarei's Town Basin, and has been decorated with lights, tinsel, candy canes, Christmas holly and a tree.

Her captain, American David Dyche III, is off working in Brazil until the New Year so it's been up to his wife Rosemary Dyche and her 17-year-old son David to decorate the vessel.

The family left their home town of Florida in 2008, travelling through the Bahamas, Jamaica, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica and French Polynesia, arriving in New Zealand on December 29 last year.

The last time she hung the lights was in Florida, Mrs Dyche said.

"We've been at sea quite often and there wasn't a lot of places where it would be advantageous to put them up ... I just felt really in the Christmas spirit being here this year. New Zealand is wonderful. The beauty of the country and the people - it kinda gave me more of a feeling of home."

Last year the family missed Christmas in New Zealand by just a few days as they were travelling from Tonga. But they made the Tall Ship Regatta at Russell on January 7, which they won, something which Nia's no stranger to. Before her 25 years in the Dyche family, she won the 1928 race from New York to Santander, Spain, which she was built for and was the flagship for the New York Yacht Club after World War II.

And this will be their last Kiwi Christmas, given the family's customs and immigrations visas come due in February, when they'll set sail for Australia.

"So merry Christmas to Whangarei and New Zealand," Mrs Dyche said.

- Northern Advocate

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