Category Archives: cruisingkids

Arrival to New Zealand: two years ago (October 20, 2018 – Jan 1 2019)

S/V Shawnigan arrived into New Zealand late October 2018, 3 years and 2 months from leaving San Francisco. The passage from Tonga was fairly uneventful. Our friend Nic flew out from the United States and hopped aboard in Tonga to help while I (Josie) was away at work as a travel nurse in the United States. Ellamae was also away in the States to spend time with her Papa. The passage details have mostly been forgotten, as I was normally the one recording them in the log, and in my absence that seemed to fall off the daily routine. What I can report is that it took 8 days to sail 1189 miles from Nuku’alofa. The seas were relatively mellow compared to reports of how it can be, but with the swell and wind on the beam, it caused quite a bit (understatement) of water to splash up onto the deck and into the dodger. The wind seemed manageable, and 8 days for Shawnigan is quite good (6.2 knot average)!. Nic was amazing to have on board and I was at ease knowing he was with my husband and kids.

Nota Bene: some of the pictures I used are screen shots from Christian’s Facebook and Instagram pages as a way to capture his thoughts during the time, but also because those pictures were not saved anywhere else that I know of.

Not being aboard our boat and with my family as they arrived to New Zealand was surreal. I had been away for a few travel assignments, but never during a big crossing and one in which felt more monumental. New Zealand had been on the plans (loosely) as a place to sail to and work, place the kids in school, and live life situated in one place for a while. This was a big deal for our family. As Shawnigan made passage, I followed her tracks on our predictwind tracker and received the occasional satellite phone text from Christian with our iridiumGo. At 48 hours prior to arrival, Christian sent our required notice to NZ that we would be making port in Opua in approximately 2 days. I received notice as well. The excitement flooded my soul. Soon our new home would be New Zealand and my family would be “home safe”. When the text came through that they made landfall, I was just getting off a night shift and remember feeling extremely emotional. Tears of joy, a bit of sadness of missing out (admittedly I had FOMO), and a bit of uncertainty, “what will it be like for us there?” and “was this the right move?”.

Many photos came through from Christian as soon as he found wifi and bought a local phone sim card. Everything looked magical. The kids were so happy to make landfall, reportedly cold (relative to tropical zone), but happily chilled. The Customs process was fairly painless. They did have some black beans that needed to be tossed, but otherwise they ate what needed to get eaten and tossed what they knew wasn’t allowed before arrival. After a celebratory pizza dinner and restock on food, they explored and hiked and met new friends around Opua and Paihia.

A few days were spent in and around Opua. Many other cruisers had arrived or were arriving every day around that time so they stuck around to spend Halloween with the other boat kids. Afterwards, they quickly left the docks again to explore the islands and land around the Bay of Islands.

Over the course of 2 months, Christian made his way down the east coast of New Zealand as a solo captain. With multiple explorations along the way, visiting friends from the U.S. (Allison T.) and Lin Pardey (sailing icon), there was no shortage of fun. Arriving into Auckland was an exciting moment for the three onboard, “Big Lights, Big City”. It had been since Panama City that they had seen such a scene. Nina was aboard until Auckland, at which point she flew back to the states to visit family.

While in Auckland, Christian and Taj participated in the ” Auckland Rum Race” with Josh Tucker (Sailor and Sail maker who we met in Tonga with his family).

From Auckland on down to Wellington, Shawnigan was home to only Christian and Taj. The voyage was mostly day hops and manageable, and beautiful with plenty of exploring of various places off the Coromandel, Tauranga, Gisborne and Napier.

Once they got down to Napier however, Christian had to strategically plan his sail down and around and up from Wellington to Mana Marina. This stretch of coast is known for foul weather, gusty winds, rough waters, and potential fog. During his short stay at the ridiculously over-priced marina, he got wind of a potentially a no wind window (whoa, that’s a lot of “winds”). After a short nap, he left at midnight with Taj asleep down below. The window was a good one, but still gusty and foggy around the south point of the north island. He flew shortened sails with the engine running due to the extreme in wind changes. The wind died completely by the evening, and he motored overnight with only short bits of sleep. “Super dad and captain” about sums it up. Once around the point, the current sped Shawnigan up the coast to Mana as if she were on a conveyor belt! As they passed Wellington Bay, Orcas greeted their arrival. Shawnigan arrived safely to her new home at Mana Marina on January 1st, 2019. What a way to bring in the new year.

Taj and I being silly on a video call thousands of miles apart.

Ellamae and I on a video call while she was in Florida and I was in California.

Ellamae flew out to California for a visit while I was there.

A little video of our home for Shawnigan and A Family Afloat.

Ellamae and I arrived by plane into Auckland on Jan 7th. We were picked up by the car dealership taxi that they hired. I had pre-arranged to go look at 2 specific imported Japanese used cars from Goldex Cars and they agreed to arrange a ride from the airport. After the long overnight flight to Auckland, I test drove a few cars, keep in mind that I also had to drive on the opposite side of the street, picked one out, paid for it and started the journey to Wellington.

We stopped at another sailing family’s house in Hamilton a few hours just south of Auckland. This lovely family offered to house Ellamae and I overnight and we had only met them online. New Zealand was proving to be very friendly! After a night’s rest, Ellamae and I drove the remaining way to Mana Marina, just north of Wellington. We almost got lost along the way. We quickly discovered that cell service was patchy in New Zealand when google maps stopped uploading directions. Oops, should have downloaded offline maps. We also discovered that NZ doesn’t do sushi or bubble tea very well, it makes up for it in beauty though.

It was hard to not want to stop at all the beautiful spots along the way, but we were anxious to get to our new home and be reunited with family. We briefly stopped at some hot-springs, called thermal pools here in New Zealand, and one more stop just off of New Zealand’s oldest National Park, the Tongariro crossing.

We were welcomed to our new home at Mana Marina with a lovely BBQ in the communal grass area with fellow live-aboards and marina manager. I finally got to meet the lovely Sara Dawn Johnson , author of a few books including co-author of Voyaging with Kids. Our new life in New Zealand started with a warm welcome of new friends and a summer in the southern hemisphere in January.

A new year…will Shawnigan ever leave the harbor again?!?!

We haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been SLOWLY working on our second half of Tonga post (which will be over a year past the time that we were there.) For some reason, once I’ve uploaded photos to a hard drive, I find I have a hard time fishing them out to add to our posts. That’s neither here nor there… what this short post is about is how we’ve been in New Zealand over a year now, and as of today, January 1st, 2020 S/V Shawnigan has officially not budged an inch while at her new home in Mana Marina.

“What?!”, you say, “Shawnigan has not been out sailing for a whole year! A family that has done so much sailing, has not taken their boat out for a year?!” Yes, it’s true. Although we are still happily living aboard S/V Shawnigan, we have not taken her as much as a few inches here and there adjusting the dock lines. As the year comes to and end and to a new  beginning, we hope to start taking her out more often, but who knows what this new year will bring.

When we left for “sailing the world”, we left with an open ended plan. Not really sure with what we’ll do, where we’ll go, where we’ll stay. As we made way towards New Zealand, thoughts of setting some shallow roots came to mind. Find jobs, put the kids in school, and see how it goes. Not long into our time here in the Wellington area, with my work as a nurse at the hospital and the kids’ involvement and enjoyment in the local schools, we decided to apply for residency.  That whole process is still pending and we still don’t know where it is heading, but as it goes when we’re sailing, we go where the wind takes us. Well, I guess that’s not completely spot on for this situation, is it.  Our time here and what we do next in this case is always being re-evaluated based on what we desire for the now and the future, financial status, and overall family happiness.  Right now, we’ve come to the conclusion of staying put, waiting for our New Zealand residency, having fun and being productive at work and school, meeting new friends and building stronger relationships with them, and exploring New Zealand via our newly (not so) purchased camper van and hopefully by boat one of these days.

Honestly, after so much sailing, Captain Christian has quite enjoyed the break from moving place to place all if the time. I get that. Also, its been quite nice not o worry about dragging anchor, running aground, hurricane seasons etc. Don’t get me wrong, we love sailing and we’ll get back out there, but for now we are going with the flow here in New Zealand.

This is not a “year in review” post as one might think this post would be. My apologies if you were hoping for that. Knowing myself, if I was to go down that road, I’d never get the post out, because I’d be looking for all of the “right” pictures to post and things to say.  For a glimpse of what we’ve been up to in New Zealand over the last year, its probably best to head over to our Instagram or Facebook page, where we are mostly up to date with pictures.

Here are a few pictures mostly in chronological order, just because..

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Happy New Year and we hope 2020 brings you many adventures!

~ @afamilyafloat

 

 

Drama on the way to Tonga…

Is posting a blog like sending a thank you card>>> you have a year to do it and it’s still acceptable? We’ll just say it is and better late than never!

After we left French Polynesia we did a quick stop at one of the northern Cook Islands called Suwarrow. Read about it here.  The quick stop was due to weather planning.  We could either go then and now or possibly end up waiting 3 weeks on a very deserted island before our next weather window.  As inviting as that was, A: we didn’t have enough fresh produce for that and B: we wanted to get to Tonga just in case Christian’s staph infected foot wound took a turn for the worst. I would post a picture, but afraid the content would be too graphic for most.

The passage from Suwarrow to Tonga was quite lovely, but not without a hitch. Christian was not able to put any weight on his wounded foot, so we left with all the sail and galley work up to me.  The passage from Suwarrow to Tonga would take about 5 days, roughly 600 miles, the time was right, the date was August 23rd, 2018. Mid-day we weighed anchor and motored down the channel. Upon leaving the pass out of Suwarrow the main sail was already hoisted and the 120 head-sail was out. The wind was perfect, the motor was no longer needed. As we exited the pass the wind was solid. Yes! It was going to be a great sail out, but first I needing to furl in the jib a bit with the wind direction and speed picking up.  We were all very excited to be heading to Tonga. Along with the excitement came a bit of overzealous manoeuvring…. I went to the furling line to pull in a bit of sail. I questioned whether or not I should let out the sheets  (letting the lines on the jib slack)  in order for me to make it easier on myself, but felt my need to use muscles take over… as I pulled on the furling line with what I thought was good form, that’s when it happened, I felt the “pop” in my back.

Although I didn’t feel pain immediately, I could tell I was done for. I finished what I needed to very carefully and pretty much was immobile for the next 3 days as the pain set in minutes after the initial event and held on without relief.  Thankfully the sails didn’t need much in the way of changing. There was one or two times that I had to go up and raise and lower the whisker pole (the pole that holds the jib out for shape with a down-wind direction).  I’ve now experienced those moments where the pain seems to subside when there is something that must be done, and then the pain returns as soon as your done. What a strange phenomenon.  As I was laid up in the cockpit for 3 days, I tried to move as little as possible with the one time below per day to cook dinner. Nina helped with breakfast and lunches, thankfully. And she continued her 8pm-11pm watches. The only difference was that on her watch, I was the one out helping instead of Christian, who normally helps her during her watches. Again, not much needed to be done on this passage, so that was good.  During those days, I realised how much core muscle you actually use when you’re sailing. Every jerk and jolt of the boat, my core would activate and my back would spasm. It took everything possible to relax through the normal movements of the boat.

On the bright side… we did catch two Yellowfin Tuna! Christian has his moment of putting the pain aside, keeping his foot elevated while hand reeling in the fish… I wasn’t about to.

There was lots of reading going on.

Chatting with Ellamae on the Satellite phone. And S/V La Cigale on the radio.

Making a flag for Tonga.

Playing with toys.

 

By the time the weather got a little bit rougher, around middle day 4, I was able to move more and do all the things needed. We had a great 3.5 days downwind and another 2 that were upwind, but not too bad. On day 6 (5 and 3/4) , August 24th, 2018, arriving into Tonga’s, Neiafu came with so much relief. Christian was still pretty immobile… but he could help us dock to the, worst yet, port captains/immigration dock, hobble to the port captain’s office and back, and help us get onto the mooring ball later on. I was moving like an old lady, but much better.  During the check in process, I grabbed some Tongan money (called Pa’anga) from an ATM and loaded us up with fresh produce from the farmers market. A good way to start our time in Tonga.

Tonga, we’re sort of ready for you, and please without drama.

~A Family Afloat

 

Next up: 6 weeks in Tonga: part 1