Category Archives: Sailing blog

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.

6 weeks in Tonga: Part 2 – The Ha’apai group and Tongatapu September-October 2018

Okay okay I’m officially way over a year behind on my posts. Since leaving Tonga to do a travel nursing assignment and then moving to New Zealand to work full time and have the kids in school, I have to be honest, blogging hasn’t been at the top of my to do list.  And to be honest, the ease of using Instagram for posting current photos has taken over my usual blogging effort. That being said, I do understand that not everyone is on Instagram and I usually don’t write as much there either. My apologies.  But I persist none the less, so here it is, over a year later, the second part of our Tonga sailing adventures.  This one isn’t going to be too juicy, as I feel like we really didn’t do that much after leaving the Vava’u Group of Tonga. 

Tonga: Part 2.

Nothing like a little last minute, fly by the seat of your pants plan making… Nursing job in NZ offered, travel assignment in California accepted, confirmation from our friend Nic to fly out and help Christian sail… all to leading us to plan our sailing in Tonga to arrive in Tongatapu by Oct 10th in order for me (Josie) to fly out and Nic to fly in.

#teenytinyoptics

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From the Vava’u group, we headed south to the next group of islands called the Ha’apai Group. This group of islands are less inhabited and more pristine.  Supposedly there are more whales here as well, but while we were there the wind was steadily 20+kts , making the whale watching not so happening. We found ourselves anchored in front of a a cruiser friendly “resort” called “Sea Change Eco Retreat” off of the Uoleva Island.  They have a great beach bar with nice cold drinks, local Tongan beer and good french press coffee.  What more could you ask for on a remote island in Tonga.  Apparently, this was the area where the mutiny on the Bounty started.  We didn’t get any bad vibes from this place, even with that history.  And honestly, I think this Uoleva was one of the highlights of Tonga despite the constant wind and probably the one place we would want to go back to if we sail back there. I think we would have to learn to kite surf to really have a blast there.

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Time was closing in and groups of cruisers started to part ways as each one’s timeline for heading to New Zealand started to differ. We had a few “last” dinners with the last of the cruisers around us ( SV Caramor, Counting Stars, Blue Zulu, Dol Selene), taking turns having each boat over for dinner on our boat or us on theirs.  This starting feeling like the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.

img_1830Taj, you have a friend on your shoulder.img_1827Took a sail to town aboard S/V Blue Zulu. Always nice to sail on another boat once in a while. img_1822Kid crew from SV Counting Stars, Blue Zulu and Shawnigan on our visit to town.

IMG_52111864ed0e-3c41-467d-85cd-405e766f9898IMG_3285IMG_3289S/V Counting Stars heading out just after us… also catching the whale sighting.

On our way out of Uoleva to the southern end of the Ha’apai group, we spotted some whales! What a lovely departure gift.  That day we sailed down to Lolofutu where we anchored for a night and met the caretaker aboard the catamaran Wildlife,  a whale watching charter adventure boat .  Not only were they cool, like minded people, but they happen to have kids eager to meet our kids. Always love a new “kid boat”.  They were planning to head to Tongatapu soon as well, so our parting farewell was easy knowing we would meet again soon.

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After a great passage down to Tongatapu, we found anchor room in front of Big Mama’s Yacht Club, a well known facility among the cruisers. It use to be a hopping spot, but after a hurricane a few years back that wiped it out, it hasn’t quite recovered, but its getting there.

We spent a few days wondering around the main part of the city.  A large part of one morning was spent trying to find the immigration/port captain to check out of the country.  We walked and walked which felt great. There were many churches, local schools,  clinics, restaurants. There was little to be desired as far as finding good food in Tongatapu though. We found it safest to stick with our own meals on the boat.  However, there was one pizza place though that was pretty good, thanks to S/V Wildlife crew’s recommendation.  The most important thing though…, we found coffee and wifi. A cruisers dream.

img_1941Tonga probably has as many churches as they have house… well, not really, but there are an aweful lot.  Here’s an old one that was just abandoned and fenced off. So beautiful. Its too bad they dont renovate it and keep it in use or make it into a museum of sorts. img_1942img_1944img_1943img_1893Another church…img_1872img_1886Tongans really hold high value on the deceased… especially the Royal Family. img_1887img_1878Nina getting her hair cut before heading down to New Zealand. img_1904October 9th, 2018: The Family taking me to the airport… a dinghy ride to shore, a taxi to the Nukualofa Airport.  I’ll be away for 3 months, working as a Travel Nurse in California, without seeing them again until I fly to New Zealand with Ellamae in tow. img_1903

img_1819An example of Taj’s homeschooling alphabet art. He attached the dinosaur to the flower.

 

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