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.
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.