Tag Archives: s/v shawnigan

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.

#SurfPanama #SailPanama

We enjoyed 13 days of sailing through Panama’s remote Northwest coastline. Upon the end of the second week we sailed into a populated anchorage called Ensenada Venao, known for its protection, waiting to round the point into the Gulf of Panama. Also known as Playa Venao, its in the list of places in Panama for surfing. We went there for all of the above, but especially for the surf. We had a VERY long day sailing the 70 miles from Isla Cebaco to Ensenada Venao (aka Playa Venao or Ensenada Benao). We were able to sail for the first 2.5 hours until we started sailing as high into the wind as possible, with wind speeds fluctuating anywhere from 10kts to 30kts. To top it off, we had a current pushing is back. We were in a very frustrating situation. We needed to have our sails set for 25-30 kt winds for the times when the wind would blow that hard. As soon as the wind dropped to 10 kts we lost all speed (which was only 2-3 kts at best) and we would lose steering from all of the wind chop and current. After a few on and offs with the engine, we made the decision to motor-sail, bashing up into the wind and current. Our goal became “let’s just try to get there before dark”. We ended up motorisailing for over 13 hours. This was a first for us and was a hard choice to make. We basically motored more hours in one day than we had over the last 3 months. The good part of this sail was that we caught a large female Mahi Mahi!

Overall, the day felt like one of those times where you wonder if you did something to bring on bad luck. We were getting so much water over the bow, we discovered new leaks seeping into the V-berth. We lost one of our SUP paddles. A wind gust came on so strong along with bashing into waves that the paddle popped out of its tied up place and sank faster than you could say “we lost a paddle”. Another one fell off too! Of course there’s more to that story. I was down below, cooking, and Christian says nonchalantly, “well we get to do a man over board!” My heart jumped through the ceiling. Then he revised it to “sorry, Ellamae’s paddle fell overboard.” Heart rate went back to normal, mostly. It was great practice that’s for sure and I’m sure glad it wasn’t one of us in the water waiting for us to retrieve them. The good news is that we were successful at retrieving one of the lost paddles! As bad luck normally happens, things happen in threes… Davy Jones wasn’t through with us. As soon as we anchored a gale force gust came up and blew Ellamae’s boogie board right out of its tucked away spot and sent it skipping and flipping across the water and out to sea. The boogie board was in poor condition, so our disappointment in having it blow away was stemmed from feeling terrible about adding to the litter out at sea more than losing the board itself. (Sorry no photos of all the shenanigans, we were too preoccupied).

We arrive at Ensenada Venao at 7:20pm, just before dark. I’d been down below making “sushi” out our Mahi Mahi. I put “ ” marks around sushi, because we cooked the Dorado first, having never heard of it being used raw. A feast was ready to eat as soon as we anchored and relaxed. Based on the guide we had, we did not expect a beach full of hotels and restaurants that lit up the sky come nightfall. I guess we were officially out of remoteness. It brought a bit of excitement aboard. We hadn’t really conversed with many people and we were getting pretty low on our fresh fruits and veggies. The thought of surfing, conversation, people watching, and potentially having wifi was uplifting.

We spent the next four days surfing first thing after coffee. I’d go first, then we’d swap kid duty and Christian would go. I’m still learning, so an hour in the morning worked me. Christian could easily have surfed all day long. We managed to get the kids in through the surf and onto shore to play in the waves and socialize as well. Nina was very happy to meet some other teenage girls that were on vacation from Alaska. She even ended up having a sleepover with them. Lucky girl got a freshwater shower and a memory foam mattress in an air conditioned room!

The offshore winds were pretty strong for the first 3 days, but the weather was overall amazing. The sun is definitely more intense down here closer to the equator. The swell was on the rise starting on the day we arrived. Day 3 was getting so big, that after getting pounded on my surf session I decided it would probably be best to stay aboard with the kids for the day. The wind was blowing too hard to paddle to where the waves were smallest. The next day was just as big, but we needed to get our feet on ground. The wind had finally let up, so Taj, Nina and I hopped on the inflatable SUP, stopped over at the sailboat (S/V Jabiroo II) that came in during the night to say hello, then made our way to the more protected landing further down the beach. I was a bit of a paddle, but we were glad we did it. We explored only the few blocks of the vacation village that was there. We found a cute coffee house and ice cream shop. A produce truck happened to be driving through, so we bought a few affordable greens and plantains. The one and only mini-mart there was overpriced and had a very limited selection of food. We bought one dozen eggs for $4 (doubled that of Mexico prices.

On our way back out to the boat we stopped by S/V Jabiroo II again to chat. They had us aboard and we talked boats. We established that we had actually met them before, up in the San Francisco Bay Area while we were visiting last year and they were making their way south from Canada. It was great to see other cruisers and chat. They had tried rounding the corner to head into Panama City, but got pushed back by the wind and current. Their plans were to leave early in the morning with the ebb tide. Originally we were going to get one last surf in, but looking at the tides and weather, we jumped onboard with their plan. Nina putting away the inflatable xterraboard.

4am the next morning (Sunday) we left by motor alongside with S/V Jabiroo II. It felt great to have other people to commiserate with. We haven’t seen too many other boats down here. I’m guessing the strong winds and currents detours people from making this a regular route, unless of course the intent is to pass through the Panama Canal and head east. We’re glad we took this route though. Seeing Costa Rica and Northwest Panama has been awesome!

I made another S/V Luna Sea recipe. French Bread!

Northwest Panama, remote heaven.

Northwest Panama, remote heaven.

After 3 weeks to the day of exploring Costa Rica, our pocket book had enough hole diggin’. We were ready to move on to Panama not just to save money, but also to explore more remote places, hopefully catch some uninhabited surf and discover new food. Ellamae is back with her biological father for 2 months, so you will notice she’s not in these photos.

January 25th, we sailed off the hook from Matapalo, Costa Rica and set our hydrovane for Panama. Of our 46 miles that day we only motored for 1.5 hrs. We would have drifted more, but wanted to get the hook down before dark. We anchored in Punta Balsa at 6pm, just after sunset. Not in the Sarana guide book, we found a few houses, a hotel and some fishermen. In the morning, while drinking our coffee, the Howler Monkeys were louder than we’ve heard so far. This anchorage was only a stop over for us.

After coffee we motored out an hour to make our way toward Isla Parida. For most of the morning we lacked wind and ended up motoring a total of 3 hours. The entry to the anchorage on Isla Parida is not one you want to do with poor lighting, we therefore wanted to get there before the sunset this time. We had great wind in the afternoon, and perfect for sailing into the anchorage with a couple of tacks and set the hook under sail. We had time for a quick swim in the warm but murky water. As we ate dinner during the sunset, we came to the conclusion that this was the most beautiful place that we’ve been anchored at.

The next day there, we swam and paddle boarded. We also took buckets to shore to fill up at the fresh water spring. We found two older Panamanian boys siting around the spring. It turns out, the whole island is privately owner and by many different people. They were there to watch that particular property. With my not so good of spanish we did establish that we were allowed to walk around and they also let us fill up on fresh water. In the afternoon, we had coconuts on the beach. A deer came and joined us for coconuts scraps to wrap up the day before dinner.

January 27, we motored out of the anchorage, following the suggested waypoints for navigating through the rocks and reefs. Our destination, Isla Cavada, amongst the Islas Secas group of isles. We sailed all but the first hour and the time it took to anchor. The anchoring was the tricky part. Following the Sarana Guide recommended waypoint, we noticed that the one other boat, a sport fishing yacht, was already in that exact location. We dropped anchor, failing twice, a hundred yards south of the waypoint, due to rocky bottom. We had enough light left to see that there was a more shallow spot further south. Third time’s a charm, we anchored in 15 feet mid-tide, so hopefully all was good. And it was. The island was beautiful, but we soon found out that it was private and we were not aloud to explore on shore.

Successful Paleo Plantain Muffins cooked in the pressure cooker!

January 30, We sailed off the hook at 7:30 am from Isla Cavada. We sailed the whole way (30 miles) to Ensenada de Rosario on the mainland of Panama. We were approached by a Military high speed pursuit boat. Needless to say our heart rates jumped up a notch. We intentionally made Taj visible. They got up close. We said “hola”, they looked at us and Taj, nodded and went on their way. Phew! Shortly after, we turned on the engine to get us into the anchorage safely and set the hook well. Great day sailing! We enjoyed the calm anchorage, but had a surprise visit, yet again, from the Navy in a panga. At first we weren’t sure it was Navy, it could have been local thieves, but Christian recognized the boat’s silhouette from seeing it out and about earlier. We had turned off our anchor light, thinking it would draw less attention to us from possible thieves, but really it drew the Navy right to us. They ended up just asking us a few questions about where we were from, where we were going, who was onboard and told us to turn on our anchor light. Once we repeated that we had kids onboard, they said “ok” and “adios”. That was a little nerve wracking to say the least. Christian had our bear spray and spot light ready just in case, but thankfully we didn’t need it. In a way, it’s great to know that the Navy is out watching over the waters. They were probably making sure we weren’t up to no good, hiding in a cove without our anchor light on. 😂😂😂

We ended up having a great night’s sleep. In the morning, Nina got to eat her yogurt that she spent all day the previous day making for her biology lesson. It was a success! This was the first time any of us had made yogurt. I’m stoked to know how to do it now for future passages. After a morning SUP, swim and boat-schooling, we took the dinghy to explore the estuary at high tide. We are so awed by the beauty here. Slowly cruising through the mangrove, there were birds everywhere! We didn’t see the crocodiles we hoped for, but everything else was amazing.

Feb 1, the next morning, we motored 10 miles around the corner, to Bahia Honda (aka Bahia Chinche). We read in our guide book about an establishment and anchorage called Domingo’s. Apparently, Domingo loves company and loves to trade random stuff for his fresh produce as well. Knowing this in advance, I rummaged through our boat for items to give away, most of which were toys and shoes from Taj in which he outgrew. Sure enough, after only an hour of being anchored in front of Domingo’s, an older Panamanian and young child came motoring out in a panga. With the largest smile on his face, the man introduced himself as Domingo. He came out with a bucket of lemons to give us! He only spoke Spanish, but he was very clear and articulate, and very talkative, which made it easy to distinguish what he was saying. He asked us for medicine for diarrhea, in which I gladly gave to him and I grabbed the hand-me-downs to give to him as well. He then asked us if we wanted anything else like bananas, cilantro, coconuts. Of course we said yes! He came back later in the day with cilantro, red bananas, coconuts, and pineapple! He also brought some wooden platters that he carves himself to sell. We bought one for $10. Not that we needed a platter, but we felt good supporting him and it would remind us of his great spirit.Not long after Domingo’s visit, two boys rowed up in a small canoe. The older of the two brothers spoke to us in English and asked for water to drink. The oldest was 23 and he was self taught in English. He loved to practice. We were impressed with how well he spoke. He was a middle child out of 16 kids. He was out fishing with his 15 year old brother. Before leaving he asked for any magazines. We gave him one of Nina’s old Rollingstones magazines and a few of her old books. He was so happy! The next day Domingo’s son, Kennedy showed up to our boat on a kayak with his son. He had a bag full of grapefruit, oranges, and lemons. We didn’t think we had more to trade, so we offered him money. He was very grateful. His son that was with him was 6 years old. He asked if we had a backpack for him. We managed to find an old one and threw in some toys and fishing gear. We paddled across the bay to get wifi. The paddle was successful, but the wifi wasn’t too much with the one lonely wifi antenna. The locals would gather around outside near the antenna to get their free wifi. The locals were definitely interested in us. I don’t think they get very many American visitors. If you are a cruiser and you are sailing through here, make sure to stop at Domingo anchorage in Bahia Honda (Bahia Chinche) and either purchase food from him or his sons or plan ahead and bring items to trade. They said they like backpacks, clothes, fishing gear etc.

Feb 3rd, we sailed off the hook and down to Isla Cebaco. We sailed the whole way and tacked into the bay to set our anchor. A beautiful bay. We came here hoping to get surf. Our first day we stayed in the bay and explored. On the 5th, we looked for surf by motoring to where a local pointed us as to where the surf break was. We were barely successful. I chose to swim and walked instead and Christian went to surf when I got back. The kids did school and played as usual.Homemade tortillas! Thanks to SV Luna Sea for the amazing flour tortilla recipe!

We also did some not so nice boat projects.Fixed a clogged head (toilet). Yuk!

We are in love with Panama’s beauty. We haven’t entered the land of expensive and craziness that we hear of near Panama City. So far, it’s been tropical islands, small fishing and local huts, much wildlife, and NO wifi. The only bummer so far is ALL OF THE TRASH that we’ve seen washed up on the beaches. Most of it, plastic bottles and flip flops and crocs type sandals.I found my gym!Shawnigan anchored off of Isla Cebaco.

Please leave a comment! I will try to respond as soon as we get reliable wifi!