Tag Archives: traveling with kids

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.

Suwarrow – Cook Islands

From Maupiti we set sail for Suwarrow, not certain that we would actually stop there. 5 days and 700 miles later, we made landfall  August 22nd, 2018.

Suwarrow is one of the most northern of the 15 Cook Islands, which are self governing, but in free association with New Zealand. Its a bit out of the way, but on the way to Tonga. We had the option of going the rhumb (straight) line from Maupiti to Tonga, take the more southern route to Palmerston, or take the more northern route to Suwarrow. Most of our cruising friends that left before us went to Suwarrow and raved about it. A few went to Palmerston, but history has it as a fair weather only stop, and the weather was not predicted to be so fair.  And rather than doing a straight shot 1,200 miles to Tonga, we opted to aim toward Suwarrow, keep and eye on the weather and as long as it was looking good to stop, we would.

Sail by the wind Jellies that we caught
and released. Their real name is Velella Velella . Also known as sea raft, by-the-wind sailor, purple sail, little sail, or simply Velella .

Our departure from Maupiti was seamless. We made it out the pass and turned west. The wind was great, perfect for the asymmetrical. We had her flying for a while, it was smooth sailing.  Then the wind started to pick up and as I was saying to Christian that we should probably take down the A-sail, we heard a tearing sound. The sail completely tore down the center and across the top. We quickly got it down and unfurled the jib.  The unfortunate part of this, besides loosing our A-sail, was that we had already took down our 150 genoa sail and exchanged it for the 120. The shape of our 120 is great and it made for a more comfortable sail, but our speed wasn’t what it could be if we had the 150 out. No matter though, the next day the wind picked up more and the 120 was more than enough. We made it to Suwarrow. The wind was strong as we came in. Bajka was already there, as well as La Cigale.

Good night sun and good bye asymmetrical 😦

The Island was beautiful! We had heard that it was watched over by two Rangers (caretakers), Harry and John. We got a very warm welcome from these two men, when they motored their skiff out to our boat to check us in to the country. After talking with them we learned that they get brought in on a supply ship with supplies from one of the southern islands called Rarotonga, the largest Cook Island, and stay for 6-7 months at a time without re-supply.  These two rangers were so awesome. They had the best attitudes, and were so kind to share “their space” with us cruisers. Many nights they allowed us to have potlucks and bonfires on the beach and would join us for the fun. Most nights included musical jam sessions as well, so we heard…

We ended up staying for only one night. We arrived in the morning, checked in, stayed the night and then left the next afternoon. The weather window looked good to leave and we didn’t want to risk getting stuck there for 3 weeks with the limited provisions we had left, plus another 700 mile sail. As soon as we arrived, Bajka and LA Cigale came to pick up the kids to do the Geocaching activity that was started a month or so earlier by another sailing family on S/Y Moya.

So after a evening potluck with music, and a morning of checking out the island, learning a bit from the rangers about the local medicinal plants, checking out the local feeding frenzy of sharks, then checking out of the country, we set sail for Tonga.

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Maupiti – Society Islands – French Polynesia

Maupiti: August 12th, 2018. Our last French Polynesian island… after Bora Bora .

We sailed off the mooring ball in Bora Bora, out the pass on the west side of the island, hoisted the asymmetrical, and aimed for Maupiti. Shortly afterwards, we had to douse the asymmetrical and go with the 120 due to wind direction.  We weren’t entirely sure that we would make it into Maupiti. The passage is narrow, and with any sizeable south swell the entrance would not be passable. On that same note, we might be able to get in, but if the swell picks up while we are in there, we would be stuck.  The weather forecast looked promising, so we were going for it. S/V Bajka was already on their way, as well as S/V La Cigale.

The sail over was a just a day sail, but again as with all of the passes and atolls in the South Pacific, you always want to have good day light to be able to see any under water obstetrical.  S/V La Cigale made it in well before we did, so Xavier got out the drone and filmed us sailing in through the pass. The entry, even without a large south swell was exciting.  There was not much room for error, and we were under sail power only. I stayed at the helm and Christian made sail adjustments and verbal instructions.  We enjoy being able to sail on and off the hook (anchor or mooring in this instance) for the challenge and for the pleasure of not having to use fuel. We made it through the pass and up into the southern anchorage, and found a spot between our friends La Cigale and Bajka.

If you look at the screenshot of Maupiti, above, you will notice the narrow pass in which we sailed through.IMG_3134IMG_3142IMG_3140

We spent the next few days there in the southern anchorage and in the anchorage just east of the inner island. Our friends on S/V Bellini, who we met over in Raiatea, were also already here as well. The population of Maupiti is extremely small. Provisions are limited, but there are a few fresh fruit stands and a bakery.  Since we weren’t sure we were going to stop here or not, we spent the last of our French Polynesian money in Bora Bora, so no fresh food for us.

While Christian went for a long  SUP paddle, myself and other families went diving with the huge Manta Rays!

Josie with the Manta.

Nina

Taj

Christian had already SUP circumnavigated the whole inner island, but the mountian that stood so grand above was calling our name.  We first attempted to do it with our friends on S/V Bellini, but it was a little too late in the afternoon. We made it about half-way by the time the sunset, so we turned around with plans to do it with the other kid boats another day.img_1403img_1394-1

Our next go at it, S/V Bajka and La Cigale went as well. What an amazing adventure!

Watch our quick video below:

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After a few days in Maupiti, our weather window to sail the five days (700 miles) to Suwarrow, Cook Islands,  was up.  Again, we weren’t entirely sure that we would stop in Suwarrow.  If the weather window was closing to head to Tonga, we were going to bypass Suwarrow, but if the weather was going to give us even just a few days there, we would take it. It would have been a bummer to sail right past the Cook Islands, but weather dictates.

Screenshot (332)Screenshot (333)Screenshot (336)Screenshot (363)Lucy off of La Cigale on her SUP for our last sunset in French Polynesia.

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Church with an anchor cross 🙂

img_1423Picking up some fresh produce at a roadside stand with fellow cruisers on S/Y Bajka.

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House of shells and coral.

img_1422The  S/V Bajka Boys are good boat buddies for Taj. img_1419-1img_1410Many houses have their deceased family members buried out in their front yard.