14 September 2017
Jane warm and sunny
We had lovely two day sail from Vanuatu to New Caledonia in company with two other buddy boats "Jams" and "Blue Bie" we became great friends. Noumea the Capital is the only port of entry for cruising boats. It is on Grand Terre, the main island, on the southwest side. Grand Terre is 400 km long by 50 km wide. Encircled by a barrier reef almost 1,600km long.
We stopped a couple of times on our way to Noumea as we had to navigate the reef and passes at slack tide. Our first anchorage was Port Boise where we caught a large tuna to share on the way in, a lovely protected spot with ochre-coloured mountains and cliffs. Next spot was Boone Anse, also protected, but the view of the nickel factory was a bit of an eyesore. New Caledonia is the third largest nickel producer after Canada and Russia. Their other exports are prawns and coffee.
New Caledonia is divided into three Provinces, north, south and the Loyalties. The Loyalty Islands run down the east coast, the famous Isle de Pines is part of the southern province, with the Belep Islands being in the northern province. As we did not have much time we stayed in the southern area where they are protecting the inland lagoon reserves. Just stunning.
The Kanak people, part of the Melanesian group, are indigenous to New Caledonia. The country has two national flags, one for the French and one for the Kanaks. The Kanak social organization is traditionally based around clans, which identify as either "land" or "sea" clans. 94% of the Loyalties consist of Kanaks. One day we would like to visit these islands as they are supposed to be delightful. It is easy to charter a boat in the city, so they are on the potential "to do in the future" list.
Arriving in Noumea felt like being in France. We were back in a French Colony where the majority of the people speak French, although there are 28 Kanak languages, with four main ones. Lots of cigarette smokers and the usual smell of toilets gave the air that added French "je ne sais que".
We had a lot of fun in Noumea where we managed to get space on the dock at a very reasonable rate. Evenings were spent drinking lovely French wine (the rose wine even had pink corks) and indulging in wonderful food that the French are so well known for. One wonders how they keep so slim; we certainly put on a few pounds when we were there. The city and the people were charming and elegant. It was lucky we did not spend too much time in the country as the French Pacific Franc does not go far, however it was good to be able to fill up our freezer with lots of yummy goodies (including cheese, cheese, cheese) that we will be able to share with the kids when they arrive in Fiji.
The weather was cooler as we were there in their winter, however most days were sunny with the temperature around 23-24 degrees. The seawater was a bit nippy and with suckerfish taking a liking to our boat I did not swim as much as normal. The fishing was excellent in the areas allowed and we caught tuna to fill our freezer and had to stop fishing. We also saw a lot of whales in the Lagoon.
Our aim was to spend time in the Isle de Pines. So we checked out and moved a few miles south to Isle Mitre where our friends were kite boarding. Seemed rude not to bring ours out so stayed a day to enjoy playing with them before we moved onto Isle Mato. Isle Mitre is lovely with a delightful resort and a huge shallow grassy reef on the eastern side, where kiters and turtles happily spend time together. Isle Mato is uninhabited and gorgeous, a recommended spot. Then it was down to the Isle of Pines for four days where we linked in with our friends "Free Spirit". We had a couple of excellent last French meals ashore and waited for the perfect weather window to head back to Fiji. Luckily the French are pretty relaxed on people leaving.
The Europeans first settled in New Caledonia when the French established a penal colony on the archipelago. 22,000 criminals and political prisoners were sent to the islands and once they had completed their sentences they were given land to settle. The Isle de Pines was one of the islands and parts the prison can still be seen. There were a couple of resorts on the island, but they were low key, as is most of the accommodation in New Caledonia. Their infrastructure is excellent with fabulous interisland ferries, flights and internal transport. Think the French are keeping quiet about what a great tourist destination New Caledonia is.
Having moved south we had an excellent, fast sail back to Fiji in less than four days, Ta-b in her usual fashion did us proud. Now it is time to enjoy the Musket Cove Regatta and our kid's visits. Amy and Luke arrive 18 September for two weeks and Edwin and Iva 8 October for two weeks. We are getting very excited about seeing them and sharing our last few months on board. Ta-b is on the market and we have had a lot of interest. We are hoping that she will soon be with loving new owners, who will enjoy her as much as we have.
Live, love and laugh says it all
22 August 2017 | Vanuatu
Jane warm and sunny
Before sailing to Vanuatu from Fiji we spent about a week in Musket Cove. It was a great place to chill out, catch up with friends and set up Ta-b’s “for sale” website. Really looking forward to returning there when Amy and Luke come to visit, and also to enjoy their famous Regatta in the middle of September.
We went to Vuda Point to check out. Whilst there we had a couple of very entertaining evenings with fellow cruising friends before provisioning and setting sail. It was an excellent four-day sail, with our parasail “big red” out for a far amount of the trip, always a bonus.
Vanuatu is an archipelago consisting of 83 beautiful islands, over 300 nautical miles, and spaced within easy day sails. Having gained independence in 1980 Vanuatu is a developing as a holiday destination for tourists. The friendliness of the people and the abundance of cultural diversity boasting coral seas, tropical islands, abundant marine life, volcanoes and rainforests offer something for everyone. Snorkeling, scuba diving and game fishing are very popular. It has a colourful history has been voted twice as the“World’s happiest Place” in the Lonely Planet’s Happy index.
Thankfully there are very few big resorts and these are on the main islands of Santo or Efate. Visiting cruisers are fortunate to be able to access the more remote islands, each unique with their own dialects, traditions, culture and rhythm, with Kava, like Fiji, being drunk at the end of the day. We were always welcomed with open arms into the local life that is still simple and uncomplicated. As there are currently no large charter companies we felt like we had the place to ourselves. The people always have huge smiles and the laughing children “pikininis” are delightful with their open warmth and inquisitiveness.
The local language is Bislama, like pigeon English although each island, like Fiji, has their own dialect. It is impossible to understand when they speak, but lots of words understandable like “Yu wantem tok tok Bislama?” Tankyu Tumas (Thank you so much).
We sailed into Luganville on Santo and took a mooring as suggested opposite at the Aore Resort. What a lovely location, great snorkeling, wonderful ambience and we splashed out and had a few meals out at their terrific restaurant.
While there we also managed to organise a dive on the famous SS President Coolidge with Allan Powers. He knows the Coolidge well; apparently he has spent a year on her with over 25,000 dives. There were all kinds of memorabilia in his home and the boat has a fascinating history. The Americans got too close to their mines coming back into harbour and managed to hit one, luckily the Captain was able to beach the ship and all, apart from 2 of the crew, were saved. Lots of wrecks from WW2 in and around Vanuatu, there was a plane by our boat, but sadly only in pieces around the reefs. There is a site nearby called Million Dollar point where the Americans threw all their unwanted “stuff” into the water after the war rather than give it to the islanders for nothing. Interesting place, but what a waste we felt.
We moved on after getting happily stuck for a little longer than planned the weather being a bit of a factor as always. The trades are southeast, but the guide we had advised that it was possible to go from the north to the south if you followed their route. It worked for us and saved us many miles of sailing and meant that we were able to visit some of the outer, more remote, islands.
We had an interesting sail to Ambae Island, fast and bumpy for the first half and then when we got into the lee of the island flat and we had to motor sail. From there we went down to Pentecote. We had to motor sail most of the way, but it was a good trip and we enjoyed the few days we had in Londot. Sadly the land diving towers had fallen down; which was a disappointment, but the village was delightful. Pentecote is known for its land diving, where the bungy diving idea originated. The young men from April-June climb, up to 30 meters, up a tower made of branches (as you get better you go higher) and then they jump off with only vines tied to their ankles. One man we met had been doing it since he was five, but once he got married stopped. We asked him if anyone ever died, he said "yes, my brother died doing it in 2010" one had to wonder whether that was when he decided to stop.
We had a great sail to Ambryn and were going to stay at the hot springs anchorage, but when we got there the flies chased us out and we ended up in Craig Cove. What a lovely place, made even more perfect when we met Victoria and Elsie who came to our boat in their dug out. They were 13-year-old cousins and wanted to chat. We found out that one of their fathers was the local baker so ordered some bread; which they delivered warm early the next morning. What a treat. He must make quite a good living, as his home was the best in the village. We are talking about a shack, but there were five of them, including one with his oven and one for stores. Victoria gave us buk choy and paw paw and I emptied the boat of more clothes and anything else I could find that the girls may like.
Then it was off again to the Maskelyne Islands and another excellent sail. The anchorage off Lokienuen felt crowded with three other boats as we had anchorages to ourselves most of the time cruising the islands. In the Maskelyne Islands there are three wonderfully friendly villages totaling approx.300 people. In Lutes where we anchored the large school dominates the village. There are around three hundred students and ten teachers, with a lot of children coming from nearby islands with some boarding.
June to August are busy months for festivals in Vanuatu, with the renowned land diving in Pentecost from April to June. Some friends of ours went to the famous ROM festival in July held in Ambrym. It sounded a bit gory with male teenagers coming into manhood by clubbing pigs to death, however the masks and dancing sounded fantastic. Ambrym also have a Yam and Magic Festival in the same month. Sadly we just missed the Arts and Crafts festival at Port Sandwich, but while in Lupe we were invited to the men’s nassara up in the bush behind the village. They performed the Smol Nambas Dance; which involved over a dozen fit young men from the village dressed in traditional nambas, or penis sheath, with Navake nut pods strapped to their ankles. Their dancing tells traditional stories of village life and can only be performed by men who have ceremonially killed a pig. Local females are definitely not allowed to see the dance performed – I wonder why ☺. A tamtam was beaten for timing and as the men stamp their feet the seedpods on around their ankles rattle. The performance was very moving and rhythmical. Lets hope that the young men continue to learn these traditions so that they are not lost forever.
We were there on a Sunday and so I went to church with some friends. First time I have been to church where it was held outside, everyone wearing his or her finest (the women in their Mother Hubbard dresses of bright colours). One of the locals had recently died and we became the guests of honour, at the wake/feast they put on after, it was quite the experience. We got to meet the “Translator family” who have lived on the island for 20 years, they are in the process of translating the bible into the local dialect – what a job. Sadly I did not take my camera so have no pictures.
We also visited the Giant Clam Sanctuary; which the local Chief and Headmaster established in 1991 after noticing that the clam population was disappearing. We were most impressed that this was instigated without foreign or government backing. The locals made a small manmade island; which is only accessible at high tide and is surrounded by the sanctuary. A local took us out in an outrigger and guided us snorkeling around the shallow waters where over a thousand Giant Clams of different species live happily together. They are up to a meter across in a large variety of colours. Sadly I did see a couple of Crown of Thorns Starfish; which are eating out coral reefs right across the South & North Pacific oceans, from the Cook Islands to the Great Barrier Reef. In Vanuatu they are working hard on killing these Starfish naturally for the marine life to eat to protect their reefs.
We felt we had hit the big smoke when we got to Port Vila the main city of Vanuatu on Efate. There were a lot of cruisers there, some who we had not seen since crossing the Pacific so it was good to catch up and share “tall tales” together. Some friends who we had not seen since Marmaris now live permanently on the island, like a lot of New Zealanders, and it was great to get to know the island from a locals perspective.
We wanted to visit Mount Yasur on Tanna. The volcano there has been erupting nearly continuously for the past 800 years and the glow from the strombolian eruptions is what apparently attracted Captain JamesCook to these shores in 1774, earning this fiery volcano the name of the “Lighthouse of the Pacific”. It is one of the most accessible active volcanoes in the world and was very much on my bucket list. Only downfall for sailing into Tanna is the fine layer of fine ash that apparently falls continuously onto the boat. A small price to pay I would think, however with the weather sailing down was not going to be possible, so we booked an overnight tour from Efate instead. We though it would be great to fly in a small six seater plane over the volcano before visiting it at sunset and having the luxury of a night on land., the tour had been recommended by various friends. Sadly however the tour was canceled at the last minute and we were unable to book another before we had to leave due to lack of numbers. No problem said our friends, you will have to come back to Vanuatu and stay with us and do another day. What a wonderful thing to look forward to in a few years time.
Time to move onto New Caledonia for a few weeks before returning to Fiji, will update blog next month, but until then, stay happy and healthy. Carpe Diem
16 July 2017 | Musket Cove
Jane warm and sunny
Bula from Fiji. Everywhere we are greeted with a big smile and Bula (Hello) in this wonderfully friendly country. The people are delightful. Please go to gallery at the top of this page for photos with descriptions.
Our sail from New Zealand to Fiji was challenging, the hardest leg since we started cruising offshore. We knew it was going to be tough and it was. Several other boats left with us and stayed on the rum line, but we eased off to the west to avoid the worst of the wind. More miles, but easier conditions, even so we had a rollicking ride with big, confused, seas and high winds, a lot of the time a steady 40 knots. Still Ta-b did us proud, as she always does, and got us to Savu Savu safely and in good time.
Fiji has 333 islands, but for us the big draw was the Lau Group on the eastern side. Only recently have the 57 islands allowed cruising permits. They are off the beaten track being difficult to sail to after checking into Fiji, but their allure of isolation, lack of facilities for tourists, simple life of villages and beauty; was what we were looking for.
We were not disappointed and so far the islands have been a highlight of our trip. We could have spent months exploring the area, although the lack of fresh produce, in fact of any produce, would have been hard.
The few Indigenous Fijians who live in the remote villages do so in extended family groups and acknowledge a hereditary chief who is usually male. When arriving in each island we were expected to visit the chief with a present of Kava Root. The tradition of sevusevu (a gift of Kava) is still expected. Drinking Kava and feasts are a highlight of village life. Each family is allocated land for farming and has communal obligations. Gender roles are adhered to and the villagers are quite conservative and happy to continue to live their simple lives. They mostly live off what the ocean and land provides. We were surprised that farming consisted of only a couple of root crops, but there were plenty of wild paw paws (papaya), bananas and coconuts to be had. Cooking is usually done over open fires or lovos (where food is wrapped in banana leaves and slow cooked underground).
We started our trip in Savu Savu, where we checked in and stocked up on fresh produce (and a lot of Kava Root), whilst enjoying the character of the laid back town. We waited anchored off Jean Michael Cousteau's resort, just inside the large bay, for a weather window to head to the Lau Islands. We ended up sailing to Koro Island south and then back up to Vianni Bay to get east.
We have found there is a lot more wind in Fiji then we were expecting and as always we are dictated to by the weather. No problem as Vianni was delightful and we enjoyed our few days there, although going diving or snorkeling on the famous rainbow reef was a challenge with the wind. We went over to Taveuni to stock up with last minute fresh produce and fuel before having a magical trip down to Vanua Balavu in the northern Lau group. Flat glass seas, a full moon and gentle winds gave us a wonderful overnight sail.
Vanua Balavu is known for its Bay of Islands. On our arrival we visited Daliconi village with friends to offer our Kava to the chief. Cyclone Winston seriously damaged this part of Fiji last year, people were killed and they are still rebuilding what was destroyed. It was sad to hear how the area suffered. We spent most of our time in a delightful anchorage called Shoal pass. The sea has undercut the limestone coast making beautiful mushroom islets in the breathtaking aqua water, a magical place.
We also went to Bavatu Harbour where there is a coconut plantation with stunning views over the Bay. Sadly Winston destroyed all of the village, and most of the trees; thankfully no one was hurt due to a large tree that they tied themselves to for 12 hours. The village now consists of four homes and a store called the "Sometime Store" as it only occasionally has items to sell. When we were there they had ... onions. The family living there is currently clearing the land and will replant the trees. The harbour was a very protected anchorage; thankfully, as yet again we had quite a bit of wind while we were there.
We made great friends with the few boats that were in the area, but suddenly a rally arrived from Tonga and we were surrounded. Luckily it was the World ARC and they only stayed two days before leaving the Lau Islands as they travel very quickly. However when the next rally arrived, we were about to leave, good timing we thought. Waiting the extra few days for the wind to drop certainly made for another excellent 24-hour sail down to Fulaga.
Fulaga is a little piece of paradise. Lots of lovely anchorages, deserted beaches, limestone mushrooms and coral bommies to snorkel and then there is the pass; which at slack tide is a divers heaven. We were the 20th boat to arrive this year, so a novelty and a link to the outside world. There are four villages, with no cars, just a wheelbarrow. The main one where we presented Kava to the 95-year-old chief organises a family to host each cruising boat. Our hosts were the headman and his wife, who were charming and spoke good English. We were now family. Socci and Ba taught us how to fish, catching three HUGE fish off the back of Ta-b within ten minutes one day. The smallest was enough to feed six; we were most impressed. The population of the main village is 102 and we felt we got to know them well as everyone is so friendly. We visited the school that has boarding for 15 children from outer villages and learnt that English is their third language. Fulaga has a local dialect; at school the kids learn to speak Fijian with English being one of the subjects. Although the elders did not speak English most hosts and many of the kids luckily did as we are still struggling to learn more than a few words of yet another language.
Socci our host organised a "picnic" one day on one of the islands for all of the cruisers and about half of the village. We ended up having 30+ Fijians on our boat, plus ... a live pig to take to the island. As you can imagine it was quite the experience. We had a fantastic day. A wonderful insight to see how quickly they make tables, bowls, fires and underground ovens for cooking, collect coconuts for drinking and bread, etc. Everyone bought food to add to the feast and we drank kava, they do not drink alcohol. It is infused with water (in a dirty looking rag) and tastes of mud, obviously an acquired taste. I don't think they made it very strong as it only gave us a slightly numb tongue for a minute of two. We sang and danced the afternoon away and only just got the villagers home before dark. The happy kids were all so well behaved it was impressive. A very special memory we will never forget.
Sunday is for church, beautiful singing, and lunch with one's host. Wow they know how to cook and Ba our host's wife made eight different dishes for us. They eat with their hands, but laid out knife, fork and napkins for us, we felt very honored. The stuffed clams and razor clam salad were probably my favourite, plus a spinach type vegetable served with fish. Our hosts had huge appetites (and are large too) and because we did not eat enough sent us away with takeaway. Each day we were given food and as the Fijians love sweet things, I made cakes, tarts, etc. for them to enjoy. We managed to unload Ta-b of many items they needed as the supply ship only visits every 4-6 weeks.
Another highlight while we were in Fulaga was the America's Cup. We had been following the Racing, difficult without wifi, but possible with our Ham Radio and helpful feedback. So when New Zealand won it was a day of celebration. We started on a friend's boat with a champagne BBQ at 8am and ended up with 25+ people on Ta-b for a potluck evening party. A terrific day, we certainly know where we will be in four years time ☺
Before we left Fulaga we bought some carvings from the village. One of the main ways they earn money is from selling the wood from a nearby island to Suva for carving. About seven of the village men carve, with one being an expert at the intricate native designs. We bought a traditional Kava bowl and hunting club to remind us of our time in Fulaga. It is interesting to learn that the children leave the island to go to school in Suva at the age of 14 and many do not return to live until they retire. Often the grandparents are sent their grandchildren to bring up, an interesting and not unusual concept. Certainly it is a wonderful community with everyone looking after everyone else, a simple relaxed life with no crime, and no internet/cellphones ☺ .
As I write we are having a lovely sail west to Fiji's main island of Viti Levu. The cruising life is being kind to us, although we do have an urgent "to do" job on Ta-b as our freezer is suddenly not working. But that is for tomorrow, for tonight with the moon out, the seas calm and the wind gentle, life is truly peaceful on Ta-b.
Goodbye New Zealand
16 May 2017 | Opua
Jane/Warm and Sunny
Living on a boat, like everything, has its ups and downs. However the last couple of months have felt like a roller coaster, with its highs and lows seriously testing us. Learning to always be patient and flexible we try to make sure we live life with a smile, however it is not always easy.
Getting back to Ta-b after our walkabout we were thrilled to be home. Bluefix who had been working on her in our absence did a fabulous job, however NSR ordered the wrong part from France in December, and because of this no work was done in our absence. On our return we were told the part was on its way, then it was delayed, then that it would definitely arrive - soon. To cut a long story short the part arrived five months after it was ordered, not one. Then when it eventually arrived it was still not as requested so another few weeks went past while it was adjusted to work. Sadly NSR are not a company we would recommend to anyone, too many errors were made and management was not there for us. Thankfully we had Dean of Total Engineering and Rob of Marine Electrics help us out. Their work was excellent.
Then we had had Easy mechanics work on our engines while we were away. When we went back into the water, our port engine went forwards when put into reverse. A test to my helmenship for sure. We had to be lifted not once, but twice more before the engine was fixed, yes amazing, and another few weeks of delay. JJ and Sherie at Total Haulage were wonderful at lifting Ta-b not once, but three times and said we were the best clients they had ever had. Not sure why.
Even though at one stage we felt glued to the dock, it was not so bad. The local chandlers "Caters" are the best we have ever experienced, so friendly and helpful, getting us parts within a day so we were able to cross jobs off our "to do" list. Roger at North Sails did a superb job making us a new sail cover and servicing our sails. He became a good friend and also kindly helped me with other sewing jobs. Charlotte and Brad and their wonderful team at Bluefix soon became friends who were always there for us when needed. Bill at the Marine Shop was always helpful and manages the Opua daily net and Paul known as Budda the rigger was also one of the "good" guys. Lastly the Opua Sailing Club, a terrific place to de-stress at the end of the day, with wonderful roast lamb every Sunday. However, living on a building site was not such fun. The marina is doubling in size and the dredging, dirt, noise, huge puddles to wade through, content cleaning needed on the boat was very hard. We were surprised we did not get a credit at the end of our stay, so could not recommend staying there.
Russell's sister Yoga and husband Boop (a nickname Edwin gave him at age 14 months) came over from Australia to see us in March for a couple of weeks. We were able to get off the dock, even with our dodgy engine, and thoroughly enjoyed sharing the delights of Northland and the Bay of Islands with them. Always special having family on board.
Sadly our friends Grant and Mary were unable visit us over Easter as meeting them in Auckland became impossible, all because NSR had still not completed their work. Sailing agendas we have found are often difficult, but we have always managed before, so we were gutted not to spend time with them sailing. The upside was that our friend Jonas (my birthday twin) was celebrating his 50th birthday in Opua so we were able to party with him. We had a wonderful evening with good friends coming from Auckland and Whangarei to join us.
Luckily we still have our car, which we bought off Edwin, so enabling us to spend time ashore exploring. Northland is a delightful area of New Zealand and we plan to come back here in November, although we think we will base ourselves in Whangarei as it might be an easier place to sell Ta-b. We will also keep the car at our friends until our return.
As to leaving, well we have had three cyclone's form in the South Pacific in the last couple of months. The official cyclone season finished 30 April, but we have had "Donna" and "Ella" since then to delay everyone's departure.. There is a rally here in Opua with 35 boats who were supposed to leave 6 May, most of the participants have not been offshore and are getting very ansy about the delay. For us it is part of the norm and we are always happy to sit patiently until a decent weather window shows itself. We leave for Fiji tomorrow, 18 May and the Rally either Friday or Saturday for Tonga.
Since getting back in March the weather has slowly cooled especially at night. However, apart from the end of three cyclones caming through with massive amounts of rain we have had warm sunny days. We have been fortunate with a gorgeous Indian Summer, we would be experiencing November conditions in Vancouver if we were there, so no complaints although we are certainly looking forward to warmer climes. To experience the trees starting to turn red, orange and brown is a treat we have not seen for many years.
We will be updating our blog map site and YIT website on a regular basis so that everyone knows where we are. We always love to see friends and family, so if you see that we are nearby or if you are coming our way, please let us know. Otherwise we hope to hear from you all over the next few months.
Much love to all our friends and family. We feel blessed to have you all in our lives.
New Zealand Road Trip
27 March 2017 | Opua
Jane warm and sunny
New Zealand might be a small nation of only 4.5 million people, but in our hearts she is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Our month road trip, down to Queenstown in the South Island and back to Opua in the North, was a wonderful reminder of the diversity of the islands. The two main islands are of similar size, where over one third of the population live in Auckland in the north island. Auckland is the largest Polynesian city in the world and is also known as “the city of sails”. It has more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world. Only one third of New Zealanders live in the quieter South Island where Russell was born. He grew up in Timaru which is on the east coast of the South Island.
A third of New Zealand is also made up of protected parkland and marine reserves. The country is made up of spectacular landscapes with vast mountain ranges, steaming volcanoes and sweeping coastlines. The first settlers were the Maori and recently Maori has been declared one of New Zealand's official languages, with immersion in schools and tertiary sectors. Many places throughout the country also have dual English and Maori names. Russell has been brought up with the language, but I find it very difficult to remember all the local names like: Whangarei (wh is pronounced f) and Piahia (pronounced Pie he a). I love the way that the Maori heritage is embraced and how nowadays it has undergone revitalization.
We were very fortunate on our trip to be able to catch up, and stay with, a lot of family and friends. Everyone spoilt us rotten and we are now like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. I can’t get into my jeans any longer; which was a bit of a give away ☺. It is certainly time to get fit and healthy, but hard with family now on board for a few weeks. All the socialising, eating yummy treats and Kiwi pies, not to mention the exquisite wines that New Zealand grows, all to sample. Life was tough, as you can imagine.
We stopped a few times on our way south to Wellington. One of the highlights was seeing Russell’s 98 year old Uncle; Jack who stayed with us a couple of times while we lived in London. A wonderful character who we also managed to spend time with on our return north. Wellington, the Capital City, is at the bottom of the North Island and is the southernmost capital city in the word. From there we caught the ferry to Picton, across the Cook Strait. The distance is only 22 km, but it took about three and a half hours. Thankfully the ferry was very luxurious even though a tad expensive.
Picton is where I first learnt to sail a “big” boat. Russell’s parents Eddie and Gypsy used to spend six months every year based out of Picton, sailing the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. They have a lot to answer for, as I quickly fell in love with the lifestyle, making it my future dream. The sleepy town has become quite the tourist attraction and it was delightful to spend some time there.
We would have driven down the east coast, but with the recent earthquake in Kaikoura (Edwin and Iva were there the day before it happened) the coast road is still closed. So we went to Nelson and then down through the central part of the island to get to Christchurch. It was a stunning drive through the forests and National parks.
In Christchurch we had a fabulous reunion with three cruising couples, all of whom we had met in Turkey. Lots of tall stories and memories were shared. A special evening, we look forward to another when we return in November.
We managed to spend two weekends in Timaru, staying with our dear friends Grant and Mary. Lots of family stuff to do and we picked up Gypsy for her final trip down to Queenstown and back. She was quieter then normal, being in a small box, but it was great having her with us and we had a lot of fun together. See the picture of Dansey’s Pass with her on the table ☺ We stopped in Wanaka on our way south, where Edwin and Iva spent last season working (and enjoying the snowboarding) and where they are returning to again this June.
We went to Queenstown via Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki, two of my favourite lakes in the world. The turquoise colour of the water is quite breathtaking. Whilst in Queenstown we stayed with our best man, Foxy and his partner Jacqui. Sadly Queenstown has become quite the tourist trap, but we enjoyed time in Arrowtown nearby and up the Remarkables where Foxy spends most days in the winter ski-ing. Then it was time to return north going east across the ranges and Dansey’s Pass to Oamaru, on the coast, and back to Timaru. There was the wine and salmon festival in Twizel; plus a friend’s band playing in the evening so we had a rather social weekend before saying goodbye to Russell’s home. We will go back in November to pack up the last of the families’ heritage for shipping to Vancouver, including Russell’s car (see picture).
Arthur’s Pass is a mountain range where Russell used to race at Craigieburn when he was a teenager. So another memory lane to drive through to get to the west coast, which was wet and windy, as seems to be the norm. It was probably the only time we had inclement weather on our trip, most days were warm and mostly sunny. The Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki were certainly worth visiting and the coastline was spectacular. Our next stop was Nelson where we decided to invest in some property. It is a beautiful area at the top of the south island, noted for being the sunniest city in New Zealand. The housing market is heating up and rentals are high, so it seemed rude not to buy a house; especially as Russell had been left some money that we wanted to keep in NZ. It was a crazy three days, checking out various areas, properties and narrowing down what would work for us. We are now the proud owners of a lovely three bedroomed house on a double mature lot in Stoke, just south of Nelson city. It is only a few blocks from the town and schools and should rent easily. Eventually we would like to renovate and maybe put another property on the site, but that is another project that we will put on the back burner.
It was time to relax in the Abel Tasman National Park, famous for it’s walks and Golden Bay a huge area protected by Farewell Spit where sadly hundreds of whales recently got stranded on the beach. With help 75 were rescued although sadly most died. The area is only a few hours from Nelson and a great place for a weekend getaway.
Back across the strait our route headed across the middle of the north island to Lake Taupo, Lake Rotorua famous for it’s hot springs, and onto Tauranga on the Bay of Plenty. Whilst linking up with friends and family one of my bucket list items was a visit to Hobbiton at Alexander farm near Matamata. The shire was built temporarily for the Lord of the Rings, but when they filmed The Hobbit in 2009 it was decided to make the site a permanent film set. It was a magical day, visiting the thirty-nine Hobbit Holes, with Bag End being the biggest with its huge artificial tree. The mill and double arch bridge, with the Green Dragon Inn in front of the pond reminded me of England. The Inn was great place for a pint and pie at lunchtime; I did not want to leave.
More family to visit in Hamilton, before returning to Auckland for another cruising get together – way too much rum and onto Whangarei for a couple of nights with friends on their Kiwi farm. New Zealand has been put on the map with Lord of the Rings and Tourism, but has always been known for its farming and sheep. Sadly sheep are not profitable nowadays and are being taken over by cattle, with most of the milk going to China. Sadly the cattle, and fertilisers for feed, are destroying the rivers and most are now polluted. The locals are obviously not happy as the rivers were always used for swimming and a place to relax and enjoy. Farming is huge in New Zealand and we have many friends who are or where farmers. Our friends in Tauranga farm hydrangeas. Tree farming is also popular, as are vineyards (I counted 30 in one morning). Then there are all the orchards, even asparagus and avocado farms to enjoy – yum, yum.
New Zealand has recently suffered a pest problem, with stouts and possums being the worst. They are working on getting rid of them within the next ten years. Road kill is a very common sight, especially in the southern island. When I say common, one every few miles and then the hawks have trouble getting out of your way. If that was not bad enough “the invasions” as they call some of the tourists, are hopeless at driving and are causing lots of fatal accidents. There are even arrows on the road to show which side to stay on. Apparently they get their licenses in a simulator.
I have rambled on, but could go on for hours about this beautiful country that we are currently living in. It is time to get back onto the water with family visiting and work to be done. What a road trip we had. Using the link at the top of our sailblog page you can see our pictures; I have added some information to each one. I often find a visual is better than any words, we hope you enjoy. Lastly we can’t thank all of our friends and family who we spent time with, for their kindness and hospitality. They are as follows:
Bryce and Martha s/v Silver Fern in Whangarei, on their lovely kiwi farm that they have built
Jillie and Rodney in Piha, Russell’s sister and always a treat to see
Cathy and Russell s/v Oynas in Halcombe on their farm, we last saw them in the San Blas Islands
Uncle Jack in Levin and Auntie June in Otaki on the south west coast
Athena and Lee in Wellington, our step niece and her new husband
Rick and Jacquelyn in Nelson, Rick helped crew Dick’s boat across the Pacific and we met them in Turkey. Check out www.jacquelynelane.com
Chris and Irene s/v Cutty Hunk, Peter and Cathie s/v Wave Runner and Helen and John s/v Awaroa in Christchurch. If you want an personalised trip around the south island, check out Chris and Irene at www.canterburytrails.co.nz
Mary and Grant in Timaru, a home away from home and fun times with all our friends down there
Suzie and John Ruddenclau in Wanaka, old family friends. I love Suzie’s art work at www.susieruddenklauart.co.nz
Foxy and Jacqui in Queenstown, old friend and best man from UK
The Rose Cottage in Takaka, lovely family and fabulous place to stay, we soon became good friends
Brian, Martin and Nick in Picton. Russell’s cousin and second cousins
Vivienne in Rotorua, an old racing friend of Russells
Joe and Annabel s/v Wrighteau in Tauranga, they have a lovely hydrangea farm. We last saw them in Greece and the boys have a mutual old school friend
John and Robin s/v Panthera in Hamilton, met in Bonifaccio and last saw in Bay of Islands on their new boat
Ross and Jocelyn in Hamilton, Russell’s cousin and family
Phil and Laura s/v Luffi in Auckland, yes we survived another night of rum. Crossed the Pacific together
Bruce and Lesley s/v Midi in Whangarei, old friends from Turkey who we last saw camping a few years ago
Lastly thanks to Chris Ferguson of Summit Realty and Janice Churchman of Central Conveyancing who made buying our new house in Nelson so easy
There are many other friends who we did not manage to see, something to look forward to I suppose in the future. If anyone is up near us we would love to see you, our phone number in NZ is 021 0864 9990 and we will be around until May when we will head back to the Pacific for our last season on Ta-b.
Family Time Down Under
30 January 2017 | Opua
Warm and Sunny
We hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas and New Year. We spent ours in New South Wales, Australia, and it was certainly the best we have had in years. With so many family; there were fifteen of us for Christmas lunch by the pool, it could not have been better. We partied for two weeks and my best present was everyone’s presence, family time. Both Amy and Edwin were with us, so a very special reunion for both of them with Down Under family after so long. Our niece Tilly hosted us all, her new home being the perfect setting for such a large gathering. It is out in the countryside with lots of birds and animals all around and has a fabulous pool and cabana. Tilly lives there with her two children Taja and Malachi, who are 11 and 15 years old.
We played lots of games over the five days we were there, one of our favourites being a giant Janga that Edwin made. The Poulstons certainly know how to sing, laugh, dance and best of all, how to be very silly. I constantly had a smile on my face. I say that, except for the day that George died. George was one of the colourful King Parrots who would come each morning for food, he was so tame he would often eat from your hand. Sadly a python decided that he would kill him, yes there are nasty beasts in Oz and we woke to the Cockatoos going crazy as the python squeezed poor George to death. We had quite the funeral and then suddenly George appeared, must have been his friend that died. Phew. Thanks to everyone for some of the great pictures that were taken that I have added to this blog.
Russell’s sister Yoga and her husband had us to stay when we were not at Tilly’s and they also have a pool. Pure luxury for sure, the weather was warm and sunny for the whole month we were in Australia - magic. Amy and Edwin were with us and were more than happy to chill out. One day Yoga and I took Amy to the Art Gallery in Brisbane, she and Yoga had a blast together, both being Art lovers. Brisbane has some great architecture and the City library is a stunning it is such a magnificent City. Another day we spent doing Gel artwork together, I might even frame the three I did ☺. Whilst in Australia we managed to catch up with various friends and Russell helped his brother-in-law build a storage area over 3/4 days in the garage/studio area. Yoga has just retired and is looking forward to having more time to paint and teach art in her studio. I’m thrilled for her as I love her artwork.
We returned to Opua with Taja and Malachi who were joining us for a two week holiday on board Ta-b. They had never been boating before. What sponges they were, we could not teach them enough about life at sea. They even learnt new games like Backgammon and some basic French. We had such a fabulous time together, having so much enthusiasm and energy on the boat was a treat. Both are real team players and it was wonderful to get to know them better.
Our first day out we met s/v Tika. They have children so it was fun for the kids to get together. There was the annual cricket match being held on the drying sand spit on the southern tip of Motukiekie Island and Malachi and Taja did us proud by scoring some of the highest points. We then spent the evening on Tika over pot luck dinner and a game called Salad Bowl (a great one for a large group of 15 of us).
The next day the kids, from four different boats, dingy sailed together, swam and played on the trampoline out in the bay. We stayed in Pipi Bay for four days enjoying the snorkelling, fishing and hiking before heading back to Opua and a day in Keri Keri with Tika before they left for Auckland. Then it was back out to explore more of the Bay of Islands anchorages. We spent a delightful evening in Te Uenga Bay where friends Rolly and Consie (s/v Restless who we met in Turkey) live. Before having a BBQ dinner with them we went for a fantastic hike. The views were stunning, just wish we had remembered our cameras, will have to hike again. We lucked out on the way back meeting a great guy called Stephen Dews (an incredible artist and sailor), apparently his pieces sell for 165,000 pounds each. We saw a couple in his studio – breathtaking, just wish Amy had been with us.
We had to head back into Opua when some heavy winds were forecast so took the opportunity to take the kids to the Waitangi Treaty grounds. They loved it, so much Maori history and cultural presentations for them to enjoy. We also took them to Russell as it is such a delightful town heaped in history as well.
Whilst not immersing the two of them in history we were able to take them snorkelling, kayaking, hiking and fishing around various bays in the islands. The weather was kind to us and although a tad cooler than normal for this time of the year we only had one night of rain and heavy winds. The kids even tried wake boarding, but sadly with no success – maybe next time. The board game “Settlers of Catan” became an all out favourite and we were impressed with their tactics, they are already saving up for a board back home. What a great game, would highly recommend if you are into board games.
Our two weeks together went too fast and life on board has been rather quiet the last few days. We are at anchor at Roberton Island while I write this, although due back at the marina tonight as Ta-b is booked in to be hauled out onto land at the end of this week. We then plan to start our month “walkabout” New Zealand. There are lots of friends and family we are planning to visit and hope to get all the way to Queenstown and back. I will update our blog on our return.
In the meantime, “with much love”, I would like to share one of my favourite quotes from A.A. Milne
Piglet: ’’How do you spell ’love’?’’ Pooh: ‘‘you don’t spell it...you feel it.’’