Our Ever-Changing Backyard

07 June 2021 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
26 March 2021 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
24 March 2021 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
27 April 2020 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
22 March 2020 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
16 December 2019 | Opua, New Zealand
25 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand
21 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand
19 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand
14 October 2019 | Savusavu, Fiji
27 July 2019 | Tavoro Waterfalls, Taveuni Island, Fiji
15 July 2019 | Viani Bay
23 June 2019 | En route to Savusavu, Fiji, from N. Minerva Reef
20 June 2019 | North Minerva Reef

One adventure ends, another begins

07 June 2021 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
Vandy Shrader
On March 5, while anchored at a beautiful bay where Whangarei Harbour meets the South Pacific Ocean, as we were about to begin a sailing exploration of the islands and coastline of New Zealand's North Island, Eric and I made the decision to turn around instead, to take SCOOTS back up the harbor to her berth at the Town Basin Marina, and offer her for sale.

As mentioned in the previous post, we'd been considering moving to a catamaran for quite awhile, and had in early 2020 begun the first steps toward selling SCOOTS. When the pandemic hit, we changed our minds, deciding instead to enjoy living on our beautiful yacht, right where we were. It was a decision that we've been happy with, and it was the right thing to do.

Our decision to sell SCOOTS now was also the right thing to do. The time was right, the market was right, and Eric and I felt that we were ready to begin the process of moving toward our next adventure, which required us to hand SCOOTS over to another couple who would love her and appreciate her as much as we have.

On June 5, that couple steered SCOOTS out of the Town Basin Marina, and back down Whangarei Harbour, beginning the voyage to her new home, near Auckland, New Zealand. Eric and I couldn't bear to untie SCOOTS' lines when she left, so after we'd helped the new owners move their gear aboard, and answered their questions, we enlisted the help of several of our yachtie friends to toss off SCOOTS' lines and get her off to a good start. Which she did.

From the transom of our friends' catamaran, further along the dock, we waved goodbye to SCOOTS, to her new owners, and to a chapter in our lives, as they passed by. It was kind of surreal: This was the first time we'd ever seen SCOOTS underway when neither of us was aboard.

It was hard to say goodbye. Really hard. SCOOTS has been our partner in adventures for nearly nine years, an equal member of our sailing team. She took us to amazing places; gave us experiences that we'll never forget; introduced us to so many people, some of whom are now part of our family; allowed us to live our dreams. She was there when we began our nomadic life, and, quite literally, enabled it.

The past three months have been very busy and very emotional. Busy because we had to make sure SCOOTS looked her best, which, in addition to making sure she was spotless and shiny, included removing most of our belongings, so that she didn't look like anyone lived aboard. This necessitated our renting a storage unit, which required us to decide what things we thought we'd need in the next six months or so (which would stay with us), what we thought we'd want when we got to our next boat (which got boxed up), and what we didn't want at all (which were donated or tossed).

We'd expected that since we'd only kept a small fraction of our belongings when we moved aboard SCOOTS, there wouldn't be that many to deal with now. But we were wrong. Every time we opened another cubby or hidey-hole, we found more items to decide about. SCOOTS can hold a lot! Her waterline is noticeably higher now, and our storage unit is noticeably crowded.

Emotional because, well, duh. To help me (Vandy) process all my feelings, I looked through our photos from the past nine years, collecting some that captured good times, stunning seascapes, occasional animal visitors, or the comforting sight of SCOOTS anchored just offshore, waiting, as she always did, for us to return - all reminders of the time we spent together.

I've created a movie from these photos, which you can find here: SCOOTS Movie. (If you've spent time on SCOOTS, or with Eric and me during our cruising life, you just might see yourself in the movie.)

With SCOOTS on to new adventures, it's time that Eric and I did the same. We're excited about what the future holds. For now, during this phase that for lack of a better term I'm calling our "Transition" period, we're living just up the hill from the marina, in a granny unit generously offered by a couple of our friends (former cruisers whom we met in Mexico shortly before we all crossed the Pacific in 2016). From this home base, I can easily drive to the grassy lawn near the marina where I feed the birds every morning, and we'll continue to enjoy living in New Zealand. In six months, when our current visas are due to expire, we'll know our next move.

In the meantime, we'll keep a weather eye on listings for the type of catamaran we're looking to buy (a Leopard 48), in places we'd like to buy it (upwind from here: the Med, the East Coast of the US, the Caribbean...). And when we do find our next ride, and begin our new adventures, you can bet that I'll be sharing it all with you, writing about our new, ever-changing backyard.

A Sea Change

26 March 2021 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
Hello again!

I'm back to share some bittersweet and exciting news with you: our beloved SCOOTS is for sale.

SCOOTS holding up the rainbow

If you've followed our blog at all, you'll know how much we've enjoyed living and sailing on SCOOTS. The three of us have had some amazing adventures together, and she's taken us to some truly unforgettable places, always in a safe, speedy, and seakindly fashion. As I looked through the dozens of photos I have of SCOOTS, to choose some to include here, I relived some of our voyages again. What a wonderful experience we've had, traveling with her.

For more than a year, Eric and I have been considering making the move to a catamaran, to experience life on two hulls. Sadly, this necessitates finding a new owner for SCOOTS. Though we love everything about SCOOTS, and have been absolutely satisfied with her during the eight years we've owned her, we can't have two boats.

So if you - or someone you know - have been waiting for the opportunity to be a part of SCOOTS' continuing sailing journey, now's your chance. She's currently the only Able Apogee (of nine built) for sale, and the only one in the South Pacific. She's ready to take her next owner anywhere they want to go. As her previous owner said to us, "She'll be your magic carpet." And so she has been.

Here are her sale listings:
Yachtworld SCOOTS at Yachtworld
Yachthub SCOOTS at Yachthub

International potential buyers don't necessarily need to come to New Zealand to inspect her. Our broker has successfully completed the sale of yachts to overseas buyers. If you purchase SCOOTS, she'll be waiting for you here in New Zealand, ready to be your magic carpet as you explore the world's oceans.

A Clean Bottom and a Tsunami

24 March 2021 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
Vandy Shrader
Hello everyone,

It's been a long time since I posted an entry to our blog. Eric and I have basically been living our lives here in New Zealand, enjoying the unexpected adventure of living in one place for more than a year.

During the first week of March, we took SCOOTS out the marina for the first time since she arrived in December 2019. Our plan was to have her hauled at Marsden Cove Marina, for a hull cleaning, and then continue south to explore the Hauraki Gulf. The hull cleaning was necessary because the water of the Hatea River, on which SCOOTS floats in the marina, is a rich ecosystem, some of which tends to attach itself to the bottom of boats. This not only looks ugly, but slows the boats down, sometimes considerably.

The haulout went well. On March 2, SCOOTS was hauled out on Marsden's high tech trailer and relieved of a coating of barnacles, and then we motored across Whangarei Harbour to beautiful Urquharts Bay, where we dropped the anchor and enjoyed a few days away from the dock.

March 5 was an interesting day for the crew of SCOOTS. Anchored in beautiful Urquharts Bay, a pastoral inlet on Whangarei Harbour, near its rendezvous with the Pacific Ocean, we were enjoying our morning coffee to the sounds of the dawn chorus on shore when our phones pinged. A new email had arrived, and I had a look.

When our phones pinged, we'd been discussing the news of the day so far, which was largely geological - a M7.3 quake had shaken the coast off the North Island around 2 am, and a M7.5 had recently jolted the Kermadecs, a sparsely-inhabited archipelago about 500 miles northeast of New Zealand, a few hours later. Emails had been generated by the UNESCO International Tsunami Warning and Advisory System, and sent to our inboxes, describing the location, magnitude, and depth of the earthquakes, and their potential to generate a tsunami. If a tsunami were predicted to occur, further details such as a forecast of the height and time of arrival at various places would be provided. Though both of these quakes had in fact generated tsunamis, they'd been small and hadn't impacted us.

The new email had a different tone than the others; it said this:


1928 UTC was 8:28am local time, or, in other words, about twenty minutes ago.

It went on to list estimated arrival times of the tsunami at selected cities in the South Pacific. Whangarei was specifically mentioned, with an estimated arrival time of 10:34 am.

"Let's go," Eric said, but I was already heading up the companionway to start Yanmar the Magnificent, the first stop on my way to the bow to raise the anchor. We were taking SCOOTS out to sea, into deep water, where the tsunami would have minimal impact. This had always been our tsunami plan, just as it is for sailors everywhere.

Several years ago, while relaxing in a quiet, secluded bay somewhere in Mexico, the thought had occurred to me that this would be a very bad place to be, if there were a tsunami. And if there were a tsunami, I thought, how would I know with enough lead time to take evasive action? I started looking online, and discovered that the International Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization - maintains an International Tsunami Warning Center that provides a free subscription service for tsunami bulletins via email. Perfect! I signed us up for the service - with forwarding to our at-sea email in case we were out of Internet range. If you're interested, here's a link to the site: Tsunami Alerts

Over the years, we've received probably a hundred advisory emails through this system. Every time a sizable earthquake happens at sea, regardless of whether a tsunami is expected to be generated, we get an email, informing or alerting us of the situation. It's inexpensive peace of mind.

The March 5 email was the first one that required us to take action.

It was a real threat, being taken seriously by local authorities. As SCOOTS' windlass was raising her anchor, our phones gave strident alarm sounds: New Zealand Civil Defence (that's how they spell it here) had sent out a warning text. It was direct, and to the point: "TSUNAMI: Leave evacuation zones NOW to high ground or inland." You know things are serious, when words coming from the government are in all caps. It was the first of many such texts over the next few hours.

Then the tsunami sirens on shore began to wail. First in Urquharts Bay, and then across the harbour in Marsden Cove, they sang the ululating song of air raid sirens, making the hair on my arms stand up as I managed the windlass. The anchor was soon up and tucked on deck, and we were off, into the channel, out the harbour, and on the ocean, heading for deep water.

I was chuffed that Eric keeps SCOOTS' systems in such good nick, so we can depend on them working perfectly when we need them. (A translation for my North American friends: I was happy that Eric keeps SCOOTS' systems working well.)

The weather was beautiful, the first sunny day after several stormy ones, a perfect day for an unplanned day sail. The wind was light, the water sparkling. Rafts of seabirds floated on the water, and some dolphins splashed in the distance. After awhile, we unfurled the jib and enjoyed some "lazy sailing," SCOOTS moving effortlessly and aimlessly in the deep water out by the Hen and Chickens Islands.

Meanwhile, in the background, the radio chatter kept us informed of the situation on shore, When the tsunami arrived at the coastline of the North Island, it was smaller than anticipated, less than a foot high in most places. Though it caused no damage, it did play with the tidal and river flows, resulting in unusual eddies and surges.

Finally, about four hours into our unexpected day sail, NZ Civil Defence texted us the ALL CLEAR. We headed back into Urquharts Bay, dropped the anchor again, and talked about the morning's events.

We'd been pleased at the effectiveness of the UNESCO tsunami texts, the NZ Civil Defence texts, and the tsunami sirens, for alerting us to the possible tsunami. Each alert system alone would have gotten the point across, but together they reinforced the possible danger of the situation, and the need to act quickly.

Though we'd expected SCOOTS to be part of a parade of boats heading to safety, we were surprised that she had been one of only three boats - out of the couple dozen anchored in Urquharts Bay, and probably hundreds anchored in the harbour's other bays - that had left for deep water. Had the tsunami been as large as - or larger than - predicted, it could have caused considerable damage to the boats in the harbour. Heading to deep water is the tried and true sailor's response to a tsunami; even a cargo ship that had been heading into Whangarei Harbour turned around and headed to deep water when they received the tsunami alert.

We felt lucky to have had SCOOTS anchored near the ocean when the tsunami alert came. This had been her first trip out of the marina in over a year. Our friends whose boats were tied up in the harbor's marinas, some several miles up the harbor, had to leave their boats to their fate and evacuate to high ground.

Saying "Thank You!" to Whangarei with a Sailstice Party

06 August 2020
Vandy Shrader
Hello again from New Zealand.

I haven't written lately, because it felt kind of frivolous, with all the serious stuff going on in the world, for me to blather on about what we've been doing. But then, recently, I thought, "Why not? Maybe somebody wants to know." So here goes.

Eric and I are still living aboard SCOOTS, who is still tied up snugly in the Hatea River at the Town Basin Marina, in Whangarei. Along with New Zealand's resident "Team of Five Million," we lived through nearly two months of a complete lockdown (we called it Level 4), during which we reduced and then squashed the virus's transmission in New Zealand. This allowed us to progress, cautiously, over the next few weeks, through Level 3 lockdown ("Level 4 with takeout"), Level 2, and now Level 1, where we've been holding since mid-June. As of this writing, New Zealand has no community transmission of the Covid-19 virus.

The Bubble Buddies celebrating the end of lockdown

Level 1 feels very much like what I would call "normal" life, with the notable exception of the continued closure of New Zealand's border. All businesses are open, large group events are allowed, we can hug friends again, and no one wears a mask to go grocery shopping. Though domestic travel is allowed again (it was banned during Levels 4 and 3), and even encouraged, international travel is barely a trickle, consisting almost entirely of Kiwis returning home from overseas. These returnees go straight into two weeks of supervised isolation in hotels, with a minimum of two mandatory Covid-19 tests during their stay, including a negative one before they're allowed to leave the hotel, all paid for by the NZ government. All of NZ's current Covid-19 cases have been brought in by returning Kiwis, detected and contained during quarantine.

The border is still closed to everyone who isn't a New Zealand citizen, with no indication of when it might be opened. And with the state of the virus in the rest of the world, there's not a lot of pressure to let potentially germy foreigners in, anyway. If we left New Zealand, we couldn't come back, so our plans are the same as they've been since March: stay here as long as we're allowed to, until next May or June, if possible, when the 2020-21 cyclone season has passed and we'd have our next chance to sail north to the tropics for the winter.

Like many foreign yachties, our visitor visas are good through September 25. When I wrote the first draft of this blog post, a few days ago, we didn't know what would happen after that, but we expected that NZ Immigration would come up with a reasonable policy. Breaking news: they did! Yesterday, NZ Immigration announced that they'll allow yachties who are already here on visitor visas to apply for another visa which will be good for up to a year. Woohoo!

Enough about the pandemic. Let me fill you in on some of what Eric and I have been up to.

Once we'd stepped down to Level 1, and were allowed gather in large groups again, of course we cruisers threw a party. Not just a party for ourselves, but a multi-faceted, multi-venue, "thank you!" kind of party, open to everyone, to thank the people and council of Whangarei for making us feel welcome and safe here, during the pandemic.

So many of us foreign yachties had said, "We love it here!", so often, that we thought it appropriate to share this sentiment with the people of our neighborhood. It also happens to be the motto of Whangarei, so quite fitting.

We held our party on the winter solstice, which as you know coincides with the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, on which auspicious astronomical date many boating-related events (including parties) are traditionally held. We decorated our boats with lots of brightly-colored flags, creating a sea of color in the marinas.

A sea of color

We planned to have a live band on the covered bridge at the head of the marina; a blessing by a Maori elder; a cannon salute with real (small but loud) cannons;

Small but loud

a presentation to the mayor of Whangarei of a banner signed by all of us cruisers;

The banner signed by the yachties

a big dinner with a DJ and dancing; a putting tournament on a small green constructed on the marina's dinghy dock;

Putting for bragging rights

and slideshows displaying videos and photos shared by cruisers, shown on several video screens.

One of the aspects that felt really special to me, was how each person contributed to making the party happen in whichever way that he or she enjoyed, so none of it felt like work. Those who liked to plan events did so; those who liked to cook for the big dinner did so;

The fabulous home made fajita spread

those who liked to set up and decorate did that;

Decorating the putting green

someone who enjoyed putting slideshows together collected the videos and images and created a stunning presentation; those who liked to publicize events did that; those who were artists painted the banner and signs;

one cruiser who is a talented photographer (Michelle Marshall) documented the events of the day, and in fact most of the photos in this blog post were taken by her; those who liked to sew created seat covers and banners; those who liked to play golf constructed the putting green and held putting tournaments on the day of the party; those who liked to play music played with the band.

The RDM Band and Friends

That last was how Eric and I contributed.

Eric playing bass

Having reunited with the other half of our musical buddies - we'd been separated during the lockdown, since their boats are at a nearby, but different, marina from us - we practiced every day for the week prior to the party and then had a great time playing several gigs during the party weekend.

I felt inspired to splurge, adding a bongo stand and a guiro to my percussion stash.

Van playing bongos

We even got the mayor to dance!

A few of my friends who jokingly call me the "weather goddess," put me in charge of the weather for the day of the party, since many of the events would be held outside. I don't know how much you know about Northland New Zealand winter weather, but to call it "changeable" would just about begin to cover it. Anyway, after reminding my friends that it's much easier to plan an event based on a forecast, than to plan an event and then change the forecast (which was not looking good in this case) to a better one, I promised to do what I could. I even burned my sage bundle on a couple of occasions, in case the fragrant smoke might please the weather gods, thereby enticing them to dispel the rainy day that was predicted.

It was pouring as we set up under the cover of the canopy bridge in the morning. I walked the docks one more time with my smoking sage bundle, protected under my umbrella. Over the course of the next couple of hours, the rain began to let up, until, just as the Maori elder completed his blessing at noon, the official starting time of our party, the clouds broke, the sun shone through, and the rest of the day was sunny. Thank you, weather gods!

It was fun to mingle with people from Whangarei, who came by to see what the "crazy foreign yachties" were up to this time, to enjoy the music, the slideshow, and the putting green, with the colorful backdrop of hundreds of flags flapping in the breeze on our decorated boats. The dinner party that evening, with its dancing and merriment, was a great release, after weeks of strict separation.

The idea of being in one location for such a long time is strange to many of us yachties, who've spent years traveling from place to place. Strange, but not necessarily bad. In some ways, I find it a refreshing change, a different sort of adventure. As we yachties tend to be an adaptable bunch (a useful quality for our way of life), many of us have embraced our unexpected "bonus time" in New Zealand as an opportunity to do more exploring here, and help the local economy in the meantime. This year, instead of having a tropical adventure, we'll have a sub-tropical, temperate, or an alpine adventure - maybe even all three! - as we set off to get to know this land that has taken us in during the pandemic. Eric and I, for example, recently returned from a fun two-week driving trip with a couple of our friends, around the central part of the North Island. More on that in another blog post. This week, about a dozen cruisers are embarking on a ski trip to the South Island. Others are currently scattered all around New Zealand, exploring by camper van, motor home, or car. There's plenty to see and do, right here in New Zealand.

Another positive aspect of knowing that we'll be here for awhile, is that many of us have begun longer-term activities, that we really couldn't commit to, when we knew we'd be here for only a short time. Cruisers have begun volunteering at the local SPCA, second-hand shops, and other places that can use extra hands, or enrolled in multi-month classes and workshops. Besides feeding the sparrows, ducks and gulls at the marina each day, I've begun volunteering at the Native Bird Recovery Centre, a place where sick or injured birds can find medical help and a safe place to get back on their feet - or wings.


Robert with a kiwi

Wendy with a big gull

The visitor center

I love working there, and look forward to "being with the birds" each week.

This year, we're settling into our lives here in a more substantial way, putting down some semi-permanent roots, extending our energies more widely into our community, than we would in a "normal" year, when we knew we'd be leaving in a few months. This year, maybe as a result of weathering the lockdown alongside the "Team of Five Million," it almost feels as though we're residents of New Zealand, rather than just visiting. We may even start saying things like, "Sweet as!" or "I reckon," or Yeah, nah." Oh, wait...we already do.

But though things are going well, at this moment, here in New Zealand, we all know that it only takes one or two slip-ups to allow community transmission to take off again, and throw us back into lockdown. We're all very cognizant of how things are going in the rest of the world. The news - especially that coming out of the States - regularly dismays or perplexes us, as it does everyone who's paying attention. All of us cruisers have families elsewhere; we miss you, and we worry about you. We can't be with you, and you can't be with us, for awhile. And it weighs on us. Take care of yourselves and each other, stay safe, and Be Kind.

Bubble Life

27 April 2020 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
Vandy Shrader
Hello – or as they say here in New Zealand – Kia ora!

I thought I'd give you an update on our “lockdown passage,” here in Whangarei.

To recap: earlier this year, New Zealand's government, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, took decisive action, choosing to “go hard and go early,” to deal with the growing threat of Covid-19. During February and March, as the virus began to spread around the world, the PM and her Cabinet imposed successively more stringent restrictions on movement, culminating in a complete lockdown (Level 4 of a four-level response plan) on March 25. When announcing the details of each new set of restrictions, PM Ardern adopted a refreshingly transparent and science-based approach, presenting the data that made the restrictions necessary, acknowledging the difficulties and sacrifices that would accompany them, and expressing empathy and solidarity with her fellow citizens during these extraordinary times. At the end of every update, news conference, or Facebook video chat, she thanks all of us for making the sacrifices that are helping to slow the spread of the virus, and she urges us to “Be safe” and “Be kind.”

Active Covid-19 cases in New Zealand

In my last blog, I wrote how happy I was to be here. I'm still happy to be here. Very happy.

Also in my last blog post, I shared how we cruisers were wondering how NZ Immigration would deal with our visas, but I was confident that they would “enact a reasonable policy.” In fact, they did. A few days after I posted the blog, NZ Immigration announced that they would automatically extend all visitor visas until September 25, which they have done. This has eased our minds considerably. We still don't know when we might leave New Zealand, but we won't have to worry about it until September.

September being the beginning of springtime, we'll most likely be spending the winter here. Fortunately, we have a stash of winter clothes that we keep for our Christmas trips to the States, and SCOOTS has a nice little diesel fireplace that keeps her cabin quite cozy. So we're all set.

With all of the Pacific Island nations closed to visitors, we have no place to sail to; and if we did leave New Zealand, we wouldn't be allowed to come back here at the end of the year. It's an interesting time to be a nomad. In fact, you might say that our cruising life is more “no” than “nomadic” lately. But that's all right. As we've learned since we began our cruising life, sometimes you're moving and sometimes you're staying put. Right now, we're staying put. All these conditions will certainly evolve over the next few months, and our plans will evolve along with them, but for now, our voyaging has ground to a halt.

Like many of you who are in lockdown, we've adjusted to this new normal. Our world (our "bubble" as it's known here) now includes only SCOOTS; the dock to which she's tied; the marina building that houses the showers, bathroom, and laundry; and an area near the marina where we're allowed to take a walk. Thankfully, we have a large supermarket across the street. Crossing the street has never been faster or easier than during the lockdown. Though we've done a few small boat projects, we've mostly been spending our time doing things we enjoy, and the days have passed quickly. Eric has been playing a lot of electric bass and programming his Raspberry Pi. I've been reading and geeking out on the rapidly-changing science around the coronavirus.

Since we're not supposed to wander as far from the marina as the woods are, I've really missed birdwatching there. But I've made do: I take daily notes of all the birds I can see from SCOOTS, and during our walks, I created and shared a “treasure hunt” of some of the local birds that people might encounter on their walks, and I've begun feeding the gulls, doves, and sparrows on shore, and the ducks on the river, essentially bringing the birds to me.

I'm so appreciative of the technology that allows us to video chat with our kids, to keep up to date with what's going on in the world, to find inspiring things that make us feel good, or funny things that make us laugh, and to keep in touch with everyone we care about, especially when we can't be in touch physically.

True to our reputation for being a sociable bunch, several cruisers have enacted different ways of allowing us yachties to continue to communicate with each other during the lockdown, including local Facebook groups, a daily VHF radio net, and weekly Zoom-enabled “virtual happy hours.” We also holler to each other from our boats, or to friends who pass by during their exercise walks on the trail along the river.

Since our marina wasn't designated as an “essential business,” the staff hasn't been allowed to be here since the lockdown began, almost five weeks ago. Before the lockdown, Eric, and our friend, Dave, from the boat Rewa, volunteered for a couple of jobs to help keep things running smoothly while the staff were working from home. Eric has been acting as the “parcel director,” collecting parcels from the couriers and making sure they get to their recipients. Dave took on the task of collecting the coins from the washers, dryers, and showers, and, after thoroughly washing them (he calls it “money laundering”), distributes them into small ziplocks that yachties can purchase. Everyone's been pitching in and things have been going really well.

The results of money laundering

We celebrated Eric's birthday, on March 31, during the lockdown. Instead of the fun party we would have had in a “normal” year, this year, our cruiser friends who are sharing the long dock sang “Happy Birthday” to Eric and toasted him from the lockdown-appropriate distance of their own boats.

Our Level 4 lockdown required all but essential businesses to close; here in New Zealand, restaurants weren't considered essential, though I hear that they were in some other countries. But changes are coming today, when New Zealand moves to a Level 3 lockdown. Under Level 3, physical distancing requirements are still in force, but restaurants are allowed to offer take-away meals. Yippee! Another change I'm looking forward to in Level 3, is being allowed to venture farther from home, so I can finally go back to the woods for some birdwatching. But I'll keep feeding the birds close to home, too!

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, during these weird and extraordinary times, I wish you the best, and remind you to Be Safe, and Be Kind.

A good place

22 March 2020 | Town Basin Marina, Whangarei, NZ
Vandy Shrader
It's amazing how quickly things have changed.

Two weeks ago, the biggest question Eric and I were considering was, "should we spend some time cruising in New Caledonia, in addition to Fiji?"

Now, the big question is "what happens when our visas expire?"

I thought I'd check in, during this time of coronavirus mayhem, to let you know how the crew of SCOOTS is doing, and where we are in the world.

We're doing fine, and we're in a good place.

Wherever SCOOTS happens to be, is home. Right now, home is Whangarei, New Zealand. We're happy to be here. The autumn weather is nice; many of our friends are here; there are plenty of things to do; the store shelves are fully stocked, there's plenty of toilet paper; Kiwis are friendly, and New Zealand is beautiful.

We typically hang out here until May or June, when the weather starts to get annoyingly cold, and then sail up to the Pacific Islands to enjoy winter in the tropics. This year, things might be a bit more complicated, as New Zealand, Australia, and most of the Pacific Islands have shut their borders to visitors indefinitely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

It's a good thing that we like it here, because we may end up staying longer than we'd planned. How much longer? We don't know.

We're happy here and we're better off than those cruisers who were overseas when the borders were closed, and now can't get back to their boats in NZ; or the ones who'd planned to sail across the Pacific this year and discovered as they were preparing to leave that there was no longer any place to make landfall in the South Pacific; or the ones who left before the restrictions were enacted and upon arriving in French Polynesia after several weeks at sea were told that they had two options: (1) find a place to leave your boat and fly home, or (2) fuel up, reprovision, and sail away.

It's a complicated time to be a nomad.

We're flexible; we could live with scratching our plans to sail to the islands and instead spend some extra time in New Zealand. But in a few months, our visas will expire. What's going to happen then, if the Islands are still closed to visitors? At the moment, we don't know.

This question has been a hot topic every time two or more cruisers gather. Nobody thinks we'll be deported. We're all hopeful that NZ Immigration officials, recognizing the unusual circumstances of the times, will enact a reasonable policy that will allow us to stay until we can sail away. Time will tell.

Hopefully, we won't have to find out. Hopefully, the restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic will be able to be relaxed before our visas expire. This would be a good thing. Not just for us, but for humanity as a whole.

Wherever you are, we wish you the best.

Vessel Name: Awildian, previously on board SCOOTS
Vessel Make/Model: Leopard 48
Hailing Port: San Francisco, CA
Crew: Eric and Vandy Shrader
About: We've been living aboard full time since September 2014. First aboard our Able Apogee 50, SCOOTS, and now aboard our Leopard 48, Awildian.
Awildian, previously on board SCOOTS's Photos - Sweet Pea
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Added 23 July 2015