New Zealand to Fiji:
SAYING A LONG GOODBYE TO NEW ZEALAND AND A SLOW HELLO TO FIJI
New Zealand has been a wonderful host to us over the last 19 months. I truly believe we won the Covid country lottery. The hospitality of the Kiwis, several auto-immigration extensions and the fast and hard lockdown that allowed us to live mostly unaffected by the global pandemic was remarkable. Usually we would have been here only to sit out a cyclone season and would have missed the exploring we did overland in the van or the fabulous summer sailing and hiking we enjoyed. The best part of this visit to New Zealand was reuniting with all the folks we sailed into New Zealand back in 1998…you can’t make new friends like these! Keep in mind these folks sailed and immigrated to NZ so they now live in amazing houses but we still refer to them by their given boat name. Bill and Irene (s/v Faraway) lived just up the road and so accessible to us for a chat, tea, hike, fish, sail or just a place to stay when Shenemere was hauled out. Cruising, hiking and art appreciation with Jenny and Dennis (s/v La Ruche). Fishing and art exploration with Cheryl and Henk (s/v Omega) in BOI’s was priceless. Norge (s/v Irish Mist) made the long journey to visit with us all and even brought his photo albums; what fun we had looking back. Our tribe remained intact after all these years and it’s remarkable the amount we all have in common. Martin and I did a lot of road trips to meet his school mates that have since immigrated to New Zealand. Gavin & Sharon, Martin’s childhood friend was always accommodating our comings and goings through Auckland. We had hilarious adventures with Richard and Marlene Koekemoer. Brian & Felicity Fuller hosted a SA reunion in Cambridge and Brian and Gavin cruised with us in Great Barrier Island. We met a few of Martin’s family that had immigrated to NZ as well; always real to connect with family when you are so far away. What a treat “The Caribbean Tribe Meet-Up” with Byron Pick his wife Stephanie (+2), Jenny Pick and Elizabeth and Garth indulging in an hysterical recollection of events when we were so very much younger sailing carefree in the Caribbean. A fortunate stroke of serendipity my close Kiwi friend Suzie from Miami had since moved back to New Zealand so we we were able to hang out. We had met Kiwi Malcom & Pauleen in Fiji last year and remained in contact with them so whenever we were in each others vicinity (Auckland, Whangarei or Opua ) we got together. Gosh we were incredibly lucky meeting all our ole mates in such a beautiful country and to be insolated in the Covid free bubble that New Zealand’s boarder closure provided, that we were safely and freely able to socialize. However, even though were no cases of Covid there was an economic impact and there were many folks that needed help. The Red Cross of Whangarei helped during this crisis by providing food, resources and support to the people most vulnerable at such a time. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with these good people + helping good people. I met some amazing people, made lasting friendships and have an opportunity to continue to volunteer as I travel (stand by…Fiji Red Cross possible opportunities). I was also very fortunate to have met Chef Leman, Shauna, Gaby and Rachel at Affair Catering over the summer. I had such an authentic experience with these amazing women; dang they made me laugh. I value the time we had and consider them my sisters. Probably the best and most unexpected New Zealand experience was being in one place and on a dock for 1 year. Naylene, Sharon and Brian @ Town Basin Marina helped us through this newbie experience. We hit it off with Naylene and Phil (Marina Staff and Dock Neighbor); BBQs, Holiday parties and any excuse to visit their authentic nature paradise @ The Hideout was such a fabulous treat. The highlight of all highlights was to witness their wedding. A real Kiwi Wedding in the bush and an unforgettable wedding party! Naylene’s neighbor Sue was such an inspiration and always a laugh. Sue gave me a traveling hippy skirt that I will cherish forever. I told Sue that I want to be just like her when I grow up and I mean it XO. Sharron and Andre were entertaining and always keen for an impromptu braai. Then there was actual boat work to be done; our haul out was supposed to be a 2 week event however, it went on for many weeks. We were quickly absorbed in the fold of the boatyard ole timers and what fun we all had. Kate & Robert on s/v Sylph along with Michael (40 years fishing on Quo-Vadis) were a regular dinner event that often lasted hours. Wesley on s/v Rose Marie, Liberator, Barking Mad, Ryan, Babs and John on s/v New Zealand Maid all made the challenging boatyard blues into a memorable time. Every Sunday Rob had a generous BBQ in a secret corner of the boatyard were everyone gathered mostly discussing boat projects with cold drinks, delicious BBQ and warm laughs. We were blessed with some amazing dock mates/ “Covid refugees” at the Town Basin Marina to share the day to day living experience with much as you would with your neighbors at home…a “chin wag” in the morning and a sundowner at the end of the day. The Town Basin Marina had a vibrant social schedule of ladies luncheons and weekly socials among other activities that provided us the opportunities to meet all kinds of International sailors. We are so grateful. Our Daughter Adrien sailed the seas with us and weathered the storms and has decided to set her anchor in New Zealand with her partner Donovan. We will miss her dearly, trust her immensely and believe that New Zealand is a great place to live. Our dearest friends Elizabeth & Garth -our buddy boat s/v Irwinish since Miami and decades of collective history between us have decided to stay in New Zealand. I can’t write this without the raw emotion of knowing how much we will miss the frequent belly laughs and familiarity that we have together. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” -Winnie the Pooh. As for Shenemere we have set our horizons on distant ports. Fiji-Indonesia.
We spent the last few weeks in New Zealand back and forth to Auckland to service the life raft and swap out our van for a car Adrien could drive. We caught up with the “original” New Zealand Sailing Fleet of 1998 at Cheryl and Henk’s beautiful home. Grateful that Jenny & Dennis and Norge all took the time out of their busy schedules to come up and see us off. Irene and Bill put on a spectacular Braai for our farewell; a meal that will go down in the history books. The anticipation was killing us; we’d been talking about this final night out for awhile… Elizabeth and Garth treated us to tomahawk steaks at Bad Habits Restaurant. A “few” final good byes to Adrien & Donovan as we waited for a weather window.
Waiting and Waiting for a weather window to sail to Fiji
Finally got our weather window
After more than a month and a half of waiting for a decent weather window to head the 1000 miles north to Fiji we had to first navigate the new Covid testing requirements and Fiji’s Blue Lane protocols before we could even make an appointment with New Zealand customs to depart. A massive logistics operation was underway which included an eight hour trip to Auckland on a Sunday in order to receive the results on Monday and get Fijian Government approval to depart on Tuesday. So much for the good old days of picking a safe weather window and setting sail; new protocols make a stressful passage like this one more dangerous. Such is our new reality.
The Fijian Blue Lanes protocols allow the time at sea to go toward the 14 day quarantine requirement. We spent 5 days in the quarantine lagoon which was just the amount of time we needed to rest up, tidy up and fix up. Once out of quarantine we moved to a mooring ball outside the town of SavuSavu on the Island of Vanua Levu which is at present Covid free. However, just a day ago a supply ship was turned around when crew tested positive for Covid; it might be weeks before the next supply ship. We are allowed to walk around town but need to have masks to enter into stores and are required to have the FijiCare Covid Tracing app on. The Fijians are friendly, the weather is hot and the water is warm. We are relieved to be making our way in pursuit of a circumnavigation…one passage at a time. Peace