New Zealand's Charm
Timeless virtues ashore and afloat lure sailors here-sometimes, for good. From "Passage Notes" in our November 2010 issue
While my husband, Andy, and I enjoyed Australia during our circumnavigation aboard Bagheera, our Beneteau, most of our friends chose the more usual route to avoid the South Pacific cyclone season; they headed from Tonga to New Zealand's Bay of Islands and made a stop at Auckland.
The positive comments about New Zealand that we heard from cruisers were as true then as now, but it wasn't until this year that we were able to experience the country ourselves. We knew that we'd be able to see several friends who were already there preparing their boats to continue west, but we didn't anticipate the number of cruisers we'd already met worldwide whom we'd run into again on this visit to New Zealand. They spanned 45 years of our cruising in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Caribbean and in the waters off the United States and Canada, and they presented a fascinating variety of connections with the island nation.
One of our most unlikely encounters was with Anne and Graham Evans on a steep, rutted path in the lovely Abel Tasman National Park, at the north end of the South Island, near the city of Nelson. We'd met in Maine in 1999. They were flying a Royal Naval Sailing Association burgee, and since Andy was a former fighter pilot in the Royal Navy, we naturally made a visit.
Having sold Fyne Spirit, which they'd brought here from the United Kingdom via Iceland and the Strait of Magellan, they'd just collected from Australia their newly purchased Ulf Rogeburg-designed 45-foot steel cutter-rigged sloop, Kakadu.
Graham, an anesthesiologist, and Anne, a radiographer, had met in the Royal Navy, and their careers have served them well both for returning to the United Kingdom to rebuild the kitty and for working along the way.
They love Nelson, which is small for a city but vibrant, and its proximity to the fjords of the Marlborough Sounds, skiing, and a fun sailing community. It was because of a visit to the active Nelson Cruising Club that we met again.
That evening, while we were aboard Manaroa III, a cutter-rigged steel sloop by Ganley Yachts that's owned by our hospitable New Zealand friends Clare and Pat Holmes, whom we met crossing the Atlantic in 2001, the Evanses pulled into the next berth. Although distant plans include a circumnavigation, their immediate goal is to "sail to places that interest us," with Papua New Guinea, Japan, and Alaska in their sights.
American friends Kay Pastorius and Joe Waller have also chosen Nelson. After swallowing the anchor, they've settled into their beautiful B&B overlooking the bay, where they grow grapes and keep alpacas as pets.
We next headed to the North Island and the Bay of Islands to visit friends in the town of Kerikeri. We'd enjoyed Daryl Davies and Annie Prestt in Turkey and Greece in 2003 to 2005, when they cruised on their Prout 45 with Annie's children, Lisa and Jay. Daryl had left the United Kingdom in 1998 and was following his cruising dream when he met Annie on a blind date. "Mutual friends thought we had similar interests and would be good together, and we are!" says Annie.
She grew up on Malta sailing in the Mediterranean-"to meet the cute guys," she says-and spent most of her professional life on large boats as cook, deckhand, or mate. Ashore on Mallorca, in Spain's Balearic Islands, she worked as a canvas worker and washed sails in the local loft.
Eventually, with homeschooling becoming a challenge, Daryl and Annie looked for an ideal place to live. Kerikeri continues to fit the bill, although Lisa is now enjoying studying film courses at Auckland University and Jay is apprenticing at the North Sails loft. As always, it's lovely to reconnect with boat kids.
In 2008, Daryl and Annie purchased No Rehearsal, a 52-foot Catana, in Amsterdam and revisited the Med. Plans are to cross the Atlantic, cruise in the Caribbean, and arrive in New Zealand in three years' time.
Both couples also have smaller boats for local waters. The breeze was perfect for daysailing on the pretty Bay of Islands aboard Annie's 29-footer, and Andy had exciting fishing with Daryl, who wasted no time in successfully diving for "crays" and succulent green-lipped mussels.
Several cruisers have settled in Kerikeri, enjoying its subtropical climate, relaxed lifestyle, and proximity to the bay. Many make it a northern-winter escape. Opua, the port of entry for the Bay of Islands, is also filled with current and former cruisers, all content with life.
A particular surprise was finding that Brian and Angie Cohen lived here. We shared marvelous memories of the Caribbean in the 1960s, when we met, and of Ticonderoga, the American classic that they owned until just before we were married aboard her. As always with cruisers, nothing had changed, although Brian did ask me, "Where has the flaming red hair to your waist gone?"
Moving south to the city of Whangarei, we and other guests in true Ocean Cruising Club style arrived aboard Adagio, a spacious 52-foot catamaran, to stay with Americans Steve and Dorothy Darden. They'd joined our 2008 Desolation Sound O.C.C. Rally back home and had become friends to all.
It was lovely for us to meet local cruisers both known and new. We ran into more at the farmers' market next morning, all enjoying listening to the sound of violins played by young Maori sisters. Whangarei is an attractive town with extensive boating facilities. Its easy access to Auckland makes it popular with internationals, and there was never a dull moment while sightseeing with our Swedish friends Mats and Ulla Wangdahl, who sail Hokus Pokus, their Najad 420.
Steve and Dorothy spent years building Adagio. They met in college, and both had experience racing dinghies; they graduated to larger boats, then approached the planning of their ultimate cruising home in their usual style: technically, academically, practically, and with great personal interaction.
Armed with 63 pages from yacht designers Morrelli & Melvin, they chose Allan Legge Boatbuilders in Opua to do the construction; they lived in the lovely town of Russell. Over the three-year build, Dorothy enjoyed volunteering, using her career knowledge and becoming known as the Queen of Environmental Issues. With Steve allergic to heat, they tend to complete fast voyages through the tropics and cruise in temperate climes. Immediate plans are to visit Australia, particularly Hobart, Tasmania, where they ultimately plan to live, as they find the Bay of Islands too quiet for a stimulating retirement.
Peter Vandersloot, a friend from Antigua in the 1960s, drove us to the airport in his 1958 Rover III, which sees everyday use. It sets the tone for New Zealand well. Peter was boat manager of Team New Zealand during its America's Cup heyday and had shown us Auckland on our arrival. We recalled the thrill of watching the Louis Vuitton racers from Auckland's North Head. We loved the fabulous coast, the personalities, the nation's pride in its differing cultural groups, the varying landscapes, not to mention the wine tastings, and we could easily identify with the sentiment expressed in the oft-heard statement "It's so hard to leave."
When they're not exploring far-flung locales, Liza and Andy Copeland sail Bagheera in home waters in the Pacific Northwest.
Let's Not Forget
Cruising icons Lin and Larry Pardey laid the groundwork decades ago for their home at the small New Zealand island of Kawau, off the North Island in the Hauraki Gulf. Read "A Cove of Their Own"
(www.cruisingworld.com/1011pardey) by CW editor at large Herb McCormick, who recently visited with the couple.