Exploring North Island

Whangarei inlet is about 35 miles north of Opua. A narrow entrance opens up, almost fjord like, to a couple of arms with many quiet anchorage spots.

We hung out here with boaty friends Bill and Kate for about a week. Usual NZ weather. Nice days. Rubbish days. Some good walks. A weird pub run by a couple of sisters. Generous people who picked us up in the rain as we hitched to a one street town to buy some freshies.

Ultimately our chums headed south to go and get hauled out before returning to see family in the UK while we hung on get weather to allow us to sail down towards South Island.

I tried desperately to fish for snapper. It’s really easy, so everyone says. I failed miserably. I spent several mornings and evenings drifting around in the dinghy. Veggie curry for dinner tonight. No fresh fish I’m afraid. I was gutted.

We did make it down to New Plymouth after a slow 4 night sail over the top of North Island. Some piccies from here to follow.

Three weeks in

Right. I’ve set myself the job of writing something this morning. It’s been over three weeks since we made landfall in NZ. Time to knuckle down and organise some thoughts on paper. Well ipad, you know what I mean.

We are at anchor off Orokawa in the Bay of Islands, near Opua. It’s been blowing a hooley on and off for over two days now. Gusts of close to 50 knots. The vhf radio pipes up occasionally, “Sea area Brett, gale warning”. We are eight miles in a straight line from the lighthouse at Cape Brett.

It’s driving me nuts. I’m not good being stuck on the boat. Our present location is a good place for protection from the prevailing winds, the holding is excellent meaning the anchor is solid, keeping our movable home safe. Cruising is not always a carefree existence. Shelter drives our lives when at anchor. Getting on and off the boat at will is not always possible. Grace needs looking after and humans are required.

Currently the sun has peaked through, following torrential rain an hour ago. The weather is unstable. Locals tell us its particularly crappy. The sun and stable weather will definitely turn up around Christmas, allegedly. The cockpit tent provides an extra room on Grace when it’s wet and windy. It’s very welcome providing more space. 

Before this latest weather system hit, we squeezed in a few fine days buddying up with the crew from Seneto, Bill and Kate. The Bay of Islands are spectacular, the passing sun showing them at their best. A few of the small islands are wildlife reserves. The sound of the birds living there undisturbed by killer vermin and domestic cats, is vibrant, melodic and smile inducing. We chatted about how lovely it was to hear such a noisy cacophony. The question arose, is there a difference between a bird watcher, a birder or a twitcher?

The marina laid on a festival for overseas yachtie’s so we went to the talks giving out free food.😀 We learnt about fishing kit for snapper, the latest in electronic safety devices and raced in the round the bay race. We met quite a few local racers in the club afterwards where beers and tall tales were shared. 

A kind lady, Dawn, who also has a Hans Christian 43, took me to the nearest large supermarket to stock up and we bought a new outboard as the one we bought from a Frenchman on a beach in the Bahamas died. We can’t run it at full pelt yet as it needs running in. Looking forward to whizzing soon. 

Drawing breath – NZ

It only rained 6 inches a few nights ago. Welcome to NZ. Our passage from Fiji was a mix of mostly light winds, some squall avoidance and no breakages. The latter makes us happy. Our arrival and brush with the authorities was friendly, professional and straightforward.

The first few days here were filled with celebrating our arrival, trips to town to catch up with other folks we know through boat life, some cruising around the Bay of Islands and a few walks.

Here’s the first batch of random snaps. The sun has come out since then and we’ve been racing. It’s lots of fun here in Opua.

More words and photos to follow.


Tick Tock

What do you mean? How long will it take you? Will you ever get there? You can fly to NZ in not much more than 24 hours from the UK, what are you two doing?

We set off from the UK in July 2016. You may recall, we moved onto the boat the day of the Brexit vote announcement. We been bimbling, easily distracted, taken opportunities, followed others recommendations, then you overlay covid travel restrictions and here we are 6 years and a-few months later.

But tomorrow weather permitting we point the boat south and head around 1100 miles from Fiji down to New Zealand. 8 to 10 days we hope.

Stand by your beds. The next missive maybe from kiwi land.

Countdown to Fiji

My niece and a friend were walking along the Roman Wall in Northumberland. There’s a classic place called Sycamore Gap (photo above) which was actually the location of a scene in the film / movie,  Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. Kevin Costner played Robin Hood. You may remember it. 

As they were walking past, a group of Americans were admiring the vista and one asked the question, “I wonder what kind of tree it is?” There was some considered debate. I wish I’d been there. I’d have said beech or fir or ash. 

When they got home and were sharing their holiday snaps, they could have imparted this impish UK     information to their friends and family.  Apologies to my American friends. 😀

1st October. That’s when I leave these shores for Fiji. I arrive back to boat world on 3rd October. The trickiest bit of the trip is going to be the UK bit. There’s likely to be a train strike on the day I fly. Grrrrr!  Being organised, I’d booked a ticket in advance to get me from Hexham to Heathrow airport, west of London. It’s about 300 miles. Now I have uncertainty and unnecessary stress. Thank you train drivers. 

The UK has been filled with nothing but the Queen’s death. Britain delivered impeccably. We rule the world with pageantry and queuing. I stole a few screen shots to remind myself in 20 years time of the occasion. I didn’t know the military owned so many uniforms. 

Mostly August

My 13 year old nephew said “I’ve just seen Aunty Helen run up the stairs like a wolf”.

I’m taking this as a massive compliment as I’ve had another trip round the sun and I plan to be be able to ‘wolf the stairs’ for a few more years. 😀

Dad continues to astound expectation. In medical parlance, his vital signs now include making ginger biscuits and shortbread. He can walk round the block assisted. He can berate the zapper for the television as well as the next person. He can supervise my gardening exploits.

Dave continues to beaver away in Fiji. (I think!). I’ve booked a flight and I will soon get back to boat life with NZ on the horizon. The mornings are getting chilly here in Northumberland too and I don’t have many clothes so it’s time to get to warmer climes.

Summer 2022

Six weeks have blurred here back in the UK. Best news is dad is home and getting stronger every day. I’ve managed to catch up with a few friends and my varnishing skills from the boat have been put to good use here on garden furniture and a fence.

I’m hopeful that I’ll be heading back to the boat in mid to late September. That’s all for now folks. Short and sweet.

Savu Savu, Fiji to Hexham, Northumberland

I’ve been back in the UK about a week now. Focus is presently family. But I have had some responsibilities. My bro has been away so I’ve been chief dog walker in the mornings.

Dave currently remains in Fiji. He’s been busy sorting a new main sail, some engine pipework improvements and the generator. Plus he’s been on tour with the boys and watching some 7’s rugby which sounded fun.


Here’s a short cavalcade of adjectives. Welcoming, friendly, cheap, lush and green. That’s our first impression of Fiji. We’re very happy to be here. The vibe is warm, chilled and open plus being able to converse in english is helpful…..although my french did improve after the best part of a couple of years in French Polynesia. Wow, was it really that long?

Warning ….The next section contains sailing jargon so feel free to skip if you have no interest.

How was the crossing? 12 days at sea and a little boisterous. First few days were fast. Grace was humming. We flew the twin headsails poled out and headed straight downwind. A bit rolly but saves miles by not having to gybe the angles. We had a couple of ”oh no” moments. The headsail halyard chaffed through but we managed to wrap the sails before they fell in the sea. Dave valiantly went up the mast a couple of days later but it was too pitchy and rolly to sort it out. He described the experience as ’not very nice’.

Then we ripped the mainsail. We were able to sail with the third reef in plus the stay sail. Not a massive sail area. plus we flew the cruising chute when appropriate. A sail boat without white sails is a bit limited. We chose to put the engine on for a short while at the end of the passage as we wanted to get in. No purists on Grace I’m afraid.

We have decided to buy a new mainsail rather than spend money getting it fixed for it to rip somewhere else. We bought new sails when we got Grace so they are about 10 years old. In my time distorted head, i still think of them as being new but they are obviously not. Wear and tear, UV light, strong winds all contribute to their ongoing damage.

Today Dave is swapping the starter motor on the engine. I’m sat in a cafe (bizarrely it appears to be run by a rather scary South Korean religious cult) looking out at the rain. Thinking about it, i’ve just contributed to their fundamentalist literature costs by buying a smoothie.

In stop press news, I’m unexpectedly flying back to the UK on Sunday. My dad is currently suffering health wise so i’m heading home. Dave will stay here in Fiji for the time being until we know more. Stand by. There may be a lull in transmissions for a while.