I’ll cut to the chase. We’re stuck – in New Zealand and in mud.
In light of the Covid world our three year circumnavigation has been bogged down to four years …. and that’s if it can continue at all.
To recap, our good ship Baggy arrived in sunny New Zealand in November 2019. We’d sailed half way round the world in just 18 months and arrived in high spirits, but ready for a rest and boat refit.
It was summer time. We toured, tramped, camped and dived. We fixed the boat up for the 18 month sail back home.
AND THEN … just as we were planning to sail into Australian sunshine – BANG – the borders shut. And they are remaining shut for the foreseeable future.
Our fingers were crossed for the rumoured Trans Tasman Bubble to materialise before the start of the cyclone season. If it had we would have sailed to Queensland for a few months and then waited out the storms in the Sydney area.
As I write this New Zealand had been celebrating over 100 days of being completely Covid-19 free, but now four mystery new cases have cropped up in Auckland.
Meanwhile, Australian states are struggling to cope with confirmed cases topping 21,713.
“Never mind – you’re in a great place” (people say). Well … yes … but ….
1 we’ve missed our weather window for leaving New Zealand
The cyclone season is fast approaching and even if we could suddenly sail over to Australia, spring storms would be sweeping the Tasman Sea.
We COULD sail to Fiji, but it’s in the cyclone zone and wouldn’t be a safe haven.
2 we have to stay in New Zealand till the end of April 2021, when the cyclone season ends
Then we’re dependent on the Covid situation easing so country borders can open and allow us to sail home.
3 we have to jump through hoops to get a New Zealand visa, so we can stay
When Covid-19 was at its peak here our visas were automatically extended. Now we have to re-apply.
And it’s not just a long, form filling exercise.
We’re waiting for compulsory chest x-rays to see if we caught tuberculosis in French Polynesia; blood and urine tests for HIV, Hepatitis and Syphilis and full physical examinations! And it’s not cheap.
4 we are completely reliant on countries opening their borders next year so we can try and sail home
If they don’t? It’s probably game over, which means selling Baggy, shipping our stuff home and flying back to Blighty 😭
And as the UK basks in Caribbean temperatures it’s winter here – snow, floods (220mm in less than 12 hours) landslides and tornados!
This was not in the plan. We love Baggy, but she’s a cramped, damp boat to live on during winter.
Of course … there are far worse places to be ‘stuck’
Moaning aside our home is now moored up on the Hatea River at Riverside Drive Marina in Whangerai, North Island.
We host Duck Community Centre meetings on our pontoon; mullet leap out of the river next to us and one day a seal came to visit.
And the marina has a buzzy social scene, from Sundays BBQ, to our own band.
Life is OK. In our opinion Kiwi pubs don’t have the X-factor of the British boozer; but there are great local walks.
And we have a precious gift … lots of free time. An opportunity that’s unlikely to ever come round again.
We’re running a lot, getting fitter and watching our Park Run times come down.
I’ve taken the opportunity to study plant based diets and cookery and have qualified as a Vegan Nutritionist. Next up is permaculture, horticulture and botany!
And Baggy has enjoyed …
- internal paint spoodles
- a refurbished engine sea water pump
- winch servicing
- deep cleaning and de-moulding
- a new engine start battery
- an outboard service
- new fresh water pump
- and we brought the (desperately needed) diesel cabin heater back to life (after two redundant years) by hitting it with a hammer
Because, oh dear, it gets damp.
But we’re still having adventures
When the ‘damp and cramp’ has got too much for us, we’ve managed to escape and explore.
Caving: with fellow sailors at Abbey Caves
Dog walking: we caught the bus and ferry to Waiheke Island to stay with our friend Linda. Eight days of beach runs, dog walking and gardening was the best medicine.
Living like locals: We sussed a bargain hire car relocation deal from Auckland to Wellington for just $9 a day (£4.50). After an eight hour scenic drive across North Island we arrived at the Stockley’s lifestyle block (small-holding) in Carterton, in the south.
Kindly offering us their ‘sleep out’ (self catering unit), and a small car for local trips, we made it our home for a month.
With sheep in the front garden, chickens and ducks … and Cartertons Regent 58 Brewery a stagger down the road … we settled in like locals.
One frosty Saturday morning we joined Greytown Park Run; one of the first park runs in the world since Covid-19 …. and we both came first … in our age categories!!
Windy Welly: We had a couple of great days out in the capital, Wellington
And it might be winter here, but the walks are breathtaking.
So, what now?
The weather starts to warm up in October, hoorah.
We’re going to leave our safe river mooring and go cruising around New Zealand for six months. First stop, Bay of Islands, and then we’ll see where the wind takes us.
It is unsettling to be stuck on the other side of the world, not knowing when or how we will get back home. It doesn’t help that we can’t get work visas either. So, all we can do is make the most of each day, and then take each week and month as it comes.
In the meantime, quirky Kiwi life never ceases to make us giggle and smile.