Thursday, December 5, 2019

The best of Taupo and Rotarua in One Day

After passing through the desert road we ended up near the town of Taupo and New Zealand's largest inland lake with the same name.   Taupo itself was quite crowded and a bit too "touristy" for our

tastes.  However we were interested in a few spots just North of the town so we stayed at a nearby AirBNB and headed out the next morning.  First stop was the Huka Falls.  They are described as horizontal waterfalls and that's pretty much accurate.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

New Zealand's Desert Highway

Halfway through our North Island road trip we were driving North from Wellington, heading back to our boat in Whangarei.  Highway 1 takes you all the way from the bottom to the top of the North Island, right through the middle.  Beautiful New Zealand farmland and lush forests line the road.
Nothing but transmission towers
About 5 hours into our drive we happened upon the stretch of Highway 1 known as the Desert Road. What an unusual and unexpected delight. We were driving past green hillsides with grazing

Friday, November 29, 2019

New Plymouth has a Lot to Offer!

Three Sisters

Prior to our 10-day road trip through New Zealand's North Island Rich combed travel guides and websites to find dozens of points of interest and hikes.  We put them all on Google Maps and planned a meandering route down the West coast and back up through the middle trying to connect-the-dots.

Yesterday we were rolling down a coastal highway when we caught sight of one of the outdoor attractions. The Three Sisters are large rock formations sticking up out of a beach next to tall white cliffs.  They are located at the mouth of a river that empties into the ocean.  Lucky for us it was low tide and we were able to make our way along the river to where it emptied out onto a broad open beach.  It was a beautiful spot.  The sun was getting low in the sky and the quality of the light was amazing.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Mount Aubrey Loop Trail

Mount Aubrey seen from the road below.
On a nice New Zealand afternoon we decided to put down the boat work and go for a hike up nearby Mount Aubrey.  We read that the hike offered spectacular views of Whangarei

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Magnificent Forest of Ha'afeva Island

We met up with our friends on Manawai a few weeks ago to compare notes about our collective explorations in Tonga. They spoke highly of the island of Ha’afeva and recommended an anchorage on its North shore. The next time the winds were favorable, we set sail for Ha’afeva. As we approached the island the area had a different feel than anywhere we have been in Tonga’s Ha’apai island group. Ha’afeva is the largest of 8 or 9 islands all situated within a few miles of each other. Many were steep-sided with small hills and what looked like hardwood forest. This was in contrast to the many low-lying islands we’d visited lately which were totally covered with coconut palms.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Humpback Whale Heat Run

Female whale slapping her pectoral fins signaling she may be ready to mate.
Around 700 Humpback whales migrate from the Antarctic to Tonga each year to mate and bear offspring. At the height of the mating season we can hear whale song clearly right

Thursday, August 29, 2019

A day in Pangai

After finding out Rich is American one of the girls innocently asked if he knew "Sharon, from the Peace Corps?"
Pangai is the largest town in Tonga's sparsely populated Ha'apai group but it's really just a large village.  The entire Kingdom of Tonga has a little over 100,000 people and it doesn't look like

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Humpback Whale Encounter

Last year I was quite disappointed about never having a chance to swim with the whales. Twice I went out on all-day whale excursions with no success. This year I finally had an opportunity to swim with a group of whales in Tonga's Ha'apai group.
Well hello there!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Tonga's New Volcano - Hunga Tonga - Hunga Ha'apai as the locals call it.

We were stuck in Tongatapu waiting for our visa extension. We get 30 days when we check into Tonga so we immediately file for a 4 month extension. Last year we applied and they took our passports and said come back in 3 days. This year they said to come back in 7 days! Ugghhhhh... That was horrible. We didn't want to sit outside of Big Mama's with nothing to do. So Rich said the weather is good to sail to Hunga Tonga and check out the newly formed volcano. I'm in!!!! We are so outta here. We left at 9 AM and arrived at 4:30 PM with enough light to get in and look for a good anchoring location.

The new volcano from above

Sunday, June 23, 2019

South Minerva Reef Aerial View

Minerva Reefs are a popular stopover on the passage from New Zealand to Tonga.  They are about 600 miles from New Zealand and 250 miles from Tonga.   A week-long passage is split up into two shorter passages with a break in-between.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Minerva Reefs - North & South 2019

Minerva Reefs are one of our all-time favorite places.  They are two submerged atolls hundreds of miles away from anywhere.  The only way to visit them is on a private yacht.  

Drone photo of Minerva South "West Lagoon"

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Goodbye New Zealand...for now

We were among about 8 boats waiting at Town Basin Marina for a good weather window to leave for the tropics.

The last group of cruisers departing Whangarei for the islands.

2019 Passage From New Zealand to Minerva Reefs

We untied our lines at 10 AM on June 13.  It was a beautiful sunny day and as we went down the Marsden Cove marina channel the Whangarei heads were straight ahead, with a layer of misty clouds passing over them. 
It's easy to see why the Maori name for New Zealand translates to: "The land of the long white cloud"

Friday, May 31, 2019

Special Guests

Last weekend we had some very special guests from the US.  When we were home at the holidays I was catching up on months of accumulated mail and came across the newsletter from my college fraternity.   An article about an undergraduate brother studying in Auckland caught my eye.
Andy & Victoria

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

There is nothing cuter than a baby alpaca!

Yesterday was one one my best days since we've been back in New Zealand.  Why, you ask?  Because we met a great guy named Marijn [ma-rain] who struck up a conversation with Rich the other day.  Marijn came by the next day to talk "techno-geek" with Rich about navigation tools.
Anna!  Look at that cute face!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Let's float this boat

We applied our graphics and lettering!  It is a simple thing but one that has big impact in my opinion.  I'm excited about it.  The old lettering was faded so it was time to replace it.  We spent a lot of time
The Big Reveal!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Old windows walk the plank

Rich just completed one of our biggest boat projects to-date.  Leopard catamarans have a well-known problem with leaking salon windows.  The original factory installation
You are so outta here!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Back in the boat yard

We've been back in New Zealand for a month working on our boat. It is sitting at the same boatyard in the exact location where it was last year. We are close to finishing the projects that must be done here in the yard. When it's sunny we work on outside projects and when it rains there's plenty to do inside. Here's a few of those we've finished:

Removing the old length markings 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Hutchinson Cosmosphere trip with the Boys

On our last weekend in Kansas City we took a quick overnight trip to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson KS. The Cosmosphere - an internationally-recognized STEM education center and world-renowned, Smithsonian-affiliated museum. It was about a 3 hour drive and we stayed over night at the coolest