A Kiwi Christmas

Kiwis take the Christmas Holidays very seriously. Everything shuts down and people often head to the beach, to a camping spot, or a bach (a Kiwi term for a holiday house). All of our activities – orchestra, horse riding, karate, etc. stopped for the summer/Christmas holidays so it was the perfect time for us to sail out of dodge and go looking for some blue cod!

View from off the back of Banyan in “The Haven” just off of the town of Nelson

We departed Nelson in what we thought was a great little weather window. As we had been living onboard in the tidal harbor, we thought we didn’t need to medicate for seasickness. Very soon we were out of the lee of Separation Point and the sea was UP, the wind was up (gusting over 30), and Banyan was screaming along hitting 8 and 9+ knots with her newly painted bottom. While we were all feeling a wee bit queazy, we managed. It was 10 days before Christmas and we slipped into Port Hardy on D’Urville Island thinking things might be busy. Not a boat in sight! Cameron and the girls ran off to hook some cod while I enjoyed the warm weather with a good book… and promptly got a sunburn in the intense Kiwi sun…ARGH!

Sailing along at a good clip toward D’Urville from Nelson. This was before the sea started getting UP. We were making good time!

From D’Urville, we sailed on into Pelorus sound to Tennyson Inlet where we hunkered down during a pretty solid blow. Cook Straights was seeing 50+ knots and we were seeing a good breeze tucked away in Hallum Cove. We weren’t too worried. With good ground tackle and solid holding, we prepared for Christmas, decorating the boat, listening to Christmas music, and making a gingerbread house (a McKendry family tradition) while sailing around on the anchor. When the wind let up we sailed further into Tennyson and enjoyed some walking and more fishing.

But Christmas was coming and we all wanted to head toward the Abel Tasman coast, where summer shows her face with turquoise lagoons and white sandy beaches. Happily, on our way, we ran into our friends on SV Magic Dragon (a local kid boat) and spent a few precious hours with them on the east coast of D’Urville as we timed our passage through French Pass.

The next morning Adelaide and Cameron woke before the crack of dawn to make the passage at the right time for the tides. You want to hit French Pass right at slack water and if you can, have a little current behind you. They were a tad bit early but all went smoothly and I think they enjoyed watching the sun come up while they headed out across the Tasman Bay with Isa and me sleeping like babies down below.

We had a lovely sail across the Tasman Bay to the Able Tasman National Seashore. This part of New Zealand is really special and quite unique on the South Island. The beaches are filled with soft white sand and many of the bays have little estuaries just behind the main beach that is accessible to small ‘trailer sailer’ boats at high tide through a natural channel. They get marooned back behind the main beach as the tide goes out and proceed to have a lot of good fun. Most of the bays are not accessible by road, only by a lovely network of trails.

Photo Credit: Google Maps and my PDF markup abilities… Our Track from Nelson, up to D’Urville, into Tennyson Inlet, back through Frenchs Pass, across Tasman Bay to Able Tasman National Seashore, and then back to Nelson.

We headed for Bark Bay to fill our water tanks and spent a luxurious day lazing around, swimming, and reading our books on the beach. We headed to “Anchorage” Bay where we dropped the hook and settled in for about a week of watching the world go by. We celebrated a lovely Christmas there peppered with swimming, catching up with friends who pulled in, lovely walks through the park, and generally just relaxing. We made a daily pilgrimage to the top of the hill to get a little cell service to check in with family and to see if we had a new niece!

Anchorage Bay is one of the busiest anchorages. It is also the most settled and not prone to the roll that can come in from the east, an exposure that many of the anchorages on the Able Tasman coast have. Although it is not accessible by road there is a cluster of baches and one very generous bach owner puts on an extravagant fireworks show at midnight on New Year’s Eve. We stumbled upon this last year and decided to repeat the experience.

Our buddy Michael Jopson on his new-to-him H28

After ringing in the new year in style, and with our dear friend Michael Jopson who’d recently brought up his boat from Dunedin, we headed back to Nelson to do a house sit for our friend Maggie who we’d met through Kiwihousesitters.com. We love looking after her place and it has the added benefit of being near our friends the Incendy’s as well as Barb and Patrick and their horse Turner.

Photo Caption: Tuner, the horse I’ve been riding, has really turned a corner and has been a very good boy, just in time for his owner to feel good enough to get back in the saddle. She also has a second horse who, I was told, would NEVER get in the trailer again… Challenge Accepted. After playing with him for 3 or 4 sessions, he is now confidently getting in and out of the trailer with ease. WIN WIN!

Morning tea in the garden at Maggie’s
Fun at the river with friends. Isa’s friend Matilda came up from Christchurch to visit family and the girls got in on some of their fun.

While we were there, we got the good news… Cameron received his formal offer of employment with Seresin Estate, requesting him to come to work for them as their Assistant Vineyard Manager! This is a position he has been really interested in and the courtship has been long and thorough. Seresin is a relatively small biodynamic and organic vineyard in the Marlborough Valley. They have a wonderful mix of varieties and the role is perfect for Cameron who is excited to spend more time in vineyard operations and animal husbandry.

With this in mind, Cameron and Adelaide left Isa and me at Maggie’s while they took Banyan on the three-day passage to Havelock Marina. It was a pretty big deal for Adelaide to take on the role of First Mate – of course, she did beautifully and they had a great time. Havelock is only about 30 minutes from Renwick driving, the town closest to Cameron’s new job. We had thought that we would have a grace period of about a month while we waited for his work VISA to be approved. Well, we were wrong. We were sailing out of Havelock Harbour taking a last hurrah in the sounds when I got the email with Cameron’s approved VISA. It took a total of 7 days! We did a 180 and set the anchor for our last night on the hook and then slipped back into Havelock early the next morning on the high tide. Cameron was off to work that same day.

Cameron and Adelaide, off on their own adventure!

We’ve just finished Cameron’s first full week of work and we are settling into our new routine. In a few weeks, we will move into a sweet little rental house in Renwick. It’s all a bit bitter-sweet with fun and convenient things to look forward to and also feeling sad to push pause on this amazing lifestyle we’ve been able to lead. No, we are not selling Banyan. The plan is to use her to get out on the water as much as possible.

Photo Captions, left to right: Adelaide, and Isa chowing down on some paua (abalone) which were collected by Cameron’s new boss. Scenes from Cameron’s new workplace. Isa enjoying a kiwi classic, meat pie.


  1. Janis and Fred Blue says:

    Always amazed at the beauty that surrounds you. The girls have become beautiful intelligent young women overnight it seems. Congratulations Cameron on your new job! It will be quite different based on land versus the daily sailing. And, Annie, I think that you are a horse whisperer. Best wishes for all of you.
    Our Fl family (Randy’s) are moving back to IN next month after living there since 10/09. They will FREEZE for awhile. We are happy to have them near. We have been well. Hugs and Best Wishes!

  2. Marianne McGriff says:

    Good morning, Banyan Crew
    Thank you, Anne, for the wonderful update. First of all, Congratulations, Cameron, for the next step of your journey! Adelaide, Congratulations to you for being an AWESOME First Mate. Isa, I LOVE the pics of you and Adelaide with the animals. I SO appreciate the map, Anne. The ‘teacher’ in me is a visual learner and the places are more real on a map. New Zealand continues to hold a place on my ‘bucket’ list thanks to your excellent blog, maybe, 2022? Sending much love and Blessings, Marianne

    • Anne Vawter says:

      We can’t wait to welcome you here for a visit Marianne! They have just announced that the borders should be completely open by October of 2022… a long way off, but it’s so lovely to have some sort of plan in mind. Hopefully, we will see you sooner than that, but we’ll just have to take it a day at a time;). Much love to you and Carver!

  3. Stephanie West says:

    Thanks for sharing! I was hoping to meet you someday! If you ever return to the US! But your life onboard is always inspirational and I’m glad good things are happening for your family! Happy 2022!

  4. Douglas Vawter says:

    Great post with lots of beautiful sites and tales. New exciting times ahead as you transition from Banyan and back to a home setting and adjust to Cameron being “out of house” for most days. Perhaps a few more weekend “house sitting” opportunities will pop up. Enjoy Renwick and the new opportunities that will be present as you become a little more settled for a period of time. We are looking forward to when NZ reopens the country and we can plan a visit. Love to all of you!

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Thanks, Doug! Fun adventures ahead. You guys are so amazingly supportive – we really feel so blessed to have all your love and support. Can’t wait to have you come and stay!!

  5. Libbey McKendry says:

    Wonderful blog and beautiful pictures. We are excited for you in this new chapter of living on land again and all that Cameron’s job will entail. We miss you all terribly!
    Love, Mom/Nana

  6. Michelle West says:

    WOW a job on the north end of the South Island. Paradise! I am so happy for all of you! Congrats on such a great life style. Of course they are so very lucky to have hired you Cameron! Thanks for taking us with you on your journeys we always look forward to the posts. The girls have grown up! Love Michelle and Uncle John

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Aren’t we lucky! I remember you mentioning that this was one of your favorite parts of NZ. We really love it at the top of the South and feel super lucky to have found a bit of a foothold. Hugs to you and yours!

  7. Debi Vawter says:

    My goodness the girls are growing up so fast. Beautiful young ladies. You all certainly get to view Gods masterpieces daily!
    Congratulations to Cameron on his job. Thank you for all the updates and beautiful pictures along with such great story telling. Anne, have you started your book yet!! .
    We got lots of snow here last week, so we were snowed in almost all week. It was 18 this morning when I took Eliza an Jaxson to school…brrr
    Take care and God bless you all.
    Love Aunt Debi

  8. Ted & Adrienne Werry says:

    Hi Banyan
    We have been enjoying reading your great blog. Congratulations to you all for establishing yourselves in Marlborough – lucky area to have you!
    Very best wishes for a kind and successful 2022 – Ted and Adrienne, SV Otama

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hi Ted and Adrienne! So great to hear from you guys. I hope the Hauraki Gulf in summer has been amazing. Lots of trips up the volcano I hope? For anyone reading this, we met Ted and Adrienne down in Fiordlands during what was supposed to be a big wind event. We were tied in next to each other and then met again in Queen Charlotte Sound. We’ve had a lot of fun evenings on their beautiful steal boat Otama. Thanks for the good wishes and I hope we get to meet up again! Banyan is in Havelock but planning a move round to Waikawa at some point. Hugs from Marlborough!

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