Banyan in the Bay of Islands

View from our mooring near Opua, New Zealand

The days are slipping away as we prepare Banyan for winter.  That was obviously not the plan.  We should be in Tonga right now, but here we are.  You may have heard in the news that New Zealand has eradicated COVID-19 and is back to normal in all ways except their international borders.  It is true, for weeks there had been only one active case and that was resolved.  This presents an odd sort of challenge as well as an opportunity for New Zealand while the rest of the world deals with the virus in a very different way according to each countries strategies and abilities.

Tourism is huge for New Zealand, with winter coming on, it is not being felt too heavily yet, but certainly, the effects of this Pandemic will be long reaching into the future.  In chatting with the owner of a chandler here, he said that business has been fine so far, but what he is concerned about is next season, when all those boats that would have left the west coast of the Americas would have then arrived into NZ with lots of projects in mind.  Many New Zealanders usually travel abroad during the winter months, but many are home now, and there is a huge campaign to encourage New Zealanders to explore their own country.   

View of Urupukapuka Isalnd, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

As for us, we still have our mooring which is close to the Bay of Islands Marina, but we have begun to spend more time out and about exploring the anchorages and islands of the bay.   We head back to our mooring when the heavier winds comes, or to re-provision, drop trash, pick up mail, get laundry done, or hit the chandlers to spend some boat bucks.  Currently, we are experiencing an unseasonably lovely high-pressure system that has brought very settled weather.  It’s cool, in the mid-’60s during the day, but dry and with little wind. 

Heading out to the Islands
A little pod of dolphins swam with us for a while.  See the baby?

The girls are on a U.S. schedule with their homeschool now so they have just begun their “summer” break!  Since most kids around here will still be schooling, and since days of heavy rain can keep us on the boat, I’ll be looking to find ways to keep them busy with a return to our Classical Homeschool curriculums (after a nice little break of course).  

Cameron has been busy as usual with the to do list.  With the bouts of rain, chasing a few leaks has been high on the priority list.  We’ve gone through a LOT of epxoy but we are much drier these days.  He has also just finished installing a forced air diesel heater – we are toasty warm when we turn that puppy on in the morning.  Our little list of to-dos is getting a dent but is also growing ever longer.  I’ve included it below for those interested to see how far we’ve gotten.  At this moment, Cameron is working on the wind generator re-wire and all snuggled up inside of a cockpit locker.

In random updates, we have just found, under the floor of the sewing cabinet in the bow, a 4kg bag of flour from Turkey (no English or Spanish labeling at all) and a bag of masa from Peru!  How have we lived on Banyan for 5 years and not found this hidden cabinet?!?  When replacing the fuel tanks in 2015 we found old Greek Drachma and Italian Lira which confirmed Banyan had been in Europe many years ago.  This flour stash is potentially from this same time.  It’s just a bummer it wasn’t any good anymore! luckily the 1/2 gallon of Panamanian rum we found at the bottom of another locker a couple of years ago had aged more gracefully.


Adelaide has arrived in her 13th year.  She is displaying some signs of being a teenager, most of them really fun and positive, while others cause Cameron and I to just look at each other and smile.  She is big into writing her book, which is in the revision stage.  She and Isa spend hours crafting.  These days they have rediscovered their legos and creations are always in progress. Isa is still loving her violin and some days spends hour after hour playing and practicing.  They also spend lots of time on ZOOM with friends.  As I write this they are ZOOMing with boat kid friends from the 2018 Pacific crossing.

We have made good friends with another family on a boat named Aghavni.  They are an Armenian Orthodox family and it has been awesome to be together with another Christian family.  Their kids and our kids hit it off and have been enjoying each others company when we can get them all together.  We are blessed with lots of family boats in the Bay of Islands these days and we are enjoying getting to know many of them.  We’ve had some fun fishing, shellfish foraging, and doing night hikes to see the amazing kiwi birds.  

Akeake Bay, Urupukapuka Island, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Many boats (or yachts as they say) around here are anxious to warm up by heading to Fiji and are creating groups to lobby the Fijian government to open up to private yachts. We worry that actually heading to Fiji is risky if other countries do not open up.  At this stage, only New Zealanders are allowed back into New Zealand and it’s very unclear when that might change.  Six months from now, we’d rather not be stuck in the path of a cyclone in a country that has all its hurricane holes already full of boats from last year with nowhere to go.  It’s possible that a travel bridges will open up to countries free of COVID, but all this is still in the talking phase and not the doing phase.  

View from our mooring of Pine Island near Opua, New Zealand

The future is very hard to see – the long view and the short view are very obscured.  There is a possibility of going to Northern Australia when that travel bridge opens, but Australia is a little off our desired path and would mean that getting to Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia would be going upwind.  Our plans are still to come back to the States in the fall, but the main worry is whether we will be allowed back into New Zealand with COVID still raging in the United States.  That is something that we will have to address when the time comes.  Our own VISAs as well as the boat’s temporary import license will need to be extended in the meantime if we plan to stay.  

For the present, we are enjoying a mild winter in New Zealand.  We are thinking of a few more projects that need doing and then plan to head down the coast to explore. Perhaps maybe a southern hemisphere summer on the South Island?  Who knows, “through a glass darkly” is all we can see.  

A fleet of Kid Boats in Wairoa Bay, Bay of Islands 


The Little To-Do List

  • wire in the propane alarm 
  • wire the new solar panels properly
  • wire in the new inverter
  • rebuild and rewire the wind generator
  • install a new carbon block filter (we could do a blog post on this alone as we’re always looking for better tasting water and have been through many)
  • purchase and instal new AIS system that will send and receive our signal (we only receive signals from other boats right now, we don’t send out a signal)
  • move the GPS, AIS, VHF antennas to their new home on the solar arch (involves wiring in extensions) 
  • install a new water heater and new engine heating hose between engine and heater
  • paint the locker where the water heater is going 
  • re-bed Adelaide’s port light (take it out, epoxy all over, re bed to put it back in)
  • drill out, epoxy and paint areas on deck and coach roof where we have chipping, cracking and damage to the gel coat. 
      • This has lead to a large scale plan to repaint and re texture much of our topsides which Annie is tackling.
  • repaint the cockpit area. IN PROGRESS
  • find and fill the hole that is letting in the drip above the companion way
  • find and fix where water is getting in near the forward dorad vent.
  • alter bimini cover for solar panel install. 
  • Re stitch the leather around the steering wheel
  • design and install changes to the outboard engine mount at the transom. 
  • install an air vent in the inverter cabinet
  • install insulation behind the fridge and along the interior of the hull in the inverter cabinet
  • install air vent in the cabinet where the fridge compressor lives. 
  • get life raft re-certified (might hold on this if we don’t depart this year)
  • get a new life ring
  • run new bilge pump hose
  • run and install new water hose between inlets and tanks, potentially re-plumb boat if we’re here long enough. ONE SIDE DONE – the hose we pulled out was gnarly, need to move this up the list
  • polish stainless steel all over the boat CONSTANT, SOME PROGRESS MADE
  • get and install new lifejacket hydrostatic re-arm kits (THANKS ROBERT!)
  • rebuild all winches
  • inspect all hose clamps all over the boat
  • inspect all through hulls
  • get SSB going with sail mail
  • new thermocouple for the gas range

New Things Added:

  • instal new diesel forced air heater
    • Still some final fittings to organize, but we have heat!
  • improve floorboard supports in a few places.  
  • replace our chart plotter or just go with iPad navigation? – it’s acting a little funny and threatening to give up the ghost.
  • have plastic sides added to our Bimini and Doger so we can use our cockpit in the cold wind and rain.



  1. Jennie Cunningham says:

    So much to process and think about with moving on….praying for wisdom and discernment….love you guys!

  2. Doug Vawter says:

    Thanks Anne. Great post. WOW! a lot done on the “to do” list. Great the kid boats continue to show up and be found. Really tough to plan with so-o-o-o many things out of your control. Love your bird painting! Hope you continue to find time to capture your sites on canvas. Love to all!

  3. Libbey McKendry says:

    So wonderful to read your blog. It has been too long since your last one! The pictures are stunning and we pray for the rest of your winter to be mild so you can explore to your hearts content. Love you all, Mom

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Thanks, Mom:). We are having a seasonally appropriate rainy few days but looking forward to some sunny weather. It’s always hard to know whether we should work or play when the sun comes out:). Love you.

  4. Les Dobbe says:

    Nice catchup piece Anne! Regarding leaks…. Not sure if Cameron has heard of Captain Tulley’s? We had great success on boats/motorhomes where leaks originated from a myriad of surface penetrations/lights/stanchions etc. Not sure if it’s available there?? Living vicariously through you all! Rose & Les

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hi Les,

      Wow! Great information! I don’t think we’ve used that – lots of penetrating epoxy, but not Tolley’s. We’ll look it up. And for those that don’t know – Cameron and I sailed across the Atlantic with Les and Rose on their Catana catamaran in 2002! Great to hear from you, Les!!

  5. Debi Vawter says:

    Love hearing from you. Very interesting hearing about how this Covid thing is effecting you, thank you for sharing. I didn’t have a clue how it would effect those who sail. Will pray for guidance and answers as to what to do and where to go, or stay! Love the pictures and the bird one.. what an artist…
    Love to all of you and Happy Belated Birthday Adilaide!
    Aunt Debi

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