Out of The Bay

We’ve managed to intersperse boat work, road trips and cruising into the last month of our time here in New Zealand.  Since last I posted, we have left the relative familiarity and comfort of the Bay of Islands and we’ve headed south.  

Looking out at Roberton Bay, the first landing Captain Cook made in New Zealand

You may remember that we were crossing our fingers, gathering documents and planning doctors visits in order to apply for a one year VISA extension.  Happily, a few weeks ago, Immigration New Zealand sent us a letter informing us that they were extending our VISA for 5 months along with all other foreign visitors in NZ.  This doesn’t quite get us beyond the coming cyclone season when we can safely leave on Banyan, but it certainly gets us closer!  We are all crossing our fingers and hoping they will give us another extension to get us through April 2021.  

With immigration concerns allayed (for now), we are feeling very blessed and thankful that we decided to stay in New Zealand.  There are over 300 boats in the Pacific Islands who would like to come to New Zealand and Australia before hurricane season gets going (November – April), but both countries are not allowing entry to any vessel unless they are a super yacht planning at least a $50,000.00 refit. This rule is being enforced, even to the point of imprisonment and deportation as you can read from recent news.

Pouring down rain out our port light

For the present, we are trying to plan our lives without too many ifs.  We have been very comfortable in the the Bay of Islands since March, but it’s time to move on and see more!  Before we left we got our new cockpit enclosure made which has transformed our boat!  Our enclosure consists of clear plastic panels installed around our cockpit so that at anchor, if there is a cool wind blowing, or a slight rain, we can still sit up in the cockpit.  It feels as if it doubles our square footage!  The girls can sit up there and do their schoolwork even if the weather is not perfect.  One added benefit is that Isa feels comfortable enough to play her violin outside the boat cabin! 

Banyan’s new atrium

The enclosure is not our only new toy, there has been lots of work underway. Cameron has been busy updating Banyan’s electronic accoutrements. We have added a new Vesper AIS which sends out an AIS signal as well as receives signals, this system is wifi enabled so we now have AIS with our Navionics app on our iPad and with Open CPN on our laptop.  Our old system received only and was only on our chart plotter.  AIS is a system which ocean going boats are more frequently using.  All commercial ships over 300’ send and receive as well as sometimes repeat other smaller signals on the ocean.  This system allows us to see other boats (their size, direction, speed, etc) even if we can’t see them visually. We feel pretty fancy now that we are sending out our signal.  If you want to get super geeky, you can find us out there on the Marine Traffic website.

Cameron has also rebuilt our wind generator.  New Zealand is no laughing matter when it comes to wind, we’ve experienced more 40-50+ knot breezes here in New Zealand than we had seen in our previous 5 years of cruising.  These winds take a toll on all of our equipment, especially things that just aren’t built for those sustained winds.  We replaced the bearings, part of the yaw assembly (which allows it to rotate 360 degrees without twisting wires) and have also upsized the wiring on the wind generator to handle the extra power.  We are now happy once again with its power production and it’s a good bit quieter.

Isa has been a busy baker these days

I have been working slowly but steadily on improving Banyan’s insulation.  Condensation is a huge problem on boats when the weather cools down and humans living in them create heat and humidity.  Sometimes when we wake up, areas of the ceiling, or the underside of the decks, are dripping with moisture.  To solve this requires preparing the surface, adding insulation and then adding new headliner to cover the insulation. The benefit is that Isa doesn’t wake up and say “Its dripping on me!” anymore!  I’m also realizing that there are many areas where we thought we had leaks, but it really was just water condensing and dripping down the sides of the interior of the hull.  It should make a huge difference and will also make Banyan cooler as we head back to the tropics.

We have been longing for a furler on our staysail for a while now.  A furler is a system that can be used with a sail to allow the sail to be rolled up instead of pulled down, folded and stowed.  We have this for our large headsail (Genoa), but our staysail, the smaller sail that sits between the big headsail at the front of the boat and the mast, is a hank-on sail that is stored in a bag which is always in the way when anchoring or working on our small forward deck.  If we want to use this sail, it’s just a bit more preparation.  Masons really sail well when using these sails as the center of effort is drawn closer to the middle of the boat.  Having the furler, just makes it a bit easier for us to pull it out and put it away, as well as improving mobility on the foredeck.  Cameron put the word out to a few riggers and sailmakers and lo and behold, we found a free used furling set up from someone that was upgrading.  New, these things are several thousands of dollars.  

Along with replacing the furling system, we are replacing the forward standing rigging: the forestay and the inner forestay.  These are made of stainless wires twisted around each other to look almost like rope and whose job it is to keep the mast from falling down (important).  The forward sails are wrapped around these using their furling systems.  Given the enormous force applied to the system when sailing, it is of extreme importance to keep them well maintained. The forestay was the oldest standing rigging on Banyan and it is time to replace it.  This process is opening up all sorts of worm cans.  We will keep you posted.

Cameron looking over the install of the new forestay

Before we leave New Zealand we plan to replace the rest of the standing rigging, inspect all chain plates and do any work needed to make sure Banyan continues to be in good shape to cross oceans.  As we head further west, depending on our route, we will continue to find ourselves in “southern oceans” and therefor more challenging conditions.  We’re also finding we enjoy the shoulder seasons and have winterized Banyan just a little more to keep us safe and comfortable in these conditions.     

There is no lack of other little jobs we’ve done, but for this post, I’d rather get into some of the FUN we’ve been having!  Since last we posted we have sailed north again, exploring the stark beauty of the Cavalli Islands, spending time again up in Whangaroa bay where enormous volcanic cliffs rise up and dwarf the boat in a secluded harbor. We then headed south to Marsden Point Marina, stopping along the way in Whale Bay, Bland Bay and Tutukaka.  Once tucked into our slip in the marina, we headed out on a little road trip.  

Cavalli Islands
School underway
Somewhere off the coast of the North Island
Cavalli Islands
Tutukaka Harbour

With the kids, the school books, the instruments, the life raft and half the contents of the refrigerator loaded into our little rental car, we struck south. In Auckland we stopped off at Denray Marine, where we dropped off our life raft for its recertification.  We got to see them open it up and inflate it.  We even got to jump inside!  Hopefully this is the last time we will ever sit in it.  

We continued south and spent our first night in Tangariro National park, hiking the next day but then moving on quickly to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, that evening.  We rented a great little apartment, walking distance to all the attractions and with amazing views. We went to Te Papa, the National Museum, as well as taking a tour of Parliament.  We also had a pretty long list of errands to run and things to pick up while in the city.  The girls and I got new full body wet suits, some needed clothing items, art supplies as well as electronics and boat gear we’ve had on the list.  

After a few days we headed over to the other side of the bay for the real reason for our journey.  Isa attended a four day Suzuki Violin Workshop.  It was her first time playing with other kids and it was awesome.  On the fourth day, her ensemble (which looked a lot like a small orchestra with 30 kids, violins, cellos and a double bass), played Copland’s Hoe-Down.  It was so cool to watch the kids work so hard and play such a challenging piece.  

On the way home we drove through some of the New Zealand wine country and spent some time around Lake Taupo, a huge interior lake that was a massive volcanic eruption in 186 AD.  It’s just amazing how active New Zealand is volcanically.  We struck further north to see a family friend and then stopped in at the famed Hobbiton where the set of The Hobbit lives on for tourists.  We arrived for our 3pm tour to find out that were were the ONLY ONES on the tour!  Tours usually consist of 40 people so we were pretty stoked. There are some up sides to this COVID thing (if your the tourist and not the tour operator). We had a great time touring Hobbiton and enjoyed our ale at the Greed Dragon Inn. I’ve been reading aloud the books to the girls (we are in the middle of The Two Towers now) and they answered all the trivia correctly and found the elusive fake leaves from the enormous plastic tree that is ‘planted’ over Bag End. 

Off we went home the next day, but not before stopping in Auckland to see our dear friend Michele Herald.  We also stopped off at a few violin shops and Isa tried out several full sized violins (one of which we have purchased!!!).  She loves its ‘booming’ sound and once again we’re happy she’s willing to play upstairs in our new enclosure! 🙂

Now we are back on Banyan and easily falling back into our routines of homeschool, music practice, boat work and summer cruise planning.  Spring has sprung here but in fits and spurts.  We are enjoying the warmer days and looking forward to our plan of sailing out to Great Barrier Island and south into the Hauraki Gulf for October and November, but for now, we are still on the dock and digging into a few boat projects.  

In funny news, Cameron was shocked to realize that Adelaide is in 8th grade.  Also, Isa is now taller than her Mimi… oh how times flies!  


  1. Elizabeth Vianna says:

    Always love reading your updates! Lots of hard work and such magic in all your adventures. Sending love and can’t wait to see the next one! Xoxo

  2. Barbara Vawter says:

    Awesome, a great update, explanations of Banyon updates, life in NZ and your trip South to explore more. I like the photo on the life raft, looks safe to me! Thank you for keeping in touch so well with family and friends. God Bless you and Keep you! Mimi

  3. Douglas Vawter says:

    Great post Anne. You should go back and look at the girls in some of your 2016 posts. Talk about change!!! It is fun to watch them change, grow and mature as an exciting world unfolds for them. Thanks for the many pictures that bring your blogs to life. Enjoy spring as I “manage” leaves and start to think of winter tasks. All parents appreciate the attention you continue to give to safety and boat upgrade and maintenance. Enjoy New Zealand!! Love to all!

  4. Myka Suhr says:

    Wow! It is so amazing what you guys are doing. Isa–congrats on the Suzuki Violin Workshop!! I wish I could’ve seen it. I hope you have a great time in New Zealand and every other amazing place yo visit. Thanks for posting and keeping us updated! It’s so good to see your faces.
    Love, your friend,
    Myka Suhr

  5. Marianne McGriff says:

    Good morning, Anne, Cameron, Adelaide and Isa
    Oh, did I LOVE this blog…details of boat maintenance, pics of travel, and especially, news of Isa’s violin workshop! Barb and Doug have sent me videos of performance—SO impressive! Adelaide, I can’t believe how tall you’ve grown—inherited some of those Vawter genes! You, actually, have made me consider placing New Zealand on my ‘bucket list!’ We were with the Stokelys and Glenn McDonald last week and shared some of your adventures. Sending SO much love and gratitude for our friendship, Marianne

  6. Eric Berghorn says:

    Investing time following the experiences of your family has really paid off ! It has been said “the best things in life are free“. True that !

  7. Becky Baker says:

    Oh what fun to read all of this after our lesson today!!! Love all of the pics and updates! And Isa’s new violin!!! Exciting! Sending our love from Indiana, always!

  8. Libbey McKendry says:

    Another wonderful blog with great pictures and more details of your road trip. It is so heart warming to know that you are safe and are able to travel and enjoy New Zealand. We are so proud of the girls and happy that Isa had a fun experience with the string workshop. We love you! Nana

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