Settling In … NZ

Well, I’ve finally achieved my childhood dream. When I was little, my mom and dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My reply was ready, I wanted to be ‘nothing’ like mom. Fortunately, my parents took this with great humor and have goaded me about it for years. When we settled down here in NZ in February and I started the frantic job of setting up the household from scratch, trying to do it economically, keeping up the homeschooling for the girls, trying to plug into a new community, getting the new garden under control and sorting out life generally, they reminded me that I had achieved my childhood dream of doing nothing. Life goal… check.

Looking south from one edge of Cloudy Bay. Cook Straight to our left and the fertile Wairau Valley to the right.

We’ve moved into a cute little cottage in the town of Renwick which boasts two tractor dealerships, two pubs, a small grocery store, and a great little cafe. We are only a few minutes from the huge metropolis (~30k people) of Blenheim. Our little place has a spacious backyard with fruit trees and even a little potting shed. I’ve discovered that I have had some pent-up gardening urges and have been planting seeds, propagating, pruning, weeding, and transplanting like crazy. The girls have found the spacious kitchen to be a strong invitation for baking and have been making all sorts of delicious creations, while I’ve discovered the joys of preserving the garden yields. I’m also putting my skills as a fermentor to use.

Cameron has been in the trenches. It has been the fall harvest season here, and Cameron has been head down and pulling hard to bring in the fruit. With the labor situation as it is even the girls and I have gone in several times to spend the day picking grapes. It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation here in NZ with lots of competition from other fruit crops and a very tight labor situation made more challenging by COVID. To add to Cameron’s stress level he was promoted to Vineyard Manager when the previous manager gave notice a week after he started. I think the previous VM felt that he could finally leave with Cameron in place to take over the reins. Happily, he stayed to mentor Cameron through the thick of harvest. The ownership and management realize what they have in Cameron; a dedicated, hard-working, caring, knowledgable, experienced, talented individual (I’m not biased… he really is all those things and more). But it is a steep learning curve with the move from the winery to vineyard operations and everything is new. Cameron is now in charge of a flock of sheep, a small herd of cows, ducks, chickens, and a huge garden that supplies the biodynamic preparations. Let’s not forget also the vineyard team along with the 52 hectares of grapes at Seresin Estate. The girls and I are doing all we can to help support him in his new role; feeding him well, giving him loads of love, and getting him to bed early.

While Cameron is gone for most of the daylight hours, the girls and I are thoroughly enjoying life on land. Isa has started taking riding lessons and has found two orchestras to join locally. The joy of playing music with others continues to appeal to her and she is often practicing several hours a day in between her school lessons. Adelaide, inspired by a friend back in the US, asked if she could help with the backstage element of a production of Les Miserables that was going to be staged soon. She was brought on as a follow spot operator. She has to be harnessed in and sits on a tiny platform 40ft in the air while lighting up the actors. The author in her loves to observe 150 humans running around without them realizing they are being studied. As I was standing next to her, I was also roped in and am now helping to manage ‘prompt side’ set changes. The production is shockingly professional for such a small town with a set that would satisfy any city dweller and main characters with powerful voices and real skill in the theatrical arts. We’ve just started the string of performances and the reviews are rave. Even Isa was roped in to help with the over 40 tiny microphones that need to be put on, taken off, and adjusted during the show. It has been really energizing to be back in a theater and we’ve met tons of lovely members of the community. The run lasts a few weeks and then we’ll finally be home in the evenings again! No doubt we’ll stay involved with the theater community here.

Isa on the sound team, me on set (assistant to the assistant stage manager lol) and Adelaide on a follow spot

With all the demands of life on land, Cameron and I have decided it is most wise to sell Banyan. (ARGH!) I know… It’s a gut-wrenching decision, but the Malborough Sounds are not the best place for an ocean-going sailing vessel with all its Katabatic winds. Also, when Cameron does have a weekend free, it feels a bit of a burden to then go and work on the ever needy boat project list. Getting Banyan out to open water from where she lives now requires a high tide and several hours of motoring. You are committing to an overnight journey each time as the tides wait for no man and the long entrance to Havelock Marina is shallow. Banyan is built for the ocean and she deserves to be doing what she is built for and maintained to that very high standard. Happily, she is very ready for another voyage with her new rig and will hopefully find a couple or family with big dreams who recognizes her value as a solid, well-tested, well-maintained ocean-going vessel. I’ll do a dedicated Boat Sale post very soon – feel free to forward it on to any families who might want to explore the Pacific Islands!

Room for bigger projects

We have a music room now!


  1. Sue says:

    Awesome blog. What a time you are having there! Girls are certainly surpassing their mum in height lol. Good luck with the sale of Banyon but onwards and upwards Congrats to Cameron for your promotion Love Sue and Andy

  2. Robert McKendry says:

    OH WOW! Huuuuuge news from Vawters no longer on the water!! So happy you’ve found a wonderful place to put a root down for a time, and it sounds like you are making the most of your moment, as usual. Yes, it is a sad thing to see a boat slowly deteriorating without being used as designed. Best wishes for finding a great buyer!

    • Anne Vawter says:

      That Rob,
      Yes, it so hard to bite this bullet – especially emotional for Cameron. But, she is such an awesome boat and we want to make sure she stays in use and is loved and used. No Ocean passages for us for a while so… onward:). Loved Fiona’s text.. could just image you all in a room together lol.

  3. Douglas Vawter says:

    Thanks Anne!! Hard to imagine Vawtersonthewater is ending and an entire new chapter is opening up!!! Really enjoyed the many pictures and know each one has a bigger story which we can hear when we visit you in mid July. Can’t wait to see the girls and truly experience the change they have made moving to “womanhood” since the last time we were together for Chirstmas 2019 in Zionsville!! See you soon! Love to all, Mimi and Gramps

  4. Jennie C. says:

    Wow, a big transition….but seasons of life come and go…it’s so fun to hear how you are all settling into life. I think of how relationships have grown for us and it’s through experiences and shared time with others. May relationships grow and be nurtured for you all as well in those ways! Love and hugs!

    • Joyce Beery Miles says:

      Love reading your story. Wishing you the best on land. Why am I not surprised that all of you are filling your days with never ending adventures. Such a talented family. Knowing your Mom and Dad, Cameron, I can totally believe it. Know they will have a wonderful time this summer with you.

      • Anne Vawter says:

        Thanks, Joyce! We can’t wait to see them and give them big hugs. Yup, new fun things to do on land for now – but I have a feeling that we aren’t done with boat life just yet.. I feel a chapter coming a bit later in the book:)

    • Phillip Rayner says:

      Kia Ora Vawters
      On behalf of Blenheim Musical Theatre thank you and welcome to Marlborough. As an organization the Theatre really appreciated all the family helping out and I especially was grateful for Isa’s help on the sound team.
      If your ambition has been to do nothing then Marlborough is a great place to do nothing in…. apart from gardening, knitting, sewing, theatre, sailing, diving, hunting, surfing, diving, preserving, skiing, baking, macrame, fishing …and even a little work. Long may you enjoy all that sunny Marlborough has to offer.

      • Anne Vawter says:

        Hi Phillip,
        You found the blog! Well, we have been so blessed to find the Musical Theater community in Blenheim and have felt so warmly welcomed. We can’t wait for more!

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Thanks, Jennie! and we love hearing about your doings as well! Doug and Barb just caught us up on Hannah’s news as well as your upcoming sabbatical! Very exciting chapters coming for you all as well. Hugs from NZ

  5. Karen says:

    Whoa this is big news! goodbye beautiful Banyan! End of an amazing era for you guys I’m sure that was a hard but also cathartic decision. Jolie has her 8th grade graduation tonight and her last day of school is tomorrow so a small era ending over here too
    big hugs

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hugs Hugs dear sister. I’m not sure if Cameron sees it as cathartic just yet – maybe more catastrophic! Sometimes the right call is the one that is the hardest to make. I’m sure we’ll be getting on the water, but hopefully Banyan will be getting accross Oceans as she’s meant to:) LOVE YOU

  6. Eric Berghorn says:

    News of selling Banyun brings pause for reflection for the the followers of your story. I see the closing of a circle (last 5 years). It was fun to be a part of it. Cameron (when explaining your plan back than) mentioned that jobs and stability would always be there to return to if and when that became desired. And so it has happened, and in a place that offers a new chapter and a new cycle. I’ve watched from the sidelines like a relative statue, unmoving and unchanged in comparison to Banyan’s constantly shifting journey across the waves. And yet for us who remained in Napa Valley everything also changed during that period. Only now there is less time remaining than what we had before. Like sand through the hourglass…. so go the days of our lives.

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hey Eric,
      Beautifully put – I hope we will have more adventures to share in the future! For now, a home, stability and jobs is something I feel really really blessed to be able to tap into. A

      • Eric Berghorn says:

        Hi Anne and Cameron ! Hope things are going well ! Denise and I have Jan and Feb 2024 slated for a potential travel period. We are looking for a house trade situation for 2/3 weeks in NZ ? Just offering our Calistoga home to use if you want to visit friends/family and feed/watch a couple of cool kitty cats ! I realize this is probably during Cameron’s busy period at the winery but just throwing it out there ! Smooth harvest happening here now with Calistoga (walk to town) coming back economically… Best to all in the family if you see this !

  7. Lynette Vawter McKay says:

    It’s been lovely to find you on fb and follow your travels. I imagine we are related in some way, shape or form. There is nothing in life more challenging and inspiring than starting a new book with no table of contents. Your family does it so positively. Blessings on your continued journey.

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hi Lynette,
      No doubt we are! The Vawters have a long history in the US – I’ve really enjoyed learning more about the family history (there is a book, Vawter’s in America). I’m so glad you found us and have been enjoying our journey:) Many more to share hopefully. Thank you for your blessings.

  8. Sandy ednie says:

    I loved Eric’s well written comment. A journey like the Vawter’s is too awesome for a quick closure.
    We’ve Dick and I(Sandy) have lived it with you, as have many another. We are envious, yet have lived our own dreams we’ll never forget or forgo. A good life is like that, and never over till the final breath. That said, boats, like parting with a beloved home, is rarely beyond your book of memories. We’re in Hawaii. It’s like new zeland but not as cold. It’s like the USA but not as contentious. Its like love at every sunset. It’s home.
    Born in Paradise

  9. Barbara Vawter says:

    A beautiful post sharing transitions in your family, great photos add so much to your story. I admire your family; how you have adapted, learned new skills and have “seized every moment”. You’ve had challenges, but continue to make the most out of every situation! I love your cute little cottage. . God’s Blessings & Love upon each of You!

  10. Janis & Fred says:

    Dear Loved Ones, You’ve certainly lost your “sea legs” and your “land legs” have taken roots! Congratulations! Your family has blossomed into a garden of a variety of beautiful flowers! The Banyun has served you well and does deserve to be free to sail the seas again. We have enjoyed following your journey. Our FL kids have settled back in IN very near to us and are gardening & redoing an 1880’s home. We’ve loved following your traveling and enjoyed the beautiful scenery pictures. Hope we can still get updates on your land life….Good luck and best wishes for future success. Love G A Janis & G UFred

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Dear Janis and Fred, Always so lovely to hear from you in our comments. We hope to catch up with you all next time we are in INDY (no idea when that will be yet!) Thanks for follwoing along and for your good wishes and prayers! Love from NZ

  11. Becky Baker says:

    Oh my – what exciting news here! I’m thrilled to read about all of the wonderful things going on for you all. I absolutely love the music room! Sending love from Indiana!

    • Anne Vawter says:

      HI Becky! Yes, the music room is awesome – if small:). Isa prefers to play in the living area which totally cracks me up as it feels about the same as the boat. LOL but it’s beautiful to hear them playing. Adelaide is keeping her piano up with a little less enthusiasm, but still sticking to it, I’m really proud of her. We just graduated her to an 88 key keyboard which helps!

  12. Maggie says:

    I was just thinking about all of you and it is so great to hear how well everyone is doing. So glad you are staying in NZ. Best to you all and next time I am in Blenheim…I’m coming for a visit! If you come this way for a visit…you always have a place to stay. Cheers Maggie (Gracie and Lacie, Thelma and Jojo, Diego, Pedro, Tom, Jerry, and Blue)

    • Anne Vawter says:

      OH Maggie!! Such a lovely note and I LOVE that you put in all the animals:). The girls are working hard on us to start fostering for the local SPCA and I think we just folded. Thank you for the offer to stay! I’m sure we will be taking you up on that. Isa continues to spend every other Thursday in Nelson and her NZ BFF just moved there so I’m thinking we will be spending more time there in the future. HUGS

  13. Harvest Duhig says:


    My heart swells with each of your posts! So much adventure, love, beauty and bounty.

    much love to You, Cameron and A &I!

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