Update from Aotearoa (The land of the long white cloud – Maori)


Do you want one more email in your inbox with the title COVID-19?  I thought not… So I’m sending a VOW update!  Seeing how most of you are stuck at home and have lots of time to hear what is going on with the crew on Banyan, you are in for a nice long update.  

First and foremost on all of our minds is how this is all affecting us.  We’ve been non stop on the phone with family and friends to hear how they are coping. 

Adelaide What’sApping with her friend in the US

Luckily, I bought about 50,000 rolls of toilet paper in Mexico before we left in 2018.  I squashed them, 2 at a time, into gallon-sized zip lock bags and stored them all over the boat.  So you will be pleased to know that Banyan is NOT going to run out of TP…. If you are in NZ, close by us, and reading this … this is not the TP you are looking for…. 


These days, Banyan is tucked up in a marina slip in Opua, Bay of Islands. We are pretty used to being on the boat for long stretches.  If things get more serious, we are heading out to anchor and might only dinghy in for groceries.  In the meantime, we are staying on our boat at the marina, staying really mellow and washing our hands’ lots.  Cameron is doing electrical work, I’m homeschooling the girls and working.  I’ve started to add some gel coat work and boat painting to my list as well.  Isa and Adelaide have weekly virtual lessons with their respective music teachers.  If you need a virtual music teacher, hit me up. Isa has virtual speech practice with Sara Cardenas weekly (if you need a virtual speech therapist, give her a call, she is fabulous). 

We arrived in this marina a few weeks ago as we had planned on being on and off the boat for the next month and wanted a safe place to leave her. We spent most of the first week with my brother Robert and his family who were visiting, we haven’t connected yet with any boat families here in this marina.  I hear tell that there are a few around.  Given the social distancing thing though, we will likely stay to ourselves for just now, and for the next 4 weeks (just found out that NZ is going to level 3 and then 4 for four weeks).

We had a total blast with Robert and his family.  We played in the waves off of Coopers Beach, made it to the most northern part of New Zealand and slid down some sand dunes.  The following day we took Banyan out for a spin and showed them what amazing sailors we are.  We did NOT have a controlled yet accidental gybe and I never steered the boat into irons while trying to tack and sheet in the genoa at the same time.  It was pretty hilarious.  We did manage to have a great little sail and found an island to explore.  We also took a great 15 km bike ride that got all our blood flowing.  If you know Robert and Fiona, you know they get’r done on Vacation.  It was so fun to be with them and spend time together.  


As we waved them off our thoughts turned to our plans.  We had planned a three-week southern exploration.  We were going to rent a car, head south and just see where the road took us.  We have family friends in Dunedin, a house sit scheduled in Christchurch and several potential stops we could make.  But, yesterday morning, the Prime Minister of NZ announced a level 2 alert, which means no unnecessary travel, work from home if you can, and as always, wash your hands.  So, for now, it’s a staycation for us.  Update: Today, they raised it to level 3 and it will be level 4 in 48 hours and for the next 4 weeks.  Time to hunker down. 

This change in the global immigration landscape has caused us to be in a bit of limbo.  We were planning on sailing north from New Zealand in late April / early May which is the best time to head north from a weather standpoint.  We were going to first stop in Tonga.  Tonga has closed its borders, accepting no yachts.  Then we were going to stop in Fiji.  Fiji has a 14-day quarantine in place meaning we would have to stay on board, after our passage at anchor and hang out – doable, but.. is Fiji where we really want to be right now?  Especially given that it wouldn’t be our first choice as a place to keep the boat during the cyclone season which would start in Nov/Dec.  Then we were going to head for Indonesia and make various stops along the way if we had the time and the inclination.  Indonesia has closed its borders to all yachts.  

So… I guess we have to wait it out and just see what happens.  The passage to and from New Zealand is no joke and we aren’t taking chances if it gets too late.  BUT!  That means we will have to stay in New Zealand during the winter, AND it means we may have to properly import our boat since our temporary import license expires in November.  Given the situation though, we are fairly certain we can get an extension.  There are certainly worse places to be stuck and we are so glad we are in good health and isolated from any major population centers.  


Every day things seem to become more grave.  On a happier note, we are getting LOTS of boat projects done.  In a recent post, I mentioned the big ones: new solar arch, new engine mounts, new shaft seal, some carpentry among other things.  Well, that is what I’m going to share, the other things.  Cameron is the king of lists.  He keeps a notebook filled with the to-dos of today and for next year.  Having lots to do is just the natural state of a boat owner.  And as the girls say, when they quote their current favorite podcast, Sailing Stories, “You have to take care of the most demanding woman in your life – Banyan.” 

The To-Do List – some items have already been checked off, others are still to go

  • 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 house water 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 install 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 
  • repaint the cockpit area
  • find and fill the hole that is letting in the drip above the companionway
  • find and fix where water is getting in near the forward dorade vent
  • find and fix the drip related to the main coach roof hatch
  • alter bimini cover for solar panel installation 
  • restitch 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 as well as along the interior of the hull in the inverter cabinet
  • install air vent fan in the cabinet where the fridge compressor lives 
  • get liferaft 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
  • polish stainless steel all over the boat
  • 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
  • install new thermocouple for the gas range

So that is the master list.  Having a bit of forced downtime may not be all that bad really.  Banyan is going to be shipshape before long!  

OH YES!  I forgot to mention that on our way from Whangarei up to Opua we took a slight detour and headed a little bit south to the much-talked-about Great Barrier Island.  We had planned to settle there for a week before Robert and Fiona came.  As we were sailing there we had great weather, but when we looked at the forecast upon arrival, a large and rather intimidating low-pressure system was coming in faster than forecasted and building.  It was scheduled to be over the top of us at the end of that week, just when we needed to go north to meet up with the McKendry clan.  After only two nights at anchor on Great Barrier, we decided to skip town and do an overnight passage up to the Bay of Islands ahead of the weather.  

Happily, we did the ONE thing I wanted to do on Great Barrier, we hiked to the Kaitoke hot springs and had a good soak.  We had a lovely overnight sail north AND all that weather ended up crossing further north and east of us so had lovely weather during a few nights at anchor in the BOI where we explored a little island (thanks for the tip Michelle) before heading to the marina.

IMG_1968 2

Oh my goodness, I almost forgot to tell you probably our most exciting bit of info.  Hauling a boat out of the water is likely the most dangerous thing you can do with a boat.  Getting into the haul out was a little exciting… I didn’t put the breaks on quite soon enough.  Luckily we were able to organize ourselves and no damage was done to the boat (thanks to the kayak which miraculously bounced back).  Getting back into the water was going just fine.  They had lowered us into the water. We turned on the engine and the shaft seal was looking good.  We checked that we have forward and reverse and then they lowered the slings so we could back out.  The control lever for our forward and reverse went a bit too far back when we moved it into position for reverse.  It got caught between the spokes of the steering wheel.  When the wheel turned, it jammed the lever down, severely bending the gear cable.  So… we were in reverse… and unable to get her out of reverse.  I took over steering, Cameron ran down to see if he could manually put her into neutral or forward, but it was being very stubborn and wasn’t going to happen fast enough.  Banyan is finicky in reverse.  She just follows the prop walk to port, unless the wind is on her starboard bow, in which case she goes to starboard.  If there is a strong current involved… who knows…  It’s tricky, and we were in tight quarters with gusty wind and rain doing loopy slow backward circles in a small area; rocks on one side, big boats and big docks on the other two sides.  “DROP THE ANCHOR” you are saying to yourself.  Yes, that is exactly what we did, we let the anchor fly and we killed the engine.  Phew…

Luckily we were going into the weekend and there wasn’t a lot of activity in that port.  We were able to stay right there for a few nights and get a mechanic on board to fix the cable and adjust it so it would NEVER happen again.

Well, that’s the update from Banyan.  We hope and pray that you all stay healthy and out of harm’s way.  We will certainly do the same here on Banyan.  And, as per the usual salutation these days:

Wishing you the ability to wash your hands’ lots and the fortitude to not touch your face,

The Banyan Crew 

We have been loving New Zealand’s pies!


  1. Phil Burton says:

    Hi folks. I was sailing with some friends off the coast of Belize last week when we came across a sloop named Banyan out of Canada. I knew it couldn’t be you but it made me curious- where did the name come from?
    Keep up the fascinating posts, and keep on sailing.

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hey Phil,
      That’s crazy! I’m not totally sure about the name, to be honest. The boat came with the name and we’ve always liked it. Banyan trees are a symbol of lots of different things to different cultures, but what resonates most with us is it’s status as a symbol of life long learning. This is why you see many book stores names Banyan Books.

  2. Valerie Fish says:

    Thanks for the great update, guys! So glad you are doing well & making the most of your down time.
    Sending you lots of love!

  3. Karen Minton says:

    Glad to hear you are in full quarantine mode and being super careful! Love you and miss you lots.
    Stay safe

  4. Fred and Janis Blue says:

    Sorry to hear that even on your boat haven that all has not gone as well as planned but certainly could have been worse and we pray that this the worse it will get. We had a pretty ground cover snow today then turned kinda drizzly and looks drizzly all next week..Indiana! Praying that all works out for Kim and the whole country by then. We are fine. Love and Prayers, A Janis & U Fred

  5. Douglas Vawter says:

    Thanks for the update. Bet the girls are disappointed the house sitting is on hold —– poor doggies are going to miss a lot of love and attention the girls would have delivered. WOW! I had not heard about the excitement of Banyan going back into the water! Amazing list for “the most demanding woman in your life”!! Love it! Take care and continue your hand washing exercises. I’m into shredding past records and cleaning out basement storage shelves —– actually throwing items away along with a large donation pile. Love to ALL!

    • Cameron Vawter says:

      I’m sure those donations will definitely be needed in the coming months. We all have so much to give in so many ways.

  6. Becky Baker says:

    Oh what an wonderful update with all of the pics and oh my Banyan!! Praying for you all! “See” you soon!!

  7. Anne Spiger says:

    Dear Anne,
    What a great update! We remember fondly our trip to NZ and camping near the Bay of Islands- that was 1980! We even think of making a return trip, renting a Newman’s camper van and doing it all over again! You are tempting us. Keep washing those hands!
    Mike and Anne Spiger

    • Cameron Vawter says:

      There’s a chance we’ll be here for longer than we anticipated….. much longer. If that happens you should come on down. After this is all over the Kiwi tourism industry is going to need the support!

  8. Libbey McKendry says:

    Wow. That was a good and exciting blog! I’m so happy Robert Fiona and family were able to visit. It warms my heart to know you had a great time. Of coarse I love the pictures of the grandkids together, too. It is good to know you are not in a big city but out in the fresh air with lots of space. Love you!

    • Cameron Vawter says:

      Thanks Nana! I’m so blessed to be a part of two such amazing families. We had a wonderful time, it’s always great to get to get the cousins together. We’ve been blessed to be able to do that so often.

  9. Marianne McGriff says:

    Anne, Cameron, Adelaide and Isa
    Thank you for wonderful blog/pics…merci, merci, merci. I’m not surprised by the border closures. Carver and I pray daily for our family/friends all over the world. Cameron, your Master List is impressive. For a fellow list-maker, maintenance is truly the key to your success! I LOVED the story of hauling the boat out of the water. Anne, you have a gift for storytelling—-it held my rapt attention all the way!!! More later in an email…LOVE to ALL, Marianne

    • Cameron Vawter says:

      My wife is amazing!!!! Thanks for the nice comments Marianne. Lot’s of prayers to you and Carver as well. We are all so blessed.

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