VISA News: We got an extension! It feels like the mother of all extensions. We requested to stay until June 30th of 2022 and we got it! That is a relief. Now I can stop fretting about getting kicked out of the country or, having to depart via Banyan, unvaccinated, in bad weather to who-knows-which COVID exposed country (with or withouth a robust healthcare system). These were never well-founded fears but the mind does tend to wander. Still... it is a relief.
Summer-in-winter flew by and, appropriately, we were are all a bit bored and ready for some stimulation. Marlborough Sounds can be packed in summer, with boats from Wellington, Nelson, and Picton whizzing around, fishing out the good spots, and taking up the moorings. In winter, as it has been during the girls’ “summer” break from school, there is hardly anyone there! We spent most nights in anchorages or on moorings with no one in sight. Cameron and the girls spent hours fishing for cod and coming home flush with fish and stories about the wildlife. We had to work hard to find good walks, but usually found a trail or something like, so we could drag the girls up to the viewpoint and get our hearts pumping. The scenery, as usual, was stunning.
Our track took us from the interior of Queen Charlotte Sound, out to Ship’s Cove, and surrounding anchorages, then back along the southern arm, working our way back in toward Picton (where the grocery store is). We didn’t come close to exploring all the anchorages; there are so many to choose from! We were usually in search of anchorages with the most sun and the best cellular so we could keep up with the girls’ ZOOM music lessons. With the sounds lying more or less north-south, the tall mountains on the west, which boast the well-known Queen Charlotte Track, shade the thin winter sun in evening and the eastern mountains shade the morning sun.
That said, the weather has been mild aside from a few cracking storms. A medium-weight coat and a good hat are all that is usually required. During those few raucous wind storms, we were tucked up into the well-sheltered anchorages. For one of the major wind events, we had left Banyan in Waikawa to do a house sitting job in Mapua (not far from Nelson). The wind whipped through Waikawa (as it is said to do) and we were lucky to be on a well-maintained mooring. Banyan definitely sailed around while we were gone as was evident by a few things strewn across the cabin sole upon our return.
With hardly anyone in the sounds, our social lives were a tad bleak. Our solitude was broken only by our time with SV Otama, a boat with which we shared an anchorage in Doubtful Sound during our time in Fiordland. It was lovely to see them and reconnect. Aside from our time with them though, we’ve had A LOT of family time.
The girls have been extremely patient having encountered no kid boats since we left the North Island. We’ve built community through the Suzuki camps, which has been great, but we haven’t convinced any of those folks to buy a boat and buddy boat with us around NZ. After a few weeks of fishing, baking, reading, playing music, and making lots of fish and chips, I was getting a little antsy.
With the VISA under our belt, it feels a bit easier to plan ahead, and with a full year to look forward to we are ready to make some decisions. We’ve completed our circumnavigation of the South Island (YAY), and we’ve sailed around most of the North Island (just that pesky southeastern coast to tackle), so we aren’t feeling the pull to explore new places. We’ve decided to settle in and take advantage of some of the things that landlubbers take for granted.
The hardest part of life in the last few months has not been the solitude or the uncertainty, it has been missing family. We had to celebrate Cameron’s sister Kim’s wedding from afar which was really hard for all of us. My family had two get-togethers, celebrating my niece’s graduation from high school and a lovely memorial in the mountains for my grandmother. Yes, we could get on a plane and go home, but because we’ve been in NZ so long, we wouldn’t be allowed back into the country for 18 months. Given COVID, it’s hard to know if the border would be open to noncitizens even after that time. In all practicality, it would mean selling Banyan and moving back to the US. None of us can wrap our heads around that quite yet so… in the meantime, we are turning into little kiwis (apart from wearing short sleaved sweatshirts and going everywhere barefoot year-round).
So the little town of Nelson is our chosen spot to straddle land and sea. We are on the dock (at least for three months which is the marina’s limit for visitors)! It is a lovely little town – not too touristy, big enough to have some cool things like museums and orchestras, and small enough to run into friends most times you head into town. The Library is a 15-minute walk from the boat, great for school research! It also boasts the highest sunlight hours of anywhere in New Zealand. After our summer in Fiordland, which was much more like another winter, we are excited to warm up.
We bought a little run-around car, visited the recycle center and picked up a few cheap bikes, and are exploring the area. We have friends here from California as well as friends we have made along the way either in the boating world or the Suzuki community. Adelaide’s piano teacher is here so she is enjoying the ability to play on a real piano and Isa has joined the community and youth orchestras and is full to the brim with new music to master. I signed us all up for Karate classes as a new challenge and a physical outlet; we are all getting better at shouting and bowing.
Life was rocking along at an alarmingly new pace when another lockdown hit. You may have heard of it in the news. Happily, there are no cases on the South Island yet so we are hopeful that our area will go back to normal soon, but time will tell. In the meantime, the girls have started up school again and I’ve been working more on my little wine brand Red Mare Wines. Cameron keeps busy working on the boat, networking a bit in the close-knit wine community here, and planning some bigger boat projects.
Hoping that all of you are well and safe. Until Next Time!