Sunday, May 1, 2016

Fiji, New Zealand, Australia


Well, it has been quite some time since we posted any adventures on this blog, but we are here now. Once leaving Fulaga, we sailed directly to Suva to check out of Fiji, wait for good weather and begin our passage to New Zealand. When we arrived in Suva it was grey and raining...actually it rained for the entire time we were there. I don't like to complain, but I must say after spending time in Fulaga, seeing the port of Suva was shocking....not all. It was very industrial looking with abandoned half-sunken shipwrecks scattered throughout the harbor which is an eerie welcome for arriving sailors. We did enjoy being able to buy fresh vegetables and fruits at the large outdoor market and we even saw a movie at the cinema. The reason Theo and I decided to go to Suva in the first place was because we had heard that checking out of the country there was a breeze, and this turned out to be very true. After waiting patiently for what felt to be an extremely long time, we finally got a good weather window and sailed away...without a glance back.

Our passage from Suva, Fiji to New Zealand went fine except for the last three days when the weather turned quite bad with predictions of getting much worse. We usually check the weather every other day and half way into our passage, we saw that there were going to be two nasty low pressure systems meeting over New Zealand and that would cause some extremely unpleasant weather right before our arrival. Theo decided to motor Et Voila into the wind, with the hope to arrive in New Zealand before the storm. The alternatives were to slow down and wait for the storm to pass, which could be days, or sail west to Norfolk island, which was not desirable for many reasons. Fortunately, the two low pressure systems never met each other. It was still very rough, with short period steep, choppy waves which was challenging on the vessel and on us! The confused waves caused one of our wind generators to fall and it nearly hurt Theo while he was at the flybridge helm. Other than that there was not too much drama... a bit boring at times, but mostly uneventful and that is NOT a bad thing.

After eight days on the ocean and using the light of the full moon to guide us, we arrived at Marsden Cove Marina in New was 1:30 in the morning.  We quickly tied up Et Voila, jumped off the boat and paced back and forth on the quarantine dock for a while. I think I may have even kissed the ground, I don’t remember…if I didn’t, I was definitely thinking about it. Customs was nice enough not to disturb us too early in the morning, so we were able to get a good night's sleep. As soon as we woke up the customs officers came on board and officially checked us into New Zealand. When that was complete, we were able to enjoy a delicious and comforting flat white coffee with breakfast at the marina cafĂ©, followed by a brisk walk to stretch our legs. Simple pleasures mean so much after a long passage!

Theo and I had Et Voila taken out of the water at Norsand shipyard in Whangarei and that is where she will stay until our return in April. It was bittersweet leaving her, but that is always the case. We are grateful for the incredible places she has taken us and have made memories of a lifetime with her. We flew home to Southern California and actually stayed much longer than we anticipated, but it was a fun time and great to be with family and friends again.

MARCH 30 – APRIL 20, 2016

Australians affectionately refer to their country as OZ. I have always wanted to go there. When I was in my twenties, I remember thinking that Australia was the one place that I wanted to see in my lifetime. I don’t remember why I felt that way, but I did. Apparently, wanderlust is in my blood…a longing to explore and travel. If someone would have told my 20 year old self that one day my future husband and I would sail from the United States to New Zealand, well….I would have thought they were Looney Tunes. Anyway, that was a long time ago. Since Et Voila was already safe and sound in the Norsand shipyard in New Zealand, Theo and I decided to take some time and fly over to OZ for a three week visit. Here is the story of how it went!


Melbourne (pronounced Melbun) was the perfect place to start our trip in OZ. We stayed in the lovely and fun packed City Center near the Yarra River. The city was bustling with trams, amazing restaurants and cafes, trendy shops and neighborhoods, lights, music, art and beautiful bridges. I know you’re probably thinking “Great Wanda, ALL cities are like that!”… yes, they are, but there was a familiarity in Melbourne that I haven’t felt anywhere else. Depending on where we wandered, I felt like I was in various places of the world. Sometimes, while standing on a street corner waiting for the light to change, I would feel exactly like I was in San Francisco.  While taking a self- guided walk through the popular Arcades and Lanes I imaged I was in Europe walking on the cobblestones and watching people enjoy coffee or cocktails at one of the many tables lining the narrow alleyways. Walking along the Yarra River I had a strong memory of being in Ottawa, Canada. These are just a few examples of places that Melbourne brought to life for me. It is one city that incorporates the best of them all.

The view of Melbourne while walking along the Yarra River

Taking a rest while exploring the botanical gardens

Street art is another fun aspect of the city

Beautiful expressions of art are displayed on buildings throughout the city


The island of Tasmania is wild, raw and unspoiled. There are not many places left in the world like it, so in our minds it was a must see. We rented a car and drove to visit the second largest city on the North side…Launceston. When we arrived we went straight to Cataract Gorge for a beautiful walk across Kings Bridge and along the Tamar River.

Cataract Gorge....peacocks were roaming the park

Crossing Kings Bridge

Theo and I were really looking forward to seeing the wildlife in Tasmania, so we made visiting the Trowunna Wildlife Park at Mole Creek a priority and we are so happy we did. We saw Wombats, Spotted Quolls and we even got to watch the carnivorous Tasmanian Devils while they ate…very interesting…we definitely understand how they got their name. The best part of the wildlife park for us was the kangaroos. Our guide mentioned during the tour that the kangaroos were napping in the forest at the far end of the park and that they would venture out at dusk. Well….why wait? Theo and I had never seen a kangaroo before, so we left the visitors area to find them. We walked and walked until we finally saw around fifty kangaroos! They were resting, but once they spotted us, they hopped off to hide. We decided to sit on a log and wait quietly. Sure enough, one by one, they slowly came out and stared at us. They looked so human like it was eerie. Finally, one approached us because we had purchased some food from the office. The kangaroos got comfortable with our presence and within a short time they just went about their business and were all around us! We truly enjoyed that experience, especially since there was no one else around.We must have spent an hour and a half with them. The only negative thing that happened was that Theo got a leech attached to his lower leg, but once he realized it was there, he calmly and casually scraped it off with a stick…what a man. Well, I am quite certain that if the leech was on me I would be running around and screaming like a fool, so I guess it was good that it happened to him. I would have given those poor kangaroos the fright of their lives! Before we left the park, I mentioned the leech incident to the Aussie at the front office. He said “Haven’t you ever had a leech on you before?” When we said no, he replied “Well, tick that one off your bucket list!”

The Tasmanian Devil was the only critter that Theo did not try to touch

A very friendly Wombat

This is what we saw when the Roos first began peeking out of their hiding places to see what we were up to

 A Mama with her baby 

A very young Joey in the pouch

They eventually relaxed around us

Another memorable day was visiting the national park. Cradle Mountain is in the heart of the protected Tasmanian wilderness, so you can imagine the beauty of it. Cars cannot drive into the park, so we took a shuttle bus in and then hiked the popular Dove Lake track which surrounds Lake St Clair. It was a bit drizzly and wet on that day.  Since it was April, prime tourist season was over and we were able to experience most everything without the crowds, so a little rain didn’t put us off…we are used to getting wet.

Hiking the Dove Lake Trail which circles Lake St Clair

We drove South to Hobart, which is the largest city in Tasmania. We had been very physically active in Launceston, so by the time we arrived in Hobart we just wanted to rest and walk around the city center. Again, this part of Tasmania reminded us a lot of Europe. There are restaurants, cafes and bars lining the streets and the main square was filled with children playing, music and people dancing. On Saturday, we were lucky enough to experience the famous Salamanca Market that is outdoors and goes on all day long. I felt like the whole city was there! Visiting Tasmania was like going back in time to a place where it is fine to leave car keys in the ignition and doors unlocked. Simple pleasures are what life is about here…it would be a dream to have more places like it.

Exploring the Salamanca Market in Hobart


We rented a car in Melbourne with the agreement to return it in Adelaide. This is a common situation here since the Great Ocean Road (GOR) is one of the most popular drives in Australia. The curving road is 243 km (151 miles) long and was built into the rocky cliffs by Australian soldiers that came back after World War I. The road is a permanent memorial to these servicemen and the many others that did not return home.

The Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch

GOR Day #1 - We left Melbourne behind and drove towards Apollo Bay. Our first stop along the GOR was in Torquay to get a quick bite to eat and see the famous Bells Beach which is the location for the Rip Curl Pro surfing competitions. We continued to drive along the turbulent coastline and watched as mist from the ocean floated up to the homes on the cliffs above. I can imagine living there would be a lot like living on a boat… damp and wet most of the time.

Our next stop was very fun. We pulled onto a dirt road at Kennet River to walk among the Eucalyptus trees. We had never seen a Koala in the wild, so you can only imagine that Theo and I spent way too much time watching the furry bears. Koalas are awake only a few hours during the day, so when we did finally find an active one, we felt very fortunate. We reluctantly left when it began to get dark and both of us had neck aches from staring upwards for hours!

GOR Day #2 – We spent the night in Apollo Bay and before beginning our morning drive, we purchased some breakfast and coffee for take away and walked to the bay to eat and watch the many people with kayaks and surfboards enter the water. Unfortunately, we were quickly surrounded by hungry, obnoxious sea birds, so it wasn’t as peaceful as we thought it might be. Onward…we had a lot to see that day!

Our first  stop was at Maits Rest for a walk through the rain forest. After that, we climbed to the top of the Cape Otway Lighthouse and saw amazing views of the Australian coastline. Finally, we arrived at the famous Twelve Apostles and enjoyed the many, many stunning lookouts that followed. We decided to stay in Port Fairy for the night and believe me when I say that Port Fairy is a VERY quiet little coastal town! We had that feeling of going way back in time again…

A stunning walk through the rain forest at Maits Rest

Cape Otway has the oldest lighthouse in Australia

There are over 600 shipwrecks along the coast, but only 240 of them have been found

This is the view from the top of the lighthouse...watching the ocean from there was a humbling experience...
and that is why it is called Shipwreck Coast

We arrived at this gorgeous beach after walking down the Gibson Steps

The famous Twelve Apostles

GOR Day #3 – We had a short two hour drive to Halls Gap in the Grampians National Park and I  really wish we could have spent more time there. If you love nature and hiking, this is a very special place. As soon as we arrived we hiked the Pinnacle track and I think Theo would agree with me that it was one of the best hikes we have ever been on. It was rocky, steep and just gorgeous. Once we reached the top, we met a young couple from Tasmania and we exchanged stories while we took a rest. Before parting ways, they asked us if we could take a picture of them together. Theo took their camera as they climbed to the highest point of the cliff’s drop off and comfortably posed near the edge with huge smiles on their faces. There they were, so close to the edge of sheer nothingness and I could barely look without wanting to grab them both and pull them to safety. I am certain that the photograph captured a moment of a lifetime for them, but when they told us to go sit there so we could have our picture taken, we both said “Hell no." Theo and I are both extremely uncomfortable with heights, so…no way! We said goodbye to them, but not before they made great fun of us for crossing an ocean, yet not being willing to sit on a sturdy rock!!

I am not a fast hiker, so Theo is usually waiting for me

At one point during our hike I felt very tired so I took a rest. At that moment, an older, grey-
haired gentleman with a limp and a cane walked past me, smiled and said "G'day". I did not
stop again until I reached the very top!

The section of cliff that you see jutting out on the left side of this image
is where the young couple sat for their photograph. Sheer nothingness...
no thank you!

 The very top of the Pinnacle Trail...we were proud of ourselves


The following morning we left Halls Gap and drove six hours to the city of Adelaide. We arrived too late to visit the famous Central Market that was located right next to our hotel. I was sad because it is known to be one of the best in Australia and I wanted to have a walk through...we couldn’t do it all I guess.

The Port Jervis ferry that goes to Kangaroo Island was completely sold out except for one at seven o’clock in the morning (sometimes being spontaneous and leaving things to fate is not the brightest way to travel). We booked it, but we had to wake up at four o’clock in the morning to arrive in Port Jervis on time. The ferry ride was a quick 45 minutes and once on the island, we stopped in Kingscote to load up with groceries before driving to the cottage we had rented in secluded Vivonne Bay. Our rental was named Serenity Cottage and it truly fit its name. It was tiny and quirky, but it was very clean and had a fully equipped kitchen. There was a cozy patio outside surrounded by trees, so we decided to use the grill, open a nice bottle of local wine and sit outside to watch the bats fly around at dusk. Sounds great right? Well, it would have been… except for the swarms of mosquitoes that joined our little soiree. We quickly went back inside, closed the door securely behind us, cooked the food in the oven and watched the bats with our noses pressed against the window. Oh well, it was still fun and the wine was epic!

Vivonne Bay has crystal clear water and one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia

 For nature and wildlife lovers, Kangaroo Island is a great place to be. Everywhere we looked we could easily find Kangaroos (of course), Wallabies, Koalas and adorable Echidnas. We even stumbled upon the elusive Heath Goanna during our Snake Lagoon hike in Flinders Chase National Park. The only real problem that the animals face on the island is motor vehicles. Honestly, we saw a lot of dead wildlife that had been struck by cars while we were in Tasmania, but the amount on Kangaroo Island was alarming to us. I know it cannot be helped because it is just the law of the jungle there, but I would be lying if I said that we got used to it. All the local cars, trucks and even the buses had heavy duty metal cages built onto the front fenders and hoods to protect them from damage.  Theo and I had been warned to purchase extra insurance for our rental car because of the high probability of hitting a kangaroo and causing extensive damage to the vehicle, so we did. Later on we discovered that the additional insurance did not apply if we drove after dusk! We have never driven so slowly in our lives and are happy to report that the only things we squashed while driving were bugs…that was a tremendous relief for us!

These adorable Echidnas were our favorite creature. On two separate occasions, we saw
them waddling across the road and into the bush

We stumbled upon this Heath Goanna on the Snake Lagoon Trail

This is the beach at the end of our Snake Lagoon hike. The sign actually read

Admirals Arch in Flinders Chase National Park

The Remarkable Rocks in Flinders Chase National Park

We did not want to leave Kangaroo Island without cuddling a Koala, so on our last day, we went to the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park. There we were both able to hold Alfie, a 20 pound male. He climbed right onto our shoulders and was not even holding on that hard. He trusted us to support him as he munched on the eucalyptus leaves we were feeding him. The park had just rescued a 7 month old koala that was found wandering the road after his mother was struck and killed by a car. Alfie now shares his space with the baby and lets it cling onto him for comfort...we loved him.


Having always wanted to see the Opera House, we decided to end our Australian adventure in Sydney. We arrived later than expected because of our delayed flight, so as soon as we could, we walked to the harbor to see the Opera House for the first time. I am so glad it was evening because it was so stunning at night with the city lights. We only had one full day in Sydney and since the Opera House was our priority, we joined an early morning tour to see the inside of it. Afterwards we took a ferry to Watson’s Bay so we could experience Sydney from the waterside and enjoy a leisurely lunch at Doyle’s on the beach. Since it was our last evening in Australia, we purchased tickets to see Turandot, an opera by Giacomo Puccini, that was performed on Sydney Harbor with a stunning view of the Opera House and city. Theo and I feel incredibly grateful to have had three amazing weeks in OZ!

My first glimpse of the Opera House at night

Sydney as seen from the Manly Ferry

Sydney Harbour Bridge at sunset

This was the view behind the stage of the opera Turandot


-If you are in a remote wilderness area in OZ (which was the case most of the time for us), make sure to check yourself for ticks and leeches. Also, keep your backpack zipped closed and give it a good shake before you take it with you.

-While exploring the Great Ocean Road, it is helpful to know the tour bus schedules so you can avoid crowds and enjoy the beautiful scenery in peace. In other words, get to the Twelve Apostles before 2 o'clock!

-If you ever find yourself spending time in Vivonne Bay, know that big bats begin flying around as the sun goes down. Do not leave any doors to the house open, even for a little while, at dusk.


"Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world." -Gustave Flaubert

"Traveling - it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." - Battuta

APRIL 20 - MAY 4, 2015

Since returning to New Zealand from Australia, Theo and I had been working on Et Voila every day so she would be ready to sail again. She was still out of the water at Norsand boatyard, so our minds were completely focused on finishing the work that had to be done and getting her back in the water as soon as possible. Sailing season begins in May and we wanted to be ready if a good weather window for our passage to Tonga presented itself.

In the midst of one of these focused work days, we received a phone call from our daughter, Stephanie. She had been taking care of our dog Isabel while we were gone, but she told us during the conversation that she would not be able to do it any longer because of her busy schedule. Isabel means the world to us, so this was a big problem.

It took Theo and I a few days of brainstorming to figure out the best solution to the situation, and in the end we made the difficult decision to return home for the season. It is such a crazy feeling to be full speed forward on a goal and then have to come to a full stop and completely change direction. One day we were preparing Et Voila for a sailing season in Tonga, and then just a few days later,  we were taking down and storing her sails....that was surreal and painful for us. Of course, if we had a crystal ball and had foreseen that this would happen, we could have just flown Isabel to New Zealand and had her sail with us this season. Oh well, "would have, could have, should have"...blah, blah, blah. That's life for you...if nothing else, we continue to practice being flexible with our thinking and embracing Plan B when necessary.

Our boat is still out of the water and hopefully she will be alright that way for a little while longer...she was built for cruising after all and the shipyard in not an ideal place for her. We will skip one sailing season and Tonga will still be there next year. We truly miss Isabel and the times that we sailed with her were the best. Our idea is to have her fly back to New Zealand with us in November, prepare Et Voila for the water and then sail the Bay of Islands. We will see how all this unfolds as the time draws nearer, but for now we have accepted our change of plans and are grateful that we were able to have an amazing adventure in Australia.

Isabel...a soon to be world traveler (again)


-There is always a solution....keep your mind open and embrace Plan B.


-"Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished." - Dean Koontz

-"I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive." - Gilda Radner