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Familiar But Foreign

Our first days in New Zealand were not very glamorous, or should I say glamourous, but it has been thrilling to be here even though our first orders of business were to get started on our long list of chores that have piled up during our time lazing around in tropical paradise. We’re in rural country up here in Opua with miles kilometers kilometres of roads winding crazily through rolling green hills dotted with sheep exactly like we’d pictured it here. You can’t really do much without a car so that’s the first thing we bought (after plunking our $2 coins in the shower meters, our first hot showers since Niue in August). We picked up a sweet late 90s Subaru (this may be something like our 10th Subaru) and immediately drove to the grocery store where we gleefully filled our cart with fresh NZ strawberries, blueberries, apples, avocados, zucchini, and bottles and bottles of cheap delicious wine. Which I thoroughly enjoyed after the 10 loads of laundry finished this week….

Meet “Kiwisube”…she blends in.

Beautiful spring produce, all NZ grown

While walking around dainty little Kerikeri we felt a little scruffy, even for laid-back Kiwi standards, and made the hair salon our next stop where all four of us got a little snip snip. Here’s Holly getting her first haircut ever:

Holly’s curls get an adjustment

Our cruising kitty is not really set up for 1st world living so we pretty much had to get on the job-search program right off the bat. Thanks to old cruising friends who lived in Auckland for several years after sailing here, Michael had appointments set up with several IT recruiters practically moments after we tied off our docklines. As you may have guessed, one of the tricks of this lifestyle is to combine the many chores that seem to pile up with pleasure, so we took a field trip down to the metropolis of Auckland last week.

“Look! It’s a school of sheep!” -Holly

It was a grey, drizzly three-hour drive to the city from Opua and as we crossed over the bridge into downtown Auckland we had complete deja-vu: with the weather, the sailboats scattered across the waterways of the city we could have sworn we were driving into our hometown of Seattle. But not the Seattle of today, more like the Seattle of my childhood: New Zealand’s largest city has half of Seattle’s population and although we were warned about all the terrible traffic, we found ourselves cruising easily through the downtown in the middle of the workday. The city was incredibly clean and largely populated with small, local businesses. We grabbed coffees and warm milks at a hip cafe in Ponsonby and then toured the nearby Westhaven marina which we hope will be home soon.

Wondertime family in Auckland

While Michael was at his meetings the girls and I window-shopped and lunched at a tiny sushi restaurant together. We gleefully visited every bookstore in a 5-block radius.

Sushi lunch in Auckland with my girls

Holly happily buried in books

This week we are still in Opua, waiting for the arrival of our new damper plate which is being shipped in from the U.K. We hope to get the boat down to Auckland by Christmas, but in the meantime are enjoying kicking around in Northland. We drove to Whangarei for the day and explored the local parks which included the beautiful Whangarei falls and a lovely Kauri forest. On the way we also toured an ancient cave which is populated by glowworms – one of the many life forms unique to New Zealand. Leah is fascinated with caves and hopes to do more challenging spelunking in the future.

About to enter the amazing Kawiti glowworm caves

Wondertime girls at Whangarei Falls

It’s been wonderful to be back in the land of forests again. At first, it felt like we were back home in the Pacific Northwest. But then the details begin to come into focus. Instead of giant Douglas Firs there are ancient Kauri trees. The song of Tui birds ring out through the treetops, marvelous tree ferns tower over our heads. The greens everywhere are more vivid shades than we’ve seen before. It smells like the forests we remember, damp and mossy, but there are scents in there of spices and flowers that are all new to us.

We visit the fantastic giant Kauri trees of the Puketi forest

A tree fern

We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of all the beautiful new things this lovely country has to offer.

365 Days Later

Wondertimers in Moorea (Photo by Tucker Bradford, S/V Convivia)

A year ago today, we woke up at anchor off Hope Island, our first stop after departing our former home of Olympia, Washington. This morning, we woke up at anchor 4000 miles away, in Cook’s Bay, Moorea.

What a year this has been.

Departure day, 29 June 2011

We spent some time tonight looking back at some of the photos from a year ago. I was taken aback at how young the girls look. Holly has grown from a toddler to a busy, funny, imaginative little girl who absolutely adores her big sister. Leah especially has changed to me; her 6-year old self is so much more mature, more wise than the 5-year old we left with. The more she discovers about this world we are traveling through the more she wants to learn about it. We keep lists of things to look up on Google when we are away from the internet. She has struggled with the goodbyes that come with this life, trying to make sense of why we should leave such good friends behind. It used to take a while for her to warm up to new people but now she can make a fast friend in a heartbeat and strike up an interesting conversation with just about anyone. She adores her little sister, too.

Only time will tell how this journey will truly affect the girls, all of us, in our futures. We get clues every now and then as to how this time of traveling on the sea, seeing all the different – and similar — ways people live and speak, is shaping how they see the world.

Sailing on our way to Tahiti from the Tuamotus Holly asked me: “Mama, when are we going to be home?”

“What do you mean?” I asked her, a little puzzled.

“What I mean is, when are we going to be anchored?”

I realized that Holly, at 3, has already learned the lesson that it’s taken me 37 years to learn: that home is wherever the people who love you are.

Our current home, Cook’s Bay, Moorea

Countdown to cruising: 3 days to go

We spent today not doing a lick of work, but rather saying see-you-later to many family and friends who stopped by our dock to say hello and tour our little home. It was a good day for sure.

This is Wondertime.

She is a good little ship, and always tugging at her docklines.

wondertime at anchor

One day, a man had a dream of building a small stout boat that had a nook for everything and neat tidy bunks. She would have a ketch rig that was easy to sail and a center cockpit that was cozy and dry. His little ship would be simple and true.


So, Meridian Passage was born one Spring day in 1978 on Bainbridge Island, Washington and was carried over land to her new home in sunny Southern California.


Over the next years, she would be fitted out with a galley for cooking and a dinette for gathering and eating aft, a sea berth, a double berth and a head amidships, and two little bunks in the bow (perfect for — unknownst to him — the two little girls who would one day sleep there).


Two stout masts were added and sails and an engine for when the wind wasn’t blowing and one fine day she was launched into the sea.

ketch rig

Meridian Passage enjoyed many years of sailing in the sunshine to the California islands then destiny took her to the Columbia River where she explored fresh water nooks.


One day a small new family happened upon her and knew she was the ship they’d been searching for: not too big and not too small, not too simple and not too complex, not too old and not too new. This lovely ship sparkling in her slip was just right for the little girls who would soon dance on her decks and their parents who would sail them near, and someday, far.

leah inspecting

So Meridian Passage was sailed northward up the sea to the sound where she was born and nestled into her slip in the crook of the sound.

calm motoring up the coast of washington

The family took to her and loved her right away and knew that she was their true home. Her little girls loved her too, and were filled with wonder every time they visited.

leah's port

And that is how Wondertime found her new home.