Mamas in the Mamanucas (and Yasawas), western Fiji

It’s winter in Fiji, which can be easy to forget, usually. Last year we spent a sweltering July in Vuda marina waiting for our transmission, and absolutely no one was talking about cold. This “winter” has felt different (El Niño has officially replaced La Niña). In Viani bay the local dive master talked about rainy weather hanging on longer than usual, hills that were still very very green. “The Moms” arrived for the Fijian version of what overly excited weather people in Montana used to call a Polar Vortex. Fijians donned hoodies and parkas as temps plummeted into the mid-sixties (the lowest temperature ever recorded in Fiji was 12.3 C or 54 F). Meanwhile, “the Moms” counted their lucky stars and gave thanks for overcast days. I put on a T-shirt. Our biggest challenge was finding anchorages that were reasonably calm. Diana tied up the lee cloth for Camille and gave Elizabeth extra cushions to wedge herself in at night. I think I remember Diana suggesting that she handed out more sea sickness medication on this visit than she did on the entire Pacific Crossing. On the bright side, Camille says she has never slept so well (we discussed the feasibility of  installing hydraulics in the foundation of her Northern California cottage to replicate these soporific Fijian seas). I think Diana and I had both imagined leisurely lagoon sailing with the Moms, based on our quick survey of the western islands last year. For sure, neither of us imagined gusts to gale force (36 knots), and sailing at 8 knots with a handkerchief of jib rolled out. But by now the Mom’s are seasoned sailors, and weathered it all like old salts, quite happily nestled in their accustomed spots. ~MS

Navadra, an uninhabited island – save a herd of goats.
Getting in and out of the dinghy has some room for improvement, but they’re pretty SMOOTH and the mini surf didn’t help any!
These two have done this tropical land dance in quite a few countries, but it’s been awhile!
Moody but gorgeous.
Shell collecting pastime gets upstaged by the stunning forested rock!

Happy place!
Helpful to find a piece of a textile cone to remind them not to pick these deadly shells.
Lots of Monetaria Moneta cowries on this beach – they were used as currency in the Pacific and Indian Ocean countries.
This trip found us doing a fair amount of sailing just to get ourselves in a secure anchorage for upcoming weather. Our crew had phenomenal attitudes – they’re hired!
Making our way up the Mamanuca Islands with the mamas in their cozy spots.
Where the Tom Hanks film, ‘Castaway’ was shot.
Elizabeth has the aft cabin and my mom, Camille, sleeps soundly on the settee berth (best center of gravity position on the boat).
On our way to Nalauwaki Village, N. Waya, for Sevusevu; ceremonial offering of kava to the village chief.

Though the Yasawa’s and Mamanucas (pronounced mamanutha) are more accessible than some areas of Fiji, the culture here seems pretty resilient in coping with the pressures of tourism. All over Fiji people seem to smile a lot — relaxed, unhurried and generally optimistic. I think the Moms particularly enjoyed our cultural interactions. Our first sevusevu ceremony was at Nalauwaki Village in the northern bay of Waya island. The idea of sevusevu is that you must go to the chief of the village to make an offering of kava before you do anything else (swim, hike, fish etc…). Typically you find someone as you land the dinghy on the beach who can take you to the right place (take me to your leader!). The ceremony is usually fascilitated by the chiefs spokesperson, the Turanga Ni Koro. You sit on the floor in the chief’s house or the community hall and pass your kava roots (usually wrapped up in newspaper which is also valued for rolling very long thin cigarettes called Suki) to the spokesperson who passes it onto the chief. He recites a speech (in Fijian) welcoming you, often by name, giving permission to walk about the village, snorkel, dive etc. The spokesperson translates that you are now guests and the chief and the village also take responsibility for your welfare. The ceremony is usually followed by a tour of the village and the school. Apparently Nalauwaki has been without a chief for a while, so this first sevusevu was a very low key version with an elder, but still had the intended effect of making us feel connected to the village rather than outsiders. All over Fiji the custom of not wearing hats, sunglasses, or carrying backpacks on your shoulders is a way that tourists can show their respect for the village. In the Lau group of eastern islands, I also started wearing a sulu (a wrap around skirt for men and women) for the ceremony as another sign of respect. It feels surprisingly good to be welcomed in this formal way and the ceremony really does create a feeling of attachment and mutual responsibility.  ~MS

Sat up on this table and had a very informal presentation of the kava, little ones roaming.
The ‘how old are you’ question came at the mamas ALOT! Often the response was big eyed awe.

Yandra! (‘good morning’ in Fijian)
Three enterprising kids, 8 papaya and two coconuts made this journey out to Allora!
Saralina, Laite and Abu colored, sang songs, drank juice and ate chips with Allora’s crew.
Saralina had that ‘old soul’ kind of wise way about her.
Quite artistic, quiet artists.
Marcus enlisted Mom’s help to crank the winch while he worked on repairing the vang.
Kava ceremony offered to the 4-6 boats in the anchorage.
Nalauwaki Village, Waya, Yasawas.
Triton’s Trumpet shells make a gorgeous sound!
They can grow to 2′ in length!!!

Chief ‘John’ and his Turanga ni Koro prepare the kava.
Every version seems a bit different, but here they put ground kava into this rag like a poultice, and then kneaded it to extract the most flavor.
Clap. Say, ‘Bula’, drink the kava, clap 3 times! (Pray you don’t get Covid because we’re all sharing the bowl).
Poor mom, I missed the first time she drank, so I pleaded with her to do it again for this pic!
The villagers held a ‘meke’ or dance for the visiting boats, and the mamas joined in!
Some local crafts were laid out, too.

Since we arrived and offered our sevusevu on a Saturday we knew we would be invited to come to church on Sunday. Since it involves singing, Elizabeth and Camille were all in. We’ve been to church a few times in French Polynesia, the Cook islands and in Fiji. Mostly they’ve been very traditional, patriarchal affairs. Here they are conducted in Fijian, with a brief nod in English to visitors. The singing is the standout part of these Sunday gatherings with stunning acapela harmonies that were very moving. The tone of the sermon at the beginning also seemed softer than we have encountered elsewhere. What really stood out for me, which I’m sure I will never forget was when the pastor asked all the parishioners to offer their own private prayers aloud at the same time. The murmur of all those voices blending together was pure magic. The congregation then endured a very long scolding which seems de rigeuer for these weekly sermons (thrice each Sunday minimum, at 5AM, 10AM and 3PM). The children deserve special mention for managing superhuman patience without the usual oversight of one of the villager elders wielding a long stick which we’ve seen most other places. ~MS

Marcus had to drive the dinghy around to a deeper spot on an adjacent beach. Plenty of help for us as we make our way across the tidal flat to get to the village. The moms were movie stars!

It’s hard to make the Fijian language sound anything but lilting, but this 2 hour sermon was a bit aggressive!
The singing was, as ever, lovely!
A bit solemn, but they told us the main idea was that one should follow their own inner spiritual wisdom.
A softer approach to spirituality might keep this younger crew engaged? Kids being bored in church happens worldwide, I suppose?
Fun to see everyone in their Sunday best!

We were invited to Kini’s house for lunch.
Our 12 year old host, Kini, served us boiled eggs and pawpaw (papaya). Delicious and so generous. I made brownies.

An electrician might have a thing or two to say?

Kini brought out their own sleeping pillows for these two to sit on.
Always a hand to hold.
Another swim back on Allora after our big village day.

Since Allora tacks on anchor, we threw a line out to make it easier to stay close!
Love having the clothesline built right in – now we just need SUN!
Mom’s been working in this same book all these years she’s been visiting. There are dates going back to 2015!

Banana anyone?!
Another sailing day, this one a little more challenging!
Getting some exercise just staying in our seats?!
We went out for a snorkel and this is the only pic I have to show for it. The high point of hilarity came when we were trying to get everyone back on the dinghy! WISH there was video!
We were invited to a ‘lovo’ by a couple who are trying to rebuild their house before this next cyclone season, so they charged $40 Fijian per person (18 US) and put on a really nice feast.
Full Moon!

And another day out sailing, this time from Blue Lagoon to Naviti.
I got the two thumbs up pics early in the day just in case things devolved, but these two are serious troopers!
Somosomo village (N. Naviti) for Sevusevu!
Shipwright in paradise.
The Kindergarten is here, but the older kids go to a nearby village for primary school.

Shower with water catchment.

There’s not a whole lot of material wealth in most of the Fijian villages we visited, and an obvious shortage of healthcare. People here are pretty self sufficient and work hard to supply their own needs. They mainly sleep on the floor in very simple, but colorful houses. Still, the land and sea also seem generously willing to provide the basics. Papaya (and a lot of other things) do grow on trees. While we anchored off a small uninhabited island wondering if the rain and cold weather might ease, if the northern swell might finally cede the battle to a southeastern blow and give Allora some peace, I noticed a local fishing boat anchored further out where there was no protection. Their single light bounced and rolled all night as they fished, despite the seriously uncomfortable weather for two days. Fishermen in the islands spearfish at night just like the sharks because the fish are hiding out in the rocks and make easier pickings. No bunks or cushions on that boat, no seasickness medicine or Diana cooked meals either. ~MS

This is the Chief’s house where we presented the kava for sevusevu.

The Chief’s wife is also the village seamstress. Do ya think this is an old Singer? It was from NZ, she said.
Tender coconuts are plentiful and SO refreshing!

 What contentedness looks like. 
We were a bit high and dry from the tide, so we enlisted some help nudging Namo down to the water.
Marcus shares about how we get our Predict Wind weather gribs, and how we might extrapolate between the different models to imagine what might actually happen.
These dinghy selfies have become a ‘thing,’ however unflattering!
We dashed over to a nearby beach when the howling wind and rain took a breather. Nice to get some walking in.

I’d seen these beetles before in Kelefesia Island, Tonga, but was hoping I’d run into them again! Thanks for the leaf holding, Marcus!


This ghost crab tried to go down a hole that wasn’t really a hole, so he got a bit of extra camo!

Elizabeth brought Quirkle and it became a bit of an evening tradition.
Then we just got silly.
The post game game …
Queen Quirkle! The one with the smallest hands picked up the most!
More beach time …
We stayed on this beach as long as we possibly could before the tide went out so far we worried we’d be spending the night ashore!

The friendly voice of reason urged us to leave, NOW!
But I haven’t picked up EVERY shell, yet?!

Sailing from Naviti to S. Waya, it was some fairly big conditions, but by now, these two are calm, cool and collected.

Yalobi village, S. Waya, Yasawas.
That morning spot is pretty sweet!

The highlight of the Moms’ visit (besides the music), was the slow mornings and conversation. It seems like most days we sat in the cockpit losing track of time until almost noon, typically with a wonderful brunch whipped up by Diana (with assistance from her favorite sous chef). Just being in the same space together with Allora gently (or sometimes not so gently) rocking, turning in the breeze (or gale) was all we needed. We covered most topics ranging from the essential meaning of the universe to childhood memories of mixing the yellow coloring into margarine. Maybe the same thing, actually, as I think about it. ~MS

Camille, aka Mom.
Elizabeth, aka Mom.
Such elegance and grace.
Our new Advanced Elements inflatable kayak – thanks, Joe and Rena for getting it to us and Claudia and Bertil, for the recommendation – lovin’ it!
That’s what the jackpot looks like!
Allora takes good care of her guests.

Last day on the move – heading back to Denarau from Waya Island.

Trying to enjoy the perks of being in a Marina, but still acutely aware of the imminent goodbyes.
A load of laundry (or 6) to do!!!

That’s a wisdom sandwich!

We had plans to rendezvous out in the islands with Claudia and Bertil and Sylva (Claudia’s 86 year old mum), but it only happened this one time – thanks to s/v Ruth’s determination, Bravi!
Sota Tale Mamas! So so so much love …

These Mama visits always leave me filled to the brim with what feels like elemental GOLD, but as we say our goodbyes, the fullness gives way quickly to a longing for more. Though the days are relatively few, they are packed with meaning: laughter, stories, music, belonging, acceptance … how would I resist this grasping? In the days following their departure, I am reminded that all the gifts of being in the graceful company of these two women are still right here with us. Vinaka vakalevu. What treasures our Mamas are! Till the next time, you two … Sota Tale! ~DS







A visit from our Kiwi (resident) kin:

Paradise Resort, Taveuni, is really welcoming to ‘yachties.’ This is where Haley and Liam came to meet us.
6 years of hugging sure looks sweet on Haley and Liam.
An enthusiastic ‘Bula!’ hello.
Gotta earn the ride!
H & L taking in the sunset.
It’s vacation time!
Haley and Liam trying their first kava or yaqona. The root of the (peppery) plant is used to produce a drink with sedative properties.
Centerpieces can get pretty exotic in the tropics!
Marcus played a couple of his own songs for the local musicians before they started their ‘Fiji Night’ music.
The staff of the resort put on a ‘meke,’ (dance).
The ‘lovo’ or traditional earthen pit – might include fish, meat, cassava, taro – often wrapped in banana leaves for moisture and cooked for at least 3 hrs.

In the bar at Paradise resort, there’s an historically dubious caption pasted on a black and white picture of a dreadlocked Fijian, claiming to be of Udre Udre, famous for eating 872 or 999 people, which raises the question of who’s keeping those records? Seems a bit incredible until google informs you that the average American will consume 7,000 animals in a lifetime (vegetarianism anyone?).  ~MS

Heart shaped leaves of the Taro plant. Beats Gore Tex for water repellency.
Lots of work to devein and prepare vitamin/antioxidant rich Taro leaves.
Sunset and friendship on the lawn at Paradise Resort. Allora’s anchored just offshore.
In this case, these are resort employees, but it didn’t look a lot different
from a joy perspective than any other village ceremony.

“Fiji night” kava and a guitar missing the D string. Traditional dances offered by the employees (which they must learn as kids) casual enough to feel authentic. We share the end of the table with doctors and nurses from San Diego who come to the island each year to volunteer their services for local women, long days providing surgeries that otherwise require a long trip to the mainland. Paradise is their reward at the end of a non-stop week. ~MS

On the long and bumpy ride up north to the Lavena Coastal walk.
We joined our very special cruiser friends, Claudia (from Switzerland) and Bertil (from Sweden) on the 6k coastal hike.

Liam remarked on the mighty trees that line the long ride down the island of Taveuni, arched over the battered road, lush and green. Glimpses of the blue tropical water in the Somosomo Strait between Vanua Levu and Fiji’s rainiest island. Here’s where the 180th meridian plays funny games with our navigation programs, and astronomically speaking the date should properly change. The dive resort at the end of Taveuni, calls itself Paradise. “Welcome to Paradise” probably gets old for the staff. Or maybe not. Green vines with blue flowers tumble down black volcanic rocks and red dirt off shore. After school, kids leap into the gentle blue surge in the glowing warm sunset. Tucked under the dock a frog fish holds perfectly still, out by the yellow can bouy, blue ribbon eels poke their heads out of the sand, waving back an forth with as must bluster as they can muster. ~MS

The 180° meridian runs through Taveuni, so most of the businesses make reference.
First hint of the many mushroom rocks we’d see later in the Lau group of islands.
Luxuriant landscape – crazy green!
Which way?!

Dads are pretty participatory with the kids in Fiji.

Spider Lily.
Red Ginger Flower.

Haley Forging ahead …
Banana plant.
Phallus indusiatus, (yep!) commonly called the bridal veil, or veiled lady, is a fungus in the family Phallaceae, or stinkhorns.
I wished it hadn’t been raining because the lacy ‘skirt’ would have been more impressive, but I was excited to see my first of these!
Likin’ the lichen?
Cane Toad or Giant Neotropical Toad was introduced to many islands to combat mosquitoes, but now THEY have been driving native fauna, especially amphibians, reptiles and birds, towards extinction.
Lots to learn about the focus on my new Sony A7RV!
I think this might be a deadly ‘Destroying Angel Mushroom?’
Inside of the coconut palm.
Taveuni is known as the ‘garden island of Fiji.’


Tree bark.

A windy Lavena coastal walk, winding up the luxuriant Wainibau valley to the thundering falls. The usual swim against the current in warm fresh water, clinging to the cliff walls between dashes across the torrent. Liam and Diana make it the whole way. A 70 year old Fijian guide urges his charges on, climbs the cliff for a daring dive he must have made since a child. ~MS

Two waterfalls await at the end of the Lavena Coastal Walk.

Haley and Liam swimming up current to reach the falls.

Some pristine rainforest can still be seen on this island, but deforestation poses a huge problem here, too.
We walked by a couple settlements on the way back. Clever use of a cut up buoy – makes a great swing!
Locals enjoying their backyard.

This isn’t vacation – it’s just life.
Kids are awesome!



And now we slip below the sea …

Master camouflager, the Frogfish!


Tridacna Clams have a two part shell and an interior mantle. They can live LONG lives.
Sweet Anemone fish
Love all around.
Sailor’s Eyeballs are a species of algae. They are one of the largest known unicellular organisms!
White Mouthed Moray Eel.
Had never seen these before and I still can’t ID them … anyone?
©HRS Liam learns to freedive!
Burrowing Urchin
Nice eyeliner!
Love this Red Spotted Blenny’s horns!
Starfish will grow back a severed limb.
Cabbage Patch, Rainbow Reef, Taveuni
Freckled Hawkfish

My camera at the time was waterproof to 50′ and these Ribbon Eels were at 54′ – not a successful gambit, sadly for the Olympus TG-6.
Haley and Liam feeling peaceful.
You know who.
‘Mackerel sky, not twenty-four hours dry’
Such a beautiful team.
Quite often our first coffee of the day spot on Allora.
Willy and his family in Viani Bay are keen to help out cruisers by selling veggies from their garden and guiding hikes, etc.
Love how they name their houses (and especially this one!)
Haley and Liam’s first Kava offering, called ‘Sevusevu,’ – to the chief of the village.
This swing was set up in a coconut palm 30′ up.
Happy to see this dog getting so much loving.
Our Marquesan horn has greeted and sounded farewell to many – and always gets us giggling with the efforts.
So so fun to have Haley home!

Haley and Liam tuck comfortably into life aboard Allora (Liam, knees slightly bent). Plans yield slowly to late mornings and less ambitious days. Scuba to snorkeling. Rainbow Reef in Viani Bay slips in and out of sun, turtles, schools of shimmering reef fish, clown fish in the anemone, moray eels, turtles, the odd Whitetip reef shark, luminous damsel fish and blue stars. Kids swim out from the beach for a visit, photo ops diving from the swim step. ~MS

This trio, Viola, Handry and Michael swam out to Allora and then jumped off her stern probably a million times!

Kids going to school in the nearby village.
I’d sit under this tree for hours, too!

At the turnoff to the natural waterslide where the taxi drops us is Taveuni’s prison set on a the green hillside, palm trees and a view, orange clad inmates wave Bula, Bula! The guidebook suggests that if locals are not using the slide, the water may be too high from rain to be safe. It doesn’t say anything about what it indicates that the locals are riding the slide on foot and doing flips into the pools. We were happy for Liam to go first, and appreciated the tips about hidden rocks along the fast and sometimes painful ride. ~MS

This natural rock waterslide was a MOVIN! and took us for some tumbles.
The calm after the storm!

Post waterslide euphoria!

Farkle games at night reminded us of days in New Zealand when we lived in the same town. Casual dinners, walks without destinations. Just being in the same place without plans is the best part, rain or shine. ~MS

Sadness as we row to shore from Allora for our goodbyes.
So hard to be without our loved ones. Makes me want to gather all my people and live like the Fijian islanders …

Each visit from friends and family has a certain ‘flavor’ and when Haley and Liam are aboard, it’s about EASE. They are gracious and lighthearted, generous and fun. We have a sense that we can just BE without fuss – and these days, I especially appreciate that important lesson. ‘Vinaka vakalevu’ for the inspiration, you two! And for creating the space in your lives to make the trip! ~DS


Bula once more, Fiji!

By some painful and myseterious black magic— 12 hours in a tired old Fiji Airways Airbus bulkhead with unhappy, uncomfortable young travelers and a collapsing arm rest video unit that nearly took out Diana’s shin… somehow… we managed to atomically deconstruct our sense of self… and transport and reconstruct ourselves in a multiverse, far far away from the frozen white cornucopia of Bozeman, Montana, USA… Fiji where it’s GREEN, suddenly 90 percent humidity and 89 degrees F (something like 32 C for those so inclined). No way to describe the particular quality of sunsets here, unlike anything so far in the Pacific. Three weeks of relentless job lists, commiserating with our fellow sailors all struggling to resurrect our boats from their cyclone pits, reacquaint ourselves the preposterous, maddening and miraculous complexity of these beautiful beasts. Fix and clean more things than seems rational. We are finally ready to poke our nose back out into the whirl of troughs and reinforced trade winds and remember, we dearly hope… why we work so hard to sit at anchor, on our living lady Allora and dip a toe in this magical cerulean water.

Colin, Allora’s eager caretaker.
Allora’s view from November ’22 – May’23
Where to begin?!
Lots of jobs – New gaskets for the fridge and freezer!

Allora getting lifted from her ‘pit.’
In the slings – on the way to the marina basin. Always a bit of a GULP!
These guys are pretty smooth with the Travellift, thankfully.
First night with a wet underbelly! Still lots to do to ready her to sail, but this feels RIGHT!
Market finds, Local cotton fabrics, handmade – $1.50 each!
Such a surprise to share an evening with Maria and Herbie from NZ!
Allora with floating neighbors again!
Provisioning at Flavio’s Italian shop. Spent so much he made us lunch!
Even more fun with our new friend, Claudia, (aboard s/y RUTH)!
Fresh market provisioning. Lots of treats and heaps of things which needed descriptions – what they are, what to do with them, etc.
Innumerable meals at the Boatshed Restaurant. They’ve kept us going …
And then the stunning moment when Sue Gill from BOZEMAN shows up. WHAAAAT?! What a small and beautiful world!
Allora’s always got a front row seat!

We’re heading offshore tomorrow, the 18th of May, so check out the ‘Where In The World Is Allora’ link to follow our track and otherwise, the Contact Us page has all the ways to reach us. Haley and Liam are heading over for a couple of weeks from Nelson, NZ, so we plan to sail and meet them in Savusavu on the island of Vanua Levu.

As always, our Internet/Wifi/Cell connections can be tenuous, so if I write you, respond using the same method so we have the best shot to reach each other. Be well loved ones – we are always missing you!


Farewell New Zealand, we fell in love …

We thought about this moment for so crazy long! Even with half her face hidden under a mask, and after nearly 3 years of absence, we SAW Maddi! A flooding of love was pretty evident in that small KeriKeri airport. Anyone with PDA issues must have fled the scene.
Travelin’ clothes.
After a protracted amount of clinging and crying in the airport, we drove a few miles to a cafe and continued with more of the same.
I pretty much always want to be an octopus, but would have especially liked more arms to wrap around Maddi on this joyous day!
We’d been watching the weather and had little time to get quite a lot of preparedness items checked off the list. Maddi jumped right in and sewed a tough sail repair.
Beautiful AND strong! (The repair AND Madison!)
Here we go! Foulies on, this is HAPPENING!

Passage to Fiji

Words we used to describe this passage upon arrival in Fiji when asked by the manager of Vuda Marina (pronounced Vunda): boisterous, lively, bumpy, rambunctious. Our passage was probably pretty typical, as good as you could reasonably expect from Opua to Vuda Point, Fiji. We left on the very day our fourth consecutive visitor’s visa finally expired! New Zealand took such good care of us throughout Covid, but the time comes when even the most charming guests need to be encouraged to abandon the couch and find some new friends. We departed on the end of a passing front, which meant strong (up to 42kts) SW winds kicking us on the tail. Diana posted these notes via Iridium to our tracker.

“You would have thought we were eager to leave NZ – the way Allora shot out of the gate and rode the tail end of a ‘low’ with 3+ meter waves and up to 42kts of wind! We’re now 24 hours and 175 nautical miles in, and the seas are showing a trend toward easing with the wind. Currently on a port tack paralleling our rhumb line. The guitars have just come out and “I Can See Clearly Now!” Highlights: bioluminescence, Albatross, slightly warmer temps and Maddi as crew (just one night watch each, woohoo!”)

Must have been strange for Maddi to have just flown in to NZ not a week before, and then to be sailing away? It was such a kindness on her part, to use her precious down time to help us get Allora to the tropics. As for us, this moment resonated somewhere deep inside and both Marcus and I processed this significant Aotearoa goodbye quietly. It was almost too big to put words around. New Zealand took dear care of us both.
Indeed, every time I looked at our chartplotter and saw the symbol of Allora inching away from NZ, and Haley and Liam, I felt a mini gut punch.
Conditions were big at the start since we left Opua on the tail of a system, taking advantage of the associated winds. When it’s like this, it’s time to connect with the rhythm of the ocean, not battle it. Maddi and Marcus tend to be able to handle just about anything the sea dishes up without needing meds. I was ‘patched’ up!
What a treat – hot cuppa tea, thanks Mad!

Passages are so good for the soul. Where else can we slow down quite like this? It’s almost a meditation retreat, with a little core workout thrown in!

Homemade Roti?! Oh, yes, we would, thank you!
Marcus rigging fishing lines since we were expecting a period of calm water.

We hoped for maybe a day of wind to push us along, but we were lucky as the winds held out for almost two. You hear about the occasional passage with wind the whole way, but the horse latitudes aren’t called the horse latitudes for nothing… well actually there seem to be a quite a few theories about why they’re called the horse latitudes, only a couple of them to do with the paucity of wind. The basic idea is that this is where the easterly trade winds peter out, but is also the normal limit of frontal systems and westerlies in the mid-latitudes. Makes sense if the wind is going to switch from West to East that there should be some dead space between. We motored for just under twenty-four hours (we thought it might be as much as two days) using our 80 horses to get us through. We’re not big on running the engine (the noise gets tiresome and makes guitar playing tough), but we did enjoy the calmer seas, and the increasingly warmer night watches.

Offsetting the sound of our engine with a little music on the deck.
Our Kevlar, light wind sail, the Code Zero.

Hard to get my fingers moving freely enough in the brrr, cold!
These two have always enjoyed conversation over early morning coffee.
Navasana – supported boat pose on a moving boat!
PhD thesis work in becalmed seas.
Nice to still be enjoying green crunchy things at this stage of the passage. One benefit of the cool temps!

On my watch, just after dawn, just as I was about to shut the engine off and rally the troops to hoist the code zero, the engine made a loud screech and shut down without any warning beeps or anything. What followed was a gorgeous day of sailing in light beam winds with the big sail out that was a bit sullied by time spent trying to figure out what was going on with the engine. We suspected a transmission problem as there have been signs of impending doom for a little while, but we didn’t want make things worse and break something further, by trying to start it up until we could eliminate the possibility of water in the cylinders. I exchanged a few texts with the Yanmar guy in Lyttelton, Brian, who by good fortune happened to be at his shop on a Sunday, and he talked me through what to look for. Our mechanically minded sailor friends Ian in England (previously mentioned in this blog as the man with a plan) and Mark from Starlet both responded promptly to our SAT phone email with gearbox advice that was invaluable. I’m sure anyone can imagine how good it feels when you’re hundreds of miles out to sea, to have friends like this to turn to. Later, the Fijian mechanic showed us pictures of the main bearing in the gearbox which had literally blown up (which more than explained the problem.) Why is a longer story, which I’m happy to share with anyone interested in the gory details. I promise not to take the fifth. Luckily, we didn’t need the engine until well inside the reef at Fiji. By some miracle it held together long enough to get us into the marina.

Not too fun to troubleshoot engine issues underway.

Such joy!
Maddi made an inventive, phenomenal curry tweaking an Ottolenghi recipe to adapt to what we actually had on hand. Memorable!

The rest of the sail, the wind was on the beam or just ahead of the beam, consitently over 20 knots with 3 to 4 meter very confused seas for the first day, which slowly moderated a little (though the wind did not) and became more regular.

Comatose, ear plugged and cocooned in pillows, Di utilizing the patented ‘foot hook on the lee cloth’ method, no pea would hinder this sleep! NEVER too many pillows!! There are no words to adequately describe the heaven that it is to be allowed your off watch slumber! Of course, with Maddi on this passage, our shifts were MUCH easier than our previous couple passages, so we felt seriously indulged.
Running the sheet for the code Zero from the bow back to the cockpit, Maddi’s also tethered to Allora along a ‘jackline.’
Music, music everywhere!
A splashy sunrise kind of morning.
I missed capturing the full wave over her head, but you can see the dousing on the cockpit floor. Mad’s coffee even got salted! Good Morning!

Maddi posted this note for Day 5:

“Poseidon has changed his mood, with boistrous seas catching us abeam and wind aplenty. With our course now set for Nadi, the Allora crew has spent the day either laying down or holding on tight. It’s incredible how tasks that were easy in the weekend calm have now become ludicrously challenging: making coffee, putting on pants… just want to take a pee in peace? Good luck! We keep thinking things are calming down, but perhaps it’s just our imaginations (and wishful thinking from unsettled tummies). Allora, for her part, seems to bounce joyfully over the boisterous seas, carrying us northward. The warm air, puffy trade wind clouds, and occasional flying fish among the leaping waves remind us that we’re back the tropics. We managed to brave the splashy cockpit for some music today, and only one of us took a full dousing! Heading into the night a salty crew, with gratitude for the wind and hopes for mellower seas tomorrow.”

Ok, this MAY be a re-enactment of the real scene, but it’s truly how we move about down below to avoid getting thrown from starboard to port!
Rigging the preventer so we don’t accidentally jibe!
Seconds later, I got swamped by a wave, but my inner super hero showed up and I saved the guitar!
We kept trying to sit on that side because it was easier, but time and time again, we’d get soaked! Time to get THERE – we’re getting punchy!
‘Land Ho!’ Always two mighty fine words!
Our track from A to B! We were hoping to make a stop at Minerva Reef (S), but the engine troubles made that a no go.

Though our speed through water was usually pretty stunning, it was all such a sloppy mess that our actual distance made good suffered. Still we logged a couple days over 170 miles, coming in at 7 days for the whole passage. After a rowdy, tumultuous, brisk and challenging ride, the calm water inside the lagoon felt surreal, the welcome song at the quarantine dock seriously touched our hearts and the Covid tests brought actual tears to our eyes!

Allora tied up at the Quarantine dock in Vuda Marina, Viti Levu, FIJI!!! It was here that about 25 crew came walking down to greet us, guitar and flower wreath in hand, singing their BULA welcome song! What a way to arrive in a new country! We had filed tons of paperwork before leaving NZ, then called when we were a ways offshore letting them know that we’d be actually arriving on this day, 7/7/22. We didn’t wait long at all before a series of lovely officials came and cleared us and Allora into the country. Quite a bit nicer than standing in those long airport lines!
We had to take a Covid test before we left NZ and upon arrival in Fiji. Once clear of that, we had biosecurity come and take any of the items I was silly enough to offer up (read: too many), we let go of some honey, nuts, grains and fresh vegetables … anything which could have pest issues. Being vegetarian helped, as they’d have confiscated our meat, too, if we had any. Customs and Immigration also made their stops and within about an hour, we were all cleared in, cruising permit in hand.
Miles and miles of smiles and memories – ta, Mad.
Vuda Marina (pronounced, ‘Vunda’). Lots more about this neat little marina in further posts. We ended up spending almost a month while waiting for our engine replacement parts to come from the States. During this time, we also secured a cyclone pit here for the upcoming season, from Nov. to April.

Maddi’s time in Fiji was already going to be pretty short, after waiting in Opua for weather, so we just couldn’t stand the idea of hanging out in the Marina, working engine or not, even though that would obviously be the prudent choice. We hadn’t seen the blown bearing yet, so blissfully ignorant, we decided that we would sail out to the reef for a couple of nights. We picked a spot that looked like we could sail onto anchor, and off, if we had to. Namo (our dinghy) was also standing by to push us along if all else failed. The wind cooperated (which is lucky because the engine quit again just after we got out of the marina and got our sail up), and though we didn’t have to sail onto anchor, we did have to manually drop it since the rough seas of passage had managed to drown a supposedly waterproof fuse box on the windlass. 

Our ‘Obi Wan Sknobi’ survived the passage!!!! She rocks! We had her in the gimbaled oven so she wouldn’t get tossed around quite as much as we did, since we heard they don’t like being ‘agitated!’ Who does?! Anyway, we are still able to have our daily Kombucha, yahoo!!! Scoby Doo!!!
We have 2 guitars, a uke and now a RAV VAST drum on Allora!
Another boat on a mooring off Namotu Island in the Mamanucas.
Namotu Island Resort has just 11 ‘bures’ and caters to surfers; the world famous ‘Cloudbreak’ is just offshore here. We watched some spectacular launches off these impressive waves and stuck to snorkeling with ‘not enough time,’ as our convenient excuse! This particular resort chooses to keep exclusive and they ask that ‘yachties’ don’t come ashore, while other places seem to welcome the extra company and business and go out of their way to be inclusive. Either way, we were free to enjoy the surrounding waters and just enjoy being on anchor in the fresh breeze.
Being on anchor at sunset is probably one of the most obvious things we missed while living in the marina in Lyttelton, NZ. It was sweet, too, but just not the same thing.
Maddi’s always keen to get on the paddleboard, making us glad we have it still.
Time to relax – after a lot of paying close attention to all things boat safety related. Thanks for being so mindful, Captain.
Thought she might go right on into the orange spot!

Maddi watched this Banded Sea Snake for awhile as it exhibited some strange behavior, almost trying to get aboard Allora. We learned later, they’re highly venomous, but generally don’t strike unless provoked. No temptation there.

The night before we had to take Maddi back for her flight, I woke up feeling pretty sick. Diana was feeling a bit off, too. She thought it was the rolly anchorage, I thought it might be bad food. By morning I was slammed. So Diana and Maddi brought Allora back without my help.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a scrap of wind, so they motored the whole way, with Diana in deep psychic communication with the Yanmar 4JH80, to keep it together until she could get all the way in the narrow marina entrance and tied up to the circular quay at Vuda. I watched from below – first the palms of the channel drifting by and then our neighbors’ masts as she wedged Allora into her spot, bumper to bumper with boats on either side. Flawlessly executed. We realize we really need to trade jobs now and then, just to practice for occasions like this. ~MS

The minute I pulled Allora in to the dock, I felt a flush of sickness and within minutes I realized I was actually quite sick, too. I kept thinking of that Rilke quote: “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going.” Maddi had to see her parents gravitationally challenged on her last day, and she was the only one who could ‘keep going.’ She tended to us with grace and positivity, then took a cab to the airport all by herself and was off, whoosh, back to Bozeman. Marcus tested negative for Covid and we both felt fine the next day so I didn’t even bother checking. Bizarre end to some sweet days. Go well, Mad. You are lit like bioluminescence and we miss you big already!


Arohanui South Island! Passagemaking Northward.

Leaving Tory Channel, entering Cook Strait. Tough leave, South Island … we’ve felt HELD by you! Arohanui Haley and Liam!

Picton to Opua via Napier and the East Cape (duh, duh, duh)

Diana’s last log entry on the first leg of this passage: “worst passage ever.” Maybe, I’m not sure, but I confess to getting seasick, for only the third time ever. Even so, I think the hardest part was leaving the South Island in dead calm with the threat of drizzle. After two and half years, it felt like leaving home, not least because we were leaving Haley and Liam, and knew it would be a while before we could get back.

Fueling up, (which for some reason is always a little stressful for me), was extra stressful knowing it was the last thing to do before saying goodbye. After multiple hugs and lots of tears, there was nothing to do but cast off the lines and pull away. 

We were on a bit of schedule, running out of time to get to Opua before Maddi arrived from the States. Also, it was crucial to time our exit from the Tory Channel for a reasonably favorable current, the basic recommendation was leave on high tide out of Picton. We led that by an hour or two to try to avoid encountering head winds in Cook Strait. It was pretty mild to start and Diana made some super yummy wraps for lunch (she is the undisputed Empress of wraps in my book). As seems to so often be the case sailing around New Zealand, there was no chance of entirely missing the wind shift, and about halfway across we were sailing close-hauled. At least the seas, at that point weren’t too bad, not stacking up against current or anything. I went down to take a nap, and missed Diana logging 13 knots surfing on seas that were getting pretty steep. In fact, we wandered into the edge of an area of rip tides and overfalls, ‘Korori Rip,’ that was pretty dramatic. As it got dark the wind was on our beam and so were the steep seas. Diana was feeling pretty awful, and then I got sick too. This might have been where Diana logged “worst watch ever,” – she was really feeling bad and then the rudder on the hydrovane (our wind vane steering system) came off and started pounding on the stern. It took Diana a couple minutes to figure out what was going on, what the loud noise was. I donned a PFD, clipped the harness in and took a knife out onto the swimstep, hoping that I could cut the safety line off without losing it. It was pretty wet, but I didn’t want to take time to put on boots, so I opted for bare feet. Anyway, it actually wasn’t that bad, Diana has set up holder for a good sharp dive knife and a pair of pliers under the lid of the lazarette where they are super handy (she’s pretty good at coming up with that kinda stuff). I took the next watch and Diana tried to sleep off her seasickness. Once we cleared Cape Palliser things improved dramatically.

Another way through the Tory Channel and across the Cook Strait … bet they have a smoother ride? (Our food may be tastier?)
Exciting though it was, it was also time to stop taking pictures and turn away!

No doubt timing arrivals, departures, capes and channel entrances can be the trickiest part of sailing. You’re always trading one ideal for another. The next challenge of this passage was the East Cape, which is massive and takes a couple days to fully round. The forecast was for 4 meter seas and forty knot gusts… not super inviting. We liked better the sound of a snug marina slip at Napier to wait for the weather to ease up a bit, but that meant arriving at midnight, which is something we are loathe to do if we’re not really familiar with the layout. It’s never nice to feel like your options are bad or worse. As it turned out, the wind in the harbor was still and the passage in, though shallow, was well marked and very well lit. We glided to the visitor’s berth next to the travel-lift, easy peasy. The quiet and calm felt glorious.

We really like the Art Deco town (stayed awhile on our way south in early 2021) and I wished we had more time to stay; I made a provisioning run to include my favorite health food store, Chantal, a freezer stock up of ready made yummy meals from Mylk and had a dinner date night with Marcus at Three Doors Up in Ahuriri, near the Yacht Club. There’s a phenomenal Astanga studio here, with Peter Sanson teaching, but our tight schedule wasn’t creating the space for a deep breath, let alone 2 hours of it!
We’re back out and it’s CHILLY! A hint of a smile goin’ tho …

Waiting for the gale at the East Cape to ease came with a trade off — the near certainty that we would have to pass through a frontal system to reach Cape Brett. Yeah, I know, a lot of fretting about capes, but there’s a reason so many of them are given awful names by sailors (Cape Fear, Cape Runaway, Punto Malo, Cape Foulwind), they really do run the show. In the meantime, that lay two days in the future. We rounded the East Cape in the early morning, jibed and then enjoyed a glorious daytime sail headed northwest, pretty as you please, even got the guitars out for a little music.

Might have to start calling him, ‘Hendrix.’
Allora meeting the waves. The hint of orange that you can see ahead of our mast is our Stormsail, rigged on the bow to deploy just in case of really high winds. It’s essentially just a reefed down version of our jib/normal headsail. You’d have to go up there to run the sheets and then to hoist it up using a topping lift at the mast, so gladly, I can say, we haven’t had to use it. Later, on our Fiji passage, we sort of wished we had. The sea has so many moods …
Haley (right) and Liam made this awesome sign to welcome Maddi (left) to Aotearoa/NZ! These two hadn’t seen each other in 3 years! They met in Wellington for a few days of solid catch up! Plan: Maddi then flew up to Opua to meet us and crew to Fiji (next post!). We received this sib pic while on our northward passage and it cut right through the chilly temps to warm us through and through!
One more sister shot, because it’s so happy making!
All shades of blue. Oddly enough, there’s a deep sense of grounding while floating on the ocean??!
You can look out and think you see nothing but ocean and sky, and then a blatant reminder that there’s always more!
For instance, these cheery friends!!!
Huddling contentedly, staying warm-ish.
Another night of quiet and watches. NOT!

The squalls started with darkness (naturally). Note to self: frontal passages are not to be taken lightly! Also I’m going to try to remember that the forecasts don’t really represent true wind speeds in these conditions. These are more like what you get with squalls in the tropics (sudden doubling of wind speeds) but over a much more sustained area and time period. Soon we were double reefed on main and jib, taking big seas over the whole boat.

Once again, Diana took the hardest watch (you might accuse me of scheming here, but I swear this is just a matter of chance). Her words from the log: waves over bow, raucous, deluge, still dumping. Mine: rain, clearing, wind finally calming. At least I tried to make up for it giving her a longer watch off, putting in four hours to clear Cape Brett. All the while looking forward to the forecast easing and a swing of the wind for a quiet sail into the Bay of Islands. No such luck. Wind died, and then the engine died, 8X according to Diana’s notes. At 5AM I was back on, and eventually the mystery of the engine was solved. I was so focused on the last engine issue back in Fiordland (which was entirely electrical) that it took me a while to realize that the current problem was oil pressure. I’d checked the oil, but with a heeling boat, the reading was off. I added oil and the engine was happy again. More engineering-inclined-sailors than I have expressed skepticism about black boxes (computers) on marine diesel engines, but for the less mechanically minded (yours truly) they can actually be a life saver. Better the engine shut itself down than damage something, though it’d be kinda nice if the $1000 panel offered something a little more elucidating than “CHK ENG.”

Dawn came quietly, and it worried me a little to see fog along the coast, but it dissipated as we arrived, and pulled into a quiet slip in the Bay of Islands Marina. ~MS

Our radar shows Allora smack dab in the middle of a front – and yet so close to our destination of Opua! Logbook entries say, ‘Wild ride, just took a couple intense waves over the whole boat!’ We also had a series of engine issues in the morning while rounding Cape Brett before arriving in Opua. Plenty of excitement, but NONE matching that of seeing Maddi the very next day!!!!


“The Picton TIME Project”

For this blogpost Diana asked for some words about “the reality of time,” which seems rather an ambitious metaphysical topic for a blog about two people goofing off on their sailboat in beautiful places. But here goes. 

Time? What time? As sailors “living the dream” obviously, we don’t ever have a “schedule.” We do whatever we like, whenever we like, for as long as we like. With a few caveats.

First there are a few not insignificant constraints imposed by Nature — forces in the natural world beyond our control (so all forces of nature), stuff like sea state, wind, cyclones, storms, calms, ocean currents, physical laws governing displacement hull speed, gravity (this is a big one), the sun (and the massively destructive force of UV), the evil spirit that inhabits machinery, salt (never to be underestimated), electrolysis, whatever it is exactly that makes rust, and also biological forces like the stuff that grows on Allora’s bottom no matter how much expensive, toxic paint we apply, and Covid 19.

Then there are a few, also not insignificant constraints imposed by Governments — most importantly border formalities, and arbitrary human designations of authority abstractly represented as nationalities.  

Then there is the stuff absolutely everyone contends with, sailor or no, like the second law of thermodynamics and Space and Time, or spacetime, or whatever this stuff we all swim about in is properly called. 

We calculated that we were two months worth of Time behind “schedule” for most of 2021 and well into 2022 when all of the above mentioned irresistible forces collided with the expiration of our New Zealand visitor’s visas (extended at least four times because of Covid) on June 30, 2022. (And also, Winter, that ominous and unpleasant climate event of the mid and high latitudes which seems to come up much more frequently than a reasonable, fun-loving sailor might like). 

We had a mighty to-do list, and spent most of the months of May and June feeling fairly overwhelmed as we tried to play catch up.

As to the metaphysical question of Time, perhaps it is philosophically or scientifically possible to question its objective existence (not that those are arguments I could ever hope to follow), but when all these forces converge, time can definitely feel in short supply, cramped, and very real indeed. We tried to remind ourselves, during rare moments of pause, that time, whatever it is, doesn’t really contract or expand. There’s always just today and what’s happening right now. Right? All of this busy-ness is just so we can sit around and procrastinate later, and find ourselves once again, about two months of time behind. ~MS

Hauling Allora out of the water for the first time since Whangarei (Northern North Island) in 2019. Her ‘bottom’ looked pretty darn good after all that movement in Fiordland’s cold waters. After just 2 months in the tropics, you would have an aquatic biome! One of the perks of being in these latitudes!
Time to hit an actual supermarket!!! Love the translations: grab some ‘te Reo Māori’ with groceries!
Whenever we go to the store together, Marcus will sneak an item into the cart which might seem out of keeping with my typical purchasing pattern. It works best (in his mwahaha scheme) when I don’t see it till checkout and then have to say that I decided against it! This was an especially good one!
Here, I asked Marcus to look like he was inspecting the prop, hence his non-actor expression! The metallic parts of your boat need to be insulated with zinc anodes to prevent their corrosion, so all the silver bits are the zincs and they will need to be replaced after we clean and paint the prop.
A few Outbound owners had some issues with the original Sikaflex batch of caulking around the cabin windows. Ours weren’t as bad as some of our sister boats, but after 7 years, they are needing our attention. We’ll be doing a huge overhaul of their installation in Australia, but meanwhile, I got a lesson from the yard owner on the proper way to execute a solid ‘stop gap’ measure.
Being up on stands with nothing but concrete below, I had to be extra mindful not to ROLL off!
Would be waaaay handier to be a sprite when it comes to boat work. Our evolution hasn’t been to work on boat engines with ease.
Definitely time to buy this replacement set. Yeah, corrosion is REAL!
The high point of the flurry and frenzy of boat work was our cherished time in Blenheim, (just a half hour away), with these two beautiful humans, our eldest, Haley and her partner, Liam.
A bit of New Hampshire or northern Michigan’s seasonal palette!
While we were in Fiordland, my mom moved from Southern to Northern California. Siblings rocked that into reality while I just cheered on with words. It can be really hard to be so far away when big life events happen, as they do.
Shiny new prop, painted with PropSpeed and adorned with new zincs, ready to spin (when we have no wind) its way to Fiji soon!
The Tirohanga hiking track, quite nearby our Airbnb in Picton. Sweet day.
Oops, selfie 101, make room for everybody?!
Hiking joys!

Enough fun, back to work for Allora’s crew … Where’s Waldo?
Fiordland brought us immeasurable joy, but also massive condensation issues. We took apart the entire boat to do a vinegar wash down to offset the inevitable mold. Also, time to ditch some stuff on the boat which wasn’t getting enough use to justify the space it occupied.
Liam and Haley’s Mom’s Day Lilies added the only bit of sweetness on a boat filled with cleaning products and clutter.
We rented a cargo van from the hardware store (unusual, but the only way I could find one) and cruised down to Christchurch from Picton (5 hours south) for a quick set of days to see friends and clear out our small storage space.
We finally met Sasha, the luckiest kiddo, to have lovely Saree as his mama. She fed us well every dreamy Farmer’s Market Saturday in Lyttelton! Truly special connection.
Another set of wonderfuls: Virginia and Brian opened their Lyttelton home to us for our stay and Herbie (on the left) came to dinner, too! We met Herbie and Maria (not pictured, she was in Germany) also at the Farmer’s market – she’s an artist and seamstress extraordinaire and kept me warmly clothed for each of the two winter’s we were in Aotearoa. Later, we did intuitive painting classes with Maria and met Virginia! Friends introducing friends … in this way, we’re reminded that the world is small and we all seek connection.
No use waiting for a sunny day to ‘splash’ Allora back in the water!
Can hardly see them, but sea lions waved flappily as if to say bye as we left the inner breakwater of Waikawa Marina.
We moved just around the corner, from Waikawa Marina to the Picton Marina and took an in water berth for the last projects.
With NZ’s borders open to Aussies, Liam’s folks, Gerard and Jenni, came for the first visit since Covid! We had met them in Dec. of 2019 before all the whole thing had begun.
It was a sunny, yet quite brisk day on the water. Sadly, no wind, but we took them on a 3 hour tour of Queen Charlotte Sound.
Happy Mama! These guys brought a beautiful picnic lunch for us to enjoy in ‘Bay of Many Coves.’
Spinning yarns, Captain?!
It just doesn’t look as chilly as it was?! This Ferry runs between Picton and Wellington, across the Cook Strait.
Had a total BLAST with Haley as we went all Jackson Pollock and giggled our way through an afternoon of flying paint! HOW did we never do this for a kid’s party?!
You know the boat jobs must be nearing completion when hurling paint becomes a priority! Thank you, Haley, for manifesting this vision! I will always remember these antics and our time in Blenheim.
Jobs done, we knew this was going to be tough. Letting water and distance come between us brought tears. There was no extra wiggle time for Allora to make her way up to the North Island before our visas were set to expire. Ahh, bureaucracy 🙁


Abel Tasman to Waikawa Marina, Queen Charlotte Sound

Making our way from Bark Bay to Torrent Bay, Abel Tasman National Park.
The famous ‘Coast Track’ is along this route. Bark Bay has a hut and Torrent (also called Anchorage Cove) does as well. Took some adjustment to get used to other boats and civilization onshore!
And company on Allora!
We loved being greeted by the local birds! We thought about lowering Namo so we could hike a bit of the Coast Track, but found ourselves just being content as is.
In the channel at Nelson. We were appreciating our ‘soft entry’ back into the world of people, but the cool little town of Nelson drew us in. Marcus also walked a wheel barrow into town to fill up 3 jerry cans of diesel to be sure we had enough to get to Picton.
Nelson Marina. First time in a Marina since February when we left Lyttelton.
First order of business! EDIBLE GREEN THINGS!!!
Cool mushroom (need to ID all of these!) in the park on the walk into Nelson.
We’re not in Fiordland, anymore!
We only spent a quick couple of nights in Nelson – great town, but we were Picton bound with heaps of boat work on our minds.
The day we left Nelson the sea was insanely glassy and serene.

There I go again!

These fish farm buoys were in quite a few places in Croisilles Harbor, so we had to look around a bit before we found an anchorage without them. It was particularly noticeable, in contrast to Fiordland, the impact of human use on the environment, both land and sea.
Ended up in a spot called Whakitenga/Squally Cove, but it wasn’t!
Still the NZ bush just GETS me!
The smooth mud that came up off our anchor in Croisilles Harbor could be a wildly pricey spa treatment!
We had to poise ourselves the next morning to go through French Pass, the narrow gateway between D’Urville Island and Marlborough Sounds. It’s a tricky bit of water, known for its treacherous tides and currents; the pass has the fastest tidal flows in New Zealand, at up to 8 knots (4 m/s).
The lighthouse and lookout at French Pass. We actually arrived about a half hour early and went for it. This pic makes it look rather placid, but we did see 1.5 knots against us. Marcus ran 2400rpm’s on the engine with some serious concentration to stay out of the back eddies which have been known to spin boats in the wrong direction.
Nukuwaiata Island in Chetwode Nature Reserve sits at the entrance to Pelorous Sound. This was our last sweet stop before REALLY immersing in civilization and all the imminent boat projects.
It’s forbidden to step foot on the beach (the nature reserve is a predator free island), but I could kayak a loop around Middle Bay.
Cormorants and Fur Seals call this home.
The birdsong was spectacular here!

No lines to shore, just easily holding in 50′.
Read a really beautiful and important book recently called, ‘Islands of Abandonment,’ by Cal Flyn, about the resilience of landscapes when mankind’s impact on nature is forced to stop. It’s lovely, but also sobering.
Hard to see in this shot, but the morning we left, these two Little Blue Penguins swam right by and all the way around Allora!
On our way to Queen Charlotte Sound, we took a slow loop around Titi (Muttonbird) Island, another predator free Nature Reserve.

And still more Little Blue Penguini!
I watched Allora do her thing and felt so thankful for my life on the ocean…
… with this dear person.
After passing Cape Jackson, we gybed down into the opening of Queen Charlotte Sound.
Allora, resting at the temporary dock at Waikawa Marina, awaiting haul out. She’s worked so very hard to get here!
Waikawa’s just 4 kilometers from Picton, which is just 30 minutes from Haley and Liam!!!

Passagemaking: Milford Sound to Abel Tasman National Park, South Island/NZ

It was a bit spooky sailing out of Milford at midnight without a moon. We had our inbound tracks on the chartplotter to follow, but it’s pretty amazing how disorienting darkness can be, even for feeling whether to turn to port or starboard to follow a line. Also with the steep granite walls, we didn’t feel 100% confident in our GPS. Diana went to the bow, and I stepped away from the helm to try to orient myself every few minutes, as we moved cautiously down the fiord. Though the GPS did seem to have a decent idea about where we were, it was also reassuring to have radar confirming the distance to the rock walls on either side. But what helped me relax most at the helm, was when Diana shouted that the dolphins had come to escort us out. I leaned over the rail and could just see and hear them splashing off our port headed for the bow. It was hard not to feel like they’d showed up intentionally to reassure us.

South Island of NZ and our sailing track. We spent 3 months in that lower SW corner and then dashed up the whole island on the west side in 3 days!

One of the many challenges of the passage from Milford up around Cape Farewell into the Cook Strait, is that there is only one place you might possibly stop, but that requires negotiating a river bar entrance at Westport (just north of Cape Foulwind!), which is safe only in decent weather. Otherwise, it’s a solid three day run (if you keep your speed up), which just barely fits into the cycle of weather shifting from South to North. The weather window that presented itself to us seemed pretty typical, catching the end of a southerly, motoring and motor-sailing through variable winds in a race to meet the Cape with relatively light winds rather than the usual NW or SE gale.Leaving sooner, we’d have had more wind to sail with, but we’d risk arriving too early for the switch of winds at Cape Farewell.

Diana took the first watch just after 2 AM after we cleared the hazards on the north side of the entrance to Milford and could head more directly north. “Really cold, icy hands,” she wrote in the margins of the logbook. “Overcast skies heading further out to clear Arawua Point/Big Bay Bluff.” Just after sunrise on my watch, I got a glimpse of the mountains south of Mt Aspiring, which reminded me of Wyatt’s 100 mile run the length Aspiring National Park. I wondered if he could have seen the Tasman Sea from any of those lofty ridge lines he traversed?

NZ’s wild west.
Hard to sail away from that remarkable corner of the universe. Allora always seems up to the task, even if we’re a bit reluctant.
I’m afraid we have a stowaway!
He looks about as eager as I did for this passage.
His ‘foulies’ are cooler than ours!
There are mountains in them thar clouds!
Sunrises and sunsets don’t go unnoticed out here.

Also in the logbook, I see a lot of scribbles in these notes about fuel rates, and estimates of actual fuel burned for miles ‘made good.’ Allora carries 190 gallons full which is more than enough for the distance as long as the weather is reasonably cooperative, but it makes a difference if you’re burning 1.5 gallons/hour or pushing the engine and burning 2.5 gallons/hour. The extra gallon doesn’t double your speed. People better at the maths would probably be able to calculate exactly what fuel rate is most efficient. I settled upon 1.6 or 1.7 as an nice compromise of efficiency, speed (to make our date at Cape Farewell) and comfort.

We had rain. We had current steadily set against us. We had dolphins streak by in the night leaving comet trails in the bioluminescence. We fussed about the wind, almost-but-not-quite-enough to sail, ever creeping up on the nose. We almost lost a batten in the mainsail. Then later, Otto, our autopilot made a sudden decision to turn hard to starboard out of nowhere. The switch for the high pressure pump on the watermaker heated up and set off the smoke alarm (naturally at night-while I was off watch). We saw no other boats besides the occasional fishing boat working closer to shore. We caught a glimpse of Aoraki (Mt Cook) at sunset, and at Cape Foulwind a couple of seal lions waved as we passed by.

And my lil’ camera could not capture how stunning this scene was!

On the last night, as seems to be a theme lately, Diana drew the toughest watch of the passage. There was just no way to completely avoid a patch of heavy winds slated to meet us as we approached the Cape, straight on the nose. We tried to time it for the least possible, but Poseidon wasn’t going to let us off feeling too clever. For her whole watch, Allora slammed into 20 knots on the bow clawing her way up the last bit of coast to Cape Farewell. Finally, after calling Farewell Maritime radio to try to find out whether it was generally considered advisable to cut the corner at Kahurangi shoals (which they weren’t really able to commit to), we decided it probably wasn’t, so we slogged on. Diana went off watch and very soon after, we were able to fall off the wind. Just five degrees made a big difference. Pretty soon we were motor-sailing and by Diana’s last sunrise watch she was able to shut the engine off and sail along Farewell Spit, an amazing 25km sandbank off the northwestern corner of the South Island at the opening of Cook Strait. The winds were light but sweet. Finally! ~MS

We had to ‘hot bunk’ which (sounds better than it is), means sharing the same berth in shifts because the boat is heeling too much in one direction to utilize the other side. I left Marcus a chocolate on his pillow to further sweeten his off watch experience!
Gotta love modern times – ship captains of yore didn’t used to provide their first mates with latte’s as a wake up! Feeling grateful …
First light on the last day of our passage.
Oh hello dawn, we see you!
The same sunrise unfurling.
Allora and her crew get some sweet, smooth motion before finally rounding Farewell Spit and finding an anchorage.
Allora seems to keep a steady pace, but her crew at this point can feel like horses heading back to the barn, anxious to just GET THERE! It’s definitely a lesson in savoring what IS!
Before we even tucked into Abel Tasman, my phone started ‘bleeping’ frantically, the first Wifi messages in nearly 3 months came flooding in. I have to say, both sides of the phone equation are awesome – putting it away, disconnected from the world and then THIS! Siblings reunited for the first time in 3 years! Love in pixels!
And Grandma Elizabeth sandwiches are always delicious!
Marcus’ reaction when I shared these pics.
Bark Bay, our first anchorage in Abel Tasman. We contemplated getting Namo off our foredeck and exploring that little sweet beach, but instead, we just sat on deck and savored the stillness.
This gull landed as we were just feet away on deck.
Grey skeletal remains of wilding pines (invasive conifers in NZ).


Magical Milford Sound/Piopiotahi! – Fiordland

The seaward side of Sutherland Sound is blocked by a sand/gravel bar, so deep draft vessels can’t venture far ‘inside,’ and there are no recognized anchorages for yachts.
Couldn’t resist slipping in to Poison Bay/Papa Pounamu, just to take it in.
These would have been the calm conditions described in our book as being necessary to spend the night in Poison Bay, but we didn’t have the time, sadly.
The very dwarfed looking Stirling lighthouse at the entrance of Milford Sound where it meets the Tasman Sea.

Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) resonates with awe and leaves us speechless, like the Grand Canyon or Machu Picchu, or the Magellanic Clouds on a vividly starry night at sea. The sheer mass and scale, the soaring beauty, each breathtaking turn. Words just pour out, but fail to capture what it feels like to sail into this magnificent fiord. The day we spent in this unique-in-the world place, was blue and lit with sun, the water impenetrably deep, granite walls towered over us, beyond imagination and comprehension, the waterfalls gushed bountifully without end. Apparently Captain Cook missed Milford on his first pass, and actually that’s not entirely surprising. Approaching from the sea the fiord begins rather humbly and then builds and builds in its symphonic crescendo of magnificence. A bit much? Not really. Every time I stepped away from the helm and out from under the dodger I caught my breath as I looked up and up. ~MS

The tour boats run in a clockwise loop around Milford, and there were probably FAR fewer than in non-Covid affected years, (saw maybe 12 all day), but we were able to stay quite clear of them just by scooting to the middle or going the other way – basically we had the luxury of no rules! But who’s looking at boats with these sheer rock faces in our midst?

Excited visitors to this breathtaking sound are at risk for ‘Milford Neck Syndrome.’ By the end of the day, my neck wouldn’t support my head anymore – had been looking up too much!!

There’s a resident pod of Bottlenose Dolphins in Milford – they dashed over eagerly to welcome Allora!

Heading up toward Deepwater Basin, the tourist concession. Milford is the only fiord that can be reached directly by vehicle and because of that, it normally receives up to 500,000 visitors per year! When we went via car (with Wyatt) in April 2021, ours was the ONLY car in the massive parking lot. Now, a year later, tourism is inching its way back.
Iconic Mitre Peak, 1683m
Some people book their big Milford trip a year in advance and then get one of the 182 rainy days/year. Feeling such gratitude to the weather gods!
Bowen Falls adorned by a rainbow, as if it needed more?!

We had to keep Allora off shore just enough to avoid a full shower from the downpour of Stirling Falls. She drops 150 meters (a 35 story building worth!)

We were both giddy all day and so so glad we made this quick but rich visit!

Real Journeys offered up their mooring in Harrison Cove since they wouldn’t be using it. This saved us figuring out how to find a suitable anchoring spot in otherwise super deep water.
So EASY! No kayaking multiple lines to shore anymore!
Low light on Donne Glacier, but there’s a GLACIER in our anchorage?!!!
Last light on the peaks.
Wyatt left NZ for the States on this day. Something about that fact coupled with our sort of ceremonially special last hours in Fiordland left us feeling a bit stunned. We fell asleep super early and woke back up at midnight to start our passage up the West Coast. At 12:15 am, we left Harrison Cove in such pitch blackness that we were grateful for the silhouetted ‘steep as’ granite walls and the resident dolphins which escorted us out with an utterly magical and hushed Fiordland goodbye. Haere rā!




A quick blink in Bligh Sound/Hawea, – Fiordland

Our logbook for the run from George to Bligh says, ‘expecting 4 meter seas, so ‘battening down the hatches on Allora.’ This pic doesn’t begin to show the waves, but we are getting pretty used to these quick hops being worthy of our full attention!

This northern fiord zigzags around 18 kilometers inland to the head at Wild Natives River (surely on a list to be renamed?)
Sizable slip. Some of these are so dramatic you can just imagine the sound and drama of the actual moment when it let go.

The very steep demarkation between mud bank and deep water.
We finally found a spot to anchor in the middle in 80′ of water, so we had all our 330′ of rode out and were ‘free swinging’ without any lines to shore.

On our one full day in Bligh, Marcus took Namo up the Wild Natives River and hiked up with just enough time (with the tide) to fish one nice pool, landing two fish.
‘Marcus’ Pool,’ Wild Natives River.
I stayed back on Allora and did one of my ‘flash’ mosaics. Here and there along our 7 year journey, I’ve tucked these offerings, almost ‘dialogues with nature,’ into various locations. Here, I share some close ups, mainly because that’s all I got up to in Bligh, but I will save the full images for another post!

As much as we choose to be present for what IS, we are starting to really look at forward at the weather for our tough West Coast passage from Milford to Abel Tasman.
I’m thankful for Lightroom so I can prep some of these blogs before finally getting back into Wifi zone.


Bye Bligh!
I feel like I can SEE the richness of this journey in Marcus’ expression!


George Sound/Te Hou Hou, (‘Georgious!’) – Fiordland

Logbook entry says, ‘Choppy Sloppy!’
Marcus usually smiles and hand steers through the rough stuff!

The run outside between Caswell and George Sounds is around 14 miles. We left early to try to beat some forecast rain and gusty NW winds, and almost made it. The rain started just as we made our turn in. Diana logged the max wind at 27.2 knots, then went down and crossed it out to a revised 29 knots. By the time the wind had blasted us another two miles down the sound, Diana had crossed that out to record 42 knots. Looking on the chart with the wind howling behind us, we were concerned if Anchorage Cove would be able to offer any shelter from this angle of wind, even though it’s listed as an ‘all-weather anchorage.’ We worried it might be too gusty to safely negotiate the narrow spot between the river bar and small rocky island. We decided to poke in and check it out if we could. Right away the wind dropped into the low twenties then the teens, which still felt like a lot to try getting into the tight spot where fishermen had set up a line we could theoretically side tie to. The rain hammered down as Diana watched from the bow for shallow rocks off the island and I maneuvered Allora in, ready to back out if we needed. Despite whitecaps just outside, the winds this close to the little island dropped to near zero and Allora was able to hover effortlessly while Diana (in the kayak) quickly tied lines on the bow and stern, getting absolutely soaked in the process. It was a kind of a crazy feeling, the sudden stillness and security of that spot with gusts in the forties not half a mile away. We wouldn’t have guessed even from a couple hundred yards out that it was worth chancing. ~MS

Super tricky spot to get Allora tucked up into, it required getting sidled alongside the fishermen’s line while keeping Allora out of a couple way too shallow spots. We sat in 6’8″ of water at low tide and we draw 6’6″!
Good thing I love RAIN! (less so, freezing rain!)
We were tied between an island and the very close shore, with all sorts of debris having also been deposited in the relatively calm cove.
Weather’s clearing! The George River valley as seen from our small spot called, ‘Anchorage Cove.’
A new day dawns!!
Heading up with Namo to explore the George River (Marcus with fishing gear, me with a camera, both with awe).
Might we hear Wyatt saying, ‘watch your back cast Dad?!’
Luscious landscape!

I meandered along the trail in the woods while Marcus ambled upriver casting. People often ask about how we manage to find alone time living on a boat – this is one way.

When I saw this ‘rock of plenty,’ I knew I’d not make it too much farther up the trail!

Found this online: “Nurse logs are described as offering a verdant opportunity to contemplate the passing of time, the generational handoff, and the support we can offer each other.” HERE, HERE!

I was right there with this and still don’t know what it is I was seeing?!

No fish, still smiling – tough day on a beautiful river.
Heading back out of the river just in time for some new rain to fall. Allora is just there on the other side of the river bar.
Before we left this anchorage for another, I had designs to see if the existing water hose was flowing so we could fill our tanks. My outfits are devolving, but my motivation was intact!
This was the waterfall right near Allora which was off color from the recent downpour, but the hose would have been buried far above in cleaner water (I hoped).
Sadly, the hose wasn’t producing more than the faintest trickle. There was a fair surge in this little cove and the thick, heavy hose was all entangled in the exposed low tide rocks. Got that cleared but still no water. After some soaking wet, slippery scrambling a ways above the falls, I found the other end of the hose and ‘yahoo’, all I needed to do was secure it back in the water! I was PRETTY tickled with my own cleverness and couldn’t wait to tell Marcus about my heroic efforts (yeah, I’ve been reading about the role of the ego, yeah, I still need to read more!) but you probably can sense the anticlimax here – it didn’t work!!! UGH. So sad. I was exhausted and deflated, but thankful that I’m also reading about gratitude so I could be appreciative of our water maker!
We moved down to the end of the sound, poked into a somewhat famous (for sandflies) anchorage called, ‘Alice Falls,’ but didn’t stay because we were itching (pun) to sit at an old school free- swinging anchorage, which was also an option at the head of the bay.
More typical weather for Fiordland.

Little Blue Penguins seem pretty tiny to handle what Fiordland must dish up?!
My mom moved from southern to northern California while we were in George Sound. Thank you, dear siblings, for manifesting such an effort! Wish we could have helped, but know that we were sending soggy hugs from Fiordland! Weird to be on the other side of the planet when bigger life changes occur.

The rain eased but the wind came up in our free swinging yet exposed anchorage, so we moved back over to Alice Falls – tucked back in a very sweet cove offering lots of protection. Believe it or not, besides the prolific sandflies, this place mainly gets complaints about the noise from the roaring falls!

The next morning, we had glorious sun!
Good thing, because EVERYTHING was wet! Scenic laundromat.
We took Namo over to the George Sound DOC hut, to take the hike up to Lake Katherine.
Again, mainly a hunter’s cabin, but it was past the season, so we found it empty.

This hut is mainly used by hunters during the season. There is also an ‘expert’ rated 18 km (one way) tramping (backpacking) route from Lake TeAnau to George Sound, but it’s seriously overgrown and described by Wyatt as ‘burly.’ We hiked up just 2k (one way) to Lake Katherine and it took AWHILE on some very soggy but ‘georgeous’ trail!
Nicer hut than the Caswell 2 person.

One of the first things we had to do was something Marcus had hoped to avoid entirely – a classic 3 wire bridge with no netting or boardwalks. These are being replaced almost entirely by swing bridges or suspension bridges, but some remain in Fiordland. This river was just too high to try to wade.
So many glorious hours spent traipsing through Fiordland’s grand forests. In Japan it’s called, ‘shinrin-yoku,’ or eco-therapy forest bathing. (It was our most frequent bathing!)
Noticing the wee ones.
Textures, too.
And oh so fresh mountain water!!!! (Consider that we normally drink reverse osmosis water from our de-salination system).

Some Root Beer gummy worms?

Had hopes of seeing this Wapiti at the lake since this track was so fresh.
Lake Katherine.
Look what showed up just as we arrived?!
Sweetly imperfect.
Colorful plate mushroom.

Our return. More my kind of thing – I’d have paid to go on it!
Idyllic scene, lovely day.
It’s entirely unnerving to send that drone up and off the deck of Allora. I give Marcus huge credit for being willing to face the tummy tumult -maybe he’s tempted by the comfy clothing?
He uses the screen and I watch the actual drone, just in case.
So worth it, right?!
We tried scrambling up the true left side of Alice Falls the next day to maybe reach Alice Lake, but neither of us had what it would take!
After 5 nights in glorious George, we set out on a ‘splitter bluebird’ day for Bligh Sound. Too cold for sandflies on this sunny am!
And LOOK WHO accompanied us, smiling all the while?!
Thanks for the mighty sweet escort!

Caswell/Tai Te Timu Sound – the 45th parallel – Fiordland

Pretty little welcome rainbow as we get set to enter Caswell Sound.
There are a number of rocks studding the entrance to this fiord and caution was definitely on our minds. Often we can see that there’d be gorgeous coves to explore, but not in Allora!
How do you REALLY feel about that entrance, Marcus?!
Shirley Falls, dropping 365 meters from Lake Shirley on Caswell’s southern side. There is supposedly evidence of an old marble works that ran between 1882 and 1887 here, but I suspect it’s quite overgrown!
Ooh, let’s go look at THAT one?!!
And then this sweet, unnamed waterfall, one of a zillion that show up after each deluge. Thank you sun, for lighting her up!
We may have chosen to skip Caswell were it not for the Stillwater River at the head. It’s a gorgeous fiord though, with steep shores and rugged peaks and we spent 3 lovely nights here.
This boat, Ponowhai 3, came by to offer us some fresh fish, and I missed the shot where they were holding up the enormous Grouper (they say Groper here in NZ, same fish), but they passed over a downright SLAB which ended up being 4 meals for us two. Gratitude to the boat folks AND the grand fish.

Big Fish

a big fish lived here
under this rock
in this sound
70 meters of water
down down down
finning the murky fathoms
there must be something it is like to be
a big fish
broad tail to the tide
jaw slowly moving, gills filtering
oxygen and salt from darkness
listening to the strange whirr of a prop churning distantly overhead
scent in the current
vibrations of much younger, much smaller, more foolish fish
everyone makes mistakes
joy to the world!
big fish on!
the breathless mystery of something deep
that unremitting pull of an invisible line
uncompromising bite and stick and metal barb
is there hoping it might break free
what is it like
to be another’s flesh and dinner?
exhausted thrashing on the surface
searing bright light and fierce dryness
the gaseous, ethereal world
where white birds like cherubs flitter and follow
where albatross glide like shadows of another understanding
what is it like, big fish?
now that two men hold you in firm hands
knife wielding hands
careless hands
is this the dance?
waves surge against the rocks
seaweed starfish worms green saltwater alive
o’ fish shaped wave
these men call you big fish
men who came to find things to take
big trees all in a row
is there something it is like
to be a man holding a gray dead fish
for a picture
flesh stripped from her ancient bones ~MS

‘Stay put,’ we always say as we zip off to check out the Stillwater River on this grey and soggy day.
Our big adventure: get Namo upstream just far enough to pick up the scenic track along the Stillwater River which leads to Lake Marchant. We had to be tide conscious though, as there were 9′ tides here!
This is the two bunk hut run by the Department of Conservation (DOC), mainly used by hunters, but we were there just past the season, so were able to burn a bit of our paper trash in the fireplace before setting off toward the lake. Caswell sits on the 45th parallel and Wyatt’s NZ friends/roommates, Tanya and Ben had just been there in February raising funds and advocating for women suffering from domestic abuse. They scrambled, ran and traipsed the entire 45th as it crosses the South Island in NZ, from where they were dropped via helicopter at the ocean entrance to the sound to Oamaru on the east coast. We had heard from Wyatt about their effort and knew that they had planned to be exclusively off trail, but ended up coming down off the staggeringly high ridge to seek shelter from a massive storm for 3 days in this hut. The river, just below in this pic, was so high – they were worried that it would flood and the cabin might be washed away. Indeed, we were there just following a big rain, and the flow was anything BUT a still river! It would have been terrifying to be in their situation, truly. You can read about it here: I think Ben might be putting together a documentary on their arduous mission? We found their entry in the logbook which all DOC huts have and made our own, too. ~DS
The most humble DOC hut we’d ever seen.

Such a happy place.
Gorgeous hiking!

Perchance some fish thoughts, hmmm?

Nearing the lake, we had to slog through some boggy ground.

Plenty of water to be had and squeezed from our clothes!
Marcus had to be super sneaky and crawl around so as not to be seen by the fish at the glassy lake edge.
Stealthily casting to fussy fish.
Fish on! I had to run from this vantage point all the way slopping through the marsh to get there for a pic!

Several nice fish in the shallow water’s edge, but they were super spooky.


Brown Trout from a brown lake – not easy to spot! This one took a small nymph.
Back at it! Tying on a fly in sandfly country means there are sacrifices which must be made and sometimes you just have to hope it’s a male that lands on your face and finger (the females are the biters).
Neat place to be just hanging out. I heard the ‘pffft’ of a startled deer as I was taking some pics in the grasses, but never saw it.
Thistles throw a gorgeous flower to seed.

Going to have to do some research to learn about this fungi?!

Oh, I see your whimsy, Nature!
And your complexity, too.
Sweet spot, captivating to us both.
Another exquisite purple.

Took our face protection down for a pic and see, I’m just about to get bit. Their sensors are spectacular!

Through the droplet glass.
Moody and broody and time to go back!

Allora just waiting for us!
We saw no real wind here but got plenty WET. Waterfalls appeared all around our boat!
Had to bail Namo out and secure her up on the davits with the drain plug open!

Leaving Caswell in sloppy conditions, but arguably easier than Ben and Tanya’s method!




Northward to Charles/Taiporoporo Sound, Mesmerizing – Fiordland

We glided through Thompson Sound early in the am so as to avoid forecasted weather and seas on the outside.
On our way out to open ocean. Had to go check out this unusual formation?!
What looked like snow was actually bare white stone under shallow rooted vegetation (including trees) which ‘slide’ in big rains.
This mauve color was authentic and WOW!
The rocks at the fiord ‘mouth’ are always treacherous and we keep PLENTY of distance. This weather is more characteristic of the area than the gorgeous month + we’ve been wildly lucky to enjoy.
Of all the fiords, we only skipped Chalky Inlet and Nancy Sound. This was the narrow entrance to Nancy and although you can’t see it in this pic, it looked sufficiently tight and rough to make us feel ok about our earlier decision to give it a miss (based on our need to get to Picton for some much needed boat work before our Fiji passage in June).
Charles Sound/Taiporoporo. It had rained the day before, and often we are on the lookout for debris, but this downright tree wasn’t going to be missed! Later, we did hit a log at full speed and never saw it, just heard the dull thud on Allora’s hull 🙁

Charles Sound doesn’t have quite the extensive ‘tentacles’ as Doubtful or Dusky – there are only two! We chose Gold Arm and found such a dear spot for Allora just through this narrow gap, behind Catherine Island. There was a fisherman’s line in place, so we pulled right up alongside it and secured Allora at all 3 cleats, Voilá! (No anchor.)
Birdsong and sandflies aplenty!
The shoreline of Charles is entrancing!

Seaweed left high and dry on display at low tide.


My favorite of Diana’s photographs from Fiordland are the “abstracts,” which she discovers by looking in a very careful, unique way, at the tidal line along the rocks, that magical transitional space between the hidden world underwater and the green, vibrant life-on-fire world above. Bare stone, stained and painted with time and color, bent and reflected by the still, secret, freshwater shimmering over the tide, the infinite, creative capacity of nature. Diana uses framing to share this vision, to point out Nature’s mastery of abstract art. It’s no surprise (and no accident) that these images feel so profoundly connected to her mosaic work. Most of the time these photographic expeditions are her solo meditations, which she shares with me when she gets back to Allora (after hours in the kayak!). But I’ve also been with her, paddling Namo gently into position, sitting right next to her, appreciating the wholeness of a beautiful place but without quite seeing what she is seeing. These images, for me, represent a particular (and particularly magical) collaboration between Diana and this very, very special world we are navigating in Fiordland.~MS


We heard dolphins exhale RIGHT beside Allora, so donned our goofy outfits, lowered Namo off the davits and went out around the corner to see if they’d still be about. A visual feast: the bush, the shoreline, dolphins and the water, ahhh!!!
There were 6, and they were nonplussed by us. (I just went down a Wifi wormhole reading about how ‘nonplussed’ is a contronym!)
See the dorsal fin shape in the intertidal zone, too?!

After that glorious evening light, we settled in for what would be torrential rain all night. We saw 38.5 knots of wind as our max, but from the N/NW – a good direction for this location.
In the morning the water was chocolate colored and there were gushing waterfalls EVERYWHERE!

We had hopes of taking Namo up the Windward River at the head of the bay, but it was a raging ‘NO!’

Sinuous lines, ‘tidelines’ of foam where two currents meet.

Instead of moving Allora over to Emelius Arm, we left her tucked by Catherine Island and ventured 5 miles with Namo in the FREEZING early morning! Visibility was almost nil, but we went slowly and visualized a log free path!
By the time we arrived at the head of Emelius Arm, the sun had started coming up over the peaks, so we knew we’d be warm soon! It’s always harder than we imagine to find where the river (which comes from up high in the canyon ) flows into the sound. Sometimes our guide books showed an approximate position, but not always. We were tempted to follow these shadow arrows, as they seemed to be pointing the way!
Found the Irene River, though at this early stage it was as still as a lake. Our plan was to take Namo up as far as we could and then hike up beyond that until the tide dictated we return.
Hallelujah for the sun!
Sun makes us all so warm and fuzzy!
Through a narrow little offshoot, trees all around, we took Namo back and in (following the sound and a glint of white water) and look what we found?!


Looked it up on our favorite (offline) app, NZ TOPO 50, and learned that this beauty is Marjorie Falls!