25 Nov - 04 Dec 2016: Bay of Islands Marina, Opua ~ 38 18S 174 07E
In the early hours of the 25th of November, under the cover of total darkness Balvenie motored the final few miles into the Bay of Islands. We navigated our way up Veronica Passage and at 02.30am nudged up to the Customs and Quarantine Dock in Opua. (Huge thanks to Conrad on Ruby Danger and Eric and Cathy on Erica for staying up and helping us tie up.)
We had sailed around the world and were back in New Zealand, we looked at each other in amazement, we had done it, we had really done it.
Yellow flags flying, the Customs & Quarantine Dock is full
The adrenaline was flowing, as was the rum. There was little sleep to be had as yacht after yacht arrived during the early hours of the morning and into the day. Each new arrival joined in the party atmosphere on the dock, all were relieved to have their last big passage of a very long journey across the Pacific finally behind them. The long trip south to New Zealand from the tropics can never be taken lightly.
The NZ Customs & Quarantine staff did an excellent job of processing us all in a timely manner, considering they had a cruise ship in port too. They were professional, friendly and welcoming – a great introduction to New Zealand for all our foreign friends.
The Island Cruising Associations’ All Points Rally festivities were in their final days and we managed to take part in some of the events. It was a very social time and wonderful to have a central focus for us to regroup, say hellos and goodbyes before we all start going separate ways over summer.
The Balvenie Celebration Party
The numbers for our Welcome Home/Circumnavigation/Magellan Netters/Pacific Crossers party just kept on swelling, I truly thought everyone would be partied out, but no, they came out in force to celebrate – we filled the Opua Yacht Club with nearly 100 happy cruisers.
My brother-in-law Robert drove up from Auckland (Denise my sister was overseas), Martha and Bryce off Silver Fern (retired cruisers who completed their circumnavigation last year) and with whom we spent many an anchorage on our journey drove cross country, and some of this years cruisers who were already down in Whangarei came up for the occasion too, it was a very special fun evening.
The Magellan Net Awards
To add some light hearted fun to the evening we hosted the first and probably the only ever Magellan Net Awards. The HF/ SSB Radio on a sailing vessel would have to be one of the most important pieces of equipment onboard. For us it has been our lifeline for communicating almost everyday when at sea or in remote anchorages for the last 12 years. It is the offshore cruisers version of Facebook for keeping in touch with cruising friends.
We have participated in a cruisers net ever since we left Auckland in 2004. We have “met” hundreds of cruisers over the radio, a handful we never met in person, but most we did and many have become lasting friends.
In Portugal during the summer of 2011 we started up the Magellan Net (nickname Magnet) with friends Andrew and Clare on Eye Candy (still in French Polynesia) for all of us that were sailing across the Atlantic Ocean that season. By November 2011 we had over 30 boats checking in regularly to the net.
The boats have changed over the years but the Magnet stood the test of time. It underwent a necessary split earlier this year, the Poly Magnet stayed in French Polynesia with Eye Candy and helpers keeping it going, the Magnet kept heading west and now south – last week we still had over 20 boats calling in daily, we along with several other net controllers have brought it home to New Zealand and we will try to keep it running while cruising over summer.
Prizes of a Bottle of New Zealand Wine or Bags of Chocolate fish went to:
Most Entrepreneurial Mini Magneters ~ “Pizza on the Reef” Team (best read the Minerva blog if you don’t know about them), Noah & Ferne on Jade, Horatio & Noah on Enough, Alice, Felix & Tiffen on Kalon and Zara on Aislado. All under 10year olds!
Longest Time Between Checking In and Us Meeting Them ~ Jeanette & Neil on Echo Echo who first checked in while in the Bahamas and we met them finally in Tahiti . Jeanette also received an honouree award for sounding the most distressed (her version is sea sickness) but she never gave up!
Best Radio Signal in the Fleet ~ Went to Eye Candy but as they are still in French Polynesia unfortunately they missed out - Omweg gladly took 2nd place and drunk the wine on their behalf, cheers from Ilona & Frans!
Most Speeding Infringements & Most Exotic Destination ~ Russell, Greer & Family on the catamaran Tika were the only yacht to go to Norfolk Island as well as reporting the fastest boat speed in the fleet doing nearly 19 knots one morning. Out of the Bag lodged a late protest claiming higher speeds. Too late, bad luck!
Fastest Mono This Season ~ Couldn’t quite win this ourselves, and we did try. Well done Jeff, Miriam & boys on Enough (they are longer than us so we reluctantly conceded to them)
Most Patient Magnetter ~ Single-hander Garry on Freedom Song seemed to spend a good part of the season bobbing around waiting for wind or waiting for the wind to change direction so he could sail. Then some of these guys wonder why they are single handing!
Most Improvement Checking In ~ Charlie, crewing on Sahula got thrown into checking in one morning and was totally unprepared and well, it was a shambles. After a little guidance she was spot on in future and was chuffed with her wine for getting it all wrong first time!
Most Concise Checking In ~ Lanny on Swiftsure missed out as they have headed north to the Marshalls for Cyclone Season (told them not to) but Verner on Windance III was very happy to receive a Pinot Noir for 2nd and enjoyed every drop
Lifetime Achievement Award As Longest Serving Magnetter ~ Tony on Tactical Directions has been with us on the Magnet since it started as he popped out of the Med and headed for Morocco in 2011. Actually we first heard Tony on the ‘Sheila Net’ as we all headed north up the eastern Australian coast way back in 2005, he is also our longest cruising friend still out here with us!!
For those of you that read this and haven’t cruised, it will be hard for you to understand how big a part of our circumnavigation our cruisers nets have been along the way. For those of you that are cruisers, well - you know.
We are a small transient community, the Magnet (and all the other earlier models – Namba, Sheila, Over the Top, Sandeq, Turkey Shoot & Dragnet) have been our lifelines.
Thanks to all of you that have shared these times with us as we sailed around the world, we couldn’t have done it without you.
The Circumnavigation May Have Ended But The Memories & Friendships Will Last Forever