When we bought Balvenie she was in Picton Marina, in the Marlborough Sounds at the very top of the South Island of New Zealand. We sailed her crewed with 3 good sailing friends, from Picton to Auckland in November 2003, non stop up the West Coast of New Zealands North Island, around the top and back down the East Coast to Auckland
On the 8th of May 2004 we left Auckland with two friends onboard to help and sailed to Fiji, what a treasure, we will need to go back there and explore more. Then we moved to Vanuatu, another wonderful island chain that really deserve more exploration, good thing its in "our own backyard"! When the cyclone season was getting closer we headed west to Australia, we made landfall in Brisbane and then headed south. We took in Christmas and New Year 2004/2005 in wonderful Sydney harbour and then crossed Bass Strait and cruised on down to Tasmania for a couple of months.
Mid 2005 we headed north again when it started to get too cold, departed Australia from Bundaberg and went up to the Louisiades Archipelago of Papua New Guinea, one of the most amazing places we have visited. Another cyclone season was upon us so we headed south back to Australia. New Year 2005/2006 was spent in Cairns then we headed further south to the Whitsundays and cruised at much as we could while dodging 3 cyclones, not much fun!!!.
We joined the 2006 Sail Indonesia Rally, so started out from the Whitsundays in April and clawed our way up the vast Australian coast, through "gate no 1" Cape York, the top of Australia. The rally left from Darwin in July and in company with nearly 100 other yachts we journeyed through Indonesia across the straits to Singapore, and up the Malaysian coast and onto Thailand. Christmas and New Year 2006/2007 were spent in Phuket with many of our new friends.
We spent 2007 in Asia, basing Balvenie at Rebak Island off Langkawi in Malaysia and flew off to NZ for a couple of months and then the UK. We even managed to slip in the America's Cup final in Valencia which was absolutely outstanding (except for the result) and did some canal boating in France too, just for a change of scenery.
Next up we returned to Thailand crossed the Bay of Bengal to the Andaman Islands and arrived on New Years Day 2008 , we spent a month exploring then moved on to Sri Lanka and out into the Indian Ocean to the Maldives. That was to be the end of swaying palm trees and tropical waters for a few years. It was off to the Middle East with Oman our first stop, we had certainly reached a different world. We cruised the coast of Yemen with not a pirate in sight and even did some inland travel including the amazing capital of Sana'a, truly exceptional. Then it was into the Red Sea to Eritrea, Sudan, wonderful opportunities to visit these countries as tourists, a privilege few are lucky enough to do. Next up was over a month in Egypt, where we took in a Nile Cruise, nice to have someone else doing the driving and navigating for a change!! The history and ruins here were outstanding.
June 2008 saw us popping out of the top of the Suez Canal and into the Med. We have what we call "gates" in our circumnavigation. This was a big gate for us, entering the Mediterranean. The next gate would be passing Gibraltar and exiting the Med.
We sailed up to Cyprus, then spent the European summer exploring the coastline of southern Turkey and some of the nearby Greek Islands before wintering in Marmaris, Turkey 2008/2009.
2009 started with us cruising north up the Turkish Coast, alternating between Turkey and the Aegean Greek Islands until we made it to Gallipoli. This was a highlight for us, being able to anchor off Anzac Cove and explore ashore, trying to imagine the tortures our ancestors went through trying to take this peninsular in the First World War, so many lives lost. We said our final farewell to Turkey and headed out into the Aegean and weaved our way all the way down to the most stunning island of Santorini, truly a beauty in a very special way. We headed north west from there stopping at more cute Greek Islands then slipped through the Corinth Canal, into the Ionian Sea. There was still more of Greece to see, so we started heading north, taking time out here and there for inland travel also.
We kept going north, bypassing Albania then stopping in the lesser visited new country of Montenegro. It was a delight of a place, we were in the Adriactic now - it was so different to the Med. Then we hit Croatia in August. It is full of the most wonderful walled old towns, all easily accessible as they were all strategic harbour ports in ancient times. What we had totally underestimated was just how busy it would be, both on the water and ashore in the peak of summer. Sadly we found the crowds overwhelming, but it is an amazing coastline and with such a history. We shortened our time there and sailed across to Italy, Brindisi was our first stop and it was love at first sight. Sicily was just as great, what a shame we couldn't have wintered there. We moved on to Malta where we managed to get a space at the council Msida Marina and wintered 2009/2010 there, for 7 months.
We took some time off the boat and flew back to New Zealand for 4 months, good to have some time ashore and with family and old friends for a while.
2010 started with a return to Sicily, then the wonderful volcanic Aeolian Islands then Italy's west coast, (back in love again!) Sardinia was up next, some terrific anchorages and hundreds of them, should have spent longer here and just gone troppo for a while, but there was more to explore. The Med summers really aren't long enough and there was more to see. We zipped across the Bonifacio Straits to Corsica, great place - a real touch of France, so different to its close Italian neighbour. We went up the wild west coast then across the top and it was back to Italy to Elba. Still more of Italy to explore so we saw all we could, including beautiful Portofino then wrapped it up, sadly we couldn't stay forever. But the prize for leaving was a few nights in Monaco, never thought we could afford to marina there!
We scooted along the French Riviera, fitted in stopovers in St Tropez and Nice, all these famous places so easily accessible, amazing. September arrived and the weather changed, the Spanish Balearic Islands were great but the changeable weather spoiled it somewhat and in the end at the beginning of October we took the chance of a downwind overnight sail and headed for Cartagena on the Spanish mainland. We spent winter 2010/2011 there, living onboard in this lovely Spanish town for all but one month.
For New Year we had some "shore leave" and were very lucky to be in Verbier in the Swiss Alps, enjoying a weeks skiing with friends, the mountains were beautiful, the skiing great - a wonderful change from our life on the sea. We slipped back to England for a quick catch-up with family and friends then spent the rest of winter working hard on Balvenie giving her a little facelift.
2011 season started from Spain, we left Cartagena at the beginning of May and made our way along the Spanish coast, zipped across the Straits to Morocco and Ceuta, then back across to Gibraltar where we stayed way to long to sort out some mainentance issues. Eventually we slipped through our next "gate", we farewelled the Med and headed into the Atlantic. We stayed in Spain a while longer then touched on Southern Portugal before starting our journey south across the Atlantic. We stopped nearly a month in Morocco and did some amazing land travel including a camel safari into the Sahara. Then it was the excellent Atlantic island group of the Canaries, towering volcanoes left a lasting impression and we were lucky to have Marks Mum come to join us in Lanzarote for a week.
Our good friend Tony Knight flew in to Gran Canaria and we set off mid December on the first part of our Atlantic Crossing to the Cape Verdes, it was a dreadful trip with huge seas and accelerated tradewinds, we were very happy to arrive in this remote island group to recover and spend Christmas. Off again on Boxing Day, heading south first then west until we spotted Barbados, another tough trip but not quite as bad as the first half, Tony flew back to NZ from here.
2012 .. So it was a new year and a new experience, Welcome to the Caribbean. We got blown around in very lively trades through the southern Windward Islands chain visiting Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau, Union Island, Carriacou and then Grenada. They were all great, we had some fun times and great company, but boy did it blow! It was then decision time - do we head north and all the way up to the Eastern Seaboard of America for the Hurricane Season or do we stay below the hurricane belt and cruise west, back into the Spanish speaking world of Central America.
And so we have started what will be a big loop of the Caribbean. We left Grenada and headed to the Venezuelan island groups of Blanquilla, Los Roques and Las Aves. Next up was a taste of Holland with stops in Bonaire, Curacáo and briefly Arubu - so very different to the Caribbean. It was time for a South American adventure so we spent 3 weeks in Colombia, travelling by bus down to the "other" Cartagena for a taste of Europe - yes I do miss Europe. An overnight sail had us arrive in the eastern San Blas, part of Kuna Yala an autonomous region of Panama. An area unike any other we have seen, especially the western end where tiny tropical sand fringed islands lie sprinkled in sparkling seas - truly beautiful. We parked Balvenie for the rest of the Hurricane Season in Colon, Panama, and took some time off and flew back to New Zealand for a couple of months then returned to Panama and started doing some extensive maintenence on the "drive train" and various other parts of Balvenie to celebrate her 21st birthday.