It was just over two years ago. That’s when we decided to “turn Right”, to ditch our original plans of cruising the Caribbean and to sail to the South Pacific instead.
Well, here we are. With most of the island groups behind our stern, and a fresh Hurricane Season brewing just ahead (and atop) of us.
So, what are we up to now?
It’s been a blast, really. From the endless butterflies in our stomachs when we realized we were making the decision to do it, to the anxiety of the preparations, the rush of the 3,000-mile passage from Mexico, the allure of the Marquesas, nirvana in the Tuamotus, the unexpected beauty of the Societies, all the surprises of Rarotonga, friendly Niue, the charming raw-ness of Tonga and bliss here in Fiji – we got more than we could have expected and wished for out of that overnight decision of two years ago.
When we came here, we had a rough two-season sketch. The first we would spend in French Polynesia (and for this we worked hectically to get long-term-visas before departure), and the second we would “cruise the western half of South Pacific”. By then, and this “Then” lasted until earlier this year, we thought we would wrap up this season – the second – in New Caledonia.
Geographically New Caledonia made sense: it is the last island group before Australia. From French Polynesia to New Caledonia it would be a streamlined cruise, allowing us to cover Cooks (which we did), Niue (done), Tonga (done), Fiji (here now), Vanuatu (not gonna happen) and New Caledonia itself. Moreover, we understand it is a prime cruising ground, with truly beautiful anchorages. Not the least important, they have very good mooring facilities there. And finally, New Caledonia would give us a lot of optionality for the upcoming cruising season in 2018.
But, looking closely at the matter, I started seeing the flip side of this alternative:
- New Caledonia lies in one of the most hurricane-prone areas of the South Pacific. So, whereas Pesto would be well protected, it would be far more exposed to the risk of a direct impact than in Tahiti last year. And, particularly after seeing the effects of Maria and Irma on the Atlantic this year, we have learned that the right protection against hurricanes is to be out of their path
- Like French Polynesia, New Caledonia is of French colonization. And our experience has been that it is not very easy to get things done – boat maintenance wise – without speaking French
- Hoping to not sound too cocky, along these two years we have seen A LOT of wonderful tropical paradises. At this point, we would probably not enjoy as much the natural beauty of New Caledonia as it deserves.
- Similarly, we’ve had our fair share of warm weather and blazing sun, and are eager to spend some time outside the Tropics
- Our beloved Pesto is in the need of some special TLC after two seasons of nearly full-on cruising, the type of which we would likely not find in New Cal.
- And, finally, our cruising rhythm is slow, we always tend to underestimate this, and cruising the Cooks, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Cal in one single season would be probably a stretch for us.
That said, the decision then quickly shifted southbound, to a place we’ve eyed at a different time of our lives, one which always looked too far for us to reach on this cruise, a tremendous “routing commitment”, as our dear friend Frank from sv Nogal would say. That’s it, we are going to wrap up this season by sailing to New Zealand.
Now, interestingly, believe it or not, the thought process I articulated on the paragraphs above happened to me during a taxi ride in Tahiti. To be precise, on the same day this happened. Maybe the extra adrenaline delivered by the dog attack motivated my brain to this epiphany. The fact is, by the end of that day, I knew the right thing for us to do would be to sail to New Zealand. Adriana and Paulo bought in to the idea quickly. Raquel took some more time, due to the process of getting there.
But that is a subject I will cover on a different post, the process of getting there.
For now, suffice it to say New Zealand is our next destination. We are indeed already getting ready to leave Fiji, prepping Pesto, ourselves, and watching the weather. Our specific landfall will be the port of Opua, in the Bay of Islands, North Island. And we shall spend most of New Zealand’s summer in between there and Whangarei, further south.
We have always wanted to visit New Zealand. Once, when we lived in Singapore, and I am talking over 12 years ago if memory serves, we even tried to spend vacations there, only to find that all our desired lodging alternatives were already fully booked. For us, being raised in Brazil and living most of our lives in the Americas, New Zealand is FAR. So, the opportunity of visiting it by yacht, with plenty of time to explore, is very precious, and something we are all looking very much forward to.
Ok, so we head to New Zealand and then what? Well, my most honest answer to it is “we will see”. As we think of it, routing wise, New Zealand does offer a surprising degree of optionality, despite its remote location. But, as I mentioned earlier on this post, there is no point in trying to plan too far in the future on this cruising life. Besides, we reckon there os a lot to see and experience in New Zealand. So, for now, all our attention is focused there.