The journey is over (… it has just begun)

After 72 days, around 2.000 nm, 2 ex-cyclones, several tropical storms, 1 destroyed autopilot, 1 new battery, 1 damaged mobile phone, 1 soaked laptop, 1 lost bucket lid and

11284462 destroyed buckets, 1 Coastguard-tow up, 1 police rescue mission, 1 blown up exhaust pump, 1 ripped off UV strip of our foresail, thousands of hours binge-watching movies, tv-series and listening to podcasts, 5 marinas, 30+ anchorages, 3 days heaved over in the open ocean, 4 rescues of our lost or flipped over dinghy, 5 albacores, 4 kahawai, 3kingfish and 4 blue cods on the rod, one bonfire, 3 hammock sessions, 1 fight every 3rd day, 4 break ups, 5 days of silence … our “Nomad ocean”-journey has come to an end.

It was an epic experience with heaps of learnings I want to share with you.

But let´s start at the beginning. Initially, our intention was to sail around both North and South Island while engaging with communities, giving talks and workshops about marine restoration. We had about 5 – 6 months to do so, depending on the weather.

Very soon we found out how ambitious this task was…

Especially in a 26ft boat. Even though it has been done before us and Raven26 even went on trips from New Zealand to the Pacific Islands. So, yes, it can be done but it takes a lot of effort. Despite Kahu’s robust and sturdy nature, fighting 2- to 4-meter swell and 55 knots gusts offshore is not pleasant. Moreover, every nautical mile is hard work and legs of distances of 600 nm or more take weeks. Yes, Kahu is a great boat for day trips and for cruising – but not for extended trips like the circumnavigation.

Being always the smallest amongst all the other cruising vessels was not the only challenge. Due to T.A.s engagement in the court case fighting to implement a new form of marine protection area around the island of Motiti in the Bay of Plenty where he is coming from, we already postponed our starting date. Moreover, T.A. got the opportunity to technically advise an NGO and create its ocean strategy – a great job, but it came with a prize: We had to be in Auckland beginning of March. So, in the end, Kahu tripwe only got 3 months for our Nomad ocean project. It was soon clear that we would never make it around both of the islands within this limited time frame – not if we also wanted to spend time in the bays and areas, to go for kayaking trips, to dive, to talk with communities and really experience what New Zealand´s marine space has to offer.

Another challenge was internet coverage. We knew from our previous sailing trips that coverage would be a scarcity, but it was even harder than expected and to set updates and communicate was impossible for days in a row.

Last but not least though, it was the weather that came in our way several times. Planning a leg was challenging in itself – not to mention arranging dates for talks or meetups weeks ahead of time. We were too busy not only with duties such as repair runs and other maintaining jobs but with keeping track of the storms and ex-tropical cyclones such as “Fehi” and “Gita” and other weather challenges. We had to change course several times, wait till storms passed by and ended up in the middle of bad weather anyways:

“Morena – this was almost you guys . . .”, T.A.s father, who virtually was our third crew member sending us weather reports, checking anchorages as if he was on board with us, emailed us the other day:

coastguard

Yes, this couple could have been us: During the long leg between Mana/ Wellington and Bay of Islands, we got caught in a severe, un-announced weather system off Aupōuri peninsula shortly before Cape Reinga and had to heave to for three days while waves crashed above our little Kahu. (That the famous explorer Captain Cook got in troubles at the exact same spot could only comfort us a bit.) Other than the couple in the article, we were not able to call anyone, we did not have VHS radio reception and when we finally had coverage again, we found out that the police was already informed.

We were lucky: Apart from Kahu being quite beaten up, our UV strip of the foresail being damaged and both our berth and clothes being wet, we were safe and healthy. I hope, the couple up in Northland will soon be able to say the same.

(Update from T.A.s father via text message this minute:

text hugh

Thank you, Hugh!)

Nature versus us 10:0

All this said whereas T.A. is good in “going with the flow”, I struggled with these challenges and my expectations, with the promises I had made in the beginning and with the conversations all around New Zealand I had already started. I tried to force it, to make our project happen, to stay true to my word – but in the end, the force of nature was just too strong and all we could do was adapt. Sailors amongst you know what I am talking about.

Would we have undergone this journey if we had known all of these challenges in the beginning? I am not sure. So maybe, our naivety was good after all …

…otherwise, we would not have observed, researched and experienced the marine environment around the North Island, Abel Tasman and Marlborough Sounds on the South Island the way we did. And even though we did not manage to give talks and workshops in communities, we still took every opportunity to engage with local fishermen, fellow sailors and everyone we met on this trip. What we found out most of the time was shocking: apart from the upper part of the East Coast and a bit around East Cape, we saw surprisingly few commercials (and even recreational) fishing vessels out there. Are there no fish anymore to take out of the ocean? We could not get rid of this thought – and not only the barren state of the ocean especially in the Sounds and Abel Tasman, the scarcity of kelp, the lack of predators such as crayfish and the general amount of jellyfish confirmed this assumption. Even more so, whenever we did dive or snorkel or tried to Spearfish, this observation became even more apparent.

keepa

Despite the degrading state of the marine space, there is space for hope as communities all around trying to find solutions for preserving what´s left of their blue backyard. Like the firefighter and passionate fisherman Tran Lawrence who invented “Keepa” a pretty sweet and simple device to make “catch-and-release” easier; or like the guardians of Kapiti island marine reserve. As a member of the latter, Ben Joshua Knight – uber guardian himself – had just previously discovered a mysterious fish and invited us to check it out. Even though the sight was pretty average due to the approach of ex-cyclone Gita and the fish did not show itself, it was a great experience to see how marine reserves provide for a more abundant ocean.

Having met these people and having made the first-hand experience of the marine space in several parts of the country is something we would not want to miss. We are even more determined now in our engagement for an abundant, vibrant and resilient ocean.

“I want the ocean to be noisy again”, Lorna of EMR (Experience Marine Reserves, check this organisation out it´s doing a great job showing kids the marine world) told us yesterday. We really liked her vision.

What about you? How would you like the ocean to be in 10 years? What do you want to see, hear, feel? And if you could do one thing to make this vision come true, what would it be?

Yes, our journey is over, but it has just begun…

Sailors don´t blog: Review and outlook

If you sail, you don´t blog – that is my résumé of the first weeks sailing around New Zealand. Since our departure from Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, I have not typed a single word on my computer. There was simply no time. In recent weeks, we’ve been too busy facing the stormy conditions and heavy waves on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island and making way. Our goal was to spend New Year’s evening in the Marlborough Sounds on the South Island. From the very beginning, it was clear to us that it would be a race against time in our 8-meter sailboat.

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It looks quite tranquil, but especially this last leg from Tolaga Bay to Flat Rock/ Napier was actually pretty intense and rolly.

It’s a race we lost: a southern storm front blew over us. Nevertheless, we were lucky in the misfortune and could hide in the marina of the sailing club of Napier. A lot of time to write posts and updates, one might think. Wrong: get supplies, do laundry, re-splice the anchor rope, dry blankets and carpets (we were hit by some waves on passage), replenish water and gas tanks, refill gas bottles, answer emails, do the most important work and so on… the hours were not sufficient for the program we had in mind. In addition, although the marina in Napier is relatively well equipped and located next to some restaurants, bars and smaller shops, supermarkets, chandleries and gas station are between 3 and 4 kilometres away in the city centre. Hardly accessible without a car – and a bus trip is not only quite expensive (around 15 NZD roundtrip), the journey alone takes about an hour one way.

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Our neighbour in the Sailing Club in Napier helped us splicing our anchor rope. Now we are good to go again!

Four days after our arrival, I finally made it today: I try to put the experience of the last two weeks of sailing into words. Time will tell if I succeed.

When in Napier ... we also took a bit of time to explore the city and love the murals raising awareness for the challenges our oceans have to face spread across the city.
When in Napier … we also took a bit of time to explore the city and love the murals raising awareness for the challenges our oceans have to face spread across the city.

Despite the lack of time to write blog posts, we update our travel map regularly (= when we have sufficient internet) and upload pictures. You can also follow us on Instagram.

More is soon to come: On the 1st of January, we start the New Year with our next 50-hour leg into the Marlborough Sounds / Queen Charlotte Sound. 10 – 15 knots northerlies are forecasted and seem ideal conditions for this route. Fingers crossed.

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On the 5th of January, we probably have our first talk about marine restoration in the Waikawa Boating Club. If wind and weather allow of course, but this goes without saying.

Setting sails … and what the Environment Court has to do with it

Good things come to those who wait, they say. For the last three months, I have done quite a bit of waiting… waiting for this day to come: The day of our departure to sail around New Zealand.

Sailing again, that´s all we have in mind at the moment.
Sailing again, that´s all we have in mind at the moment.

It is a day, that has been postponed too many times for my taste. Even though it was all for a very good reason: Over the last four years, T.A. has worked as a technical advisor for the Motiti Rohe Moana Trust, a kaitiaki guardian trust supported by the elders of the island of Motiti in the Bay of Plenty on the east coast of North Island, an island, T.A. is connected with over 19 generations of whakapapa (genealogy). And if anyone knows about waiting and persistence, it is them: For the last nine years, the trust has done everything to achieve one goal: To be able to protect their Rohe Moana, their ocean, their reefs and coastal lines from the adverse effects of overfishing, destructive take-out-methods and pollution. In short: To practise kaitiakitanga (guardian-/stewardship), a responsibility Maori people take over the environment they are connected with through Whakapapa (genealogy).

After successfully achieving a declaration that allows communities and Regional Council on a local level to protect ecological, social, indigenous and intrinsic values of their environment within the legal framework of the Regional Management Act, the MRMT proposed an innovative approach for marine restoration before the Environment Court of New Zealand a couple of weeks ago.

The presented concept, T.A. developed with the trust, is based both on cultural and ecological aspects.
It consists of a mixture of

→ Wahi Tapu, areas of high cultural value that should not be infringed by humans (no take within 1 nm) and
→ Wahi Taonga, zones which allow for appropriate utilisation of the marine space like recreational fishing but are still not accessible for industrial fishing methods such as trawling, purse seining or dredging that have adverse effects on indigenous biodiversity.

That´s how the suggested marine restoration area around Motiti could look like (c) Di Lucas Landscape architects & associates
That´s how the suggested marine reserve area around Motiti could look like (c) Di Lucas Landscape architects & associates

This integrated approach could solve many challenges marine reserve areas currently face: Whereas the implementation of marine reserve areas in New Zealand usually relatively small and take an average of 8-10 years to establish, the MRMT ‘Taonga model’ could be tested right away. Moreover, bigger marine reserve areas are usually located thousands of miles away from civilisation such as NZ’s Sub-Antarctic islands.

This is exactly what the approach of MRMT wants to provide for: “Marine protection is not a rigid rule but an adaptive one that is best exercised by the local community”, explains marine biologist Te Atarangi Sayers, technical advisor to the MRMT. “It must provide for the community in a way that does not alienate it but enhances its ability to have access.” Appropriate utilisation instead of alienation from the ocean is the key. What this appropriate utilisation looks like should be decided equally by the community for all parts of the communities – from commercial industry to Maori to recreational fishers. This approach also removes bias from decisions as it provides for decisions based on science and indicators such as the extent of kina barren, fish behaviour and other factors. The performance of the rules and methods, which have been proposed, will be measured on social, economic and ecological dimensions. Therefore, the approach uses the “mauri model” (Mauri = lifeforce) developed by engineer Dr Kepa Morgan from Auckland University.

With this holistic, multi-layered and community-led concept, the island of Motiti could become a testbed for a vibrant, restored and abundant ocean. If the decision of the Environment Court in April 2018 is a positive one, of course. An almost even greater opportunity is the transferability of the approach to other coastal communities in New Zealand and later to communities in the Pacific islands which share a similar culture.

Spreading the message

And here our circumnavigation comes into play: Our goal is not only to enjoy the ocean for ourselves (even though, we want to do quite a bit of that too over the next months till April), but most of all to empower communities to express their relationship with the big blue backyard and practise kaitiakitanga. Therefore, T.A. will share this holistic approach in talks with coastal communities all around the country.

After all the waiting, the day has come: We finally set sail and what could be more appropriate than having Motiti as the first destination of our circumnavigation? (The feature picture of this post shows our first anchorage – all part of the future Wahi Tapu). After that, we plan on moving towards the volcanic White Island and then heading south.


https://nomad-ocean.travelmap.net/

At least this is the plan for now. Stay tuned to see where the wind blows us… and maybe see you somewhere out there.

PS: If you want us to share the approach with your community too, please get in touch with us >> 

Tipping point: Non-word of the year

Sitting in an environment court is an experience of its own. I would know. For the last two weeks, I had the opportunity to be present in a case around the island of Motiti.

The indigenous people, represented in the Motiti Rohe Moana Trust (MRMT), sought protection for their ocean, their coast and reefs. It´s been a process that has lasted for nine years and finally, after a lot of base work, the MRMT could make a proposal in court. A proposal of how to protect and restore the area and the biodiversity of the marine space around Motiti.

The presented concept is based on both cultural and ecological values and aspects. Over the last centuries, the indigenous Maori identified several reefs and coastal areas as “Wahi Tapu”, areas of high cultural value that should not be infringed by humans. In modern words: No take within 1 nm. This size is not just a good guess, but based on the recommendations by several ecologists the MRMT has called to give expert evidence. “Bigger would be better”, to quote the renowned underwater photographer and marine scientist Dr Roger Grace, “but 1 nm around the Wahi Tapu is good to start with and learn from it.”

Around these Wahi Tapu, “buffer zones” are suggested which allow for appropriate utilisation of the marine space such as recreational fishing but are still not accessible for industrial fishing methods such as trawling or dredging. These buffer zones, called “Wahi Taonga” (treasure, gift in Maori language) protect the network of the Wahi Tapu. Nick Shears from Auckland University: “The mix of areas with `no-take` and `less take` is in accordance with international best practices such as the Great Barrier reef where 30 percent of the area is no take and the rest are restricted zones.” A concept that has been used on land in national parks for a long time by the way so it might come as a surprise that this is not the case in the ocean: Most of the marine reserves and marine reserve areas we sailed to, are only about 1 – 0,5 nm around the islands and therefore hardly protect the moving of species. But that is another story…

Di Lucas Landscape architects & associates
That´s how the suggested marine restoration area around Motiti could look like (c) Di Lucas Landscape architects & associates

So far, so good one might say.
Whereas there was no dispute that problems of biodiversity exist (as was mentioned many times before court), the Regional Council of the Bay of Plenty which was the opponent of MRMT kept on repeating one argument: The “tipping point” of the decline has not been reached yet. There would be still time to … do more research, do some advocacy and education campaigns, and maybe – some time in the future – to create a “perfect marine reserve”.

Kina are consuming ecklonia which provide food for fish ...
We went on a little survey around Motiti to get the status of the reefs: Kina are consuming ecklonia and therefore destroying the habitat small and juvenile fish need.

A 100% perfect marine reserve has yet to be invented, but even the smallest ones have positive effects – countered the ecologists. Yes, maybe, this area needs more research over the next years; maybe the proposal of the MRMT needs to be adjusted, but let´s do something and try out – they all said. Seems to make sense. Moreover, will there ever be enough research especially in a field so mysterious as the ocean? Aren´t there always new things to find out, to make the puzzle complete piece by piece?

Let´s try out, learn by doing and restore our ocean during the process – recommend the ecologists.
The Council though has a different approach: Wait, wait, wait, do research and see.

It has been the approach over the past 15 years or so – and nothing has changed. At least not for the better:

Hapuku used to be abundant in the Bay of Plenty but is now functionally extinct.
The indigenous Groper/ Hapuku used to be abundant in the Bay of Plenty. The chart shows its decline.

Tipping point…

After seven days in the environmental court, I cannot hear the word anymore. It is a ridiculous concept anyway. Even Sharon DeLuca, the ecologist the Council called in, had to agree that “we never know when the tipping point occurs”. This said we do not even know if the tipping point has been reached or not. Tipping points have only been identified as such in hindsight. Maybe, in a couple of years time, we find out that the tipping point for crayfish has happened in 2017. But what does this help in 2020, when no crayfish can be found anymore?

Crayfish versus Kina Barren
Crayfish versus Kina Barren: These crayfish are too small to eat the kina barren.
Cray2 is the area Motiti belongs to. The decline is visible.
Thousands of craypots are littering the ocean around Motiti. Cray2 is the area the island belongs to, where the declining catch per unit of effort (CPUE) has left the fisheries in a degraded condition. Nowadays, 5 pots are needed to catch 1kg of legal fish.

We do not have time at all. We have to act now!

The latter is actually the obligation of the Councils here in New Zealand as well. In the Regional Management Act, it says that the “maintenance of the biodiversity” is part of Councils duty. But what can you maintain when there is nothing of it anymore? For me, “tipping point” seems nothing but an excuse to drag a topic and wait till someone else is in charge to fight the fight.

It is a concept that is totally opposite to the idea of “kaitiakitanga” of the Maori which understands its obligation to preserve their culture and their nature for future generations. In the indigenous viewpoint, both are connected: Once a fish like the Hapuku around Motiti, that used to be significant in abundance, has been fished to the edge and now isn´t found in the environment anymore, the community cannot maintain the relationship with the Hapuku any longer. “Culture is in danger because of the dying biodiversity they are connected with”, summarised His Honour Judge Jeff Smith of the Environment Court the problem quite clearly at the beginning of the case. That´s easy to see in hindsight, but then it´s too late.

Tipping point or no-tipping point, it shouldn´t be the question. We cannot afford to fight over right or wrong. We have to act now to protect what´s left of our cultural as well as of our natural values and to give the ocean space to restore itself!

There is good news: Ten percent of the big fish still remain; half the coral reefs are still in pretty good shape – a jewelled belt around the middle of the planet. There are still places in the sea as pristine as I knew as a child. Our ocean is at a tipping point, which means we still have a chance to tip things back in the right direction – if we act now.” (Ending this with an optimistic quote of the American marine biologist, explorer, author and lecturer Sylvia A. Earle

A paradise called Mokohinau

“Wich part did impress you most?” people keep on asking the two of us after our cruise from the Bay of Plenty to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. The answer comes as quickly as simultaneously: The Mokohinau (Pokohinu) Islands – a paradise for those who love solitude, the sights of sh curiously checking out your boat, the sound of birds in a starry night, hikes on long forgotten tracks, dives underneath arches and kayaks in clear water.

The lighthouse of Burgess islands greeted us from the distance.
The lighthouse of Burgess islands greeted us from the distance.

“Places like this were the reason why I wanted to be a ranger,” my partner says, and I sense the longing behind these words. It is the same longing I see in his gaze when he looks at the lush green landscape over the steep hills, the deep blue ocean, and the little islands in the background of the Mokohinau Islands off the northeast coast of New Zealand and approximately 25 kilometres northwest of Great Barrier. Volcanic in origin, the group are some of the most solitary and desolate in the Hauraki Gulf. This said, it does not come as a surprise that we are the only human beings on top of the hill where the lighthouse overviews the Pacific Ocean. Actually, we are the only visible human beings at all.

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The hike up to the lighthouse of Burgess island wasn´t too bad and totally worth it in the end…
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… given the view from up there.

Whereas the other islands such as Fanal, Flax and Trig Islands, and offshore stacks of the group, form a wildlife sanctuary and are the habitat for some of New Zealand ́s smallest endangered species, including the Mokohinau stag beetle, robust skink and several threatened plant species, only Burgess is open to visitors. Nowadays at least.

In former days it was a different story. As secluded and isolated as the island(s) are, the Mokohinau Islands have a spiritual, cultural and historical importance for the Maoris. In the past, the Ngati Wai tribe visited the islands frequently, and in season, to harvest grey-faced petrel (muttonbird) chicks. They preserved and consumed them later as a delicacy. Hence, the islands were named “Pokohinu” which can be translated in English as “the oil of the muttonbird.” Archaeological sites such as midden (food waste deposits), terraces and occupied rock shelters are evidence for these visits.

Lighthouse at Burgess Island, Mokohinaus, New Zealand while sailing around New Zealand
The lighthouse from another perspective.

The Maoris were not the only ones who left imprints on the Mokohinaus. From the 1880s onwards, three keepers inhabited the isolated island till the last settlers left in 1979. Now, remains of the tramway, which transported materials up to the lighthouse area, their cottages and the lighthouse itself as well as an oil storage and some World War II early warning stations, remind today’s visitors of these bygone days. As there is no public ferry service to Burgess Island and just a few charters available, there are not a lot of visitor out there. Among them, cruisers like us are the minority. Most of the humans setting foot on Burgess Island are environmentalists and employees of DOC (Department of Conservation) New Zealand who maintain the track, count the gannet colony on Maori Rock close by or make sure that the island stays pest free after the last Paci c rat (kiore) was removed.

Today, we are the only ones on the Mokohinaus. Equipped with a big rucksack stuffed with cookies, a thermo with hot tea, water and blankets, we make our way up to the lighthouse. It takes about 40 minutes to hike from the anchorage south of Burgess Island, where the old wharf was, up to the lighthouse. This is the information you can nd on the internet, at least. Maybe we were too excited or too curious, but we climbed the grassy, bushy hill within 10 minutes. There could not be a better spot to watch the sunset, we thought – and the view at the top of the hill, just underneath the lighthouse, really could not have been better. How many hours we spent up there, just taking in the quietude and the vastness, exploring and taking one picture after the other, I do not know.

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This little fellow might have been one of the birds that sang for us in the evening.

My partner interrupted our peace at one point and sounded extremely excited. “Look, there is a school of sh!” I know why… After being on the ocean for weeks, cruising from the Bay of Plenty via Mercury Islands and Great Barrier up to the Mokohinaus, it was here, in the distance that we spotted the rst school of sh. Unfortunately, commercial shing has left the former, plentiful sea, in a sad state. One can imagine how uplifting the sight of sh, of birds feeding on the ocean, of sea life in general can be.

Look, they obviously do not fear people.” My partner was pointing out how, nevertheless, untouched this paradise was in comparison with the rest of New Zealand. “They come pretty close to the boat.”

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Old railways lead to the sunset on Burgess Island.

 

After hiking down, we left the unsheltered area in front of Burgess Island and found a better overnight anchorage which was not hit by the swell. We found it in between the rocks and arches of the other islands. Despite being quite small, Arch Rock was perfect and with four to six meters, deep enough for our Raven 26 yacht. We wished we had more time to kayak and explore the cliffs and coves. We would have also liked to dive the canyon which is more than 30 meters at the entrance, tapering off to around 6 meters at the far end. It is said to be full of stunning, colourful wall life which puts it on an even par with the legendary (and touristy) Poor Knight Islands. It is something we saved for our next visit.

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We fell asleep with the stars bright above us and the birds singing for us.

When the sky got dark, stars and the bioluminescence in the ocean illuminated our little paradise and the songs of birds: red-crowned parakeet, tui, bellbirds filled the air. So we took our blankets and some cushions, grabbed the sleeping bags and squeezed ourselves into the gap in the cockpit. We closed our eyes, listened to the birds and made a promise: Mokohinau Islands, we will be back soon!

6 weeks sailing in New Zealand: A sea trial

“In six weeks you can singlehandedly sail Kahu”, T.A. said to me. His infinite optimism keeps on surprising me. It is both encouraging as well as putting me under pressure from time to time: I should learn to navigate the boat on my own in just six weeks? We will see.

Six weeks was not only the duration of this applied “sailing course“ of mine. It was the amount of time we had to undergo a sea trial with S.V. Kahu: How would we deal with the recently bought boat? How would our Nanni engine and the sails keep up with gusts of 30 – 40 knots? Does the fibreglass hull remain as dry as the thorough knocking in our survey suggested? How long would both our two-litre gas bottles last? And above all, would we get along in such a tiny space?

Gloves hanging on the sail boat
Let´s do it. Let´s go sailing!

These questions need to be answered. After all, the six weeks should only be the beginning: In November 2017, Kahu would come with us on our circumnavigation of New Zealand.

Unlike T.A., whose veins rather consist of seawater instead of blood, I am a landlubber. Well, as a kid, I was in the sailing course at the Attersee for a week, I had a few more days of boat trips behind me, and I even sailed on Lake Victoria near Kampala in Uganda. However, this is nothing compared to a six-week sailing trip of two. Not to mention a 4,000 nautical-long circumnavigation of New Zealand, which lasts three weeks in the best case, but six months in ours.

T.A. after having caught a fish, surrounded by birds who want their share.
T.A. after having caught a fish, surrounded by birds who want their share. He indeed is part of nature.

In March this year, we set off with a lot of goals. Going from Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty to Tuhua (Mayor Island) then onto Slipper Island, Hahei and Whitiganga in the Coromandel; from Great Mercury to Great Barrier, then to Junction Islands, further on to the Mokohinaus, Poor Knights, Cape Brett and finally to the Bay of Islands for two weeks. From there we had to return to Auckland, where my plane to Austria departed.

For six weeks, all of this was our reality: Our life consisted of dreamy coves, in which we fell asleep while listening to bird chorus. We sailed through sunsets so cheesy, no Hollywood movie could have put them better in the scene. We dug a small hot pool on a remote offshore island beach to watch the sun go down over the ocean. T.A. caught fish, which we enjoyed on our little wooden table outside in the cockpit while sharing stories. During the night, the spectacle of the bioluminescent marine life entertained us. In the morning, we built a pillow nest on the deck to drink our coffee. And then there were all the small hikes to green hills and lighthouses, which provided the best views of our big blue backyard. We had all that to ourselves. Hard to believe, but until the Bay of Islands, we were usually the only people as far as we could see.

Eating in the cockpit of a sailing yacht out on the Pacific while sailing around in New Zealand
Everything tastes better out on the ocean.

Sounds like a romantic dream trip?

It was… sometimes. The reality of sailing hit us on our first leg to Tuhua. It was a prompt awakening: Our autopilot stopped working, and we had to accept that we had turned around a few times in a circle. This became restricting as we were not able to make long trips by night, and during long days were testing our seamanship, our arms went numb from standing on the tiller for hours. But that´s not all: In the Poor Knights, our anchor got fouled, and the next day, the weather turned and the swell was driven into the beam of Kahu quite a bit. It was the only time when seasickness literally struck us to the ground. Nevertheless, we were lucky in the misfortune, because even in such bad weather, dive trips come to the Poor Knights all the time. A call to “Diving Tutuka” was enough to get a dive tank for T.A. On the next calm day, he was able to dive the 40ish meters down, loosen and retrieve the anchor and free Kahu from the reef. We could finally continue sailing.

For some, it´s a dream come true. For me, Cathredral Cove will always be the place where I sank my iphone.
For some, it´s a dream come true. For me, Cathedral Cove will always be the place where I drowned my iPhone.

These were just two of the challenges we had to master. Not to mention the tropical storms, cyclones and strong gusts of wind, which forced us to stay put in protected bays for several days at least once a week. They were just as much on the agenda as the eternal search for the Internet. The fact that the latter was not even available in marinas – and/or even too slow for Facebook – was a bitter realization.

Yes, the six weeks were quite a sea trial.

The result? We certainly found a small but extremely robust companion in Kahu. At 6,3, T.A. cannot stand tall in the cabin, but other than that, it has a surprising feel of spaciousness and offers more space than other comparable yachts. We are fortunate that our engine has far more grant than most similar boats, 21 horsepower and three cylinders and is, therefore, stronger than the Raven´s usual 8-PS single-cylinder engine. We had plenty of water and gas for a couple of weeks, but we plan to have a water maker and a larger gas bottle on board for the circumnavigation (assuming we find the space). Apropos more: A new autopilot is just as much of a Must as a solar power system for extra capacity and a shower.

We have definitely learned from the six weeks. Not just as far as the equipment is concerned. Also in interpersonal matters: We certainly had disagreements, but neither T.A. nor I wanted to push the other overboard (I think). We have learned to simply take a break when we need our time. T.A. dives down to spear fish or goes out with the kayak. I usually meditate. But most of the time, these “fights” do not last long. It just does not make sense to pout for hours in the small space we are sharing. After all, we literally are in the same boat.

Oh, and if you would like to know whether I can sail Kahu singlehandedly after the six weeks: The answer is no. I would not dare to after this sea trial. I simply have too much respect for the Pacific Ocean.

T.A. sees it differently, of course. Rather optimistic, what else!?

Woman helming a sail yacht
Helming became one of my specialities.
If you want to know when I finally learn how to sail singlehandedly, stay tuned and Come Sail With Us. Our Nomad Ocean Project starts soon!

Staying connected: The quest of internet in New Zealand

One of the biggest drawbacks of working remotely is finding access to internet. Working as a nomad on the ocean takes it to new extremes.

One of the biggest drawbacks of working remotely is finding access to the internet, especially a fast and reliable connection. In some countries, it is already challenging on land. But living and working as a nomad on the ocean takes it to a new extreme.

You don’t know how difficult it is to be connected until you are not connected.

Initially, we thought that when sailing we kind of didn’t need or want to be connected. We thought it was good to just be in the environment. Fully present. We also thought that we could find coffee shops with internet when on shore. That was the plan.

Pretty soon though we found ourselves in rural communities, and the open internet becomes very scarce. That might not sound surprising, but what was quite a surprise to us was that most of Marinas did not provide internet (at least not for free or with an adequate speed or data bundle). Moreover, even in touristy and popular cities like Whitianga, it was quite a challenge to find a coffee shop with sufficient connection.

New Zealand has one the worlds highest penetration of mobile usage. The reality is, that they also have some of the most expensive services in the world.

Two people working location independently in a coffeeshop in New Zealand.
Working location independently has benefits and drawbacks.
Yes, we are fortunate that there is a 4G network in New Zealand which can carry high data usage. It is just at a ridiculous price. Last month, we spent nearly 120NZD on data. So beware when it comes to mobile internet.

The 4 main providers

These are the 4 main providers in New Zealand and our personal experiences with them. Here are the reviews:

  • Spark – It is probably the most expensive, and they had a monopoly on communications in New Zealand coverage. But since the 4G network launch, it seems to be all the same. Spark also provides Spark internet boxes all over the country, where you can connect with the network (no matter what your actual provider is) and use 1 GB for free. We actually thought, Spark would also have the best coverage but soon found out that the Spark-phone we bought for Kahu was less connected than our own 2degree phones. Quite disappointing, so did not use Kahu-phone anymore after a couple of weeks on the ocean.
  • Skinny – This is Spark, but with no guarantee. If you want a no thrills, no liability carrier, this is your go to. Surprisingly not that much cheaper than 2degrees for the lack of customer service.
  • Vodafone – Known all around the world and has been in New Zealand for the last 25 years, it was more a service provider for the cities. However, now the coverage is comparable everywhere. It is slightly cheaper than Spark.
  • 2degrees – A New Zealand brand established by leveraging the Maori network allocation. It is by far the cheaper operator, however, the coverage in the past has been average. On the ocean, though we were surprised to discover that 2degrees sometimes worked better than Spark. End of April, a new service came out: 2degree data clock. Now you can get unlimited data for a specified time, let´s say a couple of hours or 24 hours for up to 6 NZD. As this is a pretty transparent system and cheaper than other options, we have been working with this lately.
We tried to get in touch with all providers to get better deals or sponsorship for our trip but were not successful. But even if we had found “our provider”, the reality is: Internet is average in New Zealand, and once we are out there, we might not be able to be connected all the time. Then all we can do is be present, go with the flow and enjoy the moments… The moments, we will share with you once we are online again!

How we developed Nomad Ocean

Like all great things, this project started in a café over a couple of long black coffees.

We had met a month earlier in a great little coffee shop in Mount Maunganui, in the Bay of Plenty of New Zealand, and we have gotten on really well. We both had a commitment to change the world in our own little way: Doris was writing as a freelancer for sustainability and environmental justice magazines, and I was developing Marine protection and working as a consultant for a local NGO.

It was summer, and the ideas of the world just seemed to flow. The conversations about the issues of what was happening in relation to environment, cultural, social and other societal issues developed over the next 3 months.

“People need connection. Connection makes up our shared identity, and our identity supports the wellbeing of the community.”

Around the end of January of 2017, we were having coffee together and started to think about how we could collaborate on a project. What was important to us was to raise awareness of the challenges our generation faced. My marine science and recreational background seemed like a good starting point. When I explained the interconnected relationship of the ocean with all life, it got us thinking about how we could communicate this connection. So, the first values of the Nomad Ocean Project were set.

We hadn’t really thought of sailing as the vehicle to share it, but it became clear that this was going to provide a critical element to our conversation. Sailing is a beautiful relationship of balance: Balancing the wind, waves, tides and to find the flow to propel you to your destination. This became part of the underlying principle of the project. We also wanted to see, share and communicate the importance of the ocean to the world. Sailing gave us a different perspective, a timeless quality to these goals.

“All things evolve in patterns related to the flow of energy, and the resistance influencing this flow, to a point of balance and equilibrium” 

Nomad Ocean Project was born. Over the next weeks, we developed the concept of how we could engage the community to share, inspire and lead a pathway to restoring our connection with an abundant marine environment.

And the journey begins…

Good coffee makes space for good ideas shared with others.