Thursday 28 April 2016

Closing the circle...

Going down down down….

Amelie back in the water and feeling fine !

Thursday April 28th 2016

Well G’day !!! I know, I know, it’s been a while!  How are you ? 

We four onboard Amelie are all good, back in the Bay of Islands, in Opua NZ where our Kiwi adventure started almost 6 months ago! 

It’s getting cold, and like our friends from Game of Thrones like to say:  “Winter is coming!”  It’s time to get the heck outta here !

Yes, it is high time to head North and back to Sun and warm waters! We are spending our last weeks gathering provisions (we literally needs CRATES of food for our two seemingly “always starving” teenagers if we are going to be away from civilization for more than a month! )

The plan is to join the Sea Mercy fleet which is leaving NZ at the beginning of May and sail directly to the eastern remote Lau Group where we would be granted special permission to check in by the Fiji authorities. As we’ve mentioned before, Fiji was hit by a category 5 Cyclone (aka Winston) last March and the Lau group, Savu Savu and other areas we enjoyed visiting last September were hit especially hard. We hope to help out with the relief work there as much as we can, during the months of May and June. 

I was particularly impressed with the plan of action that the fine people at Sea Mercy have put together. In a nutshell: Amelie (and all the other boats involved) would be asked to carry supplies to these more distant islands as well as help the community to rebuild their lives with anything they need help with. 

What next ? After Fiji, the plan is still quite vague, but generally speaking we will probably meander Westward, towards Vanuatu and perhaps New Caledonia, Australia is a distant point on our horizon as well, maybe. There are still many options and we are carefully weighing the choices. Personally, I don’t like not having a definite plan, on the other hand there is a kind of excitement that goes with having a wide open blank space in my annual planner, the possibilities are endless. We recently attended a talk on Vanuatu and New Caledonia at the Opua Cruisers Club and it really re-ignited the excitement for us to get out there again. So since I can’t tell you where we are going  I can at least tell you where we’ve been, and hope that this will be enough to satisfy your curiosity, for now.

Raglan: While taking a break from boatyard work, we enjoyed visiting the town of Raglan one Sunday in March. It’s the kind of town you’d expect from a surfer’s paradise. Artsy, laid back, lots of surf shops. It was a rainy day with almost no breakers so we didn’t get to watch the surfers, but we enjoyed the friendly vibe and main street shopping. On our way back to Auckland we stopped to see another great waterfall. 

Devonport: On Easter Sunday we decided to drive across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge to go and see the North Shore. The village of Devonport charmed us with its historic main street, its lovely waterfront and the North Head’s which offered us great views with dark and ancient army bunkers and tunnels that we could explore as a bonus ! It was a great place to spend a sunny easter Sunday.

Splash ! Finally, on April 11th,  the day of the Big Splash had arrived and with Mark still doing some last minute touch up jobs on the bottom paint, the large lift came and carried Amelie out of the cradle, which had been supporting her for almost 3 months, back to where she belonged. We happily jumped on board and got ready for an early departure the next morning.

After a quick trip to Rangitoto (Volcano) to get the sails back on and check that all systems were operational.  We had a chance to say 'Hey There'  to the little blue penguins who frequently pop up in this area.  The next day we stopped in beautiful Waihiki for the night and one last ice cream stop before we set our course for Great Barrier Island: our first  full day of sailing in 4 months! 

New Zinc Anode

Amelie on her way back to the water after many months on the hard

Great Barrier Island: The 7 hour sail was somewhat blustery and MC got a reminder of why we should always use the lee board if napping while underway: She was rudely thrown out of her bunk and against the wall!  Our first stop at Great Barrier was Fitzroy Bay, a very picturesque and quiet place (but we hear that it gets very busy during the summer holidays). Schools of fish were jumping out all around the boat as the sun went down. The next day we did a few hikes...where we enjoyed great views, had a picnic in a majestic kauri tree and saw a waterfall.

Then it was off to smokehouse bay where the locals have built- you guessed it- a smokehouse and a wood fired bath house which we enjoyed. Since leaving the boat yard, it had been too cold for us to shower (we don’t have hot water) and the warm water was so appreciated! 

The next day we sailed down to Wangaraparapa Bay and hiked to the hot pools. What a luxury to sit and bathe while looking up at the blue skies, birds singing all around! Even after so many encounters, dolphins  NEVER fail to make us smile. They exhude pure happiness as they come bouncing by Amelie and into our heart, we had many such opportunities to enjoy their company in our week long stay at Great Barrier. 

Get ready...get set... You might be wondering: "What does getting ready for a crossing look like?"  Well, on Amelie, it means triple checking all systems and rigging on the boat. It means making a thorough inventory of all provisions, and then heading into town for a -rather enormous- grocery/shopping trip. One must try to envision all that will be needed for the next  6 months ahead, anything from fancy desert ingredients, baking essentials, meal planning, birthdays and holiday treats too, and just how much dental floss and toiler paper does one need ? Yes, these are the questions that I ask myself in preparation for our departure. For the hundredth time I wonder: “ Is there anything else we need?”  before we leave the marvel of this country’s endless supply and selection  of provisions, chandleries, hardware and household stores??? It is the last call after all.

Getting ready also means to clean and  organize the entire boat from bow lockers to sock drawer and to have a massive laundry trip and ensure all bedding  & blankets are clean and fresh too.

This year it also means getting our new dinghy !!!  Earlier this year we teamed up with our sailing buddies on SV Perry and got a good deal on two brand new Highfield dinghies. Our new “car” is one foot longer than our old dinghy, has a bench and plenty of storage and folding wheels to make beaching it so much easier! To me, it feels like I’m stepping into a cadillac- such luxury !  But the best feature of all has to be  that it *planes with the four of us and all of our snorkeling gear on board ! If you are looking  for us out there we will be the ones grinning from ear to ear as we FLY across the anchorage on our new shiny sliver bullet !

*Planing happens when the engine is powerful enough to bring the bulk of the boat up and out of the water and the dinghy glides more horizontal and faster with less drag through the water- A definite bonus for efficiency!

The time that is left to us. It is time to start thinking about getting Meg settled into a high school, as the all important grade ten looms closer with every month that goes by. With this in mind, the goal for this year will be to try to make the best of the time that is left to us, we will try to remember to appreciate every moment and take advantage of this life while we are still out here, we must live in the present and enjoy the beauty of our surroundings, the quiet of the remote locations, the flexibility this lifestyle has offered us and the quality of the time we have with our children. I have a feeling that this year, like all the others , will go by very quickly !

So we will bid you farewell, for now, from the land of kiwis, I hope to give you an update from Fiji in the next month or so. Much love, 4Ms at sea


Waterfall near Raglan

A last view of Waihiki, well known for its many fine wineries

Our neighbours in Rangitoto…we were going to ask for a ride in the helicopter …but then we chickened out!

Bee hives


Mark starting to set the fire for the wood fired bath

Matthew, Meg and Mark (Far left waving) in the hot pools

The hike to the hot pools

Some Cormorants on Great Barrier

Even after so many encounters, dolphins  NEVER fail to make us smile. They exhude pure happiness as they come bouncing by Amelie and into our heart, we had many such opportunities to enjoy their company in our week long stay at Great Barrier. 

One last provisioning

The new outboard cover

In case you ever wondered what a kiwi tree looks like 
Kiwi fruit in the tree

Pic of Smokehouse bay at sunset

Facial Spa night on Amelie (Using Rotorua Mud)

Meghan on Amelie (Written on May 9 2016)

Even though our land adventures were done, that doesn't mean all of our New Zealand adventures were done!  Our adventures from Auckland all the way back up here to Opua is what I am here to write about today so I hope you all enjoy my last New Zealand blog entry.

We stayed in the Half Moon Bay boatyard for about a month after we got back from our two month long camping trip.  We finished up boat work, took advantage of Auckland's huge malls and stores, and then splashed Amelie back in the water after four months of being landlubbers!  After a couple of days of cleaning up the boat, we sailed off to the island of Great Barrier.

Great Barrier Island

Even though it has nothing to do with the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, this island is still pretty awesome!  It is a very green and mountainous island with very kind and peaceful people living a pretty sweet life, in my opinion.  I'm really happy we went to Great Barrier at the time we did because locals told us that at Christmas time, there can be up to 1200 boats at the island!  In every bay we went to, there were no more than 10 boats, at most!

The first anchorage we stayed in was Port Fitzroy where we did several hikes during the days and enjoyed the still, peaceful evenings filled with morepork cries (FYI: moreporks are types of NZ owls that make a cooing cry that sounds like they are saying "more pork"!)  One day, we did a hike through the woods and got to have a picnic in a kauri tree, which are sacred trees to New Zealanders.

The next bay we went to was Smokehouse Bay which was probably my favourite anchorage on the island.  We didn't spend a lot of time there or even see anyone there but it was really cool.  First of all, there was a bathhouse there where the water was heated by burning wood!  We were really grateful for that because since we had left Auckland, we hadn't had a shower because we don't have hot water on our boat (and it is WAY too cold to have a cold shower).  I also personally loved the swings Smokehouse Bay had!  One swing was a half of a giant fender and the other was just cool because it let me swing down the hill really fast and right over top of the bathhouse roof!

Lastly, the third bay we went to was Whangaparapara (I'm finally starting to get a hang of these Maori names- this one is pronounced: fanga-para-para).  This bay wasn't quite as pretty as the other ones but we were able to walk to some nice hot springs.  These are geothermal like the ones we saw in Rotorua, (“geothermal” means that the heat comes from underground).  While in the bay, we also got to catch a cool dolphin show.  The dolphins were in a group and were at the surface every few minutes because they were feeding.

Back in Opua: Goodbye New Zealand!

We left Great Barrier and did the our first over night crossing since we've been back in the water.  We are now back up in Port Opua, where we began our New Zealand adventure over 5 months ago!

So the big question: where to next?  First, we are heading off to Fiji.  As I said in my last post about my natural disaster report, Fiji recently got hit by a big cyclone.  After a disaster like a cyclone, the country sometimes asks people to come and help as "relief workers" so we are going to do that by bringing supplies from New Zealand and helping the people restore their villages.  We are actually registered with an organization called Sea Mercy, who has been organizing all the boats going to help.  We are leaving with the next fleet of Sea Mercy's boats who are heading straight off to the Lau Group of Fiji.  The Lau Group is the very, very remote part of Fiji and we will be spending about a month there, helping out.  If you wish to find out more about Sea Mercy and their purposes, you can visit their website:

So, we will spend about two months in all of Fiji.  After that, we will probably head out to some of the other South Pacific islands: Vanuatu and maybe New Caledonia.  Then, we don't really know.  We will probably either go up to Australia or back down here to New Zealand for cyclone season once again. Personally, I'm kind of hoping we go to Australia because I don't remember my last visit (I was one years old!) and we have lots of Aussie friends we met cruising who are now back home.  Not to mention, Australia has quite a bit of a warmer climate than New Zealand!

Even though we are mostly getting ready to leave New Zealand, we have also been doing interesting things.  For instance, we took a weekend sail out to the Bay of Islands to an island called Paradise Bay.  We got together with some fellow cruisers and had dinner at a really great little restaurant.  We also did a really nice hike on that island as well.

Also, one Sunday, we rented a car (we sold our van while we were back in Auckland) and drove on up to Whangarei for a big provisions run at the humongous "Pak n' Save" store.  I remember stocking up on goods in Panama when we rented a car there. I'm pretty sure we filled 3 carts and it took two or three cashiers a good half hour to scan and pack everything!  Also, when we loaded everything in the car, I could not see Matthew who was two feet away from me because the middle back seat had a huge stack of boxes piled so high!  This shopping trip was not so different!  It may seem like a lot but we need to buy everything we will need for the next month because there are probably no stores at all in the Lau Group.  Today, we went to do the "fresh food run".  We can only pick up fresh produce a few days before leaving or else it will go bad.

Another exciting piece of news is our new dinghy!  The new dinghy is a foot longer than the last one but weighs much less!  It also has a bench and wheels that fold down so it is easier to bring up on the beach.  We decided that to make our dinghy unique, we should decorate the engine.  My dad and I spent an afternoon spray painting the engine cover and then sticking on some Canadian flag stickers so now!  Look out for the new Ferrari in the bay!  We haven't gotten many brand new and expensive things in the past two years so I found this very exciting!

You have now heard everything about our New Zealand experiences.  However, if you wish to see them, I have just recently posted a video on YouTube called "Amelie IV- NZ Adventures".  

The link is:

In a few days, we are leaving the land of plenty and going to the land of basically nothing (except for adventure and beauty of course).  It may sound threatening but I'm actually really excited.  I mostly want to get back to the tropical warmth though! 

Saturday 9 April 2016

Meghans Personal Website and Natural Disaster Research Report

Hey everyone, Meghan here!  I realized that I hadn’t talked about school in a while so I thought I’d share a couple of recent assignments with you all. 

In language arts, I had to create a personal website so I found an online template and made a photo blog of our adventures in South America.  The website is:

In social studies, we are studying Japans history and we were learning about natural disasters since they occur very often there.  My assignment was to research a natural disaster that has recently occurred near me.  I chose to research Cyclone Winston which hit Fiji just over a month ago.  I thought I’d share it with you because we are soon going to Fiji to bring supplies from New Zealand and help them out so I have really taken a great interest in this cyclone.  Also, I’m not sure if it really made international news so I wanted to let you all know about it.

Cyclone Winston: How it Affected Fiji
Research Report by: Meghan Oliver

Cyclone Winston was the second largest cyclone to hit the South Pacific in the recent past (in terms of the cost it took to repair) and it was the largest cyclone on record to make landfall on Fiji!  On the 20th of February 2016, a category 5* cyclone named Winston struck the Fijian islands (*category 5 being the highest a cyclone can be).  In my report, I will talk about: the general characteristics of a cyclone, how Winston became a cyclone, the immediate and lasting impact of this natural disaster on the Fijians, and how this natural disaster has changed the worldview of the people of Fiji. 

A cyclone, sometimes called a typhoon, is a big storm (very similar to a hurricane) with high winds that spiral inwards.  Tropical cyclones form due to a combination of all these conditions: warm water in the area, unstable air in the upper atmosphere (which allows thunderstorms to form), and a low pressure system.  This is why people can predict when a cyclone is coming: they see the pressure in an area drop significantly.  Cyclones are usually characterized by the winds in the Northern Hemisphere swirling clockwise while the winds in the Southern Hemisphere are swirling counter-clockwise which ends up looking a bit like a tornado when seen from space.

Photo taken from: Wikipedia
Now that I have explained what a cyclone itself is, I will talk more specifically about Cyclone Winston.  The system was first noted as a tropical disturbance on February 7 when it was located to the northwest of a port in Vanuatu.  Over the next few days, it gradually intensified as it moved southeast and then headed northeast towards Tonga.  However, Winston stalled to the north of Tonga on the 17th and then was swept west again towards Fiji, strengthening rapidly in the process!  When the storm passed over the Fijian island of Vanua Balavu, it reached a national record wind gust of 306 km/h!  Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, called the storm “an ordeal of the most grievous kind”.

Photo taken from: Daily Mail UK newspaper

Island of Makogai before Cyclone Winston hit (left) and after (right)
Photo taken from: Sea Mercy FaceBook Page
I have explained how and why Cyclone Winston occurred and now, I will explain more about how it affected the people who were caught in the midst of this vicious storm.  I will explain the immediate as well as the lasting impacts the disaster brought upon the Fijians.  The cyclone struck the nation around midday on the 20th.  Public transportation was suspended across the island of Viti Levu and a nationwide curfew was put in act starting at 6 o’clock p.m.  During the cyclone, approximately 80% of the population lost power and some towns didn’t get it back until weeks later.    Communication with some of the more remote islands like Vanua Balavu, Taveuni, Qamea, Cicia, Nayau, and Lakeba were lost.  Many homes lost their roofs or were completely destroyed so many people had to move in with family members or into one of the evacuation centres.   A local from the town of Savu Savu (on the island of Vanua Levu) describes that she has never experienced weather so ferocious.  “We could do nothing but wait and just hope that the damage is minimal.”  In total, around 44 people were killed, an additional 126 were injured, and tens of thousands were left homeless!  Around 62 thousand people were housed in evacuation shelters and approximately 40 thousand people required immediate assistance after the cyclone.  About 497 primary and secondary schools were either damaged or destroyed.  However, the Governments of Australia, France, New Zealand, and several other nations quickly responded to the disaster and, within days, had large-scale relief effort works in action.

Photo taken from: UNICEF Pacific FaceBook page

Photo taken from: UNICEF Pacific FaceBook page
Finally, in the end, I truly believe that the worldview of the ones who survived Cyclone Winston will have only changed for the better.  For example, I think they have all become stronger and more stoic because, despite the catastrophic scenes and chaos all around them, they were able to pull themselves together and try to repair what they could.  Also, I think that this brought the nation closer together and more as one because everyone would seek help and comfort from each other after the disaster which would make them feel closer as a nation.

These children put two sofas together and huddled in it during the night of the storm
Photo taken from: UNICEF Pacifc FaceBook page

Men clearing the road
Photo taken from: Daily Mail UK newspaper

Women and children with supplies donated by UNICEF
Photo taken from: UNICEF Pacific FaceBook page