Please select your home edition
Vaikobi 2019AUG - Leaderboard 1

Solstice Celebration - International cruising fleet thanks Whangarei, New Zealand, for safe haven

by Lisa Benckhuysen 4 Aug 22:46 UTC

The austral winter solstice was marked with a new celebration this year in Whangarei, New Zealand. A fleet of international yachties, or boaties as they are called here, is making the best of their extended pandemic stay.

The cruisers came together with local marinas to host several events over the weekend in a gesture of thanks to the town of Whangarei. Of all the places on the planet we might be stuck, this area with its protected boat basin, wide range of marine services, funky variety of shops, restaurants and cafes and spectacular hiking, biking and walking trails is surely ideal!

The festivities kicked off on Friday evening with a Boatyard Ball sponsored by Riverside Drive Marina. Flags flying and bunting strung between the hardstands, there was potluck dinner under a marquee. After dinner, RDM Band played some old-time rock and roll for enthusiastic dancers. The band, which formed during lockdown, performed multiple encores including the trademark Ten Guitars with marina manager Karl Roberts crooning his best impression of Engelbert Humperdink.

Solstice Saturday dawned wet and chilly, so RDM Band set up on the covered bridge over the Hatea River. A crowd of intrepid boaties and Whangarei residents gathered to take in the music and then hear a "te reo" blessing of the fleet from Fred Tito. As a Maori elder from the local marae, or tribe, Mr. Tito emphasized the importance of this place in and of itself: the river, mountains and forests of Whangarei. "You are welcome here. We all belong here." Three cannons were fired from the bridge in honor of the occasion.

The mayor of Whangarei, Sheryl Mai, followed with an address in English and te reo Maori and then danced to RDM tunes in her official robes. How remarkable to see this joy and spontaneity in a public official! But then again, in New Zealand, the Prime Minister says, "Be kind" as the first rule of thumb in a pandemic and everyone gets on board and cooperates. From extra portaloos and free wifi to a blanket extension of tourist visas, Kiwi pandemic kindness has indeed come in many practical forms.

David Irvin represented the Black Ball Yacht Club. This virtual yachting organization funds marine training for a local student. Last year a $2500 BBYC scholarship for the youth development program on board the tall ship Spirit of New Zealand went to a Kamo High School student. "This is a way for international cruisers, enjoying the town of Whangarei, year after year, to say thank you. What better way than to invest in the youth of this town?" Between mini golf on the Barge Inn, dinner tickets, raffle tickets and donations, the solstice events raised $1000 NZ towards the 2020 BBYC scholarship.

The weekend was such a success that everyone turned out again two weeks later to celebrate Canada Day, USA Independence Day and Bastille Day as well as somebody's birthday. This time we had a troupe of 13 belly dancers drawn from the cruising community and led by Anna Morton from SV Noomea. RDM Band backed up the dancers with Lambada. Teenaged brother and sister Thorsten and Simone, from SV Argo, rocked renditions of Starman and Don't Stop Believing.

Now, completely done in by three weeks of rehearsing and preparing, we have all withdrawn to our boats to recover. Good thing too. A small tornado hit a boatyard down the river and knocked down five boats. Last night it hailed and thundered for hours like it was Armageddon. The streets were flooded and folks stranded in the local petrol station were up to their waist in water. A friend of ours lost a chunk of land in a slip. I am so thankful to be in a marina, tied safely to a dock with a heater plugged in. I will be waiting here for the end of the soggy austral winter before I venture out to sea with my steadfast captain. Thank you, Whangarei! We love it here!

Lisa Benckhuysen is a Canadian educator and freelance writer sailing slowly around the world with her husband on their modified Express 37. Currently in New Zealand she is exploring the various ways international cruisers are adapting to the pandemic.

Related Articles

Sailing legend makes landfall in Australia
Jon Sanders arrived in Bundaberg this morning A global pandemic and some of the worst ocean conditions experienced in decades have not stopped world renowned Australian yachtsman Jon Sanders AO OBE from reaching home soil on his record 11th solo circumnavigation of the world. Posted on 22 Oct
No Plastic Waste Voyage update
Jon has sailed 21,366nm (40,000kms) since leaving Fremantle At the time of sending this update Jon is 370 nm east of Bundaberg, Queensland. Jon has sailed 21,366nm (40,000kms) since leaving Fremantle almost one year ago. He is currently on a WSW course making 3.7 knots in moderate conditions. Posted on 19 Oct
No Plastic Waste voyage update - 6th October 2020
Jon Sanders advises conditions are improving and hoping for some calmer weather Jon has hit what looks to be a severe trough much like the Queen' Birthday Storm in 1994. That storm caused what is believed to be New Zealand's largest marine rescue operation. Posted on 12 Oct
Archaeologists discover 17th century warship
The ship is most likely the Danish warship 'Delmenhorst' Marine archaeologists from the Viking Ship Museum are currently conducting diving surveys of the wreck of a large warship from the 17th century. Posted on 20 Sep
Understanding wooden boat construction
Learn about carlins, king beams, and more We'd like everyone to be able to find that solace, so here are some great new resources to help feed the current boatbuilding renaissance Posted on 5 Sep
The missing sailboat and its bold recovery
A lesson for boaters everywhere The sun had finally peaked through the clouds after days of wind and stormy seas. A young man spotted a blue speck in the distance after searching the Atlantic for days from a sea plane. Posted on 28 Aug
Celebrating Marvin Creamer's bold circumnavigation
A geographer and university professor who circumnavigated the planet Celebrating Marvin Creamer (1916-2020), a geographer and university professor who circumnavigated the planet without any navigational instruments in the early 1980s. Posted on 25 Aug
Guest etiquette aboard a friend's yacht
There are few things as enjoyable as spending the day aboard a friend's boat. There are few things as enjoyable as spending the day aboard a friend's boat. Sunshine, drinks, music and swimming all spring to mind. But have you ever taken the time to consider the correct etiquette for such an event? Posted on 20 Aug
The new world of cruising and deliveries
Travel restrictions are making moving around difficult, delivery captains have an upturn in interest Travel restrictions are making it difficult for people to move freely, and delivery captains have noticed an uptick in requests and inquiries Posted on 28 Jul
Sailing Circus aboard 70 foot ketch
70 foot SV Rosalie Clare is a sailing circus Owner Ari Vanderschoot bought the vessel in Washington in 2010 and, with her partner Engineer Ben Vroom, sailed her to the South Pacific to enjoy their shared passion for the ocean. Posted on 28 Jul
Cruise Village 2020 - FOOTERUpffront 2020 Foredeck Club SW FOOTERCyclops Marine 2020 - FOOTER