Please select your home edition
Edition
Upffront 2020 Foredeck Club SW LEADERBOARD

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

by Lisa Benckhuysen 4 Aug 2020 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

Can we cruise like we did Pre-COVID-19?
Yes, in the Bahamas! As I say goodbye to 2020, I find myself looking at the options for the winter of 2021 with a whole new perspective and experiences to draw upon. Posted on 25 Feb
Panama Canal questions answered
Canal operation does not have any intentions to stop working. The only congestion in the Panama Canal is for Merchant vessels and not for yachts under 125ft as they usually are in tandem with merchant vessels in the locks chamber or by themselve rafted. Posted on 13 Feb
Viking Explorers 2021 departure
4th edition started from the Canary Islands on Saturday The 4th edition of the Viking Explorers started from the Canary Islands to Grenada on the 9th of January, with a delay of 3 days as captains and the organization decided to delay the departure due to the storm Filomena Posted on 11 Jan
Kiwi Christmas: SV Harlequin in New Zealand
The sound of Christmas is slightly different It's Christmas time - so the calendar says. Yet the sunlight is intense, sky-blue agapanthus and creamy calla lilies are in full bloom, gnarled pohutukawa trees strew their scarlet stamens over vivid green hilltops and rugged sea cliffs. Posted on 26 Dec 2020
One end to the other...
I got a sneak peak at the SV Delos Arctic trailer a while back, and swore to complete secrecy... Confession. I got a sneak peak at the SV Delos Arctic trailer a while back, and swore to complete secrecy, or face the long walk off a short pier... Posted on 20 Dec 2020
AMAALA, OceanoScientific on scientific expedition
Scientific expedition to study impact of chemical contaminants on water bodies and human health. AMAALA, the ultra-luxury destination located along Saudi Arabia's north western coast, took to the seas with Monaco-based OceanoScientific on a two-week scientific expedition. Posted on 5 Nov 2020
Three great capes in a 40-year old boat
A second circumnavigation and second rounding of Cape Horn for Sasa Fegic A legendary Croatian sailboat HIR 3 skippered by Sasa Fegic completed a 39.000 mile west to east circumnavigation of the globe around three great capes and after 28 months at sea returned to the homeport in Mali Losinj on 17/10/2020. Posted on 1 Nov 2020
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 2020
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 2020
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 2020
Upffront 2020 Foredeck Club SW FOOTEROcean Safety 2021 - FOOTERRaymarine 2021 Element S - FOOTER