By Derek On February 5, 2016 Under Post


I am writing this now as I sit in my study of our little house in Mt. Eden, Auckland. I have just walked the girls to school where they are attending Maungawhau Primary and have a moment to write an update of our journey so far: New Zealand has seduced us. We are staying.

The sailing trip is over.

I still can’t believe it. And it still sounds strange to my ears. But we like New Zealand so much we have decided we want to live here and begin a new adventure, one quite different from what we had been experiencing so far.

But first, there is Nelson. A beautiful place where where TGS Asmara Sky patiently lies and where our story takes us.


The photo above is from my favorite mural in Nelson, just outside the supermarket, Fresh Choice.

As I wrote in my last post back in October, we wanted to spend the southern summer in the South Island of New Zealand. We had heard from many kiwis that Nelson was, “the sunniest place in NZ” and we had friends, other sailors who lived there. Tom and Vicky Jackson, of Sunstone, are legends in the world of cruising sailboats and after sailing their beautiful, wooden S&S-designed Sunstone 200,000 miles had settled in Nelson. They could have sailed and settled anywhere. Clearly, there must be something about this town.


We waited for a weather window for our 565 nautical mile trip from Opua to Nelson and as “luck” would have it, that came on Halloween, October 31st. At first light we motored out of the Bay of Islands as the sun rose in all its glory bathing the green land around us in golden light. Winds were favorable and we hoisted sail and began our journey back up north to round the top of the island. This meant rounding spooky Cape Reinga at night, alone and, as Ariel pointed out, on Halloween to boot! After 101 miles this we did.


No departed or departing souls were encountered but we were graced with the presence of a large wandering albatross who continued to follow us that evening and night. The Maori used their wing bones to carve flutes. Sailors of old believed the albatross were manifestations of the souls of lost sailors and it was terribly bad luck to harm one. One has to look no further than Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” to see that. Perhaps it was his (or her) company that guided us and smoothed our passage through the world of ghosts of those who have gone before.

A bad photo of a good bird.


The rest of the three-day trip was uneventful but we were racing a large frontal system to Nelson and just squeaked into the harbor as it hit. Winds went from 10 knots to 30 knots in a matter of minutes and cold rain battered us at a 45 degree angle as we tried backing Asmara Sky into her slip. Sandwiched between two huge metal power boats there was little room for error but error was all I was making. The wind began pushing us sideways until we were forming the crossbeam of an “H” between those two very hard and expensive looking ships. I gunned the engine for all she was worth to straighten her out which saved us but not before we crashed into a wooden piling. Bruised but not beaten we managed to back all 54 feet of Asmara Sky down into the slip safe and snug and tied her up.

Bruce, the windblown marina manager, came down to see us as I was tying up the last of the lines.

You should’ve got here an hour ago,” he shouted above the gale.

Why’s that?” I yelled back.

No wind at all!” he screamed clutching his hat before it blew away.

Ah, well. We were here and that is all that mattered.


Nelson: Paradise in Paradise

Nelson had terrible weather. This was “the sunniest place in New Zealand?” we kept asking ourselves. It seemed every other day the wind would blow 40 knots in the marina. Once it hit 50 knots and they closed the port. Locals kept telling us 1) it was spring, and 2) this is really unusual! We did have a few sunny and windless days and wow, what a sweet place. The people were even nicer in Nelson than the rest of the country, which I did not think possible. Everyone was kind and polite. Nobody was in a hurry nor tried to cut us off on the road and the very idea of cutting in line never occurred to them. It was like living in a fairy land of dreams where, aside from the damn wind, each day was paradise and every interaction pleasant. (Note: This is not the case in Auckland!).


We enrolled the girls in Auckland Point Primary school and they began hanging out with kiwi kids doing kiwi things. It was an amazing experience for them.

Daddy, most of the kids in my class don’t have shoes,” Asmara commented to me after a couple of days of school. “Are they poor?

Nope. The barefoot childhood is a kiwi tradition and we were to see it everywhere. Many adults in New Zealand don’t seem to own shoes either. Just the other day I saw a huge Maori guy covered in tattoos wearing nothing but swim trunks browsing the diaper aisle in the supermarket. In Seattle they would have called 911 but here no one even noticed.


Every week the school went on some sort of field trip. The girls went to museums, art galleries, movies, and even took a boat out to an island for beach cleaning and swimming. The school also put on a fair with rides and games. It was a continuous interesting whirlwind of new experiences. New to us as American parents as well. I remember my dark and dreary school career where we went on a total of three field trips. I remember all of them they were so rare. All the kids here seemed bouncy and happy to go to school. They looked forward to it as did Asmara and Adriana. I was almost jealous.


An old friend of mine from New York days had moved to nearby Golden Bay. Golden Bay is a special place, much like Alaska, where the people are tough, resourceful and ever optimistic. Tom Rabosky was now fully integrated into the New Zealand experience and had recently bought a guiding service. He had wandered the world in search of wisdom for ten years and now goes by the nom de guerre of “Taj.” It was great to connect with him and his friends in this faraway corner of the globe. All you have to remember, he keeps reminding me, is “New Zealand is Awesome!


The beer is good too. Let us not forget that important ingredient to a rich and fulfilling life. Nelson vies with Wellington as “the craft beer capital of New Zealand.” While that may not sound like much of a boast to people living in bigger countries it is still kind of cool. There were many different local brews and I tried them all. While I was enjoying myself with the beer and the girls were happily going to school and making new friends Ariel took up yoga again.


Then we enrolled in the Seido Karate School which was established by Hanshi Andy Barber 41 years ago. He is an amazing man and aside from being one of the most skilled practitioners of karate in the southern hemisphere is also very warm and kind. Hanshi Andy studied karate in Tokyo with the legendary Kyokushinkai founder Mas Oyama and earned his black belt there in what was then and is still now one of the toughest and most brutal karate schools in the world. Asmara and Adriana started classes again and fit right in. They had taken karate in Seattle for several months at another good school just before we left and enjoyed it. I also began working the salt and sand out of my joints and started studying there as well.



After a while Ariel and I recognized everything was going well for us – on land – and the girls were very happy. We realized then, quite clearly, that the homeschooling thing on the boat for us was a failure. We diligently researched all we could about homeschooling before we left Seattle. We spent a ton (really, a lot) of money on the renowned Calvert Education program of courses for Asmara and Adriana. They shipped us four big boxes full of books. Two of the boxes were books and guides for US, the parents. In fact, I think the parents had to read more books than the children. It was a very thorough program and covered all subjects at their level. And while this is no criticism of Calvert at all, who do a very good job – it did not work for us.


What do you do as a parent, now in the teacher role, when your child, now your student, refuses to do their homework? What do you do when they don’t want to do math? You try asking them, reasoning with them, threatening them but how far do you carry it? I strongly believe the most important thing about educating a child is infusing them with a love of learning. In fact, the whole premise of sailing around the Pacific Ocean together as a family was just about that very principle: to learn new things and meet new people and celebrate life in all its glory as it exists all around us.

That does not come with the back of your hand. We were stymied.


In a school setting surrounded by their peers the girls have no trouble doing all of what is asked of them. Peer pressure alone dictates they will. Everyone else is doing their work and so must I. And they certainly act differently with the teacher than they do with Mommy and Daddy.

Plenty of other sailing families have had no reported problems with homeschooling. So we have been told. And so we believed. Now, having gone through it, I am not that certain. Surely, it works for some but I suspect many others find it a real challenge like we did and are just not that vocal about it.


That was a major concern. Yet, there was another problem, perhaps one more particular to us but just as important. Asmara and Adriana are wonderful girls but they are a little on the shy side right now. They play very happily together and invent all kinds of games. They are sisters but they are also best friends. Adriana looks up to her older sister adoringly and takes everything Asmara says as fact and law. Many the time I have been told I was wrong because, “Asmara said so, Daddy.”

Perhaps this happy arrangement made them less keen to meet other children and make friends. We noticed that at every landfall where there had been opportunities to meet and play with children they just were not that interested and as a result, their social skills were weak and not improving. That all began to change at school in Nelson.

Time to Think

Hmmm. It was time to think. I am quite happy to keep sailing for years and investigate all kinds of cool and crazy places. Ariel, while admittedly less keen (and sometimes can be described as “less-than-keen”), is game too. But if this is really not the right thing for Asmara and Adriana well, then…..what the hell are we doing?



Ariel applied for and was accepted at Wellpark College in Auckland to a two-year program in naturopathic nutrition. This is her main area of interest and as it is a very new field (despite being the original form of nutrition that carried us as a species for tens of thousands of years) there are only a few institutions in the world that currently teach it. The idea is, as Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, taught 2,400 years ago: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” She is very excited to begin formal study of a subject that has fascinated her for years.

Right. We were now off to Auckland.

We spent the next two weeks moving stuff off the boat and arranging for it to be shipped up to Auckland. We were sad to be leaving Nelson but given Ariel’s school location had no choice. We were also sad to be leaving our home, Asmara Sky.


Over Christmas Ariel flew to Hong Kong for nine days for a family wedding and I packed up the girls into our car and drove from Nelson to Auckland. We had a very enjoyable eight-day road trip, just the three of us, across New Zealand. After moving into a bed and breakfast we drove to the airport to pick up Mommy and began our search for rental digs in Auckland.

The girls began school this week and are loving it. Ariel starts her classes next week and is looking forward to that. We will be joining another Seido Karate dojo here in Auckland as our busy New Zealand life continues.


As far as myself is concerned, people ask, what will you do for two years in Auckland? I have thought about this a lot. I used to have a career, so to speak in finance, a loathsome profession in many ways. Not to atone for sins but perhaps to add color and light back into my life I have decided to do something good for humanity. Yes, I am going to learn how to make beer.

I will now put this website to rest. To our sailing friends still out there and to those who have followed us on this website I wish you all fair winds. What we decide to do after Ariel completes her courses I have no idea and that question will be part of our next great adventure.





10 Comments Add yours

  1. Lee Sanders
    February 11, 2016
    4:54 pm #comment-1

    Greetings from Shilshole & Seattle. I was just about to remove your site from the toolbar after checking many times for updates to no avail.
    So glad to have your latest update.
    Congrats on your crossing & having found a new “home”.

    Best wishes,
    Lee Sanders
    SV Mystique

    • Derek
      February 12, 2016
      7:01 pm #comment-2


      Thanks very much and sorry to keep you waiting for news. It took us quite a few months to figure out and sort out all that needed to be done. Now we become “boring” land dwellers… I hope you have a full cruising season planned for Mystique next summer.



  2. Mike
    February 15, 2016
    8:49 pm #comment-3

    Beer. Add “du bon poulet” and you have a winner! This is good because now we have a better reason to threaten a visit to NZ! We have been following your adventure. In fact I have been using it from time-to-time as teaching points in elementary school classrooms. Stories of the sea always work as a class management tool… who knew? Good luck!
    Cheers, Mike, Lisa, Luke and Freedom.

    • Derek
      February 18, 2016
      7:26 am #comment-4

      Thanks very much. Do come down for a visit, but beware; you might end up staying like us…!

  3. Jason Gurewitz
    February 18, 2016
    4:37 am #comment-5

    Hey Old Friend!

    Just saw that you settled in New Zealand. Amazing adventure you have been on. Look forward to sampling some of that freshly brewed craft beer. Let me know if you plans to hit Korea anytime soon.

    Best Jason

    • Derek
      February 18, 2016
      7:27 am #comment-6

      Indeed. We are in the throes of a beer revolution. No one gets hurt and life just gets better. Swing on down for a visit and let’s share a few.
      Best to Dako and Ryan.

      • Jason
        March 18, 2016
        5:55 am #comment-7

        We might just get down there. I have an old British colleague from London who moved down there a few years a go. He was also an avid sailor. His name is Kendal Law. Let me know if you need friends I can hook you up. He would be willing to help you drink a beer or two.

  4. Andrew Clarke
    February 23, 2016
    6:38 am #comment-8

    Hey buddy-

    Wow great news! I’ve always been fascinated by New Zealand and plan on visiting later this year. I am very happy for both you and the girls. Let me know how things are going. Maybe I can swing by for a visit. Best Andy

  5. Andrew Clarke
    February 23, 2016
    6:51 am #comment-9

    You are in Auckland but Tom Rabosky is in Nelson? I should try and get to both. I will probably hit you up for more NZ advice. I too am always on the lookout for another adventure. I saw Taj a few years back here in Singapore- he had the taliban beard then too. He doesn’t know how lucky he is to have avoided a life of angst in front of a bloomberg screen. Chat soon!

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