The Long White Cloud

By Derek On October 28, 2015 Under Post

Pacific Map 2

The Good Ship Asmara Sky has completed her crossing of the Pacific Ocean under sail and we are now happily enjoying Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud.


We arrived in New Zealand after a hellish 1,050 mile trip south from Tonga that became 1,250 miles long. Yep, we added 200 MILES (unwillingly, I must add) to the rhumbline. This was due to something sailors call “weather,” meaning bad weather. As we hit 30 degrees south, and were already two-thirds of our way there, Asmara Sky and crew were mauled by 30-35 knot southerlies and large, swollen seas. Like wolves hiding in ambush their angry snapping jaws sprang from nowhere, surrounding, baiting and biting us until we kicked our heels in the air and made good an escape.


While 35 knots in the face is not extreme the moaning wind racing up from the Southern Ocean had built waves which were steep and close together (the worst kind). Most were 15 feet high on average with a few eager 18 footers thrown in there – and at us – for good measure. We battled the onslaught for twelve hard hours with decks completely awash before I decided the twenty miles gained over that period of time was not worth the candle and turned about. Thereupon, we flew away at eight knots and faster with just a scrap of trembling headsail out. Despite giving up hard miles gained at least wind and wave, fully red in tooth and claw, were now from aft and the ride became easier.


Unfortunately, this course took us NORTHwest, or completely away from our destination. We fled all night long for 60 miles before distancing ourselves from those huge hounds of the Baskervilles and howling heard halfway around the world. We turned south again and worked our way back to New Zealand but from a more westerly position.

On our eighth and last day out the persistent southerlies finally clocked to the west-southwest allowing us to raise all sails and with the wind just forward of the beam and now in the lee of the North Island our salty little ship sped along at 7.5 knots. That day as the sun rose bright we had 100 miles to make to get to Opua before dark or spend another night at sea and with effort and judicious use of the engine taking us to 8.5 knots it was with some relief we tied up at the quarantine dock right at sunset.


So, we’re damn glad to be here.

We are at the Opua marina in the Bay of Islands, an incredibly picturesque area of rolling green hills interspersed with patches of darker forest. Wherever one’s gaze falls it is greeted with a scattering of farms, trees and sunlit glades or sylvan islands sprinkled hither and thither across the emerald water. The luxuriant fresh fields are speckled with contented sheep and fuzzy cows peacefully grazing together in quiet bucolic harmony. And the bushes and trees are in flower as the resident birds and colorful parakeets sweetly sing their praises.


The people are wonderful too. Everyone in New Zealand is so polite, considerate and helpful around me it feels I’m on the Truman Show. People walk by say “Good morning,” and smile. Wherever we wander they tell us to keep having “A lovely day.” The food is very good, the coffee excellent and I am thoroughly enjoying the craft beer for which the country should and will one day be justly famous.

As I said, we’re damn glad to be here.


We arranged transportation (“Rent a Dent”) from Wayne, a local pensioner who farms out his fleet of aging Japanese cars to sailors like ourselves. (“The kids are gonna bloody love it here, Dirik”). He came down to the marina to deliver our Nissan Maxima and I drove him back home.

Wayne: How do you like New Zealand, Dirik?

(I am no longer Derek, everyone calls me “mate,” or “Dirik.”).

Me: It’s so nice here. We really love it.

Wayne: Don’t worry, Dirik. Somebody will sponsor ya.

Our man Wayne was referring to kiwi citizenship which, despite us only being on the ground a few days, has come up unprompted several times. It is all quite charming and rather different from New York City where people constantly ask, “How long are you here for?” as if wanting to know how soon you will leave.


The girls, as always, are having fun. We go to a lot of beaches and have been ranging all over the “Northland.” Note in the picture above the sartorial difference with earlier beach experiences on this trip: sweaters and long pants are now required. Asmara is keenly exploring all the new territory while Adriana is happy skipping along trying to keep up with her older sister.

Adriana turns seven next month and is already quite the conversationalist. We have many interesting exchanges of viewpoints. Just last week we were talking about buying a car here instead of renting. I was looking at what the locals call a “Utility” or “Ute.”

Derek: I think we should get a Ute. It would be fun and practical to drive.

Ariel: We aren’t getting a truck.

Derek: It’s not a truck, it’s a “Ute.” It’s smaller.

Ariel: I don’t think so.

Adriana: Mommy, when Daddy wants something, you just say yes.

And I am reminded how Adriana has always been in my corner, defending me against the blows of the world landing upon my head.


While there is much to savor where we are now we have been waiting for an elusive weather window which will allow us to sail to Nelson, 565 nautical miles away and known as “The Sunniest Place in New Zealand.” Nelson is on the South Island and is where we plan to base ourselves for the southern summer. As we have seen approaching the country the weather here is quite different from the warm and lazy tropical trade winds of “the islands” so we need to pick our passages carefully.

What has been striking, aside from how nice everything and everybody is in “NZ,” is the size of the country. We drive for hours and hours in the northern area of the North Island and move along at most an inch or two on the map.


I feel that New Zealand is always being compared to its brash and over-sized neighbor, Australia, and may come off rather poor in the comparison. But Australia is mostly desert, hot air and challenges the visitor with an enormous variety of particularly deadly creatures. Being the happy home of nine of the world’s ten most poisonous snakes, the world’s only poisonous octopus and tiny invisible jellyfish which cause death on contact is enough to give one pause. You have to be careful in Australia and if any of those missing-from-the-tourist-brochure animals don’t find you maybe a 20-foot saltwater croc will. Australia also suffers from vast regions the size of large European countries which are unfit for human habitation. New Zealand, on the other hand, enjoys a temperate climate with the most dangerous animal probably a flustered bumblebee. Unnoticed on the world stage, she is lush, verdant and bursting with life and possibility.


The picture above is of Adriana and Asmara while visiting Tane Mahuta – “The Lord of the Forest,” the largest standing kauri tree in the country.

We are early in the tourist season too, which is extra nice. Summer has just started and most beaches and other destinations are still rather empty of the jostling crowd. I appreciate this and made such a comment to Ariel when Adriana decided again to chip in to our conversation.

Derek: It’s good we are here in NZ before tourist season really kicks off. It isn’t crowded and that’s why I like to be early.

Ariel: Yes, it’s good to be early, I guess.

Adriana: I like being early too. I’m just not very good at it.


We ventured up to the top of the country the other day to see Cape Reinga. This is the very topmost tip of New Zealand and is where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet in a vast whirlpool of mixing waters, climates and ideas.


As with all islands in the Pacific there is a place sacred to the original inhabitants where the souls of the dead step off the island and into eternity. For New Zealand among the Maori this place is Cape Reinga. No matter where one dies in the North Island or the South Island their soul will migrate to this narrow and lonely point of land to leave this world and join their ancestors. These places are always uninhabited and only approached in hushed tones and with reverence by those of the living who dare visit.

Today with the old beliefs overwhelmed and mostly submerged by Christianity and MacDonald’s things have lightened up a bit. Tourists in their multitudes, like us, are free to make the trip up here, gawk and take photos. However, there is a sign posted informing the uninitiated that to show respect for this special place eating is not allowed. Judging from the size of some of the visitors this is a good rule which could be applied profitably in other venues as well.


Some who have been here have heard the whispers of deceased souls rustling around the lonely windswept hills. I listened carefully but was constantly distracted and pulled in different directions by my two little ones and may have missed out on any murmurings from beyond. I thought it would be interesting to come back alone. At night. Good luck on getting Ariel to join me on that escapade. As she would say if I were foolish enough to ask her, “Not happening.”


Above is a picture of Tapia beach. This is where Kupe, the legendary first Maori, landed in his canoe when he discovered Aotearoa around 900 AD. Frequently, science has shown that oral legends such as these are usually quite accurate. I only wonder that if he had had a passage like the one we endured getting here why he didn’t put in at any of the beaches in the background which would have been the first land he saw. But legend says this is the beach. So be it.

The rest of the fleet of sailboats crossing the South Pacific this year are mostly behind us. But with cyclone season approaching they cannot linger much longer. A few stragglers have made it in to Opua and joined us before heading further south to Whangarei or Auckland for the season. Most, however, are gathering in Fiji and Tonga before attempting the trip to New Zealand like wildebeest on the Discovery Channel waiting for the silent signal to plunge into and bounce across the crocodile-infested river to the other side. Watching from the safe side of that river we wish them luck.


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Patrick
    November 2, 2015
    6:01 am #comment-1

    OMG, you arrived in New Zealand!!! I was wondering it is about time. :)

    Where did you anchor? I haven’t read the full story yet. Somehow it always took me a lot of time to read your post, maybe because I have to search for the words and place names all the time :)

    so glad you guys are safe and enjoy NZ!!! the kids look so happy! I will show Clair and Olivia the photos, they missed Asmara and Adriana so much. especially Claire, she is talking about Asmara almost everyday…

    will catch you up later. let me finish reading it first :)

    Best wishes and enjoy the beaches and the coming summer!!!


    • Derek
      November 3, 2015
      7:27 pm #comment-2

      Patrick, Yes, the girls talk about Clair and Olivia daily and miss them a lot. We plan on spending six months in New Zealand so no new countries to look up in our posts! Cheers. Derek

  2. Patrick
    November 3, 2015
    7:37 pm #comment-3

    Great!!! We miss you a lot. the cul-de-sac is so quiet now with Phils and Mayfields moved out.
    We hope you enjoy NZ, but not too much :)


  3. Andy C
    November 19, 2015
    7:49 am #comment-4

    Wow the part about the storm sounds harrowing. Were the girls scared? I can’t wait to get down to New Zealand. Love the photos!

    • Derek
      November 19, 2015
      6:29 pm #comment-5

      Harrowing is a good word for it. Annoying is another as the winds added 24 hours to our passage. The girls were not scared but they were covered in salt. Come on down to “Godzone” and visit us!

  4. Curt Kwak
    December 9, 2015
    10:36 pm #comment-6


    Great updates and photos. The scenery from New Zealand is breathtaking! I’m in your corner to get that Ute. However, don’t tell Ariel this!

    The girls (Kwak girls) are preparing for Winter break. We helped ease some of the first school tension by adopting couple of parakeets (Lauren immediately named her’s “Orchid”… while Danika couldn’t decide, so Julie named it “Stormy”). Very fun to have as they are both beautiful and goofy. The recent wind & rain storms have caused a mess on Duthie Road, but overall, things are ok. Your cul-de-sac is definitely quieter.

    I hope this journey is everything you guys have hoped for (yes, including Ariel and the girls!! :)).. and we definitely miss you guys here.

    Take care.


  5. Michael De Lisle
    January 6, 2016
    8:09 pm #comment-7

    We met when you and your family graciously welcomed me aboard for a tour of Asmara Sky at the Port of Everett guest docks. I was pleasantly surprised to stumble across your site again and catch up on all your adventures. You have a beautiful family and I am excited to see you all made it safely across the Pacific. What an adventure! I just wanted to say thank you for sharing and I wish you all the very best.


  6. Savita Murching
    January 6, 2016
    10:00 pm #comment-8

    Hi Derek, Ariel,

    Reading your travel journal was so fun. You guys have really had quite an adventure!!
    I am so happy to know that all of you are finally in NZ and having a great time at that.
    The girls seem to have taken in the long voyage very well, they look so grown up!
    Arvind joins me in wishing the very best to you both and Asmara and Adriana as you discover and explore NZ.


  7. Colin
    January 7, 2016
    5:47 pm #comment-9

    D – back here in hell (the northern hemisphere) the markets are also experiencing a bit of “weather” and of course my thoughts turn to my favorite most articulate market grinch, Mr. Lighten Up Derek. Seven years of wearing central bank issued life vests is coming to an end. And we are waking up from our doze with our faces burned off. Again.

    Anyhoo, I am glad you all navigated out of that little squall, ready to summer in New Zealand. A most excellent life in all the most challenging and rewarding ways it seems. Good for you.

    Our best wishes to the Fam.


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