Over two years after they left Gibraltar, Scott and Mary have finally reached New Zealand

Two years and one month after they set off, the crew ofEgrethas finally dropped anchor in New Zealand.

We’ve followed the journey of Scott and Mary Flanders every step of the way, from their departure from Gibraltar on 16 September 2006, as they’ve travelled to South America and then on to New Zealand. It’s been an eye-watering journey, with lots of twists and turns but in the end their perseverance paid off.

Read the couple’s final blog entry below and look out for a catch-up feature in a future issue of MBM. For a complete list of all the couple’s blog entries click here .

Position:  S35 18.94 E174 07.22
 Opua Marina, Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand (North Island)

Well, mis amigos, by early morning we will be alongside the customs quay in Opua. The last few miles have flown by with the wind swinging behind the beam and a favourable current – at times we were rocking along at over 8 knots. In fact, we have gone so fast that we will now arrive shortly before daylight rather than our anticipated just before sunset arrival. Our New Zealand friends on the 55ft steel sloopVisionarrived earlier this evening and had a great downhill ride from North Minerva reef so it looks like we’ll go through customs at the same time.

Mary has been cleaning all day in preparation for customs inspection. What eggs we don’t eat in the morning will get chucked, along with frozen meat and a stack of other things. The bottom-dwelling critters have already received some treats. I wonder if the yachtie return in spring is like Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one for them? The chandlers and service crews must be rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the new season.

As soon as we land we’ll go into a buying frenzy while the Dollar is strong. The season used to be the same way in my old Fort Lauderdale business. The megayachts would return from Europe for an overhaul before heading south to the Caribbean for the winter. After a slow, hot summer we usually got the first sniff of business in early October in preparation for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, at the end of October, and business would usually remain strong through until June, but in July everything would go quiet as if someone had pressed a switch.

As we close in on the shore seabirds have increased in numbers and species – we even spotted our old ‘Deep South’ friend, the black-browed albatross. We have also seen a few more royal albatrosses and a host of small sea birds.

We’re getting anxious now. OMNI Bob has been spot on with weather but our weather concerns are behind us now and soon our at-sea routine will come to an end. After arrival,Egret’sat sea time will be limited to day hops for the next year or so, just as when we decided to winter in Argentina/Chile. I know Mary’s mind is working overtime. Instead of resting off watch, (it’s late evening) she’s just popped up to the pilothouse with ideas for this and that. I know she will be tired when she comes on watch at midnight. I’ll get up early so she can get some sleep and we can both be up for landfall.

Over the past few years we have had a few special landfalls; Nantucket, after our first 1100nm offshore trip; Bermuda, Azores and Gibraltar on the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally; Grand Canaria, Canary Islands after leaving Gibraltar on our trip to the Deep South; Salvador, Brazil after crossing the Atlantic from the Canaries; Ushuaia, Argentina after the trials of the Argentine coast; Cape Horn; Robinson Crusoe Island (Juan de Fernandez Islands off Chile); Easter Island; Pitcairn Island; and now New Zealand. Obviously there were many, many more landfalls but these ones were special.
NB. To be completely accurate, we tried but didn’t land at either Cape Horn or Pitcairn Island.

When it’s your turn you will have special destinations and landfalls as well. In the beginning they will be modest adventures but don’t think these easier challenges aren’t important because they are. They are all part of your tutorial as you gain confidence and skills and comfort. What we do is not a competition, you will not be judged, the important thing is to take it easy and enjoy yourself. If, after a couple of years you decide to cross an ocean, fine. If not, that’s OK too. We recently met a couple in a nice, older sailboat. For many years they have been ‘around the buoys’ racers and weekend cruisers. However, they’ve had no real cruising experience. Seven months after leaving the US west coast and 1000nm from New Zealand she is ready to bail. Another dream dashed because they weren’t ready. Had they put in a couple of years travelling to Alaska or Mexico and then crossed the Pacific, I have no doubt things would be different.

Thursday 16 October
It’s 04.40am and I have just spotted our first glimpse of New Zealand, the lighthouse beacon from Cape Brett. The light came and went as the rain showers moved through from the west giving our little girl a fresh water rinse as we neared shore. It is fit and proper she arrive sparkling instead of caked with salt.

With an hour to go and with land starting to materialize through the first grey light Mary got up to see New Zealand for the first time. We took long hot showers, ate breakfast, raised the paravane poles, lowered the fenders in place for a port side tie and were ready for arrival at the customs berth. The clouds went away and the sun came out as if to show off this beautiful spot in the world, the Bay of Islands.

The mainland reminds us of Chiloe Island in Chile and parts of Nova Scotia and Maine rolled into one. It’s extraordinarily beautiful. Our C-Map and Map Media charting were both spot on and a night entrance would have been easy. The channel is well marked, plus we had an overhead picture of the entrance from the Opua brochure we received in Tonga.

We arrived at the customs berth at exactly 9.06am, 16 October 2008. I had to chuckle to myself. The numbers, 906, are part of one of the reasons we are here and part of another life. I won’t elaborate. Our friends onVisionwere ahead of us, having arrived the evening before. We parked behind them and congratulated each other on a great trip down. They said this was their best trip from Tonga south ever and their best trip ever. That says a lot considering they have been gone for five years, travelling from New Zealand, to Japan, Aleutians, Alaska, south to Chile, Argentina and ultimately to Antarctica and South Georgia Island.

Customs was painless but thorough. The agriculture man took our dried beans (lentils and black beans), and other things but left more than the customs brochure said he would. Tongan art, baskets and bone carvings were on display but were dismissed with a wave…thank goodness. I believe what helped was being pro-active, displaying the questionable items, having the seats up showing our canned goods under the settee, as well as concentrating our liquor in one place (they are very liberal here). Mary had pre-cleaned the soles of our hiking boots and sea boots to remove any possible dirt/seed contamination and had them on display in the forward stateroom. We understand and completely agree with their thorough inspection. New Zealand is geographically removed from the rest of the world and should be pristine, but it isn’t. Over the years New Zealand has been the victim of the careless dumping of non-native animals, plants and aquatic growth.

We hit the ground running after checking into the marina. Opua is a tiny village with just 500 residents. There is no cash point and only one restaurant that was closed. Together with theVisioncrew we borrowed a car and drove to the next little town and changed some money, had lunch and hit the grocery store. On our way back we chugged a quickie brew but all of us were fading fast. For dinner we had a tuna sandwich, some real Greek yogurt with cherry sauce on top (a reminder from our visit to the Greek Island of Samos and the Blue Chair restaurant), before hitting the sack. It was not yet 8.pm and before drifting off I told Mary I would get up early and write. Yeah, right, we didn’t rise until 8am this morning.

So,Egrethas finally arrived in New Zealand after planning the overall trip during the winter of 2004-2005 in Barcelona, Spain. We have travelled a lot of miles and seen sights that few people in the world have seen. It’s been an adventure on a scale we never dreamed of when we took possession of our little white fibreglass ship, on August 6 2001. We hope from the bottom of our hearts that you allow yourselves to do the same, as it will change your lives forever.

None of this happened by itself though; the Nordhavn folk built us a tough little girl that has never let us down. During the Argentine coast storms she suffered terribly but emerged without the slightest damage. Not even a gelcoat stress crack. Nothing, nada, zip.

The Lugger folk builtEgret’slittle iron heart that has never missed a beat. She has 7113.3 engine hours of 100% efficiency and it still has the original injectors, in fact everything’s original apart from oil, filters and belts.

OMNI Bob, Bob Jones ocmarnav@aol.com has been invaluable with providing weather reports all the way from Gibraltar to Cape Horn to New Zealand. Professional weather forecasting is another form of insurance – boat insurance and comfort insurance.

And of course none of this would have happened without my sweetie, Mary, she is the best of the best and I’ve been lucky to have her for thirty-nine years.

So there you have it, our travels are just getting started. So now it’s up to you, when will it be your turn?

Picture 1. Approaching the customs berth, Opua, NZ (Visionin the background)
Picture 2. Checked in and proudly flying the New Zealand flag. (note the salt on the dry stack exhaust)