With heavy hearts, we leave Aotearoa New Zealand after 17 months. But not without saying farewell to old and new friends.
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Whangarei –Opua (NZL)
“It’s open!” Ivar says enthusiastically as he climbs back on board with a backpack full of groceries. “Shall we visit it this afternoon?” Floris immediately knows what Ivar is talking about: the Hundertwasser Art Centre. Ever since our arrival in Whangarei in December 2020 we wondered what it would look like. Almost every day we passed the building but it was always hidden behind fences. They could hardly disguise that it was going to be a very quirky building. We grab the chance to see it with both hands before we set sail again and leave New Zealand.
We know Friedensreich Hundertwasser from his hometown of Vienna, where an entire museum is dedicated to him. The building, with its colourful facade, playful columns, and trees growing out of windows, as well as his work left deep impressions on us because they are so unique. They made him one of Austria’s best known artists. In Whangarei, however, Hundertwasser is considered an Austrian-born Kiwi. He came to New Zealand in 1973 and lived in Northland until 2000. That is why an art centre has been erected here in his honour.
We read that Hundertwasser was immediately fascinated by New Zealand. He designed the poster for Conservation Week, which drew attention to the importance of nature conservation, a topic that was close to his heart. He decided to return to New Zealand by sailboat, the Regentag (German for “rainy day”). In a film about his life, he explains that he gave his wooden ship that name “because colours come out so much better on a rainy day”.
The new Hundertwasser Art Centre is next to Whangarei’s Town Basin
A true eye-catcher
Hundertwasser’s ship the Regentag that he sailed to New Zealand
Nature as Inspiration
We marvel at the many posters and paintings he made over the years. The common theme is eco-awareness. Hundertwasser quotes, such as “You are a guest of nature, behave”, adorn the museum’s walls. As an artist, he always used round shapes because right angles do not occur in nature. He made extensive use of colours, which give his works a strikingly cheerful appearance and invite the viewer to reflect.
Hundertwasser was not only inspired by nature as an artist, but also as a designer and architect. The spiralling young leaves of the famous New Zealand tree fern inspired him to design a flag in 1983. This Koru flag was not intended to replace the official flag, but as a symbol representing New Zealand’s multicultural society. He integrated trees and plants in the design of his buildings and used earthly materials such as tiles and ceramics.
Hundertwasser on board his ship Regentag with paintings, among them his poster for the New Zealand Conservation Week
You are a guest of nature, behave!
Hundertwasser’s Koru flag
Fascinated by the life of Hundertwasser, we visit Kawakawa, a small town north of Whangarei. It is best known for the public toilets the artist designed for the local community. “Round shapes, ceramics, colourful, a living tree in the building, check! This must be it!” Ivar proclaims. While we make use of the facilities, we notice that the wall is made of glass bottles. Colourful, functional, and sustainable.
Sustainable Thinking and Acting
The local community built a small Hundertwasser Centre here, too, because the artist lived nearby. Here, we learn more about his personal life. In a letter we read what he thought about sustainability: “Since Biblical times, man has been called upon to dominate the Earth. Modern man has abused this thought and killed the Earth. Now we must return to nature, which should be understood both symbolically and practically.”
He walked the talk on his Kaurinui estate, where he planted more than 100,000 trees. Not for the timber but to improve the soil, the air, and the water. He built a house with a grass roof, generated his energy locally using solar panels and hydropower, and designed and used a composting toilet.
Sustainable Until the End
At the Art Centre in Whangarei, an employee told us the story of a carpet he had made with Afghan women. On his last trip to Europe in 2000 he had this carpet with him. Because of his preference for slow travel, he booked a cabin on the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth 2 with destination Southampton. However, he died of a heart attack on the Pacific Ocean at the age of 71. He was found lifeless in his cabin lying on the carpet.
Hundertwasser wanted to be buried at his beloved estate in Kaurinui, in the Garden of the Happy Dead, as he called it. A tree grows on his grave. Even in death Hundertwasser was sustainable: he wanted to give his body back to nature.
The Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa
A living tree takes centre stage at the public toilets in Kawakawa
Artistic peeing in Kawakawa
Sustainable till the end
Saying Goodbyes… and Hello!
After our museum excursion, it’s time for boat chores again. Lucipara 2 needs some maintenance following our sailing trip around New Zealand. Fortunately, it does not involve much more than applying a new layer of antifouling. And that job is, compared to the last time, a piece of cake.
Not long after Luci has splashed back into the water, it’s time to say goodbyes to the many friends we have made. As New Caledonia and Australia have re-opened their borders, we plan to leave New Zealand and continue our trip around the world as soon as the cyclone season in the South Pacific is over (May). Our friends Saskia and John help us with the final preparations by lending us their car. We can stock up on groceries, fill our gas bottles, and drive to our friends Suzie and Lane. We spend a few days at their beautiful estate near Opononi, lend a helping hand in the garden and play with their adorable dogs Maggie and Enzo. Finally, we visit Annelies and Joop and Annelies for a delicious farewell dinner at their home. Back in Whangarei, our cruising friends at Riverside Drive Marina help us untie the ropes, and wave us goodbye. We will miss you all, and hope to see you again down the road!
The outgoing tide pushes us to Whangarei Harbour in no-time. We anchor at Urquhart Bay and soon spot another blue monohull flying Dutch colours. It’s Sanne and Rik from SY Incentive, who we briefly met in Tahiti two years ago. An evening of laughter and exchanging travel stories follows. The next morning, we treat ourselves to a hike in Whangarei Heads, marvelling at the spectacular views. When the wind shifts to the north in the evening, we get ready for our trip to Auckland.
Applying anti-fouling is a piece of cake compared to last time
Our cruiser friends at RDM wave us goodbye
Anchored at Urquhart Bay
Stunning view from Whangarei Heads
BAM! A loud bang, immediately followed by a deafening noise. It takes a few seconds for Ivar to understand what’s going on. From the cockpit he sees that the block of the genoa sheet is no longer attached to its foundation plate. The sheet slams wildly against a railing rod, which is already completely askew. Floris has woken up to the noise. Together we roll away the violently flapping genoa. Ivar shifts another block and moves the genoa’s sheet from the broken block to the new on. Not much later the calm returns as we sail on. “This always happens in the middle of the night”, Ivar grumbles. “And the maintenance list that we had just completed in Whangarei is no longer blank”, Floris sighs.
In the morning light, the damage appears to be more serious than it appeared that night. The railing rod has almost been ripped off the deck, so simply straightening the rod is not an option. “It will have to be welded. The same is true for the broken block’s connection to the foundation plate. All other five blocks will also have to be reinforced, as the broken part is equally vulnerable in all of them”, Ivar concludes. While we see the Auckland skyline looming in the distance, we realize that we are going to get busy. Besides saying goodbye to friends and giving presentations in New Zealand’s largest city, we will also have to find a good welder.
City of Sails
It’s the weekend and our friends Kerry and Daan have invited us for a dinner in their home, so we’ll postpone the repair for now. But where do we leave our boat? Finding a place is easier said than done. In and around the city are marinas with thousands of boats. Auckland is known as the City of Sails for a reason. But a round of calls reveals that they are all full or unaffordable. Anchoring options are limited, at least if you want to disembark with the entire crew. We take the official map of the permitted and prohibited areas and at last find an anchorage near the imposing Auckland Harbour Bridge where we can also leave Luci alone for a while.
As we get closer to the intended spot at Herne Bay, we see that there isn’t much space between the yachts on mooring buoys and a set of underwater cables. After some puzzling we manage to find a spot where we remain free of everything and which is also deep enough at low tide. We wait for the current to change and check that we remain firmly in place. We now dare to leave Luci alone for a while, and paddle to the nearby beach. From there we walk straight into the city and to Kerry and Daan’s. We are sad to say goodbye to them, as they have been such wonderful friends and hosts throughout our entire stay in New Zealand. After the lovely farewell dinner, we paddle back in the dark. “It’s nice that the weather is calm, because it is certainly not very sheltered here!” Ivar notes.
Heart of the City
One of the advantages of the water sports-loving City of Sails is that there is a wide range of contractors nearby. After a few rounds of calling, we find a welder who has time. A little later we moor at the pontoon of Titan Marine, a wharf in the heart of the city. The welder takes care of the broken support of the railing rod, while his colleague expertly repairs the broken block and reinforces the other five with an extra weld. Unfortunately, the job takes more hours than there are in a working day, so we have to spend the night at their pontoon. No punishment at all, we think, because it means we get to walk into town. At the Americas Cup grounds we pause for a moment to stare at the hull of an ex-cupper that is displayed right in front of the entrance to the maritime museum. What an impressive racing monster!
Auckland’s skyline is getting bigger as we come closer
The damage following our nocturnal set-back
We need a welder
Torn from its mounting plate
The pontoon at Titan Marine
Welding in action
Farewell to Daan and Kerry
Awareness raising for whale protection in downtown Auckland
Moored Like a Superyacht
With our railing rod and genoa blocks repaired, we anchor again at Herne Bay. The wind picks up to 25 knots and the waves in the harbour are building up quite a bit. When the current runs against the wind, breaking wave tops cause spray on deck. “No way we can paddle to shore to give presentations in this weather”, Ivar concludes.
Fortunately, the organizations to which we have been invited want to sponsor a berth in a marina. For two nights we therefore move to the heart of the centre and moor between the superyachts. Thanks to Agnes and Anouke, we can share our story with the large Dutch community in Auckland in an event organized by the Dutch Business Organization NZ. More kudos to Anouke for introducing us to the leading energy company Genesis. We are thrilled to feature as key-note speakers at their inspirational employee event that focuses on ways to live more sustainably.
An additional advantage of our up-marked berth: both the Dutchies from DBA as well as many Genesis enthusiasts come to see our boat after the presentation. It’s a great way get to know them a bit better, and share more of our story. Between the presentations we walk extensively through the city, swim in the classic Tepid swimming pool and visit the maritime museum. Our dear cruising friends Willy and Cindy from SY Pazzo treat us to a very special farewell to mark our friendship. They stay with us on the boat and treat us to delicious dinners.
In an sustainable solution article about circular materials we wrote about the use of the native plant harakeke in a bodywash from Ecostore. The founder of the brand, Malcolm Rands, lived in an eco-village in Northland and realised that chemical residues from mainstream cleaning and personal care products were polluting the water, so he decided to do something about it. He started making plant-based, healthy, and eco-friendly home & care products from his garage, and managed to create a pioneering, global brand.
Now is a great opportunity to meet some of the people from Ecostore and to show them our boat. On King’s Day, our home country’s national holiday, Laura, Lance, and Hamish surprise us when they arrive dressed in orange! Hamish lived in the Netherlands and clearly caught the gist of this special day. They invite us to an inspirational meeting with their senior management for a meet and greet. We also get to know Live Ocean, an NGO that is driving action for a healthier ocean.
We are thrilled that our newest friends take us to their flagship store and donate a whole range of Ecostore products. From dishwash liquid, toilet cleaner, to shampoo, toothpaste and even their newest product: boatwash – we’ll be cleaner than clean for the foreseeable future. Thanks again guys, we bow deeply for your heart-warming support for our project and dedication to sustainability in general.
Posh berth in Viaduct Marina
Lots of Dutchies on board!
Part of the enthousiastic Genesis Energy team
Amazing Ecostore team
The Ecostore flagship location
Farewell to Willy and Cindy
Luci meets Duende
Now that we are in the City of Sails with Luci, our friends Vivian and Bram can sail with us for a long weekend. Their story became world famous in the Netherlands thanks to the many columns and the book “Blijven Drijven” (Staying Afloat) that Vivian wrote about their journey with SY Duende. Since their departure in 2008 they experienced great adventures and overcame setbacks, such as stormy weather off the Argentine coast, building their own trailer in the middle of nowhere to do repairs, catching king crabs on Staten Island, and braving the winter in Chilean Patagonia. In Valdivia Vivian gave birth to their daughter Flora, and with her they sailed to New Zealand, arriving in 2013. They sold Duende and decided to live in Auckland.
The offshore breeze allows us to pick them up from Kohi Beach, a stone’s throw from their home. Full of enthusiasm, the entire crew helps with hoisting sails, trimming, and steering. Flora is now 10 years old and clearly enjoys sailing. It’s great to see the new generation getting infected with the sailing virus.
The cruising grounds around the City of Sails offer numerous islands and protected bays. When the wind dies down, we anchor in one of the many coves of the popular Waiheke Island. The next days we cross over to picturesque Rotoroa, followed by Tiritiri Matangi. The latter island is completely pest free and rare endemic birds have been reintroduced. To our delight we spot the beautiful kōkako, takahē and hihi – species that we had not seen anywhere before. “Isn’t it cool to be able to see them so close to home?” Vivian remarks enthusiastically.
Between the hiking expeditions we talk about New Zealand. “We are very grateful to New Zealand that we have been able to build such a good life,” Bram explains. “Not only did I find work easily, but I was even able to continue my career. Before real estate prices got crazy, we bought a house. Detached, just behind the beach, and also within cycling distance of the centre, that is almost too luxurious for words! We do water sports, barbecue, camp eight months of the year, and ski on the winter weekends.”
Their enthusiasm about New Zealand makes us think. We have also experienced how much beautiful nature is still here and how friendly and hospitable the people are. Auckland has also positively surprised us with a great cruising area and nature close by. It makes it all very tempting to stay here too. At the same time, we conclude that our journey is not yet finished. We also miss our family and friends at home very much. Sailing back to the Netherlands therefore remains our goal.
After almost a year and a half in New Zealand, the pandemic seems to have passed its peak and more and more countries are opening their borders again. After receiving visas for Australia, we devote to preparing for the rest of our journey. But as we head north again, we watch the multifaceted City of Sails shrink behind us with a heavy heart.
Anchored at Kohi Beach
Flora takes the helm
Vivian back in the groove
With Vivian, Bram and Flora at Rotoroa Island
Farewell Lovely Aotearoa New Zealand
The weather forecast promises fantastic weather for the more than 900-mile leg to New Caledonia, our next destination. We do a final round of provisioning in Russell, and have farewell coffee and lunches with Monique and Ad from SY Miss Moneypenny, and Suzie and Lane. When we drop anchor off Opua to check out of New Zealand, we are very happy to see our friends Fred and Chris from SY Sea Jay and Kitty and Laurens from SY Tiago.
Two other Dutch crews, Sonja and Hans from SY Ikinoo and Sanne and Rik from SY Incentive are also heading north and noticed the same weather window coming up. It means we will be buddy-boating with three blue, Dutch monohulls. After a brief rendez-vous with the authorities, we sail out of the Bay of Islands. After 17 months in New Zealand we are going to miss this beautiful country with our old and new friends and super friendly people. Yet it’s time to explore new coasts. A brisk easterly wind makes for an excellent start, sailing northwards under the lee of the coast. New Caledonia, here comes the Dutch fleet! Although New Zealand soon disappears behind us, it will forever stay with us as a cherished memory.