We always knew the most challenging part of our eight year Bandit adventure would be the last leg down to New Zealand. Our country’s offshore waters have a fearsome reputation amongst sailors – this is almost the roaring 40s after all. And, as expected, the reputation was justified. After a (mostly) wonderful passage from Tonga, via Minerva Reef, we hit a particularly nasty southerly system off Northland. For 24 hours we had winds up to 50knots, lumpy seas and, despite being well reefed down, tore our mainsail and bimini. We also had heavy rain hence full wet weather gear was worn for the first time – not the best welcome to New Zealand for Team Bandit!.
It was wonderful having good friend and seasoned sailor Alastair Shanks on board for this leg. It made night watches a breeze and Alastair’s high spirits when conditions became trying was infectious. But of course it wasn’t all rough and tumble; for six days we had magical conditions with light winds and flat seas. Bandit trickled along under spinnaker while the boys played chess, we all enjoyed lunch at the cockpit table and caught fish – serious fish. Our best haul was a 30kg plus yellow fin tuna.
Leaving Tonga was tinged with sadness as it meant, for now anyway, the end of our nomadic cruising lifestyle. Since buying Bandit in Gibraltar in 2005 we’ve cruised more than 40,000miles, visited 29 countries and sailed across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. We’ve made lifelong friends in the cruising community and learned so much from the pool of knowledge that exists therein. Many of our land based friends have been able to join us and share in our fantastic lifestyle as we’ve sailed half way around the world. Many others have followed our adventures on our various blogs and it gives us a huge thrill to know people are living vicariously through us. A big thank you to all our blog followers – you know who you are.
So – what next? Well first up there was a bit of housekeeping to attend to. David and I have been together 15 years, engaged for four…and the time seemed right to formalise it all in the Bay of Islands. Our sailing friends Ross and Jo Blackman live in Russell, have a beautifully renovated deconsecrated church on their olive grove, former cruiser Ida Birch is a marriage celebrant in the Bay of Islands and well……let’s just let the photos do the talking.
It was a memorable, happy, funny and wonderful day that we will never forget. But – back to reality. What is next for Team Bandit? Hmm…a land based life appeals but neither of us plans to get too serious about settling down just yet. It’s a big wide world out there and we find that the more places we visit the more we realise there is to see. We’ll spend the summer enjoying the Marlborough Sounds on Bandit but as the leaves start to change colour we know will start to get twitchy. Watch this space!