March 2019: Australia / New Zealand

It was a big month. We began in Manly. We ended in the Queen Charlotte Sound.

LIFE. We enjoyed South East Queensland. All the places. Manly. Moreton. Straddie. North and South. Coomera. Again. We photographed our shadows.

And watched Dale up the mast.


SAILING. We chained up the girls and sailed to Coffs Harbour.

They could still move, a little.

PASSAGE. Willow and I were seasick. Ugh. We lack conditioning. We’ll get there. Dale and Hazel were Dale and Hazel. They’re tough. I can never tell how Dale feels at sea, he continues without complaint or comment. And Hazel, well, generally in life our Hazel appears to thrive in times of physical adversity.

We waved to Sushi as we passed Northern New South Wales.

Sushi waved back. Gosh we miss her.

CREW. Dale’s buddy from work joined us. He’s a seasoned sailor and was gold to have on-board, not least because he watched the graveyard shift (3am-6am). Thanks Graham!

COFFS HARBOUR. That’s us second from the left, next to the jetty. We also spent a few nights in the marina.

LIFE. Coffs was about jetty jumping.

Snorkelling in the Solitary Islands Marine Park.


And THE BIG BANANA. Dale dodged this bullet, but I’ll never get those three hours back.

CROSSING THE TASMAN SEA. Early in our planning, we agreed Dale would find two crew members to sail to New Zealand with him. The girls and I would fly and meet them, wherever they arrived. Our reasons were threefold:
1. YOUNG KIDS. At five and eight the girls are not particularly helpful on-board, and we weren’t keen to bore or scare them too much early in our journey.
2. NEW BOAT. Obviously we knew our last boat, ZINC, intimately after five years, but we’re starting from scratch again with MUSCAT 7, getting to know what she does and doesn’t like, how she performs in various conditions, how to coax the best out of her etc. Dale would learn more on the first long passage (without the distraction of children) and then teach me (with the distraction of children).
3. TASMAN SEA. Crossing the Tasman Sea is notoriously challenging. People told us many, many stories about how sensationally awful it is (like when you’re pregnant and a certain type of person tells you unpleasant birth tales in graphic detail). Anyway, the Tasman Sea is in a variable zone with storms raging through constantly. And there’s a trade swell from the east tracking across the top of New Zealand and wrapping around from the north, converging with multiple direction long period south swells from the Southern Ocean. The passage is roughly 1,100 nautical miles and takes longer (8 – 10 days) than weather forecasts are accurate (4 – 5 days*). Not exactly a great passage for young kids if you can avoid it, in our view.
*A recent study has shown that even getting a three day forecast correct is incredibly tricky because of how the many forecast models work.  

CREW. As gorgeous, and as relatively hardy, as these leeches are…

Dale was stoked to be heading off with the strong, capable blokes pictured below, the best crew we could hope for! Shane is an experienced ocean man and has crewed on all sorts of boats up and down the Queensland coast. And Tom has rowed across the Atlantic in a row boat (yep, with oars), so he was the back up to the sails and engine, I suppose. We can’t thank them enough for their help, sense of adventure and good humour.

DEPARTURE. A rainbow landed on MUSCAT 7 on the eve of her departure.

The next morning it was: Fuel.



The girls and I ran to cheer them through the heads, until MUSCAT 7 was a speck in the Pacific Ocean.

If you zoom in on the photo above, MUSCAT 7 is a dot in the top center.

PASSAGE BY SEA (DALE). Unfortunately, the following is heresay. Gosh I wish I had been there (though I’m happy the girls were not). As much as I dislike rough seas, and passages and any sailing really, I dislike spectating more. Anyway, based on the information to hand (mainly thanks to Tom), I surmise the following:

They motored/motor sailed for two days to Lord Howe Island where they grabbed a few of jerries of diesel and surfed with a friendly black-tip reef shark.

There were rainbows and nice skies.

And a reluctant selfie or two.

Dale texted their position by satellite phone (generally twice a day), which I plotted on a weather app. Blue is calm. Red is not.

Here are some short clips of the conditions.

It may look to be smooth sailing, but it wasn’t, especially the last few days. See below for clips of the conditions the girls and I experienced in Wellington and as we crossed the Cook Strait to Picton on a four-storey ferry.

PASSAGE BY LAND, AIR, SEA & LAND (THE REST OF US). We were down a band member, but had a cracker final farewell tour with shows throughout Northern New South Wales and South East Queensland.

Highlights included backyards (“Imagine having a backyard Mummy…“).

Sports training.

Watching bees.

Watching TV.

LIFE. As the week progressed, it turned out the winds were shoving MUSCAT 7 to the north of the South Island (not to the north of the North Island, as we’d hoped). So… as last minute as possible the girls and I jumped on a plane to Wellington…

…and then a ferry across the Cook Strait to Picton.

However, when our ferry was about 45 minutes from Picton, Dale called to say they’d arrived in Nelson, not Picton. Sigh. Inconvenient, but I was enormously relieved. The Cook Strait was rough, even on a 10,000 tonne ferry.

My fingers frantically organised a few things on the ferry’s dodgy wifi and on to a bus for another 3.5 hours to Nelson we jumped.

In Nelson the guys were exhausted after nine days at sea. The girls and I stumbled around town with backpacks, looking homeless, searching for wifi to book a room for the night. Of any reality TV show, I’ve only ever been somewhat interested in ‘The Amazing Race‘. If there was a ‘mum with kids’ version, we’d be competitive for sure. The girls know the travel drill. We tussle and battle and bark and itch each other. There are tantrums, by us all. It would make for colourful TV. We can be fast and furious. I reckon we’d win.

LIFE. The reunion.

Despite the sadness and moaning all week about missing daddy etc, our reunion was delayed by an hour or so because the girls found friends to play netball with. Sigh. Kids.

NELSON. Dale had a haircut.

Willow and Hazel learned to paddle a waka ama.

SAILING. We set off through the sketchy French Pass to explore the stunning Marlborough Sounds.

It was exciting and beautiful.

There were dolphins!

HOMESCHOOLING. Willow is continuing her piano lessons by Skype. Technology is amazing, until perhaps one day it is not?


JEUNESSE. I highly recommend each of these books – 4.25 to 4.5 stars. The Tattooist of Auschwitz has stayed with me the most. It’s a haunting true story with an Australian connection and is a reminder to be compassionate and not to become complacent. When Breathe Becomes Air won’t make you feel great either, but may crystallise thinking around life and time and how these are best spent. Lullaby is a page turner, perhaps don’t read this if you have a nanny for young children. Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing is inspiring and relaxing and beautiful.

WILLOW. More Boxcar Children (approve). More Wimpy Kid (sigh). Stories for Kids Who Dare to be Different read aloud and loved by all.

HAZEL. Solid favourites read over and over and over. HAZEL is not interested that I have over fifty picture books on-board for her.