As you all know due to Covid and border closings Dazzler chose to sit out this cruising season and stay in New Zealand until next June. Fortunately for us and many other cruisers the New Zealand government has been very gracious in providing blanket visa extensions to allow us to stay through cyclone season this year. So far, we are clear through February but we’ve also applied for a formal extension to get us through until June.
Not going up to Fiji this year meant we were not able to begin delivering any books to the children. You know, the 2000+ books we raised money to buy and that were donated from organizations like the Lions Club of New Zealand and Kokopu School? The biggest issue became what to do with all of them as we wait for next season to come along. Fortunately our dear friend Allan Gray who owns Wynn Fraser Paints here in Whangerie came to the rescue. He offered to keep them stored at his paint store. There are so many wonderful people who have played a role in this endeavor.
The good news is that we did find three crews that were planning to sail to Fiji this season in spite of not knowing whether or not they would be allowed to come back here or go to Australia during cyclone season. So, two months ago we made arrangements with the Captains of these yachts to drop off boxes of books to them. It was really exciting to know that at least some of the books would be making it to the kids this year.
Last evening we received word from Richard & Michelle Marshall of SV Pogeyan that they have made their first delivery. They chose the island of Makogai. We visited Makogai last season and spent quite a bit of time with the people there. We donated some clothing and other items to them as well as a brand new volleyball. While I sat and chatted with the ladies Dan played volleyball and soccer with the kids so it was nice to know that some books have made their way to people that we know and love.
Here’s some comments from Michelle and Richard about their delivery…
“Makogai has a small primary school on the other side of the island so we made arrangements to take some of the books over in our dinghy. But, the weather and seas were too rough the next day so we geared up with backpacks and hiking boots instead. John (one of the islanders) led us on the 5 kilometer hike across the island and I was so happy he carried my backpack. It was heavy! And he walked there and back in thin rubber dive boots! He said it was no problem and that he does that hike every day.
As we approached the school I saw one of the students spot us then run over to a large brass bell and start ringing it. I guess that’s how they announce visitors. The rough trail we had been hiking emptied onto a large flat open field that was perfectly manicured. The six or so school buildings lined the edge of the field and were brightly painted and very tidy. We arrived right at the end of the school day and stood attention during a brief flag ceremony.
The headmaster gathered all the students together on the lawn and introduced us. He then asked Rich to talk about how we arrived and where the books came from. The books were then passed around so the kids could look them over. There are 31 students in the school broken into two classes, 1-4th grade and 5th -8th grade. The kids were very attentive and they seemed to really like the new books.”
We can’t even begin to tell you how delighted we were to get the news. Our hearts were full and for me, tears streamed down my face. To see the smiles on the faces of these children is something I will never forget. I just can’t wait until next season when we will get to deliver books ourselves. For now, we are so grateful for people like Richard and Michelle who volunteered to assist us in this endeavor. They are a treasured part of our cruiser angels team and we look forward to seeing more of their adventures as they continue to spread joy and happiness around the islands of Fiji.
As for our donors, we hope you enjoy these photographs and assure you that, as promised, we will provide you with continued updates, photos and videos as more books are delivered.
Jilly & Dan
P.S. Our fundraising effort made the news last month as our efforts were mentioned by Cindy Smith in an article she wrote for IslandCruising.nz. CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE
If you are like us you are probably sick and tired of hearing about Covid so we are going to do our best to keep that beast out of our posts moving forward. That said, we have had several followers ask how this is affecting us as nomadic seagoing adventurers. Well the old sea hag, Covid, certainly has put a damper on our 2020 cruising season. Right now instead of wearing long sleeves, sweatpants and wool slippers we should be dangling on the hook at some tropical island in Fiji or Vanuatu doing some snorkeling or hanging out in our hammocks in the cockpit. Unfortunately, that is not the case. We, as well as several hundred other yachties are stuck here in New Zealand due to border closings.
The fact is that Fiji did open their borders to the yachting community several weeks ago with their “blue lane” process. Prior to leaving New Zealand crews must have a negative Covid test that is taken less than 48 hours prior to departure. It also requires crews to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Fiji but they do count the time at sea as part of that quarantine. They are allowing yachties to do their quarantine on their own boats at anchor. It’s our understanding that a few additional forms need to be filled out and they have people come to your boat twice a day to ensure you are not violating the quarantine. They also have their medical people check everyone’s temperature once a day. At the end of the quarantine you are required to get a Covid test and if all goes well you are granted permission to sail the magnificent and magical islands of Fiji. The fact is, it’s not a a bad process and seems very reasonable. Obviously the entrance fees are a bit more with having to pay for your testing but as we always say, “Nothing is free or cheap in Water World.”
Some boats have already taken off from New Zealand to enjoy the winter in paradise while others, such as ourselves, have decided this year we will just stay put. Why? Why would we want to spend our days living in cold and wet conditions if we could be sipping little fruity drinks with colorful umbrellas on some sandy beach overlooking crystal clear waters? Well, I’ll tell ya Shoutie….
Getting to Fiji and enjoying it’s beauty is only part of the equation. The other part of it is that you need someplace to go when cyclone season starts on 1 November. You see, Fiji is in the cyclone belt whereas New Zealand and Australia are not. If you are not a Kiwi you will not be allowed to return to New Zealand and just this week Australia has relocked down their borders. So if you don’t have a safe harbor to sail to for the season then you are left with keeping your boat in Fiji and taking your chances that a major cyclone doesn’t come and destroy your home. Given that Fiji experienced not just one but two major cyclones last year we’re perfectly content to stay here and continue exploring this amazing country for another ten months.
There are options for putting your boat on the hard in Fiji. One option is at Vuda Marina where they actually put yachts in pits to protect them from toppling over in high winds. Of course if there’s a major storm surge then the pit just puts the boat in a position to be flooded and possibly floated out to sea. Also, if you choose to put your boat in a pit at Vuda you are required to leave it there for the entire six months of cyclone season. That certainly limited your options. And, there’s the issue of where you stay while your boat is on the hard or in the pit. Sure, you can live on the boat on the hard but having done this I can tell you it’s no picnic. You can’t use the head for starters so you have to use the marina facilities each time you have to answer Nature’s call. And even if you can deal with all of these things there is the really big issue which is that most boat insurance companies require your boat to be out of the cyclone belt which is south of 27° S, so if you stay there you have to know that you will not be covered in the event of any damage. For those of us whose boat is our only home, this simply is not an option so many, if not most of the yachties here in New Zealand have decided to stay until next year.
Of course it’s not as easy as just saying, “Oh yeah, we’ll stay here.” For those who are not accustomed to dealing with visas and immigration let me explain. You see, when you come to New Zealand on your boat you are granted a 90 day tourist visa allowing you to stay and visit. There is a book’s worth of paperwork that has to get done for the boat but the immigration part is quite simple as this visa is automatically granted. If you leave the country for at least 30 days before that visa expires you get another 90 days when you return. This is when we plan our trips back to the states. We leave just a few days before the visa expires and when we return we get another 90 days. That gets us through cyclone season and into the beginning of the Summer cruising season when we take off for other lands.
When the old hag Covid came along hundred of yachties were just about to begin preparations to set sail to the tropics for six months but then borders starting closing and we were essentially stranded. Sure, most of us could have flown to our home countries but we’d be leaving our one and only home with no idea whatsoever when we would be able to return. For obvious reasons that simply isn’t an option for most of us. And, at the time, plane fare back to the states was running in the neighborhood of $4000-$6000 per person! OUCH!!!!
Much to the delight of us “stranded sailors” New Zealand in her typical welcoming fashion gave all of us an extension to our visas until 25 September 2020. That was much appreciated news as we learned that borders were slamming shut in early March and we all started to frantically get documents together to apply for extended visas. This automatic extension gave us all a little breathing room and allowed us to wait to see what would happen.
Fast forward to August. Here we still sit knowing that there really is no place to go and there’s been no official word as to what will happen with our visas. Many cruisers are taking the “wait and see” approach just hoping New Zealand will automatically grant another extension. That’s not really the way we do things on Dazzler. After all, it’s not New Zealand’s problem, this is our problem so we decided we would do as we do with everything and take preventative measures.
As the secretary aboard Dazzler I went online and began to fill out the forms to extend our visas until next June. The forms process is not really that big of a deal. They require updated passport photos, bank statements, explanation letters etc.. And, since we are trying to extend our visa longer than 12 months we were required to get bloodwork to be sure we don’t have HIV, Syphilis, Hepatitis, etc.., chest x-rays to be sure we don’t have Tuberculosis and a full medical exam. The cost for the application fee and all this other fun stuff, aside from a couple of days of our time, came to around $450 USD per person. No, it wasn’t cheap but it also certainly didn’t seem unreasonable either. After all, the Kiwis have a right to ensure that visitors here are not going to be an undue burden on their social systems. Hmmm…what a novel concept eh???
We got our application and medicals done and submitted last week just to be certain our application was there in plenty of time. This week we’ve learned that due to the efforts of NZ Marine Association and others within the country who understand the value of having yachties stay, that there is talk of granting yachties a 12 month extension on a case by case basis. You see, the yachting and tourism industries here obviously want us to stay. I just read an article that states yachties who come here for cyclone season spend on average of $20,000 NZD and many spend much, much more as they take advantage of the world class marine industry in making repairs and refits to our yachts. This doesn’t include the money we spend on food, clothing, marina fees, travel etc… We definitely do help to support their country and at a time when international tourism here has come to a halt it only makes sense to keep those people here who are self sufficient and spending lots of money.
So yes, this news was certainly welcome and while some may see this as something that will come free, we feel like it means they are going to require that each person go through the extension process. We’re very happy to know that all of our information is in the hands of immigration already. As it sits now we are fully expecting that our applications will be approved and we will stay until June 2021. If it is not, well, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
And, while this is not an issue for Dazzler, there are many yachties out here facing another complicating factor and that is that here in New Zealand if your boat remains in the country for 24 continuous months you are required to import it into the country. This means a yacht could incur tens of thousands of dollars in import and duty fees. Not many of us are just sitting on that type of cash so for those who are in this situation it’s an even bigger worry. Today we received excellent news for our friends and fellow sailors awaiting updates on their Temporary Import Permits. The government has offered them a one time blanket extension until July 2021. We know many who are breathing a huge sigh of relief and are probably celebrating with gusto right now. As for the visas, we expect to hear an official announcement on that in the coming days.
So as you can see the evil Covid wench has definitely created a stir in more ways than just how the virus is affects the health of people, economies and the never ending mask debates. It has many side effects for the stranded sailors, not just in New Zealand, but all over the world. As for us, we intend to make the most of our time here in New Zealand by getting out and exploring as much of the country as possible. After all, you know what they say, “When the world hands you Kiwis, blend them up with a little ice and vodka and enjoy the ride.”
Well these are some crazy times we are living in to be sure. Of course this isn’t going to stop us from continuing our mission to help the children of Fiji. As they say, “Adjust, adapt and overcome.”This is what we are doing so we thought we’d provide everyone with a little update.
First lets start with the good news. Thanks to all of our fabulous contributors we not only met but exceeded our goal of $3500 USD. Thank you Captain Lawnboy for jumping in after our last post and making up the difference with your very generous donation! For books $3500 may not sound like a lot of money but our dollar goes a long way here in New Zealand so that’s actually more like $6000 USD and that my friends will get a lot of great books!
Of course in addition to buying them we have our generous book donation partners who stepped up to help. Thanks to Dave at All Marine for coordinating with Irene of Zonta International and the Kokopu Elementary School we picked up close to 700 books a couple of weeks again. Also, Judy Allison of the Lions Club coordinated helped us to acquire another 400-500 books. The community support for this is unreal!
We picked up the first boxes of books from Dave a couple of weeks ago and our first order of business was to get some organization going. To that end we needed to pick up some smaller, more uniform boxes. It’s important for the cruisers who will haul and deliver them to have them in smaller, manageable size boxes that store easily on a boat.
Since Dazzler was still in the yard we took the books we picked up from Dave back to the boatyard and set up a sorting station there. For several hours Jilly went through the books checking for ones with torn or missing pages and organizing them to be boxed. Dan did the boxing and heavy lifting. We filled each box with a variety of books for kids of all ages. In the end we had 12 boxes of books ready to be handed over to the Cruiser Angels who will be the making deliveries.
Of course we don’t have the ability to get them to everyone just yet so we needed a place to store them. Our dear friend Allan Gray at Wynn Fraser Paints offered to store them in a storage area at their store. Thanks Allan!!!
Just this week we picked up 7 more boxes of books from Judy Allison, the District Governor for the New Zealand Lions Club. While the books from the school were fun reading books, the books from the Lions Club included a couple hundred reading journals for teachers to use in addition to a couple hundred other reading books. Looks like we probably have somewhere around 1200-1400 donated books. This was completely unexpected but certainly a blessing.
So what are we doing with your donations? Well, Jilly spent days and days on the computer researching and reading about children’s books. We ordered a couple of hundred brand new books and some large, wall maps of the world. Maps are big for these kids as they like to see where they are in the world.
Since we have tons of great reading books including everything from Charlotte’s Web to Br’er Rabbit (one of Jilly’s favorites), we decided to spend the donated funds on good, educational books including Children’s World Atlases, books on animals and some really great ones that talk about people and cultures across the globe. There’s some science books and other fun learning material on it’s way to us as well AND we still have more money to spend on new books.
We figure by the time we are done we should have somewhere around 2000 books to deliver to the deserving children of Fiji and you are part of this great accomplishment. Thank you!
Of course as we’ve said, given the state of the world at this moment, we have to adjust, adapt and overcome. So what is the current status of delivering to the islands?
Well, honestly all of us cruisers are in a state of suspension right now due to the coronavirus. Borders are closed all over the globe and Fiji is no exception. Right now we are not even sure we will be permitted to sail to Fiji this year. It all depends on when the borders are reopened. For those of you who are not sailors, it’s not just of matter of them opening the border and us taking off. We have weather and seasons to think about.
Being in the southern hemisphere Spring starts at the end of September. With Spring and then Summer comes the potential for cyclones. Cruisers with any sense of sanity don’t sail north between November 1st and the end of April. So, if the borders do not open up for six months or more we may be required to stay in New Zealand until next cruising season. If this is the case then we will find a small storage unit and store the books for the year. We have every intention of delivering these books personally to the children. If the worse case scenario occurred, we could ship them but due to the weight of this number of books it could be a very costly proposition. As much as we’d like to get them over there this year it may have to wait. Obviously the health and safety of everyone involved is our top priority.
So, at the moment, we are hovering about in a holding pattern. We will keep everyone updated as the days and weeks pass but don’t worry we will get the books to the children one way or another!
In the meantime, stay safe, be healthy and keep smiling!