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Yesterday on the high tide Strannik was hauled out of the water for its annual maintenance and survey on the Caldwell slip in the Port of Nelson. Fortunately, our list of annual maintenance jobs is not too long, it includes antifouling the hull and treating the propeller with “Prop Speed” , a product that gives us better fuel efficiency. The hull was washed down last night and today painters began preparing the hull for the new coat of antifoul paint. Strannik is "in survey" under the Italian (RINA) rules. A RINA surveyor will come from Australia at the weekend and will check a whole range of equipment and fixtures and on Monday when we go back into the water will undertake sea trials before issuing a certificate of compliance for another year.

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We farewelled our guests at Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound this morning (Sunday 15th May). It has been an exceptionally successful 10 day expedition with multiple landings and small boat excursions every day. The weather has been kind with very little time lost because of rain. The group was particularly interested in the human history of the fiords and so we focused a lot on that. After farewelling them, we headed for Nelson up the west coast. It is a little over 420 nm and we expect to arrive Tuesday evening. The forecast is good and the sea conditions are ideal. We will haul Strannik out of the water at Port of Nelson for annual maintenance and survey.

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On this journey we are making our way north from Preservation Inlet to Doubtful Sound. The last few days have been spent in Dusky Sound .. so much to see and so much to do here you almost need a lifetime. We have crammed a lot in, making most of the good weather. We have made multiple landings including, Astronomers Point, Indian Island, Luncheon Cove, Pigeon Island, Supper Cove and this morning at Herrick Creek in Wet Jacket Arm. Tonight we will be at the head of Vancouver Arm in Breaksea Sound. We have enjoyed some great walks. This morning some of the group walked into Moose Lake, in Wet Jacket Arm, where the last Moose in Fiordland was shot in 1952. We have also enjoyed fresh cod for dinner.

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We are back in Fiordland, a destination we know and love intimately.  We have a “friends and family charter” which started in Preservation Inlet a couple days ago.  After a magnificent flight in by helicopter to the head of Long Sound the group has enjoyed, The fascinating relics of the Tarawera Smelter, the hospitality (from the lodge caretakers) and history of Cromarty and the Goldfields, a walk to the Puysegur Point lighthouse, a fossick around in Cuttle Cove, the site of NZ’s first land based whaling station, a scramble to the remains of the Morning Star Gold Stamping Battery and the history of the pre European skirmishes  by the feuding Maori tribes. As I write this we are in Chalky Inlet before heading north to Dusky Sound. 

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We are back in the Marlborough Sounds and it feels good. We arrived at midday today from Lyttelton and are scheduled to start our first expedition from Picton tomorrow. We have a great team on board and are looking forward to exploring this labyrinth of waterways with so many exciting things to do and see.  We spent a quiet afternoon at Blumine Island, enjoyed a great walk to the gun emplacements. The birdlife was special.    

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We are doing lockdown in Fiordland. When the announcement was made the country was going into Level 4 and people had 48 hours to travel back to their homes, we were on day 11 of a 14 day expedition that included all the Fiords.  It seemed a real pity that we couldn’t finish, we were just three fiords short. Compounding our problem was the fact that the Milford road was closed, so we had little option but to double back to Doubtful Sound and helicopter the folk out to Te Anau and hope that they managed to get home before the Lock Down.  In the meantime we occupy ourselves with reading, writing, cleaning and a few other necessary jobs like food gathering and cooking.  We have had to cancel one expedition and it is not clear when we will be able to start again ….

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The southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) was hunted extensively along the coasts of New Zealand from the beginning of the 19th Century onward, with peak whaling from shore stations in the late 1840’s.  Before the end of the 19th century the NZ population of southern right whales was commercially extinct. Although protected from hunting by international agreement since 1935, right whales in the southern hemisphere were hunted illegally by the former Soviet Union from 1950 to 1970.  In 1979 there were reports of small numbers of southern right whales congregating in the winter months in the sheltered waters of the sub Antarctic Auckland Islands. They were also recorded by metrological staff during this time around sub Antarctic Campbell Island.  Since 1995 there have been a number of winter expeditions to these islands as well as aerial counts/observations. The number of animals present each year is increasing and current estimates suggest that over 200 animals are visiting the Port Ross region in July/August each year. This makes it an extremely important wintering ground for both cows and calves as well as a mating ground.  I have visited the Auckland Islands many many times, but always in the summer months. I had never had the opportunity to visit during the winter because a) we (Heritage Expeditions) never had a ship available at this time of the year (ours were working in the northern hemisphere) and b) the Islands are closed for tourism during the winter months. To see and experience these southern right whales was high on my bucket list, so when the opportunity came to support an International documentary film crew and Auckland University researchers I didn’t hesitate and I wasn’t disappointed  Pictures say a thousand words .. I hope the following photos give some idea of the beauty and privilege of our expedition ….    

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Between March 20th and May 3rd this year Strannik was based in Stewart Island. During that time, we offered three, nine-day expeditions; the balance of the time spent with friends and family. It was great to be back doing what we love, sharing the wilderness and advocating for its protection and conservation. We are staunch believers in allowing people the opportunity to experience wilderness areas in an unhurried way, in small groups without too many rules and regulations. Strannik proved herself the perfect vessel; with just eight participants on each expedition the opportunities were unlimited. While the weather wasn’t always the best, our very flexible programme (we don’t publish an itinerary) paid dividends and all the expeditions achieved their objectives and goals. The high lights obviously varied from group to group but included; a hike to the top of Tin Range, another to Gog and Magog (and even back to Evening Cove for one ambitious group), a walk to the Settlement in Broad Bay, a climb to the summit of Bald Cone, Zodiac boat explorations of both Lords and Heron rivers and Port Adventure. Time was also spent ashore on Ulva Island. We plan to repeat these expeditions in late Feb and March 2022 (hoping these earlier dates might mean better weather). It is not too early to pre-book now by sending us email because these expeditions will fill fast. Images by @julie_chandelier @scottysinton

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Christmas aboard MV Strannik was very much a family affair. Since last writing we sailed across Tasman Bay to Pelorus Sound. Aaron and Nathan along with their families (Sarah, Anneliese, Francesia& Robyn,Findlay and Hudson) arrived in Havelock on Christmas Eve and we spent an enjoyable week together exploring the Sound. We initially based ourselves in Ngawhakawhiti Bay and enjoyed catching up with friends in Elaine Bay as well as steaming out to the Chetwode Islands to teach the next generation how and where to fish for Blue Cod. The keener ones completed the Nydia Bay track (over a couple days) and enjoyed the scenery and the history, not to mention the opportunity to walk off the excessive Christmas food. We are now in Queen Charlotte Sound. It was great to check out Motuara Island yesterday, it has been a while since I had landed there, just a pity the weather wasn’t better. We are expecting friends tomorrow and will spend a few days with them and then head to Lyttelton, where we will make plans for the remainder of the year. We hope to announce some Stewart Island and Fiordland Expeditions!  

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Greetings from MV Strannik and the team. After 4 weeks tied up in the Nelson Marina we finally sailed. It is so good to be back at sea. Our time in Nelson was great, catching up on family and friends, tramping and, during the week, attending the Skipper Training Institute to upgrade my Skippers ticket. This new ticket will allow me to use Strannik commercially in NZ. We may well offer some NZ expeditions next year. We are writing from the Astrolabe Roadstead in the Abel Tasman National Park. We have spent the last few days exploring the Park. Have enjoyed some great walks and boating, it’s a great time to be here a) the weather is settled and b) there are not a lot of people around. On January 14th 1827 Jules Dumont D’Urville anchored his vessel Astrolabe here and filled his water casks from a creek in nearby Watering Cove. His men also watched the transit of Venus from neighbouring Observation Cove. It is great to look at Louis de Sainson painting of Watering Cove and imagine what it would have been like nearly 200 years ago, the bird song must have been incredible. On that note, we just want to wish all our friends a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year and look forward to sharing our 2021 adventures with you.

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Life aboard Strannik continues to be an adventure. We are currently in Nelson, tied up in the Marina. I am at School studying for an Australian Skippers ticket. Maritime NZ doesn’t like my British Royal Yacht Squadron Commercial Ticket and if we are going to offer some cruises in New Zealand while we are confined here because of Covid-19, then I need this ticket. Maritime NZ also don’t like our Italian (RINA) certification so we are having to resurvey the vessel. But we aren’t complaining because there is nowhere else I would rather be under the circumstances and we are very conscious that there are people who are a lot worse off than we are. We just count our blessings every day and there isn’t a calculator big enough. No school over the weekend so we went tramping in the Kahurangi National Park yesterday and Nelson Lakes National Parks today. It is simply wonderful to get back into the mountains that I grew up in.

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LifeWell we are finally in the South Island, anchored up not far from Picton, it feels like we are almost home. Since last writing we spent several very relaxing days at Great Barrier Island. One day we hired a car and explored the island, including a soak in the hot pools near Whangaparapara. We had planned to visit Tauranga on the way south but with no berths available we took advantage of a weather window and ran directly to Napier. Again there was no room in the Port and we were forced to anchor off, which was fine, until a large easterly swell rolled in making the anchorage extremely uncomfortable, we had little option but to run to Picton. It was a great trip except for a brief southerly blow that came through as we rounded Cape Palliser. It was great to finally get back in southern waters and see the birds that have been such a part of my life the highlight was undoubtedly having both Southern and Northern Royal Albatross circling around. We were reminded afresh of Robert Cushman Murphy’s quote “I now belong to a higher cult of mortals, for I have seen the albatross.” The Cape Pigeons made us feel at home, as much as we love traveling and cruising there is no place like home and for us that is the Southern Ocean. On several occasions we were escorted by large pods of Common Dolphins it was as though they were pleased to see us, welcoming us home. On night watch you could hear them blowing as they swam along beside us, what a privilege to have such amazing companions throughout your watch … it seemed like the watch was over before it began. Cushman Murphy’s words are just as appropriate for dolphins as they are for albatross. Our plans are to spend the remainder of the month in the Sounds and arrive Nelson on Nov 1st.

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Our “Island Crawl” continues  with the Poor Knights Islands yesterday and Hen and Chicken Islands today.   We started our journey south towards the Marlborough Sounds from Bay of Islands early yesterday and detoured a few miles to visit the Poor Knights Islands.  They are an iconic dive site with regular dive trips leaving from Tutukaka on the mainland some 14 miles to the west. We weren’t there to dive we wanted to see the Buller’s Shearwaters.  Poor Knights is their only known breeding ground and they have only just returned from the central Pacific where they spend the austral winter.  We weren’t disappointed, there were large flocks on the water just a few miles south of Islands.  We enjoyed a great night anchored at Smugglers Cove and outside of Whangarei Heads. It was both calm and quiet. There was a great sunrise as we steamed east to the Hen and Chickens. These islands are obviously very popular with recreational fisherman. They are only 7 miles from Whangarei Harbour entrance. There were already at least 10 boats fishing when we arrived.  The Islands are Nature Reserves. I was interested to see Taranga or Hen Island as this was, until birds were transferred to other Islands, the only place that North Island Saddleback survived.  Great to hear and see Parakeets flying overhead Araara Island.  With strong to gale force winds forecast tonight  we are heading south to find a comfortable anchorage to sit this one out.   

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I am writing from our current anchorage in Keri Keri Inlet. We came here last night ahead of (another) storm warning for the region. The anchorage is good we will get a bit of wind but that is compensated by very good holding and lack of swell. But it is looking like the storm warning might need to be downgraded as the wind has eased and the sun is shining.  Since leaving Whangarei we have spent our time in and around the Bay of Islands making the most of the occasional good weather. We have been north to Whangaroa and south as far as Whangamumu and Whangaruru. We have enjoyed some great landings, gained a deeper understanding of the local history, hiked the many DoC tracks and even started to understand how to catch snapper. We have also enjoyed sharing the time with friends that have joined us.  Our plans are to stay local until Spring. We are hopeful that the weather will allow us an opportunity to go to the Three Kings before we start our journey south.

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We spent just over a week on the slip .. it was a busy time with numerous small jobs that had to be done (or we wanted done), a lot of it was simply fine tuning, improving or adapting systems that were already there. The anchor fairleads needed modifying slightly to ensure the chain ran smoothly, we simplified the self-furling gear on both the main and mizzen, added a couple extra drain holes on the swim deck, replaced a couple pipes that should have been done in the Philippines, put some guttering above the Pilot house doors to divert the rain water ….. with boats there is always something needing done.  The major job though was to clean the hull and apply a new or fresh coat of antifoul which we did between the frequent showers of rain.  We came off the slip and Simon headed away for a well-earned break and then Northland got hit with the heavy rain and strong winds over Queens birthday weekend.  I had to shift anchorages … the anchors simply wouldn’t hold in thick river mud. (It would appear there was a hard smooth pan below the mud that the anchor couldn’t/wouldn’t penetrate).  I anchored near Matakohe-Limestone Island in the Harbour and spent a windy night … the wind was gusting up to 58kts and sometimes it felt there was more water in the sky than there was in the ocean as it rained that heavily …. So much for the myth of the “winterless north”.  I won’t say I am enjoying a lazy time, but I am certainly having a lazy time while I wait for Simon to come back from leave. 

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We haven’t exactly just sitting around here in Whangarei … we have been using the time to do some maintenance.  For the first couple weeks we were moored at the ship yards’ jetty, but last night on the high tide they hauled us up onto the hard.  This morning the team water blasted the Hull and sanded it back.  The antifoul that was on the vessel was in reasonable condition and probably could have lasted another 12 months, but because we want to go to Fiordland later in the year we decided to clean it and put a new coat on.  Vessels are required to have a “clean hull” permit to cruise in the Fiords, it is one way to prevent the spread of unwanted aquatic organisms.  What we did discover though when we hauled it out was that a number of bolts holding the rudder in place were loose !!!!!!!!!!! whether they weren’t tightened sufficiently in the ship yard during construction or whether they have worked loose (we have done over 17,000 nautical miles  since leaving Hong Kong) we will never know.  WE will be retightening and securing them in a way that means they cannot work loose.  The thought of what might have been puts a whole new meaning on a rudderless ship … I don’t want to think about it.  We hope to go back into the water next week and when that happens we will make plans, until then we are enjoying the “winterless north” (that’s a myth), the freedom of level two and the maintenance work.   

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A nostalgic walk. After an extended period at sea, we are enjoying the opportunity to stretch the legs. Whangarei has to be one of the best places for boat/yacht lover’s to walk.  Last night we walked down the river and discovered the old coastal scow Te Aroha. It was a sorry sight, it sunk (several times) at its moorings in 2015 while being restored. To see it brought back many memories.  It was built in 1909, reputedly from one Kauri log at Totara North, Auckland by T Lane and Sons. It entered the Cook Strait service and by all accounts did over 10,000 crossings of Cook Strait. It was sold to Capt. Tim Phipps in 1976.  That was my first encounter with her. I was a Fauna Conservation Officer for Wildlife Service in Invercargill. We had discovered Kakapo on Stewart Island in early 1976 and it was decided to build 6 x Portable Bivi’s (huts) and place them at strategic places around southern Stewart Island so we could continue the survey work year round. These huts were built by inmates at the Invercargill Borstal. The question was how to get them to Port Pegasus. I discussed this with Tim who had the Te Aroha in Bluff standing in for the Stewart Island Ferry Wairau which was out on annual survey. He agreed and we loaded the six huts one Friday night and he sailed for Port Pegasus. Bill Black from Te Anau flew down the next morning and lifted them off.  Te Aroha was later sold to Mike and Dee Pigneguy from Auckland. They advertised trips in the Hauraki Gulf on her. When we formed Heritage Expeditions in 1985 it was one of a number of vessels we chartered to offer coastal expeditions. Other destinations included Fiordland, Stewart Island and Marlborough Sounds.  It was good but sad to see her in such a sorry sight.

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We are writing to you from Whangarei. We arrived here from Opua yesterday (Friday) after a very pleasant 10 hour journey. After the protracted entry formalities were completed we went to anchor at Te Hue Bay outside of Opua and made new plans. Our first objective and obligation was to repatriate our two foreign crew members, getting flights and additional visas was complicated to say the least but we achieved it and both have left the vessel to enjoy a few days on land before flying out. Secondly we were keen to use the time under level 3 to get some repair and maintenance work done. We are hoping that under level 2 we will be allowed to cruise future afield.  We applied to the authorities (it appears the Health Department is the appropriate agency) to relocate 76 miles south to Whangarei and the Oceania Marine Shipyard to do this work. This approval came through Wednesday evening and we left early Friday morning. We will start the work here on Monday.

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“Whatever Dream ends where the Heart intends?”.  Three weeks ago we were dreaming of tropical Islands today I write to you from temperate New Zealand.  Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t complaining, it is great to be back, there is nowhere else I would rather be right now. We appreciate the work and the many people who facilitated our journey from Papua New Guinea.  PNG is a beautiful country, with many many beautiful people and huge potential for cruising, but under the current State Emergency we felt it was not the best or safest place to be. There was a very real risk of burglaries and attacks from “Rascals” as food and supplies ran low in the villages and towns. Local Police were patrolling the area and had ordered us to a specific anchorage where they could keep a closer eye on us. We believed it was time to leave as did the other two yachts that were there with us. They were both Australian registered and left for Cairns.   We arrived in Opua yesterday after a 2200nm journey. It took us 14 days, overall the weather and sea conditions were good. The two crew were given NZ visas on humanitarian grounds (thankyou NZ) as there was no other way out of PNG for them.  We were all considered to have “self-isolated” during the voyage so we aren’t confined to the vessel.  What now ?? we aren’t sure, our first task is to repatriate the crew to their respective countries.  Simon and I would like to get Strannik to Lyttelton for some maintenance work before making any more plans. Watch this space.   

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As I write this we are abeam (west) of New Caledonia, we have less than 1000nm to run to Opua. We are over halfway home.  The weather and sea conditions so far have been good.  The first few days south of Papua New Guinea were exceptional,  for the last couple days though we have experienced the expected South Easterly trade winds of about 20 kts and unfortunately near enough to right on the bow.   The forecast for the next few days looks promising.  We are not quite sure what to expect on our arrival in NZ.  If you thought getting information on what you could or couldn’t do during Lockdown was hard .. you should try getting it from overseas, especially when your situation is just a little out of the ordinary.  We have two foreign crew members on board and we are a New Zealand owned but Cook Islands registered yacht???????.  We have lodged a formal application for arrival and any exemptions that might be needed with the relevant authorities through our lawyer in NZ but to date haven’t had a reply… too late now and there is nowhere else to go but home. We will keep you updated. Stay safe stay well. 

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10 Apr 2020 - on our way to New Zealand

08 Apr 2020 - Stuck in PNG

28 Mar 2020 - Duke of York

25 Mar 2020 - Self isolation

22 Mar 2020 - New Britain Trench

05 Mar 2020 - Papua New Guinea

01 Mar 2020 - Squid boat

28 Feb 2020 - Leaving Palau

23 Feb 2020 - Jellyfish Lake

19 Feb 2020 - Rock Islands

18 Feb 2020 - Rock Islands

14 Feb 2020 - Palau

05 Feb 2020 - Dinagat Island

28 Jan 2020 - Departing for Palau

06 Nov 2019 - Leaving Russia

05 Nov 2019 - Arrived to Japan

17 Oct 2019 - Subic Bay

12 Oct 2019 - Pavla Bay on the way south

11 Oct 2019 - On the way south

11 Oct 2019 - Okinawa

07 Oct 2019 - Enroute to Okinawa

05 Oct 2019 - Snow in Anadyr

03 Oct 2019 - Mission completed

27 Sep 2019 - Job done

24 Sep 2019 - Kolyuchinskaya Inlet

21 Sep 2019 - Autumn day in Lavrentiya Gulf

21 Sep 2019 - Nunyamo

19 Sep 2019 - Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

16 Sep 2019 - Lavrentiya Gulf

13 Sep 2019 - Humpback whales

11 Sep 2019 - Gilmimil hot springs

10 Sep 2019 - Providenyia

05 Sep 2019 - Egvekinot

30 Aug 2019 - Glubokaya Bay

25 Aug 2019 - Tilichiki

24 Aug 2019 - Ilpirskoe village

23 Aug 2019 - Karaga village

21 Aug 2019 - Strannik is in Russia

31 Jan 2019 - Fishing dories