Living Aboard in Whangarei

We sailed from Fiji to New Zealand in early November. After checking in at Marsden Cove and completing the formalities, we moved up the river to the Whangarei Town Basin marina. Here’s what it was like spending almost two months living aboard in Whangarei.

About Whangarei

Whangarei is not pronounced how it looks. Unless you speak Maori. In that case you know that the WH is pronounced as F, so it’s pronounced Fang-Ah-Ray.

We enjoyed living aboard in Whangarei. It’s the biggest town in the Northland region of New Zealand, with all the amenities we’ve missed since Tahiti. Whangarei’s population is almost 57,000 and it is 155km north of Auckland, which is said to have almost 1.7mm people.

marina, town basin Whangarei
The marina and town basin in Whangarei

The Town Basin Marina is located on the Hatea river and is walkable to groceries, shops, restaurants and more.

The supermarket across the street is huge and overwhelmingly good. After being in Tonga, where you couldn’t get basic rice, and Fiji, with no cat food or kitty litter, we consider New Zealand the land of plenty. On our first visit to the supermarket, we were overjoyed upon seeing the varieties of lettuce, berries, and yogurt, and the glow hasn’t faded. It doesn’t hurt that we arrived in springtime.

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Bocas del Toro Boat Life

We’re in our second month in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama. Time is flying! We’re keeping busy, seeing the sights, and spending time with fellow cruisers. Here’s an overview of Bocas del Toro boat life.

About Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro (or Bocas, familiarly) is a province on the Caribbean side of Panama. Part of it is located on the mainland, but the important part is the chain of islands. Bocas del Toro means Mouth of the Bull, and the island chain has 3 big islands and many smaller islets and atolls.

Bocas del Toro on a map
Map of Bocas del Toro Panama

Bocas del Toro is a popular tourist destination, and the site of many banana plantations. It has an airport, with several daily flights from Panama City, and multiple water ferries and taxis from the mainland.

There are three big islands in Bocas del Toro, where most of the activity happens and the majority of people live and work.

Bocas del Toro map mural
Bocas del Toro map mural
Isla Colon

Isla Colon is the main island, with the airport and main town, called Bocas Town. That’s where the stores are and lots of hotels and resorts. It’s the “big island” where we go to provision at the supermarkets.

Isla Carenero

Right across from Isla Colon, Carenero has a small marina, and many resorts, beaches, and restaurants.

Marina on Isla Carenero
Marina on Isla Carenero
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Cruiser Dos and Don’ts

Brian and I made our first crossing a year ago and have made mistakes, many mistakes. For those interested in exploring a life on board a boat, this post is for you. I don’t claim to be any sort of expert here, in fact, I started out as a complete novice. Maybe you can avoid our mistakes through my cruiser dos and don’ts to hopefully help you slide into this lifestyle with ease!

Boat Ownership Dos and Don’ts

Do Like To Fix Things

If Brian wasn’t so handy, and didn’t enjoy fixing things and working with his hands, we wouldn’t be here. If you already like to fix things, you are golden, but if you don’t, or don’t know how, take a class in mechanics or something before you buy the boat.

The sea finds out everything you did wrong.

Boats are more likely to break when and where no one else is around, so you will have to fix it or at least stop it from getting worse. I am not handy at all and even I am getting better at that stuff. In my opinion, people who can’t or don’t want to fix things won’t be happy in this life.

Do Lock Up Your Valuables

If it’s something you need, lock it up. Dinghies get stolen all the time, and we even had our gas tank stolen out of our dinghy in Martinique. It sucks, but people need money (or gas, when there was a strike in the French islands) and if you make it easy for them to steal, they just might.

Locked Dinghy Cruisers Dos and Don'ts
Lock Up!
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Carriacou Favorites

A pretty little island north of Grenada and part of the same country, Carriacou is a must visit if you make it all the way to Grenada. Grenada has the size and amenities and a lot of safe harbors, but Carriacou boasts clearer, cleaner water and a more relaxed vibe. When you visit, check out our Carriacou favorites.

The trip from Grenada north to Carriacou takes only a few hours and we should have visited more often. At least we stopped on our way down in July and again in October.

Here is why you should visit and what to do in Carriacou.

Carriacou map

Windward boat builders

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Our First Weekend in Puerto Rico

Our First Weekend in Puerto Rico: Thursday, April 25th – Sunday, April 28th

Puerto Rico is great! We are eating delicious food, drinking multiple fruit flavored mojitos and meeting interesting people. Plus, we are visiting unique places and speaking Spanish whenever possible. Our first weekend in Puerto Rico was a success!

The sailing here is challenging, hence the name “The Thorny Path.” Winds are strong and waves high most of the day. We’ve adopted the popular cruiser tactic of beginning to sail at or before the break of dawn. By doing this and making short passages of less than 20 miles at a time, we can avoid the worst of the elements. Overnight the sea dies down but by mid morning it roars again.

In between sailing, we enjoy downtime at the different ports and the company of fellow cruisers. Here’s a recap of our first weekend in Puerto Rico!

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