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We left El Vagabond safely tied to a swing mooring in Grove Arm in the Marlborough Sounds which was owned by the local Rigger and was basically at the end of his garden so we were relatively comfortable that she would be ok for the Winter. We had bought an old Isuzu Bighorn Jeep which we had stuffed to the brim with most of our “Worldly goods” and off we went on our next adventure.

We needed to leave New Zealand as our 6 month Visas were due to expire so we had arranged to fly to Sydney for the weekend…. as you do… We drove down to Christchurch where we stopped overnight in a great little B&B. The owners had 2 dachshunds so our boys had great fun chasing them all around the garden. The following day we left Monty & Basil at “Bunny Lodge” which seemed a bit like a holiday camp for dogs and, worrying about whether they would be ok or not, we jetted off to Australia. It seemed weird to be on a plane again after so long. We arrived in Sydney in horrendous rain and basically it didn’t stop raining virtually the entire time we were there !!

We managed to see the Opera House...

the Harbour Bridge...

and even made a trip over to Bondi Beach...

But the weather was really poor. We ended up wandering around the Zoo in the rain just for something to do on the second day !!! However, we did manage to get another 6 month NZ Tourist Visa on our return which was the whole point of the exercise so we can't really complain.

We arrived back in Christchurch to pick up our boys (who had clearly missed us) and headed off South to Queenstown where we had hired our House for the winter.

We had a huge drop of snow during our first week there and Basil (who hadn’t seen snow before) went mad charging around and burying his nose in it - he came back indoors with huge icicles hanging off his front, tummy and legs which took ages to melt and drop off - meanwhile, Monty remained snuggled up on a bed of cushions and his “Falklands Sheepskin” looking like "Lord Muck" !!!

Sadly, the snow melted quite rapidly as the weather was so mild. The slopes were not due to open for another week or so but they had got the snow machines out getting everything ready for the start of the season. Our bedroom window actually looked out over the bottom of the Coronet Peak Mountain and was truly an amazing view.

We were so happy to have found this place. The 4 acre garden was great and it was nice to have a couple of horses for Vicki to play with again.

Roger joined the local Golf Club in Arrowtown, we had a couple of Mountain Bikes and M & B had already made some little friends on the local walking track

It didn’t seem long before the ski slopes were open and the “Queenstown Winter Festival” was upon us. Needless to say,we were raring to go on the first day...

We went down to Queenstown on the opening night, picked up some grub, stopped in a Pub for a couple of drinks whilst waiting for the Fireworks to start at 7pm. At about 7.05, we went back outside just in time to see the very last firework being set off……. Oops, missed them - typical !!


As part of the festival, they run a "Dog Derby" up on the slopes when all the local Farmers take their dogs up to the top of the Mountain and then run down together as fast as they can.  It was an absolute scream and the Farmers were very competitive….

Obviously, we were going to enter Monty & Basil but thought that they might get lost if they sank too deep in the snow !!!

The boys were still enjoying life "on land" and we're really not too sure how Basil will settle back into life on the boat after his time here. He spends hours outside chasing the sheep along on the other side of the fence pretending to be a sheepdog and then running down the drive to see his big mate Basil (one of the Horses) before chasing the possums and bunnies around the garden….

Not to mention the cows that are sometimes grazing...

Up the road a little further from the house, there was a track over farmland (owned by Shania Twain and donated to the Department of Conservation) which climbed up the lower part of the mountain. We were able to walk the dogs up here most days and found that, after the skiing and the walking every day, we were getting really fit...

After 4 years of home grooming, we finally managed to find a wonderful dog groomer in Arrowtown who did an amazing job with both the boys - a far cry from their usual scruffiness but it probably won't last long once we are back at Sea...

It was really nice to be here on land for Roger’s Birthday. Over the last few years, he has got used to having a quiet day on El Vagabond but, this year, we went skiing in the morning...

He played Golf in the afternoon in the glorious sunshine and we finished the day off with a really good meal out in the evening. Life is good...

The "Happy Caddy"...

One of his Birthday presents was a Tandem Paraglide so, a few days later, we saw him taking the ski lift up to the top of the Coronet Peak Mountain before he jumped off….. Vicki thought he was mad but he really enjoyed it although the Video footage showed a few strange expressions for someone supposedly having fun !!!

Vicki’s niece, Stephanie, came to stay with us in August for a few weeks. She had been backpacking around Vietnam, Cambodia etc for 6 months so we think she just wanted a bath, a comfortable bed and some home cooked food….

She liked it so much that she has now got a working Visa, found a house in Queenstown to share and is planning to stay for a year or so….

The America’s Cup hit NZ in September and we have been watching the races avidly with the Kiwis. I don’t know what we all talked about before but it has taken over all topics of conversation for 2 weeks…. We really thought they were going to win and we did hide for a couple of days after the final race as we couldn’t bear to hear all the moans and groans and see all the disappointed faces especially as a number blamed Ben Ainslie for the US victory…

No trip to Queenstown would be complete without a visit to Skipper's Canyon which is a historic and scenic gorge, some 22 kilometres in length. It houses the Shotover River, one of New Zealand's richest gold-bearing rivers (Nov 1862) and which now acts as a huge tourist white water rafting attraction.

Once a busy goldmining area, Skippers Canyon is accessed by Skippers Road, which is today one of New Zealand's better known scenic roads. You cannot drive rental cars on the road and it is mostly one-way, narrow and steep with sheer drops of several hundred metres. We managed to pick a day when there were not too many tourist buses around for our drive but, with Vicki's severe acrophobia, she spent most of the time with her eyes tightly shut !!!

It was fascinating to see the locals completely disregard all "Heath & Safety" issues as they constructed their own homemade Bungey Jump off the bridge...

Having thought the season was over, we had one last good dump of snow... Most people had already packed their skis away until next year so we had the slopes virtually to ourselves. Aid & Jan would have been proud of our improvement over the season - we had managed to tackle almost the entire mountain and were certainly far more confident and competent than we were back in June...

Well, the 4 months disappeared far too quickly, the ski season was over and it was time to drag ourselves away from our lovely little house. We packed up our jeep and headed back North stopping again at the Kokiri B&B in Christchurch so that Monty & Basil could see their little buddies one last time…

We arrived back on El Vagabond at the end of September to find that we had a problem with our Engine… we had replaced the Heat Exchanger in Grenada back in 2009 and it looked like it needed replacing again. So, we booked into Waikawa Marina and Geoff (our Rigger) arranged to make the repairs and fix our Mizzen mast spreader at the same time. We also had our Mainsail repaired again but it was definitely looking as if it had sailed 35,000 miles and it’s days were numbered.…

Three weeks later, we escaped the confines of the Marina and were back at anchor in Kumutoto Bay – our favourite Marlborough Sounds anchorage – close enough to Picton to get provisions but far enough away for the peace and quiet.


We spent the next 6 weeks pottering about in the Queen Charlotte Sound discovering new anchorages and revisiting old ones from earlier in the year. The boys were happy walking though the woods and it was nice to be back on the boat enjoying cruising around the area with no rush to get anywhere. We had the anchorages to ourselves most of the time with occasional weekend visitors who had to head back for work on Monday….