I arrived in Auckland on Sunday, March 27, and the city is already exceeding my expectations.

My hotel is The Sebel Auckland at Viaduct Harbor.  It’s less than a block from the marina, where lots of beautiful boats await their next adventure… including the beautiful 50-foot “Avalon” which is the sailboat we’ll be taking up to Fiji at the end of April.

My hotel room is a suite, with full kitchen and washer/dryer.  Unfortunately I have a view of a parking structure, not the marina. But hey, for $80/night, I’ll take it.  This is way beyond my daily budget, but given that so many of the upcoming days will include free accommodation on Avalon, I figure my average cost per night will come down dramatically.

So I’ll stay here at The Sebel for 4 nights, and then I’ll move to the sailboat and ready myself for the departure north.

I met with Avalon’s skipper (and my former sailing instructor-now-friend), Tom Prior, for lunch on Sunday.  After lunch he took me down to meet Avalon for the first time.  She’s a beauty.  Sleek lines, clean deck, secure cockpit, and spacious cabin.  Many traditional blue-water cruising sailboats are slow, heavy beasts built like a fortress able to withstand the pounding of waves and wind. From what I understand from Tom, Avalon is at the lighter, faster end of the spectrum.  Still strong and sturdy, but much better, faster sailing performance.  We may not be able to outrun a storm, but we can sail with the storm until it subsides.  (Of course, with modern technology and careful forethought in route planning, we hope to avoid storms in the first place.)

Over the last couple of days, I’ve gone down to the boat to help Tom settle in and get the boat clean and ready.  This will continue for several days, in fact weeks.  We’ll bring the boat to northern New Zealand in a few days, where she’ll get hauled out of the water for some inspections and hull treatment.  Then we’ll plan our route, provision the boat, do several shakedown sails, and wait for the weather window to make our passage north, 1,200 miles to Fiji. 

In my downtime, I’ve explored a few of the streets, restaurants, and parks in Auckland.  What a great town!  Streets are clean, people are nice, and food is excellent.   Transportation from the airport by bus was very easy, thanks to the driver who was probably the most friendly, helpful bus driver I’ve ever spoken too.  People on the docks have been very nice, too, already offering tips for our sail north.

I have a couple of friends of friends here that I plan to meet, so I’m looking forward to experiencing a bit more of the local side of Auckland, too.

I’m not immediately rushing out to conquer all the sights and towns of the northern, let alone the southern, island of New Zealand.  I’m in the area for two months, and more importantly, I already know I will be making another trip here in the future…

Emerging from The Sebel hotel, right into the marina.

Emerging from The Sebel hotel, right into the marina.

I've enjoyed walking around the marina, looking at all the big boats, and watching vessel operations such as this.

I've enjoyed walking around the marina, looking at all the big boats, and watching vessel operations such as this.

Sailing vessel "Avalon."  A 50-foot Deerfoot that we'll sail 1,200 north to Fiji. 

Sailing vessel "Avalon."  A 50-foot Deerfoot that we'll sail 1,200 north to Fiji. 

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