Her long, curly hair blew in the wind as she held her chest with both hands and blew kisses at the boats riding beside her.
"We love you" was called from one of the vessels.
Californian former-foster child Elana Connor originally planned to sail the world but was left stranded in Tauranga during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Today, she set off sailing a figure eight of New Zealand to raise money for Voyce Whakarongomai, an advocacy service for young people in foster care.
This will go towards a new scholarship programme for youth in foster care to attend the 10-day youth development journeys on the Spirit of New Zealand.
Seeing her out of the Tauranga Harbour were three waka ama, a boat and six single paddlers from Ho Aroha, two Coastguard vessels and the Orca Wild Adventures.
The flotilla was organised by Sonya Boe who referred to herself as Connor's "Tauranga Sailing Sister".
Boe said it was a "beautiful cause" and rallied up the troops to see Connor out.
Onboard the Orca were eight children who were connected to Voyce, one of whom was the first recipient of the scholarship.
Rylie, Year 12, watched Connor sailing out of the harbour from the front of the Orca, knowing that it was because of this woman that she would be going on the Spirit of Adventure after exams.
While she had not met Connor, she said the feat was inspiring, and she was excited to be able to get an opportunity to go on the Spirit.
Her brother had done the 10-day trip and Rylie said he came back a changed guy with more confidence, and she had yearned to do it too, since.
Voyce chief executive Tracie Shipton said Connor's efforts were not only raising money for something that could really change the lives of young people in foster care, but the journey was creating a "picture of hope".
She said the children in care could see her making the most of her life from her background in the foster system in California.
At 15, Connor was put into foster care. It wasn't an easy road being pulled from one place to another and, at 18, she had to find her own feet.
Acting regional manager for Waikato and Midlands Angie Simpson said watching the impact Connor was making for kids in care, in a country she wasn't from, was admirable.
"I'm so proud of her."
She said the children were already engaging with what Connor was doing.
Connor's dog, Zia, was her only passenger on the Windfola and their first stop was Gisborne.
As they neared the harbour's exit, the Orca drew in close while a care-package and dog food were passed over.
"We love you," several people cheered.
Connor's Givealittle page has raised almost $4000 for New Zealand's fostered youth.