Returning to Town Basin 20 years later

Twenty years ago, a heavily pregnant Canadian, Susan Koning and her South African husband Martin, sailed into Whangarei where she gave birth to their first-born Justin.

The birth made local headlines as Justin was one of the first babies born for the year 1999.

Now the couple have returned bringing their subsequent child, a now 18-year-old Adrien, while Justin, 21 next month, focuses on his diving career back home.

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"After Justin was born, we sold our boat Topaz here in Whangarei and flew home with the baby in a backpack," Susan remembers, while sitting aboard Shenemere at the sunny Town Basin.

The couple spent the next 20 years raising their kids in Miami before deciding to carry out the same circumnavigation they'd done earlier.

They arrived in Whangarei late November and the day Savvy Magazine came by, Martin was in Auckland buying a car so the family could tour New Zealand. They plan spending six months in Whangarei to wait out the cyclone season.

Selling their home and leaving their jobs, they set off 18 months ago with a then 16-year-old Adrien who was not keen on the venture which entailed leaving behind life as she knew it.

"She didn't want to come. She thought Miami was the centre of the universe and all her friends were there. But then you take said teenager and put her out on the ocean and you have to be self-sufficient and you grow up real fast," says Susan.

"She's got the geography lessons and real-world social side and embraced the positive aspects of it. It's been a far more positive experience than what her friends are still doing back home and now she is forced to go look for her peers when we arrive in a place. Her eyes have opened."

Indeed, after the photo was taken, Adrien was on her way to her voluntary work at the Hospice shop.

"She's keen to volunteer and keep busy, gaining experience working with other people while in the process of applying for a student work visa," explains her mum.

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Passing the long passages in between countries can be challenging and, like any family, they have had their moments, especially with a teen on board, while many would wait until their kids have flown the nest, says Susan.

"You have to have a solid semi-functional family dynamic in order to survive this,"
she explains.

The initial five-year circumnavigation plan is so far looking to be six as they have stayed longer than intended in places they like.

"We have to be very frugal and are on a strict budget," says Susan, adding that their Miami rental property mostly funds their lifestyle.

Since arriving in Whangarei they have enjoyed catching up with old friends and making new ones.

"We love the Town Basin, it has easy access to everything and facilities, it's a great community and has a real good vibe.

"We also had a real good time here and have some special memories."

# Susan is keeping a travel blog called Sailing Shenemere.