So, you want to be a Hobbit?

WARNING:  This is a tale of how I dragged my beloved to the movie set of Lord of the Rings.  Leave now if you are not a fan – author is not responsible for any boredom that might ensue due to non-love-for-all-things-Lord-of-the-Rings.

Still here?  Great!

You see, I am a fan.  No wait…..I’m a serious fan.  Don’t ask me how many times I have seen the movies because I stopped counting after 15.   Before we came to New Zealand, I knew that I could not leave without visiting at least one of the Lord of the Rings movie filming locations.  We made a trip down to Rotorua and I insisted upon asked Lauren B. if we could go see Hobbiton, aka The Shire.  Despite his lack of love for the franchise, he said “yes”.

We took a bus to the farm that Hobbiton is on.  The farm belongs to a private citizen who has leased the land to the LOTR.   As the bus neared the property, I could instantly see why this place appealed to Peter Jackson – lush green rolling hills for as far as the eye could see.  I had originally thought that there were only a few hobbit homes built for the movie.  Boy was I wrong.  There are around 30 – and they are everywhere!  It truly is a little town.

When we got off the bus, we met our guide – a spunky young kiwi gal whose love for her job made her an awesome guide.  She rounded us up and we commenced our walk through Hobbiton.

“You had to be shorter than 5’2 to be a hobbit,” she said.  “One time we had a guy who was at least 6’2 come to Hobbiton from Germany.  He was dressed like a hobbit and when the tour was over he refused to leave!  He said ‘This is my home, I will not leave’.  Eventually they convinced him that he had to go.”

We walked a dirt path along the little hobbit homes of the Shire.  The first one we came across was the location of the opening scene of Fellowship of the Ring where Gandolph is in the carriage and Frodo runs up to him.  We walked up to the hobbit home and our guide pointed to a little sign on the mailbox. “See this?  This symbol indicates what trade this Hobbit does. “  For example, if the hobbit that lived in the home was a carpenter, then there might be a hammer painted on his mailbox.

Each home was exquisitely detailed and thought out…just like the mailboxes.  There were bunches of herbs laying outside, and miniature everything.  Someone asked if we could go inside, and we learned that there is no inside.  In each home, there is only enough room to go in and close the door.  The scenes that took place inside Bags End, Bilbo’s home in the movie, were filmed in a studio on Wellington.

About midway through Hobbiton we came across a large tree.  I recognized the tree from the part in the movie where they have Bilbo’s party – when he disappears. It is known on the set as “party tree.”

It was a fine day – Lauren B was a champ.  He survived with only a few scrapes and bruises.  And best of all, we went just a couple days after they lifted the copyright restriction which means we get to share this story and these photos with you!

Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Piko back in the news!

Well, I just saw a copy of the latest sail magazine and we have a nice little blurb in there about our trip to Tonga to see the country and do the cruising regatta in VaVa’u.



There is also a photo of Dilligaf, which is own by our friends Bill and Sue from Seattle.

We also are the background image for the pacific puddle jump website for this upcoming season.

How cool is that?

Categories: S/V Piko, South Pacific | 4 Comments

We’re not dead yet…

Sorry we have been lame on the posting since we have been in New Zealand! We have been having such a great time exploring the country we haven’t had a chance to post as much as we want. We (not-as-cute-Lauren actually) am sitting in Auckland right now, while cuter Lauren is back in the states visiting family and friends. We have been lucky enough to have 4 of our friends come and visit us while we have been here as well.

My Friend Jared and I did the northern circuit hike around Mt Tongariro. I am not a huge LOTR geek, but I also believe some of you might know it as Mt Doom. It was a spectacular hike, and we were lucky enough to have great weather to do it in. I have seen more pictures of a rocky trail in the fog that the spectacular views that we saw.

We were originally planning on hiking around this and a second volcano, but my knee started bothering me and we decided to only do the first half of the trip since the second half had no easy outs in case it got worse.

We ended up back in Auckland a little earlier than expected, so went out sailing for a rum race instead. We even ended up winning a bottle of rum! Jared is out assisting the judging of a international match racing competition this weekend being put on my the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and I am getting some guitar time in.

We are almost up to date with getting photos uploaded onto the internet. We have uploaded over 2000 already and have about 500 more to go.  What we have can all be found here!


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We swam with the whales!


Every year, a group of humpback whales migrates to Tonga from the Northern Pacific.  There are around a 100 or so in this group.  The mothers will give birth to their calves in the deep waters outside of Vava’u, and then they will around the islands until it is time for them to go back to the northern ocean where they will feed.


Tonga is one of the only places in the world where it is legal to get close enough to humpback whales to swim with them.  And last month, that’s just what we did.  And yep, it was worth it.


After doing some research, we decided to go with a group called Dive Vava’u, which was run by a husband and wife teach – both of who were marine bioligists.  We had Paul as the skipper of our whale boat.  Along with our good friends from Brittania, Dilligaf and Eden (who took these photographs- thanks Eden!), we left early in the morning aboard a small powerboat and ventured towards the outer islands of Vava’u in search of whales.  After motoring for a couple of hours we slowed down.


“Whale!” said Jesse, the friendly whale guide who was on Paul’s staff.


Paul throttled the motor down further and we slowly creeped toward the flute (whale tale) that was spotted.  “We’ll time him to see how long he’s down.  If he’s down for much longer than 16 minutes, then that means it is most likely a singing male which means he won’t be at the surface much”, he said.


We waited for more than 16 minutes and moved on since we didn’t see him resurface.  20 minutes later we spotted another whale – a mother and her calf…even better!  Only 4 people could be in the water at any time with the guide and the whales so Piko (us!) and Dilligaf went first. Paul instructed us to get in our wetsuits and be ready to get in the water at any moment.  We stayed with the motor on near the whale for about 10 minutes, giving her time to get used to our sounds and presence. 


Lauren, Bill, Sue and I all sat on the stern of the boat with our fins trailing in the water and our goggles on our face.  We were giddy with anticipation.


Suddenly Paul shouted behind us, “Ok go!”


We jumped in the water and swam towards the whales.  As we were snorkeling, our eyes were facing down.  All the sudden I saw a patch of white amidst the deep blue of the water below me and realized that this was the whale.  She and her calf ascended and surfaced – about 20 feet in front of us.  We could see her eyes and I was amazed how laid back she was considering we were so close to her young.


The calf was very animated and playful – doing twirls in the water and swimming laps around its mother. At one point the calf left its mother and swam towards us.  It got so close that we all had to move back for fear we would get smacked by its enormous tail.  “Amazing” is such a bland word to describe the feeling of being so close to such a large animal, but that’s the word I’m giving – because that is what it was.  I could see all the lines and textures that moved liked wind-blown sand along the length of the whale’s body.


We swam for the whales for about an hour and then got back in to the boat to head home.  Paul told us that they adhere to a policy of only swimming with a particular whale for a certain time period so to not stress it out.  If you are ever in Tonga, please go do this while you still can.  I promise you that when you and a whale stare back at each other, that you will not forget it.





Categories: South Pacific | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

We made it to New Zealand! Top 5 quotes from the crossing…

Well, we made it here! The Bay of Islands are beautiful. Here are the trips top 5 quotes, in no particular order.

1. “Lauren, wake up…the headsail is falling off the boat.” – Lauren girl
2. “&($(@&$&&&($$#@&*$!!dammit!” – Lauren boy
3. “Are you awake?” “Yeah” “Ok, I dreamt I woke you up three times already and I needed to make sure this is reality”
4. “Looks like the granny bars are leaking – there’s water coming down that might drip on your face.” – Lauren boy
5. “The rougher this trip is, the more awesome it will be when we get to New Zealand.” – Krister quoting Lauren girl back to Lauren girl. Thanks for the reminder, Krister!

We are so happy to be here and can’t wait to explore the islands

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 6 Comments

Almost there…

It has been a wet and bouncy day so far, and sadly we lost our borrowed surf board overboard sometime really early this morning. The winds have been in the high teens to low all day and we are beating into it to get to NZ. The swell has also increased over the last few hours and Piko is a little more damp than usual. She is usually a pretty dry boat, but the dorades to drip a bit when we take a wave over the boat and we have a few small drip leaks here and there that have both of us annoyed at this point. I am downloading the latest forecast right now, but if the one from yesterday proves true, the wind should back off a bit over the next 6 hours or so which hopefully will decrease the swell and increase our speed. That would be great, since it will get us in around lunch time rather than dinner time at our current speed.

Hopefully our next message will be sent when we are in site of land tomorrow!

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We are now under way for NZ. It has been a rainy and breezy morning, but us and Britannia are off. Britannia almost didn’t leave because of a small plumbing problem in the galley, but decided to push on anyway. We should be in NZ in 9 days or so if the weather holds out! And then we will have REAL internet and can upload photos and bigger stories again! 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Still in Tonga

Sorry we have been quiet lately! We have been enjoying Tonga immensly, but have been at remote and secluded anchorages without email for most of that time. I also ended up delivering a boat for a good friend of ours from Tonga to New Zealand two weeks back or so. Our friend got a staph infection in his leg from a scrape while diving and ended up in the hospital for almost two weeks of IV antibiotics and didn’t have enough time to sail his boat to NZ before his daughters wedding. So I and another friend delivered his boat for him and are now back in Tonga awaiting weather for our own trip.

More soon, we promise!

Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Regatta Vava’u update

Piko took second in class for the regatta in light and trying conditions. At least the crew was having a great time. We barely made it out though since I was replacing the luff tape on our sail which we tore earlier and we hooked coral and had to dive our anchor to leave!

We then had a great party on the beach that night for the full moon, or at least one of the Lauren’s did. Cute Lauren was a little tired after dinner, so she decided to take a nap and join us later, since we knew the party was going to be going until late. I dinghy-pooled with Britannia to the party. The party itself was pretty wild, it had a good DJ on a cool beach, lots of people all dressed up and wired up with glowing costumes etc. There also was some local dancers and fire dancers there as well. The ironic part of the story is cute Lauren woke up around 11, later than she had intended to sleep. She heard one of her favorite Prince songs (I think he is Prince again) and decided to get a dressed up and to take the dingy into shore to find us. She gets about 3/4 of the way in and runs the outboat onto a shallow reef, not knowing there was a specific channel to get in. She ended up having to get out of the dinghy and drag is over the coral since she didnt want to use the engine in fear of breaking a prop. So, in her cute little black dress, was wading mid thigh deep in the water to the beach. Then she couldn’t get the engine to flip up to bring it all the way up the beach. After finally getting the dinghy tied up, she starts looking for us and can’t find us, but decided to dance a little bit and look for us in a bit. After THAT song, they come on the mike and say the music is over. Tonga is quite conservative and religious and there is basically nothing allowed on sunday, and it was now at midnight. Little did she know, we left about 20 minutes earlier and maybe even passed each other on our way back. I got dropped off, and tried to lock the dinghy up for the night, but it wasn’t there! Weird, so I looked for Lauren thinking she had and and she was gone and about 5-10 minutes later, she made it back to the boat, well, and a little irritatated at the whole situation. Oh well I guess, we did have a nice relaxing day on the boat afterwards before getting ready to race home again the next day.

We did take first in the LeMans type race on the way back. The race started at the skippers meeting on shore, so I dinghy back to the boat, raise the anchor, get sailing etc, then launch the dinghy after a mark in the race and the finish line was in a local bar… We took first and class and second overall, only behind a swan 53 that day!

We are off to the awards ceremony soon… We are both really excite as well since we book a reservation today to swim with humpback whales on thursday. Tonga is the only place in the world that allows us to actually swim with them and we have talked with several people who have said it is amazing! And we also feel well since the group we are going with in involved with conservation and the people bringing us out are marine biologists.

Categories: Racing, S/V Piko | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Grand Theft Scooter: Raratonga Edition

The day before we left wonderful Raratonga, I decided I wanted to hitchhike to the other side of the island to see about getting some pearls drilled. Hitchhiking in Raratonga was extremely easy – the people there are quintessential friendly Polynesians and the island is super small so it didn’t take long to get around anyways. A friendly Kiwi man gave me a ride from the harbor to Tokelau Jim’s.

When I was done I crossed the street, stuck my thumb out and no sooner than 4 seconds did a guy on a scooter pick me up. I climbed on and he took off – flying down the winding road. He wasn’t going all the way to Avatiu harbor so he took me to where he worked and told me to wait – that he would get his friend to give me a ride the rest of the way. I went into the adjacent store to grab some fresh eggs and when I came out I stood by some parked scooters to wait for his friend. A big Polynesian kid about 20 years old came out and introduced himself. We hopped on another scooter and rode towards the harbor while talking about travel, island life and other things.
We pulled into the harbor and he stopped the scooter and turned around.
“So is this your scooter?” he asked.
“Um, no. It’s not yours?”
“Nope.” He paused. “Hmm…must belong to someone at the store. Well it was nice to meet you!”
Off he went, my partner in crime. Together we heisted some stranger’s scooter. Oops. But as I found in island life, people are laid-back and friendly and I bet everything worked out just fine.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 3 Comments

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