After a few twists and turns, a Dutch couple’s quest to find the Kiwi builder of the boat they bought in Spain 15 years ago has a happy ending. Story by Janneke Kuysters, photography by Weitze van der Laan.

“Nice boat!”
Countless times we have heard this compliment about our Anna Caroline. We are proud of her; as a true bluewater yacht she has kept us safe for close to 50,000 miles. In 2003 we bought her in Spain off a New Zealander.
Larry needed the money and was done cruising. We took her to the Netherlands and refitted her. Of course we kept the beautiful kauri interior. In one of the drawers we found a little green man. We didn’t know what it was, but kept it as a tribute to the former owner.

The writers at Cape Reinga

The name Espresso didn’t work for us, so we renamed her Anna Caroline van Staeten Landt. The names of our mothers, combined with the first name Abel Tasman gave to New Zealand.
Then we set off on our circumnavigation.
One important goal was to visit New Zealand and find out more about the history of our boat. But it took us a while to get there: we sailed over four years and visited 24 countries before finally tying up to the dock in Whangarei. After some well-deserved maintenance we left Anna Caroline in the Town Basin, bought a car and set off on a road trip.
All available information pointed to Nelson, so that’s where we started. Our yacht is a Bruce Roberts 44, with a centre cockpit and a hard dodger.
The Nelson Yacht Club was very helpful. Soon we were in touch with former Commodore Kim Harris, an expert steel boatbuilder who knows everything there is to know about steel boats in the Nelson region.
He and many of his friends got involved. No stone was left unturned, but no information was found about builder Dennis Field, nor about a Bruce Roberts 44 with the distinct features of our boat. We even looked for him in all sorts of records at the local Council offices: with the help of the staff voting registrations, dog tax files – even cemetery records were explored. Nothing.
In the end, we asked the regional newspaper for help. Within a day of our quest going online, it was shared on sailing platforms, and soon after the phone rang: “Dennis was my best friend. He built your boat in 1988 on the North Shore. You’re looking in the wrong place,” said Steve Collins.

The tiki comes home.

In that  phone call we found answers to our many questions. Two degrees of separation: it is true. Especially in the boating community. And the little green man? We now know that we sailed a tiki back to Aotearoa.