The old tourism slogan ‘don’t leave town till you’ve seen the country’ has been given new life since the Covid pandemic has closed New Zealand’s borders. And now the philosophy has been applied to island cruising – because, hey, Aotearoa is a group of islands too, right? Story by Sarah Ell.

That’s the thinking behind Island Cruising’s first ever South Island rally, to be run this summer. Christchurch sailor and business owner Viki Moore, who has recently taken the helm of the longstanding organisation, has decided that while the pandemic continues to make cruising to more tropical islands impossible, why not start with our own group of beautiful and imminently cruiseable motu?

The plan is for northern yachts to gather in Opua in the Bay of Islands after Christmas, before heading around North Cape and down the west coast to the Abel Tasman National Park, to meet up with Wellington and South Island-based boats. Cruisers will spend a couple of weeks exploring these beautiful and historic waters, making their way to the Marlborough Sounds via D’Urville Island.

Here, Island Cruising has arranged with Picton’s Waikawa Boating Club for rally members to use the around 80 moorings it manages in the Sounds, as well as inviting them to take part in the cruising division of its New Year regatta in early January. Rally participants will also have access to the local Marlborough-Nelson VHF marine radio channels for communications and weather updates, which Moore describes as “a local fount of knowledge for that area”.

At the end of January, the rally will head down the east coast to Banks Peninsula, where cruisers can explore Lyttelton, Akaroa and the lesser-known bays of the region. The Akaroa Yacht Club is organising social events for rally participants, and there will be information sessions for those heading further south. Then, once a suitable weather window arises, the fleet will continue down the east coast to Stewart Island, with the possibility of stops at Timaru, Oamaru or Dunedin if required, then on to Fiordland.

“We do have to be fairly flexible, depending on the weather, and a lot will be determined by when people arrive as to how long we spend here, but we’re hoping for a good couple of weeks at Stewart Island,” Moore says. “One of the things people have said is that they want to spend lots of time there and in Fiordland so we are going to be as flexible as we can so people can do what they want.”


Moore says one of the big advantages of cruising with the rally is the weather routing, which will be provided by Australian meteorologist Bruce Buckley, who has previously provided routing for the Sydney-Hobart and worked with the Australian Olympic sailing team. As at the top of the island, in the south participants will be able to tap into Southland Marine VHF to get detailed weather information and network with local boaties and fishers.

After the southern sojourn, the group will return up the west coast to Abel Tasman, before trips back to their home bases.

Moore says a few different aspects to the rally are appealing to cruisers. “There’s the social aspect of meeting other people that are going to be heading in the same direction, and you can team up and share resources and ideas and socialise along the way. We also offer a whole lot of preparation workshops leading up to the rally, with people sharing information about their experiences. And we can help people finding crew for passages, and then there are other offers and deals along the way, like group discounts and arrangements with local businesses.

Viki Moore & Naval Point Commodore Willie Newman.

“So it’s that combination of preparation and the support along the way. Island Cruising does a lot of the donkey work, researching places to go and supplying the information people need that they would otherwise have to spend a lot of time finding out themselves.”

The southern rally is a way for Moore to dip her toe in the waters of organising such an event, having taken over the Island Cruising operation from previous owners Nigel and Amanda Richards earlier this year. The organisation itself was established more than 30 years ago, by Don and Jenny Mundell, and has helped hundreds of Kiwis and international sailors make it safely up to and around the islands of the Pacific. As well as running the rallies, Island Cruising also aims to provide advice, support and training courses for people planning on long coastal or overseas voyages, assisting cruisers visiting New Zealand, and promoting the New Zealand marine industry to local and international boaties.

Moore’s professional background is in the travel industry and she has also worked at Parliament as the electorate representative for National MP Sir David Carter. She has been sailing since she was a child, starting out in a pink Optimist; is a director of Yachting New Zealand and has founded two sailing organisations: the Little Ship Club of Canterbury and Women Who Sail New Zealand. Her current vessel is Wildwood, a timber Young 88, which she has owned since 2003.

The Richards’ contacted Moore on the recommendation of mutual friend John Hembrow, organiser of the Down Under cruising rallies between Australia, New Caledonia and Vanuatu.


“I originally thought ‘is this something I want to take on?’, especially with all the uncertainty around Covid, but Nigel and Amanda were very keen for me to buy the business,” Moore says.
“I had been doing some work with the international cruisers here [during Covid], lobbying for them to get visa extensions and other assistance, and I had my finger in lots of different pies. I felt like I needed a new project, and realised this was something I could get my teeth into.

“One of my hesitancies was that there were no guarantees that anyone was going to be able to go anywhere, but I decided I could pivot, and organise the South Island rally as a start for this year. The South Island is my home and I know a lot of the waters around here really well.”

Moore says around 50 people contacted her wanting information about the rally when it was first announced in September, and 10 boats were already signed up as at early October. “When I started planning for it I was hoping to get around twenty boats to start with, and it’s looking like we’re going to reach that target and maybe a few more. Some people want to just do the Marlborough Sounds, and some of the South Island boats want to do just Stewart Island and Fiordland, and we can accommodate that.

“This one being my first rally, it will be good to get all the systems and processes in place, and get a formula going. It’s a great practice run for me for the Pacific next year, which is looking really promising.”

Despite the ravages of Covid, both Fiji and New Caledonia are keen to reopen their sea borders to cruising boats, and hopefully other island groups will follow suit. In the 2019 rally, prior to the pandemic, 35 boats made the journey northwards from New Zealand, and Moore says she has a list of about 50 boat-owners keen to join in as soon as it is possible.

Viki Moore aboard Wildwood.

Moore’s vision for Island Cruising is to build on that great reputation the organisation has built up over the years. “I’m really keen to really collaborate with all the yacht clubs around New Zealand and the Pacific and create a really great community, so that everyone knows about all the things that are going on in cruising circles, and can share lots of information. In the past, people have got a bit isolated and be doing their own thing and not sharing the amazing stuff going on.

“The overall goal is to promote cruising, getting people prepared and getting them upskilled, and also sharing their knowledge with others, so everyone can all benefit from it. I see a lot of opportunities for collaboration.”


Island Cruising currently has about 350 members, an increase of about 200 this year, with a newsletter going out to around 5,000 interested parties, as well as a social media presence (more than 7,500 people follow the Facebook page).

While Covid restrictions seem likely to continue in coming months, Moore says there is less chance of the whole event being disrupted by the pandemic, unlike planning to head offshore.

“Hopefully by the time the rally starts [in late December] everyone will be under the same level of restrictions, but in the meantime we just need to press on organising it and hope for the best.”