Hi, Hey, Kia Ora,
Halo and G’day Mate
We’re Rob and Kerri Price.
Up until recently our life probably looked a lot like yours, because let’s face it, most of us live a slightly different version of the same life. Rob had often dreamed about selling up and cruising the world, but with kids in school and businesses to run, it seemed like a dream for the far-off-distant-future.
Then, in 2015, Cyclone Pam ripped through Vanuatu. Our 18 year old daughter, Courtney, was volunteering on Pentecost at the time. We knew from news reports that her village had been destroyed, but for 8 days, we were unable to make direct contact. We had no idea if she was safe and all we could do was wait. Rob was on a catamaran in the middle of the Great Australian Bite and I was home in New Zealand trying to stay calm. As you can imagine, it was a really long week!
When Courtney finally made contact, I dropped everything and headed over to help with the clean-up. I had volunteered in developing countries before, and I had also been involved in crisis management, so it wasn’t a completely random decision. However, it was my first time to visit Vanuatu, and to be fair, it was my first time seeing such urgent need on such a massive scale.
Over the next 2 weeks, we got stuck in providing all sorts of emergency relief. It was while working amongst the cyclone-hit communities, that I felt an overwhelming call to ‘sit and stay’. It’s a hard feeling to describe, but in a single moment I knew that our involvement with Vanuatu wasn’t going to be a one-time thing. I knew we would be involved for the long term.
So, over the next couple of years we traveled back and forth to Vanuatu every few months. We got involved with a range of different projects and supported local initiatives in the areas of health, education and community development. We had so much going on that we decided to establish the Equip Vanuatu Charitable Trust to manage and oversee our charitable work. (For more information about that work, click here.)
The more trips we made, the more we thought about moving to Vanuatu more permanently. We started thinking, planning and praying about how we could make a positive difference for people in the South Pacific. We rationalised, we agonised, we strategised, and then we realised – this was a chance for passion and purpose to meet. Buying a boat and living a missionary life was not a logical decision that was going to be confirmed by a spreadsheet and a list of pros and cons. This was something that we felt called to do – not for the lifestyle, but for the difference we could make in people’s lives.
So after many months of searching, we finally took ownership of our Freebird 50 Catamaran on March 9, 2018. Her name at the hand-over was Koncerto, but given that neither Rob nor I are particularly musical we wanted to re-name her something more relevant. We discussed boat names for months before we settled on Hapai.
Not only is Hapai a nod to our New Zealand roots, it beautifully articulates what we hope to achieve through our cruising journey. Hapai is a Te Reo Maori word that means ‘to support, to shoulder and to raise up’. It also means ‘to begin a journey’, which is very much what we are doing.
This blog is a record of our journey. We’ll post about both the boat side and the volunteer side of our adventure. I can’t promise that we’ll post as often as we should, or that all the posts will make sense, but we hope that by sharing our adventure you will feel encouraged and supported in your own journey. After all, that’s what Hapai is all about.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where are you from?
We call Tauranga, New Zealand, home.
I was born in Auckland, but raised in Tauranga, and apart from a small stint away in my 20’s, it’s where I have always lived. Rob was born in Brisbane, Australia, but he’s been living in New Zealand for most of his adult life. When the All Blacks play the Wallabies he wears black, with a yellow scarf tucked underneath just in case.
Where are you right now?
We had to take Hapai out of Vanuatu for the cyclone season, so we joined the Go West Down Under Rally and headed to Australia at the end of October 2019. While we headed back to Vanuatu for some land-based projects in January and March 2020, the COVID crisis and subsequent border restrictions, means our plans have changed a little bit.
Unable to get the boat back to Vanuatu, we saw out the initial phase of COVID in Australia, then were granted permission to sail back to New Zealand in May 2020. We are currently berthed at Sulphur Point Marina in Tauranga, and we’ll be here until we figure out what we’re doing next. Who knows what or when that will be?!
What kind of boat do you have?
We have 1993 Freebird 50, which is a 50ft (15.3m) catamaran built in the UK. As best as we can work out she is one of only eight Freebird 50s ever built. Apparently, the moulds were destroyed in a fire not long after production began. You can read more about our search for the perfect boat by clicking here.
How much sailing experience do you have?
Of the two of us, Rob is definitely the sailor. He’s been in and around boats since he was a teenager and live aboard cruising has always been on his bucket list. He’s owned all sorts of boats (from fishing tinnies to racing trimarans) and he’ll take (or make) any excuse to get out on the water. He’s helped bring friend’s boats home from Australia, he’s had sailing holidays in the Med, and he is a long-serving Coastguard volunteer. He loves the friendly rivalry of Yacht Club racing and is happy to crew on any boat, any time, anywhere.
I, on the other hand, was a bit of a land lubber. Before meeting Rob I had only been on a boat twice in my life. Both times I had been horribly sea sick before even leaving the marina. Over the last decade I’ve become more comfortable around boats, but I still get sea sick from time to time and I’m far from a competent sailor. When people ask me why I’m doing this when I don’t really like boats, I tell them to pull up a chair. It’s quite a story!
How can you afford to throw in your jobs and do full-time volunteer work?
The short answer is we can’t. We’re not closet billionaires and we don’t have a massive passive income from a diamond-studded investment portfolio. We just decided that we’d rather live a life of purpose, than one of regret.
We have some amazing friends, family, strangers, organisations and businesses who choose to contribute to our work and we are so very grateful for their support. If you would like to support any of our charitable projects, you can find donation details here.
How long do you plan on cruising for?
We seriously have no idea. We will continue our work in Vanuatu until we feel it is time to move on. Then who knows what will happen?