2014 – What a Year it Was!

What a year it was!

2014 was our second full year of cruising.  We visited three countries on RED: New Zealand, Tonga and Fiji, then New Zealand again.

We completed many ‘boat projects’ that makes our life aboard even more enjoyable, they included:

  • Installing new, high efficiency solar panels – that actually (almost) keep up with our consumption!
  • Installed a transformer to allow RED to accept the various electrical currents that are standard in the countries we visit.
  • Installed a new battery charger to be able to charge with the various frequency power we run into.
  • Created a rain flap for the foredeck, this allows us to keep the hatches open in the rain which is essential for keeping us cool up in the islands.
  • Re-bedded two port lights which had been leaking.  (Boating rule #1:  Keep water out of the boat!)
  • Recut the main sail and purchased a new headsail.
  • Installed 2 new hatches in the cockpit.
  • Painted RED’s bottom to keep the growth down.
  • Routine but time consuming maintenance on the engine, varnished wood and a beautiful wax job on RED’s red hull.

An ‘uneventful’ sail took us to Minerva Reef (which is owned by either Tonga or Fiji, they take turns claiming it, and blowing up the others’ navigation aids, then building their own…  When we were there a Tongan navy ship was there, so it was Tonga’s those days.)


  • A real highlight of our time in Tonga was Liz’s visit (Fran’s sister)!  We snorkeled, sailed (some), pub crawled, danced with the Faka Ladies, and made good friends.

And she brought 'Hot Tamales'!!!!

And she brought ‘Hot Tamales’!!!!

  • Just after Liz left, while out on ‘The Humdinger’, Fran caught and released a 250# Blue Marlin!  WOW!  What a fish!
Fran caught a fish! It was a real Humdinger!
Fran caught a fish! It was a real Humdinger!


A quick and easy passage in late July took us to Fiji!


  • After the official check-in we motored up the river to our mooring ball and saw many, many boats we know and friends on each.  It was a great ‘homecoming’.

From Fiji we headed to the states visiting Alaska, Oregon and California.  What a treat to catch up with friends and family!


  • We had a great, albeit too short, visit to Anchorage; catching up with Richard’s son & daughter-in-law Paul and Jennifer and many friends.
  • We spent an afternoon in Seward zip lining at Stoney Creek and had an absolute blast!
What fun it is to zip through the trees!
What fun it is to zip through the trees!


  • We stayed with dear friends and visited with many others.  We know we don’t want to live in Alaska again, but we sure do miss our Alaskan friends and family!


  • We attended (yet another) Kelly wedding when Fran’s niece Meagan was married in a lovely ceremony in August.   All 7 siblings, spouses and most of the nieces and nephews made it for the very happy reunion.
  • Richard’s daughter Ginger and grandson Wes migrated out West to join in some touring of Oregon.  Especially fun was a tour of the Oregon State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital by Fran’s sister-in-law, Terri, a member of the faculty there.
Three generations of Dowlings!
Three generations of Dowlings!
Ginger and Wes
Ginger and Wes on the Oregon Coast.
Exploring Mount St. Helens



  • Another highlight in Oregon was a tour of the Evergreen Aviation Museum which houses The Spruce Goose!  What fun to sit in the right seat and imagine Howard Hughes flying this monstrosity over the water in Long Beach.
Hugh's seat
Howard’s seat


  • We had a great visit with Robert, a longtime friend and compatriot of Richard’s.


A not quite so quick flight back to Fiji and we were off to enjoy the rest of our season.

  • We spent (not nearly enough) time anchored with friends in beautiful harbors, diving, dining and drinking!
  • Though we both have been diving most of our lives – some of our best dives yet were in Fiji!  Abundant, colorful sea life, interesting structure (with swim-throughs!), clear and warm water.  We can’t wait to get back up there and into the water!
Ah. Maze. Ing.
Ah. Maze. Ing.


A “Rainbows & Unicorns” 7 day 6 hour passage found us back in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.  The green hills, rocky islands and blue skies welcomed us back to our favorite home away from home.  We were welcomed with a lovely home cooked meal aboard the good ship Huck – great food, and even better friends!

New Zealand:

New Zealand 'snow' found on a short walk from RED.
New Zealand ‘snow’ found on a short walk from RED.
  • Two days after our arrival was Thanksgiving so we hosted an international group of 11 guests aboard RED. Friends from New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Switzerland and the US.
  • We’ve been chilling at the dock for the last few weeks preparing for some boat projects, resting and preparing to explore more of New Zealand
  • Christmas eve found us with dear, dear local New Zealand friends and their family.  It was a real treat to share their Christmas evening with them.
  • 2014 was Fran’s turn for the traditional reading of “Red Ranger Came Calling”.  If you haven’t read it yet, you won’t be disappointed – it’s a guaranteed true Christmas story.  This was the 20th annual reading.
  • Christmas day after opening our bounty, we joined friends old and new at, what will become our official, sheep dog trial clubhouse (yes, we’re becoming members).  A delightful afternoon of story telling, eating and laughter.  Then home to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and snuggled in to bed early.
  • A few days out in the Bay of Islands projecting (installing our new stereo, storing our Christmas decorations for another year), snoozing, kayaking (if it ever warms up) and enjoying is the way we’re saying goodbye to 2014.

Thank you all being a part of so many joyful memories in 2014.   We hope you’ll help us to make many more great memories in 2015!

Here’s what we’re looking forward to in 2015:

  • Touring the South Island of New Zealand by boat, rail and car.
  • Exploring New Zealand’s north island in RED
  • Sheep Dog Trials!
  • A trip to Alaska for the Iditarod!  We’ve talked some Kiwi friends into joining us and we can’t wait to share ‘Our Alaska’ with them.
  • Kelly Family Week in Oregon to celebrate: St. Paddy’s Day, Liz’s birthday, Joe’s birthday, Ted & Theresa’s wedding anniversary, Fran’s birthday, Margaret & Andy’s wedding anniversary and the spring equinox.  Should be fun, if we survive…
  • A visit to the east coast of the US to catch up with friends and family.
  • Then back to New Zealand for the North Island Sheep Dog Trial Finals.
  • A lovely “Rainbows and Unicorns” sail back to Fiji where we’ll spend 6 months in the water!  Snorkeling, diving, swimming and generally having fun!  BTW, many airlines fly to Fiji, why not hop aboard and visit us???
  • Then we expect to return to New Zealand – and after that, we’ll see!

May your 2015 be filled with friends, family, laughter, health, love and joy!

Much love,

Fran & Richard




  1. Dear Fran and Richard,
    So glad to hear of your happy Christmas and Happy New Year to you both. I look forward to being able to see you in March. Happy sailing!!
    Love, Patricia

  2. Testing,testing…..see if it works this time! You sure are leading the enchanted life! I’m so happy for you, and I’m looking forward to having you in Anchorage this winter! Happy Ne Year, which is yet to start here in Hawaii

  3. It’s great to see you two having fun. You are beginning to make me look forward to my permanent vacation…

    Take care, and keep the (not quite so) mossy side down.