Guest Interview Jo and Robbie Ashton – Southern Star N47

Jo & Robbie in France on a road trip

So, Robbie, tell us a little something about your cruising to date and where you have been so far?

We brought Southern Star in New Zealand in August 2013 and began cruising fulltime in November. We cruised around New Zealand for 7 months for our shakedown cruise and we both loved the remote, rugged beauty of the South Island, Fiordland and Stewart Island. We met James and Jennifer Hamilton on board Dirona, N52, in a remote part of Fiordland.

We joined up with 2 sailboats Stormvogel Peter and Heidi, (Germany) and Oda Per and Elisabeth (Norway) and left New Zealand in May 2014 for Vanuatu, where we cruised together for 4 weeks, then across the Coral Sea to Australia. Half way across the Coral Sea Stormvogel nearly sank and we were involved in a dramatic rescue involving all 3 boats and a container ship. Stormvogel was saved and we continued to Cairns Australia. We all then joined a rally of 22 other sail yachts with us the only motor boat, and cruised to Indonesia and Borneo for 4 months. Then a short hop through Singapore, we spent a couple of months in Malaysia and then arrived in Thailand late January 2015. We cruised Thailand for 4 months and then got lifted on a boat transport ship to go through the Red Sea as we did not want to go through the pirate areas.

Atlantic Crossing Mahi Mahi Jo’s catch

Southern Star and Stormvogel arrived in Turkey in May and we cruised Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Spain and then to Gibraltar. We had to farewell Stormvogel in Spain as they had almost completed their circumnavigation and were sailing back to Germany after Christmas. We met up with Starlet Nordhavn 46 Mark and Jennifer Ullman in Spain and cruised together to Morocco and then the Canary Islands to prepare for our Atlantic Crossing. Due to storms in the North Atlantic we headed further south to Cape Verde and together with Starlet we departed in mid-January 2016 to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Per, Elisabeth, Heidi, Jo, Robbie with guide Peter

We arrived in Barbados after 15 days non-stop and had a rondeaveau and Nordhavn Interview with Dirona and Starlet. We then spent a few months and cruised through the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Turks & Caicos Islands and spent a month in the Bahamas. We met and cruised with a number of other Nordhavns also this year – L’Adagio N76, Moonrise N47, Iriana N47, Blossom N60, Giddy Up N55, Sunday Morning N55, and Ghost Rider N47. We also met Shear Madness N74, Kapowai N64, Tigerbalm N46, Cocamo N40 and Fotini III N68.

L’Adagio, Southern Star and Starlet

When we have been together with too many boats we love having a “dinghy raft up” for Sundowners. It’s a lot of fun and we have done it all over the world from the tip of Australia enjoying fresh prawns straight from the fishing trawler, to the Caribbean with a number of Nordhavn owners.

We arrived in Florida in early June this year bringing Southern Star back to her “home country”.

We have visited a total of around 35 countries in 3 years and travelled almost 20,000 nautical miles.

Swimming Pigs The Bahamas

Why did you choose Nordhavn?

Robbie loves fishing and his last 2 boats were game boats, a Bertram 28 and then a Bertram 35 named “It’s All Good”. He had an idea to circumnavigate Australia when he retired. We were advised by a skipper to check out Nordhavns and once we did we fell in love with the quality of the boats construction, and the Nordhavn “family” aspect. Robbie loved the mechanical features and JoJo loved the quality fit out and the safety reputation. Once we found out about Nordhavns the idea grew and expanded to travel around the world.

Double hook up crossing the Atlantic Robbie and Peter

What has been your cruising highlight so far?

So many to mention but the ones that stand out are

Visiting the Live Volcano in Vanuatu

Witnessing Land diving in Vanuatu

Seeing Orangutans in the jungle in Borneo,

A kiss from a baby elephant in Thailand,

Giving school books, pencils, Lollipops, reading glasses and other stuff to the locals in 3rd world countries

Swimming in a Bait Ball under the boat in Norman Island,

Crossing oceans in a reliable vessel with the ability to rescue sinking yachts!

Crossing the equator

Hand feeding near extinct iguanas and swimming pigs in the Bahamas

Meeting and making friends for life from all over the world – Germany, Norway, Australia, Denmark, Austria, and the USA

Present from Whitely, Dusky Sound NZ

We are really going to miss meeting people on boats from all walks of life – we have connected with people on tiny yachts from Ireland on a shoe string budget to large Nordhavns and many in-between!

Bait Ball with Robbie in the middle of it

Land diving Pentecost Island, Vanuatu

Do you travel with an animal/s on board?

We get the odd hitchhikers we have had birds, flying fish, crabs but nothing permanent – we do differ on the animal policy, Jo would have dogs, cats and all creatures great and small and Robbie prefers not to have pets. Do weevils count? We did discover some weevils in some herbs we brought in Thailand.

Hitchhiker on route to Cairnes, Australia

In your past life what did you and Jo do?

Robbie worked as a consultant in the Tunnelling Industry and Jo is the Business Manager at Helensvale High School (currently on leave)

Waterfall Bay, Pentecost, Vanuatu

Jo, if there is one thing Robbie does that irritates you while underway what would that be?

He is a wee bit messy….and I’m a bit OCD….

And it’s only fair I ask Robbie the same question, so Robbie, if there was one thing Jo does that irritates you what would that be?

She’s great at back seat driving – but with the best intentions!

Onto irritating things, have you ever run out of something while at sea that has caused problems?

Water maker parts in remote locations such as Vanuatu – not that it caused major problems and our yachtie friends were rolling around in hysterics when we were concerned that the water maker boost pump failed and we only had 200 gallons of water left, which was much more than they all carried.

Wall Bay, Turkey

Would you describe yourselves as more hunters or more gathers?

 Both – Robbie is the Hunter he loves fishing and JoJo is the Gatherer, she loves shopping!

Why did you name your vessel Southern Star?

She was already named this when we brought her and we loved the name.

What other names did you consider?

We also loved the name of our last boat “It’s all Good”

What is the one lesson every boater should learn?

It will cost more than you think it’s going to!

Tanna, Mt Yasur, smoke and lava

What is your favourite anchorage and why?

Lizard Island in Australia – it’s a remote island within the Barrier Reef, with a beautiful sandy beach and clear water. There is some interesting history there, there’s an amazing Giant Clam Garden to snorkel or dive on, and at night time we had many huge Giant Trevally swimming in the underwater lights on the back of the boat which we were hand feeding.

GTs Lizard Island, Australia

What is your favorite Marina and why?

Bahia Mar in Fort Lauderdale – We were met at the dock by one of the staff, he assisted us to tie up and he had the paperwork ready, the gate key, the Wi-Fi password, they were so organised we didn’t even have to visit the office. We were very impressed – this was our first impression of the USA. It’s also a great location with the beach on one side and walking distance to restaurants.

What is your favourite quote and why? Robbie –“Pay it forward” because I help where I can and hope when I need it, help will be at hand. It can be as simple as advice, or fixing mechanical problems for friends and acquaintances for no other reason than to help.

Playing tourists in Italy

Cod caught in Chalky Inlet NZ

What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while at sea?

It would have to while cruising in Vanuatu with Oda and Stormvogel, on a beautiful day and we are driving from the fly bridge, when suddenly Oda sails right up close beside us and Per is half way up Oda’s mast. He was trying to get to the height that we were sitting at, to see the view that we could see! He is one funny guy and we had a lot of similar moments with him.

The funniest thing that happened not on the sea was with Mark and Jennifer and with Robbie driving and Mark Navigating, they somehow ended up driving into the middle of the Medina in Marrakech where no cars are supposed to go. Eventually we got so far we couldn’t go any further and they had to try and turn the car around. Jennifer and JoJo were cringing in the back seat!

Driving in the Medina Marrakech Morocco

Starlet alongside while crossing the Atlantic

What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made on the water?

We were cruising along the coast of Spain with Stormvogel and the weather deteriorated, Stormvogel had a bilge alarm going off and Peter wanted to go into the nearest marina. It was a narrow bar entrance surrounded by a rocky shoreline and a 90 degree turn as soon as you entered. We sat and watched the waves running through the bar for a few minutes. It looked OK but once we started going through the bar the waves were picking us up and pushing us around and we only just managed to get through without hitting the rocks. We were both badly shaken by the experience. In hindsight we should have continued onto our planned destination. Crossing bars in a displacement boat such as a Nordhavn is not fun in bad weather.

Corsica tight berthing

Langkawi Malaysia

What is your most hated boat job?

Robbie – anything to do with Silicon I hate the stuff

Jo – making the bed in the guest stateroom

Tell us a little something about Southern Star?

Southern Star started life in Seattle, named Borealis, she was brought by a New Zealand couple and shipped to New Zealand from Mexico. She was 9 years old when we brought her and she only had 920 hours on the engine. She had barely been used by the 2 previous owners.

Southern Star

What is the one thing you are most afraid of?

Robbie – Running out of beer

Jo – Sharks

Fun in T & C

What’s your favourite photo ever taken while at sea and why?

The photos of Southern Star involved in rescuing Stormvogel in the middle of the Coral Sea

Rescue on the high seas

Full story about the rescue can be found HERE

What would you never leave behind (besides each other) when heading out to sea?

Robbie – My tool kit and my glasses. JoJo – a fully stocked fridge, pantry and the sat phone

Corinth Canal, Greece

Jo tell us something about yourselves that nobody knows?

Whilst on holiday in Thailand in 2008, walking through the night markets we got enticed into a seedy strip bar with the lure of $1 Heinekens. Once we got in there we were surrounded by semi naked ladies and then a tray of shots arrived that they expected us to pay for at a ludicrous price. Robbie was surprised by JoJo firing up and refusing to pay. They locked the doors on us and it was a very scary moment. Robbie had his wallet out ready and wanted to pay and JoJo refused. Eventually they unlocked the doors and let us out. Lesson learnt – If it sounds too good to be true – it usually is!!!

Anglawat Vanuatu Robbies keen for a taste of Kava

And finally, where to next?

We have received an offer to buy Southern Star from a New Zealand couple, so it is back to Australia in December to spend some time with our 7 kids, 3 grandkids and other family and watch this space for our next Nordhavn adventure in a few years’ time…

Thank you very much for your time, will be watching this year’s progress closely.

Good luck with your travels!

South Bimini

And their blog site at: HERE

Proudly bought to you by: Pendanablog


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