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Hey Sailor, for a Good Time in NZ

Former Point Richmond cruiser Antonia Murphy stands in the doorway of the one-bedroom brothel she co-owns in Whangarei.

© 2017 New Zealand Herald

One of the most colorful cruising couples with one of the most colorful cruising boats we can remember were Peter and Antonia Murphy and their Point Richmond-based Mariner 36 Sereia. They took off in 2006 with their ketch painted in wild colors. From time to time they reported in to Latitude 38, with unique perspectives on their adventures as they made their way down the coast and across the Pacific.

The couple later split up, and we don’t know what happened to Peter.

Antonia, on the other hand, is continuing to lead a colorful life as the co-owner of the Whangarei, New Zealand-based The Bach, which she describes as a one-room "ethical brothel" intended "to bring prostitution out of the shadows."

Prostitution was decriminalized in New Zealand 14 years ago, but Murphy says that those who buy and sell sex are still cast in the shadows. She doesn’t like that, and intends to change things.

"I see no reason why it [prostitution] shouldn’t be done in a healthy, safe, open way," she told Corazon Miller of the New Zealand Herald. "New Zealand seems way ahead of the curve in terms of decriminalization, and yet for some reason much of the sex industry is still bogged down in sort of shady working practices."

Born and raised in San Francisco, Murphy graduated from Columbia University with a degree in European History and Comparative Politics. Following graduation, she spent years traveling and doing odd jobs ­before taking off cruising with Peter. She arrived in New Zealand 10 years ago.

Murphy is proud of the way her workers are treated with "respect," which means they are paid at least $150/hour, briefed on their legal rights and provided with free on-site child care, and have a drug-free environment.

Murphy’s philosophy is that women own their bodies, and if they want to monetize them, that’s their business. She says she will not hire women who are in “desperate” situations, but only those women who enjoy sex and who are happy to do this work of their own free will. While Murphy is co-owner of The Bach, she is not a prostitute herself.

The decriminalization of prostitution was an extremely contentious issue in New Zealand, and passed by the narrowest of margins, 60 to 59. A lot of investors seemed to think that running a ‘house of ill-repute’ was the path to a lucrative living, as 326 such businesses were established in lightly populated New Zealand shortly after prostitution became legal in 2003. However, 260 of the establishments have already closed. But the fantasy lives on, as applications are pending for another 94.

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"Now that the days are starting to become a little longer and dare I say drier soon, we’ll be hopefully enjoying some late afternoon and early evening sailing once again," writes Chuck Bullett, vice commodore of Berkeley Yacht Club.