Thursday, 16 June 2016

Arrival Back in NZ and Getting Ready for Australia

Arrival Back in NZ and Getting Ready for Australia 21 April – 14 May

Back To New Zealand

The flight was no worse than expected – 24 hours on the plane with a two hour stop-over in San Francisco. We had expected the worst in transiting through the America with the finger printing, visas, endless queues and so the slightly less than awful experience was upside.

We were met at Auckland airport at 6:30am by Glen and Jillian who had arranged to take us to their beach house and onto our boat the next day. After a very pleasant lunch sitting outside we began to appreciate being back in the warmth and the sunshine.  A shower and short sleep in the afternoon set us up for the rest of the day, playing games and relaxing over dinner.

The next day Glen and Jillian took us to buy some provisions on route back to the boat and we hauled our luggage back onto the boat, up the very steep ladder. The antifoul had been done while we were away and once I had sorted out the skin fittings that needed re-bedding, we could launch again – hopefully the next day which was Saturday. The yard foreman told me that they did not work at the weekend and the Monday was a public holiday so Tuesday was the earliest we could launch. That meant four nights on the hard with no running water, no toilet and a climbing the steep ladder up to the boat –we do not like staying on the boat on the hard. However it did give us four days to get on with jobs on the boat without the distraction of actually enjoying being on the boat.

Back in the Water

The launch went without a hitch and we motored off along the 15 mile river back out to the sea with a good forecast in the offing. After two hours the latest forecast had been updated with 30 knot winds and rough seas now replacing the original forecast and as we reached the mouth of the river we decided to anchor for the night while there was still plenty of daylight. Our only option was to anchor on a lee shore i.e. with the wind blowing us towards the land so that if the anchor drags the boat ends up as match wood on the beach.

We dropped out anchor with plenty of sea room between us and the shore in 30 knots of wind and we had four hours before dark to ensure the anchor was holding. By night fall we were confident the anchor was rock solid and despite the poor conditions, we were pleased to be back on the water. The forecast also predicted the winds would drop overnight to less than 10 knots by morning so things would only improve.

Back to Opua

With no wind for two days we were forced to motor with one overnight stop in a very pleasant anchorage on the way. We had brilliant sunshine, calm seas it was a relaxing couple of days and enabled us to check how the boat was working, albeit under motor rather than sail.

First night back was quiz night at the yacht club which we could not miss. We joined with Exocet Strike (John, Brian and Stella) to form a British contingent in the quiz and we were doing very well up until round 9 which had all questions on famous people in the press – the NZ press. We bombed out with just one question right but still managed to come in third place overall. It was a good night.

To work on the Boat

Our first priority was to get the water maker working efficiently and to stop the small leaks that had developed. We spent two days, stripping down the water maker, moving the pump so it was lower down in the boat and cleaning the water maker with the specialist chemicals I had bought back from the UK. The end result of all this was poultry 12 litres an hour which the water maker obviously thought was good enough – we disagreed. Advice from the supplier in the UK was to change all the seals and that should do the trick but we would have to have them sent out from UK.

I had changed all the seals not 6 months earlier and talking to other sailors, the complex energy recovery type water makers we had were very efficient but needed constant maintenance – most had junked theirs. So we did the same and invested in a mains driven system which would produce 115 litres per minute. The on-site company had a good reputation both for the quality and simplicity of their water makers but more importantly agreed to get it fitted before the end of the week.

Next day they started while I went off for a spot of golf at Waitangi with John Martin who runs the rallies from NZ. A very enjoyable afternoon in the warm sunshine and soft breeze off the sea and I played some of my best golf in a long time. OK I lost the game by two holes but we played off equal handicaps and he used to play off five, albeit fifteen years ago, so I was not too upset.

The second priority was to get the rigging finished off. I was concerned about the stiffness of the furling system and having read the manual decided that dismantling the furling winch was not something I wanted to tackle (I had plenty of other jobs that needed doing). Rob, the rigger we used before, spent 7 hours getting the winch apart, servicing it and doing a few other odd jobs. Seeing the problems he was having vindicated my decision not to do this one myself. No problems with the furling on the mainsail after that.


We had set aside two days for provisioning – one for Catherine to do a recce (while I continued to work on the boat) and the other to do the bulk of the buying. We had decided to provision not only for the journey across to Australia but also the bulk dry goods we needed for Indonesia where they are difficult to obtain. With three trolley loads, the small car that we hired was looking decidedly small. And noticeably slower on the way back.

Some of the worst part of a major provisioning is the getting it all from the car to the boat and then finding places to put it. We had had enough for one day so opted to put everything in the forward cabin and shut the door.

Going for a Test Sail

By the end of the first week it was clear that the window for leaving NZ had shifted back at least six days and so we decided that after the water maker had been finished on the Saturday, we would take a couple of days out in the Bay of Islands for a test sail. After all we had not actually sailed the boat since January and we were going to embark on an 1800 mile journey.
It was great to be out of the marina and into the bay again and we switched off the engine and sailed in 15 knot winds. Catherine spent most of the first afternoon asleep in the aft cabin which may have had something to do with John, Stella and Brian from Exocet Strike coming over for a drink the previous night.

That night we tackled the shopping still in the forward cabin and spent four hours getting things labelled, packaged and stored in a logical fashion i.e. so we had a sporting chance of actually finding something when we wanted it. It transformed the boat and after the last week of the boat being upside down due to all our maintenance efforts and installing the water maker, it felt like home again.

While we were at anchor we carried on with our list of jobs on the boat. As we sailed back into the marina we felt we had a good couple of days and we had at least practiced some of our routines like setting the pole for the genoa (which did take a few attempts before we got all the lines in the right place). All helps confidence.

Darts Night

Wednesday night is the darts competition in the yacht club (they play “halve-it” which we play in England), mainly played by locals but with a few visiting yachtsman thrown in. Catherine and I joined in for a bit of fun and remarkably I was in the lead for the whole game – up until the final round where I missed the centre of the board to end up in forth position. That final slip meant that I missed out on the first prize which was a glass of wine. So close yet so far – it could have been my glass of wine.

The next day we decided to do our fresh meat, fruit and vegetables provisioning for the trip to Australia – fourteen days. We had to plan it so that we had no fresh food left as you cannot bring these items into Australia. A small shopping trip compared to the last one.

Route and weather preparation

Since we had arrived back in Opua, I had been looking at the weather, talking to other sailors about tactics and sorting out all the weather forecasts for the journey. The advice was to head mainly North up until 25 degrees south (about 600 miles) and then turn left and head directly towards Mackay. It was a longer route than heading directly from Mackay but got you away quicker from NZ and the risk of a storm and quicker into the SE trade winds.

Final Preparation

We carried on doing jobs on the boat until 5pm on the Friday including filling up with diesel. At that point we could relax which was probably a bad thing. We both started thinking about the journey and the fact that we had not really sailed any distance in the last six months and we were about to set off on the longest journey with just the two of us on board.

The mild panic of the Friday night (pre match nerves) dissipated by the next morning as we checked out with Customs and had a final cup of coffee in the very nice café in the marina. We left at Noon with great confidence and actually looking forward to being back at sea. We also left with very fond memories of New Zealand and the people we knew well.

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