Just a quick note to say that thankfully we were unaffected by cyclone Gabrielle. It looked at one point like the storm may travel south but it diverted east and a morning of light drizzle was the worst we experienced.

Parts of North Island especially around Napier and Gisborne was severely affected and the clear up will take months if not years. There are stories of scumbags stealing generators which are running mobile phone networks and looting in presently abandoned properties. All stuff which makes me dislike intensely some sections of the human race. Despicable actions you low life’s.

It does make me think about cyclones and tsunamis in underdeveloped countries. Maybe they don’t have as much infrastructure to lose but the options for immediate help, and the recovery process are incredibly limited. What is going on with the worldwide weather? Where does responsibility lie?

Changing tack, here are a few things about NZ that make me smile.

  • Road signs which say “Merge like a zip”
  • The Mullet haircut….which is surprisingly common
  • People with bare feet in the supermarket
  • The outdoor lifestyle
  • Really good, and I mean really good fish and chips

We worked all day on the ‘leak’ issue above the bed. Having ripped the ceiling out, we know where the water is getting in. Today we covered the new plywood panels with vinyl and have a plan to reinstate them in the future. We did some caulking and filling around the bow sprit and tomorrow the hosepipe comes out again. Fingers crossed my friends.

We rewarded ourselves with an evening bike ride for an hour then a trip to the pub. They make exceedingly good Sauvignon Blanc not far from here. I can heartily recommend an occasional glass after after a day of boat chores. 

I wrote something about 5 nights ago and the IT gremlins ate my words. It’s taken till today for me to return the scene of the crime and start again. Of course, this won’t be as bright and pithy as the last edition but here goes. Our recent Nelson news.

Just realised there are no photos of me here. All of Dave. But I do get exert editorial control. There are some photos of me out cycling. I am wearing my beige scout master shorts and look like a pillock so no evidence will be displayed here. Our friends Al and Breezy run a ski chalet out in Chamonix and there are never any photos of Al when they post updates. He is the keeper of the camera. I understand his perspective. (Or maybe Breezy is just a bit more photogenic and a better skier…..sorry Al!)

Our bikes have proved a real hit. We use them every day. Last weekend we headed out to the western end of Rabbit Island where the ferry goes to Mapua. It was about a 70km round trip, almost exclusively on the flat and on cycle paths. All good for us returning cyclists.

The hills behind Nelson are littered with forestry trails and mountain bike paths too. We ventured up there and cycled up our first big hill in forever. Remember we live at sea level. Hmm,. That was a lung busting escapade. The hill probably wasn’t even that big so more practice is definitely required.

Boat jobs are progressing. We will haul out around 22nd March. We ripped the ceiling out of the front bedroom in an effort to try and find the leak. And some of the deck had been recaulked and screws rebedded in the teak. We are awaiting a downpour to see if these reparations have worked. North Island has been visited by cyclone Gabrielle. Non stop rain, high winds and waves have been battering many places. We may get the outer fringes of it today but so far we’ve had a sprinkling of rain drops and that’s about it. So the hose pipe may have to come out for testing. Having a leak directly over the middle of your bed is not much fun.

It took all day to decide our new fabric for the sofas. So many choices. The current fabric is ripped and the foam is permanently pressed with bottom shaped holes. Patching the cloth is no longer an option I’m prepared to tolerate.We took swatch books back and forward to the boat. The one fabric we both really liked wasn’t going to possible to use because of the way the stripes ran on the bolt of cloth. So back to more looking, narrowing down and eventually a tick from both of us.

Until two days ago we were on the fisherman’s dock here in Nelson. Dave helped Fin load up with ice before he headed off of a weeks trip in search of fish. He fishes 5 months of the year. Out for about a week to ten days at a time, come back unload the fish, turn the boat around, take on some provisions and water, load up with ice again then back out to sea. It sounded relentless the way he described it. Hardy souls.

We’re off on a three day trip up to Wellington next week to visit a relative of mine who is there on holiday….assuming he and his wife can get there post cyclone. Really looking forward to that. May the sun shine and England play well in the test match against New Zealand. We may join the barmy army one day.

Stop press….. we just bought a car.


We splashed out and bought some cheap second hand bikes. It’s great to have wheels again. Means we can whizz around Nelson on the network of cycle paths. We’ll be here for a while sorting some work out on Grace. She’s ready for a bit of more major TLC. Hull, upholstery, canvas, rudder for starters. I’m enjoying the prospect of being in the same place as a base for a few months. And Nelson feels like a good place to be. It’s been hot and sunny for days. That certainly helps.

Sunday could have been a replica Cromford Sunday. I went and played tennis for a couple of hours then we went for a bike ride. It’s about 3 years since I hit a tennis ball. It showed! But I had a fun time and I’ll go again. I also have new sparkly white trainers. Finding trainers to actually play sport in seems unnecessarily difficult these days. I don’t want a fashion item. Yes, I could buy specialist shoes on line but I want to try them on first. I will look after this pair so they last a very long time meaning I don’t have to search out another pair anytime soon.

Our last bit of sailing before Nelson was around the Able Tasman National Park. There’s a Cromford link too as we met up with Rob, Kate and family who used to live in the village. Although it was 17 years ago that they were last resident there. Really, that long. 

We had a great few days. Lots of activity. Some sailing, canoeing, fishing, climbing, beach walking, picnics and loads of catch up chat. We took Grace round to another bay to swim and muck about on the beach playing frisbee and bat and ball. Sid and Tilly between them helmed the whole way and both did a top job. We plan to get down to Oamaru to visit them at their home in the next few months. They’re all lovely people.

After they left Dave and I walked some of the Able Tasman trail. It’s easy walking through bush and across beaches. Can see why it’s so popular. We walked to the trail head one day and took a water taxi back. There are no roads into the park. On foot or by water are the two options. The aluminium taxi boat did 40 plus knots and wasn’t the most comfortable of rides as we pounded into the wind over tide waves. But speedy it was and we were back on the bay where Grace was anchored in 15 minutes. 

Today it’s the start of a new week. We’ve had a whole raft of potential suppliers around to visit the boat. We need to sift through quotes and make some decisions. Dave is about to trundle off to get a piece of aluminium for a dinghy repair.  Then chat to chap about hauling out and a paint job for Grace. The work starts here.

Drying Out

How was your Boxing Day? We dried Grace out against a couple of piles and scrubbed the hull, greased the prop and changed an anode in one tide cycle. First time for us attempting such a malarkey.

Kiwi Phil drove the piles into the ground using a digger and a large log on his property here in the Marlboro Sounds. He reckons they are driven about 4m in the earth. With a hefty rope around a tree coming back to the mast, we made sure Grace was leaning in towards the piles and the land, as the tide went out and the water disappeared. We didn’t want any unnecessary dramas. 

Then we waited as she grounded and the hull became visible. Time to start scrubbing. Considering we arrived in NZ with a super clean hull (it’s one of the requirements for entry here), the growth and smeg build up on the hull was disappointing. Although we did spend three weeks around Opua on North Island which is where antifoul manufacturers test out their products due the voracious growth boats experience there. So I was told.

5 hours 30 minutes. That’s how long the scrubbing took us. We finished just as the water was starting to lap back around the bottom of the rudder. Time to head for a cuppa with Phil and Linda then back onto the boat, haul the ladder up and wait for Grace to float again. 

At 12.30am in the pitch dark we untied the line to the mast and pushed Grace off the piles. She floated out quietly under gentle engine revs and we picked our spot for the remaining hours of darkness. We’d re- anchor the following morning.  

Happy as Larry, whoever Larry is or was, we’d achieved what we’d set out to do without any ‘shouty shouty pointy pointy’ moments. And it’d cost diddly squat. Excellent. Thank you Phil and Linda.

This all took place on Wairangi Bay in the Marlboro Sounds on South Island. We’d arrived on Christmas Eve morning after an overnight sail of two distinct halves. First half, lots of wind, 30 knots plus then someone flicked a switch and turned it off so we motored. Good job we had diesel!

It’s stunningly beautiful round here. The weather has been settled, warm and sunny. We’ve walked and explored a bit by car. Round every corner there another view to drink in. 

Next we’re off to the Able Tasman are to meet up with Rob, Kate and family, ex UK Cromford-ites, who now live in NZ. It’s going to be a fun time. 

New Plymouth

Sometimes you just have to hold your hand up and admit you’re a pair of numpty’s. Both Dave and I did maths at school but it would appear we struggle with sums.

Why is this relevant? Well we keep track of our engine hours in a notebook. And likewise we keep track of diesel fills, how much went in each tank. There are no fuel gauges on Grace. The dip sticks for our two tanks are pretty inaccessible. These sums are necessary to keep track of how much diesel remains in the tanks. And until yesterday our sums were good. 

We set off for Nelson on South Island from New Plymouth on North Island. It’s about 140 miles. The forecast wasn’t for brilliant sailing wind so we knew we’d need to motor sail some of the passage to windward. Weather windows are fickle here in temperate New Zealand. The trade winds do not blow regularly from the east / south east as they do consistently in the mid Pacific.  

We were keen to get down south as we have plans to meet folks for Christmas and New Year. This may be the only possible window to get south. We were keen. Up at 4, out at 5, first light. 

Then around 11am the engine spluttered and cut out. Dave got into spanner mode. It had to be a fuel issue. Fuel filter was cruddy so that got changed and we swapped to the other tank. The engine started.  Unfortunately this tank didn’t have a whole heap of fuel in it so the decision was made to turn round and sail back to New Plymouth. 

That evening we were back where we’d started with an unknown problem in one of the fuel tanks. 

The following morning we opened the inspection hatch on the problematic tank. The evidence was plain as day. It was completely empty. No wonder, it’d bloody cut out. Somewhere along the line, we’d miscalculated the amount of fuel we had.  Maybe a digit wrong or a pencil scribble misinterpreted. On one level I was actually pretty happy. The fix was straightforward. Dig deep and buy diesel. Dave had talked about possibly having to clean the tank, replace fuel lines, look for possible leaking tank, all things which I knew would take time and involve grovelling around on the floor boards and in the bilge.

Time had ticked. We booked a fuel tanker and filled up. We sourced extra new fuel filters, just in case. And explored New Plymouth a bit more by bike and on foot. Tomorrow it’s take two.

We’re off to the Marlborough Sounds for Christmas. Likely have shoddy internet so here’s wishing you all a jolly holly Christmas. Thanks for sticking with me and my ramblings. Appreciated. 

Exploring North Island

Whangarei inlet is about 35 miles north of Opua. A narrow entrance opens up, almost fjord like, to a couple of arms with many quiet anchorage spots.

We hung out here with boaty friends Bill and Kate for about a week. Usual NZ weather. Nice days. Rubbish days. Some good walks. A weird pub run by a couple of sisters. Generous people who picked us up in the rain as we hitched to a one street town to buy some freshies.

Ultimately our chums headed south to go and get hauled out before returning to see family in the UK while we hung on get weather to allow us to sail down towards South Island.

I tried desperately to fish for snapper. It’s really easy, so everyone says. I failed miserably. I spent several mornings and evenings drifting around in the dinghy. Veggie curry for dinner tonight. No fresh fish I’m afraid. I was gutted.

We did make it down to New Plymouth after a slow 4 night sail over the top of North Island. Some piccies from here to follow.

Three weeks in

Right. I’ve set myself the job of writing something this morning. It’s been over three weeks since we made landfall in NZ. Time to knuckle down and organise some thoughts on paper. Well ipad, you know what I mean.

We are at anchor off Orokawa in the Bay of Islands, near Opua. It’s been blowing a hooley on and off for over two days now. Gusts of close to 50 knots. The vhf radio pipes up occasionally, “Sea area Brett, gale warning”. We are eight miles in a straight line from the lighthouse at Cape Brett.

It’s driving me nuts. I’m not good being stuck on the boat. Our present location is a good place for protection from the prevailing winds, the holding is excellent meaning the anchor is solid, keeping our movable home safe. Cruising is not always a carefree existence. Shelter drives our lives when at anchor. Getting on and off the boat at will is not always possible. Grace needs looking after and humans are required.

Currently the sun has peaked through, following torrential rain an hour ago. The weather is unstable. Locals tell us its particularly crappy. The sun and stable weather will definitely turn up around Christmas, allegedly. The cockpit tent provides an extra room on Grace when it’s wet and windy. It’s very welcome providing more space. 

Before this latest weather system hit, we squeezed in a few fine days buddying up with the crew from Seneto, Bill and Kate. The Bay of Islands are spectacular, the passing sun showing them at their best. A few of the small islands are wildlife reserves. The sound of the birds living there undisturbed by killer vermin and domestic cats, is vibrant, melodic and smile inducing. We chatted about how lovely it was to hear such a noisy cacophony. The question arose, is there a difference between a bird watcher, a birder or a twitcher?

The marina laid on a festival for overseas yachtie’s so we went to the talks giving out free food.😀 We learnt about fishing kit for snapper, the latest in electronic safety devices and raced in the round the bay race. We met quite a few local racers in the club afterwards where beers and tall tales were shared. 

A kind lady, Dawn, who also has a Hans Christian 43, took me to the nearest large supermarket to stock up and we bought a new outboard as the one we bought from a Frenchman on a beach in the Bahamas died. We can’t run it at full pelt yet as it needs running in. Looking forward to whizzing soon. 

Drawing breath – NZ

It only rained 6 inches a few nights ago. Welcome to NZ. Our passage from Fiji was a mix of mostly light winds, some squall avoidance and no breakages. The latter makes us happy. Our arrival and brush with the authorities was friendly, professional and straightforward.

The first few days here were filled with celebrating our arrival, trips to town to catch up with other folks we know through boat life, some cruising around the Bay of Islands and a few walks.

Here’s the first batch of random snaps. The sun has come out since then and we’ve been racing. It’s lots of fun here in Opua.

More words and photos to follow.

Tick Tock

What do you mean? How long will it take you? Will you ever get there? You can fly to NZ in not much more than 24 hours from the UK, what are you two doing?

We set off from the UK in July 2016. You may recall, we moved onto the boat the day of the Brexit vote announcement. We been bimbling, easily distracted, taken opportunities, followed others recommendations, then you overlay covid travel restrictions and here we are 6 years and a-few months later.

But tomorrow weather permitting we point the boat south and head around 1100 miles from Fiji down to New Zealand. 8 to 10 days we hope.

Stand by your beds. The next missive maybe from kiwi land.