Doing a Bill

I believe this scenario is not unusual. You’re heading out for a walk for the day or a journey in the car or you’re off to the office or work. You’ve diligently made your sandwiches for lunch that morning before leaving home. They’re tucked up in a plastic Tupperware container with a tangerine and a treat. You don’t want to spend any money. Lunch is covered.

You’re driving along and those sandwiches are just calling to you. It’s only 10 o’clock, a good two hours till lunchtime, but you know the sandwiches are there, waiting quietly to be eaten. They taunt. They tease. They provoke. Sandwiches sing. And you relent. This is called “Doing a Bill”

Our mate Bill used to be a responsible member of society, doing something clever in insurance I’m told, before setting off on an irresponsible jaunt on a boat. Each morning he’d set out to drive somewhere to be important and professional with his full tuck box. How he never crashed a car as he strained an arm towards the back seat to rummage for that Tupperware and devour its contents on the A3 at 9.30am we’ll never know. But it’s a story he tells and it’s become part of our everyday language. Doing a Bill.

We did a Bill with our egg mayonnaise driving from Charleston on the west coast of South Island down towards Franz Josef Township. We’re on a bit of a road trip. After a few weeks in the boatyard I was keen to get away and do something different that doesn’t invoice sandpaper or spanner’s. The sea swell was massive that day so sea cliff climbing was definitely off as the waves pounded the rocks and exploded 30m up the cliff face.

As I type we’re in Wanaka. It’s pissing with rain but we’re tucked up very comfortably in a lodge with all mod cons having fitted in a walk this morning before the rain kicked in big time and a trip to the climbing wall this afternoon. I was by a country mile the oldest person there and luxuriated in this fact. Dave wins our personal battle for the young person medal by about 7 weeks. 

Come mid June both of us will be heading back to the UK. Grace will stay and behave herself here in NZ while we plan to earn some cash. Yes, we’re skint after gallivanting for 7 years so if you need a Dave or a Helen, do let us know. It’d be great if we could earn cash here but it’s not an option. We’re too old and unskilled. 

We plan to back for Andie’s memorial service on Saturday 17th June in Matlock Bath. Andie worked with us at Unique Solutions and died very unexpectedly from heart failure last November. We want to be able raise a glass in person to his memory. 


6 weeks non stop have been devoted to upgrading and beautifying Grace. I’m ready for a break. Today delivered some cracking weather, cold, blue and crisp so we got the bikes out. The trip started with a bang. 

There’s a cycle service station along the river here. As we planned to cycle past it, I said to Dave before we set off, I’m going to stop to put air in my tyres. However, the pump wasn’t working properly due to a dodgy washer so rather than put air in, I end up with most of the air out. We hadn’t got a pump with us, but no problem. There’s a bike hire place just round the corner. I’ll pop in and see if I can borrow a pump. 

In I went with my bike. Having explained my predicament, the young lad said, “yeh, no problem, we’ve got an electric pump, fetch your bike over here.” Zzzzzzzz, in goes the air. Until BANG, the inner tube is no more. His face is now the colour of a ripe tomato. His ears are ringing. Poor bloke is mortified. 

It’s not a big deal. It’s a bike shop. They have lots of inner tubes to hand and in no time, I’m up and running again, the lad refusing to take any money for the inner tube, even though he was doing me a favour in the first place. 

He was still exhibiting a little pinky rouge as we left. I felt sorry for him and offered what I hope were kind words, and with air filled tyres we set off on a circular predominately off road route which was steeper and wetter than anticipated meaning we both took our bikes for an initial uphill walk. 

The downhill bit wasn’t much fun either but hey ho, it was good to be out. We headed back to the boat, drank tea, then decided to ride out to the beach along the flat road, just under 6km away. This ride was easy, uneventful and without any loud bangs.

A 45 minute walk on the beach, a return cycle trip and a bag of chips ended the excursion. 

Boatyard life ceased about a week ago however, it’s taken us that time to get things back to normality. Dave has been re-bedding deck fixings as we discovered a few leaks during the 4 days of heavy rain. I’ve had a massive sort out and been in pretty much every locker on the boat. 

Grace’s paintwork looks fantastic. The bow sprit has had a serious overhaul, we have new Coppercoat on the hull, the steering cables and  quadrant have had attention, we have a new chain plate on the bow, the stern gland has been replaced, the sea cocks have been serviced, we have a new depth sounder, the anchors have been galvanised, the ceiling has been replaced in the forepeak and we’re waiting for the material to arrive from overseas for our new upholstery. 

That’s what’s generally been keeping us busy for the last five weeks. 

Boat on a railway

We’ve been absorbed in yard life in Nelson, South Island for over 5 weeks. First time we’ve had the boat lifted by a yard that uses a railway system. No soggy egg sandwiches or hiding in the toilet to avoid the ticket inspector. Here’s a few haul out and relaunch pictures. More to follow.

Grace has new topsides paint, a new Coppercoat bottom and a whole refurbished bow sprit, amongst other upgrades. She looks pretty good sitting quietly back in the water.

Alps to Ocean Cycle Ride

The last time I did a cycle ride over more than 3 days, I was 19. My cousin Sue and I rode from deepest darkest Northumberland through the Borders and up to Edinburgh and back. We’d done a similar jaunt the previous year when we toured the Yorkshire Dales. It was all panniers and Youth Hostels back then. I recall having my first legal alcoholic beverage in a pub in Alston on my 18th birthday. 

So eons of years later, Mr Savage and I, with two small rucksacks, two cheap second hand bikes and quite a step up in the accommodation stakes, completed the Alps to Ocean cycle ride. It starts in Mount Cook village and ends in Oamaru, 316kms cycled. Things to note. 

  • We used human powered bikes not E bikes. Almost everyone else we encountered had electricity to help them on their way. I’m glad we did it under our own steam. Our buddy Rob offered us e-bikes but we declined. Crank those pedals. 
  • It’s predominantly downhill. There are hills and unforgiving gravel road sections but the trend is down.
  • Most of it is off road. This has to be one of the attractions. And there’s a great mix of different terrain. Our friend Kate said, “If you don’t like the section you’re on, in a couple of hours it’ll be different”. And she was right. 
  • We contemplated camping but I’m so so glad we didn’t. After 80km, someone else cooking your dinner, a hot bath and a comfy bed have their attractions.
  • There is a short helicopter ride at the start to hop across the glacial fed river. That’s a fun way to start a bike ride.
  • We include 4 night’s accommodation on our trip. Organised groups seemed to take 6 as standard. 
  • The places we stayed were all very different and all lovely in their own individual way. 
  • I had one puncture. 
  • I was very glad I bought a new saddle for my bike before setting off. The one that was on when I bought the bike would have been an instrument of medieval torture. 

Both of us, loved the ride. To be recommended if you like a journey.


In real-time, we’re in the boatyard. Grace is once again getting some TLC. New topsides paint job and Coppercoat hull coating. Plus a myriad of other things. Time always feels precious when there’s boat chores to do, so I’m copping out here and just posting a few piccies of a trip to Wellin


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.