The End Game

P1020659I heard a loud bang and the boat rounded up into the wind, before I got up on deck she had jibed and was heading for another complete circle. I turned the wheel to bring her under control and nothing happened. This wasn’t good!

The day before had been excellent, making over 100 nm on my way out of Cook Strait after leaving Picton heading towards Sydney and away from the fast approaching gale. I had 25 knots on the starboard quarter and was streaking along at a fairly sedate 6.6 knots. I had heard a knocking on and off for the past hour but couldn’t identify the source – I had decided it was my emergency VHF aerial tapping on the wind generator pole, I was wrong.

I locked the steering wheel off and rolled in the yankee then realized even the lock wasn’t working – that could only mean either the rudder had fallen off or the steering cable had snapped. I rushed down stairs and ripped up the floor to check for water – nothing. Phew, probably not the rudder then. Whilst downstairs I collected the emergency tiller hole opening tool then climbed the companionway steps and started the process of rigging the emergency tiller. Once set up, I locked the rudder at 10 degrees to leeward and settled the boat into a proper hove-too position.

Hove-too is where you put a boats head into the wind at about 30-60 degrees, so that the waves break on the strongest part of the boat. The most skilled and often neglected bit however is to create a slick with the sideways motion of the boat to stop any waves breaking on her at all. I had practiced this and it only took ten minutes to play with the combination of rudder angle, main sail angle and amount of canvass to great the ideal situation (my boat needs to have only two reefs in the main not three if the wind isn’t gale force).

With the boat settled I could start to think about the repair. When I say settled, there was a 4 meter swell and 25 knots bouncing me around, but ‘settled’ is relative I suppose.

I allowed myself a yell at the god that I definitely don’t believe in. What can I say, it was a weak moment and I didn’t want to blame myself.

5 years ago, I had given John a list of things to work through in preparation for sailing Sirens’ Song across the pacific. When I arrived in California, he apologized to me saying that he didn’t have time to change the steering cable, but had readied us a replacement should it fail. I took this and put it in a safe place for just such an occasion.

Under the cockpit sole is a tight space, but I shoehorned myself between the morse cables, bilge pump pipes and exhaust system and started to cut away the shredded cable ends. I moused on the new cable and then started to pull it through the pedestal from below – she jammed. No amount of shoogling could get her through so I climbed out (about a 5a difficulty level) and dismantled the steering pedestal. The cable was attached to a chain via a swaged fitting, and there was no way I could attach this emergency cable so that it would fit in the pedestal – the cable was useless. Arse – another balls up by me – I should have changed the cable years ago and my second chance at averting this disaster would have been to check this cable fitted.

Another wee think: I needed swaged end fittings to go inside the pedestal… I had some on the end of my spare rigging wire: Was it the same kind of wire? Could it take the tight radius turns of the quadrant system? They’d have to, I had no choice. I decided that I would cut these shrouds (at a few hundred dollars each it was a bold move for a potential mistake and would mean I had no spare rigging for the remainder of the Tasman Crossing). I also decided that I would hove-too after 24h and if there was no signs of ware, I would deem the repair permanent enough to get me all the way back to Sydney.

P1020655After 5 hours of bouncing about under the cockpit sole and struggling with the wire tensions and cable clamps, I had a gorgeous repair of 2 wires shackled to chain, covered in heat shrink and lead to the quadrant through a well greased system of sheaves. I was happy that the repair was permanent and got back under way. Disaster averted.

P1020718I still made over 90nm that day despite a 5h stop (I had been making 2 knots leeway+current whilst hove too and that taken off the 30 nm I would have made meant I only lost 20 nm all up).

Another 24hours of sailing in boisterous downwind conditions saw me back under the sole examining how the wire was coping. I noted in the log that there were no broken strands and there was only a little evidence of crimping at the quadrant end of the wire. Happy days!

Everything was working out well, my weather window was looking excellent, with the forecast holding exactly true for a change. I was far enough north to take advantage of 2 days of wind towards Sydney, followed by 7 more after a wee gale blew through. It was time to turn for Sydney proper!

P102062512hours later I recorded in the log – “Best days sail in months!” I was trucking along, Sirens’ Song had a bone between her teeth and we were heading for 146 nautical miles in 24 hours I was ecstatic.

Click, clik clik…click….. BASTARD!

The wire couldn’t take the extreme angle it was being forced through to reach the quadrant. One of the wires was worn through to only 4 strands holding it on – it was game over!

At this point I was 130 nm from the New Zealand coast. There was a river mouth there, but repair would not be possible without a bus ride/hitch to Opua and the ensuing couple of days on anchor sorting out the issues. That would mean I’d miss Tiggy’s Birthday, which I felt was a promise I needed to keep. Given thise facts, the best option seemed to be to sail the 300 nm round Cape Reinga to Opua where I could fix Sirens’ Song and leave her safely whilst I flew back to Sydney. This delay also meant that I’d probably miss the weather window for getting the boat back to Sydney before December.

Aside from all this, there was still the small matter of sailing 300 nm round a great Cape with only my emergency tiller. I knew I was consigning myself to a tough time (300 nm is about 500km and would be the equivalent of sailing from Glasgow down round Lands End with waters akin to The Bill of Portland to navigate).

First order of business was to get rid of the steering wheel (not overboard, just to the forecabin). His meant no autopilot from here on in. I had thought about using the Wind Vane steering system (I call her Nancy) with the emergency tiller, and had shipped blocks and tackle aboard for just such an occasion. I rigged up a block on the starboard rail and one on the now defunct pedestal, ran a line from Nancy through these and back to the stumpy tiller. P1020707I attached the other line directly to my improvised yoke (I’ll weld on lugs for the next time – there won’t be a next time!). This all worked after a fashion, but weather/lee helm were not as easily managed as with the proper system, so I rigged a block and tackle on each side to help with additional steering in gusts and aid more fine tuning of the lines. This meant I would have to be on deck most of the time for however long it took to get to Opua.

After that 3 hours of fiddling and problem solving, I turned the boat around and headed for New Zealand accepting the fact that getting to Sydney was not going to happen on this trip. I did consider going to Sydney on a “shit or bust” mission. In the end though, I felt I was at the end of the road with regards to solutions, and if this system failed, I could be in REAL trouble: I think the furthest you could expect a tow is probably 150nm and even that’s pushing it. The consequence of having no steering mid ocean would probably mean loosing Sirens’ Song, and I could not let that happen. So I turned for New Zealand and had a cry. Once that was out of the way I admonished myself for shouting at a god I know does not exist.

Life turned simple from here on in – I only had one job – get to Opua intact. To do this, all I had to do was steer and look after each constituent part of the steering system and sails. I tried using the engine to speed the process up, but after 2 hours my back and neck were sore, my hands chaffed from holding the steering ropes and I was getting cramp in my legs from standing to the swell. I decided that I would tire too quickly and that the easier but slower option was to manage the boat under sail only. This made life even simpler as I could ignore Holly (my ever faithful if a little temperamental engine). I did actually do about 7 hours of motoring in the end.

Up until this point, I had only managed to make a bed and use it on one night out of the three at sea so far – I was not able to make a bed again let alone use it for the next four days. I snatched micro sleeps either in the cockpit between steering adjustments or the occasional longer sleep fully clothed and ready to leap into action from a seat downstairs when conditions were more settled. In this way, I think I managed to get about 5 hours sleep a day and this seemed to be enough to keep me on top of things.

The next four days are a bit of a blur where I was consumed by cloud formations, swell direction and the monotony of pulling either left or right and looking forward to the next bit of settled weather where I could get a bite to eat, get a sleep or go to the toilet.

By the time I got round Cape Reinga and down to the Bay of Islands, I was a little fatigued and managed to hove-too and sleep for a few hours before attempting the sail up the channel to safety. I’m glad I did get a sleep because the final 200 meters into the berth I had booked over the radio in Opua Marina was tricky. With a strong tide flowing through the pontoons, I ferry glided the boat down the trot, pulling on my two lines to steer perfectly into the berth. My brain was a little addled at this stage, and it took a little convincing that I had to pull on my right hand to turn left and vice versa each time I needed a course change.

This controlled landing was in marked contrast to my arrival here almost 5 months ago to the day from Sydney where I inelegantly sailed onto the customs pontoon without an engine. This arrival also marked the completion of a solo circumnavigation of both North and South Island New Zealand.

I went to see Customs and I had 4 newly made up steering cables in my hand within 2 hours of my arrival. I then slept for the next 18 hours.

I’ll be back in Sydney (by plane) for Tiggy’s birthday and Sirens’ Song will be here when I come back.    P1020745

Towards Crossing the Ditch

I am typing this as I head out of the Marlborough Sounds on my way to Sydney. The boat is in great shape, I feel relaxed and I am looking forward to getting into the groove of ocean sailing again.

It’s been a very busy two weeks to get to this point. My engine took a lot of problem solving and work from myself and from Jamie from Beach Road Marine. The team there were supper supportive lending me tools and being free with advice all the time. Jamie jumped in and undid that last nut that I couldn’t quite get, welded multiple objects and joined me in swearing at the engine on the two occasions that we had the audacity to think were the end of our problems.

In the end I made and glassed in a bracket for my exhaust system, had my heat exchanger bracket re welded, replaced all three engine feet, welded the worn engine block, replaced seals (sp) on the water pump, replaced pipes on the cooling system, changed the oil and coolant and had the engine re-aligned.

At the end of yesterday Scott came over to help me finish off the work whilst Jasmine made us the greatest dinner. After a couple of beers and a few glasses of wine I slept like a baby.

This morning Channelle checked me out of NZ with stern warning that I ad to leave immediately, and if for any reason I stopped anywhere before leaving NZ I would have to ring her and let her know. She waved me off and took photos of the boat as I left.

Once again, the penguins were out in force to say cheerio and Geoff in Simply Red did a fly by.

The forecast is good for the next 7 days with one day of bumpy stuff. I think it will take 14 days to get to Sydney but I’ve been caught out by that kind of talk before.

I am looking forward to being with Tiggy and not having to think about sail changes, Grib files or engine noises for a while. First though, I will be enjoying this crossing and the peace and solitude of the open ocean…

South Island Circumnavigation

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I was enjoying light head winds whilst motor sailing past Cape Campbell, the eastern most point of the South Island of New Zealand, when my ear detected a slight change in pitch from the engine throbbing below my feet. The sun was out with just a hint of strong winds to come showing up in Mare’s Tails high up in the blue sky.

I pulled up the steps that lead into the saloon of Sirens’ Song and removed the engine cover: No smoke and the engine wasn’t overheating. I keep the engine clean so I can see any build up of dust from the alternator belt or oil drips from the numerous gaskets – nothing unusual. I’d had a few problems with the mount for the heat exchanger but had a strong bracket bent and welded up in Wellington (only 1800 km ago) so I thought it couldn’t be that. I checked anyway – amazingly, the 5mm thick steel bracket had sheered into a sharp point under the exchanger.

Tension and anxiety always starts to creep in for me in these situations (and they do happen quite often when sailing and more often on a trip like this). I was thinking: Will the exchanger get damaged? Where can I get the bracket fixed? Where can I get to without an engine? When is this wind going to arrive? I quickly arranged these thoughts into priority order and started to tackle them one by one (this is a part of sailing that I love).

Damage control: pad the exchanger with hose inside a cable clamp – done.

Weather: download/look up latest weather forecast to know what I’m dealing with.

Destination: Safety first, then bracket fixing location – this is more difficult than it sounds because distance isn’t the main concern when sailing with no engine: safety, wind, current, tidal gates all interact with each other to create a complex problem to solve (another part of sailing that I love).

I decided to split the journey by running to safety as things would be too critical and stressful if I were to try and match multiple challenges one after the other. I decided on an easy sail to Port Underwood that was 25 nm away (1 nm = 1.8km). Ordinarily I could count on getting there in 5 hours, the journey was to take 7 with flooky winds and contrary tides. But it had an easy entrance and contrary to the name, has no port but plenty of anchorages to be able to hide from any approaching wind. I ghosted into Pipi Bay and lowered 45m of chain under the keel as I was still sailing in, this stretched the chain along the sea bed and dug it in as I took a wrap of chain around a deck fitting. The boat swung to the chain and sat there in the inky blackness until the sun came up.

The next challenge was to sail up the coast to Tory Channel and time my arrival with the turning tide so that I had a few Knots of tide pushing me into this bubbly narrow entrance to Marlborough Sounds. I had decided on here rather than Wellington (which would have been technically far easier) because I wanted to spend my time fixing the engine in a nice place.

The 14 nm would take 3 hours with an engine but under sail and against tide, I wasn’t sure. My tidal gate was set between 12.30pm and 2.30pm at the latest. If I was later than this I would have to either sail to Wellington or round the top of Arapawa Island. Both these options would mean an extra 24 hours sailing and probably sitting in bad weather (as foretold by the Cirrus clouds noticed the day before and the downloaded weather forecast).

P1020564I was off at first light (actually a little before) and started to ghost up the coast in 10 knot head winds. All went well for the first three hours and I calculated I would make it at 12.30pm. I started to polish a brass winch in the cockpit to take my mind off the critical deadline.

By 12 noon I had hit a contrary current and was making less than a knot of headway towards my objective. I tacked inshore to try to pick up a back eddy. This is a dodgy move when there is little wind to get you out of trouble and the tension was mounting for me. In two hours my gate would slam shut and I would be left with a long night in building conditions in the notorious Cook Strait. The boat speed increased to 2.5 knots but not quite in the right direction, my VMG was 1.8 knots (VMG – Velocity Made Good is a measure of your speed towards where you ultimately want to get to). At this rate I would miss my gate.

P1020588I tacked offshore again and risked running the engine in gear but only on tick-over. Still only a VMG of 2.5kn. I know that wind and sea are ambivalent to my presence but sometimes I can’t help shaking my fist and shouting expletives about being let go or let past or whatever. I was playing with leech tension, tightening the kicker, tweeking the staysail, piling on the pressure on the running back stays all to try and get that extra .1 of a knot that would get me across the line.

I tacked back inshore, skirting the rocks by 50m, feeling the bounce back of waves as they piled up on the empty, beautiful, terrifying wilderness shore. Craggy Point made me think of Father Ted and how unfunny it would be to end up ashore there.

Miracle of miracles, my VMG increased to 3 knots and I was able to put out an “All Ships” on my radio to announce my imminent arrival into Tory Channel. In some ways, this is where the adventure could have really begun – the tide swirls through a gap of 150m at 7 knots and the wind gets formed into bullets that can knock a boat flat onto the water when it is only blowing 15 knots outside. Fortunately (although it wasn’t luck), I had arrived just as the tide was turning (1 hour later than the books say), and the wind was so light outside that there were no willi-waws. This was a blessing and a curse as I had little power to manoeuvre and if a ferry were to come through, I could be in trouble (hence the “All Ships” announcement).

P1020569As it turned out, the wind dropped as I hit the entrance, the sun shone warmly and a sea lion came out to wave its tail at me. A couple of penguins scuttled about the eddy lines and I was able to take off my thermals and bask in the sun as I ghosted towards Picton through the sounds. I felt relieved and extremely happy. I hadn’t realised before then that in coming into Tory Channel I had just completed a circumnavigation of South Island. Happy days!

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Foveaux and Guinness

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I reluctantly left Steward Island (again due to a short weather window and the need to get to Christchurch by the weekend) but couldn’t resist a swing by the cage diving shark guys – they were none too friendly (the guys and the sharks) however so I moved on quickly.

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Foveaux Strait is another one of those places with a fearsome reputation, but once again I avoided the worst with a good weather forecast. There were some strong currents and a few magnetic anomalies that needed to be managed though.
P1020408After a day and a half, I motored up the dredged channel to Dunedin in the rain and cold. In contrast to the weather though, it is a warm and welcoming city.
I rafted up on the outside of Chris – a friendly local who is readying his boat for trips hunting and fishing to Fiordland and Stewart Island. Chris drove me for a surf and plied me with beer at every opportunity and offered the use of his truck if I needed it.
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All too soon it was time to leave but only after a last minute spotting of a Luke 5 tonner – the same make and vintage as my old Sea Serenade. Obviously she had been sailed out here from the UK – could SS have made it all the way here?
Wind and tide were against me for the three hours getting down the channel, and a crawl into an anchorage up the coast in the dark meant early to bed on a rolly boat that night.
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I left at dawn the next day and arrived in Akaroa a couple of days later having to leap-frog Oamaru due to the head winds. In saying that, I had a good sail into the wind for about 30 hours and I sailed all the way up the sound until I got t0 the anchorage.
Akaroa Yacht club proved to be extremely friendly offering free showers, wi-fi, washing and a mooring for a small fee for when Tigs is here.
There is Guinness on tap in the local pub too – what more could a man need?

Surf’s Up and Kiwi spotting

After Dusky Sound I thought that was it – all the terror, beauty, serenity and nature a person could take! But I was wrong, New Zealand keeps on delivering the goods..

I have had another stunning week. As I write this I am gliding across a glassy sea past rafts of penguins and beautiful sand islands with granite outcrops (very like Donegal actually) on my way to try to spot the illusive Great Whites that seem to congregate here.

P1020191After enduring 38kn and sleet in Oban (again, not unlike the other Oban in winter), I had a hairy motor round into Paterson Inlet. There was a fair bit of tide running and the wind was onshore which made for a nerve racking 1.5kn journey round Native Island. Once inside however, the world became friendly again.

P1020236I anchored beside a Othello, a sunken Norwegian whaler and explored the ruins of a Whalers Camp. The temperature got down to 3 degrees and the hail did not melt overnight.

I pottered about into Sawdust Bay sailing between sandbanks for fun and testing my new upwind performance. I then squeezed into Sailors Rest, actually managing to make Sirens’ Song go backwards in an almost straight line to pick up a line from shore.

I spent the most excellent evening with Alan and Annie who have a wealth of experience and stories to tell about their travels. They are about to start a (nother) circumnavigation and between them probably have about 4 times the milage already.

A&A took we on a walk the next day to Ocean beach and it had beautiful little 3ft peelers. I couldn’t resist – even though there is Great White cage diving only 5 miles away, I couldn’t pass up these great little waves or the chance to surf at 46 degrees south.

P10203125 mm wetsuit and booties on and away I went on my we 5″8 four fin – it’s a flying machine and perfect for these conditions. After a nervous couple of waves I headed for shore looking over my shoulder the whole way.

After a beautiful meal of Blue Cod (thank you Alan), I headed out to see if I could see some Kiwi in the wild. I joined a group that arrived by boat and we all traipsed across to the same beach. Low and behold, 6 gorgeous, dumpy, strange flightless birds – what a treat. I’ll process the pictures, but I didn’t want to scare the birds so no flash.

What a day – great company, oysters, a surf, blue cod and Kiwi in the wild – does it get any better?

I’m heading north now hoping to get a little surfing in whilst on my way to Christchurch. Tigs is coming across which is a special treat…

Commitment and round the bottom

I had no signal last week so apologies for not getting anything out…

What a couple of weeks I have had: I am now on Stewart Island well and truly in the Roaring Forties.

The run south on the west coast of NZ is truly committing: all the guide books say it is too dangerous to attempt to go over the bars at Westport and Greymouth and other than that there are no other places where it is possible to hide from bad weather. That means fully committing to a 500 nm passage. My weather window held, but I burned a lot of fuel due to the relatively light head winds. Because it was settled I pulled into Westport and crossed the bar through 6ft swell with a cross current of 4 knots without much difficulty. I stayed only long enough to fill up with fuel. Another two days down the coast I got headed by 30 kn winds and needed to hide. Just when I needed it, Cape Jackson appeared and I spent a rough night anchored in the lee of a small headland.

POOH429746 hours later I was sailing down Milford Sound with 30 knots of wind piled up behind me. The weather gods were kind and I had SPECTACULAR views.

P1020047Ivor and Jess joined me there for a quick sail down to Dusky Sound. The fact that we couldn’t get back to the boat because of very strong winds and had to take a room at the a local lodge really brought it home to me what a hostile place this is when things go wrong. Sirens’ Song coped without us for the night and we high tailed it out of there in light winds the next morning.

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A bumpy but windless passage for about 20 hours brought us to Dusky Sound. This is without doubt the most beautiful place I have ever sailed with tonnes of fish, beautiful valleys, fantastic mountains and hundreds of islets in this 40km deep system I really want to come back and sea kayak here.

I got my weather window too soon and left Ivor and Jess to take the 5 day walk out.

P1020177The weather wasn’t really as promised, but I got past Cape Providence and round the corner despite the 4m confused sea (described as ‘Very Rough’ in the forecast) and 25 knot head wind (almost as good as it gets down here I imagine). I arrived on Stewart Island about 36 hours later happy and relieved, if a little tired.

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The Marlborough Sounds

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The sounds are a maze of inlets and islets which were once valleys formed by ice at the end of the last ice age. Sea levels rose and flooded those valleys and left this drowned valley system with a coastline of more than 1000km.

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Cook arrived here in 1770 but was more than a hundred years later than Abel Tasman who was here in 1642. The Maori were here much earlier of course.

P1010842I’ve been pottering around, anchoring off trees, eating shell fish and fishing in the Scottish mist. Temperatures have got down to 4 degrees, but are mostly above 15 degrees in the daytime.

P1010836I’ve spent a lot of time on the rig and with the help of Geoff, Geoff and the ‘Young Fella’ have replaced my inner forestay, put on new running backstays and put on a new ‘Traveller System’. This is all part of making Siren Song sail into the wind better (and strengthening her for the storm tactics that I use).


All in all it’s been a gentle week with lots of maintenance and eating. I’m looking forward to getting moving towards the next adventure.

I really only have a month left before it will be time to head back to sunny Sydney and my fantastic wife.

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The Mighty Cook Strait

P1010732Cook Strait has always been in the back of my mind as somewhere that needs to be sailed. Stories from friends returning from holidays to New Zealand always talked of being sea sick and blown off their feet on the way from the North Island to the South Island. Naturally this would peak anyones interest.

Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t want to see Cook Strait at its worst, I didn’t even want to see it when its bad (at least not whilst I’m in a small boat). After consulting the Tidal Atlas, Tide tables, Mana Cruising Club Guide and The Cook Strait Mariner’s Weather Handbook for a few hours I had a plan. I then asked a few locals who felt that the real tidal gate wasn’t Tory Channel (the narrow entrance on the South Island side), but the bubbly bits at Cape Sinclair, I changed the plan to leave an hour later (bonus). There were two other boats attempting the 7 hour crossing on the same day and we’d all be leaving at a similar time.

P1010770In the end, the wind was light, the waves small, and the sun shone most of the way across. After putting in a TR (Transit Report) to ‘All ships’ 10 minutes from the entrance to Tory Channel, I had to wait for two passenger ferries to exit before I could go in. This was a little nerve wracking as the tide can run at 7 knots and my engine can only push Sirens’ Song at 5 knots. Theoretically I could have been pushed away until the next tide change. In reality there was plenty of room to eddy hop inside the passage and all was well.
P1010749I motored on to Missionary Bay to try to escape the forecast 30 knot Southerly winds that were due for the next couple of days. The next morning Henri and Max (who were in a junk rigged boat crossing at the same time as me) arrived and picked up a club mooring in the bay.

The wind and weather did come in (the tail end of Hurricane Pam), but all was well in the fairly snug bay.
P1010773The next day I sailed with Henri and Max to Picton (about 3 hours away) so that Max could get the ferry back home to Windy Welli. Sailing a junk rig was certainly an eye opener, with reefing being very simple, but sailing to windward being a bit tricky. We had gusts of what I thought at the time were 30 knots, but I’m tempted to think they were more now. The hills create a huge funnelling effect and there is quite a bit of current through the sounds.

Over the next few weeks I’ll have a play around here and see what the crack is – I’ve already been anchoring CLOSE to shore to keep out of the wind, with a tight line from the back of the boat tied round a tree whilst the wind hits the water not 10 m in front of the boat. There are tonnes of mussels to eat, and I caught 6 fish last night in 1/2 an hour – happy days.

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Running away and Groundhog Day


When I wrote last I was planning on going to the Chatham Islands (about 500 miles off the coast). I had a favourable weather window and the boat was repaired and ready to go. On the Saturday night I did a final download of the weather Grib files and checked to make sure everything was good to go. Fortunately I checked the weather for the following week and this is what I saw…

IMG_0203The map shows a tropical cyclone on the way that would hit the Chathams in a week. As Dick Grillo suggested, getting off the boat and leaving her to defend herself would be the sensible option in that weather. I decided to run as far south as I could instead to be on the safe side. The storm is now a category 5 with winds of 170 mph and is expected to hit the Chathams on Monday – I am so glad I spotted it and didn’t go out there.

So I left Napier heading for Wellington. The coast is notorious for its onshore winds and lack of shelter so it was an all-or-nothing endeavour. 10 hours into the trip, on my usual evening engine check I discovered the Heat Exchanger mount had sheered again on the other side…P1010695

I felt it was essential to have the engine as back up as I was rounding Cape Palliser that is notorious for wind against tide bumpy bits and there was 30 knot winds scheduled for my arrival at Wellinton heads (again very tidal).

Rather than turn back I decided to do as good a repair as I could manage and carry on. I manufactured an angle bracket from metal I had on board and sorted it out there and then – it took 2 hours in the bouncy conditions.

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Cape Palliser turned out to be a huge surprise with Ben Nevis sized mountains rolling into the sea. The walking (tramping to kiwi’s) looked fabulous with 3 multi day ridge walks visible from the boat.

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This was my second night out and it had been two days since I had slept more than 20 minutes in one sitting so the company of Albatros and the two sea lions was much appreciated. The sight of a sea lion toying with live fish and throwing them in the air was amazing but a little macabre.

P1010710It was another 3 am arrival into the marina. It had an odd set up of poles sticking out of the water in the form of pile moorings and because I wasn’t thinking straight, I slalomed between them to get to a berth. A couple on the boat next door (Mike and Barbara) met me the next morning and helped me find an engineer (Dave), who welded me up a super strong bracket that day and I was fully mobile again.

Ivor Levin, a long time friend from Scotland happened to be in Wellington on a course, so that night we ended up in Lower Hutt drinking beers and telling lies… happy days!

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Engine Gremlins

P1010650I’m tied against the pontoon in Napier with 20kn of wind (30 odd outside the harbour) giving a 15 degree list on Sirens’ Song. I love being tucked up cosy on windy days, reading a book and getting my laundry done.

P1010638The week started out with so much promise (finally heading for Cook Straight), but has ended on a bit of a downer due to gremlins in my engine…

Before rounding East Cape (imaginatively named because it is the easternmost point of NZ), I had found some coolant liquid in my drip tray below the engine. It was one of the reasons I delayed rounding the cape until favourable tides and winds. I thought I had sorted it by cutting off the end of a slightly delaminated hose and re attaching it, but NO.

Next thing, the engine note changed so I did a thorough inspection and found a loose bolt on the engine mount. I felt around underneath and decided that shims had deteriorated so jacked the engine up with my bench clamp (on its side and mounted on a soon to be ruined nice piece of teak). I then fashioned 6 half shims out of aluminium labels and inserted them under the engine block and tightened it all down. The engine was still making a racket (obviously not aligned) so I jacked it up again, removed the shims and tightened down the engine mount bolt – this seemed to work. The nearest port was Gisborne (about 100 miles away) so I pulled in there for repairs.

My heat exchanger was holed (that was the real source of the leak) so I decided to braise that, re-weld the engine mount for the exchanger and sort out the engine alignment. The guys at Harbour Marine in Gisborne sorted this all out for me quick sharp for a very reasonable fee.

I got on my way again, on a tight weather forecast for getting to Wellington before 35 knot winds arrived. The trip should have taken 2-3 days. After a 6.30 am start with light winds and motoring all day, I turned off the engine for some peace over dinner. I am in the habit of usually doing an engine check every time I start the engine – I start at the top and work my way down:

Glass fuel filter bowl – clear; Oil engine cap – clean; Injector heads – dry and tight; Belt – tight and no dust; water pump – no leaks; coolant drain – no drips; salt water filter – clean no drips; stern tube – clean, occasional drip…what’s that….my newly welded exchanger bracket had sheared in two – there was a sharp edge rubbing on the gearbox and the exchanger was kinking a pipe it was sagging so much…

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This was bad news, more delays. I turned around and sailed into the wind and back on myself towards Napier whilst doing a supportive repair. Eta was 2am so I called ahead and booked a berth at the council pier.

With a tired and fuzzy head at 2.30am I tied bow to the wall with lines out to two piles. I sat and had a glass of wine feeling a little beat but having enjoyed the pilotage and night sail through to the harbour. I LOVE coming into somewhere completely new, and I LOVE doing it at night, so I was strangely happy but pissed off at the same time.

Napier has turned out to be a fabulous place with the guy refusing money after welding my bracket – I’ll buy him beers tonight. I have moved over to the yacht club pontoon where the staff are so so friendly. There’s laundry and a bar and there are great little pub/restaurants just round the corner.

Next step is to leave on Sunday I think (weather gods willing). Keep an eye on the tracker on this site to see where I end up as I might be out of signal for a while.

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