ONE FAMILY’S BOATING JOURNEY - Jobs Weekends

It’s the first weekend in June, and I’m sitting on SV Sauvage writing this article at Gulf Harbour Marina. We had planned a return sail from the marina to Rakino Island, but staying true to recent weather patterns, the gales and rain have come, so we find ourselves stuck at the marina on a ‘jobs weekend’ instead.

Truth-be-told, I have many ‘jobs weekends.’ Sauvage is the place I go to in order to get away and relax, and I enjoy the challenge of the ‘slow upgrade’.

Before we purchased Sauvage, we knew her autopilot and depth sensors were archaic. The autopilot had not worked in years (I suspect about 15). Knowing we would have to upgrade our electronics suite, I did my research and quickly reached the conclusion we would use B&G (www.bandg.com). B&G is by far the most popular choice of the yachtie YouTubers we follow, which swayed our decision.

Chris rolled the undercoat himself

Recognising that our upgrade would have to happen sooner rather than later, I had no issue at all in replacing them, bar the amount of money I knew I had to spend. But safety first! Accurately knowing your depth when out sailing is vital.

In June 2021, seven months after purchasing the boat, we were ready to install our new Depth, Speed & Temperature (DST) device. I ordered the DST pack which includes the screen appliance along with the transducer (model DST810). Well, when I say, “we were ready,” I actually meant that Sauvage was about to be pulled out of the water onto the hard for antifouling and a repaint. And since I was under the impression that we would need a new through-hull hole, this to me was the obvious time to attempt the installation.

And so… we lifted Sauvage out onto the hard, where she was water-blasted. For the first time ever, I had a good look below her waterline. It was a wonderful and pleasing sight: other than needing an antifoul and a repaint, and while there were some obvious signs of age and wear and tear, there was no water damage to the hull.

Filling and sanding.

Somewhere inside Sauvage we had something that looked just like the DST transducer I had just received from B&G and now needed to replace. But where was it? After removing floorboards, some seats and a couch, I finally found it. Yep, and as expected, it must surely have been one of the first Navionics installations: a depth transducer and a super-old Navionics autopilot compass!

Upon inspection, it seemed that once the old transducer was removed, the new one would literally be a plug-and-play replacement – no through-hole needed. The easiest boat job ever! Whew. I then ran the cable from the new transducer back to the navigation table (a.k.a., the Captain’s Desk) which I intend to be the electronics and electrical connections core of our sailing world. First job done!

Having installed the transducer, the local marine coating team applied the new antifoul and paint, but to digress, as we all know (or maybe it’s just me), generally a ‘small job’ tends to become massive as its scope grows and lack of knowledge kicks in!

As thoughts of saving money ran through my mind, I decided that I would sand the gelcoat and then under-coat and top-coat (both twice) above Sauvage’s waterline myself: As luck would have it, I successfully sanded and applied the first two coats of undercoat. It was thoroughly pleasing to see my progress.

The local paint shop applied the top coats.

But soon work commitments and weather slowed me down, and I found myself further and further behind. Of course, I had to prove myself after my wife had asked me numerous times before we started whether I was over-committing myself. (“No, I’ll get it done in a few days,” I had said with confidence.)

At about this time Auckland’s COVID Level 4 lockdowns happened, and to my horror we found ourselves stuck on the hard. We live and work in Cambridge and could not cross the Auckland-Waikato border to get to Sauvage to do any more work! Sadly, she sat on the hard until September when Auckland went to Level 3, but the border did not re-open. Reconsidering my options, and our bank account (sitting on the hard for a lengthy period of time is no free gift), we decided to get our wonderful local painting team to roll on the two topcoats before the Marina Office helped us re-float the boat and put it back in its berth.

This was an expensive lesson – one that I did not particularly enjoy. But I relished my time spent with Sauvage, learning more about her setup.

A very old Navico autopilot compass
The new instrument goes here
Repurposing the old leak

Fast-forward to the Auckland-Waikato border re-opening (middle of December), when we shot up to Auckland and installed the B&G screen in the cockpit and plugged in the cables. Then we used a No.8 wire trick to hold it in place. Why? The side of the spot where I wanted to install the screen was slightly angled, which meant that it was too small for the screen. So, I ran a temporary cable and perched the screen thereabouts, holding it in place with some masking tape. Here it sat for a while, even while we ran away from the world for six weeks on our summer cruise! It was a bit of an eyesore but the instrument worked perfectly out of the box.

On our return in February 2022, I took a long and careful look at this eyesore. Then from teak leftover from an earlier refurbishment of the transom, I fashioned a rectangular box dimensioned to the B&G screen. Epoxy helped give it reasonable structure and stability. After mounting the screen, I screwed the box in place exactly where I had originally planned. After such a mammoth effort – only 10 months, three lockdowns and a six-week sail later – the job was finally done!

My take-away from this? No job on the boat is ever as small, as easy, or as quick as I expect it to be! But perseverance and vision always helps me get there in the end. BNZ

Test install
Screwed and epoxied into place
Finished installation, with a new drip-grade to come below it.

 


ONE FAMILY'S BOATING JOURNEY - Kitset water solution

I’m writing this article during the 2022 April school holidays while anchored at Great Barrier Island, our newly favourite sailing homeaway-from-home. .

Yesterday, the weather turned from beautiful late summer sun and warmth to high winds and rain. The plans we’d made for heading ashore for long walks and extensive swimming have turned into lying back and feeling the motions of SV Sauvage as she swings around her anchor, interspersed with the occasional swim and some fishing. We’ve left the frenetic pace of life behind. We’re chilled. Sometimes, life knows exactly what we need; after a busy quarter at work, it is a pleasure to simply rest and recover from life!

Looking back, I am aware that for a while I’ve been planning for events like this: extended time out on the boat, alone, without reliance on land-based utilities, instead living ‘off-thegrid’ with our own power and water generation. This notion of self-reliance is more than liberating, it is freeing, as sailing the world becomes more-and-more achievable.

Under the sink in the galley the three water filters are installed. These two cleanse the sea water as its taken via the galley through-hole.

In November, when we were preparing for our long summer sail along the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, we carefully considered what we needed to be self-sufficient so we could have extended time at sea. SV Sauvage has a deep draft which makes it difficult to pop into just any old marina or traverse a high lying bar to get into a wharf.

It became quickly obvious that the ability to create our own fresh, drinkable water was deeply desirable.

Thus, our analysis of watermakers began. There are many watermakers on the market. I found one from New Zealand and many imported from Europe, but prices appeared to start at about the $10K mark – way outside my budget. So, the search continued, re-visiting and re-searching. Finally, I found a watermaker produced by an Australian company. Built from commodity components rather than a purpose built solution – certainly a trade-off – it’s sadly not an ideal single frame installation with sea water coming in one side and freshwater coming out the other. But at a price point of NZ $4,500, I thought it was a very viable starting point!

Unpacked from the box, the kitset is a galley table fully of bits...

I contacted the owner and his story reflected mine in that a couple of years before he had been cruising up the east coast of Australia and found his limitation to travel was fresh water. On his return he researched the market and found that, while the function of a watermaker is very simple and the various functions are simple and logical, the price of the solution is prohibitive. After some more research he concluded he could build his own for less than half the price of others by using offthe-shelf parts.

My first goal was to get the Aussie watermaker ordered and on its way to New Zealand. I tried to outsmart the design of the watermaker and reduce how much I spent by omitting the inverter that came with it. Duh! I ended up adding complexity and had to get an inverter to finish the job.

Ten days later, my watermaker kitset arrived. Rubbing my hands in glee and anticipation, I opened the box and thought, “Crikey, what have I done?” No going back now. At first sight it was a little scary. There were quite a few bits and pieces. Some clearly had a function, such as the reverse osmosis tube and filter; others not so obvious, like the garden hose timer which I learned later was used to backwash freshwater through the system once a week.

My frustrating, and demoralising, installation of the head at Christmas proved why it is important to check all the parts are in the box and I was very pleased to find that this kitset came with everything I needed.

Making progress

Not known for my patience nor an ability to follow detailed instructions and knowing my wife would have stern words for me if I didn’t, I decided patiently following the instructions would be a good idea. Happily, after a couple of hours, I had the machine built on the saloon table. Whew!

Then I faced my next challenge. I had anticipated where I would house the watermaker on SV Sauvage, but after assembly, I found that the reverse osmosis tube was much bigger than I’d envisaged – 120cm on paper seems very much larger in reality!

And so, my ‘solutionising’ began. In the end the reverse osmosis portion was housed in a cupboard in the second cabin. Yes, we lost some cabin storage space, but having fresh drinking water trumps almost all else. The high-pressure pump went in beside the main freshwater pressure pump and the three prefilters were installed in the galley, along with the low-pressure water pump.

Perhaps I might be a man of little faith, but for now, I want to be able to directly test the fresh water. So, I left that pipe rolled up in the cupboard where I can easily roll it out, drink some water to make sure it’s all good before extended it farther to fill the tank. Later, once my confidence has been filled, I will run the hose to a tap in the galley where I can test the water before gracefully directing it to the tanks afterwards.

During the Easter/school holiday voyage the weather was poor for our passage between Barrier and Kawau.

Three hours after starting the job and, having installed the components, I turned the low pressure pump on for the first time. To my amazement, no leaks! Water ran from start to finish. Perhaps I had been too anxious, but I was quietly pleased.

After a few minutes of monitoring, just to be sure all’s well, I started the high-pressure pump. A word of caution: when starting the high-pressure pump, be very careful to have the reverse osmosis tube taps fully open. If you have them set to pressure (water filtering) settings, you will rip the guts out of your reverse osmosis filter – a replacement membrane is $600.

I did it right! The tap was fully-open, and the high-speed water went to the waste pipe as it ought. Heart palpitations, but I’d got it right.

Now I needed direct the seawater through the reverse osmosis tube rather than the waste pipe. As I turned the tap just a small turn (well below the guidance pressure for good water), water started to come out of the good water pipe. I tested it. YUCK! It was just basically saltwater still.

Chris wrote this story sitting on SV Sauvage looking out at Kawau Island, where he took the odd break.

So, I continued to add additional pressure via the reverse osmosis tap – up to the recommended pressure for fresh water – and I tested the water again… This time, FRESH WATER WAS FLOWING!

As we travelled the Hauraki Gulf and the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula over summer, we regularly ran the watermaker. It was clean and easy every time. The worry about water levels on a boat with three kids aboard is gone!

I ran my watermaker for about an hour every two or three days. That generated about 60 litres of freshwater an hour and gave us more water than we knew what to do with during our cruise, which would be true for any watermaker installation. However, for me a $10-15K solution was not feasible at the time, so this kitset was exactly what I needed.

My advice is to check the market, but certainly, give the team at watermakers.co.nz a yell and have a chat with them when considering your watermaking journey. BNZ


ONE FAMILY’S BOATING JOURNEY - Peninsula discoveries

In last month’s article, Chris shared his trials with the head on board SV Sauvage. The story now continues with the family’s Christmas cruise to the Coromandel Peninsula.

Having spent a few restful days anchored at Great Barrier Island, it was time to head to the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. Our goal? To reach Whiritoa for New Year’s Day. Whiritoa Beach lies 77 nautical miles southeast of Great Barrier Island between Waihi Beach and Whangamata.

We spent a few days poring over the forecasted wind and swell maps seeking the best sailing opportunities. And so, we pulled anchor on Christmas Day, headed out of Smokehouse Bay, past Okiore Point to traverse Colville Channel and down between Great Mercury Island and the Coromandel Peninsula to Flaxmill Bay, Whitianga.

Ancient Maori petroglyphs carved into the rock face.
A cage had been erected to protect the rock carvings

You may have experienced murky sailing conditions yourselves when heading round the top of the Coromandel Peninsula. On previous trips, heading from Great Barrier to Gulf Harbour, we had encountered one- to two-metre choppy swells and strong headwinds. This time, we wanted to avoid them.

Thankfully, it was sunny, the water calmed down and the wind dropped once we reached the Coromandel Peninsula’s east coast. As we neared Great Mercury Island, a large pod of dolphins joined us. It was serene and magical!

As detailed last month, we stopped in Flaxmill Bay by Whitianga to fix Sauvage’s head. A few days later, after checking the wind forecast, we then travelled south heading for Whiritoa. But as is the case when you forget to check the rain forecast, the conditions turned wet and cool. Grumpy, we found reprieve for the night at the secluded Tapuaetahi Bay 12nm to the south. Early the next morning, with sun again on our faces, we resumed our sail south.

Slipper Island.

Whiritoa Beach is an open bay with Tahua (Mayor Island) lying 15nm to the east. Swimming in the surf, lying on the beach and celebrating New Year’s Day with family were on the agenda. The weather was beautiful; we spent time onshore exploring surrounding beaches. We discovered a smaller bay found on the path to Waimama Bay, and the kids and I scaled down a sloping cliff to find ancient Maori cave art. It was both unexpected and moving – and interesting that someone had seen fit to provide a cage to protect the archaeological site, but damaged some art work in the process!

As the Whiritoa surf had a mind of its own, getting from the boat to land and vice-versa was eventful. After being tossed around, soaked and losing our tender outboard to the water (replaced the day after), we found that launching and landing at low tide was best. ‘Toa is a renowned surf beach and the waves don’t make for elegant landings, but the locals were excited to see a yacht anchored in the bay and made us very welcome!

On the first evening, Sauvage pulled and dragged a little in the high winds, but we re-anchored and stayed put for the next five days! It’s a great bay – just be careful of the surf when landing by dinghy.

Testing the new selfie stick. Hope the camera’s waterproof!
Dolphins often accompanied us on our journey

From Whiritoa we headed 13nm north for a three-day sojourn at Slipper Island. I cannot recommend this privately-owned island enough – South Bay provided easy anchoring with three to five metres of deep, clear water and a sandy bottom.

We kayaked, swam, and our 13-year-old practised his tender motoring skills. The beach offers end-to-end walks, picnics and swimming. It is very much a destination for boaties, being an easy 5nm journey across the water from Tairua.

Feeling content, relaxed and lazy, we pondered staying longer. On reflection, we should have, but the need to keep moving drew us on.

The old copper works on Kawau Island.

In our inexperience and complacency, we did not check all the sailing conditions for the day. Wrong move! Once we passed Shoe Island, we experienced three- to four-metre swells for the next 16nm – luckily, not breaking waves and with the crests about 20 seconds apart. Thoughts of turning around or moving closer to shore were wiped from our minds and we focussed on getting safely to Flaxmill Bay.

I found it stressful, exciting and exhilarating, all at the same time… My wife hated every minute of it! The kids were talking and surfing (the web, on their devices) and were blissfully unaware of the conditions.

We made our way motor-sailing, learning to turn the boat to approach the swells from other angles so as to make it into Flaxmill, where we set anchor for the night, found a bottle of wine to calm us down and reflected!

That day we learned of the growing death toll in New Zealand waters over the summer period. The weather and wind were perfect, but due to the swell, it was a terrible day to be boating. It is easy to get caught up in the fun of it all and forget to check the wind, rain and swell forecasts. The sea can be dangerous so checking sailing conditions before heading out is Sailing 101.

Our unexpected adventure reinforced to us why it is vital to always check conditions – all of them – even when you can see and feel the elements in front of you.

After two days of recovery time, we continued 16nm north to Huruhi Harbour on Great Mercury Island. We had nearly completed our Coromandel Peninsula leg.

Furling the genoa

A few days later, we navigated the Pacific-facing side of Great Barrier Island, anchoring at Whangawahia Bay for the night before heading back to our starting point of Smokehouse Bay. The weather was glorious, and we noted locations of interest as we sailed by (the whole place!). We intend to go back soon to have a lengthier look around.

We sought shelter at Great Barrier’s Kiwiriki Bay during Cyclone Cody and the Hunga-Tonga-HungaHa’apai underwater volcano explosion/tsunami (which we did not notice), before heading out around the north side of Little Barrier Island to Kawau Island. Two days later, with our sailing holiday drawing to a close, we headed across to the east side of Waiheke Island, where we sheltered from high winds in Man ‘O War Bay. We invested the time in a couple of longer walks and eating amazing pizza at the Man ‘O War Vineyards restaurant.

Our summer journey was unfortunately at an end. It had been full of amazing learning opportunities and a great deal of fun – we can’t wait for our next big sailing adventure. BNZ


ONE FAMILY’S BOATING JOURNEY - Ignorance is bliss

Ignorance can be a blessing or a curse – or both if you’re learning to sail.

Last time we wrote about finding our 47-foot, four-cabin monohull sailing yacht Sauvage, a 1989 Jeanneau Sunkiss 47.

It’s now early summer 2020 and with SV Sauvage now in our possession, we invested time driving between Cambridge and Auckland for day-long sailing jaunts on the fine waters outside Gulf Harbour. Between us, my wife and I combine either over-confidence with under-planning or ridiculous over-caution and over-planning – well, that’s what I think anyway. It makes for some decent, robust discussions (an understatement!), but we always come to a happy agreement.

Then one fine long weekend, with a little sailing experience under our belt, we headed out to Waiheke Island. The weather turned during the trip, so we ended up sailing in what we thought were strong winds. (What you learn with more experience!) Exhausted upon arrival at Matiatia Bay (where the passenger ferry from Auckland arrives), imagine our delight at finding a conveniently located, vacant mooring ball. After our third attempt, with much yelling and a few tantrums, we successfully moored, only to learn later from two old friends who we happened upon in the same bay that day, that we’d stolen the mooring ball! Unless you own it, don’t tie up! Lesson learned, but it had been such an undertaking to tie up that we decided to test our luck and stay for the night so we could explore Waiheke in the morning.

The next day, after having had a quick look around the closest parts of the Island, and already a bit stressed that we would be found out for using an illicit mooring ball, we packed up and shipped out. While on the way to Islington Bay – a very beautiful and shallow bay located where Motutapu Island meets Rangitoto Island – we re-watched a YouTube video on ‘How to Anchor’. As far as we were concerned, the key message was ‘drop anchor while slowly backing’. Easy, right?

Warned that it was a difficult passage at low tide (it was low when we arrived), we motored very carefully to ensure we came nowhere near the edges of the channel. Finding a spot to anchor in among the other yachts, we slowly backed while lowering the anchor. The anchor drove perfectly into the sandy seabed and the boat came to rest. According to YouTube we are sorted! We were very proud of our anchoring effort and settled in for the evening.

BUT – and you surely expected a BUT – we’d used a very simple formulation of three times the current water depth (low tide, remember.) And, you guessed it, at high tide (around midnight) our anchor quietly pulled out of the sand and Sauvage drifted off gracefully (and thankfully slowly) into the middle of the bay. Luckily, we missed the other yachts and only nudged a large, piratical-looking ship marooned in the middle of the bay. Our mast rigging made tap-tap-tapping sounds as it rested on the ship’s (very much higher) deck.

                       
                                       

Smokehouse Bay on Great Barrier Island is a treasure – a paradise for visiting boaties. Facilities include a BBQ, firepit, wood-fired pizza oven (the results of our pizza baking are shown in the pictures), shower and a hot bath. Water is heated by a wood-fired pot- bellied stove. Of course, Smokehouse Bay also boasts a fish smoker, for which it is named – popular with those cruisers who also fish.

Dazed, confused and feeling like we were in some sort of eerie dream, we did what all other sailors have done before us: leapt out of bed at the speed of light, pulled the anchor in, drove forwards to our space (thank goodness the moon was out) and re-anchored, this time at high tide. No one else was any the wiser!

The adrenaline didn’t leave for quite a few hours and we spent the very early hours of the morning sitting on deck watching in case Sauvage drifted again. She did not – this time our anchoring attempt was a high tide success.

Had we chosen another, less protected anchorage (which we almost did on the way from Waiheke), this story would have ended in a much less happy way, maybe somewhere on the way to South America!

This outing forced us to learn about the risks of a poor anchor and/or poor anchoring skills. Now we always use an anchor monitoring app (with GPS that constantly monitors our location). On any occasion that our anchor lifts unexpectedly and we drift, or the length of the chain deployed is challenged, then the app lets out a deafening squawking alarm which we simply can’t ignore. I cannot stress enough the safety benefits this app brings the sailor, his family and his vessel.

Our anchor monitor app is Anchor Pro (both Android and iOS versions work a treat). Initially, we used it on our smart phone, but this proved inconvenient whenever we wanted to go ashore. Now we run our Anchor Pro app on a cheap tablet which we leave on Sauvage permanently. Should Sauvage ever move beyond our defined allowed distance from the anchor drop point, even if the boat is unmanned, the app sends us an email warning. It provides assurance both onboard and while we’re ashore.

Jump forward to mid-January 2022. We were lying at anchor in a protected spot at Great Barrier Island, taking 20 to 25 knots of wind from Tropical Cyclone Cody. Our anchoring, which we now have significantly more trust in than on those earlier trips, held the entire time, even during those strong gusts that spun us from side to side. We are very pleased with how far we have come!

Before and after Tropical Cyclone Cody, we spent quality time exploring Great Barrier Island. The island offers wonderful walks through almost untouched forests, including to the boatie’s dream destination of Smokehouse Bay, with its BBQ, firepit, pizza oven, hot shower and bath, the water heated by a pot-belly stove.

Travelling to Port Fitzroy, you can pull up to the dock (about 2.6m deep at low tide) and refuel and fill the water tanks. There is a great little dairy up the hill with a good range of supplies – we were there during the peak of summer and stocks were a little low – but the prices are not cheap (context – a pack of chicken nuggets which would sell for $5 on mainland sells for $20 on Great Barrier Island!).

The walks through the forest are amazing. Large parts are barely touched – almost like goat tracks – but good walkways have been cut in where needed.

The kids chucked the fishing rods in the water and were rewarded with a couple of kahawai – certainly nothing spectacular but pleasing all the same.

The swimming onshore is nice, with sandy beaches where stingrays quietly share the water (very exciting for the kids!). The whole family enjoyed a couple of ‘manus’ [‘bombs’] from the back of the boat, but after an hour or so of good play, we saw a few sharks and decided that swimming was best done in the clear, shallow waters closer to shore!

At Smokehouse Bay there is a reasonable anchorage. It is quite deep (8-10m about 30m out from the rocks at low tide), but the holding is okay – just beware of strong gusts as we saw a number of boats drag anchor a little. At this time of year there are many vessels in the anchorage (Kirsten counted nearly 50 on one night). During hard winds we moved just one nautical mile across the harbour to Kiwiriki Bay where shallower water and a muddy bottom provide a very strong hold, even in the midst of a cyclone! BNZ

HOW TO ANCHOR

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

• The depth of your boat below the water

• The distance between the anchor chain and the water

• Where you are in the tide cycle. Use the Tide Forecast at www.metservice.com to know times and heights for tide In, Out, Half In/Out.

Calculate the depth of the water taking it from the waterline and not the depth reported by the depth sounder. On our boat the DST sensor (transducer) is located 1.6m below the waterline; so, if the reading is ‘2m’ then we are actually in 3.6m of water.

Now, let’s say we anchor at a low tide of ‘2m’ in quiet, stable conditions. Then we should let out 3 X multiple (between 3 and 5 multiple is the formula, 3 in stable conditions, more in more disturbed conditions) of chain, plus waterline to the DST sensor and then 1m for our anchor above the waterline.

(2+1.6) x 3 + 1 = 11.8m (let’s say 12) is the length of chain to let out.

In a slow reverse, move backwards and drop the chain. As the chain is extended the anchor will drive into the seabed providing a strong anchor point, the anchor chain will pull tight and your boat will stop or start to move off to the side.

Anchoring is easy. By following these simple rules and recommendations, you will anchor correctly every time.

Now we always use an anchor monitoring app. Tropical Cyclone Cody was delivering 25-plus-knots of wind to Great Barrier Island but we were securely anchored

 


ONE FAMILY'S BIG JOURNEY - The right yacht

Where do you start a column about your first year owning and experiencing a sailing yacht? Do you start with your failed attempts to start your yacht’s engine for the first time or with your amazing sailing trips?

Like other New Zealanders, unsure of the Covid situation in the early 2020s, we embarked on our journey of sailing yacht ownership. Our first 12 months have been beyond expectations. Hairraising and exhilarating all at the same time, we’ve learned a lot – we had to! Some learning curves were steep, but looking back, sailing has changed our lives for good.

As sailing yacht owners who are young in our nautical journey, and with a hugely formative first year of extensive learning under our belts, my wife Kirsten and I suggested to Boating NZ we write a column about our yacht owning experiences – early learnings, successes, minor mistakes and outright failures. We hope this column provides some encouragement to others new to boating and a little light entertainment for more mature yachties!

To set the stage, early in 2020 we started to dwell on the freedoms a sailing yacht would bring. As cafe owners, we were working hard, six days a week, starting at 6:30am every day, but realised that “you only have one life to live, so make the most of it – you never know when it will all change”. Then Covid hit New Zealand and in mid-2020, with the first Covid Level 4 lockdown, we found ourselves stuck at home, without our usual freedoms and desperate to find some space.

And so our dreaming began. We avidly read yachting magazines, followed numerous YouTube SV channels and browsed online for yachts for sale in New Zealand. We envisaged a yacht large enough for a family of six to live on comfortably for extended journeys.

Kirsten and Chris

Once we came out of the 2020 lockdown, we travelled up and down the North Island looking at many, many sailing vessels in different configurations: catamarans and monohulls, bigger and smaller. OK, just putting it out there: we’re not millionaires, so the range of boats we were looking at wasn’t huge. We saw some amazing vessels, many of them very much loved by their previous owners and each yacht with its own rich and vibrant history. But you get what you pay for, and so inevitably our budget increased.

You also learn things along the way.

Electronics and navigation equipment are wise to have, but if they’re even 10 years old they’re out of date. Choosing a yacht for its electronics is not the best way to decide. Heads block easily, so two marine toilets are useful – who wants to be stuck with no working head? And when your wife says, “I don’t like that cabin,” or “the kitchen is not what I want,” she’s serious – best to keep on searching for another yacht. In the end, my wife was given the task of finding the yacht for us.

Sauvage snug in her Gulf Harbour marina berth.

Finally, we found what we wanted – a 1989 Jeanneau Sunkiss 47, a 47-foot (14.33m), four-cabin monohull yacht. It had nice lines, adequate, well laid out interior spaces and it was uncluttered. The electronics were obsolete, but we didn’t consider that to be an issue as the engine seemed to be in good nick and she floated – what more could we want? We bought her: SV Sauvage was ours.

We had the pleasure of going out on the water for the first time during a test run with the previous owner at the helm. A nice sunny day, it was like our dream had come true. In all honesty it was our very first time out in a sailing yacht, but by the time we’d docked we were in love.

The interior is spacious and well laid out – as is the cockpit, with good shelter a welcome bonus.

We enjoyed it so much that on our trip home we booked a sailing lesson with that amazing yachtie extraordinaire Penny Whiting. Penny ran the Whiting Yachting Academy for many years, and although she has retired herself, when we talked to her about our goals, how interested our tweens (and their parents!) were, she proposed to take us out herself. She taught us how to sail! I cannot emphasise too strongly how wonderful a teacher she is and how much knowledge she transferred to us.

Then, two weeks later, the sale and purchase of our yacht Sauvage was complete and we took her out by ourselves for the first time. WOW! While our first seabased experience with Penny was great, this time we were on our own… It was immediately apparent that we still had (and have) lots and lots to learn! However, we did not sink the boat and no-one panicked too much. BNZ