Happy one-year anniversary to this column! This is our 12th edition in Boating New Zealand, writing of our family’s adventures on sailing vessel Sauvage. It’s also been two years since we bought her.

This month we take a moment to reminisce over the past year, our wins and losses with various projects, the ones that are still in the air, and our adventures thus far – what we loved, and not so much.

As I type this, it is just 12 months since the 2021 lockdown ended. That caused us so much stress – just waiting for the regional borders to open so that we could get back to our boat which had spent a good deal of the lockdown on the hard at Gulf Harbour Marina waiting – waiting for us to return to it to get it back into its berth.

Sauvage has provided our family with some wonderful adventures.

During the lockdown, while we did not do much but wait, we managed to remotely plan the install of our much larger, much more family-sized solar panels for the top of a new solar arch over the transom of S.V. Sauvage.

Looking back at this project, while at the time it was successful and remains very functional, since its installation we have discovered that under high winds the structure of the arch vibrates a little more than we had anticipated. This was always a possibility, as at the time of designing it, the installer thought it might need an extra strut or support. Wanting to keep costs down at the time, I chose not to include any extras! Although not serious, we recognise the vibration issue is something we need to address soon.

The other small annoying niggle for me is that the brushed stainless arch now needs a good rub-down to remove some rust-coloured spots. Just one of those boat housekeeping jobs you have to do to keep your boat looking good.

The arch supporting the solar panels will need some additional bracing.

We installed our watermaker. It worked a treat at the time and continues to work well. But we developed a small leak around the high-pressure end tap. This leak remains but for now it’s not a big issue, as it’s a small drip and only occurs under water-making conditions. However, I will, in the fullness of time, fix the tap. This is an hours-in-the-day issue and I have it on the backburner.

Our investment in a watermaker was a great move. Unfortunately, we have recently discovered that one of our five stainless steel water tanks (Sauvage has five separate water tanks) has a leak. In looking to fix it, young Chris and I pulled out the seat between the saloon and galley, and once that was gone, we were able to pull up the whole floor amidships, exposing the water tanks.

The two starboard tanks are connected by a flexible pipe, allowing them to share water as they are filled up and used. Likewise, the two tanks on the port side are connected by flexible pipe, but this pipe has degraded and no longer seals well. Another easy fix to be added to our list of things to do. Considering that having a watermaker allows us to easily fill the tank in the master berth, my short-term fix is to avoid using the four central (starboard and port side) tanks for the time being.

We’ve loved all of the islands of the Gulf.
Mansion House Bay, a favourite anchorage.

While we had understood from the previous owner that all the water tanks filled from a ‘main’ filler, we have since discovered that’s not the case and for the last (many) years only one tank has been used. I discovered the issue and started using the four central tanks – to no avail. They did not work properly. Anyway, a fix will come soon.

During this project, we decided the seat we had removed was not necessary and we have not put it back – we have so much more space in our saloon! There had to be some gold in the cloud! We are thinking of replacing the old bench seat with two single, relocatable seats. My wife says, “Okay, but make sure I can store stuff in them.” Sounds like a good deal to me.

We upgraded our house batteries to lithium. This was totally worth it. Swapping out the lead-acid batteries for lithium was a lift and swap-out, and most importantly for us, the straight swap meant the bulk of the boat needed no change at all to support the installation.

We thought all the water tanks were filled from the main filler. Not so!

Since installing, we have loved the extra power and practical advantages of lithium – we have seen no downside and I cannot recommend strongly enough that people make this upgrade.


We installed a wind turbine, and within a week of that, blew up the controller protecting the lithium batteries (it was installed with the shipped controller, the output of which went to a Victron 12VDC to 12VDC charge controller. It was the shipped controller that failed.)

We use the wind turbine for night-power – it’s very useful to have that extra backup power, but it’s not a showstopper without it. This job is hanging. I have found a new controller to install that looks good, but it’s not here yet.

My daughter’s cabin got a new basin.
Away with the seat and up with the floor. Water tank repairs.

We’ve lost (we cut it away) our original and very effective anchor when it became tangled in rocks about 10m below the surface, and we are not yet set up for diving. I guess that is something we will look at this summer as well. The replacement anchor proved too light for Sauvage, and on one of our trips we spent much of our time re-anchoring in strong winds. We have since found another, heavier anchor that holds Sauvage well, but as you will recall from our last article, we are in the process of fixing a blown fuse so that we don’t have to work it by hand.

We have sailed from Gulf Harbour around the Hauraki Gulf – Waiheke Island, Kawau Island to Aotea Great Barrier Island and many others in between and loving every minute of every one of them!

We have sat at anchor in storms, were at Aotea Great Barrier Island during the 2022 tsunami (out there, it was barely noticeable), and also enjoyed stable conditions. Across the board it was just amazing – we love being boat people!

Replacing the anchor at Great Barrier Island.
Fishing with Chris jnr at Smokehouse Bay, Great Barrier Is.
There’s still plenty to explore on Great Barrier.

Our trip outside the Hauraki Gulf and down the Coromandel’s east coast to Whiritoa (where we anchored last New Year) provided us with great lessons on how to land a tender on a surf beach (and how to kill two tender motors!). On that trip we visited Slipper Island, which we loved (and the kids constantly want to return to, even though it’s a 16-hour sail from home base!)

The past two years with a yacht, and the past year writing for Boating New Zealand, have been amazing. We have had many great family experiences and we have some exciting new plans for the next 12 months, which I will share with you soon.


Happy cruising this festive season. BNZ

Looking back towards Auckland from Rakino island.