Finally, after a long winter with very little sailing, spring is here and it’s time to return to the water!

I will take any excuse to be onboard Sauvage, preferably sailing, but also improving her when sailing is out. Chris Junior and I came up a couple of weeks ago while Kirsten and Neve went to see the semi-final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Our task was to fix the sea-water pump on our water maker, which needs to be replaced.

On the first weekend of spring, an old friend of mine from Belgium had arrived in Auckland, and after twice trying to get in a weekend of sailing with him, I can say Auckland’s weather is a very unforgiving mistress!

To cut a long story short, we arrived at the boat among yet more weather warnings – very strong winds, rain and possible flooding for Coromandel, Auckland and Northland (what else!). With gusts of up to 27 knots forecast, we had to abandon going out sailing, but we still managed an amazing break, the best sleep I have had in months, and a total rest.

The kids understand a whole lot more about sailing now.

We did get to look at a couple of jobs: Chris and I had earlier wired in the sea-water pump used by the water-maker – the pump supplied with the water-maker has always been below spec, not pumping enough water to do the job, leaving the high-pressure pump running dry a lot of the time. Although the company, Water Makers NZ, had promised to send a replacement, it never did, so I purchased a larger 12V pump to pump sea water through the filters.

As with any boat project, it’s never quite as easy as it seems. I try to tidy up as we go, replacing old, less elegant workmanship with something a little tidier. Well, the long and the short of the repair, or – frustratingly – the start of the repair, was that after removing the 12mm pipes (left over from before we ever owned Sauvage) we found an 8mm connection on the through-hole. This was an issue – none of the pipework I had purchased was the right size. Once again, I was back to the drawing board, but I think after a trip to Think Water and a few parts, I will have the solution.



Progress, yes, but very small, but we had completed our outstanding job for the weekend!

On Sunday, Kirsten and I took to the decks dressed in winter jackets and hats and wrapped in blankets to bask in the wonderful sun. This is what we’d been looking forward to. Simply relaxing in the freshness of spring. We’re putting plans in place to free ourselves up to live life more on the boat, preferably at sea. It takes a lot of planning, time and effort – we want to go faster, but all the ducks need to line up. But that’s our goal and the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.

The young men return.

Each of our kids has had a different reaction to sailing. None are natural-born sailors, the type that takes to the water with exceptional fearlessness. Instead, they’ve displayed a mix of curiosity and caution.

In all fairness, over the past three years as they’ve matured and learned how Sauvage and sailing works, they’ve accepted they have a role in ensuring our sailing journeys are enjoyable. While they/ we are by no means yet perfect, they’re now dab-hands at putting the mainsail up or tacking with the genoa and their confidence in steering is growing (we are yet to install an autopilot). It takes the pressure off me, and I take pleasure in seeing them grow in skill.

Chris Junior, who has recently turned 15, has always had a fascination with mastering the tender, or rather the outboard motor. We’ve been through several motors, and always, he’s the one who wants to get out and give each new one a spin. He’s had a couple of adventures that I know he’ll want to tell his kids when he is older.

Back on board at last. Time for a cuppa and a bite.

When we first started our sailing life, we had a well-used 1.5hp outboard motor that came with Sauvage. It was a pathetic little thing, and temperamental at best. On our first decent sail, we headed north from Whangaparaoa to Kawau Island, quite unsure of what we would find. We anchored on the other side of Bon Accord Harbour from the Kawau Island Yacht Club.


The next day, Chris Junior took the tender out for its maiden spin at Kawau Island, and all was well and good. Then his (then 10-year-old) sister and her friend decided they wanted to go too. So out they went (life jackets on), and the motor stopped. Chris Junior had often practised restarting the motor, but this time, under pressure, he simply couldn’t get it going. The tide was going out, and we watched as he, his sister and her friend, and the tender, slowly drifted further away. Then he tried to row back to Sauvage, but in the heat of the moment, couldn’t get his rhythm. Of course, it didn’t help that his sister and her friend were either laughing or yelling at him.

In the end, Chris (Dad) had to swim out to get them and the tender. It was a huge learning experience for everyone. Most importantly, Chris Junior learned not to panic and to find a way to rest, even if it means hanging onto other boats until everything is aligned and calm and things start working again.

After the mudflats adventure, antiseptic cream and plasters for the feet!

We replaced that motor soon afterwards. The next three motors were lost at sea, but those are stories for another time. Our latest is a 5hp, grunty (for us) motor.

Chris Junior takes great delight in being the one to drive everyone around in the tender. He takes the tender from Sauvage to Hobsonville Point very easily. Sometimes, any excuse will do; this time it was to collect supplies which had been left in the car.

With his friend Matt, who had joined us for the weekend, Chris Junior decided, as 15-year-olds do, that instead of motoring to the jetty on their way to the car, they’d instead take the tender the mere five or 10m across the water that separated us from the mud bank, now fully exposed by the low tide. They rowed over – no point in starting the outboard motor – hopped out in the shallows and proceeded to drag the boat up the mudflats. This was harder than they’d expected. They struggled, sank into the mud, and struggled some more. Having moved the tender up the mud only a couple of metres or so, they decided they could make a mad dash for the car and be back before the tide came in too far.

They left the tender, and as we had sat watching them, the boys seemed to walk further and further away from land. We couldn’t see all the details, but we later heard stories of lakes of seawater, crabs and sinking mud. After a fair bit of trial and error, the errors got the better of them and they returned to the tender intent on taking it to the jetty after all. But getting the tender off the mud bank and back into the water was a challenge and they both ended up waist deep in muddy water.

The boys’ mudflats adventure begins. It seemed like a good idea at the time!
Blue sky but 27 knots of cold southerly wind, so too windy for sailing. Nevertheless, Kirsten and Chris, wrapped in blankets, were determined to enjoy time on deck, even at anchor.

Adventure had; lessons learned. Never to be done again.


So, yet another non-sailing weekend. But we know we need to replace our sail cover with a sail bag very soon. Auckland winds continue to be strong, and our sail cover is now ripped more than when we wrote about it in last month’s article.

Hosting my friend from that Sunday, while we didn’t set sail, by lunchtime we found ourselves drinking wine and eating oysters at Viaduct Harbour. Talking about ‘the old days’ and making plans for the future was great, but not nearly as wonderful as a day on the water would have been. He is back at Christmas, so we will try again…

Next month, finally the sail cover project and – Auckland weather allowing – our first sail of the new season. BNZ