A couple of weeks before the September 2023 school holidays, Kirsten planned our anticipated two-week sail. We’ve never sailed north of Kawau Island, and weather permitting, we’d decided to journey up to the Bay of Islands.

At the same time as her planning, I received an email from Don, an experienced sailor and a Boating New Zealand subscriber, who had read our articles (thank you!) and noticed that our current anchor was very ‘traditional’. If I were to mis-drop the anchor, it would not dig in properly and hold. He recommended we upgrade to a Sarca or a Rocna anchor and add a swivel, to provide better anchoring deployment and holding.

Gratefully received! An anchor has been added to my ‘upgrade’ list before our South Pacific adventures planned for 2024 – we already had a new anchor on the list as we wanted to go heavier than the recommended 33kg, but Don’s knowledge gave me more reason to upgrade. Don also suggested using a buoy to mark the placement of our anchor (I will come back to this later).

When I read Don’s email, little did I know how his observation about our current anchor would so quickly prove to be true.

Neve and Kirsten just prior to Kirsten’s unscheduled swim

Ready to depart on the first Saturday of the school holidays, we were delayed by a staffing issue at Kirsten’s cafe. The delay meant we would now have to contend with high winds. Our sailing window to the Bay of Islands had begun to close.

When we finally made it to the boat on Tuesday (I write with an exasperated sigh), my list of things to check was not short. First up, we needed fresh water.



Our watermaker had been the bane of my life for a long time. It worked, but only just. The vendors confirmed its saltwater pump was under-specced, but the promised replacement never arrived. I had really hoped that as a start-up, they would be focused on the customer, but no… We last filled our tanks with fresh water from Gulf Harbour Marina earlier this year. Now, either I needed to properly fix our watermaker, or forever be reliant on filling from various marinas or wharves. We decided to take the time to fix the watermaker – I bought a new pump.

While replacing the pump, I discovered that air was getting into the pipe via the kitchen saltwater tap (and as such, it pumped no sea-water!). As a test, I bunged the kitchen tap, and although the amount of water pumped to the high-pressure pump was less than optimal, it was adequate to at least make a batch of water.

Provisioning time.

A couple of days later (with a couple of trips to Burnsco and the services of a specialist plumber) I completed the fix, and finally, for the first time in 12 months, we made a batch of water!

But what a week to finally be able to make water at our mooring inside the Waitemata Harbour! A large sinkhole opened up in Auckland, and for weeks many millions of litres of raw sewage spewed into the Waitemata. Hobsonville Point, where we moor Sauvage, was included in the contaminated water, no swim zone.

Back to the story… In order to document my marvellous repairs, I asked Kirsten and young Chris to hop in the tender and drift around the side of Sauvage to the water-out throughhull fitting to photograph and video the first water through the system when I started the new pump and pushed water through the components of the watermaker and into the sea. While we’d done regular freshwater cleans, I knew this wouldn’t be that nice. The pictures are great!

As Kirsten clambered from the tender onto Sauvage, she lost her footing and fell backwards into the sea. Falling into the water, even into sewage-contaminated water, is not overly concerning (we have fresh water for showering), but somehow, she ‘brushed’ the tender, gashing her upper-inner thigh on the way. A few unrepeatable, unladylike words later, she was back on board looking a little like a drowned rat (her words). No need for medical attention, fortunately, but she remains bemused as to how the tender got in her way.

Cleaning the solar panels

High winds in the Gulf area that weekend caused us to again postpone and change our plans. The weather was going to be the determining factor – a mini-cyclone was making its way up from the south of the country.

While waiting for it to pass, we used the opportunity to measure up for new shelves in the galley. A year or so ago, after we’d replaced Sauvage’s original built-in refrigerator, we were left with extra space under the counter. This is where the new shelves are going.

As I’ve often mentioned, Kirsten is particularly short, so it is better to store as much as possible lower rather than higher. The new shelves will hold most of what we use every day at a reachable height.

We grew more and more impatient with the weather and finally chose to conquer Islington Bay, which is the inlet between Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands – pathetic compared to our original goals, but come Hell or high water, we were going to enjoy a few days on the water.

Provisioning time.

We’ve anchored in Islington Bay twice before. The first time was our very first attempt at anchoring after purchasing Sauvage – a failure due to not allowing for the rising tide. We lifted and drifted during the night until we were awakened to Sauvage kissing the large ship permanently moored in the bay. The second time, in windy conditions, our (lighter) anchor did not hold in the sandy bottom. Surely, the third time would be a charm?

Finally, on the Wednesday of the second week of the holidays, we raised the anchor and headed out for our first sail of the season! Under motor, we left Catalina Bay – at last!

A little later, we hoisted the sails and the magic of sailing took us. We travelled past houses precariously hanging to the side of slipping cliffs, past the shores of Birkenhead, past the Chelsea Sugar Factory, then onwards to the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The last time we’d sailed there (last time and first time) was at night while heading towards Catalina Bay.

Chris Jnr and Neve ready Sauvage to sail.

I had to hold my breath as we cruised under the bridge. Would we make it without hitting our mast? But it’s an optical illusion – I had plenty of distance to spare. There are clear signs indicating the bridge has over 37m clearance at the highest point; our mast is under 30m, so it’s one of those occasions when you know there is ample room, but the old brain plays games.

Then we were out the other side, as if we had travelled through a portal from one world to another. And this is where I will leave our story for this edition.

A couple of quick conclusions from the article: a week later, Kirsten’s wound healed nicely. Our watermaker now makes lovely, sweet, fresh water. As an aside, given our recent experience with soiled sea water, we think it might be a good idea to fit an ultra-violet treatment filter… Here’s hoping summer will be less cyclonic than last year. As I write, Cyclone Lola, which is a freak – ridiculously-early and super-powerful – has hit Vanuatu and seems to have left significant damage in its wake.

Sail cover off ready to leave Catalina Bay
Every sail the kids take their opportunities to swim – brisk but refreshing in September!