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Catch up with friends and Smitten on Spithill

Having enjoyed biking around the Nelson , it was time to stock up and head for the wilderness of the Marlborough sounds, New Zealand’s own little Alaska. We hardly spotted another boat for the first week, exploring the inlets and the quiet peaceful anchorages with the occasional wind squall hurtling down the vallies to keep us alert. Its simply stunning to wake up and see the mountains reflecting off the water and nothing but the odd boat and birds enjoying the moment.

The Queen Charlotte sound turned out to be a place to catch up with friends and a blissful few days of sun and gentle breezes facilitated a beautiful mini break for my friend Annie and her partner. Annie is not the fondest of sailors – believing that a good Scottish Hoolie is normal sailing, having last been out with me 15 years ago in Scotland, she was now converted to the more civilised “NZ cruising”. Over the next week social media facilitated more catch up with friends and ex- colleagues as folk found out we were back in town. Just loved catching up with folk and having them on board.

There was nothing very civilised about crossing the Cooks straight. Despite choosing what we thought was a very calm day to cross over to Wellington, we had failed to factor in the Karori rip; – hurtling along at 10 kts with the tide we were thrust into incredibly steep waves and white water! Fortunately they only lasted about 20 min, but long enough to dislodge everything in the cabin, including us! Saorsa just took it in her normal stride and ploughed through them – she actually seemed to enjoy herself- unlike us…. There is no way we are every going into the cook straight in bad weather.

We were graced with three beautiful sunny days in Wellington located right in the heart of the city – Time to stock up on tools, parts and replace some very worn out t shirts and trainers. Before setting about our next boat project the sun lured Luke and his friends out on the water for a fabulous sail out to the interesting Somes islands – a picnic at the top must be the “best lunch view in Wellington Bay”. Now a protected reserve nurturing parakeets, skinks and gecko, it was interesting to read about its history as a quarantine island for humans, animals and the attempted escapes of POW.

Just as we were thinking of heading north it was time for our next challenge – “Hunt the Impeller pieces”. After only 100 hours since John had fitted a new waterpump and impeller, – the impeller blades split into pieces. It took us hours to find all the bits lurking in pipes, intercoolers and the bilges. With the wind blowing hard in the cook straight we used a sunny day to start a project that maybe we should have left for the winter. “The teak deck project”……… sanding, 100s of new teak plugs, caulking, more sanding and a lot of patients. It will be an ongoing project for many weeks if not months.

Spotting a weather window we braved the cook straight once again – far more civilized this time but that east coast is flipping lumpy. With nothing between us and South America taking the lumpy sea on the beam took a bit of getting used to.

On the up side we were not alone: every day pods of large dolphins spent hours in our bow wave. There was also freshly caught fish for dinner and no other vessels for days… we just love been out on the ocean. We rounded the East Cape just before the wind turned against us and took shelter in the Coromandel for a great nights sleep.

The Coromandel is stunning from the sea, hardly a soul about and miles, and miles of deserted rugged coast – another beautiful part of NZ and we will be back to explore, but we had a date in Auckland. The Prada Cup Final.

The Americas cup is the Formula 1 of Sailing, and the Prada cup final decides whether it will be the UK or the Italy who has the privilege of challenging the Kiwis, (current holders),for the Americas Cup. We are both Americas cup lovers and have followed the development of the AC 75s for the past year. As we approached Auckland I cannot describe our excitement as we got our first glimpse of an AC 75 speeding across the horizon against the back drop of the Sky Tower. What happened next was almost unbelievable. The Italian AC75 came hurtling towards us, put in a jibe just infront of us, and swept past within spitting distance ….ontop of which Jimmy Spithill actually saluted us……. Those machines are just awesome and they looked very very cool. That video I previously put on facebook - Iam afraid I was not very cool about it!

Where were INEOS the UK team?, they weren’t out practicing, no sign of Ben and his team coming over to say hello…..they were in the shed. Over the past few days we have been blown away by these boats speeding around at 40 – 50 kts, up wind and downwind in winds of less than 10 kts. Having the privilege of watching them race is just jaw dropping. The Italian team – Prada Pirelli seem to like us – and have given us some awesome moments as they pose around us warming up for their races ( see above). Not sure what the UK team are upto but they certainly don’t seem to be as hungry as the Italians who look more in control and cooler by the minute. Smitten on Spithill and Max– maybe Iam, as they seem to be racing with style and composure. Team INEOS UK are able to match boat speed but have their work cut out now as they are 4-0 down ( first to 7 wins).

Now a slight hiccup in proceedings, after a lovely day out watching the racing yesterday and Valantines day at Mudbrick on Waiheke Island our phones start buzzing with an alert….– we are in Lockdown for three days! There are three community cases of the UK variant of Covid 19 and no explanation as to how they got it. We all hope action will be swift and we shall be on our way shortly but for the time being we shall stay put at anchor and its time to attack the boat jobs list.

Next time… (hopefully), tramping on the south Island and THE Americas Cup………go team NZ. Meanwhile those teak decks.....