Leaving Auckland

Well, to say the least, we have had a mixed start to our sailing adventure. After a frenetic few weeks trying to get our lives sorted so we could leave New Zealand, we set off the first day and sailed over to Rangitoto Island, the extinct volcano just outside the harbour entrance. There we spent a day storing gear and getting things organised. Then we sailed up to Kawau Island and waited three days for the predicted south westerly winds for the trip north. We finally left in 30 knots but it was coming from the right direction. We sailed up to Whangarei, about 40nm, and headed in to a headland anchorage with some protection from southerlies. It was still blowing 30 and we were reefed down with our smallest headsail up. We started the engine in preparation for rounding up and dropping the sails in the small anchorage. As Kay brought us into the wind she put the engine in gear but nothing happened. She brought the revs up but still no power at all. By this time, we are falling off on the wind in this small anchorage with no engine control and very little manoeuvring room for sail alone. We quickly threw in a tack and I dropped the jib on deck as it came across. Next, I dropped the anchor and let the main pull us back on the chain until the anchor set. Well, that was fun! Did I mention it was freezing cold?

The engine died and wouldn’t start again, which was totally unusual. So, I suspected we had blown the head gasket. In the rough downwind conditions, the following seas had forced saltwater up through our exhaust and entered the engine. But why did we not have any power when the engine was running?  I put the Gopro over the side and found there was no prop on the shaft. Our max prop had come off – total mystery as to why. Are we having fun yet?

After lengthy discussions that evening on all the options we decided that instead of trying to get a tow up the river to Whangarei, we would push on north to the Bay of Islands, where we could sail in to a friend’s mooring in Russell. From there, we could make arrangements to haul out and order a new prop and pull the head off the engine. We were so thankful that our new lithium batteries were up to the task of raising the anchor and raising the mainsail, running our refrigeration, nav gear, lights and heater without the engine charging. Our old AGM batteries would never have coped.

We had a nice sail north to the Bay of Islands after sailing off our anchor in the confined space of our anchorage. We left at dawn and Kay did a great job on the helm just missing other boats as we gathered way and tacked upwind and out of the anchorage. We felt like Lynn and Larry Pardey. 63nm up the coast we rounded Cape Brett and sailed into the BOI. We made great time often hitting speeds of 8.5 knots. Now we had to find an anchorage we could sail into and out of tomorrow without danger. We did eventually get the anchor down just as we lost daylight. Exhausting day and as the sun went down the temperature dropped to 2 degrees Celsius. Our heater was never more appreciated.

We had contacted our friends on SV Phoenix, Colin and Akimi, about our predicament and they were amazing. They live on their boat in the Bay of Islands and were able to come out to our anchorage in the morning and tow us the next 11nm to Russell and help get us on the mooring. Colin helped with several projects onboard and the next day towed us in to Opua for our scheduled haul out. All went beautifully and we are now safe on the hard in the Opua boat yard.

I hired a local diesel mechanic to help me pull the head on the engine and we had it off within two hours. The engine is soaking in CRC while I get a new head gasket made in Auckland. The new max prop should be here Tuesday and it will have to be machined to match the taper on my shaft. Kay and I are now back in Auckland at our home (which is now Kay’s daughter’s home). We will be here for four or five days.

We hope to be off again next weekend. Fingers crossed!


  1. oh wow! what a start….unbelievable really. We are sorry for what is bad luck, in spite of all your good management. Maybe I will get to ring you tomorrow Kay. cheers to you both, brave spirits. What awful rain over the weekend, but at least you have a dry roof. On with the Big Adventure,…. good luck with the head gasket and new prop. Phew!
    Love Trish and John

  2. Wow … lucky really that this all happened close to home and help. Adventure already:)

  3. Wow – that’s incredible. Thank goodness you were close to a good haulout facility, but what terribly bad luck! Cant imagine how you could have lost the prop, but I am sure it will not happen again! Glad you two are okay, and that the batteries did their job, since it could have been very tricky if you had no power for the anchor. Hope the engine repairs don’t take too long, and are not too costly, and that the rest of the voyage is less “eventful”!! Soon you will be in warmer climes and this will be a distant memory.
    Love Nigel and Ming

    1. Oh No! What a dreadful beginning!
      So glad that you are both OK and that it didn’t happen a long way off shore.
      Hope all goes well with the repairs and that you will be on your way again with a more sedate start this time.

      All the best,
      Jan and Linton x

  4. Of all the sailing adventures I’ve read that is the most exciting. We lost our max prop approaching cape palliser in bad weather and had to be towed in at midnight… we’re with you!! Also used to stuff a cork bung up the exhaust pipe. We’re sailing in the western isles of Scotland at present in a very compact vessel that Graham can’t stand up in. Happy days. Good luck with your second departure, you’ve had all your bad luck now! Love Graham and Anne xx

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