What can go wrong this time?

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Tue 16 Mar 2021 20:36

We lifted Serenity out in Norsand Boatyard again on the 5th of February, almost a year after our last haul out.  We had planned on spending 2 weeks in the yard, but soon decided that this year we had to get rid of the accumulated layers of old, flakey anti-fouling paint so extended our stay to a month.  While Phil started the long job of scraping the hull back to bare fibre-glass Sarah tackled the plumbing,  replacing pipes from the toilet to the holding tank.  We had been getting unpleasant smells when pumping out the tank, but happily the job was not too dirty or smelly – we have yet to find out if the problem is solved! With all the old anti-fouling removed and the hull sanded Phil primed it all, including 5 coats where there was bare metal on the keel.  Sarah moved on to varnishing, topping up in areas that get a lot of wear, and to cleaning upholstery and canvas.

Surrounded by plastic sheets to stop the old anti-fouling blowing around

Bare fibre-glass ready for priming

The holding tank is under the berth in the forward cabin.  Not the easiest place to work.

The yard was very quiet compared to past years.  It would normally be full of international cruisers getting ready to sail to the islands at this time, but this year they are enjoying a summer of sailing in New Zealand instead.  Our neighbour in the yard was an 80 year old Frenchman, who sails singlehanded, having extensive work done on his yacht following a season on the ice in Antarctica and to prepare it for returning to Europe via the North West Passage. I’m sure he had many fascinating tales to tell, but his English was as limited as our French.

We had to go back to Auckland to collect our liferaft, but had to delay when the city went into lockdown due to an outbreak of Coronavirus – in Whangarei we were put in level 2 restrictions which had little impact on us apart from the need to social distance in supermarkets resulting in queues outside. Then when the restrictions in Auckland were eased our car started playing up again (the same problem as last November when we had to abandon plans to drive to South Island and had a spare part shipped in from Singapore at great cost).  We made it to Auckland and back, but the car then went back to the garage and stayed there for the rest of our time in the yard – a great way of making sure you get on with your work!

Our relaunch was scheduled for Friday the 5th of March, and we were ready in plenty of time.  The trailer was put under us the night before ready for high water at 11 o’clock.  After our experience last year when our engine wouldn’t run and we had to be pulled back out of the water so ending up ashore for the whole of the original Coronavirus lockdown, we were a bit nervous particularly with the recent outbreak which was still rumbling on.  What could go wrong this time?  At about 9 o’clock Phil noticed that the staff from the factory next door were all walking out, and the siren in the background wasn’t going away.  We put this together with the news report that morning of an earthquake off East Cape and realised the siren was the tsunami alarm.  In fact there had been a further and much more powerful earthquake about 600 miles offshore near the Kermadec Islands.  We made sure our neighbour Maurice understood what was happening, grabbed our passports and wallets and headed for the gate.

We managed to hitch a lift, but the single road away from the low lying industrial estate containing the boatyard was gridlocked, so we abandoned that and continued on foot up the nearest hill to the Fertiliser Works yard.  We could see people on higher ground behind the yard so we scrambled under the fence, along the railway cutting and up to the track the other side where Google confirmed that we were out of the evacuation zone, then we settled down in the shade of some bushes to wait.  After a while some people disappeared down the hill and returned in their trucks with a couple of water coolers, presumably from their workplaces, and someone else was handing out fruit.  There were a couple of pictures on the internet of storm surges along the coast, but we saw nothing and the all clear was given at about 1330.  We returned to Serenity and packed grab bags with sun hats, sun cream, water and snacks in case of a repeat!

Looking towards the entrance of the Hatea River from our hill top.  Much of Whangarei is built on reclaimed land, so is low lying and vulnerable.  But it is also about 12 miles from the river mouth.

By this time high water had passed, so our launch had to be rescheduled for Monday and we had another weekend living in the yard.  On Monday all went to plan and we are now back in the Town Basin marina cleaning off the boatyard dirt, applying polish all over to protect the fibreglass from UV and thinking about what to do next.

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