Locked Down ‘On the Hard’

Flying back to Whangarei in mid March, after a delightful 10 day jaunt spent touring South Island, the Corona storm clouds continued to gather. Repeated airport announcements advised travellers from overseas that they were obliged to self-isolate for two weeks and quite a few passengers were wearing face masks. I had already decided not to risk the trip I had booked to South Africa at the end of March.

We arrived back on Moondust that evening amidst chaotic evidence of earlier uncompleted tasks and the next morning commenced frenzied activity to get ready for re-launch in 10 days’ time. Days coalesced as we made slow but steady progress, focusing on the most important tasks first.

The hulls had to be sanded before we could paint on the antifoul layers.

These included stripping and cleaning the freshwater heat exchangers on both engines and work on the undersides of Moondust – including sanding the hulls, painting on two coats of antifoul and removing the rudders to check the bearings. There were also many other smaller jobs concurrently in progress which saw the days slip by rapidly, with scant attention being paid by us to the world at large.

Moondust with her new black antifoul paint.

With three days to go to our launch date, by chance I phoned a local paint supplier and was informed of the lockdown starting the next day. Dropping everything, Karin and I caught the bus and headed into town, doing our best in the remaining few business hours to buy food and all the technical materials that we would need over the next four weeks. The boatyard was buzzing as everyone attempted to complete tasks and to re-launch a few yachts. Fortunately we had already procured many of the more complex technical spares we needed.

A notice went up at the entrance of the boatyard.

With lockdown the pace of life slowed and we revised our job list, finding plenty of maintenance to keep us busy and get Moondust ship shape.

Karin even had time to wax and polish Moondust!
Before and after
Before and after…
Fixing a leaking hatch.

On reflection we were happy to be stuck ‘on the hard’. We had around us an eclectic collection of sailors from Norway, Germany, America, the UK, France, Romania, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, New Zealand and Switzerland, all of whom we could interact with at a distance.

Our Swiss neighbour, Silvio, used the base of an old dinghy on which to grow lettuce.
Another neighbour, Annie, is currently building her own wooden boat.

A British cruiser started a Whatsapp group which enabled us to donate an unwanted hosepipe to a needy yachtie and to acquire some screws to replace a hatch that we had stripped and re-sealed. For us the Norsand Boatyard was a great place and a good way to spend the lockdown. Everybody chatted in passing and we could even enjoy sundowners with our Swiss neighbours, they on their boat and we on ours, a few feet apart.

DSC_3187 (Copy)
Pukeko, native to New Zealand, are frequent visitors to the boatyard.

Any spare energy went into the odd walk or run as, unlike South Africa, we were allowed to exercise. We also made a few trips to the supermarket to re-stock items that our more mobile fellow yachties weren’t able to find for us.

Supermarket stocks were generally excellent, with only whole-wheat bread flour and brown rice difficult to obtain and, when available, being rationed to one pack per customer. Many customers wore face masks and we had to queue at two meter intervals outside the store; no one wanting to say much, even at a distance, as if a smile or a word could prove contagious.

Our industrial surroundings paled in comparison to the many idyllic anchorages we have frequented over the past two years and we were hemmed in by other boats standing within a few metres of us.

For us there were several definite upsides to being on the hard. Firstly, as we were a good thirty minute walk out of town, the bus service still ran on the Saturday schedule and as the drivers had to remain at a distance from the passengers, the rides were free. Secondly, for a dollar, we could have a ‘Hollywood’ shower – with as much hot water as we needed in the allotted five minutes. We could easily dispose of our garbage at the boatyard; it is quite difficult to find public garbage disposal bins in NZ. It was also nice to have access to washing machines!

Compared to the complete solitude, lack of exercise and broken sleep of an ocean crossing we didn’t find the lockdown difficult, apart from 50 days of pretty much non stop work.

Environmental pollution standards in New Zealand are strict, so all dust generating work has to be done with a vacuum cleaner attached. Similarly ground sheets have to be put down to collect all debris (we are fortunate to have a hardy little Bosch vacuum cleaner which could do the job) and no spray painting may be done by boat owners.

Our gear on some days… not on behalf of Corona.

The spread of Covid 19 in New Zealand is well controlled and after four weeks the Level 4 lockdown was eased to Level 3, which for us, meant Moondust could be launched again! Even though we splashed back into the water on 30th April, our movement is still restricted, so we anchored just upstream of the boatyard in the Hatea River.

After nine weeks on the hard, Moondust was happy to return to the water.
The Hatea River, with Norsand Boatyard in the background.

For the time being yachts are not allowed to sail at all, not even in local waters. Looking further ahead our itinerary is uncertain. Fiji, our intended next stop after the end of the hurricane season in May, is still closed to all foreigners.

Right now the best we can hope for is that stores will re-open so we can buy some warm clothes and most important warm boots, to permit us to perhaps spend a chilly winter afloat in the Land of the Long White Cloud! Life is indeed uncertain – but that is what an adventure is all about.

(Read about our trip to South Island in our next blog.)

11 Replies to “Locked Down ‘On the Hard’”

  1. Wow Peter you both have done amazing work to the boat looks fantastic. I can imagine how you both must feel after all that hard work . Thanks for your update. Find it always very interesting. Wishing you both all the very best and good health.


  2. Hi guys, what a great opportunity to give Moondust some tender loving care. It sounds like you experienced the lockdown in a similar manner than we did. Namibia has been just about unscathed. 16 cases in total in the country and no deaths. We’ve just gone to stage 2 and basically are only restricted to buy alcohol, gather in big groups and have to stay in Namibia. Not complaining as returning to SA would be much worse. We are already planning camping trips.
    Keep safe and sending you much love .


    1. Hi Beth,
      Yes, we made full use of this unplanned opportunity to give Moondust some tender loving care. She deserves it, after bringing us halfway around the world! Enjoy your (also unplanned) long stay in Namibia, one of my favourite countries in Africa…


  3. Hi Pete and Karin we are in lock down on a wine and olive estate in Somerset West so cannot complain too much! Great to catching up on your latest and your archived blogs, what an amazing trip and very well documented. Just read Pete Goss’s book “Close to the Wind” which made me enjoy your blogs even more.
    Take care and safe sailing whenever that may be.


    1. Hi Les,
      Great to hear from you. Glad you could catch up with our adventure. Pete has read and also enjoyed “Close to the Wind” tremendously. All the best to you.


  4. Hi.
    You must be tired of al the sanding, grinding and drilling. But Moondust looks as if she has just come off the wharf. Congrats. Now is waiting the green light to go off to Fiji. That must be boring: ship ready, but stalled in the water. Keep up the spirit.


  5. Hi Pete & Karin, thanks for another great update and well done on all the maintenance work , Moondust is looking like new.
    hopefully you will have freedom to set sail soon and we hoping the same with our bikes!
    all the best, chris & carol


    1. Thanks Chris.
      Great to know that you are able to get a little bit of exercise again and hope things begin to turn the corner in SA, the way they have in New Zealand. There is anticipation here that we will drop down to level 2 next week, which will hopefully mean that we can sail again within NZ waters. Our plan would be to go north, back to the Bay of Islands and beyond.
      Hoping you both keep well and that Corona doesn’t constrain your lives for too much longer.
      Best wishes from both of us.


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