Like most of the rest of the world we have been in a lockdown as a result of coronavirus for the past six weeks. We always knew that sailing around the world was going to be an experience and there would be difficult times, but never did we imagine we would spend an enforced six weeks in one place and never venture further than we can walk or cycle, and we will most likely spend another year in New Zealand. Like everyone else we have adapted to this new lifestyle and some of this enforced isolation has been quite liberating in many ways.
In New Zealand we have been in lockdown bubbles, and finally last Monday we learnt that we could pop our bubble and adapt to the new normal at Lockdown Level 2. Social distancing continues but internal travel, work, schools, shops, restaurants are all open. Jacinda Ardern, the PM, has rightly we feel, received much praise for her handling of CV 19. New Zealand did have the advantage of learning from Europe, and being relatively isolated, but to be fair, Ms Ardern has made the most of New Zealand’s favourable position. The lock down at level 4 was very strict, basically do nothing unless essential. While this seemed harsh at times, it was clear and has delivered. Jacinda and the Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, delivered the latest updates on the situation at one o’clock each day from the Beehive (NZ Parliament building). These were short factual addresses with no egos, some thank yous but no unctuous praise, no tedious explanations, no tests, no milestones, no confusing messages or banging on about “roads to recovery”.
In the mornings we listen to the PM Programme on BBC Radio Four and the briefings from Downing Street, and we download The Times newspaper each day. It has been interesting to contrast the different approaches and reactions as between the UK and New Zealand. This is such an incredibly difficult time and we think of home often and all the terrible difficulties being experienced in the UK. Of course it is easier when there is good news, but we have found the direct, clear, no fuss approach of the New Zealand Government very refreshing. We do feel incredibly lucky to be in New Zealand at this time. Many of our fellow cruisers have found themselves in very difficult locations where they have been unable to leave their boats, but also having no where else to go.
Our boat was launched just before lockdown and we are in an excellent marina near a small town called Ruakaka. There are probably about 20 boats here like us, and even with social isolating we have a good community. Initially there was talk about onward travel to Tonga or Fiji before the Southern Hemisphere’s winter sets in, but this has all died down. We might get some winter sailing, but most people are preparing their boats for the colder and wet weather ahead.
As anyone who has cruised knows there are always boat jobs to do. During lockdown there have been no excuses for any quick fixes, and in many ways this has been an excellent opportunity to really make sure the boat is up to scratch.
Julian has taken the electronics to a new level with various improvement projects, and these are getting more ambitious and possibly just a little eccentric. We now have a comprehensive bilge alarm with coloured lights indicating the presence of water in any of the three bilge areas. The electric head (loo) flush is now operated by an infra red proximity switch linked to a timer which saves that tiresome business of pushing the button for 15 seconds! A mysterious earth leakage problem when the printer and TV screen were both switched on, has been resolved. Our friend Bill from S/Y Krabat is joining us tomorrow for a few weeks and he and Julian have even more ambitious electronic projects planned.
I have improved the boombag and it now has a rain water catching system and a new cover for the sail mast slides. I have also made a new set of fender covers now in black (they were previously grey). The last project has been making hatch covers both to protect the glass from UV damage, but also to allow us to put insulation underneath to stop condensation in the winter months. My sewing skills are improving rapidly.
We do practise “keep Sunday special” and Julian has taken to cooking Sunday supper, and we try and have an extra long walk. Lamb shanks have proved excellent but there has been beef pot roast and lasagne, and I am glad not to have to cook. Leftovers usually last for a day or two.
We are close to two great beaches. Our favourite is just by the marina and it has the most fabulous array of bird life. We have counted 14 different species and they all seem to mingle together. We walk there most days and nearly always see something different or interesting. I have taken on a project to draw all the birds we see. This is quite a task, but very enjoyable, and I have quite a few still to record. Our other little outing is to the supermarket. It is about 6km away and we cycle. The lack of cars on the road has made this a pleasure. As NZ comes back to life this might not be so enjoyable.
We left the marina on the boat for the first time yesterday and motored to Urquharts Bay to anchor overnight about five miles away from the marina. This is the first time we have anchored since we left Minerva Reef last October. Here we checked that the generator and water maker were working. Thankfully they were. Today we have finished puting on the sails, all the reefing lines, sheets, preventers etc. It just seems amazing, that despite looking at all these ropes many, many times, remembering exactly how they go is not that easy. The boat is now ready to go.
We had a lovely nine mile walk this afternoon up Mount Lion and down to Peach Cove car park and back with Bill and Zoe. This did make us puff as walks along the beach do not substitute for a good hill walk, but great views and we will sleep well tonight.
Our onward plans are going no where. All the country borders nearby are closed and the Southern Hemisphere winter is closing in. We are planning to stay in New Zealand for another year subject to visas. So hear goes for winter in New Zealand. We are looking forward to what this might bring, but winter walking, some winter sailing and even some skiing are on the agenda all being well.
We really do appreciate how lucky we are to have found ourselves in New Zealand during the pandemic. We send our very best wishes to all our friends in the UK and elsewhere in the World, and trust that you are all keeping safe and well in these very difficult times.