How COVID-19, Yeast & Diesel Bug Can Ruin Your Day…

I am going to blame this most recent adventure on the pandemic. Good one COVID-19, you’ve managed to cause a few extra grey hairs…

Had things been normal, I am pretty sure it wouldn’t have panned out like this. In fact I know for sure that it wouldn’t have.

It all started with a solo sailor named Bill, a yacht called Pixie, me nearly getting arrested because of some packets of yeast and some diesel bug…

You’ll probably remember from my last blog post where I told you all about what an amazing shore crew me and all my friends are.

Well word got out around the sailing community and it turns out our services are in hot demand globally! So much so that Bill Norrie – who is on a Five Great Southernmost Capes solo circumnavigation decided he just had to call in to Lyttelton with Pixie his 28′ Bristol Channel Cutter to utilise our services!!

(Lol – just kidding about that being his only reason for calling in – but more about that later)

Anyway his wife Cathy (who I met virtually via Women Who Sail New Zealand) was going to fly over from Canada to be here as his shore crew, but thanks to COVID-19 she couldn’t get here, so of course I offered up our help to look after Bill on his stopover.

So I was at the supermarket the other day, buying a couple of things for me and some provisions for Bill and Pixie, anyway there was a whole shelf full of yeast! Didn’t appear to be any limit on how much you could purchase. (it seems kiwis have been on some mad baking frenzy over lockdown as its been as rare as hens teeth to find any!) and Bill likes to bake bread. So I picked up 3 packs and put them in my trolley. Went to the checkout…

I was feeling a bit guilty even though there was no sign saying there was a limit, so I deliberately split them up on the checkout counter among my other groceries. Well when the checkout operator picked up the second pack of yeast there were some exchanged glances between him and the person doing the packing. Some whispered words and then “ding!!” he pressed his bell. It was like red and blue flashing lights had gone off over my head! The store manager rushed over. “There’s a limit on how much yeast you can buy you know!?” she exclaims. The checkout operator is standing there with his hands on his hips, so was the packing girl all just staring at me. I felt like everyone in the supermarket had stopped and all was silent. Everyone staring in horror that I had 3 packets of yeast!!!

“But its not for me!” I exclaimed! ” I am shopping for a solo sailor who has been at sea and is just stopping briefly and and…” the checkout operator and the store manager and everyone else in the whole supermarket just roll their eyes at me. Clearly they’ve heard every excuse under the sun from yeast hoarders…

But there wasn’t any signs saying that there was a limit!” I plead! Everyone in the supermarket is still looking at me with disdain and horror. It was quite clear that no one believed my feeble story, but they could see I was about to have a meltdown of some kind and they decided to let me off – “just this once…!”

To avoid any more public lynch-mobs from anti COVID-19 supermarket hoarders, I suggested Cathy do the remainder of the provisioning on the Countdown Supermarket website and get the groceries delivered to my house.

Well it turns out that truck drivers also like to judge potential hoarders. I got the ‘look’ as the man unloaded the contents of an entire truckload of tinned food on to my front doorstep. “This isn’t all for me you know….” I laugh almost hysterically. He doesn’t laugh back…

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Finally after tracking Bill and Pixie’s progress across the Southern Ocean, after a mammoth 92 odd days at sea since departing South Africa in February – today was the day for him to arrive.

We had news media all lining up for a very cool story, all the provisions in the car, marine electricians, chandlery people, sail repairs, friends with baking – the works. We were all rearing to go! But Bill was becalmed about 20 miles of Lyttelton heads.

And his motor wouldn’t start…

“Gosh I am so lucky I don’t have that problem” I smugly thought to myself. Wildy’s little 12hp Yanmar diesel purring away beneath me.

I spoke to Bill’s wife Cathy on the phone. She suggested we should should get a tow. Conveniently Camilla – one of the A Team Shore crew is also a crew member of the Sumner Lifeboat, and after two months of lockup they were desperate to get out on the water for a hoon.

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Naomi – my awesome Shore Crew Executive Assistant, had rescheduled her meetings for the day and had agreed to come out with me, and some media to go out to the heads to meet Bill as he sailed in. After all – today was the first day of “Level 2!” We hadn’t even been allowed in the marina – let alone go sailing for like TWO WHOLE MONTHS!

So I am therefore going to blame COVID-19 on what happened next too…

OK I should take a bit more responsibility for this as its not the first time this has happened. But in my excitement to get out of the marina because we’d been locked up for so bloody long, and because it was such a stunning day, and in my desperation to get up the harbour to meet Bill, and in the absence of any fuel gauge on my boat, and because I’m a Kiwi and I thought “She’ll be right!”…

Well I expect you can guess what happened next?

Yes… we were motoring out of the harbour – right at the entrance to the South Island’s busiest Port, with fishing boats, huge container ships, fuel carriers and small ferries zipping all over the place, our motor spluttered and then died right at the moles. Just as I was on the phone to Cathy – who was calling to say that Bill had got his motor going! “That’s great Cathy!” I exclaimed! “But umm now we are just having a small issue..! I’ll have to call you back!!”

Thank god Naomi was on board – we swiftly (and super stylishly if I do say so myself) managed to hoist a headsail that was buried deep in the sail locker in record time. Stephanie – our lovely guest was (I believe) blissfully unaware of the peril we were in. It was quite convenient that there were no huge ships bearing down on us at the time too.

Stephanie merrily snapped away on her camera as I proceeded to cover myself and the deck of the boat in diesel before getting the rest of it in to the tank. “No problem!” I casually remarked… “I’ll just bleed the engine and get it going again then we will be all sorted.”

Well no that is not what happened. No matter how much pumping I did on the little lifter pump thingamy bob, I couldn’t draw any fuel through. I made a few phone calls, got some helpful advice – (thanks Dad, Chris & Craig!), but still the motor wouldn’t start. By this time we’d managed to sail all the way to the heads. There was a large rolly swell and a dying breeze. The exact conditions that you’d rather not be spending with your head down in a smelly engine bilge.

Meanwhile Camilla and her Sumner Lifeboat crew had mustered alongside Bill and Pixie who were motoring in under their own steam. I felt bad that they’d gone out all that way and hadn’t had to rescue anyone. “You can come and rescue us if you want!!” I suggested.

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I needn’t have worried. They were having a great time out on a stunning day, escorting Bill and Pixie in to the harbour and giving Blue Arrow a good run out.

As the breeze at the heads died they were still a few miles away. I decided we’d better start heading back for home before we were well and truely becalmed. We slowly sailed back towards Lyttelton. Despite repeated efforts to bleed the engine nothing would work, and I decided that my in-line fuel filter was probably clogged with sludge from the bottom of the tank. Buggerrrrrrrr.

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Determined to redeem my major faux-pas for not refuelling prior to running out and causing this issue in the first place (I’m still blaming that on COVID-19), we decided to sail back in to the marina berth. This was complicated by three large fishing boats all racing to get in to the same spot in the port as us, but we managed to pull off another extremely stylish manoeuvre – good work Naomi and thanks Dagma for catching our lines!

Meanwhile – Bill and Pixie were also in port now, going through all their arrival formalities. We packed up Wildy, loaded all the groceries in to the marina trolleys and eagerly awaited their arrival.

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After what felt like a really long day. Bill and Pixie finally arrived on C Pier! I presented him with a well deserved cold beer, and some fresh baking from one of Bill’s friend’s, along with a mountain of groceries – and the YEAST! The news crew finally got their long awaited photographs/film and all the troubles of the day melted away in to a warm fuzzy feeling.

What an incredible achievement to make it this far. I had a tear in my eye when Bill called Cathy to say he’d arrived safely. I am really looking forward to taking care of Bill and Pixie on their stay in Lyttelton.

And I’m looking forward to fixing my motor… grrrrrrr.

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