Thick ice coated the marina pontoons, threatening to throw any unsuspecting well-wishers swiftly over the side and in to the glassy calm marina water. We huddled around Pixie, shuffling our feet to stop our toes from freezing while Bill busied himself stowing lines & fenders, starting the engine and wiping away the tears threatening to run down his cheeks.
It was a bittersweet farewell. We were all happy to see Bill and Pixie all primed and finally ready to head for home some 6500 nautical miles away. But selfishly I find good-byes are always sad. Sailors seem to be kindred spirits and strong bonds of friendship are formed quickly. It seems almost cruel to have to say goodbye so soon after you’ve just met!
Of course getting Bill and Pixie to this point of being able to untie her lines has been an adventure in itself.
It all began with a pandemic, me nearly getting arrested over purchasing some yeast, and then my boat motor breaking down when Bill and Pixie arrived just over three weeks ago. You can read all about the start of the shenanigans here.
The media were super keen on a good news story after weeks of boring-ness given everyone had been locked-up for weeks prior to Bill’s arrival. The marina was packed full of reporters, TV cameras, and photographers all keen to get to meet the man who’d been at sea for a crazy 93 days alone. Talk about social isolation at its most extreme!
We made it on to CNN View the interview here.
In the Otago Daily Times: you can read the article here.
In the Christchurch Press: you can read the article & view the video here.
On to the TVNZ One News view here.
A fabulous video and article by Environment Canterbury: read here.
And watch this space for an article in Boating NZ Magazine too.
Bill’s wife Cathy had already sent over some spare parts, books and ordered some groceries for Bill’s upcoming 3 months at sea. So all that was left to do was get some people to come and help do some small repairs, and to purchase some other bits & bobs to get Pixie ready to sail again.
Pixie had sustained a knockdown just below Tasmania. A huge wave had inconsiderately doused most of the electronics and the left the batteries sloshing around in a bath of salt water. (For the record – batteries and electronics don’t much like that kind of treatment!) Cathy had arranged for some new batteries to be couriered over to New Zealand via UPS, which seemed to arrive in the country in record time, but they wouldn’t be released until they’d sighted Bill’s TIE (Temporary Import Entry) and paid some customs fees. So we got all that paperwork sorted, paid and eagerly awaited their arrival. Or so we thought…
There were plenty of other jobs to be done. I brought over some fresh pillows to replace the soggy grey mouldy ones on the boat, Matt from Oborns Nautical set about repairing the sails and winches, Rowan from Nautic Electronics got busy installing a new Iridium Go with the awesome help of Marleen from Predict Wind. Brian Bone from Mainland Marine got some new fuel filters. Dagma & Matt – Pixie’s marina neighbours managed to find a mobile phone for Bill to borrow, a power cord and a heater to help dry the boat out.
A few days went by and the batteries still hadn’t arrived. Everyone was reporting that freight companies had a bit of a backlog so we weren’t overly concerned. Yet…
In between boat jobs, Bill’s friends had him out at dinner, touring around the South Island and visiting Hanmer Springs. Catching up with Matt & Nancy fellow Canadian BCC owners, and other marina liveaboards were regularly delivering fresh bread and cups of coffee. Other sailors called by to meet Bill and get the tour of Pixie.
A week went by. Still no sign of the batteries. We started phoning UPS to see what was going on. They’d chase them up for us… they said. Great! They’ll be here soon we thought…
Bill and I went in to town and we checked out all the Christchurch touristy spots. The Cardboard Cathedral, The Botanic Gardens and our sparkly new city, rebuilt after the earthquakes in 2011 and – just reopened after the COVID-19 lockup. The city felt eerily quiet without any tourists wandering around and with many people still working from home.
After my crazy supermarket yeast buying experience, I didn’t realise that I’d be breaking the law again so soon for Pixie, but it seems that ‘bending the rules’ is one of the major KPI’s for a good shore crew.
We took Bill’s LPG (cooking) gas bottles in to be filled. Thankfully we figured out that the fitting on the tank was the same as the New Zealand one – which was a great start as I’d already had that problem a few years ago with some visiting French sailors.
The people at the gas filling station looked the bottles up and down, and after some humming and haaing, and flipping through some regulation manuals they flatly refused to fill them. It seems that here in NZ we have got much stricter gas bottle filling regulations than most other countries in the world and Bill’s bottles didn’t have the right number on the cylinder.
“Pleeeaaaassssseee…!?” I begged. I considered crying or throwing myself on the ground kicking & screaming or something like that. But no amount of charm or drama could persuade them. “You’ll have to buy a new tank” he suggested. The new tanks were much larger though and wouldn’t fit in to Pixie’s gas locker.
“I’ve got another idea” I suggested to Bill as we jumped back in to my car. We headed down the road to another filling station. I dropped the tanks off by the filling station, acted very casual & aloof and told Bill to not talk (and give away his accent). I went in to the shop to browse at the magazines. The man went out and filled them – no questions asked. We quickly paid, threw the bottles in the back of the car and sped off before anyone could change their mind!
Thinking we’d made a good getaway and that was the end of our law-breaking for the day we went in to Mitre 10 Hardware to buy a few other bits & bobs. We went to the paint section and looked for some acetone and a paint scraper. But the shelves were bare. No matter – I thought, we’d go to the Resene paint shop just up the road instead.
Sure enough they had the exact scraper that Bill was looking for, but when we asked for acetone the shop assistant looked at us suspiciously. “What paint are you going to be mixing it with?” he enquired.
“I’m not using it with paint!” Bill replied. The shop assistant raised a bushy eyebrow.
“We can only sell you the acetone to go with the specific type of paint that we sell you.” He remarked. “I could get in to lots of trouble if I sell you the wrong one. Besides, did you realise that acetone is used in the manufacture of illegal drugs?”
Here we go… I thought! I half expected the red and blue flashing lights to appear over my head as they seemed to do in the supermarket yeast experience. Thankfully Bill managed to sweet talk us out of this mess by explaining that he was only going to use the acetone on cleaning the glue off the brightwork from the Duct Tape that was sealing up Pixie’s windows.
Next on the law breaking agenda was some money laundering. Bill went in to the bank to exchange some USD$ for NZD$ to pay his marina account. But as he didn’t have his passport on him they wouldn’t exchange it. They wouldn’t let me do it as I didn’t have a passport on me either and I didn’t bank with them.
“Does everything have to be this difficult today!?” I remarked. So we drove to my bank. Once again told Bill to not talk and give away his accent in case we got in to trouble for exchanging money that didn’t belong to me.
After all that excitement we both needed a drink, so we went in to town for a fabulous lunch at the stunning Amaterrace restaurant.
The batteries still hadn’t arrived, so we thought we’d take Bill out for a sail with us in the winter series race. After the start I passed the helm over to Bill and went up to the bow to oversee the intricacies of hoisting the kite with our new bowmen. Wildwood handles a little differently to Pixie, and we almost did a complete 360 on the spot at the first tack lol! But after that we all got in to the swing of things and enjoyed a brisk winter sail around the racecourse.
After waiting two weeks, getting all the other jobs done, we thought that the batteries must soon arrive, and so we thought we had better arrange a going away party.
Bill had managed to accumulate quite a collection of friends over his short time in the country, so we booked some tables at the Eruption Brewery in Lyttelton where we dominated the bar, enjoyed chatting with old friends and meeting new ones, drinking beer and eating pizza. We even had a few speeches.
By this stage both Cathy and I had taken to bombarding UPS with emails and phone calls to try and track down the bloody batteries! This was quite literally the last thing required before Bill and Pixie could head for home. The winter weather was starting to get really awful and hanging around in marina’s can be an expensive experience. Thankfully Peter, a friend of Bill’s knew someone who specialised in batteries and was able to track down some that would fit in the snug battery boxes.
The battery problem was finally solved! However Cathy was still out of pocket for the huge cost of the lost batteries, freight and customs fees. Rest assured we will be doing our best to either track them down or get UPS to cough up for their loss, although I doubt we will get any compensation for the inconvenience, stress and extra expenses incurred while waiting for them to arrive!
I loved the comment Peter made on Pixie’s blog which summed up Bill’s visit very well:
“High time for Pixie to depart. Diana loves partying but I can’t keep up with Bill. Some of us have to work the following day and my liver can’t stand too much more of this. Pixie captain last seen in a Nepalese restaurant in the basement of the British Hotel drinking Dark & Stormies and then in the Wunderbar till midnight while a nice Southerly was blowing.”
The final things to sort out were the weather and getting clearance from customs & immigration. Friday looked like a good option, but its bad luck to leave port on a Friday, so the departure date was set for 9am Saturday morning.
Huddled on the icy wharf, the fellow well-wishers and I pushed Pixie’s bow out. She was finally away again. Heading for Vancouver Canada, 6500 nautical miles away as the crow flies, but Pixie and Bill will sail much further than that, drawing a big S in the Pacific, taking advantage of the prevailing winds and currents. They’ll head East first with the Westerlies up her bum, hang a left at French Polynesia, then up and over the equator with the South East Trades, through the doldrums and then on to the back of the semi-permanent High Pressure system that sits over the Northern Pacific.
You can follow her track here:
Pixie was accompanied by sister ship, the beautiful Whitney Rose and some other friends from the marina out of the harbour before everyone retreated back to our warm homes and heaters. Leaving Bill and Pixie out there alone again for their long sail home to Cathy.
The marina seemed strangely quiet after they’d gone!
Bill has promised to bring Cathy back to NZ soon, and we’ve all been invited to go visit them in Canada too, so no doubt we will see them again when we are allowed to travel.
Safe travels Bill and Pixie! Its been a pleasure and an inspiration to meet you.