SY Dog Star

A family sailing the Pacific

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Lisa Blair, A Woman With Confidence

Last night, at seven o’clock, we went to a talk. Lisa Blair was talking.
Lisa Blair was the first woman to sail solo around Antarctica.
On her way round, she was demasted and had a collision with a container ship that was trying to give her fuel, but instead was bashing up her hull.
It was an extremely exciting and interesting talk and showed all the people in the room just how hard it can be.
She is also doing a talk in Auckland tonight, so if you are free, head up and enjoy. I seriously
recommend it!
Not very much is happening here. We are still stuck in Opua, though a few nights ago, we did go to Russell which was fun!
I hope that everyone is enjoying themselves!

Iris 🙂


Yesterday we went to Waitangi, where the treaty of Waitangi was signed. When we were there, we learnt about the history of the treaty.
Apparently, there were two versions of the treaty, one in English and one in Maori. The Maori version said that the people from the United Kingdom coming to settle in New Zealand would act under ‘governor ship’, while the English version said that they would act under ‘sovereignty’. Governorship means that the English help with the community but not control it. Sovereignty means that the English would control New Zealand, the community and the indigenous (Maori). Major differences! There were any protests and a big scandal.

For more detailed information, visit .

I hope you liked this blog!

Iris 🙂

Night Sailing

After a few days of exploring Port Fitzroy on Great Barrier Island, we thought it was a good time to make passage to the Bay of Islands, our last NZ stop before our offshore passage to Noumea. The sail was likely to take us 14 hours so instead of leaving in the dark and arriving in the dark, we decided to make passage overnight, leaving and arriving in daylight, but best of all, allowing us a night sail.

Sailing into the sunset out of Port Fitzroy, Great Barrier Island

Sailing into the sunset out of Port Fitzroy, Great Barrier Island

Sailing at night is my favourite type of sailing, this particular night was an ideal sailing night. We had good winds, 20kn with gusts of 25kn, we put in a reef (reduced the sail size to make the boat easier to handle) and headed out into the open sea, sailing a course around the outside of the outlying islands off the coast of NZ to keep things easy.

Route to the Bay of Islands

Route to the Bay of Islands

With the clear sky, you can steer to the stars, we turn off all the unneeded systems, the engine, the autopilot, the bright chartplotter and the sky becomes alight with stars. Before the moon rise (midnight tonight), stars are the only light. At the wheel you can pick a star, line it up with some rigging or other part of the boat and keep steering a straight course, for a while at least. Tonight was a good planet night – Jupiter was my lead for a while, and as Jupiter rolled across the sky, a new star was needed, a bright star that was in the right spot was Sirius, the Dog Star (fitting eh?). As Sirius wheeled away, Castor and Pollux, the twin brothers lead the way. Each time a new star came a long, I’d quickly check Star Walk on my phone to see what I was steering to, and maybe even take a quick look at the stories behind them.

I’m not unique when I say this is a time when I feel connected to nature and the universe as a whole, I’ve read it before in books and blogs written by many others. It is true though: the boat, the wind, the stars, the sea and you, come together in motion. It’s hard also, not to feel aware of the thousands of years that humans have done this before me, and that somehow it’s in our DNA to do it, it feels instinctual.

The other part of night sailing that I love is the shooting stars, if you are constantly looking at the sky, the number of shooting stars is astounding. It feels like only minutes pass between each of them, although time does get a bit weird when sailing at night. This night I was treated to a very low shooting star that crackled crisply as it burned up across the atmosphere.

The stars also spread into the sea, the planets cast a coloured reflection across the water, but the tiny bioluminescent sea creatures glow blue and green in the disturbed water around the boat.

Sunrise off Cape Brett

Sunrise off Cape Brett

I enjoyed this night sail so much that I stayed on watch most of the night, but as I was feeling more and more tired, I needed a hand, so I woke Clare to join me and watch the sunrise. It’s much colder on the water than on land, and the sun coming up over the horizon is amazing as it brings light and warmth and it feels so good.

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking, And a gray mist on the sea’s face, and a gray dawn breaking.”
― John Masefield

In Opua

Hey everybody!

Happy Mothers Day!
At the moment, we are in Opua and I have just finished doing the washing.
It is raining off and on and it is very hard to just relax and have a nice, sunny day.
The visitors facilities revery expensive and we might run out of cash soon.
I hope that everybody is having a good mothers day!
Next week Brian is going come to Opua and we are boing to sail to New Caledonia! I promise I will update from there.

Iris 🙂

Midwife Protest March

Today we went on a march to protest midwifes getting paid better and to change their work conditions. It was really awesome and as we walked we carried balloons and signs like “In a world of Davids, be a Helen”. As we walked up we chanted and shouted. It was so cool. Afterwards we went for brunch and I gave my balloons to this cute red headed baby.
We are going to sail to Great Barrier Island soon and I promise I will update soon.

Best wishes,

Wellington to Gisborne at 6.5 knots

Sailing out of Wellington Harbour on Friday the 13th (yes, I know) brought on a mixture of feelings, excitement, apprehension, anxiety, freedom – but the inevitable sensation of leaving without all the jobs done, so many were, but the culmination of renting out the house, moving onboard, preparing the boat, leaving the business was a messy and awkward peak to crest. A million questions roared around in my mind about the boat and whether all those jobs I’d done were done well enough. A moment to calm my mind and think about what counts, holes below the waterline don’t leak, the sails work, the rig is new…. the rest is really just for comfort. Craig was there to cast off our lines with a friendly smile and encouraging words, which was a great way to start the journey. Iris played her guitar as we passed the white lady for the last time for probably a year if not more.

Sailing out of Wellington

Sailing out of Wellington

Heading across Palliser Bay, the big swell from the previous week’s storm was right on our beam, mixed with sloppy seas and no wind, we rolled and bucked while waves slapped our topsides. The water rushing up the bilge pump drain found it’s way into the cockpit drain, filling the cockpit floor with stinky bilge water. This is actually a safety issue as the Cat 1 regulations don’t allow this, I thought I had sorted it, but there was clearly a hidden plumbing issue – my thoughts started rolling around in doubts and I began inspecting the plumbing in my mind. What is that sound? Is the engine sounding ok? I dashed down below to check the engine bay – all was looking good but the uncertainty was creeping up on me. I went back to the cockpit, but the smell of diesel and my unsettled nerves were too much and I experienced my first bout of seasickness….

It’s true what they say though, “just get it out” I had a little vomit and then everything suddenly seemed better. The feeling of impending doom lifted and as we rounded the Cape, we had the swell on our starboard quarter and the boat settled into a rhythm. A little wind picked up and we were motorsailing. An easy sail from there on in, although just after the sun set one evening Iris and I overheard the mayday call and coastguard response from the stricken yacht Erojca, holed off Whangara and about to be washed onto the beach. Why were they so close in? I explained to Iris why we sailed nearly 20nm off the coast and put a reef in before dark.

A couple of nights later we were pulling into Gisborne Marina, a big sleep and some of Clare’s cannelloni brought warmth and comfort.

The week in Gisborne was spent sorting out our errant plumbing, installing a better solar controller and a few other jobs on the boat that needed taken care of. We were lucky to arrive for the 90th birthday celebrations of Clare’s Aunt Catherine and Uncle Michael. All the cousins were there and it was fantastic to get to know them all better.

The plan from here was to sail to Mayor Island in the Bay of Plenty, this trip would be so much easier, but then it was always going to be.


At the moment we are in Auckland and staying at a friends place (they have cats!!) .
The journey up here was really nice. On the way we stopped at a place called Rabbit Island and I speared a red moki (fish), but it most unfortunately slipped of my spear gun :(.  We did have butterfish sashimi for dinner though, which was very niceWe also went to the Mercury Islands. Mum pumped up my paddle board for me and i was just about to head off to Peach Grove, when this massive Bronze Whaler (shark) just swam underneath the paddle board! That was the end of swimming for the day!  Mum and I did go to the beach in the dinghy thought, and that was cool!

The past two dinners we have had here in Auckland have been roasts with pavlova and brownie, not reyhdrated two minute noodles. It was so good.
The thing about living on a boat is that you don’t get home-cooked meals much and you never have baths. Only showers and swims.

Hope everybody is having a nice bath and a roast tonight!
Iris 🙂

Boat Life In Gisborne

At the moment we are in Gisborne, visiting Mum’s side of the family. It’s raining here but the sunshine is really nice.

The passage here was a bit rough around Palliser Bay, but it usually is. Afterwards it was nice coming into the harbor and relaxing.

We celebrated Great Aunt Catherine’s birthday yesterday. It was really fun! She was turning ninety, so we had a big cake with ninety candles on it!

I’m getting used to boat life and homeschooling (though very slowly). The small space is not so bad now and the tiny galley (boat slang for kitchen) isn’t so tiny anymore.

I hope that everyone back home is having a good time!

Best wishes,
Iris 🙂

Unravelling the thread – preparing for offshore sailing

Sometimes pulling a thread on a piece of clothing is a bad idea, but perhaps on an offshore yacht it’s a good idea. A simple fuel bleeding recently led to a full haulout and weeks of work on Dog Star.

During the rigging refit I noticed that the engine was running rough as we motored to the fuel dock, just before we arrived the engine stopped! Thankfully we were only moving slowly and there was no wind, so after a quick prayer to Huey the engine spluttered into life and we finished the job. Later inspection found the fuel line’s hose clip had come loose on the secondary fuel pump. I tightened it up and began bleeding the engine. We had a bit of trouble and so asked our mechanic to show us around the engine and teach us how to properly bleed it.

“While you’re there mate, what do you think of the PSS seal?”

“I think it’s in a pretty bad state, I don’t want to freak you out, but you need to replace that immediately.”

A PSS seal is a dripless shaft seal, it uses a carbon disc and a steel disc facing each other to create a seal, one face spins, the other is static. The very fine clearance between the discs creates a complete seal. Ours was a dripping dripless seal, which is what freaked out the mechanic.

Diagram of PSS Seal

Diagram of PSS Seal

We hauled our Dog Star out and had Travis come checkout the boat and replace the shaft seal, we asked him to look at our faulty ShaftLok at the same time, the lock mechanism was totally worn out and never worked. In the process of pulling this off, our mechanic found more bad news. Someone had decided to try and “fix” the shaftlok by drilling a number of holes in the shaft….

…the horror…

Holes in the shaft

6 holes like this

A 70hp motor pushing 12 tons of boat through the water generates a huge amount of twisting force, our 1.25 inch shaft was already at the lower end of the recommended size for our boat and engine combo. This meant a new shaft, which meant a hole drilled in the skeg to remove it. The worst thing about a sheared shaft would be the combination of water flooding into the engine compartment and no drive after plugging the leak.

The thread however, continued to unravel. In the process of removing the propellor I noticed it was very brittle and crumbly, years of poor maintenance meant that at some point there was probably no anode on the shaft, and the propellor acted as an anode in its place, electrolysis had stuffed it.

Now we await a new shaft and prop to arrive and be fitted, but the good news is, we are ditching the shaftlok and going for a Flexofold prop, which should mean silent and faster sailing when the motor isn’t running.

All in all, I see this as a good thing. Bit by bit we’re finding and fixing everything, I know once we’re 500 miles from anywhere, I’ll sleep better knowing this has all been found and sorted. There is more to the unravelling, but I’ll save that for the next post.

Rigging upgrade

The biggest job for us on Dog Star is to have the rig replaced, the single largest expense (other than buying a boat!). New Zealand registered ships must pass a safety inspection and be certified to Category 1. Part of this is having a rig in good order, a lot of people say a rig lasts 10 years, we have no idea how old Dog Star’s is, so it’s time to replace it. In particular, we wanted to do the following:

  • Replace standing rigging and running rigging
  • Fix the broken vang tang
  • Recondition the mast step
  • Brush, sand, prime and paint the mast and spreaders
  • Put a through-bolt through the mast and step (Cat 1 requirement)

Also, we need to replace the lifelines with the correct gauge of wire, 4mm for a boat of 12m, and replace the quick release shackles with pelican clips, again for Cat 1 compliance.

Alex up the mast getting ready for the crane

Lifting the mast out when it’s 15m tall requires a decent size crane.

Mast base is tricky to remove when the wires are Sikaflexed into place

Unfortunately when the mast was lifted the riggers had to cut the wires to free them from the mast base. This was partly because all the wires passed through a 25mm pipe in the mast step that was filled with Sikaflex. Removing the mast base to clean it up was quite difficult. it couldn’t be lifted more than about 2cm off the deck, so I had to spend about an hour digging out Sikaflex with a sail needle.

Once the mast base was off we took it home to paint it. A later step was to have the reefing lines, vang, outhaul, topping lift and main halyard led back to the cockpit, which meant 10 blocks which needed to be attached to padeyes through the deck. We decided that the less holes the better, so instead went for a base plate under the mast step to hold the blocks.

A stainless steel mast plate fabricated to site under the step.

Inside the boat the wiring was very difficult to trace, there were no easily accessible panels in the headliner, so I decided to remove small parts of it to gain access and route the wires up to the mast. In the picture above you’ll see a cable gland on the bottom left, this was part of a decision to have the wiring come out from the side of the mast, down a conduit into the deck. The reason for this was twofold, avoiding the nightmare of removing the mast step for the next person to take the mast out and to avoid any water ingress from inside the mast into the cabin top. Dog Star is a super dry boat, but the one spot I did find some water damage was in the headliner underneath the wiring from the mast.

Pulling apart the headliner

Pulling apart the headliner to find the wiring

A very useful tool for slowly removing the headliner.

The new wiring will be much easier for the next owner to service, by removing a small panel in the headliner, access to the joins in the wiring will be possible, meaning that they won’t need to cut wires when removing the mast.

New halyards and standing rigging

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