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Newsletter - January 2020


Nelson - Fiordland & Milford Sound - Stewart Island - Dunedin (4 weeks)

This would be my third trip with crew. I had enlisted Tim (71), a retired Doctor / Psychiatrist / Flower Grower, Martine (23), psychology student and world traveller, and Florence (39), Airbus Engineer and world cruising sailor for last 12 months, and myself.

We spent the first week preparing “China Girl”, antifouling, new prop speed, buffing the hull, odds jobs, sail repairs, provisioning, preparing meals, washing sheets, towels, filling fuel / water, commissioning new autopilot compass, getting to know crew before leaving.

This getting to know one another proved to be very fascinating due to the differences of life experiences, and philosophies, attitudes and directions everyone was going in.  The fact that no one knew one another before the start of the trip did not matter, and took no time to bond and work together as a team, all pitching in to make the trip a success.

Organising crew is quite exhaustive and many crew pulled out and could not commit due to work commitments, travel plans, visa issues, etc, etc, prior.  I would allow 1-2 months to organise this, and make sure you have back up crew when someone cannot make it. 

Highlights of this trip included:

  • Dinners on Tim’s boat and getting to know everyone including Heidi (Tim’s dog).
  • Finishing the last jobs off and finally casting off.
  • Night shifts.
  • Farewell Spit rounding.
  • Ominous Greymouth bar entry.
  • Fishing boat tie up.
  • Emergency repairs.
  • Jackson Bay sandflies.
  • Majesty of Milford Sound.
  • Dinghy row and walk Milford track.
  • Tramping around Milford.
  • Swimming and cocktails.
  • Getting told off entering Charter Fleet Harbour.
  • Mooring besides 600m cliffs.
  • Bligh Sound and George Sound – Martine’s first catch.
  • Doubtful Sound – sailing “China Rose”, SUP, catching numerous dog fish.
  • Receiving 5 crayfish as a gift.
  • Dolphin pods.
  • Tramping through dense bush.
  • Sandflies get the better.
  • Wet Jacket Arm – sailing with Code Zero, keeping sandflies at arms length.
  • Breaksea Sound – Luncheon Cove – Tim falling in the water, girls go missing, seal pups playing, Kakapo bird sighting, tramping with Tim to the rescue, what happens when you press the DSC red button.
  • Pickergill Harbour – Captain Cook’s landing, annoying the girls with prank calls while trying to work. 
  • Leaving Fiordland and experiencing a 50 knot gale feeling of apprehension, thinking Tim had a death wish.
  • Stewart Island – reaching Oban and paying $20 landing fee, playing pool and drinking beer.
  • Getting chased by an angry seal – do not stand between the seal and in the way of the sea, photograph a shark, discovering Norwegian Whalers Base.
  • Dunedin – Port Chalmers Hotel, albatross colony.
  • Night out at the Octogon and deflecting a hostile local.
  • Dancing and partying at The Bog.
  • Packing the boat up and saying farewell to 3 fantastic crew, and all the good times we shared.
  • I must make a point of another aspect of the trip was enjoying one another’s company, cooking lovely meals, fascinating conversations, abundant music, and utter fun playing 500 card game.  This trip was a blast!

The trip had everything we could have wished for and much, much more than we could have ever imagined. I presented a toast to my 3 crew:

To Tim – for his knowledge, integrity and interest in everything, especially for introducing us to 500 Card game.

To Florence – for her wisdom and strength and the person who makes most sense.

To Martine – for the sheer delight to be in your presence, and for your love of life.

 We all presented a toast to “China Girl” for delivering us safely, and in such comfort.

The crew were also kind enough to write a reference about me being the owner and skipper of “China Girl”, and their experience on board for this part of the trip.

Without a doubt, she is the most comfortable, well equipped, yacht I have ever sailed on and our crew of four, who all met for the first time less than one week prior to departure, came together in such a way as to create a happy, compatible group. In part this was due to the differences in age, gender, nationality and experience but also due to the skipper's ability to consult on decisions and encourage active participation in all aspects of running the yacht. The truly amazing region that we traversed, a World Heritage site, the individuals we met along the way, and the atmosphere and entertainment generated by the four  individuals on board made for a lifelong memorable voyage.
Thank you, David!"

Tim McKergow, Crew Member.

“The boat is very comfortable and functional. I feel in security during all weather. The cockpit protection allows us to enjoy sailing even when the weather is rough. All the instrumentation gives us all the information we need concerning the boat and our position. Cabins are really comfortable with enough places to store our belongings. Kitchen is really functional. We can cook or watch dishes and stay we everybody. Easy to catch and bring fish catch on board. Thanks to the exceptional person on this boat, and the perfect comfort of the boat this leg was maybe one of the most beautiful since I start to sail from France to New Zealand there are 14 months ago. This leg with this Captain and these crews on this boat was amazing.”

Florence Dabin, Crew Member.

“Safety was always the highest priority. David would avoid unnecessary risks at all times and make decisions based on multiple sources of information. I felt safe at all times on China Girl, even when we got caught in a gale. The yacht is very comfortable and is equipped by everything you need and more. She is very well looked after, and everything is in top condition. David always made sure that everything worked and kept the maintenance and tidiness to a high standard. This made it very pleasant and easy to live aboard. Besides his qualities as a captain, he is a very easy going and open minded person. There was always room for conversation and interesting discussions. I would definitely recommend crewing on China Girl with David as the captain."

Martine Schaeffer, Crew Member.


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