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Badger

Badger
In Greenland

Iron Bark

Iron Bark
Under full sail

Fantail

Fantail
In Pelorus sound

Annie Hill

Annie Hill
Photo credit: Alvah Simon

Blue Water Medal

Books By Annie Hill

  • Brazil and Beyond
  • Voyaging on a Small Income

About Me

01 September, 2014

As soon as I arrived in New Zealand, I felt that I had come home, and this is probably why I have so little temptation to leave.  I can't say that I was ever looking for 'home', or at least not consciously: it's just one of those things.

Perhaps the true test of love is being able to see faults in the beloved, but still to accept it/her/him.  This applies to my feelings for NZ: I can see the faults, and with an election just around the corner, they are even more glaring than usual, but overall I am happy here.  And I can try to get involved in issues I care about, say my piece and vote for those who put the country and her inhabitants before the acquisition of personal financial gain.

I recently went to a concert by a ukulele trio who sum up all that I love about NZ: but better still, their music is quintessentially Kiwi.  You need to live here to understand some of it, but that is why it's so true.  Most of it is loving, but occasionally they voice their concerns, and when they do, they don't pull their punches.  See if you can get to hear some of it.  The Nukes are virtuoso instrumentalists - you never knew the humble uke could sound like this - inspired songwriters and brilliant performers.  They have made two albums and you can download a track, The Last Kauri from their most recent one, for free. 


27 August, 2014

Anchoring under sail



There has been a little bit on the JRA Website about anchoring under sail, but unfortunately the link didn't work.  Below are a couple of video clips, taken by my good friend Zan on Demara, showing me anchoring Fantail in Matauwhi Bay, last summer.  It looks amazingly easy in the video.  It is!  Another reason that junk rig is so good for single-handed sailors.

video

video

Clever, eh?  (I mean posting the videos.  First time I've tried to do it!!)


15 August, 2014

The other thing I said I'd never do



I have never been interested in doing deliveries because if someone doesn’t want to sail their own boat it’s generally either because the boat is a wreck or the anticipated weather conditions are likely to be dreadful, and, quite honestly, I don't enjoy sailing enough to put up with either! However, about a year ago I was approached by a man who had just bought a junk ketch at the south end of South Island and wanted it to be in upper North Island. He was completely inexperienced and the passage is not an easy one. The expense of trucking the boat was beyond his pocket: he’d got into all this from reading my book and I felt a certain moral obligation to help him out. I never said I was logical!

I’d chosen late January/early February as being the best time to bring a boat up from Bluff - over half the passage was in the Forties.  I hate gales and really, really wanted to avoid one.  The boat in question was a 32ft Wylo that hadn't been sailed for about 5 years, and hadn’t been much sailed for the previous 5 years.  (Indeed, in spite of the fact that she’d lived her whole life in Dunedin/Bluff, I had to conclude that she hadn’t encountered much rough weather at all.  I think the owner dashed out in periods of high pressure and motored to Stewart I, where there are a number of good anchorages to cower in when the gales come over.)  I wasn't really that keen on the idea, but in truth, there was no-one else capable and willing.  The boat needed completely re-rigging and some of the existing concepts changing, so you really needed to know something about junks to do it.  Even once that work was done, I wasn’t entirely convinced that the boat was up to a rough passage. 

However, I got talked into it and about 10th January, I flew down with Marcus, a junkie friend from Whangarei, who is working on getting himself a small junk-rigged boat for offshore sailing. This would be a great opportunity for him to see what it was like.  The boat was on a mooring in Bluff Harbour and the only way to get to any shops was for the owner, Lex, to drive us.  He couldn’t lend us a car because it would have to be left unattended and their was a risk of it being vandalised. I had paid a visit previously, to assess what needed to be done, so I had some idea of how long it would take, but we had to be pretty organised.  We were on the boat for 8 or 9 days, during which it blew at gale force or more for all but 1½ days.  On that one calm day, we worked from 0500 to 2130, almost without stopping, to change blocks, ropes, etc, my crew gallantly going up and down the masts to get the job done.  The idea I’d had of taking the boat out for a ‘sail around’ to see how things went, was simply not possible.  However, there was plenty to be done down below: turning a boat that had been essentially a day-sailer into something that could handle being offshore in the Roaring Forties, without gear – and crew – flying everywhere. And of course we needed to buy food, some gear, etc, etc.

We were just about ready and I was planning to go for a trial sail the next day, but when we heard the forecast for 50+ knots in a couple of days, I decided we’d better get out while the going was good.  We were already fed-up of battling ashore in this windswept harbour, and the idea of being stuck there for another 3 or 4 days was intolerable – as well as meaning extra expense for the new owner, of course.  However, if we got away the next day and ‘round the corner’ we’d be out of the Foveaux Strait and into the next sea area, where they were talking of ‘only’ F7.  Still rather more than I wanted, but it would be a fair wind and, indeed, we might be able to get sufficiently far north so as to miss that blow altogether.  So we watered the boat, topped up the fuel and brought the boats on deck (a Tinker Tramp and a nice little plywood dinghy). Half an hour later we made the discovery that the joints in the filler pipes to the tanks were far from watertight: most of the water had found its way into the bilge! Luckily, we had a large number of bottles (Lex hadn’t used his tanks), so should have sufficient for the 2 weeks I was hoping for, with plenty in hand. Fortunately, the tide fitted in with my decision and we left at first light. Neither of us was sorry to leave Bluff behind – it reminded me more than a little of being anchored in Port Stanley in the Falkland Is.
 
Bluff
All went well: we motored until about 10 that evening, when a NE wind came in and there was too much of a chop to make any sort of progress.  But we’d made good time and continued on our way rejoicing, even if we couldn’t quite lay our course.  I think the worst of the system passed below us, but the cold front came in with a bang at a conservative F9, which resulted in a fair amount of violent activity from Marcus, on deck. He was quite impressed at the speed and strength of the change as we struggled to reef the sails. The rig was full of problems: I don’t believe the original design was very good and for what we were doing, Lex’s ‘improvements’ didn’t help at all.  He had fitted articulated battens, which meant that the sails were just about flat below F4 and had way too much camber when the wind became strong. 




 
Camber at F3
What was worse, was that the top fans of the sails, which should be cut completely flat because they are the storm canvas, also had these articulated battens.  We’d bought alloy tube and salvaged a couple of the original, straight battens to replace these, but simply had never had the opportunity, due to the weather, and on the subsequent passage, it was never calm enough to work on the rig, so I still don’t know what difference they’d have made.  The net result was that there were times when we had extreme difficulties making the boat go in the direction we wanted to.  The battens were also different lengths so that the sheets snagged round them (and the main sheet found numerous obstructions on deck to do likewise); the upper span of the main lazy jack was too short, so that the yard, (slung two-thirds back from the mast, rather than from the centre point as is normally the case) would get caught on the wrong side of the span.  I’d wondered about this initially, but Lex told me that they hadn’t caused any problems.  

Lex had taken on board the concept of leading all the lines back to a control station, as aboard Ron Glas, but unfortunately, while Ron Glas’s control station is in the cockpit under a moveable cover, with lots of room for both man and ropes, Passepatu’s lines all came through the front of the cabin, ending up under the main hatch, with all the (wet) ropes coming into plastic containers on the engine box.  With the hatch shut, we found it impossible to brace ourselves well enough to pull the halliards, and with the hatch open there was a good chance of getting soaked by rain or spray, although as it turned out, we were lucky in that respect.  Balancing on the engine box, or companionway ladder was precarious to say the least, with nothing to prevent you from tumbling down to the cabin sole.  In the end, Marcus had to do all the pulley-hauley work.  I simply wasn't strong enough.  We couldn’t help wondering how Lex had managed. However, it has to be said, that even though I felt the rig could be a lot better sorted out than it was, and involved far more deck work than I would want to live with, it was still infinitely less work than sailing anything else. Particularly, of course for reefing.

Control Station.

 
We had a few other issues, too, that weren’t anticipated.  Not only had most of the water we’d put into the tanks, but when we started sailing and I came to fill a kettle, the water, instead of being sweet and clean was a thick, brown liquid.  I guess the tank has some problems with rust.  The water in the second tank had white things floating in it.  We could use it for washing and, at a pinch, cooking, but ...  So we reverted to the water bottles. Then the main halliard block came undone.  We’d had it on and off several times, while working on the rig, and I suspect we simply hadn’t nipped it up sufficiently tightly the last time it was re-attached. It wasn’t the type of shackled that can be moused and there was no Loctite on the boat.  I had rigged a hefty spare block for just this eventuality, but Marcus gallantly volunteered to replace it. It was blowing about F2 at the time, and with the mizzen sheeted hard in, the boat was relatively stable. I wasn’t that keen on the idea, but Marcus is immune to heights and felt that it should be a straightforward job.


He climbed the mast using ascendeurs, but just as he was re-shackling on the halliard, the wind suddenly picked up to a good F4, changing direction and instantly creating a cross sea. Marcus had a horrible time getting down: his hands had got cold while he was working at the top of the mast and he found it hard to release the latch on the the ascendeurs. In addition, the mast was like the original greasy pole, because we had daubed it generously with Lex’s patent compound of linseed oil and Vaseline. I think I was even more frightened than he was: it was dreadful watching him and trying to control his swinging around the mast with a rope from the climbing harness.  However, he got back in one piece and a large whisky restored circulation. Soon the sail was back up once again.  


All this time we were surrounded by mollies and albatross - I have never seen so many in one place, even down in the Antarctic.  Indeed, for me, the best thing about this passage was the number of birds I saw: it was a delight to be among species that one normally has to sail to quite high latitudes to experience.  



Next day, the mainmast step came loose on its base – fortunately we noticed it during a brief period of fairly calm weather, which is probably why we heard it.  Marcus had hammered all the wedges home earlier in the day, so now he had to loosen some of them in order to resettle the mast in its step. But before that, we had to empty out the forepeak (including the chain) so he could get in there. Fortunately, Marcus is immensely strong – one of the reasons I’d signed him on, physical strength not being one of my noted attributes, so I was pretty sure that once tightened, the bolts would stay that way.  Of course, he then had to hammer all the wedges back in and we were working as quickly as we could in rapidly fading light.  Marcus had been pretty seasick for much of the time since we left Bluff and was decidedly unhappy by the end of the job. Contrary to all the best advice, I gave him another another large whisky – at least he would be happy for half an hour or so – and told to turn in. It didn’t seem to make his seasickness any worse.

After that, the problems were fairly minor: the GPS aerial base snapped off, but it seemed to work just as well upside down as it did the right way up; the forecasts that we did pick up were so wrong that it was hardly worth the effort; we had real problems getting the boat to sail at all, but gradually discovered that if the more obvious method didn’t work, another, however illogical it might seem to be, could be made to do the job: sometimes she preferred one sail to dominate, sometimes the other and we never did find a pattern to it; the spline on the foremast, holding the wire into its groove kept working out; some of the bottled water was revolting; the pricker broke off in the cooker, and there was no spare; the electronic compass became erratic and the conventional ones (Passepatu is a steel boat) were often many degrees out; the dinghy in the davits tried to escape: but we could handle all these minor difficulties. 

In the 14 days that we were under way, we had winds of F7+ on 8 of them and a full gale for a lot of that.  We hove to at one period for 24 hours, and I have to say that Passepatu sat like a little duck.  You could easily see the much-vaunted slick and she took very little water on deck.


As is so often the case, down below felt like a haven of calm and security, while outside the wind howled and the breakers crashed. The track on the chart looked like a child had been doodling.  We got under way again, but it was a bit of a wild ride, and with our doubts as to the rig’s honesty, we kept her under easy canvas, our course improving as the wind backed to the W.  Later, we motorsailed for a while when the wind dropped right away, but the modern engine with its small sump didn't enjoy this and the pressure dropped to 40 psi.  That was OK as long as it didn’t get lower, but it was one more thing to worry about.  Mercifully, a new breeze sprang up from SW in the evening, and with a couple of reefs in the main and most of the mizzen, we ran before, in a very lumpy and uncomfortable sea. 


The change proved very squally and Marcus again had to go and wrestle with the mainsail whose yard wanted to catch once more.  With just one panel of that sail and 2½ of the mizzen we carried on.  It was pouring with rain and the old swell was breaking nastily so that we were frequently deluged with water.  Lots of it found its way below: down the forehatch, down the masts, down the main hatch onto the GPS (mercifully, a hand-held and therefore waterproof model) and the switch panel, 

down a hole in the after bulkhead through which wires passed, down the water collecting system on deck – half-fitted and never used, and of course, through the holes through which the control lines came. Keeping the charts dry became impossible and I cursed the cheap paper that is now used compared with that used for older charts. (Still, it made vindicated my decision to buy all the paper charts we needed rather than to ‘invest in’ a chart plotter, which probably would not have survived the inundation.) Lex had claimed, with simple pride, that the boat had never had salt water in the bilge.  Well she has now! In the squalls, when the wind gusted about F9, the boat griped up, but as she never seemed to be in any trouble, we stopped worrying about it.  It was better than being hove to – at least we were making progress.  I was too tired, seasick and stressed to cook: Marcus was too weary to worry.


But all passages come to an end and at last we sailed between the Mercury Is and Cuvier I, entering the Hauraki Gulf. 


The sun came out, the wind died down, the sea smoothed, and I got the ship sailing wing and wong for a couple of hours.  When Marcus came up on deck, he was smiling and no longer seasick. We got out the beers and felt that we were home.  There followed 24 hours of blissful sailing until we dropped the hook in Whangarei Harbour.

There are two morals to this story: never undertake a delivery and don't sail south of the Hauraki Gulf!

But I've kept my promise to myself never to sail anything other than junk rig again, except, perhaps, for a couple of hours :-)











 

 



09 April, 2014

A regatta


I've done two things this summer, that I have declared I will never do: gone racing and delivered a boat.  More of the latter, later

The first, to be fair, was entirely frivolous.  The delightful little Russell Boating Club holds its Tall Ships Regatta every year.  Now the Tall Ships are rarely tall and most of them would not normally be described as ships: to qualify the boat has to be over 30ft and to have two masts.  However, one or two taller and shippier vessels generally join in and a very fine spectacle the fleet makes.  In addition there are the Classics (boats over 25 years old) and, this year, there was an All Comers class for any who didn't qualify for either of the above, but wanted to join in.  This made a lot of sense, because it made for fewer spectator boats and thus a more ordered start line - and no doubt it helped swell the club's coffers.  Fantail was flattered to be described as a 'classic', although even her greatest fans might debate such a sobriquet.  Still, if age was the only qualifier, she qualified.  Two other junks, Shoestring and Zebedee also participated,


Shoestring 

















Zebedee



















but they qualified as Tall Ships, so we didn't sail together.  To make the day more fun, I took on board another junkie, Marcus, whose 8ft Pugwash is too small to join in.

I wasn't in the slightest interested in making 'a good start' (although my crew thought I was being a bit feeble), but was far more concerned about keeping my wee ship out of everybody's way, so (along with quite a lot of other participants) I crossed the line about 10 minutes late.  There was a thundering great cruise ship anchored slap bang in the middle of the bay, and I made the decision to keep to windward of it, even though that meant a bit of short tacking.  The other possible advantage was that the ebb tide might help us.  Both decisions paid off and we had a fine sail, close hauled up the Bay.  It soon became apparent that Fantail's closest rivals were two gaffers, Dolphin of Leith, which had sailed to New Zealand from Scotland, and another local one, whose name I can't recall, I'm afraid. 

As we headed up towards Urupukapuka, we could just crack the sheets, which made up for our considerably shorter waterline.


Fantail and Dolphin of Leith


















For much of the race it was neck and neck, (even though I used the wind-vane for some of the time, so that we could eat lunch in peace) but on the final leg - a run - Fantail convincingly left the opposition behind. 























We came in 52nd out of 54, but did a lot better on handicap - 19th.  I was very pleased with my little ship, but in all truth, even more pleased with our generous handicap!!  Shoestring and Zebedee were way behind us, having made the mistake of going to leeward of the cruise ship and getting stuck there, so Fantail also had the satisfaction of soundly beating her big sisters.  Roger and Alan generously complimented me on my tactical abilities, but I have to confess it was largely luck.  The nice thing was that the boat ahead of us crossed the line 20 minutes before we did, which meant that my late start had made no difference to the end result.

The day was rounded off by a party and prize given at the Boating Club, which was a lot of fun, too, with a hangi (food cooked over stones in a covered pit) and lots of discussion about the various boats and the race.  There was no bitching about handicaps, and there were (as far as I could tell) no protests.  Very few people took the racing seriously, although most of us tried to get the best out of our boats.  And the organisation of the whole event, by dedicated volunteers (an inconceivable number of mussels were scrubbed on the morning of the race) was truly awe-inspiring.

One of the things that I appreciated, and that a lot of other participants commented on and enjoyed, is the fact that the Tall Ships Regatta  is about the boats and the people.  It's a way of bringing together lots of interesting boats to provide a spectacle both from ashore and on the water (there are many good lookout points in and around Russell), while everyone sails around having fun.   In a time where everything's value depends solely on the 'bottom line', it was refreshing to be at an event apparently run for the sake of the participants rather than to make money.  Indeed, I'm sure that if the RBC tried to make the Tall Ships Regatta into a money-making event, they would find they had killed the goose that lays the golden egg.  For those who know of it, the Tall Ships Regatta reminds me of the Dourarnenez festival, an event for the boats and the sailors that incidentally brings money into the town, rather than being held for the money and incidentally bringing in the boats.  I can understand why people join in year after year.

23 March, 2014

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions


Golly - I can't believe how long it is since I wrote anything for this blog!  It was first on my list of New Year's Resolutions: Blog More Often.  So much for good intentions - I am blithely sprinting along the road to Hell at this rate.

One of the problems is pictures.  Blogs without pictures are, I gather, a no-no.  Now I, in case you hadn't noticed, am a wordsmith, and I don't think in pictures.  Without exaggerating, when I look through a National Geographic, I read the captions before looking at the photographs.  So when I'm sailing along enjoying myself, I rarely think about taking photos.  However, with the thought that I might write the odd article for a magazine, who would be kind enough to pay me for my burblings, I keep my camera set to high resolution, so that the photos I take are something a magazine can use.  Trouble is in NZ, Internet data is expensive and so if I upload a photo, it makes sense to reduce its size down to something that looks fine on the blog, but doesn't guzzle my MB.  And that takes time.

'Time!'  I hear you scoff.  'You've got all the time in the world, Annie. What are you talking about?'  Yes, I know.  But somehow it just slips away and I always seem to have a huge backlog of unanswered letters, unwritten articles and an out-of-date blog.  I have thought about this long and hard and have had to come to the conclusion that I am extremely inefficient, very slow and, I fear, probably rather lazy.  So for those faithful friends who keep looking at this blog, there is my apology and feeble excuse.

My summer started wonderfully but has gradually gone down hill.  All will be revealed.  One of the best aspects of it has been my gorgeous little dinghy, Fan-tan.  I mentioned her in my last blog and she has caused more than a little interest.  I decided before I got going for the summer, to give her a little refit and paint her in the 'house colours'.  Needless to say, it took longer than anticipated, but I'm delighted with the result:

















Ain't she sweet?  I'm besotted with her.  This time, for the fendering, I used alkathene tubing.  It's not as soft as the stuff I used previously, but is tougher.  If you tie the dinghy alongside, it would scuff the topsides, but such a light dinghy, even colliding with the hull at speed, doesn't seem to do any damage.   I can easily haul her on board, but haven't yet fitted chocks, as I'm experimenting to see where she's least in the way.  Again, because she's so light, it's easy to tie her immovably into place.

















John Welsford, her designer, is well aware of not only my infatuation, but the amount of interest that she's caused.  We agreed that 5ft 1in is a bit too much of a hobbit-craft for your average person, so he has designed Scraps - a 6ft version - for more normal-sized people.  I've seen one in build, and she looks just as purposeful as my Fan-tan, but considerably bigger.  She is still very light, however.  Should you fancy one of these paragons, contact John at jwboatdesigns@xtra.co.nz

My first foray, once Fan-tan was safely on board, was to set off down to yet another junket off Mahuarangi.  It was a bit of a rolling junket, with boats coming and going, but hugely enjoyable, with some good conversations, good sails and beautiful anchorages.

Photo credit: Roger Scott aka the Leprechaun




















With 10 days to go, a couple of us sailed up north in company, heading for Christmas in the Bay of Islands. Here is a typical view of how I saw La Chica, most days.

















By the time I had my sail up and everything stowed away, she was somewhere in the middle distance.  She is a quite a lot bigger than Fantail, but for such a Sherman tank of a boat, she sure pulls away quickly. 

We stopped in Whangarei and Whangaruru on our way, but separated at Cape Brett, where La Chica headed off for the Cavalli Islands while I went down into the Bay of Islands to catch up with an old friend: Alan on Zebedee.

Zebedee is a clone of my beloved Badger, in which Alan has out voyaged-on-a-small-income the originator.  When he arrived at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal about a year ago, he celebrated their circumnavigation together.  It started in BC, from where Alan made his way down to Mexico (and Panama) before heading off through the Pacific Islands to New Zealand.  He based himself there for a few years, and then continued his circumnavigation via Indonesia, Asia, Madagascar, South Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean, finally ending up back in Panama.  He transited the Canal and sailed back to NZ.  For a lot of this time he was accompanied by his New Zealand partner, Pauline, but she decided against the Pacific crossing, so he was back to being single-handed.  These days, I don't suppose the circumnavigation is particularly unusual, although the income on which Alan lives wouldn't keep a heavy smoker in cigarettes.  What is unusual is the fact that the 34ft boat doesn't have an engine.  (He borrowed a 10 hp outboard to get through the Panama Canal.)  Instead, Alan uses consummate seamanship when there is any wind, and a long yuloh when there isn't.  (I've also seen him using the latter in very light winds, propelling Zebedee from puff to puff so effectively that I assumed he'd found a breeze I didn't have.)

I was so excited to see him again and thanks to modern technology (ie texting on cellphones) we caught up with each other easily and had a fine afternoon sailing around photographing each other before finding an anchorage for the night.  Here is Zebedee romping along.
























And (an unusual) one of Fantail, just so she doesn't feel left out.


13 October, 2013


THE NEW ZEALAND MID-WINTER JUNKET

The Waiheke junket had been a great success, but there had been too little wind to try the boats out and several boats hadn’t managed to make it. The general feeling was that we should try again in a few months. By then La Chica should be shaken down, Shoestring should have a few more miles under her belt and Footprints would be about ready to leave for New Caledonia. A junket was pencilled in for 5th August (my birthday), but the date was altered to a fortnight later to fit in with Footprints' schedule.

Holding a junket in the middle of winter is a bit ambitious: the days are short and the weather unpredictable. I voted it should be held in Whangarei harbour, which has several sheltered anchorages and meant that the bigger boats would come to my neck of the woods instead of my sailing down to theirs. It also meant that Pugwash , the smallest boat in the fleet should be able to attend. As the time approached there was a flurry of emails and text messages as the forecasts remained unremittingly bad and the Auckland boats wondered if they would ever get a chance to bolt north. Fortunately, Sunday 18th August came in with a fair SW breeze and they romped up north having a wonderful sail. Fantail was less fortunate, the wind dying away on her, and poor little Pugwash didn’t get away until after dark, due to the fact that the last-minute preparations took a trifle longer than anticipated. As I approached the rendezvous in Urquharts Bay, the two junks sailing in company came in the other way. Accompanying us were the designer of Shoestring and Footprints, Gary Underwood (http://gary-underwood-designz.co.nz/Home) and his wife, Beryl, aboard the ex-fishing boat, Mason Bay and Pete on the catamaran, Putangitangi, who is interested in junk rig. The fleet anchored together and Roger from Shoestring and I gathered aboard Paul’s La Chica to discuss their passage up and imbibe a few warming drams.

 The fleet from La Chica

The following morning dawned flat calm and only the lightest breath ever materialised the whole day. Was it to be a repeat of Waiheke? Roger invited several of us over for breakfast, which was just about ready when Marcus finally rowed Pugwash alongside, looking like some sort of weird water beast as the oars moved up and down, the rower completely hidden under the canopy to keep him dry from the steady drizzle.

 Pugwash paddles

Breakfast over, Shoestring’s designer (and dog) were ferried aboard in Fantail’s new dinghy, Fan-tan. (Peawaka has joined La Chica because she can be carried securely stowed during LC’s planned non-stop circumnavigation). Fan-tan, at 1.5 m may seem a little diminutive to carry two large men (and dog), but managed admirably. 

Fan-tan, Marcus, Missy and Gary

In due course, Mason Bay pottered off to refuel and we heard from Footprints that they had made a fair wind of it and gone straight past us en route for Opua. So it was decided that Shoestring and Pugwash would go sailing. In fact the former made full use of her 9.9 hp outboard, and the latter rowed off across the calm sea somewhat faster than we motored. We drifted about somewhat aimlessly, while Pete struggled to understand the many advantages of junk rig that were assiduously pointed out to him. But the rain lifted and the beer went down, so we all had a lot of fun. 

 Where’s that buoy?

Even Pugwash – all 8 ft of her – had problems finding any wind and seemed, at one time, perilously close to a large ship that came into the harbour, but Marcus assured us that he was well out of the channel at the time.

Pugwash and ship

We all went back to anchor and in due course assembled around the wonderful wood burner aboard Mason Bay for drinks and nibbles, admirably dispensed by Gary and Beryl.

The intention had been to amble on to another anchorage on the following day, but there was a less-than-pleasant forecast for the next day: Peter decided to get back to Auckland and after a quick discussion on Fantail, the rest of us set off up the river for Whangarei. Little Pugwash set off first, followed by Fantail, La Chica, Shoestring and Mason Bay. The wind was about F3 in the anchorage, but picked up quite dramatically outside with some strong gusts that caused a fairly spectacular broach from a somewhat over-canvassed Shoestring. As we went tramping past Pugwash, we must have made a brave sight.

The fleet from Pugwash

Paul was determined to test his new rig, Shoestring had the bit between her teeth, and a school of dolphins played around her, but Fantail was quite happy to keep her speed down a little: 6.8 knots seemed a tad excessive and the daffodils might have come out of the vase if she’d heeled too much.

La Chica leads the fleet

The three larger boats anchored within 5 minutes of each other (while Mason Bay continued on to the Town Basin) and we were still pottering about tidying things up when Pugwash came in sight: over the 12 miles that we’d sailed, she was only half an hour behind us. The little boat had skipped over the shallows, but even so, must have tramped along at times. Marcus reckons that junk rig has as much of a place on a small dinghy as on a larger vessel and that its instant reefing makes the boat much more capable.

 Shoestring and Fantail at anchor.

The next day was cold and windy and most of us hunkered round, but we all foregathered in Marcus’s boat shed for a memorable curry. The following day was spent ashore with a final meal aboard the good ship Shoestring, where Paul cooked a considerable fondue. The following morning, Shoestring headed back towards Auckland, the junket voted a considerable success all round, the only question being when and where shall we do it again!

03 October, 2013

Several people mentioned my little stove, or 'pot belly' as Kiwis call them, regardless of shape.  I'm afraid you can't go and buy one off the shelf.  Mine is made of 6-inch rectangular-section, steel, with a thick plate welded top and bottom, and some holes cut out of it.  (The rectangular section, by the way, is square.  Engineers!  Go figure.)  At the top is a 2-inch hole cut out for the chimney.  With a larger boat, or a bigger stove, it should certainly be 3 inch, because it will soot up at the drop of a hat.  However, most of the year I don't need my fire and I didn't want it totally to dominate the saloon.  It's perfectly happy burning hardwoods or charcoal - and I would guess coal, although I haven't tried that - but it doesn't take kindly to Radiata: the pine generally available in NZ.

Towards the bottom, at the front, is a cut-out about 2 inches high for the ash pan, and a U-shaped piece slides along either side of this to close it off.  It also works as a damper if the fire has just about gone out and I didn't notice.  A couple of inches above this are 5 holes, forming a circle with a threaded one in the middle.  A plate welded to a threaded rod fits over this and this is the true damper, which works extraordinarily well.  The door, 5 1/2 inches high, is set down an inch from the top, and the plate that was cut out of the section has a flange all round it, to shut against the stove.  A handle was bought from the local stove shop.  The grate was also bought from a stove shop and cut to fit, and the stove is lined with thin fire-bricks.  It's very successful and takes surprisingly large pieces of wood.  With first-rate firewood such as manuka or gum, the fire can burn for an hour at a time.  On a larger boat, I would use 8-inch 'rectangular' section and a 3- or 4-inch chimney.

I'm still using my fire last thing at night and early in the morning, but by 10 o'clock it's warm enough for shirt sleeves.  We are now into daylight saving, which I love.  I know it's not rational - the days are exactly the same length, but even with my on-board life I am still part of society and need to know what time it is, if I have to go to the shops; and so I tend to rise and go to bed in harmony with those who live and work ashore.  Anyway, regardless, I love daylight saving and look forward with delight to six months of long evenings.

And with the more summery weather have come morning calms, than which are few things more blissful.  I love to sit in my companionway to watch the sun rise, with a cup of steaming Lapsang Souchong in my hand.  Or get up before the sun and drift on the tide down the harbour.  In the distance I can see the wonderful rocky outcrops on the top Whangarei Heads, and the Hen and Chicken Islands.


It was sailing past this beautiful landscape, when I was delivering a boat from the Bay of Islands to Auckland, that convinced me to leave Tasman Bay and to come north.  It's a decision I have yet to regret and every time I see these dramatic pinnacles, I rejoice once more in their fascinating and romantic shapes.

The calm mornings also give me an opportunity to  varnish around my toerail, which is a lot easier to do from a dinghy than leaning over the side of the boat.  I like varnish, and I like varnishing, but am astonished at not only how few people do, but even more, how many people seem to take it as a personal affront when I state my preference.  The vehemence with with my choice is opposed makes the objections that are made to my choice of rig quite tame in comparison.  But I think wood looks beautiful varnished and, even more, is protected by it.  The so-called 'scrubbed teak' (ie neglected teak) look is not something I find appealing and it also causes the wood to weather badly.  And wood stains are an affront to teak.  My toerail (really, a decorative band of teak between hull and deck) had probably never seen a lick of varnish since the day the boat was launched.  It had weathered very badly and I wonder what would happen if it had got much worse, so that it started to split.  It would be both difficult and expensive to replace.  However, because it was teak I could sand it back and varnish it, and now it will last as long as anything else on the boat.  It also looks a lot prettier than it did and gives me pleasure every time I row away from my boat.