It's hard to believe that FanShi has been afloat for two months. I seem to have been busy, and ave nothing to show for the time, apart from a good suntan and a happy smile.
Several of my friends stayed for a junket, after the launching and we anchored further down Whangarei Harbour, in Parua Bay.
The first day was peaceful and calm and we all had a quiet day, recovering
from the previous day's activites.
It seemed very wonderful to be back afloat, but oddly, far from feeling strange, it felt like the most normal thing in the world. The next day, the wind shifted and picked up, blowing freshly into the anchorage. The four of us who remained, moved across to the other side of the bay. It carried on blowing for several days, which was more than a little irritating. I had found the boat to have noticeable lee helm, when we sailed down the harbour, and I wanted to work on the rigging to try and eliminate it. Shirley and Alan both left and then Gordon, who had joined us in Tystie, also had to go. I decided to shift to another anchorage that should be sheltered from the prevailing wind.
We set off together and beat out of the narrow entrance into Parua Bay. Then we went our separate ways, but I didn't find my new anchorage to be any more sheltered than the old one. Shirley had gone up to Tutukaka the same day and told me what a lovely sail she had had. With an identical forecast for the next day, I decided to follow suit. We had a lovely sail in a light, following breeze down the harbour, with the self-steering doing all the work, which was impressive. Between Busby and Bream Heads the wind filled in and we were sailing along happily at about 5 knots. As I expected, sailing around Bream Head was a bit like being in a washing machine, but I was confident that we would have a nice beam reach up the coast.
Well, we had the wind on the beam all right, but it wasn't exactly 'nice'. Gusts were coming off the hills, creating a nasty chop and were of sufficient strength that I had 2 or 3 reefs in and occasionally more, being nervous with my brand new boat. We were up to Tutukaka by midday, having made very good time. The coastline up to the next good anchorage, Whangaruru, falls away from the direct track, and I thought that I should be able to carry on in more pleasant conditions. However, if anything the gusts got stronger and the lulls weaker, so that we found oursleves frequently crashing about in a horrible jobble, without enough wind to fill the sail. I know it's easy to reef and make sail on a junk, but even so when you have to do one or the other every 10 minutes, the novelty soon wears off. And then when I was just looking forward to a sheltered-water sail up the entrance into Whangaruru, the wind shifted further north making it a dead beat in F5. Thoroughly disenchanted, I recalled the sage advice from friends, to give my outboard 'a good run', so started it and motorsailed for most of the rest of the way. I finally anchored about 5 o'clock, with the firm intention of staying until I got a good forecast and had chance to do the alterations to the rigging that I was intending.
After a few days, Shirley set off to the Bay of Islands, to catch up with some old friends, but I lingered a little longer.
I wanted to try out my sail on the starboard tack, which is where I had noticed the lee helm most. As well, I had come to realise that I am physically and mentally exhausted from 5 years of hard slog; the last six months had been even more full on because, unconsciously, I had been pushing myself to get on the water in time to enjoy at least some of the summer. I really have very low energy levels and don't want to take on challenging sailing or new projects. I am very, very pleased that I didn't listen to the many suggestions that I 'should just get the boat in the water and get sailing'. I knew then and have been proven correct, that once that happened, I wouldn't want to touch the tools again.
At the start of February, I had what seemed to be the perfect forecast to sail up to the Bay of Islands. Indeed, the wind was so light that I resorted to the motor to get down the harbour against the incoming tide. Outside there was a sloppy easterly swell and occasionally the wind died away completely. However, in spite of the discomfort, I was impressed with how FanShi made her way through the water in the lightest of airs. Once again, the self-steering coped admirably and as I prefer to do things other than hold the tiller, this suits me very well.
Once around Cape Brett, the wind filled in to a very fresh F4 and I put several reefs in the sail. It was a while since I had sailed here and I wanted to identify things correctly. In fact, instead of going through the gap between the mainland and the first group of islands, I would have done better to go around the W side of Urupukapuka, where I should probably have been away from the worst of the gusts. However, in due course we brought to in Otaio Bay on Urupukapuka: this hadn't been my original intention, but the Bay was heaving with boats and everywhere crowded. I ended up outside most of the anchored boats and it was a bit choppy until the wind died. The next morning I motored right in towards the beach and anchored with a good 4ft under the keel at LW , with the rest of the boats well astern of me. It was a lovely spot and I was tempted to stay longer. I went ashore for a walk and enjoyed watching the birds - the islands are now predator-free and several of our more threatened birds have been reintroduced. I saw quite a lot of tieke (saddlebacks) and places where kiwi had been probing in the soil for food.
However, my sail up hadn't really told me much about the lee helm, so I decided to sail over to Russell, leaving in the morning calm and assessing how the sail handled as the wind increased. I deliberately went for a big sail area and FanShi ghosts wonderfully well. In spite of the wind being almost imperceptible and a fairly strong tidal stream, we made progress where most of the other boats were motoring. To me the most pleasant sailing is in light winds, so I am very happy with this.
I had worked out, after many different experiments, that the only real way to get the yard to sit where it should, was by moving the sling point forward. I am not quite sure how this has happened. The sail was made accurately to the design and the mast wasn't supposed to end up in the middle of the yard. However, that's how it has turned out. It is almost impossible to get a good photo of the sail from the boat, but you can see that I still have cresaes. I think I will have to live with them, because of forcing the yard to go where it doesn't really want to go. (When I got to Russell, Alan suggested a better way of rigging the luff hauling parrel and the sail is setting a bit better now).
I stayed in Russell for several days, catching up with friends and doing a bit of shopping.
Wanting to try out the latest iteration, I sailed into the Te Puna Inlet with a little more wind, and reckoned that in fact I now had too much weather helm. Once again I moved the sling, about 150mm further aft. It now seems right. Bad weather was forecast and I made a couple of tactical errors, which resulted in my raising the anchor and shifting berth in less than ideal conditions, including crossing the Inlet at 2 in the morning in rather more wind than I like. A large catamaran with a bright anchor light, was in the harbour I was heading for, which made this rather less alarming (and rash) than it might otherwise have been.
When the weather cleared up, I left again. Shirley was still in Kerikeri, so I decided to go up and see her.
On a lovely day, with a perfect breeze, we sailed up the Bay and into the Kerikeri Inlet. I blessed the self steering again: with a trim tab, it is easy to override the gear by hand to correct the course, but you can also set it up in an instant to get a proper look at the chart or to use binoculars to find markers. It is equally easy to unlatch and makes pilotage less stressful. Once I had picked up the first marker, it was easy to sail from one to the next.
I managed to sail amost to Kerikeri, passaing the entrance into the Waipapa that is marked with a 'road' sign.
There are pa sites (Maori strongholds) on either side of the river and the attractive setting, combined with a great deal of both Maori and Pakeha history, make this a very popular spot with tourists.
I confess that my greatest pleasure was to gaze down at my boat as she lay in the river. Indeed, the best place for indulging this was from the verandah of the local pub, the Plough and Feather. The fact that this place speciailses in craft beer only completed my felicity, as I sat in the hot sunshine, admiring my pride and joy, with a pint of Kainui's finest APA. One of the joys of finishing building the boat, is that I now have some spare money for such treats.
Dawn is coming later and later as the year advances, and one of my great pleasures is to stand in the pram hood with my first cup of tea of the day (Kerikeri Royal Earl Grey), watching the sunshine spread over my surroundings. Vapour hovered over the weir, while the shags, gulls and ducks started their day.
One of the joys of visiting Kerikeri - I hadn't been there by water since around 2006 - was catching up with friends. I knew that Richard and Karin lived nearby, but was thrilled to find that Kylie had set up shop on their land in a quite wonderful yurt - and my young friend Magnus was living in a tiny home, with his partner and baby girl, within walking distance.
They showered me with produce from their land: carrots, turnip, lettuce, avocados, figs, beans, onions, garlic and cucumber, and a neighbouring yachtie also gave me avocados and tomatoes. My friend, Murray, a regular visitor while I was building FanShi, lives nearby and as he was actually working on the local church, we had a chance to catch up. It is so good to be able to spend time with people , not having to think 'I must get on - there's a boat needs building'!
I was a little concerned that we might overstay our welcome, right in front of the wharf, so decided I should push off and do a little more exploring.
However, when I came to leave, I found I had snagged a small tree with my anchor chain. Corinne, from a nearby boat, dived on it for me, but I could see that there was at least one turn around the trunk. There were several branches and the water was not that clear. I was worried she might hurt herself trying to clear it, but fortunately she had the same idea and after a gallant effort, admitted defeat. After thinking about what I could or should do, I decided to see if the local dive shop (Dive Zone, Bay of Islands) knew anyone who might be prepared to try and free the gear. Sure enough, one of the blokes who worked there volunteered - scuba divers seem to be addicted to their sport - and came down after work with his partner and dog. He launched himself from the floating pontoon and swam over. Once Ben had located the log, I sat and watched the distrbance on the water from his air, move back and forth and within a few minutes he had surfaced. He had cleared the four (!) turnsof chain from around the tree and moved my anchor away from it. I raised it completely and went a bit further downstream before rowing back to pay Ben. $80 didn't seem too bad a price to pay for my delightful two weeks in Kerkeri! and I was pleased to have recovered my anchor and expensive chain. If I anchor there again, I shall ensure that I lift the anchor every day!
The following day I sailed back down at low water, which allowed me to assess any other potential anchorages.
I was also curious as to whether it was possible; it was and I reckon that the least I had under my keel was about a foot of water. There is a small marina in Doves Bay and I wanted to see if I could anchor off there. Once again, it was possible - if you didn't mind being in 4ft at LW - and it was interesting to look at the contrasting views:
the crowd of boats on the other. The best part was that I probably had the best shelter in the bay!
There were some packages waiting for me in Russell, and as there was a perfect breeze blowing the next day, I set off back, enjoying another delightful sail in my favourite F2-3.
Several people have remarked about this past couple of months being the 'start of a new era' for me, but in fact it just seems like I have stepped back into my real life. It is the past 5 years that seem a strange time and they almost merge into just one long sequence. However, for sure it is the end of an era. As soon as FanShi was launched, Marcus started to take down the shed, which he intends to rebuild in a different form at another site.
There is little sign of the place where one boat was rebuilt and another created.