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In Greenland

Iron Bark

Iron Bark
Under full sail


At Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta

Annie Hill

Annie Hill
Photo credit: Alvah Simon

Blue Water Medal

Blue Water Medal
Blue Water Medal

Books By Annie Hill

  • Brazil and Beyond
  • Voyaging on a Small Income

About Me

17 March, 2021

However did I find time to build a boat?

 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.

Whangaruru is one of my favourite places and had been the subject of many a daydream while I had been building.  It treated me well, with light winds and flat water.  Shirley sailed in the next day and we shared sundowners and a couple of meals.  It was wonderful finally to relax.

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. 

Just before Kerikeri, the river does a complete U-turn and suddenly my breeze, instead of being from directly astern, was directly on the nose.  Deciding discretion was the better part of valour, I started the little engine and motored the last half mile. 
I anchored right next to a weir that crosses the river, near an old (for New Zealand) building known as The Stone Store.  It was built in 1832 and is vaunted as being in the Georgian Style, but personally I find it looks unbalanced.  Stone buildings are rare in this country and most of the material for this one came from Australia.  It was built by the missionaries and there is an even older house, completed in 1822, near by.  This wooden building strikes me as far more attractive, but I know little of archcitecture.

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 bush on one side and

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. 

I anchored off the beach in Matauwhi Bay and somehow, since then, another week has vanished.

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.

31 January, 2021


On my last post, I forgot to mention two new videos on my YouTube channel.  The first is of the launch itself; the second is of the launch and the first sail in company with other juks.  This has video interspersed with still photos.

 The YouTube links are: Launch and Launchng and first sail

I tried to post them here but my tablet spit the dummy!

30 January, 2021

At Last!

 The moment we've all been waiting for.  But first, let's get the boat finished, should we?  Not long now ...

I had decided that I wouldn't move on to the boat until I had the cushions covered, to protect the foam from damage and from getting dirty.  FanShi is a small boat and the saloon is right by the companionway.  There is every chance that the seats will get sea water on them sooner or later and once the cushions gets salt in them, they tend to get very damp and clammy in colder weather.  Therefore, I covered them with polyurethane-coated fabric, which will have loose covers over it.  This has the added advantage that when the loose covers are being washed, the cushions are still protected.

As it turns out, this was an even better idea than I had anticipated, because, try as I may, I cannot find any fabric that I like for the loose covers.  I want something bright and don't really want cotton, because it's difficult to keep clean.  A nice velvet in emerald, deep blue and yellow would go down well, but I cannot find anything that suits.  Either the pattern is too big, or the colours are wrong.  I've even stopped worrying about the price!  I shall have to get something cheap and cheerful to be going on with, when I have had time to draw my breath.

With the cushions out of the way, I could turn my attention to the sail.  David had sent me drawings of the different panels and I had bought the fabric, Weathermax 80, many moons ago.  My friend Alan, was visiting in Zebedee and, as he enjoys making sails, was keen to be involved, not in the least because the design of my sail is somewhat different from what Alan has built.

We started marking the sail out on the table.

This kept the cloth out of the dust, but it was too wide for the table. I can get things muddled at the best of times, and having to keep moving the cloth around opened up more opportunities for things to go worng, so we soon got down on the floor with chalk pencil, lead pencil, rules and tapes.


I am a great believer in covering my panels with instructions ("To No 2", "Tack", "Leech", etc), but I discovered on Fantail's sail, that lead pencil is very hard to remove.  I invested in a tailor's chalk pencil, which was excellent, but after 5 years of woodworking, I couldn't cope with the thick line it made, so we used lead pencil wherever we hoped it wouldn't show on the completed sail.  Of course, in several places it does show because we forgot to swop back to the chalk!

I cut the cloth using substantial shears that I keep for sail making.  


I then sealed the edges, with a hot knife that Noel had lent me.  A sailmaker friend in Nelson had told me that when cutting sail cloth, they never use these tools as a 'knife' because it takes much longer than using shears and leaves a much thicker, uneven edge.  What they do is to hold the hot knife on a piece of glass and pull the fabric past it along the edge of the heated blade.  This seals the edge in a much more even manner.  Pearl could do this while talking to me, but I had to take the blade to the cloth and do it in short passes.  But it certainly did a neat job.

We cut every piece out before sewing up the sail, each one carefully marked.


Then we stacked them on the table, ready for sewing.  Unfortunately, Alan needed to leave at this stage, so missed out on the sewing (and frequent unpicking!) stage.

I started with the bottom panel, the one next to the boom.  I made my first mistake here, believing I could do as David does, and have the boom in a pocket.  However, due to the more conventional way in which I rig my lazyjacks, and also due to my being so short, I have to have them adjustable so that I can work on the sail, I ended up taking it off again.  Instead I added adding tabs to the foot of the sail and laced it to the boom.  

With the Christmas holidays imminent, I thought I'd better arrange for my mast to be stepped.  A local engineer, Bruce Yovich, has a tiny crane, and he has stepped and unstepped my masts (and those of other junkies) before, for a fraction of the price of the big cranes.  (One of the strange aspects of NZ boating life is how few yacht clubs and boatyards have their own crane for stepping masts.)  I was pleased that I had contacted him when he told me that he planned to be on holiday from just before Christmas until the end of January!  He promised to come and step the mast the following afternoon.  I dropped sailmaking, asked a couple of people to help me move the mast and got everything ready.

A fellow customer of All Marine, who is also building a boat, had been chatting to Paul, who works there.  When he heard about my project, he asked Paul to give me a facsimile Chinese coin to put under the mast, so I put it alongside a New Zealand $1 coin surrounded by the anti-chafe plastic that goes between the mast and the tabernacle.  It was such a kind thought, and it felt like double luck for my little boat!

Alan had helped me dress the mast, so it was quite straightforward putting it in its tabernacle.


With the mast stepped, I felt that the end was definitely in sight.  FanShi was now indubitably a finished boat.  After all, plenty of people who build their own boats, go along to and have their sails made by professional sailmakers!  However, I still had mine to get completed.

Arne Kverneland of the JRA, suggests stapling seams, tabling (hems), etc together before sewing.  A lot of people use 'basting tape' - a thin, double-sided tape, popular with sailmakers - but I have found that (a) it doesn't stick that well to fabrics such as Sunbrella, which are a lot less smooth than polyester sail cloth and (b) if it does stick, it's very difficult to get off again, should you put two bits of fabric together the wrong way (which I do constantly, in spite of all the graffiti).  Moreover, it's quite expensive and tends to gum up the needle.  Arne's idea is simply brilliant.  (Anyone interested in building themselves a sail for a junk-rigged boat is strongly recommended going to and scrolling down the left-hand side to Junk Information/Public Domain File By .../Arne Kverneland.  There is a wealth of information here, which makes the whole business seem very achievable.)

The sharp-eyed will have noticed in earlier photographs, a much larger sewing machine on the table and may well be thinking that my mantra "Small is Beautiful, Lees is More" has been taken to ridiculous extremes by replacing the commercial machine with the little domestic sewing machine in this photograph.  In fact, I had been so impressed with its wonderful ease of use, when sewing the polyurethane-coated fabric for the seat covers (which the big commercial machine didn't get on with), that I'd decided to use it as much as possible on the sail.  I found it a lot more controllable than the big machine which easily runs away with me.


I don't believe that junk sails require a lot of reinforcing in the corners, but can see no harm in beefing them up a little.  Phil, who runs UK Sails in Whangarei,  had given me an offcut of a jib he had been altering, and I used this polyester sailcloth in the corners.  It is a lot stronger and more stable than the Weathermax.  I covered the polyester with Weathermax to protect it from UV and because it looks more attractive.  At around 10 or 12 ozs, I thought the sailcloth would be too much for my wee machine, but it pushed the needle through without hesitation.  In fact I ended up doing the whole sail on the Brother machine.

When the panels had all been sewn together, I took the sail out and laid it on the grass to see what it looked like.  To be honest, a cambered sail just looks like it needs a good iron, so it didn't really tell me a lot!

I then took it back into the shed to add webbing all round the edges and to sew on the various tabs for lacing the sail.  I had decided to avoid metal fittings as far as possible.

The sail is attached to the yard with straps of Weathermax, sailcloth, and Velcro.  (No critical comments, please.  I have thought about this a lot, am well aware of the various reasons why it may not work, but fancied trying out the idea.)   I reckoned that attaching these to the sail was going to be a real challenge for the Brother, so changed up a needle size.  It certainly baulked at the task, but oddly it was now reluctant to sew what it had sewn before.  Against all the rules and all my experience, I decided to experiment with a needle a size down from what I had been using.  The little machine proceeded to punch its way through Weathermax, sailcloth, Velcro and the webbing tabling with barely a stutter.  I am seriously impressed with this machine and would say the only drawback of using it is that it is so diminutive it was a bit of a squeeze getting the cloth under the arm.  However, a great advantage it has over the big machine is that you can raise the presser foot extra high to get a thick pile of fabric into place, which was a godsend.

Finally, the sail was finished, the battens pushed into their pockets and the yard and boom lashed into place.  One more sewing job remained: the pramhood.

I have made one of these before, for Paul's La Chica.  I remember it being very difficult and that I was not exactly proud of the result, so I decided to try making a pattern first.  Because the framework is not really all that it should be and the tubes are much thicker than I would have chosen, I knew it was going to be even more of a challenge than Paul's.

I used an old sheet as my pattern and spent quite a lot of time making the three panels.  I used each one as a guide to the next.  Although they are really quite different, they were sufficiently similar that it was easier than starting from scratch each time.


I then laid the bits of sheet on the Weathermax and cut it out.  I still needed to do quite a bit of fitting to get the cover looking acceptable, not in the least because the framework isn't quite symmetrical.  However, I was not displeased with the final result.  I forgot to take a photo, but it can be seen on the boat in later photographs.

A friend helped me to get the sail onto the boat and at first light on the calm morning that followed, I slowly bent it onto the boat.  This is the first photo before many of the control and standing lines have been fitted.  It took several attemtps to finish the job, because the sail had to come down as soon as there was any breeze.  That was the final major job on the boat: I still needed to give the dinghy a refit and there were the usual 101 tasks that needed attending to, but at least I could go and confirm with the slipway team that I would be ready for the boat to be launched on 15th January.

On the afternoon of the 14th, the yard brought round the machinery for moving FanShi to her final place ashore, ready for splashing the following day.

You'd have to say she looked a bit bewildered by what was happening!

It was exciting to walk alongside her as she was towed along the track towards the slipway - it was the first time I had been able to step back, walk around her and spend some time looking at her from all angles.  I was very pleased with my quirky little boat, and, while I can see all the mistakes that I made and all the things I could have done better, there is enormous satisfaction in realising what I have achieved.

At last FanShi had moved within sight of the water and was ready to be launched.  Rather than put credits on all the photos that follow, I'll mention the photographers' names here.  Many, many thanks to Heather Brown, John Gibbs, Roger Scott and Paul Thompson, for not only taking the photos, but for having the patience to send them to me, while I've been anchored with a poor signal (and my primitive devices!)

Launching day dawned sunny and calm: exactly what I would have asked for.  Friends had suggested I start the outboard motor which, as is the nature of the beasts, decided not to go.  David and then John came and worked their magic on it, nobly getting grease on their clean hands to sort out its issues.  Quite a crowd had gathered and I was more than a little embarrassed to keep everybody waiting.

Finally, however, we were ready and I climbed down the ladder for the last time.

Slowly and gently, the cradle was eased towards the water.

It is traditional for junks to launch bows first, and the yard (and slipway team!) had kindly indulged my whim on this.  FanShi appeared to look at the water somewhat apprehensively as if she wondered just what was expected of her.

I climbed on board before she went too far.

I love this photograph of the boat from astern, waiting for her bow to lift.

Now was the time for the champagne.  David, who designed SibLim, had sent me some local New Zealand Deutz bubbles with which to launch the boat.  I'm sure he must have been so upset not to be there, but sadly, the Covid pandemic made that impossible.  However, one of my friends sent him a video as soon as we floated, so at least he was almost there.  I gave a little dedication to the boat, and thanked all my friends, but cut it short before I burst into tears.  The bottle opened with a satisfying pop and (small) gush of foam and I poured a little of the champage over FanShi's eyes, so that she can see where she is going and keep us both out of trouble.

Then willing hands took hold of the warps and led her alongside the small wharf.

I grabbed fenders out of the locker and we tied alongiside for a while, so that I could talk to all those people who had come without boats and wouldn't be joining us on the water.

The champagne was passed around like a loving cup, with all of us reminded of how lucky we were to be able to celebrate this way in a time of Covid.

From the far side of the slipway I could see how she floated - only a little bit down on her marks.

I had duly started the engine again, but there was a light breeze from astern and a handy anchorage directly ahead.  It seemd a shame to spoil everything with all that noise.

So, saying goodby to the last of the shore party, I hoisted up a few panels of sail and took FanShi out to anchor (To be perfectly honest, I felt a lot more confident of sailing her out than motoring her out!)

She slipped along with a somewhat startling burst of speed and I was glad I had been so conservative with the sail I had raised!

I had both boards down, knowing that I would have to turn in a hurry.

She turned on a sixpence and within a few minutes both anchor and sail were down.  FanShi was finally launched and afloat.  

After enjoying (but in truth, not really taking in) the fact that we were finally afloat, I went to join many of my other friends on Le Canard Bleu, where we celebrated finally seeing the FanShi floating and ready to set sail.


My thanks to all of those who helped me in this project. I won't name them here, in a public blog - you know who you are and you know that without your moral and occasionally, physical support, I would never have succeeded.  Another chapter of my life has ended, but I hope there will be many more pages in this book.