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In Greenland

Iron Bark

Iron Bark
Under full sail


At Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta

Blue Water Medal

Blue Water Medal
Blue Water Medal

Books By Annie Hill

  • Brazil and Beyond
  • Voyaging on a Small Income

20 December, 2011

The Green Interview that Trevor and I did with Silver Donald Cameron can now be viewed, if you have good Internet access.  I haven't so have not seen it, but I did download the transcript of the conversation, to remind myself of what it was all about.  I think it would be interesting to view.  You have to subscribe, but I think most people would agree that most of the other interviews would be fascinating.  When I stop working flat out on Fantail and get away cruising for a while, I shall be reading many of the transcripts myself.

13 November, 2011

My friend, David, who helped me design the rig, sailed in from Tasmania a few weeks ago and has been nobly helping me with various projects. Paul, in whose workshop I built the rig, came down for a visit so that we could take the two boats out sailing; we had a huge amount of fun.

I took a load of photos of Tystie, but then I gave them to David and forgot to keep copies for myself, so can't put any on this post. 

We left from Mot with a N wind, which means a headwind up to the Abel Tasman Park, where we were headed.  However, it meant we could run down to the bar together

After we crossed the bar and headed offshore, Tystie vanished over the horizon.  We plodded on, close-hauled to Adele, with only just enough wind.  I lashed the helm and really enjoyed the sail - for once there was enough wind to get the whole way without resorting to power.  It has to be said that Fantail sails really well to windward - it's nice to have a boat that actually makes progress when beating!

Both boats spent the night anchored of Adele I and in the morning, David and Paul came aboard Fantail.

David tweaked some of the control lines to his satisfaction, and then we took her out sailing.   David had lots of fun sailing her - she is so light and responsive compared with his ocean-cruising 35 footer and he was delighted at how the sail has turned out.  We have altered the lead of the running luff parrel and the sail is setting properly now.  Only one Honk Kong parrel left and I think this can come off.   I'm pleased about that because I think they stress the rig. 

The wind was up to about F5 at times and David carried on with more sail than I would have.  But she stood up to it, which is more than you can say for me!  But it was good to try things out. 

When we came back I had to put them back on Tystie and with the fresh wind eddying around and the boat swinging at anchor to the tidal swirls, it wasn't easy, but apart from a few bruises, I don't think there was any damage.

The following day we sailed up to Anchorage in company.  I left first, the sun shining but not much wind.  I motored up out of the roadstead to get enough breeze to sail with and carried sail right into anchor.  Tystie came in a bit later - apparently she had only managed to sail down into Torrent Bay.  Small is beautiful I thought, smugly!

We all went ashore for a walk and then sailed back to anchor on the W side of Astrlolabe Roadstead.

I enjoyed the sail so much so that I ran half way down between Adele and the mainland before turning round and beating back - just for the fun of it.  It was wonderful and even more wonderful to find myself enjoying it all so much.  It makes all the hard work and expense seem worth while now and has enthused me sufficiently to get on with some of the other jobs I need to do to make the boat properly seaworthy.

02 August, 2011

Drying out wasn’t going to happen, so we decided instead, to go across and see some friends in St Peters. Their bush telegraph was obviously working, because as we tied up at the waiting jetty, they were there to greet us. 

We had a pleasant time catching up later that evening. I had long been wanting to meet a couple who have a junk schooner, Easy Go, that they built to the same design as Badger, so I was delighted when I discovered that Greg not only knew them, but knew them well enough to invite them over for dinner the following day.

After a wonderful evening, we all went back on to Iron Bark for nightcaps, still talking nineteen to the dozen, with so much in common and so much that we wanted to learn about each other. Bob and Kathy were leaving to see their son in Newfoundland in a couple of days, but we just had time to make arrangements to go and see them – and the boat! - before they left.

St Peters, I should explain, is at the entrance to the Bras D’Or Lakes, a remarkable geological formation that is an essential part of Cape Breton’s character. The island of Cape Breton was almost split into two by the formation of two bodies of water – going back to the days of the great glaciers, which form a large part of the area of this island. (Although a causeway was built over half a century ago, to join Cape Breton to the ‘mainland’ of Nova Scotia, it is, by Nature’s purpose, an island.) These two lakes are themselves almost separated by a ‘Narrows’ at Barra, that was long ago exploited by building two bridges – one for road and one for rail. They are still brackish, although almost fresh, and so have a unique ecosystem. The major appeal of the Bras D’Or for most people – particularly Nova Scotians and particularly sailors – is that being inland, they rarely encounter the prevailing summer fogs that bedevil the rest of the province.

The canal itself is no great feat of engineering if compared with some of the European creations, but is interesting and – better still – staffed by some of the most pleasant people one could ever hope to meet. It is always a pleasure to go through and, as a sailor who isn’t particularly fond of motor cars, there is an additional delight in seeing the bridge swing open and make all the traffic wait as one makes one’s stately way through.

We sailed into the River Bourgeois on a grey day. Considering that Bob and Kathy have now made it their home and that for a long time, it has been the summer retreat of the renowned writer Farley Mowat, it is perhaps a rather inappropriately-named spot – in the sense that most of us use the word ‘bourgeois’.

 We anchored close to Easy Go

and before we had worked out where the house that Bob and Kathy were building was located, we saw them dragging a dinghy down the beach and rowing out to meet us. We went over to see the boat and were made very welcome. Easy Go was built – incredibly - in 11 months, but while she is undoubtedly very simple, there is no feeling of a project that was rushed or in any way executed less than thoroughly. It did my heart proud to see her – she had Badger’s spirit strongly within her and Bob and Kathy would leave me standing in their economic efficiency and their ability to enjoy all the good things in life. It was good to see that a lot of the things that I think worked particularly well in Badger – such as the unusual companionway, had been both copied and kept.

Later, we went ashore to see their latest project – the cutest little house – whose 350 sq ft will contain all that anyone would really ever need. We stayed for the evening and I was very sorry that they were leaving on the next day and that I wouldn’t get the chance to spend more time with them.

We left the next morning and Bob and Kathy came down to the entrance to the river, where they took some brilliant photos of our sailing out.

30 July, 2011

We woke up to a perfect, if perfectly calm, morning. We left straight after breakfast, drifting out of the anchor and leisurely making sail.

The ‘other part’ of the St Andrews Passage, which I had also always wanted to transit, was the Canso Strait, taking you between Canso I and the mainland, where the town is located. En route to the passage that goes past the town itself, we passed the Canso Light sitting on its wee island, which looks as though it might get washed away in the next severe gale!

As you turn the corner, the town is completely dominated by a huge church, and this continued to be the case as long as we had the town in view. The leading marks are, in true Nova Scotian style, well maintained and attractively designed and executed. I often wonder why, now that we have so many aids to our creativity, we can so rarely create something that is both functional and attractive. Indeed, creating something aesthetically pleasing seems to be an impossible challenge for most designers these days.

The passage was very pretty and the town looking most appealing under a sunny sky, bordered as it was by a calm sea. But I couldn’t help thinking that it’s probably a bit bleak in the winter. From all angles, the church was the town and I wondered how much influence, for good or otherwise, this institution has on Canso.

Canso is an old town, by New World standards and it is amazing how many of its day-marks are obviously of quite some vintage, but still standing. I am sure they must get battered by ice in the winter and they are undoubtedly built of soft woods, but in the middle of the channel leading out towards Ile Madame, was a structure holding a light. It was covered with shags – until I got my camera out – but although sagging and bulging, and well out of true, still appeared to be doing its job.

We drifted out and with no great distance to go, were quite happy with the light winds that took us most of the way to D'Escousse. If nothing else, it gave us an excuse to finish off the beer!

When we arrived at D’Escousse we found the harbour full of boats, enjoying the Yacht Club's annual festival. There was no sign of our friends Don and Marjorie, and after catching up with the irrepressible Claude, who shanghaied us to go and look at a building he's restoring (apparently to the accompaniment of a running battle with the local council); and visiting our dear old friend, 'Uncle' Bill's widow, who was baking vast quantities of bread for her son to take back home to Central Canada; and participating in the 90th birthday party of a complete stranger, we went back aboard. Trevor had been hoping to put Barky alongside to scrub off some barnacles and change the anodes, but this didn’t seem to be the right day for such a task!

We left today in very light winds, but sailed until we came to the St Andrews Passage to Canso. I've been dying to do this for years, but somehow it has never happened. It's supposedly quite tricky, but it turned out to be very well-buoyed and quite straightforward. 

Not even very exciting, it was all so well organised, but very pretty and well worth while! By the time we got there, what wind there was had headed us and there was a foul tide running, so we started the engine. There were more buoys and they took us along a slightly different route from that shown on the chart. We saw lots of seals near the strangely-named Sherewink I. The shores, covered in stunted spruce, had a number of what were apparently holiday homes along them.

We ambled along until we came into Port Glasgow, which is a real misnomer, where we anchored. There is no port at all and the only sign of any building is the spire of a church peeping over the hill. But it’s a spacious harbour, although there are a number of rocks and shallow patches that would make it awkward to sail in and out of.

28 July, 2011

This Eastern Shore is a truly delightful cruising ground.

Thursday saw us sailing in very light breezes and wending our way among a variety of islands and skerries, the sixteen miles to Beaver Harbour. There is a spit here, where I hoped we'd get ashore and explore, but after we had anchored, we realised that there were terns nesting there and as we didn’t want to disturb them, we stayed on board.

We left the following morning, with fog coming and going. Trevor had loaded in the waypoints and at a tricky moment realised that he had put in some incorrectly, so there was a bit of flurried activity. The compass badly needs swinging – the joys of a steel boat! - which makes the one in the GPS more important than is usually the case. But one usually has more time than one realises. There was a lovely bit of pilotage through islands, which I enjoyed doing the old-fashioned way.

We came out into a large area of open water and drifted in the hot afternoon sun while we drank a couple of the beers that we’d bought in Sheet Harbour.

Just before tea time, we anchored in Mary Joseph, a fishing harbour with a large fleet of dead boats and the somewhat surreal sight of a large Coastguard vessel grounded ashore.

Saturday came in with a beautiful dawn.

But I was glad to leave Mary Joseph because I found it a rather depressing harbour. Just before we got under way, a fishing boat set off, calmly dumping a bag of rubbish overboard - plastic bottles and polystyrene takeaway containers. I can’t understand how people whose livelihoods depend on the sea can treat it this way. I’d have thought they could have dumped their rubbish ashore before they set off.

We sailed out in very light airs. We had a bit of fun by Liscomb Island when the fog came in thick and (once again!) the waypoints didn’t match reality. I was actually quite happy, because I was steering and had been taking in the route as we sailed along. The visibility was coming and going and I pretty much knew where we should be heading, but it’s a bit different when you suddenly come up and can’t see anything! But GPS or no GPS, a couple of bell or whistle buoys in the vicinity, doing their thing, are always welcome. We noticed that the sound of the whistle buoys seems to carry much better, regardless of the wind direction, than that of bell buoys. We were almost on the Liscomb buoy before we heard it!

The entrance into Spanish Ship Harbour was narrow and intricate with a bit of tide running, so we motored in. The harbour, which had looked so pretty on the chart, was nowhere near as attractive as I'd hoped it would be. A lot of trees had been cut down ashore and a major highway ran along the far side. Trevor went ashore to cut some wood, but came back complaining about the poor quality. Still, as he pointed out, with his trusty chain saw, he didn’t mind spending time cutting up indifferent wood because it wasn’t really that much work. 

As we sat having our sundowner, the fog came in and we wondered if we were going to be trapped there the next day.

We were planning to leave early, because we had a 45-mile sail ahead of us, heading for Whitehead Harbour, so we were relieved to find that the fog had vanished when we got up.

We were underway just after 7, with a light wind, which forced us to use the engine for a little while. It filled in to about F2 by 9 o’clock, but 2 hours later, there was no sign of the promised westerly. However, it gradually filled in as forecast, and we were soon sailing along in fine style. Well offshore there was not a lot to look at, so we appreciated all the more the sight of a very pretty little schooner going the other way. Trevor got some fine photos of her.

The entrance to Whitehead Harbour is hidden among islands and skerries and took a bit of sorting out. For once the Mr Loveridge’s cruising guide was not particularly clear and as we bounded along in a fresh breeze, there were a few tense minutes before everything fell into place. Once it did, it was quite straightforward and we made our way into the charming Yankee Cove with no more problems.

Astonishingly, five other yachts followed us in, including three Nonsuch catboats of various sizes. The place was positively crowded!

With easterlies forecast, and then rain, we stayed in Yankee Harbour for a few days. It was a lovely spot. One afternoon, I took Lisa and rowed all around the island that made up one side of the anchorage, leaving Trevor to wrestle with the cooker which had been misbehaving. That used to be my job – there are advantages to being a guest!! Trevor also assaulted the local forest and we spent time sorting out photographs, swopping with one another so that we each had a good selection.

21 July, 2011

Unbelievably, we ran out of water last night. Trevor was convinced that somehow I had managed to get through 180 litres since we left Halifax, which seems unlikely. I reminded him that I do still live on a boat when I’m not on Iron Bark and, moreover, at present have to fill up a 4 litre container as my tank needs repairs. And that usually lasts me more than a day. In the end he agreed that possibly there had been an airlock when he filled the tanks and that they hadn’t filled properly. After some debate about bludging water from one of the nearby houses, we decided instead to go to Sheet Harbour, where we could top up fuel and fresh food, too.

There was no wind, so we motored the 6 miles there.  We launched Lisa and rowed to a small wharf, with a launch alongside, as there was no other good landing.  As we tied up, a man walked over the road from the house across the way and welcomed us to the town.  It was his wharf and far from being irritated at our appropriating it, he told us that we could use his outside tap to fill up our water containers.  Nova Scotians are such generous people!  So while Trevor filled water containers and bought diesel I went and found a supermarket. 

Sheet Harbour is an attractive town and it was apparent that it had much civic pride.    There were handsome houses and the main street had been ornamented with new  Victorian-style lampposts and trees had been planted by the sidewalk.  Before shopping, I walked from one end of town to the other, stopping to admire the rapids that explained the fast-flowing current in the river.  They had once been dammed and diverted for hydro-power for a saw mill.  Now the river is dammed further up and the water runs freely here.  It was an attractive spot.

I had forgotten how fierce the sun can be in Nova Scotia and my face had been getting burnt, so I went looking for a visor. I had been surprised that I couldn’t find one in Lunenburg and now, incredibly, this item of head wear that was once so ubiquitous was nowhere for sale. I mentioned this fact to a nice lady in the hardware store. She promptly picked up the phone and rang her husband at home, giving him strict instructions as to where he should look for some ‘spare’ visors that she had, and to bring them to the shop. This he duly did and she offered me one from what he had brought. She refused any payment and insisted that I accept it as a gift. I was very touched at her kindness and consideration.

On the way back, I thought I’d get us some grog from the liquor store, and as I went in, there was Trevor coming out. Two minds with but a single thought! We combined forces (and purses) and staggered back to the boat with shopping, bottles and cans.

After we’d stowed our purchases, Trevor took me back ashore to the garage to show me a chain saw that he’d seen. Sawing up firewood is not his favourite task, particularly the pine that it most common around Nova Scotia. It takes quite a lot of effort and burns quickly. I had to admit that the little saw he showed me was light and small. And I know that Trevor some times was cold and damp in Chile simply because it took so long to acquire firewood. So ‘why not?’ I said and the deal was done. The Good Old Boys sitting around the shop part of the garage, drinking coffee, took a great deal of interest in the whole debate and transaction. I guess not a lot happens in Sheet Harbour.

We had noticed a pretty spot back down the river and decided to move back for the night, but the wind died, so after drifting a couple of miles, we headed inshore and dropped the hook in Watering Cove.

20 July, 2011

Today started off bright and sunny again – but no wind. Looking at the chart, a little anchorage called Malagash Cove looked very attractive. Only 13 miles away, it would be a pleasant day sail.

We went around the back of Harbour I, which gave us a bit of nice pilotage. Trevor uses GPS for this, but I try to keep my old skills up, working out which island is which and piloting by the chart.

Unfortunately, the echo sounder, which is of such help in thick conditions, is working rather erratcially at the moment. Trevor reckons there may be some barnacles on it. However, although it was occasionally misty, the visibility was generally OK.

The wind eventually picked up enough for us to sail – espeically as we weren’t in a hurry. . We sailed through the narrow entrance into Malagash Cove, tacking in to anchor. 

Some people standing on the balcony of their house, waved to us as we sailed in. Another pretty anchorage, with houses dotted around the shoreline.

18 July, 2011

Today was a really lovely one.

We had beautiful weather and as soon as there was a breeze we left Sambro and headed out towards the passage between Inner Sambro I and Cape Sambro. With a leading wind, we sailed through; the shoreline was pretty, covered in black spruce on the grey rock.

Soon we could see the handsome lighthouse peeking over the land.

The trees gave way to grass, at the end of the island as we came out into the bay.

We now had a clear view of the lighthouse and the keepers’ cottages, which looked abandoned. The lighthouses are no longer manned of course, but the Sambro Light must have been one of the cushier numbers. It would have been very rare for the keepers to have been stranded due to bad weather, so close to the mainland.

We bowled along happily, passing Halifax and several other possible harbours as we made best use of the wind to get along the coast. We made it to Shelter Cove in Popes Harbour, but once again the wind died away and we finally started motoring in order to get in before dark. It was a gorgeous anchorage and for once we shared it with another boat.

The main water tank ran out as I was cooking dinner and Trevor accused me of squandering all our water because he filled it up just before I arrived.  However, I can't see that I've used any more than I usually do.  But we have another tank and that should easily last for several more days.

Trevor reckons that the cove is well-named and that in case of a hurricane, it would be possible to tie at all four corners and be safe. Unfortunately, as is so often the case along this coast, it’s not possible to go ashore for a walk without arduous bush bashing.  But it was lovely to look out of the galley window as I cooked dinner and to be able to admire our beautiful surroundings.

17 July, 2011

Saturday came in cool and wet, but we set off hoping to get beyond Halifax. There was the odd shower about and not a lot of wind, in spite of the weathermen blithely forecasting a F6 for later. For all that, we managed to sail all day.

After lunch we were not far off Sambro Harbour; it sounded appealing in the cruising guide, so we decided to put in and dropped the hook just after 3 o’clock, feeling quite chilled and in need of hot grog. 

Sambro is a tidy little commercial harbour, with a tiny marina which has room for 3 or 4 small visiting boats and 4 mooring buoys laid, also for visitors. These facilities made us feel we were welcome. 

 We put the dinghy in the water and went ashore to have a look round. There is not much in Sambro – a couple of stores and a number of houses – but it was good to stretch our legs and all the locals we spoke to were friendly. But it was still cool, and once back on board, I cooked a thick and warming hotpot for our dinner.

16 July, 2011

We left on a morning of thick fog: a yacht, Solana, that left at the same time was almost invisible, its white sails and white hull blending into the white fog.

There was hardly any wind as we motored out, and the calm lasted most of the day. Occasionally there was sufficeint wind to sail, but we were too lazy to haul the sails up, knwoing they would have to come down again when the wind died once more. The visibiltiy also came and went: occasionally we could see for at least 15 miles and occasionally we were lucky if we could see 15 metres!

We ended up motoring all the way to McGrath Cove, which turned out to be a pretty little harbour, surrounded by a small community of surprisingly large and prosperous-looking houses. Here and there were older buildings from an earlier time. Wharfs around the harbour had fishing boats alongside and it looked as though this was one place where people were still making a decent living from the sea.

The head of the harbour had a few skerries across, with narrow passages that obviously had sufficient depth for a small launch, as we saw several thread their way through. We planned to take Lisa through to investigate, but it rained and it blew for the next couple of days, so instead we loafed and read on board.

13 July, 2011

Lunenburg is one of my favourite places and I’ve been there sufficiently often that I know my way around. I always enjoy that feeling of familiarity. Unfortunately, the morning came in with heavy rain. As it seemed unlikely to ease up, we donned our oilies and went ashore to have a look round and see what was happening ashore.

The south end of the town was looking rather more prosperous than when we were last there, and we soon discovered why: Bluenose II, Canada’s iconic fishing schooner whose image is on the back of every 25¢ piece, was being completely rebuilt there. The original was built in the traditional manner, of barely-seasoned soft woods and iron and in the traditional manner, was pretty much at the end of its life after 25 years. Much money has been thrown at the problem, but there is nothing that can solve the issue of inferior initial construction. Finally money was collected to rebuild the ship completely. About the only original structure to be used will be the deckhouses. Traditional and modern building methods are being used, with much laminated wood instead of hewn timbers. Instead of pine, the hull is being planked in Angélique, a tropical hardwood with similar attributes to teak. Plenty of people are being employed in the project, many of whom will have learned new skills, or had the chance to use once again, skills that they have been unable to hire out in recent years. The whole project will cost about CAN$3,000,000 which seems a better use of money than an extra couple of miles of highway, in my humble opinion. My only disappointment came when I realised that none of the hands-on workers was a woman.

Walking back through the town, we were disappointed to see that the blacksmith’s forge had been taken over by a boutique distillery. Not that I have any objection to distilleries, boutique or otherwise, but it’s a shame that the forge had to go rather than one of the many knick-knack shops. We also got sidetracked by a large shop selling gorgeous clinker day-sailing boats, with a very friendly and owner who was only too happy to tell us all about them. We finally made our way to the library, so that we could send e-mails and I was delighted and flattered to be remembered by one of the ladies working there. What a memory she has! Then we went and did some food shopping and dripped our way back to Iron Bark.
Sunday came in fine and sunny: we were not the only ones to be happy, because a street festival that had originally been planned for the previous day, had been postponed in the hope of better weather. We rowed ashore to go and visit some friends who live nearby.
By the side of the road was a large pond and to my delight, beavers were swimming about in it. Two adults were resolutely swimming back and forth with either food, or building materials and we were amazed to see them disappear under the road. A beaver’s lodge is usually mounded up in the middle of its pond, with an underwater entrance – it seems a little eccentric to have one under the road! The babies were alternately floating and paddling about with their skinny little tails cocked up in the air. Although not much bigger than a kitten, they seemed very self-confident and apparently unconcerned that a passing bald eagle might fancy them as a snack.

When Trevor managed to drag me away, we carried on up the road, but a few minutes later were almost run down by three mad cyclists. With exclamations of delight, we realised that these were our friends, Thierry and Maren, with their son, Joshua. They had heard that we were at anchor and were coming to find us. Joshua was going to the Festival to do a bit of busking – he’s a brilliant tin whistle player – so we all turned back towards town.

Later, Thierry, Maren, Trevor and I wanted to have a sit down in the sunshine, drink a couple of beers and catch up on each others’ news, but Nova Scotian wowsers disapprove of such decadent behaviour. A bona fide pub will allow you to drink without eating – as long as you don’t do it outside where you can be seen and corrupt the morals of the youth; any other hostelry which sells alcohol can only do so if you eat food as well. In the end, Thierry suggested we buy a few beers and go to the yacht club. This sounded like a grand scheme: the Lunenburg yacht club is a wonderful affair – a floating raft with a small shed on it, moored in the harbour. It was built by the locals in order to provide a place to meet after racing and is the perfect place to loaf on a sunny afternoon.

I have an old friend who lives in town, and Trevor and I went to spend a few hours with her before going back to Thierry and Maren’s house for dinner. They have quite a bit of land and we were introduced to the latest family members – two delightful donkeys, whose role in life is to pack out firewood and, in due course, provide transport by pulling a cart to and from the weekly Farmers’ Market. Thierry’s ‘Wylo II’ design, Io, was also close to hand, getting a well-deserved refit. I was happy to catch up with Esther, all grown up now and about to leave for France the next day, but still a keen sailor.

Monday was, as the weathermen would say, ‘a-mix-of-sun-and-cloud.’ We went for breakfast ashore: a nearby B&B is run by David, whom we met in Tasmania! Talk about a small world. He is a keen sailor and has an extreme gaffer which he’s looking forward to racing. The hull is a 19th century design (I think) but built of alloy. It looks absolutely lethal, carrying a cloud of canvas, but I gather that David enjoys going fast!

We stayed on for a day of fog and drizzle and then left on July 12th, heading Down East.

08 July, 2011

My decision to have my own boat and live in New Zealand, rather than to carry on voyaging with Trevor, has added an extra layer of complexity to my life, which I could well do without. Worse though, by far, is the extra layer of expense and the concomitant excessive consumption that comes with it. For most of my life I have managed to avoid long-distance travel by any method other than small boat. Now I find myself choosing to fly long haul twice a year. It is the one aspect of my decision that I really dislike: not so much the flying itself, but the extravagance and wanton waste of the whole exercise. But it’s the price I pay for my eccentric choice.

This year Trevor and I were to get together in Nova Scotia. The nice young man at Flight Centre and I spent a long time in setting up the cheapest set of flights, with the least waiting time. All to no avail. About 3 weeks after everything was done and dusted, he asked me to come back into the office. Apparently airline companies in USA had changed their schedules and we had to do the whole exercise again. In a foolish bid to save money, I went by way of Los Angeles instead of flying direct to Vancouver and across Canada. Never again. Los Angeles must be one of the least-welcoming airports in the world, which I gather is saying a lot. With the original flights I had a wait of 7 hours – more than enough, so perhaps the fact that I now had 16 hours to wait influenced my negative reaction, but the impossibility of getting an affordable telephone or Internet access so that I could inform Trevor that I had at least crossed the Pacific, had not a little to do with it. That and the fact that they refused to take my bag from me until 3 hours before the flight was due to leave.

A volcano is Chile had been erupting and throwing ash into the skies of the Southern Hemisphere, and flights had only just got back to normal when I left, so it was important to reassure Trevor that I had managed to get away. In the end I telephoned – credit card only – and the 20 second message I left on our friends’ telephone cost me about $15.

We left LA 40 minutes late and I had to sprint across Newark to catch my flight to Halifax. This meant that I was unable to buy the duty-free bottles that I had intended to take as presents. However, when I eventually came through the gates at Halifax, there were Trevor and Don to greet me and it was all worth while. As it was close to lunch time and as my body, after 2 days of travel had no idea what time – or even what day – it was, a glass of beer seemed like the go. So we had a fine glass and a decent sandwich before driving back to Halifax.

Iron Bark looked very smart, swinging to her mooring off Don’s house and after enjoying a hot shower ashore (with lovely, big towels that Marjorie piled on me!), I went aboard and lay down for a few hours. It was good to be back on board a boat after all the madness of getting there.

I got up in time for sundowners and Trevor and I enjoyed a wonderful evening catching up with our friends. I slept well and have to say that I never suffered from the slightest twinge of jet lag. I put this down to a lifetime of insomnia!

Don is a highly-respected writer and journalist and Trevor and I were both very surprised and honoured when he said that he wished to record an interview with us. Silver Donald Cameron is host and executive producer of The Green Interview, in which he talks about “The World’s Biggest Issues” with “The World’s Finest Minds”. Obviously, he makes exceptions! It was a fascinating experience: twenty-first century technology means that all is required is a camera operator, the interviewer and the interviewee. Little tiny microphones are attached to one’s clothing, there is no fuss about make-up or anything of that sort and minimal manipulation of lighting natural or otherwise. I have been lucky enough to know Silver Donald for more than a few years, which must have helped, but he was so relaxed that I felt as though we were simply chatting in the sunshine on the deck behind his house. Whether or not the interview will ever be shown, I don’t know. Neither Trevor nor I is used to this sort of thing and we may not have come across well. However, it was such a compliment that Don thinks sufficiently highly of us to feel we have something to say that may be of general interest.

Apparently the summer, up to the end of June, had been non-existent, but I seemed to have brought the Nelson sunshine with me. After a couple of days on Don’s mooring, we set off for our wee cruise. There is a huge amount of cruising to be enjoyed in the Maritimes and with the season being so short, most of my trips there have included a brief visit to Nova Scotia and a gallop along the coastline in order to explore Newfoundland and the Labrador. This time, I had said to Trevor, I would really love to explore Nova Scotia itself, to say nothing of catching up with friends that we have met over the years. I suspect that the logistics of getting me back from Newfoundland or Labrador may have something to do with the readiness with which Trevor accepted this suggestion.

We left Halifax on a foggy morning, with a light breeze to waft us down the harbour. If you sail in Nova Scotia, you’d better get used to the idea of sailing in fog! The fog came and went and was rarely enough to be a significant issue. Unfortunately, the breeze varied from flat calm to fresh enough to douse the topsail, so that on occasion we ended up motoring. We came to anchor in Rogues Roost later in the afternoon. It was just as pretty as I’d remembered.

The following morning we went ashore, looking for the path that Mr Loveridge’s cruising guide had assured us was there. In spite of following his directions with care, we could find no trace of it. Trevor volunteered to bush bash until he could find a way up, while I went back and moved the dinghy to a likely-looking spot. Trevor joined me onshore and we worked our way through some relatively thin scrub until we came out on top of the little island from where we could look around at delightful views.
Yesterday’s fog was long gone and we could enjoy the vista of inlets and islands that is what makes this part of the world such a superb cruising ground. Our bliss was somewhat marred by my being bitten viciously on the forehead by a deerfly. The plethora of biting insects – blackfly, deerflies and mosquitoes – are what prevents this part of the world from being a perfect cruising ground. Some would add fog, but I don’t, of which more anon.
We strolled around and then went back on board to loaf in the warm sunshine and I pottered around in the galley cooking something a bit special to celebrate our first night at anchor again.
The following morning, we left for Mahone Bay mostly sailing, but with the occasional use of motor when the wind died completely, with fog banks coming and going. We anchored in Deep Cove, which, in our cruising guide, had 5 stars for prettiness. Well, maybe it was once as pretty as that, but nowadays it is surrounded by over-large, flash houses and some sort of resort. All this building has really spoilt it.

Trevor and I went ashore for a walk across a peninsula to look over the other side. It was a pleasant enough stroll, but of course one can’t get off the road to find a decent walking track. And we agreed it would have been pretty nice to have found a pub somewhere. It has to be said that the cost - and difficulty - of buying a cold beer to enjoy in the sunshine, is one of Nova Scotia’s major drawbacks!

Thursday morning saw us leaving under sail, in bright sunshine. It was a glorious, sunny day, with a steady barometer and a light S breeze. It was great fun, tacking between Big and Little Tancook Is, although by then the fog had returned and at times hid some of the landmarks – even those that were quite close to us. We didn’t get lost, of course, because we had the GPS. But GPS also makes it less fun.
I remember with great pleasure the times when we sailed Badger in the Maritimes and had to work so hard to find our way around in thick fog. We would examine the chart and work out a route that took us over – or past – obvious features, such as a shoal, or a steep-to skerry that we could approach sufficiently closely to see or hear, without risking running aground. I would steer, watch the echo sounder and keep a look out; Pete would watch the log and work out the next course shouting up such things as ‘you should see a skerry to port in about 3 minutes’. It was enormously satisfying to bring up to anchor in a harbour that you hadn’t even seen, and then wake up in the morning to discover where you were. On one or two occasions, we entered and left without ever getting a clear view! Even now, I would like to ignore the GPS and use my old skills, but I think Trevor would reckon I’m daft.
The wind varied from about F2 to the occasional F5 and Trevor was tucking in and shaking out reefs. I timed him: five minutes from start to finish in good conditions. A bit less to shake one out. No wonder I like junk rig.

We came into Lunenburg under sail – which generally means mainsail and jib and often a bit under-canvassed, as we were on this occasion; in fact we ran out of wind at the entrance to the harbour and had debated starting the engine. And then, just to be spiteful, we were hit by a nasty squall just as we were coming into anchor. Trevor wanted to run down, turn round and reach back, which I find can be quite scary, because things are happening too fast and in a hard gust, gybing is nerve-racking. I much prefer to beat up under more control, going slower. Fortunately the mainsail came down OK in the squall, but the jib sheet had got caught under the staysail gasket when it was stowed. And for a moment, it was a bit tense. We dropped the hook and broke out the rum, discussing the boats at anchor.

16 June, 2011

The Transformation of "Joshua"

Since that unhappy day when Badger sailed out of my life, I have missed sailing with junk rig.  I am, I suspect, the world’s laziest sailor.  I enjoy the way of a boat under sail; manoeuvring the boat in close quarters; even steering when day sailing, as long as the boat is going more or less in the right direction and there’s lots to look at.  What I don’t enjoy is fiddling with bits of string or physically handling sails.  I get frightened on the foredeck and a flogging sail turns my knees to jelly.  In truth, I’m not really much of a sailor.  My pleasure comes from pilotage, from living on board, from ‘nice’ maintenance tasks such as varnishing or whipping a rope’s end, from sitting in the cockpit with the self-steering nodding away and the boat bounding along in the right direction while I do nothing but enjoy it.  I fear readers will be very disappointed to hear this, but it will explain why someone such as myself, who prefers sloth to activity and is far from being even a competent woodworker would go to so much trouble – and not a little expense – to transform a ‘perfectly good’ Bermudian sloop into a little junk.

Even during my first small adventure with Joshua I had condemned her rig and was contemplating the alternative.  I had Practical Junk Rig, written by Jock McLeod and Blondie Hasler  and considered ‘The Bible’ in the world of junks, and this I studied.  I generally kept the idea to myself, knowing what most people would think, but I mentioned it to a friend who is also a junkie.  (An apt word as proponents of the rig tend to get addicted to it).  David although in N Island (NZ) at the time, was eager to help and it’s amazing what can be done with a little email and a lot of text messaging.  I sent David a drawing of the hull and rig.  Text messages followed: ‘How far stmhd 2 fwd bnk blkhd?’  “How far can mst stp b frm bnk blkhd?’  While David pondered, I, with pencil, rule and eraser (much of the latter), toiled away at my drawings.  But one morning I opened my Inbox and there was a PDF document with a perfectly executed sail plan.  (David understands CAD programs.) 

I had intended to ‘do everything myself’, but am not so foolish as to turn down the best of help for the worst of reasons.

Now it so happened that David was visiting another junkie, Paul, who is in the midst of refitting a 32 ft steel ketch he built in S Africa.  She was, of course, to be junk rigged.  Their joint enthusiasm led to momentary madness when Paul e-mailed me saying that he had a good sewing machine, a large table and some ‘spare’ sailcloth, which should be about enough for me to build the sail that David had designed.  What could I say but ‘thank you’ and from toying with a long-term plan, I was suddenly committed to an imminent project.

Consoling myself with the thought that I would be able to sell the extant rig for what a new one should cost, a few weeks later, I packed a bag and got a cheap flight to Auckland.  Paul and his wife met me and we returned to their flat behind a factory, alongside which lay La Chica, under plastic and obviously in the middle of major work.

Paul has a superb workshop in the factory, which included the large table on which I could lay out fabric.  However, the first hitch in my project came when I realised that the table was insufficiently long for me to cut full length panels from the sailcloth (in fact a polyester awning material, called Odyssey).  There was not going to be a lot of fabric to spare, so I wanted to waste as little as possible.  David had by now left for Oz, Paul was busy with work and boat renovations so I had to try and sort this out myself.  I concluded that the best thing would be to ‘make the material’ to make the panels.  Paul reckoned he could knock out patterns for this, using his computer, to minimise waste.  This he did and I got out the scissors and started cutting and sewing.  This was fairly straightforward and now that I was handling the material, I could start planning the sailmaking itself.

I am not good at planning too many steps at a time when making things.  This occasionally results in my having got so far and being unable to see where to go next.  However, I am stuck with the brain I was given, so have to live with it.  So having started cutting material, I still didn’t know exactly how I was going to get to the end result: a sail. But once the material for the panels had been sewn together, I could begin to see the whole process.  The latest thinking, in the junk rig world, is that it is both possible and beneficial to put camber in the sail itself, thus avoiding the weaknesses that have always plagued the flexible battens that people have used towards this goal.  But being junk rig, things are not as you might expect: instead of the camber being along the height of the sail, it is along its length, between the battens.  There are several ways of doing this: I used a method whereby one cuts out lens shaped pieces of fabric and sews these to the straight edges of the generally-assymetric panels. 

The lenses, which decrease in size as they go up the sail, required some fairly basic lofting techniques.  The panels were more demanding, so I started with the lenses to get the feel of things.

This seemed to go well, so I started to loft and cut the panels themselves.  To do this I needed to measure the diagonals and as the sail is some 5 metres long from leach to luff, this was not straightforward on my own.  However, I found a couple of lead weights and with these weighed down one end of the tape measure while moving the other end.

As I cut them, I marked top, bottom luff and leach and, for good measure, such things as ‘to lens no 4).  I can be remarkably stupid at sewing up a simple frock, so I tried everything I could think of to make sure nothing went wrong with the assembly.  Odyssey is coated on one side, so that one side is shiny and the other matt: this also had to be taken into account.  In fact I only had to undo one seam: a batten pocket that I did sew on wrong side up.  All the graffiti paid off.  The final cutting job was the batten pockets.

Once my pile of pieces was cut out I was ready to begin sewing.  Although I have been involved in making junk sails before, my role has invariably been that of assistant, but when I started sewing I was amazed by how much had sunk in.  I started from the top, because these panels were smaller and easier to handle.  The plan was to sew panel to lens, sew on next panel and then to sew a batten pocket over middle of the lens.  This way I was always working on (more or less) the edge of the sail.  It all went surprisingly smoothly, although my stitching was far from straight or regular.  For several panels I rolled the sail that I had already made, into a tube, thinking this would be easier to push along the table, but it was reluctant to slide.  Eventually I just shoved mountains of material back and forth.  This did allow the machine’s foot to do its thing and feed the fabric through, but it was still far from perfect.  However, the stitching does the job it is meant to do, even if its not exactly of professional quality.  Rough chipboard is rather different from the varnished floor of the average sail loft.

The foot and head of the sail had boltrope attached to fit in the slots on the yard and boom; I sewed a webbing boltrope on the luff and leach.  Then I reinforced the corners and cut off all the long ends.  The sail was finished.  I called Paul in to admire my handiwork and we hoisted it up on its boom: it looked almost like a sail.

I should have added eyes above and below each batten in order to lace them together should a batten break or a panel tear, but I had none to hand and put it off for another day.

Back in Nelson I started thinking about the mast.  I investigated timber, new and second-hand, alloy poles of various shapes and sizes and even fibreglass.  A neighbour, clearing out under his house, presented me with a broken Douglas fir mast and a large baulk of the same timber, about a metre and half long.  This gift eventually decided me to go for a ‘hybrid’ mast, with alloy base and wooden top – not a revolutionary idea, but one suggested in Practical Junk Rig.  The longest length of 152 mm tubing I could buy was 6 m.  I needed to end up with a 9.5 m mast and the topmast would need a bury of some 400 mm.  I reckoned I had just about enough wood.

The local boatyard kindly let me use their big shed to build in and I got them to cut the old timber into more-or-less the right size.  I went over each piece with infinite care because Danny had made it quite clear that if he damaged his saw blade or planer, I would have to pay for the resharpening, or replacement of a tooth.  Once sawn, we were all impressed with the quality of the wood.

I scarfed the shorter lengths of wood together and glued them into two long lengths.  These were then glued to the two lengths I had had sawn from the old mast.

The next stage was to pull out the screws, fill in the holes and then sand the whole thing down.  Next I had to shape the mast, which was a barely-tapered square section.  Because of the way I had put it together, there was plenty of wood at the top, so I could remove  weight up here and create a pleasing taper.  Then I worked down the mast planing off more wood as I turned the sharp edges into well-rounded corners, ensuring that there was still adequate thickness of wood to maintain the integrity of the spar.

I now had a square-based mast and a round hole to put it in.  So I filled out around the base to create an almost-circular section.  I fitted pieces of wood roughly to size and then filled in the gaps with thickened epoxy.  The whole butt was then sanded.  I had bought an offcut of alloy tubing of similar dimensions to my mast and used this to ensure a good fit.

I then filled screw holes and various imperfections in the second-hand timber and coated the glass with epoxy.  The old wood soaked up plenty.  Once it was well-coated, I sanded it all down and then covered it with a layer of glass and epoxy.  This makes a very hard finish and should be impervious to the sawing back and forth of the batten parrels.

The next stage was to make a shoulder for the topmast, so that it would rest securely on the alloy tube.  Offcuts created when I scarfed the wood came in useful here.  This was then planed, filled, sanded and glassed. 

I put a couple of wires up the mast: one for a tricolour light and one for an all-round steaming lightthen painted the mast with pigmented epoxy, slightly thickened with silica, as an undercoat.

Instead of making a masthead fitting, I glued some large hex bolts into the top, head down (I had left extra wood here for this purpose) and a large eyebolt for the halliard.  Stainless steel eyes were screwed to the bolts.  A certain amount of tooth-sucking from various parties has resulted from this, with dire warnings of fatigue because the eyes are not meant to be used in this way.  But they’re very big!  Finally, I used the said eyes to suspend the mast while I painted it my favourite shade of turquoise, which colour I intend to use on my boat when I repaint her.

While waiting for glue to dry, etc, I had prepared the old rig to be removed.  New Zealand yacht clubs and marinas rarely have their own mast cranes and masts are left in boats for decades at a time, apparently without problem.  The usual route for me to have taken would have been to hire a crane, but this was going to cost several hundred dollars and I don’t have many.  Instead I consulted with my friend Dick, on Irene, one of the most competent sailors it has been my good fortune to meet.  Brought up around smacks and Thames barges, Dick knows how to use low cunning instead of raw power.  We arranged to bring Joshua alongside his Irene – a large gaff ketch – and use her gear for pulling out the mast.  My friend Ulla assisted, Pat took photos and provided tea and the whole thing went like clockwork, as anyone who knows Dick would have anticipated.

That done, I now had to reinforce the deck, make a large hole in it and line said hole with substantial partners.  I then had to fit a mast step at the correct angle and distance so that the mast would go in as planned, with a forward rake of 6º.  This rake is for two reasons: the first was to keep the mast out of my bed, the second to assist the sail to hang out when running in very light winds, in a slop.  I tend to emphasise the latter reason when asked about my forward leaning mast!

Had I made the mast and partners out of wood, I should have ended up with overly large structures, so I bit the bullet and asked a local metalworker to make them for me out of stainless steel.  Galvanised would have been as good, but they would have to be sent to Christchurch to be galvanised (assuming the works had survived the earthquakes) which I reckoned would cost almost as much as the extra expense of stainless.  When Bob presented me with the heart-stopping bill, explaining how much welding gas he had needed, I wondered if I had made the correct decision!  Still and all, they are very well built and robust.  So with plenty of what the Kiwis refer to as bog, plywood on deck and a hefty piece of mahogany below, I fitted the partners.

Now I had to line up the step.  I dithered and measured and worried and fretted.  Finally I got the whole stub of the main mast and stepped it through the partners and marked as well as I could where the step should go.  The mast seemed to have an excessive forward rake, but I took photos and measured the angle and it seemed to be about 6º.  With a bit of help from a neighbour, I got the heavy tube out again and started another round of fretting and worrying: the marks I’d made didn’t match up with my measurements.  I faffed about for another couple of days before forcing myself to get on with it and bolt the step down.  This, in itself, was a bit of a mission, because a previous owner had added some trimming ballast just where I wanted to fit my step and these random-shaped pieces of lead were very firmly secured with Sikaflex.  Eventually, I filled in the gaps with (huge amounts of) epoxy until I had a solid layer to set bolts into.  Using the Gougeon Bros methods, I then drilled oversized holes and set greased bolts into these, held in place by the step itself (also greased).  When the glue set, I backed the bolts out and cleaned up the step.  Then I spread Simson’s Marine Glue and stuck the step down, replacing the bolts.

This done, I brought the topmast out of the shed and spread generous amounts of Simsons over the butt.  Using a couple of pieces of copper tubing as a roller, I moved it into the alloy base, wedged securely on the pontoon.  In order not to upset the Management I had to get it into the boat quickly.  By this time Dick had left for Australia, so once again I roped in the neighbouring boat owner and several other of my strong and/or willing friends.  Bruce moved his boat alongside Joshua, and we used his halliard to get things started.  
As La Racina is considerably smaller than Irene, we needed far more brute force and bad language, but at last we had the heel of the mast over the hole and quickly slacked away a little on the halliard.  More pushing and pulling on deck and then Bruce and I went below to haul the heel back, that was inclined to sit on my bunk.  Once it was past the half bulkhead, it gave up the fight and as it was slowly lowered, moved gradually down and into its step.  To my profound astonishment, I might add.  To the sound of much rejoicing, we released all the lines, I tapped in some temporary wedges and we all stood back to admire The New Mast.  I was rather proud of it.

Now we came to the really exciting bit – bending on the sail.  A friend came by as I was feeding battens into their pockets and offered to help.  He was amused by my refusal and explanation that I was really enjoying doing it all on my own.  I had a lot of fun playing with new rope, knotting and whipping.  There is plenty of string on a junk and my cambered sail required some lines I hadn’t used before.  There was a natural tendency for the folds to hang in diagonal creases and it took a fair bit of time to remove these.  But finally I felt all was ready for a trial sail.

On a calm morning in early April, I started the motor, cast off the lines and chugged out of my marina berth.  I turned up the harbour and with the last of the land breeze, shut off the engine and hoisted sail, ghosting through the marina and its rows of silent boats.  Once in the Haven we were heading into the little breeze and the boat seemed to take herself to windward quite satisfactorily.  We went through the entrance and out into Tasman Bay where the new sea breeze greeted us.  As she lifted to the swell coming down from Cook Strait and heeled to the increasing wind I looked up at the lovely sail, thrilled at what I had created.  I tacked and gybed, with nothing to do but move the tiller across.  I dropped reefs and shook them out again.  I felt in control and confident.  I was ecstatic.  The great fan rose above me and her new name was obvious: like a little bird, she ducked and swooped over the water.  The transformation was complete and Joshua had become Fantail.