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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

24 December, 2012

I know there are some comments that need answering but I've been sooo busy upgrading Fantail.  I'll get on to it in the New Year.  In the meantime, have a

30 October, 2012

I am, generally, proud of this little country at the bottom of the globe.  I am immensely proud of the fact that so many Kiwis have tried to make up for the appalling environmental ignorance and vandalism of their predecessors.  Many thousands of people give generously of their time and money, to restore populations of endangered birds and to protect other species from the predators, so foolishly introduced.  In the past our Government have helped in this, setting aside vast tracts of land for conservation.

However the present Government seems to have no interest in anything but making money.  Not only does it want to mine coal (lignite at that!) on conservation land, it recently voted against doing anything more to help save our delightful Maui's dolphin from extinction.  These dolphin are unique to N Island, New Zealand and the threat is both unnecessary and, of course, man-made.  They have a cousin in S Island. Hector's dolphin, a cheerful and confiding little animal that bustles over to spend time with a yacht in its area, puffing and diving companionably, even when you sit at anchor:

Even the Hector's dolphin is hardly flourishing, but its poor cousin is now down to probably no more than 55 males and more are dying every year.  In nets.

I have personally written to members of the Government several times about this issue, but have only ever received an automatic reply. Our Prime Minister is also Minister of Tourism.  NZ sells itself on its 'clean, green' image.  You'd think that if nothing else, the fact that we might be the first country since China (see my earlier blog) to allow a cetacean to become extinct, would give him cause to think.  Apparently not.  If, after reading this, you feel as I do, please drop him a line and ask him to get his act together:

Maui’s dolphin is listed as critically endangered and the Government itself identified that 95% of the threat of Maui’s dolphin mortalities comes from fishing-related death, namely entanglement in nets (including set nets and trawl nets). Mining and oil activities, pollution, vessel traffic and disease constitute the remainder of the threat, on a much lower scale but still significant given the precarious state of the population.

Since the recent, alarming, population estimate there have been further deaths of Maui’s and/or Hector’s dolphins – including entanglement in fishing gear, and dead dolphins found outside the area previously protected. Reporting of dolphin deaths in fishing nets, with or without observers onboard, indicates that only around 1% of these deaths go reported. In other words, these may represent just the tip of the iceberg.

The International Whaling Commission's scientific committee, at its 2012 meeting, noted that bycatch in gillnet and trawl fisheries is the most serious threat to these dolphins, and recommended “the immediate implementation of the proposal by the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries to extend the North Island protected area ..."

In September, a similar statement was made at World Conservation Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. In a vote, the IUCN passed an almost unanimous motion urging New Zealand  urgently to protect Maui’s dolphin.  There were 576 country and NGO votes in favour of the motion, and two votes against it. Each country member has two votes, and the two "no" votes belonged to New Zealand.  Can you believe it?  This country, that depends on green tourism voted against 576 other countires and organisations who wanted to protect our own dolphin!  It's beyond madness.

New Zealand  has brought species like the black robin and the kakapo back from the brink of extinction and is rightly proud of these efforts.  And yet now we are complacently contemplating the extinction of yet another unique species.  It's incomprehensible. 

I still mourn the Yangtze River Dolphin, an animal I never encountered.  Having shared the sea with the lovely little Hector's dolphin, I feel incredibly close to their cousins from N Island.  I can't bear the thought of their disappearing for no reason apart from apathy and ignorance.

If you want to know more about it, just Google Maui's dolphin.  You will find no shortage of information to bear out my story.

22 October, 2012

Although my life is now firmly based in NZ, living aboard and sailing Fantail, May and June of this year saw me back in the Maritimes and sailing on Iron Bark once again.  Trevor had invited me to join him for a couple of months, and as he was planning to winter-over once again in Greenland, I thought he might appreciate some help with the preparations.

After spending two or three weeks in Halifax, we had knocked over most of what was needed to be done, so set  off for a short cruise to the S Coast of Newfoundland, a place I have visited only too briefly in the past. We made our way up the coast of Nova Scotia, through the Bras D'Or Lakes, locking in at St Peters

In the St Peters Canal

 and on up through the Lakes, stopping once or twice on the way.

Passing under the Barra Strait Bridge
After passing through the Barra Straits, we sailed onto Baddeck, where we stayed for a few days enjoying meeting old friends again.  Then we sailed out across the Cabot Strait in bright sunshine, which ended as we approached the Newfoundland, shrouded in fog, as one expects.
Newfoundland fog - much less than usual this year

 However, what we didn't realise, as we groped our way in to anchor, was that for most of the rest of our stay in Newfoundland, we would enjoy beautiful, sunny weather.

Our first anchorage on the S Coast was Culotte Cove, a place Trevor had discovered the previous year and wanted to visit again.  It was a delightful spot and we had some pleasant walks ashore.

Iron Bark at Culotte Cove
 I must be getting old: the first few weeks in the Maritimes I found I was cold all the time.  I had just come from late autumn in New Zealand, but it was considerably warmer than late spring in the Maritimes.  Ashore, out of the wind and in the sun, I could warm up, but on the water I felt completely chilled.  On the other hand, surrounded by sea at 3 degrees, maybe I did have some excuse!

Water Temperature on 29th May!

 We sailed on to nearby Burgeo, where we went to an excellent concert, with Jim Dorie from Pictou and Burgeo's own John Coffer, whose music I enjoyed so much that I treated myself to a CD.  Burgeo has a wonderful sense of community and Trevor seemed to know a lot of people from having been there the previous year.  He had stayed for quite a while and, because he was alone, got to meet many people and enjoy much hospitality.

We left Burgeo for pretty little Doctors Harbour where we stayed for the night before heading off to Grey River.  Grey River is the start of the astonishingly dramatic scenery that brings sailors back time and again to the S Coast.  This is also the only part of Newfoundland where some of the communities still have no road access.  Sadly, there is a lot of pressure on the inhabitants of these remote communities to finish the job that Joey Smallwood started half a century ago - and move from the outports to the larger towns.  Some people have stuck to their guns and refuse to leave and Grey River is one of these communities.  The entrance to Grey River is narrow and between very high cliffs

Entrance to Grey River

and the village is squeezed onto a narrow ledge of flat land at the base to the left-hand cliff as you enter.  We went to anchor in SW Harbour, where a lot more houses had been built since our last visit.  Apparently the good citizens of Grey River (Pop fewer than 200), find there is too much hustle and bustle in the big city and need to escape to the peace and quiet of the country!  As we sailed along the S Coast, we found a lot of new building going on, which while no doubt great for the locals, was a bit disappointing for us.  This startling increase in wealth is due to the fact that many Newfoundlanders work away from the province at the Tar Sands in Alberta, about which I will forebear to comment.  My feeling was that with so many people working away, the profound sense of community, which was such a cohesive part of Newfoundland society , has diminished.  I also felt that they were much less interested in visitors than they used to be.  Most people now have access to satellite TV and the Internet and no doubt their world is a much bigger place than it used to be.

We spent quite a time in the Grey River, exploring its several anchorages before moving along to Hare Bay, another impressive fjord.  One of its arms - Morgans Arm - has a most impressive series of waterfalls at its head.  We anchored nearby to go for a walk and I found a wonderful route up alongside the rushing water, which was truly dramatic.

The waterfall at Morgans Arm
From where the river started to fall down to the sea, we walked to the the top of the hill/cliff overlooking the harbour and waterfall, where Iron Bark was minified by the vast scale of the landscape.

Looking down at the anchorage at Morgans Arm

Trevor did a bit of boulder rolling and we both enjoyed a respite from the blackflies. 

Trevor and boulder
Then we tramped down again, by which time it was quite late, so we chugged back to our former anchorage drinking a glass or two of rum on the way.

Our next harbour was on Brunette Island.  We arrived there late in the afternoon and put off going ashore for the next morning.  There were half a dozen caribou ambling along the beach, their ankle bones clacking quite audibly, and I watched these for a while.  At one time there had obviously been a sizable outport - the reasonably extensive bay was surrounded by signs of houses.  If you reckon to half a dozen per house, there may have been as many as 1000 people there at one time.

After breakfast, we went ashore and wandered around.  The caribou, sadly, were a long way away - dots on the landscape.

Brunette Harbour
There was a graveyard, of course and three of the gravestones were for separate five-year old children: two boys and a girl, killed on the same day.  They had 'drowned in a pond'.  There is a barachois between the two sides of the settlement and I suspect that this is where they died.  The accident occurred in February and I guessed that they fell in through the ice.  It possibly wasn't strong enough to support the adults who tried to save them and by the time they had floundered their way across, the poor children had drowned.  What a shocking tragedy for the settlement.  Both boys had a long piece of verse on their gravestones.  The little girl didn't.

Graveyard at Brunette Harbour
Brunette Island is the largest in Fortune Bay and in 1964 an attempt was made to introduce bison to Newfoundland, using the island as a test site. One would have thought this a pretty barmy idea, considering the differences between the prairies and the offshore islands of Newfoundland.  Not surprisingly the experiment was a failure.  However, subsequent and more successful attempts have been made to breed. arctic hare, caribou, ptarmigan, and moose.  It is sad that in a vast and essentially underpopulated country such as Canada, these animals should require any help from humanity to survive in the wild.  But hunting pressures (past and present), so-called predator control, habitat decline, disruption of migratory routes and other stresses have had a dramatic and devastating effect on much of Canada's wildlife.

In the afternoon we sailed to Harbour Breton.  I had hoped to revisit St Pierre-Miquelon for a nostalgic taste of France - and its food - but alas, this was not on Iron Bark's itinerary.  Harbour Breton, though smaller than St Pierre, is still a sizable place, with several large - by local standards - shops. 

Harbour Breton
We went ashore and set off anticlockwise around the harbour.  Fortunately, before we'd gone too far, someone asked us if we were 'hiking' and when we said no, suggested we go back the other way.  If we'd looked at the chart before leaving, we'd have realised that the E side of the harbour was in fact a peninsula, with a deep bay the other side.

Just as fortunately, a passing driver stopped and drove us round to the supermarket, where I topped up our stores.  A quick visit to the grog shop, and then back on board and underway towards Jerseymans Harbour, just across the bay.  There were one or two new and/or rebuilt houses here and quite a few signs of the original settlement - particularly the surviving ridges from the potato patches.  We rowed ashore to take a walk along the old road to Bay de L'eau.  Although a bit boggy and overgrown in places, it was surprisingly easy to follow and we reckoned that it was probably cleared as a snowmobile track in winter.

Old wharf footings at Jerseymans Harbour; wrecked ship in background
Iron Bark anchored at Jerseymans Harbour
The next day we sailed over to Grand Bank for fuel - the unusually sunny weather that we'd enjoyed was accompanied by many calms, so we'd done a lot of motoring.  We only stayed overnight and set off early the next day for Little St Lawrence Harbour.  Not a particularly pleasant passage because when we turned on the engine to get around a headland, it stopped after a few minutes and when Trevor investigated, he found the filters blocked.  He had to change them and even then the engine sounded less than happy, but managed to take us into the pretty harbour in the calm of the evening. 

Trevor wasn't entirely confident about the filters, so first thing after breakfast, he sorted things out properly.  He was just tidying up when we were hailed from the shore.  We rowed over to the wharf.  I climbed up the ladder and a complete stranger threw his arms round me and said: 'Jerry - you remember me!  Great to see you again.'  I had to confess that I didn't and it turned out that he thought we were an entirely different couple.  His explanation was that 'the boats look the same'.  As theirs was a red, hard-chine, Bermudian ketch, one would beg to differ, but I guess all boats that aren't white plastic sloops look the same!  Anyway, Jerry was not daunted by this minor mistake and we went up to his house for coffee. He is rebuilding the old family home and although he works away a lot of the time, is hoping to settle there permanently.  He told us that the local climate has improved out of recognition since he was a boy, so that now he can plant a good vegetable garden.  I guess some people are benefiting from global warming!

Little Bay St Lawrence
After lunch we walked round to St Lawrence.  One or two people were farming in a small way, and it was pleasant to see a cow and calf, a couple of sheep, some ponies.  As with all these places, most of the shops have closed and everyone goes to the big smoke.  Hopefully expensive fuel will revitalise the local shops.  We strolled around the town - dominated as usual by a huge and ugly fish plant - in the sunshine.  The latest victim is the poor, unsuspecting whelk, which is now being 'harvested' in huge quantities.  Each boat brings in about 20,000 lbs each time it lifts its 500 pots, which it does several times a week.  Later I discovered that the quota for Ship Cove was 1 000 000 lbs!  And this is for a tiny harbour.  I find it hard to believe that such a fishery is sustainable, and even if it is, it must be at the expense of some other ocean dweller.  Maybe the scientists have done their homework properly and the politicians have listened to them.  And then again, maybe they haven't.

From Little St Lawrence, we sailed to our final Newfoundland outport before I left Iron Bark.  Burin was a lovely little town and a fitting conclusion to our cruise.  We anchored in Ship Cove, which obviously welcomed yachts because they had built a dinghy dock for visitors.  This was marked by a VW Beetle that had been made into a cute joke: a big key stuck out of its back and on the front was a snow plough and a pair of moose antlers.  On top was a light box with Burin written on it.

Iron Bark and Beetle in Ship Cove
The town is very neat with a lot of buildings done up as showpieces.  A beautiful boardwalk has been built along the waterfront, decorated with lights and with flags of the Provinces and those countries that have had the most influence on Newfoundland.  They have tried so hard that it brings tears to your eyes.  So early in the year, everything was shut, apart from the interesting little Museum.

We ambled down the road to the wharf and were warmly greeted by the Harbour mistress, who gave us coffee and biscuits.  She was quite happy for us to bring Iron Bark round to anchor, the incentive for us being a washing machine!!  So we went back and motored round.  We brought the laundry ashore and while it was washing, Marguerite kindly took me to the local shop - about 10 km away!  It was a much-appreciated kindness.

The following day we made a quick trip to Marystown, to stock up before heading back for Nova Scotia.  From there I flew back to New Zealand. while Trevor headed north again.

I managed to clock up 1000 miles in the Maritimes, but I have to say that after a season of sailing my wonderful junk rig, I am even less enamoured of gaff rig.  Once a junkie, always a junkie!  But  Iron Bark  is a great little ship and perfect for the sort of extreme sailing that Trevor chooses to do.  For my own part, I am happy exploring the New Zealand coastline on my own little boat.  All the time I was away I was thinking about her and planning projects and little cruises that I hope to do.  In my own way.  In my own time.

23 May, 2012

In North Island

I felt very pleased to have made it into Whangaroa when I did.  Even in the sheltered spot we were in, we experienced  the odd strong squall, but Fantail is a delight at anchor.  I don't think she has yet snatched at her chain, even during that gale we had at Adele, and she never heels to the gusts.  I kept wondering should I let out more chain, but the holding seemed good and we hadn't moved,  I was on at least 5:1 scope.  Fantail has 25m of 8mm chain and I tend to let it all out regardless of depth, unless I’m in a crowded anchorage and might swing into somebody else.

I stayed in Whangaroa for the rest of the day, letting the blow come through.  Some of the gusts were quite ferocious, but we never moved and barely heeled.  I turned in early and slept like a log until about 0800.  I decided to head on down to the Bay of Islands, to catch up with a friend who has a house there. 

It was flat calm in the anchorage, so we left under power, but after a couple of minutes we found a breeze and could turn the engine off.  It was a lovely, sunny morning, and I enjoyed the interesting scenery along the shores. Then we lost the breeze, so it went back on to take me out of the entrance and on for another half mile.  The rest of the day was on again off again as the wind came and went.  We ended up with a fine breeze, but it was too late to get to my friend's.  I should have left a lot sooner – it was further than I realised, having allowed myself to be misled by the small scale of the North Island chart.  My own fault, so I anchored in Twin Lagoon Bay on Roberton I, for the night

I was feeling tired, but forced myself to make ratatouille and pasta for tea and as I polished it off without difficulty, was glad I had done so.  As I sipped on a glass of wine, I felt it had been another great day and that I’d made the right decision to come north.

I spent the next two or three weeks cruising around the Bay of Islands, which is a wonderful, miniature cruising ground, with many bays and islands to provide a variety of anchorages.  However, we seemed to be having a particularly windy spell of weather and I got tired of dodging gales and listening to F10 winds howl overhead.

In between blows, I managed to visit several anchorages and enjoy a Royal Cruising Club meet, which gave me the opportunity to catch up with people I haven’t seen for ages.  We sailed to several different anchorages and had parties on each others’ boats.  Although the Club is based in the UK, the Membership roams far and wide and at any one time there might be several RCC boats in New Zealand.  As several Members also live here, a total of about 20 people turned up for the BBQ party ashore at a Members’ house.  Fantail showed off her paces and as everyone made nice noises about her, we felt pretty pleased with ourselves.

 A couple of weeks later, the Junk Rig Association planned a rally in Mahurangi Harbour, about 100 miles south of the Bay of Islands.  It fitted in nicely and I had plenty of time to get there.  I was in contact with other members in Whangarei, about half way between the two in the hope of catching up with them so that we could all arrive together.  The forecasts were far from reliable, changing from day to day and when I was ready to leave, it changed again with another gale on the way. Further south, in Whangarei, mehitabel and Pacific Spray made the same decision. Arcadian, also in Whangarei, had a new rig that had only been tried out twice. They too lurked, waiting on the forecast. A few days later I was sitting in a bay with Fantail getting hammered by gusts that must have been F10 at times. This storm was followed by several days of F6+, which I didn't fancy at all. Nor it seemed did anyone else: text messages and emails were flying and we even wondered about changing the venue.Two days before the rally was due to start, everyone was still cowering in harbour.

On the morning of 22 March, the weather finally gave us a break. Pacific Spray, Arcadian and mehitabel sailed out of Whangarei and Fantail, 50 miles further to the north, got underway at 0600, took the fair wind and ran with it. By tea time we were off Whangarei, with the others already in the Hauraki Gulf, and common sense suggested that I put in to anchor. But Fantail was going like a train and I decided to carry on, under reduced canvas so that I could find anchorage in daylight. However, this plan was thwarted by the wee ship who wanted to get there, and in spite of only having the top three panels of her sail, carried on at over 4 knots. At this speed I could risk catnapping (something I had never done successfully before) and we continued sailing, eventually bringing to in Christian Cove, a few miles into the Hauraki Gulf. It was Friday and we still had 12 hours before the rally was due to start. I felt quite pleased with myself and turned in for a few hours.

After a quick breakfast, I set off towards Mahurangi and had hardly got underway when I saw the unmistakeable shape of mehitabel come out from behind a headland. Of course now it was almost calm and our progress was far from fast, but light winds had been forecast and were one of the reasons I carried on overnight. mehitabel and Fantail arrived within a few minutes of each other and we brought to near Pacific Spray. Footprints could be seen across the bay, the sail going up and down as her owner tried to sort out his brand-new sail. Not long after I anchored, Tystie dropped her hook, followed soon after by Arcadian. I popped a bottle of bubbly and called them over to come and share it. The rally had begun.

The sound of an outboard advertised Pacific Spray’s dinghy returning with the ‘shore party’: The China Moons who had flown in rather than sail the 1000+ miles from Tasmania; a new member, also from Oz, who is exploring the idea of sailing and living aboard her own junk-rigged boat; and La Chica’s owner, who had not managed to meet her launching date (when do they ever?). They all piled on board Fantail, who was beginning to get a trifle crowded. Then another boat hove into view: a fascinating lug-rigged ketch, with a pram bow. (the general consensus was probably ‘so near and yet so far’!) beautifully constructed and full of clever ideas as we found out later. This was Le Canard Bleu, whose builder is famous in NZ for building the 64ft gaff schooner, Maggie. His crew was also considered acceptable company, having sailed around the world against the wind in his Lidgard 30, which has a junk mainsail, and a jib.

As we’d run out of bubbly, the party transferred itself to Canard Bleu, and in due course everyone was drinking and talking, and the odd person was even listening, while snacks were passed round and the boat admired.

The plan for Saturday, was to head north for Bon Accord Harbour on Kawau I, about 10 miles, as the crow flies, from Mahurangi. The day dawned fair with a good sailing breeze that would have us beating in flat seas, sheltered by offshore islands. About 1030, sails started going up masts, anchors were raised, dinghies brought aboard and the yachts sailed out into the main harbour, tacking, gybing, taking photographs and admiring one another. And all secretly wondering how we were going to compare. We had to beat out between an island and the mainland and it was a wonderful sight to behold: the seven boats – as varied a selection of craft as you are ever likely to see together – sailing in line ahead and each one tacking at the same spot. It was like something out of Patrick O'Brien, but it was disappointing that there were no other boats out on the water to admire the spectacle, despite its being a fine Summer Saturday.

Footprints, 32ft overall, is designed by Gary Underwood and had just fitted a new sail; this was its first real trial; the 49ft Arcadian was relishing the conditions: she and Fantail sailed tack for tack to Bon Accord Harbour; Le Canard Bleu was crashing along in fine style, her pram bow making plenty of noise; Pacific Spray was right behind her, making good progress but really wanting a bit more wind; then came mehitabel, her flat sails belying all the latest thinking as she inexorably worked her way through the fleet, finally being the second boat to sail into anchor.

It was fascinating to watch the different boats. Footprints and Fantail each had to reef, and Tystie dropped one later in the day, but the other boats were probably in their ideal conditions; apart from Pacific Spray who sailed at her best later in the afternoon, when the breeze hardened to about F6. Fantail felt a bit smug at sailing faster than Footprints, but as the battens from her previous sail were proving too flexible, this satisfaction was undoubtedly unwarranted.

Late in the afternoon, we all brought to at the east end of Bon Accord Harbour and the cooks got to work: at 1800 we were to assemble for sundowners on the beautifully-fitted out Pacific Spray, followed by a potluck supper. Although only 38ft long, Pacific Spray is huge and there was plenty of room for the thirteen people who eventually sat down to dinner and enjoyed a thoroughly convivial evening.

Fantail’s yard was made by a friend, to a similar design as that used by Arne Kverneland. At the time he gave it to me, Paul was thinking of putting wing sails on his boat, but subsequently changed his mind and wanted to use his original spars. Very kindly, he offered to make me a replacement, tailored specifically to Fantail, a much smaller and lighter craft than La Chica. I had intended to swop them on Saturday morning, but had run out of time. On Sunday morning, it was blowing a bit briskly and forecast to stay that way. The plan was to head back to Mahurangi, but I really didn’t want to beat back against F6, so I contacted mehitabel and asked them if they would be kind enough to collect the old yard from me and take it back with them. The skipper soon paddled across, not only to take the yard, but to help me remove and replace it, a much-appreciated gesture. I undid the lashings and as I started to slide the yard forward, he commented that it looked a bit odd. I went back aft where I had a better view and to my horror could see it was seriously bent – deflected from straight by about 6 inches! I had noticed it bending the previous day, when beating on the starboard tack, and was a bit surprised, as I’d never seen it do so before, but had assumed it would have straightened itself out as we went about.

After some debate, we decided to carry on and replace it with the new one, but the bad news for Paul was also bad news for me, too, because the new yard was significantly smaller and lighter. If Fantail could bend the heavy one, then the new one was obviously not going to handle much wind at all; but at least we had a yard to sail back north with. The only consolation was that La Chica has not yet been launched so the new yard can be made while a workshop and facilities are still available. Even so, I felt less than happy when Kurt went back the banana-shaped yard.

By now there was some debate among the seven boats at anchor. The wind was increasing and the anchorage was becoming less and less comfortable. Pacific Spray said they were off to Mansion House Bay to visit said house and get better shelter and four of us decided to follow and leave the following day. Footprints had to get back to Mahurangi and Pacific Spray nobly volunteered to take back those who had to get back for a flight and work.  Le Canard Bleu was also heading back. The rest of us carried on partying and rowing round paying visits before going over to Tystie for a drinks party, followed by another BYO on Arcadian. Our host kept producing bottles of wine, people kept filling their glasses, the conversation was convivial and general and the following morning everyone commented how that they’d got back on board and said: “Surely it can't really be twenty to two?!” But it was.

It was still blowing on Monday, so we stayed put again, and although officially over, the rally continued. But although we did have a drinks party - this time on Fantail – we forewent the BYO. On Tuesday, Arcadian stayed at anchor and the rump of the rally, consisting of Tystie, mehitabel and Fantail sailed back to Mahurangi. In the lightish airs mehitabel sailed like a witch making even Tystie sit up and take notice. Once in the harbour, the three boats anchored in different places and the rally officially came to an end.

18 April, 2012

A Passage North

Fantail sails towards Adele I
For some time, I have been planning to take Fantail up to North Island, where there is an abundance of interesting cruising. Left to my own devices, I would probably have put if off until 2013, but there were two good reasons to go now: once was a planned Royal Cruising Club Meet in the Bay of Islands, the second was a forthcoming Junk Rig Association rally. My friend David, had done a huge amount to help me get Fantail fit to go to sea, and as he was most certainly going to attend the JRA rally, I felt that the very least I could do in return for his help was to show him it hadn’t been in vain, So accordingly, in the middle of February, I left my home base at Motueka and set off north.

I had been working so long and so hard on the boat, that I felt I needed a couple of nights’ rest before heading off. I find that it’s sometimes hard to change my mindset from working through the jobs list to concentrating on things like pilotage. I’d made a couple of silly mistakes when I went away over Christmas and didn’t want to do the same again, so I sailed a little way up Tasman Bay to anchor off the Abel Tasman National Park and start thinking about the passage. I hadn’t even had a proper chance to look at charts up until then.

On the morning of 16th February, I got my anchor and sailed out. I felt a bit sorry to be leaving, because I had grown really to enjoy Motueka; I wondered how I’d manage several days of single-handing and a little frightened in case I couldn’t cope. Several friends had suggested I take someone else, but Fantail is not a large boat and with someone else on board, I should have had to consider their wishes and, possibly, even try to fit in with their schedule. Going on my own seemed by far the better option.

We started slowly, but soon got a fair wind. Early on a made a silly mistake and bore away when I should have hardened in, but an hour with the motor sorted that and topped up the battery, too. I think I was still a bit tired. I fretted about keeping well away from Farewell Spit and did such a good job of it that I never even saw the lighthouse! I tried every method I could think of to decide that we had truly passed it before I dared alter course, because although I have a hand-held GPS, I still don’t entirely trust it. The wind was about F4 and we were making good progress and once into the Cook Strait, it picked up to where I was thinking of reefing - we were doing 6.7 knots at times. However, although I felt pretty anxious (at the best of times I don’t really like going fast), Fantail seemed very happy, the self-steering was coping with only one link of weather helm on it and although the motion was pretty wild at first (possibly we had wind against tide) she was coping fine.

6.5 knots the first evening
As ever when one decides it’s finally time to leave, there were still jobs undone. I wired in a socket so that I could plug in the GPS and replaced the fiddle for one of the bookshelves, having cut the original too short; I thought about the bolt that I still hadn’t fitted to the lower washboard, but it was really too rough to start playing around with my drill and I was worried I'd get seasick. I took a Stugeron pill, just in case. The forecast was for the wind to ease later in the day but for gales by Sunday, so I pressed on to be well away from sea area Stephens. Later on I caught a new forecast, this one from a different repeater. Irritatingly, it gave forecasts for the whole of S Island, but nothing for Raglan – the next sea area north and I was to get no further forecast for several days.

I’d had a small glass of wine to celebrate rounding Farewell Spit and an hour or so later I decided that the mast might well survive the night, the sail wasn’t tearing itself apart and nothing had come adrift inside or out. Maybe Fantail could cope with F5. On this happy note, I decided to have another glass and I suddenly realised that far from being tense and unhappy, I was feeling hugely relaxed and contented. I felt so at home and we were making splendid progress in the right direction. I didn’t feel at all concerned about keeping watch. I had seen nothing since I left Tasman Bay, apart from the lights of a rig, or a large fishing vessel in the distance and couldn’t find it in myself to worry about being run down.

I cooked a lovely meal of garlic, onions and red peppers mixed in with fresh broad beans and pasta and ate it with appetite and another glass of wine. And felt quite happy about that other glass, too!

Cooking my first meal on passage
I washed up and put everything away and when it was dark, got undressed and climbed into my bunk up forward. It was still rough, but I was surprisingly comfortable and it felt so good to be in my real bed instead of camping out down a quarter berth. I looked out whenever the urge took me, but did not bother to be religious about it.  (In fact I saw no vessel at all until I was up near Cape Reinga.)  With the bottom washboard in, I can easily get my head out to look all round the horizon, but I fitted the second because it was a bit splashy at times, and wriggling round that is slightly more difficult.  The wind took off about 0400 and I got some good sleep. 

At 0845, 24 hours out, I put a fix on the chart and saw that we'd made 113 miles.  At this rate … My ‘chart table’ consists of a piece of half-inch plywood, cut to the size of a chart folded in two. It fits at the head of the starboard quarter berth and because it extends slightly into the berth itself, never slides off. Sitting on the companionway step I can work at it very easily. It’s a great success.

The 'chart table'
  We had lost the wind  and were ambling along, more or less on course, at about 2 knots.  I still had this uncanny feeling of calm and contentment.  There I was, barely out of the Southern Ocean, unable to pick up a forecast of any description and feeling wonderful.  For some made reason, my course took me 60 miles west of Cape Egmont: I hadn’t intended to. It must have been a Freudian slip because I had thought of going more like 20 miles offshore, so I could pick up a forecast, but now I had no chance of doing so. I just hoped the 7-day rain forecasts that I’d looked at before I left, were correct.  These seem the most accurate of all, and the little charts show predicted wind speed and direction, so are ideal for the sailor.  As it turned our, they proved reliable.

So gentle the motion, it was easy to make breakfast.  The cloudscape was very familiar - a very offshore, neo-Trade Wind collection of small cumulus, all lined up in rows; the odd early-morning rain shower slowly dying away around us as the air warmed.  

The cloudscape was very familiar
There was only a very small swell running - good news for me with still over 200 miles before I could turn east.  I continued to be astonished by this, waiting for the apprehension and worry to descend like a cloud again; wondering that I could feel so un-alone.  I was so enjoying my independence; and the only cloud on the horizon was the thought of bad weather.  I am absurdly scared of this - probably because Fantail and I haven’t been through any yet.  Of course, the obvious thing would be to go out and find some, but I’m too chicken for that!

The day’s wind varied from light to calm and I motored for a while.  Only 3.6 knots - a bit of a surprise that it must be the swell, slight though it was.  I decided it wasn’t worth using the motor unless the speed dropped below 2 knots.  We sailed into a light W, which in due course became S and stayed with us all night.  Miles and miles offshore so the only radio reception was on AM. I was still really enjoying myself.

I drank my usual ration of wine.  I cooked one of my favourite meals: a salad made with slightly cooked courgette, mushrooms, green pepper, tiny plum tomatoes and runner beans and thoroughly cooked potatoes.  Dressed with olive oil and lemon, and with some walnuts and a couple of handsful of leaves it was yummy, but far too much.  it made a lovely lunch the following day!

I washed up and turned in at 2100.  Again I got up whenever I woke up, to look around.  The wind picked up a little and I altered course a couple of times.  The self-steering that my friend, David, and I made, works wonderfully well.  It steers perfectly in the lightest of winds.  In the dark of the night, we had to gybe.  Oh, it was so painless!  It took me about 5 seconds.  How I love this rig!

By 0845 on the morning of the 18th, we had made 190 miles.  Considering how light the winds had been, I was pretty pleased.  We had motored about 6 hours in total, by then.  The breeze was still only around F2, but we pottered along at between 2 and 3.5 knots, enjoying the benign weather, with a steady glass and no immediate worries.  It was so good to feel relaxed and with nothing that had to be done, after all the work of the past few weeks and months.  Motoring seemed pointless as long as we were making over 2 knots, but we were obviously not going to have a fast passage.  I just hoped no-one would worry, after all the fuss I’d made about it. 

I tuned into Radio New Zealand on AM and got the long-range land forecast.  Northerlies filling in on Tuesday and I didn’t think I had much chance of getting to North Cape by then.  However, no-one was predicting gales, so that was a relief. 

In the afternoon, I sat down with a book and read in the hot sun, but the wind got lighter and lighter and I resorted to the motor. I didn't want to push my luck by staying out any longer than I need to - not on my first offshore passage.  It was a shame to spoil the peace, but on the other hand, better to have too little wind than too much.

The wind fell away completely
I turned the engine off about 2100 and turned in.  I couldn’t bring myself to leave the engine on when I was asleep, because I didn’t think a strange smell or sound would wake me up quickly enough.  We didn’t make much progress, but on the other hand, a girl needs to sleep.

In the morning, I motored again.  I shut down the engine for a while and turned on the radio to see if I could get the long-range land forecast on National Radio.  I did: they were forecasting more N winds so I decided to carry on motoring. 

By 1400, the wind had picked up a bit, so I shut down the engine. I looked out about 1700 and the clouds over the land had lifted: suddenly I could see hills! It was quite a shock and a part of me was a bit disappointed.  It had been marvellous being at sea and out of sight of land.  The wind was now a dead noser, but we were sailing well, and as there was no bad weather forecast, I felt I could lose a bit of my offing.  So we carried on sailing towards the land until midnight, when I tacked offshore.

Suddenly I could see hills!
I put a fix on the chart about 0300 on Tuesday, which told me that we were heading much further W than I wanted.  While I was up, I looked at my phone to see if it had a signal.  It did, so I sent a txt to a friend to say how we were going, and to my surprise got one back - he was enjoying a night sail. So knowing that he had a smart phone, I asked if he could see what the weather forecast for Kaipara was: N breezes continuing, but not strong. However, he said the 7-day rain forecast was looking pretty nasty for Thursday.  We were still 50 miles from Cape Reinga and I decided that come daylight, we would have to try and get north as fast as we could: I didn't want to get caught out in nasty weather around the top of N Island.

At first light I could see that Fantail was really doing quite nicely, close-hauled, in F2-3. making about 3.4 knots, which I thought very satisfactory.  On the other hand, we weren’t laying the course and I’d put all that diesel on board for just this eventuality.  I didn’t want to find myself beating round Cape Reinga in a capful of wind.  The barometer was still steady, there was no swell, but ...   So I apologised to the wee ship and wound up the engine.  With the sail sheeted hard in and the revs cranked up a bit, we were soon making about 4 knots in the right direction.  As it turned out, this was a lucky decision.  By Thursday it was blowing very freshly and the barometer had hardly moved. 

We plugged on all day and I put in another 5l of diesel at noon.  I should have topped up again, but it was a bit rough and I didn’t want to spill any.  Again, it had been a good decision to keep the tank pretty full for just such a situation.  Then I read, as that was about all I could do, heeling as we were and bouncing about a bit, too.  But by no means uncomfortable.

The land inshore of 90-mile beach is quite weird, with huge sand dunes running into what appear to be low mountains.  it looks a bit like golden glaciers in the distance.  And in the distance is where it stayed as I didn't

... huge sand dunes
  want to be anywhere near that beach.  At its NW end is Pandora Bank which looks as though it could be a distinctly nasty place to be in any sort of wind or swell.  We still had little of either, but I wasn't going to take any chances. On the other hand ... I moved my waypoint much closer to Cape Reinga, taking care to avoid the overfalls shown on the chart.  Even so, there were several miles of quite unpleasant jobble, 10 miles out.  I would give it a very wide berth in bad weather.  God forbid I should ever have to.  By 1500, it looked as though we might have some tide with us, as we were making very good progress.  The concomitant of that, of course, was that later we had it against us.

I was idly looking out, just after 4 o'clock, when I saw the most enormous flying fish I have ever seen in my life!  It was at least 2 feet long, with long, wide ‘wings’.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I didn’t think they lived round here.

Half an hour later, Cape Reinga was finally abeam and we could alter course.  Earlier, I had hoped that when this happened, we would be able to sail, but the wind seemed to be following the coast, and from being N x E was now E x N.   The water was still greatly disturbed by all the tidal activity and progress was slow.  But the good little engine went on chugging happily away. 

I had also hoped to have some dramatic photos, but it was generally overcast by now, and nothing looked very exciting in the general gloom.  It was dark by 2100, which is why I didn’t see the fish floats that Fantail drove over.  I heard them, however, and was just in time to put the engine into neutral.  They hung up on the self-steering paddle for a few seconds, before sliding off.  One was hard plastic, the other aluminium.  I don’t suppose they did a lot for the paintwork.  I still haven’t got any eyes painted on Fantail, so it’s not surprising the poor little thing didn’t see them.  I am really pleased that the prop comes out of the back of the keel and doesn't dangle off a P-bracket.  It feels much more secure.

By 2230, the wind had backed enough that we could start sailing again.  The engine was politely thanked and stood down.  It was blissfully quiet.  North Cape was finally abeam at 2325.  I wanted to tell someone this astonishing news, but there was no cellphone reception, so I had to content myself with congratulating me.  I also congratulated myself for taking the W Coast route: after seeing nothing for days, suddenly there was shipping about - fishing boats and the odd freighter.  I gave the land a good berth and at midnight, altered course finally towards the S - 132°.  I opened a quarter bottle of bubbly that I’d earlier put in the fridge and drank toasts to my boat and my friends who helped us get here. 

I hardly slept at all, which made me extra pleased  that I’d made sure I had ‘plenty in the bank’.  There were quite a few ships about and I think I was too excited at the prospect that we might actually get there in one piece! I still felt in control and was perhaps rather absurdly pleased with my decision making and navigation.  As the latter was by GPS, I’m not sure what there is to be so pleased about, but there we are.  For all that, I was very satisfied with how the passage had gone and that I hadn’t made any silly blunders. 

I was wide awake not long after dawn, which, with our now being so far E and N, as well as the sky being overcast, was at about 0700.  We were scooting along nicely under sail, with more than a hint that the wind was going to increase.  I was now in VHF  range and could get a shipping forecast, which also promised more wind in the offing.  At one point, a huge school of Dusky Dolphins came leaping and bounding across in front of us.  They were so full of life and joie de vivre, that they made me laugh out loud.

To get in, I had the chart of North island and the cruising guide chart which showed Whangaroa Harbour.  But I had nothing else.  It was a somewhat inadequate combination, especially for a tired sailor.  Knowing Whangaroa is not a particularly easy place to find, I was a bit stressed and the grey and murky conditions didn’t help. The sea was a rough, with quite a swell building, the wind shifting back and forth though about 40 or 50° and neither the wind vane nor the Simrad could cope, so, horror of horrors I was having to hand steer.  There’s a sizeable island off the mouth of the harbour, too far out to sea for the book’s chart to show.  In the poor, early morning light I didn’t see it on the small-scale chart, hidden as it was among pencilled waypoints, a light symbol and blue soundings. My carefully plotted waypoints appeared to be taking me into the wrong place.  
... the wrong place.
Eventually I did what I should have done sooner, and got out a magnifying glass and looked on the small scale chart. And there was the island.  I could probably have gone inside the damn thing and saved myself about 5 miles.  Never mind, all was clear now and I went on with much greater confidence.  Things only improved when a steady trickle of launches reinforced my estimate of where the entrance lay.

The entrance to the harbour is very narrow.  With the wind being up and down and unsure what the tide was doing - it can run fast, apparently - I didn't want to reef in case we lost the wind inside: from where we were it looked calm.  This wasn’t the brightest move, as it turned out, because as we approached the entrance, the waves started to steepen.  I suspect the tide was ebbing, but as the wind chose this moment to increase quite sharply – or was funnelled by the surrounding cliffs – we were blasting along anyway and it was hard to tell whether we had tide with or against us.  For once Fantail didn’t behave with her usual good manners and was being difficult to steer – probably due to tidal eddies – and the swell was breaking rather impressively on either side of the entrance.  

The entrance to Whangaroa
I'd hate to enter in real wind and waves.  It looked about 20 ft wide as we approached and while I knew I was in control, I wasn’t entirely convinced that Fantail wasn’t going to take over and leap onto the awash rocks on our starboard side.  We must have been making 6 or 7 knots through the water, but for all that it seemed to take an age to get through the entrance.  It was with a huge sigh of relief that I felt the pressure come off as we came into the harbour; the swell vanished and the sea smoothed. 

There were boats everywhere.  The harbour has two distinct characters: the N end is mountainous and often compared with fjord country, but in my opinion it looks more like Moorea; the S end is lower and more open.  I hadn’t come all this way to anchor among mountains and be blown hither and yon by katabatic winds, so I thought I’d make for the lower land around Totara North. Now I did what I should have done a lot sooner and dropped 3 reefs in the sail – the first ones of the passage – and things were much more relaxed.  Typically weird kiwi yachts were wandering about, and there were lots of sports fishing launches going out to harass the poor creatures.  The anchorage at Totara North is much more indented and roomy than the the impression I’d got from the chart.  Irritatingly, another boat took the spot I’d eyed up, but remembering how little room we actually need, I anchored a lot closer to the shore than I normally would, in a gratifyingly shallow 4 m or so.  Later, I stretched out the chain under power and was still miles off the beach.

By the time I had tidied up and washed the breakfast things, it had started to rain and I congratulated myself on our excellent timing.  The wind became quite gusty and even here, was funnelled a bit by the neighbouring topography, but I have learnt to trust my ground tackle.  I sat down and tried to take it in - the passage perilous was won and there I was safely at anchor in North Island. I got out the bubbly.

Totara North

27 February, 2012

A Christmas Cruise

It was a lovely summer’s day and after all my hard work, there was a feeling of intense relief and relaxation as I headed out of the harbour. The plan was to get to Pelorus Sound for Christmas. There was a very light NE breeze, but after negotiating the narrows out of Motueka’s artificial harbour, I could turn off the engine and sail down the lagoon towards the entrance. But with the light wind and a strong tide, I started the motor to get out over the bar. The tide set me into very shallow water out of the channel – an act of carelessness on a falling tide that I felt very bad about. But the gods were kind and I realised what was happening before it was too late.

Fantail in her new livery

To get from Tasman Bay to the Marlborough Sounds there are two choices: around the top of D’Urville I (and thus into the Cook Strait) or to sneak between the island and the mainland through a very narrow passage called French Pass. I’ve described this in a previous blog, but I can’t say that it was much more appealing the second time around. I was certainly inclined to deal with it very cautiously. I’m pleased to say that  so was David.
My usual view of Tystie

As was to be come the norm, David left after me and before long all I could see was his stern. But Tystie is 9 ft longer than Fantail. By four o’clock the wind was dying away and we had at least 15 miles to go to the anchorage we had hoped for. I was sincerely hoping that David would decide to go into Croisilles harbour. He had lost his VHF aerial and for some reason his cell phone wasn’t working, so we couldn’t discuss the matter.

An hour later, I had to start the engine to clear Cape Soucis. It was with a great sigh of relief that I saw David let fly the sheets so that he could ‘heave to’ and wait for me. When I caught up we had a brief discussion and without too much debate bore away for Croisilles and brought to in a very pretty and mercifully shallow harbour in Whangarae Bay. We’d put in 32 miles, essentially under sail and felt we’d done quite well. Over dinner on Fantail, we discussed the tides for the morrow and congratulated ourselves – well me, I suppose – on getting away in good time.

One of the things I love about coastal sailing is the beautiful calm nights; one of the things I dislike about sailing around mountainous coastlines is the prevalence of ‘katabatic’ winds. They may not fit the true meteorological definition of this phenomenon, but the net result is that same: you are sleeping like a log and suddenly the boat swings and heels to her anchor as a heavy gust falls down the hillside on to her. This happened tonight and even though I was sure I was well anchored, I defy any sailor to sleep through this sort of event. So, although it was a wonderfully secure anchorage, I didn’t get much of a night’s sleep.

Because we needed to catch the tide through French Pass, Tystie and Fantail were underway not long after 7 o’clock. A little breeze blew us out of the anchorage but then died away. Further on, we had more than enough wind, as the local topography took over again and a strong gust chased us down the harbour. I considered reefing, but it looked pretty flat out at sea and sure enough, a couple of hours after leaving I was almost becalmed of Pahakorea Pt. At the time I was happy, because it meant that I'd arrive at French Pass on the tail of the ebb. However, when the anticipated sea breeze failed to materialise, I started to worry. David seemed to be sailing well, so I started the engine and went to find his wind, after which, although we had to beat, we made good progress.

Tystie apparently sailed through French Pass (although David later admitted to starting his engine and using it for a few minutes) but I bottled out at the last minute and put on the donk to get through the narrows. We picked up a lovely NE breeze to take us up Admiralty Bay. Admittedly a SW would have been nicer – but beggars can’t be choosers and any breeze is better than none!

Fantail has no windlass, but has a superb chain pawl – a copy of Iron Bark’s.
Tystie at Waihinau Bay

For all that, I had been concerned about anchoring in 20m and we had agreed to try and find shallower places wherever possible. As we turned into Waihinau Bay, I saw Tystie casting about, obviously looking for a good berth. My heart sank a bit as I approached and saw David launch his dinghy and take a stern line to a tree, but I need not have worried: a 26ft boat needs less room than one of 35 ft and there was space for me to squeeze in between a local launch and a fishing boat. I dropping the hook in 9m, feeling rather close to shore, but when I rowed over to Tystie, I realised I was well off. You would think that after so many years, I’d be able to judge these distances better, but lots of experienced sailors admit that they often feel too close to another boat, or to the shore, only to realise, when they row away, that there situation is perfectly satisfactory. 
 For the first time, I assembled and launched my new folding dinghy. It went
Waihinau Bay
together in a few seconds. I had thought about the launching process for some time. Katie and Maurice used to launch Nanook’s dinghy by lifting the guard rails from their sockets and dropping them on deck, which allowed the dinghy to go directly over the rail. I can’t do that, but when I fitted the self-steering, I removed the ‘gate’ at the stern, which led to a little boarding platform. This gate was secured with pelican hooks and I used these to replace the lashings on the port lifeline. Casting them off, I made sure the wires were over the side and easily slid the dinghy into the water. When I came to haul her back up, it was equally easy. A success.
For the moment, Peawaka has to be carried along the guard rails, but I will 
For the moment, Peawaka has to be carried along the guard rails
fit chocks so that I can secure her on deck for offshore conditions. I would hate to lose both dinghy and guard rails to a large wave!

It was a lovely calm night and after all my work of the previous week, I slept like a log. We had decided not to leave until a bit of a breeze filled in, so Christmas Eve started in leisurely fashion. David came over and we discussed possible anchorages. Looking out of the harbour, I noticed a sea breeze was filling in. For the fun of it, David offered to tow me out to the wind to save my diesel and to see how well Tystie functions as a tug.

Tystie gives us a tow
I hauled the anchor up without much difficulty – the chain pawl really seems to take most of the effort out to it. Tystie has the same size chain, with a 20k anchor at the end (as distinct from my 10k) and David reckons it’s hard work to haul by hand. As he was apparently awe-struck at Annie the Amazon, I didn’t tell him how easy it actually was!

The boats at Ngawhakawhiti Bay
Once out in the Sound we had a lovely sail. We poked our noses into one potential anchorage, but the sailing was too nice for us to wish to stop, and we continued to sail down Tennyson Inlet, passing the wonderfully named World's End to bring to in Ngawhakawhiti Bay, which looked like a lovely Christmas anchorage. At 1630 I dropped the hook in a civilised 7m, and sat back to admire the beautiful bush that surrounded us. It had been a most enjoyable 15-mile sail and I was feeling quite besotted with my little ship.

On Christmas Day, I loafed around while David resolutely took himself into the bush to find the Nydia Track that we were intending to tramp on Boxing Day. It took him very little time as it passes right by the anchorage! Later in the afternoon, we had the obligatory Christmas feast on Tystie, and quaffed a good bottle of wine.

Peawaka and Little Auk
Well fed and contented, I rowed back to Fantail, churlishly leaving David to wash up. This sailing in company has its advantages!

The glorious weather continued and we had a perfect day for our tramp. It was a lovely bush trail, with the odd gorgeous view. I love bush walks, being in among all the trees and ferns and trying (usually unsuccessfully) to identify what it is I am looking at. The occasional view only adds to the interest; sometimes we could look back to the anchorage where the
two boats lay quietly looking at their own reflections. The path passes over a spur and from the top we could see down into Nydia Bay, which looked delightful, with a couple of Platonic islands placed tastefully in it. (Later, at low water, one of these pretty little islands turned out to be the end of a
View from the Nydia Track
peninsula.) We stopped for lunch in Nydia Bay, sitting on a posh wharf belonging to an unoccupied bach. We were amazed that anyone could resist the temptation to spend Christmas there. David took the opportunity to go for a swim, but it looked too cold for me.

I was looking for some Matai (trees) to show to David who wasn’t sure if he’d seen one before, and found a couple of lovely young ones by a pool that had a pet eel in it - a huge black, blue-eyed beast about a metre long. David seemed less inclined to swim here! When we got back, it was low water, but I found I could carry my dinghy on my back down the beach. It was surprisingly easy, but would be impossible in much wind, in which case the easiest thing would be simply to collapse it and carry it down.

The next morning, I went to fill up with water from the stream. I didn’t need to go far up: the fresh water lens was several inches thick and if I just dipped the necks below the surface and didn’t stir the water up, I could easily fill my bottles.

At about 1030, I hauled up my anchor and set off in pursuit of Tystie. The wind in the anchorage was a little gusty, and I set the sail first to try and sail the anchor out. We sailed over it, but I managed to retrieve that situation and then Fantail did the job very nicely. It’s interesting experimenting; it seems the best way of sailing out the anchor is with about 5 panels up, pulling the final three up once I’m under way. On this occasion, the anchor got hung up at the roller, while we sailed inexorably towards the beach, so I had to dash back and tack before catting it properly.

Toshitinui Reach
The wind was all over the place. I plugged away for about an hour and a half, but David, as usual, was almost out of sight. Tystie was sailing nicely, so I ran the motor for half an hour to catch him up and enjoy some decent sailing, too. We had a snoring sail down Towhitinui Reach. Fantail was a bit over-pressed and tearing along at 7 knots, but with Tystie around to help if anything went wrong, I thought it worth pushing things a bit, to see what she can handle.

At a place called Tawero Point, we had to turn back on ourselves to go down Popoure Reach. The fresh breeze was funnelled into some quite nasty gusts and when I saw Tystie heeling right over I dropped 2 and then 3 reefs in the sail. We had to beat up the Reach in these gusty conditions, but Fantail seemed to relish it. I shook the reefs out again, but further on, a valley was sending down strong gusts. It was so localised that it didn’t seem worth reefing: instead I feathered the sail, while we worked our way through. It’s wonderful to have a sail that doesn’t flog. There was a narrow stretch where the current was running at about 2 knots against us. Every now and then we would come to a hole in the wind and I was interested to see that while Tystie's weight kept her moving through these calm patches, Fantail just stopped. After a while I got fed up of going backwards and forwards past the same bit of scenery, so motored for 5 minutes to get through.

Tystie had disappeared so I swept down in pursuit and found her tucked well up in Yncyna Bay. A few minutes later I was anchored alongside. It had been an interesting and occasionally fast 19 miles, but I was really quite tired and more than a little hungry, as I had had no lunch. In spite of having both electric and wind vane self-steering, I had been unable to leave the helm for more than a minute at a time. The wind was so fluky and the pilotage so demanding that actually sailing the boat took my whole attention. David also complained that he hadn’t managed to have his lunch!
As so often happens in the Sounds, some heavy gusts tumbled down the mountainsides during the night.

After lying in bed doing sums, I decided the easiest thing was to get up and let out the rest of the chain and some rope until I was sure I had plenty of scope out.

I feel very confident of my ground tackle. Tystie carries more chain than Fantail, but it’s the same size as mine. Her anchor is 20kg while mine is10kg, but she is almost three times as heavy as Fantail and, being so much bigger, has heaps more windage. Tystie rarely drags her anchor, which makes me feel that my ground tackle is more than adequate.

We left just after 0900 the following morning. David seemed to get a better wind all the way, while I ran into a big hole, just as I had got going, and it took me ages to get out of it. So I had my usual view of Tystie's stern. It was handy, in a way, because it was easy to see where to go next. I still took care with my pilotage which was not difficult, although very satisfying, but again the sailing was full on, with the fluky wind and constant course alterations.

Coming into Havelock was also a bit full on, with the channel less well-marked than it might be in places. Towards the end, it runs right alongside a cliff. The markers are on the land, but there are none offshore, where in my humble opinion, they would be a lot more useful: a thundering great cliff is pretty hard to miss. To add insult to injury, there were zillions of speeding fizz boats, coming the other way. As we had to pass port to port, they effectively forced us into the shallows. I found it pretty stressful and David admitted he’d felt likewise. I suppose you probably get used to it after a while. When I came into the marina, there was lots of activity. David had already tied up in a berth and while I drifted around, wondering where to go (in a small boat, I tend to feel I should be in a small berth), he called to me that he was asking the marina supervisor to allocate us berths. Good lad. So I carried on drifting round for another quarter of an hour, until he came back with a berth number for me.

After we’d both tied up, I took David to the Slip Inn for cold beer and, as we hadn’t had lunch he bought us pizza to share. Beer was shockingly expensive at $7.50 a handle – about 500 ml – but it was worth a celebration: after all, this was the inaugural NZ Junk Rig Association rally! It was a shame no-one else was here to share it with us.

After lunch, we ambled up to town to do a bit of shopping and I bought the dinghy a more appropriate painter. I’d been using a 14mm mooring line, which was a bit over the top. We had dinner on board Fantail, after which we both settled down on our respective craft with a good book. The forecast was for lots of rain, and as David wanted to stock up for his trip south, we decided to stay over the next day, which lived up to the forecast.

The 30th came in overcast and drizzling, but we decided to take the ebb after lunch and push on. I topped up with fuel and water and cast off about 1300. I motored down the channel, a bit worried as I negotiated a dog-leg between the cliff and the first green marker. When I was almost there I realised that there were actually leading marks, which weren’t shown on my chart. I had been paying so much attention to the echo sounder and course that I hadn’t realised what they were, assuming they were markers showing an alternative channel.

My less usual view of Tystie
We motored doggedly on, the wind on the nose, until out of the channel. After faffing about for a while in light and baffling winds, to coin a phrase, we got a sudden shift and were suddenly running up the reach. Tystie, who had been struggling to keep up with me, now walked away as usual. I had to put my washboards in to keep the rain out, which made pilotage more awkward than it might have been, as I was worried the chart might blow away if I put it down in the cockpit. At Four Fathom Bay, where we planned to anchor, we just about ran out of wind and I drifted in and dropped the hook in a blessedly tranquil anchorage.

I made myself a hot whisky to thaw out. One of Fantail’s failings is that there is no place for oilies and although the boat was initially warm and dry, it got steadily more dank as the night progressed and they dripped sullenly, from hooks by the companionway. It was still raining when I turned in.

I got up at dawn on New Year’s Eve to see heavy rain and a falling barometer. The best idea was to go back to bed until I woke up properly. A rainy day isn’t all bad. I had a nice lazy time reading and David rowed over after lunch so that we could discuss what to do. Stay put, was the final conclusion. It was so damp and cool, that after David left I lit the fire – a good move – and I felt a lot better once Fantail was warm and dry. Fine, summer weather! I was missing our usual sunshine.
I made some tapenade and dug out a bottle of bubbly to celebrate New Year’s Eve on Tystie. We must be getting old – neither of us wanted to stay up to see the New Year in. We couldn’t even say, ‘well, it’s already New Year in ...’ and call it quits, because NZ is the first to greet it, but I’m sure the New Year didn’t mind.

I started 2012 with several New Year’s Resolutions. They have a monotonous repetitiveness about them: maybe I should make a resolution to make no more resolutions. Our sober New Year’s Eve meant that not only did I not wake up with a hangover, but I was off sailing by 0700. There was the threat of rain and heavy overcast, but it cleared up a bit and, in spite of the barometer continuing to fall, we had a pretty nice sail to Ketu Bay. The wind was light and generally fair and for once, Tystie simply could not catch us. We got into Ketu about 1130, so had plenty of time to go ashore. David anchored in 17m and invited me to raft alongside, which, chain pawl or no chain pawl, sounded a lot better than pulling all my chain up from that sort of depth in the morning.

Ketu Bay
After lunch, we went for a walk, after a rather unpleasant, muddy and slippery scramble up a steep slope. There was a surprisingly flash road that looked to have been graded very recently, although for the life of me I can’t think who would use it. It doesn’t seem to go anywhere and there was no sign of wheel ruts or tyre tracks. One of life’s little mysteries. We wandered along one way and then walked back in the other direction, but it wasn’t that stimulating a walk and after a couple of hours or so, we went back and slithered and scrambled back to the beach, covered in mud.
Dinner was on Fantail and for once it was warm enough to have drinks in the cockpit. It’s cold on the water in this part of the world. I was tired again – sailing in the Sounds is not ideal for the single-hander and I can see why people like launches here.

Tystie and Fantail rafted together.
Strong gusts tumbling down the hillside woke me in the small hours; I was worried that we’d drag Tystie’s anchor – the main reason I really don’t like rafting up. I cast off from Tystie about 0900. David was planning to go east and south, I was on my way to Nelson, to catch up with friends – it was the parting of the ways. We plan to rendezvous near the end of March at a Junk Rig Rally to be held in Mahurangi.

Because of the gusts, I motored out for a little while and then raised some sail. We headed towards D’Urville, shaking out reefs as we went. We made good progress, though the wind, at first, was up and down and all over the place. Supposedly SE it was redirected every which way by the surrounding land. For most of the day I was sailing in company with a sloop of about 32ft. It made a pleasant change to sail at the same speed as somebody instead of simply staring at his stern for the duration. I was rather impressed that, close-hauled as we were, Fantail had no problems keeping the lead!

We went through French Pass with no problems and carried on down towards Croisilles Harbour. As we approached the wind increased until it was gusting F6. I dropped a couple of reefs and then a couple more. From a lovely, sunny afternoon it had changed to being really unpleasant – and cold, to boot. I had to be very firm with myself that the anchorage would be sheltered, because the wind seemed almost to be blowing along the harbour, but the closer I got, the less wind there was and even the gusts became more tolerable. I was tired, but pleased with how the rig had performed in this, our first blow. I dropped the hook in a grateful 4 or 5m, much better than scrabbling around for somewhere sufficiently shallow in the Sounds. It was heaven after the wind in the outer harbour. In here the gusts were much less strong and I had my good anchor down with plenty of scope out. .

I relaxed with a glass of wine and then cooked a good meal. The gusts died away and it was calm by the time I turned in. I slept like a log.

Fantail in the Sounds
The next morning, I left about 0800, sailing the anchor out. There was just enough wind for full sail: Fantail tacked herself nicely and headed out on the right tack. As usual when I do something right, there was no one to see! A land breeze took us out to sea, but once outside, the wind went light and fluky. I motored a couple of times when it went dead calm but found a breeze about half way across to Adele Island, where I anchored for the night. The following day I sailed over to Nelson, where I stayed for a couple of days before heading back for my home port of Motueka.