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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

14 October, 2013


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

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

 The fleet from La Chica

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

 Pugwash paddles

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

Fan-tan, Marcus, Missy and Gary

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

 Where’s that buoy?

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

Pugwash and ship

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

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

The fleet from Pugwash

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

La Chica leads the fleet

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

 Shoestring and Fantail at anchor.

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

04 October, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 September, 2013

It's spring here, in Northland, which means boisterous weather and lots of rain.  As I write, there is a fresh SE blowing up the harbour against the last of a Spring ebb tide, somewhat enhanced by all the rain that has been falling.  Fantail is bouncing about and being regularly head-butted by Fan-tan.  Fortunately, the flood isn't far away and we will be able to relax.

I spent the end of last winter and spring in the Bay of Islands, but it wasn't what I'd hoped.  There are very few anchorages that are totally protected, and while I had access to a couple of moorings, these berths while safe, were far from comfortable for a 26ft boat, in certain wind conditions.  I not only fret when it blows strongly, I also have a tendency to get seasick if the boat is pitching excessively.  This doesn't make for a pleasant day.

I wandered down to Whangarei at the end of last year, to haul out and work on the boat, as I recently mentioned.  I caught up with old friends, made new and having spent the summer and autumn pottering about, decided to base myself here for the winter.  It has been a good choice: so far inland, there is much less wind and I enjoy being able to go to the Saturday Farmers' Market to top up my stores.  One is allowed to anchor for two weeks at a time before being moved on (why, I wonder?  What possible threat do I pose to a community, while I am sitting at anchor, out of people's way and minding my own business?)  However, there is no hardship in getting my anchor and going for an amble round the spacious Whangarei harbour.

Whangarei town is some 13 miles from the harbour entrance, and in between the two I have discovered several attractive anchorages.  The winter days are too short and - even in the 'Winterless North' - too cold to tempt me to go much further afield; while I don't mind sailing at night, I try to avoid it simply because it messes up the next day and as a chronic insomniac, I have problems catching up on my sleep.  Besides, I enjoy the scenery and love the sun, so prefer my sailing in daylight, but I love my little pottering cruises down the harbour, bringing up in a small bay, surrounded by beautiful bush.

Like many of New Zealand's harbours, Whangarei is full of shallows.  I have heard it said that it - and many others, including Auckland's Waitamata - used to be much deeper, but when all the trees were cut down, much of the topsoil was washed down and silted it up.  A shame, especially in a boat that has rather more draught than I am tall: if I run aground, there's no jumping over the side and pushing Fantail off.  This means that I have to watch the tides, carefully, and it can be a bit nerve-wracking, negotiating my way across the shoals to visit some out-of-the-way harbour.  But it's wonderful to get away from the lights of civilisation and to lie in my bunk at night, listening to the moreporks and hoping to hear a kiwi.  Dawn is anticipated by tui, who start their first, tentative warming-up squeaks and whistles, while the eastern sky is barely lightened.  Even in winter, the sun's warmth is immediate and if its rays come down the companionway, I can soon let my fire go out.

15 July, 2013

It was the end of January before I'd finished my refit, and I was spurred on to leave by the thought of going to the Mahurangi Traditional Boat Regatta.  Now a Raven 26, even one that's over 25 years old (and therefore, so I'm told, a 'Classic' Boat) could not by the wildest stretch of the imagination be described as a traditional boat, which meant that we couldn't enter.  However, as I am not keen on racing at the best of times and would hate to race my own boat, this was far from being a drawback.  So I decided to go as a spectator.

We had a fine sail down past Kawau Island and into Mahurangi Harbour, where we anchored amidst the fleet, not far away from Gary and Beryl Underwood's recently restored Mason Bay.  I ended up joining in the racing and with junk rig - when David Thatcher kindly invited me to sail on Footprints.  We seemed to have far less drama in the gusty conditions, than those on the gaff and bermudian-rigged boats.  Gaff rig is undoubtedly beautiful, but I will stick with junks, thank you very much.

We had a wild sail back to Whangarei, with a very fresh easterly that had us averaging well over 6 knots: including three hours of tacking, we sailed the 57 miles in 11 hours.  Fantail can pick up her heels when she wants to.  I drove the boat quite hard - normally I'd have put more reefs in - to give the rig a proper trial.  I have made a new yard, this time out of Douglas Fir, and was pleased to see that it gave no problems.

This was the last time that I had to sail in more wind than I'd ideally choose, all summer, because from then on we had the most glorious weather and predominantly easterly winds.  I spent quite a bit of time ambling around and exploring the Hauraki Gulf.  I attended a wonderful RCC Meet in Waiheke, where we pottered around to various anchorages and had some interesting visits ashore.  Fortunately, the distances were short, because we had very little wind.  Mike Robinson took some lovely photographs of Fantail.

From Waiheke I went junk hunting, meeting up with friends in Tamaki and Herald Island, who were busy getting their boats ready for launching.  Shoestring had been well and truly neaped many moons ago and it was looking unlikely that she would get off the mud in order to meet up with some other junkies in a few weeks time.  Fortunately, with a lot of effort, and a little luck, Roger got her back afloat and we met again off Waiheke, to have a little junket.  Arcadian also joined us, as did Pugwash - all 7ft 8ins of her.

 We didn't get much sailing done - again, there was hardly any wind, but had a fine social time of it.  It was fun to see such unusual boats together:

Shoestring sailed back to Herald Island and Pugwash went off on her car back north.  Arcadian and Fantail had to dodge a nasty blow for a day or so, but we had a splendid sail back to Whangarei, with Fantail giving the much larger Arcadian a good run for her money for a while.

Sadly, for David and Rosemary, this would be their last good sail: David has a heart problem and long-distance sailing is no longer feasible.  Arcadian is now on the market and looking for a good home.

Another boat that we missed at this year's junket, was Pacific Spray:

her owners were in Germany.  Pacific Spray is also for sale, (, but for happier reasons: Rob and Maren are planning to downsize and build one of Gary Underwood's Shoehorn designs: a 26 ft version of Shoestring.  This is a boat that I find very attractive, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing her under construction.  She will, of course, have a junk rig. (

The final highlight of this wonderful summer, was seeing the re-launch of Paul Thompson's La Chica.

Paul has spent over 7 years completely rebuilding the 32ft Tahitiana and plans a non-stop circumnavigation, to start in 2014.  He is completely deaf and is hoping to raise awareness about cochlear implants (  The boat is now sailing - I went along for the maiden voyage - and her teal-coloured junk rig looks quite magnificent.   

(Sorry about the small size of the photo - I filched it from the Junk Rig Associations Photogallery (

Refitting and Upgrading 'Fantail'

I can't believe how long it is since I put anything on this blog!  The trouble is that I want to do it right - so because there always seems to be something else to do, I don't do it at all.  I have a draft here, that goes back months and I've decided that today's project is to bring it to a hasty conclusion and get it posted!!!

I had intended to haul Fantail out of the water in October, to do a quick antifoul.  At the same time I would build the new yard.  But life, as so often happens, got in the way and I ended up spending 7 weeks looking after a friend recovering from a couple of operations.  Most people would have been delighted to live in a beautiful house, surrounded by lovely bush, on a beach in the Bay of Islands.  There were projects to do, a garden to play in and a fine kitchen where I could spread my wings and cook to my heart's delight.  But I have to say that by the time I went back to Fantail I was more than ever convinced that I am meant to live on a boat and will only be happy as long as I'm living in this way.

By now my poor little ship was supporting the makings of a marine reserve, and there was now no debate about putting off the haulout any longer.  I had intended to go to Norsand in Whangarei, but they only had a few cradles small enough for my boat (!), so I ended up going to Riverside Marine, just downstream from the Town Basin.  This proved to be a good choice and they looked after me well.  But, as is increasingly the case, I was penalised for having a small boat.  This trend is becoming depressingly common.  While at first glance, it might seem fair for an 8-metre boat to be charged half of what a 16-metre boat pays, in fact it is far from just.  An 8-metre boat requires only 21 square metres of water, while her 16-metre long sister will need 85 square metres.  And that is only a part of the unfairness:  the larger boat will need a deeper berth - perhaps artificially dredged - a much larger turning area and more substantially moored pontoons with larger cleats.  And this overlooks the fact that it's not unfair to assume that the larger boat will probably be worth ten times as much as her little sister, so that the cost of mooring the boat will be a much smaller part of her general maintenance costs.  I find it sad, and indeed potentially rather stupid, that small boats are being discriminated against: many people start sailing when they are young and impecunious, only to gradually buy larger and more expensive vessels as their disposable income increases.  If these people had been unable to afford to moor their boats in the first place, then they might have decided to take up another sport instead.  And where would the yards and marinas be then?

It was explained to me that the reason that I was charged a minimum of 10 metres, is because the travel lift needs a certain amount of room to move and that this limits the number of boats that can be fitted in the yard.  Fair enough.  But why was I charged at the 10-metre rate for scrubbing off, for chocking up, etc, etc.  And why a minimum of 10 metres in an alongside berth?  But that was generous compared with the Town Basin, who insist that I pay as a 12-metre yacht if I wish to go alongside.  And I'm not talking about individual slips, here - I am talking about mooring alongside.  But I would bet that I wouldn't be allocated my full 12 metres of dock space if a further boat could be squeezed in!!  And this marina is run by a non-profit trust.  So why are small boats required to subsidise larger ones?

However, I didn't have much choice, so I bit the bullet, hauled out and set to work. There were a few bumps in the antifouling, which may, or may not, have been osmosis.  Supposedly the boat has been treated for osmosis in the past, but I've no idea whether it was professionally, or even competently, carried out.  I knocked the top off them all and only 2 or 3 showed signs of weeping.  I decided that as I'd be leaving the antifouling until the final job, I'd let these spots dry out and see what they looked like in a couple of weeks.

I had never had the chance to finish repainting the deck, so that was the first job.

When I had first bought Joshua, as she then was, there had been a considerable amount of maroon trim, which I disliked.  It had taken ages to get rid of the stripes on the white topsides, and the maroon paint all over the deck wasn't much easier to remove.  A heat gun seemed to be too savage because it lifted the gelcoat beneath, as well as the paint, which I found rather surprising.  In the end I resorted to paint stripper and various scrapers, followed by vigorous wet sanding.

Another job that I wanted to do was to varnish all the teak.  Fantail has a teak capping along the edge of the deck and I don't think this had ever been varnished.  I am not a fan of the so-called 'scrubbed teak' look, which actually means neglected, weathered, grey wood.  Teak can tolerate an enormous amount of neglect and still scrape up easily to a beautiful colour, but like all wood, if left completely unprotected, it will weather, and get damaged.  I was delighted with Fantail's paint scheme, but the grey teak disappeared into the alloy toe rail (not the prettiest thing in the world) and I felt that brightly varnished teak would enhance her appearance.  I had been told about a Kiwi product called 'Uroxsys' and decided to try this out.  The product consists of a clear primer and a clear topcoat.  You prepare the wood and put on one coat of primer.  Then you put on at least 6 coats of the second part.  This is a regime I would follow anyway, the primer being the equivalent of thinned varnish - although I'd usually put 2 or 3 coats of this on, with progressively less thinners in each coat.  Uroxsys has several advantages over the competition.  It is easier to use than two-part polyurethane - its closest competitor, because it doesn't need mixing.  It is more flexible, but like most two-part polyurethane 'varnishes', it is perfectly clear.  Because it is clear, you don't need to mask off or work super-carefully like you do with conventional varnish.  It is supposedly much longer lasting than conventional varnish.  Its clarity makes it a much more attractive finish that the stained finishes designed for doors and windows in houses, that so many people use nowadays.  You can apply another coat as soon as the previous one is touch dry, which means that the whole varnish job can be carried out more rapidly.  It is far too soon to judge its longevity, but even if it only lasts as long as top-quality spar varnish, I'd go for it again, if only for the ease of application.  It's not much more expensive than a brand-name spar varnish.  So, before I painted, I scraped and sanded the wee bit of teak that support the aluminium toerail along the deck.

I then sanded all the rest of the deck forward of the cockpit canopy and applied 3 coats of Altex primer.  On top of this I applied Altex two-pack polyurethane, finishing off with their non-skid compound.  This latter proved to be a serious disappointment, because in spite of following the directions to the letter, the result was very uneven leaving some areas of the deck slippery and others excessively rough.  And of course, the appearance was also disappointing.

But it was a lot better than it had been!

I hate washboards and Fantail had three of the things.  Why do I dislike them?  Well, for a start, there is never a proper place for them, in reach of the hatch so that you can drop them in at a moment's notice if it suddenly comes on to rain; and even if they do have a proper home, they rattle around and get in the way until they are stowed.  If you are sailing in the rain, particularly with a following wind, you are constantly taking them in and out as you go below to check the chart, make a cuppa, etc and again, they are a damn nuisance to put down while you climb in and out.  And they have an annoying tendency always to fall over with an awful clatter, if you prop them up 'for a moment' and I dislike sudden, loud noises!  So all in all, washboards and I do not get on.


For some time, I had been thinking of the idea of a fold-down companionway, to get rid of this problem.  Most people I'd mentioned it to, had shaken their heads dubiously and sucked their teeth pessimistically.  It's the sort of "what-was-good-enough-for-me,-my-father-and-his-father-before-him,-should-be-good-enough-for-a-foolish-woman" attitude that I am used to, but still a bit discouraging for all that.  However, I threw the idea out to my wonderful friends in the junk rig community ( and someone in Queensland promptly came back with photographs of his companionway, which was very similar to what I was planning.  Admittedly, Arion has a sliding hatch and I have none.  On the other hand, I am a hobbit and this boat is being altered to suit me, not some putative buyer in the dim and distant future.  Anyway, armed with the knowledge that a least one other person had used 'my' idea and was happy with it, I bent what is laughingly-called my mind to the problem of creating it.

And now I'm going to cut a very long story, very short by simply putting a few pictures here so you can see for yourself what I did:

Preparing the cockpit sole for the new bulkhead

Making the pattern

Fitting the new bulkhead

Making a pattern for the locker lid, on which the new hatches rest.  See also that part of the lower washboard has been cut and glued in, in order to provide a sill.

Adding the framework on which the hatch boards will land.

Gluing in the additional framing

The completed 'washboards'/hatch  
There now, that was nice and fast, wasn't it?  The extra locker provided by the new bridgedeck is a perfect place for a bilge pump (which, until then, I'd never found a home for) and I can also keep some collapsible water containers there, ready to take ashore.

I'm sure that you are awe-struck at my standard of woodwork, but I have to confess that most of the teak was fitted by a real boatbuilder.  I know my limitations and I know when to pay money to people who can do things much better than I!

As well as this job, I painted the hull with two part polyurethane and also repainted the decks and cockpit.  My little ship looks a lot smarter than she did.

I was very pleased with her when we came to re-launch :

and the care that Carl and his merry men took to keep my new paint in pristine condition made me feel that other people appreciated how much work I'd put in, too:

Another thing I'd invested in was a really nice self-adhesive name.  Being a thrifty soul, I attached it to some black acrylic and screwed that to the stern, so that I can take it off next time I paint the boat.

Back in the water,it was time to get on with the cockpit paint and finish the job, all of which - as ever - took longer than anticipated.  To add insult to injury, the only rain that fell in January, came on the day I put on the final coat of paint.  Still, it looks fine from a few feet away!

A few weeks later, Mark and Phil on Icebreaker took a photo of us sailing near Waiheke Island, and I could see what the new paint job looked like.  I was pleased with it.

31 March, 2013

One or two people have left comments on my blog asking that I come back to them.  For some reason, the end of such comments is often lopped off by Blogspot.  So if you want me to reply, I suggest you open your comment with  your email address.  I do try to respond to most comments that as for feedback.  But I don't check them that often, so please be patient :-)