Saturday, January 14, 2017

_________________________ SORTED __________________________

Today I finally got the boat trailer sorted. I have widened the trailer deck incorporating bridging planks for 'Slipstreams' beach trolley to pass easily over the trailer mudguards. I have also built a couple of ramps so that the beach trolley can be easily loaded onto the road trailer. The ramps are chocked off on the top of the road trailer and a couple of bungy cords fore and aft complete the job.

When deployed the ramps are each a generous 6 feet (1.8 metres) in length. This provides a reasonably easy slope for the old bugger to pull 'Slipstream' on and off the  road trailer.

I sat and visualized all sorts of arrangements for securing the ramps when stowed on the road trailer. Everything from triple dongle back shackles to double slotted fangle toggles - but in the end the KISS principle won the day (Keep It Simple Stupid). If my old arms and shoulders get tired of stretching the bungy cords I will resort to that old sailors standby of good rope and an honest cleat.

Sorted. And it's a good feeling. Now it's time for 'Slipstream' and moi to go for our first sail.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

________________________ WORK CONTINUES _________________________

The weather has been so sweltering over the last couple of days that I have only been able to work on the beach and road trailers by rigging up a sun shade. This has made working conditions tolerable. Northland, New Zealand has one of the highest ultra violet light radiation rates in the world. In summer the burn time is about 7 minutes. A cold beer after a day working in these conditions tastes pretty damn good.

The road trailer now has an iroko cross plank fixed in place incorporating a couple of positioning blocks for the beach trailer wheels. The unpainted timbers behind the beach trolley wheels span the road trailers mud guards and have wheel guiding battens in place. When the unpainted timber has seasoned a bit (it is very wet) I will paint the trailer deck and its new wooden fittings with non skid paint.

I have replaced the old blue foam cushioning on the beach trailer with new material (Cut this foam with a jigsaw Not a 'Stanley' knife for a nice clean edge) and proved yet again the amazing adhering ability of 'Ados' glue.

Tomorrows job is to make a start on building a couple of removable ramps so I can get the beach trolley on and off the road trailer easily. These ramps will stow on the deck of the trailer when not in use.

Paul Mullings  has suggested I take 'Slipstream' down and race her at the Mahurangi Classic Wooden Boat Regatta in January   I am giving the idea serious consideration.

Monday, January 2, 2017

_________________ BUSY TIMES AT SMITHS BOATYARD _________________

Being male, multitasking of course comes naturally, and no more so than at my burgeoning little boatyard.

- I gave 'Mariner' such a good scrub and clean last week that the Hatea River literally bubbulated with detergent bubbles. I then emailed Whiting Power in Auckland regarding re - powering options.

- 'Mariner's fiberglass clinker dinghy restoration / conversion has just been sanded in preparation for a final undercoat and finishing coats of paint.

- The Starling has been polished and readied for me to advertise her for sale on NZTradeMe.

- 'Slipstream' my new Zephyr has just had her central sliding track re-bolted on and awaits a few more modifications as does ......

- ....... the boat trailer.

It was a toss up. Either shorten the wheel base of the Zephyrs beach trolley (Too complicated and would compromise the stability of the beach trailer when rigging 'Slipstream' in high winds) or modify the road trailer; which is what I decided to do today.

Luckily I had a length of strong Iroko timber which I bolted across the trailer effectively widening the deck of the trailer and enabling the beach trolley wheels to sit securely. I am now fitting timbers to protect the mudguards from the weight of the beach trolley and boat. There will be a slight rise in the centre of gravity of the combined weight of the beach trolley and 'Slipstream' but I figure it will all be well within any safety considerations. I will build a couple of removable ramps for the trolley wheels which will make loading and unloading the Zephyr an easy maneuver.

Another few days should see the job completed and I will be able to get 'Slipstream' down to the tide for a very first sail!!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

_________________________ HAPPY NEW YEAR _________________________

The Wise Men will unlearn your name.
Above your head no star will flame.
One weary sound will be the same—
the hoarse roar of the gale.
The shadows fall from your tired eyes
as your lone bedside candle dies,
for here the calendar breeds nights
till stores of candles fail.

What prompts this melancholy key?
A long familiar melody.
It sounds again. So let it be.
Let it sound from this night.
Let it sound in my hour of  death—
as gratefulness of eyes and lips
for that which sometimes makes us lift
our gaze to the far sky.

You glare in silence at the wall.
Your stocking gapes: no gifts at all.
It's clear that you are now too old
to trust in good Saint Nick;
that it's too late for miracles.
— But suddenly, lifting your eyes
to heaven's light, you realize:
your life is a sheer gift.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

____________________________ 'SLIPSTREAM' __________________________

There she was peeping out from the bottom of the boat rack at the Worser Bay Boating Club in Wellington. She is the Zephyr Class sailing dinghy 'Slipstream' which I have just purchased; thus finally settling the choice of a bigger sailing dinghy which has been occupying my thoughts for some time.

The round bilge Zephyr Class is the big sister of my current hard chine Starling sailing dinghy. Both were designed by the talented New Zealand yacht designer Des Townson. There are fleets of Zephyrs all over New Zealand providing plenty of competition. The Zephyr class has become a very popular choice for older sailors, being big enough to provide challenging and exciting sailing, but not so big that older sailors find them exhausting.

There is a link to a good blog postings about Zephyrs here:

This  YouTube video gives some idea of the sort of sailing I can expect to experience in 'Slipstream'.

The 2018 NZ Zephyr nationals will be held at Worser Bay Boating Club which is a great venue for sailing - I will definitely be a starter. 

'Slipstream' has the Zephyr class emblem painted on her bows. 

'Slipstream' is a basic no frills example and will require quite a bit of work to get her up to the standard I would like. I will sail and race her this summer and do the required restoration work over winter.

It was a nice trip south to pick up the boat, being one of those journeys where everything goes right. I managed to drive an uneventful 12 hours non stop to Wellington and stayed with friends in the Stokes Valley just out of Wellington city. The weather was sunny and agreeable and the road dry and safe. I did the drive back to Whangarei over a two day period, completing a round trip of 1600km.

The seller of 'Slipstream' was an affable and engaging semi retired airline pilot. After we had loaded the boat onto my road trailer we did the business over lunch at his house five minutes from the yacht club. With the wheels off the beach trolley everything fitted and tied down well. A slight shortening of the beach trolley wheel base will see the whole outfit fitting well.

I thought the name 'Slipstream' with its aerodynamic connotations was an appropriately named yacht for an airline pilot and I myself have a nice coincidence with my new boat. 'Slipstreams' sail number is 195. This is the same sail number as my little 'P' Class yacht 'Elusive' that I raced in the National 'P' Class Championships in Wellington in 1968. When I sail in the Zephyr Nationals in Wellington in 2018 it will be a span of 50 years!

Zephyr 195 - 'Slipstream'

P Class 195 - 'Elusive'  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

______________________ MARINERS DINGHY ? (12) ______________________

I have finished the inside of the dinghy with a 'two pot' marine paint system and she is on the way to completion. I may install a couple of inspection ports in the the stern and bow buoyancy chambers which will allow access so that I can bolt on rudder gudgeons and mast support blocks. I will also be able to remove whatever clunks around in both chambers whenever the boat is turned 180 degrees.

It's only when I see a photograph such as this (above) that I realise how much progress has been made. The next job is to turn the dinghy upside down and paint the hull (black) and install the half round brass rubbing strake along the keelson.

By installing a centre board and a sail I am transforming the dinghy from a simple yacht tender into a small boat in her own right. I will construct a beach trolley for her and use her as I do the Starling. I may from time to time tow her behind my yacht Mariner but she will cease to be the dedicated workhorse ships dinghy. So should she continue to be called 'Mariners Dinghy' ?  or should I give her a name ? ....... which reminds me; I have a list of names for the restored Starling dinghy, but to date I haven't given her a name - Ye salt laden sea gods! Shipmates that's almost as unlucky as sailing on Friday the 13th or forgetting to give the crew their rum ration! Yikes!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

___________________________ GEZELLIGHEID ______________________

Onze vrienden Ben en Renee reisden een lange weg van Nederland naar Nieuw-Zeeland om ons te zien. We hadden goede tijden samen. Goed eten, goede wijn en een goed gesprek. Gezellig. Heb een veilige reis naar huis. Wij hopen dat ze snel terug komen.

Monday, November 21, 2016

______________________ MARINER'S DINGHY (11) _______________________

I spent some time thinking through the construction of the centreboard case. It's a job that needs to be done once and done correctly. I don't want it to leak or to be susceptible to failure due to flimsy construction - so I have made it pretty robust.

It was good to use my heavy workbench during completion work on the centreboard seat. The workbench now has a new and renewable plywood top and a new metalworking vise. This vise has come in very useful and makes redundant my usual dodge of putting steel fittings etc into (and often damaging) the soft wooden jaws of a woodwork vise.

I made a slight mistake with the length of the centreboard seat but solved this by gluing an extra piece of wood around the perimeter of the seat. The new arrangement is more in proportion with the overall look and I am happy with the way it looks.

We have come a long way since bringing Mariners dinghy home for a repair and repaint to the current stage of the whimsical decision to turn the dinghy into a little lugsail rigged sailing dinghy and I am very happy about how it's all turning out. The speed of progress is a little slow - but shipmates, us retired blokes need time just shooting the breeze as much as we need time building and preparing to go sailing in it.

Friday, November 18, 2016

_____________________ AN ANTIQUE SOUND SYSTEM _________________

In recent times cell phones and other small devices have been invented that will store and play a zillion soundtracks downloaded from the internet. There is something very useful about stereophonic sound that you can put in your shirt pocket............ the trouble is what do you do with all the old technology? Well this bloke has installed his antique (or is that classic?) technology in his work shed. 

Only three of the original five speakers still work, but luckily they are the two main speakers and the centre speaker. I have mounted the centre speaker above the window and one of the main speakers high up in one corner of the workshop. The two small rear speakers won't be missed.

The other main speaker is at the opposite side of the shed along with my set of classical music tapes. These 'Tape Recordings' are an old system which records music onto spools of magnetic tape. Tapes superseded an even older complicated system where music was transferred from a metallic 'die' onto circular black plastic discs of varying sizes. The music was then picked up and relayed to speakers by an armature with a 'needle' on it which picked up the sound from grooves on the black disc ( I kid you not !!!!!!).

I do have a set of what's called 'CDs' (A more recent invention) which you may have heard of. I rotate these with my classical music tapes. When I want to listen to old popular music I listen to 'Coast FM' which plays all the old classic pop songs from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. If I want to raise my blood pressure for fun I listen to talk back radio. It's nice to work away in the carport and listen to music.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

____________________________ MEDITATION ___________________________

Deliberately, I have never had a dedicated meditation room. My thoughts have been that if I just meditated around the house in a peaceful place where I wouldn’t be interrupted for 15 - 30 minutes then I would become adapted to meditating just about anywhere, and this has pretty much proved to be so.

But lately I have taken to meditating in my small ‘Can’t swing even a small cat’ workshop. It’s cosy and cave like and I am surrounded by simple familiar tools and the happy memories of boat construction projects and modifications.

My simple blue topped meditation stool is almost as old as I am being an heirloom from the family home of sixty years ago. It’s monetary value is about NZ$10 but of course it is priceless. I remember sitting having meals on this stool from the age of five. The block of wood in front of the stool raises my upper legs so that they are parallel with the floor. The lack of a back rest on the stool means I have to sit without support and keep my spine nice and straight.

This morning when I arrived early, dressed in my boat working clothes I liked the familiar smell of wood shavings. Fifteen minutes meditation was a nice way to start the days work. This evening the setting sun shone through the window warming my back as I concluded the day with another fifteen minutes.

My meditation is pretty simple really. It consists of concentrating on my breathing and letting go of the endless chatter of the mind. It’s called ‘Calm Abiding’ meditation. I like the words ‘ Calm Abiding' and I like meditating here in my little room.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

_____________________ DEMOCRACY TRUMPS ITSELF __________________


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it 
Reel shadows of the indigant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Friday, November 11, 2016


 Practising in marginal conditions increases a sailors skill and safety on the water.
(Optimist sailing dinghy enjoying some rugged weather)

Last week I arrived at the yacht club punching the air with 25 knot optimism and very eager to race my boat. I had been watching the weather forecast and this was going to be my day again! Twenty five knots and increasing! But the sailing for that evening was cancelled.

I know why it was cancelled and fully support the people who made the decision. With an evening race series the light is slowly fading. The lee shore in the strong SW wind was rocky with only a couple of small beach landings, but more importantly there was only one boat, the start boat, available with a crew. There was no dedicated pick up boat in case of capsizes to help crews requiring assistance. So the decision to cancel was wise and sensible - good seamanship.

But, if a dedicated pickup boat had been available I would have strongly argued for racing to take place, even if it had been blowing harder than it was. It is in these marginal conditions that much is learned. If you don't sail in near storm conditions and get used to how it feels and how to handle your boat then you are unprepared if for any reason you get caught out when the weather changes for the worse ........  and the weather, particularly in New Zealand, can change very rapidly indeed.

I can remember a time when most small racing dinghies all had a row of reefing points in the their mains'ls. They didn't get used much, but from time to time when the wind was approaching 30 knots a reef was tucked in and young skippers got an exhilarating ride of their lives among the wind and waves. We need this 'can - do' attitude and a couple of reef points in our mains'ls again in our club racing. Of course in marginal conditions it requires a race start boat and one or two fully crewed 'pick up' boats, this is only sensible. But to not allow young sailors the opportunity to take risks, we restrict their ability to grow in confidence, independence and sailing skill. We all need a bit of Cape Hoorn in us every once in a while.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

__________________________ RACING A LASER ________________________

Grant Cooze is the centreboard dinghy racing organiser for the Onerahi Yacht Club a job that he does very well indeed.

Grant is a real inspiration. He is an amputee with one leg. He launches his Laser, takes off his prosthetic leg, ties it to the Lasers beach trolley and then off he goes sailing. Remarkable.

This week my respect for Grants plucky character and sailing skills grew even more. On arrival at the club for the usual evenings race series I got to talking Lasers with a few of the Laser skippers. Grant suggested that we swap boats for the racing. He would sail my smaller Starling and I would have go with his well set up Laser.

It was blowing quite hard. At the risk of becoming too profane let me simply say that Lasers are tricky little beasts.

In the first two races I blew the starts as I became a bit of an uncontrolled menace to the Laser fleet. I got in irons right on the start line, couldn't get the Laser to go about, got tangled up in the ropes, pulled the wrong control lines and pretty much blundered around. In the third race I sorted myself out and won. I am pleased about this win because the idea of a bigger boat has been an issue for some time, meaning that if I bought one of these boats there is a chance that I might be reasonably competitive.

Sailing back to the clubhouse after the racing I reflected on just how demanding and tricky sailing a Laser is. They are not docile boats, especially downwind in a big breeze. They respond instantly, accelerating very fast in wind gusts requiring balance, skill and a certain amount of good luck to keep them upright and sailing fast. Sailing upwind in strong winds they need sustained hiking to keep them flat and sailing fast and they are very sensitive to any sail control adjustments. They are not a boat for the faint hearted ......... which brings me back to Grant. How the hell he sails his Laser so well I really don't know - he's a bloody legend.

Friday, October 21, 2016

_____________________________ MARINER ____________________________

 Mariner at speed, full mains'l and No 1 working jib.

A couple of days before the recent delivery trip of Davids yacht 'Chez Nous' I rowed out to Mariner and gathered together some items for an emergency 'Grab Bag'. She looked rather neglected and in need of a good clean. The fast rugged sail from Auckland to Tutukaka bought back a lot of memories and has inspired me to make a start on the required work that she needs earlier than I had planned. So the next few postings will be about the clean up and decisions regarding getting her ship shape for the summer.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

______________________ MARINER'S DINGHY (10) _______________________

The side seats and the rowlock blocks have all been fitted, glued and screwed.
The G - clamps and timbers are the beginnings of the centreboard case.

To do list: 

Centreboard case 
Mast step
Fit floorboards 
Tiller, rudder and centreboard
Mast, boom, gaff, sail

Monday, October 17, 2016

_________________________ Delivery Trip (2) ___________________________

West Haven Marina in Auckland and loading up Davids "Whiting 29" sloop 'Chez Nous' for the delivery trip to Tutukaka, approximately 100 nautical miles north of Auckland NZ.

The three likely lads. From the left - Rama, David and moi. I forget what we were laughing about but the photo is a good symbol of a happy trip.

Even on a grey, rainy late Autumn day there is always something out and about on the Waitamata harbour. This is the Auckland Maritime Museums scow 'Ted Ashby' out on a jaunt.

Hard on the wind heading towards Tiri Passage on the way to our first stop, Kawau Island. It was cold and rainy with poor visibility, the wind Westerly slowly turning during the day to NW at  25 knots.

As we fiddled around trying to get the electronic speedo to work and commenting on the underwater impeller - sender unit etc the speedo suddenly came to life. Rama said something to the effect that ' A dolphin must have fixed it' - a curious thing to say I guess - but, right after the word "it" (I kid you not) a dolphin suddenly surfaced briefly right beside the boat. It was so close you could have reached out and touched it. I wasn't quick enough to get a photo of it, but I did get this photo of the pod of dolphins accompanying our speedometer fixer. I find these kinds of coincidences very intriguing.

First stop, Bon Accord Harbour on Kawau Island. We had a restful night in this quiet little bay and started north the next morning. We were waiting for the predicted SW wind, a favourable wind that  would give us a fast trip north. We left not knowing exactly what the wind direction would be, as it was hard to tell in our sheltered anchorage. The forecast was for a Nor' westerly which might have meant we could lay up the coast, putting in a few tacks as we went. When we poked our noses out into the big blue sea we were met with a 35 knot Northerly right on the nose combined with a big left over swell from the NE. After bashing and banging around for about an hour I suggested to David that we go back to Kawau and wait overnight for the predicted SW winds, which we did.

The camaraderie that night included playing cards, drinking and talking bollocks; pretty familiar, traditional blokey fare - nothing excessive, but somehow, something that is at the heart of things.

The next day we left for the north with the South Westerly filling in with a vengeance. The lesson to be learned is that it is always best to be prudent and wait out bad conditions if you can. In the old great days of sail, coastal sailing vessels could be seen en mass, at anchor, awaiting a fair wind. To do so is common sense and good seamanship.

The SW fair wind that we patiently waited for meant that we could sail most of the day with the sheets eased a bit and that we were able to sail the whole distance without tacking at all.

'Chez Nous' has a fractional rig with a large mains'l. As the wind increased we took in three reefs. This reduced the sail area by about 20 - 30% and moved the centre of effort forwards making her easier on the helm. Taranga Island slips past. This Island is also known as "The Hen" being the biggest Island in this group named 'The Hen and Chickens'.

Bream Head, marking the entrance to Whangarei Harbour comes into view. Our destination Tutukaka on the horizon.

The speedo spent most of its time registering between 7 and 7. 5 knots for the duration of the trip.

If you look carefully in the foreground of the above photo just behind the large tanker you will see one of two small jet skis that passed us going south at a great rate of knots. One of the great constants in life is that no matter where you go you will always run across mad bastards. That's not a condemnation of their behaviour, rather it's an accurate description of it.

This was the only other yacht we saw. She's looked about 50 feet long and was tracking well with a reefed main and a small jib.

The familiar and distinctive ' Three Gables' of the Tutukawa headland.

The entrance to the Tutukawa marina. David lives in the apartment complex in the background, so his new boat is nice and handy.

"Home is the sailor, home from the sea" - 'Chez Nous' safely delivered to her new place of residence - job done.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

_________________________ DELIVERY TRIP _________________________

 Mains'l well reefed as Sail Rock slides past - three quarters of the distance completed.

Today I arrived back from a hair raising (and spray drenched) three day delivery trip from Auckland to Tutukaka in Northland New Zealand. I was crewing for my good mate David who is now the proud owner of a Paul Whiting designed 'Whiting 29' class sloop. It was an interesting and sobering experience (despite a bottle of rum etc that was consumed).

Taranga Island recedes in the distance as we storm up the coast. Wind speed 25 knots gusting to 35 knots. 

 More of the trip on my next posting.............................

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

___________________ SORTING THE WORKBENCH (4) ___________________

I thought I had it sorted ............................

I have a couple of comprehensive, beautifully published books about workbenches.  I am aware that to some people books such as these would be as interesting as books about grain silos, but there you are. Compared to my rudimentary construction the benches featured in these books look like Steinway pianos. When I am retired from renovating boats I might build one. In the mean time I am having too much fun.

While working on my workbench I remembered something that was mentioned in one of the books. It was stated that many woodworkers like open free standing workbenches without any shelves, because shelves inevitably are places that get covered in wood shavings and dust. I have found this to be true.

So the other day after yet again sweeping away the detritus that covered the shelves I decided to knock up a couple of doors - and this is the result. Rough and ready to be sure but they should do an excellent job of keeping the shelves free of the by-products of wood work. The doors are slightly ajar as I have just applied the first of two finishing coats of paint.

It's always been a tradition in my family that boat builders benches should be christened in a similar manner to a newly launched yacht. That is, a little alcohol is poured over the bow and the rest of the bottle finished off by the builder (Actually that's not true, I just made it up - but it sounds like a good tradition to start) - now where's that  'Good on yah mate, Speights Pride of the South NZ beer.'