Friday, December 26, 2008

Some People Are Just Really Nice And Friendly - I Love That

Photo - Charlotte Smith (Worlds Best Daughter)
Painting anti fouling paint on my boat is not an onerous task at all, quite pleasant in fact. While I was painting some of it on the boat and some of it on myself - - - In the best tradition of New Zealand friendship, Brian who runs a motel that backs onto the boatyard bought me a couple of bottles of beer when he saw me sweltering in the sun - - - we had a chat, a drink together in the shade, we sorted out All the worlds major issues which left us with the comforting feeling that if we were running things the world would be a sort of earthly paradise, or something pretty close anyway. Then I went back to my painting - Kindness, a beer, a chat, such are the little things that make the world go round - - - Thanks Brian you are the man!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Preparations For A Summer Cruise

Mariner awaits the Travel Lift at Ray Roberts Haul Out Boatyard in Whangarei - she is looking a little coy I must say, but what real lady wants to show her bottom to the whole world?

The heart stopping moment! Four and a half tons of hand crafted beauty is lifted from the river. She is held high, then the Travel Lift starts to roll.

Shane gets into his work with the water blaster.

Karl and Shane place her into her cradle. These guys are great. They know what they are doing. Mariner is in safe hands.

I nearly called this post a 'comedy of errors'. The day didn't start well. I had been told to be in the river outside the yard at 9a.m. I was on the mooring getting ready to cast off the mooring lines when I get a call on my mobile from my son. "Dad the boatyard rang, they want you to call them." I call and can't get through. Call again and Karl answers but he can't hear me. I lock the boat, scull ashore and drive to the boatyard, "What's up I ask?" , "Just wanted to remind you to be here at 9.a.m", they reply.
I breathe deeply and muse to myself patiently that compared to the age of the universe and the majesty of countless stars in the heavens, this frustrating event shrinks into insignificance.
I return to the boat and find that I can't get into the cabin because in my hurry I have locked the boat keys inside. For a brief moment I contemplate smashing the lock and just getting on with it. But no, I will go with the flow of today's fickle hand of fate and scull ashore again. Again I get in the car and drive home - not far - only five minutes away to get one of two sets of spare keys I keep for just these sort of circumstances. I return to the boat and from then on everything goes smoothly.
The two guys at the yard are Karl and his strong and careful offsider Shane. Karl is the son of the yard owner and is a conscientious and experienced operator. Shane is a big affable Maori guy with a headful of dreadlocks and a friendly and engaging manner, he works carefully and methodically. They both treat the boat as if it was their own and made of eggshells. She is lifted, water blasted, placed carefully in a cradle and everything checked. A ladder is provided for me to climb aboard and they clear the surrounding area of the detritus of boatyards - big blocks of wood and various other bone breakers. I like coming here, these guys know what they are doing.
Now it is my turn, I do some extra sanding and scrubbing. Mariner being the lady that she is doesn't mind the skipper attending to her bottom parts and soon the job is done. She winks at me - tomorrow we continue with a couple of coats of good thick anti fouling paint - Its not a big job really, but I fortify myself with some Dutch Courage at the end of today's work - a couple of cans of Heineken.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Cygnet Project (Part 1) - I Name This Little Ship Cygnet And May God Bless All That Sail In Her

This little ship is an example of the diminutive P Class yacht. I bought this one recently at an auction. She is Seven feet long in the old measurement for those who, like me, find that the memories of old, shine warmly like varnished mahogany - a soft warm glow that tugs at the heart - memories are good, they help us to look forwards to the unknown future, they provide a balance and are to be honoured but not pined for. My memories of those sailing years provide a balance and build an historical context for my current sailing endeavours in my 30 foot yacht 'Mariner'.

Many years ago I sailed two of these boats in Christchurch. The first was (Sail Number P8) called 'Panic' an apt emotionally charged little name for a first boat and panic I did on many an occasion. But it didn't take me long to grow strong in the ways of little boats and their famous and notorious adversary the Canterbury weather.

'Panic' was very old, heavy and as waterlogged as - well - a log, and had a very alarming structural fault - the main deck beam was broken. The main mast sits on the main deck beam. When the Canterbury North Westerly winds began to smoke, the forward deck of Panic compressed in an alarming manner, the rigging went slack and if the prudent skipper didn't round up into the wind to take the pressure off the deck, then he risked a dismasting in spectacular fashion. This fault was never satisfactorily fixed and the boat was frightening to sail.

'Elusive' (P195) followed 'Panic'. She was brand new and I had purchased her with 55 NZ pounds withdrawn with shaking anticipatory hands from my Post Office Savings Bank Account. I can still picture the little bank book, it had a little squirrel on it.

'Elusive' and I formed a great relationship. My job was to point her in the right direction, her job was to go fast, and go fast she did. I represented my club the Pleasant Point Yacht Club twice in National Contests - once in Nelson, my placing there forgotten for reasons of ego and shame, and in Wellington in formidable weather where if my memory serves me correctly I finished the weeks contest in 6th place.

The little yacht in the photographs is a restoration project. I have built a neat little frame to sit her on at a height suitable for work and will restore her to her former glory. When I purchased her there was no name painted on the boat, but a faded name was written on the boats gear bag which I don't like so I will rename her - now ship mates, in nautical lore this is tempting fate of course - but I am in the mood to tempt fate, so rename her I will.

I shall rename her 'Cygnet' and I will tell you the story behind the name.
When I was sailing in Christchurch there was a fearless sailor who used to sail her heart out every weekend. She was venturing into what was at the time pretty much a male preserve. But she was an autonomous sort of character, one of those original and independent people quite able to strike out on their own.

One weekend there was a big storm. The fresh Nor' Wester that the yacht race had started in grew to a smoking ferocity. The tops of the waves broke off in long trails of spindrift, little yachts everywhere staggered under the onslaught of the wind. Masts were broken, yachts capsized, club rescue motorboats were overloaded with the work of towing back to the clubhouse the nautical carnage.

The talented and tough skipper of the yacht Cygnet was also overwhelmed by the wind and the waves. Her yacht had been completely up turned and she was exhausted in her attempts to right the little yacht. But as trained she stayed close by her yacht - she had learnt her lessons well - never leave your boat - with your life jacket, you are safe, hang on and help will come.

Soon, with the wind and sea building to a crescendo the club rescue boat drew alongside, her father in attendance. She was instructed to leave her boat and climb aboard the rescue boat - but she refused, she could see that in the conditions it was apparent that only people were being rescued, not boats. Her heart went out to her little boat that she loved and she steadfastly refused let go of it.

Now the official record of this point in the story is that she called out, "If being rescued means I have to leave my darling little boat and it means it will be lost forever I stoutly refuse to leave her" - that is the official record, but there is anecdotal evidence that she in fact said "piss off, if you think I am bloody well leaving my little ship to be lost forever then you are making an enormous frigging mistake" --- or suchlike, the record is not entirely clear and a lot of the words were lost in the wind and time can embellish an anecdotal tale (usually for believable betterment of the tale) - but what is clear is that like every good skipper she was refusing in this titanic struggle between herself and the weather to leave her boat.

In the end, in the midst of chilling cold, the shriek of the wind and with gentle encouragement from her father she gave up her hold and left Cygnet to her fate.

That night at home in the warmth and comfort, with her little boat lost, she shed bitter tears and mourned for her loyal little craft that had taught her so much and carried her so safely.

Days later the little yacht Cygnet was found, upside down under the bridge close to the yacht club. The tide had returned the doughty little craft right back to where it had been launched.

And unlike the Titanic the P class is built with so many watertight bulkheads an iceberg would have a pretty dam hard job sinking it, so it was an impossible task for the mighty Canterbury Nor'wester. The wind could overturn but never sink the little Cygnet.

We can only imagine the scene when this gallant and plucky sailor was reunited with Cygnet. Her heart would have been bursting with pride and she would have had a smile on her face as big as Texas.
And what ever happened to this skipper? - well this experience was an archetypal symbol of lifes struggle for her, of free will, of fate and of chance. She learnt that she could control some things but not all things. The gods will return to our doorsteps those things that the gods want to return, nothing more, nothing less. We cannot control the gods and so our job is one of our own individual human struggle, a struggle that works with, and is linked to fate in a sort of paradox. She had begun the big struggle of life - she went on to be a heroine in all that she did. She didn't win all the time, but the lessons were there for her in the heart of her struggles every day - in the very heart of whatever was placed on her doorstep everyday was where she learnt. These lessons taught her resilience, humanity and she developed a big heart and a very big smile. She became a wonderful human being.

So I shall name my restoration 'The Cygnet Project' and Cygnet shall be the little yachts new name - Autonomous Thinking, Bravery and Courage should always be Honoured.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Scissors And Rabbits

It’s been a last minute rush. We have been so busy. Today we decorated our Christmas tree. We didn’t use pre prepared commercial tinsel and glitter or teacher prepared colour ins and cutouts, or any other uncreative whizz bangs. As always we bring our own skills to the task. We just used coloured paper and crayons and pens. Of course we used our secret weapons as well – the children’s imaginations.

The children are sitting expectantly waiting for their instructions. “Now", I said looking at our scissor box with rows of scissors sitting with their handles looking like rabbits ears. “ After you have drawn and coloured in your decorations cut them out with these rabbits and cello tape them on the tree.” They didn’t flinch – they know the old humour well – “SCISSORS” they call back, “RABBITS’ I reply, “SCISSORS’ they say again, "Mr Smith they are SCIIIISSSSSSSSOOOOORS !!!!! "

“Ok”, I say, “cut your decorations out with the SCISSORS” - without flinching and as one they yell back “RABBITS”, I say “SCISSORS”, ---- “RABBITS” they cry. They know the old humour well.

With the world supposedly going to hell in a hand cart, I have a warm feeling as I look at the future sitting there. I think we are in safe hands.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Golden Summer

Summer is here
The beginning of the golden weather
Its touch is a warm wind blowing through the Pohutakawa trees
Its taste is the salt on the lips of a summer swim
Its voice is the sound of the crickets and the cicadas
Like a song
Like the beating of the human heart
- Alden Smith

Thursday, December 4, 2008

You Might Be Surprised What's On The Horizon

Parua Bay - Whangarei Harbour North Island New Zealand

As he sailed away he knew this: - wherever he sailed on this planet, if he keep a constant course he would always come back to where he had started - and this was the hard won realisation that had been his lifes work, it was this that gave it meaning. He had realised that : - The destination is the same as the starting point - - from heart beat to heart beat - the awareness of the beauty, richness and truth of each moment is the beginning and end of all wisdom - he was Awake!