Friday, January 16, 2009

Mariner Heads South ( A Reminder About Seamanship) (3 of 3)

Mariners crew for voyage south. L to R - My redoubtable brother Chris, superb craftsman - he fabricated all the stainless steel on Mariner all those years ago - and nothing has broken in all the intervening years. I appreciated all his crew work, his banter, laughter and camaraderie - its great when brothers can have experiences together. ---- The Skipper, thinking how he is going to break the news about the southerly head winds. ----- Friend Martin, an Irishman with an endless sense of humour who regaled us with story after story of his experiences working all over the world, especially in Africa. He had almost zero experience on yachts but proved to be the only one not to succumb to the dreaded 'mal de mer' on the first days rough passage - these two guys were a great crew.

These are a couple of many examples of my brother Christophers stainless steel fabrications on Mariner. The workmanship in this compass gimbal and lifeline attachment point is faultless.

Christopher and Martin go ashore at Omakiwi Bay the day before we start south - the inflatable dinghy is only 2 metres long and it would be a squeeze with three - next year I plan to have one almost twice the size with an outboard motor.

We left the Bay of Islands through Albert Channel. We passed between this reef (Orerewainui Rock) and the mainland to make our escape.

This is the flag of my deceased fathers old yacht club, the Banks Peninsula Yacht Club in Christchurch. I always try and fly it in his honour and memory on the longer trips. It is from his influence that I have inherited a love of the sea and sailing.
Back in familiar waters, Bream Head and Mauitaha Island looming up - turn to starboard and you are nearly at the entrance to Whangarei Harbour.

Still tacking into the wind all the way south - Whangarei Heads greets us.
Happy faces - We made it - two days of fierce head winds and hard sailing.
The trip south was pretty rugged to say the least and taught me a valuable lesson i.e. Remember the valuable lessons!! - I know that onshore winds and a lee shore are dangerous and this voyage back down the coast reminded me of that fact again.
On the first day we left Omakiwi Bay early and sailed down the coast. By the time we were abreast of Whangaruru we had been tacking into strong headwinds for 7 hours so I decided to put into Whangaruru to have some lunch and reassess the situation. It was about 4 pm when we left with the intention of going out as far as Rimariki Island to see what the conditions were like. As we left the bay the wind had freshened somewhat and very large swells were rolling in from the sea. We took a bit of solid water over the bows as we clawed our way seaward. It occured to me at the time that if the wind was in the region of 40 to 50 knots then these big swells would be breaking making entering or leaving Whangaruru impossible - something to keep in mind if I ever have to seek shelter there in a real blow.
At Rimariki Island it was decision time, point of no return - we were handling the conditions reasonably well, only being really overpowered by the wind occaisonally - my only anxiety was that it was by this stage after 5pm and I didn't want to be caught out on a lee shore at night time.
I made the decision to continue knowing that our destination (Tutukaka) had a lighthouse as a guide to the entrance to the harbour.
Many hours were spent tacking first one way then the other to claw our way down the coast.
With light fading we just made Tutukaka before nightfall and here I got a big surprise. A huge swell from the onshore wind was almost breaking across the entrance - as at Whangaruru if the wind had been much stronger we would have been in trouble negotiating the entrance - and in fact the decision I would have made if that situation had arisen would have been to go offshore for the night.
In the gloom, with Tutukaka light flashing above us, and the huge scend of the pacific breaking in slow motion on Tutukaka heads we surfed in on the swell through the entrance. By the time we made the Tutukaka marina it was dark - My lessons about visibility, daylight hours remaining, onshore winds, harbour entrances etc had been revisited with a vengence.
The next day we left to sail the relatively shorter distance to Whangarei in the continuing southerly headwinds except that by now the wind strength had moderated considerably which made it an easier sail.
Overall the trip south was a bit rugged, but with a good crew we made it and safely delivered the boat back to her mooring in the Hatea River.

So here is a big toast to all my crews with a bottle of the worlds best sailing beer - thank you for all your help, companionship, camaraderie, humour and your great support - I know that I had a wonderful time, a very best of times doing something that I love - I hope you had an enjoyable time as well - cheers!


delwyn said...

I loved to read the details of your voyage to the BOI and return Alden. Your trip does echo our life's travails doesn't it: you just never know what's around the corner and no matter how prepared you are things don't always go to plan. But without those variables life could be pretty predictable and dull. Thanks for the blog effort- you write in such a conversational way its a pleasure to read.

Delwyn said...

Guess what, I have made a blog!!!''

I am so excited at my achievements!!

Alden said...

Congratulations Delwyn I will take a look and post a comment.

Delwyn said...

Mr Kinder was bemoaning the fact that you write few blogs and would love to read more. I agree and promised to cajole you into picking up your pen and giving us some more salty tidbits.

Alden said...

It is so flattering to be told that - look, see my head swelling -I will try and post something soon, and visit others blogspots.