Saturday, November 29, 2014

In The Olden Days

I wish I hadn't sold this dinghy that is being towed by 'Mariner' to my brother Tony. I built it as a yacht tender and sailing dinghy, complete with centerboard, mast and sails before I built 'Mariner'. I figured that if I could build a clinker planked dinghy I could build a 30 foot yacht - and I was right on that score.

This photograph shows 'Mariner' on her very first sail in 1979. It was  supposed to be a motor only trip to the 'Nook,' a nice small bay on Whangarei harbour. This photograph was taken by my father from his small motor launch 'Bullfrog'. Halfway to the Nook I realised that a slight breeze had sprung up and I could sail. So although there were no deck fittings installed I improvised by threading the jib sheet through one of the scuppers and made a rope mainsheet traveller by running some rope between the two stern mooring cleats and turned off the diesel engine.

So there we were, Christine doing a good impression of Twiggy and me trying to look cool in my 'Easy Rider' sunglasses. I remember rafting up with my Dads launch and having a nice on board picnic with Mum and Dad - All a long, long time ago now.

This second photograph was taken on a different occasion  but pretty much in the same place as the first photo, but going in the opposite direction. I see that we are towing my dads dinghy for some reason or other. By this time I had most of the deck hardware installed, including the life rails. 
One of the things I regret most when I look at this photograph is that I have lost the beautiful hand knitted pom pom hat that was my good old boat hat for cold days. It was well worn, with memories of many anti-fouling paintings all over it. I remember it was lost overboard and sank one stormy day as I desperately tried to retrieve it with the boat hook - can't win em' all shipmates.

The old boat has gone through a few persona transformations in her time. When Mariner was first launched she was painted Storm Grey with a varnished mahogany cabin trunk, later I painted her Royal Blue with a White cabin trunk. Currently she has a Beige cabin trunk and decks and a White hull.
 Circa 1979
 Circa 1989
Circa 2014

The thing I am most proud of is that I built this little ship with my own hands. In the last couple of weeks I have built two sturdy gates to keep a very adventurous grandson safe in the backyard and are now working on a back door renovation. As I bumble around hitting my thumb with the hammer and looking at the gaps in the joins of my woodwork I do wonder how I ever built a boat.

All this happened a long time ago in the 'Olden Days.' When Mariner was launched Christine and I had only been married 4 years, not 40. It was only 10 years since men had landed on the moon, there were no personal computers, internet, cell phones, GPS and I still had a couple of pairs of flared jeans and a few paisley shirts! Happy Days that were a bloody sight less complicated. BUT, I am not complaining about todays realities, I look forward to the future with great expectations.


Kate said...

What a lovely post. I am so impressed you built, not only the dinghy, but the yacht too! Beautiful.

Alden Smith said...

Thank you Kate. The building and rigging took 4 years. At the time it seemed like an eternity, especially as I was building while teaching full time. At this stage of life I won't build again, but I am looking at the restoration of a small very sturdy deep sea type and perhaps a long sea trip.

Kelvin Wright said...

The one time I was ever on Mariner was the day you lost your pompom hat. A winch got jammed and there was a fairly stiff breeze and no immediate way of reefing the mainsail. And as you were knocking the gooseneck out to give enough slack to free the winch your hat blew overboard. It took a while to get things sorted and turn around and perform a hat overboard drill by which time it was too late.

Alden Smith said...


[sailor like cussing / parrot squawks from shoulder, other assorted profanities and the odd strange hornpipe here in amazement at your memory]

I do remember a trip with you, (must have been the 1980s) and the banging of a reefing clew hook on the main boom gooseneck with a hammer; but I do not remember loosing my beloved pom pom hat during this maneuver. Thanks for that. Now that we have fixed the date, maybe I could get a fix on the position, go back with a scallop dreg and try and find it - surely wool would last 35 years? LOL.

Ben said...

Alden, You surely know how to perform the subject/person overboard drill. Still use the camera cover that you saved in January 2013.

Alden Smith said...

Ben.I am glad to hear that the camera cover is still alive and being used, I remember the rescue well LOL !!! Over the years I HAVE got a lot better at retrieving things that have fallen overboard but it is always an exciting drama, and pretty much impossible in rough weather.