Sunday, November 3, 2019

______________________________ THEO _______________________________

 This is our fourth grandchild Theodore (Theo).

The name Theodore means 'gift of god'. It is a biblical name derived from the elements 'theos' meaning god and 'doron' meaning gift. We flew all the way to the UK for his birth, as we had done for his older brother Salem. Joy is a very appropriate word for these occasions.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

_____________________ INGLORIOUS BASTARDS _______________________

We have just returned from a couple of months in the United Kingdom bringing back with us much good news and the memories of such positive experiences that it seems questionable as to why I would want to share a negative experience. But; prospective fellow travelers, being fore warned is to be fore armed. So before I post about the good times and the good news its a case of bad news first.

I hesitate to tell this tale because quite frankly it turns my stomach every time I think about it, but perhaps with the telling will come a form of catharsis, of purging, of letting go and moving on. I could certainly do with that.

It is a complicated story with numerous twists and turns so I will tell a 'Long Story, Short' as the saying goes and tell it in the form of a series of bullet points.

  • There are two outfits involved in this fiasco - AUTOEUROPE and EUROPCARS
  • We ordered a car through the online broker called AUTOEUROPE. 
  • AUTOEUROPE is also associated with an entity called KEDDYS but the association is unclear.
  • The car was to be picked up at EUROPCARS.
  • We paid over 800 pounds including full insurance cover.
  • We read the AUTOEUROPE terms and conditions. The indicated time of pick up was 12 pm. Penalties were indicated for 'Lateness' of pickup although 'Lateness' was not defined. This part of the T's and C's was unclear being ungrammatical and confusing. Later when in dispute another set of T's and C's were sent but were still confusing. (These amended T's and C's were not what we had agreed to). The original T's and C's not only did not define 'lateness' but did not mention full forfeiture of all money as a result of this 'lateness'.
  • We arrived in business hours at approximately 3pm and were refused a car or a refund of our 800 pounds. We were told we had breached EUROPCARS terms and conditions. We said we had not seen THEIR T's and C's as we had booked online with AUTOEUROPE so we could hardly be in breech of T's and C's that we hadn't seen or agreed to. EUROPCARS later emailed us their T's and C's - all 79 pages of them.
  • Later that day we rang customer services of both AUTOEUROPE and EUROPCARS. EUROPECARS customer services told us to go back the next day and a car would be there for us. But when we turned up the next day they again refused to give us a car or refund any money. AUTOEUROPE said on the phone they would look into the matter. A subsequent email from them confirmed that there would be no refund.
  • We rang our NZ Bank that night and asked that the Visa payments be stopped. They put the payments on hold and told us that it would take 3 weeks for the case to be resolved by their disputes team.
  • At this point in the proceedings we felt confused, disoriented, furious and a very long way from home.
  • Further searches on the internet found that the UK newspaper 'The Guardian' had done some investigative journalism into these outfits. Their opinion is the same as mine regarding their business practises and customer relationships - unethical, immoral, possibly outside of British consumer law and possibly illegal. I say 'possibly' because it begs the question as to how these companies keep trading if operating in this manner is illegal?
In the end we were lucky on three counts:

First we had our son in law as our advocate. He fought our corner for us. He did all the phoning and emailing and put together all the data relating to our case in a very fluent, logical and considered way.

Second. Although putting forward our case didn't have any positive effect on the idiots we were dealing with, I think the clarity of his thinking and documentation helped our bank to make the decision to reverse the charges on the Visa card. In the end the bastards didn't get any of our money.

Third. Our son in laws mother loaned us a car which meant we could redeem some of the time left to us to do a few trips that we had planned. We were very, very appreciative of this generosity.

I think if we ever try to hire a car again when we are overseas we will do it through what I hope are still reputable car hire companies such as Hertz and Avis.

I was going to say in conclusion that we would in the future always "read the fine print" in the terms and conditions more carefully - but as our experience shows, even this approach isn't foolproof and some what problematic. The fact is there are 'Inglorious Bastards' everywhere.

Monday, September 2, 2019

_______________________ THREE GOOD THINGS ________________________

NUMBER ONE: If you look closely at the bow you will see two holes that have been drilled through the stem. The initial holes were drilled oversize, filled with West System glue and then smaller holes drilled. This well tested (On Zephyrs) arrangement takes the place of a heavy stainless steel fore- stay chain plate and solves the problem of fore-stay stress loosening screws over time making this system problematic. The fore-stay will now be attached to rope that is threaded through the holes in the stem.

NUMBER TWO: The new mast step has a couple of good features. First it is very strong and second it is adjustable fore and aft. I have bolted it down as far foreward as possible which gives me a mast adjustment from vertical to well raked aft. Various mast rakes are optimal for different wind strengths and the ability to adjust the rake easily and quickly is an advantage.

NUMBER THREE: Self bailers are terrors of beasts to fit nice and flush. It took me three careful days to get this job completed. I won't go into detail because the explanation would be so long you might lose the will to live reading about it. Suffice to say, it was very tricky, but when completed and I skimmed my hand over each bailer in the manner of a zillion water molecules the transition was smooth and seamless and I was smiling.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


Shipmates, I hear you ask: "How many photographs of the final fairing stage of a Zephyr yacht does a person need to look at?" - Well the answer is four photographs.

The previous post showed the hull with its first fairing compound combed on. These photographs show the hull after micro light fairing compound has been applied, sanded fair and two coats of 'two pot' Everdure applied.

When you run your beady eyes over a recently coated glossy hull any imperfections are very easy to see. I was heartened to find the hull fair and true with only minor imperfections

The final stage is a regime of sanding between undercoats and the application of a glossy final coat.
But before that happens the hull will be turned the right way up and the new deck, splashboards and other trim installed.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

______________ STAGE TWO OF THE FAIRING PROCESS _________________

Don has faired six of these hulls before, so 'Slipstream' is in good hands as he uses a sanding board to do the first sanding.

Completion of the first sand. The timber hull shows through in the high spots, the low spots are where there is still fairing compound of up to a depth of 2mm. Sighting along the hull with my eye and using a fairing batten failed to show any hills or valleys in the hull. I was well pleased.

The second stage of the fairing process will be another layer of finer compound to fill up the grooves left from the first sanding. This second layer of fairing compound will then be sanded ready for painting.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

_____________________ FAIRING UP THE HULL ________________________

The first stage of fairing up the Zephyr involves plastering the hull with fairing compound. 

This compound is a mixture of West System resin, hardener and '413' grade powder. The powder is mixed in with the resin and hardener until the concoction has the consistency of peanut butter.

The fairing compound is then applied with a simple gizmo that looks somewhat like a plastic comb with wide blunt teeth. The mixture is applied thick and fast. Fast acting resin hardener ensured that within the hour the whole mixture was well on its way to 'going off'.

Stage two is the hard yacker stage. Its going to be all sanding boards and muscle power. The grooves in the first coat allow for quick and relatively easy sanding. The lay of the long sanding boards combined with a good eye will ensure beautiful full curves and a fair hull.

Stage three will be another coat of a finer sanding compound which will fill the grooves that are left. Additional sandings should produce a beautiful fair hull. I am very lucky to have the help and expertise of my good sailing mate Don who has previously successfully faired 6 Zephyr hulls. 'Slipstream' deserves nothing less than a beautiful fair hull as she undergoes her 60th year birthday renovation.

The big question now is: what colour shall I paint this beautiful fair hull?

Thursday, July 25, 2019

_____________________ THE DON BUYS A BOAT ________________________

My good mate Don and I have been racing an International Flying Fifteen class yacht together. We called this boat 'Borrowed' because ....... it has been a borrowed boat. We have done some work on the boat in lieu of sailing it - something of a win-win situation.

About a week ago we went and looked for the second time at a much newer and better sorted Flying Fifteen which Don has now purchased. We will be sailing her for the first time this coming Sunday. She is called 'Explosive'. I have been referring to the boat as 'Gelignite' and Don has been calling her 'Hand Grenade'. Whatever appellation she ends up with we are both determined to sail her well so that her performance doesn't end up being that of an old bomb.

Friday, June 28, 2019

________________________ MAKING PROGRESS ________________________

I washed the hull in methylated spirits which draws out any rot inducing moisture and helps get the hull down its minimum weight.

 Repairing the holes by laminating on layers of 1.5mm Gaboon plywood in strips.

The first stage of the fairing process. I have used a belt sander (on the first stage of reducing the height of the laminated repairs) and a manual long board sander. I must say, having all the holes in the hull closed off and the timber faired up feels like a bit of a milestone.

The next stage in this long process will be 4 coats of '2 pot' Everdure wood preservative with the first coat heavily diluted with thinners which helps the Everdure penetrate deep into the wood. These coats seal the timber, prevents the re-absorption of moisture and provides a base for the fairing proper - with West System resin and various fairing compounds. All of this is time consuming hard work, but for a Zephyr sailor - a fair hull is a fast hull.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

__________________________ SUNDAY SAILING _______________________

Sunday is traditionally a day of rest - one way of resting is to lean into the day doing something that you really like to do. I am all for that, so I went sailing. Don and I raced the Fifteen. My brother Tony who was the official photographer thought he was going to be shooting from the end of a jetty but ended up getting a helpful passage on a local boat and was out among the action.

Every race is a learning experience and we are certainly learning a great deal. I am finding being the crew rather than the skipper a rewarding experience. Skippering for me usually means racing solo in my own boat, so I am enjoying being part of a team.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

___________________________ 'BORROWED' __________________________

Here she is - the Flying Fifteen 'Borrowed' that Don and I will be sailing for the third time tomorrow. Our placings to date have been a 6th and 2nd place. Today was an alteration / preparation day. We tweaked a few things, sorted out the hiking straps and placed some non skid tape on the side decks in strategic places. We will be hunting for a good breeze tomorrow.

Friday, June 21, 2019

......................................... AND IN THE MEAN TIME

In the spaces between restoring 'Slipstream' my 60 year old Zephyr sailboat and wondering why it's taking me so long to get around to doing some work on 'Mariner' my much neglected keelboat I am racing a Flying Fifteen with my fellow Zephyr sailor Don Currie. The Flying Fifteen is about 20 feet long (The 15 in its name refers to the boats waterline length), has a small keel (aids the righting moment for us elderly crews) and is an absolute rocket ship. There is a small and growing fleet here in Whangarei and we have been able to borrow a boat, or rather Don has entered into a lose lease agreement with the owner of a slightly neglected but basically sound boat. The boat comes without a name so we have called her 'Borrowed' which reminds us to take all responsibility and care. To date all our first few sails have been in very light winds so we looking forward to the sashaying flare of huge bow waves and rainbow inducing rooster tails from the stern that a strong breeze promises - bring it on I say.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


                                       Great to have some friendly help for my arthritic sailors legs while getting my boat ashore.

Well shipmates I'm at it again - another boat renovation. This time it is a much needed repair and renovation job on 'Slipstream' my 60 year old Zephyr class yacht. It's all a labour of love, something that I can lose myself in. There is a hard to explain deep satisfaction and achievement to all this that is kind of spiritual. Some would find such a notion as ridiculous or even profane; but there you are.

Making a start so off comes the paint.

There were about eight holes in the boat. The large one in the bow combined with glue lines and evidence of the scarfing of timber shows that the boat had in the past been extensively damaged. My guess is that some time in her 60+ year life she has possibly come off a road trailer or run up onto rocks with great force. The holes were exposed when I removed all the chopped strand fiberglass cloth and a considerable thickness of fairing compound.

The deep areas that look like someone has taken to the boat with a grinder are exactly that - areas ground out. I thought that it might have been areas of rot, but I think it is more likely to be areas of de-lamination of the three skinned hull.

Everything is off or out that's coming off or out except for the centre case.

Dealing to the damage with strips of 1.5mm Gaboon plywood, the ubiquitous West System Glue and a staple gun - rather than chopped strand mat and bog - shiver me timbers, but this is a Wooden Boat!!

My good friend and fellow Zephyr sailor Don Currie removes the centre case with my good friend and fellow Zephyr sailor Bernie's renovator tool. Both of these Zephyr sailor friends are frequent visitors, lenders of tools and the source of boat loads of advice and encouragement.

Don then fitted the boats new centre case which he had very, very generously made for me. Don is an extremely talented wood worker, who like me, revels in any kind of woodwork to do with boats.

Here is the reason that this renovation was timely. When removing the old mast step, a large part of the keel came crumbling out as well. This part of the keel was saturated with water and was soft and manky. The loading in this area is huge and I am lucky that the mast hadn't been driven through the bottom of the boat a long time ago.

I have scarfed in a metre of new keel and installed a new mast step on top of two layers of double bias fiberglass cloth which provides a "pan" for the keelson and maststep to sit on. The "pan" repairs and strongly reinforces this area of high mast compression stress.

So far, so good. Yesterday (With Bernies help) we flipped the boat upside down again and I have begun the job of fairing the hull. There is some distance to go before I am sailing again, but a few of the main construction jobs are now completed.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

_________________________ DIFFICULT TIMES _______________________

I have blogged about sailing since the horrific events in Christchurch last week. Why? Why not blog about the unfolding events?

I think my actions are a function of my disbelief, denial, despair and the fact that like most Kiwis I am totally stunned by what has happened. It is hard to own such things let alone write about such evil.

I take these cruel events very personally for a couple of reasons. First I grew up in Christchurch. It is my Turangawaiwai ( The place where I stand / belong). Christchurch has endured two large earthquakes - now this. The second reason is that our daughter in law is a Muslim. Two of our three grandchildren are Muslim. We have a small personal window through which we can observe the effects of such a holocaust.

The larger window is harder to look through, because when we look we are seeing ourselves, our society, our collective values and beliefs along with our racism, bigotry, prejudices and fears. Aspects of our world view are challenged.

I don't think this is a time for too many words or too much hand wringing. It is a time for action both personal and political. We have seen this action in an emphatic outpouring of solidarity with the Muslim community. We have heard emphatic words regarding massive changes to New Zealand gun laws.

Lets hope that the much needed personal and political action endures, develops and matures. I pray that we don't just return to type within a few months. Lets walk the talk. Proof of our words of love and solidarity is revealed when these things are incarnated into the world through our actions.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

__________________________ SUNDAY RACING _________________________

The likely lads were out on the water today with 9 other sailing dinghies and their skippers. We raced 4 back to back races. Each course consisted of two triangles and one windward - leeward leg.
A wind of 3 to 6 knots fluctuated and oscillated all day with tricky wind shifts that were difficult to read. Don was first Zephyr home in every race. Burnie and I shared 2 seconds and 2 third places each. Our next set of races will be the Onerahi Yacht Clubs Tuesday evening series this coming week. We are also looking forward to the OYC club championships in two weeks time.

It is great to have another couple of Zephyrs to race against and I am grateful for that. Of course a big increase in the Zephyr fleet is what we would like to happen but this is easier said than done ........... but; I have a cunning plan; or two. Watch this space.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

______________________ WOOD, WIND AND WATER _____________________

Yes shipmates, I know; it's not a very good photograph. But I was so excited about the inaugural get together of our fledgling Zephyr fleet today that I forgot to take a photo with the boats rigged up and rearing to go. No matter. It was a great, great day. We had three back to back races (I had my arse kicked in the racing a few times) but the sheer joy of sailing on Parua Bay with a couple of other experienced skippers and their Zephyrs made up for anything self inflicted on my ego. Three imperatives are pushing this tiny fleet - enthusiasm, commitment and the love of sailing.

(Left to right) 'Bad Boy', 'Slipstream' and 'Venture' do battle again on Tuesday of this coming week.

I can hardly wait.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

_____________________ ZEPHYR NATIONALS 2019 ______________________

There were a number of reasons why I didn't compete in the 2019 Zephyr Nationals at Tauranga. Having watched this video I am determined to compete next year if circumstances allow. There should be a full Whangarei contingent going to the Zephyr Nationals in 2020.

As you can see Tauranga harbour is a very nice sailing venue, but, it is a very tricky place to sail. The harbour is very tidal with many sand banks. The challenges of these hunting grounds have meant that many of New Zealands best sailors have been produced here.

One aspect of the video stands out - the age of the competitors! One of the reasons (among many) for this is the nature of the Zephyr itself. The boat is just the right size to make it challenging, technical and competitive without it being gut busting like the Olympic Finn and some other classes. Also its just about the most beautiful small boat I have ever seen and even more beautiful to sail.

Friday, March 8, 2019


  Zephyr Nationals Worser Bay Wellington 2018 - I am sailing Zephyr 195

Imagine it is circa 1680 AD. You live in the province of Lombardy, in the city of Cremona in northern Italy. Your name is Luigi Romano and you are an amateur violin maker and modest violin player. One day someone called Antonio Stradivari rings you up on your cell phone. You have met him a couple of times briefly and know exactly who the maestro is. "Hello Luigi" he says, "It's Antonio Stradivari, the violin maker, I am coming to live in Cremona next month; lets get together sometime soon, we could help each other with some violin making and perhaps play a few duets together." ............. Hold that thought .................

Early in 2017 I wrote a blog post here:

This blog post is titled 'A Prophecy', which at the time was really just a bit of wishful thinking. But to my surprise and delight my wishful thinking came true when my mate Burnie purchased Whangarei's second Zephyr yacht. When I posted 'A Prophecy' I knew Bernie was looking to possibly buy a Zephyr, so it is a bit of a stretch to use the word 'prophecy', but who am I to let the facts get in the way of a good story.

The story of the arrival of Burnies Zephyr Racing Stripes is posted here:

The story of why, before the Zephyr Nationals Burnie changed the name of his Zephyr from Racing Stripes to its new name of Bad Boy is a story for Burnie to tell - my lips are sealed.

The story of our adventures at the 2018 National Zephyr championships is told here:

Then; almost exactly one year out from the 2018 Zephyr Nationals, like lightening out of a blue flagged sky I get a ring from Antonio Stradivari (aka Don Currie).

"Hi there Alden" he said. "We've sold our house in Auckland and have bought a house in Whangarei. We move up on the 22nd of February; let's get together sometime soon, we could help each other with some boat building and perhaps go sailing together" - "Yes! that's great" I replied, immediately empathizing with how Luigi Romano would have felt when Antonio Stradivari held out the hand of friendship and equivalence in a similar way back in the 17th century.

Equivalence is true of course in terms of zealotry for sailing, but in terms of boat building skill Don Currie is a Mr Stradivari of sorts. In terms of sailing skills he has already thrashed me several times on the water which won't do me any harm. But best of all; apart from being an intelligent, interesting and engaging individual, Don has an enthusiasm for boats of all shapes and sizes in general, and a depth, breadth, experience and knowledge of Zephyr construction and sailing in particular, which is going to be a huge asset to our fledgling little fleet.

It is most heartening that there will now be three Zephyrs here in Whangarei sailing and racing regularly. We can hardly call ourselves a fleet yet, but I keep telling myself that providence has a way of casting a fruitful net upon a faithful ocean.

Then there is this: I have heard that there is a another master violin maker who hasn't moved to Cremona in Lombardy, in northern Italy ... Yet.

His name is Giuseppi Guarneri ........... moreover, there are others. The ordinary folk of Lombardy. All with a passion for violin making and playing. I have no doubt they know exactly how to use a cell phone. Luigi Romano is waiting in quiet expectation.

So shipmates here is the drill. The new trio of skippers have decided to sail two days a week. These days being the Tuesday evening racing at the Onerahi Yacht Club (3 - 4 back to back well organised races) and Sundays at Parua Bay Yacht Club. Here the mornings will be taken up with rigging, tuning and discussion combined with on the water sailing and racing tactics practise. In the afternoons we will compete in an all comers series of back to back races - Wood, wind and water, bliss really.

Don Currie (aka Antonio Stradivari) completing the woodwork on the first ever fiberglass hulled Zephyr.

The very high degree of woodworking skill is apparent in the completed fiberglass hulled boat.

Don Currie (left) master mind and master craftsman behind the restoration of 'Julie' complete with traditional wooden mast, boom, beautifully varnished deck and flash wooden rudder and dagger board finished in the traditional manner. (From NZ Boating World  2019).

Monday, February 11, 2019

______________________ RECORD TEMPERATURES _____________________

New Zealand is sweltering under record temperatures. Our son and grandson enjoy Northlands high temperatures at Ruakaka Beach.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

________________________ A MODERN PROPHET _______________________

Prophets are generally given a pretty hard time. The old testament prophets were either ignored, reviled, killed by stoning or worse. Lloyd Geering is a New Zealand Prophet who got off lightly, simply being tried for heresy (which he was acquitted of in 1967). 

The first book of his that I read in the early 1970s was Resurrection a Symbol of Hope. All his writings begin with this seminal work. Subsequently I  have read  'Tomorrows God'  in 1994, The World to Come (1996), Wrestling With God (2006) and this year his 2009 publication Coming Back To Earth.

The recurring theme of his books shines a bright light on the unfolding direction of western Christianity. His thesis basically comes down to this:

"The real future of the Judeo-Christian path of faith is a secular one. Far from being the enemy of Christianity, the truly secular life is the legitimate continuation of the Judeo-Chistian tradition. The traditional worship of God has widened into the celebration of life. Faith is a matter of saying "Yes" to life in all its planetary complexity. Even while shedding many of Christianity's past symbols and creedal formulations, the secular path still honors the abiding values it has learned from its Christian origins. Concerned as it is with the pursuit of truth, the practice of justice, and the nurture of compassion, freedom, and peace, the secular world is learning to live by faith, hope and love. Faith requires us to be free of all excess baggage. Hope requires us to be open to an ever evolving future. Love requires us to be inclusive of all people and all cultural traditions."
Sir Lloyd George Geering ONZ GNZM CBE (born 26 February 1918) turned 100 last year. He has a Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Otago and a Masters degree in mathematics.
These are not the only books written by Lloyd Geering, just the ones I have read. I highly recommend his books to anyone looking for spiritual direction or simply another part to the existential jig-saw puzzle.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

____________________ QUAKE HIT ROAD SET TO OPEN __________________

In my blog post titled 'HEADED OFF AT THE PASS' here:  I posted about the closure of the Sumner - Lyttelton road due to severe damage from the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Today in the morning newspaper I read some good news.

" A quake hit Christchurch road that has been closed for eight years is set to reopen next month. The critical road link between Sumner and Lyttelton over the Port Hills has been closed since the magnitude 6.3 February 22 2011 earthquake, which brought tonnes of rocks tumbling across it. But after years of work, a Christchurch City Council team and contractors say they are on track to have Sumner Road reopened to traffic at the end of March 2019".  - New Zealand Herald.

 Work on the road has included:

- Blasting and removing 100,000 cu m of rock.
- Building a 407 m long catch bench to intercept falling rocks.
- Building a 50m long, 7m high rock interception bund.
- Reinstating 2.6km of road.
- Replacing / resealing 16,700 sq m of road.
- Repairing / rebuilding 30 retaining walls, the biggest of which is 132m long and 7m high.

I am very pleased that this work will soon be completed. The view of the harbour from Evans Pass is one of my all time favourite views and the Sumner / Lyttelton road is the place of adventurous childhood memories. It looks like a journey south is in order in the next few months.