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 is not paid "work' related". 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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

____________________ ON NEW BRIGHTON BEACH ______________________

I recently shot this photo from the New Brighton Pier. Years ago I walked this part of the beach south of the pier many times. The most interesting walks were with my father. He would always make each of us a walking staff, trimming the ends of suitable long sturdy sticks with his large pocket knife.

I took these photographs with my Panasonic Lumix point and shoot camera. Although not perfect by any means I am always impressed by the depth of field that this simple camera produces with its little Leica zoom lens.  

Sunday, January 27, 2019

__________________________ THOMAS MERTON ________________________

I have just finished reading Thomas Mertons autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain. It is the story of one mans search for truth. The stunning thing about this particular tale is that it is told with such timeless immediacy that the words reach out and make this a story of every mans / womans identifiable spiritual journey in terms of the asking of the perennial existential questions of existence. Thomas Mertons quest ends, begins and develops with life as a Trappist Monk and as a voluminous writer of some considerable talent. The exposition of what he found along the way is told with an impressive visceral honesty and clarity. The rawness and emphatic opinions of this book are balanced by his more evenly considered and tempered subsequent writings e.g No Man is an Island, which show that his chosen path bought him insight and wisdom. I can highly recommend both of these books.

" Love alone can teach us to penetrate the hidden goodness of the things we know. Knowledge without love never enters into the inner secrets of being. Only love can truly know God as he is, for God is love." - Thomas Merton.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

___________________ THE BLUE SHORE OF SILENCE ____________________

Let us look for secret things 
somewhere in the world,
on the blue shore of silence,
or where the storm has passed 
rampaging like a train.
There the faint signs are left, 
coins of time and water, 
debris, celestial ash 
and the irreplaceable rapture 
of sharing in the labour
of solitude in the sand.

- Pablo Neruda

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

____________________ HEADED OFF AT THE PASS ______________________

This is the exact opposite view to the one I was looking for of Lyttelton Harbour on Banks Peninsula. In fact the close foreground in this shot is the horizon of the desired photograph. The view I wanted to shoot is from a position on the left hand side of this photo close to the horizon on the left hand arm of the harbour. Hold that thought.

Many years ago when I lived on the flat Canterbury plains my mode of transport was by bicycle. The range of my meanderings were wide and formidable (for the legs of a child). One of my favourite journeys was from our home close to New Brighton, around the estuary to Sumner and up the exhausting ride to Evans Pass. Nothing could be seen of the harbour until the very top of the ride. Then the panoramic view would suddenly explode into view. That view is majestic and I would sit on my bike and stare and stare for a long time, drinking in the fabulous view and looking out keenly for the sign of a sail.

Each time over the years when I have driven to this spot I am seized by the need to linger for a long, long time to survey the view and slake my memories of old experiences - like an eagle returning to a familiar nest high on the tops somewhere.

A month or so ago Christine and I returned to Christchurch for my Auntys 100th birthday and while staying in Sumner I felt a compulsion to drive the few kilometers up to Evans Pass to take in the view. We had already spent time staying in Akaroa and ranging widely around the beautiful bays and roads of the Peninsula. A last trip to Evans Pass would be a nice way of putting the cork back in the bottle before flying back north.

But I was not rewarded for my effort. At the top of the pass was a large fence with signs warning of grim death on the other side of the fence from both the terrain and council bylaws. Of course I took all this as any New Brighton bred boy does with a grain of salt and tried to squeeze through the locked gate and even eyed the possibility of climbing over the fence. But common sense and late middle aged rotundness sorted out that idea.  
So I parked the car and took a walk to look back down on Sumner from where I had come. While doing so these little friends came and looked at me sheepishly. I am sure they had a look of sympathy on their little faces. Not a word was said. Not a baa uttered. They knew that sometimes its best not to say anything as they communed with me in my disappointment. 

This video (above) shows the reason why the road was closed. It has been this way since the devastating Christchurch earthquakes a few years ago. If you view the video you can get a sense of the scale and beauty of the harbour that draws me back from time to time.

One positive note is that when I peered through the fence at the top of Evans Pass at the car park area I could see that a lot of repair work was being completed. Although I don't think the road from Evans Pass to the port of Lyttleton will be opened any time soon, hopefully access to the car park and the wonderful view will be available next time we visit.

Friday, January 18, 2019

_________________ GETTING THINGS INTO PERSPECTIVE ________________

Does size matter? Considering the amazing complexity of life that exists on our planet, small may well be the key to the evolution of life. Small, relatively speaking certainly works for Planet Earth. A concentration and distillation of cosmic stardust has created something beautiful on our planet for our human consciousness to contemplate. Lets look after it.

Monday, January 7, 2019


When I was about 12 years old Santa gave me a brand spanking new Brownie Starlet Camera. It arrived in a very bright yellow little box complete with an instruction manual. The only bit of kit that later eclipsed this object for value and use in my eyes was the purchase of my first 7 foot yacht.

I remember the moment of unwrapping that little camera so well. It was something that I had explicitly asked Santa for. I remember examining carefully the glistening little body of the camera with its vivid red shutter button and reading carefully the instruction manual. I always put the camera carefully back in its little yellow box after use. The camera took 125 film with 12 shoots on each roll of film. I still have many of the little black and white images that I shot with this simple little camera. I learned a great deal about photography over the many years I used this simple little device. Unfortunately this first camera has disappeared, I think I threw it out when it finally stopped working. The three subsequent cameras I have purchased all still work and remain in my possession.

The second camera I owned was when I purchased this beautiful Canon FT-QL 35mm SLR camera in my late teens. I was able to buy it duty free on my first trip overseas when I sailed into the Pacific on my first blue water sailing experience. I would buy a roll of 400 ASA 35mm 36 shot colour, or black and white film / slides to shoot my photos on. The camera had a standard 50mm lens which was quite adequate for the level of photography that I was involved in, although I could have done with a wide angle lens for shooting on board when sailing.

The back of the old Canon is a lot different from modern cameras with their ubiquitous LCD screens.

I went through a long period of not taking any photographs. Then the digital age launched itself like a tsunami upon our culture and it was all PCs, laptops followed by tablets and cellphones. I purchased this, the first of my 'point and shoot' cameras when we were off overseas for a holiday. It seemed like a good choice at the time being small and light weight - a great little camera for taking holiday shots that make others yawn and look at their watches when you ask "would you like to see my holiday snaps?". 

I remember in these early days of the digital revolution hearing a lot of talk about the coming "convergence" which has indeed come to pass. A modern smart phone is also a camera (stills and video), internet browser and GPS. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if soon there will be a phone that also makes soup and mows the lawn.

This Lumix camera was the second of my 'point and shoot' camera purchases. I bought it because I required something waterproof for sailing photography, especially when the spray started flying.
According to the promotional blurbs this Panasonic camera is supposed to be water proof to 32 feet. But according to a number of reviews it is nothing of the sort and also has problems with corrosion, rubber seals and the misting up of the lens when these claims are put to the test.

But for my purposes it still remains a good little camera. I don't dive or swim with the camera. When I return from a day on the water I simply run it under fresh water to wash the salt off. To date I have had no problems.

I am now in the market for a new camera. Something along the lines of my old Canon FT-QL where I was able to control the shutter speed, ASA rating, depth of field etc. Modern cameras have a bucket load of controls that allow the photographer to use the camera in a dimension other than simply the narrative recording of passing events - this other use is something I would like to explore.

So the camera will probably be a compact mirrorless 35mm digital single lens camera - perhaps a full frame camera (which keeps the image size equivalence with my old Canon FT-QL), but only if the full frame camera is of a compact size. I would also like to have a few different lens, perhaps starting with a standard lens (50mm) and a wide angle lens - then adding other lens as required along the way.

Of course the perfect camera is similar to the perfect anything, that is, a contradiction in terms, but life is full of oxymorons.

Any recommendations and discussion is welcomed.