Thursday, December 6, 2018

____________________ ACROBATS AND A SUNSET ______________________

Today as evening drew near I drove to be close to water and sky. It's something I do often. This time it was to Onerahi by the yacht club were I sail on a Tuesday night. I sat in the car and ate a Lemon and Paeroa ice block on a stick ( You may need to be a Kiwi to fully understand what that means) and watched a couple of New Zealand Oyster Catcher seabirds stand on one leg with their long bright red bills tucked into their feathers as they slept - an impressive piece of acrobatics.

Friday, November 30, 2018


Staying at Akaroa on Banks Peninsula for a few days last week provided us with a base for daily trips to the many bays that indent Banks Peninsula. We visited for the first time Le Bons Bay which is now one of my favourite places. It is beautiful and remote. A small settlement of houses are snugly contained close to a beach guarded by twin headlands that frame the Pacific Ocean to the east.

A small river to the south of the beach opens to the sea.

Quiet and tranquil on our visit, it would be interesting to see this beach when a winter storm comes rolling off the Pacific Ocean from the east.

Sand dunes and native grasses provide a buffer between the beach and the houses and farmland that lies to the west.

 A stand of pines trees (which are not native to New Zealand) guard the southern end of the beach.

 The small river that is open to the sea is flooded by salt water at high tide forming an inland estuary.

The housing is a mixture of smart looking new builds and older housing.

The ubiquitous southern penchant for planting thick shelter belts of Macrocarpa trees indicates something about the peninsulas weather.

The attraction of these bays that girdle Banks peninsula is their beautiful rugged individual character which is preserved to a large extent by their relative remoteness from the big city of Christchurch which lies about 65 miles (100km) to the northwest.

This is a place to enjoy the easy solitude. We'll be back.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

_________________________ AUNTY MOIRA ___________________________

Last week we flew to Christchurch to celebrate the one hundredth birthday of my Aunty Moira, my late mothers sister. There were cards and messages from HRH  Queen Elizabeth, Patsy Reddy the Governor General of New Zealand, the local member of parliament and family and friends. It was a very happy occasion and a great time to catch up with the Christchurch branch of the family.

Aunty Moira had always been 'as sharp as a tack' and it was great to see that attaining the age of 100 years had not changed this one iota. She immediately recognised me, called me by name and said how lovely it was to see Christine and I as we chatted away. It was certainly lovely to see her again and to see her surrounded by the love and good will of her immediate and extended family.

To live to 100 involves enduring the vicissitudes of existence in terms of mental and physical health, accidents and disease. In Aunty Moiras case the odds were compounded by the fact that she was a regular cigarette smoker well into her 70s!

Aunty Moira you defied the odds and lived a rich and fulfilling life through the years 1918 - 2018 and were witness to one of the most tumultuous centuries in human history - Happy Birthday.

Monday, November 26, 2018

___________________________ MEANING ______________________________

This is an old post that I have posted again. When I originally posted it I don't think I fully understood just what Lewis was getting at, but now I think I do. Consciousness is complex, multilayered and the exact substance and structure may well be something other than what we think it is, or what and who we exactly are. Opposites are part of the deciphering.

"If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning." - C.S.Lewis

Sunday, November 25, 2018

________________________ LONE GULL 2 __________________________

A Gull has a number of appealing attributes. It can fly, it can float and paddle itself around on the water and it can walk fast and upright on the land. 

This classic Maurice Griffiths design yacht 'Lone Gull 2' which he had built for himself in the 1960s can't fly (although she can "fly" downwind in a sedate and steady manner when sailing), she can certainly float and sail herself around on the water and although she can't walk on the land she can sit upright on the sand or mud when the tide goes out. So she has I suppose what could be called Gull like tendencies. Griffiths named her 'Lone Gull 2' because she is a development of the first gaff rigged centreboard keeled 'Lone Gull' which was of similar size, although her displacement was much heavier,

'Lone Gull 2' has a number of interesting attributes (including the above mentioned) that set her apart from many of the 'run of the mill' type yachts that abound. These attributes appeal to me greatly.

- She is of raised deck construction which vastly increases her internal volume both in visual and actual terms.

- She has twin bilge keels (as well as a central lead ballasted keel) which allows her to sit upright when aground. These bilge keels combined with her deep forefoot and long keel allow her to steer herself for long periods of time.

- Her hull form which has deliberately flattened bilges means she is very steady downwind without any rolling action at all. Griffiths wife who was very susceptible to sea sickness was never ill on this boat. She is not a racing machine and makes no concessions on that score, but her hull form allows for a steady six knots or more in whatever direction you point her.

- Her mast is designed to be used in a tabernacle which would make any maintenance easier.

- She solves the perennial problem of what to do with dinghy. She carries her rigid dinghy 'Baltic Style' over the stern is a pair of sturdy davits. At 28 feet long Lone Gull 2 is the smallest size of boat that is capable of carrying a dinghy in this manner without the whole outfit looking silly and out of balance. She is able to do this by having a nice broad stern; a seven foot dinghy on this boat doesn't look at all out of place.

Over the years I have collected a few sets of complete building plans. Many of them I have inherited from my father. The building plans for 'Lone Gull 2' are perhaps one of two sets that are my most prized of all. 

With her easy docile manner, ample accommodation, ability to sit upright on the mud and the dinghy problem solved in such an inspired manner, I would call this boat a great retirement option for old sea dogs.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

_________________ CROSSING OVER TO THE DARK SIDE ________________

I have never really had much time for the International Laser. I have referred to them as floating fridge doors and been scornful of their lack of freeboard, the oddity of their sleeve mains'l that fits over the mast and their ubiquitous looks that seem to lack any individuality. I have been confirmed in my opinion by skippers who tell me they are difficult to sail and because of their low freeboard they have to sit in a slightly awkward manner with their knees up higher than in most other boats. Generally I have always been dismissive of the Laser.

Today I went out and bought myself a Laser.

 My reasons for purchasing a Laser are:

- My Zephyr (In the foreground in the above photos) has developed a crack in the planking and the keel and is leaking badly. I have always intended to do a complete restoration of this old girl and now it is imperative that I do so.

- While I am completing this restoration I need a boat to race in the same way I need oxygen.

- There are two fleets racing at the OYC on a Tuesday night or on weekends. I have been racing the Zephyr in the slow fleet, which has now diminished in number to about four boats.

- The fast fleet is mainly comprised of Lasers, either the Radial or Full Rig. To take part in the racing in this highly competitive fleet I need to be sailing a Laser, simple as that.

So it's a pragmatic decision. To get the 'one to one', one design competition with the local fleet I need to be sailing a Laser, end of story. I will be able to indulge in 'one to one' competition again in the Zephyr at the Nationals next year in Tauranga if I get the restoration completed in time.

Weekly competitive yacht racing is my gym workout for the week, I love it and look forward to it with a relish. Hopefully with time I will come to regard my new boat with a bit of affection although admiring a floating fridge door is going to take a bit of a turn around - but, well, hmmm, when I got the boat home and stood looking at the velocity of her sleek lines and her hungry breaking bad 'go get'em' attitude,  I am feeling a softening in these old nautical bones and I am looking forward to embracing a bit of the dark side.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

__________________ NOT SO NEIGHBOURLY TREES ____________________

To climb the fence I used a ladder. To cut some of the trees I had to sit or stand on top of the fence. I fell off the ladder a couple of times, but luckily I didn't fall off the top of the fence.

As is the case in many other towns and cities around the world, here in Whangarei there are no bylaws restricting the height of trees or hedges. Issues with Monkey Apple trees on our back boundary have been an on going issue for decades. A previous owner of the Monkey Apple house grew hedges on two sides of the property to a height of of over 60 feet. Any pleas by neighbours to trim this forest was meet with volcanic eruptions of that universal human condition IDGA - FAAEM (I don't give a fuck about anyone except myself).

The current owners of the property are far more reasonable. Discussions resulted in their agreement to allowing the trimming of the face of the wildly prolific growth that overhangs our side of the fence (something that we can actually currently do by law) and the topping of the trees next Autumn. Of course all of this would have to be at our expense.

 Looking along the fence line to the end you can see how far the growth had overhung into our property.

Expense is an interesting topic. We got two quotes. The first was from a bloke who said it would take him 3 days by himself to complete the job. His price was $800. He looked a bit diffident as he gazed at the height of the trees.

The second quote was from another strappingly fit young man who said, "Jeez, sweet as mate, cut it out in a day and we'll wood chip everything on site. He was working for a larger gardening organisation. Their quote was $1800. Before he left this honest trader told us quietly that he and his mate could come on the weekend, use the bosses wood chipper and do the job for $1000. We'll think about, we said.

I thought about all this for a week or more. I thought about a number of jobs done around the house, and completed (if that's the correct word), by so called tradesmen and handymen, and how when I looked at the quality of the work they had completed (there's that word again) I wished to fuck I'd done the job myself. So I decided that I would do the work myself.

 The hedge trimming has lightened the backyard up considerably. New growth will green up the exposed trunks.

I found doing this work at the age of 67 pretty exhausting. I used one of my sturdy wooden saw horses, an aluminum ladder and a strong cross cut hedge cutting hand saw. It took me about half a day to cut the trees back away from the fence. I fell off the ladder twice. I got lots of scratches and cuts until I changed from a T shirt to a stout denim shirt on the second day and drank copious quantities of liquids. At the end of the first day I had a huge pile of branches lying on the back lawn.

On the second day I hired a trailer with a cage on the back and worked for a full day loading the trailer with huge loads for my two trips to the dump where the trailer was weighed and payment made accordingly. Wife Christine worked like a trooper helping with one of the loads when she had returned from her work and when we had finished we both needed Nana and Poppa naps in the late afternoon.

1st TRIP  TO DUMP -  $41.40
2nd TRIP TO DUMP - $32.40

TOTAL COST          -  $129.00

I am not stating that had we got this job done commercially we would have been ripped off in any way - businesses have to pay wages and make a profit. My only problem with commercial firms is that they charge a lot of money, the quotes can vary widely and the workmanship often leaves a lot to be desired.

My main point is that you can save a lot of money by simply doing things yourself.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

____________________ FROM PIGLET TO SEABIRD ____________________

This is the highly popular and successful 'Scamp' designed by New Zealander John Welsford. I have always loved this little boat except for one aspect - its rather porcine looks. The photo above is a rather flattering photograph of this little boat. From this angle she looks ok, in a pram dinghyish kind of way. But alas from other angles she looks, well, not to put too much of a snout on it - rather pig like.

Now don't get me wrong. I like pigs, they are good honest, intelligent animals and in saying so I feel it is a bit churlish to add that I like bacon and eggs with a couple of pieces of toast and a very hot cup of tea for breakfast from time to time - but good looking? pigs are not, really; unless of course you are an pig, with a pigs world view.

My brother agrees. Last week he sent away for a set of plans. If he builds a 'Scamp' he intends to call her 'Miss Piggy'. Fair enough I say, a more honestly descriptive name would be hard to imagine and far more honest than say 'Beautiful Swan', Cleopatra, or such like fantasies ..... and so as I contemplated my brothers possible build (Would I perhaps combine forces with him in this venture and build two together?) ............

............... and whilst flicking through on-line photos of various incarnations of 'Scamp' I came across these images below and in a split second the aesthetic ground fell away, Neptune's trumpet sounded across the boundless main and with a wind of certainty blowing a force 8 gale I watched a pig jump off a cliff top, sprout wings and fly with a plenitude of satisfaction into the maritime air scribing a great arc of seabird symmetry.
This is what I would call an 'Aesthetic fix' for 'Scamps' truncated appearance. It comes via the boat designing and building company Chesapeake Light Craft. It is a fix that can be purchased from the said company and affixed to the bow of any current 'Scamp' and in my opinion hugely improves the boats appearance. She transforms from Piglet to Seabird before you can say "Where did that awful flat bit go to". The more I look at the "After" version the more the "Before" version looks like a bit of vandalism to an excellent design.

Now a new build doesn't require an 'after market' fix. The new bow can easily be incorporated into a new build. If you are capable of building a 'Scamp' then you are capable of extending the bow a foot or so - such cosmetic surgery would not be rocket science.

I am aware that current 'Scamp' builders and owners may be inclined to throw smelly old sacks of rotten fish into my boats cockpit and shout "Judas Iscariot" across my bows but all I can say is that beauty is sometimes not in the eye of the beholder, nay it is an ever fixed mark in the aesthetic bones of the nautical cosmos and this "After" version of 'Scamp' is a fine example of said philosophy.

I would very much like to build myself one of these little beauties ..... and while I am doing so it would be an act of artistic conservation if current 'Scamp' owners purchased an 'after market' fix and made their boats presentable (no offense intended : > ) .......  even Cinderella got dressed up (glass slippers even) to go to the ball - and what a ball sailing 'Scamp' must be!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

______________________ AUXILIARY PROPULSION _____________________

With a sailing dinghy of 'Scouts' size, stowing the oars is a problem. Having them tied to the top of the seats is a clumsy and uncomfortable way to stow them when sailing. Sitting on top of, or clambering over the tops of the oars every time the boat tacks is asking for trouble.

The best place to stow them is under the seats. This is easy enough to do if your dinghy has removable stern and bow seats. 'Scout' doesn't have these, rather she has buoyancy chambers fore and aft. This makes her safe in a capsize but creates a problem for oar stowage. The problem is that the correct length of oars for 'Scouts' length and beam are simply impossible to slide under the middle seat.

The only solution to the problem is to use shorter oars. This is a compromise because with shorter oars the dinghy doesn't row as well. But considering that 'Scouts' main propulsion is under sail I am happy to make the compromise. I took a pair of five foot six inch long oars and cut off slightly less than two inches off their lengths (from the hand grip end) to obtain a snug fit inside under the seats.

The oars are held under the seats and against the hull using short pieces of cord and jamb cleats. They are firmly in place and won't move or rattle around when sailing.

The oars are slid in and out of place place through the stern area, looped through their respective  restraining ropes and cleated off.

With the oars in place it leaves the cockpit area clear. I am well pleased with the solution. I am also pleased with the way these old oars have scrubbed up with a lick of new paint and new sleeves and rowlocks. I shall try the new oars out on the next sailing trip with 'Scout'. Some time under way rowing will soon tell me whether I have cut the oars too short!

Friday, October 5, 2018

______________________________ TO SAIL _____________________________

For myself, to sail alone is to go on a spiritual retreat. Silence, reflection and the old familiar routines of a sailor are mixed with the healing power of being close to nature. The wind on sails, a shining sea and the honest boat dance together. They weave their own particular soft sound, a music that you would never mistake for noise. Sailing is like the answer to a question. What was hidden comes into the light; a frown becomes a smile; what is at the center of my being becomes known again; what was lost is found again.

" To sail alone has always had a great appeal to me. Lurking in the dark corridors of my mind has been the idea that out alone on the wide wastes of the sea, it might be possible to lift a corner of the veil that keeps life a mystery to most of us" - Charles Violet

"And Sail, sound and ageless, will float back on the first tide that brings simplicity into confusion, calm into chaos" - Richard Maury

"If anyone was to ask me and I was unguarded enough to reply, I would call it the pursuit of beauty, or truth, and if I were honest I would admit it was largely curiosity, the why and the what and the how at first hand" - Ann Davison

"My dream was coming more and more true. It came to me with suddenness one evening at the wheel, as we slipped silently through the waters of the Koro Sea, bound for Suva. A thin curl of smoke drifted away from our stack into the night, and an appetizing aroma of browning fish came to me as Etera prepared our evening meal. Overhead, the white sails stretched their arms to catch the night wind. They were my sails - my wings - and they had brought me to the sea of my boyhood dreams. I had always planned this, it seemed, but it had been almost too much to hope for. So now my heart was full" - William Albert Robinson

Thursday, October 4, 2018

_____________________THE MOUSE AND HIS CHILD ____________________

This is the 50th anniversary publication of a book that until last week I had never read. This is surprising because it is from a genre which I enjoy immensely and which I think has much to recommend. 

The genre of books where this story fits is the one where animals and/or toys are used as proxies for human beings and this canvas is used to portray the complexities of the human condition in allegorical form, full of symbols and metaphors. Books such as Animal Farm, Watership Down, The Narnia Chronicles, The Velveteen Rabbit, the Pooh Bear stories and The Wind in the Willows come to mind. It is an allegory of the human journey which I guess for us all is in the broadest sense a spiritual journey. I found ‘The Mouse and his Child’ a particularly riveting, highly unusual and inventive example of this type of journey and story telling.

Elements of faith, journey, hope, despair, loss, death, evil, betrayal, love, forgiveness, compassion, transformation, back sliding, redemption, war, territory, family, home and much more are woven into the tale.

I feel this creative form (Story) is perhaps one of the best ways in which to express the interweaving of these complex ideas. It’s a book I highly recommend and is well worth the effortless read - I found it a real page turner.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

_________________________ SPRING SAILING _________________________

Today 'Scout' and I went sailing again. It was a blustery Spring day with a few rain squalls providing some icy interest. After a bit of discussion with 'Scout' we decided to do a circumnavigation of Limestone Island. A good challenge with the tide roaring out and the first part of the journey a dead beat to windward.

Included with the 'fix' on the jambing dagger board (see previous post) is a broad cap on the top of the board complete with a foam pad which stops water from sloshing up the centre case and flooding the boat.

When 'Scout' becomes hard pressed in blustery weather the mast bends in an alarming manner. If I do manage to dismast myself I can row home as I always ship a pair of oars which stow under the side seats.

I have included this photo which beautifully shows the curvature of the earth on the horizon. If anyone wants to present this photo at a meeting of the Flat Earth Society as empirical evidence countering their claims - be my guest.

In the distance is the beach on the little island where I have from time to time tended some Pohutakawa seedlings planted a couple of years ago by my conservationist friend Gerry. I sailed close enough to see a couple of trees poking their heads up above the sedge grasses. I must make a special trip there soon to count how many trees have survived and do a bit of weeding.

After our circumnavigation we sailed up river to look at the cutter 'Tangaroa 2'. I remember her being moored in the Port of Lyttleton at Christchurch in the South Island when I was growing up and was delighted to find she had recently been sold to Whangarei. She was built in 1951 which makes her exactly the same age as I am. I wonder if her Kauri planking creaks and groans as much as my mine does.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

____________________ THE LAUNCHING OF 'SCOUT' ____________________

After a concentrated period of work involving spar making and the fitting of numerous bits of crucial hardware I was able to grab a good weather window between periods of roaring gales and rivers of rain to launch 'Scout' and try out the lugs'l rig for the first time. It was a pleasant and enjoyable occasion.

'Scouts' sail has been made from an old mains'l that was given to me by my father many, many years ago. A qualified upholsterer he was more at home in a sail loft than an upholstery shop. He worked for Lloyds Sails and Saddlery here in Whangarei and rescued an old tan bark coloured mains'l from the rubbish bin. Cut down from its original shape it has made a great little sail for 'Scout'.

There were only a couple of teething problem; the dagger board jambed part way down - I am working on the fix for that at the moment and the main sheet jamb cleats are too small - which I will replace with a couple of big old cam cleats I purchased years ago.

I was pleased with the sailing performance. She sails well both on and off the wind and the sail area is just right for the type of sailing that is intended for 'Scout'. I was able to sit down low and comfortable on the floorboard slats and when the wind picked up I was just as comfortable on the side seats. This is the kind of sailing I am looking for in this type of boat - sitting comfortably inboard and below deck level without the need to hike out to keep the boat on an even keel, but with enough sail area so that performance is not compromised too much. A great little boat for exploring bays, inlets, rivers and islands.

With her simple un-stayed mast she is quick and easy to rig and un-rig, making the whole experience hassle free.

As I type this it is raining hard and blowing half a gale. As soon as there is a break in the weather (which includes a good sailing breeze) I will be off scouting around in my diminutive little cruising boat.

Friday, July 6, 2018

- John Fitzsimmons

Old boat I have used you
grown dry and checked,
heavy on your timber cradle,
tired of all the bullshit
and messing.
Ripping the glass cloth
they laid on your keel
I felt the power
of a labored birth;
the stagnant smell of years
of damp-rot
and patchwork.
Neither am I proud
of your plywood deck, knowing
too well I wasn’t built
for ease of maintenance.
We repair each other
to our barest hulls,
and strengthened
work from there.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

I enjoy modern technology but it can be an easy and addictive way to use quite a lot of precious time. So I am taking a Blog break to catch up on a lot of boat building / maintenance, to go sailing and to involve myself in some other important retirement activities. I will perhaps get back to Blogging (Which I enjoy and think is a worthwhile activity) again some time in the future.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

_____________________ The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn _________________

I wish to spend as much time as possible at or on the sea, sailing, living quietly, independently, and according to a value system in which not economics but Simplicity, Openness, Curiosity, Reflection and Time are important. To honour this while being committed to and surrounded by the ones I love is my calling.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

_________________ ............. THEN THERE'S PLAN B ______________________

When it was all done and dusted (see last post) the 'fix' only half worked. The saw cut/glue line Plan A did take some of the bend out of the dagger board but not nearly enough. So I hauled out Plan B. This plan (see photograph above) is pretty self explanatory. The insert (right) is a piece of Iroko timber which is very strong and upon which I staked my implacable non bending hopes.

I screwed blocks along one side of the Iroko insert and then taped the job up. I then screwed the dagger board down onto the blocks which removed any bend in the board.

This approach has removed more of the bend in the board, but by no means all of it. So I have had to let go of the idea of this board being a complete spare for the Zephyrs main dagger board.

I have now shortened the board considerably, rounding the forward leading edge and the bottom of the board. This has removed most of the twist and bend. The board can now be used as a very heavy weather board for the Zephyr or perhaps a main board for 'Scout' my clinker sailing dinghy.

The photo (above) shows the comparison in size between the two dagger boards. On the left of the photo is a cedar 'blank', in four laminations, that I have glued up which shows the correct way to make a dagger / center board. I have alternated ( 'end to ended') each lamination so that the grain of each piece can counter any tendency of its neighbour to bend or warp.

Given time shipmates I will complete that blank and have a dagger board whose straight as a die sight line will compare on equal terms with any world champion plump line and its plumb bob you might want to choose.