Monday, August 25, 2014

Barking Mad Retired People Know Exactly What To Do When They See The Moon

Some one once said, "Be careful what you wish for young man for surely it will come true." It is a statement that contains truth with a warning. The truth is that if we dream big enough, work hard enough and want something with a passion, the likelihood of it coming true are pretty good. The warning is that it is very advisable that we be very sure of what we want because the difference between the dream and the reality can often be rather sobering...........

....... BUT, I digress ...... I have always dreamed of being both an Old Sea Dog and a Pirate and as you can tell from this recent self portrait I have been granted my wish ..... and may I say that to date the reality is much better than the dream. Woof.

Monday, August 18, 2014


GOOD WILL HUNTING is a heart warming movie I have been meaning to watch for years. It was played last night on a TVNZ channel as part of a Tribute Series to that amazing man Robin Williams. Prior to watching this movie last night the only thing I  knew about the film was that Robin Williams had won an Academy Award for best supporting actor. What I didn't know was that the story and film script were written by Matt Damon and Ben Afflect, actors in this movie who won Academy Awards for their writing. I felt all the acting in this movie was absolutely wonderful.

"Good Will Hunting is a 1997 American drama film directed by Gus Van Sant  and starring Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver, and Stellan Skarsgard. Written by Affleck and Damon, and with Damon in the title role, the film follows 20-year-old South Boston laborer Will Hunting, an unrecognized genius who, as part of a deferred prosecution agreement after assaulting a police officer, becomes a patient of a therapist (Williams) and studies advanced mathematics with a renowned professor (SkarsgĂ„rd). Through his therapy sessions, Will re-evaluates his relationships with his best friend (Affleck), his girlfriend (Driver), and himself, facing the significant task of thinking about his future.
Good Will Hunting received almost universal critical acclaim and was a financial success. It grossed over US$225 million during its theatrical run with only a modest $10 million budget. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, and won two: Best Supporting Actor for Williams and Best Original Screenplay for Affleck and Damon."

There are a lot of dramatic scenes and dialogue - This is one memorable exchange where Sean exposes his own vulnerabilities:

Sean:  (Played by Robin Williams) - Thought about what you said to me the other day, about my painting. Stayed up half the night thinking about it. Something occurred to me... fell into a deep peaceful sleep, and haven't thought about you since. Do you know what occurred to me?
Will: (Played by Matt Damon) - No.
Sean: You're just a kid, you don't have the faintest idea what you're talkin' about.
Will: Why thank you.
Sean: It's all right. You've never been out of Boston.
Will: Nope.
Sean: So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you'd probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can't tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You're a tough kid. And I'd ask you about war, you'd probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, "once more unto the breach dear friends." But you've never been near one. You've never held your best friend's head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I'd ask you about love, you'd probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn't know what it's like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn't know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms "visiting hours" don't apply to you. You don't know about real loss, 'cause it only occurs when you've loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you... I don't see an intelligent, confident man... I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you're a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart. You're an orphan right?
[Will nods]
Sean: You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally... I don't give a shit about all that, because you know what, I can't learn anything from you, I can't read in some fuckin' book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I'm fascinated. I'm in. But you don't want to do that do you sport? You're terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.

I felt three reactions to this film. First, I feel the big statement in the storyline centers around the genius of Will Hunting the haunted orphan and under achieving genius. This is contrasted and complemented with an understated fact in the storyline which is - The genius of Sean the therapist - This contrast is in my mind one of the strengths of the story line - both ideas form  part of the whole.

My second reaction is that I feel the idea of patient, and therapist as unintended patient, is investigated well. The relationship between Sean and Will is initially patient / therapist but spills over into something bigger when both men reveal their individual vulnerabilities. This exchange leads to new directions and healing for them both. Their relationship stands as a metaphor for the healing power of in depth honesty, friendship, trust, compassion, vulnerability, dialogue and the courage to work through pain, suffering, growth and change.

My third reaction is that I feel this story exhibits the mystery of creativity and how this creativity produces outcomes that may not have been thought of at the beginning of an undertaking. The crucible of the relational creativity in this instance bought about transformation for both participants.

Great Stuff!!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Voor Ben Mijn Nederlanse Vriend (6) - Postscript

The romance of oranges! - For those who have read the book, oranges are a fitting symbol and tribute to Johnny Wray and his Ngataki.

What is interesting about restorations, especially one as extensive as this is that in the process a certain amount of the patina of normal use and looks is removed. I think this is inevitable in some ways but it can if one is not careful  restore a boat to a level of perfection that was never there in the first place. In the case of the Ngataki it is difficult to decide where to draw the line because she has had a number of lives in the hands of a number of skippers - And the magnificent circumnavigation of her third owner Debbie Lewis deserves recognition and acknowledgement - But I do understand that this restoration is celebrating the re issue of Johnny Wrays book and Ngatakis first original life. That being the case I think it would be reasonable to restore her to her complete original authenticity and replace her current Bermudian rig with Ngatakis original Gaff Cutter rig.

These are photographs I have found on the internet and appear to show the Ngataki just before her restoration by the Tino Rewa Trust (Click the link on this Posts Title).
One of the first things that caught my eye in this photograph is that  Ngataki does not have her original bulwarks. These may have been removed for a number of reasons - If the timbers that the bulwarks are attached to are frames that come up through the deck, these areas can be the source of deck leaks and the start of rot - Or they have been removed because bulwarks can hold for too long (until drained away through the scuppers)  large amounts of the constant blue water that may come aboard during storms, this weight of water compromising stability - And, these bulwarks themselves are vulnerable to damage during very heavy weather. I note that these original bulwarks have since been fully restored during the restoration and in my opinion the good looks of the Ngataki restored in the process.
..... And so shipmates, this postscript does finally complete this series of postings and fitting indeed to finish with a basket of 'Sunday Island' oranges in a basket on the main cabin hatch.

Oranges, islands, warm trade winds, camaraderie, storms, stars, dusky maidens, carefree days - "Follow your bliss young man, follow your bliss"

Voor Ben Mijn Nederlandse Vriend (5)

Ben. Johnny Wray made several trips into the big blue Pacific Ocean. On one of his trips he met a woman called Loti in French Polynesia, brought her back to New Zealand, married, and basically lived a very happy life, although he did take a break from the sea and served with the RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force) as a navigator during the Second World War (until the airforce discovered he was colour blind).
Upon his return he built a second boat, a 43ft motor-sailer called the Waihape, settled on Waiheke Island and in 1986 died aboard his yacht. In his last years, after Loti died, Johnny became reclusive, apparently suffering from serious melanoma. He left his estate, and the royalties from his book, to the Red Cross.
Johnny Wray and his Polynesian wife Loti.
Loti and the ships dinghy full of sea shells, cockles?  (No doubt food for the crew)
Loti and Johnny during the war years - Johnny in his RNZAF uniform. Colour blind or not Johnny certainly proved his navigational ability on guiding the Ngataki all over the Pacific Ocean.
The old traditional way of designing and building a boat. This is a half model of Johnnys new motor sailer ketch 'Waihape'. When you are happy with how the model looks you cut it into a series of cross sections, take measurements, scale up the measurements and start building.
Another view of the half model of 'Waihape'. Her shallow draft would be good for poking into shallow water but would not provide enough lateral plane for her to sail well to windward, but her main motive power was her engine. The ketch rig would provide good balancing sails to stop her rolling in a seaway and provide emergency sailing power if the engine ever broke down - and no doubt when running before the wind she would have sailed reasonably well thus saving petrol and giving ones ears a rest from the sound of the motor.
This is the half model from which the Ngataki was built. The story of this model is related in Johnny Wrays book. There were a few kegs of beer consumed while whittling away at the model and discussing the merits of its evolving shape with his shipmates.                                                               
Half model of 'Waihape' on the left - 'Ngataki' on the right.
'Waihape' exiting her building shed.
All hands to help her float on the incoming tide.
Johnny Wray - The happy owner - Sailor and adventurer extraordinaire.

........ And so shipmates this concludes this series on the life and times of Johnny Wray, I hope you have enjoyed this little sojourn with me.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Voor Ben Mijn Nederlandse Vriend (4)

Ben. When I was looking around at all the Ngataki memorabilia that was being displayed in various glass cases within the display tent I heard someone beside me say, "Hi Alden! what are you doing here? why aren't you at work?" - It was the voice of Ann Marie a teacher from Whangarei who had often done teacher relieving in my classroom when I was teaching at my previous school, Parua Bay School. We got talking and it transpires that her parents were the second owners of the Ngataki and Ann Marie was practically born on board. She remembers the time they lived on board the Ngataki with great fondness. One of the glass display cases was devoted to memorabilia donated by her family. Here is a photograph below of Ann Maries parents in a newspaper clipping of that period.
I also found out that under the command of another owner Ngataki had completed a circumnavigation of the world, which is a real testament not only to her skipper at that time but also to the strength and durability of this old boat built back in the 1930s.

Skipper and Navigator Debbie Lewis (above) bought the Ngataki and headed off in 1988 with her partner and son Jason aged 8 years old. In South Africa she bought out her partner and completed the rest of the circumnavigation alone with her young son - a very brave and competent sailor I say.
It is Debbie Lewis who has donated the Ngataki to the Rewa Trust who has completed the restoration - what an amazingly generous and far sighted gift to New Zealand nautical history! Good on yah Debbie.
Ngataki leaving for the Pacific Islands from a wharf at the bottom of Queens Street Auckland not far from where she is currently moored.
No fancy Bimini sunshades in those days, just a trusty old umbrella.
The original barometer off the Ngataki - I guess there would have been a lot of anxious looks at this trusty old barometer on their voyages.
Various photographs - I remember these old black paper photo albums - every home had one.
Ships cat - a tabby cat just like our cat here at Kohe Street - the best sort in my opinion, a tabby - the closest thing I will ever have to owning a Bengal Tiger.
Ships cat showing off at the end of the Ngatakis bowsprit.
 Johnny Wray with his mum - I bet he caused her a few worries over the years.
 Island life - when in Rome do as the Romans do - as the saying goes.
 Teaching the ships cat to steer the boat - cat not all that interested.
Blowing the conch shell - it makes a long low sound if you are able to grasp the technique of blowing it....... and that shipmates is the end of this edition - I still have photos of Johnny and his Polynesian wife and the second boat that he built - a motor launch - which I will blog about next time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Voor Ben Mijn Nederlandse Vriend (3) - Voyage Into the South Pacific (1970)

Ben, (As an aside to my postings about the Ngataki but in reference to Oranges : > ) ----- In 1970 I made a voyage into the Pacific from Whangarei on the 36 foot Bermudian sloop 'Nessie 2'. I was 19 years old. At that time I was living in my home town of Christchurch in the South Island. In my own way I like to think of this introduction to Whangarei and the beautiful Northland coast where I have now lived for the last 40 years as the future casting its shadow backwards, as a portent of things unseen, a time and destiny yet to come. In the above photograph you can see Bream Head on the right hand side as we roar out into the Pacific in a brisk south west wind. We were headed for Tahiti but were caught in a gale which damaged some of the boats rigging. Instead we headed north towards Fiji visiting the Kermadec Islands of which Raoul or 'Sunday Island' as it is named in Johnny Wrays book is the largest and the only one where a landing from the sea is possible. All of these photographs have been taken off old photographic slides I took - looking at the processed photographs I can see that I should have wiped the dust off them before I took them for processing at the camera shop!!!
Nessie 2 on the grid at Smiths Boatyard in Whangarei before we left. The boatyard was owned and run by my Uncle Claude and his sons. Note on the stern the self steering wind vane. The rudder of this wind vane was also damaged so we had to steer the boat by hand (four hour watches, I remember them well!!).
L'Esperance Rock is the southernmost of the Kermadec chain of islands which include  Macauley, Curtis and Raoul (Sunday) Island. Raoul Island at the time we visited had personnel who manned the meteorological weather station. Raul Island is an active volcano and a few years earlier the island was evacuated because of an eruption. 
This is the first anchorage on Raoul Island. When I took this photograph we had moved around to the southern anchorage and come ashore again. We (Three adults) rowed ashore through this surf in an 8 foot dinghy (madness really) - if the surf had got up when we were ashore we wouldn't have been able to get back on board the boat.
Here is Nessie 2 anchored in the deep water anchorage on the southern side. This anchorage was sheltered in North winds - but if it had come to blow hard from the south we would have had to got on board quickly and cleared out.
The landing area was slightly dodgy. We had to wait for a good surge in the sea swell then leap ashore out of the dinghy. The man with the box (must have been beer!) is Coln Wright the owner skipper of the Nessie 2. The others are from the meteorological station. The man on the left, slightly older than me I remembered from Aranui High School - both of us off on youthful adventures.
A flying fox that was used by those on the island to get stores up from sea level. We had to clamber up a steep rocky track. Nessie 2 tugs quietly at her anchor.
The old red Bedford truck at the top of the track. The man on the right is my Uncle Claude, the other member of the Nessie crew.
The meteorological station house was on the northeast side of the island. The island was run as a small farm with vegetable gardens, cows, chickens and orchards making the island fairly self sufficient.
Mail and newspapers were dropped from time to time by a New Zealand Air Force Orion aircraft. I took this photo of a drop before we moved to the southern anchorage. Later when ashore we witnessed another drop (very exciting as the Orion flew very, very low) I was surprised to see that they dropped the mail in a long plastic canister without a parachute. There was great black humour for the drop we witnessed because amongst the mail and newspapers were some packets of condoms - the joke being there were no women on the island - the mind boggles.
The sign says "Radio ZME The Voice of the Kermadecs" which is reference to the Raoul Island contact SSB Radio rather than a radio station that plays music. The Nessie crew left to right - Claude Smith (my uncle), Colin Wright and myself.
The Raoul Island crew with Claude on the left, Colin on the right. They were a great bunch of guys, very friendly and hospitable. They were getting to the end of their year long stint and were waiting to be relieved by the next crew who would be bought to the island by a New Zealand Navy Frigate.
Raoul Island humour complete with its own parking meter - The sign says " Welcome To Raoul Is - The Village of SNAFU - Go Slow This Is A One Hearse Town." SNAFU is an old World War 2 acronym the troops used which translated means 'Situation Normal All Fucked Up' - a relevant metaphor for life then, as it is now from time to time on this mad planet we live on.
Moi mongst the Raoul Island orange grove. It is from this very orchard that Johnny Wray and his crew gathered their oranges. I had this photograph taken for my father who had 3 copies of Johnny Wrays 'South Sea Vagabonds' and often talked about Raoul Island and its oranges - so this one on my Blog is for you Dad : > )
As we left Raoul Island we sailed back past our old anchorage and the beach where we first landed. On the right of the photo are a couple of guys writing a farewell message on the beach. Unfortunately even when I climbed the rigging to get a better view I couldn't make out the message - probably 'Bon Voyage' or something similar.
Raoul Island disappears on the horizon. The red and white object lashed onto the stern railing is the wind vane rudder that broke in the storm. Claude later fixed this in Fiji and we used it on the way to the New Hebrides (As Vanuatu is now called), but it broke again in rough conditions when returning to New Zealand from New Caledonia - which meant we had to stand watches and steer the boat again - something I didn't really mind because I enjoyed wonderful seascapes and sea life during the day and stars and often phosphorescence at night (The phosphorescence from the tracks of dolphins at night diving around and under the yacht like rockets was something to behold).

Shipmates, here I am on board the Nessie 2 in Suva, Fiji. The words on my shirt read "Prospector". This shirt belonged to my dad and it was on the Yacht "Prospector" that he sailed in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. "Prospector" was built by my cousin (Crew mate Uncle Claudes son Alan) and bought by dads friend Ron Lloyd after I showed him a photograph of "Prospector" (which was for sale at the time) when I returned from my very first visit to Whangarei in 1965. So when you include my Grandfather Bertrand Sutton who built a Tahiti Ketch in Christchurch you can see that so far as sailing is concerned there have been huge influences - some would say I didn't stand a chance, LOL, but frankly I don't feel I would want it any other way.

... And Shipmates, on this voyage in 1970 we were thwarted from our goal of reaching Tahiti by damage received in a rather strong gale - Unfinished business I say Shipmates, unfinished business.