Sunday, November 30, 2014


Its always been simply sailing
But never PLAIN sailing

Whether that's the best way for it to be
Or that's the way it has to be

That's the way it is.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

In The Olden Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 28, 2014

Landfill Harmonic
Coaxing music from trash, the children of the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura refuse to be defined by poverty

The online magazine 'aeon' was recommended to me by a good friend. You can subscribe for free and get daily and/or weekly updates emailed to you. It has topical and very interesting articles and videos under the headings - Philosophy - Science - Psychology - Health - Society - Technology - Culture.

The video that is attached to the above photograph can be seen under the heading - Society - and tells a heart warming story about children making excellent sounding classical instruments from rubbish that they find at the local dump.

I highly recommend this website.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Malama Honua - Voyaging Catamarans And Some Advice On Seaworthiness

Being interested in the sea and sailing is a good reason for living in Whangarei - there is always a changing parade of interesting craft visiting the local harbour. These two visiting Polynesian catamarans are on a five year voyage around the world. The voyage is promoted by the 'Polynesian Voyaging Society' and sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines (more information at HOKULEA.COM).
Both the catamarans the 'Hikianalia' and the Hokule'a are a mixture of traditional design and modern materials and technology.
The Hokule'a has the more traditional looking hull and is carrying the more traditional sailing rig.
Both these catamarans make an exotic and interesting sight amongst the more contemporary designs within the inner harbour.
A calm and sunny day in Whangarei as the catamarans lie peacefully to a floating pontoon.
This display was set up in the band rotunda on the wharf. It shows a compass rose with the different points of the compass named with Hawaiian words on the coloured pieces of cardboard.
One concern I have with these sorts of enterprises is that I think the level of risk is far greater with these kinds of yachts than with other types. I wouldn't like to be aboard either of these catamarans during one of the ferocious storms that can form in the Tasman Sea. 

There are many very unsafe traditional craft still sailing. Unfortunately many of them are used as sail training ships. The problem with them is that they don't have ultimate stability. If they get laid down onto their beams end they capsize and sink which is unlike the more traditional yacht designs that have heavy lead keels that can pop them upright again if they are unfortunate enough to get bowled by a huge sea. Examples of what I am talking about happened many years ago around the Hauraki Gulf here in New Zealand where at that time there were many 'traditional' shallow draft sailing 'Scows' that carried timber and livestock and just about anything else along the coast. Many of these were capsized when over canvassed in strong winds, many with loss of life.

There are also many tales of the old square rigged ships that have been over whelmed solely by the wind when carrying too much sail aloft (often caught unawares by a sudden rise of wind, especially at night). If these old time square riggers or fore and aft ships had had ultimate stability in the form of a deep keel with outside ballast they would have righted themselves if they had been capsized by such a wind or by huge seas.

Despite my worries about these  catamarans, even though their hull forms are problematic enough in very stormy conditions they are in fact safer than the old traditional sailing boats in that if they capsize they will at least float upside down.

So shipmates, don't put too much faith in the romance of old ships that won't self right if capsized, they can be death traps.

..... And good luck to these wandering, adventuring catamaran sailors, I wish them well and all the good luck and fair winds in the world.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Alden Technique

Shipmates, there is nothing, quite nothing, quite as good to aid a person off to sleep than the gentle rocking of a small yacht at anchor, nothing. So, if there is a 'Needsmust' situation with a grandchild then the artful sailor simply simulates the gentle cadence of a sleepy anchorage. Sounds simple doesn't it, and it is, so long as you use the world famous 'Alden Technique' (Patent Pending).

The 'A. T. 5.' as its known in knowledgeable circles consists of 5 simple steps.
1 - Hold the small crew in your arms gently.
2 - Rock gently whilst singing 'The Gypsy Rover'. But be warned, you may find that the Gypsy Rover does have a tendency to come over the hill and down through the valley so shady - quite - a - few - times.
3 - After a while concentrate the singing on the chorus - Sing Ah dee doo ah dee doo dah day as many times as required - Be prepared here - On a recent rough day I sang 4567 Ah dee doo dahs before sleep intervened - Hard, heavy, holding, work (almost as hard as reefing a mains'l in the teeth of a gale.
4 - Wait for the second big sigh, this usually means the crew is moving out of NREM sleep (Non Rapid Eye Movement) and is entering some sort of theta delta wave thingie stage that leads to  REM sleep and dreaming. Babies spend 50% of their sleep in REM sleep - (adults 20%).
5 - When ready place the crew into the cot while still softly singing, rubbing the crews back if required, covering with a blanket and raising the side of the cot all in one easy motion.

So, there you have it shipmates - The good old A. T. 5. - Easy Peasy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


It's hard to tell whether it was one big thing or the accumulation of many small things that amount to one big thing or on reflection was one of the small things actually bigger than you thought or was the big thing only really small after all and you had to choose one of the small things and call it a big thing or was it a combination of the small things and the big thing combined that made something collectively both small and big all at the same time and then your head hurt and you sat down and didn't really want to think at all and found that when sitting down you weren't moving at all and quite liked that and thought lets not think about a big thing or lots of small things and remember its only the end of the road when you stop moving and if you stop moving until your head stops hurting you might start moving again and it won't be the end any more

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Brian Turner - Again


Someone somewhere will have a veil
strong enough to deflect the lassoes time swings

and leave me free to embrace integrity and candour
without malice or pity for the carrion dishonour.

Or so I hope and pray in Autumn
when the afternoon light's blue on the mountains,

the trout are moving upstream, and the springs
are bulging from the earth again, cool and fresh.

And I'm one of many keen to put my name down
on the list of those wanting another spring.

Saturday, November 1, 2014



There's a side to beauty
that is sadness enduring.

There's a belief in beauty
that's peculiarly universal

while unique in itself
to this punter, or that.

It's more the idea
than the actuality

of this place, not who
had the idea for it

that becomes a reality
previously unimaginable.

First there's the perception,
then the journey towards

understanding that comes,
you're told, with empathy;

and, finally, it's the where
you know that refines

the who you are. It's then,
you could say, landscape's

indifference in itself
mirrors our impermanence,

has no awareness of the dramas
which, paradoxically, heighten

and enhance the sense of the
numinous in nuance and hue.

In other words, you choose
what it is that makes for piety

and pleasure, and obligation,
and how you measure such,

and what is meant by home,
and why, or whether

you believe, before
your time's up, that

this big, unloved, untidy
unwalled room is it.