Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Yesterday my cousin Stephen Smith loaned me his OK Dinghy for the last races of the Onerahi Yacht Clubs Tuesday evening 'Twilight Series'. I raced in three back to back races and enjoyed myself immensely. I was the only OK dinghy sailor on the water and raced with others within the Laser fleet.

The wind was not as strong as last weeks series where I capsized 3 times sailing my Starling and didn't finish any races. This week, I completed all the races mainly because I found this bigger boat more suited to my size. It's a boat for someone of adult size and I found it more stable and easy to move around in. I found my weight suits this size; any movement within the cockpit doesn't alter the trim of the boat to the extent it does to the Starling.

I found the Ok Dinghy fast, relatively docile compared to the Starling and very forgiving in its manners. Despite its much bigger sail area, the rig can be easily tuned when sailing to suit the wind conditions. I found the hiking position much easier on my legs than on the Starling. This was a surprise to me as I thought that stacking out to windward for any length of time would be the deal breaker, but it wasn't nearly as difficult as I had imagined and I was able to stack out comfortably for lengthy periods of time.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Auckland and had a look at a couple of OK Dinghies for sale. Whether I purchase one is a question I will have to think very carefully about. Certainly the result of yesterdays sail has proved to myself that I am still capable of coping with one of these bigger boats.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Nemesis Of 2000+ Years of Dualistic Theological Thinking

I listened to this Gordon Lightfoot song recently. I find it deeply, deeply haunting.

One of the verses in the song contains these lyrics:

"Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?"

I think the implications of Lightfoots question is really the achilles heel and perhaps the nemesis of 2000 years of Christian thinking that lives in a theologically dualistic world. By dualistic I mean: We are here, and over there is a separate cosmic entity called God. Given the proclaimed nature of this God (Loving, forgiving, omnipotent and a worker of miracles) Christianity has never been able to answer the simple question - If God is omnipotent and loving why is there so much suffering in the world?

Put another way: What was God doing when he invented child cancer? Having an 'off day' ? If so, why doesn't he do something about it?

The way I deal with this question is to seek out wisdom from both the dualistic and non - dualistic traditions. By non- dualistic I mean:  The idea that the universe and all its multiplicity are ultimately expressions or appearances of one essential reality. This removes the reliance on the concept of a supposed 'Loving God' who ends up being a contradiction in terms.

So what is my personal path? My path requires the capacity to stay well away from organised religion, gurus, teachers, ashrams, monasteries and all other god awful monstrosities built on the ego and hubris of others. It is not a movement or a cause. It's the meeting of a few people, or one on one with a wise friend. The path requires reading, filtering what you read and then practising and integrating wisdom into everyday life. Living with paradox the wise ones gathering from both the non dualistic and the dualistic path advise that:  Adhering to an impeccable moral code ( Buddhism, Christianity and other spiritual paths have lots of this stuff), meditation, mindfulness, pilgrimage, prayer, contemplation, practising " The Golden Rule" *  and involving yourself in the world doing the things you love leads to personal transformation, wisdom and knowing beyond mere words. The crux of all of this is developing the capacity to transcend the 'ego' or the 'self' (selfishness). This process of personal transformation is a life long journey. Peace, insight and enlightenment is obtained during this transformational process by putting others first.  In other words - Changing the world requires changing yourself first. Easy to say, hard to implement. That's why proselytising should be kept to a minimum. You should walk the talk - not talk the walk.

That's my Christmas message to the individual reader - If you like it, great, if you don't, disregard it instantly and seek out your own knowledge of your Self.

The Golden Rule :

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Mariner Project - Part 2

This is where perhaps the majority of engines in yachts around 30 feet (9metres) live - in the stern of the boat, under the cockpit and behind the companionway steps. 'Mariners' engine is no exception.

When I sailed recently in the Coastal Classic race on board 'Lion New Zealand' the skipper in his briefing remarked that " Lions marine toilets (she had 2) were made by people who hate sailors". Everyone laughed. The boat owners among us laughed a bit more wryly and would have added marine diesel engines to the list. Engines and toilets are extremely useful, but they also smell,  can leak stuff everywhere, get blocked with stuff and sometimes decide not to work just when you need them the most. Of course us boat owners also have to take some responsibility and admit that things might work a lot more reliably if we did the routine maintenance.

This is 'Mariners' 11HP Arona Diesel engine. It is made by Fiat in Italy. It is mounted horizontally on the engine beds and power is transferred through a 'V' drive gearbox. This means that the engine has the fly-wheel facing the stern. The engine was installed when I launched the boat in 1979. It is an old simple single cylinder motor. The main problem over the years has been oil leaking mainly from the sump plate seals. Despite a drip tray underneath the engine, oil inevitably gets into the bilge with the resultant smell and mess.

On first inspection there are six problems I can see that require attention - there may be more.

1 - The engine will start and run, but doesn't pump any coolant water through the system. This may be a problem with the water pump or more likely the water jacket around the cylinder head may be clogged up with 35 years of metal 'scale' and rust.

2 - Salt water ingress has rusted the angle iron that the engine mounts are bolted to.

3 -  Many parts of the engine are rusty and need attention.

4 -  The engine mounts need renewing.

5 - Oil leaks from the engine sump plate continue despite a number of attempts to tighten the nuts up.

6 - The traditional dripping stern gland continues to drip and needs to changed to one of those new fangled non-drip varieties.

Today I had a long talk to Kurt on board his 40 foot Junk rigged schooner that is fitted with an Eco Friendly Electric Motor. More of that later!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Mariner Project - Part 1

There are no more excuses. I now have a fully restored Starling sailing dinghy for exercise and diversion from the slings and arrows of outrageous retirement - so...... no more procrastination. I must now bite the bullet and get Mariners marine diesel engine either repaired or replaced. There is a lot more sailing to do before the letting go of 'Old Cold Nose' for the very last time by this old sailor.

I am toying with the idea of competing next year in the Auckland to Russell Coastal Classic, not as I did this year on board Lion New Zealand but on my very own beloved Mariner. So I have about eleven months to do this engine work and some others tweaks to the boat that will make her a little bit more fun to sail. Remember shipmates, sailing is serious fun ..........  (Except when it's hell on earth - a howling gale, lee shore, moonless night, no bloody clue where you are, wet and seasick) ........ and serious fun is yee-hahingly good.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


The acronyms on race summary sheets DNF and DNS mean "Did Not Finish" and "Did Not Start" respectively. Two DNFs and one DNS sums up my second race outing yesterday evening. I was very excited before racing because it was blowing about 15 - 20 knots and I knew that I would be very competitive in this wind strength - and I was - until on three separate occasions in the first two races I capsized in spectacular fashion. To be fair to myself I have to say that I wasn't the only one suffering from multi - capsize syndrome as nearly everyone (except the winning Starling - which wasn't me! ) had a turn at getting thoroughly wet during the evening.

These photos are a bit deceptive as they don't really show how hard it was blowing, but it was fair funneling between Limestone Island and the mainland at Onerahi.

In the first race I was second to the top mark close behind a very skillful and accomplished teenage girl who always sails superbly. Downwind she really showed her skills by planing away in a shower of spray and gybing skillfully back onto what was a flat run to the bottom mark. My attempts to follow suit had me capsizing twice in a row. On both occasions the centerboard came out of the centerboard case and started to float away. I spent a lot of time trying to get it back in its slot so that I could heave on it and right the boat again.

In the second race, again I was doing very well only being pipped to the first mark by a whisker - but then again while sailing flat off downwind I came off a wave with the boat rolling to windward, over corrected and ended up in the tide again. This time I ended up under the boat with the main sheet wound around my neck and the deck banging on my head. Again the centerboard had fallen out and I spent a lot of time getting it back into the the centerboard case. By the time I got back into the boat for a third time I was pretty exhausted and decided to call it a day.

BUT - as I sailed back to the club house to the beer and barbecued sausages I hardly felt hard done by. The water was very pleasant to capsize into as it is warmed while flowing into Whangarei Harbour over several large sand banks that have been baking in the sun all day. Also, in this big wind memories came flooding back from my early sailing years as I felt again the joy of small boat sailing: Thrashing to windward, then planning off downwind in a flurry of spray and wind - very, very, very good for this old buggers soul I can tell you.


1 - "Always wear a life jacket". Wise words. I would have drowned without one.

2 - I am showing my age. Hiking out for long periods of time at 64 years of age is very taxing. I need not just the set of compression pads to protect the underneath of my thighs, I also require a set for my calf muscles.

3 - The boat requires another self bailer. In these choppy conditions I had water coming green over the bow and filling the cockpit.

4 - I need a piece of shock cord (something that all Starlings have - something I had overlooked) to hold the center board in place when capsized.

5 - I need to make sure that I do a thorough boat inspection before launching. I failed to see that I hadn't re-tied the hiking straps back up with shock cord which made getting my feet under the straps harder after each tack.

6 - "She'll be right" is not good enough - I thought the two loose sail battens in the mains'l that I knew required new elastic in the sail pocket (to hold suitable tension on them) would be ok. But in this full sail breeze one of them popped out when the sail was flogging in the wind. I took the sail into 'Calibre Sails' today to get fixed.

7 - My little Starling looks beautiful in all her varnished glory - BUT - she is also very slippery to work in. I slide like hell all over my beautiful varnished cockpit floor slats LOL and the deck isn't much different. Many racing yachts have non skid tape or painted out patches in high use areas - But I know all of this - My keeler Mariners' deck and cockpit are all painted out in non skid paint. I think I will have to do something about that if I continue to race.

8 - "Practise makes perfect" so the saying goes. I would settle... not for perfection, but for just staying upright throughout the racing. So a bit of practise is required in a less frenetic context where I can get used to a few of the old moves. You can't teach an old sea dog new tricks - that's because he needs to teach the new tricks to himself - with a bit of practise.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


George from 'Mid-Atlantic Musings' asked if I would post some photos of the Starlings sail controls - So these are for you George and anyone else who is interested.

This photograph (Above) is NOT my Starling - This is a photograph of a very, very  nice Starling that I took at the Auckland Boat Show a few years ago. At the time I was just at the stage of thinking about getting a small centerboard yacht again. I liked this very orderly well thought out set up, so when it came time to do my own boat I printed this photograph out, taped it to a piece of cardboard and used it as a reference as I set up my own boat.

The rest of the photos are of my own boats setup which is a direct copy of the Boat Show Starling except that I mounted all the turning blocks and cam cleats on little teak blocks.

The outside control is the mains'l cunningham rope. The middle control is the mains'l out haul and the inner most is the kicking strap control. The controls are repeated on the other side of the boat.

Two of the jamb cleats came with the boat when I bought it, two I bought second hand and two I purchased new. I can't believe how expensive yacht fittings have become. A set of 6 of these cleats brand new would cost NZ$550.

At the present time there are no jam cleats on the side decks to take the mainsheet, as there is a jam cleat incorporated into the last main sheet ratchet block just about the center case in the cockpit. But I am not happy with this and may change this arrangement.

These photos were taken today before competing in my second series of races. The weather was the same as last week; mainly light winds of around 12kph. But when it freshened up a couple of times and we all had to start stacking out I became competitive. I was happy today with a couple of third placings. What I am looking forward to is a really big wind that will make the boat plane downwind.

These Tuesday evening races are very pleasant and I was surprised at how warm the water was ( I got plenty wet enough!)