Saturday, February 25, 2017

______________________ A NICE PLACE TO SIT _________________________

Earlier in the week I returned to one of my favourite spots. It a grassy embankment next to the Onerahi Yacht Club which overlooks where I race every Tuesday evening. Feburary is a very hot and humid month in Northland, New Zealand and I found some respite from the humidity by sitting under this magnificent Pohutakawa tree. The shade was accompanied by a warm fresh Easterly wind.

As I sat under the tree enjoying the cooling breeze my thoughts were interrupted by the hiss and roar of this great display of sailboarding skill. In terms of sailing it doesn't get any more simple than this.

Back and forth across the harbour roared this rudderless apparition, steering by using the weight of his body and the angle of attack of the sail. My guess as to his speed would be upwards of 25 knots.

Pohutakawa trees are my favourite trees and are prolific in the North Island of NZ. They are referred to fondly as the New Zealand Christmas tree and are garlanded in beautiful red flowers over summer. 

This Pohutakawa is well placed for me to sit under and gaze out on the watery field of the OYCs Tuesday evening sailing combat and ponder racing strategy and other Zephyrus thoughts.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

_____________ THEN THERE WERE FOUR - OR IS THAT TWO ? ____________

My mate Bernie rang me up. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever!" he thundered into the phone.

"Yes," I replied.

"A man has a bucket list and he must seize the day," he said.

"Yes," I replied.

" There is a tide in the events of a man when taken at full flood leads............ " he continued as I cut him off.

" You have just purchased a Zephyr ! " I yelled down the phone.

"Yes, " he replied.

"Fanfuckingtastic!" I replied.

I didn't ask him if the smile on his face was bigger than Texas. I could see it was even though he was on the other end of a telephone - that's the thing with Zephyrs, they make people smile a lot.

So now we are Four:

'Slipstream' and me - 'Racing Stripes' and Bernie.

So there are now two Zephyrs that will be racing on Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons ....... and Bernie has told me of another  Zephyr here in Whangarei that is not being sailed at the moment and is stored in an aircraft hanger somewhere. Bernie has seen the boat, "Beeeeautiful" he said .... "looks like a Steinway piano". Hmmmmm I feel in my bones that a critical mass is on the horizon; I certainly hope so...... well in fact I did prophesy in a wishful thinking kind of a way here:

Monday, February 20, 2017

______________ LENGTHENING A ZEPHYRS CENTERBOARD _____________

For the second time in a row I have purchased a boat with a centerboard that is woefully inadequate and shorter than is allowable in the class rules. You can see how I dealt to the smaller than allowable centerboard in my first purchase of a Starling Class sailing dinghy here:

My new purchase 'Slipstream' a Zephyr Class sailing dinghy and big sister to the Starling came with two centerboards. The first board is too short and compounds the lack of area by tapering at the bottom of the board - this board also has a pronounced warp in it which also compromises the boards performance. The second board is the correct width (without any taper) but is short of allowable length by a full 36 centimeters. It is this second board (without any warp) which today I began the process of lengthening.

This is the length of cedar timber that I am preparing for splicing into the centerboard. I am spiking the edges of the join in both the centerboard and the additional splice of cedar so the impregnated glue will act as a myriad of small nails. The centerboard has to support my weight if I happen to capsize 'Slipstream' so the join has to be strong.

This is the sort of building situation where sash cramps really come into there own. I only have two and both were put to good use.

The next job is to plane the additional length in sympathy with the existing aerofoil shape of the board and plane the timber to the correct width.

When I added additional length and width to the Starlings centerboard there was a noticeable improvement in windward performance. The speed of the boat through the water didn't increase but the boat pointed higher which meant I didn't have to sail as far as I had done previously and I was able to engage a lot more tactically with the other boats as the boat wasn't sagging off to leeward as it had done previously. I am hoping for a similar improvement with the Zephyrs windward performance although it will be a little difficult to measure as I don't have another Zephyr at the present time to compare performance with........

But this may change .......... tonight I had a phone call...... but my lips are sealed.... watch this space.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

______________ WHO SAYS THE CAMERA DOESN'T LIE? _______________

Yes, yes, yes, yes I know shipmates....... more photos of Zephyrs........ but, come here, yep that's right, come a little closer, no... closer than that.. now take a good look at these two photos and tell me what's missing.... be honest with yourself, don't read anymore of the text..... just look at the two photographs and tell me what's missing in one of the photos.

I shot these photographs at Worser Bay Yacht Club in Wellington when I was picking up 'Slipstream'. While at the club I witnessed the launching of this brand spanking new fiberglass Zephyr by its very, very happy skipper and watched his new Zephyr #603 go for its maiden voyage on a lazy sparkling Wellington harbour.

Now shipmates, did you look and compare the two photographs?........... Ok now..... tell me - Where is the sail number 603 in the second photograph? ...... and no, absolutely no, I have not photoshopped it out (I don't even have any photoshoppy thingy software on my computer, and wouldn't know how to work it even if I did).

My camera is telling me that when Zephyr sailing dinghies steer in a Northerly direction on Wellington Harbour their sail numbers simply disappear! Yikes! - Bloody Hell Yikes even!

Now call me old fashioned and fill my pockets with triple nipple back shackles if I haven't just discovered a mystery of the same epic proportions as the Lochness Monster and the Bermuda Triangle right here in Gods own country........ Shipmates I rest my case.

Friday, February 17, 2017

__________________________ A PROPHECY _________________________

Although there are plenty of Zephyrs in New Zealand my new Zephyr 'Slipstream' is the only Zephyr I have seen here in Whangarei. She attracts a lot of interest. The response on every occasion always contain comments on her good looks - "What a pretty boat!" "They sure are nice looking boats aren't they!" "Des Townson really knew how to design a nice boat!" are the very words that I have heard. Yet other words come to mind, words that go to the heart of the matter - 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever'.

When a large amount of good looks is packed into a boat of such practical size and beautiful sailing qualities ......... it is highly likely that a very light breeze, a Zephyr of a wind begins to brew in the hearts of men and women who love the sheer poetry of sailing and the art of good design. It is a Zephyr of a wind that will slowly and surely grow into a great wind of change ............

In Whangarei we are but two at the moment - 'Slipstream' and I - but my prophecy is that before the year is out we will not be alone!  Watch this space!

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Grandad and Zane have been having some good times together bingeing on Lego. We have learned that the bigger more sophisticated models such as the Penguins Arctic Roller from the Batman Movie are perhaps best left until Zane is a couple of years older, but that the other models (pictured below) are doable and a lot of fun to do together with a bit of adult help. Even at three and a half Zane can follow the directions in the instruction books reasonably well. From a broader educational point of view the language interaction and social bonding that flows from a shared activity such as this has great value....


I have always been a bit dubious about the creative value of the modern trend towards Lego models that come with how to build instruction books. I feel these proscribed activities reduce the scope for imagination and play. From a distance (and through the lens of a teacher) I have always thought that this kind of Lego is a bit like 'painting by numbers', endless banal television viewing or those repellent articles called childrens 'colouring in books' which are a kind of meaningless 'busy work' activity that some people give their children on rainy days to keep them quiet and stop them from fighting with each other.

 The Penguins Arctic Roller from the Batman movie - (My next motor vehicle)

Despite the fact that there are times when anything that occupies noisy children is excellent therapy for adults I have always thought these activities vacuum the creativity out of childrens brains with all the finesse of a giant lipo suction machine. 

Paper, pens, glue, paint, string, boxes, hammers, nails etc, etc, etc, (and old fashioned free flow non proscribed Lego) combined with a good amount of time and an appropriate area to work in, is far more likely to facilitate creative thinking and problem solving skills than any of these other mindless activities.

Lego is coming under fire from Lego traditionalists with accusations that building a specific model with an instruction book is reducing the scope for imagination and play. Some parents have become increasingly alarmed that Lego kits, whether it is Star Wars or Minecraft, which involve building a specific model, using specialist pieces according to strict instructions takes away the pleasure and ambition involved in a child just sitting with a box of Lego bricks and creating something from their own imagination.

The Lego traditionalists state that Lego for them was always about creativity, remaking and improving on existing designs - "Those things don’t happen with sets that are designed to build a model of a single thing. But that’s not the only problem – Lego taught me the art of creative destruction – the need to break something in order to make something better. Single outcome sets encourage preservation rather than destruction, and sadly that makes them less useful, less educational and in my opinion less fun." 

In response a Lego spokesman has stated - " Children still get bricks and they can combine them. The bricks will probably end up in big boxes in homes and that acts like a pool of creativity".


........... Why exactly did dickhead Grandad purchase these Lego sets in the first place. Good question. And the answers are an interesting collection of the multilevel ironies and paradoxes that make up our contrary adult decision making.

- On one level Grandad saw some Lego Models in a shop and in an unmindful manner thought he would purchase them for his grand child.

- On another level Grandad actually wanted the Lego for himself (Many second childhoods have been launched on lesser motives) and in an unmindful manner purchased it in a full flight of duplicitous fancy. (The word 'unmindful' in this sentence is, well, yes, debatable).

- The outcome was that Grandad found that he quite liked the certain meditative aspect of concentrating on one single idea as he constructed the first model by himself, because of course ho, ho, ho it was imperative that he knew what to do before sharing this model with his grandchild.

 As I write the above I now remember that large numbers of adults are now spending a lot of time with large bumper sized colouring in books as some sort of harmless and helpful meditative activity of sorts, which sort of complicates my arguments and shows that context plays a big part in many things and that we shouldn't be in too much of a rush to pass judgements. I guess there is something certain, predictable and satisfying about some activities where the outcome is known and the quality pretty much guaranteed...... and to be fair, this is pretty much what boat building is all about. You follow a plan and work towards a known outcome........ hmmmmmmm.
The solution? I will purchase a big box of free flow Lego so that Zane and I can be really creative together and extend our social, language and negotiation skills and I will continue to purchase Lego Models (And construct them by myself first ... of course, just to make sure all the pieces are there..... as any Grandad worth his sailing salt water would do)...... and we will continue to facilitate all the other wonderful creative opportunities that are available to him as his world enlarges.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

________________ TO THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON __________________

Howard Rice has set off towards Cape Horn through the Magellan Straits in his modified John Welsford designed 'Scamp' design. (Ain't there just something about yawls?) . You can read the full story of this courageous voyage here:


Monday, February 13, 2017

___________________ POHUTAKAWA ISLAND REVISITED _______________

Today we revisited what is now a familiar landscape - a low thin island with flora and fauna clinging to it tenaciously.

My friend and noted conservationist Gerry Brackenbury planted 18 Pohutakawa trees on the island. The bad news is that about 4 of these are dead or struggling and sadly loosing the battle.

The slightly better news is that 3 of the Pohutakawas are, despite the exposed conditions and the summer drought still hanging in there albeit looking a bit worse for wear.

The good news is that 11 of the 18 Pohutakawa trees are thriving and look green and healthy. I am told that the percentage of survivors from plantings such as this on marginal land is not high, so I will be very pleased if in twelve months time we still have 11 healthy trees.

Pohutakawa Island is covered in bait stations to try and control the number of predators (mainly rats) on the island. They seem to be doing the job as we saw a large number of birds on the island. The noise and the swooping of the birds let us know in no uncertain terms that we were intruders.

Looking towards the west. The island is low and windswept. King tides almost inundate the island.

It was high tide and the mangroves bordering the island were flooded with seawater.

My brother Tony transported us across to the island from the Onerahi launching ramp in his 'Seabird' dinghy and helped clear around the trees - two unlikely lads turned eco warriors for the day LOL.

Tonys campervan and dinghy kit did the business really well. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

________________ WALNUT SHELL, FLOUR AND WATER _______________

Yesterday as I was preparing to go for a sail a publication arrived for me in the mail. This slim A4 sized volume of 50 pages gives a good overview of the history of the yacht designer Des Townsons Zephyr class sailing dinghy.

As someone who has built or renovated a variety of boats over the last 40 years and wrestled with G - Clamps and various glues I was delighted to read this:

"The 50th anniversary of the Zephyr class was run at Milford Cruising Club in Jan 2006 and attracted the largest ever Zehphr national championship fleet of 83 boats. From the designer came the following words for the regatta programme:

"When the 21st anniversary of the Zephyr class was celebrated in 1977  by the French Bay Boating Club, it was quite an historic occasion, as the life expectancy of a dinghy in 1956 was about ten years. Most Zephyrs are constructed of untreated pinus radiata, the timber blamed by the building industry for the rotting homes problem. The glue used was heavily extended with walnut shell, flour and water. Much of the styling of the Zephyr is influenced by the traditional form of the North Sea fishing boats dating back to the mid 19th century. So we have a classic built of inferior timber bonded (in effect) with a flour and water paste, and of antiquated styling. That the Zephyr has remained durable and popular for 50 years is good cause for further celebration. I therefore welcome you to this significant regatta and trust you will have an enjoyable regatta."

The slim volume that arrived in the mail also provided me with some other interesting information. Over 500 Zephyr have now been built. Hull numbers #1 to #233 were built in Auckland during the second half of  the 1950s by Des Townson himself. My Zephyr 'Slipstream' is hull #195 which means it's at least 50 years old and held together by a glue "heavily extended with walnut shell, flour and water" !  Yikes!!!!!

(On reflection, a Stradivarius Violin is not held together with modern epoxy or resorcinol glues either - I really like the comparison).

Friday, February 10, 2017

______________________ RACING AT PARUA BAY ______________________

Whangarei Harbour, one of the places where I sail 'Slipstream'. Onerahi Yacht Club is out of the picture on the right. The Whangarei Cruising Clubs (WCC) second site at Parua Bay is to the left.

Things are looking up on the Zephyr sailing front. Tomorrow I sail in the second race of a 7 race series at my yacht clubs Parua Bay site. So I am now sailing twice a week. Tuesday evenings at the OYC (Onerahi Yacht Club) and Saturdays at my own club the WCC. As a member of the ZOA (Zephyr Owners Association) I have the opportunity of taking 'Slipstream' down to race at various Auckland yacht club venues. All this sailing practise will be put to good use when I race at the NZ Zephyr Nationals next year.

Yes there is no doubt that I have a way to go to improve my physical profile to that of a Norwegian racing sardine - but like all living works of art, I am a work in progress. Losing a few (well a bucket load) of kilos well improve my competitiveness (and health) - so what a great couple of incentives to do so.

For me, sailing really is pure joy.

Monday, February 6, 2017

--------------------------------- SAILING OLD GRACEFULLY -------------------------------

Older sailors is the biggest group sailing Zephyrs in Aotearoa New Zealand. The boat is suited for skippers of all ages but if you are in your 60s you should especially look at what a Zephyr can offer. The boat is just the right size in terms of length, weight and sail area for older sailors.

If you want to grow old gracefully you should go out and buy one right now.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

_________________ PLEASANT POINT YACHT CLUB __________________

Amongst the pile of books I usually have on the go is: 'Memories of Pleasant Point Yacht Club - 1921 - 1980' by Ray O'Brien. Ray is an old friend and stalwart of the club who now lives in Whangarei not far from where I live. The book is a history of our old yacht club on the banks of the Christchurch estuary in the South Island of New Zealand.

So far as sailing goes this is my Turangawaiwai - ( A Maori concept of relatedness and belonging, meaning "The Place where I stand" ).

My formative sailing years in this stretch of water has provided me with many life long sailing skills. I sailed a P Class (Elusive) and an OK Dinghy (Okere) there in the 1960s.

In 2010 and 2011 Christchurch was hit by devastating earthquakes wrecking much of the city and changing parts of the physical landscape. The land on which the Pleasant Point Yacht stood sank several metres. On the first high tide and every subsequent high tide after the 2011 quake the yacht club was inundated with water. This was to be the end of the road so far as this site was concerned for the club.

One sad day the demolition crew moved in at low tide and the yacht club that had stood on this land for nearly 100 years was demolished.

This photograph of the PPYC in its prime (and at half tide) is how I remember the way it once was. I did a lot of sailing at low tide. Cruising around the winding channels among the sand banks as far as the bar entrance at Sumner was as interesting and testing as any fleet racing at high tide.

The good news is that new club rooms are being built in the South New Brighton domain in the area of the pine forest on the left in the above photograph. I wish the club well in this new beginning.

A future goal is to take my Zephyr 'Slipstream' back to my Turangawaiwai sometime soon and sail again on my old proving ground of the Christchurch estuary. It will be good to visit the PPYCs new club rooms and facilities on its new site. Perhaps they won't mind an old club member racing his boat with them. I will certainly be exploring the area where the old club once stood.