Jeff’s gift for the future

Jeff’s grandad taught him to sail in the North Sea. He knows what it means to brave rough weather to help others - he’s been a volunteer Coastguard crew member for 10 years.

Jeff says Coastguard is a close-knit family where volunteers help anyone who is in trouble at sea. “Helping someone is amazing. When you get home after a rescue, cold, wet and exhausted, it helps to think: someone survived today because of me.”

Jeff has two young grandchildren and wants to be sure that Coastguard is there for them when they grow up. That’s why he decided to become a ‘Coastguardian’ – a member of a special group who have chosen to leave a gift to Coastguard in their Will.

“People think that Coastguard is centrally funded. They don’t realise that Coastguard is a charity and that the volunteers do not get paid. We are a volunteer service. The training, maintenance, fuel and vessel replacement costs are very high”.

“I want my legacy to go towards maintaining and improving the already amazing service that the public get.”

You don’t need to be rich to leave a lifesaving legacy.

Contact Sue Morse on or Phone: (09) 303 4303 ext 4 or 021 746 257

Gloss Boats at Marine Park


Gloss Boats Marine Spraying Specialists LTD (GBMS) is opening a new facility at Tamaki Marine Park, Auckland’s latest marine precinct development, now taking shape beside the Tamaki River.

“Gloss Boats has a long-established relationship with the owners and management team of Tamaki Marine Park, so we are excited to be involved in this new development,” says GBMS Director Dave Lourie.

The new shed will be 30m long and 20m wide with a door height of 10.5m. This will enable GBMS to pull some fairly large vessels inside without the additional cost and effort of removing radar antennae, satellite domes, aerials etc.

The shed will be fitted out with a brand new semi-downdraught, heated spray booth with a high volume extraction system across the back wall. The booth will be attached to a tintmix room with its own extraction system. The extraction units are being built and installed by Egmont Air.

The new paint facility will also feature a new 11kW 70 CFM compressor and dryer, along with aluminium air piping, supplied and installed by Industrial Air NZ.

At the facility the office/lunch room and amenities will be separated from the main workshop. This will allow clients convenient access without having to enter the main workshop and also provide a clean, quiet and safe environment where employees can relax while eating lunch.

The main workshop floor will have a fivedegree gradient, sloping down to a grated drain connected to the waste water tank. Regularly washing the shop floor will help maintain a clean, safe working environment.

Gloss Boats Marine Spraying Specialists LTD will continue to maintain a presence at its current location at Pier21, where in future it will carry out antifouling and Propspeed applications, as well as small touch ups. Once the new facility is completed, larger jobs like repaints will go to Tamaki Marine Park.

If a yacht requires a repaint its mast can be removed and stored at Pier21 before the vessel is motored around to Tamaki Marine Park, where it will be hauled out and wheeled straight into the shed.

Being part of the new precinct development, explains Lourie, has given GBMS a unique opportunity to work with the management at Tamaki Marine Park.

“It has given us the opportunity to build a facility that is purpose-designed around repainting boats, rather than leasing a shed and then trying to make it compliant. At Tamaki Marine Park GBMS can custom-build a shed that’s fit for purpose.”

A lot of thought has gone into the build, says Lourie: “The positioning of the shed to allow for natural light and warmth, ensuring adequate internal lighting – even power points to allow ship-to-shore leads to be plugged in without needing a whole lot of adaptors. This way clients will have the satisfaction of knowing their batteries are not being compromised while the vessel is being worked on.”

Gloss Boats Marine Spraying Specialists LTD (GBMS) expect to open the state-of-the-art boat painting facility in March 2022.



Ovlov Marine has fitted each of the three yachts with a new 50hp Volvo D2 diesel engine and 130S saildrive, to keep them in top working order for the Navy’s leadership and sail-training programmes.

The three 12-metre Chicos — Manga II, Mako II and Paea II — are 30 years old, and their existing 40hp Volvo MD2040 diesels, each with over 5000 hours use, were in need of a significant refresh.

“They’d had a good life but were in need of a full overhaul,” says Hamish Ivey, senior instructor of the Navy’s Experiential Leadership Squadron. “When we investigated, the price difference between overhaul and replacement wasn’t that great, so we decided to go for new engines, and to upgrade from 40 to 50hp.”

Ovlov Marine special projects and customer service manager Matt Jackson says the D2 provides a totally integrated package — an in-line four-cylinder, 2.2-litre, freshwater-cooled diesel engine powering a matched saildrive — to provide low cruising revs with quiet running and minimal vibration.

All three yachts were hauled out simultaneously at Ovlov’s Westhaven base for the installation, which required adaptation of the original engine beds. They were also fitted with new Volvo folding props, additional alternator brackets, custom fridge compressor mounts and new exhaust systems. New sound installation was fitted and the fuel systems overhauled.

The new diesels have been set up with Volvo’s Easy Connect NMEA interface, so engine revs and warnings can be monitored on the existing Garmin instruments above deck or via an app on each yacht’s dedicated iPad. The engines can now be started and stopped from on deck, too.

The yachts were originally used by the Navy for adventure training and team building, but are now utilised primarily for leadership training in a maritime environment. “Leadership is required at every level, so we have a range of Experiential Leadership Development Activities that suit recruits all the way through to senior officers. No simulation is required out on the high seas, the risk and challenges are real which helps develop our people on their leadership journey; it has the added inclusion of developing skills in seamanship, navigation and sailing,” Ivey says. The yachts are also used by Navy crews for recreational and competitive sailing, including events such as the Coastal Classic.

Ivey says the Leadership Squadron chose to work with Ovlov as they have a long-standing relationship.

“Because we are so busy and need a quick turnaround if something goes wrong, we know we can contact them at short notice, get the issue sorted and get back out there.” While there were some delays to the refit due to international parts-supply issues, the new engines have now been officially handed over, and the busy life of the Navy Chicos is ready to resume as soon as alert levels allow.


Your summer cruising library

After another year of Covid lockdowns, the escape to fresh-air therapy in the form of the summer cruise aboard your own or a friend’s boat is certainly alluring!

To be properly prepared for this well-deserved outing, a good stack of summer reading for the boat’s library is a must. And if the lockdowns continue – well then, they will probably be even more welcome!


Acclaimed yachting writer Ivor Wilkins has just finished a threeyear labour of love. It’s the epic and eventful history of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, from its beginnings in 1871 to the most recent adventure, the successful defence of the America’s Cup in May 2021. Impressively illustrated with fine photographs, as all Ivor’s books are, Salt in Our Blood marks the 150th anniversary of the RNZYS. And as Ivor remarks modestly of the tome, “Perfect for taking to sea, because if people don’t enjoy reading it, at 3kg it is still useful as extra ballast in the bilge.” I don’t think so. This will be a fascinating read…









A favourite this year of Jenny Nicholls, book reviewer for The Listener and the Waiheke Weekender. Her brief blurb; “Gorgeously illustrated and fascinating littl hardback.”

In the surprise basket: Mana Whakatipu Ngāi Tahu leader Mark Solomon on leadership and life by Tā (Sir) Mark Solomon and Mark Revington. (Massey University Press, 2012). Jenny Nicholls remarks, “Absolutely hilarious and brilliant from a former metal worker who made Ngāi Tahu into a powerhouse. It’s not at all what you might expect.”

“Just the most beautifully written book about the NZ environment,” says Jenny. “Annette Lees walks us into the nights of Aotearoa. In the company of bats, owls, moths and seabirds, she guides us from dusk to dawn with fascinating night stories: tales of war stealth and ghosts; nights lit by candles and lighthouses; night surfing, fishing, diving and skiing; mountain walking and night navigation on ocean voyaging waka,” says the publisher.


This modern classic would be a timely re-read, given the current concerns over the state of our coastal waters – and many community efforts to recover lost biodiversity. Our Big Blue Backyard (Random House NZ, 2014), by award-winning writer Janet Hunt is a must for any boat venturing out in to our big blue backyard.

A great collection by Sarah Ell, One of Boating NZ’s writers, Ocean (Penguin Random House, 2018). It sure lives up to its cover blurb: “Ocean is a spirited collection of historical tales, a landmark book about how the ocean has shaped New Zealand and its people.” By the way, Sarah is busy working on a fascinating historical novel, inspired by her research into strong Kiwi women for Ocean.


Perfect title, perfect setting. A Definitely Different Summer (Bateman Books 2021) by Kiwi author Elizabeth Pulford and illustrated by me ol’ shipmate Mike Colding. An adventure yarn based on the real shipwreck of the Tararua in Southland in 1881.


Then there are the classics that every boat’s library should have:

Pickmere’s Atlas (of the NE coast); D’Arcy Whiting’s Coastal Cruising Handbook; Raewyn Peart’s The Story of the Hauraki Gulf, and Brian Peet’s Des Townson: A Sailing Legacy.

Last word from writer and reader Ivor Wilkins: “I love the oldies, like Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World, the incredible Shackleton story Endurance, Kiwi solo sailor David Lewis’ Icebird, which tells of his circumnavigation of Antarctica, Robin Knox- Johnson’s A World of my Own. Real pioneering adventure.”

Cyclone storms in

Cyclone, Raymarine’s latest solid-state open-array radar, delivers rugged performance and unmatched situational awareness in an innovative and stylish package crammed with technology.

Available in 3-, 4- and 6-foot array spans and two power output options, there’s a Cyclone radar for every vessel, including trailer boats. Due to space and styling constraints, smaller vessels including trailer boats have tended to favour closed-array (dome) radars which generally perform less well than open-array units.

Each Cyclone model features innovative detection technologies, including RangeFusion, fast 60rpm rotation and a Bird Mode that Raymarine believes sets it apart from the rest.

The unit’s striking design takes its cues from an aircraft’s wing. Indeed, Raymarine undertook extensive wind tunnel testing to get the antenna and pedestal shapes just right. Rated to operate in up to 100 knots of wind speed, Cyclone works perfectly on the fastest of boats and in the most extreme weather conditions.

At 335mm tall, Cyclone’s low profile provides adaptability and easy installation on a wide range of boats. At only 23kg, Cyclone is Raymarine’s lightest open-array radar, with the three-foot array providing superior open-array performance from installations in tight spaces. A stylish pedestal design and cable gland conceals the cables for a cleaner, sleeker installation.

Using CHIRP pulse compression and beam sharpening technology, Raymarine claims Cyclone offers superior target separation and long-range resolution, while its fast 60rpm rotation ensures 360° awareness and real time target tracking. Combined with doppler tracking to simplify distinguishing between safe and dangerous targets, and professional-grade ARPA tracking capable of monitoring up to 50 targets at once, Cyclone delivers unmatched situational awareness.

Cyclone is compact, streamlined and powerful

Serious anglers will be excited about Cyclone’s superior bird location performance, for which the system has been specifically tuned. Enhanced Cyclone Bird Mode uses CHIRP pulse compression to quickly locate distant flocks of birds shadowing schools of fish.

RangeFusion combines short and long pulses into a single high-clarity radar image. Short-pulse imaging is optimised for targets close by while long-pulse imaging renders targets at longer ranges. Cyclone simultaneously delivers short- and longrange targets displayed as a single easy-to-interpret radar image.

Cyclone offers two levels of high-power, solid-state performance to choose between while different array spans offer unprecedented installation flexibility.

Cyclone 55-watt with 3-, 4-, or 6-foot array options offers 6kW equivalent magnetron performance; Cyclone Pro offers 110-watt (12kW equivalent magnetron) performance with the same array choices. BNZ


A trailer boat launch and recovery checklist

A new regular column with Andrew Flanagan from Powerboat Training NZ, this issue looks at the basics to cover off before setting out in your trailer boat.

Boat launching ramps can be chaotic at times, especially during periods of heavy use. Observing the comings and goings of trailer-boaters at any busy boat ramp on a holiday weekend reveals a plethora of mistakes, unsafe practices and poor ramp etiquette.

Most of them are the result of ignorance rather than bloodymindedness, but they can be potentially dangerous and/or seriously inconvenience other boaties. By following a few simple steps we can avoid problems and minimise unpleasant exchanges between boat ramp users.

Like so much else with boating, launching and retrieving a trailer boat quickly and efficiently is about proper preparation. With that in mind, the good folk at Powerboat Training NZ have produced a simple trailer boat launch and recovery checklist.

What follows is a good basic guide. However, all vessels are different, so don’t treat the list as definitive – it’s purely a guide offering some basic help. Nor does the guide mention safety equipment that should be carried onboard – that’s a subject for a future column.

Once the boat is hitched up and before pulling out onto the road, always check your boat, trailer and equipment thoroughly. Where possible do this in daylight, or in a well-lit area at least, so you are less likely to miss something.

Before hitting the road, ensure:
• The engine is trimmed fully up
• The engine’s trailer lock is in position
• The flag is secured to the boat’s propeller
• The stern strop is tightly secured to trailer
• The safety chain connecting the boat and trailer is secured
• The trailer electrics are connected and trailer lights are working
• The trailer’s safety chain is connected to the vehicle
• That any antennas are lowered
• That all loose items in the boat are removed or secured

Don’t be one of those boaters who backs down the boat ramp and only then prepares the boat for launching. Always prepare the boat away from the launch site so that other boaties can use it while you work through your checklist.

Upon arriving at the launch site, always:
• Remove stern strop
• Remove the prop flag
• Remove the engine trailer lock
• Rig appropriate fenders and lines
• Raise antennas and/or navigation light poles
• Remove trailer light board if required
• Check hull for any road damage
• Allow 10 mins for wheel bearings to cool
• Only remove boat safety chain when the trailer is in the water

Recovering a trailer boat and getting ready for the road essentially reverses the procedure used to prepare it for launching. By following this simple checklist you can avoid embarrassing, expensive and potentially dangerous accidents when retrieving your trailer boat. As was the case when preparing to launch the boat, most of the actions on the checklist should be completed well clear of the boat ramp/launch site. That way you don’t obstruct other boat ramp users.

On the ramp:
• Raise the engine before pulling the trailer out of the water
• Ensure boat is level on the trailer
• Ensure the safety chain between boat and trailer is attached
• Ensure vehicle windows are down and radio off so you can hear any shouts
or the dreaded engine scrape indicating you have forgotten point 1.

Once on dry land, remove the bung
• Secure the flag to the engine propeller
• Attach the stern strop
• Check that the electrics are attached and the trailer lights working
• Lower antennas/lights
• Remove or secure any loose items
• Make sure the engine trailer lock is in position



The moment they arrived in March 1934 George Dibbern and Te Rapunga were good news in Auckland. George seemed to be a new face of Germany; not the comic burly Hun of the wartime cartoons, but a lean, fit, liberal man of the world, a symbol of freedom, giving Old Man Depression a kick in the face. Sadly, the true new face of Germany was what he was fleeing, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

George had developed an engaging speaking style in talks to yacht clubs in California and Hawaii. In New Zealand he became in great demand as a speaker. While Akarana Yacht Club had adopted Te Rapunga, every yacht club had George in turns to speak. The boys and girls of the Herne Bay Junior Yacht Club and Wakatere Boating Club loved him. He gave a talk on radio station 1YA at prime time, 9pm, competing with the wildly popular soap opera One Man’s Family on 1ZB. He judged the New Zealand German Sheepdog Club’s show on the German working dog standard rather than the Alsatian “show dog” standard – to much approval.

In a first flush of enthusiasm George had tentatively entered Te Rapunga in the Trans-Tasman race that Akarana was organising for the Victorian Centennial Regatta for a December 8 start. The prizemoney of £300 for the Auckland-Melbourne race was irresistible. The course was 1630 miles from Auckland to the St Kilda Yacht Club’s jetty at Melbourne.

Te Rapunga (above) and Ngataki at the start of the Trans- Tasman race.

Te Rapunga took part in the Akarana race to Coromandel at Easter and its last race of the season to Kawau on April 21. George then hauled the yacht out at Devonport for the winter and went south by bus to Napier with his cousin Gunter Schramm to stay with his old friend Hugo Hildebrandt. He had now received a letter from his wife Elisabeth in Germany telling him that, despite the radical changes in Germany, she could not leave her homeland to come to live in New Zealand. She gave him her blessing to disregard her and the children in his quest for himself.

He had found New Zealand changed too. It was just over three years since the Napier earthquake; Mother Rangi and his other Maori friends in Dannevirke were dead or had moved on; he was himself deeply changed by his last four years at sea.

He bussed back to Auckland in late September. He found that the prizemoney for the Trans-Tasman race had been reduced to £100, scarcely enough to justify fitting out and provisioning for the trip to Melbourne and back. Until then, the possible entries had been Te Rapunga, Johnny Wray’s Ngataki, the Auckland schooners Morewa and Vision, the Wellington yachts Seaward and Queen Charlotte, the Sydney yachts Utikeah and Spumedrift and the Melbourne yacht Oimara, with the possibility of the Suva yacht Seafarer, provisionally entered by Tamaki Yacht Club.

Seafarer and crew from Suva.

Johnny Wray and his Ngataki were already legendary in Auckland. A massively-built hard chine 34ft cutter that Wray had designed and built from largely scrounged materials and launched in 1933, Ngataki had kick-started New Zealanders’ obsession with off-shore sailing in home-built yachts in the short time she had been in the water.

Vision had earned her spurs offshore. A husky 45ft schooner, boatbuilder James Reid built her at his yard in Sulphur Beach Northcote in 1920 for the purpose of cruising the Pacific with his family, a journey that occupied two years from July 1924. In 1934, Cdr H.M. Montague RN bought her for a winter trip to the Australian coast and eventually onwards to England, but with the possibility of returning to Auckland for the race.

Morewa was already a yacht under a cloud. Colin Wild had launched her in June 1933 from his Ngataringa Bay yard for J.W.S. McArthur, a bond entrepreneur. She was an 80-ton, 75ft staysail schooner, the biggest and most lavish yacht built in Auckland since Chas Bailey Jr built La Carabine for Sir Rupert Clarke of Melbourne in 1903. McArthur was currently engaged in a bitter struggle against the so-called ‘Kelly Gang’, a cabal of Auckland business leaders he alleged were trying to close him down. In preparation for the race he had Morewa hauled out in July to have her stern extended by 5 feet, the fitting of a 10ft bowsprit and major rig alterations. He intended to win.

Morewa under her new rig.

Capt. Watchlin was contemplating entering his recentlybought 47ft J.M. Watts-designed schooner Queen Charlotte built in 1926 by E.R. Lane of Picton. Other possible entrants were the ketch Seaward, formerly the launch Ariadne rebuilt at Picton as an offshore cruiser and three supposed ‘schooners’ being built at Auckland, one of which turned out to be the Logan-designed Couldrey-built racing cutter Little Jim, the second a 45-footer being built by Cox & Filmer at Judges Bay for N. D. Noakes, which never progressed, and the third by Bert Woollacott of Devonport, which may have become his Rambler in 1935.

Of the Australian yachts, F. J. Bennell’s ketch Oimara from St. Kilda had excellent offshore credentials. She had won the Bass Strait race in 1930 and raced Teddy and Rangi from Auckland to Sydney in March 1931, taking line honours. Of the Sydney schooners, Utikeah was an unknown quantity but Spumedrift had recently been to Lord Howe Island. None of these three eventually entered. Seafarer was a Suva-based 34ft Seabird-type yawl from the plans of Harry Pidgeon’s Islander and had already visited New Zealand in January-February 1933.


George relaunched Te Rapunga in October and sailed her to Napier with a scratch crew. She called at Gisborne, then on to Napier where he showed his yacht to his old Hawkes Bay friends. He did his usual broadcast talk on the local radio. A young Napier woman, Eileen Morris, listened with growing fascination. She visited Te Rapunga at the port. George offered her a trip to Gisborne on the return journey to Auckland but Eileen reluctantly refused, knowing it would be fatal to her small-town reputation. But, as we shall see, later events made this relationship become all-consuming for Eileen and scandalised the ladies of New Zealand (including my dear mother).

In mid-November, five entries remained, Te Rapunga, Ngataki, Queen Charlotte, Seafarer and Morewa. Ngataki was on her way from Tonga and Seafarer from Suva. Vision was not coming back from the Great Barrier Reef. Seaward arrived from Wellington in July but could not scrape up a crew, and funds were short. Seafarer arrived from Suva on November 19, but scratched her entry. The crew had other plans; in fact the skipper, G. Langdale, had blood poisoning in his right leg, which was amputated below the knee in Auckland. Then Queen Charlotte’s entry was withdrawn, leaving three entrants.

Te Rapunga off the North Shore

Morewa had a problem. Her new rig required new sails. John Burns of Fort Street had the job but the sailcloth, of the type used on Tommy Sopwith’s America’s Cup contender Endeavour (refitted 10 years ago in Auckland) was not due to arrive from England until December 5, leaving no time to make the sails before the December 8 start. Horrie Hewson of John Burns pleaded with Akarana Yacht Club to postpone the start until December 22, but to no avail. Dibbern and Wray’s brother Geoff objected and said their craft were ready to start.

So, after all, it was now down to just two starters, Te Rapunga and Ngataki. Both yachts took part in an Akarana cruising race to Awaroa Bay on November 31 and the crews helped one another with preparations for departure. Te Rapunga came out at Devonport for a final clean. George was dismayed to find that the muntz metal sheathing had broken down and stood out like fins from the hull. Gunter had the job of stripping it all off between tides, leaving no time to fill the nail holes.

Te Rapunga’s crew, from left Fred Norris, Noel Tattersfield, Austen Vaile, George Dibbern and Gunter Schramm.

George had a good crew, Gunter and experienced yachtsman Fred Norris from Devonport, who was later to build the Woollacott Nada and enter the 1951 Trans-Tasman with his 30ft Woollacott Hope. Then there was the landlubber journalist Austin Vaile who was swept up in the Dibbern mystique and insinuated himself (and his cash). Fortunately, at the last moment, another experienced yachtsman, Noel Tattersfield, presented himself to George and bluntly stated he was coming with them. Noel was part-owner of the C Class keel yacht Janet with his brother Guy.

The start on December 8 off Akarana’s clubhouse in Mechanics Bay was a fine sight. George Dibbern and Johnny Wray and their boats were very well-matched in the men’s characters and in their yachts’ performance at sea. On the assumption that Morewa was going to start, she had been put on scratch. Te Rapunga had a handicap allowance of seven days while Ngataki had only 17 hours more.

Queen Charlotte

There was hardly any standing room around the foreshore. A large number of yachts and launches were out to see them off despite the conditions, a strong easterly with a short choppy sea. The Harbourmaster fired the start gun at 2.46pm. Both yachts were revelling in the conditions. At North Head, with 1630 miles to sail, Te Rapunga, flying Akarana’s burgee, was half a mile ahead of Ngataki, flying the burgee of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. BNZ


[Erika Grundmann’s biography of George Dibbern, Dark Sun (David Ling 2004) is out of print, but Paul Denyer pauldenyer@xtra. has a number of copies available.]

Deadly dropper rigs

Novice anglers who read last month’s Boating NZ may now be the proud owners of a new spinning outfit and destined (hopefully) for ‘bait-fishing greatness’.

The simplest way to get a return on this investment is to use a ledger or dropper rig. This consists of a streamlined sinker tied to one end of the leader, a swivel on the other end, with two single hooks on branching droppers between them (see diagram 1).

This rig is generally lowered straight down and is better used in water 20m deep or deeper – fish generally dislike having a boat casting a shadow over them and making strange noises, both more noticeable in shallow water. However, murky water and/or a decent current flow can disguise the presence of the boat so that ledger fishing in shallower conditions still works well.

Fishers who plan to use dropper rigs will likely have a few pre-made - it’s possible to tie them up them at home or buy them ready-made from a fishing tackle store. Ideally, novice fishers should make their own, as learning the basic knots is an essential part of the fishing journey.

Two knots are used to make ledger rigs: the dropper knot and the uni knot (see diagram processes 2 and 3). The uni knot is especially important as it can connect a wide variety of tackle to monofilament or fluorocarbon line of any breaking strain.



Step 1. Form an overhand loop then rotate the tag-end around the loop, as illustrated. (Note: The dropper should not be too long, but make the loop a bit bigger than you think it needs to be – around the diameter of a saucer should do the job.)

Step 2. i) The loop will feed through the twists more easily if the middle twist is kept open with your other hand’s thumb and index finger. ii) Pinch the loop between your thumb and index finger to make it slimmer, then feed through the middle of the twists.

Step 3. i) Hold the tip of the loop in your mouth before pulling the standing line on either side of the loop so the twists start to snug up. ii) Release the loop from your mouth and continue pulling on both ends of the standing until the twists become tight.

Step 4. The finished dropper loop.


I recommend using nylon rather than fluorocarbon to tie this rig, as it’s easier to tie knots in.

The trace line used needs to be thicker than the main line so it can resist fish teeth and abrasion from unforgiving ground.

Unfortunately, badly-tied dropper knots cut into themselves, drastically reducing the breaking strain (up to 50% for dropper knots/loops) of the trace line, made worse by the tightened knots’ tendency to steadily lose strength over time. Consequently, 24-27kg (50-60lb) trace is commonly used, and the strongest rigs are tied the night before.

If fishing in high current areas, where heavy weights and tackle are required and perhaps rays and sharks are regularly encountered, ledger rigs may even need to be made from 37- 45kg (80-100lb) trace.

Deep water ledger rigs for hapuku and bass are tied from even heavier trace.

When snapper fishing we generally use the lightest sinker necessary to get our baits down, but ledger rigs are an exception. In this style of fishing some extra weight can be beneficial, as it helps to set the hook – especially a circle hook – into a fish’s mouth (more on this soon). A 6-8oz sinker does nicely in water over 30m deep.

The sinker’s shape is important, too. Long, streamlined models sink quickly and are less likely to snag up.

The sinker should be no closer than 30cm from the dropper loop above it or snagging the bottom hook can be a problem. But don’t make this part of the trace too long either, as most snapper tend to hold near the seabed, out of the worst of the tidal flow.

The swivel needs to be strong enough with wire attachment loops thicker than the nylon trace, otherwise the nylon cuts into itself.

Dropper loop knots
Tie the trace’s branching dropper loops so they stick out at right angles from the backbone and are far enough apart the hooks cannot catch up with one another. Droppers should be tied short enough so they don’t flail or twist around the backbone when the rig is lowered or retrieved.

I recommend using recurved or circle hooks, especially if using nylon monofilament line in deep water and/or in areas with lots of current. Nylon is very stretchy, making bites hard to detect. Since recurved hooks only require a little tension on the line to slide into the hinge of a fish’s jaw, anglers often hook up without even feeling the bite. However, should bites be felt, a slow, steady lift is all that’s required. A hard, fast strike, on the other hand, can easily bounce a circle hook right out of the fish’s mouth!

The ideal hook size is hotly debated, but I find a 5/0 circle hook will accommodate a bait that’s big enough to entice and catch a pretty decent snapper, but the hook is small enough to catch lesser but still legal fish.

Recurved hooks must be attached correctly to the dropper loop to realise their full potential. Thread the dropper loop through the front of the hook’s eye (i.e. on the point and barb side) before looping it over the hook’s point and bend. That way the hook’s incurving form is exaggerated still further when the loop is pulled up tight. Looking at it, you might wonder how fish will find the hook’s point, but catch fish it does!

Rig accessories
Tests have shown that fish detect fluorescence and luminescence more keenly than humans. So luminous materials – usually in the form of plastic or rubber beads – help the rig stand out when fishing in deep or murky water and during the hours of darkness.

Thanks, but no thanks!
Having said all the above, there are some excellent premade dropper rigs on offer in tackle shops. Black Magic and Gamakatsu are good examples. On the flip side, beware of very cheap rigs – these could fail when you least want them to.


Dropper rigs work best with small/slim/short baits hooked through just once. Examples include multiples of shellfish, halfpilchards, squid-tentacle clumps, and strips of squid or fish.

The following baits are commonly used:

The head half of a pilchard (cut at an angle so the bait seems longer and is easier to swallow): push the hook through the bony section in front of the eyes, or up between the gills and out through the skull.

Strip baits (tough and/or oily baits such as skipjack tuna, mullet and kahawai are best): cut them into slender, tapered strips and place the hook just once through the fatter end.

Squid-tentacle head clump (medium-sized ones are usually best): push the hook down through the head clump once so the hook point exits among the tentacles. Divide big clumps lengthwise into two baits.

Whatever you use, hook the bait just once to avoid choking the hook’s gape, which makes hook-ups difficult.


Simply drop the ledger rig to the bottom, engage the reel and with the sinker still on the bottom, wind in any slack line.

When a fish bites, slowly lift the rod. If itcontinues to bend, keep the pressure on and start winding, perhaps also lifting firmly, to make sure the hook is well-seated. Too easy! BNZ

1. The basic two-dropper ledger rig – simple and highly effective
Squid tentacle clump on a circle-hooked ledger rig.
Strip baits for ledger rigs.

The way of a waka

Paddling waka ama is boating at its most basic. But maybe the most physically beneficial, satisfying and fun too.

Sitting waist-deep in a thin fibreglass shell that leaps through the water with each pull of the paddles is a pleasant physical workout performed in the open air (and sitting down – which is appealing). But getting the best out of a waka ama takes consummate teamwork and skill.

The paddlers shrugging into lifejackets and picking hoe from the wall rack at the Taranaki Outrigger Canoe Club banter freely and laugh often.

The teams at the club are multicultural: American, Danish, Scottish and Tahitian but the greetings are in te reo Maori. A karakia is shared before the waka goes to sea and, says paddler Rui Leitao, “we have a karakia if things aren’t going well, too. It’s great…perks everybody up.”

New hoe – or waka – are blessed by a kaumatua.

But after that, it’s up to the crew. “I’d better be careful how I say this,” he grinned, “but we try to have the heaviest two people in the middle of the waka. The front paddler is responsible for timing and rhythm, the number two paddle keeps the rhythm going – everybody watches him or her to match themselves.”

“The next three paddlers are all about power – keeping the waka moving – and keeping an eye on stability; moving body weight to keep the boat on an even keel.”

The steerer in the back seat of the waka has a longer hoe (paddle) than the others – they’re normally an experienced paddler who keeps an eye on the others, and the waka itself, and acts accordingly to keep it going in a straight line while expending minimum energy.”

The main hull, called the waka, has two arms, or kiato, and the ama is the small outrigger hull at the end of them.

To comply with Nga kaihoe o Aotearoa (Waka ama NZ) competition rules, the W6 (six-person) boats are around 15m long, built from fibreglass and weigh about 150kg. The ama is adjustable and can be extended out to 2.3m for extra stability in rough seas.

Waka ama also come in smaller, lighter versions for one, two, three or four paddlers.

“It’s amazing – an extra 10kg feels like having another person on board.”

There are also lightweight carbon fibre boats which weigh just over half as much as the standard fibreglass versions.

Waka ama, as we know them today, sprung from the outrigger canoes (vaka) of Polynesian tupuna (ancestors) and varieties are in use throughout Oceania.

Rui Leitao

“The sport is just burgeoning all over the Pacific and elsewhere,” Leitao said.

December–January is the sprint season in Taranaki and Rui says that the boats can maintain 16km/h over a straight 500m course.

But it’s the distance sprints where the paddles really move the water. The course is over 1.5km in 500m sections with a right-angle turn at the end of every 500m. “Everyone has a job – it takes great coordination.” The front paddlers move the boat in one direction and the rear paddlers in the other to pivot a waka almost in its own length at speed. Wind and tide have to be accounted for to avoid unwanted penalties.

“After you’ve done that a few times… there’s just no oxygen left in you.”

Long distance races are paddled over 26km and the teams do 10–20km paddles four times a week in training.

“It’s amazing, though – at the nationals in Raglan we paddled 30km and at the end there were five boats sprinting hard out for the finish.”

Two W6 (six paddlers) can be fastened together to make a 12-person waka, which are also raced.

Waka ama launching off the beach

Paddling a waka ama properly isn’t just a matter of pulling on the hoe, he says. “There’s a body twisting motion to get the most out of each stroke. The proper technique is push the hoe with your top hand, while you keep your body and the hoe straight and push with your leg. It’s very good for your shoulders – and your core muscles. But there’s a lot to think about – you sort of focus on getting one thing right, then another.”

Solidly-built and with the affability that seems to affect most paddlers, Leitao has been paddling waka for three years but has a background in rowing – standard rowing and sweep – but says he likes the whanauorientated world of waka ama. “On whanau days we get the kids out. The hoe are longer than they are – and the lifejackets completely envelope them. It’s very social… they learn about teamwork, boating safety and te moana.”

“But I like the tikanga too – the whenuatanga, or earthbound nature of the sport. You can compete at the nationals right up until the golden masters for people 60- plus years old – and plenty do.”

The Taranaki club waka ama range up and down the coastline and cope with the frequently challenging open Tasman Sea weather conditions. They carry kayak-style skirts to stop water flooding the waka. “It’s very safety orientated – we have drills so everybody knows what to do if we tip over. The waka have buoyancy in the ends, so they don’t completely sink, and we carry buckets to bail them out.

“We can paddle through the islands off New Plymouth and look at the seals or have dolphins playing around us. Or go through Shark Alley between two islands. One time a lady from Marlborough was walking on the beach and asked us about the boats. “We said, ‘jump in – we’ll take you for a paddle!’ She was completely blown away by the nature out there.

“You get to be very aware of the conditions – we can feel the water around the waka get colder when we pass the rivers coming off the mountain – and watch the clouds and sky to see what the weather is doing.

“There’s just nothing like it.” BNZ

Aotearoa to starboard Part 2 - Down the east coast to Stewart island

One of the advantages of a clockwise circumnavigation of New Zealand is that, for the most part, the trip down the east coast of both islands can be completed with day-sails. This enabled us to keep to schedule heading south, making use of sometimes very narrow weather windows.

Timaru, the next stop after Akaroa, is an industrial port not really set up for yachts, but with the help of a keen local yachtie, we slotted between the half-dozen local yachts stern-tied to the seawall. At each port we would ask around and get the lay of the land and hopefully a contact for the next port.

Onwards to Oamaru, where the entrance to the harbour was for many years virtually closed off by shifting sands. We had been told it had been recently dredged and that by staying close to the inner western seawall there would be plenty of depth. In fact there was over four metres of water at half-tide.

Where Napier is famous for its Art Deco, Oamaru is renowned for its Victorian architecture.

The 1930s depression hit Oamaru hard and the recovery seen elsewhere never really happened until quite recently. This meant no money and no reason to demolish and replace the dated Victorian buildings that dominate the port area. It was a saving grace, resulting in a treasure of Victorian architecture, now well-restored and a city attraction. Some of the shop keepers, museum curators and publicans dress in Victorian clothing in keeping with the era. We heard tell of a school teacher who religiously dressed in her Victorian finery every day for school.

Dave and Sue Mackay enjoy a drink and some fresh air on New Year’s Eve in Stewart Island.

Walking through town you are occasionally hit by a strong odour which we mistakenly took for dead rats. In fact it comes from the blue penguins which like to nest under the buildings in town. A large old wharf jutting out into the middle of the harbour has been closed to the public and is home to Otago shags and spotted shags, each claiming their own end of the wharf.

Such is the quaintness of Oamaru!

On to Dunedin in a building nor-easterly. With waves standing up high on the shallow banks a mile outside the harbour, we surfed our way in to behind the lee of Taiaroa Head. Our friends, the Armstrong family, had managed to secure us a berth right in the town basin. Each day we were entertained by the recreational fishermen whiling away their days, chatting and joking and not seeming to catch much. Until Christmas day, when one guy’s rod doubled over with a 16-pound salmon which he skilfully landed, much to the joy of everyone there.

The leg from Dunedin to Stewart Island south along the Catlins coast and into the exposed Foveaux Strait had to be planned carefully since the weather windows are usually quite short. Robyn Armstrong had told us that the best plan is to wait for a low pressure system to pass under the South Island and the strong, usually gale-force, sou’west winds to abate. Then, whatever time of day it might be, head out and aim to be into Paterson Inlet on Stewart Island within 24 hours.

Ocean side of The Neck, Paterson Inlet.

Martin Doyle joined me for this leg, Sue opting to go overland with Martin’s wife Liz and fly across to Oban. We were lucky to get a longer, more sedate weather window than the norm and set sail, rounding Taiaroa Head at dusk. By dawn we were off Long Point in the Catlins where we stopped for an hour and caught our first blue cod of the trip, a delicacy we rate up there with snapper, our prime fish of the north.

Long Point is a renowned surf spot and both our sons have surfed there at different times. Open to Southern Ocean swells, it throws up long, hollow right-handers and is a formidable spot, not for the faint-hearted.

Approaching Foveaux Strait later in the day with clear skies and a moderate easterly breeze, we decided to call at Ruapuke Island, halfway across to Stewart Island. The guide book advises to avoid the area due to the strong currents flowing through the strait. However, it was a nice day and we were able to safely navigate around the south side of the island (even with the wind against tide) and spend some time sheltered in the calm waters before setting off on the final stretch to Halfmoon Bay.

Southern rata in bloom, Paterson Inlet.

We had started seeing albatrosses between Gisborne and Napier and they became more and more common as we headed south. At Ruapuke Island where we filleted the cod and threw the heads and frames over the side, we had royal, white-capped, Buller’s and Salvin’s albatrosses in the water, just a metre or two from the boat, ready to pounce on whatever came their way with a throaty squawk to ward off rivals.

Just like the dolphins, albatross encounters became a feature of the trip and we were always quick to get out the camera so that we could identify the species. They really are the most amazing birds and it takes a while to get used to how big they are! What’s particularly striking is how chiselled their features are, especially around the head and eyes, the white-caps especially looking tantalisingly beautiful but almost menacing at the same time.

Weeks later, sailing up the west coast of the South Island somewhere far off Westport in late afternoon with 18 to 20 knots from the west and a big four-metre swell, we were revelling in the conditions. Albatrosses had come and gone through the day but as the sun got lower we were joined by one, then two, and eventually five Gibson’s wandering albatross. Two of them were juveniles with brown plumage and white faces.

At first they would come in and soar across our bow, circle around and pass our stern before heading off for a few minutes. Then as the full contingent joined us, they stayed closer and wove a steady pattern, staying in sight as they soared dynamically along the swells.

A not-sofriendly sea lion. Marine mammals were common everywhere on Stewart Island.

There did not appear to be any practical reason why they wanted to join us: they did not seem to be gaining any lift off our sails and we weren’t throwing them any food. Maybe they simply wanted to be with us, enjoying the moment just as we were, while the sun set and Flying Cloud glided along towards the horizon. They were still with us when it got dark but in the morning they were gone.

Stewart Island is paradise! Our first day there we cruised around Paterson Inlet close to shore, taking in the scenery, which is for the most part thick, virgin native bush right down to the water’s edge, untouched by loggers targeting the straight rimu and totara, or by farmers intent on breaking-in land to graze sheep. As we sailed and explored with Martin and Liz on New Year’s Eve, there were only one or two other yachts to be seen on this expansive harbour at the backdoor to Oban, the only settlement on the island.

Paterson Inlet has a number of coves and tight, secure anchorages, all fun to explore with tracks that head off in different directions. Our favourite was Glory Cove where the holding is excellent and we could swing at anchor with plenty of sea room. I sat through a westerly gale there by myself for several days quite happily with anchor alarms set and transits not moving. A short walk from there across a narrow isthmus took us to a beautiful, white sandy beach with surf rolling in and sea lions sunning themselves above the high tide mark.

There are three all-weather harbours further south down the east coast of Stewart Island: Port Adventure, Lords River and Port Pegasus. Heading down that way, the feeling of being alone increases and the need to be totally self-reliant takes on greater importance – perhaps even more so than in Fiordland. The state of heightened awareness somehow gives you an edge that better prepares you to totally absorb the stunning beauty of this untouched corner of the world.

Blue water and white sand: Sue walks along the beach at Port Adventure, Stewart Island.

Within Port Adventure we anchored securely in the picturesque cove of Abraham’s Bosom and walked along the deserted beach just a few metres through the bush to the east on the open side. With clear water, crystalline white sand and bright sunshine it felt tropical. A sea lion patrolling the beach had left tracks in the sand. We took a long dinghy trip up the Heron River close to the anchorage where thick, lush bush formed a dense canopy above and rata trees were in a rich bloom of red.

Port Pegasus, at the southern-most end of Stewart Island, is a fully enclosed harbour containing numerous islets and coves that provide a range of exquisite anchorages. Together with the stunning backdrop of the surrounding granite peaks of Mog, Maygog and Bald Cone, it is the jewel in the crown. We felt privileged to be the only yacht in such a remote place with all the beauty and grandeur that nature could possibly muster. (Later we happened upon two other yachts, both from Oamaru, hidden away in snug anchorages as we explored the various arms and reaches of the harbour.)

Port Pegasus is steeped in history. On our second day we visited the remains of a tin mining settlement at the top end of the North Arm. Later in the day we hiked an hour up the Tin Mine trail towards the tops where back in the 1880s the pioneers had extracted ore.

Sea lions are common on Stewart Island and especially so in Port Pegasus. There tend to be a lot of young lone males cruising around in the shallows and up the streams. They never bothered us but were interested enough to come by, check us out, and continue on looking for a fish to eat.

Snug at anchor, Disappointment Cove, Port Pegasus.

A commercial kina (sea urchin) diver in Oban told me that he had never been threatened by a sea lion in his dozens of dives in the area. He did recount the story of how he had felt a tugging on his arm one day while diving and was shocked to turn and see the size of the head and the body behind it. An inquisitive, fully mature bull was gently sucking on his arm. I have heard other stories of sea lions exhibiting quite threatening behaviour in the water, but not of anyone being attacked.

This far south the days are long and in the late afternoon with clear skies and the bush and mountains taking on a violet hue, we navigated our way into the picturesque southernmost anchorage, Disappointment Cove. The guidebook refers to it as an all-weather anchorage and a go-to spot to seek refuge from gales and storms. Tight and fully enclosed, we felt secure there with our two stern lines out and the anchor set firmly in the sandy bottom.

Unfortunately, a deep low was developing in the southern Tasman and we would be forced to sit tight for up to a week. The models showed that this south-western corner of Stewart Island would see storm-force winds while back up to the north-east, Paterson Inlet would only see gales. While Disappointment Cove anchorage would have been a fine anchorage to ride it out, we opted to head back before the wind kicked in, cutting short our stay in beautiful Port Pegasus. BNZ


In most of the anchorages in Fiordland and many in Stewart Island it’s necessary to tie stern to shore. There are not many anchorages in Fiordland where you can swing at anchor and the most protected places tend to be corners and coves where you can tie into an enclosed space.

We bought two 100m floating lines of 16mm polypropylene double-braid for this purpose and they worked a treat. The lines laid into PVC bags tied into the aft corners of the cockpit.

The drill was to spend a bit of time planning the anchoring manoeuvre… scope the depths, plan where to drop the anchor (usually at least 50m offshore), identify trees or other attachments ashore to tie to, figure out the wind and get the dinghy ready. We would drop the anchor and reverse ashore letting out excess chain, then I would jump in the dinghy with the end of the floating line and head for the selected tree. The line would feed out of the bag and would float on the surface and never sink under the boat or down to the bottom where it might get caught around something.

It paid to tie the dinghy painter around my waist so that I did not have to think about the dinghy floating away as I climbed ashore and tied the shore line around the tree. A long loop in the bowline made it easier to untie it later to facilitate a fast and easy getaway.

We usually used both lines and adjusted the tensions on the two lines and anchor to set the boat in the best position, the two lines leading to the primary sheet winches. If there is a choice, it’s better to have the stern tied to the windward shore, as it’s less likely for the stern lines to break than it is for the anchor to drag.

Knowing where to anchor in the forecast conditions is key to enjoying Stewart Island and Fiordland. The Mana Island Cruising Club’s Stewart Island Cruising Guide and A Boatie’s Guide to Fiordland are ‘must haves’ for any cruise through the region. Add to that Beneath the Reflections, published by DOC about Fiordland, and you have most anchoring options detailed. BUT they are not 100% and the more you can talk to fishermen, charter operators and other yachties who have been there before, the more prepared you will be.

Some anchorages that seem like they will be totally secure can become a trap in the wrong conditions. There is no way you would know this unless you had experienced being there on the wrong day. But the fisherman know them all intimately. They have pulled yachts off the rocks in what were thought to be safe anchorages. You can be in a cove, protected from the open water of the fiord on all sides, seemingly snug and secure, but what you don’t know is that in this spot, a nor-west wind, for example, might funnel down a valley a certain way at strengths equal to or greater than the gale that’s blowing out in the Tasman Sea.

You must have your wits about you and there can be an element of stress, but the rewards of coming to one of the remotest cruising grounds in the world outweigh the difficulties by far.

Europa's unexpected voyage

On 15 March 2020 the 1911 steel barque Europa arrived in the Beagle Channel at the end of a three-week voyage to Antarctica. Story by Nigel Sharp, photos by Jordi Plana Morales.

The circumstances were almost routine. In every southern hemisphere summer since 2000, Europa has undertaken several such voyages – typically five each season and with up to 55 people on board, most of whom are charter guests. To keep on schedule towards the end of this voyage Europa had to motor quite a bit of the way across Drake Passage as it was upwind. “We always plan a little sail-by off Cape Horn at the end of those voyages,” Eric Kesteloo, Europa’s captain since 2006, told me, “and then we have the westerlies for the last day’s sailing. That all went well.” But as she entered the Beagle Channel the crew heard some news on the VHF radio which was to fundamentally change Europa’s plans – immediately and for the foreseeable future.

At the beginning of that voyage Covid-19 had been causing concerns, although it was not yet clear how serious it would become. Certain precautions had been taken – guests filling in a form to confirm they hadn’t recently been to China, for instance – but otherwise the voyage had gone ahead as normal. Three weeks later, however, the virus was officially a pandemic and the situation was very different. The news that the crew heard as Europa made her way up the Beagle Channel was that Puerto Williams had been closed, and when they arrived at their home port of Ushuaia about four hours later, they found that they were only just in time: another six hours and the 48 guests would not have been able to disembark.

Up until then the plans for Europa included taking her to the Pacific next, where she would undertake 15 separate voyages – all of which had been sold out for some time – to several remote Pacific islands, then to various Australian ports before sailing round Cape Horn to the Falklands and beginning another Antarctic season.

Having already made arrangements to refuel and replenish food supplies in Ushaia in readiness for the first leg, they were still able to do so straight away. The crew, however, were all quarantined and had to stay on board, initially alongside and then at anchor. “I spent a lot of time browsing the internet trying to find out more about the virus,” said Eric, “and I couldn’t see anything positive about how long it was going to last.” After consultations with his colleagues at the Europa office in Rotterdam and with his crew, it wasn’t long before it was decided that the best thing would be to take Europa home to Holland.

But it would be a voyage like no other, at least in this day and age. Europa has a fuel capacity of 20,500 litres, an engine that uses 500 litres per day (giving a speed of five knots in calm conditions), and she needs to run a generator continuously, which uses another 130 litres a day.

They knew that they would be unable to stop anywhere to refuel and so the 10,000-mile voyage would have to be non-stop and most of it under sail. (The longest voyage Europa normally does is about 3,500 miles between the Canaries and Salvador). The food they had just brought aboard was for 55 people for 10 days, but they now needed supplies to last much longer. So, it was arranged for some of the crew (wearing makeshift PPE) to make two trips ashore in Europa’s Zodiac RIB to stock up further. The extra food was then stored in one of the empty guest cabins where it was left undisturbed for a full week.

Then, on the morning of March 27 and with 19 crew on board (aged 21 to 57, from 12 different nations), Europa topped up with diesel one last time and departed. To exit the Beagle Channel, they were obliged to take a pilot. “We didn’t think it was really necessary,” said Eric. “In fact we thought that, with the virus, having a pilot on board was less safe than the navigational hazards in the channel. But it’s the law.” After motoring for about six hours so that they could disembark the pilot as quickly as possible, they set sail.

The plan was to follow the Cape Horn to English Channel route prescribed for that time of year in the Admiralty publication Ocean Passages for the World. During the first part of the voyage they were entitled to expect strong, favourable westerlies but instead had very little wind at first and then north-easterlies. But then a low-pressure system caught up with them and, unusually, slowed down and stayed with them for more than a week. “I called it our epic low because it brought us 1,000 miles of fantastic sailing,” said Eric.

The south-east trade winds then gave them “uneventful sailing” up to the equator, where they were lucky enough to have no more than a couple of days in the doldrums. “It was never completely calm,” said Eric, “but it was erratic. Every time there is a windshift it takes about 40 minutes to readjust all the sails and then the wind would change again. So, we were very busy for not much gain.”

When Europa crossed the equator a “secret ceremony” was held for the six crew members who had not previously done so. “We kept it nice and easy,” said Eric. “No crew members were damaged in the operation!”

Several times in the middle of the Atlantic, most of the crew went swimming. This was usually when there was no wind at all but, “we even had people swimming while we were sailing slowly – they jumped off the jib boom and climbed on board amidships as the ship passed them.”

After the equator there was “beautiful sailing” in the north-east trades for a while but from then on progress was slow. “We didn’t just have one Azores high,” said Eric, “we had three!”

Once they got into the North Atlantic “not far from Nova Scotia”, they were disappointed, once again, not to find the prevailing westerlies which should have brought them most of the way home. But by now, having not used the engine at all since the Beagle Channel, they had less reason to worry about running out of fuel, so they motored for nearly 24 hours. This was followed by another short period of sailing, followed by five days of motoring before a gale brought them into the Western Approaches.

The wind then dropped away again, and they started the engine for the last time. For most of the voyage they had encountered very little shipping: a handful of vessels had appeared on the AIS in the South Atlantic on passage from the Cape of Good Hope to Brazil, and they had sighted just two vessels (and a few others on AIS) in the North Atlantic. “But when we entered the English Channel we were very disappointed to see the brown smears of exhaust gases on the horizon – the smog of the shipping still going on.”

After three days of motoring up the English Channel and into the North Sea, Europa eventually arrived at Scheveningen on June 16, 81 days and 10,160 miles after leaving Ushuaia. They found quite a welcoming committee: the Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution (the Dutch equivalent of the RNLI) met them with a box of salted herring, and several vessels from the Scheveningen Yacht Club also came out to greet them. “But it had to be toned down a bit when we got to the dock,” said Eric. “There was controlled access to just allow family and ex-crew to meet us. But it was a very nice calm welcome after a long trip.”

has a total of 30 sails, including the six stuns’ls, but they didn’t quite manage to use all of them. The unstayed spars for the skysails weren’t rigged for the voyage; the flying jib wasn’t used; and although they had rigged the spars and rigging for the stuns’ls after the last Antarctic voyage, they only had the opportunity to use two of them, and then only for one day. The voyage’s most severe weather brought 62-knot winds and seven-metre waves, but the boat and the crew frequently encounter worse in Drake Passage. “It’s quite enjoyable once you get used to it.” said Eric. “Europa is great, a very seaworthy boat.”

They had no real problems with food supplies. After the first week the cook thoroughly checked all the stores every day to identify anything which was starting to go off to ensure that as much as possible could be used before it was too late. The only significant thing they ran out of was potatoes but they “had lots of pasta and rice” and at the end of the voyage “still had fresh green apples left in perfect condition”. Thanks to the vessel’s watermakers, fresh water was never in short supply with enough for daily showers for everyone.

All of the crew were kept busy throughout the voyage “keeping the ship in shape,” said Eric. “There is always a backlog of little jobs which are left because there is no time or there is other stuff going on.” This included a great deal of varnishing, “rust-busting” and painting. The Pacific trip would have included a period in Valparaiso for a class survey but it was rescheduled for Holland, so a great deal of work was carried out in preparation for that.

One weekend they had Sunday off such work and the following weekend that was extended to Saturday as well “but by Sunday everyone was bored and they were very happy to get back to work again on Monday.”

It was over a year before Europa was able to sail with voyage crew again. She spent her down time in various Dutch harbours, alternating maintenance periods with open ship days. This included some time at Het Scheepvaartmuseum (the National Maritime Museum) in Amsterdam where she had a free berth in exchange for allowing small groups of museum visitors to tour her deck.

One specific project introduced children to the Antarctic’s seven major animal species. The maintenance included rebuilding the deckhouse, renewing seawater pipes and central heating radiators, and a thorough refurbishment of the main food storage area, where second-hand racks which were fitted in 1992 have been replaced.

At the end of June 2021 Europa sailed again, first with a group of Dutch students and then on a few training voyages. In September she set sail for Montevideo from where she will take part in four Antarctic voyages, the last of which will end in Cape Town. Her 2022 programme will include the Tall Ships’ Race between Harlingen in the Netherlands and Antwerp in Belgium before, hopefully, resuming her Pacific voyages in 2023.

Talking towing

New Zealand’s towing regulations are often slated by the recreational boating sector as being outdated, confusing and contradictory. Our legislation drags behind the rest of world and, with the trend to ever-bigger trailer boats, more potholes lurk ahead. We need to fix it. Story By Lawrence Schaffler.

Boat owners can be forgiven for being confused – our existing regulations contain quite a few misalignments. You’d be hard-pressed, for example, to find a vehicle manufacturer that specifies an unbraked towing load greater than 750kg. And yet, as things stand you are permitted to tow an unbraked trailer weighing up to 2,000kg. With what vehicle?

Riding on an unbraked trailer, even a modestly-sized tinny – loaded with fishing gear, full fuel tanks, water toys, dive tanks, chilly bins and other accessories – will struggle to meet that 750kg tow rating. And it doesn’t take much to push a bigger boat riding on an unbraked trailer over the 2,000kg limit.

A visit to any boat ramp proves that many boaties ignore these regulations. Are they all uncaring law-breakers?
Things become even murkier when GCM (Gross Combined Mass) enters the equation. GCM refers to the combined mass of the tow vehicle and the boat/trailer – and by definition this relates to bigger boats with beefier towing vehicles.

The regulations specify that if the GCM exceeds 6,000kg the vehicle driver needs a Class 2 (HT) license. It’s impossible to know, but only a brave man would bet that all owners of such rigs have the required license. Again, it doesn’t take much to tip a rig over the 6,000kg GCM limit, particularly when you’ve loaded four hefty fishing mates and their kit into the tow vehicle.

Bigger Boats
How do we fix this?
Many would argue the logical first step is to follow Australia’s lead – making braking mandatory on trailers over 750kg. That, and a healthy dose of clarity around the regulations which, most would agree, will probably require significant reform.

The inherent problem, says Danny Sunkel, owner of Tauranga’s GFAB Trailers, is that our towing regulations haven’t kept pace with the ever-evolving boating sector. “The regulations were drafted decades ago when boats were much simpler, smaller and lighter. The average trailer boat size in New Zealand has increased considerably – especially over the last decade.”

For a responsible boat owner trying to do the right thing, interpreting the towing regulations in today’s rapidly-changing boating seascape is difficult, as is reflected in the case of Albany’s Darrell Hawkings – no doubt one of many in a similar situation.

Hawkings owned a hardtop Buccaneer 735 for many years and towed it with a Ford Ranger. The Ford has a 3,500kg towing capacity and the Buccaneer weighs around 2,500kg (dry). “But I stupidly went to a Rayglass Open Day and fell in love with a 2800. When the salesman confirmed its dry weight (3,500kg) I knew I had a problem. Filled with fuel, water, supplies and fishing gear the 2800 would be around 4,000kg. The Ranger wouldn’t cope.”

His research led to a gruntier upgrade – a RAM 1500 Crew Cab Express. With its 5.7-litre V8 there’s no shortage of power and it has a 4,500kg towing capacity. Other compelling factors included the RAM’s heavy-duty towbar/ball (standard), its built-in electronic braking system (integrates seamlessly with the trailer’s twin-axle electronic braking), and its discs-all-round braking – he wants to be able to stop when he needs to.

“But even then, investing in a heftier vehicle to tow the 2800 safely hasn’t been a clear-cut solution. To comply with the RAM’s rated towing capacity my sums showed I could only afford about 300kg of additional gear for a day’s fishing. Furthermore, piling four mates into the RAM takes the GCM to 7,230kgs (the RAM tips the scales at just over 2,500kg) – well over the 6,000kg GCM limit. That means upgrading to a Class 2 driving license – I have to get one to make sure I’m covered by insurance.”

He’s also resigned himself to modifying his fishing excursions – electing to fill up with fuel and water only once the boat is launched to minimise its towing weight.

In effect, the regulations give owners of larger trailer boats – and there are lots of them – very little wriggle room.

Compounding factors
GFAB’s Sunkel says many other factors underscore the need for clarity and reform in our towing regulations.

“That boat size has increased is one issue, but what about the way the boats are presented and fitted-out today? Historically, the average Kiwi boat was a lightweight, open runabout. Today it tends to be a hardtop with a serious superstructure, wraparound glass windows, perhaps even a toilet and/or cooker – and plenty of electronic gear. Even though it’s not physically longer than its predecessors, it’s a lot heavier.”

A new boat purchase, he suggests, is a process that should include an honest discussion between the buyer, boat agent, tow vehicle agent and the trailer manufacturer – to ensure that everyone understands what’s required in terms of a safe and compliant towing set-up. To illustrate his point, he points to the significant weight differences between variants of the same boat model – further compounded by how they are powered.

“Consider the 795 Extreme. There are two cabin configurations, each available with a single or twin outboard option, and there’s now an inboard diesel version as well. All told, there are six variants in one model, but each has a different impact on weight distribution on a trailer, and on the drawbar/tow hitch. If the trailer isn’t set up and balanced correctly, it affects the way it will tow and brake. Our towing regulations don’t accommodate these subtleties – but they should.”

He also argues that the need for a robust regulatory framework is underscored by the increased distances boats are being towed. “It’s changed significantly. Game fishing, for example, is now an all-year sport. Anglers are not only towing their boats more often but also further, right across the country, as they follow the fish. We have customers who rack up 30,000km a year.”

Though most boaties try to operate their rigs in a safe and responsible manner, transgressing our existing towing regulations seems to be a fact of life for many. But lurking at the back of everyone’s mind is the awkward question: “If I have a mishap, will my ‘iffy’ towing status compromise my cover and a claim?”

Boat insurance is typically broad spectrum, ranging across multiple scenarios – everything from superficial damage and petty theft to fire and total write-off. But if we accept that many boat/trailer rigs fall outside the weight/braking parameters specified in the regulations, does that automatically disqualify any claim?

Aaron Mortimer – owner of Mariner Marine Insurance – takes a pragmatic view. “I can say – in all my years in the industry – that an overweight boat/trailer has very rarely been
a factor with a claim. In my experience most owners – particularly of larger vessels – have been boating for many years. They know towing.

“They’re responsible about it and are very careful about running a safe, reliable set-up. The owner of a $400,000 vessel on a triple-axle trailer isn’t the chap scratching his head wondering if his ute is up to the task. He understands the need for a dedicated tow vehicle and a properly-braked trailer.”

Every claim, he adds, is assessed on its merits, and if the nature of damage or loss is not impacted by a weight/towing issue, he tends to ignore it. The loss of a boat caused by a hopelessly underpowered tow vehicle trying to negotiate a steep hill, of course, falls into a different category.

He stresses that boat insurers are not legal experts – he has never given (and never will) a client advice/guidance about an appropriate towing set-up. “People need to do their own research. If we get queries of this nature we always refer the client to the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) for clarification about towing parameters, braking and licensing.”

Mortimer would, however, welcome greater clarity around towing regulations and, like many others believes our current regulations have outlived their use-by date. “Boats and vehicles have changed so much over the last decade – particularly the big trailer boats – the legislation is no longer fit-for-purpose. I think an in-depth, formal consultation between vehicle-, trailer- and boat-manufacturers would be a very good idea.”

For many boat owners trying to negotiate, interpret and abide with the towing regulations, it’s all become too hard – an easier solution is keeping the boat in a dry stack, even though that considerably limits one’s boating range.
The industry – all facets of it – needs to have that towing conversation.

Trailer problems

While it’s easy to become frustrated when working through our towing regulatory framework, how often is an underpowered tow vehicle or overweight boat/trailer actually a problem? Based on US research,
it seems very rarely.

American insurance company BoatUS handles thousands of calls every year for towing breakdowns. An analysis of five years of data (2013-2017) highlighted the most common issues.
• Tyres (44%) – typically caused by underinflated trailer tyres.
• Wheel Bearings (21%) – cold water ingress into hot (poorly-protected) bearings promotes early failure.
• Axles (11%) – usually caused by rust, exacerbated by not washing down a trailer after saltwater launchings/retrievals.
• Miscellaneous (6%) – failure of items such as brakes/brake lines, suspension and towbar/towball.
• Tow Vehicle (5%) – mainly overheating engines.


How much can your vehicle tow?

Most vehicle manufacturers, says NZTA’s website, have tow ratings specifying the gross trailer weight (braked, unbraked, or both) the vehicle can safely tow. Although the law does not require these tow ratings to be followed, NZTA recommends that they be taken into account.

In addition, the law requires that every light vehicle and trailer combination must be capable of stopping within a distance of 7m from a speed of 30km/h. In effect, this means the maximum allowable weight of an unbraked trailer is limited by the weight and braking ability of the vehicle being used to tow it.

As a guide, NZTA recommends that the laden weight of an unbraked trailer should not exceed three quarters of the unladen weight of the towing vehicle – and then only if the towing vehicle’s brakes and tyres are in excellent condition.