KEEP CALM & CARRY ON SAILING

“Now we know what our parents went through during the Second World War.” Those were the words spoken by an acquaintance to a small group of us in March 2020, just as the full implications of Covid 19 were becoming apparent in the UK and elsewhere.

"Absolutely no comparison,” was my instinctive response and I have had no reason to alter that view since then. Ignoring (or at least partly so) significantly bigger issues such as bombs and bullets, let’s just make some sailing comparisons.

The inevitability of war in the days leading up to its outbreak on Sunday, September 3, 1939 resulted in the cancellation or curtailment of many of the UK’s scheduled sailing events: the National 12 national championships, Lowestoft Sea Week, Dartmouth Royal Regatta and Burnham Week, among numerous others. However, on Saturday the 2nd, various races took place throughout the country, much of which was enjoying pleasant weather with a light and variable southerly breeze. But the following morning a 12-Metre race in Torbay was abandoned when a launch approached each of the competing crews to tell them that war had been declared.

That winter, the yachting press regularly reported that many sailing and yacht clubs were planning fairly normal sailing programmes for the following season. “Recreation will be essential in order to preserve health and that balanced state of mind without which they [people serving in the Armed Forces] cannot put forth their best efforts,” wrote a Motor Boat & Yachting correspondent.

However, things changed fundamentally as a result of the Dunkirk evacuation in May and June 1940 when the threat of invasion became very real. The Vessels (Immobilisation) Order came into force mainly to ensure that hostile forces could not make use of any boats lying in tidal waters and, from then on and for most of the war, recreational sailing was banned in most of the United Kingdom’s coastal areas and in many estuaries and rivers. And if there was any doubt as to how seriously it was taken, the Commander in Chief of the Western Approaches, for instance, notified mariners that any vessels disobeying the rules “are liable to be fired on.”

Surbiton’s Minima Yacht Club racing at Easter.

Not surprisingly, however, many sailors were determined that they should be able to do some sailing. On the Thames, it was initially decreed that no sailing would be allowed downstream of Barnes Bridge including at Ranelagh Sailing Club. The club’s secretary, however, was having none of it and he somehow persuaded the Port of London Authority to move the limit downstream to Putney Bridge. This allowed Ranelagh, as well as London Corinthian SC at Hammersmith, to run an almost full programme of races throughout the war, although there was an interruption at the latter club in 1944 when the clubhouse was seriously damaged by a V1 flying bomb.

This was by no means the only club to be a victim of bombs. Several clubhouses were completely destroyed in bombing raids, including those of the Royal Ocean Racing Club in London, Essex YC and Westcliff YC in the Thames Estuary, the Royal Western YC and Minima YC in Plymouth, and Portsmouth YC. Among several others which received relatively minor damage was Cowes Castle, the home of the Royal Yacht Squadron. Various service personnel were residing there at the time and, although they escaped serious injury, a number of them had to go to the Gloucester Hotel for breakfast the next morning in their pyjamas, as their uniforms were buried among the debris. Dell Quay SC’s 17th Century clubhouse in Chichester Harbour had to be demolished after it was the victim of so-called “friendly fire” from an anti-aircraft gun. An AGM of the Tamesis Club had to be curtailed when V1 bombs were heard to pass overhead but not, it is said, before one of the members had complained about the state of the lavatories.

14s racing on the Upper Thames.

Although many other inland clubs were able to continue race programmes, there were mixed fortunes at others. Sailing at Minima YC at Surbiton came to an end in 1942 when the premises were requisitioned by the Ministry of Aircraft Production, but luckily the members and their boats were welcomed by Thames SC three-quarters of a mile upstream. Yeadon Tarn, where Yeadon SC is based, was just a quarter of a mile away from the Avro aeroplane factory – where 700 Lancaster bombers and 4,000 Ansons were built during the war – and, amid concerns that the tarn would provide a clear landmark for the Luftwaffe, it was drained in 1940. Similarly, Frensham Pond was drained after a German reconnaissance plane was shot down and found to have maps on board indicating that Luftwaffe bombers were using the pond as a navigational waypoint on their way to London.

On parts of the Norfolk Broads, obstacles designed to prevent enemy seaplanes from landing unfortunately had a similar effect on leisure boats. Not only were there similar hazards on the Thames at Staines SC, races were occasionally livened up by the threat of flying bombs. After one of them cut out “almost overhead”, one club member wrote that he and his crew “dived into the bottom of the boat as the bomb came down, falling about half a mile away.”

Many members of Clyde Cruising Club hadn’t agreed with the decision to take a lease on the land-locked 70-acre Bardowie Loch in 1932, but with the Clyde out of bounds they were now grateful to be able to use it for dinghy racing a couple of times a week. “Fresh water is not to be sneered at if the sea is out of reach,” wrote Norman Hinton in Yachting World.

Not surprisingly, sailing wasn’t allowed anywhere in Plymouth Sound, but in 1942 the Plymouth Officers Dinghy Racing Club was formed in order to run races on the nearby River Yealm which had a defensive boom across its entrance. A cruising dinghy sailor also found a way of getting afloat on the Yealm. “For as long as I am in a position to use it, I can look forward to sailing whenever leave comes my way,” he wrote in Yachting World, “and come back refreshed and revived by the finest process yet discovered.”

Boats from the London Corinthian Sailing Club tied up along the Thames at Hammersmith

Ranelagh Trophy Race underway.

Even when the war ended, it was many years before things returned to normal, with the need to overcome major hurdles such as mines, huge quantities of war debris around the coasts, petrol rationing and the poor states of repair of many boats which had had no maintenance for six years.

The organisation of high-profile sailing events such as the America’s Cup, the Olympic Games and the Vendee Globe would clearly have been unthinkable during the Second World War, and yet they have all taken place since Covid hit us. And on a personal note, in the UK we were only prevented from going afloat for recreational purposes during our first lockdown in the spring of 2020 and, while it may have seemed a long time, it only meant that I missed 138 days sailing; but after war was declared in September 1939 my father had to wait 2,411 days before his next sail in April 1946. BNZ

TROUBLED WATERS    
Nigel Sharp’s book Troubled Waters: Leisure Boating and the Second World War is published by Amberley Books.
Sailing at Hammersmith.

 

 

 


CARRY ON UP THE RIVER

On one side, vehicles roar maniacally along the main road towards elsewhere. But on the other, a silent river idles gently by. And in between them is an oasis of peace, housing one of the most eclectic collections of maritime memorabilia in the country.

Like many motorists I’ve hurtled past, noted the masts, wheelhouses and boat bits, and kept on driving.

But this time was different – I needed to find information on the scow Owhiti and her legendary skipper Jock McKinnon. “They might just know,” I thought.

A group of older men clustered around the reception desk at the front of the crowded old building. “Well,” one of them said, “I think Peter sailed in her – I’ll give him a call.”

Peter duly turned up; a stocky and sprightly senior with a face wrinkled by a life of laughing and seafaring. We had a delightful long yarn about Owhiti, Skipper McKinnon, scows and scowmen. A history he brought out of the books and into life.

Conversation soon gravitated towards our location, the Paeroa Maritime Park.

The diesel-powered paddle boat Tamati does river trips.

Centuries before, the first Maori plied the Ohinemuri River in great oceangoing waka long before Europeans arrived, but in November 1769, Captain James Cook RN sailed a cutter to Netherton, 7km north of Paeroa, and described a deep waterway lined with giant kahikatea trees. He named the waterway Thames after the river that ran through London in his homeland.

The Waihou and Ohinemuri exploration is said to be the furthest he ventured inland during his trip and the longest he was away from his ship, HMS Endeavour.

The river name reverted to Waihou in 1928 and a wharf was built at Paeroa to handle ships transporting machinery, freight and passengers for the burgeoning gold-mining industry on the Coromandel Peninsula, which accounted for the large part of the fledgling colony’s GDP.

Paeroa became, and remains, New Zealand’s most inland sea port.

By 1918, the advent of roads, motor vehicles and railways caused a decline in river boat trade until it ceased altogether in the late 1930s.

A remnant of Paeroa’s shipping heyday was the paddlewheel steam tug Kopu and in the late 1970s the Paeroa Historical Park Society, led by Alan Brimblecombe, was formed to salvage the derelict old river workhorse. The park’s riverside section was overgrown by gorse and littered with rubbish when the group took up residence in the on-site Ministry of Works workshop and slipway facility.

What remains of Kopu today and the information board at the museum telling her story.

Membership grew steadily and in 1980 they were given the disused Waitekauri Post Office. Using grant money, it was relocated and refurbished and was opened as an office and museum in 1980.

With four walls to hold it, the park’s collection of things maritime began to burgeon. Initially it was equipment that had been used to ship the untold carats of gold extracted from deposits at Waihi and Karangahake, via Paeroa to Auckland, but over time more and more maritime memorabilia was donated to the fledgling museum.

Meanwhile a group of young people threw a party on the tug Kopu and left some sea cocks open when they left. The venerable old kauri craft settled into the mud where she was to stay for the next 46 years.

A motley collection of heritage vessels made their homes at the park – often their last resting place – and it became a collecting place for derelicts, both boats and people, deteriorating slowly and freely using the museum facilities but contributing little in return.

The maritime park had an ageing membership and a parlous financial situation – it was badly in need of new skills and energy.

Exhibits include all sorts of historic and unusual craft, some restored, some not – even a surf boat.

The whole operation looked like it was headed downhill at a rate of knots until a member invited Colin and Gloria James to the 2008 AGM. Colin found himself elected chairman and the maritime park turned a corner.

The James’ ran a Husqvarna tool shop in Paeroa and brought a new breath of solid business skills and entrepreneurship to the foundering park. Though neither had maritime experience or skills, they knew how to manage money and get the best from the eager and hardworking volunteers.

It took the next five years to clean up the grounds and repair the buildings – all done using voluntary labour with the most meagre funding and supplemented by help from Paeroa’s business community.

“It really is Paeroa’s museum,” trust secretary Gloria James said, “everybody helped: businesses, the Lions Club, Rotary – they could see what we were trying to achieve and all pulled together to give us a hand.”

The derelict boats tied to the rickety wharves and river banks slowly moved (or were moved…) on and the volunteer work force grew as people, who shared the vision for the future of Paeroa’s maritime treasures, joined in.

Meanwhile, the collection quickly grew to encompass a wonderful array of small boats, models, naval memorabilia, sailing ships, yachts and dredgers. “People have stuff lying around – left by a husband or father, that is too good to throw away but that needs to be got rid of and kept where it will be looked after,” she explained, “so they pass it on to us.”

The exhibits include a shapely Herreshoff picnic boat, skilfully crafted from kauri with a wicker seat and retractable oarlock frames. “It was badly burned in a fire,” she added, “the owners couldn’t fix it themselves but they stipulated that it was not to be stored in the water.”

One of the museum’s 50 volunteers took the beautiful boat under his wing and rebuilt her. Now she’s on display for visitors to marvel at or run their hands wonderingly along the smooth gunwale.

There’s a collection of navigational instruments; sextants and compasses. Precision tools that are redundant in this day of GPS but still very useable.

The museum and park contains an eclectic mix of historic exhibits, many of them donated by locals.

An ornate toilet bowl from the Elingamite, donated by diver Kelly Tarlton, gives cause to pause and consider the shipwreck which caused the loss of both the ship and 45 passengers one foggy morning in 1902 at West Island, in the Three Kings group north of New Zealand.

Elingamite rested, unseen on the sea floor, until Tarlton dived on
her in 1967.

I open a door, and a portrait of Captain Galloway, the former Wellington harbourmaster, stares implacably back at me. I remembered the time he’d given me a very thorough dressing down for playing silly buggers in his harbour with the garbage scow Success, and my ears burned.

“We’ve got his old uniforms, books, photographs and papers – the family wanted them kept in a safe place,” Gloria said.

An intricate model of the topsail schooner Valhalla under full sail made me wish I’d been born decades earlier.

In 2009, the couple bought a diesel-powered paddleboat, Tamati, which was used mostly for promotional work and river trips. She is now part of the Hauraki Rail Trail – cyclists or walkers can travel out from Paeroa, load their bicycles aboard and get dropped off at the rebuilt wharf in the town.

Kiteawa, an aluminium pontoon boat has been added to the fleet to allow access for disabled people or those in wheelchairs and the classic launch Ariana also does the run downriver.

Camper vans can park at the site to use the facilities provided for them but the only other full-time occupants are two growing families of Peking ducks. “The chicks get predated on by pukeko,” Gloria said, “so we catch them and put them in cages – with their mothers – until they’re old enough to defend themselves. They’re all hand-reared and very friendly.”

Another feature for the Paeroa Maritime Park people is the annual Christmas Lights Show when lights are strung through the trees, light standards and any elevated location in the park. “It’s the only show of its kind in the country,” Gloria says, “it attracts thousands of people from all over.”

Money from the annual twinkling lights of the park supports a number of local organisations throughout each year.

In 2010, funding from the Hauraki District Council enabled the museum building to be re-roofed and relined inside and a major refurbishment began.

Colin and Gloria James retired from the shop in Paeroa in 2014 and took on roles as full-time volunteers.


The classic launch Ariana makes regular downriver runs.

“It’s a matter of matching our volunteers to what needs doing,” Gloria said. “Our volunteers are mostly senior – but they love what they’re doing and love coming here for the camaraderie and just contributing. We’ve got a huge pool of very skilled people.”

Funding was found for a full-time archivist to label and research all the existing artefacts at the museum, supported by Te Papa and Waikato Museum advisors.

A new wharf was built at Wharf Street in Paeroa and pontoons installed at the park. In 2019, an underground power network went in for camper vans and extended to the workshops where a traditional boatbuilding premises and stationary/marine motor maintenance and repair shop are planned.

An old warehouse, it’s walls lined with a bevy of shapely small vessels, can be used for functions and conferences.

A former Waikato Regional Council house from Paeroa is ready to be added to the museum – space for more maritime mementos.

New wharves and boardwalks wend along the riverbank, shady and overhung by trees. Plaques are fastened on the buildings for a bit of light reading en route. Outdoor displays, boats and winches, machine guns and attractive humpback bridges, the slumped and crumbling ruins of the old paddle wheeler Kopu with her rusty boiler – The Paeroa Maritime Museum and Park has a peaceful and restful other world ambience.

Just 150m away, traffic roars past, hurtling noisily towards Auckland or Tauranga.

But, it’s a world away from the tranquillity of the park and museum. BNZ


GEORGE DIBBERN; THE 1934 TRANS-TASMAN RACE PT 111 / Te Rapunga versus Ngataki

At North Head, Te Rapunga led Ngataki by half a mile and drew steadily away in the broad lead up the coast into a rising easterly. Te Rapunga last sighted Ngataki off Kawau at dark, an hour’s sail astern.

The Trans-Tasman race from Auckland to Melbourne had started at 2.46pm, Saturday 8th December 1934, from a mark off the Akarana Yacht Club’s clubhouse in Mechanics Bay. The only two contestants were German offshore yachtsman George Dibbern’s Te Rapunga and Aucklander Johnny Wray’s Ngataki, evenly matched in performance and seaworthiness. Ngataki had 17 hours’ time allowance from Te Rapunga.

When Te Rapunga was off Flat Rock about 8pm that night the yacht was making water seriously. George had never installed a bilge pump, so it was all hands to buckets. Twenty kerosene tins, 80 gallons, for every hour were needed to keep the water below the floorboards. As the yacht staggered up the coast in the easterly gale the inflow increased. They passed Bream Head at 2am on Sunday and sighted Cape Brett at 10am. When they were abeam of the Cape, about midday, the starboard mizzen rigging carried away, fortunately leaving the mast standing.

Eileen Morris and George Dibbern aboard Te Rapunga.

Austin Vaile, the landlubber journalist aboard, later wrote about George’s everlasting cheerfulness, his leadership, and the respect he had from his crew, the skilled seamen, George’s cousin Günter Schramm, Fred Norris and ‘Tat’, Noel Tattersfield. George took a vote. It was decided to run to Russell and round to Matauwhi Bay, to the Warne Brothers’ slip.

No single source of the leaking was found. In hindsight it was probably the result of several factors; Günter had not had time between tides, just before sailing, to fill the nail-holes after he removed the muntz metal underbody sheathing at the Devonport Yacht Club’s slip, the topsides and deck planking had shrunk in the idle time in Auckland and, as George often said, her oak planking, while ideal for the Baltic, was unsuitable for ocean cruising in the tropics as it moved too much.

Leon Warne and the crew set to work re-caulking the hull and repairing the rigging, but 44 hours were lost before they could set off in pursuit of Johnny Wray. George was convinced that he was trailing Ngataki. By the time both yachts were in the vicinity of Cape Maria van Diemen the weather was light and foggy from the north. The lighthouse keeper saw neither yacht.

Te Rapunga in the lee of Rewa at Moturekareka at the start of the voyage to the Pacific August 1935. Eileen Morris foreground.

In fact, a comparison of logs showed both yachts had passed outside the Three Kings on 13th December, Ngataki just 50 miles ahead, and set a course for Bass Strait. Te Rapunga had a particularly good run, in good sailing weather. On December 27 she crossed the Heads into Port Phillip and, at 5pm, got to the finish line at the Gellibrand lightship at Williamstown. The welcoming yachts pointed out that she had finished on the wrong side, the westward side. George re-read the rules and re-crossed the line on the east, losing 27 minutes in the process. George’s first question was about Ngataki which he was expecting to be ahead of them owing to their delays at Matauwhi Bay.

Te Rapunga’s elapsed time for the 1,630 miles was 19 days 2 hours, an average speed of four knots when she was at sea. The steamer Kalingo had sighted Ngataki early on December 26 near Bass Strait about 240 miles from Port Phillip, making a good 10 knots in a strong easterly and rough seas, not far behind Te Rapunga. The clock was ticking.

Te Rapunga departing Auckland, August 18 1935.

Te Rapunga got a great reception from the Royal St. Kilda and Brighton Yacht Clubs while they anxiously awaited Ngataki. At the same time the Centenary Bass Strait race finishers, Oimara, Phyllis, Thistle and Shamrock, were also trickling into Melbourne and mooring together at St. Kilda.

On December 28 Ngataki was seen off Port Lonsdale flying the yellow flag past the quarantine station at Portsea at 6.30pm and left there for Williamstown, crossing the line 28 hours after Te Rapunga. With her handicap of 17 hours, she was just 11 hours short of winning. Te Rapunga was awarded the Trans- Tasman Cup presented by the Akarana Yacht Club, worth £50, and £70 presented by the Victorian Yachting Association.

Once ashore together, the crews proposed a race back to New Plymouth. A cablegram to the mayor asking for consideration (and prize money) drew a negative response in those hard Slump times. Then Austin Vaile arranged a race to Hobart supported by the Royal Hobart Regatta Commission with a first prize of £20 and a second of £10 in connection with its annual regatta on February 5, 1935. Ngataki had 12 hours’ handicap for the 460- mile voyage. Fred Norris had returned to Auckland by steamer. Te Rapunga’s crew were Günter, Noel Tattersfield, Austin Vaile (now a blooded ocean voyager) but added Betty Roehr, the wife of a friendly café proprietor in Russell Street for the trip.

Te Rapunga racing in a regatta on the Derwent, February 1935, the crew in whites.

The race started from the St. Kilda pier in the afternoon of 22nd January. There was a Le Mans-type start. The crews first drank a schooner of beer at the Royal St. Kilda Yacht Club’s bar then ran the 100 yards to the long pier to set sails and cast off. From Noel Tattersfield’s diary:

“Ngataki’s crew had everything in readiness for leaving, with dinghy lashed on, deck and the sails ready for hoisting. Te Rapunga’s crew got their tender aboard and started to hoist the sails when it was noticed that Schramm was missing. He soon showed up, however, sprinting along the pier as best he was able, handicapped by a large sack containing bottled liquids usually included in a yacht’s stores. He was not long aboard before the sudden release of the main sheet, when he was heaving on the topping lift, caused him to fall overboard. As Te Rapunga cleared St. Kilda pier she pitched suddenly in a big sea, and Schramm took another header into the water. He just climbed aboard again, and there were no more cases of ‘man overboard’ during the voyage. Schramm’s antics were loudly cheered, by the large crowd on the pier which watched the departure of the yachts.”

George Dibbern phoning his wife in Germany July 11, 1935.

Outside the Heads there was a strong northwester and rough seas. Te Rapunga came in first in five days, six hours, berthing in Hobart at 2am by the headlights of cars on the wharf. Ngataki came in 84 hours later after a violent passage in which her mainsail was blown out and her dinghy was smashed to smithereens in the by now westerly gale.

Rested and recovered, the two yachts took part in the Hobart and Bellerive Regattas on the Derwent and gave talks on the radio and at the yacht clubs. They tried to get sponsorship for a race to Bluff and up the east coast to Auckland. Nothing came of that, so on February 27, 1935, Ngataki left for Auckland via North Cape and Te Rapunga, on March 5, for Bluff with a crew of three, George, Günter and Noel. They reached Bluff after a quick passage on March 15. George’s crew had sighted the coast six days before but struck fog and light winds. Te Rapunga sailed for Auckland via Napier and Gisborne two days later after a massive feast of Bluff oysters. Ngataki arrived at Russell on March 20 en route to Auckland after an uneventful crossing but punching into headwinds.

A press photo of Eileen Morris.

Te Rapunga called at Napier for George to see his old Hawkes Bay friends. Günter left the yacht to marry a local girl and take up farming in Tasmania. Eileen Morris came aboard to visit and was persuaded to crew “just to Gisborne” but went on to Auckland to the chagrin of her mother. Noel left for Auckland from Gisborne where Maurice Black and journalist Roy Murdock joined; on to Auckland by way of Port Fitzroy to shelter, arriving on April 21, 1935.

A cheery breath of fresh air in those troubled economic and political times, George had huge press coverage, but Eileen Morris’ place aboard was the real hot topic and was fostered by coy stories about her in the daily newspapers, the N.Z. Truth and the Woman’s Weekly, a typical quote:

“When interviewed, Miss Morris said ‘I thought it over very carefully, realising that by taking the trip I would be breaking away from established conventions, but I am convinced that for an individual under certain circumstances to allow himself or herself to be cramped by the narrow bounds of convention is both unnecessary and foolish.”

Te Rapunga finishing the Trans-Tasman at Williamstown.

This was an expression of George’s philosophy, later expressed powerfully in his book Quest, which Eileen was to start typing on board.

George hit the headlines again when he made a radiotelephone call to his wife Elisabeth in Germany from the Wellesley Street Post Office on the evening of July 11, a novel technical achievement for the time.

Maurice Black of Gisborne joined the crew. Te Rapunga left Auckland on August 18, 1935 for a fortnight’s cruise of the Hauraki Gulf, calling on Charlie Hanson on Moturekareka Island, to lie in the lee of the wreck of the barque Rewa and on to Great Barrier, before heading for Rarotonga on September 11 on “a three years’ cruise of the world.”

I will pick up the intriguing story of George Dibbern, Eileen Morris and Te Rapunga in later articles. BNZ


Mid-life Makeover

Normally I edit drone footage of new boats for Boating New Zealand’s boat reviews. Auckland’s most recent lockdown presented me with an opportunity to swap the camera for a keyboard and write about my recent experience giving our yacht Aotea a mid-life makeover.

Aotea is a South Pacific 42 from the board of American designer Robert Perry, built in Christchurch by Canterbury Export Marine in 1987.

The genesis of the yacht’s design came by way of Peter Rachtman, a New Zealander born in America. Peter had a rich history in finding markets for products, or probably more correctly, finding products that suited the market.

From a background in the US entertainment industry, Peter moved to New Zealand in 1979 and, after buying a yacht and cruising around Tonga and Fiji, he took a keen interest in our marine industry.

He could see great New Zealand products that needed help getting exported. He set up a company in Seattle (So- Pac) to import and promote New Zealand products.

Peter was good friends with yacht designer Robert Perry and had him draw up plans for a cruising yacht to satisfy a US market which revered New Zealand boatbuilding skills and quality.

Designed with more of an emphasis on cruising than the ‘stripped out’ racers New Zealand buyers were after, the brief was for a relatively light displacement vessel built using modern materials – fibreglass with a Divinycell core – an engineered frame to take rig and keel loads, and a winged keel.

A change in the US–NZ exchange rate and the onset of the 1987 share market crash saw only three boats leave the Christchurch factory: Aotea, Good as Gold and Perryaire.

Peter worked in the New Zealand marine sector for many years, becoming the founding director of MAREX, the marine industry’s joint action group to foster New Zealand exports. He has since retired and moved back to the United States, where he lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sanding guide coat applied

AOTEA LAUNCHED

The first yacht out of the mould was Aotea, bought by a New Zealander working in Los Angeles. Aotea spent the first part of her life overseas but was eventually sailed back to New Zealand. My wife and I bought her in 2000.

After a Pacific cruise to Tonga, Samoa and Fiji in 2003, Aotea became a regular cruiser of the Hauraki Gulf and Northland coast. However, at the ripe old age of 34 years, her ageing gelcoat, mast and hull bottom were in need of a repaint.

To save some money I had painted the deck and cabin top myself over a few seasons, working from the bow to the stern in a grid pattern.

I used International’s two-pot Perfection paint system with two epoxy primer coats, two Perfection undercoats and two topcoats. My main memory is of the miles of masking tape required for each coat, along with a multitude of mixing containers for the relatively small paint quantities.

Small areas divided by non-skid separating lines reduce the visual continuity of the painted areas, so small imperfections in the finish did not greatly detract from the overall appearance.

The main risk of painting outside was poor weather: I needed low wind – and particularly low humidity – for the final coat. Humidity that’s too high results in a matte finish. This happened to one area, but a recoat on a better day dealt with the issue.

However, topsides have large areas with long visual lines where any paint imperfections would show up – time for the professionals!

A gleaming Aotea ready to move sheds for epoxy and antifouling.

PLANNING

With the yacht berthed at Buckland’s Beach Marina, the Half Moon Bay hardstand was close by and offered a full range of services for boat maintenance.

First call was to Brian Kent, the manager of Boatspray, to discuss the painting options, price and particularly the method for removing 20 years of antifouling build up.

Twenty years ago, we had used linbide scrapers to remove the old antifouling buildup so we could re-epoxy the underwater area. Now, 21 years older and not as fit, this was a rather daunting prosect, to be avoided if at all possible.

Grit-blasting the bottom was decided upon. Brian said, “It is more economical for the owner than scraping and as long as it’s well controlled, a better result is achieved. It is imperative to have a very experienced contractor, as a moment’s inattention can cause a lot of damage.”

With method and price agreed, work got underway.

New openfronted work sheds

OFF WITH THE OLD

First up was a waterblast to remove the barnacle spat ungratefully deposited during our summer cruise in the Bay of Islands.

Once parked on the hardstand, the grit blasters arrived to tent up the boat to ensure none of the garnet blasting grit would be spread around the yard. Under Brian’s watchful eye, the vapour blasting was complete a day later. The existing epoxy layer provided a good visual cue to work to and the finished surface was even, but with a rough texture. A follow up sand left the bottom smooth.

Richard Hulston, from Independent Riggers, removed the mast. It was time for new standing rigging and a repaint, so Richard and his team stripped the mast, boom, spinnaker poles and vang of fittings ready for painting. Some very old forespar jammers were replaced by modern Spinlock equivalents.

Aotea was then moved into Boatspray’s shed for Leading Hand Chris Anderson to get to work.

Roger painted the decks himself, achieving good results with a roller

All went according to plan, apart from a cold weather snap which lowered temperatures and held up painting for a while. Still, there was plenty of prep required on the mast and fittings, which cut down on unproductive time.

The new paint system for the topsides consisted of epoxy undercoats and three topcoats of Awlcraft 2000 gloss finish.

With laser precision, the original blue stripe lines were reapplied, together with new letters cut for her name.

Painting of the bottom was left until last because the timing was critical. You must apply the antifouling straight after a new epoxy coating and since some curing time was required before Aotea could be moved for relaunching, the bottom was painted in an outside shed.

Vapour grit spraying underway.

All done, and she was ready for her early morning march of completion past the construction workers building the new hardstand facilities at Half Moon Bay. The director of Boatspray, Simon Manning, was on hand to see his team’s handiwork roll down the yard. She was a great sight with her new shine to show off.

The newly-painted mast followed a week later on a beautifully still day, with the crane costs shared among a number of boats booked that day. Everything fitted and we returned to the marina just in time for Level 4 lockdown!

Only now can the sails be put back on so we can get back on the harbour to stretch the rigging.

Once the sails are back onboard Aotea will be ready to again stretch her rigging on the waters of the Hauraki Gulf and beyond.

A SEAMLESS EXPERIENCE

Overall, the make-over was a seamless experience. Getting the work completed at Half Moon Bay by Boatspray, Independent Riggers, The Boatbuilders (survey work) and Half Moon Bay Electrical (new AGM batteries) worked extremely well for us. All the trades worked in together to plan their work schedules, ensuring a streamlined work flow.

The facilities at Half Moon Bay are currently being upgraded, with a new 85-tonne travel lift and improved hardstand arrangements. New open-sided sheds are provided to work in – a great improvement on working in the open with a roaring southwesterly wind ripping off the Tamaki Estuary. BNZ

Aotea in Uoleva, Tonga.


Fitting a gauge to your water tank

Take the guesswork out of estimating how much water your boat is carrying.

Most boats with an underfloor fuel tank will have a fuel gauge. Which is a good thing, given how critical it is to know how much fuel you have on board. However, the same cannot be said for water tanks. Many launches and yachts have these tanks fitted but there is often no indication of the current fluid level. Fortunately, unless you are an offshore cruising vessel, running out of water is usually just an annoyance. Conversely, having a full holding tank is easily dealt with by taking the appropriate action, depending on where you are located.

Nevertheless, it is useful to have some way to know at a glance how much water you have in a particular tank. In my launch the freshwater tank holds about 150 litres, and because of the associated weight I prefer to keep this tank only half-full unless I am heading out for an extended trip. This means that most of the time I have no idea exactly how much water is in the tank, since I seldom fill it up to the brim. The tank is hidden under the saloon step where it is not readily accessible, so I can’t even tap on the side of the tank to estimate the level. Fitting a gauge was a long-overdue improvement I finally decided to tackle.

The final layout, with the water gauge fitted.

The most important part of the installation is getting the right sender, which is the part that goes into the tank to sense the fluid level. Most fuel senders are variations of a standard design and come in one size, with a multi-way adjustable float arm that can be set to suit the tank depth. However, these are generally NOT compatible with water tanks, because they contain two or three different types of metal and that old foe, corrosion, would soon attack the connections. For any system containing water you need either a fully-sealed magnetic tube sender or a noncontact ultrasonic type system.

Ultrasonic sensors work much like a fishfinder’s transducer, bouncing a sound wave down and measuring the ‘echo’ off the surface of the liquid. They have the advantage that they have no moving parts and do not even normally come into contact with the water. The downside is that these sender units are quite bulky and protrude above the top of the tank. In my case we have only about 15mm gap between the tank and the saloon floor panel.

Reed tube sender on the left, a conventional float sensor on the right; The water tank is under here!

Hence, I opted for a reed tube sender, made by KUS and available from most marine chandlers. Inside the sealed stainless tube is a line of small reed switches, and a floating magnetic collar around the tube turns the switches on and off as it moves up and down. The top of this unit only sticks about 10mm above the tank and would be clear of the floor panel above it. The downside of this type of sender is that they are non-adjustable and thus you must install the correct length unit to suit the dimensions of your tank. We matched the sender with a KUS water level gauge, again available from most chandlers with a choice of black or white bezel.

The job initially looked like it would be easy, but like many such projects it proved to have a few challenges. Accessing the tank was the first issue, which required removing the saloon table and carpet, then dismantling the cupboard door and surrounding trim. Once this was out the way I could lift and remove the large aluminium floor panel to gain access to the water tank.

Cutting the hole in the top of the tank.

Disappointingly, this had no provision made for a sender. Many manufacturers pre-cut the standard sized hole and fit a blanking plate over it, but this looked to be a custom-made tank. Hence cutting a suitable hole into the tank was required. Since this is a water tank it was safe to do while still in the boat – see the sidebar above on working with fuel tanks. After draining the water from the tank, to make it easier to clean the metal shavings afterwards, I used a metal hole saw to cut the correct-sized opening.

This was my first snag – all tanks have vertical strips called baffles, to stop their contents sloshing around. There was no obvious indication on the top of the tank as to where these were, and by sheer bad luck my first hole was directly over a baffle. Grr! So, I had to cut a second hole clear of the baffles, and fit a sealed blanking plate over this first one.

The first hole. Dang it! There’s a baffle right there!

One other advantage of the reed tube sender is that the direction the unit is facing does not matter. The floating-arm type of sender used in fuel tanks requires sufficient clear space inside the tank for the float arm to move up and down, hence it must be angled clear of any of those internal baffles or the sides of the tank. The reed tube has no such issues, but it also pays to know that the five screws around the top of the sender are not symmetric – the unit can be screwed in one position only, based on the pattern of screw holes that were drilled.

After cleaning the metal shavings from the tank, and using the opportunity to also remove some old gunge from the bottom of the tank, I fitted the sender using the supplied rubber gasket and screws. A length of two-core tinned cable was connected and fed back up into the wiring channel in the boat. Lastly, the cabin could be reconstructed – the floor plate refitted, cupboard surround and door reinstalled, and the saloon table returned to its mounting pedestal.

The sender fitted and wired with the cable attached.

At this point the next issue became apparent. Well, not really an issue but something of a pain. The tank is located on the port side, and the helm is on the starboard side. Because the boat is a catamaran and there is no mid-cabin channel connecting the hulls, I had to feed the cable all the way to the bow, then across the width of the boat through the wiring channel there, then back through the channel on the starboard side and finally up into the helm. This took over an hour of fiddling and feeding wires through tight spaces.

Fitting the gauge itself to the helm was easy enough, and after checking clearance at the back I simply used the hole saw to cut a suitable opening near the other gauges. Apart from the two wires from the sender, the gauge needs a 12v supply and then an optional, separate switched supply for the backlight. It was easy enough to just daisy-chain these off the matching wires on the other gauges, and a quick test showed everything seemed to be working as required.

Installed and ready for calibration. I found there were still about 20 litres remaining in the tank when the gauge showed empty.

After cleaning up, the last step is getting an understanding of the approximate gauge calibration. I filled the tank up in increments of 20 litres. Because the tank is 170mm deep and the closest reed tube length available was 150mm, the gauge only started to register a water level once I had added about 20 litres. After 60 litres it was showing just under half full, which for my purposes is the optimum level for a day trip. I continued to fill it up to confirm the readings when ¾ full and also when completely full, then drained about half the tank out again. Now I know that when it gets close to empty I have 20 litres or less and should put some more water in before my next trip out.

Job done. Total time was about 5 hours, thanks to the complexity of accessing the tank through the floor and then feeding the cable all the way around to the helm. The sender cost $69.99, the gauge was $79.99 and I used about $20 of marine-grade twin-core cable. Total cost just under $170. I considered fitting a similar gauge to my holding tank, but decided it was not worth the effort and cost at the moment. Perhaps a future project? BNZ

Using a hole saw to cut the hole in the wooden fascia for the gauge.

FITTING A SENDER TO A FUEL TANK

Note that cutting or drilling into any sort of fuel tank is extremely hazardous. Even diesel fuel can ignite, and the spark from a drill or hole saw can be enough to trigger an explosion in petrol tanks. Without specialist gear there is only one safe way to do this: Empty all the fuel out, then completely fill the tank with water right up to the overflow tube. You must ensure there are no air bubbles, potentially containing fuel vapour, anywhere in the tank.

Obviously, this is more easily done if you can remove the tank from the boat. Another recommendation is to use a battery-powered drill, to reduce the risk of an electrical shock once the bit gets through and starts spraying water around. Once the main hole and correctly-spaced screw holes are cut and tapped for the securing bolts you can then use a file to remove burrs or sharp edges. Then, and only then, can you drain the water completely out and dry the inside of the tank off before reinstalling into the vessel.


Brief like your life depends on it

Ensuring everyone onboard knows what to do in the event of an emergency is part of a skipper’s responsibility. Always take the time to brief your crew.

A true story: Some years ago, a family group in a runabout was travelling across a large lake in windy but not unpleasant conditions when the skipper’s cap blew off his head. He immediately stopped the boat and leapt into the water to retrieve it. He was wearing a lifejacket but it wasn’t securely fastened, so it slipped off when he jumped in. A strong swimmer, he left it behind, retrieved his hat and turned to swim back to the boat.

But the strong breeze was blowing the boat away from him. A family member tossed him a line but it fell short and the boat quickly moved away from him faster than he could swim. Within minutes the boat had drifted so far away the man was no longer in sight. His body was found some days later.

So why didn’t someone on the boat drive back and rescue him? Because no-one onboard but the skipper knew how to operate the vessel. It was a tragic, totally preventable accident, but one that is all too familiar.

A man overboard situation is extremely common, but it is just one of dozens of things that can go wrong on the water. Some situations are potentially life-threatening, so it’s important that someone other than the vessel’s skipper should know what to do in case of emergency.

That’s where the safety briefing comes in.

BASIC SAFETY BRIEF CHECKLIST

THE FOLLOWING POINTS ARE IMPORTANT COMPONENTS OF A BASIC SAFETY BRIEF. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT SOMEONE ABOARD THE VESSEL OTHER THAN THE SKIPPER SHOULD BE ABLE TO IMPLEMENT THEM. LET’S CALL THAT PERSON SECOND IN COMMAND OR 2IC.

1. Let’s start with the really important one. Ensure the 2IC aboard the boat knows how to turn on and use the VHF on Channel 16. In New Zealand the distress button on the radio is not monitored, so help will not necessarily come when you press it.

2. Being able to broadcast a distress message on VHF Channel 16 is great, but if you don’t know how to ascertain your position, it’s not that useful. So ensure your 2IC knows how to turn on the chart plotter if you have one available and how to locate the latitude and longitude – AND how to read it out correctly. If you don’t have a plotter, your 2IC should – as a bare minimum – know how to get a latitude and longitude from their phone (available under compass settings on an iPhone).

3. Lots of boats in New Zealand have that yellow container with the red lid containing flares bought from the chandlers, but few have taken the time to understand what flares the container actually holds. It is important your 2IC knows what type of flares you have on the boat, how to activate them and when they should be used. (Different flares, of which we typically have three varieties in New Zealand, have different uses.) Read the instructions before you need to use them on a dark night in rough seas!

4. You need to explain where all the safety equipment, such as the fire extinguisher, first-aid kit and torches, is kept and how to use it. If you have an EPIRB or PLB, make sure your 2IC knows what it does, how to activate it and when it should be used.

5. Brief your crew on where lifejackets are kept. You should also instruct them on how to activate any inflatable style lifejackets.

I’ve been to many incidents which had poor outcomes because the passengers had mere moments to grab and fit a lifejacket, but failed to don them properly because their skipper complacently told them “there are lifejackets under the seats”.

There are many different types of lifejackets and if your passengers are unfamiliar with them, best of luck with that during a night time emergency or when under the time constraints a fire onboard tends to place you under! A competent skipper gets everyone to at least try on a lifejacket and adjust it to fit so in times of need it’s one less thing to worry about.

When to don lifejackets needs to be risk-assessed and comply with the law.

6. Does your 2IC know how to throw the rescue rope (yes, you absolutely should have one aboard)? If not, you may as well throw it in the bin because divine inspiration will not intervene and guide your 2IC’s hand when you fall off your anchored boat’s stern into a three-knot tide.

7. Your 2IC needs to be able to raise and lower the anchor in emergency situations, such as Point 6 above.

8. Ensuring your ‘regular’ 2IC can start and stop the engine(s) and operate any kill cord is important. If they are not competent boat handlers, they should as a minimum be able to tell where the wind is coming from and drive the vessel upwind of a MOB and shut the engine off to at least give you a chance of swimming to the boat rather than relying on your Olympic swimming skills to chase a boat. Boats can be blown away at surprising speeds.

9. Everybody aboard needs to know the three points of contact rule (aka one hand for the boat). A surprising number of injuries result from people texting and not holding onto the boat when it contacts a wake, resulting in the sort of UFC-style body slam Conor McGregor would be proud of.

10. Brief your crew not to jump off the boat to grab lines – always try to use a boat hook and/or try to lasso cleats with mooring lines. Slips at this point can be very dangerous, particularly if your crew enters the water anywhere near the food processor (propeller).

It’s a tragic shame that the skipper in our true story earlier did not understand the importance of a boat brief – he may still have been with us today if he had.

If you have a New Zealand firearms licence you will know all about the importance of identifying your target – the bullet cannot be put back in the gun once the trigger is pulled. This is not unlike failing to deliver an appropriate safety brief – it’s too late when the skipper suddenly becomes incapacitated or is drifting away from the boat and extremely difficult to deliver when under the duress of an emergency situation.

Brief like your life depends on it, because some day it might! BNZ


The stray-line rig

Perhaps the simplest and probably the most effective rig for catching snapper, the stray-line rig benefits from a few subtleties.

Last month we looked at how to use the ledger/ dropper rig, which is very easy to use and works well in water over 25-30m deep.

However, a stray-line rig (more accurately described as a lightly-weighted rig) tends to be a much better option in shallow water, especially water too shallow to use ledger-type rigs effectively. But you do need to know how to cast.

Please note that free-spool/overhead reels can be lethal weapons for this style of fishing in experienced hands, but we will stick with the spinning-type outfits recommended in this series’ first installment for now.

Although spinning reels are relatively easy to cast, a few basic rules must be followed. They are as follows:

CASTING A STRAY-LINE RIG ON A SPINNING ROD

PIC 1: Spread your feet apart for balance and extra casting power. If right-handed, point your left foot in the direction you wish to cast, with your right positioned at a 70-90° angle in relation to it. Have sufficient room behind you so the rod tip and attached baited rig can be lowered – close to the water’s surface is ideal, as the bigger the arc of the casting quadrant, the greater the casting power potential. The length of line hanging from the rod tip is important for good casting distance: around 30–70cm is good.
PIC 1A: Position your right hand so some fingers are either side of the reel stem and your index finger is located directly below the lip of the spool. Open the reel’s bail-arm with your left hand, trapping the line as you do so to keep the tension on, then place it halfway along the tip of your right hand’s raised index finger (which must remain raised throughout the cast). Now grip the rod butt with your left hand.
PIC 2
PIC 3
PICS 1-4: Check behind you before swinging the rod over your right shoulder and then describing an arc with the rod tip, up and over, accelerating as you go. Your left hand should slide across to your left side in the process, with the right hand index finger releasing the line soon after the rod passes the vertical position (pic 3).
PIC 5: As you get more familiar with casting, work on stopping the line leaving the spool just before the terminal tackle splashes down. This tightens the line after the cast, so it’s not left blowing around in the wind like a long, thin sail. You will need feed out line after the cast to ensure the bait sinks naturally, so don’t close the bail-arm. N.B. It takes a bit of practice to make consistently good casts!

WHERE AND WHEN TO FISH
Look for structure: anything that breaks up or changes the current could hold fish, particularly if a potential source of food is also present.

A fish-finder will help you identify reefs, pinnacles, dropoffs, rises and guts. Fish numbers tend to be greater on the structure’s exposed side facing the current.

When fishing channels or significant drop-offs/rises, it can be surprisingly difficult to identify snapper on the sounder if they’re feeding hard on the bottom in the silt and mud. So don’t be put off if you can’t see any if you know fish are regularly caught in the area.

The best fishing usually occurs while the tide is running, especially around the change of light morning and evening.

BOAT POSITIONING
Boats create a big, scary shadow and many unusual noises, so any larger, more cautious snapper tend to keep their distance. So factor in enough distance between where you anchor and the area you want to cast to. A bit of distance between bait and boat often means more and bigger fish.

A bit of distance between you and your prey will help with your berleying, too. I suggest using a Wobble Pot. This weighted device, filled with a frozen block of fishy off-cuts, is best tied off amidships and set a metre or two up from the seafloor. As the berley block thaws, a steady trail of tidbits draws hungry snapper away from the structure to your bait.

THE TACKLE
Six to 10kg nylon is recommended for most stray-lining duties. Thinner lines cut through the water better so less weight is needed to sink the baited rig. Yes, braid cuts through the water even better, but the line’s minimal stretch means fish can more easily detect your presence through the line and they often reject the bait after an experimental nip.

RIGGING UP
A natural-looking presentation is important, so take a minimalist approach to the rig. Around 50cm of trace is long enough to ‘sew’ the hook through the bait two or three times, wrap two or three half-hitches around it at the sinker end, but still leave several centimetres of trace exposed between the rigged bait and the thinner main line. The heavier trace protects against bite-offs.

A small swivel will connect the trace and mainline nicely (the more complicated but stronger leader-to-mainline connections can be learned later).

Using two recurve hooks – a 5/0 and a 6/0 – covers long, slim baits much better. It’s worth learning the snood knot to fix the top hook firmly in place; a sliding hook doesn’t hook up as well.

Knot the hooks quite closely together minimise slack nylon between them when the bait is rigged.

Reasonably small sinkers (i.e. ¼-1oz) are best, placed on the trace directly above the top hook. This packages everything into one bundle, making it easier for the angler to stay in contact with the bait.

Use just enough lead to combat the current and sink your bait to the bottom; try a 1/2oz ball sinker to start with and go heavier if required. Two or three small ball-type sinkers are better than one big one, because big sinkers partially block the topmost hook, reducing hook-ups. Removable sinkers, such as Jara, can make changing weights much quicker and easier.

Look at the bait-rigging diagrams and note the two or three half-hitches placed around the tapered end of the strip bait and around the tails of whole or half baitfish. The half-hitches absorb the force of the casting and make it harder for fish to bite/rip the bait off the hook/s. BNZ


Up the Creek: The Waikato River at Hamilton

Alex and Lesley Stone venture up the ultimate creek...

 

Our Up the Creek adventure this month breaks all the rules. For a start, we’re not starting at the river mouth. And our ‘creek’ is the mighty Waikato, New Zealand’s longest river.

To do this justice as an Up the Creek adventure would take an entire book – or two. So we’ll just do the bit through the city of Hamilton. A journey that can as easily be accomplished by bicycle along the riverside Te Awa Trail, if you have shipmates with this preference.

We will launch at the Puketu boat ramp car park, just by the Waikato Equestrian Centre, and head up to Hamilton Gardens and back. There’s enough history – and contemporary cultural interest – in this short stretch anyway.

Captain Steele’s gunboat Rangiriri.

It’s said of the mighty Waikato River that there’s a Rangatira, a chief, living at every bend. And in between a taniwha or two, as well. Mythic and other histories overlap closely here.

This great sense of history’s presence is a strong feeling as you take your boat up the river. You’re following the ghosts of many boats before you.

So our wee inland boating voyage is upstream past central Hamilton with its many museums, competing sculptures, boathouses, murals, and the best collection of second-hand bookshops in the country, to the lovely Hamilton Gardens and the friendly folk in the café there. They saved my life, sort-of, as I had reached terminal munchies by the time we got there. It was Lesley’s frequent photo stops that had held us up – but it was all fun anyway.

For cyclists it’s a fine ride, and easy too, as the path mostly follows the river. There are a few short, steeper bits where the path angles up a river-side bluff, but generally it’s all easy going – especially downstream, with the implacable, deepgreen river your constant companion just past your right handlebar.

This section of the river passes under half-a-dozen bridges, which is still a limited number for a city of Hamilton’s size. I imagine it still leads to a difference between East and West Hamilton. Which is a long-standing thing.

Isaac Coates’ flax mill, 1898 (Hamilton City Libraries)

For when the 4th Regiment of Waikato Militia established the settlement at a small kaianga called Kirikiriroa (meaning, a long stretch of gravel) in 1864, it certainly didn’t seem a likely location. Kirikiriroa had been abandoned by Ngati Wairere temporarily during the Musket Wars in the 1820s. But between 1845 and 1855 wheat, fruit and potatoes were exported to Auckland from here, with up to 50 waka plying that trade from Kirikiriroa. In August of 1864, Captain William Steele stepped ashore from the gunboat Rangiriri and established the first British military redoubt near what is now Memorial Park. He was among the vanguard of the invasion of the Waikato, a military campaign using the river as its vector. The repercussions of the raupatu (land confiscations) that followed the Invasion reverberate even now.

For those interested in the river as the main front of the war, the 2014 book The Waikato River Gunboats, self-published by Grant Middlemiss, is a worthwhile read. It’s available from his website http://www.waikatorivergunboats.com

Te Awa River Ride.

The settlement’s new name, incidentally, came from a Captain John Charles Fane Hamilton, commander of HMS Esk, one of the naval squadron in New Zealand during the conflict in the Waikato. He lost his life in the Battle at Gate Pā, Tauranga, in 1864.

Surrounded on all sides by marshlands, the settlement – on both banks of the river – initially grew very slowly. The people of both Hamiltons (East and West) were connected, tenuously, by means of a punt service across the Waikato River.

By combining, they managed to get a government loan for a bridge in December 1877. Union Bridge was completed the next year.

Te Awa River Ride near Pukete

By 1911 Hamilton’s population was still only 3,542 – about half the size of Waihī, then a gold town at the height of its boom times.

Hamilton began growing quickly after the First World War, with the land surrounding it being drained to make paddocks, and the growth of the Waikato dairy industry.

Hamilton became a thriving inland port, serviced by a number of steamers. The riverboats included the former gunboat Rangiriri (now lying as a riverbank relic opposite Hamilton Central), and others such as Bluenose, Waipā, Delta, Freetrader, Rawhiti II and Waikato.

Tight parking on the bows of Rawhiti on her maiden voyage in 1925. (Hamilton City Libraries.)

The travel costs: “In 1876, Waikato Steam Navigation advertised freight from Auckland to Cambridge and Alexandra as: Up river 45/- [45 shillings, or 2 5s] a ton; Down rivers 35/- a ton; Timber 3/- a 100 ft; Cabin passenger 5/-; Deck passenger 3/6 [3 shillings 6 pence]; Horse 5/-; Buggy 5/-.

But the river boats faded away. In 1927 they had a bad year, constantly running aground due to low river levels caused by the filling of dams upriver. The last time-tabled services – those of legendary skipper and ship-owner Ceaser Roose’s line – ended in 1946.

Now the Waikato River is a mecca, instead, for recreational craft. At Hamilton centre, there are rowing and waka ama clubs, obviously well-supported, with dozens of boats at their disposal. And next door, somewhat surprisingly, the impressive headquarters of the Waikato Sport Fishing Club, which has most of its activities as sea fishing, including family events at Raglan and Shelley Beach in the Coromandel.

PS Manuwai, a paddle steamer, on the river in the 1920s.

We tie up at a new jetty enlivened by some glittering pou sculptures. The artworks were a collaboration between hapū representatives and artist Eugene Kara of Ngāti Korokī Kahukura.

Kara says the design was inspired by the stories told within each hapū about their genealogy and history with the river. Just opposite is a place to land and visit the hull of the Rangiriri.

Head down, puffing up the steep incline of the loop of the trail that leads up to Hamilton city centre, I – oops! – inadvertently go between a camera crew and the good blokes of the New Zealand test cricket team. World champions! And doing a tour from Bluff to Whangarei to show off their trophy, a gilded mace. They looked like healthy young fellows, so I avoided what must be a weary joke for them, about a sporting trophy that cannot hold champagne.

High fashion on the steamer Rawhiti’s maiden voyage, 1925. (Hamilton City Libraries)

Once atop the riverside bluff, the ‘Victoria on the River’ plaza that opens Hamilton city centre to the river, offers a splendid view across to Hamilton East. That view is artfully framed by a major archway work in Corten steel by the Māori sculptor Robert Jahnke. There are terrific, huge murals of a kārearea New Zealand falcon, and a kōkako. But somehow the city still seems divided. The CBD is all on this side of the river.

The two-part nature of Hamilton even now is symbolically reflected in the two bronze statues that define its main centre. And the two significant works by Māori sculptors too, Jahnke’s and Michael Parekowhai’s multi-coloured The Tongue of the Dog, outside the Waikato Museum.

A Waikato River gunboat.

The two bronzes are of Sapper Horace Moore-Jones, the celebrated First World War artist who recorded all the tragedy of Gallipoli. Including with his famous watercolour of Man With the Donkey, acclaimed one of the most important pieces of Australasian war art, symbolic of the nation-building sacrifice of war and birth of our nationhood. Rarely recognised these days, the artist died in 1922 rescuing women trapped in a hotel fire.

The Moore-Jones statue was created by New Zealand Defence Force artist Captain Matt Gauldie – the Gallipoli stone plinth it crouches on was gifted by the Turkish Government.

Te Awa River Ride mural ‘A Love Story’ by Charles & Janine Williams.

An equal story, internationally, is that of another Hamilton-born son Richard O’Brien (creator of The Rocky Horror Picture Show) who initially played its androgenous central character Riff Raff. The statue of Riff Raff is very close to that of Sapper Moore-Jones – but they are worlds apart. Cast in different styles and attitudes. Moore-Jones is ruggedly moulded, and crouches with arm outstretched, measuring with a pencil as artists do – but clad in full battle gear.

Riff Raff is dressed up too – but in his own unique style. The smooth finish of this bronze is appropriately slick, with detailing – like the stretching of his suspender tights on his thighs – finely rendered by sculptors at Weta Workshops. His weapon is a shiny stainless steel ray-gun thing.

Te Awa River Ride, Hamilton Gardens bridge.

This artwork marked the site of the barbershop (long gone) where O’Brien worked in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Riff Raff is revealed in full alien regalia from when he time-warps from the fictional planet Transsexual. Near the statue were posted instructions on how to do the ‘Time Warp’ (again).

That Sapper Moore-Jones and Riff Raff are so close, yet out of line-of-sight of each other, and given their orientation would be averting their gazes anyway, adds further symbolism to the city centre’s sculpture-scape. For the moment, Riff Raff is completely hidden from view, as renovation proceeds on the regional theatre there. The good folk at Hamilton say he will be returned – promise!

Te Awa River Ride mural by Poihakena Ngawati.

One more thing about Hamilton’s central city sculptures. On 12 June 2020, the City Council removed the statue of Captain Hamilton himself, at the request of the Waikato Tainui iwi. This particular statue had passed its comfortable use-by date, with its association with the New Zealand Wars, racism and colonialism. At the same time a local kaumatua, Taitimu Maipi, who had vandalised the statue in 2018, called for the city to be renamed Kirikiriroa, its original name in te reo Māori.

What about stopping on the riverbank and casting a line to try your luck at fishing? But does the fact that the Sport Fishing Club is more focused on sea-water recreational angling mean anything?

Riverbank houses.

Not really, says Bob Gutsell of the Freshwater Angling Club, which shares the clubhouse. Bob tells me that large brown trout are often seen in the river right there; and that casting a spinner for them is your likely best bet. Remember, all fishing for trout in New Zealand requires permits. You can also try fishing for koi carp and mullet, both vegetarian fish – so you’ll need appropriate bait. The mullet, sometimes seen in schools even this far upriver, are a fish that come from the sea. And, of course, the river is the haunt of eels, some really, really big. A third, and funky mural in Victoria Plaza, curiously features a giant eel, fishing (for itself? one wonders) in the river.

The boat ramp by the fishing clubs is busy at times, shared by waka ama, kayaks, rowing shells, rowing coaches’ boats, and many recreational motorboats.

Te Awa River Ride bronze ‘Riff Raff’ by Weta Workshops

There’s good directional signage on the Te Awa trail, but very little in the way of informative panels – except for those outlining public artworks. Which is a pity. For I reckon there’d be stories aplenty to tell along the river banks. The bridges for example – they each must have had compelling reasons to be built. One bridge is a double-decker, carrying the main railway line under the road deck. And the signs are all arranged for people on the land.

I would have liked to learn more about the ecology and dynamics of the river. There were plenty of signs telling us it is very dangerous to swim in, but without giving the reasons why. Mind you, the deep green, swirling water did appear ominous enough by itself.

Hamilton Gardens lake sculpture.

All of that natural and cultural history is covered, fulsomely and well, in the book The Waikato: A History of New Zealand’s Greatest River (2018, Bateman Books) by celebrated historian Paul Moon.

Also, the history of Hamilton city itself – and its relationship with its partner, the river – has many twists and turns. But on our day there, we found the river unusually quiet. No rangatira. No taniwha. Just the memories of thousands of boats before us.

The steamer Bluenose at Hamilton Wharf, 1873.

Like so many domestic tourism attractions in New Zealand right now, it’s there for us to enjoy without the many international tourists. And it’s part of the ultimate Up the Creek. BNZ

 


Meet me at the METS

Not even new Covid variants and ongoing supply chain woes can stop the avalanche of new boating gear that’s coming to market in 2022. Masked and sanitised, Boating New Zealand’s Craig Ritchie went to METSTRADE – the world’s largest boating parts and accessories trade show – for a first-hand look at what’s coming to store shelves over the next 12 months.

Held in Amsterdam, Netherlands each November, METSTRADE is the world’s largest marine equipment trade show – a global supermarket of boat bits and marine accessories that’s quite unlike anything else in the world.

Off limits to the public, METS is where the boatbuilders and marine equipment stores go to shop, and where all the newest nautical gear makes its global debut. In a normal year METSTRADE attracts around 20,000 visitors from more than 100 countries. Yet even in 2021, with large chunks of the world still blanketed under Covid travel restrictions and the Netherlands itself under a partial lockdown, a masked and socially distanced METSTRADE still attracted more than 1,000 exhibitors from more than 40 countries.

Among a literal landslide of new product announcements, two key themes emerge. New gear coming to market is increasingly focused on making boating easier than ever, while bringing high-end features once found only on huge megayachts down to smaller boats and the core of the market.

With vaccination receipts in hand and with a briefcase loaded with hand sanitiser and N95 masks, Boating New Zealand was there to bring you this sneak peek at just some of goodies coming your way in 2022.

ACR RESQLINK VIEW

ACR Electronics’ new line of next-generation ResQLink personal locator beacons with return link capability are the world’s first user-wearable rescue beacons with two-way communication, meaning the device can actually confirm that its SOS signal has been received and that help is on the way. Thanks to a multi-constellation receiver utilising both the Galileo GNSS and GPS satellite networks for faster location and improved accuracy, the candy bar-sized device comes with a built-in clothing clip for collar or belt mounting. Battery life exceeds 24 hours.

AQUA-BASE ARUBA WATER MAKER

With its high-capacity and fully-automatic operation, the Aqua- Base Aruba quickly turns sea water to potable fresh water, churning out anywhere from 60 to 300 litres of the stuff per hour. Unique inverter technology means it draws little power, with all operations controlled by a simple touch-screen panel. While it’s intended for use in new-build boats, the company says the Aruba is an easy retrofit to existing boats, with its compact dimensions and low power draw being key reasons to upgrade.

GALE FORCE 150HP ELECTRIC OUTBOARD MOTOR

While electric outboards have been around for years, Gale Force aims to make an impression in 2022 with its 150 horsepower-equivalent electric outboard. The whisper-silent motor generates a peak output of 185 horsepower and cruises all day generating thrust comparable to a 150, all with no emissions, noise or fumes. The Norwegian company unveiled the motor for the first time at METSTRADE, and is now setting up a global distribution network.

DOMETIC SEASTAR TRIM TABS

Dometic Marine introduced a lot of new products at METSTRADE this year, topped by its SeaStar Standard trim tab system. The tabs feature an intelligent actuator and a simple dial control to make operation as easy as it gets – just rotate the dial in the direction one wants to level the boat. There’s also single-press Bow Up and Bow Down inputs for manual adjustment, and a Favourite button that lets boaties save a desired tab position, making it easy to return to a vessel’s “sweet spot” ride position with the touch of a finger.

GARMIN SURROUND VIEW CAMERA SYSTEM

Garmin says its new Surround View camera system is the world’s first fully-integrated system of cameras to offer live, 360o bird’s-eye video monitoring, giving boaties unequalled situational awareness when docking or negotiating tight spots. Six onboard cameras support augmented reality features, such as distance markers and a visual bumper that helps the captain see when docks or other objects breach pre-set barrier limits.

ICOM IC-M94DE

Icom took advantage of METSTRADE to launch its new IC-M94DE, which it says is the world’s first VHF handheld radio with integrated DSC and AIS. The receiver displays vessel traffic information right on its own dedicated screen, while the built-in AIS target call function allows the owner to easily set up a DSC individual call. Distress calls can be made with the rear panel Distress button. It even includes integrated GPS and Float’n Flash features, making it among the most fully-featured handhelds on the market. Since every vessel needs a handheld backup, expect to see a lot of these around this year.

I-CARBON CLEAT

Whether you’re a boatbuilder looking to make a statement with your spiffy new yacht or you’re a weekend boatie just looking to spruce up your current ride, the new I-Carbon retractable mooring cleat can’t help but impress with its bold design and carbon fibre and titanium construction. The device’s carbon fibre and titanium construction ensure light weight, extreme durability and total resistance to corrosion for great looks and a long life. Installation is an easy DIY, requiring only a screwdriver and a drill.

LUMISHORE LUX FLOODLIGHTS

Lumishore attracted a lot of attention in Amsterdam with its new LUX floodlights, which are described as the world’s first full-colour floodlights to be controlled by an MFD. Ultra-wide beam angles provide broad, even illumination of open areas like cockpits and foredecks, while the light’s unique capability to combine a full range of RGB colours – plus both warm and cool white – vis touch-screen control on the MFD let owners literally dial in any shade, hue or intensity they desire.

SAILSERVER

Sailserver is an automatic logbook that records any and all events it detects on a sailboat’s onboard network. Data is uploaded to a server that can be accessed from anywhere in the world, making it a breeze to keep track of things like maintenance schedules. The device will also send emergency messages via SMS in case of alarm. The Sailserver is easy to install and comes with a 10-year worldwide pre-paid data plan for the ultimate in convenience and affordability.

SMARTCRAFT CONNECT

With its new SmartCraft Connect module, Mercury Marine brings its VesselView engine monitoring experience to Garmin and Raymarine multi-function displays. The system allows the MFD displays to serve as information portals by displaying critical engine data alongside GPS, chartplotter and sonar data.

RAYMARINE YACHTSENSE

Raymarine also attracted plenty of media attention at METSTRADE with its all-new YachtSense digital control system, which allows boaties to control pretty well any onboard function with the flick of a fingertip. Modular construction and an extensive digital switching array provide three levels of redundancy to ensure reliable operation under any conditions at sea. A highly customisable user interface allows easy operation, along with remote monitoring from connected MFDs and mobile devices.

NEW BOATING GEAR FOR 2022

FUSION APOLLO MS-WB670

Let’s face it, the helm station on any boat gets pretty crowded these days, and there isn’t always space to add new things. Fusion Audio gets that, which is why its remarkable new Apollo MS-WB670 stereo simply installs in a convenient spot belowdecks, with control delegated to the boat’s existing multifunction display. Right now it works with compatible Garmin devices only, or a range of Fusion wired or wireless remotes. While you may not see it on the dash, Apollo’s MS-WB670 still packs an incredible punch with full digital signal processing, Apple AirPlay 2 compatibility and Fusion’s PartyBus-Network.

ASG POWERBASE

The Powerbase from Brunswick’s Advanced Systems Group is an electrically-activated elbow mount that raises and lowers antennas or lights at the push of a button. The device allows boaties to erect or retract roof-mounted accessories directly from the helm, eliminating the need to climb up the top in order to clear low bridges or to prepare the boat for trailering or storage. Simple, but brilliant.

INTERNATIONAL PAINT ONE UP

One UP is a single-pack primer/undercoat for use above the waterline with International one-pack finishes and deck paints. The exclusive formulation is said to make boat painting easier for DIY customers, without compromising on aesthetic appearance or substrate protection. One UP goes on easily and leaves a smooth, even finish that substantially reduces sanding time between coats. Now that’s something we can all cheer about.

MASTERVOLT LITHIUM-ION ULTRA 1250 BATTERY

Reflecting more than a decade of experience in developing lithium-ion batteries for recreational boating, Mastervolt’s MLI Ultra 1250 set enough new standards in battery construction that it won a coveted METSTRADE design award. Compact and lightweight, the Ultra 1250 includes an intelligent battery management system, an integrated battery switch, a heat pad, IP65 design and extended connectivity options, making it an easy drop-in replacement in a wide range of watercraft.

VISION MARINE TECHNOLOGIES E-MOTION

Canadian electric boatbuilder Vision Marine Technologies used METSTRADE to officially launch its all-new E-Motion 180 horsepower-equivalent electric outboard. E-motion is described as the first fully-electric powertrain that utilises software to control a proprietary assembly between the electric motor and a transmission – an intricate bit of engineering that is said to significantly increase both performance and range. The company’s 60kW battery is roughly the size of a 75-litre fuel tank, and is said to deliver equivalent range to a traditional 175hp internal combustion outboard fed by a 75-litre tank.

XANTREX XPLORE BATTERY CHARGER

While a number of boaties have adopted lithium-ion batteries to power house loads like air conditioners and galley appliances, traditional lead acid cells remain the go-to choice as crank batteries for the engine. The new XPLORE battery charger from Xantrex is said to be the first in the world that can charge up to six banks of both lithium-ion and lead acid cells simultaneously, eliminating the need for multiple onboard chargers – simplifying onboard electrical systems, reducing overall weight and freeing up considerable space belowdecks. Built-in Bluetooth & NMEA2K communications make the XPLORE supereasy to configure and monitor.

ZHIK DRYSUIT

Zhik’s all-new dry suit uses cuttingedge technologies and design elements from ocean racing and inshore sailing experience to make it exceptionally lightweight, streamlined and durable. A three-layer breathable Vecta fabric allows a low windage fit, with soft latex neck and wrist seals for an excellent waterproof seal and maximum comfort. The airtight TiZip zipper is completely waterproof, while all inside seams are fully taped with further reinforcement on critical junctions. Internal braces allow the fit to be easily adjusted.

SEA-TAGS PRO

Sea-Tags introduced its innovative wristband MOB system at METSTRADE a few years ago, and returned in 2021 to unveil its new Sea-Tags Pro central monitoring system. Fully-compatible with existing Sea-Tags wristbands, the new monitoring system links to all Sea-Tags on board to provide multi-tag MOB capability. It’s NMEA 2000-compatible, allowing MOB events to display on a chartplotter display so skippers can quickly mark the incident location. The system can also combine with additional Bluetooth antennas and the company’s new external active GNSS antenna.


Your summer cruising library / January 2022

Another installment of interesting reads for January. Good books – they’re an essential part of the joys of cruising. And if the lockdowns continue – well then, they will probably be even more welcome!

NEW BOOKS

REAWAKENED – TRADITIONAL NAVIGATORS OF TE MOANA-NUI-A-KIWA BY JEFF EVANS (MASSEY UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2021)

This is the most recent addition to the library of traditional Pacific navigation – and the most vital in a human sense. The interviews of living master navigators (a chapter for each) give this book immediacy, a current relevance and an irresistible appeal. The photography – portraits and action sailing shots – is compelling too. This book is all about vaka moana sailing in the here and now.

250 YEARS OF NEW ZEALAND PAINTING BY GIL DOCKING, MICHAEL DUNN AND EDWARD HANFLING (BATEMAN BOOKS, 2020)

This book helps you to get your head out of boats and away from the sea. This is another magnificent, lavishlyillustrated book. Perfect for the dip-in, dip-out reader – and full of surprising images. The book will generate great saloon table discussions about aesthetics, a subject all boaties are well-versed in.

NEWISH BOOKS

PATHWAY OF THE BIRDS BY ANDREW CROWE BATEMAN PUBLISHING AND UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI`I PRESS, 2018)

Intriguingly traverses backwards from the furthest points of Polynesian navigators’ reach – Aotearoa New Zealand, Hawai`i, Rapanui Easter Island, and the South American coast. Crowe adds notes from a recent Pacific cruise. It includes many excellent graphics and also succinctly explains why Pacific oceanic voyaging had declined so much by AD 1450.

SUNSET TO SUNRISE BY TIMOTHY NICOL (NEW HOLLAND, 2018)

Written by the Timothy Nicol, the bloke who managed our lighthouse system from 1990 to 1999, Sunset to Sunrise (New Holland, 2018) is full of fascinating info (factual and legendary!) and images. It doubles as navigational education too!

PARADISE SAVED BY DAVE BUTLER, TONY LINDSAY AND JANET HUNT (RANDOM HOUSE NZ, 2014)

For much-needed inspiration. If we can do so well in New Zealand with forest habitat rescue, then it’s possible in the ocean too!

YOUNG READERS

IN OUR OWN BACKYARD BY ANNE KEYES (BATEMAN BOOKS 2021)

There’s been much media interest this year in the 40th anniversary of The Tour of 1981 – and its repercussions for modern New Zealand. This lively, truth-telling novel will get teenagers up to speed on this important part of our history. They will also relate to the anti-establishment in it, I reckon!


E3 CALL HOME BY JANET HUNT RANDOM HOUSE NZ, 2009

The story of two kuaka godwits whose flight in 2007 was tracked using transmitters. A male bird E3 mysteriously turned back when he reached Papua New Guinea. What had happened to him? A female, E7, showed that godwits can fly from Alaska to New Zealand, a distance of 11,200 non-stop kilometres.


Aotearoa to starboard PART 3 - FIORDLAND THEN HOME

The adventure continues for the crew of the Auckland yacht Flying Cloud as they take time to explore Fiordland before heading north for home.

Martin, Adam and Johnny joined me for the leg from Stewart Island to Fiordland. We had heard stories of yachts waiting many weeks for an opening in the weather to cross Foveaux Strait and round the notorious Puysegur Point in to Preservation Inlet, so when a weather window opened sooner than expected, the guys wasted no time getting to Oban and prepping for Fiordland.

The advice we’d been given was to head to Port William on the northeast coast of Stewart Island and use it as a jumping off point for the overnight passage. At 80 nautical miles and with the long summer days, the passage could be achieved during daylight hours, but if conditions deteriorated or if the currents were stronger than predicted, we did not want to risk rounding Puysegur at dusk and finding our way into Preservation Inlet in the dark.

In Cormorant Cove, Dusky Sound, with our friends aboard Otama.

The night sail was cold and lumpy, but for this part of the world, certainly not what you’d call rough. We approached Puysegur with 15 knots on the beam and the dawn light illuminating the cliffs of Chalky Island in the distance. We closed in on our friends on board Otama who had left Stewart Island a couple of hours before us and we enjoyed the moment sailing into Fiordland together.

The new crew were all action men! Adam and Martin had joined us at different times sailing in Fiji and French Polynesia. They knew Flying Cloud well and the fun she inevitably leads us to. The day was spectacular! Bluebird skies and light winds.

We took the opportunity to anchor inside the Spit Islands on the northern side of the inlet. The shore party enjoyed a stroll along the beach gathering pipis and up through the sand dunes bordering the dense bush behind. It felt more like Northland than the Fiordland we were expecting.

Swinging at anchor, Crooked Arm, Doubtful Sound.

In the afternoon, Adam and Johnny suited up and dived for scallops but instead found crayfish the size of which they had never seen before! (And that’s saying something for Adam who has spent countless hours exploring underwater to the limits of his breath hold.) Securely anchored in Cuttle Cove for the night, we dined well with blue cod and paua complementing the crayfish.

Our time in Fiordland was punctuated by highlights. The sail up Long Sound in Preservation Inlet to the idyllic anchorage in Cascade Basin; negotiating the torrents of water from the waterfall there on the paddle board; anchoring in calm conditions in Otago’s Retreat and hiking out to the Puysegur Lighthouse.

In Chalky Inlet we surfed a boulder bank and could only wonder at how it would go with a big Southern Ocean swell rolling in, enjoyed the serenity of the perfect anchorage of North Harbour, explored Edwardson Sound, and awaited Sue, TL and Harriet’s arrival on the chopper on yet another bluebird day.

Dusky Sound is steeped in history and is the epicentre of conservation efforts. Anchored in Shark Cove at the very top of the sound in heavy overnight rain, we awoke to be surrounded by waterfalls and the smell of the freshness of the bush washed down onto the water. A glorious sail followed with a southerly breeze up Acheron Passage to Breaksea Sound and the spectacular heights and immense scale of the Broughton Arm.

Sailing with the the cockpit enclosed – it might be summer but it is Fiordland!

Dawn off Karamea on the way back north.

Then a fair weather passage up to Doubtful Sound and our first taste of civilisation in weeks. Engulfed in the magnitude of the Hall Arm, we partied with friends Derek and Melissa on a breathless night under the stars to the tunes that have shaped us. Up the Camelot River by dinghy and on further by foot along the banks overlooking rock pools of crystal-clear water flowing swiftly around massive granite boulders, one of which must surely have been where the name ‘Camelot’ came from.

During a nor’west gale we spent three days sheltered in the calm of Precipice Cove in Bradshaw Sound. With two sternlines ashore, we appreciated the advice of fishermen who had touted this as the best anchorage in Fiordland.

In late February Phil and Chris joined me in Doubtful Sound, arriving on the same bus that Sue went out on. That afternoon we had one of the roughest passages of the trip – just a short hop from Thompson Sound to Charles Sound, but the north wind was against a southerly current and the seas were short and steep.

We took green water over the bow and it came as a timely reminder to reconfigure Flying Cloud into offshore mode for the open ocean passages to come. This primarily involves moving weight out of the bow area and re-stowing it aft and amidships. Many cruisers don’t bother to optimise their boats, but a few kilograms of ropes and sails removed from the bow can transform it, making it significantly more sea-kindly and ultimately safer.

Marjorie Falls, Irene River, Charles Sound

About a mile inside Charles Sound we were surrounded by a school of albacore tuna jumping – a surreal sight when surrounded by mountains and a spectacle we’d only ever seen on the open ocean.

Further north in George Sound we found Otama anchored at Alice Falls and gave them some of the fresh albacore and swapped notes on the approaching weather windows for the passage up the west coast. It looked like the wind would go from northerly to westerly in three days’ time and we wanted to be up in Milford Sound ahead of the game.

The approach into Milford Sound felt special. Maybe it was the because Milford is the icon of Fiordland and to have sailed there felt like an achievement. Without doubt, it has the steepest most vertical sides and the highest peaks of all the fiords. The grandeur of it is something to behold! The local pod of bottlenose dolphins escorted us all the way up to Freshwater Basin where the skipper of one of the tour boats gave us his mooring for the time we were there.

Melissa and Derek on the Crooked Arm of Doubtful Sound

After a couple of days there the wind was due to shift from north to west early the following afternoon. We planned to head out early in the morning in case the conditions outside the sound weren’t too bad and we could effectively sail to windward for six or so hours to get a head start. We had torrential rain all night and in the morning the wind was squally and the visibility poor. Not what we’d hoped for, but we set off anyway and were treated to seeing Milford Sound in all its splendour.

The rain cleared as we motored out and our ears were assaulted by a wall of sound from water falling everywhere from great heights, shaped by the wind as it poured down on the sea’s surface below. Fiordland had blown us away yet again!

Outside, the conditions were comfortable with winds in the 15 to 20 knots range and we tacked towards the north using the wind shifts that came our way. Forty miles up the coast we were lifting on port tack and came in close enough to get a good view of Cascade Point. We had never heard of it but we’d stumbled on to what was one of the most spectacular sights of the trip: three streams flowing over the edge of 60m-high cliffs and falling top to bottom onto the breakers and rocks below.

Tomtit

The wind soon backed to the west and we had a fast trip with eased sheets for the next two days, up the coast and around Farewell Spit into Tasman Bay.

A few weeks later, with the benefit of being able to wait for ideal conditions, we had a fast two-and-a-half day sail up the west coast of the North Island, rounding Cape Reinga and anchoring off Spirits Bay on a calm night where we caught snapper for dinner – a change from blue cod, the onboard delicacy of the previous months.

Four day-sails down the coast of Northland later, approaching home from the opposite direction to which we had set out, the satisfaction of having completed a circumnavigation began to sink in. In the months since, it sometimes seems hard to believe that everything that happened to us sailing around New Zealand was real. BNZ

Flying Cloud anchored in Deepwater Basin, Milford Sound.

WEATHER FORECASTING

I use Predictwind to see what the major weather models are saying for the days ahead and to estimate what our progress will be like using the departure planning and routing functions. But when it’s not straightforward, I don’t hesitate to call friends with experience and I often ask for help from meteorologist Roger Badham. His interpretation of what the models are saying, how accurate they are likely to be, the amount of wind in the system and the sea state is like a reality check. Someone looking in from afar can bring an added and more considered perspective.

We found that the ECMWF model available on PredictWind tended to give the most accurate forecast in close proximity to the coast. This gave us the confidence to put to sea when other models and the maritime weather bulletin said that we should not. Maritime weather bulletins cannot cover localised variations within the sea area.

On two occasions, ECMWF showed a light wind zone lasting from dawn until midday within five miles of the Fiordland coast in an otherwise strong nor-easterly flow. We sailed from Charles Sound to George Sound and later, from George Sound to Milford Sound on these narrow weather windows.

There is no cell reception through most of Stewart Island and Fiordland, so we relied on our Iridium Go satellite phone and the interface that the PredictWind software provides to be able to receive daily weather updates. This function also reports our position every hour on our page on the PredictWind website. We were lucky to have a good friend following our progress when we were at sea thus adding a comforting and valuable measure of safety to our trip.