Re-ballasting Florence

Ian Wells of Wellington Point, Queensland, a former Kiwi, has sent this great tale to the Editor. It is too good to merely paraphrase, so here it is, pretty much as Ian sent it to us.

My grandfather, Charles Wells, was a postmaster who served in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Amongst his postings were Rawene on the Hokianga in the sailing ship kauri timber trade days, at Silverdale, when it as just a tiny hamlet on the Wade River, and finally at Whitianga, at the heights of the Coromandel gold days and the growing Coromandel kauri timber industry.

Father, Boy, his second wife Kath, and her mother Mrs Humphries

My father, Norman Wells. born in  December 1886, had learned a great deal about sail and small boats as a boy in his Hokianga days. Some nautical terminology stayed with him lifelong; he always 'pulled' a dinghy, a launch was pronounced "larnch" and a trip to the toilet was taken in order to 'pump ship’. He taught me how pull a dinghy and how to sail my P class and Zeddie to windward – especially in lighter airs, and he taught me well.

Soon after the family moved to Whitianga, Norman had an opportunity to buy some 300 acres of potential farmland backing Buffalo Beach some five or six kilometres from Whitianga village, and he did so, settling on the block in 1908. He was still a youngster, but he made a great success of it. He married – as one did! His bride, Virginia Lowe, came of burly whaling stock (oddly she had a strong puritanical streak) and they had five children: four girls and a boy who was also named Norman but was known lifelong as “Boy”.

Log rafts being prepared at Whitianga. S.S. Stella ready to make the tow to Auckland 1911.

Boy was big and strong – he grew to about six-foot-four (almost a foot taller than Father) – and was powerfully built. He had a vast practical knowledge, even though just a year or so at Mt Albert Grammar as a School House boy convinced him that academia was not for him.

By then the Coromandel gold activity was winding down and the kauri was king. A. H. Reed in his excellent book The Story of the Kauri sets out some of the incredible technology those timber-getters used before the advent of machinery in moving logs to watercourses and tricked them with ‘driving dams’ into floating down to the sea. Whitianga had a very big hinterland of mountainous kauri country and, although it had a very busy mill, many more Whitianga logs were rafted up and towed to Auckland for milling at the Kauri Timber Company mill in Customs Street East. I believe that the late Johnny Wray built his famous yacht Ngataki from a raft breakaway kauri log that he found and ‘rescued’ from a beach on an island in the Hauraki Gulf.

The Du Brie engine.
The Kauri Timber Co mill on the Auckland waterfront

Although, to my knowledge, Boy never actually worked alongside the timber-getters, he somehow acquired their amazing skills in rigging and the use of blocks and tackle. He was more than handy with a timber jack too. These skills stood him in great stead as a farmer in those pre-farm tractor days. Before hay-bailing machinery, he felled a tall pine tree from the shelterbelt each summer to become the mast with derrick, erected serially in several paddocks for haystack building. A very compliant old draught horse named ‘Pepper’ would walk backwards and forwards all day, every day, during haymaking time, pulling the loaded hay grab into the air, to be swung on the derrick into position and released on the growing haystack. These rigging skills and the gear used for that haymaking exercise were to be critical to the salvage project described later.

My father had an entrepreneurial bent. While running the farm he realised that catering to some of the needs of the bush workforce and the local mill workers had potential. He built a slaughterhouse on the farm and opened a retail butchery in the village and later a motor garage too. In later life he claimed to me that he knew “every nut and bolt on a Model T Ford!”

The KTC mill at Whitianga

This story really begins in the bad years of the Great Depression, when my father acquired an ageing small keeler from a local professional fisherman who had been swamped by debt. The boat was Alice, a gaff-rigged cutter of some 28 feet, which the family used for pleasure cruising in Mercury Bay and its wonderful environs. Later in that 30s decade, the marriage broke up and my father moved from the Coromandel, leaving Boy with Alice and to run the farm and the local businesses, which he did with great skill.

At the onset of World War 2, Boy hauled Alice up while he coped with farm labour shortages and his new commitments to the Home Guard. Sadly, post-war, Alice was found to have terminal dry rot. She was broken up and ignominiously fuelled the cooking range in the farm homestead. But her lead was kept safe ‘for a rainy day.’

Boy Wells in full Home Guard gear jumping the back fence.

In 1951 Boy succumbed to the urge to have another boat. He bought Florence, F65, a smart, recently completed short-ender. The Williams brothers had built her for themselves in Auckland and kept her on the Tamaki River. She was a comfortable boat in the spartan style of the day, and had the extraordinary luxury of an auxiliary engine, a lovely little magneto-fired Austin 7 that started on the first turn of the crank handle. Florence had no head (“complicated, dangerous, smelly things”), no electricity, no radio (we couldn’t tune into the legendary Port Charles marine radio broadcasts), and no refrigeration. Cooking was done on a Primus, but yes, it would handle a crayfish!

I had some great sails in Florence with Boy and his sons, and we would cruise the Mercury Islands and anchor up in Mercury Cove every Christmas time. But Florence was a little tender and laboured in good working breezes. There was an obvious reason for this. Built in the age of post-war scarcities her ballast keel was of concrete, not lead, and she had pig iron ballast inside the hull under the cabin floors. Boy wanted to give her a lead keel to have a stiffer boat that could handle a breeze and perhaps even sport a genoa and was looking for more cabin headroom by getting rid of the pig iron. BNZ

Alice in Wells ownership.

ALICE

Alice was designed by J.G. Trevithick NIMA, the Technical Master at Auckland Grammar School, for Charles Beavan of Calliope Road Devonport and built by Robert Logan Sr in December 1887 at his yard at the foot of Anne Street, Devonport in his customary ‘lifeboat’ triple- diagonal strip layered planking. Her dimensions were 28ft loa, 22ft lwl, 6ft 8in beam and 4ft draught and she was rigged as a gaff cutter. She was always copper sheathed in her early years.

Alice spent many years on the Waitemata, racing and cruising with the Auckland Yacht Club under Beavan’s ownership. The crack open sailing boat skipper Barlow Madigan was her normal race helmsman. When Beavan died in March 1898 Logan Bros hauled her out in their yard. In 1900 George Stewart bought her and raced her with Ponsonby Cruising Club, usually sailed by Tom Payne. She later passed into the hands of Stewart’s brother Sam who cut down her rig to sail her single-handed. He sold her in 1919 to H. C. V. Shearman. In March 1921 Shearman advertised her sale in excellent condition, “Moored Mechanics Bay; 1½ tons lead; price £100.” She was sold to “two bluewater sailors who have gone North in an extended cruise.” In late 1922 her 1914 wartime sail number of 68 was replaced with the Auckland Provincial Yacht Association alpha-numeric number E3 and she was owned by a Mr. Tangye.

There is little mention of her after this. In February 1926 there was a piece in the New Zealand Herald saying she was now owned in Mangonui and was hauled up in Freeman’s Bay having a 5hp Du Brie auxiliary engine fitted. The Du Brie was a single cylinder American engine using the piston and connecting rod of a Model T Ford. In 1927 and in 1928 she was for sale in the Auckland papers with perfect gear and a “new marine engine”. From here Alice was bought for fishing, like so many old warriors from her yachting past. She gravitated to Whitianga and the ownership of the Wells family. Boy Wells was a founder member of the Mercury Bay Boating Club with Alice in 1946 in company with Ben Bendall’s 28ft ketch Mangawai, but the years on the hard had proved too much for Alice.

Florence

FLORENCE

Florence was built by the Williams brothers at Panmure in 1949 to a design by H. E. (Eric) Cox of Christchurch, a very popular designer in New Zealand at the time. Her dimensions were 32ft loa, 26ft lwl, 8ft beam and 5ft draught. The most common car engine installation in yachts of this time was the 1172cc side-valve Ford 10 which was durable, easy to maintain and gave a very healthy 30bhp.

The 747cc Austin 7 engine in Florence was another typical installation of a cheap car engine. The Austin was smaller, lighter and produced a useful 17bhp. Its Achilles heel was its aluminium alloy crankcase which corroded rapidly if the owner did not take care to prevent it becoming part of an electrolytic cell.


ONE FAMILY’S BOATING JOURNEY - Peninsula discoveries

In last month’s article, Chris shared his trials with the head on board SV Sauvage. The story now continues with the family’s Christmas cruise to the Coromandel Peninsula.

Having spent a few restful days anchored at Great Barrier Island, it was time to head to the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. Our goal? To reach Whiritoa for New Year’s Day. Whiritoa Beach lies 77 nautical miles southeast of Great Barrier Island between Waihi Beach and Whangamata.

We spent a few days poring over the forecasted wind and swell maps seeking the best sailing opportunities. And so, we pulled anchor on Christmas Day, headed out of Smokehouse Bay, past Okiore Point to traverse Colville Channel and down between Great Mercury Island and the Coromandel Peninsula to Flaxmill Bay, Whitianga.

Ancient Maori petroglyphs carved into the rock face.
A cage had been erected to protect the rock carvings

You may have experienced murky sailing conditions yourselves when heading round the top of the Coromandel Peninsula. On previous trips, heading from Great Barrier to Gulf Harbour, we had encountered one- to two-metre choppy swells and strong headwinds. This time, we wanted to avoid them.

Thankfully, it was sunny, the water calmed down and the wind dropped once we reached the Coromandel Peninsula’s east coast. As we neared Great Mercury Island, a large pod of dolphins joined us. It was serene and magical!

As detailed last month, we stopped in Flaxmill Bay by Whitianga to fix Sauvage’s head. A few days later, after checking the wind forecast, we then travelled south heading for Whiritoa. But as is the case when you forget to check the rain forecast, the conditions turned wet and cool. Grumpy, we found reprieve for the night at the secluded Tapuaetahi Bay 12nm to the south. Early the next morning, with sun again on our faces, we resumed our sail south.

Slipper Island.

Whiritoa Beach is an open bay with Tahua (Mayor Island) lying 15nm to the east. Swimming in the surf, lying on the beach and celebrating New Year’s Day with family were on the agenda. The weather was beautiful; we spent time onshore exploring surrounding beaches. We discovered a smaller bay found on the path to Waimama Bay, and the kids and I scaled down a sloping cliff to find ancient Maori cave art. It was both unexpected and moving – and interesting that someone had seen fit to provide a cage to protect the archaeological site, but damaged some art work in the process!

As the Whiritoa surf had a mind of its own, getting from the boat to land and vice-versa was eventful. After being tossed around, soaked and losing our tender outboard to the water (replaced the day after), we found that launching and landing at low tide was best. ‘Toa is a renowned surf beach and the waves don’t make for elegant landings, but the locals were excited to see a yacht anchored in the bay and made us very welcome!

On the first evening, Sauvage pulled and dragged a little in the high winds, but we re-anchored and stayed put for the next five days! It’s a great bay – just be careful of the surf when landing by dinghy.

Testing the new selfie stick. Hope the camera’s waterproof!
Dolphins often accompanied us on our journey

From Whiritoa we headed 13nm north for a three-day sojourn at Slipper Island. I cannot recommend this privately-owned island enough – South Bay provided easy anchoring with three to five metres of deep, clear water and a sandy bottom.

We kayaked, swam, and our 13-year-old practised his tender motoring skills. The beach offers end-to-end walks, picnics and swimming. It is very much a destination for boaties, being an easy 5nm journey across the water from Tairua.

Feeling content, relaxed and lazy, we pondered staying longer. On reflection, we should have, but the need to keep moving drew us on.

The old copper works on Kawau Island.

In our inexperience and complacency, we did not check all the sailing conditions for the day. Wrong move! Once we passed Shoe Island, we experienced three- to four-metre swells for the next 16nm – luckily, not breaking waves and with the crests about 20 seconds apart. Thoughts of turning around or moving closer to shore were wiped from our minds and we focussed on getting safely to Flaxmill Bay.

I found it stressful, exciting and exhilarating, all at the same time… My wife hated every minute of it! The kids were talking and surfing (the web, on their devices) and were blissfully unaware of the conditions.

We made our way motor-sailing, learning to turn the boat to approach the swells from other angles so as to make it into Flaxmill, where we set anchor for the night, found a bottle of wine to calm us down and reflected!

That day we learned of the growing death toll in New Zealand waters over the summer period. The weather and wind were perfect, but due to the swell, it was a terrible day to be boating. It is easy to get caught up in the fun of it all and forget to check the wind, rain and swell forecasts. The sea can be dangerous so checking sailing conditions before heading out is Sailing 101.

Our unexpected adventure reinforced to us why it is vital to always check conditions – all of them – even when you can see and feel the elements in front of you.

After two days of recovery time, we continued 16nm north to Huruhi Harbour on Great Mercury Island. We had nearly completed our Coromandel Peninsula leg.

Furling the genoa

A few days later, we navigated the Pacific-facing side of Great Barrier Island, anchoring at Whangawahia Bay for the night before heading back to our starting point of Smokehouse Bay. The weather was glorious, and we noted locations of interest as we sailed by (the whole place!). We intend to go back soon to have a lengthier look around.

We sought shelter at Great Barrier’s Kiwiriki Bay during Cyclone Cody and the Hunga-Tonga-HungaHa’apai underwater volcano explosion/tsunami (which we did not notice), before heading out around the north side of Little Barrier Island to Kawau Island. Two days later, with our sailing holiday drawing to a close, we headed across to the east side of Waiheke Island, where we sheltered from high winds in Man ‘O War Bay. We invested the time in a couple of longer walks and eating amazing pizza at the Man ‘O War Vineyards restaurant.

Our summer journey was unfortunately at an end. It had been full of amazing learning opportunities and a great deal of fun – we can’t wait for our next big sailing adventure. BNZ


Fun & adventure – the RYCK 280

Hanse’s 2021 motor boating brand RYCK splashed down in Sydney late last year. Dealer Windcraft invited Kevin Green to use it as a media platform during the SailGP regatta on Sydney Harbour. It’s sharp and narrow hull proved ideal for cutting through the chop on a windy harbour as it ferried people to a mothership alongside the SailGP catamaran racing.

Named after the river that flows past the German yard, the RYCK 280 is designed as a utility boat by iconic naval architect Bill Dixon in conjunction with Hanse. It’s hard to avoid the comparisons with other rugged day-boats such as the Axopar 28, but RYCK is aiming more at the family market with the 280. And the RYCK 280 has its own charms – and, indeed, practicalities – such as the stepped topside that creates forward cabin space. Other useful features include the integrated bow roller/anchor and there’s an optional T-bar ski pole.

Blasting along at speeds of 40 knots was effortless and fun, even with three of us aboard, thanks to the stepped hull and a torquey 350hp Mercury Verado outboard. This is an in-line six cylinder with a 70-amp alternator to charge the battery. The near gale-force conditions also tested the 31-foot hull, which tracked straight thanks to its deep bow and pronounced deadrise running aft, which also reduces leeway.

As for me, I was snug behind the centre console under the cover of the T-Top bimini. Controls were simple yet sufficient, with a Simrad display, throttle on the right and an adjustable steering wheel.

Even more snug was my camera gear inside the cabin. The deep forefoot allows for a double vee-berth, generous storage and a separate toilet cubicle. Cooking is easy on the topside wet bar while dining can be enjoyed at the nearby table with a dropdown back that becomes a double sun pad.

I tested other features by regularly walking around the centre console to photograph from the sun pad on the foredeck, often relying on the sturdy handrails for support. My experience confirmed that the RYCK 280 is an ideal weekender, as well as a good media boat. BNZ


Dealing with calcification

Last issue we covered the affliction of corrosion, but boats that remain in the water for long periods suffer from the reverse problem – calcification. Or, more completely, the dual issues of biological growth and calcification. This is where the boat gets more mineral and biological material added to it, rather than having it corrode away.

This affects all surfaces, not just metal ones, and of course this encrustation is the reason we apply anti-fouling paint to the underside of the hull. Unfortunately, the most effective biocides are no longer available to us because they were polluting our waterways while protecting our hulls. So, these days we are often playing catch-up, slowing rather than preventing the growth of biological material.

The difference between the damage caused by acid, compared to Rydlyme, bottom. The top group is untreated, the middle group was soaked in Rydlyme and the bottom group in Descaler. The brass has started the turn back to copper as the zinc is dissolved.

Calcification is slightly different – it’s actually the deposition of the mineral calcium carbonate onto surfaces. This happens particularly in areas where sea water is heated, which accelerates the deposition of this naturally-occurring mineral. Heat exchanger tubes are the worst location for this type of deposition, but it can occur where sea water remains in contact with any surface without vigorous movement.

Many forms of encrusting marine growth will also cause some calcification – think of oyster shells, barnacles and coralline algae, that hard, red-coloured coating that covers rocks underwater. These can coat boats as tenaciously as pure mineral deposits, requiring the same effort to remove.

Apart from the obvious surfaces on your boat, most boaties will at some point come across calcified items that have been dropped into the sea and stayed submerged for some time. Fishing rods, anchors, ropes, nets, scuba gear, cameras and other ‘treasures’ regularly suffer this fate. It’s surprising how quickly these become encrusted. Small barnacles are usually in the vanguard, but other hard deposits soon follow.

Removing these calcified deposits is theoretically a simple matter since calcium carbonate dissolves quite readily in acid. Drop any seashell in even a mild acid solution such as vinegar (acetic acid) for a time and very soon bubbles appear all over the solution’s surface. Leave it submerged long enough and eventually the shell will dissolve completely.

So, flushing an item in a suitable acidic solution will soften the calcium carbonate so that the encrustation either drops off or completely dissolves. The danger with this approach is that acid damages many things, including the metals we commonly use on our boats.

That shackle after two hours in Rydlyme. Rust and barnacles completely gone.

The behaviour of different acids on different metals is a subject to itself. There is no simple acid that works and is safe for all our common materials. Hydrochloric acid, for example, is a common cleaning solution for concrete and pickling steel. However, it will attack virtually every metal found in a boat, including the engine, scuba gear and fishing tackle.

We pulled out a table of the common metals and the readily available acids as shown on the previous page.

So, how do we clean out calcification? Using a plain acid, even highly diluted with water, is not a good option. Unfortunately, most industrial and domestic products such as Acid Descaler and CLR are simply combinations of acids. These are both available through hardware stores.

The candidates for treatment.

Luckily, there are some products out there specifically for boaties that mitigate some of the risks, combining a low-level of acidity with some biocides and other ingredients. Rydlyme, distributed by Auckland Marine Services, and Barnacle Buster from Trac Ecological, distributed by Ovlov Marine, are two readily available examples. Both of these products are biodegradable non-toxic marine growth removers that are simply re-circulated through the saltwater cooling system. No need to disassemble the engine – and depending on how your cooling system is plumbed – using them may require just a couple of hose connections.

To compare the effectiveness of the products, we ran a number of tests. Firstly we took some sample items (two brass screws and a brass fitting), and soaked them for an equal time (30 minutes) in Rydlyme (middle group) and Acid Descaler (at the bottom). The photo shows how quickly the brass started to de-zinc in the acid solution, turning back into a spongy copper rather than hard brass. Also of note: the chrome-plated hose fitting subjected to this treatment lost its chrome plating. The middle group in the photo shows the Rydlyme had no damaging effect on the brass, apart from a very slight surface discolouration.

We also fortuitously happened to have some items salvaged after a long period on the sea bottom. These included a stainless steel and a high-tensile steel shackle, some scuba gear and some cheap nickel-plated snap shackles.

These objects were soaked in a diluted Rydlyme solution for two hours, then rinsed off. As can be seen, the steel items came up perfectly. The scuba items were also clean and usable once again, with some discolouration of the chrome plating being the only lasting impact. Only the cheap nickel plating showed extreme discolouration, but the items were fully functional after the clean.

For comparison I’d previously attempted a similar clean of another regulator using Acid Descaler, which destroyed the components – the brass elements de-zinced so badly the threads crumbled, and the regulator literally fell apart when it was subjected to air pressure.

So, the outcome of all this experimentation is clear – don’t be tempted to use an acid solution to descale or clean your engine. Instead, pay the money and buy one of the certified, biodegradable, marine-friendly products. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding dilution and soak time and you should have no problems. BNZ

After treatment: completely useable again. Note some discolouration of the chrome plating does occur.

 

DESCALING YOUR ENGINE

The process of running a suitable (and safe) de-scaling product through your engine is relatively simple:

1. Remove all zinc anodes from inside the engine. These are typically inside the heat exchanger but there may be others. When you remove the anode, replace the plug to prevent water leaking out the hole.

2. Block the saltwater intake through the hull by closing a stop cock.

3. Connect a circulating pump that can feed water into the engine’s saltwater circuit via the engine intake side. In my case the main intake hose had a smaller connection that the washdown pump was connected to. I simply plugged into this. At worst you may need to disconnect the main inlet hose and plumb into that.

4. Undo the saltwater outlet hose (which may feed into the exhaust, or through its own through-hull fitting above the waterline), and feed this into a large bucket or similar container.

5. The circulating pump should be set to suck water from that bucket and pump it into the inlet hose. 6. First fill the bucket with freshwater and flush the system. Repeat to make sure you have eliminated all the saltwater. Note you may need to start the engine if your saltwater pump is part of this circuit.

7. Then replace the freshwater with the descaling solution, and leave circulating for two to four hours, according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. I prefer not to leave my engine running without cooling water running into the exhaust, so I started and ran it for 30 seconds once every five minutes. This refreshes the de-scaler solution that is sitting in the heat exchangers and pipes.

8. Once the process is complete, remove the descaler solution and flush the system again with freshwater.

9. Remove the extra plumbing, replace the anodes with a fresh set, and re-open the stopcocks.

10. Job done. Your engine should now run cooler and more efficiently.


The Serial Collector

There is a private collection of boats in Istanbul that’s always expanding, to the point that any article on the subject has the inevitable defect of becoming obsolete within months.

Welcome to the collection of automotive tycoon Rahmi M. Koç CBE, and the museum he founded in the Turkish metropolis that takes his name. Located along the banks of the Golden Horn, a deep inlet of the Bosphorus that was in ancient times the estuary of a river, the Rahmi M. Koç Museum boasts a collection of over 16,000 exhibits, all linked to the history of industry, transport and navigation.

Turkish industrialist Mr Rahmi M. Koç is an avid collector of boats.

Steam engines are Mr Koç’s greatest passion. For the uninitiated, he is the honorary chairman of a group with an annual turnover of USD$61 billion (2021). His industrial empire counts over 120 companies, including Otosan and Tofas (respectively the Turkish branches of Ford and Fiat), as well as banks, companies engaged in the food sector, hotels, marinas and the manufacturers of household appliances, of which Beko is the best-known brand worldwide – it even has a regional head office in New Zealand.

In his museums (plural, as over the years Rahmi Koç has also opened museums in the capital city Ankara and Ayvalik), dozens of steam engines are exhibited – including working scale models – together with road, sea, and railway transportation exploiting the very technology that ignited the industrial revolution.

Mr Koç at a museum function
Vintage motorboat fascia
The interior of Vilia.

In addition to steamrollers and tractors from the early years of the last century, several working boats and steam yachts are on display, all in working order. Among these are two Dutch tugs, Rosalie (1873) and Liman 2 (1935), the yacht Gonca (1905), a tiny launch built in Chatham for the Royal Navy in 1888, as well as Ysolt, a fascinating commuter built in Southampton in 1893.

These boats, along with many others (the magnificent 1927 picket-boat Maid of Honour was featured in Boating New Zealand in December 2017) can be found inside the museum buildings, located in the Hasköy district along the Golden Horn, or else in the water basin in front of it. The Istanbul museum, opened in 1994 and enlarged in 2001, is housed in the nineteenth-century U-shaped venue where the maintenance of Istanbul’s ferry steamers was carried out over a century ago. The covered square has an area of 27,000m2 equivalent to St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

 

LATEST ARRIVALS

Rahmi M. Koç’s love of boating – he was born in Ankara in 1930, so a man ‘of earth’ – is a something of a history lesson in itself. In his youth, he loved motor boats, but following a bad accident that put him out of action for several months – he hit a buoy on the Bosphorus during a foggy crossing – he began to see sailing boats differently. Today he owns so many he doesn’t know the total number. The latest arrival is called Teodora, a schooner built at Cheoy Lee in Hong Kong in 1979 and restored in Tuzla by RMK Marine, a shipyard owned by the tycoon himself. “I wanted it,” said Koç “for many reasons, and especially because I had never owned a schooner before. I love her romantic clipper bow and, above all, her very spacious cockpit.”

It’s difficult to disagree: a quick look at her is enough to realise how charming and comfortable this craft is, thanks to her generous beam and long keel.

The museum’s vintage outboard collection

Around the time Teodora resumed sailing after a one-year refit, two motorboats put to sea, much to the delight of the Turkish mogul. One of them was recently delivered to the Rahmi M. Koç Museum of Istanbul as a permanent exhibit. Her name is T/T Vedette , once the tender to the famous Frederick Vanderbilt’s 170ft steam ship Vedette, launched in 1899 as Virginia and built to a G.L. Watson design.

Purchased three years ago in derelict condition, the 26ft Consolidated Speedway Saloon tender was restored at the museum workshops in Tasdelen, in Anatolian Istanbul. The original 35hp Kermath gasoline engine, no longer available, has been replaced with a very similar model (a Kermath 50hp) that turned out to be extremely difficult to find. Rahmi Koç, however, demands that all his collectibles, whether for personal or museum use, be working and complete in every detail.

Nazenin 5 under sail.

Years ago, while restoring an engineless Riva Florida, Mr Koç managed to find an original ChrisCraft engine for the runabout. After a single outing in the Sea of Marmara, obviously with the tycoon onboard, the runabout was transferred to the northwest wing of the Istanbul museum, alongside other historical models of the Italian shipyard: an Aquarama and an Olympic.

T/T Vedette had precisely the same fate: after just a few days in the water to properly test the engine and arrange some good photos while underway, the craft was loaded onto a truck to be permanently exhibited at the Rahmi M. Koç Museum.

Cassiopeia

The third boat delivered to the mogul in 2021 was Gwendolyn (1947). Mr Koç needed a new craft to commute in the Bodrum Peninsula, where has an estate and often spends his holidays.

Built at the legendary Blanchard shipyard of Seattle, this handsome commuter features sober interiors (with berth accommodation concentrated in a forward V-shaped cabin), a raised wheelhouse with forward-facing sofa seating, a spacious galley-dinette and a wide cockpit.

Teodora
Cielito
The tug Rosalie

BEAUTY RULES

Wherever he goes and resides, Rahmi Koç is surrounded by yachts. In Miami, where he owns the historical shipyard RMK Merrill Stevens and spends a month every year, he boards the motoryacht Cielito (1930); in Istanbul he uses the Victorian looking Camper & Nicholsons’ motoryacht Romola (1903), the Swedish ketch Cassiopeia (1937) and the gaff cutters Lady Edith (a 12-metre IR by William Fife III, launched in Fairlie in 1925) and Vilia (1910). On Lesbos (Greece) and on another island he owns in the Sea of Marmara, a stone’s throw from Tuzla, Mr Koç owns other motorboats that provide quick and practical travel for him, his guests and his staff.

His flagship, Nazenin 5, is a 52-metre steel and aluminum ketch that replaced the Nazenin 4, a Palmer Johnson ketch in which he circumnavigated the globe early in the millennium, calling at Auckland as well. Built by RMK Marine to a Sparkman & Stephens design, Nazenin 5 fully reflects the taste of the tycoon of a decade ago, especially interior-wise, her cabins and saloons being rich in marine antiques.

Lady Edith under sail
The motoryacht Gwendolyn.

Despite having enjoyed this superyacht around the eastern and central Mediterranean, much seems to have changed in recent years. “I don’t understand why people buy yachts that are even bigger in size,” said the industrialist. “After purchasing and renovating the tiny Vilia a few years ago, which is just 32 feet (9.75m) in length, I realised how much fun it is to sail in the true sense of the word, tacking in a fresh breeze, and holding the tiller in person, all without a skipper.”

“In short, it is never too late to discover the pleasure and beauty of sailing, something ‘minor’ boats, as opposed to gigantic superyachts, can easily provide, enabling one to (re) discover the ancestral pleasure of setting out to sea.” BNZ

Romola with Mr Koç’s island in the background

Wrigglier rubber

My advancing years and a long-time passion for soft-plastic fishing probably qualify me as a ‘veteran’, but the challenge of bringing soft-baits to life continues to intrigue me. Mastering the subtleties is a never-ending process, but I have learned quite a bit along the way.

INHERENT OR IMPARTED ACTION?

One only has to walk into a decent fishing shop to see a huge array of soft-plastics of every colour, shape and size. But in terms of their ability to produce lifelike movements there are really just two categories Kiwi saltwater anglers need consider: those with inherent/inbuilt actions (i.e. shaped to produce movement as the lure moves through the water) and those where the angler manipulates the lure to impart the desired motions.

The paddle-tail and curly/grub-tail families are the most popular with inbuilt actions, while the most commonly used soft plastic, the ‘jerk’ bait, is the star in the imparted action camp.

Your choice – a selection of jerk shads, paddler and curly-tail soft-baits

PADDLE-TAILED SOFT-BAITS

There are some definite advantages in using paddle-tails. For a start, the quicker the water flows over them, the faster the paddle tail wriggles from side to side, and the more water disturbance it creates. Most predators have lateral lines capable of picking up vibrations, which helps them to locate prey (including lures) and home in for a closer inspection. This sense is especially important when their vision is impaired, perhaps by poor water clarity (turbidity) or low light.

The jig-head weight used with a paddle-tail plays an important role in the speed and intensity of tail movements. Use a jig that’s too light and a slow tail roll is as much as you’ll get, whereas heavier jig weights produce a veritable blur of tail motion.

The soft bait material should be considered too: some products are definitely more supple than others, requiring less weight to produce a decent tail thrash. When jig-heads of ½-oz and heavier are used with 4- or 5-inch (10-13cm) soft-baits, using supple baits is an advantage.

They also provide benefits at the other end of the weight spectrum: we’ve had snapper and kingfish intercept large Z-Man SwimmerZ attached to 6-oz and 8-oz Berkley Elevators or Ocean Angler Cyclops streaking their way towards the bottom in 40 to 55m of water!

The paddle-tail lure’s natural action means it suits lift-anddrop or yo-yo type motions, which often work best in deeper water (i.e. around 30-60m, where the boat overhead is less likely to disturb the fish).

I usually incorporate a reasonably languid mechanical-jigging action (one turn of the reel handle while simultaneously lifting and dropping the rod) when working the lure up off the bottom towards the surface. This can be anything from a two- or threemetre ascent through to retrieving the soft plastic through a quarter or third of the water column, before dropping back to the seafloor again.

Paddle-tails are also useful for targeting surface-feeding predators. Heavier jig-heads allow longer casts and quickly sink the lure to the desired depth before you begin the retrieve, the paddle tail thrashing all the while.

Similarly, paddle-tails suit low speed trolling duties, but keep the rod tip down and ‘pulse’ it so the lure’s progress through the water is more erratic. The extra swimming interest results in more strikes.

Hooked up! Light ¼-3/8oz jig heads armed with jerk shad or curly-tail soft-baits are perfect for very shallow conditions. PHOTO: NZ Fishing News

CURLY-/GRUB-TAILED SOFT-BAITS

As this tail type is typically half the lure’s overall length and very thin, it provides plenty of action from very little movement or current flow. That means grubs are an excellent option for anglers wanting maximum lure movement, whether on the lure’s descent or while dragging and/or jiggling it along the seafloor.

Curly-tails work with any jig-head weight, but ⅜- or ½-oz jigheads are best when snapper are feeding aggressively in 6-20m of water since bites often come as the lure is dropping.

When fishing on the bottom, up the weight as necessary to compensate for extra depth, current and drift speed (⅝-1oz is typical in 20-50m of water). Drag the lure along the seafloor using small rod twitches and the occasional jiggle to entice fish into biting.

Both these techniques work very well around musseldredging operations, with 4-inch (10cm) grubs in brown or orange especially popular.

Again, a soft-bait’s composition can make a difference, not only to its tail mobility, but also its durability, since those made from less robust material are quickly destroyed.

JERK SHAD SOFT-BAITS

Jerk-shad baits with their long, slim forms might not look that interesting, but manipulate them effectively and you’ll get plenty of bites. While most have little or no action built in, some of the latest are supple enough to produce some tail-waggling action when rigged correctly.

At this point, might I suggest avoiding jig-heads armed with overly long-shanked hooks? To me it makes little sense to insert a rigid metal rod into something that’s flexible by nature and designed to allow plenty of movement. Larger snapper have mouths big enough to engulf much of the lure and tend to bite lures in the mid-body to head region anyway, not the tail.

That’s why I enjoy using 7-inch (18cm) jerk-shads, since their extra length results in a seductive tail weave on descent and retrieval. Some soft-bait brands are buoyant enough to lift their tails when they reach the bottom. Wafting around enticingly, 7-inch models are like a signpost calling predators over to investigate.

For me, imparting extra movement starts during the descent, especially in water over 15m deep. I point the rod downwards along the line floating on the water’s surface. Whenever it looks too bowed, or I’m unsure of the lure’s location – or I suspect I might be getting a bite – I wind in some line to make contact with the lure again. If the line comes up tight, it’s a biting fish – time to firmly set the hook!

The editor with a lovely fish caught on a big grub tail in very shallow water!

In addition to hooking fish that might otherwise go undetected, winding in line maintains good contact and imparts a bit of extra movement to the lure during the descent, resulting in more bites.

Upon reaching the bottom, try to imitate the motions of a badly injured or dying baitfish. This is where the soft plastic jerkbait’s comparatively stick-like form comes in handy. First work it upwards in jiggling ‘spasms’, before letting it waft back down in free-fall with minimal body movement. It is behaving just like a wounded bait fish.

When fishing this way, keep an eye on the rod tip to ensure you’re not over-working the soft-bait – you want realistic movements that don’t rip the lure away from hungry fish, especially in murky water. That’s is easy to do with longer softbait rods.

The next phase is to drag it behind the boat for a while. Sometimes snapper like the jerk-bait wafting and darting while sinking through the water; at other times they are stimulated by subtle jiggles and jerks. But when neither of those tactics are working, dragging the jerk-shad behind the drifting boat sometimes does the trick.

Leave the lure to largely do its own thing, helped along by the odd rod twitch and jiggle, and drop the lure back or wind it in a bit occasionally. Any variation in the trundling lure’s progress over the seafloor can result in crunching bites, so be prepared. BNZ

CLIP VERSUS LOOP KNOT?

Soft-baits move best when they’re not knotted tightly to the trace with a Uni or Clinch knot.

A Lefty’s Loop or Rapala Loop knot will help achieve good lure movement, as will a Mustad Fastach or Genii Clip. While neither loop knots nor clips are perfect – Loop knots wear out over time and clips can fail – overall they help the lure attract more bites. Clips also allow quick, easy jig head changes without shortening the leader each time.


1970's Offshore Power Boat Wars - Part II - Detroit Iron

Last issue we learned that Gerard Richards and his mates were V8 racing addicts, seduced by the mighty Mustang and Camaro track cars of the late ‘60s, an allegiance transferred to the power boat racing scene of the 1970s, strongly contested in the early years by outboard-powered race boats. This issue features the major players later in the decade, when V8 power made inroads, plus some honourable mentions.

Just when it seemed multi-rig outboards were the recipe going forward, the focus shifted dramatically back to big V8s in 1973.

The arrival of the Jim Mackay designed 8.5-metre (27-foot) MacKay hull Old Crow for Spinner Black, equipped with a finelytuned 454 cu in LS7 Chevrolet V8 from Black’s engine shop, changed all that. This combo and its sister ships were to set the benchmark for speed and endurance over the next four to five years.

Paul Jones Bourbon at full noise
The Wellington BP100 Race 1975, Terrific (103) and Tara Too (107) in the background.

As Spinner told me in 2008, “After the mixed results with his first boat Turtle, that included it catching fire on one occasion and nearly sinking on another, he wanted the best craft he could put in the water.” In Spinner’s words, “Jim Mackay built a beautifully sculptured, strong and very seaworthy deep vee. It was also a very fast one, fitted with a hand-built 7440cc 454 cu in big block Chevrolet LS7 V8 race engine from our workshop”.

Along with fellow crew members Graeme Hastie, Mackay and Black, they won everything that mattered in 1973, with four wins and two sixth places. But with the championship pinned on one driver, rather than the boat, and Spinner not always available due to business commitments, it went by default to Max Johnson in his new triple 150hp Mercury rig Miss Comsec 2.

Spinner was looking to make amends, by taking out the driver’s title in 1974, with the same Mackay hull, now renamed Camel Filter. Going head-to-head with Jim Mackay, running his own boat Topaz this season (co-owned and crewed by Dick Mitri), with similar 454 Chev V8 power, it looked like a massive showdown of the big-block titans. However, it wasn’t to be.

L-R Spinner Black, Jim Mackay and Graeme Hastie.

As Spinner relayed to me years later, “It would go like gangbusters for most of the races, then go off in the latter stages. Then the penny dropped – we’d mistakenly fitted too hot plugs when preparing for the season and never dropped to it until too late.”

Jim Mackay with Topaz cleaned up with seven wins from the nine races and Spinner and Camel Filter only managed a solitary win at Napier.

A big factor in the Mackay and Mitri Topaz demolition of the opposition was the beautifully-built racing engines prepared by Jim Carlise of C & W Motors. The only other outright victory went to Max Johnson’s triple 150hp Mercury rig Clipper Comsec at the Atlantic Six Hour Marathon.

Brian Crouch repeated the dose when he purchased Spinner’s old boat in 1976 (Old Crow/Camel Filter) now known as Cossack Vodka. He was to also enjoy a great winning streak with crew Neville Thomson, Bob Udy and Alywn Flexman, with five victories including the Atlantic 100, Rotorua, Taupo, the Auckland Marathon and New Plymouth, also going on to win the Atlantic Drivers’ Elite Offshore Championship.

Old Crow at full throttle during the 1973 Offshore Powerboat season.

Brian was a cow cockie out of Tuakau (South Auckland) and his crew were all volunteers. Preparing their boat out of a country garage on a shoestring budget, it was a great achievement to get those results – as Brian summed up in similar words to Spinner’s: “Racing frontline powerboats in the open water, with the turbulent water of mass starts, racing in choppy harbours and the swells of the open ocean, was a sobering experience. We were darned right scared shitless at times…” he said.

An interesting aside: Brian told me recently he still retains the trophy for winning the Atlantic 100 in 1977, as it was the last time the race was run and no one asked for it back.

Following a partially successful 1977 season, Brian sold Cossack Vodka to Harry Servicus, and it continued racing under the name of Brut 33.

Tracing the continuing incarnations of the Mackay 27-foot foot hulls is an interesting and somewhat confusing exercise in boat racing genealogical history. I make no claims to bulletproof accuracy here, but it seems the original Old Crow hull, continued through Camel Filter, Cossack Vodka, Brut 33 and then possibly became Pall Filter.

Old Crow carves a turn.

That owner apparently drilled holes in the boat’s ribs to lighten it, causing it to break in half. It was later rebuilt as The Nail, a reference to its previous calamity and it may have continued racing under the name Foden Force, but I stand to be corrected on this. The boat’s whereabouts these days are unknown, despite attempts by Brian Crouch and others to track her down.

The other Mackay boat was Topaz and she continued in 1975 as Paul Jones Bourbon. After that the trail goes cold, but this boat has since been found and restored to its Topaz livery and continues to appear at historic offshore power boat regattas. It seems there have been a couple of other copies made of these classic Mackay hulls, but to my knowledge there were only the two ‘official’ original hulls built.

While on the topic of surviving original offshore race boats of the 70s era, it would be interesting to know if there are any other classic offshore warriors still in existence. I know Tara Too has been partially restored – are there any others out there?

Email me at mairangiman@hotmail.com if you have any information.

Stilletto contests the Powerboat Marathon, Lyttelton Harbour, 1974 or 1975

END OF AN ERA

For that brief window of the 1970s my adolescent mates and I were hardcore fans of that golden era of monohulls, when the heavy V8-powered artillery duked it out with the sophisticated multi-outboard rigs. We had grandstand seats, the best in the house on Devonport Wharf, Auckland and those thundering, heroic boats of the era certainly played to the gallery. Vintage times, they were, when big-time powerboat racing caught the public’s imagination.

As the 70s came to an end, the playing field for offshore powerboat racing was changing in New Zealand. The era of the large American automotive V8 inboard and multi-rig outboard monohulls was ending. The new competitive formula emerging was for multi-hulled outboard-powered catamarans, one of the early successes being E.I.T Mover, which won a trifecta of championships between 1982 and 1985. But that is a different story.

A legendary era of offshore powerboat racing monohulls had passed. BNZ

Triple Mercury power for The Graduate.

MORE NOTABLE BOATS

While the boat combos I’ve mentioned this issue and last were the heavy hitters through most of the 70s, many others saw a slice of the action.

Chevrolet V8-powered Roaring Rat was first in the Rothmans 70-mile Taupo race in 1971, third at Taupo in 1972, and fourth at Taupo, 1974.

Clipper Blackjack, 2 x 200hp Volvos, was second in the Atlantic 100 in 1974.

The Graduate powered by 3 x 150hp Mercurys and driven by N. Watts scored second in the 1973 Atlantic 100 and sixth at Queenstown in 1973.

Aurora, powered by a 454 cu in Chevrolet V8, was second in Tauranga, 1974.

Tormentor (later Big John) driven by W J Bryan and powered by 2 x 140hp Johnsons finished second in the 1972 Atlantic 100.

Gobbla Hunter, powered by 2 x 135hp Mercurys and driven by B. Shaw, was third at Gisborne in 1975.

Vanishing Point, a 26-foot Levi design, and Alamo were a duo of big inboard racers, but they didn’t score any significant finishes that I’m aware of.

Portage Hotel, powered by 3 x 150hp Mercurys finished second at Taupo in 1974.

These are just some of the many boats to score top places over the years – by no means a comprehensive list. My apologies to other worthy candidates that aren’t included here. Also, I haven’t included the South Island scene, as that is altogether another story.


The Journey along Matai Creek to Nelson -The centre of it all

Alex and Lesley Stone and whanau venture up the Maitai Creek, to the very centre of New Zealand.

Our Up the Creek adventure starts at Ruby’s shiny silver coffee cart, a new Nelson institution. Established two years to the day before our outing, Ruby and her crew have proved to be a real anti-Covid success story. The locals frequent her place on the edge of the Nelson Marina. Bean bags on the lawn, free plums, and terrific pastries – the cinnamon brioches a standout.

The Maitai Creek, which heads inland through the centre of Nelson city, lies just to the east of the marina breakwater and Ruby’s cart. It’s to take us to the centre of New Zealand. Well, sort of. A monument on a hill claims this fame, we’re told, though our party immediately debates exactly what constitutes this definition. We’ll see.

The locals I ask about our Up the Creek journey seem bemused at first. With good reason, as all is revealed later. This Up the Creek comes with a distinct tidal caution. On the day we head up, there’s a king tide of 4.7m (!) – well above the Nelson average of an impressive 4m tide.

So, the creek at first appears wide and inviting. You could easily get up in an outboard boat, with this high incoming tide. Two of us opt to paddle the kayaks from our base at Nelson Marina; the other three members of our whanau travel on foot along the lovely riverside walk, with Lesley keeping the camera dry. Initially, the boat people have to paddle out in the opposite direction beyond the commercial fishing docks, round the mole to starboard, to reach the creek on the other side.

First stop past Ruby’s is where Saltwater Creek joins from the west. A commanding corten steel sculpture of a waka taua sternpost overlooks this spot, attended by a serious anchor stone carved from argillite.

Entering Matai
Creek at high tide.

Just there is a floating dock for visiting motorboats, adding to our sense of security. We’re on the right track!

In fact, this Up the Creek becomes something of a sculpture extravaganza, with us marvelling at what Nelson city must have invested in all these artworks. Just up from the waka work, is a magnificent Phil Price piece, one of those fluid, organic, endlessly moving-in-the-wind forms of superlative engineering and seductive aesthetics. Just beyond, again, is a lovely female form, a serene Papatuanuku figure cradling a takahē in her lap, and artfully placed, half-hidden (I imagine at the sculptor’s request) in a bed of flax bushes.

From the river here, we see native plantings right down to the water’s edge, and tūīs feeding on the nectar. Hold on! One’s not a tūī – it’s a European starling. My scientist daughter Zoë, paddling the other kayak, tells me that British ornithologists are studying this, as starlings are not nectar-feeders in Europe. Maybe they have learned from the tūī. I’m tempted to say “Yeah, right”, but there it is, right in front of me.

Pulled up on the bank beside ‘Taurapa,’ a corten steel waka taua scuplture.
More street art under the Matai Creek brdge.

A couple are sitting at a riverside restaurant opposite, next to an unemployed giant chess set. “I’ll open,” I call across to them, “Pawn to king four.” They don’t get it. A mural of a dog looking out the window seems to be laughing at both of us.

Under some bridges, where we duck our heads to avoid bonking them (the big tide, remember), and we spot what looks very much like lunch. A riverside café in a lovely leafy setting. I glide the kayak in, identify a rock to step out onto. But my foot misses the rock, and I’m up to my neck in the water while the patrons suppress giggles at my very visible loss of cool. The maître d’ suggests we sit at the outside table. Fair enough. I choose the sunny spot to dry out.

Maitai Creek scupture detail

Lunch over, and onwards! The slack tide makes for easy paddling in deep, green water. The banks of the river reciprocate with more green and then some. An old couple moseys past holding hands. A woman chases her roller-skating daughter. Another is reading on a memorial bench in an arbor under a drooping tree.

More art: a nautical-theme sculpture in the form of a reef knot. Officially unveiled by the prince of tying himself in knots, Andrew, the Duke of York. Good symbolism that, if unintended by the sculptor. Then a grouse street graffiti mural under the next bridge. And a little way further up, a strange sculpture that looks like potatoes on sticks, only it’s meant to be river boulders on stainless steel poles, said in the blurb to represent the spirituality of the river. Okay…

Matai Creek walkway
Cycle-friendly riverside Matai cafe.

I reckon the gardens of riverside homes here are more impressive. Sprays of glorious colour. At the next bridge we encounter an interpretive sign all about eeling in the early days of the Maitai Creek, and in the pioneer days of Nelson. A photo shows a bunch of men and boys, most with my surname and serious sideburns, holding up giant eels and the hooked poles they used to catch them from under the riverbanks. Another sculpture, that we first mistook for bicycle racks, but on second thinking, it turns out to be an abstraction of a hinanga eel net. The sign tells us the Pākehā settlers of Nelson initially had a great fondness for eating eels, but that fell away. Probably a good thing, for those giant longfin eels are very rare now.

Oops! The creek suddenly is barred by a demure wee rapid. A couple doing DIY on their home offer to let us put the kayaks in their garage till we get back.

Nelson Marina

We’re getting closer to the centre of New Zealand they say, “Not far now.”

Sure enough, at the next bridge over the Maitai, we’re pointed left, past an impressive old heritage home flying the Laser-Eye Kiwi flag (nice touch that), and just beyond to a quiet cricket oval. With a wonky boundary that loops around huge old trees on the edges. I reckon the batsmen must know to aim for them to achieve a cut-price four runs.

And another sign proclaiming that this was where the very first rugby game in New Zealand was played, way back in 1870. College versus Town, 18 men per side. It transpires that the bloke who organized the game, Charles Munro, played for the Town team, and was the referee. No prizes for guessing who won.

More Stone whanau members making their way upstream.

A zig-zag and fairly steep path at the far end of the green takes us up to the monument that marks the centre of New Zealand. We’re game, although not as much as the women in heavy Victorian dresses shown making the same promenade back in the day, in a picture in another interp sign.

As if to complete the time travel illusion, we encounter two fellows in bow ties running down the path at full tilt. No explanation given. Late for a wedding, perhaps?

We get to the monument, which is kind of ordinary. A raised spike pointing straight down to a brass stud in the deck. The exact middle of New Zealand? Well, not really. The blurb tells us this is the datum point for the settler surveyors of the Nelson region, which was the first area in Aotearoa to receive this treatment. Ergo, the centre of New Zealand. “Well, sort of,” is the consensus in our party. All the other visitors there don’t appear to mind.

Civic art:
‘Pohutukawa’ by Chris Finlayson.
Civic art: Family Tree’ by Chris price.

No matter, the views are splendid – all the way acrossTasman Bay, and the Boulder Bank, and Nelson city, and our boat down there (a long way down there) in the marina. And inland up green valleys. We all touch the brass stud, shiny from all the other people doing the same. Mission accomplished. The ultimate Up the Creek.

But on the way back, my lack of navigational foresight becomes apparent. What was the deep green Maitai River is now mostly rocks, with a channel just wide enough for the kayaks going downstream. Where I fell in so ignominiously by the café is now high and dry. So, the lesson is: you need to get the tide-timing just right for this Maitai Up the Creek. Still, it’s a very worthwhile wee boating adventure, with a whole bunch of terrific side stories. Good on you, Nelson. BNZ

Valley view.

 


Way beyond willing and able

Imagine you and three shipmates take off to sail across the Cook Strait. Each single-handed in a twelve-foot dinghy. On a day the Interislander ferries were cancelled due to rough weather. Ten-metre swells out there.

Now imagine you and your mates are all disabled sailors in some way. Dennis Hebberley is hardlysighted, Katy Moanamika is on the Autism spectrum, two are normally wheelchair-bound, Otis Home with an s-shaped spine of spinabifida myelommeningoceie and Sam Gibson with really brittle bones.

You leave Picton at 7-30am to catch the tide. You arrive at Mana Island Yacht Club at 6pm. Ironically, half the time of the crossing is spent at either end of the voyage, in light, fickle winds.

Your rides are small Liberty class open boats, each ballasted with a 70kg centreboard. Which is a good thing, because none of you can stack out.

All this, after a week cruising these same wee boats in the Marlborough Sounds.

This is just one epic adventure recounted by the staunch sailors of the Napier Sailing Club’s very active Sailability (disabled sailing) contingent. The Cook Strait crossing was six years ago.

Says Dennis, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

Now Napier’s disabled sailors are evenly divided between those into racing, and those into more adventure sailing of the kind described above. But like all sailors everywhere, racers or adventurers, their time on the water has been curtailed by Covid. They’re all just getting back into it.

Dennis Hebberley says of Sam, he of the brittle bones, “He was absolutely fearless. A great adventurer. Sadly, he died while competing in his wheelchair at the Hastings Marathon, trying to raise money for a child with brittle bones.”

Based at Napier Sailing Club, Sailability Hawkes Bay has a fleet of four Hanse Libertys, designed in Australia, which have mainly been used for one-design racing. The boats carry an unusual rig: what from a distance appears to be a jib is actually a free-standing foresail with a wishbone boom. The mainsail, on its own free-standing mast, has a boom raked upwards, well away from any head-bonking danger. In effect, the Libertys are perhaps the smallest schooners. But their Cook Strait crossing certainly shows the seaworthiness and dash of these small yachts, and their unique design.

Two 303s – dual seat trainers – complement the racing/ adventuring fleet. And just outside their shed there’s New Zealand’s only SV14. It’s a high-tech dinghy of sharp lines and quite some performance. It’s perhaps the future of disabled dinghy sailing. Like the other established disabled sailing dinghies, it also has dual rudders, and a high boom. And a bowlaunched asymmetrical kite.

Disabled sailors in Hanse Libertys leaving Troy Channel to cross Cook Strait.

How it – the design – got here is a circuituous story.

The SV14 originated in Thailand where a group of disabled sailors were on a quest for a competitive but affordable boat. The Dutch design team Simonis-Voogd came to their aid and drew the boat. Later Fareast Yachts in Shanghai committed to building the boats at cost price. The SV14 has now taken off all over the world. The one in Napier, however, was built locally by Paul Freeman.

Besides Hawkes Bay, there are other Sailability outfits in Auckland, Nelson, Otago, Rotorua, Taranaki, Tauranga, Waikato, Wellington and Whangarei, all operating independently under the aegis of Yachting New Zealand.

All Sailability groups in the country have their own Facebook presence.

Most Sailability units offer a pathway into sailing, progressing through training, then individual fleet racing in the 303s and Libertys, then moving on to crewing positions and teamwork in bigger keelboats. There’s much to aim for. Lyttelton Yacht Club’s Andrew May is a world champion disabled sailor in keelboats, and three-times America’s Cup sailor Rick Dodson, now diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, is a great influence here, and has won up large too.

Like Rick, Dennis was a top-end sportsman before, too. A cricketer, basketballer – anything with round balls, in fact. “I started sailing when I Iost my sight. It disappeared overnight. I got a virus, and lost the use of one eye. Eighteen months later, I lost the other. That made ball sports impossible. But that doesn’t stop me sailing.”

True to his competitive spirit, on only his second day of yacht racing, he won every race. “I beat all the reps,” he recalls proudly.

At the first American Blind Sailing Regatta Dennis and his crew finished first-equal. They hit on a novel race-winning tactic. In the very narrow channel of the Alameida, California, race course, they could pull off port-tack starts, legitimately claiming the ‘water room’ right in the restricted water(!).

No doubt every Sailability unit has sailors with as much free spirit and firm resolve as them, and the crew at Hawkes Bay.

Sailing away from Napier on our 12m bridge-deck cat, with all comforts provided, we could only marvel at the chutzpah of the Sailability crews. We felt honoured and humbled to have met them. BNZ

WWW.YACHTINGNZ.ORG.NZ/RACING/PARA-SAILING


Gone, but (hopefully) not forgotten

Well, it’s official.

No surprises, I suppose – the intention to head offshore was flagged very early on – but Auckland will not host the 37th America’s Cup event in 2024. Instead, the Spanish city of Barcelona will have that honour – and responsibility.

Staging a successful America’s Cup event is no easy task, as Auckland found out last time around when the pandemic made a difficult logistics task even harder. That the 36th America’s Cup took place at all is something of a miracle, for which ETNZ deserves credit. Not only was the team instrumental in staging a memorable event, it also handsomely won the contest – at home in front of Kiwi fans.

However, ETNZ won’t be the home team in Barcelona. For many Kiwis they will no longer be ‘Team NZ’. With all the bad blood and bad press of the last 18 months, it seems a sizeable portion of the public no longer feels that ETNZ deserves our support. Others are happy no more public money is being spent on such an ‘elitist’ event.

But let’s put things in perspective. Firstly, hosting the event in Auckland was never a given, just as the decision to take the Cup offshore was never Grant Dalton’s alone. ETNZ and RNZYS, the Trustees of the America’s Cup, are equally responsible.

RYNZ’s Commodore Aaron Young shared the Squadron’s view with members: “Any venue decision must ensure the viability and success of Team New Zealand, the Event and our organisation”. Between them, ETNZ and RNZYS concluded that “Auckland in the end was not an option.”

Reasons given include: ”limitations of the Government offer (while valued at $99m of support, only $31m of this was in cash investment); and an understandable lack of appetite to invest more given the state of the economy and the impact of Covid.” In addition, RNZYS insists “no confirmed private funding was available.”

The decision to host the Cup in Barcelona also got the thumbs up from Challenger of Record, the Royal Yacht Squadron, and the other Challengers.

Secondly, it should be remembered ETNZ is not ‘our’ team in the way the All Whites, Black Caps, Silver Ferns, All Blacks and other representative sports teams are seen to be. ETNZ is a privately owned commercial entity, just like other AC teams (or Formula One teams, SailGP teams, professional football clubs and other sports organisations…). That ETNZ often enjoyed a measure of New Zealand government funding was fortuitous, but never guaranteed – other teams were never so lucky, though city and provincial governments are partially funding the Barcelona event.

With the Cup going to Barcelona, there’s a sense New Zealand, and especially Auckland City, has lost a wonderful commercial opportunity. Or maybe not – 2020-21’s event was hardly a stellar success in dollar terms.

Clearly, for ETNZ and RNZYS, hosting AC37 in Auckland in 2024 was never a viable alternative. It’s now Barcelona’s turn to enjoy some of the world’s most spectacular and exciting sailing.

I suspect there will be more than a few Kiwis heading to Spain in 2024 to support Emirates Team New Zealand. There will be many, many more watching at home, because, while ETNZ might not be a national team, it is full of Kiwis. And we always support our own.