Sunday, February 18, 2018

____________________ INTO THE EYE OF THE STORM ____________________

 Fiberglass series 6 Zephyr sailing at Worser Bay 2016 - A series 6 would be a nice upgrade : >)

If the weather gods are kind to us we will be soon be sailing on Worser Bay in Wellington in the 2018 National Zephyr Championships.  My fellow Zephyr skipper Bernie and his partner Lyn started their journey down to Wellington today; Christine and I start our trek south tomorrow. The weather for the Wellington region doesn't look good at all - severe gales forecast for the next few days. I hope things have settled down by Thursday when the sailing begins. Yesterday I went for a practise sail on Parua Bay to make sure all the alterations and recent tweakings of things nautical on 'Slipstream' were all working well before heading south into combat. With Cyclone Gita influencing the weather over the coming week that combat may well become a war of attrition - watch this space.

Worser Bay Wellington in non cyclonic weather.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


The last National contest I sailed in at Wellington was at Evans Bay in 1968 - that's 50 years ago. I remember it well mainly because it blew like hell - I mean it really blew; ("It's smoking at Point Jerningham" the locals at the Evans Bay Yacht Club shouted excitedly) .........  and I broke the mast on my little 7 foot 'P' Class yacht. Next week the weather looks like repeating itself for the 2018 Zephyr Nationals at Worser Bay.

Shipmates, without wanting to get too obsessive about all this cyclone malarkey the above weather map is one of the predictions of the cyclones position in 5 days time. At the present moment it is about 1000km or more north between Fiji and New Caledonia.

Tuesday 20th February shows the Cyclones closest predicted approach with the north eastern quadrant of the storm raging over Wellington.

Tuesday the 20th is the day we arrive in Wellington.

Wednesday the 21st is boat inspection and measurement day.

Thursday the 22nd is the major race briefing day with the first race at 1400hrs.

............ so my guess is that if the above weather map projection is accurate the worst of the storm will have continued its southward direction and moved away from the gladiatorial Zephyr Colosseum of Worser Bay ........... butt (and I use that word advisably) there is going to be plenty of wind, so when my butt is stacking out over the the gunwales I hope my weight of 90+kgs will come into play and help me to fly to windward like a Zephyr with a 90+kg canting keel. (hope springs eternal).

........ and no, that's NO! I don't want history to repeat itself in the mast department ...... or I shall be very, very, very pissed off indeed.

Monday, February 12, 2018

__________________________ CYCLONE GITA __________________________

Shipmates; here in Northland (above) we are watching with interest the track of Cyclone Gita which is bumbling around just below the equator at the present time and is predicted to hit New Zealand sometime next week. This is interesting and somewhat disturbing as I (and to date 70 other contest registered Zephyr sailors) will be lining up on Wellington harbour for the 2018 Zephyr nationals as this great lumbering Category 5 cyclone strikes - yikes!!

(Click on the link, then click/hold/rotate/enlarge the globe to take a look)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

________________________ CHANGING STOVES ________________________

This (above) is my yacht 'Mariner's stove. It is a primus stove that uses kerosene under pressure (Stored in the tube on the bottom of the stove). The kero burners are pre-heated at their bases with meths which has the effect of vapourizing the kerosene which then burns with a clear blue flame. When they are in good working condition they are great little stoves and I love them. When they get old and worn they develop a number of alias's - 'Flame Thrower', 'Grenade' and 'Bomb' come to mind. New Kero burners for primus stoves are now available again but they are very expensive and have to be specifically imported into NZ.

So reluctantly I modified the old primus by lowering the burner tray and purchasing a couple of gas camping stoves which fitted neatly into the recessed trays. I don't much like gas on a boat but I thought this might be a compromise as I would only be using small canisters rather than having a professionally fitted installation complete with a large gas bottle.

Right from the start I had a bad feeling about what I was contemplating. Instead of listening to my gut instincts I simply forged ahead. I sobered up when I read the instruction leaflet that came with the camping gas stoves, which gave this advice:

- "This appliance uses oxygen when in use. DO NOT light or use indoors, in a tent, vehicle or other enclosed areas. A fire or carbon monoxide poisoning could cause injury or death" - Yikes!

- " DO NOT obstuct the flow of combustion and ventilation air. - OMG !

- " DO NOT use any windscreen (ing) with the stove. Any windscreen, including a standard windscreen, may cause the canister to explode. - Fucking hell !

- " DO NOT use the stove.......... in close proximity to another stove, or near any heat, fuel or ignition source." - Shite! You mean I have two bombs side by side!


- Sounds as though if I was to take the gas option I would have a stove ensconced in my boats galley with the explosive power of an Exocet Missile! Yikes! and Yikes!! again!

Only a fool would not take this advice. So I used that old adage that changing my mind is a males prerogative and went in another direction.

So shipmates, I did the research I should have done right at the beginning of this little sojourn and decided to change fuel.

I have purchased a new stove with a couple of nifty adjustable pot holders. It's a Swedish built Dometic 3000 two burner stove specifically designed for use in tents, campers and boats. It burns meths which is not pressurized in any way which is a big safety factor. It eliminates the pressurized flare ups that can occur with a primus. Any meths fires can be put out with water.

According to the Utube videos I have viewed and literature I have read a meths burning stove is the safest option available and has the advantage that meths can be extinguished using water in the unlikely event of a fire. The only disadvantage that I can see is that meths doesn't burn at the same fierce temperatures as gas or kerosene, so the kettle will take a little longer to come to the boil..... but shipmates if you are a sailor traveling everywhere at 6 - 7 knots or less, what's the bloody hurry?

The big advantage is that the stove is relatively safe, simple, easy to use and fits neatly into the modified gimballed frame of the old primus stove. It is also a compact, non intrusive and reasonably attractive looking little unit.

So I am happy to have this job ticked off the list. One down, three more jobs to go and then we can go sailing again.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

___________________________ RACING AGAIN ________________________

This week I raced 'Slipstream' for the first time this year (That's us on the left with the distinctive roach in the mains'l). The wind was very light, at times dying away to nothing. The most important part of the whole exercise was that the new self bailers I have installed didn't leak!! Excellent!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

_________________________ RACE READY ____________________________

 'Slipstream' is now race ready. The work I have completed on her includes:

- Raising the splashboards to the regulation minimum 65cm height including new varnished trim.
- Fitting varnished wooden trim around the cockpit perimeter.
- Lengthening the cockpit floor slates to the regulation lengths. This will also help to strengthen the hull and help it hold its shape.
- Painting the deck and cockpit, including non skid paint on the cockpit floor and on the hiking area of the deck.
- Fitting two new Anderson self bailers in the cockpit floor.
- Having a 'D' ring sewn into the stern end of the hiking straps allowing them to now be adjustable.
- Removing the laminated crossbeam with its heavy traveller and car and replaced it with a simple adjustable rope system.

 New Anderson bailers.

 Stainless steel 'D' ring.

 Simple light weight adjustable main sheet track.

Non skid areas on both side decks and cockpit floor will keep me from slipping and sliding.

 Fresh and bright varnished trim helps break up the paint job.

On Tuesday evening racing begins again at the Onerahi Yacht Club, so I will pop 'Slipstream' on the road trailer and head off for some sailing training - The Zephyr Nationals in Wellington are only four weeks away! Yikes!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

_______________ PLEASE EXPLAIN MR EDGAR DEGAS _________________

The famous French artist Edgar Degas said, "Painting is easy when you don't know how, but difficult when you do". He would never have said that if he had seen me painting a Zephyr sailing dinghy.
Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do. Edgar Degas
Read more at:
As I have mentioned before, painting is really not my forte, so happiness and contentment for me in this context is a simple job well done. Today the paint brush, the tin of paint and I enjoyed an easy alliance. The results are a huge improvement on the first painting job I completed on 'Scout', which looked as though I had painted the hull with a yard broom.

I have painted 'Slipstreams' deck and cockpit using a foam roller and 'tipped off' any bubbles with a paint brush in the recommended way. The quality of a paint job is dependent on good application and thorough preparation. This time round all went reasonably well.

I will paint the working area of the deck and cockpit with a non skid deck paint in a slightly darker shade of grey.

As usual 'Murphys Law' came into play. As soon as I started painting, the wind rose and little seeds from a tree started to blow into the carport and float down onto the fresh paint. I hastily put up a couple of tarpaulins which happily stopped what could have been another painting disaster.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

______________________________ SCOUT ____________________________

Today I bolted on 'Scouts' name plate. I like the name 'Scout', it sounds purposeful and active. It has an eyes wide open feeling to it; a tugging at the anchor chain let's go sailing feeling.  I know without a doubt that admiring glances would be cast in 'Scouts' direction if she were to sail in company with Arthur Ransomes' purposeful 'Swallow' and 'Amazon' - no doubt about that at all Shipmates. All I need now (apart from rudder and sail) is a spy glass and a parrot.

After gluing on the splashboard alterations to 'Slipstream' and the nameplate to 'Scout' I pulled both boats as far forward in the carport as I could as a major storm is approaching Northland from the Tasman Sea. The whole country is in for a bit of a battering. While the storm is raging I shall read, meditate, and think about a name for the parrot.

Monday, January 1, 2018

__________________________ STREET LEGAL __________________________

 Two brand new Anderson self bailers replace the old leaking ones.

In about six weeks I will be trundling off to Wellington to race in the 2018 National Zephyr championships. But before I do this I want to get 'Slipstream' completely compliant. Although she has a current measurement certificate that will be acceptable for the the championship I want to make her completely street legal. On the measurement certificate there are three areas that are noted that fall short of complete compliance. Because these issues do not give 'Slipstream' a competitive advantage a measurement certificate was issued with the non compliant areas noted.

The three areas that I am currently rectifying are:

- Lengthening the cockpit slates to span the complete length of the cockpit. I am happy to do this as it will strengthen the bottom of the hull. As you can see in the photographs this work is completed expect for the sanding and painting.

- Gluing an internal wooden bead around the face of the cockpit at deck height. This will give a good edge for my fingers to get a hold onto when climbing back into the cockpit after a capsize. The sanded areas around the inside of the cockpit in the photograph show where the new cockpit trim will be glued.

- Attaching some timber trim to the top of the splash boards as these are slightly below regulation height. The extra height will give more area to the splash boards and help them to do their job of keeping water out of the cockpit.

All the timber trim that I am using is cedar which is strong and light and shouldn't add any more weight considering that I have already lightened the boat by removing the large varnished laminated wooden crossbeam that has supported the heavy aluminum main sheet track (see photo below). I am going to use a light weight rope bridle with adjustment controls which has become common practise.

 When completed the only way to improve on 'Slipstream' will be to purchase one of the new immaculately built fiberglass Zephyrs complete with a beautifully varnished deck that are becoming very popular - now Shipmates - there's a shipshape new years resolution!

In terms of keeping weight out of the boat, the installation of two new self bailers that don't leak will also help in this area. With a little bit of fitting and painting to do we are almost good to go. I will soon be out on the water doing a bit of training and getting race fit for the National champs and the unpredictable Wellington weather.

Saturday, December 30, 2017


 L. Francis Herreshoff  designed 'Meadow Lark' shoal draft ketch.

"It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. Francis  Herreshoff  (The Complete Cruiser)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

__________________________ DIVE BOMBED __________________________

Yes, yes, yes shipmates, I know what you are thinking - "What's the silly old bugger doing now? " Well, hold that thought and I shall explain.

I decided to launch my new cruising dinghy 'Scout' and take a look at how the Pohutakawa trees that I am keeping an eye on for my conservationist friend Gerry are faring. Since I last took a look there has been a number of king tides which can wash across the little island and some pretty vicious winter storms.

As I haven't yet constructed a sailing rig for 'Scout' it was a long row against an outgoing tide and a 15 - 20 knot wind to the now familiar island beach on Whangarei harbour. As I approached I could see a small breeding colony of birds on the grass berm just above the high tide mark.

As I got nearer, the birds became very agitated and began to dive bomb me. I got out of the dinghy and walked as far away down the beach from the nesting site as I could, then headed inland to inspect the Pohutakawa trees.  A squadron of birds followed my every move, so as soon as I reached some vegetation I pulled a clump of old dead growth out of the ground and used it as protection for my head as the dive bombing continued.

Any idea I had that perhaps the birds might mistake the vegetation above my head for the plumage of a miraculously surviving Dodo or a geographically challenged Emperor Penguin were quickly extinguished as the aerial onslaught continued. These protective little seabird dive bombers weren't going to be fooled for a second by the great waddling Alden pretend bird as he crashed through the undergrowth.

Of the 17 trees that were planted 8 are thriving and looking very healthy indeed. Two trees are dead and the rest have simply vanished. I wonder if they haven't been pulled out of the ground and stolen.

I spent a bit of time pulling weeds away from around the remaining trees and then returned to 'Scout' and headed home. It was an easy return to the launching ramp at the Onerahi Yacht Club as the wind and tide were now favourable and we were pushed along at a fast clip.

I am very happy with the way 'Scout' performs. She rows well and although a heavy dinghy I found this an advantage in the rough water and fresh head wind as the heft of her weight helps her to push solidly through head seas. I can't wait to get a rig on her and see how she sails!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

___________________ THE LOOM OF LAUNCHING DAY ___________________

I must admit I am not much good at painting. Goodness knows why as I have done more than my allotted painting tasks. The first brushed on finishing coat was full of runs and the second coat with a roller was full of lint and fluff from the fast disintegrating roller - sigh. In the end I have managed to save the day with a light sanding, a cut and polish and a buff up with turtle wax. The result is a satisfactory smooth, muted, matte finish which you don't have to wear sun glasses to look at.

Leaning on the wall by the stern of the dinghy are a couple of lengths of Tasmanian Oak. I will use this timber to make a mast, boom and gaff for the dinghy. I will be looking at a sail area of around 65 - 70 square feet which should be enough to push the little packet along nicely.

The dinghy is sitting on a new beach trailer that I purchased from Reid Trailers in Auckland. It took a few days to make and fit the cross pieces to the boats shape and glue on the cushioning foam but this job is now complete. The wheel span of the beach trolley is exactly the same as my Zephyr yachts beach trolley, so the whole outfit fits snugly on the road trailer without having to make any complicated alterations. The last big job on the dinghy was to fit the rubbing strake; its stark white colour contrasts boldly with the newly painted black hull.

Yesterday I thought about a name, and instantly the word 'Scout' popped into my mind - I like that name and I have made a nice little wooden name plate to carve this name onto. I can see in my minds eye 'Scout' and I working our way up little channels and scouting out where to sail to next.

So with only spars, sail, rudder, tiller and dagger board to be constructed - we shall soon be sailing.

Friday, December 15, 2017

_______________________ A WHITE CHRISTMAS (3) _____________________

Mad March Hares in November? A Hare using a Hair dryer? Some would blame global warming; but it's snowing! As for the snow man and woman - is that ' Hare? or Here? today and gone tomorrow?' The world is getting very complicated.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

____________________ A WHITE CHRISTMAS (2) _______________________

Charlotte: " Don't believe anything Nathan says, this is a sculpture of HIM. " 
Salem: "Thanks grandad for knitting me this nice warm blanket." [ You're more than welcome little fella. ] " Do you like the sculpture of my daddy? [ Yes I do Salem, it's a remarkable likeness ].
Snowman: "Hey guys where's MY hat? I'm freeeeeezing! "

Nathan: "Now Alden, we used a photo of you as a guide and think we have sculpted a reasonable likeness, what do you think? " [ What do I think? 'Cogito ergo sum' is what I think my young philosopher, or should that be: ' Cogito ergo sum frigore conficiatur? ] 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

_____________________ A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ____________________

This evening I completed the second week in a row of duty on the Onerahi Yacht Clubs start / finish boat. It is a busy and interesting time setting out the course with buoys and setting up the start / finish line with as little bias as possible.

A 'Slow' and a 'Fast' fleet race three or four, back to back races on separate courses. The number of laps depends on the wind strength.

The start / finish boat (A large RIB with a powerful outboard motor) is always crewed by two people. It involves a lot of work launching,  setting out courses, race starting, taking each boats time, retrieving buoys, hauling out and washing down the RIB. I think it is a good system the club runs whereby each sailor gets to do a couple or more 'Start' boat duties. It enables you to understand the amount of work involved 'behind the scenes' and not to take all the race organisation for granted.

The other great benefit is just to be on the water on a warm evening watching small boats sailing. For some of us (apart from actually sailing your own boat) it doesn't get a lot better than that.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

_______________________ A WHITE CHRISTMAS ? _______________________

Our daughter sent us this photograph today from Cambridge England. This view is so familiar to us (minus the snow) as we looked out every morning onto it during our recent two month sojourn there. Now it looks like the UK may be in for a white Christmas. Whatever the weather, one thing I know is that England has central heating and double glazing sussed! Any sortie outside to make snowballs and snowmen will be greeted on return with ample warmth and good cheer.

For some reason this photograph reminded me of a story written by the late Maurice Griffiths, yacht designer and long time editor of the UK magazine 'Yachting Monthly'. He had harboured for a number of years an ambition to spend Christmas day on board his small cruising yacht, which he did; in conditions not dissimilar to the above photograph. I must dig out the story - I can't remember whether or not he rowed out to his boat or simply walked across the ice - yikes!!

Monday, December 4, 2017

________________________ BLACK PAINT ___________________________

Today I painted my little cruising dinghy black. This coat is the first of two. It is 'two pot' paint (i.e. epoxy paint and hardener) and I painted it on with a high quality bristle brush. Despite this brushing strategy I have ended up with a few runs in the paint (I blame gravity). So instead of painting 'wet on wet' (within the three day cure time), I am going to let this coat go off until it is fully cured, then sand and apply the second coat with a roller. I am not after a perfect finish but I don't like runs in the paint.

The hull colour black in conjunction with a grey interior and a 'tan-bark' coloured sail is a traditional combination of colours. I have an old tan sail that I can cut up and use for the sail.

The photo (above) shows the rig I am hoping to make. It's a handy little lugsail outfit that when disassembled will lie flat inside the dinghy. I found this photo on the 'Bursledon Blog' site - Thanks Max.

The other job that occupied my time was drilling and fitting the new self bailers to 'Slipstream'. To get good access to both sides of the hull I had to lean the boat on her side vertically. All that is required now is a couple of coats of 'Everdure' preservative around the oblong holes in the bottom of the boat and I will fit the new venturi self bailers. I will then be able to join the Tuesday night racing series - something I have missed while being overseas for a couple of months.

My good mate and fellow Zephyr skipper Bernie came around today to see what I was up to and offered to machine up some new cedar floor battens and cockpit trim which will then tick the outstanding issues on 'Slipstreams' measurement certificate; leaving no obstacles in my way come registration and measuring day in February 2018 at the Zephyr Nationals at Worser Bay Wellington. The 'things to do' list continues to sort itself out in a timely manner.

Friday, November 24, 2017

__________________________ BACK TO JOY ___________________________

I was going to call this blog post 'BACK TO WORK' but as the retirement projects I undertake are a great joy ......  then 'BACK TO JOY' it is.

Despite the fact that spending time in one of my favourite countries was an interesting and engaging time, as we returned from eight weeks of late autumn and approaching winter in the UK I could feel and almost hear the promise of a great New Zealand summer as the plane landed.

One of the first jobs I undertook was to give three coats of anti-fouling paint to 'Mariners' little work horse dinghy. This small six footer is permanently tethered to a pontoon and gets a lot of hard knocks and in the past has not had the protection of any bottom paint. With a bit of a scrub every couple of months the dinghy should stay barnacle free until the next round of painting.

The second job I am tackling is replacing the two 'Supersucker' brand self bailers / venturis. These two little beasts have been a nightmare and have leaked copious quantities of water into my Zephyr 'Slipstream' ever since I purchased the boat. I have two new Anderson self bailers on order. The good news is that the new bailers will fit exactly into the holes exited by the old bailers without any modifications. I will be pleased when they are fitted as staring at a couple of oblong holes in the bottom of my boat is a little bit counter intuitive and unnerving.

The third job is to paint 'Mariners' old 8 foot work horse tender that I converted into a traditional sailing dinghy a while ago. This conversion has been one of a few jobs that went on hold when I was dealing to 'Mariners' diesel engine. The colour I have chosen for the hull is 'Pirate Black'.

'Mariner' herself is pretty much in sailable condition although there are a bevy of peripheral reconditioning issues to deal with - bilge pumps, compass, stove being the main ones.

With a very sailable Northland summer on the way, the Zephyr Nationals early next year and my desire to get the traditional 8 footer up and sailing, there is plenty to be going on with.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

_____________________ STICKING TO YOUR KNITTING __________________

The idiom "Stick to your knitting" means to concentrate on what you are good at and familiar with rather than get involved with things you know absolutely nothing about. I have to say this advice is not something that I intuitively follow with the result that I sometimes get involved with things I am not familiar with and always have strong opinions about things I often know absolutely nothing about. Such is life, and I can tell by the sage like nodding of various shipmates heads as they read this that my approach rings a bell in that great book of ubiquitous human behaviour.
Anyway shipmates, recently while in the UK awaiting the birth of our second grand child I happily fulfilled the request of our daughter to use up a couple of large skeins of wool she had on hand and knitted a blanket for the wee sailor who was about to be born.
 Little Salem (above) cooed his approval as he tried out his new blanket.

I have now knitted three articles of clothing. A scarf in the 1960s (When my mother taught me how to do those rudimentary purls and plains - A woollen jersey in the 1990s (yes really, and a pretty good job I did of it too he said modestly) - and now this triumph of large fat knitting needles and chunky wool in 2017. 

With an average interval between knits of about thirty years I will probably be ready to knit something again in 2047 when I will be 96 years old - I can't wait, it's interesting what you can achieve when once begun, you stick to your knitting.