Monday, November 21, 2016

______________________ MARINER'S DINGHY (11) _______________________

I spent some time thinking through the construction of the centreboard case. It's a job that needs to be done once and done correctly. I don't want it to leak or to be susceptible to failure due to flimsy construction - so I have made it pretty robust.

It was good to use my heavy workbench during completion work on the centreboard seat. The workbench now has a new and renewable plywood top and a new metalworking vise. This vise has come in very useful and makes redundant my usual dodge of putting steel fittings etc into (and often damaging) the soft wooden jaws of a woodwork vise.

I made a slight mistake with the length of the centreboard seat but solved this by gluing an extra piece of wood around the perimeter of the seat. The new arrangement is more in proportion with the overall look and I am happy with the way it looks.

We have come a long way since bringing Mariners dinghy home for a repair and repaint to the current stage of the whimsical decision to turn the dinghy into a little lugsail rigged sailing dinghy and I am very happy about how it's all turning out. The speed of progress is a little slow - but shipmates, us retired blokes need time just shooting the breeze as much as we need time building and preparing to go sailing in it.

Friday, November 18, 2016

_____________________ AN ANTIQUE SOUND SYSTEM _________________

In recent times cell phones and other small devices have been invented that will store and play a zillion soundtracks downloaded from the internet. There is something very useful about stereophonic sound that you can put in your shirt pocket............ the trouble is what do you do with all the old technology? Well this bloke has installed his antique (or is that classic?) technology in his work shed. 

Only three of the original five speakers still work, but luckily they are the two main speakers and the centre speaker. I have mounted the centre speaker above the window and one of the main speakers high up in one corner of the workshop. The two small rear speakers won't be missed.

The other main speaker is at the opposite side of the shed along with my set of classical music tapes. These 'Tape Recordings' are an old system which records music onto spools of magnetic tape. Tapes superseded an even older complicated system where music was transferred from a metallic 'die' onto circular black plastic discs of varying sizes. The music was then picked up and relayed to speakers by an armature with a 'needle' on it which picked up the sound from grooves on the black disc ( I kid you not !!!!!!).

I do have a set of what's called 'CDs' (A more recent invention) which you may have heard of. I rotate these with my classical music tapes. When I want to listen to old popular music I listen to 'Coast FM' which plays all the old classic pop songs from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. If I want to raise my blood pressure for fun I listen to talk back radio. It's nice to work away in the carport and listen to music.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

____________________________ MEDITATION ___________________________

Deliberately, I have never had a dedicated meditation room. My thoughts have been that if I just meditated around the house in a peaceful place where I wouldn’t be interrupted for 15 - 30 minutes then I would become adapted to meditating just about anywhere, and this has pretty much proved to be so.

But lately I have taken to meditating in my small ‘Can’t swing even a small cat’ workshop. It’s cosy and cave like and I am surrounded by simple familiar tools and the happy memories of boat construction projects and modifications.

My simple blue topped meditation stool is almost as old as I am being an heirloom from the family home of sixty years ago. It’s monetary value is about NZ$10 but of course it is priceless. I remember sitting having meals on this stool from the age of five. The block of wood in front of the stool raises my upper legs so that they are parallel with the floor. The lack of a back rest on the stool means I have to sit without support and keep my spine nice and straight.

This morning when I arrived early, dressed in my boat working clothes I liked the familiar smell of wood shavings. Fifteen minutes meditation was a nice way to start the days work. This evening the setting sun shone through the window warming my back as I concluded the day with another fifteen minutes.

My meditation is pretty simple really. It consists of concentrating on my breathing and letting go of the endless chatter of the mind. It’s called ‘Calm Abiding’ meditation. I like the words ‘ Calm Abiding' and I like meditating here in my little room.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

_____________________ DEMOCRACY TRUMPS ITSELF __________________

THE SECOND COMING - W. B. YEATS

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it 
Reel shadows of the indigant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Friday, November 11, 2016

____ YOU DON'T JUST HAVE TO BE AN OPTIMIST TO SAIL IN 30 KNOTS ____


 Practising in marginal conditions increases a sailors skill and safety on the water.
(Optimist sailing dinghy enjoying some rugged weather)

Last week I arrived at the yacht club punching the air with 25 knot optimism and very eager to race my boat. I had been watching the weather forecast and this was going to be my day again! Twenty five knots and increasing! But the sailing for that evening was cancelled.

I know why it was cancelled and fully support the people who made the decision. With an evening race series the light is slowly fading. The lee shore in the strong SW wind was rocky with only a couple of small beach landings, but more importantly there was only one boat, the start boat, available with a crew. There was no dedicated pick up boat in case of capsizes to help crews requiring assistance. So the decision to cancel was wise and sensible - good seamanship.

But, if a dedicated pickup boat had been available I would have strongly argued for racing to take place, even if it had been blowing harder than it was. It is in these marginal conditions that much is learned. If you don't sail in near storm conditions and get used to how it feels and how to handle your boat then you are unprepared if for any reason you get caught out when the weather changes for the worse ........  and the weather, particularly in New Zealand, can change very rapidly indeed.

I can remember a time when most small racing dinghies all had a row of reefing points in the their mains'ls. They didn't get used much, but from time to time when the wind was approaching 30 knots a reef was tucked in and young skippers got an exhilarating ride of their lives among the wind and waves. We need this 'can - do' attitude and a couple of reef points in our mains'ls again in our club racing. Of course in marginal conditions it requires a race start boat and one or two fully crewed 'pick up' boats, this is only sensible. But to not allow young sailors the opportunity to take risks, we restrict their ability to grow in confidence, independence and sailing skill. We all need a bit of Cape Hoorn in us every once in a while.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

__________________________ RACING A LASER ________________________

Grant Cooze is the centreboard dinghy racing organiser for the Onerahi Yacht Club a job that he does very well indeed.

Grant is a real inspiration. He is an amputee with one leg. He launches his Laser, takes off his prosthetic leg, ties it to the Lasers beach trolley and then off he goes sailing. Remarkable.

This week my respect for Grants plucky character and sailing skills grew even more. On arrival at the club for the usual evenings race series I got to talking Lasers with a few of the Laser skippers. Grant suggested that we swap boats for the racing. He would sail my smaller Starling and I would have go with his well set up Laser.

It was blowing quite hard. At the risk of becoming too profane let me simply say that Lasers are tricky little beasts.

In the first two races I blew the starts as I became a bit of an uncontrolled menace to the Laser fleet. I got in irons right on the start line, couldn't get the Laser to go about, got tangled up in the ropes, pulled the wrong control lines and pretty much blundered around. In the third race I sorted myself out and won. I am pleased about this win because the idea of a bigger boat has been an issue for some time, meaning that if I bought one of these boats there is a chance that I might be reasonably competitive.

Sailing back to the clubhouse after the racing I reflected on just how demanding and tricky sailing a Laser is. They are not docile boats, especially downwind in a big breeze. They respond instantly, accelerating very fast in wind gusts requiring balance, skill and a certain amount of good luck to keep them upright and sailing fast. Sailing upwind in strong winds they need sustained hiking to keep them flat and sailing fast and they are very sensitive to any sail control adjustments. They are not a boat for the faint hearted ......... which brings me back to Grant. How the hell he sails his Laser so well I really don't know - he's a bloody legend.


Friday, October 21, 2016

_____________________________ MARINER ____________________________

 Mariner at speed, full mains'l and No 1 working job.

A couple of days before the recent delivery trip of Davids yacht 'Chez Nous' I rowed out to Mariner and gathered together some items for an emergency 'Grab Bag'. She looked rather neglected and in need of a good clean. The fast rugged sail from Auckland to Tutukaka bought back a lot of memories and has inspired me to make a start on the required work that she needs earlier than I had planned. So the next few postings will be about the clean up and decisions regarding getting her ship shape for the summer.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

______________________ MARINER'S DINGHY (10) _______________________


The side seats and the rowlock blocks have all been fitted, glued and screwed.
 
The G - clamps and timbers are the beginnings of the centreboard case.

To do list: 

Centreboard case 
Mast step
Fit floorboards 
Tiller, rudder and centreboard
Mast, boom, gaff, sail
Painting

Monday, October 17, 2016

_________________________ Delivery Trip (2) ___________________________

West Haven Marina in Auckland and loading up Davids "Whiting 29" sloop 'Chez Nous' for the delivery trip to Tutukaka, approximately 100 nautical miles north of Auckland NZ.

The three likely lads. From the left - Rama, David and moi. I forget what we were laughing about but the photo is a good symbol of a happy trip.

Even on a grey, rainy late Autumn day there is always something out and about on the Waitamata harbour. This is the Auckland Maritime Museums scow 'Ted Ashby' out on a jaunt.

Hard on the wind heading towards Tiri Passage on the way to our first stop, Kawau Island. It was cold and rainy with poor visibility, the wind Westerly slowly turning during the day to NW at  25 knots.

As we fiddled around trying to get the electronic speedo to work and commenting on the underwater impeller - sender unit etc the speedo suddenly came to life. Rama said something to the effect that ' A dolphin must have fixed it' - a curious thing to say I guess - but, right after the word "it" (I kid you not) a dolphin suddenly surfaced briefly right beside the boat. It was so close you could have reached out and touched it. I wasn't quick enough to get a photo of it, but I did get this photo of the pod of dolphins accompanying our speedometer fixer. I find these kinds of coincidences very intriguing.

First stop, Bon Accord Harbour on Kawau Island. We had a restful night in this quiet little bay and started north the next morning. We were waiting for the predicted SW wind, a favourable wind that  would give us a fast trip north. We left not knowing exactly what the wind direction would be, as it was hard to tell in our sheltered anchorage. The forecast was for a Nor' westerly which might have meant we could lay up the coast, putting in a few tacks as we went. When we poked our noses out into the big blue sea we were met with a 35 knot Northerly right on the nose combined with a big left over swell from the NE. After bashing and banging around for about an hour I suggested to David that we go back to Kawau and wait overnight for the predicted SW winds, which we did.

The camaraderie that night included playing cards, drinking and talking bollocks; pretty familiar, traditional blokey fare - nothing excessive, but somehow, something that is at the heart of things.

The next day we left for the north with the South Westerly filling in with a vengeance. The lesson to be learned is that it is always best to be prudent and wait out bad conditions if you can. In the old great days of sail, coastal sailing vessels could be seen en mass, at anchor, awaiting a fair wind. To do so is common sense and good seamanship.

The SW fair wind that we patiently waited for meant that we could sail most of the day with the sheets eased a bit and that we were able to sail the whole distance without tacking at all.

'Chez Nous' has a fractional rig with a large mains'l. As the wind increased we took in three reefs. This reduced the sail area by about 20 - 30% and moved the centre of effort forwards making her easier on the helm. Taranga Island slips past. This Island is also known as "The Hen" being the biggest Island in this group named 'The Hen and Chickens'.

Bream Head, marking the entrance to Whangarei Harbour comes into view. Our destination Tutukaka on the horizon.

The speedo spent most of its time registering between 7 and 7. 5 knots for the duration of the trip.

If you look carefully in the foreground of the above photo just behind the large tanker you will see one of two small jet skis that passed us going south at a great rate of knots. One of the great constants in life is that no matter where you go you will always run across mad bastards. That's not a condemnation of their behaviour, rather it's an accurate description of it.

This was the only other yacht we saw. She's looked about 50 feet long and was tracking well with a reefed main and a small jib.

The familiar and distinctive ' Three Gables' of the Tutukawa headland.

The entrance to the Tutukawa marina. David lives in the apartment complex in the background, so his new boat is nice and handy.

"Home is the sailor, home from the sea" - 'Chez Nous' safely delivered to her new place of residence - job done.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

_________________________ DELIVERY TRIP _________________________

 Mains'l well reefed as Sail Rock slides past - three quarters of the distance completed.

Today I arrived back from a hair raising (and spray drenched) three day delivery trip from Auckland to Tutukaka in Northland New Zealand. I was crewing for my good mate David who is now the proud owner of a Paul Whiting designed 'Whiting 29' class sloop. It was an interesting and sobering experience (despite a bottle of rum etc that was consumed).

Taranga Island recedes in the distance as we storm up the coast. Wind speed 25 knots gusting to 35 knots. 

 More of the trip on my next posting.............................

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

___________________ SORTING THE WORKBENCH (4) ___________________

I thought I had it sorted ............................

I have a couple of comprehensive, beautifully published books about workbenches.  I am aware that to some people books such as these would be as interesting as books about grain silos, but there you are. Compared to my rudimentary construction the benches featured in these books look like Steinway pianos. When I am retired from renovating boats I might build one. In the mean time I am having too much fun.

While working on my workbench I remembered something that was mentioned in one of the books. It was stated that many woodworkers like open free standing workbenches without any shelves, because shelves inevitably are places that get covered in wood shavings and dust. I have found this to be true.

So the other day after yet again sweeping away the detritus that covered the shelves I decided to knock up a couple of doors - and this is the result. Rough and ready to be sure but they should do an excellent job of keeping the shelves free of the by-products of wood work. The doors are slightly ajar as I have just applied the first of two finishing coats of paint.

It's always been a tradition in my family that boat builders benches should be christened in a similar manner to a newly launched yacht. That is, a little alcohol is poured over the bow and the rest of the bottle finished off by the builder (Actually that's not true, I just made it up - but it sounds like a good tradition to start) - now where's that  'Good on yah mate, Speights Pride of the South NZ beer.'

Monday, October 3, 2016

_________________ FINDING BEAUTY IN THE ORDINARY _________________

Last night I watched a TV programme called "I Know This To Be True". It was a "Local documentary special in which 30 New Zealanders discuss their beliefs, who they are, what they learned growing up, and what they have done".

Something that NZ artist Dick Frizell (above) said resonated with me. It resonated with me because it is something I have known for a long, long time. It is something that is true. It is something that is part of my everyday experience. I think many people would agree with this way of seeing.

I cannot quote him exactly but the general thread of what Dick Frizell was saying goes like this:  Beauty is not exclusively contained in grand vistas, exotic locations and magnificent sunsets. It is, as he explained contained ' In a picture of a letterbox and its night time moon shadows on an ordinary suburban street. Everything is beautiful.'

This is what I was trying to get at with my recent post "In Praise of Weeds." Who makes the rules? Who says some plants are weeds and other plants are valuable flowers to be oohed and ahhed over? The green of my Oxalis weeds are not just green, they are a beautiful emerald green.

The plant police with their personal projections of plant devilry will claim that left to their own sly inclinations (i.e. successful, healthy, vibrant growth) Oxalis will take over the world in the same way that  other devil plants such as Kikuyu grass are plotting to do (And plotting incidentally in the same way as forests of Oak and Kauri, oceans of Tulips and Iris's and meadows of daffodils and buttercups).

Well, I humbly beg to differ. In my way of looking at the world...... Oxalis, Kikuyu and other varieties of Devilish Greenis Vegetais Weedus are just as interesting and beautiful as anything else that grows on this planet.

As evidence for the proposition that beauty is everywhere in everyday things, let me present to you some of the objects that I have been working on in my own leisurely way as I restore a rather ordinary and common fiberglass dinghy.



The symmetry of a clinker planked hull, (even in its imitation fiberglass form) - the well proportioned tapering of the planks from its midsection to both bow and stern.

The agricultural carpentry (mine) of a simple workbench with all its rough, rude, uneven symmetry.

Simple honest hand tools that with good intentions become tools of transformation.

The fruits of manual boat building labour - the rudimentary shaping of the dinghies new rowlock blocks and the by product of the shaping - a carpet of lovely curled shavings from the wood plane.




Four chunky wooden rowlock blocks with their dense hardwood grain emerging transformed into new shapes from the crucible of my little wooden forge, complete with its serendipitous sawhorse - the sitting height is just right for the old buggers butt.

I spend a lot of time just standing at the side of this old dinghy, just looking and thinking about the next step in this project. I never tire of looking at the beauty of it all. It's a privilege to have the time, the inclination and the rudimentary skills to be able to be involved in something that is .... well .... without wanting to put too finer point on it ...... pure joy.........

.......... so I guess I am giving thanks here, not just for being able to engage with this work and finding joy in the immediacy of something worthwhile, but also (As Dick Frizell points out ) in the beauty that is to be found in its ordinariness ....... and using a bit of good old fashioned mindfulness helps here.

I also give thanks for wonderful, modern, gap filling epoxy glue LOL.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

____________ KAYAKS, POHUTAKAWAS AND AN UMBRELLA _____________


Today I went kayaking with my brother Tony. The aim was to enjoy some kayaking again after a rainy and cold winter and to inspect the Pohutakawas trees that my good friend Gerry had planted and asked me to keep an eye on because he was relocating to Wellington.

The 21 small, newly planted Pohutakawa trees ( right foreground) were generally doing very well indeed and were thriving after a winter that had come with a few pretty ferocious storms. One had died and one is looking a bit worse for wear, but the rest are doing well. This is the third time I have checked on them since they were planted at the beginning of the year. Two of the previous visits were to apply fertilizer. This trip I weeded some of the planting sites that had become inundated with weeds, completely enveloping some of the trees. I will go back again soon to complete this work.

With a fast incoming tide only half way in, a first circumnavigation of Rat Island was cut off by a rapidly disappearing section of sand. There was only one thing to do - some good old fashioned portaging. I like the word portage, it reminds me of stories I used to read about the exploits of North American Indians and their adventures in the wilds of the USA and Canada. In the stories I read as a youngster they were always portaging their bark canoes from one lake to another as they traversed the wilderness hunting, foraging and exploring.

So my brother and I, two guiltily overweight old age pensioners (and both recipients of quadruple heart bypass surgeries) had a go at portaging. It's hard work. We stopped frequently, discovered again that the rear end of the kayaks are much heavier at one end - the stern -  and took turns in this position as we portaged them one at a time across a strip of sand that ended up being a lot longer than it looked.

Three quarters of the way across and time to have a discussion about whose idea it was to portage across this strip of sand. We could have sat in the middle of the sand in our kayaks and waited for the tide to come in, but, call me old fashioned - once a couple of pensioners have made a portage commitment they are not apt to give up easily.

The last stretch of sand. My kayak is sitting waiting on the horizon.

On the run back to the launching ramp Tony produced his 'piece de resistance', a medium sized umbrella which pushed his kayak along at the rate of a steady paddle pace. I had forgotten this trick of his with the umbrella and wasn't equipped in a similar manner - bugger.

As he gradually forged off into the distance I spent some time on the paddle back designing a suitable sailing device that can be readily attached on the fore deck of my kayak - either that or an umbrella of my own!

Back at the launching ramp and loading up the boats. When we got home we drank some 'Spieghts - Pride of the South' beer and talked portaging with arms so yanked in their sockets it was hard to lift the beer cans to our lips.

I will have to email Gerry and send him some photos showing how well his beloved Pohutakawas are doing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

________________________ RACING BEGINS __________________________

Late this afternoon I sailed in the first race of the Onerahi Yacht Clubs twilight racing series. I was keen to try out my centreboard with its new added area. There wasn't a very good turn out for the Starling class (only two boats) and the wind was light ( 2 - 6 knots). I was second in the first race and first in the second. The third race was called off for the lack of wind. Despite all this it was really good to be out on the water again.

It feels like the boat is pointing closer to the wind with the extra area added to the centreboard but I think I will need a few more races in varying wind and sea conditions to make a full assessment.

It was good to catch up with the other skippers and in the ensuring banter, where it was pointed out that I was almost twice the weight of the other Starling sailors, I was offered for purchase two Laser yachts that are for sale. I am finding it hard to resist the logic of such a purchase although the Laser is not high on my list of preferred boats. But it is pretty much the only adult sailing dinghy racing at the club in anything like relatively substantial numbers. It's a bit of a no brainer really if I want any sort of sailing competition on a level playing field. Hmmmmmm.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

____________________ SAILING CLOSE TO THE WIND ____________________

 In a previous post I explained how I was enlarging the area of the Starlings centre board here:


A narrow central piece of pale pine timber has been laminated into the middle of the centre board and two dark mahogany pieces added fore and aft at the bottom. The operation was a little tricky as the centre board has an aerofoil shape - but sighting by eye after the major operation shows that things are aligned well. I am hoping the added width and depth will allow the boat to sail closer to the wind giving added windward performance.

The first application of a couple of coats of primer paint. This will be followed by an undercoat and final finishing coat - with judicious sandings in between coats. The season begins this Sunday with the 'Round Limestone Island Race' (Three circuits of the island). I hope I am not sailing too close to the wind in getting this modified centre board ready by then.