Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Opua: DESOLATION ISLAND; CHANCE


        What I thought to be only a lull was in fact the end of the storm.  Patches of blue sky persisted until sunset, after which the sky cleared, the wind went calm, and GANNET and I rested quietly.
        Yesterday and today have been mostly sunny, with only a few brief passing showers and gusts of wind.
        I got a number of small boat tasks done:  bought two new fenders and cut and whipped lines for them; applied sealant to the starboard lower shroud padeye; made a new screen for the companionway; scrubbed mold beside the port pipe berth and rearranged stowage there; retied the U.S. and N.Z. flags to backstay and shroud; bought what I need to oil the wood and paint the bilge.
        I’ve now gone through everything on the boat except two duffle bags of clothes.  One with ‘good’ harbor clothes; the other with passage/work clothes.  There really isn’t much difference between most of them.  When we get a day without rain I’ll take both on deck and see if anything can be tossed.

———

        On Monday I finished DESOLATION ISLAND, which is really Kerguelen Island, Number 5 of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels.
        There is a ship chase in the Southern Ocean that ends with dramatic suddenness.  Perhaps because I’ve sailed those waters, I can visualize it; but O’Brian writes the scene wonderfully.  
        As he does an approach to Desolation Island across a severe tide rip, just ahead of an approaching gale, in a ship with a jury rigged rudder.
        I’m not giving more detail because I don’t want to spoil the novel for you if you read it.  DESOLATION ISLAND is my favorite in the series so far.

———

        I often read two books at once, and completed Vol. 1 of Edward Gibbon’s THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE the same day.   I’ve read a three volume abridgment of Gibbon’s massive work, but bought all six volumes in a Kindle edition for a couple of dollars.  I’m not sure I’ll get through them all.  The history is common knowledge.  The pleasure of the books is Gibbon’s ironic wit and intelligence.
        I’m now rereading Joseph Conrad’s CHANCE. 
        A man whose first name is Chance wrote me not long ago.  I like the name.  I’m happy with Webb; but if I weren’t Webb, I think I’d like to be Chance.  It suits me.  It suits us all.
        From CHANCE, the novel:  “The exacting life of the sea has this advantage over the life of the earth that its claims are simple and cannot be evaded.”   And:  “Sailors are not adventurers.”

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Opua: storm



        An unexpected lull in the storm that arrived precisely as forecast last night and covers most of the country with rain and gusty wind.  Gale force off Cape Brett.  Hurricane force at Wellington.  Only gusting in the twenties here at Opua, I think, but enough for GANNET to imitate her eponymous bird, soaring and diving around the mooring.
        This has been the sternest test yet of my rebedded forward hatch.  No leaks.  However, there is a leak around the deck plate on the starboard lower shroud which drips onto the small counter top beside Central.
        The storm is forecast to peak this afternoon—it is now almost 1:00 p.m.—and ease tonight.  There is a increasing patch of blue sky to the north and west, and the sun has just cast the first shadows of the day.  Much of the morning was so dark we had no solar charging.
        I prepared for the storm yesterday by pulling the Avon into the cockpit and deflating it, removing the U.S. and New Zealand flags from the rigging because they shake the entire boat flogging in strong wind, tightening the backstay, and buying a bottle of wine, bread, cheese and chorizo salami at the General Store yesterday.  I’m good for the duration.
        Patter of rain on deck.  Blue sky appearing to the south through the companionway.
        Maybe I’ll get ashore tomorrow.

———

        Yesterday afternoon I continued my inspection of GANNET’s interior.
        I removed everything from the port pipe berth and slithered aft to return the storm jib with its new luff  tape to where it is stowed beneath the spare anchor, a 15 pound Delta.  Four fenders and the PortaPotti also live back there.   I’m throwing out and replacing two of the fenders which are beyond salvaging.  
        I could see the entire stern space.  On the starboard side are the spare rudder and two trash bags of freeze dry food, thirty meals to a bag.  These are the last of the five bags I stowed before leaving San Diego.  New Zealand’s Back Country Cuisine is one of my favorite brands of freeze dry meals.  I’ll restock when I next return.
        Slithering back into The Great Cabin, I returned the new Avon and other items stowed on the port pipe berth and crawled forward onto the v-berth, where I went through the various water resistant and water proof bags there.  As I expected by moving the second Torqeedo battery and the sextant from one bag, I managed to combine the contents of two bags into one and eliminate the other.  A modest triumph.  For whatever reasons, I do take pleasure in getting rid of things.
        The second Torqeedo battery is now stowed aft.  The sextant I will carry back to Evanston with me.
        I also checked the small stowage areas beneath the v-berth and found forgotten ‘good’ plastic wine glasses that Carol and I bought at the Milwaukee Art Museum.  Lighter and more stylish than my everyday plastic.  I drank from one last evening and will again this.
        The sun is becoming warm shining through the forward hatch onto my back.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Opua: best; restowed; apocalypse averted; bounce


     

        The Boston Marathon was run last Monday in conditions that the NEW YORK TIMES described as “cold and wet”.  There was some headwind.  The winning times were ordinary.  Which makes the achievement of my friend, Tim, all the more remarkable.  
        Some of you will remember that I have written about Tim before, most recently when he executed what may well be a double unique in the history of our species by running a full marathon one morning and playing violin in a symphony orchestra that evening.
        Last Monday in those unfavorable conditions Tim ran a personal best in the Boston Marathon.  I trust that he will not mind that I let you know he did this at age 50.  
        To me this is not only a personal best, but the very best kind of competition:  against yourself and time and chance and limits.
        Congratulations, Tim.  And admiration.

———
        While Tim is setting personal records for running fast, GANNET and I continue to set records for sailing slow.
        Slight wind came off the hills beyond Russell at 1100 Wednesday and I had the anchor up and was underway, if one can call it that, by 1115.
        I carry a bucket that I fill with water and a brush with me to the foredeck when I raise anchor.  Russell has a mud bottom and on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA I often had to scrub the last thirty or forty feet of chain link by link as it came up.  But except for a little mud in the crevices of the Spade anchor, anchor and rode came up clean.  I have yet to raise GANNET’s anchor in strong winds, but small anchors are one of the great advantages of small boats.  Raising GANNET’s ten pound aluminum Spade is so easy.
        The day was lovely.  Except for power boat wakes, the bay smooth.  It took us three hours to sail four miles back to the mooring which I picked up on the second attempt at 1415.  The first time I ran forward with boat hook in hand and couldn’t find the float before current pushed us away.  Gybe.  Circle.  Repeat.  Success.
        The anchor and rode in its deployment bag have been stowed along with the Torqeedo shaft and one battery, and a lot of other stuff—buckets, hand bilge pump, dinghy inflation foot pump, plastic bowl that serves as the galley sink, dust pan and brush, solar shower bag, two two-part oars, tool bag—in the space directly below the cockpit and between the aft halves of the pipe berths.
        I could not get to the anchor quickly there.   As I have noted, stowage on GANNET is like a puzzle of interlocking pieces in which to get to one you usually have to move several others in the correct sequence.   When I have known I will anchor, I have moved anchor and rode deployment bag from beneath the cockpit to the v-berth where I rest them on one of the expensively made and failed companionway curtains directly below the forward hatch.  It is much easier to pull anchor and rode through that hatch than to lift them out the companionway and carry them forward.
        While I was straightening up GANNET after our return Wednesday afternoon I removed everything stowed between the pipe berths and scrubbed the space clean.
        I returned the Torqeedo shaft and battery, but moved the Jordan drogue from the bow and stowed it beside the Torqeedo instead of the anchor and rode deployment bag.  The drogue in its deployment bag is a soft cylinder about five feet long and 10” in diameter.  More giving than the anchor.  
        I now stow the Spade anchor and rode in the bow, forward of the partial bulkhead at the forward end of the v-berth.  
        I have hesitated to do this before because of concerns that it might start banging against the hull when GANNET becomes airborne off waves in strong wind.  But hopefully I have it well padded with a life jacket, the rode, a second anchor rode, and the tarp I occasionally use as a cockpit sunshade.  Weight in the bow is not desirable; but weight anywhere on GANNET is not desirable; and I have to carry some.
        The anchor is now much more quickly accessible; and stowage, both in the bow and between the pipe berths, better organized.
        Of course, it would be better still if the Torqeedo weren’t there.

———

        I poured myself an air temperature gin and tonic at about five last evening, stood in the companionway and found myself confronted by a billowing explosion of cloud to the east.  
        The clouds continued to roil ever higher and grow ever darker.   All moving this way.  And then the whole mass just evaporated.  In ten minutes the sky was mostly clear, and I stood in the companionway and enjoyed my drink at leisure.
———

        However, our weather has changed.
        Today we’ve had some wind and rain and GANNET is caught in the rebound of small waves off the marina breakwater and bouncing up and down and around.
        Gale warning for Monday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Russell: rescued


        I was rescued this morning. 
        First light is shortly after 6:00 and I was awake a few minutes later but still in the v-berth when I heard and felt a power boat pass.  Several day trip boats stop at Russell and power boat wakes are unfortunately common, so I thought nothing of it until I heard the prop wash of backing engines close by and voices.  I crawled from sleeping bag and v-berth, slid open the companionway and stuck my head out to find a 40’ sport fishing boat’s stern a few feet from GANNET’s bow with two men on it, one of them reaching out with a boat hook trying to catch GANNET’s anchor rode.
        With perplexity and some asperity, I asked, “What are you doing?”
        They looked up with surprise.  
        “Oh, sorry.  Sorry.  We thought…adrift.  You see,” and they pointed down toward the rode, “Slack.  And not on a mooring.”  They gestured toward a headland a couple of hundred meters away.  “Sorry.”
        “I appreciate your intentions, but I am anchored.”
        “Sorry.  Sorry.”  And they powered away.

        I drifted and sailed here yesterday, dropping the mooring at around 11:00 and riding the ebbing tide for the first mile or so, sails up but not drawing until we were well beyond the ferry crossing.  I experimented and found that sitting on one side of the cockpit using an oar as a paddle I increased our SOG by a half knot, from 1.8 to 2.3.  This wasn’t hard work, but I wouldn’t have been able to make headway against the current.
        Cats-paws finally touched glassy water and GANNET began to sail, even making five and six knots, and I had the anchor down outside the Russell mooring field by 12:30.  
        I had not forgotten my relearned lesson and did not tow the Avon.  In fact I may deflate and stow it in the cockpit every night.  GANNET is the closest boat to the Customs dock which at this time of year is seldom used and has become the home of hundreds of sea gulls and terns, a few of whom have recently discovered GANNET’s dinghy and spend messy nights there.  Stowing it on the foredeck or deflated in the cockpit would put an end to this as well as the need to scrub growth off the bottom every week or so.  It only takes a minute to deflate and five or six minutes to inflate.
        I pumped up the Avon and rowed ashore for a pleasant lunch at the Duke of Marlborough, New Zealand’s oldest licensed restaurant, of crisp salt and pepper calamari on a bed of greens and a glass of white wine.  I don’t usually drink before 5:00 p.m., but there are exceptions.  Followed by a fig and honey ice cream cone at a shop around the corner.
        I then shopped for essential supplies, including Laphroaig and oatmeal, as well as other liquids and staples.  Russell has two small groceries, both larger and better stocked than the Opua General Store, and with much better prices.
        I rowed back out to GANNET, had an air temperature gin and tonic with music on deck while watching a different view of the sunset.  This arm of the bay has widen to two miles between Russell and Pahia, giving a more expansive vista.  
        There was very little wind and I watched a small boat over on the Pahia side trying to get somewhere before dark. 
        Sitting at Central, I have only to lean forward, grab the edge of the companionway and pull myself up and I am standing outside surrounded by beauty.  How wonderful.  Interrupting my reading last evening, I did so and found a sliver of moon just above the silhouetted hills north of Pahia casting a thin gold thread across the water.
        10:00 a.m. now.  Sunny and pleasant.  I’m waiting for wind to sail back to our mooring.  The tide has just changed and will be against us.  I could fit the Torqeedo and power, but won’t.  I must admit that I take greater satisfaction in moving under sail alone than using the outboard. 
         I’ve thrown away a few more things the past few days, including a hopelessly moldy wind scoop.  Of all the objects I could dispose of, the Torqeedo would make the most dramatic difference in stowage space.  Shaft, two batteries, tiller arm, spare propeller.  
         I certainly don’t need the Torqeedo here, except to get to the boat yard travel lift to haul-out which would be difficult in many combinations of wind and tide and impossible in some.  But I might need it elsewhere.  The problem is that the harbors of the world are configured with the expectation that boats have motors.  I don’t mind paying for tows, but I don’t like to ask for favors, and so am more independent having the Torqeedo than not.  But I do think about jettisoning  it.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Opua: Roberton Island



        I dropped the mooring a little before 1100 on a sunny Thursday morning in very light south wind and rode it and the last hour of ebbing tide north.
        I sail on and off the mooring and anchor under mainsail alone, but had the jib set within a few minutes when the wind shifted to the southwest as it came off Opua hill.  Until I get out into the open bay past Russell the wind gusts and drops, swirls and shifts as it comes off higher and lower land.  Between Opua and Pahia, a distance of four miles/6.5 kilometers, there are three steep hills and valleys affecting the wind.
        The day was pleasant.  GANNET sailed mostly around three and four knots and I dropped anchor at what is known as The Lagoon at Roberton Island at 13:30, taking two and a half hours to cover what is 8.5 nautical miles for a stunning average of 3.4 knots.  And GANNET is a fast boat.  
        Three other boats, two sail, one power, were in the Lagoon, all anchored close to the shore.   The Lagoon is exposed to the southwest and south, with a two mile fetch in those directions to the mainland of New Zealand’s North Island, but the wind was so slight it did not matter.  Still, I anchored well away from the shore as I always do.

        After sorting out GANNET I noticed that although I thought I had set the Yellowbrick to transmit positions every twenty minutes, it had done so every hour.  I reset the interval again.  Then  pumped up the Avon and rowed ashore, climbed the trail to the lookout, admired the beauty, watched a few boats moving about the islands,
and took photographs, mostly with my iPhone whose easy panoramas I enjoy.
      




        The other boats left while I was ashore, and three two person kayaks arrived and were pulled up on the beach.  Not long after I was back on GANNET, I watched them paddle away and thought for a while that I was going to have the anchorage to myself for the night.  Essentially I did.  
        While sitting on deck, listening to music and sipping wine, I watched two sailboats came in at last light, one a small catamaran about GANNET size, the other a 45’ sloop.  Both proceeded far past GANNET to anchor just off the beach.  I have wondered why people do that, especially since most have outboards on their dinghies, and surmise that most people on boats remain creatures of the land and have the illusion of safety there.

        Just after sunset the wind died completely as I expected it would and, not having bothered to put the Torqeedo on the transom, I had to wait until 1100 the next morning for wind to return.
        In a rare exception from my usual practice, I left the Avon inflated and towed it.  I thought I would sail to Russell four miles distant, anchor and row ashore for lunch.  However the wind fulfilled the ‘light and variable’ forecast, often dying completely, leaving GANNET motionless on a silver and glassy bay.  When wind returned it headed us.  The dragging Avon slowed our progress and made loud gurgling sounds, while GANNET made her way through the water almost soundlessly.
        Noon passed and we weren’t even to Tapeka Point a mile north of Russell.  I gave up on lunch ashore and ate a protein bar.
        Finally we made the turn south and passed Russell at 13:30.  
        The forecast of several fine days had changed and today, Saturday, was accurately predicted to be intermittently rainy and windy, so I kept on sailing and was back on the mooring at 14:30 for an average speed of 2.4 knots.  I repeat:  GANNET is a fast boat.  And in fact we were about the only boat sailing, both the fastest and slowest on the water.
        I checked the Yellowbrick tracking page and saw that on the return it did transmit positions every twenty minutes, a more useful interval for a daysail track.

        The three day forecast now is for two lows and two highs to pass over the country.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Opua: Warwick Tomkins, Jr. and FLASHGIRL


        As I was preparing to sail GANNET from her mooring a few weeks ago, a man on a handsome red hulled boat on the next mooring called to me.  I couldn’t quite hear what he said and replied that I was going sailing, but would be back in a few hours.
        I noticed, as any sailor would, that his boat, FLASHGIRL, is obviously a sailor’s boat.  About 40’/12 meters long, very tall rig, bendy mast, clean lines.
        A courteous interval after I had sailed back onto the mooring, I heard the call, “Gannet”, stood in the companionway, and found the man from the red boat in his dinghy along side.  He introduced himself as Warwick Tomkins.  I asked, “The Commodore?”  He smiled affirmation.
        Many of you will know the name.  This Warwick is Warwick Junior and he became a Cape Horner at age four when Warwick Senior sailed around Cape Horn from the east in the 110’ German built pilot schooner, WANDER BIRD, with his wife, two small children, two crew, and four paying guests.  
        I have since spend some time with Warwick and have been given a tour of FLASHGIRL as he has of GANNET.  FLASHGIRL’s took longer and was done standing up.
        It has been decades since I’ve shared a harbor with someone who has sailed more than I have.  I’m ahead on circumnavigation 5-0.  But Warwick has no interest in circumnavigating and has surely done more miles.  He is a decade older than I and, of course, having made a much better choice of parents, started more than two decades younger.
        I believe we both found it interesting how much we share in common and how similar our views on boats.  Boats have tillers, not wheels; dinghies are rowed, not outboarded.  We disdain insurance.  We like ocean passages.  When compromises are made on a boat, sailing performance is primary.  And that is only the beginning.
        We don’t agree on jib furling gear:  GANNET has it; FLASHGIRL does not.
        I have seldom seen a boat that I like as much as FLASHGIRL, with her open interior, double berth in the stern, and clever ventilation with air moving naturally from forward hatch through the cabin and out a hatch in the transom, which also provides light aft.  And, as I mentioned, tall mast.  Essentially the same size a hull as EGREGIOUS and THE HAWKE OF TUONELA,  FLASHGIRL is my kind of boat.  But then it would be, it was conceived and finished by one of the world’s most experienced sailors.
        It was a pleasure and an honor to meet Warwick.
        Here are links:
         an article about FLASHGIRL.  
        All provided to me by Larry, for which I thank him.

———

        The low associated with the front that passed two or three days ago is well east of New Zealand, but still causing gusty winds that are howling around the mast at this moment and a few brief passing showers.  Possible hail was forecast for Auckland today.  
        Worse than the gusts is that the wind is from the south to southwest.  The places I’d like to anchor, Russell and Roberton Island, are both exposed to the south and southwest.  So I’ll wait until tomorrow.  Or Friday.  Or maybe just go for a daysail and return to the mooring one day.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Opua: deplated; delayed


        I had plates on GANNET.  
        I did not know that I had plates on GANNET until I removed everything from the Blue Performance Bag above the starboard pipe berth that serves as the galley locker in order to glue it back in place. 
        Gannet has no lockers and few bins.
        This bag, as well as three others, is Velcroed to the smooth inside surface of GANNET’s hull.  Another is screwed into the port forward side of the main bulkhead.  
        The Velcro on the galley bag was coming unstuck, so I used contact cement to reattach it and the bag.
        I never look into that bag, just reach in and fumble around for whatever I need, usually the small bag in which I keep cutlery and a cork screw, or a plastic tumbler, or the china coffee cup that has thus far survived.  So the plates came as a surprise.  
        As you may remember I eat out of a large plastic measuring cup.  I don’t recall that I have ever used the plates, which were also plastic.  I don’t even recall buying them.  Certainly they failed the not having been used for a year standard.  
        I considered for a moment if I might ever need plates, and decided that if I do I will buy paper ones for the occasion.  
        GANNET is plateless.

 ———

        Following the passing of the front, today has been mostly sunny, windy and cool.  About 50°F/10°C last night, which I know to many of you on the wrong side of the Equator would be longed for warmth.
        I rowed ashore this morning without difficulty, but had a hard row back against gusting wind and ebbing tide.
        Rowing is very good for my shoulder.
        The wind is gusting now, perhaps close to twenty knots and GANNET is heeled over and dancing about her mooring.  So I am probably going to give the wind another day to decrease and sail on Thursday, though if it moderates by noon tomorrow I may sail up and anchor off either Pahia or Russell and go ashore to provision.             
        I much prefer anchoring off Russell; but Russell is exposed to winds from the west and southwest, the direction from which it is now blowing.
        Whenever I sail I’ll have the Yellowbrick sending up positions at twenty minute intervals.
        
        Wine and music this sunset will be enjoyed perhaps standing in the companionway, perhaps sitting here at Central.

         I posted this entry, poured some red wine, stood in the companionway and found myself looking at the above.

Opua: deplated; delayed


        I had plates on GANNET.  
        I did not know that I had plates on GANNET until I removed everything from the Blue Performance Bag above the starboard pipe berth that serves as the galley locker in order to glue it back in place. 
        Gannet has no lockers and few bins.
        This bag, as well as three others, is Velcroed to the smooth inside surface of GANNET’s hull.  Another is screwed into the port forward side of the main bulkhead.  
        The Velcro on the galley bag was coming unstuck, so I used contact cement to reattach it and the bag.
        I never look into that bag, just reach in and fumble around for whatever I need, usually the small bag in which I keep cutlery and a cork screw, or a plastic tumbler, or the china coffee cup that has thus far survived.  So the plates came as a surprise.  
        As you may remember I eat out of a large plastic measuring cup.  I don’t recall that I have ever used the plates, which were also plastic.  I don’t even recall buying them.  Certainly they failed the not having been used for a year standard.  
        I considered for a moment if I might ever need plates, and decided that if I do I will buy paper ones for the occasion.  
        GANNET is plateless.

 ———

        Following the passing of the front, today has been mostly sunny, windy and cool.  About 50°F/10°C last night, which I know to many of you on the wrong side of the Equator would be longed for warmth.
        I rowed ashore this morning without difficulty, but had a hard row back against gusting wind and ebbing tide.
        Rowing is very good for my shoulder.
        The wind is gusting now, perhaps close to twenty knots and GANNET is heeled over and dancing about her mooring.  So I am probably going to give the wind another day to decrease and sail on Thursday, though if it moderates by noon tomorrow I may sail up and anchor off either Pahia or Russell and go ashore to provision.             
        I much prefer anchoring off Russell; but Russell is exposed to winds from the west and southwest, the direction from which it is now blowing.
        Whenever I sail I’ll have the Yellowbrick sending up positions at twenty minute intervals.
        
        Wine and music this sunset will be enjoyed perhaps standing in the companionway, perhaps sitting here at Central.

Opua: deplated; delayed


        I had plates on GANNET.  
        I did not know that I had plates on GANNET until I removed everything from the Blue Performance Bag above the starboard pipe berth that serves as the galley locker in order to glue it back in place. 
        Gannet has no lockers and few bins.
        This bag, as well as three others, is Velcroed to the smooth inside surface of GANNET’s hull.  Another is screwed into the port forward side of the main bulkhead.  
        The Velcro on the galley bag was coming unstuck, so I used contact cement to reattach it and the bag.
        I never look into that bag, just reach in and fumble around for whatever I need, usually the small bag in which I keep cutlery and a cork screw, or a plastic tumbler, or the china coffee cup that has thus far survived.  So the plates came as a surprise.  
        As you may remember I eat out of a large plastic measuring cup.  I don’t recall that I have ever used the plates, which were also plastic.  I don’t even recall buying them.  Certainly they failed the not having been used for a year standard.  
        I considered for a moment if I might ever need plates, and decided that if I do I will buy paper ones for the occasion.  
        GANNET is plateless.

 ———

        Following the passing of the front, today has been mostly sunny, windy and cool.  About 50°F/10°C last night, which I know to many of you on the wrong side of the Equator would be longed for warmth.
        I rowed ashore this morning without difficulty, but had a hard row back against gusting wind and ebbing tide.
        Rowing is very good for my shoulder.
        The wind is gusting now, perhaps close to twenty knots and GANNET is heeled over and dancing about her mooring.  So I am probably going to give the wind another day to decrease and sail on Thursday, though if it moderates by noon tomorrow I may sail up and anchor off either Pahia or Russell and go ashore to provision.             
        I much prefer anchoring off Russell; but Russell is exposed to winds from the west and southwest, the direction from which it is now blowing.
        Whenever I sail I’ll have the Yellowbrick sending up positions at twenty minute intervals.
        
        Wine and music this sunset will be enjoyed perhaps standing in the companionway, perhaps sitting here at Central.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Opua: The Jester Medal; incoming


        Although one could reasonably conclude from a recent entry that I have no modesty, I have hesitated to post a photo of the Jester Medal as being immodest.  However, several readers have asked about the medal, so here it is.
        The medal is large, about three inches/7.62 centimeters in diameter and satisfyingly heavy.  
        The gold ribbon is not attached to the medal, but part of the presentation case.
        Some of you will recall that I am not romantic about boats, but I accepted the medal on behalf of both GANNET and myself, and I believe her name deserves to be on it as well as my own.

———

        I rowed ashore earlier this morning to shower and buy a few things at the general store because we have a gale warning.  I don’t expect gale force winds in Opua, but they may occur in more exposed waters along the coast.
        The morning thus far has been sunny and pleasant, so I checked the rain radar on the excellent New Zealand Met. Service site and found this:



        From Wednesday on the forecast is good and I expect to sail somewhere for a few days.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Opua: Speech! Speech!

   
        The Ocean Cruising Club awards ceremony was held late last month in London.  Obviously I was here and did not attend.  So the club graciously arranged to have the Jester Medal presented to me at a luncheon in Whangarei yesterday.
        I was asked to prepare a brief acceptance speech that I assume someone read for me in London.  I spoke the words myself here:

        GANNET and I thank the Ocean Cruising Club for awarding us the Jester Medal for 2014.  That this is in a way from one small boat to another is especially pleasing.  
        I have never owned a boat larger than 37’, nor one costing more than a mid-priced car.  Yet I have owned three great boats, and two of them were small.  CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, a Drascombe Lugger, an undecked 18’ yawl built in Devon; and GANNET, a 24’ ultralight Moore 24 sloop from California.
        I have great affection for small boats which are capable of far more than many expect, with an immediate and intimate experience of the sea—sometimes too intimate.  And as I learned while sailing CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, once you arrive in port, the view is the same from an 18’ boat as one many times that size, and the mooring charges less.
        GANNET has only two feet of freeboard.  What I like to call her Great Cabin has little more than three free of headroom and a maximum beam of 7’2”.  I am a relatively tall man and can sit upright only on the cabin sole.
        Solving how to live in that space has been an interesting and satisfying exercise.  Thanks in part to technology—I carry more than three hundred books and six hundred albums of music in my iPhone and iPad mini, which are also my chart plotters, I can live indefinitely on GANNET and, by my standards, live well.  I can sail, write, read, listen to music, take photographs.  I can fit every important part of my life aboard, except Carol, my wife, who doesn’t want to fit aboard anyway.
        Once I likened CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE to a small, brave dog:  the terrier, if not the terror of the seas.  GANNET is perhaps most like her namesake birds who I enjoyed watching hunt in late afternoons from the mooring on which I kept my previous boat in The Bay of Islands:  beautiful and, as any who has seen them dive knows, capable of stunning acceleration.
        A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.  I wish all of you the joy of creating your own masterpieces.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Opua: differing opinions


        Three readers have written recently to tell me that in the letters section of the current LATITUDE 38, pages 20-22,  Webb Chiles is called both a misguided fool and a national hero.  
        Actually the man who calls me a fool doesn’t know my name and isn’t certain what kind of boat I’m sailing, but has an opinion anyway.
        I replied to one correspondent:

        It goes with the territory.
        On the other hand, it is a point of law that one is entitled to be judged by one’s peers.  I don’t have any.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Opua: impermanence




        A gust of wind heels GANNET at her mooring.  Not strong wind.  Fifteen knots.  But GANNET is a light boat and it doesn’t take much.
        This is my second successive day not going ashore.  A front is passing through today with occasional rain.  I could have rowed in easily an hour ago, and could make it now though less easily; but there is no need.
        Yesterday was also overcast, but with little wind.
        I scrubbed GANNET’s waterline from the dinghy, hanging onto the gunnel with my bad arm and scrubbing with my good.  GANNET’s low freeboard makes hanging on easier than it was on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA.  And there is nine feet less waterline to scrub on each side.
        I had paid Mike to dive and scrub the bottom just before I returned to GANNET, and although her antifouling is now more than a year and an ocean old, I found only a little weed and slime.  No hard growth.
        This antifouling is International’s Ultra, a hard antifouling I have not used before.  For many years I used ablative paints that wear away.  I like being able to scrub the Ultra vigorously and will apply it again when I next anti-foul later this year or early next.   The disadvantage of hard antifouling is eventual build-up.  Not going to be my problem.  Maybe for GANNET’s next owner.
        My left shoulder held up well to holding on,  so I decided to take advantage of the calm conditions to row out and circumnavigate Pine Tree Island which is in serious need of repair.
       Long time readers may recall the story that early last century a local settler planted seven pine trees on the island, one for each of his children.  For years those pine trees have been all that holds the island together.  Roots of two of the trees have become extensively exposed.  Erosion from a few more storms may see them fall.  Pine Tree Island is doomed.

        On my row I stopped and talked for a while with Gary of MASON BAY.  
        He pointed out that the boat in the lead photograph, named I believe, LITTLE BOAT, circumnavigated the world back in the 70s or 80s from California.  She started with a crew of one and ended with two and a half.  The sailor met a woman in Australia who completed the audacious voyage with him and became pregnant.
        LITTLE BOAT is smaller than GANNET.  More CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE size, though she does have a lid.
        I’m not sure how she got to New Zealand after her circumnavigation.  She, like Pine Tree Island, is in need of repair.
        On my way back to GANNET I made my way to where my old mooring was.  Easy to locate because two other boats that were on nearby moorings when I had HAWKE are still there.  Alas, THE HAWKE OF TUONELA’s mooring is not.  After I sold it back to the marina they decommissioned it.
        After the exercise my shoulder ached some, but not much more than usual.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Opua: 25; weight loss


        Two days ago I did shoulder exercises.  Some of these involve lifting two to three pound/one kilogram weights which is what my one liter water bottle weighs when full.  Others consist of pulling at various angles against an elastic band, one of which I brought with me, but shock cord would do.  Some, as I have mentioned, require a doorway and aren’t going to happen on GANNET.
        I then went to the foredeck and did my usual workout except for push-ups.  Last week I tried push-ups, not going down nose to deck, but about half way, elbow at right angles.  Thirteen went well.  Number fourteen caused a lightning bolt of pain.
        I tentatively tried push-ups again Monday.  Number fourteen passed without a twinge.  I was still going easily at twenty-five, but decided not to push my luck.
        Now if I were only a half century younger I could again do my age in push-ups.
———

        The weight loss is not mine, but GANNET’s.
        Last week I took the foot pump with me and rowed the newer Avon Redstart to the far dinghy dock, pumped up the old Avon Redstart locked with the fiberglass dinghy in the dinghy rack, and towed the old Avon back out to GANNET where I deflated the newer one to save wear and am using the old.
        The old one is at least fifteen years old and might date from when I bought THE HAWKE OF TUONELA in 1993.  It is still serviceable, and I found myself considering stowing it in the stern and taking it with me when I sail from New Zealand.  In my opinion Avon Redstarts are the best inflatable to row for a one or two person crew, and I have been told that Zodiac, who bought Avon, are no longer making them.
        But then I thought:  no.  I like to have back-ups for essential systems, but two dinghies on a Moore 24 is excessive.  
        In a natural progression I found myself wondering if everything that has found its way onto GANNET is necessary.  
        I have long had a general rule that if I can go a year without using something, I can go on not using it and give or throw it away.  There are exceptions such as a second anchor.  But stuff insidiously accumulates.  So I am initiating a complete inspection of everything aboard GANNET.
        I began by taking the storm jib that came with GANNET to Roger Hall at North Sails to have the hanks replaced with a luff tape to fit the Furlex furling gear. This has enabled me to dispose of an old jib that I have been keeping as a spare.  In the unlikely event that something happens to GANNET’s jib that I can’t repair at sea, I can use the storm jib to sail to windward and the asymmetrical off the wind.
        I also threw away the Fox LV2 bluetooth speaker which had rusted.  Two remaining bluetooth speakers are enough, one Bose for superior sound, the other EcoXgear waterproof.
        And, perhaps sadly to traditionalists, the sextant is going to go, probably becoming a condo wall decoration.  I haven’t taken a sight with it since sailing from San Diego and there are now four chartplotters on this tiny boat:  laptop; iPad; iPad mini; iPhone; as well as seven or eight other GPS devices.  They aren’t all going to fail.  
        If the entire GPS system goes down I’ll just have to do it the really old fashioned way and dead reckon.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Opua: a choice of pain and decision at St. Helena; others



        Sitting at Central this morning I needed to get my iPhone which was behind me on the v-berth.  I turned to my right, but couldn’t see it with my blind right eye.  I turned to my left, but couldn’t reach it with my torn left shoulder.  I smiled and levered myself up and around 180°, a maneuver on GANNET of Olympic gymnastic quality, and able to both see and reach the iPhone, picked it up, before turning back 180°, now even more difficult with the phone in one hand.
        People ask if my shoulder is good enough to sail offshore.  I think it is, assuming it can stand the occasional unexpected shock load, and there is no way to know that until it happens.
        I have two illustrated pages of maintenance exercises, eighteen in all, given me by my physical therapist, all of which are difficult to do on GANNET and some impossible.  Three call for use of a doorway.  As you will have observed GANNET doesn’t have a doorway.  However, life aboard is pretty good maintenance in itself.  I use the arm.  I reach.  I row.  I pull.  I lift.  And I improvise my own exercises, such as doing curls with the trash bag as I carry it to the dumpster ashore.
        While I have discomfort, sometimes increasing into pain, it is pain I can live with.  What I have is a choice of pain:  the pain I have and know or the pain of surgery and six months recovery.   Something may happen to change my mind, but I am inclined to keep with the pain I know, rather than spend the last half of this year with doctors and going through physical therapy again.

———

        Several readers have asked about my plans.
        Assuming I don’t have surgery, I will spend two more months later this year on GANNET, probably mid-September to mid-November.
        I’ll return to GANNET in March of 2016, sail west for Australia around the beginning of May, enjoy my favorite coastal passage in the world inside The Great Barrier Reef from Cairns to Cape York for the fourth time in my fourth different boat, over to Darwin, out to Cocos, on probably to Mauritius, and be in Durban, South Africa by September or October.
        From Durban I will continue around to Cape Town, then up to Namibia, which I haven’t visited since 1988, and out to St. Helena.
        At St. Helena I will have to make a decision:  southwest to the Falklands and an attempt at Cape Horn from the east; northwest to the Caribbean and the Panama Canal.  
        Bookmakers are wisely not quoting odds.

———

        New Zealand went off summer time yesterday.  
        I’m glad.  It was still pitch dark at 7 a.m. before the change.
        Last evening after an earlier sunset, I stuck my head through the companionway just as the full moon was rising.
        Here is the view I saw to the west this morning.

        I shot both scenes with iPhone and Nikon AW1.  I am beginning to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the iPhone 6.  The moon rise was taken with the Nikon.  It was beyond the iPhone’s capabilities.  The moon set, though, is from the iPhone.  I like it better than the shots I got with the Nikon.
        Although the Nikon AW1 is small, the iPhone’s greatest advantage is portability.  On GANNET the Nikon’s is being waterproof.  It also has interchangeable lenses.

———

        On the ‘joy-in’ weekend, Tom was sailing, snorkeling and relaxing in the British Virgin Islands.  He then flew home to New England where he dug a path through the snow to his boat to start to prepare her for a May 11 launch.

        On the evening last week I mentioned I looked up at the gibbous moon, Jim wrote that he went sailing on an Arizona lake after dark, under that same moon.  He was the only one sailing on the lake, possibly the only one sailing then in the State of Arizona, and found great peace.

        In England, Bill found peace, too, yesterday sitting on his boat watching the sun set, sipping white wine, playing his guitar.  He mentions wondering about drinking alone.  Doesn’t bother me.  Solo sailors drink alone or they don’t drink at all. 
        I am following two voyages, or will be when the second resumes tomorrow.  Both are, I believe, first time offshore passages.
        I’ve mentioned Dan and Audrey on COYOTE before.  Last report they have close to 40 knots of wind and look to be about a third of the way from Mexico to the Marquesas.
        I wish both crews fine passages.

        If you read of the man rescued after 66 days at sea you probably saw photos taken by Steve Earley who is a news photographer in Norfolk, Virginia.
        Of the rescued man, I have no comment other than the story as reported raises questions in my mind.
        But Steve’s photos reminded me of what I consider one of his greatest, which I ran here some time ago.  
        It is worth viewing again.