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March 2006
Dear Friends:

Summer down under combines with the Christmas holidays and with the arrival of overseas yachts fleeing the cyclone season of the Southern Hemisphere tropical islands, to create an amazing social whirl. Only 15 days after Larry had his hip resurfaced, he was eager to join Doug and Helen Schmuck at their Bay of Islands farm for a family style Christmas eve and Christmas day dinner. Doug, who is a long term friend, sailed down to New Zealand in his 28 Bristol Channel Cutter, Puffin, back in 1988 to rendezvous with us. Here at our cottage he met Helen, a Kiwi who was sailing with a lady friend.

. As cyclone force winds raged around us, our little part of the cove stayed safe and relatively calm.

Long story short, they got married. Doug soon bought a small boatyard in Opua which still keeps him out of mischief. With their affinity to cruising, Helen didn't blink an eye when, the night before Christmas Eve, I called and said, "Friends have just sailed into Opua, can I invite them to your house?" Her answer, "you're making the lasagna, do you have enough?" So Christmas Eve was like a cruisers rendezvous with Fatty Goodlander and his lovely wife Caroline wowing us with her excellent pumpkin bread.


Larry is down on the pontoon checking Thelma's mooring lines. You can see Puffin secured to our mooring.

Fatty is a real hoot and has found an unusual way to finance his cruising. Eighteen years ago, when he was in the British Virgin Islands, he came up with the idea for a radio program about sailing. He convinced local marine businesses to pledge advertising if he could sell the idea to the local station. It worked, with content for free, and room for the station to sell some extra adverts, he was off and running. Fatty is paid by his own advertisers and creates their ads for them too. He interviews interesting folks as he voyages and creates a radio program that he tapes and sends in to be broadcast weekly on Virgin Islands radio. He and Caroline are on their second circumnavigation. They told us about this years group of New Zealand bound voyagers waiting for week after week for a perfect weather forecast before heading south from the Tongan Islands. Weather routers, FAX and email reports all said a weather window in early December would give everyone an easy ride 1100 miles south. About 40 boats set sail within a few days of one another. Four days out, reports of deteriorating weather south of 30 degrees began making folks nervous. Some of the sailors decided to anchor at Minerva reef rather than be at sea in rough weather.

The day after the blow, life returns to normal in the cove.

Unfortunately when the weather did deteriorate they found they were trapped as the passage out through the reef pass became dangerous. At low tide the anchorage, which is surrounded only by the fringing reef, was okay. But at high tide when waves could wash right over the reef, anchoring gear was severely tested and in two cases failed. One boat was a wrecked completely, another badly damaged as it went on the reef. The majority of sailors kept sailing southward, preparing for rough weather. It came, with winds from the west at force 8 and 9. Many cruisers, eager to reach their landfall, kept right on going, and a lot of them suffered wear and tear on gear, some pretty disheartening breakages and the discomfort of making a foreign landfall in very rude weather. A few decided instead to heave to north of the advancing low when winds reached near gale force. They had to wait 48 hours for improving conditions, but discussions among cruisers who later met up at the Opua Cruising Club, it came clear that the sailors who lay hove to, had a far easier time of it then those who carried on.

Kay is learning first hand about one of the chores of island life as we unpack Champers (our vintage Mercedes) and load groceries for the ride across to the island.

New Years Eve at home in North Cove was low key. We boated from party to party, carrying a few bottles of sparkling wine, some nibbles and visiting each of four different homes around the cove and three visiting yachts for greetings, hugs and holiday cheer. The visitors kept arriving, New Zealand sailors, overseas sailors, three or four nights each week we were either on board their boats or potlucking here at the cottage. During the day, as Larry regained his full mobility, we began upgrading Thelma to have her ready for the Classic Boat regattas that liven the end of January and all of February each year. This year she had her cabin top woodwork upgraded and improved. Larry added rope handrails the length of the cabin, built a new hatch to access the lazzarette, detailed a lot of the rigging and we painted up her decks to improve the non-skid qualities.

Doug and Helen Schmuck on a climb up to the top of the island.

One afternoon a bright yellow catamaran powered towards our jetty. Its name meant nothing to us, Banana Split. But almost as its owner yelled "Haven't seen you in over 30 years," we recognized Antoine. We had spent the winter moored within 50 feet of Antoine in Gibraltar. At that time he was quite famous in France and Italy as a folk singer. With his gains he took sailing lessons with Bernard Moitessier and had a 50 foot steel boat built. Sailing took over his life and with his love of music and later, his love of photography; he has spent the ensuing years putting together beautiful books about the Pacific Islands and some very enjoyable TV programs which are now on DVD. What a fine reunion we had, as we traded meals for two days. (You can see pictures of him and also some very lovely Island photographs at his website, www.antoinetv.com.)

Craig and Kay Compton sitting in a Pohutakawa tree.

With the mellowness of the holiday season giving Larry lots of time to mend, we were ready and eager for a real highlight of the summer. Four days before the Mahurangi Classic Boat Regatta, Craig and Kay Compton flew in from Bainbridge Island to sail with us. (They are taking care of Taleisin for us.) To add drama to their arrival, a cyclone wandered south from the tropics to hit our island home only two hours after they arrived on the 28 foot water taxi. The winds were gusting to 55 knots when they came across the 5 miles of Kawau Bay. By noon the winds were gusting to 75 and 80 knots. To add to the fun, Doug and Helen, who were on a holiday to cruise the islands of the Hauraki Gulf on Puffin, decided the safest anchorage in the gulf was the mooring at our place. They had sailed in the evening before. Since Craig and Kay also have a Bristol Channel Cutter they are upgrading for a hoped for offshore excursion, it was a grand coincidence.

Thelma is a really narrow arrow as you can see from this shot Craig took as he and I worked together trying to figure out how to set her topsail.

Our home felt like a summer camp for adults for the next four days - swimming, hiking, kayaking, pool playing and eating too much. Then we headed off sailing, racing on Thelma at the regatta, then doing the passage race into the big smoke for the water front festivities of Auckland City Anniversary Weekend. Our crew was excellent, the sailing in winds of 8 to 15 knots, grand and for the first time we figured out how to set Thelma's jackyard topsail. (In actuality the topsail she carries is called a double jackyard topsail, but that sounds a bit long winded.) I had been intimidated by the idea of carrying a sail 45 feet in the air on a boat which only displaces 4 tons and already has a 500 square foot mainsail. But once that topsail was set I fell in love with the power it provides by catching breezes that are definitely stronger aloft than they are at the surface.

As you can see, we did finally figure out how to set the topsail (this picture was taken by Tony Kearney and Sandra Elma, all the rest were taken by Kay and Craig.)

Kay and Craig gave us an excuse to explore some of the tourists' sights of Auckland and by the time we had had four days of racing with the, two days of city sights, plus a full day of sailing home to our island, we were ready to drop. Fortunately for me, I had the final editing and three chapters to finish for the new edition of Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew. Larry had some rigging details he wanted to upgrade on Thelma and we settled in for a few weeks of relative quiet to get ready for the really big regatta - where 111 year old Thelma would face off against the boat we used to campaign during our southern summers, Jonquil, the amazing agile Buzzards Bay 25 designed back in 1914 by Nathaniel Herreshoff and built here in New Zealand in 1989.

 

Doug and Helen sailed Puffin in the regatta, taking three trophies home for their efforts.

 

May your topsails set smoothly,

Lin and Larry

 





Artists of New Zealand

New Zealand birds and the view just north of our island home base.


Larry and Kay relax at the local artists cooperative display



Moo suede shoes - local artists were invited to decorate fiberglass cows



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