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March 2007
Thelma got her usual share of attention as Larry prepared her for the regatta season. She is nestled securely alongside Larry's boatshop. Tidal range is about 10 feet at our place.

Dear Friends:

There is nothing I enjoy more than watching Larry work with timber. And if that timber is going to become a spar, it is especially interesting to observe his careful planning, layout then each step he takes to turn a square timber into a handsomely tapered, rounded item. With the summer regatta season approaching, Larry used his spare time (once he'd finished building me a kitchen with indoor/outdoor seating, to continue our upgrade of Thelma. One of the important upgrades (especially for me) was to replace the ugly, heavy and bent 16-foot long whisker pole that had come with her. Spruce, our preferred timber for spars, is not available here in New Zealand, but good quality Douglas fir is. So Larry carved out two lovely lengths to form a 3-inch diameter, tapered, hollow spar that weighs just 11 pounds compared to the old spars 20 pounds. For three days his shop was filled with the aroma of freshly planed timber and my garden got a good layer of mulch from the shavings. What a treat this new spar has been during the past month as we raced Thelma in winds ranging from 5 knots to 50 knots

Here is Larry at work on the new spar.

One thing our cruising life has taught me is to be flexible when it comes to food. That is fortunate because, for the second year in a row, Craig and Kaye Compton decided to take a break from the Seattle winter weather and fly down to crew with us for the three-day Mahurangi/Auckland Anniversary Day regatta weekend. Then we got a call from Diana and Alvah Simon saying they were sailing south from Whangerei to take part in the Mahurangi regatta and do sea-trials on Roger Henry, their 34 foot steel sloop, in preparation for their departure towards the far north latitudes later this year. This definitely gave us an excuse for a party. So invites went out and I prepared to make a paella dinner for 12, while Larry did the final bits to make sure Thelma was race ready. The draw of this fun regatta, the fact that our home base is in one of the most sheltered bays anywhere on this coast, changed things a lot. Sailing friends began anchoring in the bay three days before the planned event so by the night of the proposed Paella dinner the crowd had swelled to 24. With no shops on the island, I added more sausages, more rice, more chicken bits and depleted the lettuce supply in my tiny greens garden. The combination of sailors, sunshine, a dozen bottles of wine and amazingly active bird life in the trees, shrubs and water surrounding our deck made the evening one to remember. From the far north of Alaska, to very tip of South America, from the tiniest Indian Ocean Islands to the delights of Europe's inland waterways, sailing adventure stories from every part of the world seemed to flow into the conversation.

Herb McCormack, former editor of Cruising World, now editor at large, joined us for the Mahurangi weeked. With all of his offshore and onshore racing experience, this was a first for him - never sailed on a gaffer before.

February disappeared in a flurry of racing, interesting visitors and a bit of work. With all of us, including Kay and Craig, more familiar with Thelma, she seemed to love the light winds we had for three days of racing, taking a first and two seconds. But it wasn't the racing that mattered, it was the amazingly beautiful boats and people involved in this classic sailing fleet. Then there was the fun of having soon-to-be cruisers with us for a week. Kay and Craig are preparing their boat "Little Wings" a BCC 28 for its first foray offshore. Sharing ideas with them, showing Craig how to splice wire, it reminded us of the excitement of our first offshore voyage.

With 85 classic yachts on the line, the racing was often close - 47 foot Sorceress is crossing our bow and yes, she is as close as she looks

A special aspect of having overseas visitors is the excuse they give us to explore some of the things tourists normally do. We've had a home here in New Zealand for 22 years, though we've probably only accumulated 7 or 8 actual years in residence. But we've never seemed to take the time to see this country. With Craig and Kay we finally got to one of the places "everyone" loves - the Kauri Museum near Dargaville (an hour north of where we keep our car on the mainland.) What a wonderful museum - a place where you could spend two days, all put together by the local people without government funding. Magnificent examples of wooden furniture building, a complete workshop manned by local folks who are rebuilding some of the oldest engines I have seen…I could go on but suffice to say, if you visit New Zealand, put it on your list.

We put two reefs in Thelma's mainsail for the first legs of the windiest racing. (credit Will Calver, ocean photography.)

The second big regatta of the season for classic yachts like Thelma had us in a quandary. Our normal crew had been offered jobs in England. So we asked the race organizers if they knew of any good crew. Turns out the Australian Classic Yacht Association was sending over representatives, all of whom wanted berths. We asked for a couple if possible. Mark Chew and Sally-Ann Balharrie a handsome, eager young couple from Melbourne signed on. They are restoring an Alden 43 footer. Mark has raced several Sydney-Hobarts. The two of them were perfect, fully enthusiastic, but had never set a topsail. Boy did we get a workout. The first race, a 14-mile harbour race, started in 25 knots gusting 30 and ended in 40 knots gusting 50. All of this on a 111 year old boat with only 11 inches of freeboard. The second and third races started in far lighter winds, so we got the topsail up and pulling, but then had to get it down in a hurry when we saw boats ahead of us getting knocked badly. By the end of the third race, Marks sailing pants, which had been new when we started, were shredded at the knees. When we offered to supply him a new pair he said, "I love them now, I earned every scuff the hard way." Our favorite joke of the weekend:

Larry - "Mark, get some tension on the peak halyard."

Mark - "Which one is it"

Larry - "The blue and white line"

Mark - "Okay, that leaves me a choice of 8, which one is it?"

Will Calver sailed in to New Zealand three years ago from the UK with his wife and two children. With just the inflatable from his cruiser he got into business taking sailing photos. Here he is at work. Now his photos have become part of a grand studio exhibt he and his wife manage right at the Viaduct next to the Auckland Maritime museum. Cruising onward is still part of his long term plan.

On the last evening of the event, four very tired sailors from Thelma joined 200 very tired sailors from the 50 other participating classics to share stories of too much wind, too much sun and a grand regatta. Thelma took a respectable 3rd equal place in class, proving as we knew from the beginning that she is a light wind flyer, but we have a lot to learn about getting her around the course in heavy winds. Mark and Sally-Ann have us eager to join them at the Melbourne Classics some year soon and parted with the words, "Now we know why they invented marconi rigs."

A classic Auckland sailing scene on race day two. Thelma in front of the Sky Tower

So now we have sailed Thelma back to our home base. We are hard at work on the next edition of Storm Tactics Handbook. And in only a few weeks we look forward to seeing some of you at Jack London Square for the Sail only boat show. Be grand to have Taleisin under our feet again and no topsails to reef in a hurry.

Happy Sailing,
Lin and Larry






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