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March 2005
This old mansion house was the home of the first Governor General of New Zealand. It is about two miles from our place on Kawau Island. That is Lin in her 1895 garb last month.


Dear Friends:

A holiday maker stopped to chat after she walked past where Larry was busy working on Thelma. "Tell me about the lovely old yacht," she said. I gave her the basics, saying Thelma was built 109 years ago, about 30 miles south of our home base, then added proudly, "Larry bought her for me for my 60th birthday."
"Hasn't he heard of jewelry," the lady asked.
"To a sailor, Thelma is the ultimate piece of jewelry," I answered.

Though at times, as we both worked four six solid weeks to get her ready for the two most important classic yacht regattas of the summer season, we began to doubt our sanity, once we actually set sail together and Thelma was a reality, our work began to reap dividends. Everyone who sees her; previous owners (Three of them were at the International Classics Regatta,) those who sailed on her at other times in her lives, people who have never looked at a classic boat, are full of compliments and encouragement.

Dressing up like this for the old time festivities made me wonder how Ladies actually went yachting before the turn of the century

We did not have her in racing/sailing condition until 2200 hours the night before the Mahurangi Regatta. So the very first time I ever got to sail on her (Larry sailed her from Auckland to our home base as a trial sail before buying her, since then she has been undergoing repairs and upgrades) was when we set off five hours before the racing began. As she is 109 years old, and we had not had time to go aloft and inspect the rigging, we made an agreement not to race if winds were forecast to be more than 25 knots. Though she has a little 10 horsepower Italian diesel engine (Arona, made by Lomborgini), we felt it appropriate to make our inaugural voyage under sail alone. In 15 knot northerly breezes, she slide free of her berth and handled nicely under full gaff mainsail (all 500 square feet of it on a 9000 pound boat) plus staysail. Her big rudder gives her full control at very low speed. But once outside our cove, the wind began to build so we tucked in a reef. By the time we reached the Mahurangi River 8 miles south, to join about 70 other classic boats, the wind was up to 25. I could see Larry wavering, as others maneuvered for the start. Then we located our friends Neil Beken and Mary Hancock who had offered to crew with us. As they sailed in to anchor I was pleased to hear Larry call out, "We've decided to sail outside the start line and just promenade around the course, haven't had time to test the gear yet." So the four of us had a lovely sail together, we didn't push hard but found Thelma showed a good turn of speed alongside the boats we knew but also found we had a lot to learn about moving around in her little cockpit, getting the running backstays set on time and moving around on deck as she has no lifelines nor handrails to hold on to.

The evening ashore was wonderful - with a big tent set up, a sausage sizzle and wine bar for quick, inexpensive eating, a 16 piece Glen Miller type band (who often broke into some grand Rock and Roll tunes) all in one of the most beautiful rural settings you could imagine, a 100 year old farm house on 5 acres of grass with huge trees shading a long sand beach and a large contingent of the most beautiful yachts in New Zealand anchored along the shore.

John Pryor, one of our neighbors, took this picture of us getting ready to apply a coat of paint on Thelma as she lay on our tidal grid

This was in direct contrast to the big International Classics Regatta we sailed to two weeks later when Thelma was ready to be tested in winds up to what we have decided is her limit, 30 knots. (Remember, she is probably the oldest classic yacht in New Zealand to have over 97 percent of her hull and deck as originally built, so she is a bit of a responsibility). We reached down to Auckland the day before the regatta to sail into the Viaduct Basin originally developed to house the America's Cup contenders. There we were guests along with about 20 of the 55 boats entered in the event - right in the center of the city, surrounded by grand restaurants, strolling entertainers and, only 50 feet from our berth, an outdoor cinema we could watch from the cockpit each evening. Once again Neil and Mary joined us for the first two days of racing. Race one was in 18 knots of wind, hard work, as we learned new tricks about sailing Thelma on each leg of the 14 mile course. Race two was one of the hardest days of sailing I have ever had as winds blew 25 to 28 knots and the course was 22 miles long, 10 miles of it to windward against the strongest tide of the year. But Thelma, with her new keel bolt washers and the upgrades we made, only took a gallon of water into bilges and actually was surfing at ten knots on the eight foot seas we had during the run. Exciting, hard work, half way through the day I turned to Larry and said, "I don't think I like racing at all." Three quarters of the way through the race when we had to reef even more to tack through the tide races I said, "I know I don't like doing this." A hundred yards from the finish line when I looked astern and saw a lot of other boats still behind us I said, "I like racing sail boats, but sure and glad this race is behind us, it made me wonder why we do this." Mary had the only answer that makes sense, "you do it to push yourself outside your comfort zone," she said. And the results, four mornings of eating gourmet breakfasts at smart cafes, lots of camaraderie, three fine evenings of meeting with folks who love their classics, people who offered us ideas plus bits and pieces to continue the upgrade of Thelma, a feeling of real connection with our adapted homeland and a heart warming second place for our class. Then there was a great sail home to our Island, writing out the work list, but knowing we had no pressing time limits to get things done.

This is the very first sail I took on Thelma, reaching out of our bay towards the Mahurangi River, 8 miles south. Another neighor, Gabriel Wilson, took this from her deck. (Her house is perched about 200 feet up the hillside across the bay from us.)

Back here, we have a Kettenberg 43 on the tidal grid next to the shop. It was hit in a racing collision and Larry will be spending the next two weeks fixing it. When that is done, he will be making a new set of oars to take back with us when winter approaches so we have them to use on Taleisin as we explore northward from Victoria in the Northern spring. Meanwhile I will be working on edits and script for the two part DVD project which will incorporate our VHS videos and is tentatively called, Ideas for upgrading your Cruising Boat, and Voyaging Tips. We were fortunate as the sailing editor for TV New Zealand was out taking footage during the regatta. So the DVD will have not only sailing shots of our own true love, Taleisin, but of Thelma too. On weekends we plan to do something we love, cruise under sail to explore some of the local rivers.

Until next newsletter, remember to always keep to windward,

Lin and Larry




POSTCARDS

Jan Alldritt-Miller is a local artist who has a studio right across the bay from us. She works in acrylics using a watercolor technique. You can see more of her work at www.janalldrittmiller.com.



"Granny"



"Crinolines"



"Journey's End"



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