It’s about the sailing. Voyaging, cruising foreign shores, as much as I love the adventure of traveling and meeting new people, a little yellow boat reminded me that it’s actually the sailing that has kept me hooked for so long.
The little yellow sailboat looked decidedly forlorn the first time I saw her. The 20-foot trailer sailor had been sitting on a mooring, unused and almost forgotten, for 12 years. A chance comment at a party and she became ours. “Every time I look out the window and see her getting more and more covered in barnacles and bird droppings I get sad,” her owner had told us. “But she hit the rocks and her centerboard keel is so jammed-up we couldn’t figure out how to fix it.”
Then he and David (our yard crew) dug a hole under her, removed the keel pivot pin which had bent badly. Finally Larry pulled the centerboard free by bending a one inch strip of strong metal into a U, sliding it over the end of the centerboard and using it to lever the board out of the centerboard case.
My first reaction when Larry suggested we take a run up to the north part of the island and look at a sailboat was, “do we need another floating object in our lives?” I often recall the words of Samuel Pepys, Kings Secretary to the Admiralty during the Anglo-Dutch wars in 1666 who said, “Those damn ships. They’re always trying to sink.” Before the arrival of the yellow toy we already had 7 floating things to care for, beautiful Taleisin waiting to head out for a sail at a whenever we were ready, a barge (important for bringing things from the mainland) a fizz boat (that’s Kiwi for a small speed boat or runabout) three dinghies, a pontoon (used as a landing for Taleisin alongside the jetty and for dinghies too.) “No More!!!” I said as I looked at the two inch thick layer of bird droppings, the drooping spreaders, the six inch thick carpet of barnacles on a boat we didn’t need. But Larry had more foresight than I did. He realized my book project would preclude us heading off on any passages immediately. I had to do the final writing, editing then introducing of Bull Canyon. So he had room for a project – a spec boat as he called it, one that would get worked on between other paying projects.
The centerboard/keel weighs about 150 pounds. There is an additional 500 pounds of inside ballast glassed under the floor of the hull.
“She’ll make a lovely little boat for someone. And that’s what I do, fix boats. I’ll haul her up into the yard and get her scrubbed up, fix the keel, use some of the bits and pieces of rigging hardware that are cluttering up my shop, make her look sweet. We’ll use it a bit and then sell it on.” So we dragged her home and immediately encountered a problem. Her name.
We are not superstitious but there are certain things we aren’t comfortable doing, we don’t set off on a new voyage on a Friday and we don’t change the name of boats. Her original name was Passing Wind. When new folks brought her to the island they hated that name so Impala was soon painted on her transom. I tried to be comfortable with that. So did Larry. We just couldn’t feel comfortable calling her Impala, nor Passing Wind. Slowly the little yellow boat began to shine and slowly she came to be called PW. When folks ask I say, “She is named after my favorite editor, Patience Wales who always signed the edited and slashed up sheets of my early stories with a big PW.” (I always got angry at her edits, then settled down and found she usually was right.)
Over the next few months, between excursions on Taleisin to the Coromandel Peninsula, racing with friends on Tawera near Nelson and doing seminars on the U.S. West Coast, PW morphed from a mess into a tidy looking little yacht. Larry figured a way to pull the centerboard loose, which meant digging a big hole under the boat, getting very muddy and cursing a lot. I joined his cursing as I lay on my back holding dripping strips of fiberglass. Inside and outside, the little boat got scrubbed, paint touched up and rigging detailed. As he said, she wasn’t a concern as she sat happily high and dry at Mickey Mouse Marine our mini-boatyard here at our homebase. About a month ago Larry asked me to make some free time to help him launch PW. Moments after she touched the water Larry suggested, “Let’s take her out for a sail tomorrow.”
PW nestles nicely into this berth right in front of the house and dries out for half of each day. So we don’t have to worry about her sinking, needing antifouling or tending when we are off on Taleisin.
It’s winter down here. A progression of Antarctic lows marches past sending fronts leaden with heavy showers and cold gale force winds to assault us for days at a time. But between those fronts come beautiful still periods, with the sun glistening off the water, fish leaping to be caught and light breezes perfect for trying out a new toy. And that is what I learned she is, especially compared to Taleisin. Instead of 3 tons of ballast to steady out 8 tons of boat, PW weighs about a ton. Instead of a full length keel and huge deep rudder, PW has a narrow centerboard and narrow, balanced rudder. Instead of side decks wider than many single bunks, there is just enough room to place your feet alongside her cabin. Let go of her tiller and she doesn’t carry sedately forward, PW snaps right up into the wind and stops. Every tiny adjustment of her sails matters. She is, in effect, a dinghy. And over the next few weeks I learned that, like a dinghy she is very easy to get out for a quick sail then put away again. No need to take her seriously, no reason to expect good meals, cocktails with nibbles when we get the urge to be on the water. Last Sunday was a good example. We have a huge list of to-dos as we get ready to fly to the US for our visit to four US Boat shows. I woke with my mind filled with the day’s work plans. Larry woke with sailing on his mind. “Let’s go after lunch, I’ll pack some sandwiches,” I said. Then I looked out at the rich colors of the perfect winter day and said, “Forget that, let’s just grab our chance.” Cup of hot coffee in hand, we were soon skimming away from the dock.
This is not France or Italy, but a view across the orchards and vineyards on the mainland just six miles from where we live.
As we passed Taleisin, where she sits snuggled down for the winter on her mooring Larry said, “Can’t wait for spring when we can head south on her and explore some of the islands. Sure are lucky to have a real boat for going places and a big dinghy for day sailing.” I thought about that as we tacked through the fickle winds at the entrance to the cove, learning to handle the very different sheet and winch arrangement on PW, figuring out how to keep my feet from tangling with lines in her small deep cockpit, working with Larry to get better leads on the headsail. Hunger lured us back home just before noon and just before a big black cloud began racing across Kawau Bay. We were both laughing as we raced up to the house only seconds ahead of the first heavy rain drops. I think Larry too felt like a kid who got away with playing hookey. I returned to my work list feeling glad we’d grabbed the chance to play and ever grateful that sailing is my life.
Hope to meet some of you soon
Lin and Larry
At the request of the SSCA we have added a special seminar on earning cruising funds with writing, photography and video for their Gam at Fort Letts Annapolis on Sunday the 25th of September. Tory Salvia of who is a well-known video maker and runs www.thesailingchannel.tv will be helping with the presentation and discussing ways to earn money from your sailing videos on line and as special TV apps. Click on our seminar and boatshow listing for more info or go to www.ssca.org to register for this seminar.