Refit time – for us it’s come late this year. Here in the southern hemisphere December actually marks the official beginning of summer. Unfortunately, the month of November, when we had hoped to start work on Taleisin, was one of the windiest on record – gale force easterlies: south, north, due of the east –wind plagued us almost every day. Not much rain, just blasting wind. The low pressure systems that caused these winds passed just south of the country. This meant cruisers who had just sailed across the Pacific didn’t encounterthese gales as they reached down from Tonga and Fiji. Most reported easy passages.
Three couples from three countries stopped in our bay to celebrate their successful voyaging and arrival here.
Among those were Tomas and Claire Khyn a handsome young couple who left high paying tech jobs in France with a dream of sailing to New Zealand. Tomas is a yacht designer and programmer who worked on formulas for computing the effect of foils on yachting performance. Their choice of cruising boats? A thirty year old production sloop called a Gib Sea 38, one that had been outfitted for cruising by an older couple. The previous owners found they had waited too long to fulfill their dreams. So the boat sat for ten years and was a real bargain by the time Tomas and Claire found it. “We didn’t want to wait until we could afford perfection. We too might have missed out,” Tomas told us. “We had a great time on this boat – she’s not fast, she’s not glamorous but she was just fine for the job.” Claire and Tomas will be best remembered by other cruisers because of the two giant teddy bears that accompany them and are often seen sitting on the foredeck at anchor. (I wrote about a rigging problem they had on their boat in the cruising tip –Three jury rigging ideas.)
Cathy and Bill Norrie, two Canadians we met when we were in Port Townsend last March, came by to take us out for dinner. They too had chosen an older boat, one that is now considered relatively small at 37 feet. “Sure was affordable to put her on the hard for a year while we go back to work and earn enough to cruise some more,” Bill told us. He is an anesthesiologist and had previous voyaging experience. Cathy, who was completely new to ocean passages shared how she gradually over came her concerns as they ran before big seas down the coast of Washington and Oregon. “By the time we got south of San Francisco I began to relax and really enjoy myself,” Cathy said. Now she is a total convert.
Each of these visiting cruisers confirmed that the fleet of foreign boats cruising among the Pacific Islands is much smaller than they expected. John and Amanda Neal, who offer sail training voyages for 8 crew at a time on board 46 foot Mahina (Mahina Expeditions) came to anchor in the cove a few weeks ago. John visited port captains in French Polynesia, Tonga, Fiji, Australia, New Caledonia and Australia to collect data for his friend Jimmy Cornell. “Every official told me numbers are way down this year, in some cases by 50% except in New Caledonia. There it seems to have stayed level, though most of the visiting boats are from Australia which is close by. Seems the mining boom in Aussie is helping lots of people buy cruising boats, they sail them up the New Caledonia and commute back to their jobs. But a fewer boats are arriving from American and European ports.” What does this mean for cruisers? According to our new cruising friends, it’s easier to meet the locals, prices for yachting services have dropped, it’s easier to find moorings. And, according to John, for the first time in years he and Amanda were able to savor being the only boat at anchor in places like stunning Cooks Bay, on Moorea. It means Claire and Tomas met only two other cruising boats during their stay among the Gambier Islands.
This week the wind finally abated, to be replaced by rain showers for the past few days. But between showers we got the gantline set up (A gantline is a four part block and tackle set up that makes it four times as easy to hoist someone, even yourself, aloft. See this month’s cruising tip for details of how we rig our gantline and chair.) , the bosun’s chair secured and began searching out scratches and dings in the varnish work, then touching them up. I helped pull Larry aloft, then set to work on deck doing varnish touch up, checking the seizing on lines. It feels good to be working together, out in the open air. Though a varnished wooden mast does require yearly maintenance – this may be the reason we have never had a gear failure at sea. As Larry inspects and touches up, sands then varnishes, he is constantly looking for any signs of future trouble. He also tends to remind me of the intimacy of this boat we built with our own hands. He calls down from his perch next to the lower spreaders as he sands away some damaged varnish, “I remember when we cut these spreaders out. Sure have stood up well.” His words bring back all sorts of memories, “Remember when we tweeked Seraffyn’s spreaders by sailing right into the overhanging limbs of that giant pine tree right in front of a crowd of well-wishers in Falmouth?” The morning passes quickly as we chat, scrape, sand and add touch up varnish. We’re both tired and ready for less physical work when Larry finishes for the day and slides slowly down the mast just as another rain shower threatens.
The refit is underway, we’re a step closer to this season’s sailing. Until we started the refit, all I could think of was getting away on the boat. Now I am content and less anxious to be underway. Maybe that is because sailing and refitting are all part of why we have Taleisin, a reason to share quiet time together, to be outdoors, to watch the seabirds dive for fish and to feel close to the watery highway that can lead to an endless variety of destinations.
We’d like to extend Season’s Greetings to everyone – North or South, East or West. May this year bring fair winds, good news, fine friendships and gracious time spent with your family and old friends.
Lin and Larry Pardey
P.S. Two of our books are currently being translated into Russian. The editors at Gamzatov Timur in Kaspicjsk City (Next to the Black Sea) set up a website and asked us to contribute a short story to amuse their readers. Thought you might enjoy it too:
A Cure for Sleepless Nights
For several years, Larry complained that he wasn’t getting any sleep during his off watches. He’d wake up after three hours in the bunk and say, “Lin, you just have to be quieter. You kept moving around the cabin and I didn’t get one wink of sleep.” I was completely baffled by his comments because I’d spent the past hours quietly keeping watch, reading between turns on deck and listening to him snore. Besides, he never seemed very tired during the daytime so I knew he was getting enough sleep. Then one day when we were crossing the Indian Ocean bound for Africa, I came up with an idea. We had started using video cameras on board to gather the footage that eventually let us create several cruising DVD programs (One of these is Storm Tactics, which will be featured in the Russian language edition of Storm Tactics Handbook, available March, 2012). That gave me an idea. I waited until Larry once again complained about his difficulty in getting enough sleep at sea. Then, soon after he climbed back into the bunk for his next three hour stint and began almost immediately to snore, I secured a small video camera to a bulkhead so that it showed him in the bunk and the ships clock ticking away, right above him. I let the camera run for two hours.
When Larry woke up three hours later his first words were, “Lin you’ve kept me awake most of my watch.” I gave him a hug, climbed into the still warm bunk and said, “Take a look at the video footage I shot during my watch.”
The next morning Larry was delighted. “You’ve solved the problem. For all these years I must have been dreaming I wasn’t getting any sleep. And he was right. He never again had any problem falling asleep and waking well rested as we continued to sail onward for another 10 years of voyaging, including sailing westward below all the Great Southern Capes of the world.
(This was also posted on Cruisers Forum last week. It a site I enjoy visiting when I have spare time.)