Tan-bark colored sails are a rarity here in New Zealand, which is one reason we both noticed the yacht as it came into North Cove. The second was the rig, a ketch with a gaff-rigged main and mizzen. The third, it was sailed in, drifting before the gradually dying southwesterly until the crew headed into the wind and let go their anchor. “Nice job,” Larry commented when they had settled back well clear of the other anchored boats. The next morning (about a month ago) a couple in their late 20’s arrived at our doorstep. “A guy who moors his boat next to ours said you two would understand our dream,” stated the rangy, rugged looking man. Over the next hour we learned more about these two people who had found a very affordable sound fixer-upper, then spent the previous year on the hard, living half on the boat, half in a tent alongside her, spending every spare hour upgrading, repairing, learning new skills along the way. We’d been spectators as they set an anchor for the very first time at the end of their very first sail on a boat they hope will take them to distant shores. “Does she have an engine?” I asked. “Not working yet. I know we should have stayed and gotten more things finished. But had to get out sailing, we’ve been working far too long,” said J. “First it was five years in the mines in the Australian desert to earn enough to buy her, now more than a year on the boat. We just needed a break.”
“You did the right thing. You’ll save time on your outfitting and upgrading by going sailing,” Larry commented. That unleashed a barrage of memories. About six weeks after we launched Taleisin, we’d finally gotten her rigged well enough to go out for a trial sail. I left the fold-up typing table we’d been using as a temporary galley table, behind on the dock. I secured the short wave radio with the hooks we’d just finished adding, then inserted the companion way boards behind the deck-head latches we’d installed the week before. We got under way; thrilled to finally have this wonderful collection of timber, bolts, fabric, sweat and labor free of shore restraints. Two hours later we returned with ear to ear grins, plus a long list of new items to add to our work list including – repair scratches in chart table lid caused by radio moving in its restraining line, fix dent in cabinet caused by companionway board shoving the latch open. But to counter the extra work caused by items that hadn’t done their jobs was the solution Larry came up with when he went down below as I steered this amazingly stiff, easy to helm new boat up the harbor. “Lin, if we put two stanchions here and here, then mount our table between, the poles will sure make it easier to move through the boat when it’s heeled and the table will be rock solid.”
Once back in our berth we were like two kids, anxious for morning so we could set to work on the next project and move ever closer to being ready for the open ocean. From that moment on we decreed, no matter how involved we were in any project, we would clean the boat up every second week, put some extra food on board and set out sailing for at least two days at a time. The first few times we anchored for the night right in Newport Bay, only a few miles from our berth. Then a few weeks later we sailed as far as Long Beach to spend another night at anchor. Each time we came back reinvigorated, rested and with a far better idea of what upgrades we still needed, and how the ones we’d already made worked.
We shared another lesson we’d learned from fitting out Taleisin – whenever possible we made a mockup of any new idea, and then tried it out during our next excursion. We tried not to screw anything into the woodwork without first trying it when we were out sailing and the boat was heeled. Friends teased us about the industrial looking hose-clamps we used to hold our oil lamps in place for a few months. But when we finally did the permanent installation, we didn’t have to fill any screw holes and 32 years later the permanent holders are still in the exact right place. Same with the mainsheet blocks which were lashed to the taffrail for four or five trial sails then finally bolted in positions that work perfectly. And there were no old screw holes to show mistakes we might have made.
As our guests prepared to head back to their dinghy Larry reminded them, “get out sailing every chance you can. Otherwise you’ll forget what you are working for.” It is now the first day of 2015. I was inspired to write about that visit by the sight of tan-bark colored sails clearing the point as our new friends once again sail in to North Cove.
We hope 2015 treats you well and is full of special pleasures and good health.
Lin and Larry Pardey