The bonus of cruising, we have often said, is the people you meet. I think you could probably extend that to include the people local sailing adds to your life.
Classic boat regattas here in New Zealand introduced us to Greg Scopas and Kath Katavich who, with their son Remo, are owners of a beautiful 100 year old cutter named Ntaringa which is kept on a mooring about 8 miles from our island home. Greg’s mother is Italian and immigrated to New Zealand when she was 20. She instilled her love of Italian food in Greg. We know because for potluck dinners he often brings along some of the gourmet fennel-flavored sausages he makes and sells in local markets. In fact as a gift for Larry’s 70th birthday, Greg and Kath added 20 kilos of their sausages to the dinner feast.
A few years back Greg and Kath decided to buy an olive orchard on the mainland not far from us. It came with comfortable 1960’s farmhouse, a small food processing plant and olive pressing equipment. This year we offered to join a crowd of friends and neighbors to pick their second olive crop. It was a fine day, camaraderie, tasty food, good aerobic exercise as we walked from their house across the kitchen garden, past the stream and out among 315 young olive trees to join 35 other folks and a dozen kids. Many of the pickers were local farmers, some of whom were the third generation working the same land, raising sheep, beef, and small crops of olives too. So as we handpicked from the heavily laden trees, I learned more about the rural district that surrounds our island. I tried my hand at using the electric powered tree shaker that made olives rain down onto the layers of nets we all spread to catch them. That lasted only a few minutes as the battery pack I had to strap to my back weighed a good 40 pounds. So it was back to handpicking, with the tiny olives that produce the finest oil seeming to take forever to fill a bucket.
When my arms tired I retreated to the kitchen to help Kath prepare piles of sandwiches and later that evening, huge paella that Greg cooked over an open fire. Larry, in his usual quiet steady manner, picked all day long and at the same time managed to learn (and remember) the name of every new friend we made. The harvest netted a ton and a half of prime olives. I will never look at olive oil in quite the same way, and after tasting the samples Kath laid out for testing at the end of the day I could imagine becoming an olive oil snob. An enjoyable day, one that reminded us our homebase is in a small country, which is highly dependant on primary agriculture.
For the first time in 20 years, Taleisin took part in the annual Easter Regatta that is held in our home bay. If we are in residence, we host the regatta festivities. During the past seven years when we were enjoying endless summers, our regatta boat was Thelma, the 115-year-old classic we restored, or before that the Jonquil a Nat Herreshoff 25 we maintained for its owner. For some reason, every year the forecast for Easter weekend is grim. Yet every year the weather seems to turn out just fine. There is good and bad to this. The bad is – many folks who would have a fine time sailing out to these islands decide to stay close to home. The good is – the regatta stays relatively small, intimate and manageable. This year there were 15 yachts out racing and about 70 folks on our verandah for the prize giving barbeque. What a simple affair to organize. Folks sail in the night before, we row around and visit. Saturday morning Larry helps me string flags the length of the jetty. A neighbor brings his barbeque over by boat. Larry moves our barge into position to serve as a dinghy landing, and then we join in for the fun. The race is a short one, only 8 miles long, all in protected water. The start is staggered, with the smallest or slowest boat going first, largest or fastest last. The idea is that everyone finishes close together and first boat in is the winner. This year we had a sunny cool day with 10 to 18 knots of wind. Half way through the race, the wind shifted almost 90 degrees which meant, the first boats to start got to reach all the way home, the later starters had to beat. So this year the smallest three boats got in a half hour ahead of everyone. Unfortunately Taleisin, enjoyably crewed by Larry and I ably assisted by Doug Schmuck, was one of the later starters so we arrived with the rest of the fleet for fourth place in a tight tussle with John Pryor an island neighbor, on his very pretty 32 foot sloop Gypsy. Clean up after the race is simple, everyone seems to pitch in and many volunteer to take away the very large supply of empty bottles since there are no trash facilities here on the island.
But sailing this year has taken second place to two big projects, my book and a very handsome little building Larry has been constructing with the help of Tim Barnes another neighbor who has a lovely wooden sailboat and supports it by being a house builder. Soon guests will no longer have to sleep in my office. The big woodworking machinery that built Taleisin had been stored with friends when we finished her. When we found a homebase in New Zealand, we had it shipped here and it has been used for many projects, from repairing classic boats to milling wood to build the shop and rebuild our house. As Larry was milling the locally grown cedar for this most recent building project, I smelled the lovely aroma of the shavings and remembered special times we’d had as we built the boat that carried us here. (We’d used cedar for all her shelving and bunkboards.)
With Larry busy on building, I took on Taleisin’s pre-winter varnish up. For the first time ever, I was the one who varnished her mast. I have gone aloft many times through the years, to inspect the mast, to touch up a bit of scratched varnish, just to feel confident I could go aloft on my own it if I had to. This is the first time I have actually applied the varnish and I grew to respect Larry’s strength and determination as I did so. To make things easier I decided to divide the mast into three sections. Larry usually sands the whole mast as he hauls himself upwards using the bosun chair and gantline (take a look at the chapter on going aloft in Capable Cruiser to see how the gantline works). Then I send up a supply of varnish and he applies it on the way down. I went up after the sanding was finished and only had the varnish to contend with. I finally understood why Larry often made frustrated sounds as he worked to get a smooth coating, hold onto the mast to keep from swinging around, work his way into position so he could see the front of the mast, curse when his hat got knocked off by shrouds or halyards. By the time I came down each day, having done only a sixth of the work he usually did, I was exhausted and like him, had an interesting collection of black and blue marks inside my legs.
On the other hand, when I finally looked aloft and saw the whole mast gleaming and knew it was in fine condition with every screw snug, every shackle firmly moused, every splice still clean and shiny, I felt a real glow of satisfaction. I’d learned a few tricks and know that next time I will make it easier. No, not by having Larry do it instead, but by being more organized and knowing how to move more easily once I am aloft. A varnished spar may seem a bit of work to maintain, but I think it has added to our no-breakdown record. Why? Since we have to varnish the spar every year to keep the varnish from peeling, we do check it over carefully often enough to avoid problems. The reward is a spar that after 27 years, still looks almost as good as new.
Hope your July winds are gentle wherever you are,
Lin and Larry