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September 2009 – From New Zealand

Posted by on October 17, 2009

Dear Friends:

More than 24 years ago, Larry and I sailed to New Zealand to rendezvous with Eric and Susan Hiscock. We had used their books as inspiration when we fitted out Seraffyn. Over the course of Seraffyn’s eleven year circumnavigation we had the privilege of meeting Eric and Susan in four different countries. When we went back to build Taleisin, an enjoyable correspondence grew. Then when launch date came Eric wrote, “Of course you’ll sail down here and show us this new boat.” It took us almost two years of enjoyable cruising before we made it to the Bay of Islands in the north of New Zealand.

Now that she has covered over 85,000 miles we both agree there is not one thing we would change about the wonderful boat Lyle Hess designed for us.  Darren Emmens in Seattle took this photo.

The Hiscocks arrived two days later having just sailed Wanderer V across the Tasman Sea from Sydney, Australia (Eric was 77, Susan 73). The reunion was lovely. “Plan on staying in New Zealand for the winter too,” Susan told us. “That way you’ll get to really know how nice it is to sail around here.” She and Eric then marked our charts with their favorite anchorages.  “We had a wonderful winter anchored in a really well protected bay on an island just north of Auckland,” they told us.

Taleisin is settled on one of the tidal grids at Mickey Mouse Marine, Thelma is lying alongside the pontoon. You can see some of the seawalls we built.

Several months later, we went in to Auckland to join Eric and Susan (Eric, then 78 years old was in his final days of life). Neither of them was surprised to learn that we had, after two decades of wandering freely and considering our boat our only home, bought a piece of land in the very bay they loved so much. “It’s not for now,” Larry stated. “It’s for much later because I know that some day folks down here are going to realize how special waterfront places are and prices will go sky high. We’d never be able to buy anything like this again.” He had been correct. For $200 less than we had gained by selling 24’4”Seraffyn we bought the ultimate fixer upper and two acres of land.

We prefer using tidal grids for simple maintenance projects. Inexpensive, no risk of machinery failure and best of all, since the tide is completely in control, you can only work on the bottom of the boat for five or six hours at one time.

No local person (not even the real estate agent) felt we had a bargain because it had been on the market for over eight years with no takers due to the run down state of the 600 square foot cottage, the ramshackle, leaking boatshed/workshop and decrepite looking 220 foot long jetty. Even worse was the highly eroded foreshore, there wasn’t one square foot (or meter) of flat land left anywhere. But with the optimism of youth (maybe the ignorance) and also the ability to earn money right at home by doing repairs to boats, we set to work and for almost five years stayed somewhat in one place. I say somewhat because we did sail over to Australia for a season, down south for another, off for six weeks at a time to race Taleisin in two handed series. Larry dug holes and footings by hand for over 700 feet of seawalls, rebuilt the jetty timber by timber at low tide, wrote his book on Classic Boat Building at high tide. Over 95 tons of timber went into the seawall and jetty project. Meanwhile I worked on writing at high tide, mixed 20 tons of cement in a wheel barrow at low tide.  Between projects we fixed local classic boats.

That is if you aren’t as determined as Larry was to get the last bit of the waterline antifouled.

Then one day (1990) we realized three things, we’d stabilized the property, we were restless and the local economy was the pits. “Come on, let’s move back on board Taleisin,” Larry suggested. “We can rent out the cottage and sail to the Marlborough Sounds. Don’t spend much money that way. Rent will cover any costs. Might sail over to Sydney in the autumn. Maybe there’s work there.” So we did. In fact the work we found in Sydney, putting a classic interior into a newly restored 110 year old cutter, put us in a good financial situation and lead to us heading south to Tasmania and eventually westward around the world, south of the Southern Capes. For the first nine years we didn’t see our Kawau Island cottage. But when we began enjoying cruising in the winter prone areas of the northern Hemisphere, we discovered the magic of endless summers, flying back to New Zealand for five or six months most years to work in our mini-boatyard and also spending time upgrading the cottage for that “some time in the future when we might want to settle down a bit.” Now, as we sailed south from the Bay of Islands and skimmed before a warm following breeze into the Huaraki Gulf then through  the rock-edged Maori Passage I was filled with mixed emotions.  After 20 years, we were “coming home.” For the first time ever we would have everything we owned all in one place at one time. We wouldn’t have to worry about where to moor Taleisin if we wanted to go off without her. We had one of the safest moorings in the world right in front of our cottage.

We have found the least expensive way of hauling and launching the boats we store at our place is to have the local construction barge come alongside. They can lift up to 16 tons.

Our island has no true roads, only about 70 folks live there full time. In the summer the population on shore swells to about 400 or more. But the bays often fill with yachts sailing out for the weekend from Auckland, or from the rivers nearby. We’ve made friends with many of these folks and within a few hours of our arrival we began trying to form the right answer to the question most of you are probably wondering, “so are you going to stop wandering around on your boat now?”  Larry, who is much better at pithy sayings than I am, came up with one answer, “we never tell folks what we plan to do, that way we can’t fail.” But he knows better than anyone that he is married to a gypsy as latter newsletters will show.

This is what happens when three builders try to assemble a do-it-yourself kit shed. That’s Darren Druzilla from Mischief on the left, Doug Schmuck from Dougs Opua Boatyard on the right. When someone (a woman of course) actually read the instructions things began to fall together.

A second question popped up within days of our arrival when storm winds were forecast. We had Taleisin lying alongside the pontoon at the jetty. But in strong easterly winds this was not a perfect berth. Thelma was on our mooring.  We solved that problem temporarily by borrowing a mooring from a neighbor but it highlighted the next major decision of our lives – what about Thelma?

We didn’t have too much time to think of what next as holiday party season was rushing toward us.  Our home would soon be host to several cruisers we’d met during our Pacific crossing plus friends from other parts of New Zealand to celebrate a traditional Christmas with feasting, sailing, swimming and general tom foolery. In fact, during the first three weeks at our home base we had ten different overseas yacht crews sail in to greet us. It felt wonderful to be “at home.” And to top things off, Darren and Melinda the couple who had sailed in to Kiritibati with a broken headstay, arrived on Mischeif and said, “do you still want us to help you clean up the damage from the slips your place suffered last winter? We’d like to earn some extra cruising funds.”  So between celebrating holiday festivities with friends, cruisers and neighbors, we all set to work removing 80 cubic meters of fallen earth, rebuilding the paint shed and sprucing up Thelma for the summer regatta season. We had an immediate goal once the holidays were over, to get Thelma out showing her paces so we could find a good adoptive parent for this special little lady. Then Taleisin, who seemed a bit forlorn and neglected, could become the star of the show again.

Holiday dinner time at Pardey Point.

May your autumn be full of Indian Summer days in the northern Hemisphere, may spring be showing its finest for those in the Southern Hemisphere.


Lin and Larry

From the canals of France

P.S. Thank you to all who wrote extending their sympathy for the passing of my Mom.  I still get the urge to telephone and share my thoughts with her.

Our New Zealand home base is on an island which has about 60 permanent residents and, in the summer, about 400 residents. We have an all volunteer fire, emergency response and sea rescue response team (KERT – Kawau Emergency Response Team.) Each year we do something to raise funds to pay for equipment (rescue boat, stretchers etc.) You might enjoy seeing the pictures used on this year’s fundraiser, a calendar for 2010 with Lin as Mrs. August. If you have any interest in having an actual calendar – you can make a donation of US$15.00 by writing a check to L. Pardey – for KERT – P.O. box 29, Arcata, CA 95518 and I will make sure one gets to you.

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