“You live on Kawau Island? Do you have a boat out there?” When mainlanders ask that question, I try not to give the long answer which is, “No, we have nine, or ten according to what day of the week it is.” Then I have to explain we have our fizz boat Jay Dee for trips around the island and to the mainland, our barge for hauling building materials, our landing pontoon to lay boats alongside the jetty, three or four dinghies in various shapes, sizes and states of repair or disrepair, plus two wooden yachts.
One great thing about having a home base is, folks can actually find us. Jillian and Phil Slater, favorite sailing friends from our time in the UK, came out to sail with us in the Mahurangi regatta.
As I do this I remember what Samuel Pepy’s, Lord High Admiral of Nelson’s navy once said, “those damned ships, they are always trying to sink,” and I tick off the maintenance our fleet requires; bail out boats after heavy rain, check the varnish schedule, check engines and fuel tanks. There are outboard motors to be started and run for a while if they aren’t being used. Bottoms to scrape and antifoul. You can imagine why I gave a sigh of relief yet felt a twinge of regret when we found a perfect adoptive father for 115 year old Thelma and her tender Louise to reduce our fleet to seven floating objects.
Phil is an exceptional Working Boat skipper in Falmouth. With his help we got Thelma’s topsail set perfectly.
She is definitely one of the most beautiful yachts in all of New Zealand and we had a lot of pleasure from restoring her then racing her. Not only did she introduce us to some of her wonderful warm admirers who became friends, but she helped us win our fair share of trophies. We also liked looking out our window to see her beautiful profile reflected in the still morning water. But when that same glance showed both Thelma and our ocean crossing Taleisin needing attention to their varnish or paint or calling for us to take them away from the dock for an afternoon or weekend of sailing, we realized we had to make a hard decision.
It was lovely to watch Thelma and her new owner Matt Price of Wellington, as Larry showed him the ropes.
Finding the right match for Thelma was actually easier than we expected. We made a list of the attributes we wanted in her new owner; someone with classic boat maintenance skills, someone who was young, fit and interested enough to sail her, someone without too many other interests or obligations. I know, I know, we were pretty darned particular. But we were willing to wait a few years if necessary to make sure she would be used, not torn to bits and left sitting in a shed or unused on a mooring. Within a few weeks three prospective buyers appeared but Matt Price of Wellington was the perfect fit. A young boat builder who specializes in restoring classics, he wanted one to keep and sail for himself. So soon after the Mahurangi regatta (Thelma sailed to 1st in B class), Larry sailed out of North Cove with Matt while I followed in Jay Dee to take the last photos we’d have of this special piece of New Zealand maritime history. At Martello Rock, after showing Matt the ropes (and on a 2-1/2 rater gaff rigger there are a lot of ropes) Larry said farewell and joined me on board Jay Dee where we sat and watched Thelma tack southward and out of our lives.
I know Taleisin is an inanimate object, she doesn’t truly have emotions. But when we came back into the cove that day I could almost sense her saying, “Okay, no conflict now, get me ready for the Easter Regatta.” Not only was Taleisin looking sweet and shiny when Easter rolled around, the day looked that way too. As usual, the weather forecasters had predicted dire weather. As often happens the bad weather came later than expected. But the forecasts had the attendance down slightly from last year. Instead of 19 boats on the start line, there were only 14.
Within a few hours Matt was moving around on Thelma as if he’d known her for years.
Our life is not only about boats and sailing – it includes Fairy 4th birthday parties for our adopted granddaughter Lexi.
The racing was absolutely perfect. Kawau Island was well represented with four boats from North Cove including John Pryor and Jill Hetherington on Gipsy, Tim Barnes and crew (who kept their clothes on this time) on Moppet, John Sinclair on John (he didn’t win again, but did come in third) plus Taleisin sporting a jib that was finished only two hours before the race start. Also from Kawau was Chris Dickson’s (Yes, that Chris Dickson of America’s cup and Match Racing fame) lovely blue sloop Princesswonderfully sailed by him and his father Roy. They took second place.
When the party Fairy told all the kids to line up to have their faces painted, my kid lined up too.
As we tacked past Rabbit Island in the 15-knot breeze, then wormed our way through the gusts and calms and back eddies of the Blanche Channel, Larry and I were again reminded of why we made Kawau our home base. This is some of the best pleasure sailing in the world. The folks who were out there racing against us are some of the best sailors and the barbeque/prize giving that followed that evening with about 50 folks crowded onto our terrace, was one of the most mellow events a sailor could wish to attend.
Yes there is a sailing connection even here. Lexi’s father Christopher Miller sailed out to New Zealand 10 years ago in his cruising boat. A real computer whiz, when he is not working with Team New Zealand he is creating a fully autonomous sailing boat called Spin, for research purposes.
The next morning reality struck. Larry greeted me with, “Okay, party time is over. Let’s get to work full time on these revisions. If we get the whole manuscript for Capable Cruiser done by the middle of June, we could run away again and avoid winter.” So we set to work writing, editing, checking facts and updating The Capable Cruiser. So even as our sailing and boating was confined to local waters, we were still cruising in our minds. The results of that heads down, tail up time was that now, this new edition will be available in early December 2009 (available for pre-order at paracay.com). It includes 9 new chapters and a lot of new material has been added to the original chapters including an expanded discussion of children and cruising. Take a look at Cruising Tips for a wonderful story contributed to our website by one Jordan Rich, one of the cruising children I contacted for her take on life afloat.
Our final sight of Thelma as Matt left to sail her south to the Auckland where a truck was waiting for the long haul to Wellington.
Lin and Larry
We both would like to thank all of you who sent emails and handwritten notes expressing your thoughts about my mothers last days. The surprising number of comments, many of them including personal stories about aging and ailing parents got me thinking about the concerns a lot of potential cruisers have regarding when to go cruising. We have a whole chapter on this subject in Cost Conscious Cruiser, but I wonder if we emphasized how important it is to ignore the folks who tell you to be responsible, put away a nest egg, save for your retirement and go then. Looking at the friends who took a chance and set off cruising in spite at a young age, considering what we know of the issues that face folks considering cruising “later in life”, we’d like to emphasis, go as soon as you can, while you and your partner are both healthy and mentally flexible, before aging parents become a real concern or responsibility. Though I (Lin) am the voice you most often hear in these newsletters, Larry felt the passing of my mom just as keenly. Her encouragement and interest in our boatbuilding and sailing was a wonder. To put it bluntly, Mom adored Larry. Had my folks needed our help I know he would have agreed that was more important than wandering the world under sail.
Larry on the foredeck of Taleisin as we get ready to sail in the Easter Regatta.
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