A Stingray Tale
The head of Queen Charlotte Sounds are tidal. The tide range is not huge, but the water being as shallow as it is, low tide reveals a great expanse of brownness. Ringed by lush native bush to the waterline, this little corner of Marlborough is paradise to a small boy. That great area of exposed mud, littered with stranded puddles of left behind sea, pockmarked with crab holes and their scuttling tenants, dark seaweed smell everywhere, draws like a magnet. Large holes left by monster snapper excavating for succulent molluscs with their bone crushing jaws, floated tremulous images before his eyes of what the next high tide may bring.
Sailaway to Adventure
Have you ever dreamt about sailing away to adventure in your own sailboat and exploring the oceans of this beautiful planet of ours? The excitement, the freedom, the sheer joy of sailing and visiting the myriad exotic places along the way? Hawaii, The Caribbean, San Blas Islands, South America, The Galapagos Islands, Marquesas, French Polynesia, Tonga, and on to New Zealand and Australia. These are but a few and the list is endless.
Replacing an Intermediate Shroud at Sea
Making good time sailing into the advancing twilight of yet another magnificent tropical evening, all is well with the world and she is feeling quite grand, settling in for a good nights’ progress toward Manihi. Skipping along on a port tack, her cutwater effortlessly slicing through the faintly ruffled but slinky water, she knows she is cutting a fine image, and just faintly irritated she has no gallery of onlookers to acknowledge her finery. Her crew appreciate the show, but some recognition from others would do wonders for her self esteem – she likes to show off just as much as the next ship!
Bora Bora The Beautiful
Poking his head out of the hatch, the salty blast of breeze slaps her captain in the face. Laden with moisture it fingers his face, threatening rain. Lead like, the southern sky is an endless flat grey expanse from the horizon up. Either she is sailing into a weather system, or it is another local anomaly. Running a printout from the weather fax shows no major system in their slice of the ocean. Remembering a similar situation on the run down to the Tuamotus’ when she lost her shroud, her crew take a reef into her mainsail just to be sure. Mid afternoon sees the cloud shredding into blue, and, with the sun streaming through, the breeze frees again to the ‘Trades’. Her crew shake out the reef and in no time at all she is barrelling along again in fine style, at her customary seven to eight knots. Her waterline, scrubbed before leaving Raiatea, has the water bubbling gaily along her sleek, fulsome waist and sides – she feels great.
Sandy Bay Snapper
Sandy Bay, summer school holidays, three weeks – what a formula to conjure up who knows what wild adventures in the mind of a young boy. Visions of sparkling blue waters, days spent fishing and exploring the bush clad shoreline, with almost half of his holidays to expend, up his sleeve. His expectation was a rich mix of delicious impatience – couldn’t wait to get there tempered with the fertile imagination of escapades to come.
Beachcombing – Rangiroa Atoll, Tuamotus, South Seas
Glittering sunlight shafting diagonally through his open hatch, her captain gradually becomes conscious another day has dawned. Powerless to resist the pull, he rises, and standing on his bunk, pokes his head out of the hatch surveying the early morning scene. That gorgeous dewy look is everywhere – running rivulets off the sky, dripping from the palms, slithering down the glass of the hatch and collecting momentarily in prismatic globs on the sun greyed teak decking. Airborne frangipani fragrance wafts all around and our captain espy’s the ‘dance master’ from the other evening gliding along the beach – funny how certain smells can trigger earlier related visions! Eyes blinking, she is gone, the beach now empty of human life. All that remains are the very same coconut husks strewn about, unmoved, as they were yesterday. The still air produces hardly a sound this early. The flat glassy sheet of lagoon water is undisturbed apart from an occasional plop of small fish leaving behind their ever widening circles as they flop back in.
South Seas Anchorage – Rangiroa Atoll, French Polynesia
Bearing down on the Tuamotus, our crew are keeping a sharp lookout ahead. They know now that the first sighting of land is going to be the fronded crown of a palm tree, rooted in the sand of a coral atoll barely above sea level. The expectation of being the first to spy one of these occupies our crew with the formidable fervour of young boys. In the event, a number of these mop tops sluggishly grow out of the southern horizon, bathing in the western afternoon sunlight. Staring at an empty horizon for so long, these rising palms, eagerly awaited as they are, still bring with their languid appearance an almost unwanted intrusion. ‘Another of humans’ trivial life foibles’ our little ship thinks. Willing as they are to have their daily routine disrupted once again, the actual arrival brings with it a momentary, but deeper level of reluctant resistance to the imminent change. ‘Oh my, if I was as confused as that, I would never know which direction to take!’
Galapagos Illusions and Port Protocol
As the black tooth climbs higher into the sky it begins to look more like an island of some substance. From the charts and its shape, it is established that they are indeed gazing at Santa Cruz Island. On the western side is Academy Bay and Puerto Ayora, their final destination. At this moment, with the island dominating the offing, it suddenly disappears and leaves what appears to be a blank canvas on which, only moments ago was a very real island. The captain, deliciously (for him), allows the crew to panic momentarily and then explains rather loftily that this phenomenon is known as the ‘Garua Effect’ and is peculiar to the Galapagos Islands. During the dry or ‘Garua’ season, inversion layers form over the highlands of the islands and frequently a fine mist forms. This translucent haze very often obscures the high ground making it invisible to the observer from a distance. They, being well back over the horizon unable to see the unobscured lower slopes, and with the western sky now cloudy, the impression of the island disappearing is very genuine.
Two Men in a ‘Dog’ of a Cat
Blustering upriver, salty and tangy, the afternoon breeze invades their senses. On such a bright and blue Queensland post meridiem our two heroes choose to launch themselves onto the waters by renting a catamaran for an hour or two. The previous day, with a much more gentle breeze, they had chatted up the attendant and been informed that the questionable and lonely looking twin hulled unit languishing on the sand strip was a bit of a ‘dog’ to sail on account of the starboard sponson opening up when tacking and allowing the ingress of water. The boat they needed was out but would be available tomorrow – it was duly booked.
Night Watch – Steering by the Stars
All this starlore stuff is running around her captains head and he reckons he might try steering our little ship by the stars on his watch. He selects a group of stars close to her masthead, and that he can recognise easily. Studying his star chart, it turns out to be the planet Jupiter, with some other stars in the background, forming a pattern that he can identify instantly. The warm night breeze is well round on her port quarter, and she is gambolling along at an easy eight plus knots. All lights are doused, including the white masthead light, so there is just the soft red glow of the Autohelm station and the faint glimmer of the compass light. She is taken off autopilot and, after steering for a few minutes on her present heading to familiarise himself with her motion – the way she comes off the waves, her pitch and yaw, and how far the dim masthead is swaying through its arc – he covers the compass with its plastic hood and lifts his eyes to his chosen star pattern. She is holding exactly on the starmark and behaving exactly as before. After a minute or two, the temptation to have a peek at the compass becomes overpowering.
Spring, Love and Health
Tennyson’s famous line: ‘In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love’ kindles in us all that indefinable feeling of lightness of being, joy, uplifting and rebirthing that suddenly makes us feel alive again after a winter of numbness. In a moment, the sky seems bluer, the puffy clouds more white and the green of the trees take on a depth of colour not noticed seconds before. The fresh new spring air breathed to the bottom of our lungs explodes inside our system lifting us almost off the ground, and you wonder how you could be so blind as not to have noticed this earlier.