Wednesday, June 29, 2011

After work relaxation

A really nice place to relax.

Like most of us I spend a few minutes browsing the net after checking my emails each evening, looking for something entertaining and relaxing to end the day so I can leave the work part of my life with its annoyances and aggravations behind and enjoy the evening in a reasonable state of mind.
Some of the things I find are anything but relaxing, some really make my hackles stand up,  and generally I’ll avoid those “places” in future so I have a little list of regular “favourites” that I know will work.
Right at the top of that list is Dylan Winters site
Now Dylan is a gent of a certain age with a pleasantly crumpled visage, clothing the same, and both boat and car not so rich that it’s hard for me to identify with him.  He’s undertaking a voyage around the British Islands,  not the biggest or the longest in terms of boat or distance, no Cape Horn in midwinter type adventures, no palm trees or dusky maidens, not even encounters with smugglers or rum runners.
But I don’t get to have those sort of adventures, they are generally wet and uncomfortable, way out of my budget and don’t leave enough time for me to live the other parts of my life so its creeping up creeks, hopping from harbour to harbour and finding new crinkly bits of coastline to explore that interests me.
Dylans voyage is a whole lot of that, he sailed his little sloop out of his home port, turned left, and will keep doing that until he gets back to where he started from. It’s going to take years, he’s exploring the myriad tiny ports along the way, putting his boats bow into every river, sailing up each of the estuaries he comes across and stopping at the towns at the head of each.
There is a great deal to be seen in these places, and Dylan is an exceptional maker of video documentaries, applying his skills to this endeavour so we can share his observations on the history, the wildlife, the other boats and ships he comes across and the scenery.  I must say too that his choice of background music adds greatly to the imagery.
Dylan Winter, in "crumpled" mode.  I feel like that a lot of the time.
He uses Google Earth to show you the bigger picture, his camera for close-ups, and music for background and his commentary for flavour, it’s a combination well worked and it works well.
There has been commercial shipping on the English coast for over two thousand years, way prior to the settlement of the “New World”. Many of us have roots there and for me as a New Zealander of UK ancestry its like a home I’ve only briefly visited, these tiny documentaries with their exquisite camerawork, dry humour and piquant  observation  are a real treat.  Yes I can identify with them, the budget is similar to my own, the age of the presenter similar, he likes the same things that I do, he grumbles about the same things that I would  and it all feels very much like home.  Yes there is a small subscription, but it’s really worth it.

The view over the bow of Sea Slug,there is a perfect anchorage up that river.

John Welsford

Thursday, June 23, 2011

This is what keeps a designer going.

Gone Walkabout.
A couple of years ago I had an email from one Osbert Lancaster who lived on the shores of the Forth of Firth in the South East of Scotland.  For many of us here in New Zealand that’s a place of ancestral connection, there are an awful lot of us with Scots forefathers, but its also a place that is much colder than we’re used to. 
However, it has very long evenings, long periods of calm weather and an incredible coastline dotted with ancient, and I mean many hundreds of years or in some cases over a thousand years  old.  Its an area that cries out for exploration by a boat small enough to creep in close to the edges of the water as well as tough enough should the weather blow up. This is the edge of the notorious North Sea after all.
Now this is how to enjoy sailing, Osbert surfing his Walkabout with a solid tail wind,  the wake of the boat suggests that he's moving slightly faster than the wave train, I bet that was a thrilling ride

Photo by John Mac Pherson

Osbert wanted to go our and enjoy this northern small boat paradise and chose to build my Walkabout design,   , a boat that could almost have been custom designed for what he wanted to do, a boat that was more than capable of the job at hand.  Osbert bought plans, had a part kit cut by Fyne Boat Kits over in Cumbria not that very far from his home  and got on with the build.
I heard from Osbert fairly regularly over the next while, he was a beginner builder when he began (An expert is but a beginner with experience, and experience begins when you begin)  He’s documented the build “here” 
I don’t mind hearing from builders, and sure sometimes I get the same question several times a day but I manage, its getting to know the people and following their frustrations and their joys, and then hearing about the adventures when the boats complete that really makes my day. A couple of good photos and a story about how much fun they had pays for the myriad emails and the chore of explaining for the nth time, how not to do something that I learned about years back.
Osbert though seems not one to do things by halves, I’ve been getting reports from him on a regular basis, racing as a rowing boat, racing with the local dinghy club, cruising the waters of the Firth, and getting involved with the Dinghy Cruising Assn  .
Today though, he topped them all,  I spotted a reference on a boating forum to Osbert and Sail Caledonia, a “raid” type event that runs from Loch Ness ( yes, the place with the monster)  on Scotlands West Coast, reknowned for fast currents and wild weather, through the Caledonia canal with Lochs, Locks and rivers, estuaries and sandbanks, through to his home waters on the Firth of Forth.

Here she is at the finish.  This event is a real test of man and machine, and I'm pleased to say that Osbert and Scratch both seem to have finished in good order and condition.  Congratulations both.
Chris Perkins photo.
He’s collected some wonderful photos of his  very nicely built Walkabout  “Scratch” ( Number 6 on her bow in these photos) taken during the event, and I don’t think I need to elaborate other than to say he had a very good time, and for a beginner sailor in a home built boat has done extremely well.
I loved the pic of Scratch surfing, but the one that really captures the spirit of dinghy cruising is the one with the tent up, a tiny but comfortable little home among all the other boats.
Well done indeed.  You’re an inspiration sir!
John  Welsford

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just a nice day out

It was a nice looking day,  slightly cloudy and very calm.  Our family does not get together as often as we’d like, two of us work shifts at the hospital, one is a fulltime student who will gain her nursing qualification in about another year, she’s a mother of a 2 yr old as well, and sometimes I’m not able to get away so its rare for all of us to be able to go out together.
This day though, even though it was wintertime it was warm, mild and gentle so we packed a picnic lunch, the  boat of course has a cooker to produce hot drinks so the thermos stayed home.  We hooked the boat on and  drove off to Lake Ngaroto where there is a lovely picnic grounds with all the trimmings, two superb boatramps and just enough of a lake to introduce the two year old to sailing.
The boat is not really big enough for all of us, so the plan was to take two or three at a time and do a lap of the lake while the others enjoyed the peaceful park grounds and bush walks. 
It was nice to have help to rig the boat, it’s a goodly lift to get the mast up and sometimes that’s more of a heave than I want to do, and there are things where two sets of hands make it a lot easier and saves time, so it was not long before the big tarp was spread out with lunch organised, the boat rigged and in the water, and the puppy convinced that he was not to eat the sandwiches while we weren’t looking.
Little Aysha is 2 years and four months old, a good age to introduce to new things as long as they are gentle,  so we cast off with the small one, her mother Sarina and my Denny on board.  There was just enough wind to move the boat at a very quiet walking pace, perhaps 3 knots in the puffs, and the puffs were close enough for us to coast from one to the next.  All good, two laps, then in for a cuppatea and a crew change, out with son in law and daughter Sarina, Denny staying with the small ones, that’s granddaughter and pup, and in an hour we’re back for another crew change.
It was like that until about 4 pm, nothing exciting, the little one showed a marked liking for going below and sleeping on a bunk, Sarina showed that she has not forgotten how to helm, son in lay was interested in sail trim, and Denny so enjoyed the day that she is talking about us renting a mooring over in Tauranga next summer so we don’t have to launch and rig, drag the boat out and un, each time we want to sail.  Lovely day though, no excitement, just a nice day out with the family.
A marina berth is about $350 a month which is a bit rich to my way of thinking, but we can get a swinging mooring for about a quarter of that, perhaps less. If it works out maybe we’ll buy one.  Have a look on Google Maps at Omokoroa,  Bay of Plenty, New Zealand .  There are several moorings for sale here and a couple to rent by the month.  The boatramp is at the end of “The Esplanade”.  Good secure car parking, nice jetty with  floating pontoons, and we’d hope to get a mooring up the river a bit in the sheltered part of the area.
My little boat does not have a self draining cockpit, that’s a big job to fix as it would involve cutting the present cockpit sole out and rebuilding it about 100mm higher and fitting drains so its going to be a fitted cover until that can be done.  I need a dinghy too and a roof rack on the car so I can carry it.  I’d buy a dinghy, except being a designer of boats am much more inclined to build one. 
Another job, I’m not getting all the outstanding ones done as it is,  maybe I should just swim out and back.
John Welsford