Saturday, March 17, 2007

...and back again

Jan 9.
Warm summer morning. We stretched and grunted and slowly awoke. Had coffee, chocolate and a swim. By 10 the NE was getting up, and we started tacking out.
A relaxing sail out to the heads, but once there, we sat tossing, and elected to start the motor. For an hour or so, as soon as we'd get the motor running, the breeze would seem to get up, only to die as I turned the 'rude off. We had a few speights I'd frozen that were quite cold. Into the afternoon, the wind steadied a little.
Before leaving, I'd checked the marine forecasts. Two days of NE, 5-10 knots, small chance of a little n'west, etc. A km or so off Godley head, we started to get a good southerly. It was quite warm, and at first I couldn't believe it. Soon it was up 15+ knots and quite a battle. And still rising steadily. Jonno got the jib down, and we snuck- ok, banged and flapped- into Little Port Cooper, fixin' to reef. A couple of motor-boats were selfishly hogging the only pile. We had to put in the straggliest reef I've ever sailed under, pulled hither and thither under the cliffs and about the open bay. Then we headed back out, and it still wasn't easy sailing. We made slow but steady progress tacking up-harbour. On our second tack, under the cliffs between Little Port Cooper and Camp Bay, a big cruising motorboat offered help, but we waved them off cheerily. At the same time, I was a bit worried. Checking the LPC wind records after I was back at work, it was about 20 knots that hour- and generally you can count on max gusts being about half that again. 30 knot gusts throw Awakeri over, and bat her about. It's slow progress with the wind pulling up steep little waves, against the ocean rollers. We were getting wet. While we were coping ok, I just didn't want the wind to come up any more.
Approaching the big yellow bouy that bobs about off the rocky north shore of the harbour, about a km in from Godley Head, one of the two metal straps holding the rudder gudgeons to the rudder snapped. They've done this before. I could just hold the rudder into a semi-steering position while the remaining straps were intact, but the metal was twisting badly. We flapped along quartering the sea, pushed back downwind towards Godley Head.
Fortunately, Awakeri has a spare rudder. It was probably the original, substituted for the deeper, simpler dagger-board, which gives a bit more bite. (She needs it. When she tips- and she's quite tippy- the rudder starts to come out of the water, and you have to fight it not to lose steerage and come into the wind. If you tip enough, you just do come sliding helplessly into the wind, like it or not- not necessarily unsafe, but she can be a pig to get back under control. Sigrids' design balance is not quite right, tho' once you know them, mostly workable.)
Jonno jumped below and found the spare. AB Poff was a fine deck hand all trip, bouncing about on the foredeck in big seas, but this was his finest moment. We improvised a tiller out of the boat-hook, a stainless-steel spinnaker pole, a paddle, and some twine. Tacking on- into and out of the shelter of Camp Bay; past Ripapa Island, Purau, Diamond Harbour- the wind, tho still gusty, seemed to drop intensity. (Sidebar: There are no pics of the rough stuff. We were all too busy, Jonno's camera had no battery and it was too wet to risk a camera anyway).
Dropped Crispin off about 5, and Jonno took a look at this craft- and had a chat with Andrew Fagan, one-time Mocker, on an orange circumnavigation. The wind was down to maybe 15 knots as we trundled up towards the Head of the Harbour. Little rain squalls came and went. We were wet. Started eating lollies, peanuts and apples. I knew the tide wasn't in til 9ish- quite late- and we couldn't arrive too early. But I wasn't paying enough attention, and we ran aground on the shoal off King Billy Island. Immediately tried to get the center-board up, but it was jammed. I could see the wire cable had moved out of the groove that holds it in place- scraped off on the bottom no doubt. We managed to get off the shoal by tipping her right over- aided by some decent gusts- and we skulked off across the bay. In slightly deeper water on the MP side (off Boulder Bay), I stripped off and standing and slipping around on the muddy bottom, tried with feet and hands to pull the wire free, and get it back into place. NO go. The boat was moving constantly. I got in and out several times. Jonno tried to wedge things free from inside the cabin with wire. After almost getting it, then spending another ten minutes in the surprisingly warm water, I started to shiver uncontrollably, and went below and put on clothes, wet as I was, and the lit the little gas cooker and made tea.
We were just finishing when Alice came out with a canoeful of good cheer. Of course they'd been watching... Poppy followed soon after. I was indecisive. With the centre-board down, the beach was not a good home for Awakeri. But I thought what the heck.... and started the motor to come in- and at least get some gear ashore. We took off with a pleasing roar and the mast fell down. While standing and swimming alongside, I'd been holding the stays, and I must've almost completely loosened one of the turnbuckles. Remarkably there was no injury or damage to be seen. We pulled the mast in, rolled up and stowed the main, and raised the mast. Then Jonno, Alice and Poppy went in with a load of gear, and I quite quickly managed to get the cable sorted with my toes, and had the centreboard up before they got back.
Relief greatly lightens the spirits. Moored Awakeri and carried big loads up the hill, feeling a little touched by an angel. I need to break up the reassuring normality of routine family life by doing things like this de temps en temps. But it was grand to be home, beaming back at Oscar, kissing the twins goodnight, enjoying Penny's friendly ribbing. Sailing is great but sometimes it's like banging yr head against a brick wall- the stoppin' really satisfies too.

Friday, March 16, 2007

To Pigeon Bay

It's now mid March. I've been back at work for two months. The holidays are receeding into the haze.
And here I am just getting to Jan 8. The interweb is so durned immediate, n'est-ce pas?

Jan 8.
I told Jonno and Crispin I'd meet them about 10 in Lyttelton. They were late. I found this out as I txtd them to say I'd be late, tacking up-harbour past Quail Island in a steady but fairly light breeze.
They'd have another coffee, they decided.
Lyttelton's inner harbour moorings are half-way a yacht basin again. (The "marina storm" did that much good.) The little float can be quite busy, but this was a Monday morning. Crispin and Jonno clambered aboard, slung in some bags, and we slipped out past the other yachts, sitting tight.

11:00 til about 2 or 3 pm we tacked out in a wavering NE. Godley Head slipped behind us, and we sailed past a tanker in the Roads. And out. Further I think than I've taken Awakeri- 4-5 kms at least.

The big greasy rollers in light weather made Cris quite ill. It squelched all of us a little. Deep nausea is dreadful; when you're sea-sick well out to sea, you can start to feel hopeless. On the Australis I can remember being queasy for days. It's not life-affirming. So we took a long wandering tack into Little Pigeon Bay. As we went in, a curious scow motored past and into Pigeon Bay.

It was quiet and hot in Little Pigeon. Starting the motor, I broke the starter chord- I'm thinking guiltily that it's still not fixed- on the second pull. But the same pull started the engine and we putted in.

Stopped and discovered we could still start the engine, because smart designers built a round pulley you can wind the cord onto, right on top of the shaft. Quite tricky to get the plastic cover back on the engine though, with the engine's exposed head whirling, and you're heaving and pitching in any sea. ( Sidebar: I've got a smallish two-cylinder 4 horse evinrude. I should have held out for a 6. But after 18 months scouring the buy sell and echange- and rejecting another very cheap, old four- I bought this one in about 1997 for $400. The guy told me it was a 1982 model, and I believed him, because when I arranged a time to come round to see him, it was a Sunday, and he said not til after 11 as he'd be at church, and christians don't lie, do they? A mechanic checked the serial # and it's a 1976. Awakeri is also a '75 or 76. They've got on well. She generally starts like a dream. Once I didn't touch it for three years, and it started second pull. It's taken us through a few passages. But it's not a long-distance engine, less reliable when hot. )

Little Pigeon Bay is still my favourite anchorage. We moored up in the sun, and went ashore. Solid rock livened Crispin up, and soon he was only light green.
We walked up the ridge, finding, as you do, that ridge-tops kept disolving into other ridges, each promising the top.
But getting ashore at Little Pigeon involved stretching, scraping, possibly getting wet. It wasn't easy enough for the lilly-livered, weaselish paltroons I'd press-ganged. We had a glorious swim in the cold sea, and started the 'Rude (I have never before called it this, and may never again) heading for Pigeon Bay, a jetty, and an actual toilet. The sea was up round the point, but the wind had right dropped away. I didn't want Cris, who was feeling restored, chundering again. So we motored along at a grand 3-4 knots, enjoying the harbour- but a little shocked at the impact of an extensive mussel-farm. It's not a pretty business.

The scow was anchored in Holmes Bay. We tied up at the wharf.

The evening meandered along- a bottle of wine, some rice and tuna, companionable talk. Some kids came and bombed off the jetty posts. We put out a bow anchor, and stretched a stern line back in a loop we could easily slip. It was very still- the low heave of the ocean, the occasional scrawk of an oyster-catcher, stars everywhere. I'd brought a hunk of trampoline safety mat, which was useless as a mattress. The narrow cockpit bench I tried to sleep on was bloody uncomfortable.