No improvement on fix-it skills

21 May 2017

OK – block your ears – this could get nasty. The sink pump (a hand operated unit) has failed – I can hear something rattling and grinding when I try to pump water and there is no sign of any suction. It’s been playing up for months, but now it is completely stuffed. I’ve just been filling plastic water bottles from the marina tap for weeks, but for some reason Sunday evening after a couple of red wines, and expecting the boys to turn up anytime soon for dinner I decide dismantling the pump is a good idea. Fuck fuck fuck! Who knew there were so many bits inside, including a screw and washer which is attached to nothing. Probably the source of the rattling and grinding. I carefully line everything up in the order I dismantle it, but after several attempts to reassemble,IMG_3423[1].JPG everything is completely muddled up and I have no idea which bits are supposed to line up or which way up is.  OK – not really a lot of parts, but I can’t even get one bit to fit back onto the inner mechanism. I consider googling it – but there is no writing on the pump. What is it even called – “hand water pump thingy”?  Here’s what I find on what sounds like a promising site Water Hand Pump Repair General Guidelines:

Even though hand piston pumps are not terribly complicated mechanisms, water hand pump repair is a technical and sometimes physically demanding operation.

It requires experience and training. Hands-on training by qualified and experienced trainers is by far the best way to learn the basics of hand pump repair.

The process is so physical and so “hands-on” that it is impossible to cover it adequately on this website. (http://www.clean-water-for-laymen.com)

By the time it gets to the bit about wearing hard hats and team work I’m completely hysterical and figuring they’re talking about a different type of water pump. Christ – time for more red wine. Oh – pictures are a good option and matching google images it looks like I’ve got a “truly design classic” Whale “Flipper” Galley Hand Pump.  That might help.

Fortunately the boys arrive at this point and Russell looks at me despairingly as I roll around laughing while he reassembles the pump. Huh – still doesn’t go despite Russell putting bits back in multiple configurations. Hamish sits on the electric cord and the sole light goes out – I’d rewired it last week, but apparently not adequately. Lucky I’ve got good at jiggling the wire in the dark and the light comes back on. The boys eat, help with dishes and flee with the left overs – Russell suggesting I try filling the water tanks in case lack of water is the problem. Obviously he has no faith in my problem solving abilities. Just got to the critical part of the re-watering operation juggling hoses, breather pipes and bucket to catch excess water when light goes out again.  I can’t see a problem blundering around in the dark with dodgy electrics and water going everywhere! Damn – the red wine is finished. Water pump still doesn’t work.  Jiggling light wire doesn’t work…

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Of cyclones and plumbing

13 April 2017

Batten down the hatches! I’m sitting rather nervously on Fe Orca waiting for Cyclone Cook to hit. I’ve added extra mooring lines, lashed the tiller tight, put an extra rope around the dinghy and put my (multiplying) gardens down on the cockpit floor. I joke that I’ve got in extra whisky to ride it out, but I’m not really planning on drinking.

We’ve been hit with so many deluges over the last month that a boat seems like not a bad option – something about Noah’s Ark springs to mind. And I figure I’m better off than most if the power/water goes off as I’m fully self-contained. Just the wind/waves worry me a bit.

I got a call at 9:30am on Thursday that the university had decided to shut down at 11am due to the severe weather forecast.  Really??  One and half hours notice!? Teaching, meetings, mid-semester tests and of course lab work are in full flow as everyone rushes to get things finished before Easter. I’m acting Head of School again – joint with a colleague who turns out to be off campus at the optometrists.  Fortunately, SBS is a well-oiled machine and its amazing staff swing into action and we sweep through 5 levels, three buildings and two sites shutting down labs and encouraging staff and students to bail. I make the call to share my cell number with the whole school in case anyone has an emergency created by the closures (given a number of key staff are away, so usual channels not functional). I only receive a few issues to deal with immediately, but I seriously hope staff and students lose my number quickly.  My own family grizzle about my lack of responsiveness on cell phone, it could become mayhem if hundreds of people decide that’s a good way to contact me!

Fortunately for Auckland, the cyclone skirts us to the east and I wake on Good Friday to a gorgeous day.

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A few squalls make for a fun sail home – although I’m happy to dodge a threatening thunderstorm as I’m not sure how that plays out in a steel yacht.

I wasn’t going to go sailing, but I can’t help myself and I’m off before I look too hard at the long list of other things that need doing. Lovely few days sailing, but I manage to break the handle to the thingy that switches between bilge pump and galley sink. Oops – that definitely needs fixing since even I recognise the need to be able to pump out the bilges if I spring a leak (and to clear the constant drip of water that comes through the stern gland).

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Handle has snapped off – I use a wrench to turn to bilge for now, but a permanent fix is needed.

Since I have to replace the broken handle, I decide it’s time I also dealt with the leaking hand pump thingy that empties the sink and replace the water filter which is well overdue. Armed with photos of the items (since I’ve no idea what they’re called) I pay a visit to the lovely helpful folk at Burnsco. What size pipes is the first question that flummoxes me.  Jeepers did men not think to standardise anything!! Fortunately a close up photo of the hose clamps reveals numbers that mean something to the Burnsco folk. The guy looks dubiously at me asking if it’s for a boat. I reassure him I’ve saved up a month’s supply of swear words which no doubt he’ll hear from the far side of the marina.

The problem with boats is that everything is tucked away in hard to reach places and trying to force gunky pipes off fittings was always going to end up with lots of banged elbows, knuckles and goodness knows what else. I really struggle with the pipes and no amount of swearing seems to help. I’ve resorted to whole sentences of a single word – interspersed with the more eloquent FFS (Mum – don’t bother looking it up). I finally resort to levering the pipes off with a screw driver even though that risks splitting them. Now to put it all back together. The hand pump is idiot proof with an arrow indicating the water flow, but the makers of the three way valve had clearly been on wacky backy, the instructions are incomprehensible and not so helpfully say if you install it the wrong way round then you can take off the labels and reverse them since they know it’s not easy to change around. Great. Trial 1 – everything loosely connected, tip water down sink – seems not to end up in bilges.  Tip water down bilge.  F##@#$%&^ing bilge pump doesn’t work.  Pull 3-way valve apart.  Reassemble one turn around. Trial 2 – water down sink doesn’t go to bilge.  Eureka – water down bilge pumps to somewhere that is not into sink.  Assume this means everything is going overboard. Satisfaction of job done, even if my neck and shoulders are wrecked, I’ve added a range of cuts and bruises to my hands and my nail polish is all chipped! By the way – the first unsuspecting male to visit is likely to be asked to help jam the pipes back on fully – I couldn’t do it no matter how hard I struggled. I know – just another disaster waiting in the wings. I don’t think I’ll add plumber to my CV any time soon.

Sailing safely

Shit my knee is sore. A rope burn from several weeks ago got infected and almost healed when I got another rope burn again in exactly the same spot last weekend which ripped off all the healing tissue (at least I worked out how I did it in the first place; do not tail off the yankee sheet with my knee when furling sail). I’m not winning with the infection. I noticed when living aboard in the tropics that it was a battle with even small wounds getting infected given the constant immersion in sea water. It is not quite so bad in cooler, cleaner (??) New Zealand conditions if I pay attention soon enough. If…

I suspect readers have gained the wrong impression of a cavalier attitude to health and safety. I do take it seriously.  It just seems like my safety catch has slipped to the off position a few times recently. I have done huge amounts of safety training; boatmaster, VHF radio operators certificate, mountain safety courses, tree-climbing training and enough outdoor first aid courses I feel I could be an instructor. I’m currently looking at adding to my maritime expertise: there are some great looking courses on offer such as Marine Medic and Inboard Engine Maintenance.

My favourite training was the survival course I did years ago in Antarctica

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Adelie penguins at Cape Bird

 

which as well as rope and ice work entailed building a shelter to overnight in. I was very quick off the mark, and immediately paired up with a strong looking young man.  Although he was in operations for the defence force (part of the support crew running Scott Base), I was delighted to discover he had previously been a drainlayer.  Perfect resumé for building a snow shelter. We decided to dig a trench shelter, and allocated a single shovel between us, it seemed logical to let my new best friend take the first turn digging.  I did take a turn when he took a break, but he shook his head at my feeble efforts and suggested I stick to designing the shelter.  I needed little encouragement, and soon had him digging the deluxe version; pitched roof so we could stand (well I was short enough to stand, but he was too tall), two sleeping platforms cut into the sides at a comfortable height with gently sloping roof so melting ice wouldn’t drip down onto sleeper, steps leading down to the entrance with a high enough wall either side to prevent snow build up and us having to dig our way out in the morning.

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Snow trench for two – sort of comfortable for 1 night.

Feeling slightly guilty I volunteered to cook us dinner; even I could manage pouring hot water into two dehydrated instant meals.  I did go out of my way to collect clean snow to melt for the water. I found out later from one of the survival instructors that our shelter lasted the whole season and was used as the exemplar for all subsequent training. Anyway, one thing I’ve learnt from all my years in the field is the best outcomes come from identifying and drawing on the different strengths of team members. Equality doesn’t mean everyone has to do the same thing.

I loved my time in Antarctica. Three weeks at Cape Bird helping out on a longterm project looking at population dynamics of Adélie penguins – there were just two other women, me and 40,000 pairs of breeding penguins.  I wasn’t fully prepared for the abundance of life 24/7. It was January, so it was never dark and activity at the colony never seemed to abate.  Even after a long day banding or recording birds it was hard to drag myself from my perch at the kitchen table which had a stunning view out to sea. Pods of orca would cruise pass, skuas were constantly wheeling looking for a chance to grab a penguin chick, and the penguins themselves were just mesmerising (at a distance, not so cute when they’ve shat all over you and opportunities for washing were so limited). Regular radio skeds linked us to Scott Base and the family could even radio-telephone in from New Zealand – although it was almost too much when Russell plaintively asked when I would be home so we could have his 5th birthday. Hard to provide a satisfactory answer when I was aware all field parties would be listening in.

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Banding 1000 Adelie penguin chicks

PS. I’m happy to report my knee has at last healed.  I finally resorted to homemade remedies of honey and compresses of chamomile tea. Magic!

10 essentials list

Unexpectedly, I end up as acting Head of Department for a couple of weeks; responsible for around 170 staff and 1800 students.  Clearly the Dean of Science hasn’t read my blog! The real HOD rings from overseas to discuss how things are going: Don’t worry I say, everything is shipshape. I can’t imagine why she sounds so dubious.

The need to be city office based curtails my sailing options to weekends, so I’m very happy

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I left my run a little late on Friday night for anchoring in daylight, but it was fabulous to be back at sea.

to escape Friday evening for a long weekend and sail to a nearby bay to start to catch up on some of my work backlog. Who doesn’t want an office where as soon as you get too hot or need to pee you simply jump overboard!

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My onboard office is lovely space to examine a PhD thesis. Took me a while to figure out the timer on my camera.

Very exciting to discover a world of women sailors I didn’t know existed. My blog has been excellent at creating new connections; there are women all over the world doing this, even though not that many are doing it solo. They are a font of inspiration, information, advice and just plain fun. I was inspired by Kim Brown’s post listing a woman’s perspective of 10 essential items for on a sailboat and create my own. I struggle to confine my list to just 10 items, even assuming I have a sound, functional boat; so resorted to adding a second, ‘nice to have’ list:

  1. Laptop/cell phone; allows me to run an office + vital contact with family and friends + post blogs + check out what George Clooney is up to.
  2. Garden with lettuce/spinach + fresh herbs (and spare potting mix to keep replanting after sailing cockups).
  3. Bose portable speaker for playing music loud.
  4. Soft cotton girlie clothing (sometimes nice to get out of manky, salt-encrusted sailing gear).
  5. Foot spa (Bucket wide enough for both feet, epsom salts, pumice, heel balm, nail polish; worth carrying extra water). Delicious when feet are cold and best used with item 3. Spa is essential as otherwise my heels crack painfully with the constant in and out of salt water.
  6. Woollen fluffy slippers (even in summer my feet get cold).
  7. Favourite snuggle rug – essential for cuddling up into small cocoon when all goes wrong.
  8. Yummy, high quality face cream/oil – all that sailing is pretty harsh on the skin.
  9. Proper glass wine glasses (yes – even on a steel boat. Sweepstake still running for how long it takes me to break all four. So far so good.)
  10. Single malt whisky – excellent option as this is best drunk room temperature without ice (I have no freezer and only a small chilly bin which runs off battery) and straight whisky maximises alcohol:calorie ratio. Perfect!

Nice to have:

  1. Fireman’s calendar (it was a gift, of course I have to pin it up).
  2. Will – even though he drops hair everywhere. Still finding hair in unexpected places since his visit last weekend.
  3. Good selection of excellent red wine (no space for white in chiller).
  4. Dark chocolate – do not waste calories on low quality milk chocolate!
  5. Oboe – only just dusted this off today after 13 years since I last played seriously in the Nelson Symphony Orchestra. Embouchure only allows for a few snippets of very rusty playing, but amazed to find my fingers still work (sort of). Worth persevering – I just love the sound reverberating through me when I get it right.
  6. Selection of good books (I never seem to find time to read for fun, but I keep hoping).
  7. Scented candles (masks nasty whiff emanating from sink; I know – still not sorted).
  8. Favourite china mug (I might have gone through several of these already).

Actually, some items on nice to have list could be on essential list.  Luckily, I have all items to hand – except Will. But he counts as a person, and I don’t get to choose who else I might want with me, otherwise I wouldn’t be sailing solo. Hmmm, the logic is hard to work out after a super large glass of red wine. My lists are not mutually exclusive; what is the point of good red wine if you don’t have glass to drink it out of?

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A sailor is born

22 January

Fe Orca is sinking! I know I’m not a genius at boat maintenance, but I’m pretty sure the water is supposed to be on the outside of a boat, not the inside. I pulled up the floor boards to check the bilge and I’m alarmed to find it awash with water.

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Water in the bilges is never a good sign.

I start bailing, discovering it’s not as bad as I first feared – but still far more water than there should be. After the first few scoops I notice the water is milky and my hand is starting to burn. Gloves on and I finish the disgusting clean-up while pondering the source of the water. I’m suspecting a leak from the sink which has been giving me problems ever since the sink pump jammed at Great Barrier Island. A phone call to Russell who suggests I’ve likely burnt a hole through the piping when pouring drano down to try and clear the blocked sink. Shit! He suggests I pull it all to bits to investigate, but my idea is much better and I persuade him to call his plumber mate and ask him to make a boat call. Russell wants to know how I’m going to keep sailing solo if I can’t fix things, but I don’t see anything wrong with a strategy of nicely asking young men for help.

No sailing this weekend as it was Russell’s 21st birthday, celebrated with a party at my former home. Surely it was just the other day he was born. His early years were traumatic for all of us as he had a medical condition which meant he was prone to urinary tract infections.  The first we knew was an extremely sick 2 ½ month old baby rushed to hospital with suspected meningitis. It was terrifying watching this little baby fighting for his life as he was subjected to a raft of tests from lumber puncture to xrays and blood tests. Thank goodness for antibiotics; they sorted the raging infection and once the problem was diagnosed as his ureters we then spent the next 2-years force feeding him antibiotics every day to ensure his kidneys were not damaged by constant infections. Russell became so suspicious of us trying to feed him anything that I was in despair of ever weaning him. The paediatrician solved it by advising trying something the complete opposite to the sickly sweet antibiotics. He was finally weaned on garlic toast. And although the paediatrician worried his growth would be stunted, he developed into a strapping 190cm (6’3”) young man.

I stick to my tradition of creating the birthday cake (Russell’s loathing of sweet food didn’t last). It’s an ecologists rather abstract version of a chocolate log; for good measure I add a boat on top of artfully arranged grape vine leaves. Works for me. There is enough chocolate, rum, cream and coffee involved that everyone is willing to overlook they have no idea what the cake is supposed to be. It would have been a terrible weekend to sail anyway as a major storm front coincides with the party.  Gusts of 120km are recorded out at Tiritiri Matangi; trees and power lines are down across the city.  I arrive back at the marina after midnight to discover all the gates are locked. There is no way in except to climb the security fence in the rain and wind. I’m aware that my black party frock and lacy nickers are not ideal attire for fence climbing, but I cross my fingers and clamber up, hoping there are no security cameras monitoring that section of the fence. Even in the marina the wind and waves are violent enough that I’m pitched around in my bunk and feel like I’ve spent the night in a washing machine. I should have stayed at the party and played beer pong.

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Hamish and Russell on a family trip canoeing the Wanganui River; the boys were always looking for that extra bit of thrill whenever they got in a boat.

Russell’s obsession with boats is legendary in our family.  His first word was boat – no mucking around with mama or dada for this lad. At any chance he would disappear to play in a boat, resulting in near disaster as a toddler when he escaped in his pyjamas early one frosty morning and sat outside in a “boat”. Only the sound of a strange wailing alerted us to his plight – he was so frozen he couldn’t move to climb down and come back inside. You’d have thought holidays on Fe Orca would have been heaven for him, but as a pre-schooler he was frustrated by the slow speed and instead spent most of his early years fiddling with the old outboard motor on the stern railing. Russell mirrors the same obstinate trait found in one of his parents; once his mind is made up he is virtually unmoveable. For the sake of peace we gave up arguing with him about the motor and allowed him to play with the throttle, which sure enough eventually wore out.

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A childhood enthralled by boats – on and off the water.

Still, it led to years of engrossing play when we retired the old wooden dinghy and dead outboard to the driveway outside our house – as long as I took Russell his meals in the dinghy so he didn’t have to interrupt his voyages. Living on Fe Orca for 5-months when he was 7 years old cemented his passion for boats and the sea.  He became extremely proficient in handling boats – and after a couple of months could head off in the dinghy by himself, returning to Fe Orca a few hours later with a feed of fish for the family. Sailing Fe Orca was tricky for him, but in calm conditions he could take the helm by balancing on top of the chilly bin so he could see where he was going. I still get a glow remembering how confident and independent he became.

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No-one is surprised that Russell is now a skilled sailor and fixer up of boats. His current passion is for 18 footers; sleek, fast, and virtually uncontrollable. Why wouldn’t he like them?

I supervised the boy’s correspondence schooling while we lived aboard; I was a pretty awful teacher. How could it take them so long to write a story? Or do a simple bit of maths? I’m not well known for my patience – except for reading. I would happily snuggle for hours with them up on the foredeck and read stories or encourage them to read. We blundered our way through the curriculum, even tackling the art lesson of making a papier mâché dinosaur.  Really – on a boat? Have you any idea of how much mess that makes? The only thing I drew the line at was the PE lessons – the focus that semester was supposed to be small ball handling skills.  Anticipating that wasn’t going to end well on a boat, I substituted in swimming. I had to keep stretching the swimming distance for them, until the boys and I would just jump overboard wherever we anchored and swim ashore, trailed by Pete in the dinghy.  According to the boys I was hopeless at doing playtime. We were all relieved when we had to stay a couple of weeks in port for electrical repairs and I convinced the local school to take the boys in.

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Dinghy incident III

14 January

After a week of pretending to work in my office, I can’t stand it any longer and escape back to sea first thing on Saturday morning.  I know I have heaps of shore-based stuff I should be dealing to, but the urge is too strong and before I know it the sails are set within minutes of leaving the marina entrance. Anyway, I wanted to visit my parents and without a car, sailing seems like a perfectly reasonable way of getting around Auckland. I arrive at my parents 3 hours later with a big grin and pile of dirty washing. Mum has offered to make black out curtains for the boat since the marina security lights shine directly down on where Fe Orca is berthed. She banned me from her sewing machine on Christmas Day when she came to investigate why there was a string of foul language emanating from the spare room. I’d been trying to make a simple repair to a silk sleeping sheet, but managed to catch part of the sheet into the seam requiring miles of unpicking.  The temptation to press my foot to the floor and make the sewing machine go fast gets me every time. Probably why sewing was the only subject I failed at school. Good team work; Mum sews the curtains and I iron the seams for the casing, only melting one bit of the plastic measuring tape.

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Fe Orca’s galley – featuring lovely new blackout curtains.

I have a fantastic sail back south – the wind has finally gone north east, perfect for a run to Islington Bay, Rangitoto Island. The boat picks up to a steady 7.3 knots on the final leg, the sun is setting and I’ve managed the whole voyage without a single cockup.  I’ve got this! Sailing of course is built on a series of things going wrong, it’s part of the challenge, but it does feel good when you get a clean run.

15 January

There is no sign of activity in the flotilla of about 100 boats as I ahead ashore in a fine drizzle at 6am, keen to climb the volcano. I don’t want to use the usual dinghy landing on Rangitoto as the dinghy is too heavy for me to lift and I would have to drag it across scoria and concrete. So I sneak into the DoC wharf and tie up well out of the way of other vessels who might want to use the wharf. I head off for the summit on autopilot, but lost in thought I take the wrong fork in the road and before I realise it I’ve walked around the base of the island adding close to an hour to my trip. I’m a little concerned as this leaves the dinghy longer than I intended, so I pick up the pace and arrive at the summit dripping with sweat. Worth it for the views.

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View from summit of Rangitoto

It’s lovely to hear kākā on the island and I make a mental note to check with DoC whether they think they now have residents here, or whether they are just visiting. I spent many years radio-tracking kākā around South Island forests, so I’ll always have a soft spot for these wonderful, intelligent parrots. I can tune out the calls of other birds, but the slightest call from a kākā and they have my full attention. I collect some kakariki tail feathers off the track on the way back down to add to my (slightly illegal) collection which I use as prizes for the conservation ecology course I teach. Maybe I can count this morning as work?

Back at the wharf I discover the dinghy wedged underneath the pier. Pulling on the painter, there is not a tiny bit of movement – it’s stuck.  I climb over the railing, hanging precariously out by one hand with the painter in the other, hoping pulling on a different angle might dislodge it.  No go. There are two options; wait hours for the tide to go down, or swim under the wharf and see if I can free it. No-one is around so I strip down to my undies, hoping like hell the ferry isn’t scheduled to arrive, and swim. The dinghy is easily freed, it had jammed tight on a protruding bolt, but pushing down the bow releases it.  Just as well I didn’t keep pulling. By now I’m laughing so hard, it’s a struggle to clamber aboard the dinghy. I hunker down low hoping no-one notices my state of undress as I make my way back to Fe Orca.

I arrive at the entrance to the Tāmaki estuary just as the two car ferries are negotiating through the narrow part of the channel and note how they are using full bow thrusters to maintain course against a 30 knot wind and a full ebb tide. Time for caution again, so I drop the sail early and a knot of apprehension lodges as I work out it is going to be both wind and tide with me as I land. It’s going to be super hard to stop in the right place. I radio ahead to the marina asking for assistance. I so want to add “Coming in hot”, but worried it could be misconstrued, I refrain. I’m relieved to see both Dennis from the next-door boat and marina security are there to help catch me.  Not my best ever docking, but by no means my worst.

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Epilogue

12 January

My dinghy is back! I picked it up from Tony at the marina yesterday afternoon.  He was sailing solo from Westhaven (Auckland city) to the Barrier when he encountered it just south of Horn rock going like the clappers, probably only an hour or so after I had lost it. At first he thought it was his dinghy that had broken loose – he discloses that he has lost six dinghies over his sailing career.  See, it’s not just me.

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Dinghy and Fe Orca reunited on marina berth. Currently my home.

Realising it was a rogue dinghy he then spent 45 minutes struggling with a boat hook before managing to lift it on board his yacht. Just as well I didn’t try and rescue it myself. There is no way I could have lifted it on board my boat by myself, particularly given the conditions.  Tony was recording 35 knot winds. He then towed it round for the rest of his trip before bring it back to Auckland for me. Again I am extremely grateful for the willingness of strangers to help out. He aroha whakatō, he aroha puta mai: If kindness is sown, then kindness you shall receive. Of course I agree to a few wines on the deck of his yacht and great to garner some more ideas on how to modify Fe Orca to make it safer and easier to sail solo. Top of my list is to look at running the halyard for the mainsail back to the cockpit so I can raise and lower the main without having to go forward to the mast. And I might need to source a second hand mainsail.

Funnily enough both boys growled at me for my sailing escapades. Hamish’s admonishment was that I had always enforced the rule of wearing a harness if it started to get rough and no-one was allowed to leave the cockpit unless clipped on. Indeed if it got really rough, I imposed a complete ban on leaving the cockpit at all. I have no defence, other than temporary insanity. Russell wanted to know what I’d learnt from the dinghy incident coming back from the Ogden’s. Not to ever trust a dinghy rope tied on by a man was my response. Wrong says Russell looking pained – you should have stayed the night with the Ogden’s. They had wanted me to stay and even had the bed made up. I do like Russell’s take on the mainsail blowing out though – in his world it counts as a great sailing success because I got it all back on board and boat + crew all made it in one piece to a safe anchorage.  That’s my story from now on – my first major solo voyage was a total success.

Hamish nudges the dinner conversation back to risk taking; Russell and I get our “crazy, stupid” genes from you he says. And then confesses that he has started base jumping. I knew it was coming, but I thought he would be a few more years building up enough sky diving experience before taking that leap. His plan is to head to Europe next year for base jumping training.  All I want to do is run off a really high cliff and fly he says. What can I say? Be careful? I know I take risks, but at least I don’t have a male dose of testosterone added to the mix. Somehow I find myself agreeing to go skydiving with him next month.