|Sailing in New Zealand 2009
Before we start on this years sailing we will write a little about Shanti, the boat we were sailing. Shanti is a 35 foot Piver Lodestar Trimaran which my nephew Kev bought a couple of years ago. She is now 40 years old and is built in plywood with a glass fibre sheathing and the hulls and structure show no signs of age. We sailed on her for a week round the inner gulf last year. Since then Kev has done a lot more work including largely closing in his new wheelhouse and fitting a new engine and she has all new primary rigging in stainless steel.
Arthur Piver (1910-1968) was a World War II pilot, an amateur sailor and legendary boatbuilder who lived in California and became "the father of the modern trimeran." He designed and built a series of simple three-hulled, plywood yachts starting in the late 1950s and to prove the designs, he crossed the Atlantic on his first ocean-going boat, a 28 ft Nimble. He as he was convinced that even someone without experience could build one of his boats so started selling do-it-yourself plans - many started building his yachts with the dream of a round the world journey.
Piver built himself a 35-foot ketch-rigged trimaran named Lodestar in 1962 and sailed it around the Pacific Ocean via New Zealand. Soon after Cox Marine, started building his boats in England, including the Lodestar, and found a ready market, many were built for with Americans who would sail them home. We have found two books by the founder of Cox Marine which make fascinating reading.
These voyages proved the seaworthiness of the trimaran concept and in a very short time Piver designs became incredibly popular and inspired many novices to believe they could build their own boats and set off for the tropics. Arthur Piver is arguably responsible for popularizing the nautical phenomenon of the cruising multi-hull.
They were fast as compared to the long keel, short waterline mono-hulls of the day, but are not as fast as a modern racing multi-hull or mono-hull, even so a properly (light) loaded Piver Lodestar is capable of 20 knots. Many of these somewhat boxy cruising design remain in use. They were very stable but never sailed well upwind but unless they were modified with a “Cross fin”. Many did carry their owners to the tropics and allowed them to fulfil their cruising dreams. Properly built Piver trimarans have made many gruelling voyages, one was sailed round the world by a home- builder with no prior sailing experience who survived massive storms and even being hit by a ship.
Shanti, like the original Lodestar started life with a ketch rig ( an additional short mast and single small sail at the back) but has been converted to a stndard single mast with a main and roller furling jib. Typical sail areas are Main: 200 sq ft Standard Jib: 230 Genoa: 360 and Spinnaker: 730 sq ft.
Shanti differs from the original design as she hasjust been modified to have a large wheelhouse which can be totally enclosed by transparent covers at the back. This is excellent for cruising as it affords good protection in the most inclement weather. The addition of the wheelhouse necessitated the boom being raised at the back and the sail re-cut to match. The self furler at the front has also been raised about 30 cms to keep the sheets well above the rails and to dramatically improve the forward view.
Another consequence of the need for additional clearance for the wheelhouse is that the reefing points in the original sail are no longer appropriate and we have had to make changes in the method of reefing.
Most main sails are provided with two or more sets of reinforced holes called cringles. These cringles are matching sets of holes in the front (luff) and rear (leach) that pull the sail down. Lines are attached to pull the sail down in increments and reduce the size as necessary. This is always the case at the rear (leach) but on smaller modern boats the cringle on the luff is hooked onto on of two 'horns' on the mast - that was the case on Shanti.
Now that the sail has been recut on Shanti the cringle on the front (luff) is no longer in the correct place to use the modern method of using a 'horn' on the mast and one needs to use a line to pull down the front of the sail to match the position of the rear reefing point. This is the old way of doing things and is actually much easier as there is no longer a need to remove any of the slides from the track (even for the second reef) on the mast to get the sail low enough to hook the cringle onto a horn, a difficult task in rough seas. The method is extended on many yachts to allow reefing from the cockpit if all the lines and the main halyard are brought back. This is then called jiffy reefing.
The procedure is best tried when initially raising the sail before departing - if under sail one should be hard on the wind and the jib should be brought in first so it does not overlap the mast and risk flapping against one and on the initial attempts it is very desirable to do it with the engine running:
I was stupid and did not take any pictures of the exact set up on Shanti for reefing.
Before the trips started we had upgraded the safety equipment on board with a new 406 MHz personal EPIRB and a new 'Coastal' pack of flares (2 parachute, two smoke torches and two hand held flares). We chose one of the personal EPIRBS as Jenny's christmas present as Kev does of lot of single handed sailing so it is much better for the EPIRB to be with him. The particular EPIRB, a McMurdo FF Max G has a built in GPS so the fix is good to a few metres. It has a 5 year battery life including once monthly testing - we marked the first test inside its carry case as a good example to them.
Shanti has now also been fitted with a depth guage and speed guage to complement the old Navman 950 GPS chart plotter. We also carried our own Garmin 12 hand held GPS. We checked the cross calibration of the speed instrument and the GPS over a period of time and they appeared very consistent, perhaps the speed indicator under-reads by 2-5%.
Shanti has just had a new diesel engine fitted to the existing sail-drive which should have reduced the weight slightly. The engine had just had the first service nd had 50 hours when we fuelled and 77 hours when we returned her. She has two built in flexible water tanks which are currently not cross linked. There is a large one at the front on the main hull and a small one under the aft floor in the kitchen. There is much discussion about the load carrying of Trimarans, the Piver designs in particular. When built only the largest Piver designs had an internal engine, most only had an outboard in a well. It will be interesting to do some comparisons of sailing performance with the front water tank full and empty.
First a little more background for those who do not know New Zealand and have not sailed there. The main centre is the Hauraki Gulf where we have chartered a number of times from Charterlink and sailed Shanti in the past under her previous name of Almarga. It is difficult to convey the scale of the Hauraki Gulf - it covers 1500 square miles and the ferry trip from Auckland to Great Barrier Island takes 6 hours which is longer than from the UK to the Channel Islands and Great Barrier is bigger than Guernsey. The overall size is similar to the English channel but only open at one end to the Pacific past Great Barrier Island. Our first trip, many years ago, to Great Barrier was via Kawau Island and totalled 76 Nautical miles for the two legs and took nearly 20 hours under sail whilst the round trip returning down the Coromandel coast and crossing back via Waiheke Island more than doubled it.
The trip up the coast from the Hauraki Gulf to the Bay of Islands(and back) is more challenging and needs suitable and stable weather conditions. The two are separated by 2 degrees of latitude making it about a 150 Nm trip overall from Waiheke Island of which 120 Nm are unprotected Pacific coast. The closest equivalent in the UK would be from Southampton Water to Plymouth Sound or for non sailors it is the same distance as London to Cardiff. When planning such a trip note that the section from Kawau to Whangarei Heads (45 Nm) is the most challenging - a long day and one without any bolt holes if the weather turns bad. Once north of Whangarei there are several good overnight moorings in harbours sheltered from almost every wind direction including on shore.
We had two weeks available for sailing on Shanti, much of which was spent waiting for the winds to drop enough to sail. Our original plan was to sail up the coast to the Bay of Islands taking Kev with us at least as far as Tutukaka but the weather did not cooperate. We had three days sailing with Kev The first day took us from his mooring at Kennedy Point to Matiatia wharf where we filled up with Diesel and then across the north of Waiheke Island to Te Kouma on the Coromandel Coast. Te Kouma is a very sheltered harbour which we have used many times but it is a triffle difficult to locate the entry as you approach and there is a laog bounder bank across the port side as you enter which has to be kept well clear of. Once you are inside there are a number of bays - the first has low col so is not good in strong winds but the next, squadron bay is very sheltered and often popular. The days trip was 36 nautical miles - a good run considering we had loaded the boat and taken on fuel.
The next day had a leisurely start working our way up through the Coromandel Islands as far as Happy Jack Island which Kev was very keen to see as he had heard about its fabulous tiny bay for lunch time moorings. We were going slowly as we were trailing a trol as it is a great area for fishing because of all the Mussel farms. Pete caught one of his best sized Kahawi every at 57 cms aided by Kev with his huge landing net -it looked good for sevral meals. Our eventual target was Kawau so we had set a time to stop our exploring and set course of 1300. The winds were good but swung a little from what we expected so instead of being able to show Kev some of the Islands and the wreck of the Rewa we had to creep in creep in round the edge of Kawau and tack across to the Rosario channel before continuing to moor in Bon Accord harbour. We moored in Schoolhouse bay and Kev swum ashore and picked enough big mussels for a starter which were barbequed before the Kahawi which we had difficulty getting into the barbeque. Again it was a very good mileage for the day of 50 nautical miles.
We then returned to Waiheke in increasing winds but at least had a chance to show him the wreck of the Rewa, a boat deliberatly sunk to create an artificial harbour - unfortunately they miscalculated and only the smallest of boats can get in behind her as you can see. Kev was also keen to get a close look at Tiritiri Island which is a wild life sanctuary. We went down through the inner passage between Tiritiri and the tip of the Whangaporoa peninsular which does not look a problem area but doea have some rough water when the winds are brisk and against the tide. We initially had a good close look but by then we were getting a rough ride and it was looking like time to reef as the winds were rising and we still had a long exposed stretch across to Waiheke. It was then that we discovered that we had all forgoten the reefing features of the cut back sail so we put the sail down and motorsailed till we were in the shelter of Rakino when Pete put the main back up fully reefed. We were all quite glad to get back to Waiheke. We went into Matiatia Wharf to fuel and water where we saw Earthrace for the first time - more about that when we go over her at the boatshow. It was the back, unload some of our kit leaving most of it onboard, and back onto her on her mooring until the worst of the gales passed through which took three days. The days log only showed 31 nautical miles but it seemed more to all of us. The three days had been 117 nmiles, almost enough to have reached the BoI. We wrote the reefing guide which we put at the top of this page so we and any other users remember!
The weather was atrocious the next two days and Pauline did not even want to take the ferry to Auckland to go to the Boat Show when it opened on Thursday. We instead went to the boat show on the Friday and learned that the weather had been so wild that they had been forced to close off the pontoons on Thursday for fear people would be blown off. We spent some time talking to Peter Hollingsworth on the Met Service stand - he is ex-UK Met office and knew Pete from before he came to NZ where he is now Market Manager of MetService Ltd, based in Wellington. We found that the winds in the area were recorded as having reached 50 knots (100kph) and at Cape Reinga had gusted to 150 kph - not good sailing weather. We arrived early in the morning and some of the tents were wet and it was squelchy under foot. In contrast to the UK there were no chandleries, but lots of engines, electronic toys, and even cars.
On the water were a few charter boats, historic boats and specials, including the large grey octopus-like Earthrace which broke all the records with a round the world trip in 60 days 23 hours 49 minutes which knocked 14 days off the previous record. Earthrace is a 78ft tri-hull wavepiercer that was designed and built specifically to get the record for a powerboat global circumnavigation. She is designed to go through the waves and is capable of operating up to 7 metres underwater, below that the air entries and exits are submerged and the engines can only run for a limited time on the residual air in the engine room. We had got to the show early and had time for a leisurely look round Earthrace which is very compact even for the crew of 4 - it is more like a rally car than a boat in design.
Our next stop was a complete contrast - we went aboard Haparanda - a suberb classic yacht which we found was available for short trips and longer charters. The short trips start at $150 per person which makes them very competetive with the Soren Larsen we went on a few years ago as a Christmas present from Jenny and Kev and the T Tucker Thompson we were to go on later in this holiday.
Being in Auckland there were a lot of vintage yachts, Logans, on the water which could be visited. They had beautiful lines and a standard of finish one rarely sees these days. Arch Logan is perhaps the best known of a famous family of boatbuilders - he set up as a boat builder in DevonportIn 1878 and pioneered the use of diagonally planked two and three-skinned boats made of Kauri using his experiences in building lifeboats on the Clyde. He, together with four brothers, were initially employed in their father Robert's business. The brothers all became skilled designers and boat builders in their own right and were prominent in yachting in Auckland. Logan Brothers was was on land reclaimed for the freezing works on the city side of Waitemata Harbour. By 1900 Archibald (known as Arch) Logan had become the principal designer for Logan Brothers and the pre-eminent yacht designer in the southern hemisphere. Logan Brothers finally closed their business in 1910 after having to surrender their lease on the Auckland waterfront so that construction of the King's Wharf complex could proceed. They however left a legacy of yachts which have been without equal - many survive to this day thanks to their construction in Kauri and still remain competative.
The classic `Waitangi' turned everyones heads with an overall length of 74ft yet a waterline length of just 38ft. Waitangi was launched in 1894 to the design and build of Robert Logan Senior. She is the largest surviving early Logan racing yacht and a regular competitor in the Classic Yacht Association of New Zealand racing fleet. We were lucky to get on board and chat. Jessie Logan was also a beautiful sight but was not available for visits nor was Rainbow A7 length 50 ft overall and 34 ft waterline. There were several smaller Logans which we do not have names for.
There were also a lot of fancy brand new launches for sale, and a few yachts. We looked over a new Davidson 45. It had been designed and built for its owner, and we were interested because our very first sailing experience, in the Bay of Islands, had been charterering a Davidson 28 from Rainbow/Moorings in 1995. We chatted about yachts for a while and then as we were leaving we met Mr Laurie Davidson who was coming on board. Born in 1927 he is over 80 years old now, and still designing beautiful yachts. Before Laurie Davidson became known to the world for designing America's Cup winning yachts he was already renowned locally, and the the Davidson 28 was the boat that brought his name into the households of many New Zealanders. We told him that we had started our sailing on a Davidson 28, and how much we had liked the yacht. There is still a Davidson 28 available for charter in the Bay of Islands, and it is very pretty inside with kauri panelling. Davidson 28s sail well too.
We also looked over a Bavaria 34, curious to compare it with the Davidson. The 34 wouuld be a perfect size for a charter holiday, and the NZ specification includes a standard fridge unlike the basic European model.
By Saturday morning the weather had improved enough to get her onto the wharf at Kennedy Point to load. Loading always seems to take a long time as not only does one need to take enough food for a fortnight but there is also bedding, fishing gear, drinking water, wine, books, charts, all the electronic gubbins and the material for Pauline to be able to do her teaching. Knowing we might catch fish, and learning from the mistakes of previous years when fresh meat has been wasted, we only packed 6 days of meat, and some emergency tins of tuna. We eventually got moving at about 1200 which was plenty early enough for a sail down the Tamaki Strait to the 'bottom end' of Waiheke where we moored fairly early at Man-o-War Bay which we expected to be good for the strongish South West Winds which were predicted and was ideally placed for the run to Great Barrier Island, or across to Kawau as a stepping stone to Great Barrier. There were a number of small jobs to do before we left including fitting a new domestic battery and securing the old one as well as stowing everything where we could find it and it would not move in rough seas – the forecast was for 20 knots for the next few days mostly from the South West. The days log showed 11 nautical miles.
We left the next morning (Sunday) with lines on the chart for both Great Barrier if the conditions were a bit better than forecast or for Kawau. It was very calm round the edge of Waiheke and we only got up to a good speed as the wind rose after we left the shelter of the island. After an hour or so the nowcasting was indicating that the winds were already stronger than forecast and rising above 20 knots at Channel Island which is in the middle of the passage between the Coromandel and Great Barrier. Pauline was in favour of prudence although we were on a nice broad reach at speeds of around 7 knots, and that was with a reef we had put in the main sail in expectation of rising winds. We turned away for Kawau which gave us a long sail hard on the wind across to Kawau where we used the North Channel as that was a close as we could hold to the wind and it would have taken longer to tack back to our usual entries in the South Channel or the Rosario channel. The North Channel has much stronger currents and with the 20 plus knots wind we had a rough and bouncy ride in even motor sailing for the three miles or so round to the Bon Accord harbour. By then the seas were very rough with lots of white tops and water was coming right over the front at times and we were glad of the enclosed cockpit area. The days log showed 39 nautical miles.
The winds rose as forecast and we sat out the next day at anchor and heard the winds reach well over 30 knots with gusts to 40 at Channel Island and at Tiritiri – the two closest now-casting stations. It gave a chance to do a few more jobs including rigging some safety lines and also some writing up of the holiday to date. We also went into the engine room and measured the dimensions of the diesel tank and tried to work out how much fuel we had used without a proper dip stick. Our conclusion was that we had a 50 litre tank and that the fuel consumption of the new engine was pleasingly low. Fishing was however non existent with only a jack mackerel too small even to salt for bait. We got as set up as possible for an early start the next day as there was a gap in the strong winds forecast for the morning which we hoped to exploit to get across to Barrier.
The winds stayed strong most of the night until about 0400 when there was a rain storm and the winds seemed to slacken a bit and were no longer howling in the rigging. Pete got up at 0615 and set up the computer to get the latest Met and they were still forecasting 15 knots rising to 20 midday and 25 gusting 35 in the afternoon so the trip to Great Barrier looked possible if we got a move on. We left as dawn broke at 0700 and set off with a reefed main as we expected a downwind run with lots of wind so a jib would be all we really needed. It was calmer than we expected, nothing like the excitement of our arrival, as we left again through the North Channel and we motor sailed to keep above the knots we were aiming for to arrive ahead of the weather. The winds at Channel Island quickly rose to 20 gusting 24 but we were still in much lower winds most of the way until we had passed Little Barrier island when they started to pick up and we could sail properly. By the time we had got withing 4 or 5 miles the swells which were from behind us had increased but we were doing between 7 and over 8 knots with a single reef in the main and a most of the jib as we surfed down the swells.
The coast of Great Barrier is very confusing and difficult to read as one approaches as there are many islands and headlands so the GPS is useful and we already had some way points from previous trips. The journey from leaving the North Channel and coast of Kawau until one is amidst the islands edging the entry to Port Fitzroy is about 22 Nm and the whole journey was logged as 33Nm. The entry to Port Fitzroy is well hidden behind a headland with some outlying islands and the first time we were very glad to see a boat ahead of us going in. There are also some rocks called Paget Rock which used to have a marker which has now gone missing – the Coastguards radio channel announced that it had disappeared but again we had a marker on our GPS from a earlier trip which gave a cross check on our chart reading. You then enter through a narrow channel to the huge sheltered area which has many sheltered arms which provide additional shelter to every wind direction – we moored in Wairahi Bay exactly 6 hours after starting to pull up the anchor in Bon Accord. In fact the whole of Port Fitzroy is actually very sheltered and one could moor almost anywhere even in a gale. We hooked a couple of large kahawai on our way across the port but both put on some spectacular aerobatics and broke free but we did at least catch a pan sized snapper later. The scenery is as spectacular as we remember and the area is famous for the rare brown teal.
The next day the weather was even worse than forecast and that had been bad. We are sheltered from the worst of the winds now expected to rise to 35 knots although as I wrote this we are occasionally hit by the odd Willywaw spiralling down from the hills above drowning the cries of the Moreporks and rocking and twisting us. It slackened a bit by the evening and Pete caught a nice kahawai (sea trout) off the back of which was so big that it broke Kev's landing net getting it aboard (true story!). When we measured it it was identical in size to the one we had caught with Kev - 57 cms from nose to the V in the tail but it looked much fatter. This solved our food problem as a Kahawai that size will give 4 or 5 generous portions. We like Kahawai, although most locals use it only as a baitfish. You have to gut it immediately to stop the dark red blood staining the flesh, and it is a meaty fish rather like mackerel. Pete filleted it as it was on the large size to fit in the barbeque whole and it was too windy to keep the barbeque alight.
The next day we just explored the rest of the Port Fitzroy Harbour area, heading north. We worked our way round the inside of the harbour, in and out of all the little bays with a troll behind us. The winds were high and gusty so we motored much of the time as our main aim was fishing - we are ever hopeful to catch a fish although Pauline had packed enough steak and lamb to keep us well fed without. We caught nothing on the troll and saw no boil ups like the previous day. We took hundreds of pictures as requested by Kev but will not inflict many here!
We tried several bays as potential mooring sites on route including a trip into Bush's Beach - an idyllic spot we have used before but one needs to take care as it dries out completely after a steep shelf at the end of the bay. At the entrance to the bay there was a beautiful large yacht moored, and on closer inspection we saw the name was the Spirit of New Zealand. On the eastern shore there were two matching yacht flying the white NZ ensign. The Navy also has sail training expeditions. Obviously the professionals had decided this was a good safe anchorage. There was one yacht moored at the end and we did a tentative pass searching for a fish and to see if there was room us to moor as well close enough to row or swim ashore. On the beach it was hard to see the DOC information sign, it was surrounded by multicoloured canoes and kayaks. Our guess was that the walks were full of energetic young people, exploring..
Bush's Beach is on a spur from the many DOC walking tracks on Great Barrier and comes complete with picnic table, barbecues and long drop. We stopped here a couple of years ago and did the walk up to one of the old Kauri Logging Dams high up in the valley. The Kauri forests were well inland and there was no easy way to get the logs to the sea or other routes to saw mills. The logs were therefore dragged to a convenient streambed with steep sides and a Kauri Dam was constructed of wood with a "trapdoor" near the bottom large enough for the logs to pass through. The logs were typically a couple of metres diameter and 4-5 metres long so the door was considerable size and the dam was tens of metres high. The trapdoor was constructed so that when the dam was full, and that could take a year, it could be tripped and the water released. The logs floating above the dam were sucked down through the hole and swept down to the sea, sixteen miles away in the case of this one on Great Barrier Island.
There were several boats fishing behind the fish farm opposite, and the spot is obviously good as last visit we we caught our first Trevally off the same fish farm.
We continued exploring the inside as far as Port Abercrombie, another large sheltered harbour where we had hooked lots of large Kahawai with the troll previous years. By the time we got back we had covered 13 nautical miles. In the evening it was calm enough to get the dingy out for a play and to take some pictures of Shanti.
The return had an early start - we left a couple of hours before dawn coasting gently through the huge number of sheltering boats for miles under a full moon and then out through the coastal islands under sail - absolute magic. The whole passage was against the clock as there were wind warnings in place and the bad weather was due at 1200. We had drawn a course to pass Channel Island and arrive off the edge of the Coromandel with options to continue down the coast to Te Kouma or to angle across to Waiheke and enter shelter in the Tamaki Strait through the bottom end. These were on the basis of the forecast which had the winds swinginging from South East round to East by the time we reached the Coromandel. The course to Te Kouma would not have needed tacking in an Easterly and would provide shelter if required. Forecasts are never perfect and the winds continued South East so we held a course as close as possible to the wind whilst retaining a good speed waiting for the change - it never came.
We could watch the line of weather approaching for several hours and first the end of the Coromandel then Channel Island disappeared in the rain. We were monitoring the winds on the nowcasting and to our surprise the wind increase and change was small, Coromandel was not a good sailing direction, so we continued towards Waiheke now intending to gain shelter through the passage on the west side beside Matiatia. We hastily added a waypoint between the D'Urbeville rock and the Noises as we could see the rain approaching and Waiheke was gradually disappearing from sight. In the murk we saw a small fleet of yachts coming towards us, each flying colurful spinakers. We had forgotten it was the day of the Round Waiheke race, and for the next 20 minutes we concentrated on watching for oncoming boats which were passing us on both sides. We just got back in time - the rain so heavy we could see no land as we approached Waiheke. Then it cleared and we sailed through a flock of anchored little boats fishing before turning along the Tamaki Strait. In the shelter, Pete now wanted to keep on sailing but the sea was quite choppy and we had forgotten we were trolling until we heard the rod sing. It was only a small kahawai but just enough for our final evening. The winds were gusting to 49 knots back at Channel Island that night which we spent in Rocky Bay, the next good anchorage along from Putiki Bay, where Shanti is normally moored on a buoy just off the jetty, to clean up and pack.
The entry to Rocky Bay is narrow, and it is important to enter between the rocks and through the channel on the charts. We had forgotten how shallow it is in the bay, and anchored well out in what was said to be 2.1 metres at low tide. Checking by hand, we found the depth sounder measures below the transducer, not below the keel. Everyone else who arrived later, even the large keelers, steamed past us and anchored much closer to the beach. We wondered why. Then as everyone jumped into their dinghys and the disco started we realised that Saturday night was going to be party night. We were pleased we had anchored on the edge, and our CD player only just drowned the music from the shore. Another feature of Rocky Bay is that the shape is like a saucer and the water seems to swirl in circles, meaning that boats can be facing in different directions although next door to each other. Our neighbour was a large solid ex-fishing boat and we spent a long time before sleeping making sure we were far enough apart that there would be no contact. The day had been a hard 49 nautical miles.
The next morning, Sunday, we drifted back from Rocky Bay to Kennedy Point (2 nmiles), first to the wharf to unload and then onto the mooring our adventures over for the year. Shanti has proved to be a superb sailing boat and we would now be prepared to take her almost anywhere under any conditions - they were built for round the world trips.
Total second trip 145 nmiles