Which way is starboard again?
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Weighing in at a sturdy 18 tonnes, Wildflower is built for comfort not speed (kind of like me!) – so we generally don’t take her out racing

The other weekend however, before the weather turned to custard, Paddy and I found ourselves right in the middle of the action at the Evans Bay Yacht Club regatta.

After a beer or three Paddy had his arm twisted into taking the weekend off boatwork to act as flag marshal  and somehow mine got twisted too.

While neither of us were crazy about losing our weekend sleep-in, it was really great to get back out on the water – and it certainly gave me a whole new appreciation of the complexities of yacht racing.


We joined race officer, and Evans Bay Motorboat and Yacht Club stalwart Mike Appleyard aboard the launch Pania (another club stalwart) and headed out on to the bay. I think Mike pretty quickly worked out we were starting from scratch in terms of racing after his first conversation with Paddy, which went along the lines of:

“Do you know how all this works?”

“Nope, we’re cruisers!”

So we were given a brief Flag Waving 101 course and set to our respective tasks – Paddy was dispatched to put up the boat class flags at the stern of the boat after we worked out the flagpole was taller than I was and I was in charge of hoisting the P (preparation) flag – which signaled the race was about to start.

Luckily there was a handy timer that beeped urgently when you needed to do your job, so there were only a couple of minor scrambles to get the things up in time.

They're coming straight for us Captain!

They’re coming straight for us Captain!

Safety first!

Safety first!

Anchor flag (great colour!)

Start line flag (great colour!)

Lidgard Sails ensured we were waving flags in style by providing support crew with sponsors t-shirts. Although these were slightly anatomically incorrect (for the female sailors at least – of which there were many) they certainly got the point across and I spotted yachties of both genders wearing them with pride.

PC tee

Beach balls I assume…

The weather on the Saturday was gorgeous – if you were sitting on a boat drinking coffee and reading a book –not so much if you actually wanted to sail anywhere. For perhaps the first time in Wellington’s history the wind didn’t turn up, at all. So the first race was pretty much a controlled drift. The frustration was palpable as we watched people desperately willing their sails to fill and a number of boats were unable to make it round the course in time to complete the race. Luckily the wind picked up later in the afternoon (though it took its time making up its mind which direction it was going to blow from) and the racing started in earnest.


Just chillin

That's how you get past em

That’s how you get past em

I wish mine went that fast!

I wish mine went that fast!

It was pretty intense – and Paddy and I had the easy jobs! There were 63 boats, but there were different types that went at different speeds and so sailed different courses. We were starting four different races one after the other, with a different coloured flag for each class of boat (Catamarans, centreboarders, trailer yachts and Hartley 16’s) – How Mike managed to keep an eye on what was happening with them all was well beyond me.

Then you had to factor in the length of the course (would all the boats be able to complete it in time?), the direction the wind was blowing (which necessitated a little bit of up-anchoring and moving marks) and whether any boats had dropped out between races.

Pania was the starting boat so once we’d sent all four groups on their way we had a bit of breathing space to watch the race and enjoy being back out on the water again. Our boat also served as a marker point and it was rather unnerving how close some of the boats got when rounding it!

No sooner had one race finished then the next group were circling like vultures waiting for the next race to start– and woe betide anyone who gets the flag timing wrong – it could throw the whole race out. Luckily Paddy and I managed to keep things on track and so didn’t have to face the wrath of thwarted yachties.

Cats circling

Cats circling

We were also introduced to the concept of ‘protests’ where participants take any issues they have with fellow racers up after the regatta and seek redress if they feel they have been hard done by. It all seems to be done pretty good-humouredly though and from what I saw issues were sorted out amicably. I was also informed there was a similar arrangement with the cruising division (the bigger boats got a race of their own), which they call “having a whine”.

The wind picked up again on Sunday with a more usual 15 to 20 knots and changeable wind conditions. A few more boats got up close and personal with each other and a couple ended up in the drink – but the smiles all round afterwards said it all.

Racing 2racing 3Racing 4Racing 5Racing 6Racing 7Racing 8


In the drink


I had great fun adding new monikers to my ‘interesting boat names’ collection too. They ranged from the short and sweet  - Bob and Bill to the children’s book inspired One fish, Two fish, Hairy Maclary to colour themed Tickled Pink, Simply Red 

Bobbing around

Bobbing around

One fish two fish

One fish two fish

Think this one's a girl

Think this one’s a girl

Tickled pink

Tickled pink

One thing that was really lovely was the number of people who stopped Paddy and I at the event prize-giving. They’d spotted us out on the start boat and wanted to thank us for donating our weekend to them. It was really nice of them and much appreciated. We both had a ball and enjoyed the excuse to get out on the water for the first time in ages.

For those of you interested in who actually won the races a wrap of the weekend can be found here: Live, Sail, Die – regatta wrap up with a link to the race results on the EBMYC website 

Unfortunately with last week’s weather being grey and ghastly plans to get Wildflower back in the water this week were thwarted – but I am sure we will get there soon. The poor old girl must be desperate to feel salt on her steel again, but I am in no doubt she will be appreciative of the many hours of hard work Paddy has put in.




February began with Paddy using Jif to clean anti-foul out of my ear and ended with me cutting paint from his hair. March started with a giant crane and finished with paint stains on my favourite jeans.

Lord only knows what April will bring…



The glamour of sailing

Sailing is glamorous

Wildflower has been out of the water for the past couple of months, but it’s been a little more than her usual yearly paint and scrape. This time it has involved shortening her by around 45 feet and cutting a great big hole in the deck/living room roof.

Several years of wear and tear had meant the poor girl’s mast was not as well-supported as it needed to be. The mast step (a big chunk of metal at the bottom of the mast) needed reinforcing to stop it from flexing and it was time for new spreaders as they were beginning to corrode.

(For non-nautical folk: The mast is held up with stainless steel wires – but for these to work properly they have to be held away – the aluminum struts that do this are called spreaders and apparently they are kind of important.)

Paddy’s definition of the work that needed to be done was a little simpler – he told me that over a long period of time money had been leaking out of the boat, which meant she needed to be taken out of the water to have more money poured in.

The spreaders, while allegedly small pieces of aluminium, were actually made out of concentrated cash – and liquid money also  needed to be painted on the boat, sanded off and reapplied, he said.

(Note: Sanding liquid money off is not only expensive but really hard work!)

Poor Wildflower looked a little stunted compared to the other boats and as a fellow shorty I felt her pain. Unlike her though, even with the aid of an industrial strength crane, I’m not going to get any taller.

Up on blocks

Up on blocks (the mast in the background belongs to the boat beside Wildflower)

Wildflower's mast

Wildflower’s mast

Working on Wildflower has meant spending more time at Evan’s Bay yacht club and it has been great catching up with familiar faces and meeting new folk as they come through. The stories at the club bar have been highly entertaining too – with one of my favourites being about a seagull invasion.

A chap we met told us about a pair of gulls that had decided the bow of his boat looked like a pretty good place to make a nest. For two days in a row he managed to shoo them off, but he had to leave for a few days. On returning he discovered a two-story bird condo complete with several large eggs and two determined birds attacking him every time he got too close. In the end he decided it would be in everyone’s best interests to allow them to stay and eventually got kind of attached to the squatters – watching as the parents exercised their hatchlings by chasing them up and down the decks. Often he would be watching telly only to be interrupted by big goofy babies pecking at the boat’s windows (though they did learn the folly of that after interrupting his favourite shows one too many times.)

Paddy didn’t have any seagull squatters but he did have a dirty great hole in his roof where the mast used to be – so for the past couple of months he has been living with me.

We did the math and worked out this is actually the longest time we’ve lived together on land in the past five years. We were both a little apprehensive at first but – aside from my cat developing a rather unhealthy attachment to him – it has worked out remarkably well.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

Checking out the mast work from the inside

Checking out the hole in the roof

Struggling with life on the land

Struggling with life on the land

Paddy was fortunate enough to have a partner in crime when it came to chopping holes in his baby. His good friend Gregor the welder, who had helped put together most of Wildflower’s metal work ( including the pilot house I had so many reasons to be grateful for during our trip), was back on the case – cutting holes and helping put bracing underneath the deck and a thicker piece of metal at the bottom of the mast.

A few days (and a few beers) later Wildflower was super safe and solid and I had even more reason to be grateful to Greg.


The boys hard at work

The boys hard at work

One of the great and glamorous jobs I always get is scraping the gunk from Wildflower’s bottom. Being smaller and slightly bendier than Paddy means I can get into spaces that he can’t, which means I get the fabulous job of lying on my back scraping fishy smelling weed from the bottom of the boat. I also get to paint anti-foul on the places Paddy can’t reach (to stop more fishy smelling stuff growing on Wildflower’s bum) which is how I ended up with an earful of the stuff.

I must admit it can be somewhat unnerving lying under 18 tonnes of ship. I know it’s ridiculous and that Wildflower is safe and secure – but that doesn’t stop Anxiety Girl from thinking, what if there’s an earthquake? Would I be able to get out in time? It was a regular internal battle at first, but one I was able to win, and after the first week of boat work I didn’t even notice anymore.

I have also been spending a fair bit of time polishing rust spots out of Wildflower’s paintwork – and I’m actually pretty impressed there is polish strong enough to remove rust from steel. It’s a repetitive job, but the view from the top of the boat is pretty good – and blasting David Bowie on my i-Pod makes the time fly.

People ask why I do it when I could be spending my weekends in a much less goop-encrusted fashion, but the way I figure – I want Wildflower to look after me so it’s only fair that I help look after her. I feel much more confident about going to sea in a boat I know is safe, solid and free of rust.

Wildflower's dangly bits

Wildflower’s dangly bits



Rust removal with a view

Rust removal with a view


On pulling her out of the water we also discovered that Wildflower’s propeller had a terrible case of acne. I was in the middle of sanding sea-goop from the blades when I noticed there were more craters than usual. On closer inspection it turned out the prop had a severe case of electrolysis (really bad corrosion that happens under water).

I’d heard the dreaded E word muttered a lot in connection with steel boats but had never seen it with my own eyes. It’s usually caused when two different types disagree with each other underwater - but in this case there was no real explanation for it – other than money had leaked out.

We sent it back to the manufacturer –  who also had no explanation for it – applied a liberal coat of liquid dosh, and it now has a perfect complexion again.


Prop acne

Prop acne

More prop zits

More prop zits

Shiny and new

Shiny and new

The sit rep at the moment is that most of the painting, scraping and polishing has been done, the spreaders and mast step are shiny and new and – thanks to the intervention of a giant crane – Wildflower has her height back. All going well we should be back in the water – and to relative normality – in the next week or so.

Wildflower's mast rises again

Wildflower’s mast rises again


PS - for those of you wondering what is happening with the book – it’s still really going ahead. Both the publisher and I have signed the contract and the next step is to work with them editing the copy. It’s still a long wait I’m afraid – with a publication date of March next year – though I should have an actual book to start promoting by the end of this year. It still doesn’t seem real yet but I’m sure it will eventually! – I shall keep you all posted with progress.


It's real!

It’s real!



To use a Paddyism, I am the queen of Catastrophising. Give me any situation and I will find the worst, most ridiculous outcome and start worrying about it. If a building creaks in the wind it is going to fall down, if I’m driving down the road I’m going to flatten a pedestrian. When we were sailing every splash I heard was Paddy falling overboard, every groan was the boat sinking and every light on the horizon was a freighter coming straight for us.

Anxiety Girl - able to leap to the worst possible conclusion in a single bound! (from the Anxiety Girl facebook group

Anxiety Girl – able to leap to the worst possible conclusion in a single bound! (from the Anxiety Girl facebook group

So you can imagine the kind of ridiculousness that was going through my head when I sent my full manuscript to the publisher, got a “thanks” back, then heard nothing for a couple of weeks.

The logical part of me was saying – “pull yourself together, they must be extremely busy at this time of year and you are not the only writer they have on their books”.

Anxiety Girl on the other hand was screaming at the top of her lungs “They’ve changed their minds, they hate it, you’ve gotten your hopes up, told all your friends and family and now it’s not going to happen. Who were you to think you could be a proper writer anyway?”

It didn’t matter that several emails before I sent the whole manuscript through the publisher had teed up a time and date to meet me and talk about things, as far as I was concerned the silence was deafening.

It was like being a teenager in your first relationship. While back then it was notes passed in class and phone-dates and now it’s emails and text messages, the premise is still the same.

Why haven’t I heard from them? Was it something I said/wrote? Is there somebody else? What if they don’t love me anymore?

I was constantly checking my emails and texts, wondering if I should email or whether that would seem too needy – in short, I was pathetic.

There was a little bit of reason behind my paranoia though – publishing in New Zealand is hard. I was constantly reading articles about authors getting dropped for not being enough of a commercial prospect. Getting a foot in the door is no small thing and I wasn’t really certain how far my size six orange sandal was wedged in there.

I wasn’t until I was so close I could smell it that I realised how much I wanted this book to actually happen.

Even though I hadn’t heard anything and was still convinced it was going to fall through, I had worked out a professional-type wardrobe to wear to the meeting, which was set to happen tomorrow.

Today at lunch time I decided to distract myself by getting wrapping paper and the remaining Christmas cards I needed. After dealing with the queues in Whitcoulls I decided to go to a nearby food court for a comfort curry (the diet starts after Christmas okay?!) and when I finished I did my usual obsessive phone-check. There was a text sitting on there “Hi Anna, I’m downstairs now”.

Holy crap! I’d gotten the date wrong! (it turns out we’d had a bit of an email miss-communication). I shot back a reply and ran like a crazy person, arriving disheveled and juggling wrapping paper.  So much for my organised, professional first impression! We were meant to have lunch but I was full of illicit curry and couldn’t face anything else, so I fessed up. Luckily she had a sense of humor – she ate, I drank coffee and tried to regain my composure.

The long and the short of it is, she was lovely and I still have a book deal. The draft contract should arrive by the end of the week.

I also learned that I’m not alone in my neurosis. Apparently another author had recently commented that they hadn’t heard anything for a while. It was explained diplomatically to me like this “I usually have several books at different stages of development on the go, the one that is closest to being printed is the one I love the most. When you get to that stage, you will hear from me every day.”

I’m cool with that. And I’m also pleased to know I’m not the only worrywart out there.

I also learned that getting a book published is a long, slow process and that I will need to get used to long periods of silence. Apparently it takes about nine months from go to whoa (so it really is like my baby) and then they need to work out what time of the year to release it for maximum sales. I would automatically think Christmas, but of course that’s what everyone else thinks and the market gets swamped, so we are potentially looking at September next year or March 2015.

I also need to make sure it is a time that I am available because I am going to have to do TV, radio and newspaper interviews. Something I’d never really thought of and am quite terrified about. I’m the person who helps other people work with the media – I don’t get in front of the camera! I’m certain I’ll freak out and forget all my own advice!

So that’s where we are at the moment. The family, friends, workmates and complete strangers who have had to put up with me wittering on about whether or not the publishers have changed their minds can breathe a sigh of relief.

It’s really, truly, actually going to happen and Anxiety Girl can just pipe down!


Apologies in advance for what I suspect will devolve into an excited squeal of a blog.

It’s just that I kind of GOT A BOOK DEAL!!!

It’s official, Which Way is Starboard Again? the book is actually going to happen.

I have been grinning like an idiot since I got the call on Friday and still can’t quite believe it.

The wonderful people at David Bateman Publishing will be working with me on the book as part of their travel series. They describe it as ‘travel tales with a twist’ – so I guess that means I’m twisted enough to make the grade!

If you have a snoop around their website you will see that Bateman is a real grown-up publisher that puts out some really cool stuff  http://www.batemanpublishing.co.nz/ – which I guess will make me a real grown-up author – quite frankly I am still pinching myself!

After reading countless articles on the demise of publishing in New Zealand and having my hopes of leveraging off the America’s Cup dashed I had pretty much resigned myself to self-publishing. I was determined to get the book out there one way or another and self-publishing certainly doesn’t have the stigma it once did, but having a professional publisher pick it up is amazingly validating.

It means someone is prepared to take a punt on people wanting to read about me bumbling my way around the South Pacific, and I appreciate that more than words can say!

Since my only experience in publishing has been with newspapers and magazines this will be a whole new adventure for me – one that I plan to drag you all on too.

Writing a book has pretty much all I have ever wanted to do since I first picked up a pen and started chewing on it,  so this really is the most amazing feeling in the world!

Paddy of course will be my technical advisor to help turn descriptions like “and then he pulled on that rope over there” into something a little more nautically accurate and we both really look forward to sharing our stories with you – even the embarrassing ones!

I will keep you all up to date on how things progress and promise to spam you horribly as soon as I have something to spam you with.

- Anna the shameless self-promoter xx


Rich boys, flash toys

Rich boys, flash toys

It’s become pretty trendy at the moment to bag the America’s Cup for being a drag race between rich gits with ridiculously expensive toys. Normally I would be right on the bagging bandwagon. People who know me know I am the last person to get excited about sport – it’s really just not my thing, so when they see me screaming at the telly every morning in hope and despair it tends to leave them puzzled.

But the rich gits race has a trickle-down effect, and at the bottom of that trickle are people like me. (I am on the cusp of Gen Y so it’s allowed to be all about me sometimes, okay?)

I am trying to get a book about sailing published and I strongly suspect that is going to be a whole lot more difficult if we lose the cup.

I would like to think the publishing industry and book buying public are not that shallow, but I am also very aware of what a competitive and increasingly shrinking publishing market we have here in NZ. Publishers are not going to put money into something they don’t think  will sell – and if ‘sailing’ becomes a dirty word in NZ then it’s not looking good for me!

In saying that, I have had some great and positive feedback from publishers and I am waiting to hear back from a couple. Even the publishers that turned me down gave me lots of great advice and basically said the ‘no’ was just because their publishing range didn’t include travel/biographic non-fiction anymore (of course they could all just be humouring me!)

Getting books published seems to be all about sales-pitches and marketing (two things I am remarkably crap at) and I thought NZ winning the cup might give me a few decent publisher pick-up lines.

I’m sure there are a lot of small-timers like me who are in the same position. There has been a lot of conjecture about whether or not the cup would bring bazillions of tourist dollars into New Zealand, but it can only do good things for the marine industry.

The little guys are benefiting already – I’ve lost count of how many breakfasts I’ve had at the Evan’s Bay Yacht Club waiting for someone to win the damned thing!

We have an amazing sailing and marine industry in NZ, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need support. I reckon the cup coming here would be a way of showcasing our marinas, yacht clubs, sailing schools, boat builders/painters and mechanics and of course wannabe writers!

There was a chap on Campbell Live’s opinion caravan last night saying the money spent on the race would be better off going into the arts – well here’s a way for that to happen, positive thoughts people!!!

Perhaps I can take some comfort in the fact that, while one of its central characters is a boat, the book is not about racing. It’s about fear, sailing and the South Pacific –  about keeping your sanity when you really have no flaming idea what you are doing and learning to deal with reality again once it’s all over. It’s also about the amazing people and places of the South Pacific so hopefully that’s material enough to survive the worst outcome.

Don’t think I’m giving up on Team NZ. For a sport-o-phobe these races have been brilliant fun to watch and as far as I’m concerned if it weren’t for forces out of our control we would have won several times already. I guess that’s part of the frustration really. As someone at the yacht club bellowed last weekend “how many times do we need to win this bloody race before we actually win it!?”

Our sailors are good, the rich boys’ toy is amazing and we’ve proved time and time again that we can beat the other guys – so tomorrow, once again, I will be screaming at the television.

Come on boys – do it for the little guys!

Cal the good luck troll has her eyes on the prize!

Cal the good luck troll has her eyes on the prize!


Paddy likes watching crab fishing shows – the type where rugged fisher-folk battle monstrous seas at ghastly times of year for that last big catch.

Paddy’s Dad has Sky TV and in between the recordings of documentaries, motor-racing and engineering programmes sits a lot of crustacean catching – courtesy of sonny boy.

It’s become a bit of a running gag with us every time we go to visit.

“What are we watching? Not bloody crab fishing again!” (Most of the time we aren’t watching crab fishing – Paddy just likes to announce that we are to wind him up.)

It was bloody crab fishing we were watching at the weekend however when I picked up the first clue towards what our mystery critters might be.

Is it a shrimp? Is it a plane?

Is it a shrimp? Is it a plane?

This time the battle between man and crab was taking part in the North Sea and starred fisherfolk with accents so think they needed sub-titles despite speaking in English.

They weren’t having much luck and were pulling up all manner of things that weren’t actually crabs – including these odd-looking creatures they called “squat lobsters” which looked suspiciously like a larger version of our unidentified swarm.

I turned to Google where I discovered a blog on how to cook the things, but it wasn’t a New Zealand-based one so I still wasn’t 100% sure

Squat lobster

Squat Lobster courtesy of A Fish Blog.com

But Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand sealed the deal with this boggle-eyed chap

 Creative Commons -Courtesy of Niel Bruce and Alison MacDiarmid. 'Crabs, crayfish and other crustaceans - Lobsters, prawns and krill', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand)')

Look into my eyeeees… (Crabs, crayfish and other crustaceans – Lobsters, prawns and krill’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand)

Accompanied by the following entry:

Swarms of these bug-eyed crustaceans often wash ashore in summer on southern beaches. They are the juveniles of the squat lobster (Munida gregaria), commonly known as whale krill or lobster krill, and they are an important food for seabirds and fish. Adult squat lobsters live on the sea floor and are not commonly seen.

So mystery solved – thanks guys!

Our squillions of swarming shrimp-things were in fact baby squat lobsters

Boil up

Boil up

Paddy’s response to all the excitement? “See? crab fishing is educational!”


So this lunchtime I did something quite terrifying – I finally let go. I took a year’s worth of agonising, second guessing, swearing and maniacal cackling, stuffed it in an envelope and threw it in a post box.

Fly my pretties! - manuscripts ready to hit the postbox

Fly my pretties! – manuscripts ready to hit the mail

My regular (and infinitely patient) readers will know exactly what I am talking about, but for those of you just poking your noses in – I am writing a book based on this blog. A book I have been writing for what feels like forever.

It’s not the writing that’s hard, that’s what I do – it’s as simple as breathing. I’m not saying that I am spectacularly good at it, just that it comes easy. Other things, not so much. Like marketing and sales-pitches and trying to work out what kind of book people actually want to read.

I could have churned this book out in a month if I’d had the time and the space, but it would have just been a gratuitous travelogue – and while those certainly have their place, I wanted to do something different. And also, let’s be realistic here, I wanted to write something that people would buy.

Once I thought I’d achieved that I then found myself in the position of having to convince other people that they wanted to publish it – and that was where I fell down. Basically I am a rubbish salesperson. I’m short and I’m loud and I’m stroppy but I’m really crap at talking myself up. What right did I have to assume that publishers would want to take a punt on me? What if all the people who have given me feedback on my blog were just humoring me? What if I really actually suck at this?

So I agonised. I did a tonne of research into what publishers wanted – how to present it, how not to present it, how to write chapter summaries and covering letters, and discovered of course that everyone wanted something different. I hit a complete brain-block. Things that should have taken me an afternoon took me weeks and there was no real reason why.

But finally –  with a lot of patience and support from family, friends and of course the Skipper – I got there, Today.

The goods - Part 1, chapter summaries, salespitch and sample pics

The goods – Part 1, chapter summaries, sales pitch and sample pics

Saying it was like printing my hopes and dreams out onto A4 and dropping them in a letter box is probably a little too melodramatic. It was more like ripping off a Band-Aid that has been there so long it has kind of fused into your skin. It hurt, but it was also enormously liberating. There is still more to write, but as I said before, that’s the easy part.

It’s out there now, for better or for worse, and if it isn’t what the publishers want then so be it. I’ve had enough interest that I am quite happy to have a crack at self-publishing, but the book-snob in me wants to try traditional route first.

So wish me luck!


I will write a proper blog about our Tasman Bay trip soon, but there is a mystery to be solved first.

While we were anchored up in Queen Charlotte Sounds we found ourselves surrounded by thousands of critters that looked like this:

Is it a shrimp? Is it a plane?

Is it a shrimp? Is it a plane?

I was so fascinated I even made a short film: http://youtu.be/PE2xTdgX5SI

By day two there were so many of them they were actually making the water boil http://youtu.be/dc0xdXYO6W8

Boil up

Boil up

and were covering the bay like the red weed from War of the Worlds

The chances of anything coming from Mars...

The chances of anything coming from Mars…

They also rather bemused a couple of local geese who attempted fruitlessly to munch on them http://youtu.be/nyCV10YRCkw

What the???

What the???

So far the theories are shrimp, krill or lost baby lobsters, but we really have no idea. So if any of you can identify the mystery critters it would be much appreciated.

No prizes other than public acknowledgement that you know something I don’t!

(There’s a slightly closer view of them here too – apologies for quality of filming. The little buggers moved about so much it was hard to follow them without blurring the shot http://youtu.be/lvmTn6xmSUM)


There’s nothing like spending the day with barnacles down your bra to remind you how glamorous sailing can be.

Paddy and I have spent the past week getting Wildflower ready to leave the marina for the first time in more than a year. It’s just a short hop – cruising down south round Nelson way – but, since we both work fulltime, it has necessitated doing a year’s worth of boat maintenance in a very short space of time.

Part of this involved hauling the boat out of the water to water-blast and scrape all the growth from her hull and – because I am smaller and slightly bendier than Paddy – I got to crawl underneath to give her a bikini wax with a wire brush.  Considering we had found mussels big enough to cook on the barbecue growing on the poor old girl’s fenders, we were pleasantly surprised at how little gunge there really was on her (bra-nacles and sea-slime aside).


After a fresh coat of antifoul Wildflower was back in the water and we have been hauling things on and off the boat, putting up sails and playing with the engine ever since.

I must admit I am a little nervous. It sounds crazy – I’ve sailed across the open ocean to the South Pacific and back and a little trip across Cook Strait is giving me the heebee geebees – but it really has been a long time. What if it’s not like getting  back on a bike? What if I forget how to do it?

Because if this level of rustiness a few weeks ago I decided to get pro-active. When we went away last time we spent a huge amount of time getting the boat ready to go and not really enough getting me ready and I wasn’t going to make that mistake twice. It was time for some remedial sailing lessons.

When we hit the water on the way to Tonga I realised very quickly that I didn’t really have a handle on the mechanics of sailing. I knew I had to pull on a rope when I was told to pull on a rope but I didn’t really understand why I was pulling on it. In Paddy’s words, learning to sail on Wildflower was like learning to drive in a housebus.

One of our crew members had done a bit of racing and seemed a lot more confident about what was going on than I. Since I didn’t think I would be much chop as racing crew I thought I’d go right back to basics and learn to sail in a dinghy.

Enter our friends at the Evan’s Bay Yacht Club again and in particular Hamish the incredibly patient beginner sailing instructor.

Unfortunately the beginner classes were full  up, but Hamish reckoned I would be fine on the intermediate course – I had had previous sailing experience after all. Well, it was sweet and optimistic of him but I found myself floundering pretty quickly in the smaller 420 dinghies we were sailing.


The 420s are 4.2 metres long – bigger than the little dinghies the beginner sailors used, but much smaller than Wildflower. Compared to our boat the ropes on the things were like dental floss! Playing around in the 420s was really great because it gave me a very immediate example of how your actions affect the way a boat sails. In a big boat everything happens quite slowly and there is a delay between your actions and its reaction. In a dinghy you know pretty much straight away when you’ve stuffed it up.

Hamish was great as an instructor but he’s definitely of the boatgan genus - constantly trying to get me to tweak this or that to get the boat to go faster. Again, sweet and optimistic but at that point my biggest concern was not sailing into anything or ending up in the drink.

My first lesson was hilarious. A fellow learner and I  ran over the buoy we were supposed to be tacking around and ended up taking it with us, necessitating the nautical version of the Birdie Dance bum-wiggle to remove it – with instructions helpfully shouted by Hamish from the safety boat. I kept muffing my left and right (sorry, Port and Starboard) and may have picked up a couple of new swearwords – it was brilliant fun and I left with a huge grin on my face.

My second experience in a dinghy wasn’t quite so successful however – since I was back on the sailing bandwagon, Paddy decided it would be fun to enter us in the East-West Dash ‘race’ from Evans to Days Bay and back again in a 420. In hindsight, given I had only had one lesson and Paddy had never sailed a 420 before it probably wasn’t one of our brightest moves – but enthusiasm won out at the end of the day.

We were doing really well for a while – even passing a couple of other boats – until we were swamped by a rather large wave just as we’d reached the end of the bay. Another big difference between Wildflower and a 420 is that a 420 doesn’t have a keel, which means – unlike our sweet, solid dependable ship, they actually can tip over – which is exactly what this one proceeded to do.

Before we had time to bail out the excess water we found ourselves on a rather unfeasible angle. Paddy very calmly said “okay, we’re going over now” – but I, in utter denial, had other ideas, roaring “No we’re not!” while ineffectually trying to throw my weight against the quickly capsizing boat. I’m sure it would have looked hilarious to any onlookers – like trying to stop a tank with tissue paper, particularly when the inevitable happened and we both ended up in the drink.

To add insult to injury I found myself surfacing under the sail and not being able to reach open air was really rather frightening. I managed to keep calm and swim for the nearest bit of open blue (which, given I am prone to freaking out, I am actually rather proud of) and gulped deliciously fresh air just as Paddy was heading over to help me.

Having established we were both safe, Paddy and I clung to the upturned boat, in rather choppy waters, trying to work out what the best course of action was.

Unfortunately we hadn’t reached the “how to get your boat back upright” part of my sailing lessons and there is a trick to righting a 420 that neither of us knew, so Paddy and I flailed around failing miserably.

The coastguard was lurking around, but just watching us at this point, until they saw a local boat come to ‘help’. The skipper of said boat (who shall henceforth be referred to as Captain Angry Beard) proceeded to do so by shouting instructions on how to right the dinghy and getting angrier and angrier when we were unable to comply. “Get on the bow!” Captain Angry Beard roared, so Paddy climbed on top of the bow of the boat and sat there looking puzzled (we later deduced he probably meant ‘point the bow into the wind’). “Get in the boat!” he bellowed at me after we managed to get it partially upright – I however had been treading water for about 15 minutes and just didn’t have the strength to pull myself over the side, much to his obvious frustration.

At that point my lifejacket popped open (slightly too big with sun-damaged clasps – am now going to buy my own dinghy jacket) and everything ceased to be even remotely fun. Angry Beard was shouting at us, I was swallowing water and Paddy was roaring at him to get help to get me out of the water and sod the boat. (He then whispered to me that I wasn’t in any danger, he just wanted to get Angry Beard to get someone who could help us.) At that point I’d been treading water for 25 minutes, I was tired and scared and utterly over it.

Then one of the Evans Bay locals came to our aid with a launch. I managed to swim aboard, he helped us get the boat upright and Paddy managed to limp the dinghy back to the yacht club using just the headsail.

We stayed at the yacht club for a few medicinal beers, licked our wounds and watched the rest of the boats come in. Our rescuer’s biggest concern was that I wouldn’t let the incident put me off sailing so I assured him I would be back the following Wednesday – I’m nothing, if not stubborn.

The following Wednesday we got the Capsize Talk (which I’m sure had nothing to do with me!) which was just as well since it was a rather windy evening! In Wellington if you don’t go out when the wind is up then the odds are you will never go out at all and I felt safe knowing we were in the bay and being stalked by a safety boat.

Long story short the dinghy I was in ended up capsizing (this time I jumped well clear of the sail!) but this time we were able to right it. Unlike a smaller dinghy the 420 is heavier and you can’t just stand on the centreboard (the little bit that sticks out at the bottom) and flip it over. It’s a two-person job where one stands on the centreboard until the boat is halfway up and the other swims in, clutches on to something like the toe-strap and uses their bodyweight to help right it (though you have to make sure you scuttle to the high side of the boat as soon as its upright or the whole thing goes over again – something else learned from experience). So now I know exactly what Captain Angry Beard was trying to say when he was yelling at me to “get in the boat”.

Capsizing and righting the boat did huge things for my self-confidence and every subsequent lesson did the same as I was able to translate a lot more of what was going on in the smaller boats to the way Wildflower worked.

I wasn’t the world’s best student – I stuffed it up, got scared and swore a lot – but I left each night grinning like an idiot.

I won’t jinx things by saying when we are leaving (other than it’s very soon!) but, while still nervous, I am feeling a lot better about hitting the waves again.

I have concluded that I will probably always be better as crew than as skipper – but hopefully this will make me better crew.

PS – we will be lurking around down south for a few weeks and my big plan for that time is to Finish the Damn Book. Will keep you all posted on progress.


Okay this one is completely off topic, but I figured it deserved a bit more than a Facebook update (boaties I will not be offended if you choose to sit this one out).

I am in a bit of a conundrum with the Hobbit.

Morally I should not want to have anything to do with it, but here I am getting caught up in the geeky, Gollumy, wizardy hype.

A bit of back-story for the non-Kiwi readers: Peter Jackson, the Hobbit’s director, was a bit of a folk hero for many of us - who spent our teenage years peering through our fingers, giggling hysterically at his B-grade splatter sci-fi monstrosities. We were horrified and enthralled by Meet the Feebles (you CAN’T do that with Muppets!), utterly grossed out by Brain Dead and Bad Taste and fascinated by the strange beauty of Heavenly Creatures.

Then our local boy went and done good – he and his Weta Workshop managed to land Lord of the Rings. They got to create some amazing critters, heaps of NZ actors and artists got exposure, the local movie scene took off and turning up to interviews barefoot became socially acceptable.

Fast-forward to 2010 when PJ broke my heart.

After many other film successes and a knighthood he managed to secure the Hobbit – and that was no mean feat (there is a whole other backstory there). More exposure for local actors, great opportunities for tourism providers – what’s not to be happy about?

Unfortunately Sir Peter then stuck it to the unions, denying actors minimum guarantees on wages and working conditions. He even spat the dummy and threatened to move the whole kit and caboodle to Eastern Europe if they didn’t play ball. At the same time we had our PM doing deals with Warner Brothers to change our labour laws. So much for supporting the locals!

So the answer’s simple right? – boycott the movie. Just don’t go.

And this is where I am torn.

I’m not getting hyped up because of the Hollywood of it all. I’m getting hyped up because it’s the Hobbit.

LOTR was my rebellion book.

When I was in primary school I was told by a librarian that I couldn’t take out Lord of the Rings because it would be “too hard” for me. I didn’t understand. I’d already read, and loved, the Hobbit and it was written by the same guy, I argued– the only difference was that LOTR was much longer. No dice.

So I borrowed a copy from one of my Mum’s friends (the whole trilogy in one volume so it was a big sucker) and read it ostentatiously in front of said librarian at every available opportunity. Yes I am aware of how nerdy rebelling by reading a book is – let’s just say I wasn’t in the ‘in crowd’ at school.

It was the beginning of a lifelong love of fantasy and sci-fi (though Michael Ende’s Neverending story still wins all the honours as far as I am concerned) and gained extra cool points because the hero was a short-arse (as difficult as it is to imagine I was even stumpier then than I am now.)

I will always have a soft spot for those books – and it makes me happy to see the brought to life on the big screen.

It’s not Tolkien or his characters’ fault that this whole mess has happened and I don’t think it’s my fault for wanting to see what the movie makes of the book.

But at the same time I feel for the actors who have been potentially done over by this.

I’ve made up my mind, I’ve going to the movie. I love the way you can spot Tolkien characters all over Wellington and the way people are really getting in to it – but it still niggles at me. I think Peter Jackson and Weta are doing some amazing things, but that doesn’t excuse the shabby stuff.

I am aware this is a gross over-simplification of what went on and would like to make it clear that I have not been privy to any of the detail – but it would take a lot to convince me that there was any good in what happened.

What do you reckon? Will you be going?

Before I shut up and get back to writing about boats – here are some pics of the awesome Gandalf sculpture going up at the Embassy theatre for the premiere –  and Gollum at the airport.

Going up…


Hobbit hole complete


Time for Gandalf’s closeup


Get in mah belly!

Gollum at Wellington airport


Om nom nom!






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