Which way is starboard again?
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Jul
19

I’ve just finished reading An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – Colonel Chris Hadfield’s autobiography.

For those of you who don’t know Hadfield became a bit of a social media rock star after posting a series of amazing YouTube videos from the International Space Station – everything from scientific experiments and stunning space vistas  to how to brush your teeth in zero gravity.

Most importantly of all, he  recorded his own version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity – IN SPACE!

Being the Bowie freak I am this of course is what first brought him to my attention.

He popped up on my radar again when I was talking to a friend about how sailing scared the hell out of me but I still found myself doing it. He said he’d just finished reading a biography that he thought I’d really like and promptly handed me An Astronaut’s Guide to Life – what going to space taught me about ingenuity, determination and being prepared for anything.

My first thought when starting to read was ‘pssshh, overachiever! There’s no-one in the universe (s’cuse pun)  more utterly out of my league. My second thought was ‘hey, wait a minute! This guy thinks just like me!’

One of my particular skill sets is being terrified of everything (it doesn’t stop me doing things – but it can make them a lot more difficult). Paddy calls it catastrophising – put me in any situation and I will come up with the worst possible outcome, however improbable.

So you can imagine me astonishment when I read that Mr Overachiever Astronaut was actually scared of heights! It seemed about as logical as a person with anxiety issues floating offshore on a tin tub (sorry Wildflower!)

Hadfield did something I really admire, he harnessed his anxiety and made it work for him. He wrote about the power of negative thought and sweating the small stuff – and of course as an astronaut you have to sweat the small stuff to survive.

While nowhere near the same league he’d got me thinking – I’d never seen my negativity as having power before. When you think about it though it makes sense, as long as you actually know what to do if the worst happens.

In fact, during the one really scary experience I had on the boat (sorry – but I’m saving that for the book), I was actually able to handle things because I had a job to do and I knew how to do it. It’s the not knowing that turns you into a wreck.

Hadfield sums it up perfectly right here;

“In my experience, fear comes from not knowing what to expect and not feeling you have any control over what’s about to happen. When you feel helpless, you’re far more afraid than you would be if you knew all the facts. If you’re not sure what to be alarmed about, everything is alarming” (pg 52 – An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth)

That sentence propelled me right back to our first night out of sight of land,  the boat creaking and groaning as we punched  into the wind that insisted on blowing in the exact direction we wanted to sail in. It was a little uncomfortable, but the boat was sturdy and we were safe – all the same, I was freaking out.

The reason I was freaking out was simple. I didn’t know exactly what was going on. Wildflower was making creaking, straining, banging noises I had never heard her make before. Because I couldn’t be certain if they were good or bad, the catastrophiser in me immediately decided they must be all bad. In short, I didn’t know what to be alarmed about – so everything was alarming.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing. Taking Wildflower offshore for the first time was a massive undertaking. We had a limited time window to wind up our jobs and our lives and make sure the boat was ready, but we didn’t spend enough of that time making sure that we as people were ready.  Theoretically I was – I’d passed my Boatmasters exams, I knew the safety drill – but mentally I had no clue what I was letting myself in for. I didn’t know what I should or shouldn’t be scared of.

Paddy was then faced with the unenviable task of skippering the boat with the first mate was popping up and down like a meerkat on speed going ‘what was that?’ ‘is that noise normal?’ He lay down with me in the back cabin (one of the noisiest spots) and explained to me what each creak and groan was and that helped hugely – but that was one more task he shouldn’t have had to do.

What it taught us was that next time, along with the boat prep, there will have to be more people prep (at least for me) – and one of the things I am keen to do is an offshore survival course. The kind where you practice skills you more than likely are never going to need, where you actually deploy the life raft and bob about inside it in a swimming pool.

I already feel much better now I have actually fired off a flare and I would rather know what to do if things went to hell than have to rely on others to tell me what to do. I’m never going to be an all-singing, all-dancing, fix-it-at-sea woman – but I would like to be able to do something practical without losing my mind.

Paddy worries this focus on the negative will put me off, but I think the opposite. I think it will calm me to know I am as prepared as I can be.

Worrying is something I’m good at, so I might as well harness it.

And, as Hadfield says “Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is actually the opposite of worrying: it’s productive. Likewise, coming up with a plan of action isn’t a waste of time if it gives you peace of mind. While its true that you may wind up being ready for something that never happens, if the stakes are at all high, it’s worth it.” (Pg 72 – An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth)

You have to be careful though, there is a balance when you are at sea. Sometimes immediately leaping into survival mode can actually decrease your chances of survival. The thing with a boat is, no matter how uncomfortable things get, often the safest place to be is on board. It’s counter-intuitive, but it really does take an awful lot to make a boat sink – and  if you cut yourself adrift on a life raft you are at the mercy of the elements. Nine times out of ten the safest thing you can do is stay on board as long as possible – the golden rule is that you should “always step up into your life raft”

A tragic example of this was the 1979  Fastnet race that got caught out in freak weather – it was the people who abandoned ship into their life rafts who were the ones who were injured or lost their lives and when the storm cleared the majority of the boats were still floating.

So I am going into this painfully aware of the balance but also with  a sense of confidence that I think this will work for me. So thank you Col. Hadfield  for helping me realise I can use my anxiety as a tool and that the power of negative thought could actually make me a better sailor.

PS: Note to my Mum – who I know is reading this: Stop freaking out. We will be taking a ridiculously safe and well-prepared boat at a safe time of year on an easy passage across the Pacific ocean – you have nothing to worry about (but I know you will because I know who the worry gene came from!) Love yoooouuu! xxx

 

Jun
01

Wildflower was named after a Tom Petty song

 

which I think is just perfect for her and Paddy, but it is another Petty song

 

that’s haunting me right now.

The first question I get from people I haven’t seen for a while is ‘so when is the book coming out?’

If I had my way the answer would be tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the answer is still – next year.

Getting a book published involves large amounts of agonising waiting. There’s the wait after you pop your baby in the post and send it to various publishers. Did they get it? (that is normally answered by the first rejection letter) Did they read it? (also answered by the rejection letters) Do they think it’s a stupid idea?  - I was lucky in this respect. A lot of people warned me not to expect to hear anything back from the publishers, not even a rejection. But those I did send material to all got back to me in some form or another and gave me reasons and helpful advice (none of which, thankfully, was ‘it’s a stupid idea’).

If you are fortunate enough to find someone willing to take a punt on you (thank you David Bateman Publishing!) then there is even more waiting in store.

It’s a hard wait too, because you have adrenalin coursing through you. You’ve run hysterically around the office, squealing and waving your arms in the air like Kermit the frog. You’ve told all your family and friends. Your dream has come true, you are going to be an author – and you want it to happen now, now, now!!!

kermit-arm-flail-1392075955

However – while your book may be the center of your universe, at this stage it is only on the periphery of your publisher’s. As one of my publishers politely told me on our first meeting “I have about seven books  in different stages of development on the go at the moment. The one closest to being published is the one I love the most. When yours gets to that stage, you’ll be hearing from me every day”.

While that gave me a bit of a reality check and stopped me freaking out over long periods of silence, it didn’t make the waiting any easier.

The first really nerve-wracking wait was the wait to iron out the contract – as far as my paranoid brain was concerned until my signature and the publisher’s signature were on that piece of paper there was every chance they could change their minds.

It's real!

It’s real!

After everything was signed and sealed it wasn’t so bad. There were still things I could do – arrange photographs, send them in. Then it was back to waiting.

 

Patience is a virtue I struggle to posses however - so about a month ago I dropped the publishers an email (trying not to sound too needy) just to get an idea of where everything was at.

They were kind and humoured me – giving me late June – early July as my next milestone. That’s when editing will start in earnest. They’ll go through the book decide if they want any changes made and whether they want me to add anything. I’m a little bit nervous about that, but also intrigued as to how the whole process works. Then we start thinking about things like the cover and hopefully by Novemberish there should be an actual, physical book to hold.

It takes about nine months to get a book out into the wild (not counting the time it takes to write it) – and then you have to think about the best time to release it.

This bit I found kind of fascinating because it’s something I’d never really thought of. Christmas is the time that jumps immediately to mind, but for a newcomer into the market it’s not actually that practical. Yes there are more people out there buying books, but there are also more books out there. At Christmas time you are competing with cook books and All Black biographies – even a relatively well-known writer risks getting buried.

Other than that – the next biggest book-selling days are Mothers Day and Fathers Day. Not exactly days I would have thought of, but it kind of makes sense. You don’t really buy books for Easter or New Year, everyone’s birthdays are on different days and books are often the perfect gift for Mum or Dad.

So we are aiming for Mothers Day next year – which means this time next year you could be holding a copy of Which Way is Starboard Again? (or whatever the book ends up being called) in your hot little hands. The aim is to have the book in shops by March and get promoting after that – so I apologise if I am insufferable for few months round about then.

But for now, it’s back to waiting. I’m not complaining – this has already been an amazing ride. I still can’t believe it is actually happening – but I do wish it would happen a little faster!

May
04

There’s nothing like being ripped out of a dream by a blaring alarm to remind you you’re not sleeping in a house.

Paddy and I had a 4am wake up call today courtesy of the bilge alarm (an insistent shrieky siren that lets us know when there’s water in the boat that shouldn’t be there).

The alarm was a little overenthusiastic during our trip to Tonga and had me leaping out of my skin a bit so I think I might be a bit sensitive to the sound.

It was certainly me sitting bolt upright yelping “what the hell is that?” while Paddy dozed on peacefully.

After some yawning, muttering and pulling up floorboards we deduced that yes, there was water in the boat that shouldn’t have been there.

I was quite proud of myself actually – once upon a time Anxiety Girl would have heard the siren blaring, taken one look at the water sloshing into the bottom of the boat and immediately decided we were done for.

It would have been “throw the goodluck trolls in the grab back and get off the boat, we’re going down!”

This time though, even in a 4am fug, I was able to avoid leaping to the worst possible conclusion in a single bound, go get a torch and help Paddy check out what was going on.

I figured since he was only  looking mildly annoyed that it wasn’t anything too catastrophic, but decided not to ask any annoying questions until he had finished bailing the offending water from the bilge with a glass and sponge.  (Admittedly I may not have been quite so chilled had this happened in the middle of the ocean…)

Wildflower's innards

Wildflower’s innards

The most important thing to check when you have water coming in to the boat is whether it is salt or fresh. If it’s salt water then it’s coming from outside and you might have a leak, if it’s fresh then it was inside the boat already and can be isolated.

In this case the water was fresh and coming from, of all mundane things, a leak in the bathroom piping. So after bailing out the excess water from the bilge and shutting up the alarm we were able to crawl back into bed and deal with it in the morning.

After pulling everything out of the bathroom cupboards the next day we discovered the culprit was a tiny crack in the piping leading up to the tap in the sink – a lot of fuss and noise for a minor household chore (albeit one you have to bend yourself into awkward positions to sort out).

So think about that next time you are grumbling about having to do plumbing repairs at home – at least your house doesn’t holler at you until you get it fixed.

Apr
29

Getting a reasonably sized boat down from the hard and back into the wet stuff is challenging at the best of times – add a typical Wellington gale into the mix and its even more so.

Complicate it further by having to reattach the forestays (wires at the front of the boat that hold the mast up) while you are bouncing around in the water and you have a recipe for an interesting Sunday afternoon.

Wildflower on wheels

Wildflower on wheels

I have immense respect for the people who operate the travel lifts that move these fish out of water. Sven, our driver, was a master – essentially reversing 18 tonnes of ship with a giant tractor while Paddy paced behind like a broody chook.

I, who at the best of times struggle to reverse a Mitsubishi Mirage, could only look on in awe.

A bit of brute force was needed to get her out of the cradle

A bit of brute force was needed to get Wildflower out of her cradle

Heeeeave!

Heeeeave!

Sven doing what he does best

Sven doing what he does best

Master at work

Master at work

"Be careful of my baby!"

“Be careful with my baby!”

Paddy the broody chook

Paddy the broody chook

Entertaining the locals

Entertaining the locals

Nearly there...

Nearly there…

Supervising

Supervising

Watching Wildflower being slowly edged backwards towards the water was nerve-wracking enough but that wasn’t the end of it. The travel lift has a belt that goes across the front of the ship exactly where the forestays sit, so they have to be removed in order to move the boat.

This is a teensy bit unnerving because it means, for a short amount of time, there isn’t really a whole lot holding the mast up. The  rear wires (backstays) are still up but there’s always the nightmare that the mast might fall backwards. Since it was only for about 15 minutes and we weren’t actually sailing this was pretty unlikely, but Paddy wanted to get the everything fully attached quick smart.

This was no mean feat  - there is a huge amount of weight on the wires (it’s a pretty big mast they’re holding up) so it takes a fair bit of brute force to get them reattached. The cavalry, in the form of Sven, arrived to help, while Wellington did it’s best to be as unhelpful as possible – in the form of 35 knot gusts. Wildflower is stroppy in reverse at the best of times (she has a big bum which tends to go where it wants to) and it was only the ropes lashing her to the dock that kept her from making a break for freedom.

I stopped taking photos pretty much as soon as I got onboard as I kind of had to hold on while she jerked about. Some grunting, heaving and a few cheers later though and the mast was well secured. We hurriedly let go of the ropes holding her to the wharf and glamourously ploughed backwards into the harbour, finally on our way home.

Fixing the forestays

Fixing the forestays

Calling in the cavalry

Calling in the cavalry

You can do it!

You can do it!

After a slightly bumpy ride across the harbour – with the lovely Grace, a resident boatie, as an extra set of hands – and a slighty bumpier landing we were back in our berth at Chaffers Marina.

While it was great spending time with the awesome folk at the Evans Bay Yacht Club , after 103 days on the hard both boat and skipper were glad to be home.  Even in rotten Wellington weather, she just feels happier in the water.

 

Apr
24

Last night Paddy and I sailed into the middle of Wellington Harbour and let off explosives – all in the name of boat safety.

Strange lights over the harbour

Strange lights over the harbour

Having completed my Boatmasters certificate through the Wellington Coastguard and done a keel-boat sailing course at the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club I still get the odd email from both organisations and the other week one caught my eye.

It was an invite to a night out shooting expired flares from the top of the Dominion Post East West ferry - how could I possibly refuse?

In all seriousness, knowing how your emergency equipment works is pretty important – and I have to admit I went offshore on our last trip never having fired a flare.

It’s somewhat perverse really. You spend hundreds of dollars (it costs about $1000 to kit out a boat with flares to pass its category 1 certificate to go offshore) on equipment you never want to have to use, then when you don’t use it it expires and you have to replace the lot.

This is where demonstrations come in – it means the flares don’t go entirely to waste – and you get to make things go boom!

When Paddy told me the most important thing was to make sure you held them the right way up I figured he was just messing with me. After a couple of horror stories about people who had melted their hands or shot themselves with the things however, I began to have second thoughts.

When faced with the different types of flares on a rocking boat in the dark I began to realise he had a point. We were bouncing about a tiny bit in relaxed circumstances and it was damned near impossible to read the instructions. I don’t even want to  imagine how much trickier it would be in an actual emergency where things are happening really fast.

It also doesn’t help that the cap you unscrew to set them off can be either at the top or bottom of the flare depending on whether it is a rocket or a handheld one. This threw me a bit at first until Paddy helpfully pointed out (the probably quite obvious) indents where your fingers are meant to go.

Spot the useful handholds

Spot the useful handholds

 

Smokin'

Smokin’

The flare demonstration required an impressive amount of coordination – with the club, coastguard and even air traffic control taking part. We had a light system which let us know to cease-fire when a plane was due to fly over. A very good thing I reckon because what looked eerie on the water would probably look catastrophic from the air.

Dom Post East?West ferry by the light of a parachute flare

Dom Post East/West ferry by the light of a parachute flare

Ooooh.... ahhhh....

Ooooh…. ahhhh….

While the parachute flares got the air time, the handheld ones were just as dramatic and with loads of people letting them off at once it gave the rather creepy illusion that the boat was burning.

Concentrating on a burning issue

Concentrating on a burning issue

'Bright light! Bright light!' (said in a squeaky Mogwai voice)

‘Bright light! Bright light!’ (said in a squeaky Mogwai voice)

Don't look now Paddy, but I think your arm's on fire!

Don’t look now Paddy, but I think your arm’s on fire!

Erm, anyone got a bucket of water?

Erm, anyone got a bucket of water?

My personal preference was shooting rockets however. The handheld ones went molten after a while and it was no mean feat to hang on to them.

Burn baby burn!

Burn baby burn!

Then there were the smoke flares – a bright screaming orange that can be seen really well by daylight and has anyone in a 10 mile radius coughing and spluttering. Those were great fun, but a little hard on the old allergies.

No smoking!!!

No smoking!!!

Apparently the explosives are on the way out though, with more focus on laser lighting that lasts longer and has a farther reach. At this stage though that is a rather expensive option so it will be a while before they are phased in I suspect.

And besides – flares never go out of style! (that Dad joke was brought to you by Paddy)

Groovy baby!

Groovy baby!

 

Apr
14

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.

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.

Relaxing

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

Whoops!

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.

 

 

Apr
02

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…

Splattered

Splattered

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

Rusty

Rusty

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!

 

Dec
16

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!

Nov
12

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

Sep
25

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!

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