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Apologies if this is a double up for some but Which Way is Starboard Again? now has a new address.

If you would like to keep up to date with the blog and the book check out http://seamunchkin.com/. If you have subscribed then you should be automatically redirected.

It’s still a WordPress blog but a little bit upgraded so I can do fancy stuff like sell books and use PayPal

I hope you enjoy it!


I’m packing up my house at the moment. There’s an exciting and scary and stressful and wonderful reason why I am, which I will write about once I’m done (and no it’s not the next sailing trip yet. Unfortunately El No No won that particular battle).

I couldn’t have picked a worse time to pack up my house – the boat is out of the water and demanding attention, Paddy and I are both busy with work and all sorts of other things keep getting in the way, but that’s the way it is.

Packing up my house and my life has also thrown up an added complication. It’s making me want to write. I’ve had a block for ages but now I keep finding things and thinking things and seeing things that make me want to stop and scribble. Of course I can’t – the best I can do is make notes and hope it will all still be there when I get a chance to stop.

I did find something tonight though that I really have to share. I have to share it because I have been witnessing people struggling with stepping back and seeing themselves for who they really are lately – both in the real world and online. People who don’t have the perspective right now to see that they are great.

It’s a silly thing and I haven’t really known why I kept it until now.

Back in the 90s when I left high school I was given a “work skills and personal skills” statement. It was basically a summary of a bunch of comments from my teachers about what sort of person I was. It was pretty quirky and informal and I suspect they don’t do things this way any more, but it made me smile so I kept it.

In my last year of high school I was going through a lot of crap. Normal teenage angst compounded with learning to accept and deal with having a mental illness. It was something only my family and closest friends knew about. When I think back I picture a scared, stressed out drama queen trying to cover up everything by being loud and cracking jokes. What I didn’t see then, and what I am only just starting to see now, was the strong, tough young woman trying to find her place in the world and not giving up when things got hard.

That was what my teachers saw.

Here are a couple of passages that will give you an idea of what I mean (an also a bit of an insight into what a stroppy little shit I was). The emphasis is mine.

“Anna has a very independent, individualistic approach to life and asserts her personality through rather unorthodox but quite spectacular means such as her frequent and eye-catching changes of attire. Although she has an idiosyncratic approach to life in general and school in particular, her ideas and behaviour are always positive rather than negative and narrow-minded. She is not influenced by currently popular fashions or fads and presents herself to the world as she wants, not as she thinks she should. 

Anna’s unorthodox approach and her witty, ironic personality means that she gets on well with a wide range of students, some of whom tend to regard her as an iconic figure around the school. Although she always speaks her mind (often forcefully and at some length) she is sensitive to the opinions of others, in fact, she is very interested in other opinions, even if she disagrees with them entirely.”

Teenage Anna was strong and stroppy and entirely herself. She was actually pretty awesome – it’s just a shame she didn’t realise it at the time.

I never thought I’d say this, but I actually aspire to be my teenage self again.

This is a weird sort of a blog, but I guess it’s a message to other teenage (and adult) me’s out there. It’s too easy to get wrapped up in negative perceptions of yourself and not step back and see the person you actually are. Sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective (even if it is nearly 20 years too late).

It’s too easy in the panic and the stress and the pain to overlook all the good that you are. You don’t see what your teachers see, what your friends and your family see.

So please, just bear with my self-help hippy crap for a minute. Just take a step back, breathe and actually see yourself. You are pretty awesome.

Now I just have to learn to take my own advice!

Right – back to packing!


I don’t want to write this. I don’t want to write this. I don’t want to write this.

If I write this it makes it real.

But if I don’t write it I feel like I will burst.

It’s ridiculous really, it’s not as though I knew the guy, but a huge part of my light and life has left this world.

David Bowie has been with me since he first mesmerised me in the Labyrinth when I was a kid (and caused me to force my parents to repeatedly hire it from the video store, though I knew it word for word.)

He was with me through my awkward teenage years – when I was at my most scared and isolated telling me I was ‘not alone’

Oh no love! you’re not alone
You’re watching yourself but you’re too unfair
You got your head all tangled up but if i could only
Make you care
Oh no love! you’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone

As a young adult navigating the murky waters of mental illness at a time when nobody talked about it All the Madmen from The Man Who Sold the World was a two-fingered salute to the rest of the world. It was okay, he got it. It was our secret.

‘Cause I’d rather stay here
With all the madmen
Than perish with the sad men
Roaming free
And I’d rather play here
With all the madmen
For I’m quite content
They’re all as sane as me.

David Bowie taught me that it was okay to be different. He taught me to embrace it, to run with it and see where it led me. That if I wanted to dress in orange paisley dye my hair blue and do ridiculous stuff on stage I bloody well could. If I wanted to blast Aladdin Sane when everyone else wanted to be the Spice Girls then I should, and at maximum volume.

I was fascinated by his influences, I discovered new (and old) writers, new music and art.

He was, he is, my best friend. He taught me to be me.

I have never met the man before but he has been with me for my entire life. Through gleeful celebration and abject misery. He graduated university with me and held my hand through journalism school. He’s sailed across the South Pacific with me and celebrated the publication of my first book.

In a way he also helped develop my writing style.

Back in the days of dial-up internet that sounded like R2D2 in a blender I discovered a world much bigger than my own. In trying to navigate this exciting new place where you could easily talk to people on the other side of the globe I joined a mailing list (do those even exist anymore?) called BowieList where, through group emails I was able to banter with a bunch of intelligent, funny and eloquent people from all walks of life, with the connection of our mutual admiration of Mr Stardust. I really looked forward to those emails, spending quite a bit more time on the university computers than I needed to ‘study’.

I enjoyed and appreciated the way these people wrote, the way they made me smile. I magpied the hell out of them and discovered a wittier more confident version of myself in the process. I made friends with some wonderful people who, while we are not in touch as often now, I still think about a lot.

I graduated to other Bowie groups, The Man’s own website Bowienet and even a proto virtual reality chatroom with avatars (Bowie did everything first) and I think this is where I developed my conversational writing style. I have so much to thank him for.

I also very much associate David Bowie with my Mum. It was her ‘best of’ album that I loved (and nicked) that led me to discover him.

We were lucky enough to see him in concert when he came to Wellington for the 2004 Reality tour. It was the most amazing night of my life. I don’t think I have ever felt that high. We’d gotten seats right up the front (of course) but as soon as I heard his voice I screamed like a banshee and ran for the stage – poor Mum managed to grab the back of my shirt and go with me, narrowly avoiding being left in the dust.

We were right up the front. There was a barrier, a security guy and then my Main Man. We couldn’t have gotten any closer if we tried. Typical inhospitable Wellington it was hosing down with rain but, while the band stayed where it was safe and dry, Bowie was out on the apron prancing about, getting soaked and having to have towels regularly thrown to him. He dedicated Heroes to us for sticking it out in the rain, but he was the hero.

Mum snuck a disposable camera in and managed to sneak a couple of pics before we were stopped. That’s how I will always remember him, looking right at us with that spectacular smile

Bowie reality Welly


Just last year Mum and I took a girls trip to Melbourne to see the David Bowie Is exhibition and I am so glad we did. It was incredible, everything I hoped it would be. We had a wonderful time.

Mum Ziggy and I

Bowie bar 2

Bowie beep beep

Just yesterday (before I heard the news) I was blasting out his new album Blackstar, marveling at how he was still making such challenging, haunting yet gleeful music.  That he was still experimenting, still twisting and changing, still messing with our heads.

When my sister told me last night I couldn’t breathe, it was like all the air had been sucked out of the room. If it wasn’t for Paddy letting me blubber all over him like a trooper I probably would have had an anxiety attack then and there.

I had to get out of the boat, I put my headphones on and walked round the waterfront playing Blackstar and finding new meaning in the lyrics. I oscillated between feeling completely numb and sobbing to myself like an idiot.

But even then I wasn’t alone. He was singing to me. It sounds silly but it felt like he was holding my hand.

I didn’t want to write this, but I feel a bit better now I have. I am also really touched by the messages I have been getting from family and friends who know how big the part he played in my life really was. I love that my facebook and twitter feeds are filled with Bowie, I love that everyone has a song that is special to them and they are all different ones. Everyone has a different place and a time where he really spoke to them and that makes me smile.

This isn’t goodbye Mr Bowie, Mr Stardust, Mr Jones. You will continue to be the soundtrack to me life and so many others. You have shaped who I am and that is never going to change.

You left the world on a spectacular note, you played us right to the end you clever boy. Keep on creating wherever you are, you’ll keep on inspiring down here.

‘This way or no way
You know I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now, ain’t that just like me?’ 



Monster Weather Pattern! Horror Summer! The Godzilla Cthulu Sauron El Nino of 2015!- I’ve been putting off blogging about this because I haven’t wanted to jinx anything, but there appears to be no escaping this behemoth, and the accompanying headlines.

The Listener not helping my neurosis

The Listener not helping my neurosis

I feel a bit selfish worrying about this. I’m not a drought stricken farmer or an islander waiting to get walloped – but the El Nino (or El No No as I have dubbed it) is certainly putting a spanner in our works.

Next year is supposed to be the year we climb aboard Wildflower and head out into the wild blue again. It’s the excited note I ended my book on, it’s what the next book (which I have already started writing) will be about – and there’s a good chance it might be put on hold.

Even though we won’t be leaving until mid year, we have to make a call by February so we can wrap up jobs, sort out my flat and get the boat ready. If Godzilla Cthulu Sauron is still lurking about by then, then the answer will be no.

We seem to attract annoying weather patterns. On our last trip we struck El No No’s opposite, a La Nina. The biggest problem with that though was a lack of wind, meaning we ended up spending much more than we had planned on diesel.

El No No goes to the other extreme. It is possible to sail in one, but the winds are stronger – strong enough to change things from ‘rather uncomfortable’ to ‘really bloody uncomfortable’. Ever since our wretched passage to Tonga Paddy has been trying to convince me that open water sailing can actually be quite pleasant. El No No seems to want to make a liar of him.

The other thing an El Nino can do is mess with the direction of the trade winds. Again, you can sail in this – you just need to change your angle, but the problems lie when you reach your destination. The majority of the anchorages in the islands are set up to be sheltered from the trade winds, if the winds start blowing in the opposite direction then shelter is much harder to come by and you are likely to be spending a lot of your time in bouncy, uncomfortable spots. Since we’re not complete gluttons for punishment, this doesn’t really appeal.

Of course it could have all blown over by the time we are ready to leave, but the problem is it is impossible to know. There’s so much to organise, we should be organising it now, but its hard to know when to invest the energy. I’m nervous as all get out anyway and don’t feel like I am ready yet, but committing to getting ready is only partially possible when we can’t commit to the fact we are going.

It lacks the adventure and sense of achievement but it really is so much easier to plan a trip when you are just climbing aboard a plane. As Paddy says, nothing goes to windward like a 747.

Our last trip was the big one for Paddy, he was able to prove that he and his boat were tough enough to make it round the South Pacific. This time we don’t have anything to prove, we know we can do it. This time we are going to take our time to enjoy it, to spend more time in places we like with people we like. I’m afraid I’m not up for the whole ‘heroic suffering’ thing.

I feel like a real spoil sport stressing out about all this, but Paddy told me the other night that the aim of the whole exercise was to enjoy it. He said he was prepared to wait until the conditions (and the neurotic crew) were ready – and that is a huge relief to me.

If feel like a bit of a fraud. I’ve told the world the next adventure will be 2016, but I honestly don’t know.

It’s really hard to keep your head in anything when you don’t know. I have my OCD under control but I still have a few hangovers. I want to know what is happening, when it is going to happen and how, then I can plan and get it sorted in my head. This limbo situation is the worst kind of torture for a control freak like me!

So I will be keeping a close eye on El No No and I’ll keep you guys updated closer to crunch time. In the meantime a few less Godzillas in the headlines would be much appreciated!






Fuck. Drugs. Sex.

If the above upsets or offends you, you can stop reading, you have that right – a right that has been taken away from a bunch of young Kiwis who may want to read a book called Into the River .

For non-New Zealand readers, the book – an award-winning novel aimed at young adults – is at the center of an embarrassing furore after being removed from the shelves following a complaint by conservative lobby group Family First. The group is concerned about some of the book’s content, including drug taking, language and sexual themes.

While it hasn’t been officially ‘banned’ as such, at the moment it is illegal to buy it, sell it or loan it to one of your mates until a classification decision is made on it. In this case they are looking for an age restriction.

I’m not a huge bandwagon jumper, but I am on this one boots and all – and not just because I love books and am a writer myself.

Civil disobedience through silent reading - a protest reading of Into the River held in Wellington

Civil disobedience through silent reading – a protest reading of Into the River held in Wellington

Firstly, encouraging young people to read is a huge thing. It helps them learn about themselves, empathise with others and start thinking about their place in the world. If we can’t give our young people enough respect to make their own decisions about reading and learn for themselves what works for them and what doesn’t, that says a lot more about us than it does about them.

And how dumb do we think these kids actually are? Do people really think that they would never have thought about having sex or taking drugs if they hadn’t read about it in a book? What about the TV shows and films they are bombarded with? What about life? You can’t ban that.

All Family First is going to achieve is to make a book many kids had probably never heard of seem that much more attractive.

When I was in primary school a ‘helpful’ librarian wouldn’t let me take Anne of Avonlea from the school library because it had ‘adult themes’ – so I turned around and got it out of the local library instead.

The same librarian blocked me from taking out the Lord of the Rings trilogy because it was deemed too ‘difficult’. We had a ‘five finger word test’ where if you got more than five words wrong reading a passage aloud, you weren’t allowed to take that book out. (It was the 80s, they had some strange ideas.) And being Tolkien of course I had pronunciation problems and failed miserably. In the end I borrowed a copy from one of my Mum’s friends – gleefully announcing which page I was up to at silent reading time “page 1015 today Miss” (yes I was ‘that’ kid).

I pinched my Dad’s copy of Jaws (sorry Dad!) when I was about 10 or 11 because word around the school was that it had rude bits in it. I wasn’t particularly interested in the book but I got kudos from some of the standard 4 boys for having a copy. In the end I ended up secretly reading the whole thing and rather enjoyed it (and didn’t really understand the rude bits anyway).

Of course libraries and librarians have changed a lot now. They are still careful about what they lend to who but they are realists and their main goal is to encourage reading. As a school librarian said on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report yesterday there are books available in school libraries that have much dodgier content – The Game of Thrones series for a start – good luck getting that banned!

I have read the supposedly dodgy bits of Into the River and didn’t find them terribly shocking. I had read much worse myself as a teen. In fact one of the scenes refers to a girl ‘floating away on a Lilo of pleasure’ which just made me giggle and want to go for a swim.

Funnily enough, despite the mind polluting material I read as a teen, when it came to writing my own book I ended up censoring myself. I wrote a chapter about utterly losing it around half way to Tonga and originally used the phrase “I want off this effing boat!” My editor came back with a simple suggestion – “why don’t you just say fuck?”. I was a little taken aback, but he had a point. At that point of the story, I was really really upset. There was no point in beating about the bush. Because there weren’t a lot of swears in the book when they did appear it gave the scene that much more impact. We weren’t going for shock value. It was a way of illustrating that something was really scary or frustrating.

Today a group of like-minded book lovers (including the fabulous NZ writer Elizabeth Knox) demonstrated the ridiculousness of the situation by holding a silent reading of Into the River in protest outside Wellington’s Unity Books . The books had to be read outside the store or the shop could be considered to be ‘displaying’ them and risk a fine. Those tempted to let somebody read their copy over their shoulder were also technically in the gun for $10,000.

Kiwi writer Elizabeth Knox takes a stand against censorship

Kiwi writer Elizabeth Knox takes a stand against censorship

Brown paper packaging - Sarah and Steph from the NZ Book Council smuggle in their own banned books

Brown paper packaging – Sarah and Steph from the NZ Book Council smuggle in their own banned books

It was great to see such a good turn out on a grey Wellington day, fighting censorship and supporting a Kiwi writer.

Civil disobedience through reading is awesome.

Discovery through reading is awesome.

Reading is awesome.

And as far as I am concerned anyone who tries to fetter access to that is the enemy.


(Sorry for taking so long to post these on here – life and lurghies kind of got in the way.)

Last month I ended up sharing more information about myself over the radio than anyone could possibly want to know.

The Nutters Club is a late night show that runs from 11pm to 1am on Newstalk ZB. Hosted by comedian Mike King, it describes itself as being a show about “Nutters helping other Nutters live at peace with themselves and others, so that we can all lead meaningful lives.”

The show’s producer had read Which Way is Starboard Again? picked up on the mental health angle and invited me on to talk about living with obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety.

I was absolutely terrified, but the guys were great and made me feel as relaxed as I possibly could. Mike is a media personality who has been very open about his battle with mental health issues so he was a great to talk to and his co-host Malcolm Falconer, a really laid back and switched on psychologist, helped chill me out before and during the show.

Malcolm’s website psychd.co.nz has links to all sorts of useful and interesting stuff.

Nutters - Mike King and I

Nutters – Mike King and I

Once I got over the ums and the nervous giggling I think I did alright – although I did end up calling Paddy an old bastard on national radio. Mike kept talking about Starboard being the story of ‘a young woman meeting a young man with a boat’ – after about the 3rd reference I blurted out ‘actually, he’s not that young!’ explaining that there is a bit of an age gap between us.  Poor Paddy! He says he still loves me.

So here’s part 1 – I’ll forgive them for misspelling my name, it’s all good publicity!

Nutters Club Part 1

And if you are still awake after that, here’s part two. One of the best things of the second part of the interview was an amazing lady who rang in. She was 48 years old and had only been diagnosed with OCD and anxiety at age 44. I can only imagine how difficult things had been for her for many years. She rang to thank me for speaking about living with anxiety. She said she still had a way to go but that listening to me sounding so confident gave her hope. Now I’m not the poster child for getting through these sort of things. I still have my moments and no doubt I will have more in the future – but it was an amazing feeling to be able to help at least one person see that there is light at the end of the tunnel

Nutters Club Part 2

One of the things some people who were listening to the show at the time (and I was really surprised at how many people actually are listening to the radio at that time on a Sunday night/morning) complained about were the ads, and I can definitely see how they would be irritating to listen to,  but I have now seen it from the other side and for me it was actually the opposite. I found the ads were an immense relief, because it gave me a breather from constant babbling.

Because the show finished so late they put me up in a hotel near Newstalk ZB and the suite came with a complimentary bottle of wine. I had a few hours to kill before go-time but tried my best to resist the urge to drink the nerves away – I figured turning up sozzled probably wouldn’t be a good look. In the end I caved and had one medicinal glass, then put the bottle out of sight. By the time I got back from the interview though I was completely wired. It was 2am and I was wide awake, so I poured myself another. Then I remembered my good friend and primo cook Janie (who I had stayed with the night before) had packed me off with chocolate brownies to help me make it through the night. So there I was at 2am on a Sunday sitting by myself in a hotel room, glass of wine in one hand and chocolate brownie in the other, partying like an author.

Disclaimer: I was in bed and fast asleep pretty much 10 minutes later – rock and roll!



The response from people who have read Which Way is Starboard Again? the book has been nothing short of amazing, but there are still a couple of reactions that I struggle with.

One is ‘you’re so brave’ and the other ‘I could never do that’

Firstly, I’m not brave. I’m terrified of everything – cars, loud noises, sudden movements, having to call strangers on the phone. I’m the biggest scaredy-cat out, I’m just really good at bluffing. Yes I did something that was pretty scary, but you know what? Most of the time I was doing it, I was pretty scared!

The second statement I can understand a bit more. If anyone had told me a few years ago that I would willingly spend days being tossed about the middle of the ocean in a tin tub rather than catch a plane to the tropics I would have told them to lay off the wacky backy.

The thing is you never know how you are going to react to a situation until it presents itself and you can be surprised at what you are actually prepared and are able to do. I highly suspect that given the same opportunity the people saying ‘I could never do that’ would do it, and do it well.

When I was at a low ebb Paddy would tell me that being brave wasn’t just about not being scared, it was about continuing to function despite being frightened, about not letting fear stop you. I didn’t feel particularly brave at the time, but I think there might be a grain of truth in that. There is definitely something rewarding about getting through the rough stuff and out the other side.

Funny thing is, the scariest part of it all for me wasn’t the crashing and the bashing and the splashing, it was afterwards. It was writing the book. It was talking about mental health.

I almost didn’t mention the Battle of the Brain, I was writing a humorous travel book after all, I didn’t want to bring the reader down. But gradually I realised that my anxiety was part of the story and part of me, and that leaving it out would have just been a lie.

Another reason I outed myself publicly was to let other people know that there is nothing wrong with being a highly functioning nutbar.

I said to myself, “if one 15-year-old me picks this up and realises they aren’t alone and that it will be okay, then this will be worth it.”

I got that confirmation at the weekend.

One of the great things about working for a teachers union is that you get to spend time with teachers and learn about the work they are doing to help guide the next generation through it all. I was chatting with a teacher who was reading parts of Starboard out to her Social Studies class and she told me they were really enjoying it.  Apparently they particularly liked the parts that I found the scariest to write – about being different, accepting that you are that way and being honest about who you are to yourself and others. Apparently they were having discussions about this. They were the 15-year-old me I had vainly hoped to reach and they were having the conversations I was too afraid to have when I was their age. If nothing else comes from this book other than that I am happy, I have succeeded.

And now I’m off to put my head in the lion’s mouth again. This weekend I am going to spend a couple of hours on the radio talking about being a fruitbat. I will be the guest on Newstalk ZB’s Nutters Club , hosted by Mike King.

Nutters logo

It’s a late night talk show that runs from about 11pm Sunday to 1am Monday where a comedian, a psychologist and a guest blather on and take calls about being a bit doolally. The premise of the show is  “Nutters helping other Nutters live at peace with themselves and others, so that we can all lead meaningful lives” – I like that, and hope I can do it justice and not become a nervous blithering idiot. Wish me luck!

Blagged from The Nutters Club facebook page

Blagged from The Nutters Club facebook page



(Now that the book excitement has settled a bit I can finally get around to finishing the blog about our Tasman Bay trip)

Sometimes you can scare the pants off yourself over things. They build up as big bogies in your mind and you freak yourself out over them, regardless of how much logic tells you they aren’t an issue.

Other times you don’t bat an eyelid at something and it comes to bite you on the bum.

Both those things happened on the way to Nelson.

Scary thing number 1 was Cyclone Pam, which was due to pass near New Zealand. Despite the fact that I was repeatedly assured it would come nowhere near where we were I managed to wind myself up about it.

I call it ‘getting the flutteries’ – not to belittle the anxiety, but to give it a little less power. “I’m having a fluttery” sounds a lot friendlier than “My heart is trying to eat its way out through my throat”  – and making it that little bit smaller, makes it a little easier to cope.

Sure enough, despite the flutteries, the worst thing that happened was we were held up for a few days in the Sounds – and that is something I am not going to complain about given what happened in Vanuatu.

The Ni-vans were some of the loveliest, most welcoming people we met in the islands and it was heartbreaking to see their homes and livelihoods destroyed. There are a lot of relief efforts and fundraising going on and I sincerely hope the support is getting to the people who need it most.

Waiting for Pam to blow over - Bay of Many Coves

Waiting for Pam to blow over – Bay of Many Coves

Scary thing number 2 was travelling through French Pass. French Pass (or Te Aumiti) is a narrow stretch of water with the dubious distinction of having the fastest tidal flows in New Zealand (up to 8 knots). Apparently when the tide changes the current can be strong enough to stun fish. Paddy tells a story about people dropping 44 gallon drums into the pass from D’Urville Island, just to watch them get sucked down and spat back out like sky rockets. If that’s not scary enough, it also has whirlpools. Yes, whirlpools.



This is why when travelling through the pass you have to get your timing absolutely perfect. You need to make sure you enter at slack tide when the current is at its weakest and that way you only get pushed about a little bit.

We’d done it before successfully, but that didn’t stop me freaking myself out over it. And, as with the cyclone, nothing happened. It was a little unnerving feeling 18 odd tonnes of steel being pushed about like a feather in the wind, but we crossed without incident.

Swirly, whirly French Pass

Swirly, whirly French Pass

And this was at slack tide!

And this was at slack tide!

The second part of this blog is brought to you (once again) by the Weather Forecasters Are Lying Bastards channel.

One thing I didn’t even think about freaking out over was the trip into Nelson. It would be a simple day sail and the weather forecast was for pretty much no wind at all.

At first that was exactly what happened. We got a bit of a headwind but it was still on an angle we could sail on. After a while the wind built up and we actually found ourselves sailing quite fast.

We were hooning about with our headsail until the headwind got a little too strong and eyeballing the water was making me a bit nervous.

We  took the sail down only to get a  mad case of the wobblies. What we hadn’t factored in before we left was that Nelson was a lot more tidal than Wellington. Tides can get up to four meters, so it was quite a bit of water we were pushing against.

Wildflower was rolling from side to side and I started to feel a little bit scared. Deep down I knew that we were safe and that we would get there eventually but it certainly wasn’t very much fun.

I tried to tell myself that people paid good money for this kind of experience at amusement parks, but it really wasn’t helping.

Paddy reminded me that we went through much worse on the way to Tonga and handled it – and that went on for days, not hours. That actually helped. I tried to remind myself I was a big brave lion and could handle this.

I did everything I needed to helping put the sails away and then – once we sussed out steering was going to be a one man job – braced myself at the bottom off the cockpit and tried not to spew.

It was a good chance to give my anxiety coping skills an airing. The problem with having any kind of disorder that flares up from time to time rather than being constant is that when you aren’t feeling awful, the last thing you want to do is think about feeling awful and so you tend to be a bit slack about practicing how to cope if the awful arises.

Before we went away on our trip I knew there was a chance of an attack of the flutteries so I sat down with the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook (one of the best anxiety books I have come across) and gave myself a crash refresher on breathing exercises, self-talk and visualisation.

One of the tricks is to visualise a calm, safe scene. I have two – one for summer and one for winter. In the summer one I am swimming in a calm bay. The water is tropical temperature and I have gills, so I can dive under the water and mooch around with tropical fishies without having to worry about running out of breath. In the winter one I am sitting by a fireplace, it is warm and toasty, I am safe and sheltered, I have a good book and a cat snuggled up with me. At that stage I went with the fireplace one.

It sounds a bit silly, but it does actually work.

My calm scene was broken repeatedly however by things crashing and smashing.

Because we’re a bit out of practice and weren’t expecting weather, we hadn’t really stowed everything away properly – which meant books, plates and cooking products went flying across the boat.

It made a lot of scary noises but the only real casualty was a full bottle of sesame oil which emptied itself all through the boat.

We managed to put the culprit – and other condiments – in the sink but the smelly genie was out of the bottle at that point, and I spent the rest of the rolly trip trying not to vomit while inhaling very strong sesame fumes.

I think I may have developed a temporary allergy – I didn’t end up losing my lunch but even the thought of sesame makes me feel a little delicate now.

All’s well that ends well though – we got into Nelson marina, my fabulous knot tying skills secured the fenders (buoys that act as boat bumpers) and we managed to berth the boat with just the two of us.

The Aftermath

The Aftermath

Rather apt sign on the door at Nelson Marina

Rather apt sign on the door at Nelson Marina

We spend a few days in Nelson as enforced rest for my sprained ankle. In Paddy’s words we were “waiting for Big Foot to have two regular sized feet”.

We moved from there to Torrent Bay in the Abel Tasman which was absolutely lovely. Even Gus the SpokesMuppet got a day at the beach. He discovered Fraggle Rock and irritated Paddy. Here are some photos.

Captain on the golden sands

Captain on the golden sands

Dance your cares away

Dance your cares away

Worries for another day

Worries for another day

Let the music play

Let the music play

Down in Fraggle Rock!

Down in Fraggle Rock!

View from Able Tasman walkway

View from Able Tasman walkway

We were very jealous of this dinghy - you can drive it right up onto the beach!

We were very jealous of this dinghy – you can drive it right up onto the beach!



Gus: Paddy, Hey Paddy! Whatcha doing Paddy? Paddy: Sigh

Gus: Paddy, Hey Paddy! Whatcha doing Paddy?
Paddy: Sigh…


The last couple of weeks have been an amazing, exciting, terrifying blur.

I nervously presented my book-baby to the world and so far the reaction has been really positive.

I even had one lovely reviewer describe it as a “Monty Python sketch come to life” (see lovely review here) which is more than I could ever ask for!

Of course being me, I wasn’t going to do anything by halves (or the easy way) – so instead of one terrifying book launch, I decided to have three.

The first launch was at Wellington’s Unity Books – which is an amazing independent book store and my local. Having a launch there was the pinnacle of book-geekdom as far as I was concerned so I was absolutely rapt when they agreed to do it.

The elation turned to terror when I suddenly realised that I had signed myself up for getting up in front of a group of people and talking about sailing, the book and mental health.

They billed the thing as an ‘event’ which made me even more nervous. It sounded like people were expecting a song and dance routine!

Lunchtime 'event' - complete with book boat and seamonster!

Lunchtime ‘event’ – complete with book boat and sea monster!

It’s rather ironic, given that my day job involves advising people on how to present themselves to the public and deal with the media, that I am terrified of public speaking (and don’t even get me started on media interviews) myself.

I’m the person behind the notepad, I do writing, not talking.

Despite my misgivings, launch number 1 went really well. Aided largely by the fact that I was standing behind a desk so people couldn’t see how much my knees were shaking

Proud Book Mummy

Proud Book Mummy

This is the face of fear

This is the face of fear

We had a great crowd of people (they even had to get more chairs!) including my lovely supportive workmates (who totally weren’t frog-marched over from our office across the road) family members who I hadn’t seen for years, friends and even a few random strangers. The guys at the book store told me afterwards that getting randoms to a first book launch is quite a good sign!

The real star of the show however was my dress. A fabulous cat in the hat number designed by Catherine at Caff10. She’s a Hamilton-based clothing designer who does really funky, really reasonable stuff. Check it out for yourself .

Cat in the hat frock - courtesy of Caff10

Cat in the hat frock – courtesy of Caff10

The Captain and I (he scrubs up alright doesn't he?

The Captain and I (he scrubs up alright doesn’t he?)

Kirtlan whanau represent!

Kirtlan whanau represent!

Signing my life away

Signing my life away

I read a chapter called I Want My Cat! and  got to sign lots of books for people, which was brilliant. Signing a copy of a book you wrote is the most amazing feeling which I am certain will never get old.

The folks at Unity were brilliant. They made me feel really welcome, helped calm my nerves and even did a really cool write-up afterwards which you can read here: 

The second book launch was a necessity. A boatie book had to have a celebration at a boatie place so I did a signing and talk at the Evans Bay Yacht Club.

When I first told people I was having a launch at a yacht club they thought it would be really snobby, all boat shoes and suits.

Evan’s Bay isn’t like that though. As well as a base for learning to sail it is a working boat yard, full of some of the most amazing, down to earth people I have ever met.

The whole thing was a much more relaxed affair (the two beers and a wine I had before doing the talk may have gone some way to settle my nerves too). I read different chapter called Floating Trailer Trash about how yachties looked out for each other and I think that went down pretty well. I also got to sport another lovely Caff10 dress – this time covered in cat faces with love heart eyes (yes there is a theme here…)

Note the nerve steadying wine

Note the nerve steadying wine

As the yachties asked questions, heckled Paddy and gossiped with my parents I felt more and more at home. Several came up to me afterwards to share boating stories and a couple even quietly pulled me aside to say they lived with anxiety too and thanked me for speaking out.

I left with a huge smile on my face thinking “these are my people.”

Dad and I (with fab Caff10 dress)

Dad and I (with fab Caff10 dress)

Book launch number three had been in the making since before I’d even finished the book. I was on a regular pilgrimage down to Oamaru (where I lived and worked for a few years at the Oamaru Mail) when I came across a store called Adventure Books. It’s a gorgeous shop that specialises in adventure and travel books and it has its very own indoor boat. I immediately decided I had to have a launch there.

The boat at Adventure Books

The boat at Adventure Books

A few Oamaru connections making a few inquiries later and it was all on. I even did an interview with the Oamaru Mail which felt very surreal I can tell you!

Oamaru Mail story

Oamaru Mail story


The plan was I would do a reading and a signing and take part in a ‘slide night’. It was the first time I had done my book spiel with pictures and I was a little nervous about how it would go, but I needn’t have worried. The shop was awesome, the crowd was awesome and having photos to talk to meant I could relax and ad-lib a bit more.

Lots of locals came up to chat and ask questions afterwards and it felt like a real success.


Bill from Adventure Books and I

Bill from Adventure Books and I

Old friends

Old friends

Another thing I got a kick out of was seeing my poster all around town, in cafes and shop windows and in the historic precinct. It felt pretty cool to be world-famous in Oamaru.


Nothing says you've made it like a poster in the historic precinct!

Nothing says you’ve made it like a poster in the historic precinct!

Next to World Book Day even!

Next to World Book Day even!

Of course when in Oamaru you have to do as Oamaruvians do – so here are a few random steampunk pictures

Steampunk HQ train skulls

Steampunk HQ train skulls

Infinity portal at Steampunk HQ

Infinity portal at Steampunk HQ

Steampunk HQ boat

Steampunk HQ boat

And another shot of the Infinity Portal because it's awesome!

And another shot of the Infinity Portal because it’s awesome!

So that has been my mad couple of weeks. Thanks so much to everyone who has been part of it – I can’t wait to see what comes next!


Whenever I think about being an author I feel like a giant fraud. Like any minute now someone is going to come tap me on the shoulder ask for my credentials and force me to admit I’m just pretending.

The packages that I arrived home to this afternoon however are forcing me to accept that this might not actually be the truth.

Two boxes with ‘Which Way is Starboard’ printed on the side and ‘author – Anna Kirtlan’ on the address label have made everything seem very, very real.

They're he-re!

They’re he-re!

It says so on the box!

It says so on the box!

I have a partly written blog on the sailing trip which I will put up, but just quickly in the meantime – here are the details of the book launch(es):

Firstly there’s a ‘lunchtime event’ at Unity Books. The word ‘event’ makes me a bit nervous. I hope they don’t expect me to sing and dance! What I will do is blah a bit, read a bit and sign stuff. If that sounds like your sort of thing, I would love to see you there!

Unity e-poster


For those of you who can’t make that, or would prefer something where there is booze, I am also having a shindig upstairs at the Evans Bay Yacht Club

Evans Bay Poster

There is also a trip down South planned with a launch at Oamaru’s Adventure Books during Anzac weekend – details and confirmed date to come in another blog.

So, it’s all on folks! I’m quietly terrified but very excited, will keep you posted.