Which way is starboard again?
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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.


So, on the day we were finally ready to cast off for the South Island, just minutes before we were due to motor out to the diesel dock, this happened.

Clumsy Anna

Clumsy Anna

I am absolutely disgusted with myself. I make it all the way around the South Pacific with only a few bruises, and I manage to sprain my ankle filling up the water tank (which I am beginning to think has it in for me) while we are still in the marina.

I had just filled one tank and was trying to stretch the hose across the boat to the other when I slipped on a metal railing and splat – I’m on my arse with water spraying everywhere.

Paddy knew it was a proper injury, rather than one of my usual trips or stubs, because I went quiet. My usual bumps and bruises tend to be accompanied by loud and creative cursing.

“A you alright?” he asked.


(The other thing I am when I’m hurt is honest, no time for niceties.)

“Ankle,” I managed to splutter, before lapsing into angry silence – and perhaps a little shock.

Angry because we were so close to getting away and this time it was my clumsiness holding us up.

It didn’t help that there was an audience either. One of our marina neighbours had popped over for a chat about where we were going. I was gossiping with him and not really paying attention when it happened.

When you are at sea you carefully measure each step you take and line up each hand hold, but when you are in familiar surroundings in the marina you tend to get cocky, which is exactly what I did.

Our neighbour was great. Once he and Paddy ascertained there was nothing broken and helped me hobble back to the cockpit to secure a pack of frozen mixed veggies, he finished filling the water tanks for me and gave us a hand at the diesel dock.

I wasn’t going to let an ankle sprain stop me from going on this trip, not after two weeks of boat maintenance. So I sat up on deck with my Watties’ stirfry and tried to work out what I could still do with both arms and one foot (quite a bit actually it turns out.)

To add insult to injury there was, of course, an audience at the diesel dock. It’s located right outside a couple of waterfront cafes and provides an excellent yachtie wildlife show for the latte sippers.

Other than the pitying looks the thing that annoyed me the most was that after my weeks of rope throwing practise, Paddy ended up lassoing the bollard at the dock.

I’d had this vision of myself in my sailing gear executing the move like a pro, drawing admiring gazes from the coffee crowd. Instead I was parked up on the back of the boat with my ankle in the air and the Skipper doing everything.

The power of Watties

The power of Watties

An audience

An audience

Watching them watching us

Watching them watching us

Once we got underway the trip was actually pretty uneventful. There was no wind at all and Cook Strait was flat and still as glass. I managed to do everything I needed to rope-pulling wise from the cockpit and even managed a few hopping missions below deck.

Paddy was incredibly supportive, calling me Big Foot and Sasquatch and repeatedly offering to suture my ankle (which I repeatedly declined).

Between the rapidly melting veggies and pain killers my ankle wasn’t hurting that much and the swelling started to go down so I figured it wasn’t a really bad sprain. What I was really looking forward to was getting to our spot in Erie Bay and soaking my foot in the water.

Straight after anchoring up that’s exactly what I did and it was marvelous. Like sticking your foot in a giant liquid icepack.

The longer my foot was in the water the warmer it felt so I decided to carefully lower myself in (“you have to be cognizant of the fact you are bung” was Paddy’s helpful advice) and just swim with my arms.

It was a bit fresh at first but after a while it was lovely. I invented the double-armed, one-legged bumble-stroke and managed to flail my way to shore.

Lying back on the beach looking over at Wildflower sitting peacefully in the bay’s evening light made it all worthwhile. Just me, the crickets and some yobbo playing Hello Sailor on the boat’s stereo. It was utterly perfect.

Erie Bay being perfet

Erie Bay being perfect

Spot where the Double Armed One Legged Bumble Stroke was invented

Spot where the Double Armed One Legged Bumble Stroke was invented

The bumble-swim had an amazing effect on my ankle too, being in the cool water for so long seemed to work wonders and a bit of enforced rest and some Voltaren later I am now able to put weight on it. The swelling has gone down now and it’s just a bit itchy bruise, which is a good sign it’s healing.

Colouring up

Colouring up

Also, the stew Paddy made with the defrosted veggies was lovely!

Ankle veggie stew/soup (or stewp) Yum!

Ankle veggie stew/soup (or stewp) Yum!



One of the things I have learned from sailing is that you can’t do it to a deadline.

Yet every time we try to get ready for a trip, I find myself getting pissed off at that very fact.

Back when I was blissfully ignorant of the ways of sailing, I assumed that if you had a boat, and you wanted to take it somewhere all you needed to was untie it and go.

I am afraid I am here to report that it’s just not that damned simple.

Paddy and I have both taken this month off to take Wildflower for a trip across Tasman Bay to Nelson.

Preparation for this started last month, on Valentines Day to precise, when I spent an incredible romantic weekend cleaning the boat’s bum.

This necessitated hauling her out of the water and putting her up on blocks.

Strops ready to haul the old girl up

Strops ready to haul the old girl up





Up on blocks

Up on blocks


Wildflower's bum

Wildflower’s bum

Making sure we're secure

Making sure  we’re secure

I was quite taken with the colour of the mallet used to hammer in the cradle legs!

I was quite taken with the colour of the mallet used to hammer in the cradle legs!

Securing the 'stairs'

Securing the ‘stairs’

Once properly secured I got to spend the day with my beloved covered in barnacles and stale seaweed.  Being smaller and bendier than Paddy I get all the fun jobs like lying under the boat scraping goop off its rear and painting antifoul on the bottom.

As usual I ended up getting more paint on myself than the boat. I also learned a valuable lesson. If you accidentally drop one of your headphones in a puddle of antifoul without realising then get back on with listening to your music you end up looking like you are bleeding from the ear. This necessitates a good scrubbing with solvent and gets you funny looks in the supermarket.


Bum scraping prep

Bum scraping prep

Nothing says 'romantic valentines day' like scraping slime off a propellor

Nothing says ‘romantic valentines day’ like scraping slime off a propeller

The 'after' shot

The ‘after’ shot

One of the main reasons for this trip is practice for the next Big One (Fiji next year). We have a lot of new systems on the boat designed to make life on Wildflower easier, safer, cheaper and potentially a little bit faster and the plan is to test them out.

This has meant the week from hell  hanging, wiring, hauling and installing all the things we haven’t had the chance to while we’ve both been working full-time.

To make things a bit cheaper – Paddy is installing a couple of alternative power sources. Solar panels and wind generators (yes, plural. Paddy’s logic is if some is good more must be better. This is the logic that has also led to my aching arms after helping winch up our massive new sails). Wiring up the wind generators has been a massive, fiddly and time consuming job for Paddy, but hopefully it will be worth it. Our last wind generator blew itself to bits in Tonga so a test run is definitely in order!

Hooking up the wind generators

Hooking up the wind generators

The next step is hauling all the stuff we don’t need off the boat and putting on the things we we do (dinghy, life raft supplies etc) which can be a bit of a frustrating process.I am definitely looking forward to not tripping over drills and toolboxes every time I need to go to the loo.

There's a boat under all this somewhere!

There’s a boat under all this somewhere!

And then there is the weather. One of the most important things when you want to go sailing is for the wind to blow from the right direction – in this case we are after a nice gentle Southerly. So of course, pretty much as soon as we took leave from work the weather turned 50 shades of crap. That was fine while we had lots of prep work to do, but lately (if you believe the weather forecasters) we are being faced with either too much wind or none at all. Case in point today we were supposed to be hit with a 30 knot Southerly. I didn’t see it, did you?

I could start getting despondent but what would be the point? We will get away eventually and in the meantime we will be able to get a bit of practice with the new toys out on the harbour. One of those new toys is a much longer boom. Added to give us extra sail area in the hope that we will move a bit faster in lighter conditions. Wildflower is great in Wellington conditions because she is solid and stable and build for strong winds. Give her anything less than 15 knots however and she just sits there going ‘nope, not gonna move.’ We munched through a lot of diesel in the islands.

The new boom scares me. There’s more of it to knock you on the head with and it’s too damned high. The old boom used to knock on the roof of the pilot house occasionally, so Paddy, in his wisdom, decided to raise the new one a couple of inches. This wouldn’t be a problem for most people, but I’m a sea ‘Munchkin’ dammit. I didn’t even make it to five foot (and have now accepted that 34 is too late for a growth spurt). Paddy’s ‘couple of extra inches’ mean I need a kiddie stool to help pull the sail down. In short (see what I did there?) I’m going to need the practice!

And then there's the weather

Was quite taken with the striking contrast in water colour here. The grungy, churned up water is the shallow stuff and the dark blue the deeper.

The main frustration I am finding with all of this is actually me. It’s been a while and the terminology has completely gone. I’m finding myself still at the level where ‘genoa halyard’ and ‘main sheet’ are just ‘that red rope’ or ‘the blue and white one’. Who am I kidding pretending I know anything about sailing?

‘But wait. Didn’t you just write a book about sailing?’, you might ask.

Well, yes and no. It’s more of a book about not knowing how to sail and making it up as I go along. I’m still making it up.

At the same time though, there is stuff that’s coming back. Silly things like the fierce surge of pride you get when you tie off a rope (sheet, whatever..) with a figure eight and a half hitch without thinking about it. That you can still tie a bowline or a stopper not without really trying (though my clove hitches still needed a bit of practice!)

I have also been practicing throwing a rope down my hallway and lassooing the exercycle – to avoid some of the embarrassment caused by my crap throwing skills in the past.

Those of you who actually sail will be rolling your eyes, but you honestly don’t realise quite how bumbly I am . Those of you who do know how bumbly I am are probably quietly terrified right now. In fact, just this morning a friend of mine  said ‘If there was a high school award for Least Likely to Become a Sailor, I think you would have won it.’

Hopefully we will be on our way soon and in the least bumbly way possible.

And when we get back it will be straight into book stuff. Which Way is Starboard Again? The book hits the stores on April 1. There will be a launch/signing at Unity Books at midday April 15 and a party/signing at the Evans Bay Yacht Club on the evening of the 17th (details to be confirmed)

I think I’m more nervous about that than the upcoming sail!

Either way -wish me luck!

My first review - thanks Boating NZ!

My first review – thanks Boating NZ! (Not sure about the whole ‘set off with her man’ bit, but Paddy’s pleased to be introduced as ‘an experienced sailor’!



Paddy is in Australia.

He flew out on the red-eye and had to get up at 4am to check in at the airport.

I took pity on him and offered to pop by the boat this afternoon and do the pile of dishes I knew was sitting there.

I turn on the tap  ‘splutter, splurt, splat’ – no water.

No problem, time to fill the water tanks – I hop off the boat, grab the hose, chuck it in the tank and get on with the job.

Am washing away when suddenly ‘woosh, gush, splash!’- water is bursting in through the pantry and pouring into the boat.

Top tip – water usually belongs on the outside of a boat, not blasting in through the kitchen.

I drop everything, leap off the boat and turn the hose off. Rush back in and mercifully there’s no more water coming in to the boat. The bilge alarm – which goes off when there’s water draining out of the boat – is however going bananas, so we might not be out of the woods yet.

Paddy is in Australia.

I take a deep breath, hands shaking a bit – but can’t lose it now.

I figure there’s no immediate danger as the boat isn’t listing and there’s no more water coming in. The alarm is screeching because it is doing what it is meant to, draining the excess water out to sea, but I can’t honestly say I know everything is actually okay.

Paddy is in Australia.

Frazzled brain remembers he left an Aussie celphone number. I call it. A nice young woman answers. She is most definitely not Paddy.

Must have put the number in wrong. I go through my contacts, call Paddy’s sister, babble a million miles a minute.

She calmly details a number of ways she will try to get hold of Paddy.

Alarm is still screeching. Time to get the cavalry in. I leave Rachel to go on a Paddy hunt while I look for someone to help.

Hands shaking a bit. Can’t find my keys to unlock the pier gate. Another deep breath. No time for this – chill out woman!

It’s getting darker now and there are no obvious lights on any of the boats on our pier. I run down the dock until I see a boat with lights on and bang on the side.

Yes I was doing the damsel in distress thing, but I honestly didn’t know if the boat was okay. I would rather make a bit of a dick of myself than not have done everything possible and have our house sink.

I was reasonably confident this would not be the case because there didn’t seem to be any more water coming in the boat, but I wanted all my bases covered.

At this point I feared we had a split in our water tank. Not life threatening, but a big, messy job to fix – just as we had taken leave and were planning to actually take the boat away on a trip.

The cavalry came in the form of a lovely chap called John, from a launch with the serendipitous name of Friendship. A professional skipper, he was calm and relaxed with me – everything I needed right then.

Deducing no immediate danger, John set about looking for the leak while I tried to get hold of Paddy again.

Turned out I had dyslexiced the number when I put it into the phone. A quick fix up and I manage to get through. At this point Rachel has reached him as well. It was good to know I had a team backing me.

I tell Paddy “there’s no need to panic but…” I hear my own voice and nearly fall over. Me telling someone else not to panic? What topsy-turvy world is this!

Paddy of course is calm and zen and we agree I will call him back once we have found the root of the problem.

Mercifully it was not a split water tank.

It turned out the seal on the screw top that closes the tank had stretched to buggery and the water pressure just popped it off, spewing a bunch of water into the bilge. It will be as simple as going into a shop and buying a new one.

The alarm cheerfully honking away in the background was doing exactly what it was meant to as the water drained out (it’s still piping up on occasion). All is as well as it can be.

John kept to the yachtie code – politely leaving me to lick my wounds in the knowledge that next time he could be the one needing help. I owe that man a beer.

I am overnighting on the boat just in case, but other than the odd honk from the alarm all seems fine.

Yes I probably could have found the source of the leak myself eventually, but I would rather have someone on board who could have helped if the situation was worse than we thought.

Also, I did all this without having a screaming panic attack.

That is no small thing.

I live with the kind of anxiety disorder that, on a bad day, can have me leaping out of my skin if someone beeps their car horn.

Yes, my heart rate got up and I talked really fast, but I made myself understood and got the job done.

I am not curled up in a foetal ball gasping for air.

I haven’t kicked this thing yet – but I am feeling calm and the boat seems to be fine.

This is something to celebrate.



For those of you who haven’t been following my excited Twitter and Facebook squawking – the author’s copy of Which Way is Starboard Again? has finally arrived.

In the flesh

In the flesh


It’s gorgeous! It has chapters and pictures and pages and an ISBN number and, and, it’s an actual book! I can’t stop staring at it and I am carting about in my handbag everywhere I go like some kind of tragic proud book mummy.





It’s publication date isn’t actually until April 1 (April Fools!) so this copy is just a part of a small run to go out to journalists and the like.

The April Fools publication date is actually kind of apt (though I can assure it won’t turn into a whoopee cushion if you buy it!)

You see it still feels like a bit of a trick. I’m holding this thing in my hands, flicking through the pages and I still can’t quite believe it’s there.

When my publisher sent me the author’s copy she said “So do you feel like a real author now?” and the honest answer is actually, “no, I don’t”.

I feel like a fake author. Like somehow this whole process of getting a book deal and getting published was actually some kind of fluke and that any day now people will realise I Don’t Actually Know What I’m Doing.

Deep down I know that’s a load of rubbish but I still feel like an utter fraud. Like someone playing pretend at being a writer.

Despite the fact I’m loud and bolshy and not exactly shy, I’m really nervous about promoting this thing. Most probably wouldn’t believe it, but I am much better at writing about myself than talking about myself. Essentially this is a book about me and my experiences, but I would much rather someone else do the talking.

I’m used to being the person behind the notepad and camera or the person advising others how to work with those people. Now I have a publicist writing press releases for me.

I struggled with that for a bit since I do that for a living and I did have to nix the line “an inspirational tale of love, travel and overcoming the odds” (after Paddy and I spent a good while laughing). But at the end of the day I figure I’m never going to like something someone else writes about me so I might as well just go with it.

To help get over my self promotion fears I have also employed an unofficial ‘spokesMuppet’ (though I haven’t quite told the publicist about him yet…)

Paddy got me the best Christmas present ever last year (with a little bit of suggestion from myself) – a Muppet Whatnot (basically a design-your-own Muppet) a proper Jim Henson number.

Gus Transom Muppet (Gus as a nod to my asparaGus farming roots and Transom being the arse end of a boat, as well as sounding kind of fancy) is a devilishly handsome orange tropical Muppet. He has a stylish Hawaiian shirt, fabulous fuchsia hair and makes everyone around him smile.

Gus Transom Muppet

Gus Transom Muppet



On the road

I love the fact that even people who profess to hate puppets will answer him rather than me when he speaks, looking straight into his big googly eyes. With that kind of people power I figure he’d be a great spokesMuppet for the book so I have helped him set up his own Twitter account.



So if you are on Twitter then feel free to follow @GusTheMuppet (or if Muppets aren’t your thing you can follow me on @SeaMunchkin). I have also set up a bit of a Facebook promo page for those on there https://www.facebook.com/whichwayisstarboardagain?

He stole it from my handbag

He stole it from my handbag

Mup reviewer

Mup reviewer

So from Gus and Me and our brand new book – happy 2015, we’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a good one!

Gus and I


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