Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Work before Play

Sculpture by the Sea in Sydney
The thing that frustrated me most about my interaction with Fiji Customs and Immigration was that nobody seemed willing to take charge of my situation and make a decision. If they had made the same decision a month earlier, I would have been able to do a bit more exploring of Vanua Levu, of the Lau group and other places on the eastern side of Fijis main island, but once I had the boat back round on the western side, at the Marina, my mood was such that I didnt fancy another trek back that way, so I had her returned to her Cyclone Pit and returned to New Zealand.

At that time, October, my friend Webb Chiles was in the Bay of Islands on his Moore 24, Gannet, after his epic journey across the Pacific over the preceding six months. The Ocean Cruising Club awarded him its Jester Medal for this  amazing journey, which I had been hoping might involve a stopover in Fiji but he went via Tonga instead. Our paths first crossed in 2010 when I was on Sapphire  in the Bay of Islands and he rowed past me heading back out to The Hawke of Tuonela, the predecessor to Gannet. He called out “Nice boat” and at the end of a brief conversation I shouted across the water “Which is yours?” and he pointed at the green hull of the Hawke. Straight away I knew it was Webb, having been a reader of his online Journal, an admirer of his exploits and his thoughts for a few years, but he was out of earshot. Some months later, after we had both been away and returned to Opua, I rowed to the Hawke and introduced myself. Luckily for me, Webb loves New Zealand and keeps coming back, and so whenever our paths cross we have a drink and a meal together. Since our last meeting, he had lost the sight in one eye to retinal detachment, and I had become partially blind in one as well, so he joked about being one eyed sailors and making seating arrangements at the table to accommodate the combined field defects. I said that despite my admiration of him, trying to go blind in one eye was not an example of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. Webb Chiles is one of a kind. Read his wonderful journal here.

The Wooden Boats

I have mostly been working in Tasmania, where on one of my weekends off I visited the bi-annual Wooden Boat Festival. Wooden boats are my favourite thing on water, and the festival was terrific. So many beautiful yachts, so many interesting people, such great food and beers and wine...I also visited Hobart over the New Year weekend when all the yachts were still alongside after racing in the famous  Sydney to Hobart race. An 80 year old timber boat called Maluka , built of famous Tasmanian Huon Pine, and the smallest boat in the fleet was close to being the Handicap winner for much of the race but couldn’t quite pull it off. I haven’t the talent to look after a wooden yacht properly and was always advised to get a fibreglass one. 
Maluka showed it to the Big Boys

S2H Yachts

Before Tasmania I worked in Rockhampton, Queensland for a few weeks as well. Recently, that City was devastated by a Cyclone, and another has recently wreaked havoc in Vanuatu, which is where I will be sailing to in June or July. TV footage of Port Vila in the aftermath never failed to show a great tangled mess of wrecked yachts pushed up against a breakwater - so I don’t plan to be leaving Sapphire there over the next Cyclone season but at the moment I haven’t made up my mind where I will. Sapphire survived a Cyclone while in the Pit in Fiji a couple of years ago, but I watched Cyclone Pam closely, wondering if she might veer across to Fiji but sadly for Vanuatu, she didnt.

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