Friday, 16 June 2017

Some of my drawings from yesteryear.

For a short time in the mid 1990's I was a volunteer at the National Maritime Museum in Auckland.

This is a drawing of the Tikopian canoe in the collection. I designed a low cost support system for the waka on display.
There is a large and beautiful collection of Pacifica waka & waka models that the public never see. It was my wish to display them. Here are some of my sketches.

It's been a while.

I've been locked in a very private battle with a personal health condition. Lately my focus has been on my wife, my family, my friends, my home and my work.

Recently my wife and I went away on a weekend break to a small east coast harbour town in Northland NZ called Mangonui ("big shark" in the Maori language) The harbour was given this name  after the story of one of the first voyaging canoes to visit this harbour 1000 years ago. it is said that this canoe was guided into the harbour entrance by a very large shark.,

As we settled into our harbour side accommodation I casually picked up a Boating New Zealand Magazine off the coffee table and began to flick through the pages. This was the May 2016 edition.

At the index page I noticed an article with a photograph of one of my friend Gary Dierking's Wa'apa designs. I went to page 40 and read this article.

I appreciate your credit and your friendship Gary!

"Home grown hydrodynamics" Written by Lindsay Wright. Reproduced with permission of the Author.

Wa'apa on Coromandel harbour.

Image result for gary dierking
Designer/builder Gary Dierking.

Home grown hydrodynamics
       It’s not only oysters that flourish in Gary Dierking and Rose Turners’ tidal Coromandel neighbourhood.
   There’s also a flow of boats and boating ideas, some drawn from millennia of seafaring wisdom, that emanate from their waterfront property.
   In the corrugated iron shed adjoining their house, Gary Dierking designs, builds and experiments with the range of proas which has built him a worldwide fan base.
     Strange surroundings for a farm boy brought up in Wisconsin, USA – but one, near the heart of Oceania, that has become his turangawaewae (place to stand).
  “I started playing with model boats on the farm pond when I was about eight years old,” he recalls quietly. ”I couldn’t get them to sail properly – so I built some plywood outriggers and realised that they sailed a lot better – and steered more directly.”
     He did what many boat crazy boys from inland USA do – joined the coastguard – and was posted to Wake Island in the North Pacific, where he worked in electronics and avionics. 
   “I saw the locals zipping around in their traditional vessels and that started my deep admiration of Oceania’s seafaring traditions. These people explored one third of the globe in boats that were tied together with string. “
    That realisation led Dierking’s questing mind to start wondering whether traditional Oceanic ideas still made sense – and could still be used to fast boats that were seaworthy and fun to sail, yet cheap and easy to build.
    “To people stuck in our Western world mindset, proas look flimsy and unstable….but they are the vessels that made the ancient peoples’ voyaging possible. One reason the proa succeeded, with the ama (outrigger) to windward, are low stresses from the rig  which made them good for building with low tech materials.” 
     Dierking talked to island people and read widely about Oceania navigation and boat building – then demobbed from the USCG and returned to San Francisco  where he contacted multihull designer Jim Brown for plans to build one of his plywood Searunner 37 {11.3m) designs.
   Once the boat, Bird of Dawning, was finished Dierking set sail for Saipan, in the Marianas Islands, where he began work as a boatbuilder.
   A handful of traditional navigators still lived in the islands of the west Pacific and Dierking once again immersed himself in their knowhow and that of local boatbuilders. ”Some big waka were still making interisland passages, ”he explained. “ I realised that these people weren’t just travelling in a survival module in a hostile environment – the ocean – like we do. They lived on the ocean – they belonged there…and had done for generations.”
   After 10 years in Saipan, he was offered a job with Hawaiian high speed multihull guru, Rudy Choy and did four years applying the benefits of modern technology to rapid racing catamarans. “ In the 1980’s, Rudy built a 60 foot (18.3m) cat to beat the Transpac race record from San Francisco to Hawaii. She had alloy cross beams which cracked under the strain – so we built composite beams out of spruce, birch and plywood which were lighter and stronger. The next race the beams held up and the boat, Aikane X-5, took the record.”
    “But I didn’t get to sail on the boat, ” he sighs ruefully, “they bought in a bunch of rock stars for that.”
     Meanwhile,  Rose  was yearning for her home town, Coromandel  so, in 1990, the couple followed the course of Kupe south to Aotearoa.
      Dierking soon settled in his new hometown, working as a boat builder on commercial boats tied to the main wharf and developing ideas and designs for better boats.
    His proa design portfolio grew – I was trying to develop a new way of going cruising – you sail places in your big boat then, in a couple of weeks and for a few hundred dollars, you can build a proa on the beach and go exploring, to places you can’t go with the big boat,” he explained.
    The Dierkings built their own proa on the beach in Savusavu, Fiji (“they have good marine plywood there and Fijian kauri for structural timbers – all we took was glue, nails and a two horsepower outboard”) .   
    The couple left that proa in Savusavu for fishing, exploring and skimming over the reef during their regular visits.
   About 500 sets of  Dierking’s plans have been sold for proa projects in Canada, the US, Mexico, Brazil, UK, France Spain, Poland, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
    “The sort of people who build proas aren’t the kind who aren’t likely to follow plans – they would all have had their own ideas – so I doubt whether there’s two boats the same,” he laughed. One boat was built with a traditional Brazilian rig.
   One Kiwi builder finished his proa then, within a week or two, sailed over 200 nm around the Hauraki Gulf in her.
   Dierking has designed a range of boats, both tacking and shunting (going about by swapping the rudder and the tack of the sail from one end of the waka to another) designs inspired by Oceanic tradition with a dollop of modern technology. Depending on the rig, they sail at 12 – 13 knots and tack through 90 degrees.
   Proa people make contact through his website, his book: Building Outrigger Sailing Canoes, or word of mouth. A friend emailed recently to say a pdf of the book was available on an Iraqi boating website. “It’s on a Russian website too – that’s technology for you,” he grinned.
    Other ideas that have hatched from Dierking’s shed are an 18 foot (5.5m) strip planked macoracarpa steam launch , several experimental asymmetric hulls and Tipairua, a 25 foot (7.6m) voyager for the Te Toki Voyaging Trust in Kawhia.
   Just above the tideline is an old Lightning catamaran with an elevated deck attached. “It does 13 knots with a nine horsepower outboard,” he says, “but it just dies with more than two people aboard, so I’m going to rebuild the hulls this winter with more volume – more buoyancy.”
 Spidery model waka (variously called vaka, Va ‘a, Vava depending on the island of origin) from  Pacific countries are on display throughout their house and Dierking delights in pointing out different hull forms and shapes, explaining the conditions and roles they were developed for.
  “I took one of my proa surfing at Whangamata – just to see what happened, ”he smiled. “Well….we got rolled… pitchpoled… swamped and dumped. But the boat survived. That convinced me that lashing is the way to go – a bolted and screwed boat would likely have wrenched itself to pieces.”
    Russell Brown, the son of Jim Brown who designed Dierking’s Searunner trimaran, stopped in New Zealand during a trans Pacific cruise in JZerro – his 36 foot (11m) proa but was disappointed by many Kiwis scathing reaction to his boat.
   “People just don’t understand proa….they look flimsy and complicated. You have to wrap your head around a completely new way of thinking. People just can’t think beyond having a big hunk of lead bolted underneath their boat,” he says.
    Dierking shares credit for some of his ideas with Northland proa sailor/builder Harmen Hielkema. “He’s been sailing proas since he was 18 – there’s not much he doesn’t know.”
    More ideas came from the 2009 New Zealand Proa Congress at Whangaparaoa. “Almost every proa in the country was there ….designed and built by aviation engineers, doctors, designers….what a great meeting of minds.”
    Kupe, or any of the great Pacific navigators, would have felt right at home.  

Recommended reading:  We, the Navigators by Dr David Lewis; Canoes of Oceania by A.C.Haddon and James Hornell; The Last Navigator by Stephen D. Thomas.   

Friday, 19 February 2016

Toroa pics by Russ Brown Auckland 2003

These are some low res attempts to capture colour slides by basic home made clip to camera shot.

I spent several days on the water with Russ Brown during his visit to NZ in 2003.

We met entirely by chance, If there is such a thing as chance!.

One day I had packed up Toroa from a great day's sail at Devonport in Auckland. Julie and I were driving with Toroa packed up on his very conspicuous trailer. Driving along the harbour front we passed the Devonport Yacht Club when, to my complete astonishment, I saw Jzerro anchored near the club jetty.

I stopped; quickly parked the car, much to the surprise of of my passenger, ran to the club house and burst in on a meeting in the bar. I asked breathlessly if anyone knew where the owner of the proa was. One bemused member replied, "What's a proa?". I pointed at Jzerro and said "that is" before turning and running back out of the club room and back to the car. As I got back in and began to pull into the traffic again I spotted a figure in the distance, riding towards us on a fold up bicycle, dressed in an old raincoat (it was a clear blue sky day).

As we approached each other the cycle rider pulled up to my open window and asked "are your Harmen Hielkema?" I replied, .."you must be Russ Brown!" I re parked the car, I climbed out of the driver seat and walked up to Russ and we shook hands. "I've been looking forward to meeting you though I never expected a meeting quite like this!"

Russ came to our place for dinner and we found much in common. I was surprised at how much he knew about my work with Mike Toy. I made arrangements for them to meet. It was a very memorable visit for me, I spent time on Jzerro, Russ spent time with me on Toroa. Russ generously took an entire day to photograph Toroa sailing. He selflessly gave me the negatives from his camera without hesitation.

Russ is definitely a brother. It is a pity that our lives are spent so far apart, his work was my work, we were developing our ideas separately from each other at the same time in quite separate hemispheres. It was not until I found the Wooden Boat magazine publication in the early 1980s that I even knew of him. By then we had developed our designs to a remarkably similar outcome. I assume that common influences ( Dick Newick, et al) drove the direction or our development .

Toroa on port tack North Head Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003

Toroa on port tack North Head Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003
Toroa on starboard tack North Head Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003

Toroa on port tack Bastion Point, Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003

Toroa on port tack Rangitoto Island, Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003

Toroa on starboard tack, North Head Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003

Toroa on port tack, Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003

Toroa on port tack Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003
I'll have these images professionally copied shortly and repost them in all their original clarity, from the lens of one who knows what he is looking at!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Old images keep coming to light.

I have a large collection of images of Takapu and Toroa that I will share as time allows.
I'm still casting around for a good way to capture digital images from old colour slides.
Below is my first attempt at taking an image directly on to my camera via a short PVC cylinder fixed to my camera lens with a slide slot cut into it. I set the camera on macro, point it at a blank sheet of white paper for back light and this is the result. low res but better than nothing I hope.

Takapu off Waiheke Auckland 2003 photo by Paul Gilbert Aquapx

Takapu same day (Photo by Aquapx)

Takapu same day (Photo by Aquapx)

Takapu same day (Photo by Aquapx)

Takapu same day (Photo by Aquapx)

Toroa off Milford, Auckland.

Me and Toroa a few years ago.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

An enquiry from John in South Africa

Hi All

I still get quite a few enquiries about my proa experiences.

To save answering the same question time and again here's a common one. There has been much conjecture about my decisions to do this or that over the years, frequently answered by those who think they know what my motivations are better than I do!

Dear Harmen, sorry to intrude! 

I  have been reading your blog off and on for years, and recently spent a lot of time going over it again.
I was thinking what sort of boat I would make if I were to build a  beach/lagoon proa. 
When I went back further in your blog I found that your earlier boat, with the  Bermudan rig was very similar to what I had drawn, basically a smaller version of Jzerro.  The only major difference was in the positioning of the mast,
I was surprised to see that you had found this layout unsatisfactory, and moved to the Crabclaw sail and steering boards in Toroa.
Can you please explain to me what some of the major problems were with the earlier boat.  I can see that perhaps it was had a too high mast and main, and that with the mast position you used on the hull you would not have been able to stay off to lee at the bows like Russell Brown has done with his more windward   mast position.
Best wishes
 Cape Town

Hi John.

Nice to get a message from you.

I was not dissatisfied with the Rig of Takapu. It was the perfect amount of power for me. Bear in mind that the proa configuration gives you 50% more righting moment than a catamaran. If anything it was the most versatile and successful rig configuration for our sailing conditions in NZ.

I was not that impressed with the rudder solution required to balance and steer. The rudders were dual purpose, they were counterbalanced to act both as a centre board and rudder. This required a very strong stainless steel shaft which needed to be thick enough to support torsion and tension loading simultaneously. This thickness of shaft meant a heavy assembly a long way out at the ends of the hull combined with a thick rudder blade cord section to accommodate it. I went for 5/8" s/s rod. They eventually bent from multiple groundings and high leeway loading at speed.

Being centre case loaded cassettes, these rudders were the most unreliable aspect of the design. I had always wanted to try weight, trim steering as was traditional in Micronesia. To do that I decided to opt for the lateen rig. I was immediately sold on the rudderless steering idea. Mostly this required an experienced crew. As I was a loner and crew was nowhere to be found I let this evolve into an ogive section centreboard steering system which I describe in my dissertation.

If I was to start again I would modify the Takapu model and develop that. It was best for single handling particularly when I had two roller furling jibs, one at each end.

In answer to your question about the rig being taken aback and comparison to JZerro.

The mast was supported by a rigid windward compression strut so that it could not blow over to windward. The windward hull was just buoyant enough to support the load whilst I corrected the situation.

I very rarely got taken aback but when I did there was no issue with sailing the boat back out of trouble.

I am too unwell with RA to continue with my practice based proa research so I have resigned myself to sailing a small canoe and a 10 foot dinghy. I am still sailing solo except on the rare occasion when my children visit.

Hope this is helpful.



Sunday, 3 May 2015

Early image of the first dinghy I ever owned.

Back in 1972 I bought my first sailing dinghy. This is a Q Class, an unrestricted 12 foot skiff, a class still active in New Zealand today. This one was designed by Des Townson. Mine was very like this one in most respects. I sailed it single handed most of the time which involved a complex range of control skills to keep it upright, everything done from a trapeze wire. Even my brothers were too scared of it to help me out!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Sailing Salty

15 - 20 knots of breeze and little Salty woke up to who she really was!
A good day for me too. A brisk Northeasterly is not uncommon on our harbour. When it encounters the incoming tide it sets up a nasty short chop in mid channel, Salty has relatively high freeboard but not enough to keep her dry. I was forced to make landfall on the far shore and bail her out befor reaching back to the boat haul out ramp.

Note to self: remember to peel of those irrelevant sail numbers.

Photos by Julie Holton

Toroa by Harmen Hielkema & Mike Toy.

Header Photo: Toroa at Rawene by Julie Holton.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of my father Roelof Hielkema who instilled in me the willingness to learn.
These pages are intended to inform and add to the growing body of knowledge concerning the Canoe Culture of the Pacific, past, present & future, from the Tupuna, the Ancestors of the Pacific cultures to the people of the world.

These pages contain Images and text relating to our two proas, Toroa & Takapu, some history relating to our experiments & experiences.

The dissertation that I posted on this blog in April 2008 "Takapu The Proa" was written by me in 1997 in response to an assignment that I was set whilst studying for my design degree. The dissertation covers many issues that a proa enthusiast may benefit from reading about.

Waka define culture as culture defines waka

Waka reflect the individuality and uniqueness of a society which in turn is governed by the geography, geology, topography, climate, location, resources, isolation, origin, flora, fauna, flotsam, jetsam, etc.

Waka are our link to the past, they have shaped our present and define our future.

Waka are the vessels of knowledge, physical and mental development, freedom of bondage to the land, key to our inquisitiveness, expressions of our ingenuity and courage, our love of shape and form, the seat of our power.

Waka are the source of our material culture, from which all processes are derived.

Waka are who and what we are.