Monday, 24 December 2012

Our "End of Time" visit to Gary and Rose

Guess what Julie and I decided to do with our last few days of this age of the Earth? Why visit Gary and Rose of course.

Gary's Va'a Motu with Harmen Hielkema and Gary Dierking in Coromandel. Photo by Julie Holton

Weather and tide conspired to provide a window to allow Gary and me to take his Va'a Motu for a sail.

We had a light easterly blowing offshore, though a local rotor around the headland (in the background) meant beating off the beach for the first  stage of the trip. I got to steer!

The waka has a voluminous hull which accommodates the two of us comfortably with no noticeable loss of performance. With the main and jib sheeted home the waka slides through the water with barely a trace of a wake and very little noise.  I immediately took to the feel of this sail boat, very slight weather helm, just how I like it, everything positioned just where it should be.

The rudder in its cassette is very easily reached and manipulated. I particularly like this solution for shallow water sailing as the blade remains partially retracted in it's correct position to maintain control as you leave or approach the beach. A taught bungy restraining cord allows for partial blade displacement out of the case during any accidental grounding.

The main sheet is arranged by a network of leech bridles, much like a junk sail, which provides excellent support and control for the boomless, full battened mainsail.

The Jib features a luff wire which is connected top and bottom to a swivel  furling system, allowing for immediate dousing of the head sail.
Gary's home made roller furling set up on his Va'a Motu

Gary and I headed for a beach up wind on the far side of the Harbour. Gary had noticed a non responsive GPS screen which he needed dry land to attend to. On starboard tack the ama sits to leeward so we were in trimaran mode as Gary likes to call it, with the ama taking the full share of the righting moment. There was however enough wind to allow me to ride on the windward lounger chair with it's poly canvas back support, great for an old codger like me. I don't think that I've ever been so comfortable on a small sail boat before, in fact I know I haven't!

Reaching the beach amidst a number of curious but uncomprehending onlookers, Gary whipped out the GPS from its watertight bulkhead compartment but was unable to make anything happen.

Being a perfect luddite I couldn't care less about no GPS and I was eager to get moving again. Gary took over control of the mainsheet to make me even more comfortable. and proceeded to put on his sailing gloves, one of which dropped over the side unnoticed. Once the glove was missed I suggested we run back down the trail of bubbles to retrieve it so we gibed around and retraced our wake, there sure enough was the floating glove. Gary asked me to steer so he could easily retrieve it, got it with pin point accuracy. He needn't have said a word, this canoe goes exactly where you want it to!

Gybing back around we set off across the harbour steadily easing sheets until we were broad reaching through the largest flock of black swans I have ever seen. Startled they all took to the air simultaneously. They are comical to watch as they literally run on the water with their necks out streached, working their wings furiously as they struggle to get their full bellies airborne. The massed sound of the clapping of their webbed feet sounded like an audience applauding.

We harden up on the wind when we finally run out of water and we sail back out of the bay across a commercial oyster farm. This waka tacks effortlessly through a true 90 degrees which makes Va'a Motu as weatherly as any small boat I've sailed. We had a brief moment when a roll to windward reminded us both that we are not as agile as we once were. Gary's sponson "trainer wheel" was always a reassuring back up once the ama came out to windward on port tack.

We investigated and discussed the merits of various ocean going yachts moored in Coromandel Harbour before we finally turned our bow toward home in anticipation of a late lunch and a cold boutique beer of which we are both very fond.

Our rudder clumped into a submerged oyster bag as we approached Gary's slipway with nothing more that a light scratch to tell the tale, roll up the jib and I stepped off the bow into ankle deep water ready to settle the waka on to it's tiny dolly wheels ready to pull a surprisingly light load up the beach and on to the grass of Gary and Rose's back lawn.

Va'a Motu on Gary and Rose's back lawn.

This trip serves to remind me just how much I love yachting, particularly on a waka and most particularly with a close friend who's sailing skills match my own perfectly.

Thanks Gary.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Toroa at Porirua Harbour 2003

That's me butt steering to prove a point to the attendees gathered on the shoreline. Matahi Brightwell in attendance far left. Photo by Ole Maiava.
This image was taken of Toroa by my "Brudda" Ole Maiava who organized for me to attend a Kaihoi Waka workshop at Te Wananga O Aotearoa.

Te Wananga O Aotearoa is the name of an educational Institute run by Maori for Maori. Kaihoi Waka was the name of a program designed to teach water and waka handling skills to enrolled students.

I have great and enduring memories of Porirua Harbour, Takapuwahia Marae and the amazing people who were attracted to Ole's magnetism, particularly the ground shaking, hair raising haka that Toroa and I received from the staff and students at the finish of the workshop/weekend.

There were a large number of stingrays under us in 2 - 3 meters of clear water at the time this picture was taken, some the size of a small car!

The wind gods were very gentle with us that day, most unusual for Wellington.

Love always


Sunday, 8 April 2012

Lookfar's Easter cruise

Taking advantage of some fine warm and settled weather I've taken Lookfar for several more outings. On my hand line I've caught several nice snapper for our dinner and netted 3 stingray so far, within sight of our house. Julie and I released the two larger rays (the largest at close to 2 meters in width) and kept a smaller one that became hopelessly tangled by its tail in our net.

Today and yesterday I sailed out into the harbour on a very light breeze to have it fill in both days to a nice 15 - 20 knot sea breeze over the space of a couple of hours.

The tide is at its mid day highest at the moment with 3.7 meters being the peak on the full moon. Ideal for an extended trip, exploring the tidal river estuaries close to our home. This time my destination was the Omania river entrance. I trolled a lure on both occasions though so far no strikes. I'm targeting Kahawai, a pelagic fish, similar to salmon in general proportion. These fish are common in our waters, they pursue the yellow eye and grey mullet that team in our waters. I stopped on an uninhabited stretch of coast where an inviting and very ancient Puriri (A variety of Teak) tree hangs out over the water.

I ate an apple, drank some water and watched a cluster of snow white, royal spoon bills precariously perched in a mangrove thicket, waiting out the high tide for another wading forage through the mudflat margins of the upper harbour. Interestingly the tree has some of it's tangled and gnarled root system exposed on the bank at the waters edge. There is an enormous deposit of cockle and oyster shells among layered blackened remains of hundreds of cooking fires and hammer stones. Generations of people have been attracted to this place, this tree, as I have.

Here we are returning home on a stiffening south westerly breeze running flat off the wind. I'm grateful to Julie who looks out for me and thinks about thinks like taking pictures.

I know that this image is somewhat like an earlier one, the difference now is that I have a very functional rudder which makes down wind control so much easier.

I'm finding that the canoe rides easier flat down wind with a lee board down as the narrow hull is prone to setting up a nasty oscillating roll in some sea states.

I'm finding the size and handiness of this little boat suits me and our location almost perfectly. Lookfar sails so well that I can't think of any way to improve it.

Comparing this little boat to others that I have owned, I find myself visualising previous trips in various other small sail boats, stretched out in the bottom, amidships, main sheet in one hand, tiller in the other, head and shoulders just protruding above the gunwale. Although this little boat has a miniscule rig compared to a Finn or an OK dinghy, the sensation of stealth and efficiency is no different. Lookfar is certainly very quick for its size, both upwind and down. I'm most mindful that I'm sailing in a tiny viking long ship.

Easter 2012

Monday, 5 March 2012

Lookfar's new rudder

I purchased a new rudder for my canoe project from our on line auction site.
It was listed as a brand new, unused, 30 year old, laser rudder, just what I wanted!

Pictures say it best:

I had to modify the anodized aluminium cheeks by cutting away a section from the leading edge under the upper pintle to allow for clearance of the cast nose molding of the canoe.

I cut 30mm off the Coleman, cast aluminium, nose molding to allow the closest possible fulcrum point to the stern of the canoe. I then drilled a perpendicular hole one oversize from the pintle pin. The hole drilled to one side is for the control line that keeps tension on the rudder blade in the down position. The line is secured by a cleat forward, close to my sitting position, on the gunwale.

The lower Gudgeon is from a wrecked rudder off my old X Class yacht from the 1960's, from my "just in case it might come in handy one day" box. As you can see I bent the cheek plates around to the shape of the canoe stern. I bolted the assembly with 1/4" stainless steel machine screws, washers and nuts to the Ram X plastic hull. I shaped a pine block to fill the void created by the offset, female, gudgeon flukes. The black compound you see is a polyurethane "dubbin" adhesive used by the car industry to glue in car windshields, it's the toughest, meanest adhesive/sealant known to man.

The lovely mahogany tiller is from an old P Class yacht which I kept from a restoration project on my son Robert's 3rd sail boat in the 1990's ( again from the same "handy" source). The tiller did not fit perfectly into the rudder head stock to begin with so some slight modification was needed for it to fit snugly.

The tiller extension is from a window cleaners, telescopic extension handle.
I connected it to the tiller with a small stainless steel swivel, one end of which I bent out flat to create a saddle to bolt the assembly on to the underside of the tiller. This keeps the extension tube low, under the up sweeping curve of the tiller.
The cheek plate on the extension tube is cut from one side of a spinnaker pole fitting from a small sail boat, just the right diameter dish section to allow bolting to the side of the tube.

The tiller is secured in place with a stainless steel locating pin drilled to fit through both the folded stainless steel cap of the tiller stock and the tiller itself. I always retain small items like these with a little lanyard so as not to loose them.

How does it handle you ask?

I launched Lookfar last night on the high tide. There was a 6 knot southerly, I sheeted in the tiny sail, dipped the starboard lee board, pulled on the rudder blade control line and the little canoe came alive, perfectly balanced, a delight to sail.
The rudder has transformed the handling of this little sailboat. Upwind no rudder is needed but downwind the hull wants to wander so the rudder helps to make the hull track straight. The new rudder makes a big difference to tacking and gibing control as well.
My old friend Mitchell says of my Lookfar project, "It's funny how the simplest, cheapest, smallest, closest to the water boats often provide the best boating." He should know, he showed me how!

Thanks for reading my blog.


Saturday, 11 February 2012

Lookfar takes me on our first voyage.

This morning I made up a couple of trolling lines with two different lures with the intention to try my luck at fishing whilst sailing over to Motukaraka Island.

From our house we look out to a headland promontory which was a Maori, fortified Pa site in days gone by. The fact that this was once so is clearly evident when you walk up to the knoll on the ridge of the headland. There is evidence of dwelling and storage pits and palisade levels as well. It is at once clear why such a site would be inhabited by Maori in pre-European times. The views are unbroken for 360 degrees which means that you can see anyone approaching from any direction. The proximity to exceptional fishing grounds at the mouth of a significant tributary to the harbour makes the site absolutely perfect for supporting a reasonably sized population, worth defending.

View from our home in Rawene

At the foot of this steep, grass covered headland is a long mangrove covered island called Motukaraka. (Karaka is a species of native tree with large, glossy, dark green
leaves and large oval berries that are a brilliant orange when ripe. These trees thrive in coastal, subtropical Northland. Motu means Island in the Maori language).

Since Julie and I bought this property over 3 years ago, I have longed to sail over and explore this inaccessible region of the Hokianga Harbour's northern coastline, so clearly visible from our house.

The tide is full at midday on a full moon so, with an extra high tide on the ebb, a great sailing forecast, Westerly, 10-15 knots and everything prepared, I slipped Lookfar into the water at 11.30 am and set off. (My survival kit includes a water bottle, a knife, spare rope, food, and cell phone carefully sealed in a zip lock bag and a snap lid plastic container all loaded in a plastic pail which doubles as a bailer).

It was one easy beat with the 10 knot westerly wind on the port bow laying the mouth of the Tapuwai river where Motukaraka island lies.

The scenery is spectacular with virgin native rain forest reaching down to the coast in many places, interspersed with the green clearings of old settlements and farms visible along the shore. My layline points to the beautiful red and white, native timber church of "Our Lady of the Assumption" with its polished silver steeple that proudly presides over the tiny settlement of Motukaraka.

(Please see the previous post for images of the church and the farm house I mention here)

Passing the settlement close by I sailed on the incoming tide right into the Tapuwai river mouth with Motukaraka island passing on my port hand side.

Once into the inlet proper with a beam wind, we sailed on to the cemetery, attracted by the huge white, wooden cross on the western bank of the Tapuwai river. (Tapuwai means sacred water in the Maori language. I may yet find a link between the name and the cross).

I was determined to navigate the narrow channel between the headland and Motukaraka island. The tide was still on the rise as we made our way on starboard tack into the narrow channel.

This close to the mangroves with our tiny Optimist rig the wind was very fluky indeed so, as a result, there was much tacking from one mangrove covered shore to the other. Eventually we rounded the gentle bend in the channel heading now in a southerly direction with the wind on our starboard beam. I was heading for the landing of an old colonial farmhouse, which is also visible from our house. I pulled Lookfar high up the gentle clay incline and dropped the sail.

I retrieved my food, water and cellphone and made my way up the track to the old dilapidated farm house. From there I climbed the steep grassy slope to the crest of the Pa site I mentioned earlier.

What a sensational view!

Looking west towards the harbour mouth.

South west.


South east.

East, south east

East: Exactly the same view as ours only in reverse. For the first time I was able to see back toward our home (on the middle ground peninsular of Rawene below the prominent hump on the skyline to the right of this image).
I called Julie on my phone and asked her to look my way through her binoculars. Yes she could see me waving my hat, through the clear air, over several kilometers.

North east.

It is a wonderful feeling to be able to cobble together a tiny sail boat and make a trip like this. I find it very satisfying. I return to an earlier, much simpler time in my life when trips like these were the norm for me.

I had intended for Toroa to fill this role but since my illness I've lost some of the energy and physicality needed to keep and handle such a vessel.

Down the grassy ridge and back to Lookfar before the sea breeze comes in and the tide begins to flood. 20 knots of wind against a 4 knot tide makes for a choppy and uncomfortable ride in a small boat.

Lookfar, homeward bound.
Photo by Julie Holton

Lookfar, almost home: Photo by Julie Holton

I can lift Lookfar bodily out of the water and haul her easily up the grassy bank at home.
As for fishing? Well I had my hands full on the return trip so I left my lines for another day.

I think I will construct a small canoe stern rudder to keep us on track down wind, the paddle is OK but does require some muscle to keep on course in the puffs.

Monday, 6 February 2012

"Lookfar" A converted Coleman Ram X 15 Canoe

Today I launched my little sailing canoe.

I called my canoe "Lookfar" after the wizard Sparrowhawk's sail boat in Ursula LeGuinn's wonderful trilogy "A Wizard of Earth Sea"

I spent yesterday assembling my collection of bits and pieces and this is the result.

The Optimist sail and rig was retired from the learn to sail fleet here in Rawene when my son donated new sails last season.

Paul Bowker kindly gave me the old items. I took them home, washed the sail and set to with a needle and polyester thread to repair the loose seems and batten pockets.

I needed to run a cord into the luff tabling pockets as the brass rings had corroded away. The tack, clew and peak rings I reinforced with monofilament nylon line using a rolling blanket stitch.

I built a mast step cradle for the canoe from triangles of plywood glued to a base block of cedar. I drilled a hole through the block for the mast step and capped the base with an aluminium plate.

To fit the mast cradle into the canoe I removed the front seat, a molded plastic panel, to reveal the two tubular cross thwart frames.

I fitted the cradle in between the two tubes and rested the base block on the keelson.
I then replaced the seat panel and refitted it through its original fixing holes with long stainless screws securing both the seat and the mast cradle together into position. For extra strength I lashed the four corners of my new cradle to the thwart tubes and to the tubular keelson.

I chose a point behind the midship thwart on the keelson to attach the two parts of the main sheet.

For lee boards I modified the old ogive section blades that I kept from Toroa's earlier incarnation.

These were perfectly suited to being cut down and bolted through the gunwale with stainless steel threaded rod, nuts and washers. I pinched the bolts up tight which allowed for rotation of the pivot with enough friction to hold them in any position I

Here's the result.

Prior to lee board attachment.

Lawn sailing.

Launch site is the little beach at the bottom of our property

I wonder how it will sail?

Lee board down, sheet in, Hmm not bad!

Steering paddle is restrained midway down the shaft with a measured length of cord attached to the keelson tube behind my sitting position. I can toss the paddle from side to side and it just sits there waiting for me to grasp it.

Ease sheet, very responsive.

Into 6 knots of breeze from the North East

Bye bye.

Time to come back and reassure Julie.

I look cool sailing along. Look ma no hands! Actually I can sail this thing without a rudder just shift my weight and or the lee board position forward or aft to alter course, butt steering still rules, Sweet.

Still looking cool.

Coming in to land.

Easy peasy. Even the birds like it, I'm a bird magnet!

All photos by Julie Holton.

If you want a selection of solutions for your canoe conversion then here's a great web page on the subject.

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.