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.


  1. I think you climbed more than one hill yesterday.
    Great stuff.

  2. I missed this. Nice idea, this little boat. Seems as if the sailing canoe along the idea of the "duckpunt" is spreading. Dylan's Winter's promotion of the duckpunt (with an Opti sail like yours) has gotten a lot of coverage on the Wooden Boat Forum with supporting Youtube links of Britisher 'punters. I started building my own interpretation of this. I will use the 37 square foot standing lug I used to uuse as a mizzen on my outrigger. Kevin O'Neill already built his version but seems now to want to convert it to an ultralight trimaran. -- Wade


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.