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


  1. Nice to find your blog. I was thinking about dropping an opti rig in my canoe for a messing-about boat...something to enjoy this summer while I am building something more nineteenth century looking.
    Could you tell us how much wind Lookfar needs to step out and come alive? And what do you think an upper wind limit might be with the optimus rig? Are those the standard spars? Thank you!

  2. Hi Murray

    Thanks for your comment.

    Lookfar is very easily driven so is responsive in very light airs provided you concentrate and remain well trimmed and relatively still. 6 knots wind speed is when Lookfar starts to feel properly alive.

    So far Lookfar and I've been out in a maximum wind range just under 20 knots. The rig is so small and low in relation to my canoe length (15 feet) and my body weight (88 kg) that I believe It has some range to spare yet. The upper limit would be determined by the breaking load on my mast base structure and my own capacity to control the boat, The Opti rig has a level of reef ability which can be achieved by dropping the sprit and securing the sail peak (or letting it flap.

    Regarding your rig question.

    I was gifted the old worn and damaged sail and a broken mast which I extended to its original length, below the thwart mast step, with a wood dowel insert forced into the end of the mast section. I plugged the top with the same material. I had an old aluminium boom with a plywood jaw from a very old wooden Opti and the sprit is a cured piece of bamboo.

    It's very bohemian but light and strong.

    The one factor not mentioned so far in my postings is the lifetime of sailing and boat building and rigging experience that I have acquired. I don't want to overstate the capability of this little boat in the hands of a less experienced yachtsman or in more exposed conditions to those that I sail in. It is my estimation that sea worthiness is first and foremost in the sailor him/herself, in the decisions he/she makes, what boat they choose, how they set up the boat, etc.



  3. Thanks for sharing those details Harmen, i really appreciate it. I thought I might be hopelessly undercanvassed but if she starts to wake up at six knots that's just fine with me. There is always the paddle. I have moved hopelessly far away from anything resembling exposed water so there might not be many opportunities to roar home hiked over the gunwale with the sprit scandalized...but excellent point that the sailor is often the limiting factor.

    I think you've done a great thing in cobbling together an unassuming but fun little boat in such an inexpensive and accessible way.

    1. Hi Murray

      I do appreciate the opportunity for dialogue. Please forgive me if I seem a little conceited or arrogant around issues relating to sailing experience. I assume limited knowledge from correspondents as a default position until I know differently.

      Lookfar might be the most fun sailboat I've owned to date just because of its low cost, simplicity, lightness and low maintenance qualities.
      For all that, Lookfar gives me confidence that she is no less capable than any other yacht I've owned.

      There has been no hiking involved so far as my torso is enough of a counterbalance when I lean toward the windward rail to compensate for healing moment.

      Best of luck with your canoe project. I know you will be pleasantly surprised. Also good to see you involved in Cob house building (my favoured construction method)




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.

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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.