Sunday, 23 December 2018

The Red Baron

Chapter 3.

The Red Baron.

After my success in Paper Tigers it seemed inevitable that I would continue sailing in this class. Not so. I was too physical and a bit to heavy for these frail craft, Doctor Ord had to spend some money rectifying cross beam to hull connection fractures and a slightly bent mast section after my successful regatta. I had driven his boat hard, he would not allow me to pay for or even contribute to the repairs however he did remark that it would be a good idea if I got my own boat. Waikiwi went up for sale and was quickly sold for the same price that I had paid for her. I put that money away and continued working weekends to accumulate more.

By this time I was in the 5th form at Rangitoto College. I had made several new friends, Graham Cross and Craig Gilbert, both sailed OK dinghies at Murrays Bay Boating Club. Their mentor Harold Bennett had one too and he knew of a good boat that had been abandoned in NZ by its owner, a German named Thomas Jungblud. He has been runner up in the world champs hosted by the Takapuna sailing club in 1973. The Red Baron was a bright red, European built, fibreglass OK Dinghy with a lightweight Gaboon ply deck. The rig was too light for me but Harold introduced me to Clive Roberts who had a spare rig from his recent successful bid to win the world cup t and yes he would sell it to me for a reasonable price. My father and I went to his home in Campbells Bay and after several hours with Clive discussing the new rig and its suitability for my needs, (I was the same weight as he was) we secured it in place on the Red Baron and drove it home. I became a member of the school sailing team, I needed no excuse to avoid school, I hated every minute of it. One day per week we were allowed to take our boats down to Murray's Bay and go sailing. This went on into my sixth form year as well.

Not long after the new rig was fitted I entered my boat into the OK Dinghy Nationals held at Takapuna Yacht Club. By this time I had successfully attained my drivers licence but had no car. This meant that I had get up very early, pack my lunch and a drink, then walk my boat down to Torbay Beach on its road trailer, sail to Takapuna Beach about 10 KM down the coast and then, without landing, line up for the start of two or three races per day then sail all the way back again to my trailer, run the 2.5km up hill to our family home, hop into the family car then drive back to the beach, couple up my boat, tow it home, wash it, bolt down dinner, do my home work and finally fall into bed exhausted! I did this for three days running. I gained 14th place over all in a fleet of 67 boats. "Not too bad for a beginner" was Clive's best shot. I'd beaten him to the top mark from the start line twice!

I loved my OK dinghy. It gave me a freedom I had not experienced before. One afternoon, after school sailing I decided to take the long way home. I set out toward the Rangitoto Channel, down wind on a beautiful fresh easterly breeze. I skirted Rangitoto Island, hardened on into the lumpy Motuihe Channel and made my way up the southern shoreline of Motutapu Island. I turned left at the channel between Rakino and Motutapu and eased the main sheet for a thrilling downwind ride toward Torbay Beach. By now it was getting dark. The light faded completely by the time I was half way across the Gulf. No problem, I knew all the lights of the East Coast bay beaches by heart. It was wonderful hurtling along, planing fast, catching wave after wave, I could have continued sailing like that for hours.

About 3 km from the beach I noticed some nav lights and a very bright spot light on a large, fast moving vessel heading straight towards me. In no time the powerful beam of light was on me and a loud speaker hailed me asking who I was and where I was heading, sitting in my rocking boat with the sheet fully eased I shouted back that I was heading for Torbay beach. The police boat Deodar informed me that my parents were concerned for my safety and could I make my own way home? Of course I could I said rather irritated. They steamed off in the direction they had come after satisfying themselves that I was competent and knew where I was. I arrived at the beach with the head lights of the family car shining at full beam on the retrieval of my boat on to its trailer. My father shared his mixed feelings with me about my escapade, I had thoughtlessly worried my mother.

There is one more memory I would like to share from this time.

One Sunny Sunday, Graham Cross and I had arranged to meet off Murray's Bay and sail on to Mission Bay to visit a family friend of his. The day turned out rather differently to what we had expected. Neil Deverall joined us in his boat and the three of us eased our sheets and headed down the channel with a bright 25-30 knot easterly behind us accompanied by huge swells against an outgoing tide, just the kind of conditions we loved. We were equally matched, highly skilled and as fit as we could be. There was a great deal of tussling and shouting as we planed, carving a pure white path down wind, gathering ourselves, trimming and placing our boats so that we could catch the cresting swells and surf down their steep faces, slow in the trough then gather and trim for the next one, It was fantastic sailing! I hauled on my mainsheet to catch the next swell, very large and steep, The Red Baron hurtled down the face and buried itself in the back of the next swell, I was as far out of the boat as it was possible to be to counter balance the straining sail. The next moment the hiking strap lashing broke. I was under water, I surfaced with the tiller still in my hand, I glimpsed the boat rolled over on its windward side with the boom standing straight up 100 meters away. I began to swim. The sails of my companions disappeared down wind. I swam in that confused sea for what seemed like hours until I finally came up to my upturned boat. The centreboard was fully housed, the venturies were open, the tiller was still in my hand!

I had some trouble righting the boat in that sea. The wind was as strong as ever. I held on to the bow for some time as I recovered my breath. This had the positive effect of bringing the bow into the wind and sea. I began the ritual of righting the boat which reluctantly but finally sprang upright with water whipping of the violently flogging sail in a fine mist down wind.

I rolled in to the swamped cockpit and took stock. There was no way to repair the tiller, I had no control over the rudder at all. What to do? I decided to drop the sail. This involved capsizing the boat again, swimming out to the tip of the mast, unclipping the masthead halyard lock and then re righting the boat. This done I gathered in the sail and lashed it to the boom. I then leaned over the stern and unclipped the flogging rudder and secured it to the remaining stacking strap. Next I went as far aft as I could sit and allowed the boat to drift down wind. Under the windage of the mast I was making 3-4 knots, not bad, I put a foot over the windward side and used it as a rudimentary rudder which allowed me to gain some control over my direction. The Red Baron and I eventually came ashore at the southern end of Narrow Neck Beach. I had no idea how long all this had taken me but it must have taken quite some time because it was late afternoon. I dragged my stricken boat as far up the beach as I could and then set off to find a telephone.

A likely looking house opposite the boating club on Vauxhall road welcomed me to its blue front door. I struck it lucky with a keen boatie who was sympathetic to my situation and allowed me to use his phone to call my father. Father was less than enthusiastic about turning out during his afternoon drink time with mum but to his credit he came. He had driven down to the beach and coupled up my trailer before driving to meet me in the falling dark. I enjoyed telling him of my adventure and I believe he quite enjoyed hearing it. What a treat it was to get home to a shower and a wholesome, savoury meal kept warm for me by my dear mother.

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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.