2013 – Becoming Amphibious




With profuse apologies for our lack of up-dates to these pages, we have had a very eventful year and some big changes to our lives.





After five years of on-and-off residence on P Dock at Westhaven Marina, we finally made a decision to move down to Nelson to continue our hunt for a house. This followed a decision to eliminate Warkworth as a possible shore base.


We made our usual pre-Christmas pilgrimage north in December 2012, stopping briefly at the mostly empty Marsden Cove Marina in order to catch up with our long-time cruising friends Jeanette and Jim, who were busy refurbishing ‘Dancer’ at Whangarei. Yet another rounding of Cape Brett saw us into the Bay of Islands.







In a very mixed patch of weather we wandered the bays and caught up with friends at each stop. Christmas out-did itself in the matter of inclement weather. Fortunately we were in company at that point with the ever-cheerful crew of ‘Vingilot’ with whom we shared an exuberant Christmas party and were duly serenaded in the rain by the appropriately, but scantily clad younger members of the crew.








As we knew that we would not be back in the BOI for some time, we took the opportunity to hike our favourite paths on Urupukapuka and then moved on up the coast to another favourite in Whangaroa Harbour. Under the distinctive profile of the Duke’s nose, we rendezvoused with our friends Geoff and Jane, as well a fellow RCC member Andy O’Grady, who had sailed his distinctively painted and much-travelled ‘Balena’ up from Wellington.


As New Year’s Eve dawned, it became clear that an excellent weather window was opening for our passage south to Nelson and so, despite the temptations of another party, we set sail in the afternoon to catch the tide around North Cape and Cape Reinga.






The passage worked out almost exactly as expected, with a gentle reaching breeze taking us up to North Cape, after which the wind lightened and came more northerly. After rounding Reinga the wind gradually increased over the next two days until, as we crossed the western approaches of Cook Strait it was blowing quite hard. In the early hours of 3 January 2013, we had the predicted frontal passage with a burst of 45 knots. The break-away tube of the Monitor vane-steerer decided that 12 years service was quite enough and fulfilled its name. With a certain amount of flapping and cursing we retrieved the paddle and carried on toward Farewell Spit hand-steering. By mid-morning the wind was well down and left us almost entirely as expected, when we passed Separation Point.





As a result we had a proper spell of bright, Nelson weather to welcome us to ‘Sunstone’s’ new home in Nelson Marina.


Following quick visits to the familiar haunts of Nelson CBD and the Tasman Bay Cruising Club, we immediately settled into house hunting. In fact, this was really a continuation rather than a beginning. We had flown down three times to view houses and one was still on the list of possibles. In addition we had three others on our list from web browsing.













With our stunning lack of experience in house hunting and purchase, it is surprising that we found anything at all. Despite attempts to be systematic about the salient essentials for a future shore base, we really had little idea of what we wanted. As a result, it was a real surprise to find ‘the one’ in the first two days. Having looked at a number of older villas and a couple of larger 50s to 70s houses, we eventually settled on one only six years old.  The owners, Ken and Angela, had kept it beautifully, having had it built in the first place. There was a good-sized section and a well-established garden. Everything was on one level and quite open-plan. The large garage promised plenty of room for a workshop and tools and, to cap it all, there was a beautiful view of the Haven, Tasman Bay and the mountains beyond. By 11 January our offer had been accepted and we moved in on 1 February. It was a whirlwind!








Following one ‘last’ – a lie-down in ‘Sunstone’s’ saloon – we embarked on an exhausting series of ‘firsts’. Ironically, Ken and Angela were in a way swapping life-styles with us as they hoped to begin a new life of working in the tropics, preferably in the Pacific Islands. As a result, they were happy to sell us some of their furniture, but it was also time to accumulate some house ‘stuff’ for the first time in 40 years after 35 years afloat. We thus embarked on an educational odyssey conducted mostly by the well-trained staff at Harvey Norman who gave us 101 courses in everything from televisions to vacuum cleaners. There was washing to hang out, lawns to mow, roses to prune and – best of all – ice cream to eat. Of course Vicky fought off all the undermining effects of these home-owning activities by furiously competitive running and biking, while Tom merely surrendered.















Only three weeks after moving into the house we were on our way back up to Auckland by air, first for the RCC rally and second to collect the rest of our possessions from our store in Auckland.


The rally was a splendid event, masterfully organised by Tim and Ginny Le Couteur (below right on board their yacht ‘Pizarro’). The rally brought together both resident New Zealand members, of which there are a surprising number and those passing through in cruising mode. We caught up with old friends and made a number of new ones. The fleet, anchored off Tim and Ginny’s Waiheke cottage, ranged from grand Oysters to Annie Hill’s diminutive, junk-rigged ‘Fantail’.















One of the highlights of the rally was our visit to the wonderful sculpture park just south along the Waiheke coast from Tim and Ginny’s bay. The large expanse of the Park is given over to modern sculptures commissioned by the owners. Each artist is given carte blanche to choose a site and then to design a work, which will complement it.  The result is remarkable in variety. In several cases the works are very closely integrated with their sites, while in others they are in stark contrast. It was a fascinating place to visit and a credit to its generous patrons.








When we first took up residence in New Zealand, 2008, we shipped over from England what few possessions we had in store. These were mostly books and papers, or trophies and other sailing memorabilia. In the course of our few years in Auckland we had acquired little else other than some sailing equipment, which we didn’t always need on the boat. It doesn’t sound much, but it soon filled our hired jumbo transit van very nearly to over-flowing.


A long trek south and a ferry ride with truck loads of live sheep was followed by a day of furious off-loading and then a quick turn around to return the van to Auckland.





From Auckland we were once again off on our travels – seriously enlarging our carbon foot-print. Whether truly deserved or not, the RCC Awards Judge had generously bestowed the 2012 Challenge Cup on us. Since there was little likelihood of this ever happening again, we had decided to fly to the UK to receive the Cup at the annual dinner, as well as taking the opportunity to do a road trip visiting friends and seeing places in the UK which we had so far missed, or not seen for decades.


Thanks to a knowledgeable travel agent we were able to get seats in the small economy section on the top deck of the new A380. Used as we are to the normally cramped conditions of long-haul ‘cattle class’, the comfort of the A380’s top deck was a revelation, one we thoroughly enjoyed.






Unfortunately, ‘long-haul lurgie’ took its revenge on Tom. Despite getting fully ‘brushed up’ for the occasion, he only made it to pre-dinner drinks before succumbing and leaving Vicky to receive the magnificent Cup. Looking over many of the other famous names on the base, we felt suitably humbled and honoured to be recipients.


As the dinner was held at the Royal Thames, we did take the opportunity to check on ‘Sunstone’s’ model in the Club Model Room. As the models are arranged chronologically, it is interesting to see how ‘Sunstone’ acts as a bridge between the long-keelers before and the much shorter finned fin-and-skeg designs after.














Apart from visiting relatives and friends, we were intent to make our way north to Scotland, which Tom had never visited by land. Though the wintery weather under-lined the bleakness of much of the Scottish landscape, it was a pleasure to catch up with our cruising friends Bill and Jane McLaren at their home near Bill’s old haunts at the Faslane submarine base. Their home is also near what little remains of ‘Sunstone’s’ birthplace at McGruer’s yard in Clynder.









Despite the weather, Edinburgh was also very grand and it was a great to catch up with Jason Baggaley and his wife Jacqui. With Jason we reminisced on ancient offshore racing history, as he was one of the first of many young men and women who we introduced to its rigors. Perhaps instructively, Jason now indulges his competitive instincts by participating in triathlon ironman events.








We continued our reminiscent journey with a stop in Durham after driving a little further south through what passes in Britain for a blizzard. Here we had lunch with Mike and Marianne Fleming, our earliest friends in the teaching profession, when we lived in Durham in the 1970’s.




Though we have passed by many times on our trips north and south, we had never actually visited York previously. It is a fascinating city, both from an architectural and historical point of view. The preservation of much of its medieval architecture including its magnificent cathedral is remarkable.















Once back in East Anglia, we took the opportunity to tour one of England’s oldest brewers, Adnams of Southwold. Having toured many wineries in various countries, it was interesting to compare the processes.











There was little time for reflection once we returned from our British travels. ‘Sunstone’s’ bottom had received little attention since the previous year’s Round New Zealand race. There were splines demanding attention and we took the opportunity to pull a couple of keelbolts, which thankfully were pristine even after decades under water. Having given ‘Sunstone’ her pre-winter coat of varnish we could turn to more domestic redecoration and to furniture making. The latter provided Tom with an excellent excuse to outfit his workshop with tools.








In the meantime, we attended an Anzac Day ceremony in the cemetery next door to our house, picked feijoas from our garden and enjoyed our view. Vicky of course maintained her regime of more vigorous pursuits.



By May we were back on our travels again, this time to the USA in order to join the celebration of the marriage of Tom’s sister, Inge, to Rob Freeman. With so many relatives and friends it was a large but mostly informal occasion, with the wedding itself held in Rob’s beautiful home in Bristol, Rhode Island. It was a delight to see the two of them so happy and perhaps a reassurance to us all that unexpected joy and sharing can be found even later in life.


The ‘piece of resistance’ at the post-wedding party was the cake, formed under a model of the renaissance Italian villa which was the subject of Inge’s doctoral dissertation!










As has become our habit, we then embarked on a brief road trip to Maine, where we were kindly hosted in Camden by Doug and Dale Bruce (front row right and second row second from the right). We had last seen them in Trinidad fifteen years before, when we were novice world cruisers. However, since then we have kept up with their exploits, as they are stalwart members of the OCC (Ocean Cruising Club). Not only have Doug and Dale made important contributions to the membership and organisation of the Club, they have also written a cruising guide for Newfoundland. The photo at the right is of local OCC members..


Camden is full of beautiful boats, including varnished Concordias and ‘Palawan’, an S&S design which, like ‘Sunstone’, is included in Olin Stephens book, ‘Lines’, of his 49 favourite designs.








Quite apart from exploring Camden and one or two other coastal Maine villages, we had the opportunity to visit the well known Lyman Morse yard, where another OCC member, Stanley Paris, was preparing his new boat, ‘Kiwi Spirit’, for his attempt to become the oldest non-stop circumnavigator.


On our way back south to New York, we stopped in New Bedford. During the 19th Century, the town grew rich on the whaling trade and now has an excellent museum devoted to whaling.




During our travels we have kept in irregular contact with fellow oceanic cruisers Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger. However, we have in the past always seemed to be separated by at least 150 degrees of longitude. It was therefore a pleasure to be able to meet them at last and to share some of our experiences. Beth is an established author on the subject of long-term cruising and Evans is equally well-known as a writer on the technical aspects of cruising and equipment. It came as a surprise to both Evans and Tom that they had both been to school at Groton – though separated by many years.


Once back in New York we found that Tom’s cover had been blown and that other Groton classmates were aware of his presence. As a result we had a very pleasant, reminiscent lunch with Oliver Edwards, a fellow rower at Groton.





Really these reunions should have been no surprise, as we had already made contact with Mat Hudson, another rower and class secretary of Tom’s Groton class. Mat and his wife Shirley had very kindly invited us to stay with them during our stop-over in San Francisco on our way back to NZ. We had a great time in beautiful weather visiting wineries in the Napa Valley and after nearly 50 years a chance to catch up not only with Mat, but also with Barry Armour and Andrew Porter.









Despite the pleasures and stimulation of our travels it was a restful to return to our new home and more domestic local pursuits. There were plenty of chores to do and more home-making education to undertake. Another major first we had accomplished was to acquire our first set of real china, rather than the plastic version, off which we have dined for 40 years!


We converted the cooking hob from electricity to gas, lopped trees and began the paving of the back path to the garden.


We also began the process of our absorption into the Nelson community, attending events like the blessing of the local fishing fleet and concerts in the Nelson School of Music.













We have become confirmed rugby fans since moving to NZ and Vicky was determined to attend in person at least one All Blacks match. The opportunity came when they played in Wellington, where, as part of their ‘perfect season’ the team once again humbled the Wallabies, 27-16.


Of course, the other major sporting event in September was the Americas Cup, during which a fever gripped the whole of New Zealand. Unfortunately the long-awaited victory evaporated when cash, technology and Ben Ainslie pulled Oracle to a win that had seemed almost impossible.




As a further sign of our establishment in Nelson, we were granted a permanent berth for ‘Sunstone’ in the marina.


We had always said that once we joined a land-based community, we would try to find some voluntary work or activities which allow us to give something back to that community, in the same way that we have always tried to contribute to the world-wide village of sailing cruisers and racers to which we have belonged. Vicky made a start by becoming a St. John’s Health Shuttle driver. The Shuttle helps clients with transport and/or mobility difficulties to attend hospital, doctor’s and dentist’s appointments. It is a rewarding function and what is more, Vicky looks very fetching in her uniform.










As Spring came on, our back garden path was transformed by landscaper Regan Gray, into a miniature West Coast beach. In the warmer weather we also began to explore local hikes and bikes, including the steep path up to the ‘Centre of New Zealand’ on a hilltop not far behind our house.


With the rugby season drawing to a close we seized the opportunity to attend one of the final games of the Tasman Makos’ successful promotion season. In a stunning victory, they humiliated Waikato, a team in the division above them by 64 - 28.




By this time Vicky’s endorphin addiction had reached the point that she was out with the Tasman wheelers in the local hills every Saturday afternoon and completed two 160 kilometre events during the course of the Spring.











As we write, it is early summer. The garden has been a mass of flowers and a number of the fruit trees we planted have begun to show signs of life – there may even be the odd apple to harvest in the Autumn before we head off for Alaska. During the Winter, we just about completed what we hoped to achieve in establishing our new house as a comfortable land-base.


With what we hope to be excellent timing, Tom has just had a procedure to replace his right shoulder joint. So far all the signs are that his recovery should be fairly rapid. After Christmas we will be devoting more time to preparing ‘Sunstone’ for our next trip. We hope to head for Alaska and BC in April 2014.