Travels and New Zealand - 2016-17




Profuse Apology!

For a multitude of not very good reasons we have not posted an update to this website for nearly two years, perhaps because we don't have much sailing to report. However, we have not lapsed entirely into decrepitude as you will see. Here is a recap of what we have been up to. We will try to be more communicative in future for those of you who still have the slightest interest in our lives and travels.



It took us the best part of six weeks to recover from the job of bringing Sunstone's hull back to something approaching its former glory.


Despite having visited many of the port cities of France, we had somehow missed out on any opportunity to be proper tourists and spend some time in Paris. By a stroke of serendipity, Tom's high school classmates had decided to hold a communal 70th birthday party in the City of Light in early July 2016. Despite having attended no reunion function of any kind in the past 50 years, we decided that fate had intervened and off we flew.


Fortunately we had a chance to spend a few days on our own exploring and in fact celebrating Tom's actual rather than virtual birthday in style.






Like so many before us we found the Louvre interesting, but overwhelming. The key to enjoying it seemed to be to stay away from the most famous items, such as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. We were much happier at the Musee d'Orsay (left) and positively ecstatic in Sainte Chapelle's airy architecture and beautiful stained glass.




We intentionally mixed the historical and traditional with the modern - as the French so readily do. Though dauntingly meccano-like on the outside, we quite liked the Pompidou Centre's interior, which was very suitable to the modern art on display. The spiral staircase of the Arc de Triomphe's shell-like whorl was hypnotic. The engineering of the Eiffel Tower and the Louis Vuitton Museum, make very interesting contrasts.















Thanks to Steve Pierce and his French wife, Catherine, who live in Paris, we were extraordinarily well entertained for our communal birthday. It was interesting to catch up with several of my old classmates and we managed to avoid excessive reminiscence or nostalgia.


Before we headed back to England we managed a Sunday morning in the streets and stairways of Montmartre, both to see the famous artists' district and to walk around Sacre Coeur.









Returning to Essex and Suffolk we visited our old haunt, Mike Spear's marina at Levington, where we lived for several years while working in Ipswich. We were delighted to be able to catch up with Mike himself at the lightship clubhouse of the Haven Ports Yacht Club.




A swing along the south coast and into the West Country gave us a chance to visit David and Rose Shepherd, where Vicky and David dressed up in appropriate Lady Margaret Boat Club colours.


In Lymington we dutifully admired Kitty and Simon van Hagen's Lymington Scow.







The primary object of our tour into the West Country was to visit John Langdon, the retiring editor of the RCC's Journal, Roving Commissions. Having served his four-year stint, John was handing off to us and we needed every bit of the two days we spent with him to get to grips with the editing process, its complications and potential pitfalls. Thankfully John had prepared a wonderful crib, which has allowed us to maintain an adequate pretence of competence as editors.






In another lucky bit of serendipity, we managed to meet up with both Inge and Annabel in London, while each was on a short break from other duties.


On return to Essex, Vicky managed to catch up with David Russell (RCC) on board David and Jane's boat, Tinfish. Fortunately from a photographic point of view there was a Thames  Barge match going on in the River Orwell, with barges and smacks passing close to David's mooring.






The best time for Kiwi residents to walk the most famous of New Zealand's tracks is in the off-season when there are very few tourists and you can have the track largely to yourself. The only down-side is that some of the accommodation along the track may be closed for the winter. Six us decided to take the opportunity to walk the whole of the Queen Charlotte track, which threads its way along the coast of Queen Charlotte Sound in the Marlborough Sounds in the north-east corner of the South Island. With a little planning we even had the convenience of a ferry, not only taking us to start point and collecting us from the finish, but ferrying our larger bags and the food each day to our next night's accommodation. Beside ourselves the group included Jan, Jenny, Merle and Val.


Quite apart from intermittent beautiful views of the Sound, the track works its way through varied native bush and along ridge lines of the hills that separate the sounds. The track can be done  more quickly, but we were happy to take most of five days, only one of which was really wet, though the last day was decidedly frigid. Vicky was of course delighted that the track begins at Ship Cove, where Captain Cook landed and rested to replenish wood and water.





Cook's Monument at Ship Cove and the walking group, looking cheerful - early on!



Koru's (Unfolding ferns)





The wire bridges constructed by the Dept of Conservation (DOC) are always a marvel of simple engineering.


We first saw the sign by which Vicky stands when we biked this section of the track in 2000. At that time it just said 'Cyclists Dismount' we dutifully did. Just beyond the trees you can see, there is a sharp corner and there is indeed a steep drop off - a cliff in fact, with a drop of several hundred feet. We have always assumed that the original sign only went up after a cyclist failed to negotiate the corner.




Picton seen in the distance along Queen Charlotte Sound



                                     Track End



After all this travelling and trekking it was time to get down to work on our first edition of Roving Commissions. Our job as editors is most basically to take the cruising accounts submitted by Royal Cruising Club  members and turn their text and photos into a book, entirely prepared for printing. John Langdon's briefing had helped a great deal in preparing us for the task, but it was still a steep learning curve to master those elements of the publishing software required to produce a professional standard publication. In addition there are always time pressures. The task itself is about two months of fairly continuous work, but of course there are both expected and unexpected pressures as well.


Production of the book is geared to the Northern Hemisphere seasons. Unfortunately for us working through November and December impacts on prime time for our summer activities.


Despite working entirely through electronic communication the task went smoothly and we were quite pleased with the result of our first efforts.










In January, with the proof-reading of the book complete, Vicky declared herself available for sailing and was immediately snapped up by our friend Derek Hillen to help him and another friend, Sandy Fontwit, to deliver Derek's yacht, Asmara Sky to Auckland. Since Asmara Sky is 53' and luxuriously appointed, the trip promised to be rather more comfortable than a similar passage in Sunstone.


So it proved, especially since the weather was benign and Sandy's magic fish lure worked to perfection, bringing in a perfectly sized albacore tuna for several dinners.








At the end of January we finally managed to get out sailing on Sunstone, taking along Sandy and his partner Sara, who has done very little sailing. It was intended to be a gentle introduction for her, but the weather did not at first cooperate. We had a fast downwind sail to d'Urville Island, but then were buffeted by strong winds and Williwaws for a couple of days at anchor - strong enough to raise spray devils off the water and send the dinghy spinning at the end of its painter. When we pulled up the anchor the windlass struggled against the burden of mud into which the anchor had driven.











The little cruise finished in much more placid weather and gave us the opportunity to take some sailing photos of the boat in her refurbished state - the hull varnish gleaming.



The one part of Australia which we like very much is Tasmania, where several of our cruising friends have 'grounded' after decisions to take up a more settled life. We spent several days with the 'Yawaras', Jan and Nick, who have bought a house on the d'Entrecasteaux Channel at its junction with the Huon River. It is a beautiful spot and quite close to the village of Cygnet, where they are active members of the boating club. Jan rows - or coxes - with other women in whaleboats and Nick takes part in the intensely competitive model yacht racing.


Peter has moved Ilywhacker to Kettering on the d'Entrecasteaux Channel, where he has also built a house. We had a great time catching up and revisiting Hobart, a city for which we have some affection.




Jan and Nick




Peter and Alison




A visit to Kettering also gave us an opportunity to see Holger Danske again and, even more importantly, to visit Saona, Ben Maris' boat, which played an essential part in Vicky's life. Her parents took the boat cruising in the d'Entrecasteaux Channel, which they loved so much that Vicky's middle name is d'Entrecasteaux. Oddly enough the cruise was around nine months before Vicky's birth.


Our trip to Tassie also gave us another chance to visit Constitution Dock in Hobart and the Franklin Wooden Boat School, where they are still teaching the skills and trades of traditional boat building.







Holger Danske








One of the reasons for the timing of our visit to Tassie was that Vicky's sister, Annabel, and husband, Dave, were in Canberra visiting his parents. This gave an opportunity for Annabel to fly down to Hobart. We rented a car and set off to explore the west of the island. We first took a short train ride from Queenstown and back. As with so many of the wilderness train lines there were remarkable feats of engineering along the way, as well as stories from the guide about the fate of the various speculators who tried to establish the gold fields which the train was to service.










After the train ride we headed to Strahan (pronounced Strawn!) to take a powercat across Macquarie Harbour to Sarah Island, the site of a prison camp for those too naughty for Port Arthur. The boat then took us up the beautiful Gordon River for a few miles. We reminisced about our trip much further up the river in Sunstone in 2001.


Going back to the east coast we stopped in historic Ross and had a hike across the hills of the Freycinet Peninsula to the white sands of Wineglass Way. 








We had both hoped to bike the Alps to Ocean Trail in the southern part of the South Island, however, the opportunity to have his second shoulder joint replacement came up for Tom earlier than expected in March 2017. The operation was as successful as the first, but he was still in recovery in April at the time of the planned excursion. Vicky carried on with Candy, Charlie and Trish.


The Trail begins at Mt Cook village making its way down to Twizel and across to the east coast at Oamaru, over 300 kms in total. As so often with such trails, overall it is downhill, but there is plenty of climbing as well, quite apart from gravel, muddy patches, tunnels and streams to negotiate. At one point it is even necessary to take a five-minute helicopter flight to get across a river.


A cheerful but tired group reached Oamaru successfully.
















May is Feijoa harvest time in our garden, a task best accomplished by our smaller and more agile young neighbours than by us.


Vicky's voluntary work as a driver for the St. John Health Shuttle was also acknowledged with a citation.











In June we took vicarious pride in the remarkable accomplishments of Team New Zealand in winning the America's Cup. Though the event bears only the slimmest relationship to the kind of sailing which we have lived through and for, it was nevertheless a remarkable event won by a team whose innovation and ability to recover from disaster was quite outstanding.


The winter is also when Tom generally tries his hand at furniture making. In this case a combined table and display shelves to fill an empty corner of the sitting room.






Not content with her other athletic endeavours, Vicky decided to try her hand at an indoor triathlon, which fortunately excluded her normally weakest event, swimming, while including running, biking and rowing. Fortunately for the latter she had not only her natural perseverance to count on but also a coach in Tom. At the actual event she had a cheering and support group of Corrie and Willem Stein and Geoff and Jane Evans, visiting us from Auckland.










As we had plans to be travelling a good deal in January and February 2018 and then hoped to be sailing in March and April, we decided to get Sunstone's bottom repainted in late October. Fortunately this was an easier job than usual as Sunstone had had so little use in the previous year.