Life on the hard

JJMoon Diary
Barry and Margaret Wilmshurst
Sat 21 Mar 2009 22:54
Last night we dined at Fawlty Towers.  Our local restaurant has been the setting for some memorable meals but for some reason it seems to have fallen on hard times recently.  We don't really know why but the greatly reduced number of international yachties this year must have something to do with it.  There have been structural alterations, some re-branding and big changes in the menu but although the owners have a plan it is not at all clear to the customers.  Last night the proprietors were away for reasons that were a bit vague and the couple standing in at front of house were newcomers to the trade.  At the start of the evening they were full of enthusiasm but had no idea what they had got themselves into, by the end their nerves were shredded.  Things began in chaos and went rapidly downhill.  Like much cutting edge comedy there was a frisson of danger in the air.  It was worse for Mags, she was constantly worried that I would abandon my role as amiable English buffoon (the Major, perhaps) and become appallingly rude and aggressive to those who were "doing their best".  I am glad to say I didn't let the side down in this way, but it was a funny old evening.  We didn't stay for coffee.  Soon after the temporary chef marched out through the dining room in high dudgeon, we made our excuses and left.  We went home to relax and recover our equilibrium.
Our pied à terre.
Our flat is the one right in the middle up the drive.
JJ Moon is out on the hard and her owners are living the life of Riley in a beautiful little flat overlooking the ferry and the busier part of the harbour.  It is very difficult to drag ourselves away from our coffee each morning and it is great to get back to a beer and white wine each evening.  Our landlord is an intrepid lady.  After her husband died in his forties she bought a small boat and set off round the world, on her own.  She was shipwrecked on Sicily and lost the boat but returned to New Zealand to buy a larger one, of steel.  She set off again and got right round.  She then started to build bigger but the money ran out so that was the end of her cruising career.  She is elderly now and has slowed down a bit but still talks with passion of her adventures.
Morning view across the bay.
Morning view across the water.
The R. Tucker Thompson.
The R. Tucker Thompson sailing home to Opua wharf.
The race begins.
The start of a Wednesday night race.
And the fleet returns.
The fleet coming home.
Coming out of the water was a small adventure in itself.  Going stern in to the dock as usual at 0830 the straps of the marine hoist got fouled on the wings of our keel so, having fiddled about frustratingly we were partially lifted and lowered and sent away to motor out and come in again, dodging the strong cross current.  The regular hoist driver is off sick so Nick the yard general manager has had to put aside his paperwork and take up the reins. As we were hoisted for the second time he asked whether we had had the wind generator last time we came out.  We said "no", it was new last spring.  We were dropped back in while he wriggled us astern to ensure the hoist's cross beam missed the blades as we were raised to ground level.  Up we came to be power-washed down and trundled round to the waiting cradle.  This lay between two other boats and was a tight, tricky fit but Nick manoeuvered us in and down on to the chocks.  The lads were just about to secure all round when they realized they were stuck!  If they moved the hoist towards the stern we would lose the wind generator, if they went the other way it would take the mast.  Engineers were called in to see how long it would take to remove and re-install the wind generator; six hours - no good.  So we were lifted up, wheeled back to the dock and dumped into the water again with our tails between our legs.  Mags felt as though we had failed our exams.  We motored off to a nearby berth.  After lunch the riggers were called to remove the forestay and we drove in forwards.  No problem this time and by 1600 we were chocked off securely.
Our trials were not quite over because the following day as we were getting stuck into the work the hoist arrived to launch the boat astern.  After much ducking, weaving and sidling to and fro it became clear there was insufficient room to get the mighty machine between the boats and into position.  With profound apologies from the hoist team the riggers had to be called back, our forestay removed once more and we were lifted, moved and chocked off across the way.  Poor Nick was not having a good week.
Making sure we come down squareJJ Moon hoisted and moved a seocnd time
Our second move.
We were worried about our rudder.  Up in the islands we suffered a significant leak through the seal where the stock passes through the hull and I had not been able to tighten it down, although I did eventually manage to stop the leak temporarily.  However, when we got back here to Opua in late October I was horrified to see the rudder belonging to a 1999 Contest 48, lying exposed in a shed while its guts were being hacked out.  The stock was of aluminium alloy and terribly pitted.  I remembered the Contest that lost her rudder in the 2006 ARC and feared the worst.  Fortunately once we were hauled it became clear that our 1993 stock was stainless and still sound so it was relatively easy to renew the gland packing of the seal and the bearing above.  We have spoken to the other owner in the last few days and he seems relatively relaxed and very pleased with his boat but I know from the engineers that the cost of repairs was enormous.  The professionals down here think that alloy rudder stocks are little short of madness but it could be worse.  Last year we were on the hard alongside a production yacht built in a very well known factory (name and address supplied, ahem), whose spade rudder had bent significantly out of alignment.  The engineers dropped the rudder and opened it up.  Unlike our steel web in-filled with dense "concrete", theirs had very little in the way of structure and was filled with plastic foam.  Crossing oceans with a spade rudder built like that doesn't bear thinking about!
We don't have so much to do this year, but there is always something.  We've had the saloon cushions and headlining (ceiling) renewed by a very good upholsterer.  The cushions have never been the same since the Greek mouse got stuck in and they have subsequently been subjected to enough hard wear to create rips and saggy patches.  The felt-like fabric on the eighteen ceiling panels was very stained, partly from water and partly, we think, from a previous owner who smoked.  The saloon is going to look much smarter.  We have had new navigation instruments (speed, depth, wind) and we are researching AIS, but the more I look the more I find it difficult to take the correct decision.  We have re-packed the stern gland and renewed four more skin fittings and their sea-cocks.  It is hardly possible to discover the condition of the bronze fittings and the only sensible policy is a programme of routine renewals.  Once we got the old ones out it was clear they were already showing signs of serious corrosion.  We have started to use plastic replacements.  Another matter still hanging over us to our intense chagrin is the rig.  Following a routine check there is some doubt about the state of the standing rigging we had fitted in Turkey in 2006.  It should last ten to twelve years.  There are some very fine hair cracks in the swaged end fittings and no-one is prepared to say that they are sound.  Sending them away to be x-rayed would cost almost as much as new wire.  We shall not know more until we are back in the water and we can begin taking the shrouds off one pair at a time.  I think I'll ask the riggers to open up a couple of the "worst" swages and see what we find.  We are hoping there is nothing much to it.
We went to the Auckland Boat Show - very different from the sort of thing we are used to.  There were NO road signs to direct traffic, NO additional car parks, four toilets each side of the harbour and two bars serving snacks.  To get something proper to eat you had to leave the grounds with an ink stamp on the wrist but could return later through the main entrance.  There were relatively few exhibitors but nevertheless, we went with some focused questions and received answers to all as well as the bonus of finding a company that imports our model of generator (previously thought to be unknown in New Zealand) and was ready and willing to discuss a technical problem with our local electrician.  All in all a good day and we considered the three hour drive each way worth it.
One of the benefits of this place is working with the locals, young men mostly, all with a "can do" attitude, good at their jobs and without a trace of cynicism or world-weariness.  It is a pleasure to have them on board.
But it is not all sweetness and light.  A fortnight ago the community round our flat was awakened at 0200 to flames, smoke and flashing lights.  The lady next door had been disturbed by the flames and frightened by the smoke.  Someone was torching a row of cars parked outside the community hall.  She turned on her outside lights and called the cops and the brigade.  The scoundrel had dowsed two vehicles with petrol and would have extended his mayhem along the row had he not been disturbed.  It turned out that the "perp." (I read plenty of American crime novels) was in touch by mobile phone with another arsonist in a different part of Opua so that their co-ordinated efforts would confuse and delay the brigade.  It could have ended in tragedy.  The cars were parked under a tree whose branches brushed our neighbours' timber framed house.  And this is not a deprived area of the inner city, just a prosperous village in a beautiful bay.
After the fire.
After the event.
We really enjoy getting emails and some are more interesting than any blog.  Brother Martin and Sue have recently returned from a holiday in Kerala from where they have sometimes sent us fascinating snippets.  This year, among other adventures, they went off to an elephant festival (as one does, apparently) and over lunch discussed where the members of the party came from.  Devon was mentioned and Martin said he had spent many holidays there in his youth and his brother and sister-in-law were lucky enough to own a house on the Dart.  Another of the company remarked that they had good friends living in a house at a village called Tuckenhay, where they had frequently stayed, near the pub, No 4, the owners were away on a boat in New Zealand or somewhere............  According to these people our tenants really enjoy living there and don't want us to return but the travelers might not be up to date.  We understand there has been a leak from the hot water cylinder, extensive damage and considerable chaos.  In some ways it is good to be on the other side of the world at such times but it can be a bit frustrating.
We are ready to go back in the water now but we haven't got an appointment yet.  Nick is still on the hoist but he has had four weeks intensive practice.....
Our local kingfisher giving the camera woman the eye.
Our local kingfisher giving the camerawoman the eye