The Highland Games at Waipu, About Thyme and Pfaffs Away Chaps.

Fri 13 Jan 2017 11:52

The Highland Games at Waipu, About Thyme and Pfaffs Away Chaps.

The Offshore Highland Games

Between here and Auckland there is a small very neat town called Waipu to which many Scots came back in the early 19th century from their homeland and from North America. Apart from starting successful businesses they maintained their Highland culture and re-established their ties with the clans. In 1871 they held the first Highland Games in the heart of their town and we were fortunate enough to visit the 146th Waipu Highland Games.

In the main arena a young lady looking ordinary in jeans and a t shirt, stood firm as the caber was lifted towards her. She took hold of the wooden trunk when it was near vertical and slowly lowered her hands till they were near the bottom. Then very carefully she lifted the log, staggered forward a few metres and threw it with all her might a short distance forward.

Further around the arena an orange wigged highlander lobbed the wheatsheaf in the shape of a 16lb weight up above his head and behind him to go over a horizontal bar. The weight caught the bar and pinged back from whence it came causing a gasp in the audience just as the man sensibly stepped forward at the same time as the weight thumped into the ground. Phew.

The grassy ‘street’ on one side of the field was bordered with tents flying colourful banners and flags. Inside tartan fabric, kilts and clothes, maps and brochures of Scottish history, smoothies and ice cream, jewellery, food, Gaelic art and decoration were for sale.

We found Ruth with her husband surrounded by trestle tables laden with books, maps and pictures and ready to help keen visitors trace their family roots. In my case my maternal grandmother was quarter scots and her tartan was the subdued Lindsay design of dark blue and purple, one of the nicest in my view.

As my connection to Scotland was so thin we talked about Ruth instead. She left the small village of Heathrow the year I was born when it was near to the Second World War airfield. At the time we were chatting Charly and Tom were flying back to the UK in a Boeing 747 to land on the 5th runway that was built over Ruth’s childhood home. She dislikes returning as Heathrow has changed so much.

We wandered on down the street towards one of the three covered wooden stages. Children aged from seven to eighteen took part all day long in serious dance competitions. In colourful combinations of full Highland dress they danced the fling in twos and groups to the tune of a single piper and in front of very critical but smiling lady judges. I wondered if this was part of their school curriculum or an extra-curricular activity.

Irish dancers performing the ‘jig’ dressed in mostly green reminded us of The Riverdance and young ‘sailors’ in white tunic and bell bottoms dancing to the hornpipe reminded us of Nelson!

Heads were tilted aloft as a single sky diving, kilted (!) member of the Ballistic Blondes fell from a plane above and landed just infront of us and we were among the few listening to pipers of both genders playing their pieces to the judge while walking very slowly around their stage.

But the best part of all for me was the Tug-o-War. Next to us a young lad was yelling his loudest in support of his team and more people were watching him and smiling than were watching the competitors. Amazingly the little baby he was holding was unperturbed by the racket. It seems that the technique of gaining the best pull at the start only works if it can be held to the last.

Also might is only useful if it comes with fitness. Some teams were made up of big men but they ran out of energy in no time and one big guy had the man behind him land on him. He had to lie on the sidelines in agony while his team was beaten in the final. But it was all very good fun for the spectators anyway.

We will visit the Waipu Museum to learn more on our way south.

About Thyme.

You may remember I mentioned in a previous blog the boat next to us called Wild Thyme, whose times were past their best. Lichen and orange algae cover her netting and engulf her halyards and shrouds, but underneath we could see she is a beautiful old lady awaiting kind, skilled hands.

Her owner, thin, wiry and pony-tailed John, arrived the other day and we started chatting. Built in Christchurch around the time I was born and Ruth was making her way out here Wild Thyme was being built. She has a sound wooden hull sheathed in fibre glass and it is only the flaking paint layer that needs attention.

John arrived in Whangarei with his wife Beryl and four boys, the youngest of which was just learning the art of walking, and deciding they liked the place decided to stay awhile.

They cruised around the Pacific for a number of years. “She likes a good wind to get going but when she does she’s very fast and her 6 ton keel gives her good stability, but boy she’s wet.” Her gunwales were a good eighteen inches lower than ours. His eyes wandered affectionately along her hull. “We were rounding the North Cape a while back and the most awful weather met us, the boat behind was rolled and they didn’t make it.” He stood on the foredeck and pushed the wood. “See, here its soft so I think I was sold a duff load of ply and now the decks need replacing again, but it won’t take me long to fix her up.” For sail or sale we wondered.

John was awaiting a tow from Norsand Boatyard so he started cleaning her up as part of the refit while he waited. Although his engine only has 400 hours on the clock, unlike our 1300hrs, his steering system was seized so he couldn’t move her himself. We could tell she was quality built down below because the wooden drawers he brought up on deck to dry after he had washed them were well made with mitred joints.

We heard the sounds of a conversation and saw that John’s tow had arrived. An inflatable dinghy about the same size as ours with no fixing for a tow line and one man who was busy undoing WT’s lines. Is he for REAL we wondered? Very slowly he moved her forward from her four piles while steering the outboard motor at the same time.

The dinghy slithered from side to side while WT, with the reluctance of donkey down a tailgate, followed until she reached the Marina Office and then like a donkey that’s changed its mind she turned herself through a full circle and headed for home.

Poor John, we felt sorry for him. “They’ve given me dates and cancelled them that many times,” he said, “And now they can’t come again till the end of January.” He rowed ashore for a night’s sleep in his car. He didn’t sleep on board because his car has been broken in to four times in the car park, so he kept guard.

The next morning we offered him an alongside tow with Zoonie but he declined, “That’s awesome and thank you but I don’t want to be left moored off the boatyard awaiting their convenience. Rather she was safe here while I’m back home.”

He’s a fisherman and builder by trade and no doubt when he does finally get her lifted and under cover she will respond to his skilled hands in no time. I just hope we get to see her.

Pfaffs Away Chaps.

It is a known fact that making dinghy chaps can be the cause of marital strife in otherwise happy couples. We pondered this fact as we sat in The Butter Factory, pint beer glass in hands watching the Sailrite (they make sewing machines for sailors) video on how to do just that. If nothing else we could use her ideas if they suited us and if they went wrong blame the lady in the video.

The chaps are needed to protect and prolong the life of the dinghy against wear and tear and more especially in the Tropics, the SUN. They are made to fit on the dinghy while it is in use so are more complicated than a cover-all. We had been quoted between $700 and $1200 to have them made. No way hosey, not with our lovely second-hand Pfaff sewing machine on board.

So off we marched hand in hand as usual, one other free arm holding the sunbrella offcuts and the other the plastic for the pattern. In fact we did follow the lady’s guidance quite closely and it was very useful. Another important factor as the measuring, hot knife cutting and machining was quite tiring and knowing when to stop. Beyond that point not only do tempers become frayed and mistakes made but the whole task becomes a chore. So we’d start early when it was cool for working on the dinghy on the foredeck and finish for the day around late lunchtime and then do something quite different.

So it was that on day five all that was left to do was hem the inner seam with Velcro strips in place, mark on the dinghy where the Velcro on vinyl strips needed to be stuck opposite the sewn ones and pull the outside pull cord tight at the back and bingo we were done. Chaps all done, chaps.

An immediate celebration was called for, so off we went to the Killer Prawn Restaurant with its global reputation, to have a late lunch. This is an understated place (‘scuse the pun). We had picked up a brochure and were tempted but they do not feel the need to advertise on local radio as the quality of their food does that for them.

The big restaurant has a lovely atmosphere, built of wood and warm red brick with friendly staff. On one wall are framed magazine articles because the chef likes to publish his new recipes so others can enjoy making them. Rob had shell on prawns in curry sauce with salad, sweet chilli and rice and I had my prawns cooked in garlic and white wine. So delicious I must make a note to pad ‘family venue’.