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Thursday, 5 January 2017

People, Events and incredible Spaces

Kim with her Christmas 'Trifle'
Our time here feels very limited as we continue to meet new and re-meet good old friends here. We know we must move on very soon. The Captain has important boat repairs and parts to order before we again face the stormy Southern Ocean. We’re hoping to avoid being ‘knocked down’ as we were in our crossing to Chile in 2008 so we’ll leave in early February this time rather than in blustery March. Our piano is surprised at all the music it’s being asked for these days. I’m meeting many   interesting pianos and am asked to play so I have to practice a great deal at home. Fellow marina dwellers who have stopped by are Robert and Jen (of ‘Kapella’), Dick and Pat (of ‘Irene’), and also Kim and Alister who reciprocated at their home and gave us a tour of the steel/wooden yacht which Alister has built from the ‘ground up’ – a masterpiece of interesting design and well thought-out detail.
Jen Urquhart's Cobb Cottage

 Assorted Canadian guests - Ann and Glenn (formerly of NWP yacht ‘Gjoa’) came by for dinner and the Robertsons of Nova Scotia (see photo) came by to listen and to look at Traversay III.
with Juday & Marine Robertson

Cobb Cootage detail
Jen's dining room
Jen Urquhart invited us to see her gem of a home – it’s a ‘Cobb Cottage’ – built by the pioneers 160 years ago … while there I played her piano and was given two boxes of ‘vintage’ music to sort through. Great FUN for me! While there we met Wai and were invited for a fabulous Chinese meal and I ended up playing one of the most beautiful-looking old instruments I’ve ever seen. We went off for a potluck lunch and got through our Northwest Passage presentation for Tom and Vicky (of ‘Sunstone’) at their beautiful sea-fronted home.
Larry & Jen  - patio scene 
But the highlight of this stop in Nelson was Christmas dinner at Maurice and Katie’s. ‘Winter Quarters’ shows the love and care which people who have lived aboard a boat for many years can bring to a dearly beloved and cared for First Home and Garden. It is filled with books and precious mementoes from their many travels. A Good Time was had by all - as you can see by these photos of glee and over-indulgence!

Maurice, Kim, Katie. M.A., Alister, Pat and Dick

Katie and Mo with the amazing 'spread'

'Winter Quarters' garden with Maurice's mosaics of Kiwi endemic bird species

Monday, 19 December 2016

An early white Christmas!

A snowy peak
Maurice the firemaker
Katie w water-repelling skirt
Our pilgrimage up into the high country of New Zealand with friends Maurice and Katie was the best 10-year Reunion – ten years ago we spent a week walking together on the Heaphy Track west of Nelson. The great walks of New Zealand were set up to promote this beautiful country – mostly to develop pride in the inhabitants themselves. They’ve done that but they’ve also been a boon for the tourist industry – such a success that now (without ‘booking’ weeks or even months in advance) it’s not easy to get hut space in the most popular ‘tracks’ – like the Heaphy, Milford and Routeburn walks here on the South Island or the Tongariro (scenery which provided much of the setting for ‘Lord of the Rings’) on the North Island.

Tramping through the tussocks
Not having to bring bear spray is among the manifold advantages to hiking in New Zealand. We enjoyed the similar walks in British Columbia (Garibaldi Lake) and Washington (Olympic Peninsula) but here there are no dangerous animals, snakes or spiders and we also didn’t have to bring our own tent, mattresses or cooking gear.

When one looked at Larry’s oversize backpack, however, it seemed we had brought excessive gear. Much of this excess was due to our lofted sleeping bags. These were developed to keep folks warm in -10 N American climes and although they’re very light, they do take up space.
As it actually SNOWED on our first night up high in the mountains the sleeping bags turned out to have been a great idea. We shared the snow with a few Wekas of New Zealand’s threatened bird species. These large and clumsy-looking birds are sometimes confused with the mostly-nocturnal Kiwi. In contrast, Kiwis are smaller and shy. In fact, apart from a similar colour and a sharper and longer bill for its size, the Kiwi is not at all like a Weka. Like its fellow New Zealand species the scavenging Kea - a type of parrot, Wekas hang around campers looking for treats. In New Zealand - as everywhere else -the message from naturalists is: Please don’t feed the animals!

Balloon Hut
The four of us enjoyed the company of a veritable League of Nations on our trip with young fellow pilgrims also staying in our huts along the way. Salisbury Lodge was shared with a Japanese and an Israeli couple on night 1 and with some Dutch sisters on night 3. On night 2 we were alone at Balloon Hut except for a short visit by an athletic French couple. Balloon Hut was a beautiful little warm home-away-from-home. Maurice kept the fire going on the snowy night.
I had failed to bring mitts - Larry handed over his to warm my freezing hands. A bigger mistake was to wear my running shoes for tramping through freezing mud. I did learn that  with completely wet cold feet you neither GET blisters, nor would you feel them (due to having frozen feet) if you DID get them. I brought my hiking poles and these (mostly) kept me from sliding off muddy slopes.
Dutch sisters - 'puzzling' and tending the fire

Weka in the snow
We are so grateful to Mo and Katie for having organized and ‘booked us in’ to the huts and reminding us of the many items we would need to bring. Without their impetus we might never have been able to organize ourselves for the adventure. We much admired the gear they have collected and the wonderful schedule of breaks, hot drinks and treats with which they make their tramping holiday such an eventful and warmly enjoyable time. Thanks for the time of sharing.

Now we look forward to a relaxed Christmas amongst old and new friends at Maurice and Katie’s home – ‘Winter Quarters’.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Nelson New Zealand

Nelson Marina offices - old and new
We arrived here nearly a week ago - we have had beautiful weather ... sunny with a little rain - cool at night and perfect for walking. Nelson is a beautiful little city - perfect for liveaboard sailors. In fact, Nelson is just PERFECT - not too big and not too small.

Walkway into town centre
Everything you need or desire is nearby and the people are friendly. They are tolerant of our manner of speaking English and willing to repeat themselves when we don't understand them. No one is in a great rush and we have had a nice relaxed time visiting here. We're heading off tomorrow to walk the Mt. Arthur Tablelands with Maurice and Katie Cloughley. We have walked with them (Heaphy Track) ten years ago and they have been friends of Larry's since 1979 when he met them on their boat in the Canaries (he was on Traversay - the first). The weather forecast looks terrific for this outing - no rain is forecast until our last day out (Wednesday).

Saturday Market
Today was a bit rainy but I headed off to the Saturday Market anyway. There are lovely lavender products, cheeses, breads, all sorts of handicrafts and farm-fresh vegetables. It was great fun just looking at all the people and the stalls - next week will be a better time to buy any perishables as we'll be around long enough to eat them.

When we got here and by the time Customs had finished with us a heavy wind was blowing. We decided just to 'park' at the end of our assigned dock temporarily. It seems nearly every place we go there's a new (to us) technology for tying up our boat. Nelson NZ - 1 ring on each end of the dock (so you'd better not have a loop on the end of your lines); Germany - bollards (so you'd better have a loop on the end of your lines); British Columbia - 2 parallel wooden 2x4s; Australia - every cleat already has someone's lines permanently braided into it.
Mooring rings

Coathanger for mooring lines
At Nelson Marina, some people install a coat-rack type of metal pole at the end of the dock and they leave their permanent lines there to simplify tying up. We decided to tie up after dark - I grabbed the forward ring with the boathook and Larry waited for the wind to push us in to the dock.

Aussie docking 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A few more days ...

Snowy Wanderer
After four days of good progress, the weather has, as predicted, become contrary. We have bent our route a bit to the north to avoid two days of east winds. While this hasn't produced sailing winds in our favor, the resulting calms allow us to motor at a better speed than we could achieve directly into wind driven ocean waves. The higher speed more than makes up for the additional distance traveled.

It is cool and rainy. We have left the warmth and sunny skies of Australia far behind. So it seems we have lost something but we HAVE gained the evening airshow. For some reason, the seabirds congregate nearby as the day comes to a close. Unlike the birds further north, the albatrosses and their relatives feel no need to pester us with deck landings and their associated mess but seem content to just soar endlessly over the ocean swells.

The largest of them, the wandering albatross, nests on sub-Antarctic islands raising one chick every couple of years. The nesting pairs mate for life - as long as fifty years. When the chick is young, they take turns making week long forays into the ocean for food. As the chick grows large enough to defend itself from predatory birds, both parents head off to hunt bringing food back to their large fluffy chick who eagerly waits for them on a forlorn windy hillside.

It is difficult to appreciate the size of these birds with no well-understood reference in the sky or on the waves. An albatross's wings measure three and a half meters (11 1/2 feet) from tip to tip! The only clue to size is the illusionary slowness with which the albatross seems to glide compared with smaller birds. This is the same illusion that makes Boeing 747s and Airbus 380s appear to be descending to land much more slowly than smaller airplanes. They do not - and neither does the albatross fly particularly slowly. They regularly forage over 500 miles in a day.

At rest
The birds are such a treat to watch ... but oh so hard to capture in the camera lens!

At 11/30/2016 00:01 (utc) our position was 37°08.11'S 166°24.15'E

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Tasman Sea

If anything might make four to five meter high seas vaguely tolerable in a small boat, it would be steady progress. Fortunately, we have been so blessed. Apart from a few hours of contrary wind as we left Sydney which forced us north of our course, we have been moving quickly toward New Zealand. A broad swath of the East Australian Current even added 3 knots to our speed in its curving trajectory towards the east. Our first two full days at sea have given us noon-to-noon runs of 146 nautical miles on the first day and an excellent 184 on the second.

All around, the cobalt blue foam-crested sea is layered with different levels of detail. The huge crests roll by every ten to twelve seconds and raise and lower us with their bulk. These monsters were born days ago in a fifty-plus knot storm now far to our southeast and will travel thousands of miles before they fade to imperceptability. Superimposed on them are the wind waves chased by the 20 to 25 knots blowing from our starboard quarter. These are the seas that produce the annoying lurch that makes living and cooking aboard such a challenge. Every minute or two, one of them collides forcibly with our bow and sends a shower of sea cascading across the deck and into the cockpit. In an even tinier level of detail, centimeter-high ripples, ruffled by the wind, chase across the surfaces of the larger undulations.

While there are no ships or boats of any description to be seen out here, the air is full of life. Various perfectly adapted pelagic birds seemingly extract joy from the ocean swells as they soar above them on long slim wings. I even saw that most excellent flyer, the wandering albatross, who actually seems to nourish himself on wind and wave. What magic soaring! He never flapped a wing in all the time I watched him.

And just to remind us that we are not the only people who voyage from Australia to New Zealand, a solitary contrail divides the deep blue above. I can just make out the silver jetliner leading it across the sky towards New Zealand, a few hours away!

And what now? The winds that drive us will fade and reestablish themselves, at times from an inconvenient direction. We are out here for at least another six days, perhaps seven if we choose to alter our course to the north to avoid a few days of easterlies in a distant forecast. Nonetheless, each day, the miles-to-go shrinks in a pleasing way.

At 11/27/2016 00:03 (utc) our position was 35°50.29'S 157°40.31'E

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Leaving Australia

Sea plane at Rose Bay
Tomorrow's the day. It felt very odd to be taking out my down mitts, wool hat and Icelandic sweater today. As you can see from these photos (taken yesterday and today) the weather is brilliantly sunny, and we don't really feel like heading off into the stormy seas again ... but sad as we feel about leaving, we look forward to re-visiting beautiful Nelson, New Zealand again.

At the moment, we're anchored in the Lane Cove River - not far from where we celebrated Lauris's birthday on Sunday. We stayed in about this same place in the river ten years ago so it feels 'home-like'. Larry brought me ashore in the dinghy so I could drop a few Christmas cards into the mailbox near the Woolwich ferry. This was our method of getting downtown in those days - we would wade ashore, clean our feet and put 'proper' footwear on, lock the dinghy to a tree and walk down to the ferry. We'd get off the ferry at Circular Quay and go to the opera, and reverse the procedure to get home and to bed. It was at this very spot where I met Debby and Leah so there are many memories here.
Trav at anchor in the Lane Cove River

Passing the Opera House
We had anchored in Rose Bay for two nights near the seaplane docks - I did manage to hear Belle - Debbie's talented clarinet student at the NSW Conservatorium - a musical treat. Yesterday we left Rose Bay, motored past the Opera House and under the bridge and stopped for fuel at Birkenhead Point. It's a terrific place to provision with a Shopping Arcade and fuel dock.Sailors can leave their dinghy tied up (for a moderate price) and bring their shopping carts right down to the dock.

Tomorrow we'll return to Birkenhead, and Customs are supposed to meet us there to clear us out of Australia at 8a.m.

So - Farewell Australia - we've had a marvellous time in this beautiful country.

Sunday, 20 November 2016


Musical birthday cake with the Sydney Opera House
We went to a spectacular birthday celebration yesterday … a tribute in honour of Lauris Elms 85th birthday … and a celebration of her contribution to Australian music. As a contralto of astonishing vocal range and emotive depth, she made her debut in Covent Garden with Canadian tenor Jon Vickers in a 1957 production of Verdi’s ‘Un ballo in maschero’. She made many recordings with fellow Australian – the soprano Joan Sutherland. To hear her at her sinuous and sultry prime, just listen and watch here: 

 Lauris being interviewed
While in London under contract at Covent Garden, she met and married a fellow Australian – Graeme de Graaff – then completing Graduate Studies at Oxford University. Even though she was at her prime as an opera singer and singing a wide range of leading roles, homesickness propelled Lauris and Graeme back to their native land. At first, Lauris focussed on futher developing her art song and Lieder repertoire.  She made many recordings for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and was of great help and influence to young Australian singers. 

Sunday’s concert, a series of collected
memorials and an interview with Lauris was organized by Sally-Anne Russell (contralto) and Louise Scott (pianist). They performed some of Lauris’s favourite works in the art song genre including Schubert’s ‘An die Muisk’ and Elgar’s Sea Songs. The singer graciously stepped back when her voice faltered (she had pneumonia!) and this gave us a chance to hear a wonderful performance of John Field’s Nocturne #1 (Louise Scott) and our own Debby de Graaff performing a Saint-Saens clarinet and piano ‘Romance’.
Lauris and Deb at intermission
Lauris Elms is still a gracious, beautiful woman with a commanding personality and an astonishing memory (as witnessed by her responses to the interviewers questions). 
How did Larry and I get to know Lauris and get invited? Well …one of  Lauris and Graeme's greatest accomplishments has been parenting our wonderful friend ... Deborah de Graaff. 
On Saturday we were able to spend a few hours together – and this is where both Water and Music intersected. 

Deborah de Graaff, clarinetist
We gave a ‘command’ performance of our talk entitled ‘Our Northwest Passage aboard Traversay III’ for a select audience including Lauris and Graeme.  The get-together took place at Debby and her partner Leah Lock’s spacious home – shared with 2 cats and 2 dogs and an outside menagerie including several chickens, wild turkeys, an echidna and – intermittently – a python. Leah and I took advantage of a little time before ‘showtime’ to play through Bach’s E minor sonata for flute (and harpsichord … only a piano was available this time!)
Mozart run-through
Leah and M.A. play Bach
The potluck which followed the NWP was a fabulous success – especially since Kris Spikes partner Ginny had concocted an amazing spicy soup with nuts, chives and sour cream accompaniment. She has just retired from running an award-winning Patisserie for nine years. John Cran brought greens from his garden and roast chicken, Deb and Leah contributed further herbs and veg, and Larry and I brought a coconut flan with raspberries for dessert while Diane Gardner brought a host of wine bottles (full!)
After dinner we assembled and fit (as best we could) into Deb’s studio to play Mozart’s Quintet for piano and winds. Everyone was sight reading and I found it a little intimidating to be performing with such able professionals – John is a retired first bassoonist with the Sydney Symphony, Deb is a top clarinettist, Leah is rated as one of the ablest flutists in the country and I had well-known Australian composer/pianist Kristofer Spike turning my pages. However, our friend Di scored the most amazing coup by transposing the French Horn part and playing it on the flute. This was particularly wild when Mozart made her dip down into the Bass Clef for a few notes! The culmination of the evening for me was hearing Kris’s most recent flute/piano work … it was being sight read by Leah – a remarkable achievement – and Kris brought great virtuosic flourishes to his piano score with an impressive range of thematic and colouristic hues. The ABC has recorded a number of Kristofer Spikes works and Deb and Leah have participated in many of these recordings. Leah is branching away from music to explore her fascination with veterinary science. This week she's out at a sheep farm!

Traversay and Ella show off matching canvas
We had a very full weekend. It was due to Lauris and Graeme's forsight that Deb did a lot of sailing with her parents as a girl, and Larry spent quite a while discussing sailing with Deb's parents. On Friday ‘Ella’ (Deb and Di’s sailboat) rafted up to us in Towler’s Bay. We had great fun jumping into the water which was 23C degrees (warm!) All 3 girls jumped in and had fun but Larry jumped into the water with scuba gear to clean barnacles off the propeller.However I believe he still found it to be fun. At any rate, having a clean prop should make our passage to New Zealand later this week much faster.
Deb has been telling us amusing facts about AUS, identifying bird calls and organizing our time in the most helpful way. She has been driving driving us hither and yon especially out to Bobbin Head Marina - a most restful and beautiful place to stay. I greatly enjoyed ‘sitting in’to listen to some of her impressive teenaged students. 12-yr-old Anny was playing advanced repertoire (a-la-Benny Goodman).
Deb and Di aboard Ella
Now we've re-located to Sydney Harbour itself, and tomorrow I’ve been invited to come along and hear one of Deb's students performing her Graduate recital. If I can get from our anchorage here in Rose Bay over to the ferry dock I’ll be able to walk right up the hill from Circular Quay and make my way past the Governor Generals Residence to the New South Wales Conservatory to hear more brilliant beautiful music.

A great place to relax and do laundry - Bobbin Head Elite Marina