Summer does exist!
By John Welsford
From New Zealand where its summer now
Funny thing summer, it’s a localised phenomena,
one which appears in half the world while the other half is
suffering from runny noses, muddy tracks through the house and
rain down the backs of their necks. When summer aint, its sometimes
hard to really believe that such a thing exists, and that given
patience and time, it will return.
But it does, every year, and while the rain and
snow is doing its thing in one place the warm weather is busy
making life comfortable and happy for those in other places.
Its summer where I am right now, boating is great,
the weather is warm and the breezes gentle, the water blue with
just the occasional white crest and the beaches are that intense
golden colour that can only come when you are seven years old
and granddad is sitting under a shady tree while you hunt for
shells in the rockpools.
We have a very healthy classic boat fraternity
here, and each year many of them congregate in the Mahurangi
Estuary off the ARC Regional Park at O’Sullivans Bay for
the annual Mahurangi Regatta.
There are tug o wars and sandcastle competitions
for the kids, picnics on the lawns and hotly contested races
for the small craft. I donated a trophy for the Master of the
Mahurangi rowing race ( for fixed seat rowing boats over a distance
of no less than 2000m ) and there is a very busy small boat
schedule sailed and rowed from the beach. Out beyond the several
hundred moored boats are the big, and not so big boats, racing
several times around a course from Slipper Island off the mouth
of the Estuary to a mark in the Channel always close to shore
and a spectacular sight. Where else can you see a 1940s two
man clinker dinghy dicing with a 30 ton Baltic Trader for room
at the mark!
I had gone along mostly to be social, many of
my friends and clients go there each year and its great to catch
up, to play in their boats and to see how they perform, its
good to sit and watch as the multihullers play with their Proas,
the rowers compare notes about hulls and oars in between sweating
and puffing around the course, the spectators lounge in the
comfort of their cockpits or on the grassy banks of the beach
and the kids have a great time with those special friends that
they only see once a year.
There were at my very rough count over 300 boats
moored in the bay when I came over the hill on the way in, mostly
classics and traditional craft. Almost all wood, some like the
vintage A class racer Waione, long graceful gaff cutters still
very very fast and with an air of flat caps and white collars,
others like the coasting ketch Ripple are working boats of the
type that once plied New Zealands North East coast carrying
freight and passengers. Small boats like David Perillos Navigator
and a John Leather designed Oyster 17 all the way from England
and a Baltic Trader, one of the few remaining of that once numerous
fleet of working ships that fetched and carried around Skandinavia
and the northern European countries now in pleasant retirement
in much warmer New Zealand waters.
There were small and modest craft sailed by families,
a couple of fair sized square riggers with crews of enthusiasts
aboard, steamers and small motorships of classic mein, I can
recognise a Gardners gentle but powerful pulse and watched with
wonder as a 25 ton workboat accelerated away without a change
in the exhaust note of the big diesel.
This was a near perfect day, the wind just perfect
for a full breeze, hardly any chop and just enough white caps
to highlight the deep blue of the sea. Warm, velvety and wonderfully
good for the soul.
Friend Marcus Raimon from SMI (Specialist Marine
Interiors, they put the insides in superyachts in Whangarei
about an hour north of Mahurangi) brought the firms fast power
dory and offered to do duty as a photo boat.
I had six rolls of 35mm with me so we shot off
Here are a selection of photos to help dispel the gloom of those
long cold nights and wet sunless days, I don’t have much
information on some of them so am just selecting nice photos
of lovely craft doing what they do best on a warm and gentle
It was a great day. John Welsford