Where the Winds Blow...  

by Mark Steele - Auckland, New Zealand

A `toot sweet’ cruise, Seriously windling,
Moonen’s latest and a late friend Melvin.

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Sixpence worth of a

I woke early, the first indications of a tropical summer sunrise but a mere hint as I opened the shutters of the small villa I had rented on the placid East coast at Winklemans Quay. Waking with me was a decidedly sore head, caused no doubt I quickly came to the conclusion, by the five (or was it six ?) double rum and coke’s I had consumed in the island bar the night before.

Heady stuff that if consumed in excess and I remembered that when I had told the woman behind the bar that I had planned to sail to Bigga-Banga Bay the following day, she had kept correcting me…“Ya means Cove Beach ?” She also kept passing me a bright yellow banana ! Now it led me to wonder whether the more I had been consuming at the Chirpy Canary, my destination was coming out as `Big Banana !’

Anyway today was another day and after carefully picking my way down to the pier it was not long before I had hoisted the sails on the little twelve-footer Jizzery and we were moving up the coast in a freshening breeze, the soft colours of an emerging autumn dawn just having made their appearance on the horizon.

Jizzery in a toot sweet blow

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Soon we were twenty minutes away from the cove on a course due east. A small and colourful yacht that I’d swear had nobody on board crossed my path, and a scruffy looking island fishing sloop that I could smell as it approached passed us the red haired native man grinning at me and waving with his straw hat yelled “wind real toot sweet mon !” just prior to losing the hat in a gust, and a sleek schooner passed me headed towards the mainland. Ten minutes later I would understand what the man had meant by `toot sweet’ as we ran into a westerly so strong that Jizzery repeatedly tried to bury her bow giving me the second, third and fourth bath of the day.

We ploughed onwards, a school of flying fish at one stage skimming over the water with one hitting the sail before being thrown back overboard, the wind eventually abating as we moved gently inwards through a break in the reef, where I dropped the mooring weight with a plop about ten feet from the pristine, tide-swept beach. Our crossing to what turned out to indeed be Cove Beach at Bigga-Banga Bay had taken us over two hours. The headache had cleared somewhat, but the constant staring into a rising sun, the saltwater spray, and perhaps the lack of sleep and the liquor consumption the night before had brought on tiredness. A little lie-down on the sand seemed a good idea and soon I was cat-napping and dreaming of island life, blue seas, island women and the variety of sailboats working in island waters.

A Bigga-Banga
cat-nap kind of place

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Loud shouts of “HEY – YOU SLEPT HERE LAST NIGHT?” (and from another person) “I JUST SAW YOUR FOOTY SMASHED AGAINST THE WALL !” woke me suddenly, swiftly brought me to reality as I realized I had been dreaming. Worse than that, here I was lakeside at Onepoto in Auckland and flat on my back at ten o‘clock on a Thursday morning – our Ancient Mariners model sailing day, and five members of our group were looking down at me, all grinning madly and laughing loudly, with the joke entirely on me.

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Just before a rude awakening

No native island women, no palm trees, no sandy beach and no sign of Jizzery. There was duck crap all around me and a wet trouser leg on which a dog had presumably peed as it perhaps had mistaken me for a log. Had I been there all night and whose boat was that on the ground beside me ? As for the little Footy model Sixpence she hadn’t hit any wall and was enjoying safe anchorage, upright, nose inwards between the reeds on the opposite side of the pond.

There is a moral to this story, this being that day-dreaming can sometimes be too realistic – in addition it can oft be tinged with embarrassment for he or she that dreams. Perhaps I may never live it down, that chapter in my life when I thought I had cruised to Bigga-Banga bay on a boat called Jizzery. Or had I done so, considering that on my return home my wife said that my breath smelt strongly of rum ?

`Dreams come true, without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them’ (so wrote John Updike)

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Quiet journeying

The two photos (above) both typify the true model yacht windler whom not unlike the fisherman to some extent, having launched his boat is then totally content just relaxing and watching it sailing placidly up and down and criss-crossing the lake or pond, and waiting on a breeze as was Auckland friend, Roy Lake doing with his Brixham trawler Revive. The second image shows Ken Impey’s son in Cornwall doing much the same thing with his father’s schooner, John Fossett Bonds. Taking in the peaceful atmosphere, indulging in a bit of `imagination journeying’, joyfully enjoying thoughts of nothing and traveling to no particular place, pleasant traits of the sailboat model windler. Men at peace, where even the yelling of “BUOY ROOM!” would be an intrusion, and where the silence of the pond with only the sound of the bow wake ripple audible is an enjoyable factor.

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Melvin with his beloved Lynx

We never met but for years corresponded regularly and despite his diminishing health he still loved sailing his model Baltimore schooner Lynx It was he who introduced me to the Great Schooner Model Society on the Chesapeake Bay, a society dedicated to the building and operation of multi-masted sailing boat models of which he was Founding Commodore until his passing after which he became Commodore Emeritus. Melvin A Conant (above and below) and I shared views, exchanged trophies, swapped stories and photographs and all that without ever meeting. Often that kind of bond of friendship is precious to say the very least and I think I will always remember him. I have been so very lucky that model sailing boats has resulted in such contacts and put me in touch with so many people who have become lasting friends. When you come to think about it, people are the key ingredient in a world that appears to be changing into somewhat of a most untrusting and impersonal one. Here’s to Melvin A Conant, now gone with the wind and one of natures finest.

always time for everyone

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Here is the latest example of Dutch ship modeling excellence from Wim Moonen of the Netherlands, a sailing model of the Prins Willem, the largest ship at the time of the Dutch East India Company. Built in 1649 in Middleburg, Holland and classified as a `Spiegelship’, she sank near Madagascar during a severe storm in 1662. Wim built the 155cm long model weighing 13kg of which 6 kg is the keel over a three year period. He was keen to make it as light as possible. As we get older we pay more attention to both weight and size. The carvings on the model were out of pearwood with mahogany and teak also used.

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Wim’s model shipbuilding is exceptional and it is interesting to note how he has built the model in two halves, the entire superstructure separate to the hull which makes the task of transporting the model exceptionally easy. Interesting also that he has made the winches from parts taken from old video recorders. He made the hull of selected fine grain oak taken from an old table and the model took him three years to build. (Now I wonder how many old tables Wim has left, as well as what his next project will be? ED)

To some extent not unlike Dave Heanly’s one time sailing barge, Ebb Tide is a more recent coastal sailing boat, Star Lit_in ketch rig, built in usual quick time by Ron Rule of Auckland on a Smeed Starlet design hull. Sailed with the Ancient Mariners, it displays visual traces of being a working vessel plying the coasts of `somewhere’ and it seems to sail well enough in freshening breezes. LOA is 40” including a 5” bowsprit and the hull using the standard Starlet plans was built with 1.5mm ply over ply frames. The ketch has an 11” drop keel with a 4 ½ lb lead bulb. In typical light-hearted mood, Ron adds that `careful and exacting calculations were of course taken, ie mast height, boom length, centre of effort on both main and mizzen, together with the Southern hemisphere wind patterns, with allowances for the curvature of the earth (Nobody told me that it was curved before ! Ed) together with the directions seagulls fly when there is a tail wind!’ (This guy can be a worry!)

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Dave's barge Ebb Tide

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Above and below, Star- Lit

Red sail sailing
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`Sam Swipes he was a seaman true, as brave and bold as tar,
as e’re was dressed in navy blue on board a man-of-war.
One night he filled a pail with grog, determined he would suck it:
He drained it dry the thirsty dog, hicupped and `kicked the bucket’.

The publication of the US VINTAGE MODEL YACHT GROUP

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