Where were you on Tuesday February 13th at 11am?
(Sounds like interrogation from a B grade detective
movie, doesn’t it?)
I don’t know about you, but I was playing Truant,
and having one helluva good time doing it, too!
It was forecast to be a good weather week in the
middle of our New Zealand summer. I had some days
off work to use up, so on Monday 12th I packed a pile
of gear into my Welsford design 11’6”
(named ‘Truantsea’ because of occasions
like this), hitched up the trailer, and headed for
Lake Tarawera. The Lake is near the tourist spot of
Rotorua,100km from home in the middle of New Zealand’s
North Island. It’s well stocked with hatchery
and natural rainbow trout and adjacent to the remains
of Mount Tarawera which erupted in 1886. Geothermal
hot springs feed streams and the lake edge in a number
of areas, the most popular being ‘Hot Water’
beach – on the 5km western arm of the lake,
about 10km southwest from the main launching area.
springs feed streams and the lake edge in a
number of areas, the most popular being ‘Hot
Water’ beach – on the 5km western
arm of the lake.
After launching, I chose to motor across the middle
of the lake since the wind was light and right on
the nose. The 2hp Honda 4 stroke motor comfortably
pushed Truantsea at 4 knots – the trip to the
campsite on ‘warm’ ground at Hot Water
beach taking just under an hour, and using less than
its 1 litre tankful.
There was only 1 young couple camped there –
about 100 metres away, otherwise the place was mine.
I unpacked the boat, pitched the igloo tent, assembled
the 2 pce mast, fitted the rudder and raised my newly
modified Gaff rig sail. This was my first try with
the rig after changing from a successful, but very
powerful Bermudan rig sail on a 6 metre curved mast.
I had cut down and re-sewed a standard shape sail
from a 13 foot yacht as an experiment. The wind was
a little stronger now and gusty, so I was relieved
how ‘soft’ the gaff rig was in the gusts.
When a gust came, it seemed as though it gave forward
drive, before leaning the boat. Very different to
the previous rig that created heel at the slightest
breath. Although I did immediately notice the lesser
windward ability of the new rig. Nonetheless I prefer
the nicer nature of the gaff set up for my level of
successful, but very powerful Bermudan rig sail
on a 6 metre curved mast.
After a leisurely evening meal cooked on the gas
cooker, some ‘red’ and a soak in one of
the lakeside natural pools, it was bedtime. The wind
dropped, the waves subsided, the crickets chirped
and the native NZ owls (Ruru) hooted and sent me off
to a comfortable nights sleep on the ‘warmed’
airbed. The wind returned the following day around
mid morning, so it was sail-up again and off for a
decent look around.
I tacked the 5km out of the western arm, then zig-zagged
my way around the lake for maybe 2 hours (approx 6km),
to the outlet of the lake on its south eastern shore.
Here there is another space for camping and bush walks
along the river - which in places flows underground,
bursting out of the ground in waterfalls and rapids.
Spectacular! After a hikers lunch from my food box,
I again raised the sail and had a one-set run to the
mouth of the western arm. The breeze was now 5-10
knots variable, but the sail handled the fluctuations
very, very comfortably and the little boat scooted
along well for that hour or so.
A photo taken
from a previous trip. We are truly blessed with
such accessible natural beauty!!!
After turning back into the Ariki arm, it was a different
matter. I tacked and tacked again. The wind disappeared
and came back probably 20 times over the next 2 hours.
By 4pm it had basically disappeared, so I anchored
up at the campsite and reached for a (still) cold
can from the chilly bin, and skimmed a few pages of
the book I’d brought. The wind returned as a
strong steady breeze about 6.30pm, so I had great
fun for the next hour or so ,trying various levels
of sail tightness and trying her out at all points
of the compass. I was getting to really like this
I had cut down
and re-sewed a standard shape sail from a 13
foot yacht as an experiment.
Again, another hot soak in a rock pool, more food,
more drink, then more sleep followed. Close to heaven,
Another spectacular dawn on the mountain and a light
5-6knot breeze set up the next day on the lake. It
only took 15 minutes to sail a dead run, out onto
the main lake. Then about 35 minutes to get to the
eastern shore at Humphreys Bay. Here is the 3rd camping
spot on the lake and the start of a track that leads
to adjacent Lake Okaitaina. The track was originally
used by native Maori tribesmen to carry wooden dugout
canoes 8km overland. A group of teenage schoolchildren
with 2 guides/tutors, was preparing to do just that
with their plastic touring kayaks on wheeled cradles.
dawn on the mountain and a light 5-6knot breeze
set up the next day on the lake.
I leisurely sailed back to the camp again, grabbed
the fishing gear, and with the sail down - using the
motor, trolled along the shore with a lure in the
hope of hooking a nice trout. I was lucky on the previous
trip (3 weeks before Christmas), but no such luck
this time. Even the charter operators I spoke to were
having to resort to depth sounders and fish finders
to even get a strike this summer. Yet, Lake Rotorua
itself – 15km away was having a really good
Later in the early evening (you guessed it) –
another hot soak. This time I motored 5 minutes to
a small stream fed by a hot spring. It was only 2
feet deep, but with clear water, a clean gravel bottom,
and overhanging trees for shade and birdsong, it was
a magical spot. Over 2 hours, only one other boat
came along to disturb the peace and quiet. Then as
was the pattern – back to the tent for dinner,
a long drink and a warm mattress.
The following morning was yet another spectacular
dawn, however it was time to head home. After packing
tent, airbed, cooker and utensils, clothes, fishing
gear, chilly bin, rubbish bag (you must remove everything)
I was amazed just how much stuff I had brought along.
It seemed equally incredible that all except 2 items
were stowable in the 4 watertight hatches of the little
11 ½ foot boat (see pic). In addition, the
balance of the boat under sail seemed unaffected by
the load. Even having an anchor and 8 metres of chain
stowed forward seemed not to matter.
This time it was a tacking battle to sail out to
the main lake as the wind was now from the Northeast,
but we clearing the opening after about 90 minutes.
On the main lake the wind diminished until at about
2/3 of the way across the lake, it died completely.
After waiting, with the sail flapping lazily for 20
minutes or so, I gave up, fired up the little Honda,
and was back at the launch ramp 15 minutes later.
tent, airbed, cooker and utensils, clothes,
fishing gear, chilly bin, rubbish bag (you must
remove everything) I was amazed just how much
stuff I had brought along.
What a way to spend the midweek. What a pleasure
I am happy with my trial Gaff Rig sail.
I am thrilled (after 2 years) with my little Welsford
It is a capable boat. I’ve had it in 1½
metre choppy seas. I have taken it up narrow, shallow
I’ve sailed it in light airs and strong gusty
I have caught fish from it in freshwater and saltwater.
I really thank its designer for the well thought out
design and its spirited performance.
But above all………….
I’m sure I will continue to be guilty of Truantsea
for many years to come.