Happy New Year

New Year’s Eve, Russell/Kororareka, Bay of Islands

It’s the cusp of the New Year. We’re anchored off the small village of Russell/Kororareka, the first (short lived) capital of New Zealand, across a small bay from the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the famous/infamous Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. In brief, it’s the defining document governing Maori-Pakeha (non-Maori/white) relations – conflicting interpretations of it were at the heart of decades of war and conflict in the mid-nineteenth century (which Maori came extremely close to winning, despite being vastly outnumbered and outpowered). Maori activism, using diverse methods, never ceased to press for the “unqualified exercise of chieftainship” the Maori language version of the treaty guarantees. In 1975 a Tribunal was established to consider the issue of compensation due Maori for contemporary government actions and confiscations that violated the Treaty, and in 1985, after another decade of political activism and an influential Maori judge’s brief, the Tribunal was empowered to consider historic actions and due compensation. This unleashed an on-going torrent of claims, testimony, and efforts to seek redress that some argue have strayed from the pursuit of justice and have been overly Eurocentric. The national importance of the Treaty is suggested by the establishment of Waitangi Day, 6 February, whose purpose is to educate, enlighten, and enhance understanding of the historical importance and contemporary relevance of the Treaty for all who live in New Zealand/Aotearoa.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Anson is backpacking on the South Island. Devon is below playing Catan with three other age mate “cruising kids,” and I have a bit of time to set a couple memories from our passage here from Tonga “down to paper” before they get lost in the mist of time. They concern the importance of bilge pumps and a transporting night watch experience.

As “axle nut,” one of my many responsibilities is to see to it that all our bilge pumps function well. We have three, one electric (with either a manual switch or automatic float actuating method), and two manual. In the past, I’ve serviced, repaired or replaced all the components of these three pump systems. During most passages I operate one of the manual pumps every six hours or so, counting the number of pumps needed to empty the bilge, as a way of monitoring the rate of water inflow – mostly it weeps through the rudder post and down through the hawsepipe from the deck into the anchor locker and from there to the bilge. Between 25 and 65 pumps are normally needed to empty the bilge. However, on our passage down from Tonga, when we had a couple days of boisterous weather with a lot of water on the decks and sometimes in the cockpit, my normal method was no longer workable. I was reminded of this one evening not too long ago while Kim was reading from “A Ship’s Tale,” our current “read aloud” book. (We have a tradition of Kim reading aloud books on Anthea; the list so far includes Two Years Before the Mast, Joshua Slocum’s Around Alone, Animal Farm, Pax (thanks to Aunt Jennifer for that one), and a few others I’m forgetting. She’s so good at this that it could a second career.) An any rate, in the current book, the tall ship Bonnie Clyde weathers a gale in the English Channel and her gasoline powered bilge pumps must be run constantly to keep up with the water flowing down from the decks and seeping through the planking; indeed, petrol supplies had to be monitored to ensure adequate fuel for the pumps. This reminded me of how on Anthea, during those two days, I had to resort to using the electric bilge pump (officially rated at 8 gallons per minute) to keep up with the amount of water accumulating in the bilge. I first realized this when water appeared above the leeward floorboards in the main cabin. No one likes to see water coming above the floorboards. Fortunately, Anthea has a shallow bilge, so the volume was much less than it would have been on other comparably-sized boats. Due to the angle of heel, the float-activated switch did not go on. I first tried the usual method of emptying the bilge, but soon realized the manual pump would take too long, so resorted to the electric bilge pump and within 30-45 seconds I heard the reassuring and familiar air- sucking sound of the intake hose. For the next couple of days I used this method to monitor the bilge water and empty the bilge. It was somewhat sobering to realize that significant volumes of water were getting into the bilge, but so long as it took a consistent time period to empty it, all was fine and there was nothing to worry about. Fortunately, that was indeed the case, and after the weather calmed down and we had less water topsides, I was again able to return to my usual method of monitoring bilge water and emptying the bilge. So, the moral of the story, if there is one, is – three cheers for multiple, functioning bilge pumps!

The second memory concerns my last night watch before landfall the morning of 27 November. I had the 12:30-3:30 am watch. I relieved Anson. Watch changes are brief but memorable moments of connection when responsibility for navigation and the ship are passed from one of us to another. After giving me his report and sharing a few minutes together in the cockpit under the canopy of stars, he went below. The next couple of hours were sheer magic; I hope I never lose the visceral memory I retain of that night. We were on a beam reach, on port tack, with 14-18 knots of apparent wind. A minor low pressure system over New Zealand had created enough of a pressure differential to draw wind landwards, thus transforming what we had expected to be a motor into a memorable sail. The magic of the watch came from the combination of sea state, wind, and Anthea’s sea kindliness. Anthea was sliding through the water in an extraordinarily smooth manner. For though the knotmeter told me we were humming along at 7-7.5 knots, I had no sensation of the boat moving through the darkness. The only motion I felt was a gentle, rhythmic up and down sensation, perhaps akin to sitting on a merry go round horse. The dark night prevented me from seeing the water moving past us, and the bow wave was so quiet as to be barely audible. There was no rolling, pitching, tossing, lurching or heaving, just a gentle up and down through the undulating ocean surface. If the knot meter had not conveyed our respectable speed, I would have refused to belief that 12 tons of boat could slip through the ocean in such a magical fashion. I hope to never forget that feeling.

Best wishes for the New Year! May our collective hopes and desires for the new year be fulfilled.


2 thoughts on “Happy New Year

  1. Excellent writing Mark ! I felt like I was there with you sliding through the dark night on a smooth sea with light from other suns shining above us.
    Happy New Year to you and the family. I am welcoming 2018 in and wishing us all
    Peace and Love!


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