Wednesday, June 18, 2008


The Yacht 'Mariner' On Her Mooring In The Hatea River Whangarei

This is a recent photograph of the good ship Mariner dressed in her new colours after the completion of her 25 year refit. The black and white photo in the 'Header' box above was taken a few years back when the hull was dark blue. She was repainted because a dark colour attracts the heat far too much for a wooden boat in the heat of the far north of New Zealand. She is a 30 foot sloop. 24 feet on the waterline, 9 feet 8 inches beam and draws about 5 feet in cruising trim. She is constructed of two skins of heart kauri over one inch square stringers with a laminated backbone and many laminated frames. She can sleep four people but for any extended cruise 2 to 3 people is enough. I built her over a period of four years and launched her in 1979. I have been all around the coast of Northland in her and she has proved to be a fast and weatherly type.

Sailing is at the heart of what I love to do. It's not just the sailing itself which as an activity and sensation is to me poetry in motion, it is the associated peripheral things, which when gathered together make for a pleasing and enchanting whole.To steer her up the coast hard on the wind, at the tiller hour after hour thinking only of the relationship of the angle of the genoa jib to the eye of the wind and to exult in the way the boat cleaves herself through the waves; or to run downwind like smoke feeling her make use of each wave, is to be immersed in and aware of every interaction of the boat with its environment.To do this is to enter into a meditation of sorts, it is a way for me to be entirely in the present moment and I rejoice in that.For me, experiencing the many moods of the sea is a blessing. Each time it is as if I am experiencing it for the very first time. The wind, the waves, the sky all have an elemental cadence to them.
Watching a mirror like calm change to the spindrift blown spray of forty knots or more of wind and wave, and to sail through all this after reefing her well down and watching the destination grow slowly larger on a bright or hazy horizon, for me is being immersed in contentment itself.

Then the safe harbour, the snug anchorage, rowing ashore, pulling the trusty dinghy up on the beach. The walks along the beach and climbing a hill to look down at the boat now a toy anchored contentedly in the bay below.At night the meal shared, to lights reflected in varnished mahongony and the warm glow of conversation and camaraderie - and the stars. Not just any old stars - sailing stars, high, high, high stars clear and bright, bright, bright, away from the pollution of the city. The whole sweep of the milky way and the cosmos - and as the chill of the night comes, seeking the cosy haven below in a little cabin made for reflection, reading, meditation and contentment.

But you must remember this, the nuances of sailing are a lifes work, it is always a work in progress and it doesn't suit a plastic caravan mentality, for you see wooden yachts are living things and if you are very quiet and listen carefully they will reveal to you their secrets.


Katherine said...

Lovely! Your passion and eloquence are wonderful. Thanks for sharing it with us out here in blogland.
Looking forward to more of your thoughts and pics.

Alden Smith said...

Thank you Katherine. I didn't realise how good it is to write about something that you are really passionate about. Its not really a love letter to the boat or yourself, more a love letter to the experience of life itself. Sailing has so many dimensions to it that it takes a lifetime to experience them all. I hope to grow old and narly and wrinkly like an old storm jib doing just that.