Monday, October 26, 2015

The Last Hut Hop: Sailing!

October 17 - 23, 2015
Yacht: Destiny 22ft.
Skipper: Nathaniel Deverell
Crew: Guilaume Bourdin
Traveling artist: Felicity Deverell

Whangaroa harbour to Whangarei Heads and back in seven days and via four huts.

Here is just a rough map to indicate where about we were in the country if you are not familiar with the place names.

   The last expedition for my two year long project to draw North Island back country huts, and this time in a boat instead of the usual tramping in boots and under heavy packs. 

   Saturday 17th morning early, here we go. All our gear into the car, 'don't forget the oars!' and down the road two minutes to the harbour and the boat ramp. Nathaniel rows out to Destiny and motors her around to the wharf while Guillaume and I unload our gear. I drive the car home and run all the way back to the wharf with a bag of frozen bait, almost forgotten. (We never caught any edible fish on our one and only hook.)

   There is no wind, just sunshine and cloud, so we motor all the way around to Lane Cove and the first hut. Lane Cove has been on my doorstep from the start of this project, but I hadn't yet drawn it. It is too easy to get out there, just an couple of hours walk from home, so I put it off with 'I can do that any time. right now I'm busy.' But it's done now. I decided to paint the hut -- in the end I decided to paint all of these coast huts. 

   We anchored in the cove at 10am and I began painting the hut from the boat. As I had guessed it would, the boat swung around on her anchor a fair bit so that we had to put out a small anchor of the stern to keep her straight. I painted for about four hours. It was interesting painting on the boat, quite nice sitting in the sunshine listening to the birdsong in the bush on shore all around. I'm normally quite a messy painter but I made sure all mishaps landed on me not the boat. That wouldn't have gone down well with my brother.

Lane Cove Hut, Whangaroa Harbour. Oil on board,  12 x 7 in
   While I was painting the boys filled up our water supply from a stream - floaties in the tank water apparently - and then climbed up to the top of the Duke's Nose. Here is a sketch I did of that big rock from the cove. 

And here is what they saw looking down from the top: Destiny is the little white dot in the corner.

Looking out the harbour heads down towards the Cavalli Islands.

   I finished painting at about three and we carried on down to the Cavalli Islands. Out of the harbour a little wind picked up and sent us down to Flat Island where the first and last damage to the boat  happened. The boat was rocking a bit down over the rolling waves, and since the wind was light the boom kept banging about a bit. Nathaniel made a quick tie to the stay to keep it quiet and it worked well. A little while later Guilluame, looking back, suddenly said 'is the dingy supposed to be over there?' No, indeed not. She had shaken her painter loose from the cleat and had decided to go off on her own adventures. Of course, we weren't letting her get away that easily so up we round into the wind with Nathaniel yelling orders to pull in the sheets. He himself yanked in the main sheet Sails were flapping and suddenly we heard a loud BANG. The kind of bang that sounds like an awful lot of force on something has just made it give way. I had no idea at first what it could be, then Nathaniel was swearing and ordering the sails down, and I saw the stay swinging loose from it's fitting. 

   The stay had come out of it's crimping where it joined the deck fitting when Nathaniel had hauled in the boom which he had forgotten in the rush was tied to the stay. Sails down, motor on, retrieve the dingy and then survey the damage. Nathaniel had it worked out in a jiffy. He tied a bowline in the wire than lashed that down with rope. They had to loosen off the opposite stays to get it tight enough but it worked well and got us there and back. So I motored onward while they patched us up, soon the sails were back up and we got to the Cavallis before dark.

   The Cavalli Islands are a beautiful place. The water is so clear you can see the bottom thought it is still very deep. We anchored of Motukawanui Island in Waiiti Bay. Sunday morning I got up early at 7:30, though this turned out to be the latest we slept during the whole voyage. I did a painting of Motukawanui hut which was set back a little way from the beach among young replanted native trees. At first I was depressed at the sight in front of me. Just another hut in scenery that could be anywhere in New Zealand. I wanted to paint the water and the bay and the islands. I found a compromise between the two and painted the hut from the back and up the hill slightly so that I was looking over the roof and into the bay. 

  I was happy with my view now, but my painting didn't turn out so well. To begin with the sea was almost white like the sky, but as I painted and the sun came out it became a dark blue, and what with chasing these values about my painting ended up a bit of a mess. But then I did a sketch on the beach of our little yellow dingy and that cheered me up.

   When I had finished there we had lunch on the boat and lifted anchor for the Bay of Islands. This was another lovely sail with favorable winds. We got to Urupukapuka Island in about five hours. I took a few photos while we sailed down. Since I don't have a camera all these were taken off my and Guillaume's phones. So that is why the slightly old fashioned look to them! Let's just say it's another form of art. We did have a little pretend GoPro thing which we took a few videos with. I will putting together a video for YouTube out of our footage.

   We anchored for the night in Urupukapuka Bay which seemed very civilized with a DOC campsite and a couple of yachts in the bay already. The next morning we woke early and were heading out of the bay before sunrise heading for Cape Brett. It took us 1.5h to sail there and what looked like a big rain storm was following us. But after we got to the Cape it passed over us with barely a mist of rain and by the time I had started painting the sun had come out.

   It was a little rough and windy to land in the little dingy on the North side, so we motored around and Guillaume dropped me off in a little rocky cove on the other side from where I climbed up the cliff path to the hut.

   A few hours of painting and a quick sketch of the lighthouse later and Guillaume picked me up again in the dingy with a rope rowlock. We had lost one to the deep and the seaweed when he had dropped me off. We saw a couple of seals playing in the water in the cove as we rowed back out to Destiny. They were very beautiful and graceful and look so much better in the water than they do stranded on a rock. Back on Destiny it was lunch time then down to Whangaruru Harbour. 

   I think these pictures were taken here, us studying the charts trying to work out how many hours it will take to Whangarei and weather we would have to stop off in Tutukaka.

    Below, behind Guillaume, is a glimpse of my painting of the Cavalli hut if you are wondering what that looks like!

  A stop off for the night and up in the dark morning to motor out of the harbour again. This morning there was barely any wind and we bobbed about the sea for a while before it picked up. During the lull I found myself on Nathaniels laptop writing emails and about gallery and organization. Shocking isn't it when you can't get away from that kind of office work even on a boat these days.. Help!

 Soon a south/west wind came up which was a slow sail against. We decided to go into Tutukaka harbour and bought some more diesel at the marina there. We wandered about found beautiful toilets with hot running water. And a general store. We had convinced ourselves that we were going to starve as we hadn't brought nearly as much food as we would on a tramping trip, so it seemed. So we found a General store and the only thing we came back with was some ice which we found dumped on the ground outside. It kept out chili bin cold for another day. Other than that we bought icecream and chocolate, because some of us were on holiday.

  Here my brother and his family came down with fish and chips and brought along his drone. Nathaniel has his own racing drone which is his latest passion and is what he dose when not sailing. So they flew around all evening.
Here is a link to my brother's YouTube Channel. Incredible Motion NZ.

   Tutukaka to Whangarei, day four, started off another still morning which gradually picked up and gradually the wind went around to a nicer direction down to the heads. We got to Whangarei and around into a sheltered bay at 11am.

   And then, after lunch, it was time for some walking. Guillaume and I started off up Mt. Lion and over into Peach Cover. The sign said three hours so we were happy with our 1.5hours and on the return trip we took only an hour to take the over 1000 steps up along and down the mountain. Peach Cover hut is hidden in the bush 800 steep steps straight down from the ridge and still a wee way above the rocky shore below. Slightly disappointing for a painter sailing all this way, and having no view beyond the hut, but that's what creativity is for isn't it. I climbed a big pohutukawa tree growing up over a huge boulder and sat on a branch to do a sketch of the hut. While I was there and Guillaume had gone off to explore a path to the beach  a whole troupe of people arrived below me. I silently kept on drawing and being entertained until eventually they caught sight of me and the joke was shared all round.

 After I finished the drawing and had scrambled out of the tree with almost numb legs I started a painting of the hut from the beginning of the track. The group of people were students on a field trip and while I painted I listened to the talk about snails and birds which was very interesting and Guillaume sat among them on the deck and acted as my spokesperson. Very nice not to have to answer questions over and over again while I am painting! Painting was done some hours later and a few more people might come to see my exhibition in Whangarei now. 

   Here is the view from the top of Mt. Lion and me with the little video camera and paint all over my hands. The coast behind me is one we had sailed down that morning and would sail up again the next day. It was nice to be walking along a bush track again, even if it did roll from side to side as if we were on a floating island.

   When we got back to the bay where Destiny was moored, we again met the drones buzzing about. So we lay in the grass and watched the fun then at dusk back to the boat to food and bed. Another early start in the morning.

   It was the last morning on the trip we woke up to -- we were already awake for the next one. We had been thinking about sailing right up through the night to get home quickly. Watching the weather we saw a lot of wind and rain coming on the Saturday, it was Thursday morning and it had taken us four days to get down to Whangarei. But without having to stop anywhere we might make it up in two. We did that. The wind was against us still, one tight tack up to Cape Brett where the sun went down and we met the dusk.

  I did a quick sketch before I got too sick of the approaching Cape Brett, and of Guillaume at the helm staring at the point. Just past the Cape it got dark and the moon showed her light and the stars appeared. It took us all night tacking against the wind to get to the other side of the Bay of Islands! Guillume sailed all night with me on the deck to keep him awake while Nathaniel caught a bit of sleep below. It was nice sailing at night, the moon went away and we could see some amazing phosphorescence in the water which made an occasional white cap glow and left a trail behind us like the shooting stars above us-- only a very slow one. 

   The sunrise was amazing and glowing orange, but I remember it dimply through half closed eyes. I fell asleep on the deck after Nathaniel came up again and took the helm and Guillaume stumbled down into the cabin half asleep already. The sun was well up when I properly woke up. A pod of dolphins came by. They were tearing down the waves heading into the Bay. They tried surfing at our bow wave but there wasn't that much there to surf. The wind was still against us and the GPS was telling us it would take another 7 hours to get to the Cavalli Islands at that rate. Nathaniel started up the engine and we got there in two. 

  She motors well and cuts right through the waves without hesitation. It was very nice to know we were going to get home that day. Past the Cavalli Islands the wind was nice and gaining strength for one long tack into Whangeroa Harbour, the Jewel of the North. It was very nice to be home have a shower and sleep. The land was rocking like crazy, and I thought it would go on for days, but by the time I woke up again after a long sleep the land was still again.

* * *

   Now, I have only two weeks to go until the exhibition in Reyburn House, Whangarei. It goes from the 10th to the 29th of Novermber 2015. I hope you will be able to make it to see all what I've been working on for the last two years. If not I am sure I will take lots of photos of video of it all. I am also having an opening evening or reception for everyone who has helped me and friends and family and anyone who is interested in the project and wants to come along. That will be during the first week and I will let you know the date in my Newsletter which will be coming our later this week.

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