Eben and Annie bio photo

Eben and Annie

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River Adventures

A lot has happened since I’ve last written anything. This doesn’t mean that it’s been boring…

On the contrary, I’m not sure what to write about since there’s so many awesome adventures that we’ve had. The only logical thing to do would be to write about them in the order they happened. Given that watches and calendars get ignored aboard, we’ll just say that the following happened some time in February.

We packed up the possessions we wanted to keep and stored them safely. We sold everything worth selling and gave away anything that we couldn’t sell. The rest was sent off to the land fill. With the commitment made to live aboard full time we got stuck in the marina with some bad weather. We had a date to keep since the CANANZ group were having a dinner in Warkwarth and they were all planning a cruise up the Mahurangi river.

Annie Hill's fantail. We met Bryan and Linda (the current owners) this weekend we enjoyed a nice visit and beer with the aboard taleisin this afternoon.

We provisioned Taleisin and played the waiting game with the weather and wind gods. When ever you’re supposed to be somewhere at a certain time and date it seems impossible to get good weather for it. Looking at the light winds in the forecast, we decided to leave a day earlier than required and hopefully make the trip over two days instead of one.

We finally had a bit of wind so we cast the dock lines off and set sail! It took us all afternoon to make it as far as Browns Bay, about half way. We dropped anchor and were delighted to see the movie E.T. screening on the beach. People were out having a great time and it was just a perfect way to enjoy the sunset.

It would appear that I’m starting to make a habit of going green the first night at anchor. I suspect it has something to do with the boat moving differently and me messing about with Kerosene for the anchor light. Annie’s always a champ and takes care of the things I’m unable to take care of. Needless to say I was in bed early that night so I could regain my composure for the sail in the morning.

We got up with the sun the next morning, this seems to be the way you live when you’re on a boat. Unless we had a late night we’ll wake up when the sun rises. We had a quick breakfast and set sail for the Mahurangi river. It was incredibly light so we had to use the motor to push us along a little while we collected every bit of puff we could with the sails.

We had to sail like this for most of the way. We could see a squall travelling across the land and the sky getting darker. Eventually we decided to get our foul weather gear out since it became quite clear that we where going to get wet. The weather was nice all day but the wind was not. Now the weather was turning bad and the wind was good. We finally had enough wind to get some decent sailing done. It was great we sailed most of the way up the river and only used the motor for the final stretch as we didn’t want to muck around in the shallow water and potentially run aground.

We made it to our destination with a bit of time to spare so we kicked back and relaxed waiting for the other boats to show up.

Not having made the trip up river on the tide before we didn’t quite know what to expect. I thought we might be OK to float on up under oar power alone. It wasn’t until those who knew better told us that we’d take all night if we did that. So we dug the little outboard out of the lazaret and tried to get it running. After a little messing around we got it started.

We got ourselves ready for a night out and started to motor towards Close Encounters, owned by Stephen, who’s also become a great friend. About half way there we realised that we forgot a flash light and turned back. Eventually we got the flash light and attempted to leave again. This time we got half way there and the engine died. Out of petrol. Luckily I brought a little spare can of petrol with us for just such a problem. Another couple asked us if we’d like them to tow us since we appeared broken down. We suggested that they hang around to see if we could get going again before we turned their offer down.

After filling the motor up we were under way again. We stopped off at Close Encounters for a quick visit and then we all set off in our dinghies for what turned out to be a 5 nautical mile ride. I’m sure I’d still be rowing if I didn’t use the motor that night! It was a long dinghy ride, but it was fun doing it in with others. We stopped off at a boat yard and an old cement factory on the way. We did a little exploration and stretched our legs before we took to the water again.

Eventually we all made it safely into Warkwarth and tied our dinghies up to the dock in the middle of town. We had a short walk to the pub for dinner.

At dinner we sat next to another couple that was out cruising as well and had a great time talking to them, their boat is called Fantail. This named ringed a bell, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Fantail is a little junk rig, naturally I asked if they were fans of Annie Hill? Their response was, well we bought her boat! No wonder the name Fantail sounded familiar, I recall reading somewhere that Annie was sailing a little boat called Fantail.

We suggested that they come and find us the next day if they were curious about Taleisin. Needless to say we exchanged stories and experiences about owning famous boats.

The end of the night had arrived, we paid our bills and then it was time to set off on the river in the pitch black night. I do not recall a moon at all that night. The stars were spectacular though. At this point I should probably mention that I’m night blind so doing things in the dark is always a challenge for me.

We all hopped in our dinghies, armed with flash lights and a leader who’s done this before. The couple leading the way was fantastic, they found all the channel markers and pointed them out to us while they were happily making their way down the river. This is quite an experience, let me try to paint a picture for you. Three dinghies, one had 5 people in it. We all had flash lights, some brighter than others - I love my 1000 lumen flash light. The lights would flicker on and off, zooming around like search lights, picking up reflective markers and then it would go dark again. We’d be winding through the river, trying not to run aground or get stuck in the mangroves. Motors would be whining so we couldn’t even hear the other boats. It’s pitch black, no moon, but the stars were bright! If you’re not careful your motor would kick up some mud or worse stall because you hit the bottom. It’s hard to stay right in the middle of the river since you I couldn’t see anything without the flash light. It was just black.

The entire trip went something like this, for us. Annie was laying down with her head at the bow, face up. This allowed me to look over her and also keep cheeky better balanced. I’m a bit heavier than I’m supposed to be so it shifts the balance quite a bit with the motor on the back. I’d triple click the button on my flash light to get it into turbo mode. So naturally this would progressively blind Annie as each successive click is brighter than the last (I’ve changed the setting since then). Once the light is on turbo mode I can spot the channel markers and point cheeky between them. I’d steer this course for a bit and then I’d repeat the previous process. I found it challenging keeping on course as it was pitch black. Slowly I’d recognise the land marks as we pass them in reverse order and mentally try to calculate how far we have left to go.

We were about half way along and Annie realised that Close Encounters’ crew was not progressing down the river. We turned back to see if everything was OK. Luckily they just ran out of petrol and was busy refuelling. It was at this point that it dawned on me that I never set Taleisin’s anchor light, finding her might be a problem. I asked Stephen if he knew where his boat was anchored and from there we’ll be able to find Taleisin. We anchored quite a bit away as we wanted to be out of the current for the night. We followed Stephen to Close Encounters and could see our convoy leader off into the distance, lighting up their flash light.

Suddenly I saw a whole row of vertical reflectors lighting up in the distance. I knew exactly what they were! Lin and Larray taped reflectors onto Taleisin’s spinnaker pole. I could reach this with my bright little flash light and find my way home! Not long after that we tied up to Taleisin and was relieved to make it all the way back. It was a fun and challenging adventure.

The next morning Chris from Southern venture rowed over an invited us for a morning tea and a catch up. We had a most enjoyable time getting to know Chris and Liz. After sharing many stories and adventures we rowed back to Taleisin. By this time we felt the need to have a nap. We were obviously staying on for a few more days, it was a Sunday if I recall correctly which meant that all the other boats had to get back since they had work the next morning. We would be lying if we said we felt guilty watching the other boats sail off to return to work.

Our nap got interrupted when Bryan and Linda from Fantail hailed us from their dinghy. It was quite obvious to them that they woke us up and were very apologetic. Honestly we didn’t mind as we were just being lazy. We invited them aboard and showed them around Taleisin. We spent the afternoon exchanging experiences on owning famous boats. Bryan is very knowledgable and I spent quite a bit of time picking his mind. Linda asked us a question which we were unable to answer. The question was what’s our favourite and least favourite part of Taleisin? The reason for this is that every time we find something we think we dislike, it’s usually due to us not understanding the thinking and given enough time we usually figure out why it was done the way it was. There’s so much to love about Taleisin that it’s hard picking a favourite, the whole package is something special. This is a case of the sum is greater than the parts.

We spent a few more days being lazy up the river before we decided to weight anchor and continue our adventure.


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