22 May, '08

Well, Saturday last was the day.  Resolution had done her first voyage under tow, a little issue with the diesels first run in the water, nothing major but no power so she was lead by the nose from the travel lift around to her berth.  Not really ignominious, more like an amiable dog following along because she was happy to do as she was told, into her berth and tied up, surging gently one way and the other to get the feel of this new environment.

Two weeks later, mast up, with sails bent on and rigging mostly sorted out, and in a gaff cutter with topsail there is a great deal of rigging, (and sorting) she sat all fat and smug when I arrived on Saturday afternoon.  Charlie was not quite ready but it did not take long to sort out and put enough loose gear below to make her safe, and enough space for two to sit in comfort.

We tied the inflatable dinghy on, brought the big anchor back aft with the anchor line left dangling outside along the port side so we could if necessary anchor very quickly for safeties sake and gently pulled out from F21.  I was concerned that turning  to starboard with a long keel and a clockwise prop rotation might make her reluctant to come around but that big rudder brooks no argument and she turned easily within the confines of the channel between the fingers. For a long keeled boat she is quite nimble, like a short and chubby lady square dancing and showing that she is much lighter on her feet than everyone expected.

Throttle up, and she gently surged away, winding out of the marina and against the tide as we headed down harbour toward Pilots bay just inside the harbour heads.  The 7.5 hp Bukh (Farymann in the USA) running smoothly and seeming to have plenty in reserve, and the prop bought on Trade Me ( NZ’s version of Ebay ) doing its job really well.

I sat up on the foredeck while the proud new captain drove, standing at the tiller,
easing the boat across and along the edges of the shoals to keep out of the commercial area of the channel and to get out of the tidal current.  Nice, it was a perfectly clear winter day with almost dead flat calm and only the tiniest breeze,  there were a very few sailing boats further out in the harbour, but they were not going anywhere much and I suspect that those who were, had the iron topsail on.

As we motored off past the container ships and freighters several large pleasure boats went past, making that horrid square and lumpy wake that planing hulls do at displacement speed and threatening to toss us about.   But Resolution, designed to be self damping in both roll and pitch, nodded once to each wave then steadied and carried on, promising that other and bigger waves would be unlikely to make her uncomfortable.

As we left the wharf area for the more open part of the lower harbour, walking about the decks I unrolled the jib and cleated the sheets off, and a few minutes later hoisted the staysail and sheeted that off.  She heeled a little, and seemed to want to move on, the engine note lightening a little as the load came off.

I took the peak and throat halyards, and hoisted the main, cleated them off and eased the main slightly, then signalled to Charlie to switch off.  As the puttputt of the little diesel faded away Resolution seemed to sigh, come alive and step out a little.  Magical, the smile on the skippers face was just great!

While there was very very little wind, she seemed to answer the helm well, tacking reliably and with surprisingly little loss of way, the sheets and controls coming easily to hand so I abandoned ship with the camera, climbing over the stern and dropping into the little white dinghy with its 2hp Suzuki outboard (and oars, insurance!) and after starting the motor cast myself loose. I figured that it would be no problem to catch up if being singlehanded for the first time were an issue, but catching him was not as easy as I thought, and sailing the little ship alone was as comfortable and easy as it could be.

I sat and shot photos as Charlie sailed away, the boat heeling slightly and moving off leaving just a faint glossy trail rather than a wake as such, and I sat waiting with the camera as he came back after going about at the end of the beach. I shot pics, more pics and more still as she approached, and decided to motor after her and around the other side, but found that it was a real effort to catch her with the Suzuki roaring away and the little white inflatable making a really foamy wake, that boat was as good at sailing in light weather as her ancestor Houdini, maybe better!

After getting all the pics we wanted, I nuzzled up behind, Charlie picked up the towrope and I shut Suzuki san down and climbed on board. It was a very peaceful sail back to the marina, only just making way in the fading breeze, and as we silently slipped up the channel we came across a group of five Little Blue Penguins, natives of the very far south of our globe, something that very few people outside New Zealand ever see, and who were close to the northern limit of their natural range.  A lovely sight, and perhaps a welcome to a little ship designed to go a long long way further south as she heads for Cape Horn later in her career.

John Welsford