The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders














From The Drawing Board
by John Welsford

Traditional Small Craft rally
All photos from John Welsford - click thumbnails for larger version

Yes I know I’m a bit late getting the report into print, no excuses, just flat out busy doing other things such as organising JW Small Craft Designs new purpose built office and workshop. We are almost ready for the builders, and expect to be in and working in about 3 or four weeks. Yeehah!

But memories of the Omokoroa Traditional Small Craft Rally help, days of digging trenches for the electricity supply cable, water pipe and phone line, getting the foundations and the levels right for the building and unloading 15 tons of architectural stone from the $30 each refundable shipping pallets has been far from the boating that keeps me sane and daydreaming about events like Omokoroa is what keeps me going.

This Sweet Pea was brand new, and a pretty nice job for a first time build. Well done!
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Last November's weekend at Omokoroa was the first one that we had run there, our previously perfect venue at Rotorua's Lake Rotoiti had gone a bit sour, the new managers at the lovely little motor camp were not at all hospitable, and the lake had a acquired reputation of being infested with toxic algae. The former was a real problem and the latter was unjustified but still scared people away, attendances had dropped each year and the venue was obviously not what was needed.

Omokoroa has a wonderful beach, it's salt water, has a good concrete launching ramp with pontoon jetties and a large carpark with adjacent kids playground, a general store right on the beach and its sheltered from most winds.

Just as well that latter, it blew! All weekend! I’d guess 40 knots at times, enough energy in the gusts to raise curtains of water from the sea surface as the squalls roared down off the cliffs. No significant sea running though as it was straight off the land, just a nasty little chop in the channel when the tide was running against the sou'wester.
We had 15 boats and about 25 people attending, a very good showing considering a weather forecast that was seriously awful, there were gale and storm warnings on the marine weather forecasts, heavy rain and general mayhem predicted by the tea-leaf readers up in the met office.

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One of the Proas out doing its thing, fast and capable for such a slender little thing. That water out there was not choppy but the conditions were not as much fun as they might have been.

We got all of it! But you know, it was calm and sheltered right in by the beach, there was enough sun between the showers to make the days enjoyable and everybody seemed to have a really good time even if it was mostly sitting on the beach and talking about boats to like minded people. Even the Proa proponents had someone to swap stories with, there were two little proas there, one ply, one fiberglass, one with alloy spars and polyester sailcloth and one with Tyvek builders wrap and bamboo spars. One at one end of the budget and the other somewhat richer, but both having a great time.

Three of my Navigators arrived, two Pathfinders sailed in from Tauranga a ways down harbour, my prototype Minstrel touring kayak was hardly ever stopped and Huffboat was rowed by all sorts from someone who had only rowed once and that in a 7 ft praam, to someone who was an ex national rowing Redcoat (Redcoats are the rowing term for someone who has represented New Zealand internationally) who was just wandering along the beach when he came across us.

Yes you can put a cabin on one of my little Houdinis. And it looked a lot more in proportion than I expected. Nice job!
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There was a Bolger leeboarder there, a Houdini with a cabin, and one with an extended stern and a mizzen added to the rig, a Hartley 16 towed in by a guy who is building a Houdini and who grew up having his holidays at the family holiday home at Omokoroa.

A lovely Garden Eel canoe yawl arrived, and was much admired although the high winds that prevailed meant that she was not launched, a brand new Sweet Pea arrived all the way from Palmerston North, perhaps 6 hours drive away while one attendee who owns a Navigator and is building a Pathfinder flew in from the South Island.

A very cheap plywood dory came and joined in, although it had all of the Banks Dories bad points and none of its good ones the owner was enjoying it which is what it is all about, although not a great boat the man is there and doing which in my book puts him ahead of an awful lot of critics who were not. Well done that man!

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That little Houdini again, a small outboard motor with the leg shortened, the canopy discarded and the motor solid mounted as a “saildrive”. Anodised alloy parts, nice paint, and very tidy. A beautifully done conversion.

Boats rigged up and launched, cruised out and came back, took others for rides and tied up to the pontoons and swapped stories while eating lunch and cooking up coffee, owners wandered and looked, talked to spouses about boats that might be built or bought, asked others about their boats and how they worked, and stored up ideas for later consideration. All good, this is really what these gatherings are about.

You’ll note that I am not mentioning names here, not because the behaviour at the dinner that night was embarrassing or anything, but because I did not take notes so don’t have all the names. I don’t want to upset anyone, so it’s a policy of no names, but although the real reason for rallys is to meet others of the same persuasion and to show off the boats, It’s the boats that are the stars.

It was a good dinner, held back at the motor camp, cooking on the big barbeque and sharing the food around pot luck style seemed to work and it was a very sociable evening made really special by one of our attendees who’d driven in from Gisborne just to watch, and who broke out a small boom box and a violin and serenaded us for 1 ½ hours with light classical music. Good food, good music, good company and a glass of wine.

A view into the Houdinis cockpit, the motor lives under that varnished lid aft and there is still room in the cockpit for two. Remember that the original open boat is only 13 ft 9in long and this has not been lengthened.
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That motor camp is a good place, we’ll be using it next year for sure! Cheap, clean, thermal hot pools to swim in and a big covered outdoor dining area. Well done Omokoroa Holiday Park.

Back on the water, it was blowing much too hard for some although everybody apart from the Garden Eel went out for a try, the guys in the brand new Sweet Pea found that an untuned boat and inexperienced crew made it a struggle. It was good to note that the boat seemed stable and safe enough even if it was hard to make progress without reefing lines rigged. They weren’t the only ones though, it was really was blowing at times!

Most others went out for an explore. There are a couple of islands just off the mouth of the estuary and another that forms the other side of this huge shallow harbour. Some crews made good progress, some came back into the shelter of the beach area fairly quickly, and the human powered boats cruised up and down in the shallows, one helping shepherd a Mum on a waveski and her two out of control kids on small versions of the same back into the safety of the sheltered beach and out of the strong offshore wind.

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In that wee boats cabin, the owner sleeps in here when cruising, while it’s a tight fit and there is not room for additional crew it feels surprisingly good. There is lots of storage, and just enough length to lie down.

Our Pathfinder skippers, both singlehanded slept on board on the Saturday night, the boats anchored in the most sheltered spot that they could find, (which wasn’t very! Sheltered that is) and seemed to be reasonably well rested next morning, the rest of the boats ended up on their trailers back at the Holiday park where one imagines that they gossiped together about their owners while we enjoyed the music and a glass or two. Good stuff all round, weather notwithstanding. We’ll be back, watch this space.

John Welsford, organiser.

Traditional Small Craft Rally, Omokoroa, 19 km north of Tauranga, last weekend of November each year.

Out sailing in that Houdini. She has a cut down sail and mast from a sailing dinghy, and a jib from something else. Performance is ok and will get better with tuning and experience. As a small budget cruiser this is a really good effort.
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Huffboat out making knots in the lee of the beach. Light and lithe this boat goes pretty well and I am under some pressure to produce plans for her, the message is NOT YET! (I have other things to do, and there are some mods to make before I let others free in this experimental design)
A big smile, hard to do anything else if you have not rowed something like this before. Carbon fibre spoon blade oars, 17 ft waterline, and only about 70 lbs of weigh in the boat. Moves easily!
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Roger Munns Sweet Pea getting the sails down before coming into the jetty (oops, there wasn’t going to be any names, but he deserves a real pat on the back for a good job of a first boat)
click to enlargeWell, as long as we are having names, heres Owen Sinclair who never did get credit for that lovely photo of his JW designed Light Dory on the back cover of my book, who has since been sailing a Navigator for quite a while and who is building a Pathfinder. Incidentally (not at this rally ) Owen has had a full knockdown in his Navigator and was able to right, bail and recover his boat singlehanded from a complete swamping while quite a way from shore. While it is not recommended its nice to know it can be done.
The gent closest to the camera is the rapidly becoming legendary David Perillo (his website is www.openboat.co.nz - Do read the tale of cruising in Fiji as well as the other tales of dinghy cruising in “Jaunty”) These two, although neither had a boat at the rally, contributed a great deal to the discussion. Thanks for coming guys.
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The little Bolger leeboarder “Jemima” although the weather was a bit marginal for her she was out sailing with the best of them, and seemed to make pretty good progress. There is a lot of accommodation in this tiny cat yawl and she does well in most conditions.
A lot of boat for a very small amount of money, this dory was no great sailor but it was out there and doing it. So what if he was not going to break records he and his kids were having fun.
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My own Minstrel prototype touring kayak ( ok ok, no plans yet but she is at the top of the list) was well used, here she is on her way out once more to give someone very new to the water a taste of kayaking.
Two of the three Navigators at the rally rigging up to try their chance in the blustery weather. The nearest one is Dave Robersons Wairua being handed over to her new owners, the weather can only get better for them!
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Another one of “Mine” but somewhat altered, this Rogue has been built with leeboards instead of the standard centreboard and the new owner seems pretty happy with the way she goes. Nice boat!
The Garden designed “Eel” canoe yawl, the shape of that hull has to be seen to be really appreciated, sweet!
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click to enlargeOne of the two Pathfinders, they were the only boats to have come to the rally on their own bottoms and the skippers, both singlehanded, slept aboard in spite of the weather. No tents, just the foredeck and a cover over the sleeping bags for shelter and they seemed pretty ok for the experience. Another couple of pats on backs due here.
There are three pics in this series, this is the “other” Pathfinder, this one a gaff sloop. Note that the outboard well is opposite handed, you can fit it either side , no problem.
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That Pathfinder, we decided to try the stability, two men, total about 410 lbs plus clothing and wet weather gear standing on the rail was not enough to heel her much so ------
We put another man on the gunwale, total over 600 lbs (he was shy about how much weight the years had added to his frame) and there is still almost the full depth of the top plank plus the side deck and the coaming above the water. Gives one confidence!
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All photos from John Welsford