Thursday, November 18, 2010


I haven't been doing very much recently so I thought I'd share an old story of a family trip to the Falls Dam when I was still a teen.

The dam itself is a fair way off the beaten track but it is quite attractive in a barren kind of way with a group of fishing huts as the only hint of civilization. This construction was made for mining and then used for agriculture. It is only a very small lake by most standards and takes about 30 mins by sailing boat (slow sort) to get from one end to the other.

It was a warm day but heavily overcast which is unusual in central. The water was mostly pretty shallow so it was also warmish which made the idea of sailing on it pretty good. My brother was crewing for a sunburst dinghy belonging to a friend and we had the optimist because Dad hadn't finished building his sunburst yet. We also had a picnic lunch and the whole family and various other people too so it was a real outing for the Maniototo Yacht club.

Things got off to a good start and the boats were launched for a short sail before lunch. Dad took the first go as it was his boat and Phil went out with his friend. The rest of us set up the picnic and decided that the rocky shore was not a good place to swim - too many weeds and heaps of jagged rocks. We then sat down to wait for the sailors to return.

Dad was first back and he called for some help so that he wouldn't bash his newly painted dinghy on the rocks. We went down to help and he decided, whilst sailing up and down along the shore, that he would throw us the painter (rope) so that we could guide him in. ( I might add that we were fairly new to sailing at this point and about as far from expert as is possible without actually tipping the boat every time we got in it.)

He aimed carefully at the shore and made what he considered a good throw. It fell way short so he gathered it up and by slowing down the boat to almost a stall, he managed to stand in the centre, hanging on to the mast with one hand to help his balance. Then he threw the rope....

The precariously balanced boat (for those who don't know what an optimist is - its about the size of a one man rowing boat) promptly turned turtle, captain and all, backwards. There was a loud splosh and the rope reached the shore.

We pulled the bedraggled captain out of the lake along with his boat and gave him a towel. Fortunately he had left all his valuables in the car because he didn't want them getting wet!

At this point the other boat hove into view carrying two more casualties. Their mishap was out of view from where we were but must have looked hilarious to the wildlife. Phil had been manning the jib amidships whilst his friend operated the tiller. They had rocketed down the lake in fine style with a few jibes which required split second timing. The idea was that the main sail was allowed to fly across to the other tack while Phil had the job of releasing the jib sheet and flying across the boat width changing ropes as he went and then leaning out as far as possible using the rope as support.

This was fine and allowed for much speed but on this one occasion, Phil missed the rope in passing at a million miles an hour and went completely over the side.......loud splash!

To keep the boat upright, his friend had a firm grip on the main sail but with the disappearance of his counterweight, the boom slammed back across and gave him a nasty blow on the head. He was lucky not to be knocked out. He regained control of things and picked up Phil and in a sadder but wiser way, they returned for first aid and dry clothes and lunch.

After lunch, Dad decided to go out again and do a spin round the lake before giving me a go so, still in his somewhat soggy clothes, he hopped in and, mindful of the rocks, asked Phil to push him out a little before getting under way.

You have to remember that this is an artificial lake so when Phil went to push him out, he got three steps into the water and then promptly disappeared. Apparently there was a small, invisible cliff just off the shoreline. So Phil got another impromptu bath!

Things settled down a bit after that until it was my turn. This was the first time I had sailed a boat on my own and I was a little nervous. Not for my safety, we all had life jackets and we all were very good swimmers, but for my pride!

I got a good start and sailed round the lake doing quite well I thought. Then I had to come in but every time I turned in, the following wind pushed my bows under the water and the boat started to act more like a diving submarine. I yelled for instructions eventually as I was by now sitting waist deep in water (there wasn't a seat at this time). Dad had to run up and down the shoreline yelling instructions at me and try to boost my confidence until I got the nerve to do what he was saying. I got very wet but I did make it back to land under my own steam. Needless to say, I never forgot that set of instructions!

By this time everyone was either wet or damaged so we set to packing everything up. We left just as the foreboding clouds decided to rain heavily but it was accounted one of our most successful picnic days despite the various accidents along the way.

Unfortunately I have no photos available of the yachts so the photo here is on our street and just shows the end of our veranda.

viv in nz

1 comment:

Mickle in NZ said...

Dear Viv - is your home on that steepest street in NZ, or maybe the next street along from it?

Sending care and huggles from my semi-vertical section and my wee flat down those 54 demon concrete steps,

Michelle xxx