The Log Book
Tales of an Artist Afloat
The Tutukaka Coast is alive with birds- we often see and hear tui and fantails I've been playing with layering watercolours, ink, paint markers and gel pens. I put down the watercolour wash first, then overlaid the black ink with brush pen. Posca paint markers and gel pens created the patterns and swirls- the gel pens give the ethereal metallics and the Posca markers are brighter and bolder. Finally, I used watercolour to add shading and a little softness to some of the pen detail.
I've uploaded the designs to my Redbubble shop- click each photo for the link.
My idea of heaven would probably be a sketchbook that I could use underwater. But then you'd never get me out of the sea. This is one of my post-dive day sketches from out at the Poor Knights. I'd love to get out there again but boat maintenance has been getting in the way (on the plus side, the cockpit lockers are much more watertight).
We have, however, been round to beautiful Whale Bay, wandered up to Tutukaka Reserve and lazed on lovely Matapouri Beach. I've been learning how to use my Wacom tablet with Photoshop via Skillshare and preparing some more designs for Redbubble. We'll eventually drag ourselves away, I'm sure, but this is a wonderful place to be.
We finally tore ourselves away from beautiful Mimiwhangata, and cruised back to the equally lovely Tutukaka.
Our anchorage of choice is Pacific Bay- it's calm and protected, with an easy dinghy ride to Tutukaka Marina and surrounded by lovely beaches. Having friends nearby is a great bonus.
There are stunning beaches and some great walks within easy reach, and Jim loves pedalling his mountain bike through the surrounding hills. I've been enjoying the sketching opportunities- continuing trying to tackle figure drawing, architecture and mastering the brush pen. It's going pretty well.
In between coffees and relaxation, we're having some amazing day sails. I'll save the pictures for my next post and leave you with the week's worth of sketches of the locals- of both human and green varieties.
Boats like to break. Fixing them could be an almost full time job. Water tanks, drainage pumps, the dinghy engine, the traveller for the main sheet... sometimes the list of things awaiting fixing feels endless. And Jim holds the title of Chief Mechanic aboard Island Prism.
One of the pulley blocks on the traveller had exploded in a shower of ball bearings as we rounded Cape Brett, affecting the smooth working of the mainsail. When we returned to Mimiwhangata, Jim set to fixing it, and I decided to do my homework for Veronica Lawlor's class at Sketchbook Skool- drawing a moving figure. I trailed Jim as he sawed, filed and drilled. Swear words not included.
I am pretty sure that sawing through metal rods whilst balancing them on your thighs is NOT recommended procedure. Do not try this at home.
I mainly used my Platinum maki-e brush pen. Slowly but surely I've been gaining control with it and am really falling in love with its expressive lines. I pulled out some neopastels too, to add some colour- they gave a nicely expressive line and I used the for the sketch of Jim drilling holes.
There was one occasion when I thought Jim was going to tumble headfirst into the cockpit locker. Boat maintenance is never easy, and Jim rarely does things the easy way anyway.
In the end, we gained a nicely working traveller, Jim didn't tumble into the bowels of the boat and his legs escaped unsawn. It won't belong until he gets something else to work on- after all, cruising is travelling to beautiful places to work on the boat.
Yesterday we took Island Prism out to the Poor Knights with our friend Gines. He kindly brought along some dive gear, and we spent a couple of hours diving and snorkelling Blue Maomao Arch. It's named for the thousands of blue fish that hide under the arch- at busy times it feels like a highway as a seemingly endless stream of fish makes it way in! The turquoise light shimmering through the archway created dramatic silhouettes of rock and fish. The rocks around the arch were also very interesting, but the rocky passage was the star of the show.
The demoiselles and black angels were having a field day as a feast of sea gooseberries and plankton streamed by on the full moon tides. Red moki, pigfish and Sandager's wrasse added pops of colour. Emboldened by the fishing ban in the marine reserve, a school of 30 kingfish cruised through the open water, and three took up temporary location under Island Prism.
I couldn't sketch under water (though am now debating whether a dive slate and pencil would do the job), but I got lots of photos to work from!
Charlie O'Shields has asked me to write a guest post over on Doodlewash.com. You can pop on over to find out about what got me painting and my adventures on Island Prism. It's a great website with monthly challenges and tons of inspiration!
On Island Prism, we don't do things by halves, so when we took some friends out sailing there ended up being nine of us on board! Ethan, our youngest crewmember aged three, was determined to work his way up the ranks, starting the day by pumping the bilges (this proved a great distraction when he wasn't allowed to helm due to boat traffic and dangerous rocks). When we reached safer waters he was promoted to Assistant Helmsman, and by the end of the day was insisting that HE was now the Captain.
We cruised to Robertson Island, which is about an hour from Russell and has a lovely beach and a great lagoon for snorkelling. Julie and Mike searched for stingrays round the anchorage and I swam ashore with Jill and James to explore the lagoon. The tide was on its way out, but there were still plenty of fish. We ventured out into the open water at the back of the island; the temperature dropped noticeably but we explored the kelp beds and found a swarm of baby jellyfish). They didn't sting (luckily for us!) but they did feel very odd to swim through- quite firm, with an edge of squishiness.
Back ashore, we lead on the deliciously warm rocks just beyond the sandy shore. Jim realised that he had left the bag with towels and sunscreen on the boat and rowed back to get it. Ethan was devastated- the dinghy is his new favourite thing ever and he couldn't believe that Jim was rowing off without him. I'm sure every boat in the bay could hear his displeasure, but on his return Jim treated him to a nice long row and made friends with everyone else at anchor.
I sketched the lovely island- the only problem with the creamy paper in my sketchbook is that it removes a lot of the punch from my blue watercolours! Eventually tummies started rumbling and we snorkelled a circuitous route back to Prism. On the way, we found a colony of brittlestars, each with five long, serpentine limbs. I dived for sea urchin casts and found a snorkel and mask on the seabed- slightly covered with algae, but it scrubbed up very nicely!
We took the wind farther out into the Bay of Islands, soaked up the sun and enjoyed a beverage. Even Eileen and Malcolm's request for dolphins was answered! Back on our mooring buoy, I drew some of the things we'd found during the day.
We had fluctuating winds from Mimiwhangata to Cape Brett. When we approached the cape, and the famous 'hole in the rock', I handed the helm to Jimmie and grabbed my sketchbook. The real name of the hole in the rock is ' Piercy's Rock'- a pun by Captain Cook. Looking at my notes on the sketch reminds me that I was going to look up the Admiral's first name (it's possibly George). The Maori name for it is Motukokako. Motu means island, and a kokako is a beautiful grey bird with purple wattles. Nomenclature aside, it's a pretty spot popular with tourists and fishermen, with the scenic rock on one side and the dramatic cliffs of Cape Brett on the other. It's also notorious for head winds, which get funnelled around the Cape, and make forward progress very difficult in a sailboat.. Guess what we got.
My attempt to fill a second page in my sketchbook was abandoned as we began a series of short tacks in confined waters, the wind decided to pipe up, the boat heeled over and pretty much everything in the kitchen decided to throw itself on the floor. Trying to guess which object was making which clunking sound kept us entertained as we zig zagged round rocks and between other sailboats. As we rounded Cape Brett, we found that the wind was still on the nose, we hadn't caught any fish (despite the water apparently frothing with the things) and one of the blocks on the traveller which helps the mainsail to move from side to side had exploded in a fountain of tiny ball bearings. We continued our zig-zagging path- the track on our GPS looks like we'd been at the rum.
After a very long afternoon, we we pleased to veer into the pretty harbour of Russell, pirate a mooring buoy and tuck in to a big plate of spaghetti. I then attacked my poor neglected journal page with Posca paint marker, brush pen and biro. It may not be pretty, but it's a fairly accurate record of a frustrating afternoon's sailing!
(No kitchen objects were permenantly damaged in the execution of this tacking war, though the saucepan lid somehow made it to the bow).
Leaving Tutukaka, we headed north to Mimiwhangata. We'd hoped to make it all the way to the Bay of Islands but the winds were light. I took a break from helming in the afternoon to relax and draw Jim and the helm. It's always fun to study the island names on the charts, and this area had a particularly dramatic feel- Danger Island and the Wide Berth Islands. It could be the start of the next Island Prism comic episode...
I used a PITT brush pen for the line work and squinted a bit to get the dramatic shadows. The tarp behind Jim looked a bit odd in black and white so I coloured it with watercolour. I might go back and paint the ocean, but I do like the graphic simplicity as it is.
The anchorage at Mimiwhangata was beautiful, and the sunset complemented the scenery perfectly. We'll pop back when it's time to head south again- Jim wants to cycle the hills and I'll take a tramp- or set up my stool and sketch!
Christmas in Tutukaka was lovely. We spent Christmas Day with our friends Karen and Alex, their daughter Tilly and Karen's parents Jean and Ian. In true Kiwi fashion, we lazed in the sun and shared a magnum of bubbles whilst helping Tilly construct Lego planes and supermarkets. Lunch was roast lamb and an array of delicious salads, dessert was a pudding-shaped rocky road with cherries, maltesers and marshmallows, and a splash of white chocolate over the top. We made sure to brush our teeth well that night!
Boxing Day saw us raising the anchor and taking Prism out for a spin amongst plunging gannets and wave-skimming petrels and shearwaters. We didn't get too far, but returned to Rocky Bay for lunch. Karen, Tilly, Ian and I braved the water for our first swims of the season. Refreshing may be the best word for it- it certainly washed away a few cobwebs, and the sun warmed us up enough to get ice cream from Lickety Split afterwards!
We picked up provisions from Whangarei (grocery shopping isn't called grocery shopping when there's a boat involved). Back in Tutukaka, Karen and I explored the treasures in Toot Sweet and the Tutukaka Gallery. The gallery is well worth a look if you're in the area- it's currently full of incredible work by local artists Steve Moase, Paul Duflou and Shane Hansen. I tried to convince Jim that Island Prism NEEDS one of Shane's beautiful bird cushions from Toot Sweet, but he invoked a two cushion policy on the boat. I'm not convinced, and will be pulling out the Island Prism rule book to verify this. And hey- I'm the captain, I'm allowed to change the rules!
Art-wise it's been a few days of watercolour washes and Lexington Grey ink in my Noodler's nib creaper. Lots of blues, greens and pale ochres on this sun-drenched piece of coast. With Christmas over and provisions purchased, it was then time to head farther north, so we said a temporary good bye and turned the wheel towards the Bay of Islands.
An Artist Afloat- Painting the world one anchorage at a time.