The Log Book
Tales of an Artist Afloat
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).
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.
Trying to show how small the world looks from the boat sometimes. I know the ocean should seem vast, but the low view point of the cockpit makes the horizons seem incredibly near by. It's all a matter of perspective. On the boat, my world can be filled by a wave sweeping towards us. The horizons might be close, but I still feel incredibly tiny.
A little experiment in watercolour, Neocolour pastels and Posca paint markers.
Leigh gave us the chance to grab a coffee and stock up on ice for the fridge. Leaving, we were faced with confused seas, determined to force us in the wrong direction and make our journey as uncomfortable as possible. As we wobbled out towards Little Barrier Island (which is shaped very much like a crocodile), I tried to draw a helm's eye view of the boat. I am going to blame the rolling for some of the very wobbly lines. Things started to behave themselves after a couple of hours, the waves settled down and the wind sped us north. We passed by the Whangarei Heads and anchored at Pacific Bay on the gorgeous Tutukaka Coast, where we will be spending Christmas.
Wonky boat art in Micron fineliners, watercolours and Polychromos pencils (added the next day in a calm anchorage!)
Excitement hit on Sunday morning, somewhere between loads of laundry, a final tidy of the boat and a visit from our friend Adrian. The stressful jobs were done and I was ready to go sailing! There was a total lack of wind, so the sails remained furled, but we maneuvered away from the dock easily and headed to Waiheke. Our night at Blackpool was quiet and uneventful. I made the most of having time to read, Jim worked on the drain pump which had already began to misbehave, and the next day we set sail to Kawau.
We had beautiful winds. All the work which Jim had done on the hull paid off as Island Prism cut through the water at 6.5 knots. We met heavy rainfall, with beautiful sunshine in between, and by the evening were anchored near the Governor's mansion at Kawau. The anchorage there is secure and very pretty. The island has a colourful history, having been home to cannibals, coppermines and Governor George Grey, who imported exotic plants and animals and drove around the island in a carriage drawn by four zebras. Some of the animals remain today- peacocks and wallabies roam alongside the native birds.
The island's birdlife are always happy to see people, especially if you come bearing bread. A flotilla of ducks swam out to see us as I sketched the view from the boat in the late afternoon, and the following day the peacocks and weka stalked the cafe in hope of edible gifts. The peacock's feathers were glorious in the sunlight, although he did seem to have trouble turning round in the confined space between tables!
I was experimanting with my new Noodler's Nib Creaper and Lexington Grey ink. The pen is a flex nib, which gives it a range of line variations as you change pressure, and Lexington grey is a lovely shading ink which goes from a light pencil shade to a deep grey. The two worked together beautifully as the pen allows the ink flow to vary- I think the duck sketches show it well. On the cream paper in my sketchbook, everything had a very gentle 19th Century air. Next time we're back I might need to try something a little more outrageous, but for now the greys and greens suit the beautiful mansion house and peaceful island very well.
Kawau is beautiful, and it was tempting to stay another night- maybe looking for wallabies at dusk and barbequing on the beach. But the wind was blowing well so we decided to take it to head up the coast to Leigh.
Boat launch is less than three weeks away, and it's two months until the summer holidays. My feet are itchy and can't wait to swap shoes for dive fins. I've been revisiting old photos and using them to paint from- it's been good inspiration to work on watercolours. Yes, I know it's Inktober. No, I still can't stick to a single signature media.
About six years ago, we sailed Island Prism from Auckland to Abel Tasman National Park, at the top of the South Island. The passage was eventful, and we got slammed by a gale off Taranaki, but were eventually rewarded with amazing cruising. Our friends Jill and James joined us for a few days. We consumed copious amounts of wine, tried to catch a fish that wasn't a barracuda (we failed) and met a white dolphin and a colony of seals.
The seals were NZ fur seals, and the group consisted of a couple of males, dozens of females and some tiny pups. They were happy for us to approach the colony provided we stayed away from the pups. The females kept their distance but the males were much more playful and inquisitive, diving with James and swimming up to me and Jill to blow bubbles. They revelled in showing off their underwater acrobatics.
I came across some of the photos and relived our encounter in watercolours. I'm loving my tubes of Daniel Smith and finally seem to be achieving some reasonable darks.
That's probably it for painting this weekend- the epoxy paint we used this morning should be dry, so I'm off to slap some bottom paint onto the hull. I'd rather stick with watercolours, but it will all be worth it when the boat is afloat- and we have some great adventures planned for this summer!
Today's post is a bit on the image heavy side- click on an image to expand it for a closer look.
I've been trying to follow along with Inktober. It's a month long drawing challenge where the aim is to draw every day in (yes, you guessed it) ink. There are optional prompts to follow, but I've decided to go the route of doing my own thing and using a different tool each week.
During Week 1 I focused on using fineliners- not the most adventurous start as I use them all the time, but it was school holidays and I had time to do lots of detailed drawings, so I figured I'd make the most of it. I'm enjoying mixing up pens of different sizes- it gives interesting variation in the hatching and line. On the days I had time to draw twice, I grabbed my Lamy Safari. Sorry fineliners, I love you but don't think we're about to enter an exclusive relationship.
On a boat note, Jim's polished up the anchors and we've been working on repairing the furler, which has required quite a bit of running around and ordering parts. Finding affordable steel rope proved a bit of an epic task, but Jim managed it, and my paperwork endeavours succeeded in getting Prism an extension here in NZ- meaning we can spend the summer in NZ waters.
Week 2 of Inktober saw me going back to work. Goodbye lunches at the boat yard with Jim, sketching and playing with watercolours. Hello, long days at school! For my tool, I picked my new Noodlers Konrad pen. I wanted to explore the flex nib, and be able to work quickly in case I was pushed for time (which I was).
I was a little nervous about the pen as I had read quite mixed reviews about it. Noodlers pens are handmade but are also very inexpensive- this can lead to a pen which requires some tinkering (it seems like the perfect instrument for people who like taking things apart). I lucked in and became the proud owner of a pen which wrote perfectly straight out of the box. The flex isn't as dramatic as you might get with a dip pen nib, but is enough to give decent line variation when sketching. I think it will take a bit of practice to optimise this, but for this week I found it fun to use.
I've been working my way through some of the ink samples I ordered along with the pen, with some pleasant discoveries. Noodlers Blue-Nosed Bear (the partly waterproof ink I used on the owl) showed beautiful colour variations when I added water, pulling turquoise tones out of the dark teal.
For more inky explorations, see my blog post inky jellyfish.
My ink samples come from Goulet Pens. It's been a great way of playing with different colours! (I am in no way connected to Goulet other than being a very happy customer!)
The list of boat jobs is steadily getting ticked off, and I'm slowly combatting the paperwork and research side of things. And, of course, sketching. The rudder is back on and smoother and steadier than it's been in a long time, the mast is undergoing some major repairs and any weekend now I could get the call to come down to the boatyard and help slap on bottom paint.
Slapping on watercolour over my Platinum maki-e brush pen is much more relaxing. I'm loving the variety of lines I can get from this pen (and look! I used the same materials for two drawings in a row!).
Sketching my Jimmie is fun too. He reckons I've drawn too much hair. I reckon he needs a haircut!
We've also checked our watermaker is in full working order. This is an essential part of our emergency kit, in case we run out of water or our water gets contaminated. Jim made up a bucket of salt water and I pumped it through. The result was excellent- salt and chemicals all removed. I had fun with a multi-coloured pen and carved my own arrow stamp from a bit of lino.
We're still not sure if we'll make the 17th October for our launch date, but it's great to see things progressing!
Jim's been working steadily on Island Prism, and I've been going down to the boatyard to take him lunch, sketch and lend a hand. I thought about making a visual record of everything we are (he is?) doing to get the boat ready for launching, but long furlers and small screws don't make for terribly arresting images. The boatyard itself is far more inspiring, so I've been doodling the boats instead.
Art-wise, this presents lots of interesting things to draw. It also highlights my inability to stick with exactly the same media for two pictures in row! On Thursday I drew a couple of boats being hauled out using Lamy ink and watercolour. I think I'm supposed to be horrified by the way the ink runs when I add watercolour, but actually I like the effect.
Both Prism's anchors are being stored on the ground. Their shapes and slight rusty patina were interesting so I sketched them in ink. I was going to paint them, but then I remembered I hadn't used my coloured pencils in a while. So I slowly built up the layers of colour in my home-made colouring pages. We spent a little while taking the roller furler apart- some of the plastic wedges holding it together were worn and needed removing.
On the drive home, the light over Auckland was absolutely stunning. I wanted my skyline to stay crisp and needed to work fast, so I pulled out my brush pen with de Atramentis document black and drew the view back to Okahu Bay and the city, then added watercolours. My flat water brush was perfect for catching the light reflecting on the sea.
Launch is supposed to be on 17th October. The timing is looking tight and we're not sure if we'll make it. We're planning to move onto the boat in November and have very exciting plans for next year... watch this space! Maybe by that stage I'll even be able to settle down into a signature style and medium. Do you tend to stick with one way of drawing, or do you flit between materials? I'd be interested to hear!
An Artist Afloat- Painting the world one anchorage at a time.