Russel's Wayfarer Dinghy - Frodo


Russel and Frodo
Titahi Bay Beach 1970's
Russel with his Dinghy - 'Frodo'


Memories told by Russel's friend - Hugh McCrae.

In about 1972 Russel built a Wayfarer dinghy in a little boat shed at Onepoto. That was well before I first met him on a beach near Porirua. That is a Maori word that means two harbours. The main channel in from the open sea divides into two modest sized shallow water inlets, hence the name. They just happen to be perfect for young people and novices to learn to sail dinghies in. They used to be quite deep but in 1825 there was a big earthquake and both inlets suddenly became very much shallower. There are records of the British Navy sailing up one of them in a gunboat to teach a troublesome Maori chief called Te Rangihaita of the Raukawa tribe a lesson. They got close to his (pa) village and fired a round or two but did not hit anything but some grass huts because the Maori just moved back into the bush out of range. Still the feat of sailing a gun boat through that very narrow channel and back out again was quite something. A grounding and they could have been in real trouble. Not a place for the faint hearted to have taken a gunboat.
Russel with his dogs
Russel and his dogs Elsa & Jedi.
After that digression, I was rigging a sailing dinghy on the beach when Russel came along walking his two dogs. We bumped into each other a few more times after that on the beach and got talking. A friendship grew over time and he lent me a plywood kayak to try. That was a boat that Russell had drawn plans for and built himself. After his kindness I designed and built my own kayak. I used that for quite a few trips in semi sheltered waters, mainly with Russel. I should add that when I first got to know him he was a white haired old man but fit and wiry. I think he wanted a companion to go kayaking with and recognised easy bait when he saw it.

After knowing Russel for a year or two he realised that I was very interested in going places in dinghies. It was after I had returned from a crossing of Cook Strait in a little gaff-rigged dinghy that I had built that he mentioned that he had a Wayfarer. By this time he was really too old to be tumbled about in a dinghy although he could still paddle a kayak comfortably.

I couldn't hide my excitement at the Wayfarer news and we had to go down to his shed at the Onepoto Inlet to have a look. There it was in a dilapidated old boat shed under a rumpty old cover. She was sitting on a steel ungalvanised trailer, very rusty but built of thick and 3/8th mild steel. Despite the age and rust it still had plenty of strength left in it. The paint on the boat was showing its age but structurally she was still sound. Sails and rigging all there so out she came and down to the ramp. She was no trouble to rig even for a first time for me with a Wayfarer, then into the water. Russel and I tried her out in a moderate to fresh breeze on the Onepoto Inlet. A bit of chop and a good spirited sailing the working jib and two of us aboard.

Russel soon got a bit cold because he was a small man and in kayak gear rather than dinghy sailing clothes. I put him ashore to warm up and went back out to try her out by myself. I just couldn't resist changing up to the genoa. Off she went with the wind on the quarter planning across the inlet. What a boat! There were a few trips beating back across the inlet close hauled just to get her on the plane again. "Playtime".

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The next time we had her out we trailed her up the coast about 20 miles and launched her at Paraparaumu Beach through light surf. We sailed out to Kapiti Island and drifted just offshore from a protected bird sanctuary for morning tea. It was a beautiful morning with a light Norwesterly breeze. We sailed down the coast with a gentle following swell and warm sunshine. Cruising just like a magazine picture. It was so good that when we got near to the entrance at Mana Inlet we didn't want to go in so we decided to sail round Mana Island just for the fun of it.

The breeze picked up on the way back and we had to change down to the working jib. A good chop had developed but mighty sailing, spray, sunshine, and whitecaps. Great to be alive. Russel was in his Kayak gear again and getting a bit cold again, so we abandoned going through Mana and making Onepoto and instead put the Wayfarer ashore on the beach at Titahi Bay. His daughter duly arrived with the car and trailer. That was the last time Russel went out in his Wayfarer. He gave me the key to the boat shed and permission to use "Frodo" (that is her name) anytime I wanted to use her. Incidentally Russel had named her Frodo well before Peter Jackson had even thought of doing the Lord of the Rings movie here in New Zealand.

After that I spent many happy hours in the boat-shed sanding and painting the boat just as Russel had when building her. I had to strengthen one or two areas that were showing signs of movement. Frodo has had plenty of use and always impresses with her seakindly ability. Cook Straight is only 22 nautical miles wide where we cross and about 16 at the narrowest point but it is a stretch of water that has a fearsome reputation. Sometimes the 12 metre swells stop the inter islander ferry sailing.

I use the wayfarer on Wellington Harbour quite a bit for day sailing and up and down the coast of the very lower part of the north island mostly in the Cook Strait area. I am usually single-handed but sometimes take special friends out to see the wildlife, seals, dolphins, and birds. So far I have been followed by a Bronze whaler shark. It was about 12 -14 feet long. It was a bit unnerving because they and the great whites frequent the area and have a reputation as man-eaters. I think the reality is that the bronze whaler was out round Fisherman's Rock in the middle of Cook straight and was scavenging dead fish and food that extreme tidal turbulence brings to the surface in that area.
Frodo Now
Hugh MacRae - 2005
Frodo is well maintained on a new trailer with new sails and set for many more years on the water.

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Russel's kayaking trips, no doubt incomplete.

Dad Kayaking

As remembered by his friend - Conrad Edwards.

March 1980
Cape Kahurangi (Russel's favourite spot), Heaphy Track, Wilf Watson.

Mt. Stokes via Picton and Kenepuru, Dave and Jo Banks.

January 1983
Wanganui River trip (239 rapids), Forest and Bird Society led Mike Pears, with Dave and Jo Banks and others. Eight days from Taumaranui to Upokongaro.

September 1983
Picton, Nydia Bay, Jacobs Bay and return, Mike Pears and Dave and Jo Banks.

Bruce Tennant and Dave Banks at Mana Island.

May 1984
Tennyson Inlet, Mike Pears, Dave and Jo Banks.

May 1985
Taupo, Mike Pears.

January 1986
Wanganui River, Mike and Kathy.

March / April 1986
Abel Tasman, Cobb Valley, Tennyson Inlet, Mike and Kathy Pears - 17 days.

Kayaking Trip
May 1987
Jacobs Bay area - 4 days solo.

August 1987
Mahau to Port Ligar with Mike Pears.

December 1987
Whakahoro to Pipiriki, Mike Pears? and others.

June 1988
ATNP, Pruseygur evaluation trip, Mike Pears, boat from Tom Horn?

September 1988
D'Urville Island circumnavigation (anti-clockwise) with Mike Pears, Dave Banks and Dennis?

April 1989
Queen Charlotte Sound, Dave & Dennis.

April 1990
Mike and Kathy Pears, Wangapeka track/Broughs Tabernacle. Taupo Hut - leg injury.

December 1990
Wanganui?, Taupo, Mike and Kathy Pears.

March 1992
Gale Force SW winds from Ratimera Bay, Gem Resort, Hugh McRae?

November 1992
Waikaremoana, Mike?, Taupo, Karangahake Ciffs, Dave Yarrow.

December 1992
Hot water beach and Tarawera and Ruapehu.

Taupo, Forum.

March 1993
Marlborough Sounds, Hugh McRae?

May 1993
Taupo, Mike and Kathy Pears.

Rest time
Just forty winks please.

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