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Russell, aka Kororareka

November 28, 2013

At anchor off the old colonial village of Russell, also known as Kororareka in the Maori language. Once the capital of New Zealand, we are told. Smaller than Mahone Bay it is.

We had a beautiful day here in the Bay of Islands. The day came in clear and bright with a warm northerly breeze. Blue sky, white puffy clouds scudded over the masts of the Picton Castle. Around here, the northerly breezes are warm and the southerly breezes are cool, sometime even sort of cold if you happen to be overly accustomed to warm weather as we are. It had rained much of yesterday, a soft gentle rain all afternoon, perfect for the farms around here calling out for some of this wet stuff. But, of course, soaking our cotton canvas sails.

The crew make all these sails by hand and we want them to last as long as possible. If they are not thoroughly dried when they get soaked like this, the sails will mildew and then rot away. These sails might only last six months if ill-treated in this way. Or they might last five, six years or more if looked after properly. Today with a nice sunny day and a bit of breeze, was perfect for drying sail. All hands up and loosed sail. Folks on the small ferry boats between Russell and Pahia across the bay, took a lot of pictures of this ocean-going square-rigger at anchor with drying sails where once many sailing ships little different than Picton Castle anchored all the time.

With sails drying in the sun and breeze around them, the Mate and Finn sent up the main upper topsail parral and secured it. The two royal yards on deck get are getting more coats of varnish before sending back up and crossing again. We did workshops in heaving lines and the use of the leadline. James Cook charted the world with a leadline. Ship’s cook Donald got ashore to the “4-Square” store which is what a small market is called around here, less than a supermarket and a good deal more than a convenience store. Probably what we used to call ‘grocery store’ but have forgotten. Maybe we should revive the name ‘grocery story’, it has a proper solid sound to it.

No doubt just for our entertainment I am sure, a delightful small topsail schooner, the R. Tucker Thompson has been sailing about the bay on daysails, a sweet plumb stemmed thing of about 70’, she has been sailing all around us today too. Much of the year she takes groups of young people out on trips around the Bay of Islands, and now she is doing daysails to help pay for it all as well as give visitors the chance to see this lovely waterway under sail.

In the early afternoon, as our sails dried the breezes picked up and all hands to headed aloft and got a good stow on them to reduce windage in the rigging. Not much worried about dragging anchor with our 1,500 pound admiralty anchor, our best bower and two shots of very heavy chain holding the ship to the bottom with good holding. As some of us stopped work to watch the Thompson slash by in the sparkly seas, a few dolphins jumped and cavorted about the stern of our barque making for quite a display. Looked like fun to us. Kind of amazing too. After Donald went ashore to get some more groceries, pumpkin, melons, and sandwich makings, we hoist the skiff and we head off to find an even quieter anchorage in a secluded cove and to launch the Monomoy long boat. We will be back to Russell soon enough.

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