Just above where I’m currently working, hangs a picture of Mademoiselle. This was our families pride and joy, a yacht we owned for several years. We had christened her ‘Mademoiselle’ and she was well named. She was of Fibre Glass construction, fabricated or moulded, by Aquarius of Auckland. ‘Second Hand’ when we bought her, but was in tip top condition. She was one of the new breed, made from fibre glass, conceived in a ‘mould’ where the same mould could be used to produce any number boats. Twenty two feet long but very wide at the beam, as the manufacturers were trying to get the best of both worlds, sailing and cruising. We also had a set of storm sails, ideal too as we sailed in all weathers. I also learnt that you never let anyone go forward of the mast to attend to the spinnaker especially under stormy conditions, as this quickly upset the balance of the boat, and you would be all be tipped into the Lake so fast, well before you could even say Jack Robinson.


All this was part of our learning curve. We also had an auxiliary 5hp Johnson out board motor, that we used very reluctantly. I just loved this boat, and wished that we could have afforded it earlier in our lives, I know Laura shared my feelings as well.


Buying the boat was the catalyst to the making of some wonderful friends, Sugar and Sue Robinson, Jim and Leslie Jeffery, Ray and Shirley Butel, to name a few. Many of these had had just purchased new boats as well. Sailing was one sport that the whole family could take part in and enjoy. Another factor was that gasoline suddenly had got very expensive, so sailing was the way to go. Mademoiselle was a designed as a Trailer Sailer although we didn’t tour all that much, as we had enough water with in Lake Wakatipu at least 80 kilometres long. She was fitted out with four bunks. It had a small cooker, but I preferred to do any cooking ashore. I considered Gas and Boats a bad mix. Wakatipu didn’t have many shelving beaches, so in most places you could moor and just step ashore.


Up until recently, all trailer yachts were much smaller, and of wooden construction, home built from plans supplied by Hartley. They were all small because of the expense, as well as the degree of skill required to construct same. Our boat had been completely renovated before we took delivery, and the squabs recovered or replaced. The gel coat was immaculate as was the interior. We travelled to Auckland to see it and purchased it on the spot. Then pulled it home with our valiant. On passing through Bombay I stopped and filled the cockpit with sacks of produce. Onions, of cauliflower, cabbage, carrots all at 2/6 a sack. People in our street back home, couldn’t believe their good fortune,


What we now needed, was how to competitively sail our new purchase. So next stop was the library and we read up on every book ever printed on sailing, and boat handling. I can remember one time sailing across to Walter Peak, we had on board, a young German. He proceeded to put me under a very close cross examination. Did I have a Captains ticket? No. Had I been to a sailing school to learn how to sail the boat? No. But I had read all about it in a book. Did I even have a permit to buy the boat? No. You would need too do all these things if you lived in Germany.


Next the best thing I did, was to join the local Yachting Club, and later on, race the boat in their Club races. There were some very good sailers in our club, and they were only too pleased to give lessons and impart some of their knowledge to the novices. Of course we made every mistake that it was possible to make, but Mademoiselle was very forgiving, and didn’t drown us during this probationary period.


You only had to broach once, when running before the wind with more sail on than was prudent. That situation could turn a yacht in the matter of seconds, into an out of control monster. This also was the first purchase that we had ever made, by taking out a loan from a Finance company. I had been saving to be in a position to pay cash, but at this time, inflation in New Zealand was out of control. If we didn’t grab the boat when we did, we would have never caught up, so our caravan was sold to get the deposit.


After a days sailing we always returned home dog tired. We never folded our sails just draped them around our lounge to dry. No need to wash them as we were sailing on fresh water. We just fell into out beds and folded everything up next morning. Laura took over as the purser, and made sure we always had an ample supply of food and hot drinks on board. We quickly learned to ‘read’ the Lake. Dust in the air twenty miles away at Glenorchy meant a front, or line squall was passing through the flats at the ‘Routeburn’, and in an hour conditions where we were would be very unpleasant. Winds on the Lake mostly blew up the Lake or down.


Our time sailing was one of the most enjoyable and it was a sad day when we sold Mademoiselle.


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