17 July 2013

Experiment Number 1 - Bay of Islands NZ 2011

The interior of the Davidson 20 we chartered. You can see the remnants of taco fixings.
My first "official" experimentation with proper sailing was in January 2011 in New Zealand's beautiful Bay of Islands. We charted a yacht with Great Escape Yacht Charters in Opua for a long weekend. Her name was Kakapo. Or rather her name is Kakapo. We didn't sink her. I did worry that would be a possibility. But that's why they make you take out insurance. I think they might have even doubled the rates once they realized I didn't know my aft from my stern and resist calling a rope a sheet. Why do you have to call them sheets? If you call ropes sheets, what do you call your actual sheets on your bed? Ropes? And I thought learning French was hard. Nauticalese seems to be more challenging.

Great Escape has a lot of different types of yachts to choose from. The term "yacht" always sounds very grand to me with visions of beautiful decks and cabins and friendly staff at your beck and call with lots of tropical cocktails, cold beers and iced tea. What we chartered was very different. It was a Davidson 20 which is a teeny, tiny boat. Great Escape describes it as a "big volume small boat, great for learning and those cruising on a budget." This was perfect for us. I had never sailed properly before and chartering a boat is very expensive so a "budget" charter boat sounded very appealing to a newbie like me.

Did I mention it was tiny, very tiny? Note to self, budget = tiny. When they say that the boat is recommended for two people overnight, I think they mean two very teeny tiny people who are very, very, VERY comfortable with each other. When you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, everyone has to get out of bed because the toilet is under the bed. Yes, you read that right - under the bed. Privacy is in short supply on a Davidson 20. I've also learned a bit about marketing language. The brochure says that there is "good sitting headroom" in the Davidson 20. Good sounds good right? But the key word to read in this description isn't "good" it is "sitting". That means a normal sized person won't be able to stand straight up. Fortunately, I'm short so I was fine. Unfortunately for Scott, he's tall so he sat a lot inside the cabin.

Although it was technically a yacht, there was no staff, there were no tropical cocktails. There was no ice, therefore no iced tea. There was, however, warm beer (did I mention no refrigeration?). But beer is beer and after a long day sailing on our wee yacht, warm beer was mighty tasty.

The Davidson 20 is a Kiwi classic designed by Laurie Davidson who is well known for designing much bigger, faster and winning boats for the America's Cup. Our boat was much smaller and slower (thankfully!) then the boats they use in the America's Cup. I've seen the America's Cup boats practice in the Hauraki Gulf. They go fast. Really, really FAST. The Davidson 20 has a drop keel - 500mm with the keel up, 1.7m with the keel down. Great for getting in close to anchor and for being able to get to the dock in the shallow waters at Great Escape in Opua. (Wow, I almost sounded technical there talking about keels!)

So we headed out from Opua with the keel up and the engine on. Once we got out a ways, we put the keel down, the sails up and we were off. We headed past Russell and around Tapeka Point over to explore the islands. Our first stop was Robertson Island. You'll often see pictures of Robertson Island and there is a reason why. It is stunning. There is a long beach which connects two headlands. There are two tidal lagoons which are popular with the kiddies. It is also where Captain Cook first landed in 1769.

We then headed off to Motorua Island which used to be a hospital camp and refitting base in 1772 for the French navigator, Marion du Fresne. We anchored up in Awaawaroa Bay which is a great place to weather out a storm. You can even take refuge from a hurricane there. Don't worry Mom, there weren't any hurricanes when we were there. On this trip we also poked around the some of the big southern bays including Parakura Bay and Manaowora Bay.

It was a good first experiment. I survived. The boat survived. I found out you can make tacos on a boat. I like tacos. I agreed to conduct further experiments.

Robertson Island (also known as Motoarohia). The tiniest sailboat you can see in the picture will be ours

Awaaaroa Bay, Motorura Island (also known as Pipi Bay and Honeymoon Bay)

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  1. Hi Ellen, I found your post when searching for Davidson 20 Yachts. We've just brought the Great Escape Sailing School and Boat Hire business in Opua and I'm always excited to find former sailors. Are you still sailing? If you want to see what's happened to the business check us out on face book https://www.facebook.com/learntosailBOI/ All the best Julie

    1. Hi Julie - congrats on buying Great Escapes. After chartering a couple of times, we ended up buying a Raven 26 which we had for a couple of years. We then moved back to the States and bought a Moody 346 in Florida :-)

  2. Hi i was wanting to know the weight of the keel on a 20 ft davison yacht

  3. I've chartered on of the other Davidson 20's from this outfit! Great times, highly recommended.


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