Thrills no spills on Wellington Harbour

Once it was holiday time at the end of 2012 I had time to pause and reflect. I quickly realised I’ve been in a bit of a rut. A rigorous savings plan for the least few years has left little spare for adventures.

My resolution for 2013 is to have more fun and to do a bunch of things I wouldn’t normally do.

So when a friend mentioned Harbour Sails, offered by the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club I was in for my first activity:

Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday you can come down to the Ocean Sports Centre and go for a Harbour Sail. Each sail lasts for a little over an hour and depending on the wind will take you to places such as Queen’s Wharf, Oriental Parade and Evans Bay.

You don’t need any experience … just some warm clothing and a pair of sports shoes. We provide the sailing jackets and safety equipment. It doesn’t mattter what the weather is like … we almost never cancel. If it is fine then there is no place more beautiful … if it is windy then there is no place more exhilarating!

The forecast for Sunday, 6 January 2013 was for a still, sunny and hot day, so when better to go for a sail?

Oriental Bay and the Harbour were looking stunning, as they always do on Wellington’s best days.

Oriental Bay and Wellington Harbour in the sun.

Oriental Bay and Wellington Harbour in the sun. This photo was taken from Palliser Road.

It was actually really hot too. I’ve never seen Oriental Bay so chocka.

Oriental Bay packed.

Oriental Bay packed.

I made sure to leave plenty of time to find parking. It was a good thing as the Bay was all jammed up.

At the right time though I presented myself at the Wellington Ocean Sports Centre, at the end of the boatsheds beside Freyberg Pool.

We started with a short indoor safety briefing, and then kitted up with wet weather overalls, jacket and safety vest. It was so warm we didn’t wear the jackets, but took them along just in case.

I opted to leave wallet, keys and iPhone in the locked office on land. I had hoped to take some photos from out on the water, but realised I valued my iPhone too much to risk it getting soaked.

The Muir 8.2 sailboat.

The Muir 8.2 metre sailboat beside Freyberg Pool.

We climbed aboard the Muir 8.2m sailboat. There were 2 crew and 4 passengers, but there was space for a few more too.

Once aboard the captain, Sam, explained a few more things: which ropes controlled the sails and how to keep the sail just right, where the tiller was and how it worked, and how things would work if someone went overboard. Then she started the motor and we eased out into the harbour.

Oriental Bay sailing.

Oriental Bay sailing.

Over the next hour we motored to and from the middle of the harbour, but sailed from there to Evans Bay and back. One young lad handled the tiller, while another passenger looked after the rope that controlled the mainsail.

It was interesting seeing the raw power of wind filling a sail and just how much muscle is needed to control it. On a few of our turns the side of the boat dipped almost into the harbour, and at speed. Sam, the captain, had earlier explained that try as you might you can’t capsize those boats, because the lead in the keel always hauls it back upright.

Evans Bay was massively windier than Oriental Bay, as a southerly had just started to come up and it funnels through across the airport and down the bay.

We hacked around a little and then headed back to calmer waters and the marina. The timing was perfect. As I drove home the temperature dropped, clouds came up and the Southerly freshened.

I have no inclination to learn to sail and found this a great way to spend an hour. I sat at the back of the boat and just enjoyed being out on the water.

It’s fabulous to get out of the city from time to time and see it from a new angle.

I’ve started 2013 with something new and different for me too, and that feels good. Next up, maybe, an afternoon at the horse races in a couple of weeks.