Sunday, 28 February 2010

Tsunami alert

Today's tsunami definitely created an effect in Lyttelton Harbour. It was more or less back to normal by 8pm.

Saturday, 27 February 2010


Sometimes a day off really does what it's supposed to do - refresh you after a week at work. I did the supermarket run early today, then washed the floors after Heather had vacuumed, and made lunch. Heather got home from swimming (1.3km overarm, yeeha!) and had her lunch then settled down with a book. I decided to go and change my library books, at the New Brighton library, so I had a nice ride out there into a 10 knot easterly. I spent half an hour in the library and took some photos, then biked home. The easterly helped me home at 25 km/hr.

The New Brighton Library is bright and cheerful, with the upper level providing views over the surf from a row of large comfy armchairs.

The children's area has lots of toys and books. It was full of kids on a Saturday afternoon, making more noise than you'd expect in a library but only because they were enjoying it so much.

There is a cafe at ground level by the beach, with outside tables. The pier connects to the library building at the second level.

It's been a lovely day with perfect conditions - tomorrow I'm not sure what we'll do, but I'd like to do something physical. Maybe a bike ride up Mt Pleasant, rather than Dyers Pass which is a zoo on Sunday mornings, then along to Dyers Pass and Sumner and home with the easterly. I want to do lots of hills in the next month, to get ready for my after-Easter trip up the West Coast.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Caught ya!

Ya rascal you, Sarah Palin. Going on about socialised health care leading to "death panels", and all the while her grandson Tripp is in government funded health insurance schemes.

It's all stated clearly in documents from Bristol Palin's child custody fight with ex boyfriend Levi Johnston.

It will be interesting to see if this blows up, or if the media let it slide. Palin avoids the rest of the media now she's a "contributor" to Fox News, the Pravda of the pinheads, so I can't see her getting grilled by serious interviewers.

Golly, that biased liberal media must have been up all night forging these court documents - you betcha!

Off we go

The University teaching year began with a hiss and a roar yesterday; suddenly the campus is alive with students everywhere, catching up with friends and settling in to new courses. We've been very busy doing course setups and checking out students who want to see their courses - 20 minutes after paying their fees!

On past experience, this rush will start to taper off at the end of next week; most courses will have met a few times, people will know their way around Learn (Moodle), and any glitches will have been ironed out. Just in time for the final announcement from the restructuring project.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Slippery slopes

I've spent the last few breakfast times watching the Winter Olympics skiing. The Downhill is almost beyond comprehension for recreational skiers, it's a sport for supermen. This rather fuzzy video (it's from 1995, when video was steam powered) gives a skier's view of the Dave Murray Downhill course at Whistler. (Check out a skier's view of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic downhill for a better example of the skier's view of a downhill.)

Super G is different; it and the standard GS are set to reproduce the lines that a good skier would take down a hill, with long radius and occasional medium radius turns. Super G is wider and faster, like a cross between GS and Downhill. The last two mornings we have seen the mens and womens Super G for the Super Combined medals; Super G in the morning and slalom in the afternoon provide a more realistic assessment of skiing talent. Today it's the regular Super G for women, and we've seen some amazing skiing on hard shiny ice; and several spectacular crashes. The sound of the skis on hard ice brings a clenching of the bowels, even on TV at this distance.

Lindsey Vonn, Womens Downhill gold and Super G bronze medals so far, drops a hand for stability as she makes a turn on her inside ski - probably doing 90-100km/hr! She still has GS and slalom to come, so she could have two more medals by the end of the games.

Right: Vonn at the medal ceremony for her Downhill gold.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Out and about

We did sail today, but we put a reef in the mainsail before we even left the jetty. It was a consistent 20 knots, with a rolling swell, so we decided not to race but to just sail for fun. We bashed our way up to Parsons Rock then ran and reached down into Purau, where we dropped the sails and floated while eating lunch.

After lunch we sailed out of Purau and further towards the heads, before running back to Rapaki Bay, where we dropped sails again and motored up to the club. We were packed up at around 3pm, after sailing since 11am.

The barbecue was in a spectacular modern house perched high above Sumner beach, with a view from Scarborough hill past the coast and the Kaikouras, across the city to the mountains. As night fell, it became even more spectacular.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Sailing again, again

We're going to enter our first race for the season tomorrow - just a points race in the harbour, usually 3 laps of a course up to Parsons Rock and back. It will be good fun, whatever happens.

Then we go to a barbecue up the top of the hill in Sumner - I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

February fun

The usual mad late-February rush is happening around our office, as everyone gets ready for the start of lectures next Monday. By the end of week 1 we should have encountered 90% of our start of year problems, and by the end of week 2 it becomes noticeably quieter. The funny thing is that now there are 5 of us doing the job I used to do alone, until the end of 2006; though there weren't quite as many courses, and I didn't provide the level of support that our advisers do now - it wouldn't have been possible.

Monday, 15 February 2010

So what?

The America's Cup changed hands today, depending on lawyers. So what? What I and other yachties want to watch is fleet racing in identical boats. Like the Audi Cup TP52 series, that's my idea of exciting sailing.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

A day out

We had a nice sail this afternoon, in a perfect 10-12 knot easterly. We charged up wind to near the Heads, then after a slightly complex spinnaker hoist we had a long run down with an incoming tide. The afternoon was a bit grey and overcast, but mild enough, and we had a thoroughly nice time.

Saturday, 13 February 2010


It all happens at once - yesterday Heather booked us a week in Rarotonga in early June, and today I've been organising a bike tour for myself up the West Coast from Wanaka to Hokitika. We'll be in Wanaka for Easter then I'll set off a day or two ahead of Heather and Elaine, who will catch me up between Haast and Jacobs River. I'll have stayed in Makarora and Haast before they arrive to take my panniers. Then it's Franz, Harihari, and Hoki, mate.

This supported cycle touring is the way to go, but I'm a bit embarrassed about putting anything on; I might get laughed out by the heavy duty "Mongolia on $2 a day' crowd. Still, if someone is prepared to take a slow holiday by car and carry my gear, I'll take the offer, thanks.

Friday, 12 February 2010

No sailing

Blah - northwest over night then a southerly change at mid day Saturday. We've bailed out in anticipation. And Sunday's going to be southerly all day too. If you're not a Lyttelton yachtie, just pretend you didn't read this.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Getting closer

The start of the academic year is coming closer; lectures start on Monday 22nd. In the meantime IT have put in several big new computer systems, and are now rapidly fine-tuning them and doing training. Fingers are firmly crossed.

In another impending Big Deal, the two-boat Americas Cup series hasn't managed to get suitable sailing weather yet. I'm really interested in seeing the start - multihulls this large aren't likely to be very manouverable. Once they're under way, it is bound to be a drag race with little interaction.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Magic boat

Look, no hands! A headless Mark Schroeder watches as Impulsive steers herself to windward.
We started sailing up Lyttelton Harbour around 11am on Saturday, in the last of the morning cloud cover. That had burned off by the time I'd rigged up a sheet-to-tiller self steering system, using some spare bungy cord and a line with a pulley. The idea is that a boat will sail upwind well balanced in light winds, but as wind increases the boat heels, and the hull shape causes it to round up. This system uses the increased wind force to pull the tiller to windward, as a human helmsman would, keeping the boat on course.
The system has two main parts. A bungy cord comes from the left to the end of the tiller, and the black cord runs from the blue mainsheet at the bottom to the tiller, via a pulley at the stern. The mainsheet cord is set up with some tension on the sheet; when the sheet pulls harder as wind increases, it pulls the tiller up, counteracting the rounding-up effect. Here is a YouTube clip showing a more sophisticated version of this system, controlling a J-80 on a reach.

We modified the system after these photos were taken, as the original control line wasn't pulling hard enough on the tiller. We figured that the 4:1 mainsheet gearing meant that the sheet tension wasn't "high geared" enough, so we ran a cord from the end of the boom to the tiller, giving us a direct linkage to wind speed. That worked better, and as we used a lighter grade cord the rolling hitch adjuster didn't slip, which had been a minor nuisance. The next step is to work out a way of adjusting the tension on the bungy. (Update Sunday 7th - the bungy is now 4 shorter lengths looped, free to adjust under load, with a length of cord incorporating a rolling hitch adjustment.)

Of course we have to unhook the lines and swap the two controls after tacking. We don't plan to use this very often, but on long trips it's nice to be able to move about (though on a light boat that can induce variations in trim, sending the boat in unintended directions) and to attend to other matters like eating and drinking, using the (bucket) toilet, or rigging spinnaker gear for the downwind run.

In the gentle 10 knot breeze with a negligible swell, we sailed out past Adderley Head, and round into Port Levy, but we didn't stay long as it was nearing 2pm. Once back in Lyttelton Harbour, we hoisted the spinnaker and had a great high speed run down toward Purau. As we passed Purau, we saw Chris Hutching in Henry Salad motoring into Pile Bay, so we called him on the radio and said we'd join him. We did a tidy job of downing the spinnaker, then rounded up and sailed over to the bay, dropping the sails and motoring in with our keel wound half up. We tied to his stern, then sat and chatted for a while, before raising our mainsail and sailing back to the club, in a much stronger breeze which had built during the sunny afternoon. We both slept very well last night!

Sailing past Adderley Head into Port Levy.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Afloat again

We hope to be launched and on our way up Lyttelton Harbour by 11am tomorrow, with a good forecast; "Northeast 15 knots dying out at night. Slight sea becoming smooth at night. Low cloud or fog clearing by afternoon" With luck we'll get around to Port Levy for lunch, and meet up with Chris Hutching on the way back. This will be a replay of a similar trip, almost exactly a year ago.

Back to school

As always, schools went back, and a huge anticyclone sat over the South Island this week. It's been fantastic weather for biking, and I'm very pleased with the pair of panniers I bought in Kathmandu's sale last weekend for $60. For commuting to work I just use one, to hold a change of shirt and some lunch, with my laptop bag either in the pannier or strapped to the carrier.

Work has been quiet, which is a bit unnerving, with only two weeks to go till lectures commence. We have hundreds of Moodle courses that lecturers started on when they attended workshops, but are still sitting waiting to have material added to them. I predict our phones will be ringing next week!

Yesterday was the deadline for the final submissions on Project STAR, the restructuring of support departments. Now we await the Final Solution.