In Hamilton N.Z., we live only a ¼ mile
from the banks of New Zealand’s longest river
– the Waikato.
This river is approx 250km (150 miles) long, starting
from alpine fed Lake Taupo (in the centre of the North
Island) it flows out to the Tasman Sea, approx 60km
(40 mls) downstream. Hamilton is also the home of
Welsford (himself no less!) and where
Charlie Whipple is building his
Sundowner - ‘Resolution’.
The Waikato river creates a large part of N.Z.’s
power generation, with some 9 hydroelectric stations,
two geothermal and one coal-fired power station situated
along its length. The hydroelectric stations of course
have man made reservoirs/lakes behind their earth
or concrete dams. These are ideal for all types of
watersport – the wider ones ideal for sailing.
All these Lakes hold reasonable stocks of Trout (Rainbow
and Brown) as well as Perch, Rudd, Grey Mullet, and
our native trout - Kokopu. Not that any of them are
that easy to catch!
N.Z., we live only a ¼ mile from the
banks of New Zealand’s longest river.
In the last 2 ½ years I have taken my 11’6”
Welsford designed ‘TRUANT’
sailing dinghy TruantSea on a number of the
flowing stretches of the Waikato River. At Easter,
Gail & I threw the fishing rods, lifejackets,
and a picnic lunch into TruantSea and put
the boat into the Waikato River at a central city
launch ramp. Although the water level was low –
it being before the winter rains boost levels, canoes
and kayaks plied the waters, keeping to the banks
out of the current. At various riverbank walks and
reserves picnickers sat, watched and waved from shady
spots - under trees turning colour with the season,
as we chugged past.
We motored against the current, heading upstream
for about an hour. Houses crowd the riverbanks, peeking
through trees and fences, but providing expensive
and in some cases expansive river views. Manicured
lawns and the Hamilton botanical gardens show man’s
impact on nature – especially in urban areas.
Even a few miles upstream farms are being sub-divided,
giving way to ‘lifestyle’ blocks. Here
the owners after spending months (or years) building
a house, spend all their weekends mowing grass, building
fences, tending a few sheep or goats, or take all
their time away from work, to work - tending plants
and trees. Some lifestyle! Have they not heard
|In the last 2 ½
years I have taken my 11’6” Welsford
sailing dinghy TruantSea on a number
of the flowing stretches of the Waikato River.
A few Fizz boats and Jet-skis rushed by in both directions,
some towing water-skiers, some creating a nasty short
wake making TruantSea awkward to navigate
and bounce around, in their wake (haha). Our little
2 hp, Honda 4 stroke outboard, worked against the
2-3 knot current. With judicious navigation –
keeping to where the current seemed slower - we were
able to make TruantSea move almost 5km (3
mls) upstream in an hour. Between each bend, I cut
diagonally across stream, to the opposite side trying
to maintain maximum forward momentum. Well that’s
my theory, anyhow.
We pulled onto
a sandy bank, got the Thermos out of one of
the watertight hatches and munched away happily
on our sandwiches and biscuits.
We pulled onto a sandy bank, got the Thermos out
of one of the watertight hatches and munched away
happily on our sandwiches and biscuits to the sound
of birdsong from the trees and gurgling water under
TruantSea’s beached transom. A few
suburban lawnmowers droned softly in the background
as we leisurely sipped our hot coffees, but they were
not enough to spoil the atmosphere.
Ducks drifted by on the current, paused for a short
while in the hope of some bread crusts, but when none
were forthcoming, proceeded on their way downstream.
Still the water flowed by.
I topped up the inbuilt petrol tank of the little
Honda outboard and we carried on for another 20 minutes
or so, again pulling into a smooth sandy area another
mile or so upstream, for a spot of fishing. After
a short while, I saw grey shapes in the shallows,
swimming in groups of up to 8, very Trout-like in
form. After casting a rapala lure a few times, right
in front of their noses and them not evening showing
the slightest interest, or rushing off in fright,
I took them to be Grey Mullet – which are apparently
not a predatory feeder. Hopes were dashed, but we
resolutely continued casting without being too despondent.
|I topped up the
inbuilt petrol tank and we carried on for another
20 minutes or so, again pulling into a smooth
sandy area for a spot of fishing.
It was April (Autumn for us), the air neither cool
nor warm, the day still and mild, and it was a long,
holiday weekend – the last before winter. Who
cared what we were doing? It wasn’t work! We
continued changing lures and casting for a further
30 minutes or so, before writing the fishing off as
bad luck. The Thermos was drained and the muesli bars
scoffed before I pushed TruantSea back out
into the current and we headed back downstream.
The Honda was quickly and easily fired back into
life with its usual ‘one-pull’. This baby
4 stroke has been one fantastic little motor! It starts
easily, runs smoothly, it’s easy to lift and
carry and it’s so economical to run. I’m
glad I went for the clutch model, which makes stopping
on the water so easy. Queuing for a launch ramp to
‘pull out’ from, or stopping to change
fishing lures, or landing those ‘big’
fish when trolling, would be so difficult if the motor
had to be turned off and restarted all the time.
I feel lucky
and honoured to have a boat (especially one
like my little Truant, that you’ve made
Anyway, we literally ‘raced’ downstream.
Current assisted, we probably did over 6 knots downstream
and were back at the launch ramp in about 40 minutes.
Without fuss, TruantSea was back on the trailer, strapped
down and we were home again less than 15 minutes after
reaching the ramp.
For almost 2½ hours running, the motor only
used about 2 litres (1/2 gal) of gas.
We’d had a pleasant Easter days boating on
the Waikato, and had spent peanuts. To live in a country
so accessible to the outdoors where access is basically
free makes us count ourselves lucky.
I feel lucky and honoured to have a boat (especially
one like my little Truant, that you’ve made
yourself), and to live in a place where……’a
River flows Through’ .
HAMILTON, New Zealand
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