Monday, June 10, 2013

Swimming with Dolphins... and other stories.

My humblest and sincerest apologies to my loyal readers - I really ought to have done a deal more over the last month with this blog spot.  It's not as if I can't think of anything to write about.  Perhaps I could partially excuse myself by mentioning that the health has been less than top-notch lately (of which more anon, for your amusement), or that my other on-line activity - Gameknot Chess - has occupied rather more time lately than heretofore.  Certainly the actual Battle of Jasper Roads ought to have been fought by now...

View from the pier towards the north end of Akaroa.
Swimming with Dolphins.
About a month ago, Karen and I took a day trip to Akaroa for a 'Swimming with Dolphins' excursion.  Akaroa is a small town - originally a French settlement, quite noticably so - deep within the harbour of the same name on the other side of Banks Peninsula from Christchurch..  It's about a ninety minute drive, half of it over hill country - the Peninsula being active volcanoes a couple of million years back - and, as it happened, through thickish fog, there and back.  The excursion itself took us out of the harbour (it's very like a fjord, so far does it reach inland) to maybe a kilometre off shore.  

Off we go.  The cove in the hat and no wet suit is
 yours truly; Karen the smallest of the quintet.
  Young fellow to starboard was one of our guides.
I took a few pictures of the boat trip out, but here's where for me the thing went a little bit turnip shaped.  I hadn't been feeling top hole since we left home, but wasn't too bad.  OK when the boat was in motion, sure. But when the boat hove to so the swimmers could swim, the monstrous two-foot swell was enough to upset my stomach and I ended up heaving the lunch I hadn't had over the side.  Damned painful, too.  So much for the pictures and movies I wanted to take.  The photo with Karen and friend was taken by the boat operators. 

Looking south towards the harbour
Wet suits and schnorkels... 
Not confident of my fitness and exercising over-caution, I had decided already not to go into the water myself.  Poor show, I agree, and a decision I regret.  Next time, maybe.  But there was an upside: I probably got to see more of the dolphins from the boat than the others from the water.  These were Hector's Dolphins, the smallest of the dolphin species.  They seemed very interested in playing with the boat whilst it was in motion, and when swimmers (floaters, really) got in the water (singly - but I don't think that was planned), they were quite happy to surge around and check them out.  When Karen got in there were already three or four about, but what struck me was seeing another three rapidly approaching in a kind of vee, leaping half out of the water as they came, heading straight for her.  Karen being what you'd call small, we think the dolphins took a particular liking for her.  When on several occasions one or other of the dolphins leapt clear of the water close by her, we were solemnly assured that, though not unknown, that sort of thing didn't happen very often.  A bit of a bonus, apparently.
From the water looking east towards the tops.

If ever you're in this part of the world, I highly recommend taking the trip - it's about 3 or 4 hours I think, the boat ride.  The scenery is great, and up close the dolphins are something to see.  And the operation is slick,  well thought out, yet engaging.  The ocean on the east coast of New Zealand is not what you's call warm, so they outfit you with wetsuits and boots.  They also give you snorkels, but I gather these are more by way of toys so you can make noises to the delictation of the sea life.  Splashing is not recommended - the dolphins take it as a warning to keep away.  Touching the dolphins is a strict no-no - they are easily injured, I gather.   In the wetsuits you float quite easily (Karen tells me), the only slight difficulty being to keep your feet down.
Karen and friend...

Once under way again, the stomach settled down.  We got to see some of the spectacular shore line up close, and the dolphins escorted us back to the harbour entrance.  Great day... sort of.

From the pier - a general view of the shoreline
and overlooking peaks.  It's easy to see why people like
to live here and commute to Christchurch.

Unfinished Projects.
1. Imagi-Nations Naval
Some time ago, a friend (thanks Brian) donated to the Archduke Piccolo cause an unmade Airfix model of the Golden Hind.  Having already acquired but not built the Mayflower, and my Heller model of La Couronne left by the earthquakes a dismasted hulk, I thought it high time in the last week or so to amend matters.  Even unpainted, I find the little Mayflower and Golden Hind vessels surprisingly pretty - seen from certain angles, at any rate.
Golden Hind, broad reaching on the starboard tack

 I find that the model looks better if the spars are set at an angle, as though the vessel were broad reaching - the wind off a stern quarter - rather than running before a wind more or less directly astern.  The angle at which the spars are set looks less pronounced in the picture to the right.
Mayflower, also on the starboard tack.
 The Mayflower is a much smaller vessel.  Although the original carried the Pilgrim Fathers to America this particular craft will represent variously the merchant marines of Altmark-Uberheim or Ursaminor, or a ship-rigged sloop in one or other service.  I have yet to determine in whose service the Golden Hind will serve, nor under what name.  Silver Stag comes to mind... 
La Couronne was shipwrecked by successive earthquakes in Christchurch.  The spars all came away, except for the sprit top (?), and main topmast snapped in two as well.  I could probably cement them all back together, but I rather fear for the robustness of the finished model after that.  An alternative idea is to sheath the existing masts in plastic tubing - the fore, main and mizzen masts in ball-pen reservoir, and the top masts in the thinner cotton bud tubing.  
La Couronne: dismasted and adrift.
The wreck of La Couronne
I have bored out the places where the masts snapped off, and I'll probably widen the holes to accept the plastic tubing.  Although I didn't make this provision for the other two vessels, the tubing will permit removal of masts by way of battle damage.

The sapient reader will have observed all these are waterline models, but all three are moulded with the full hull, to be mounted on display stands.   I think one of the ships actually had the hull glued together - the only start made upon it.  The judicious application of craft knife and scissors dealt with that.  That the cuts were crude - haggled, rather - doesn't matter, as once based they become invisible.  The basing for La Couronne, by the way, is coloured foil from a chocolate or Easter egg confection.  I wish I had more...

Some painting to do here...
A unit each of French Lancers and Cuirassiers.

Half-painted HaT Austrian Grenze.  Not really compatible with
my metal Minifigs, they are probably of a size of the Warrior
and Hinton Hunt(?) figures.

3. Jono's World.
Although Jono himself has gone off to do other things, I'm still playing with his creation and building up sort of 'Army Men' type forces.  The Kiivar are just about done, but the Raesharn really need some actual infantry, and other personnel.  Recently I discovered these fascinating artifacts in a local bookshop that has a small toy section.
Interceptor and light bomber of Raesharn Imperial Air Force
The biplane is really the same as the single wing chappy,
but with a top wing added.  Cute.

Raesharn aircraft designers favour radial engines. 

 There were more of these, in bright colours, which, if they don't move, I might acquire for the Kiivar Air Force.  I bought the fighter several months ago, and then found several weeks later that although they had moved around the shop, they hadn't moved out.  Naturally and or course the biplane was commissioned into service.

This low profile of the Raesharn Interceptor/Fighter shows
that this is actually a toy.  I do not plan to modify it in any way.
It does look a bit like the Brewster Buffalo, doesn't it?
 My one caveat is that the decals too obviously identify the aircraft as 'American'.  I would have preferred something less unambiguous, such as no such marking at all.  While I might have added a 'Raesharn' decal, I don't feel like removing or painting over this one.  What I might end up doing is modifying the central star in some way.
Raesharn Imperial Air Force providing top cover for
the Raesharn Imperial Army.
I do like the way the camo of the aircraft and tanks resemble each other.

4. Milestones.
I had intended to celebrate these with somewhat more eclat several weeks ago, having acquired 80+ followers, and reached over 50,000 'hits'.  Not as quickly as some, but pleasing all the same.  

A warm welcome to Peter Douglas my 82nd follower.  I'm sorry I have not been around to do so earlier.



  1. Was the swimming with Dolphins on your bucket list?

    1. LOL - No - I don't have a bucket list. Wouldn't know what to do with one. So 'Lose lunch in South Pacific Ocean' wasn't on it, either. But it was it was a nice day, not too cold (imagine November off the north coast of Spain), and the memories are more pleasant than otherwise. Karen allowed she was colder once she got out of the water then when she was in.

  2. very interesting post Ion. certainly looks like a nice trip also. up at the harbour mouth Orcars are a common sight though we have not seen any ourselves, and apparently at the local beach you can occasionally get up close and personal with logs that turn out to be seals, a bit of a surprise.

    The ships look wonderful, certainly no way of telling the ships were once full hulled, without close inspection.

    the Nappies are nice though don't know much about them myself.

    and the Jono's world aircraft are cute. though yet the US air-force roundel is annoying in that it limits the possibilities unless its altered.

    oh and a picture of the man himself... so much better than that picture of me in my house colours.

    1. I'm thinking of painting a red or a blue star within the white star for the Raesharn aircraft. I'd get the others as well, but they are painted up like racing aircraft or something; bright and garish. They are the same design, though. The thing is, I doubt I'd have the heart to paint over them. If I did get them I might leave them as they are as personalized fighter aircraft. I'll think about it next time I'm in that bookshop.

      A few years ago, Karen and I spent a few days at Kaikoura. We didn't do the whale watching thing, but did take a trip out to look at the aquatic bird life. Saw at least two types of albatross, petrels, all sorts of things. Saw a small pod of dolphins there, too - that was a bonus. We also got to see seals basking in the warm, early spring sun. We made sure we didn't get too close.

  3. Good to see you back on dry land Ion. Well done on the milestones and the construction-repair-refurbishment of the fleet.

    Who needs sea legs at any rate!

    1. Sea legs! I've had motion sickness from a building - and not during an earthquake neither. The Airforce Museum at Wigram has - or used to have - a very crude flight simulator thing in which you were supposed to be flying a Mosquito bomber on a mission against enemy shipping in a Norwegian fjord. Though the 'cockpit' was fixed, and the graphics crude, after a while the eyes were fooled enough into inducing a genuine 'flying' effect.

      This was great - once obtaining the sense of flying, control became a whole lot easier. But I had only two or three minutes to enjoy it. After a short while I started feeling distinctly green. Just had to get out of there. I've always had a problem with motion sickness - a real beggar. The odd thing is, I've never been airsick on real aircraft...

  4. Very cool! You're a busy busy man :)

  5. Sorry to hear about your unfortunate dose of mal de mer ... but it sounds like the experience was not totally bad. Having seem dolphins up close near Gibraltar, I know how impressive they can be.

    I like the way you have built the Golden Hind. It is a very old model (it was one of he first every made by Airfix) but it still looks good. I hope that your repairs to your damaged ship are successful.

    I saw exactly the same aircraft on sale in a shop this morning ... and I did give serious thought to buying a couple for my 54mm Funny Little Wars project.

    All the best,


    1. I really like those aircraft, toys though they are. I reckon they would go very well with your FLW project - from memory they're set in the 1920s or 30s? Certainly the biplanes would go well.

      The experience was great. The disappointment was really due to my not being able to take pictures or film the dolphins, and get some really good pictures. I had my camera all ready to go. But every time I tried to give any attention to it, the rebel stomach would start bitching about it. In the end I gave up. Rats.

  6. The trip looks like fun, sorry you were ill. The projects are looking good. I'm intrigued by the ships, what scale are they?

    1. La Couronne is 1/600 scale according to the box packaging. I had to look up Golden Hind. Apparently it is a 1/500 scale model. I rather thought it might be the vessel looks as though it ought to be quite a bit smaller than La Couronne. The latter carried 68 guns; Golden Hind 22 or thereabouts.

      I am unable to discover the scale of the Mayflower, but it might well be the same as the other Airfix model. Incidentally I discover Airfix also made a kit of the "Revenge" - Richard Grenville's ship, with which he took on a whole Spanish fleet, the maniac. I'd love to have one of those...


  7. Sounds like you had an interesting trip Ion, even with the inadvertently feeding of the fishes aside. I do love Akaroa and have spent a lot of time there this year myself. Very fortunate that some of my family have a holiday home there.
    Sounds like the projects are going to keep you busy for a looooong time, which is after all what projects are about.
    Glad to see you are back posting after a while away.


  8. Plenty to post, that's for sure, Barry... Its just a matter of getting round to it. Lucky you having a holiday home in Akaroa - it really is a fine spot, west views across the harbour towards some attractive looking country, reasonably sheltered I daresay from the wintry blasts we are getting in Christchurch (though it hasn't snowed all that much so far today), and quiet.