Tainui’s Crew

Over the years Tainui has been blessed with wonderful crew, each of whom has brought new perspective to the business and pleasure of moving this small boat over the world’s oceans. Each has contributed in some unique way to the sense of purpose which steers Tainui as much as do her Aries and the CPT autopilot.

When Mike was on his last legs, he told me that the one thing he wanted to do before he died was to rejoin Tainui for a final cruise. Sadly, his malignancy denied him that opportunity. As with all of my crew, in Tainui Mike’s memory lives on.

For me the most pleasing thing about my crew has been their desire to come back for more. A close second is their shared love for this dear old boat. In no particular order, here are Tainui’s crew:



For many years Her Ladyship was the other half of my adventure. Chris is a committed primary care physician. After her offspring (and books and art and good music and the call of  the pied butcherbird) comes remote indigenous medical practice. Endlessly curious about people, relationships and the world, she is an intense and voracious reader.

She has always liked the boat to be empty of other crew, extremely clean and tidy, anchored and with a good chardonnay chilled before she arrives. Of course, Tainui has to be in an unbelievably interesting place for her. So far I have only been able to offer her Patagonia, Cuba, St Petersburg and the Cycladic Islands, but I will keep trying.

Chris is not at heart a sailor but has always indulged me dreadfully. She continues to do so. She has been an absolute joy. Like my commitment to the sea however, hers to that other ocean – the Central Australian desert – has become an insurmountable challenge for us. But she remains very supportive and scathingly critical, as always.



 Dave shared many miles with me in Tainui. He spent most of his life at sea, driving everything from water taxis, tugboats, floating circuses, yachts and ocean-going barges. Dave was at his best when the going got tough. Skill and sheer doggedness saw him through some remarkable situations at sea.

While we were at Campbell Island Dave fell in love with a sea lion called Gloria – “such lovely eyes”, he said. He is the only person I know to have starred in a porn film without knowing it was a porn film (he drove the Rolls Royce, fully clothed).  Dave is missed on Tainui. He was taken by the sea in March this year – a sad but quite appropriate way for him to sign off. His obit is at the foot of this page.




 Ian and I were on opposite sides during the Cod War off the coast of Iceland, although this fact only emerged years later during one of those cockpit sundowner chats, somewhere like Elizabeth Reef. Ian is an art director in the movies. He and Dave co-owned a tugboat business on Sydney Harbour. Ian is a splendid all-round crewman and can make moose stew (or moosoman curry) in the vilest of weather. Gentle, considerate and hard-working, albeit quite eccentric, he has saved my sanity more than once. He is having a well-earned gap year from Tainui, after which if he doesn’t come back for more I will have to kill him..



My gorgeous elder daughter is elegant, thoughtful, caring, articulate and deeply committed to bettering the world. She trucks no nonsense, our Jen. She has a wry, dry sense of humour. Like her sister she is very argumentative but this behaviour is tolerated by their loving father. Such a delight to have them both on board together. Jen sailed wtih Tainui in Patagonia and Cuba, and in Russia she navigated, steered and handled lock work on the Volga with quiet efficiency. Jen is currently looking after asylum seekers, with tireless passion.



Loquacious, smart, vivacious and very funny, this adored younger daughter of mine is a nascent film maker whose mind runs at a thousand miles an hour. She’s very messy on the boat but highly entertaining and she cooks to die for. She is an actor, writer and secret graffiti person. She plays the oboe beautifully and I wish she’d do that more often. Gorgeous Rosie sailed with Tainui in Patagonia and later from Stalingrad to Dikili (Turkey) in 2013. Her protective big sister kept an eye on her during the first part of this Russian journey. She rejoined Tainui for the trip out to the Galapagos from Ecuador and soon became a world authority on blue-footed boobies.



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After all these years Ron still holds the record for the slowest Trans-Tasman Yacht Race time in his much loved but appallingly lazy vessel Beagle 3. He loves making Tainui go fast and I indulge him. He does that insane Tasmanian 3 Peaks Race, eats muesli and rides bicycles very long distances. At least he doesn’t shave his legs.





Andrew is a great cook but he likes cucumber more than one should, and he doesn’t drink enough wine. Like Chris, Margaret is an inveterate reader but she only reads non-fiction (why?). Andrew and Margaret are a bit odd (I mean that in the nicest possible way – perhaps idiosyncratic would be a better word). They are great conversationalists, irrepressibly interested in the world at large and hard to beat when it comes to cockpit conversation. Andrew’s introduction to offshore sailing came in our 2006 trans-Tasman crossing, and together they were great company on Tainui, in Finland, Sweden and Norway. In 2012 Andrew won Tainui’s Best Line Handler award.



DSC_0112Jasper used to call me his spare dad. Like his brother Toby, Jasper marches to his own, idiosyncratic drumbeat. Hardly surprising, with a mother like Chris. He sailed with me from Miami to New York and together we discovered I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, racism in the Carolinas and the wonder of a night arrival by sea into New York City. Later he brought his youthful cynicism, curiosity and enthusiasm to Tainui in Croatia and Venice.

Jasper is a playwright and TV script writer with a quirky sense of humour and a definite future in the industry. I only hope he will be able to find time to join Tainui for further sailing adventures, which he can then enshrine in elegant, proper prose for me.



Young Claire came with us from Sydney to Hobart with Ron, her dad, en route Macquarie Island. She cooks a mean Thai curry and likes making the boat go very fast. She learned that from Ron I suppose. Endlessly cheerful, unfortunately she’s now too busy to sail with us. She’s botanising in Tasmania.




A great bear of a man, is Mike. A Maine boat builder from Wales, with politics very leftward leaning, Mike will  debate US foreign policy with a banana, if needs be. We’ve had more than one spirited discussion over a palate-cleansing ale in recent years. He loves Laphroaig and will steer the boat well and uncomplainingly through the worst weather, till the cows come home if need be. Like Dave, Mike never gets seasick so I was glad when he (also like Dave) started chemotherapy – now he knows what we mortals have been putting up with all these years, with our seasickness. 

Mike’s malignancy eventually caught up with him and he died peacefully in November 2014. His obit is at the bottom of this page.



This odd pair sailed with Tainui from Reykjavik to Oban in Scotland. Friendly Bruce is senior panjandrum in Clan Gregor, a brave medical practitioner in that worst of health systems (USA’s, of course) and one of life’s professional enthusiasts. A genial optimist, he’ll give anything a go. Bruce sought temporary respite on Tainui from a family tragedy and I hope he found at least some distraction on board.

Navy pilot Andy has a southern drawl to die for (“Jarn”, he said to me, “jist because I talk slow, don’t mean I think slow”) and plays in a Tenessee mountain band called “In Bed by Nine”. His is a deceptively sharp mind but, predictably, his small government conservatism got Mike’s hackles up and we had some lively political debates in the Norwegian Sea. 



Obsessed rock climber, skilled emergency physician, free spirit and life-affirmer, Farida added class and style to Tainui in our trip out to the Lofoten Islands last year. She forced me to climb ridiculously steep hills and I hold her solely responsible for the loss of the last fragments of cartilage from both my knees. She’s always busy but I do hope she finds time to come back to the boat for more. She is wonderful company.




Air pilot, ocean racing tactician and helmsman, class match racing star, bon vivant and craftsman – that’s our Martin. He and I have cruised in and out of one another’s anchorages for almost 35 years. We met in Lautoka waters and invented the Malolo Lailai to Vila yacht race together. While my dissolution has been steady over the years he has built boats, planes and a very successful printing business in NZ. Probably the most experienced of my crew persons, Martin is a wonderful asset on any boat.




I first met this wonderful couple in Tonga in 1980 (we in Awatea and they, with Jeremy,  in Kestrel). We have been close since. John Little is a prolific author, TV producer, yachtsman and boatbuilder.  Anna, an irrepressible optimist, is John’s better half – his muse, companion and friend. Their journey together has been inspirational at times. They joined Tainui in the Windward Islands and joined Tainui again in the Galapagos. Of course, they’re welcome back aboard any boat of mine at any time.



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Ian’s daughter sailed with us in the Caribbean and from Scotland via the Caledonian Canal to the Baltic and Estonia. Later, she and her new husband Dan cruised Croatia with Tainui. Like my Rosie, Lucy takes significant space on a boat, but just like Rosie she is a delight to sail with. She throws herself into everything with enthusiasm and good cheer. As if that is not enough, she is also a fine artist and graphic illustrator.  Dan is a quick learner. He is interested, enthusiastic and tireless. What an asset for an ageing skipper. Part way through a PhD on film, he can talk the hind leg off a donkey on semiotics, phenomenology, post-modernism and all those subjects I have never understood.


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A fine seaperson, Max is a delight. Her irrepressible humour, enthusiasm and intelligence excuse completely her irritating failure to get seasick and her daily need to eat stodgy lumps of a building material she calls “grits”. She swims daily in any water at any temperature (which is tedious) and drinks a great deal of alcohol (which is wonderful). Without Max’s fluent Russian, her advocacy skills, her successfully flirtatious way with bureaucrats and  her navigational abilities, Tainui’s trip down the Volga would have been quite impossible. And she keeps coming back for more, which pleases one old bloke immensely.

Maxine and I are chalk and cheese in so many ways. We have this extraordinary ability to exasperate one another. But our shared love of adventure, boats, the sea and, dare I say it, the occasional chardonnay form the basis of a strong, intimate and enduring relationship.




On the Belomorsk Canal Pasha brought to Tainui his much-valued energy, curiosity, practical skills, boatmanship and fun. Tainui was very fortunate to have him. He can steer for hours in lumpy seas and does not get tired. He and Maxine made a good pair, although in bad weather their endless cockpit laughter and chatter in Cyrillic  make it difficult for the skipper to vomit in peace down below.  

Pasha and his lovely partner Tatiana rejoined Tainui in Istanbul for the cruise down to Marmaris, and the following season for Tainui’s trip from Piraeus to Montenegro. Later. they brought their patience, enthusiasm and tolerance to Blue Dove during a wet and windy cruise from Belfast to Scotland. If they don’t come back for further exploration they will be in serious trouble.




This ridiculously tall fellow brought pedantic analysis of English grammar to new lows in Tainui. An old mate of Maxine’s, he made the split infinitive, the noun clause and the gerund matters of intense cockpit debate and, at times, violence.  He folds himself like an umbrella into “the downstairs”, as he calls it, where he livens the saloon with his dry wit and charm.

Dirk is by any measure an eccentric chap, marching to his own tuneless tune. He is current holder of Tainui’s “Best Flakey Boy” award (initiated by Ian so many years ago) and has commenced the lengthy assessment process for associate membership of the Society for the Preservation of the Subjunctive.




Lieve brought much needed elegance and formality to a vessel deep in vulgarity and slipshod manners. Quiet and unflappable, she became buoy spotter and track master extraordinaire. But there is one really weird thing about Lieve – she doesn’t take drugs. By drugs I don’t just mean the important, pleasurable ones, but also coffee, tea, eggs (!!), meat, tomato sauce, tinned foods and processed cheeses. We hope she will eventually win her battle with this extraordinary sobriety.

If ever you are in Moscow, by the way, you could have no better tour guide then Lieve. Historian, music lover and committed Muscovite, she made very good company in Tainui. And, being Flemish, she cleans the boat fastidiously and often.



IMG_3749This wonderful couple (“The Children”, as we called them) sailed with Tainui from Nizhniy Novgorod to Saratov – see the post “Typical Evening on the Volga”. They fitted into shipboard life quite seamlessly and their wide-eyed pleasure was a delight to behold. They are welcome to rejoin Tainui at any time.

Dima steered and navigated with skill, for hours (no, days) at a time. He is a natural boatman and has an assured future on Russia’s inland waterways. Just do it, Dima!

Gerda’s eyes sparkle. She has an infectious laugh and is a great cook. I hope she will help us put together our cruising guide to the Volga. 



I’m not a complete moron, John” she said when I was explaining our spinnaker pole brace setup. And she was right. In fact she’s not even a partial moron. Sonja sailed with us from Galapagos to the Marquesas and was a real asset on board. She cooks to die for and she loves the sea. Quietly competent, her training as a marine biologist brought us new insights into the wildlife around us. She is an ingenious cook and her only failures on the trip were her bloody marys made from tomato paste and her vile concoction of vodka and strong black tea. True, we had run out of all imaginable additives to our remaining vodka, and at least she did try.


axelAn idiosyncratic young Galapageno, Axel joined Tainui at Isabela, at the urging of parents keen for him to be made a man. He had not sailed before but he is a quick learner and, when he’s not asleep (oh, how he loves his bunk!), an agile deckhand.  His great strengths are his youthful zeal, his sense of humour and his bar-tending skills. The latter are second to none. Axel is still finding himself and this journey may take him some time. The world is his huitre however, and he is ready to embrace it. I hope his time with us in Tainui help will him on his way.



A splendid fellow! Tainui had the privilege of Jochen’s company for the long haul across the Pacific from the Tuamotus to Brisbane. I met him in the Marquesas and he joined the boat at Kauhei Atoll. He is one of a kind – assiduous, thoughtful, hard working, articulate and very funny. His special drinks are second to none. Between strong-willed Melanie and Tainui’s lazy, grumpy skipper he provided an ideal foil. You could not find a better and more trustworthy crew person anywhere. Jochen, a chemical engineer working for the EU in Finland, is welcome back aboard any boat of mine at any time. I hope he will consider exploring some more of Russia’s inland waterways with us in Blue Dove.


What can I say about Pampelmousse? She brought a uniquely Parisian flavour to Tainui during the long downwind run from Tahiti to Noumea. She hates engines, loves the sea, hums tunelessly and takes endless photos of sunsets and sunrises. Melanie is a competent sailor and a relentless snorkeller. She is a moody soul but her laugh, when you can elicit it, is quite infectious. She is a good sea cook and under her supervision our galley was filled with all manner of fromages, terrines and other French comestibles. Melanie and Jochen had this irritating tendency to speak French to one another, especially when they were criticising their curmodgeonly skipper. I hope I can sail again with Mlle Pampelmousse.



Many readers will have known David Lucas, who drowned on 12 March in the sea he loved so much. It was a vicious rip at Brunswick Heads. Such a sad loss to the world.

Dave ran up 250,000 sea miles in the last 40 years. His friends included such luminaries as Bernard Moitessier, the Smeetons and the Hiscocks, to name but a few. But he shunned the limelight, the ocean racing scene and what he called “those new-fangled radios and electronic gadgets which boats have these days”. Quiet and absolutely without pretension, he had great difficulty making enemies. When not at the pub Dave was equally happy socializing or away from the crowds, exploring unknown Pacific anchorages.

His experience was eclectic, to say the least. He started as a logman working the timber tugs in northern BC and then, in his beloved Herreshoff “Liberty 3”, he sailed back and forth between Vancouver and NZ for over a decade. I met him in Lautoka when “Liberty 3” took part in our inaugural Malolo LaiLai-Vila anti-yacht race.

After a couple of years with Rainbow yacht charters in the Bay of Islands David and Ian Allan bought Koala, an elegant 46′ timber tug, which became a familiar sight on Sydney waters. Koala carved a niche for herself in the film industry and Dave was boat wrangler on a number of watery films including Dead Calm, Goodbye Paradise (“The Rack and Jack Show”) and Return Blue Lagoon. In Goodbye Paradise, Dave spent a whole day lying in the bottom of a dinghy clutching Raquel Welch’s ankles for a difficult scene filmed in the shallows at Wattamola Beach!

Dave only acted once in a film himself. Scrounging for pennies in Hawaii he drifted onto a film set and agreed to be an extra, driving a Rolls Royce for a day. “The easiest money I ever made”, he told me. It was not until 10 years later that someone told him they had seen him dressed as a chauffeur in a pornographic movie. He had had no idea!

As skipper and mentor for the Ocean Youth Club Dave then took the steel cutter “Destiny” on perhaps a dozen trips out to Lord Howe Island from Sydney. Setting out on one of those trips with a boatload of children, Destiny’s engine gave up near Sow and Pigs. Undeterred, Dave threw an inflatable into the water and pushed the yacht out the heads and into the breeze. When I later asked him about this engineless trip to LHI and back his laconic answer was “quite uneventful”.

In 1999 Dave found himself skippering a lovely old 70′ kauri motor vessel in the Pacific Islands for Circus Pacific. His cargo was a travelling circus troupe which had been cobbled together by a French Polynesian illusionist. All in a day’s work for him.

He then returned to Australia, first to drive water taxis and then to work on the Yamba-Lord Howe Island barge run for a couple of years, before retiring to Bangalow.

David was remarkable for his freedom of spirit and his complete disregard for material possessions. He was the kindest person I have ever met. His generosity of spirit and his willingness to lend a hand to sailors in need, anywhere and at any time, were quite inspiring. In “Koala” he once towed a disabled trawler into port and it would never have occurred to him to negotiate a salvage contract.

At his best when the weather was worst, he was a gentle soul and a fine seaman. I was privileged to have Dave sail with me for over 20,000 miles in Tainui – from Sydney to Macquarie Island, across the Southern Ocean to Patagonia, from Buenos Aires to Trinidad and from Nova Scotia to Labrador. All of those trips would have been so much more difficult without his unflappable presence and his superb seamanship. The worse the weather, the tougher he seemed to get.

David marched to his own tune and his idea of punctuality was at best idiosyncratic. How often we sat patiently waiting, while he rolled yet another cigarette, before we could cast off, tie in a reef or set off to explore a new town. If he didn’t like your suggested course of action he would just ignore it (and so often he was right!). Dave loved and served Tainui unreservedly. In the end nothing else really mattered.

David Lucas is survived by his loving wife Jeanette and his dear friend Harriet (an elderly rescue dog). This good friend and colourful character will be sadly missed.

…and Mike Warr

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of dear old Mike. He died peacefully last Sunday after a long struggle with metastatic carcinoma of the colon. He fought his illness with characteristic humor, anger, obstreperousness, persistence and courage – just as he fought strong headwinds and big seas. 

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Mike was a boatbuilder and he loved wooden boats, sailing and the sea. I met him at Billings Yard in Stonington, when I was admiring a lovely metre boat which he had just done up. I drank rum and he drank Laphroaig, one thing led to another and he ended up sailing with Tainui from Baddeck to Labrador and across the North Atlantic to Scotland. He was a wonderful hand – strong, tireless, intuitive and experienced. He was hard-working, articulate and well-read. Our bad weather round Kap Farvel would have been so much worse without his presence.

An expatriate Taffy, Mike brought with him to America his pugnacity and strongly held socialist views. He argued with other crew eloquently and at length in support of his case. In the cockpit I often had to intervene to prevent bloodshed. One debate which sticks clearly in my mind was whether Dick Cheney is a war criminal or a True American Patriot. No prizes for guessing Mike’s (and my) side. He was a formidable debater, our Mike, and I admired him for his passion and moral rectitude.

The world is so full of ratbags at the moment (Australia’s federal politicians, for example) and it seems so unfair that he has shuffled off and left them behind.

Most importantly, Mike was a bloody good bloke and he will be sorely missed.  He is survived by his lovely wife (Laurie), his son (Gareth) and a gorgeous Starling Burgess double-ender (Barnswallow)..