Took the “High” road for a change

The time came for my interstate trip to South Australia, a nice little two day drive from Sydney. The most common way is via the Hay Plains, an area where the vegetation struggles to grow more than about a metre. The alternate way is the route further north through Cobar, Wilcannia and Broken Hill. As my first destination was Port Lincoln west of Adelaide, the drive time according to the various websites was less than an hour difference, so why not see something different?

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Inland Australia is going through a rather difficult dry period, with rain desperately needed in dams and rivers. I can only support the country towns by passing through purchasing fuel and the odd meal. Admittedly, driving long distances some of it tends a little blurry, same after same view of the road and surrounds. It was however glaringly dry and brown as distinct from the dry and greenish on the Hay road.  I had been keen to see the Darling River where it comes through the town of Wilcannia. I didn’t take a photo even after stopping as there was nothing to see. Upstream of the bridge was dry and downstream just had a puddle you could jump over. When you think of the early settlement days, the paddle steamers were the mode of transport for the region. Not now, you could probably ride a BMX style push bike further than a boat down the Darling River.

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Heading into Port Augusta, the first thing I noticed was the lack of the power station, I’d seen the chimney come down on the news some time back, but it’s like sailing into Sydney Harbour and not seeing the Sow and Pigs. Heading down to Port Lincoln, nothing else had changed other than the odd new house here and there.

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Man shaped mountains in Outback Australia

 

I spent the following day with a range of DeckHardware customers before heading back clockwise around the gulfs. At various coastal towns, I just did a short stop to see if there was anything new, no, time for a couple of photos and back to more driving. Monday and Tuesday were spent driving with the occasional stop. The latter days in the week, I was able to see more customers due to the higher population densities. The one thing for those that don’t know the size of our country, it’s huge and in some areas very monotonous.

Near One design racing at Copper Cove Wallaroo SA

One thing that doesn’t change is the Aussie love of the water and watching the guys at Copper Cove racing their Radio controlled yachts in the drizzle was an example. As always its’ good to catch up with customers, many who have become familiar voices over the phone and at various regattas. At one business, the owners thanked me for my time showing the DeckHardware product range. We’d spoken on the phone before but never met in person. It’s nice to put a face to the name as they say.

Murray River at Tailem Bend SA. Plenty of water down here which was nice to see.

 

Driving home was via the South Road, good old Hay Plains that I first drove down with my mate John in the mid 70s towing two Lasers to the Australian Championships at Glenelg. Nothings changed there other than having a more comfortable vehicle than the good old HQ Holden. Certainly some of the music was the same, Beatles and Beach Boys and the good music from that era never grows old.

 

 

Back on the road 2019

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about being on the road or on the water. The Summer sailing season in Sydney finished up, so now I’m on the road interstate.

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Aussie wildlife in suburbia – country style

First up was a trip north to Southern Queensland. However with a couple of detours inland, Casino I’d not been to before and as the first stop, really didn’t have the time to have a look around. My second stop was west of Toowoomba, visiting a customer I’d seen a couple of times before. Luckily for me he works from home, really the rather large tin shed out the front so I’m able to connect after hours and on weekends. Given that it’s several hours drive away from anyone else, this works.

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From there it was on to the Sunshine Coast where Craig and Tracee look after me, all too well as Tracee likes to cook, feeding another gives her the opportunity to experiment too. They’re out on acreage 20minutes from Mooloolaba gradually making improvements in the garden and surrounds. Tracee also has a thriving vegetable garden with plenty of fruit trees that also has a fence around however not to the stage I’ve done at home but showing my photos, I think Craig has another job ahead. They have an issue now and again with the local wildlife, it’s nothing to be sitting on their deck having a staring competition with a Kangaroo family. But it is nice and peaceful and a joy to watch at times, just not when they are in the garden having a munch!

Monday was spent seeing customers old and new locally. With most areas of Australia, I have it pretty much sorted who I see where and when to minimise the time in between stops, but now and again I get caught out. I then spent a few days working my way around the suburbs of Brisbane, it’s certainly nice to see the roadworks heading in and out north of the city finished, although that doesn’t stop the evening peak parking lot in a section that should be doing 100kph. The highway south to the Gold Coast is 4 lanes either way and you can do the sign posted speeds, however the greater section to the Sunshine Coast is still 2 lanes and nowhere to pull over in a breakdown, the same bit of road that I drove on in the mid 70s when first driving to Mooloolaba in my teenage years with a Laser on top.

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From the other side all you see is the CBD of Brisbane

The next couple of nights were hosted by an old Middle Harbour mate who’s retired to the northern suburbs of Brisbane, Tony Hannan. I can’t count the number of boats we sailed together or against, but each time I stay the evening stories are never the same. It’s always good being able to fill him in on what’s happening down south, despite his occasional visit for a regatta or two over a season.

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Once this was the style of yacht design, known as plank on edge

 

My last two days north of the border were spent on the Gold Coast, one doing the rounds and the other visiting the annual Sanctuary Cove Boat Show. The show has evolved over the years with more focus on power and especially this year, Jetskis and similar high speed personal watercraft.

My last evening north of the border was spent with grey nomads James and Marita, sitting in their caravan watching football on an Ipad! Unfortunately our Manly Sea Eagles were beaten by the Gold Coast team at home so it was a good excuse for an early night given where we were.

As always it’s good to catch up with a lot of customers, many who have become friends as well over the years. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to see everyone and to those who I haven’t caught up with, we’ll try for next time. Others like Tony have left Sydney for warmer climes, it’s just a little hard to fit everything in.

Having gone up the inland route, I headed back down the more familiar coastal road. All I can say about the NSW section of the Pacific Highway is that it’ll be fantastic when the roadworks are finished. How long that will be, it’s been how long they’ve been promising? At the moment the northern third from Sydney is all over the place with speeds from 60 to 100kph and back every couple of kilometres.  I don’t think it’ll be before my next trip north, but here’s to hoping as my windscreen is evidence of the current state.

 

 

ABWF 2019

Last weekend saw the Bi-annual Australian Wooden Boat Festival on again in Hobart. This event is huge, the largest boat show in the country with everything from the Barque James Craig and HM Bark Endeavour down to canoes and standup boards, if it floats and made of timber it’ll be there. Again as before Hobart really turns it on for a four day festival of all things that float, they do it right down there and I spoke to people from around the world and from Cairns to Perth as well as quite a few Sydneysiders who made the trip south.

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It’s a bit of a hike down to Hobart, the 10 or so hour drive to Melbourne then the overnight ferry trip followed by another 3 hours or so from Devonport to Hobart. The ferry of course was fully booked, there were those like myself with trade stands and those towing boats to display. In talking to one visitor from Melbourne to the stand on Sunday, he said the majority of those on the flight were coming to the Festival. He could tell by the style of their clothing, much of it wet weather sailing gear!

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Endeavour with James Craig behind

This year DeckHardware shared a stand with Almasts a Tasmanian rigger/spar maker who purchase various products from our range from us. This made it a little easier to man as Ben who is their Hobart based staff had worked out that about 70% of all the shows he had worked on were with me! We also had a range of products on the Peter Johnston stand, PJs is the local chandlery and has their shop only a few hundred metres away backing them up. I took down a range of products including some of the Antal range which we were showing for the first time. Feedback from the stand display was all positive which was very encouraging.

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LIROS Lr01172 three strand classic in white aboard Storm Bay

I had a chance finally late in the day Sunday to have a quick wander around after meeting up with Tim Phillips from the Wooden Boat Shop aboard his wonderful Gaff Cutter Storm Bay. Tim is looking to do some replacement rigging aboard Storm Bay and we spoke about the various options available from LIROS. He also had a range of boats that he’d crafted over the years alongside. A delight to see great Aussie craftsmanship on display.

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Storm Bays rigging, all rope

Also there finally after nearly 160 hours of motor sailing south was Defiance on which I was last aboard in Sydney. On Sunday evening after the show closed, Ben, Mitch and I met up with Craig aboard. The number of passers-by who stopped to ask and make comments was incredible. One who also stopped worked with Doug Brooker in her build, Craig had Lindsay Buckmaster jump aboard for a look around and to tell tales of her build. Whilst I was there several others also stopped to chat about her. Craig mentioned ‘welcome to my world , this is how I’ve spent my time tied up in Constitution Dock’. He’s immensely proud of the work done doing her up and there are many others, not just me  thankful of the job done to keep her afloat for another 45 or so years.

If you haven’t been before, see you in Hobart in 2021, there’s something for everyone who loves being afloat.

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Till next time Tassie

 

 

Sometimes a boat returns

Sometimes a boat returns in to your life many years after last being aboard. Many boats I’ve sailed over the years have disappeared only to pop up somewhere along the line when I’m on the road.

In this case it’s Defiance, the original IOR MK3 1/2 tonner built in timber by Doug Brooker back in 1972. After she was sold by Robyn’s father John, I saw her once up at Church Point just a few years later. Then back in May of 2015, there she was on the hard at Scarborough in Queensland looking rather neglected. I tried to source the owner through the yard and local chandlery without success. Then a few years ago, I received a call from a Brisbane yachtie asking about her and a bit of history.  It turned out that Craig had saved her from being broken up as the previous owner hadn’t paid any yard fees. Craig bought her and set about rebuilding with a view of taking Defiance to Tasmania.

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On a following road trip north seeing DeckHardware customers, I had a look at what was being done by the shipwrights at RQYS, cutting out the rot from various additions for example. As she was now accessible, it’s amazing how small these 1/2 tonners were as these days everyone sails something a bit larger especially offshore. Then on another trip north Craig had moved her to another yard for finishing off and respraying. Time for another check-up. He’s certainly taken his time to do the renovation properly, she’ll last another 50 years hopefully.

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So this past week Defiance made an appearance at Middle Harbour Yacht Club enroute to Hobart to live and to be shown at the Wooden Boat Show in February. Plenty came down for a good look, including sons of another previous owner, who also had stories to tell.

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They say that boats like these have custodians, not owners and full credit must go to Craig and the team of shipwrights for bringing her back to new, including the colour scheme. I know I’ve certainly enjoyed watching the progress, hopefully one day I can have another sail.

Just a quick trip south

Last week I spent a few days south. First up on Saturday morning, was a quick stop in Canberra then across to the coast where I stopped by Wallagoot Lake Boat Club. They were just finishing their days racing and a few of them were pleasantly surprised to see me. One thought I was an apparition! It was good to see them again as many have become good friends in my time officiating their annual regatta. They were quite pleased to show me their new start/rescue/mark laying boat, a new alloy runabout with more room in the bow for buoys. They were yet to set it up fully and were keen on my input. I’ll be back again for their annual regatta later in the season which again incorporates the NSW State Sabre titles.

Wallagoot Lake

Heading further south down the coast, the next stop was Paynesville, where again I surprised a few at the club by turning up. It was the first race of the season for them and I enjoyed wandering around chatting with those who remembered my DeckHardware product talk last season. After a couple of hours break, it was back on the road and heading to Port Phillip Bay.

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I spent the next couple of days driving anti-clockwise around Port Phillip, starting at Sorrento and finishing off at Geelong and Queenscliff before heading home. It’s always good to catch up and have dinner with friends and in this case it was Marty and Sue Sly, legends for their boatwork in Melbourne. It’s nice to catch up on all the gossip around the traps after hours when you have a bit more time on your hands. Whilst I didn’t have the time to see every one this time around, hopefully I’ll make it up on the next trip.

Again it was nice to see Vicroads updating the rest areas and the facilities on the Hume, however like NSW Roads and Maritime, there’s a great expanse of new tar and concrete but no shelter from the Sun or rain. Like the Pacific Highway in northern NSW, all the trees that provided some sort of relief in the past have been removed. I guess those that those who design these rest areas don’t use them.

Clear start

This weekend past, I spent another couple of days officiating the local Farr40 fleet for their monthly regatta, only six boats this time but again the racing was close. Tom Quick’s Outlaw was the eventual winner with tactician David Chapman bringing his father Richard and uncle Bob Wilmot out of hiding to assist. It’s always enjoyable working with the Farr40s, they are a great bunch of very keen and experienced sailors and those who volunteer to assist me on the start boat always go away having learnt something.  We had a great day offshore on Saturday with a 10-12knot NorEaster and a reasonably flat sea and on Sunday in the harbour despite the forecasts, we had another great 12-14knots from the South East. Sunday was the shiftiest breeze inshore I’ve seen for a while, there was no pattern to it, but the shifts were all over the place from 150* to 200*, those that worked them made the most. Very testing.

 

Delivery South

Last week was the first time in over a decade that I’ve spent some time at sea, ironically with the same skipper but different yacht. This time it was assisting to bring back a 49’er that had won it’s division at Magnetic Island Race Week recently. I flew to the Gold Coast on Monday expecting to leave that afternoon, however due to the southerlies we didn’t get away till the following afternoon. Apparently they’d had southerlies the whole way heading south from Townsville and were not keen on bashing into more of the same.

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Heading south the following day we had the leftovers of the southerly for the first couple of hours, then the breeze went left and it became a little easier to motor sail with just the mainsail up. Into Wednesday the breeze was forecast to build from the north and build it did to around 20knots.

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Around 1600 whilst below, Bruce did a sudden gybe and as a result the strop holding the mainsheet block on the end of the boom broke. Mainsail down and off and the jib top was set instead. Still without a motor we carried this all the way to Broughton Island off Port Stephens. The forecast was for a short sharp southerly change so it was in to Nelson Bay for the night. Timing was pretty good as it hit as we were motoring into the marina in the wee hours of the morning.

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Just like leaving Southport we saw the first whales just as we headed south, inside a mile of leaving the heads. Thursday was to be a day of motoring as the breeze struggled to get over 5 knots all day, at least the seaway was reasonable with little pounding in the leftover seas.

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I finally went below whilst off Broken Bay and only a few hours short of Sydney Harbour and woke to the sound of the motor being throttled back, we were off Sow and Pigs. It was absolutely calm with not even a ripple or a wave movement other than those we made. Brought back memories of offshore racing and finishing at night in similar conditions.  Thanks to James, Bruce and Jason for an enjoyable delivery passage and the usual yarns whilst at sea.

Northern NSW this time

Last week I took the time to attend the Mid Coast Caravan and Camping show at Wauchope. The last time I went to Wauchope was with the family last century having a look around Timbertown, a modern look at life in colonial times. This time however it was wandering around looking at what may be new in the self-contained life on the road market. Certainly something a little different to boat shows.

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Farr40 Indian Pacific, John Eylses Sydney Hobart winner. I sailed on her some 30+ years ago.

 

I then headed north, beginning at Ballina and working my way south through Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Taree seeing a few customers and catching up on a few happenings. It was good to see work progressing at the re build of the Big River Sailing Club at Harwood following the destruction of the old clubhouse in a wild storm. Commodore Harriet has her team on to it and they will continue to run sailing events whilst work continues. The new building will be an extension of the old with a larger outside deck and a bigger start box upstairs. I’ve certainly enjoyed the regattas there and look forward to more. If you haven’t been, put it in the calendar.

Manning River Taree

Once a busy highway bridge, now just used by the locals after the opening of the Taree bypass.

 

The one thing that has changed and is being steadily updated is the Pacific Highway. With the new bypasses and dual lanes the time on the road has dropped considerably from Sydney to Grafton. The remaining section north to the border won’t be finished for another couple of years and is eagerly awaited certainly by the transport companies. What does disappoint is the new ‘rest stops’. Whilst the facilities are nice and there’s tables and BBQs, there’s absolutely no shade to park under.  At least the trees of the older smaller stops provided some respite from the Sun whilst having a ‘short catnap’. In northern Victoria, there’s some excellent stops that are covering 6-8 parking spots. That’s my thoughts anyway.

 

I’m out on the water this weekend as the 2018-2019 sailing season starts and I’m looking forward to it, especially as it gets warmer. This time I’ll be at Newcastle for their second running of the NSW Country Offshore Regatta, out on yet another start boat as PRO. I’ve sailed past more often than sailed in to Newcastle Harbour, hopefully I can take in some of the sights as well. It’ll certainly be something different and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

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NCYC start boat on the marina behind the clubs match racing fleet