Till everything stopped

Following the Australia Day long weekend on the water with the Adams10s, it was another of the monthly regattas for the Farr40s. Normally the pattern is 4 races offshore on Saturday, followed by another 4 inside Sydney Harbour on Sunday.

This time however the conditions were against us, it wasn’t as if there was too much wind, rather a lack thereof. It was decided that we’d shift inside on Saturday with the hope of something, however that something wasn’t coming too soon. After talking to each boat, the decision was made to head for the bar, having sat around for over 3 hours.

Inshore Sunday

Racked up after a clean start

Sunday the plan was to get in the 4 races and get some results, once again the AP was hoisted and following an hours delay, a nice little NorEaster came in. The first 3 races were just one lappers in order to get them in, the last race was a standard 2 lapper. So we got in 4 races to make a series at least.

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SailGP in a NorEaster on Sydney Harbour

The following weekend was pretty similar, although the boats were something different this time, SailGP held it’s only Act so far this year. Rather than take over the harbour for the weekend, it was on Friday and Saturday. Saturday, we put the RIB in the water and went out to watch the ‘Old Buffers’ at Middle Harbour16s where my old laser foe, Kev Wadham led all the way on Erics. With a quick unrig, Nathan and Harry jumped aboard and it was off down the harbour to watch the ‘Flying Machines’. Needless to say that section of the harbour was cordoned off giving them free reign. These ‘things’ doing 30+ knots and spinning in a tack are something else up close. I’m glad we had the opportunity, although the TV coverage does provide a lot of technical information and closeups.

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Early morning over Corio Bay Geelong. Cruise ship passenger disembarked at the yacht club.

I was then back on the road south to Geelong, this time for the Geelong Wooden Boat Festival where DeckHardware had a range of Allen, Antal, Forespar, Goldspar and LIROS on the Wooden BoatShop stand. Whilst no where near the size of the Hobart version, the enthusiasm for working with wood was highlighted. There was a race bringing some of the boats from Port Arlington on Saturday and they all dispersed Sunday afternoon. Whilst looking around some of the other stands, there was one fellow steaming timber to bend and it brought back memories of my late father building his first yacht on the front lawn at Newport in the ’60s. Steaming the ribs and bending them into shape, a lost art.

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Rowing sculls at Geelong

Dad at one stage picked up a rowing scull similar to this one, although more of a single hander, Mum was still able to sit in the stern and be taken for a row around Pittwater. I’d do the same with my younger brother Sam sitting in the stern. Not light to lift around, but remarkably easy to row. I don’t know what happened to it once the family home was sold at Church Point, if anyone sees it around?

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Casablanca

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Casablanca

Another highlight was seeing the 49’er Casablanca again, this time up close. I’d helped John Biddlecombe to build her and on launching in the mid 70’s competing in her first race to Montague Island and return. Somehow as a teenager, she seemed big but compared to say the current 50’ers, she’s small with probably half the beam. The centre cockpit and flush deck was gone, replaced with a coachroof. Unfortunately there was no one aboard so I couldn’t see below, mind you going to Montague, all I can remember below was the bunk! A lot of time was spent on deck trimming, short tacking back up the coast out of the Set.

The World and the Economy has ground to a halt with COVID19 and whilst we are reasonably stocked up at DeckHardware, some of our retail outlets have felt the downturn of isolation effects. Now is surely the time to not only do some of the chores around the house, but also a good time to have any maintenance done on your boat. Supporting your local outlet during the shutdown period will assist us all when we come out the other side and get to spend some enjoyable time back out on the water.

In the meantime, I hope that everyone is safe at home and taking care.

Been a while but.. [part two]

Shortly after returning from driving down south, I was in the air for a couple of days in Perth.  I’d planned on just three rather full days seeing as many DeckHardware customers as I could. I started off heading down to Australind and Bunbury a couple of hours drive south of Perth and then working my way back to where I was staying in Fremantle. It was a busy day driving several hundred kilometers, having arrived the previous night, but it was good to see some of the customers there and to show some of the new product range.

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Fremantle Bridges over the Swan River at night

 

That evening however changed everything. I’d gone to bed early to catch up on some sleep to be awoken by a call from the Fremantle Police. A couple of local youths had gone on a rampage in the area and I was one of the victims. They’d smashed the passenger window of the hire car and stolen my little red lunchbox containing my business cards. These were found in the backpack of one of the youth cornered by the dog squad. Evidence! Unfortunately, I had to wait till lunchtime for the Forensic fellow to do his job, then it was in to Perth CBD to swap over for another vehicle. So I lost a full day’s work.

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Broken side mirror and window

 

Friday in Western Australia was pretty full on and naturally I didn’t get to see as many as I normally would have. Saturday morning however, I was given the opportunity to go out on the Fremantle Sailing Club start boat for the first Offshore race start of the season. As a National race officer, it’s always good to see how others do it, you always pick up on something. Yes I did pick up a treat and those who report in to my start team this season may have a little surprise. The conditions however were not to anyone’s liking with barely a ripple on the water at start time. It did slowly build and the leaders were able to be finished before sunset. I had one more stop before heading to the airport mid afternoon and returning home for a day on the water Sunday. Thanks must go again go to Paul and Sarah for providing the home to come back to each evening, they’ve been wonderful hosts over the years.

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Freo pin boat heading out with the start boat

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Slow start, some of the boats ahead started 15 minutes earlier!

Normally I get the bus in to Mascot, however this time I’d driven in due to the late evening arrival. Downer number 2 for the trip – a flat battery and a wait for the NRMA who unfortunately for me had a busy evening.

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Farr40 offshore start Sunday

 

So after a few hours sleep it was back to Middle Harbour Yacht Club and a day of racing with the Farr40s. They’d raced with the offshore boats the day before and the schedule was for a few races inshore on Sunday. Unfortunately the lack of breeze followed me from the day before. Hanging around the heads looking for something, we noticed some wind offshore, so a course was set. Again the conditions were not to our liking and the first race was abandoned. Moving back inshore looking for something we were able to run a couple of quick races to round out their weekend. Perhaps, we should have stayed inshore, but at least we gave it a go.

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Back in the harbour with wind on Sunday

 

 

So that’s now the start of the summer of sailing 2019/2020.

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.

Newcastle

Some time ago I was contacted by Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club to be the Race Officer for the NSW Country Offshore Championships held out of their home base at Newcastle. Whilst I’d sailed past quite a few times, I’d only ever entered the harbour once under sail and that was at night, so I was up for the challenge. Something new and different.

Despite the forecast, it was a lovely northerly seabreeze that greeted us as we went outside and turned left up Stockton Beach for a mile or so. Clear skies and a relatively flat sea also made it pretty easy for race management and the mark layers in their RIBs. The breeze however shifted throughout the day over the course of the three races, especially for the last race  when I decided against another course change.

Nine Dragons leading Kahleesi

Gate rounding at Newcastle

With a fleet of over 25 boats competing in three divisions, many had their opposition panned out. In Division One Middle Harbour Yacht Clubs Bob Cox’s DK46 Nine Dragons took overall honours from club sistership Kahleesi with another MHYC club entrant Cookson12 Philosopher third in PHS whilst NCYC’s Farr40 Good Form was third on IRC. It was a good mixed bag of boats including a TP52, Sydney46,  J122 and  Farr400, gate roundings were always close. In Division Two it was all about the little Farr31, SoFarr skippered by Lake Macquarie’s Mark Long who lead from the start and around every mark of the course, leaving her larger competition struggling in her wake. Division Three was all about the mixed local cruisers who were surprisingly competitive on the startline.

Division One Race One start

Nine Dragons mid line leader

So after getting in the three races, it was back to the club and only just in time for some as the afternoon forecast rain arrived. We missed the hail of Wangi Wangi a little south of Newcastle but the precipitation was well received by all due to the current drought.

Sunday dawned with calm overcast skies. Heading back offshore it was more of the same. There was a nice little land breeze and we set up a course heading in to the beach. However just as we went in to sequence it dropped out and shifted all over the place. Only one thing to do – AP up. Unfortunately that’s the way it stayed for the next two hours! Hurry up and wait as we say. With little sign of any change and many Lake Macquarie and Sydney boats looking to get home, that was it for the day and the results of Saturdays racing stood for the overall. Disappointing for those who came up from Sydney, a big effort and thanks for your patience on Sunday. The highlight on Sunday was the arrival of a coffee run to Joe De Kocks Farr40, everyone else was impressed but wondering on the cost of the delivery boats fuel bill.

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Hopefully I’ll be back next year as it’s a great event for those who don’t venture north to Queensland. A huge thanks to all the rest of the NCYC team on and off the water who made for a well-run regatta.

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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