I went for a sail

First though, I went for a drive. I spent over a week in Queensland seeing old and new DeckHardware customers, retail outlets, sailmakers and maintenance facilities. I had a nice drive up the New England Highway as my first stop was out west of Toowoomba. The first time I saw Matt I arrived in the dark driving up the hill so I didn’t see much other than his shed, this time arriving in the morning I had the chance to see his view over the country side. There’s probably no more than 20 houses, but wow I can see why he chose that spot. Next stop was Bundaberg. Yes, home of Bundy rum and ginger beer, both different businesses on the east side of town. I had done the Bundy Rum factory tour on a previous trip, so didn’t stop this time. I did notice however that they’ve opened a new visitor centre. If you haven’t been and done the Rum tour and if you have the chance, it’s one to tick off.

 

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It was the beginning of a full week, starting at Bundaberg and working south. What was also good was the chance to catch up with a few friends and relatives overnight. Craig and Tracee surprised me with the fact that after many years being together, they were getting married that weekend. They’ve bought a new property just west of the Bruce Highway on the Sunshine Coast. Being in ‘the sticks’ they have a fire risk as well as requiring somewhere to store boats, with 10 acres there’s plenty of room. As I left the following morning, Tracee and I were on the veranda counting the kangaroos, apparently this was the largest number they had seen, over 10 and it looked like two were big alpha males, so a couple of families? Unfortunately neither of us had a chance to take a photo, I’m sure in times to come she will, as they are certainly a lot bigger than our bandicoots to get in to a vegetable garden.

 

Working my way south, the next person I caught up with overnight was former Brookvale sailmaker Tony Hannan. Tony’s retired to the northern suburbs of Brisbane and is pretty much out of the ‘rat race’, enjoying walking the dog and sailing his Laser. We could of chatted for a lot longer, but there’s always the next trip Hanno. I also stayed with my Aunt and Uncle on the Gold Coast for a couple of nights. Aside from the general banter of what are we all up to, I also try to get snippets of family history when talking with Cynthia, there’s always something that hasn’t come up in past conversations. I had always thought that PA [Percy] Yeomans of Keyline Plowing was my grandfathers brother, however I learnt that he was in fact the son of, making him my grandfathers nephew instead. As a child I can remember going to NevAllan and YeoBarney, the properties on Yeomans Road at Kurmond at the base of the Blue Mountains with all the cousins and ‘mucking’ around on the farm, sleeping in the barn at night with all the animal noises and smells rather than the sound of the sea.

 

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One slipway I visited is where Defiance, the Dibble family old S&S 1/2 tonner is being rebuilt. Craig, the new owner has kept me up to date over the last few years as work progressed. It’s a testament to Doug Brookers craft and now Peter Kerr’s workmanship that she’ll be around for another 45years. When finished Craig is taking her south to Tasmania with hopefully a stopover at MHYC and maybe a match up with the old foe Plum Crazy. She’s now back to being the light blue and with a new mast to come, the trip south should be a good one. One boat that Peter does have to work on is a 19th century Logan from Auckland, it was my first time to his shed so it’ll be interesting watching the progress of this one too.

 

It was a busy week and the return trip south was made even better by the recent opening of the Pacific Highway bypass around Macksville and Nambucca Heads. Unfortunately, I drove at night so didn’t get a good look. It was certainly quicker, however the new rest stops that have been built offer no shade. Good facilities for a quick stop but not a good rest. It’ll be interesting to see if trees are planted or shades provided to park under like the ones in northern Victoria on the Hume. Another 3400 kms on the odometer and a lot of different businesses seen.

 

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The late Benny Nossiter on the helm of Sirius.

Ohh yeah and I went for a sail last Saturday. Garth Riley is the new owner of the A10 Sirius at MHYC and gave me a call. It was the last of the winter sprint series with two races on the Sound. Race one and we were buried at the start so couldn’t get right which was the favoured side. It was a good sail however with a crew I hadn’t met before. Race two and the fleet went left and we went right so a bit off at the top, my bad that one but we caught them back on the downhill for Sirius to record a third and a third overall for the series. Well done Team Sirius, it was great to have the chance to sail again especially on a Adams10 that I’d sailed before under the previous ownership, hopefully not the last. It was a nice day at least, at typical winters day with a land breeze to start and a sea breeze to finish, one of those good not to be the RO for.

 

As the year marches on, it’s not that far away to the start of the Summer sailing season in Sydney, about 6 weeks for many clubs. The Gold Coast race starts soon too for those heading north

The early offshore years and trailer yachts

I started offshore sailing on Temeraire, my Dads JOG boat that he built on the front lawn at Newport during the mid 60s. I was still just in my early teens and an overnighter to Bird Island out of Pittwater was a regular occurrence. We also did a few trips down to the harbour where Dad sailed with his mates in events there. Several times, it was my responsibility to bring her back to the mooring at the Alfreds. I was able to ‘borrow’ Temeraire and go away for a weekend with my mates ‘up the creek’, overnighting at Halletts Beach, Refuge Cove and down Jerusalem. These were in the days prior to having a drivers licence and we all enjoyed the freedom as well as the responsibility. Two of us even took her to Lake Macquarie, joining in with the RSYS Squadron Cruise.

This would be the first of many Squadron cruises. The first racing was with Ash Gay on his Endeavour26 ‘Emma Chisit’. Ash was a seasoned racer and his crew consisted of three young blokes, Richard ‘Bluey’ Chapman, Ian Sanderson and myself. The following year it was aboard Tawarri a Swanson42 with the Lewis family. The next one was with Max Tunbridge and his family on ‘Amazing Grace’ a Bonbridge27 that he built alongside his panel beating works at Pymble.

The next Squaddie cruise was sometime later, Kevin Brightwells Farr6000 Blue Bayou. Heaps of fun that one, especially the spinnaker run up the coast surfing the wake of the larger boats. When asked if we would sail back in a southerly, I said “no, we’ll go back and get the trailer”. In the end we motored the whole way back to Pittwater as there was no wind.

I did my first ‘serious’ offshore regatta the SCOR at Mooloolaba on Bacardi a Cole43. This was my first real big boat experience and I learnt heaps as a 19year old. During my short period living in Queensland in the mid 70s, most of my time was sailing my boss’s Triton24 on the Brisbane River with the occasional foray out to the bay and Tangalooma.

Returning to Sydney after 18 months working up north and back into building Lasers again, from there I went to work at Sydney Sailboat Centre with Geoff Pearson and David Bray retailing a range of off the beach boats, multihulls and trailer yachts. It was during this period that I met Robyn and we settled down as a couple. Her Father John had bought Defiance, the original IOR Mk3 S&S30 built by Doug Brooker, updating from a Compass30 . Needless to say sailing on Defiance was a given. We sailed 3-4 days a week almost year round split between Defiance and the many Trailer Yacht events of the time like the Sea Spray Magazine Pittwater Islands Race.

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In January 1980, we sailed Defiance in the Australian JOG titles. We didn’t place but had a great break in the week before our wedding.  I sailed Defiance in many events, the RSYS Squadron Cruise was one. I broke the boom pulling the vang on coming down Pittwater, it was a race that afternoon to replace it as the following day was the Lady skippers day. John (Robyn’s father) and I worked flat out but we were sailing the next day with Robyn steering. We also started in a MHYC South Solitary Race, however due to electrical problems and being unable to do a radio sched, we retired to Pittwater.

We campaigned the Farr6000 with Marita Wilmot before Marita and James as well as Robyn and myself started families. These were great times, towing the boat up to Lake Macquarie and down to St Georges Basin. We created a bit of a stir as a crew and there were many competitive sailors who didn’t like being beaten by the girls. One overnight race, I was asleep below and they overtook the opposition and won the race! In another, with the wind blowing hard enough to put a reef in the mainsail, we set the spinnaker for the downhill ride. One of the opposition saw us under control and set theirs and immediately broached whilst we sailed away.

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Robyn and I went to New Zealand to compete in their TY Nationals at Napier in 1979. Sea Nymph gave us a brand new Farr6000 and we set it up on the figures from Sydney. Our third crew was one of Tony Bouzaids daughters and in the invitation race we were leading the fleet by a distance. Being the invited Aussie sailors and not wanting to finish the race in first place [an Aussie sailors Hoodoo], we pulled out and went ashore for a rum. Needless to say, the Kiwis were all over our boat to see what we’d done to it but we’d de-tuned the rig. We finally finished in third place from around one hundred competitors. The opposition included many World champions and a Gold Medallist, we were ecstatic with the result.

We sailed a Status580 one year in the Pittwater series, but the Farr6000 was our favourite. I was also asked to campaign a Blazer23 when they were first launched, however as both my crew were now mothers I had to get a new crew. Robyns’ younger siblings Jaime and Shelly joined on a few occasions. In one race down at Lake Illawarra, Shelly stepped on to the keel when we put the mast in the water. Being a dinghy sailor she thought that was what you did! We raced hard.

Around the same time MHYC ran a Two Handed series in which we competed in Defiance. John Dibble and I the first few years and then Jaime Dibble and I sailed together. These events saw many top boats of the day compete including other Half Tonners Beach Inspector, Newspaper Taxi and Industries, One Tonners like Diamond Cutter and Salamander11 and in one year the entire Admirals Cup team of Ragamuffin, Police Car and Impetuous. Top flight racing at its best although two handed and didn’t we have some fun. Worst was having to pack up at the end of the day – absolutely exhausted.

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When John decided to sell Defiance and buy a Farr1104, FarrOut, Jaime and I continued the two handed sailing and like before, good fun but hard work, especially given the competition at that time in the IOR One Ton class. Somehow we got around the track in all of the two handed races without any issues. One of the things about being shorthanded is that you have to plan ahead for the next leg. There was generally no time to sit on the side and have a breather.

Another 3000kms

Well almost, 2970 over the last week up to Queensland and back. I left home early Saturday morning and stopped by Mannering Park Sailing Club en-route. They had a couple of events at the same time, one for 14′ Catamarans and the other for O’pen Bics.  Both had good numbers of entrants.  I spoke with a couple of fellows who had driven from Griffith in central NSW with their Maricats. I was unaware that they sailed out there, but yes there’s a good fleet of mixed boats that sail on Lake Wyangan and plenty of water currently too.

It was then off to the Sunshine Coast for a few days, just another few kms. I caught up with an old mate Roscoe and we spent Sunday arguing with the TV coverage of the Bathurst1000 V8 Supercars. We were both on the ‘same page’ so it was a bit of fun.

Monday morning it was off to Noosa, an hour or so away to start the week seeing DeckHardware customers, both old and new showing off some of the new product range. It’s also good to catch up with many of the builders, riggers, sailmakers and chandlery owners as many have become pretty much good mates who I see out on the water too.

As is the case with many of these trips, finding out who is doing what, building something out the back etc opens up the talk. Having a range of products from dinghies to yachts and being interested in general is a break from the long drive.   One new build is an 8m carbon foiling catamaran being built in a backyard. The owner has a couple of sheds but now that it’s almost together it’s under a shade cloth outside. Torture boarding and spraying to come, hopefully they’ll be sailing in the New Year with the focus on Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island regattas mid-year.

On Tuesday at the end of the day, I met up with a fellow Sailing Anarchist, American yachtsman Bill [BJ] Porter who is cruising the world with his family on a HalbergRassey. It’s taken several years to get to Australia, arriving in Brisbane from New Caledonia only a few weeks ago. ‘Eventide’ will be coming to Sydney for the Christmas – New Year period and I look forward to showing them around our great harbour.

Wednesday morning saw me at Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron going over a familiar boat in detail. Some time ago I was contacted about the IOR Sparkman and Stephens 1/2 tonner Defiance. This was the boat that Robyn’s father owned when we first met. We spent many years racing and mucking about on her so it was good to see the effort that Craig the new owner is putting in to keep Defiance going for another couple of decades.

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Craig started out to do a minor tidy up but like all things the job list has grown. Defiance had been ashore for nearly 10 years unattended, but was still in reasonable nick due to the craftsmanship of her builder Doug Brooker. The plan is to get her down south for Christmas with hopefully a stop over at Middle Harbour Yacht Club and show her off. He did say that if it was still a NorEaster that he’d keep going south. We’ll see. I’d love to sneak in a quick sail.

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Another friend who I caught up with was Mark Gray, who with his wife Jules have provided a comfortable bed on several occasions in Brisbane. So much that his dog ‘Beer’ will cuddle up to me, “Chardy’ not so keen but a little wary. Mark’s sailing these days is as a delivery crew on Beau Geste80 and the Volvo70 Giacomo, his stories of sailing at high speeds on these maxi yachts. Always good to see them and they look after me well.

As is the norm on these business trips, it’s non stop during the day. However it’s the variety of people that I see and the range of products that DeckHardware can offer mean it varies greatly. I can be talking to one customer about plumbing and the next about TuffLuff foils.

One great change in the trip north is the roadwork being done. Various governments have promised upgrades from the two lane highway that it’s been forever it would seem between Sydney and Brisbane. There are now bypasses from the smaller towns, although I’m sure that their economy has suffered as a result from lack of travellers. What has hit me is the ‘Rest Stops’, whilst these are large and relatively clean and tidy facilities, there’s no shade. The older style are clearings amongst the trees off to the side of the road and are a delight to stop at and have a little ‘shut eye’. I hope that in time some of the landscaping at these new ones will offer the same shade, or that they see fit to build some sort of shade structures for those who use the facilities.

I’m back out on the water this weekend, it’s the first round of the Farr40 events for the season. Two days of racing so it’ll be interesting especially given that Team Transfusion will not be sailing. The former World Champs will only be doing the States and Nationals this year. Current forecast is for strong winds, so setting a course will be interesting.