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.

Been a while, but [part one]

I hit the road again not long after going to South Australia. This time to south to Victoria for a week or so. First up was a stop to Canberra. I’ll be running the ACT Dinghy Championships in early November, so it was good to see Steve and his team and sort out a few things. Whilst there of course, it was an opportunity to run through some of the new product lines recently added to the DeckHardware range. Being a Saturday morning there were also a few boat owners working on their boats going through pre season checks. They too joined in looking at the DeckHardware range.

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Saturday afternoon sea breeze on Wallagoot

Being a Saturday afternoon and driving south via the coast, I dropped by Wallagoot Lake Boat Club. Whilst there was no one around, someone had thrown a rock through a glass window upstairs. I rang one of the members and let him know, the call was naturally appreciated and a makeshift repair was arranged.

Heading further south on Sunday into Paynesville, again a caught up with a few there and a little gossip. Ironically it was on the highway just north that I crossed paths with a mate towing his fishing runabout, the people you see on the road. Usually when I visit Melbourne, I work my way around Port Phillip Bay anti-clockwise. For something different, I did the rounds clockwise starting in Geelong and Queenscliff.

Seeing a range of DeckHardware customers kept me busy until Wednesday lunchtime when the heavens opened, it bucketed down. I headed to Sandringham Yacht Club to meet up with a few there and it was surprising to see some boats heading out to do the Wednesday race, Chris made the comment that you needed a navigator to sail the course. We had trouble seeing them through the rain! Ironically there were more in the clubhouse than out on the water, dryer too.

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Marina at Westernport Hastings

Working my way around the bay, I again was fortunate to stay with my old skipper John Eyles who’s ‘retired’ to Safety Bay. John of course has got himself involved in the local sailing club at Martha Cove, so it was off to the clubhouse for the Thursday evening after work drinks. There’s a good bunch there at this fledgling club, plenty of miles between them all. As a reminder of what Melbourne weather is like, on Friday morning on leaving John and Sharons, there was ice on my windscreen, not the usual dew! I finished up late Friday afternoon and headed out of Melbourne. A full week with only a few hours lost to the weather. I just wish that some of it had hit those who need it most.

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Timber Dragon in re-build near Hastings

Again I drove the coast road north, heading back to Great Lakes Yacht Club, however there was no one around, so back on the road to Wallagoot. When I spoke to Rob the previous Saturday, he mentioned a club meeting Sunday morning. As I run their annual regatta, it was an opportunity to catch up and have a chat about the upcoming season. At the same time, Carl Webster from Australian Sailing came to present a club race officer course so it was a chance to see how he presented it too. Also the member maintenance team replaced the broken glass pane I had reported the week before. A busy day at a great little club, unfortunately with a good seabreeze for the second weekend, there was no one heading out for a sail. That’ll come soon enough.

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Sunrise over Lake Wellington at Marlay Point.

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.

 

 

Keepit at Copeton

There’s two essential things that make for a good regatta, they are water and wind.  There is a distinct lack of water in inland Australia and the 51st Keepit Kool Regatta at Lake Keepit was a victim. I’ve been there when there’s been over 70% and as little as 9 or 10%, however this year its empty or as close as 1% can be.  Certainly not enough to go sailing with anything but a remote controlled yacht.  As a result the Keepit locals decided that to sail they had to take their boats elsewhere and in this case it was to Copeton Dam several hours away. Copeton when full certainly covers a huge area, however with 9.3% there’s just enough to go sailing. Several of us there for the first time are waiting for it to be near full to go back and have a look. There’s a huge amount of space and those not staying in the powered section of the park, preferring to be off the grid, had plenty of room to themselves. The only issue was a lack of phone reception in the area which created the usual technological issues of today’s world. There were those of course who loved not being distracted by emails, text messages and phone calls.

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A few of the Copeton locals in the early morning. That’s the water down there!

Thirty hardy crews arrived for the weekends racing, some from Keepit surrounds, others travelling from Newcastle and Sydney. Understandably the numbers were halved, with a combination of factors. The second element in sailing is the wind and apart from one brief instance whilst the briefing was being held, the flags drooped all weekend, struggling at best to get to 5knots.

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Gust of the weekend, I had to take a photo whilst the briefing was being held.

As is the norm for country events, there’s a mixture of boats, from sportsboats and smaller trailerable yachts, a range of multihulls and the usual fleet of Lasers and mixed monohulls. A rather intrepid young fellow even tried his sailboard, unfortunately having to paddle or get assisted back to shore in the glassouts mid race. Only one race was completed on Saturday, with three on Sunday and a ‘passage’ race on Monday morning. The on water race management team did their best given the conditions.

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Pretty much the weekends conditions.

Keepit is known for it’s evening social life with organised ‘home cooked’ dinners on Saturday and Sunday. The yabby races and the trivia followed. As runners up in the trivia, our table thought we did pretty well, maybe next year we can go one better. Hopefully inland Australia will receive some much needed rain and we can return to Keepit for the 52nd Keepit Kool.

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Mondays passage race. You can see by the opposite side, just how much the water level is down. Where I’m standing would be under water when full.

 

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.

 

 

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.

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.