05 May 2018

Little Dragon withdraws from Bay to Bay 2018

This was to be my third Bay to Bay (Tin Can Bay to Urangan up the Great Sandy Strait overnighting at Garry's Anchorage). Helen Tom and her partner Valentine Sowenko had come all the way from Bendigo, Helen to crew and Val as our roady. Thanks to both of you. However it was not to be. Read on....

Helen Tom with Pam
We  motored off towards the start of 119 entrants in about 3 knots of wind and glorious sunshine. It was forecast to come up to SE 10 - 12 knots on both days but maybe up to 10 mm rain. However conditions can change unexpectedly and fast, read on....

Half way to the start our outboard conked out. We had no alternative but to withdraw before even crossing the start line. So disappointed.

We pull out and relocate to a motel room in Urgangan. On Saturday night we listened to torrential rain. Sunday morning Helen and I headed off with Captain Phil on a large Adventure Cruises catamaran to meet the fleet. He told us that it had blown 25 knots at Garry's, anchors dragged and parties abandoned. Initially it was a bit wet and windy but from inside the comfortable saloon we enjoyed watching the front of the fleet approaching under spinnaker. Read on...

Then conditions changed between Little Woody and Big Woody, heavy squalls, which the Race organisers were anticipating. We knew that as we were listening to Race Control on 77. An ugly chop as wind against tide. A boat broke its rudder and was under tow, then a boat capsized, man overboard (recovered), another boat capsized and upside down and 3 in water (recovered by a competitor) boat dismasted, then another dismasted, finally around a dozen dismasted (I lost count). We zoomed around on Adventure Cruises as an additional rescue boat. Finally it all came under control, some were still sailing, some under tow and some motoring having lashed down their rigging. All got back (except the upside down boat and a securite was put out for a navigational hazard).
Valentine Sowenko and Helen Tom
I got back to Urangan emotionally exhausted but not physically exhausted as the competitors must have been. Very mixed emotions. We dodged a bullet by our forced withdrawal, but maybe we could have sailed Little Dragon through it all safe and sound, maybe that is just a fantasy... We'll never know.

17 March 2018

Baby Dragon and then Tin Canoe Regatta at Iluka

At last glorious weather, warm sunshine and a light breeze. I headed down to Harwood to check out Baby Dragon. I hadn't sailed her this  year. She was still in good order and John Hayes helped me to rig. Even the neglected outboard started easily.

Unfortunately I didn't enjoy the sail. There was so much weather helm that my still weak left wrist couldn't easily hold the tiller. So after a short sail I came back to shore. John said that my problem was that I hadn't got my rudder properly down, but my wrist hurt too much to continue.

So I packed up and headed down to the 2018 Tin Canoe Regatta at Iluka. I had expected Ian Gaillard, the new owner of Tin Dragon to have her on the water but he had a touch of 'flue. Azzo was the only one to have a new tin canoe, the others were veteran canoes sailed by veteran sailors.

The event is changing and Rob Crosby had made new trophies to be awarded to the sailing dinghies that were keen to join in the non-event. There had to be some thought to the non-rules for new mixed classes. One non-rule that emerged was "tin canoes" have right of way at all times!
Val Hodgson's absolutely stunning new sailing dinghy

10 March 2018

BRSC Demolition Derby Regatta

In my last post I said that there was wind and rain leading up to the regatta. Well it continued on the Saturday of the regatta. The wind was gusting at strong wind warning all day and one gust up to 29 knots. Most boats headed off and (I am pleased to report) returned from various adventures down river pretty much unscathed. All the trailer sailors and yachts were fully reefed. Corsairs, Herons and Impulses had larger fleets than ever before and included several very junior crew (appeared to be about 4 years old). Little Dragon was all rigged up (reefed) and ready to go but Nicky and I made a joint decision to stay on put on shore.
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Our very limited resources kept the sailors well fed.
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John Woods made the trophies from materials scavenged from the demolished BRSC.
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The wind had dropped by Sunday
Never too young to crew

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The largest turnout ever, 78 registered to race. No complaints about weather or our limited facilities. Great vibe.

04 March 2018

Helen's training week a disaster

Image may contain: 2 people, people riding bicycles, cloud, bicycle, sky and outdoorMy good friend Helen Tom came all the way from Bendigo to spend a few days with me training for the Bay to Bay in May. She is fit (see the cycling photo) but felt she needed to brush up her sailing skills before tackling the Great Sandy Strait. The day she arrived it started to rain and blow and it kept it up all the week. Such a shame.

We practised radio skills from inside the cabin and went through the racing rules, but the wind rarely dropped below 24 knots and mostly much more.

We finally, with the support of John Woods, got 2 hours afloat at Harwood but never put up the main, jib only was plenty. The outboard gave up as well, John's diagnosis was water in the fuel. I was so fed up I didn't even remember to take my usual crew photo!

02 January 2018

Big River Sailing Club wrecked by mini tornado

The same day that I was getting my arm in plaster. 2nd January, the Big River Sailing Club was wrecked by what the insurer's technical expert described as a "high precipitation super cell".

The damage is so severe that the insurer agrees that the clubhouse needs rebuilding from scratch (with the possible exception of the toilets). It has been fenced off and the asbestos panels that flew hundreds of metres over the sugar cane fields have been removed. The committee is now busy with plans for rebuilding, insurers, engineers, quotes, DAs.  

Little Dragon was sitting in the paddock on her trailer alongside the clubhouse ready for my already cancelled (see previous post) weekend sailing. The mini tornado pushed Little Dragon at least 30 metres across the paddock and she came to rest on the only tree stump in the whole area - undamaged save for the jockey leg. If she hadn't been stopped she would have bowled on into the power line potentially bringing down the mast.

On the 20th January, as soon as the asbestos was removed and the site made safe, sailing resumed. After all the Clarence River wasn't damaged and the dinghies stored in the boat sheds were unscathed.

Plans for holiday sailing come to an abrupt halt

It was looking good: 3 days at Harwood, day one with Nicky, day two with Noela and day three with my old friend Hans Schwab-Triado. Hans was returning to Byron Bay for a holiday and we planned to go for a sail in Little Dragon "for old time's sake". I spent a glorious fortnight sailing with him on his Fontaine Pajot catamaran in Fiji.

However those plans came to an abrupt halt on Tuesday 2 January.

It turned out to be a bad sprain not broken

16 December 2017

Wind against tide

It was the first weekend of Nicky's long school summer holiday and we planned a relaxing overnight venture down river to Iluka and back. I checked the tide and it seemed just right, we would be heading downriver on the ebb. What we didn't factor in was that the wind was N and reasonably strong, say up to 15 knots.  Wind against tide created a really ugly chop.

I had forgotten that it was the BRSC Christmas picnic, so after rigging (reefed), socialising and an unexpectedly good lunch  we set off. As we were pushed off we were advised, "don't even try to hoist the main! The jib will be enough!  Keep The Engine On!". Off we went, engine on and all sails furled. We discovered quickly enough that the chop was savage, spray was breaking all over us. It is always much worse downstream around the Goodwood mark. So after a couple of kilometres we made a joint decision - retreat to the sailing club. It was quite hairy coming to shore and for a brief moment I feared we would broach - we didn't. The picnickers didn't seem at all surprised at our return.

As we had booked a unit for the night we drove to Iluka, relaxed and met up with Gill from Women who Sail and enjoyed dinner at Sedgers. We thought maybe we would get a sail on the following day but that didn't work out.  There was no wind early at Harwood then it quickly blew up to a repeat of the day before.

11 November 2017

2017 Bridge to Breakers a DNF

Savaad and I set out in Little Dragon optimistic that we would get a place, there were only 4 in our division (the slower yachts and trailer sailors). Before we got far down river a very gusty southerly blew up.  It was hard work requiring all our attention to play the jib and main to keep sailing as best we could. We got downriver through the notoriously choppy patch near the Goodwood mark, kept tacking on down river past the anchored navy vessels. In fact the Iluka turning mark was only around half a kilometre further on. Then there was a strong southerly squall and we made a snap decision - we had had enough! Somewhat embarrassed we turned and headed for home. DNF (for any non sailors Did Not Finish) was duly marked on the sign off sheet.

No photos of Little Dragon as it took all our attention to handle her instead snaps of a couple of other competitors, taken at less gusty moments by the rescue boats.
Lea Foster and note the mainsail is reefed.

Never too young to start. Hats off to this mum and son team who both seemed totally unpeturbed by the gusty conditions and completed the course.

Savaad heading up Main Beach at Byron Bay with other Stingrays Ocean Swimmers for our daily ocean swim
I am often asked how come I never seem to have a problem finding crew. This photo gives you a clue. Our large swimming group has an abundance of members keen to crew on Little Dragon. Many, like Savaad, have many years sailing experience behind them but but no longer have a boat so relish the opportunity to get afloat again.

28 October 2017

At last a perfect day sail

For weeks sailing has been cancelled, too much wind and/or rain. I have cancelled a couple of trips organised months ahead but at last Nicky and I got afloat for a day sail. The weather was finally absolutely gorgeous, variable 8 knot NE wind, not too hot but not too cold. Kind sailors backed my trailer down the ramp and later retrieved it. I know I should be good at it by now but I am not. The jib furler worked first time. All went well.

We headed downriver tacking all the way and the tide was against us as well. Slow progress but we didn't need to get anywhere in particular and knew that we could make good speed back again with wind and tide.

We reached as far as this sign on the southern bank a bit before Browns Rocks. It was the first time that Nicky has seen it and she was as shocked as I was the first time I saw it. I know it has been there for at least a decade. In fact the old sign was getting faded and this is a new one. It seems to be guarding an unused paddock.

Well all nearly went well, Nicky hurt her wrist a bit while we rolled the mainsail round the boom to pack up.

02 September 2017

Baby Dragon maiden voyage under sail

The BRSC 2017-18 sailing year opened with the AGM and then we all hung around waiting for some wind. Finally a light breeze came up the river and swung around to SE so we all launched. The others for the monthly championship race and me to just test out whether Baby Dragon would sail at all.

I was delighted, I put Baby Dragon through her paces, she tacked and gybed exactly as I wanted and there was hardly any weather helm. All in all a credit to the many friends who had a hand in her renovation from a near hulk into a functional sailing dinghy.

29 July 2017

Ancient Mariners drift down river and back again

It was an absolutely glorious day to be on the river. We were bathed in a warm winter sun. Only one thing was lacking for sailors - wind. Two local boats,crewed by Ancient Mariners, escorted three visiting boats from Queensland. There was just enough wind to make way very, very slowly against the tide down river. It was far too pleasant to disturb the peace with an outboard. However it was good to know that if necessary the locals could tow the visitors, who did not have outboards, back to the clubhouse. When the wind dropped out completely we drifted back on the tide.
John Hayes

14 July 2017

Friday a glorious day sail and Saturday washboards

After a very wet June we had a glorious July. John and I had one of the best winter sails ever, sunny and warm and just the right light breeze. It was so calm as we reached back to the clubhouse that I made us a cuppa to enjoy with our sandwiches.
John Woods and Ted the poodle
I thought it would be easy to replace the port and starboard washboards which had rotted. Not so. First Savaad cut the rotted plywood off the valuable hardwood tracks - thanks. Next I sourced plywood and took it to Peter Barnes who chiseled out the old plywood from the tracks and roughly cut the plywood to shape - thanks. Next John Woods siliconed the new ply into the track and cut it to shape so that the centre panels still dropped in - thanks. Then it was over to Pam to paint, varnish and finish the project. No-one will notice any difference to the old boards but these are not rotten and should last out my time afloat.

New washboards, thanks Savaad, Peter Barnes and John Woods.

29 April 2017

Our second Bay to Bay Yacht Race 2017

Steve Millard and I enjoyed the Bay to Bay so much last year that we decided to do it again. What's the Bay to Bay you ask? An overnight trailer sailor race from Tin Can Bay all the way up the Great Sandy Strait to Urangan at Hervey Bay with an overnight stop/party at Garrys Anchorage. Little Dragon joined 120 others ranging from sports boats to classic yachts and everything in between.

Check out this video - spectacular.

Sunday Tin Can Bay to Garrys Anchorage
Yes, Little Dragon raced 417 reefed. It blew 15 - 17 knots SE with gusts to 20 knots. This was  far less than some forecasts of gusts up to 30 knots and 3 metre swell at Snout Point. 

Little Dragon apologises if her late finish held up your party!

Overnight at Garrys Anchorage
Then it was into Garrys Anchorage for the night. We sat sedately moored with just a quiet glass of red watching and listening to parties up and down the anchorage.


Sunday morning we were up early. Steve brewed cuppas while I got us ready to start. No reefing this time as the wind had dropped. We motored off in good time to be ready for the 7.30 am start.

Sunday Garrys Anchorage to Urangan
There was a light south easterly and a strong flood tide sweeping us northwards. A running start with the flood tide proved a tad tricky, but for once we nailed it and our good fortune continued all day. The wind increased during the day but never enough to make me wish we had reefed again. Although one boat did broach and lose a man overboard - who was fortunately picked up by a following boat.

We had to zigzag up the Great Sandy Strait to avoid sandbanks. This required frequent gybing. Steve had to go forward each time and goose wing us out on the other side.

We are catching up those pesky Careel 18s - our prime competition
See, Little Dragon caught up

At last we overtook a few of them but not for long. They are handicapped as slightly faster than a Farr 5000

 Quite a tussle between Nellie and Little Dragon

Time to catch up again but they aren't far ahead
Steve took us over the finish line

Weary but proud. We made it. It took 6 hours and we weren't the last.
The results are pretty complex and our overall results reflected our late finish on Saturday. So I will just boast about Sunday where did well in our division (28 entrants) after the handicaps had been applied.   For more details about the event and results go to http://www.herveybaysailingclub.org.au/

04 March 2017

Hardly a whisper of wind

Nicky and I planned to sail Baby Dragon, but Nicky cancelled (very sensibly) having seen that there was hardly any wind forecast. I headed down to Harwood hoping for some wind and knowing that I needed to be there anyway for a committee meeting. Well there wasn't enough wind to bother to rig up and pack up again. So instead I spent a pleasant few hours socialising.

18 February 2017

BRSC Annual Regatta 2017

Noela and I entered this regatta with some trepidation. It was forecast to blow over 22 knots and my shoulder is still very weak. So I decided to reef and Noela reckoned a great idea. Yachts and trailer sailors were the second start and we had the stop watch ready. However we stuffed up again, got confused and started way too late. It didn't make much difference as we quickly realised that the reefed main was not setting well. It was a NE wind so we had to tack down river and we watched the fleet getting further and further ahead. It wasn't surprising as we just couldn't head upwind. We half fixed the main and although we went better it still wasn't near racing trim. The wind was well and truly gusting well over 20 knots, but Noela was doing a great job controlling the main. After an hour we made a joint decision - head back to base. Initially we intended to sort the main out and set off again but we decided to head back to the clubhouse. I should have mentioned it was far too hot as well as windy. Never mind, our decision means that both of us and Little Dragon are in good form for next time.

Leaving aside our personal DNF it was an excellent regatta. No-one was injured but there were the usual broken masts and blown out sails plus one unfortunate incident which resulted in a trailer sailed colliding with a laser, the laser being written off and a very rare protest committee. Trailer sailor exonerated.

04 February 2017

We tackle the BRSC championship race

No photos this time. Camera bust and I can't see the screen on my phone camera in bright light. I'll see about getting another camera.

The official plan was that Steve and I would sail Little Dragon in the monthly BRSC Championship Series Race. Well so far so good. We rigged, launched and entered. Didn't go too well after that.

Steve was still getting his shoes on when the hooter went and we didn't get the watch started, not surprisingly we ended up with a very poor start. However that didn't matter as the real plan was that Steve and I would get more practice together in race conditions before tackling the Bay to Bay race again at the end of April. We managed to tack and gybe as a team with increasing confidence. There was plenty of wind and although I thought that my shoulder had recovered once I tried to pull in the main I realised that it was still very weak. So Steve had to help easing the main for gusts and then yanking it in again. All good practice.

The Championship Race - DNF.

26 November 2016

Seaplanes land for morning tea at BRSC

Saturday was similar to many other weekends at the BRSC. I trailed Little Dragon down where I was joined by Nicky and Rob with their camper trailer. It was a very hot day and rigging proved a hassle. The jib furler just wouldn't cooperate and the sun got to me. I retired to the cool of the veranda and rested for a while. Eventually Nicky and I got it together and  headed off to join the Saturday afternoon club racing. It wasn't to be. I found that I hadn't attached the boom to the mast properly and not surprisingly we couldn't get the main up. We decided it was a bad omen and motored back to the clubhouse and packed up for the day. I reckon I had got so overheated that I wasn't thinking straight. However rest, rehydration and a good dinner at the pub and I perked up again.

The next day, Sunday, was a real surprise. I had no idea that Col Redding had organised for seaplanes to land for morning tea at the BRSC. Certainly a first for the BRSC. Col has two passions, sailing and flying. Although he was very weak he managed to make it for the morning and enjoyed bringing these two passions together.

National Seaplane Association Annual Fly In
South Grafton Aero Club the base for the fly in
The conditions were better on Sunday and the jib furler was working, so Nicky and I went for a short sail. It was quite memorable having the seaplanes take off after their tea and pass over us at