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.
https://www.facebook.com/181283989044601/videos/203311270175206/

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.

https://www.facebook.com/181283989044601/videos/203358236837176/



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

19 November 2016

Baby Dragon's maiden voyage

Finally, on 19 November we launched Baby Dragon for her maiden voyage. She is an 11 ft "Sabre father and son sailing dinghy". No known relationship with the modern Sabres raced at BRSC.
Wow, she comes off the trailer fast! I'll need to remember to keep hold of the painter


Please admire the daggerboard
Lucky the maiden voyage was on a club day with rescue boat. The wind dropped and I couldn't start the outboard to get back. Ignominy. I think I have got the hang of the outboard now. It is different to the Mariner on Little Dragon.

I owe a huge vote of thanks to so many people.
* First my friend Steve Millard. I spotted this forlorn looking dinghy in his driveway and he said it was for sale. I bought it for "mate's rates"
* To Warren Cowley of Palmer's Island. He most generously donated the entire Mirror dinghy rig. It had been given to him by Kay Cottee and had been sitting unused in his garage for a decade.
* John Hayes who tipped me off that there was an almost new long shaft Honda outboard for sale half price in Iluka.
* Absolutely critically for all the advice and work put in by Ancient Mariners John Hayes and John Woods. They modified the trailer, created a bracket for the outboard, put all the fittings back on the mast and yard after I took them off to varnish and much more.
* Rob Crosby for crafting the much admired daggerboard
* John Hayes for showing me how to rig and "supervising" the maiden voyage.

Final note:I must remember to put the bung in before the next voyage. Little Dragon doesn't have a bung.

30 October 2016

My sailing holiday on Wendy Anne

It was the strangest gig that I have landed through Find a Crew. George really didn't need or want a "crew", so I did almost no "crewing" nor much cooking or cleaning. It was more like a sailing holiday. Initially that was fine by me as I was revelling in being back in the stunning Whitsundays and sailing south down the islands of Central Queensland. It seemed that in George's mind my role was to be a companion for his wife Wendy. He hadn't explained that to Wendy!
Wendy Anne, Sea Wind 11.6
George and Wendy plus Poppy the Cat had been sailing their Sea Wind 11.6 catamaran up and down the east coast for 2.5 years and we were joining the general movement of boats south from Queensland to avoid cyclone season. Their plan was a slow trip south arriving in Sydney for Christmas, however the best laid plans can fall apart and the trip ended in Rosslyn Bay, Yeppoon. Wendy Anne is now up for sale. I will draw a discreet veil over the dynamics that led to this change of plan.

I joined them at Abel Point Marina on the 30th October and left in Yeppoon on the 13th November. During the time I was aboard we went to Stonehaven, Bali Hai, the public jetty at Airlie Beach, Whitsundays Beach 25 (2 nights), Brampton Island both N side and W side, Mackay Marina, Percy Islands Refuge Bay and Whites Beach, Island Head Point, Pearl Bay, Port Clinton (2 nights) and then into Rosslyn Bay Marina.
Percy Island, Refuge Bay
George and Wendy Neal
Wendy Anne is very comfortable and well set up for easy sailing. All the lines come back to the cockpit and the main winch is electric. George didn't intend to do any overnight sailing if it could be avoided and much of the time we motor sailed with just the genoa up. We were lucky with the weather, fine and sunny with mainly light northerly winds except for a couple of nights at Port Clinton where we sat out a 25 knot blow. On the final day there were cyclonic storms in Brisbane and Wide Bay but we were lucky, we narrowly missed them.

I had my own cabin with queen size bed and its own ensuite with shower (no mention of bunks and heads) - such luxury. Wendy Anne even had air conditioning and a TV, neither of which I have ever had before nor particularly want again. I did not enjoy having commercial TV on most of the time. Neither George or Wendy were comfortable with me swimming off the boat when at anchor but we did enjoy several glorious swims on sandy beaches such as those pictured.

When we got to the Percy Islands we lost internet and radio coverage - quite normal. However it was the day of the election in the USA. We got the result "Trump won" via Volunteer Marine Rescue - but it was almost a week before we could get any more news. I admit that as a political news junkie I found that hard.
George and Poppy (the Cat)


03 October 2016

Classic Cruise aka Clarence River Pub Crawl

The 2017 Clarence Yacht Club Classic Cruise started as always in Grafton and sailed down river to Iluka and back stopping at almost every pub en route (seemed to miss out Harwood Hilton this year), Ulmarra, Brushgrove, Lawrence, Iluka and Maclean. 20 boats this year - a record.

Steve is a sucker for punishment, having crewed on the Bay to Bay earlier this year he put his hand up to come on the pub crawl as well - and he usually sticks to tomato juice! We launched at Brushgrove - with difficulty due to trees overhanging the ramp that really need urgent pruning. The others sailed in from Ulmarra and we joined them for dinner.
BBQ on Munro Island opposite Lawrence

04 September 2016

From too much wind to too little

What a weekend. Too much wind on Saturday 3 September and initially not enough the next day. Nicky, one of my regular crews, came down this time with her husband Rob. He is not interested in sailing (but is a bird watcher having been a gamekeeper in Scotland) so he stayed ashore. He shone at backing Little Dragon down the ramp and holding her until we were ready to head off and then having the trailer back on the ramp when the time came to pack up. Come again Rob!



There was a strong NW so we reefed. The observations at Yamba said 18 knots gusting 23 knots although it was probably a little less up at Harwood. Very, very gusty. It was a club championship race and we signed up just for a bit of practice although the rest of the fleet were all dinghies. By the time we got to the start the committee boat had turned into the rescue boat and was zooming around attending to capsizes. So not only did we DNF we also DNS. I wasn't at all surprised that the second race was cancelled. Little Dragon handles well in those conditions and it was comforting to know that the rescue boat was out if... But the only injury was to my arm which was almost pulled out of it's socket holding the mainsheet. Maybe it's a warped sense of fun, but Nicky and I agreed we had fun. No photos that day - too busy handling the boat.

The next day was so different. In the early morning there was a light SE but by the time we launched it dropped to almost dead calm. Initially we motor sailed but after half an hour or so a light afternoon breeze set in and we had a pleasant sail up to the bridge and back.


19 June 2016

2016 Tumbulgum Passage Sailing Race cancelled

Nicky and I were really looking forward to this race scheduled for the 19th June from Tumbulgum to Fingal Heads on the Tweed River. Little Dragon was ready. Sadly the event was cancelled due to an East Coast Low. Such a shame for the Tweed Valley Sailing Club who had done so much work to organise the event.

15 May 2016

Bay to Bay 2016 - ticked off my bucket list

I entered the 36th Bay to Bay race for trailable yachts from Tin Can Bay to Hervey Bay [Urangan] all the way up the Great Sandy Strait between Fraser Island and the mainland. It was held as usual on the May Day long weekend, 30th April and 1 May. There are normally two races, day one around 30 kms from Tin Can Bay to Garry's Anchorage and day two around 60 kms from Garry's Anchorage to the finish just off Urangan. This year for the first time ever the second race was cancelled due to there being NO wind at all.
After the long drive to Tin Can Bay the race started to feel real when I put up our race number. I admit I was getting nervous. Had I bitten off more than I could chew?
Little Dragon spent the night before the race in Tin Can Bay marina. 
Steve Millard, enthusiastic crew, trailer backer and official photographer trying to look nautical
On race day we anchored in less than a metre of water off the Tin Can Bay Yacht Club and waded ashore. We had hoped for the buffet breakfast but they had run out. After registering, attending the briefing and a final coffee we sailed off to the start. There were 130 entries making it the largest Trailable Yacht and Sports Boat race in Queensland. We were amazed at the variety of yachts that came within the definition of "trailable yacht" which is less than 9.4 m LOA and can be transported by road on the same trailer used to launch it etc etc - from huge trimarans that fold up to classic boats. 
 There were 28 of us in Division 4 for "Standard Trailable Yachts". As we were slowest division we had the first start and soon most of the faster boats overtook us. Although I had both paper and digital charts it was almost irresistible to navigate by following the fleet ahead of us. 
Boat Works from Noosa simply flew past us. We took 3 hrs 1 min and she took 1 hr 14 mins. Our CBH was 0.570 (the slowest) and hers was 0.941 (the fastest). 
This classic yacht Boxer (?1908) an Oak class was truly splendid and very reminiscent of the yacht my Grandfather raced in 1909 at Burnham-on-Crouch, England. (see photo below)

Boxer again. Magnificent. They even have a wooden rack for rum glasses and rumour has it that they had the occasional tot.
Once the race started we stayed on the same tack the whole way in around 13 knots on our beam. A great way to settle my nerves.
We never saw the finishing line. However when we saw everyone around us taking down their sails and motoring into Garry's Anchorage we decided to do the same. We found a spot to drop our pick and settled in for a quiet evening and good night's sleep. Some did the same but many had other plans - partying.
We had been speculating where some crews would sleep as they clearly had no bunks. We found out. They had support crews in hired houseboats stocked with beer. Is that cheating? Apparently not.
We watched and listened to the partying at Garry's Anchorage, many of the yachts rafted up.
I needed to cool down at Garry's Anchorage.
There wasn't a breathe of wind at dawn when we motored out of Garry's Anchorage, determined to be on time for the 7.30 am start. Come 7.30 am there was still no wind. Soon we were told on VHF 77 to "follow the start boat north". Off we motored for a few kilometres and again stopped and waited for wind. Still none. So off we chugged again following the start boat. Eventually the start boat decided to go fishing. We calculated that if we didn't start motoring soon to Urangan we wouldn't make it, so we radiod in that we were withdrawing. Ten minutes later the race was abandoned.
Some enlivened the motor north by rafting up - but it may be because a few were running low on fuel. 
It was a long, long motor all the way to the end (around 60 kms) but we made it. We didn't go aground once but I did think that if we were racing with wind on the nose that the channel was pretty narrow in places to tack.

The most stressful part of the whole event was our arrival at Urangan. There are two 4 lane ramps and Steve had parked the car and trailer close to the ramp on Friday afternoon.  That holiday Sunday afternoon it was total bedlam, queues of boats, queues of cars, frayed tempers....

How did we do? Well better than my wildest dream. Of course the results could only be based on one day's racing. We came 8th out of 28 on CBH (class based handicap) in Division 4.

Steve claims we could do even better next year with a spinnaker. Maybe or maybe not.