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.

09 April 2016

No sailing

I drove down to Yamba on Friday and collected Baby Dragon from Peter at Yamba Yacht Supplies who had needed to do extensive fibreglass patching up but I am assured that now she won't leak - I haven't tested yet. Now Baby Dragon is waiting at Harwood for me to get her a rig...

I trailed Little Dragon down to Harwood so that Rod could check the bolt holding the swing keel in place. He checked and pronounced it in fine shape. So now all the checks suggested in the condition report have been done. A good feeling.

Nicky arrived on Saturday morning so that we could go for a sail. We rigged as a gentle 10 knots was forecast but it never arrived. So instead Nicky went for a kayak while I derigged.

Despite the lack of sailing it was very relaxing just watching the river flow by.

20 March 2016

Farewell Tin Dragon

Savaad spent much of the two weeks before the Ides of March on major maintenance of Tin Dragon. She has been sitting patiently on my veranda for 2 years waiting for the leak to be fixed. Savaad found much more was needed than fixing a leak. By the time Tin Dragon reached Iluka for another International Tin Canoe Regatta she was in very fine order and pretty as a picture. We even won a new award as the "most visual" with our cheery red trim and pink sail.

Our thanks as usual to Rob and Rosie for all the work they put into keeping the event going year after year. However it won't continue many more years unless there is some new blood as several of the previous owners have got a bit old and creaky to continue.

Savaad ready for race 1
One wouldn't know from the photo above that it blew around 17 knots all day, gusting 24 to 26 knots. Far too much for me to tackle so it was over to Savaad and both he and Tin Dragon were champions in that they both ended up the day totally unscathed, although I should report a few adventures during the day.
Off Savaad went and round the marks. It would be mean to mention that much of the time the other 4 tin canoes were ahead of him. Azzo won (in the sense of coming in first) all of the 4 races. Competition was fierce between Rob Crosby and his brother Steve. Merrick sailed the 5th canoe and did well. It will not surprise you to know that each of the owner builders/skippers were really experienced sailors. Sadly The Shielas didn't make it this year.
I am not quite sure which race it was, maybe the start of the last lap of race 3, and it was really gusty. You guessed it, Savaad capsized. See above. Now see the two photos below. With great effort Savaad righted Tin Dragon, bailed her out and sailed on. I should add that most of the others also capsized.

The end of a long and rather exhausting day. The start of the pack up. Tin Dragon has moved to Ian's garage in Iluka and Savaad and I are waiting to see if someone else wants to sail her next year.

19 March 2016

Baby Dragon - a project

I spotted this 11 ft dinghy looking very forlorn outside Steve's place and he told me that he had just put it on Gumtree. To cut the story short I snapped it up at mate's rates. It just seemed right to name her "Baby Dragon".

I had been thinking for a while it would be good to have a simple, quickly set up and very stable dinghy to sail when I don't want to rig Little Dragon. I never dreamt that it would be one built many years ago for "Father and Son!" It will be "a project" as Steve never had it set up for sailing so I need a rig. I have already acquired a 2.3hp Honda outboard in Iluka. It's almost new and was for sale at around half price.  I am currently varnishing the sturdy old wooden oars but I want to be able to get back to Harwood against the tide if the wind drops.

PS This family sailing dinghy it totally different to a modern Sabre and I don't know if there is any connection at all.

12 March 2016

Steve in training for the Bay to Bay

Steve Millard is a good friend from The Stingrays, our daily ocean swimming group in Byron Bay, who also bush walks and has a history in the rather distant past of sailing. He recently sold me Baby Dragon, but that is the subject of another post. He has accepted my invitation to join me on Little Dragon for the 2016 Bay to Bay race. For those that don't know that is an overnight race from Tin Can Bay to Hervey Bay [Urangan] held at the end of April each year.

So we decided that he should come down to Harwood for a training sail. I know he can tack, gybe but my hunch that he was a bit rusty on which tack has right of way was correct. Now I have race insurance again we decided to join in the regular Saturday afternoon race - a bunch of dinghies, Chris Cook and us. I didn't get round to taking a photo of him for the blog so I have pinched one of him on a recent bushwalk with another Stingray Marie.

By the end of the afternoon I told Steve that I was confident he would be a very fine Mate (as long as he reads the racing rules and promises to back the trailer) and he confirmed that he was still enthusiastic. So far so good. Another bulletin after the race....

Chris Cook's new Wexford design 13 ft boat fitted out for a little person

05 March 2016

BRSC Annual Regatta 2016

All in all an excellent regatta. No injuries and very few breakages. Everyone had a great time. As usual at BRSC regattas on the Saturday there was the long race from the clubhouse to Iluka and back, with the fast cats doing some extra laps.
Saturday race briefing
I have got race insurance for Little Dragon again this year. So instead of being "spectator fleet" and giving ourselves a 5 minute head start on the fleet we signed up to race. Noela, as she has done often in the past, crewed. There were only 5 starters in our division and I am pleased to report that I wasn't last over the starting line. Initially there was a gentle breeze which increased to moderate by the time we got to the Goodwood mark. We set out with the last of the ebb and came back with the flood. So we made good time to Iluka and back just past the Goodwood mark. Unfortunately although the wind lasted long enough to get the majority of the fleet back to the clubhouse, where most sat on the deck enjoying a cold one, we were still racing. The wind dropped for the tailenders and we took an extra 45 minutes to make it back. Never mind, it was still very pleasant on the water and I don't drink beer.
Noela about to hoist the main
Racing Little Dragon way - very sedate - no trapezes for us!
Great to see boats astern of Little Dragon!
Stiff competition in the dinghy classes
I am not sure at which stage of the race we cut across in front of those dinghies
There were two short races on the Sunday but we didn't take part.

Thanks to my friend Chris Huegill of Hueysurf for taking the photos.