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.

23 January 2016

A very civilised weekend

Teresa and Martin came down to Harwood for the weekend for a sail but primarily to test out their new camper trailer. Both the sailing and the camper trailer proved very satisfactory. It was one of those weekends when the sun shone but it wasn't stinking hot. The wind blew - but not too much. We pottered up and down the river on Saturday afternoon watching the racing but keeping well clear.
Saturday evening we had an excellent dinner at the Harwood Hilton and coffee in Maclean on Sunday morning before the wind came up in time for us to enjoy another couple of hours afloat. All in all very civilised.

As a bonus Teresa and Martin helped a thorough hosing of Little Dragon so there wasn't so much for me to do when I got home.

Little Dragon's new shade cover in my back yard. The only snag is that the sun comes round and still bakes the bows.

09 January 2016

First voyage for 2016

9th January 2016.
Lea with Key Largo and me with Little Dragon decided to get together again [see previous post] for a weekend of day sailing out of Harwood. We invited others to join us but it ended up just the two of us and our respective crew. Lea's husband Richard and Gary McKenzie crewed on Key Largo and Nicky crewed on Little Dragon. Lea and I arrived on Friday and rigged our boats ready to launch on Saturday morning.
Pam and Nicky

We launched as planned on Saturday and we're underway at 10 ish. The destination was Iluka Pub for lunch. The tides were just right - and ebb down to Iluka and a flood back again. We set off ahead of the morning sea breeze so we almost drifted downstream for the first hour. Then a slight breeze came up and it gradually strengthened. For the stretch between the Goodwood mark and Iluka it was a tad bumpy - wind against tide and we had to keep tacking.

Although it was peak holiday season we were yet again amazed at how few boats were underway and we both found good berths alongside the pub pontoon. Remarkable. Why isn't there more sailing on the Clarence River? We lunched at the pub and then caught the flood back to Harwood with the first stretch a long run. Very pleasant. It feels more like a real mini-voyage when there is a destination.

The plan was to sail again on the Sunday possibly to Yamba but Lea hurt her back and decided to head home and Nicky and I were pretty weary after a long but enjoyable sail the day before and also decided to pack up and head for home on Sunday morning.

06 December 2015

Ancient Mariners' cruise to Brushgrove

The plan was to leave Harwood on Sunday morning and sail to Brushgrove, enjoy Jan and Col's hospitality Sunday evening. They generously offered to put on a BBQ for us all. Then sail on up to Grafton on Monday and back to Brushgrove via Ulmarra. Overnight again at Brushgrove and back to base on Tuesday. However it didn't work out that way...

There were 3 starters, Rob White sailing solo on his Hartley 16 Ally Oop, Lea Foster on her 25 ft trailer sailer with Gary McKenzie and Todd Bleech crewing and I had Little Dragon with Cathy Jones crewing. Rob set off from BRSC as Ally Oop gets under the Harwood Bridge. Lea and I launched on the other side of the bridge at the Harwood Hilton ramp.
Little Dragon becalmed at Brushgrove
Ally Oop and Keylargo also becalmed at Brushgrove
We were heading up river against an ebb tide. Most of the time there was no wind. It was stinking hot. When a puff of wind did come it went all round the compass. So we all alternated motoring with some very frustrating sailing. Fortunately there was about half an hour or so of stable light wind on the last lap up to Brushgrove. We had a bimini but the others hadn't on the Sunday and they were all pretty cooked on arrival.

Jan and Col gave us all icy cold drinks before the BBQ and we gradually cooled down and enjoyed a very pleasant evening. Hariet dropped in on her way back from sailing in a regatta at Grafton. Thanks Jan and Col.
Gary McKenzie and Rob White on Monday under their boom tent

Lea Foster's Keylargo with Todd Bleech at the helm on Monday. Note the bimini

The two photos above show both Keylargo and Ally Oop had sorted out shade protection for the following day. We looked at the weather forecast for Monday, in summary even hotter and even less wind. So we decided to abandon sailing further up river to Grafton and turn round and head back down river with the tide to lunch at Maclean and then on to our respective ramps at Harwood.

As forecast there was no wind in the morning and Keylargo and I motored all the way to Maclean. Ally Oop tried valiantly to sail the last section but admitted over lunch that it was hopeless. After lunch a reasonable SE set in and we beat down river to the ramp at Harwood and at least reminded ourselves that we are sailors. 
Pam's crew Cathy Jones and yes we had a bimini both days thank goodness
We ended up pledging to do it all again - maybe when it is a bit cooler and maybe downriver next time.  Despite everything I am glad we gave it a go.
Far, far too much motor sailing