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

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)