Going nowhere…….

It’s been almost a year since we brought the boat home to Bundaberg.  Since then quite a bit has happened but we’ve not gone anywhere.  Life gets in the way of things.

After finally getting the boat home it didn’t stay in its’ marina berth for too long at all before I had it hauled out and then went through the process of hull cleaning and antifouling.  I did see her hauled out before purchase but to watch her get transported across the road to the hardstand was something a little different to a quick lift out and straight back in again.

Why did the boat cross the road??

The plan was to have her out for two weeks and in that time I should have been able to scrub, sand her down and antifoul all that needed doing.  But as has been the habit nothing is going to plan.  The very high pressure wash down exposed some very interesting looking lines around the keel.   Anyone from who I sought advice immediately suggested a bolt on keel but everything I’ve read and been told, that’s not the case.  She supposedly has a fully encapsulated keel.  Once I said that they all scratched heads and walked away. 

A strange line around the keel. Bolt on keel??

I did get a local shipwright who is also a marine surveyor to look at it.  Even he is not exactly sure what is going on but it all seemed solid and his advice was not to worry about it.  It may have just been where the top layers of fibreglass were not laid up together properly.  Fingers crossed on that one.

With the delays getting sound advice, the time it took to grind a few little blisters out and glass up, sand and paint it all went well beyond the planned two weeks.  As I am still working of course any work I was doing is my weekends.  Add to all this I end up being short staffed at work.   One off with a broken leg, another regularly away tending to a sick partner and now one is away on leave.  The planned two weeks blew out to seven and then more.

As the time for going back in the water approached the marina asked if I really needed to go back in just yet.  The arrival of the ‘Down Under Rally” was approaching so they were keen on having berths available for the many boats expected.  So a longer delay which didn’t hurt too much as work was keeping me busy and away from the boat anyhow.  Whilst on the hardstand a new mainsail and lazy jacks was made and fitted. 

An adjusted frame for covers and some davits & refurbished tender

Eventually going back into the water and going into my ‘permanent berth’ lots more has happened to keep it alongside.   My mother was taken to the hospital emergency department and all the family were called to her bedside only for her to come through things but relapse three months later and passing away.  We’ve all been hit by the COVID pandemic that kept everyone in harbour. 

But being alongside has allowed some weekend work to get done.  Some paining inside lockers, renew hoses in one of the heads, fitting some frames to support some cover over the aft hatch, fitted davits and refurbished an old tender to go on them.  At the same time Michelle has been busy on the sewing machine and made hatch covers and tarp for the forward deck from the old mainsail.

But for now she’s in the water, waiting patiently to go sailing again.   August sees me with three weeks annual leave so hopefully the weather Gods will be kind and we’ll be able to get out and enjoy the boat as it should be.  And maybe then there’s the name change ceremony to come too……

Journey’s end……

 

……. or just beginning.

For what started simply as a delivery voyage of 400nm planned over 14 days it has turned out to take almost 22 weeks to get my boat from Airlie Beach to Bundaberg.  But she’s home!!!!!!

Following the last two attempts to bring her home this last passage turned out to be an easy 20 hour overnight voyage from Gladstone to Bundaberg.  Easy, although we did motor or motor sail all the way.

The plan was to make an early start to the drive from home to Gladstone and then get her ready for the journey.  In order to avoid the ridiculous cost of another one way car hire I convinced my youngest son to drive up with us and then drive my car home again.  With only a short voyage ahead we didn’t need to pack many things and there was already a reasonable supply of food on board to get us through a weekend.   Gladstone is just a two hour drive from home and leaving before sunrise was the best way to miss all the roadworks along the highway.

After sorting out the boat it was saying bye to Sam, checking out of the marina and we were underway before 10am.  The weather forecast was for very light conditions so we knew there would be lots of motoring to finish the trip.  Gladstone is a large port so there are plenty of big ships at wharves, ferries between the islands and lots of small boat traffic going in and out all the time.  With the engine conservatively at low revs and aided by an outgoing tide we leisurely cruised along at nearly 6knots to get out of the main port area.

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Big ships entering the port of Gladstone – best to stay out of the main channel

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Yet another ship entering the channel

With barely any wind at all the engine continued to chug along nicely.  So much motoring is in stark contrast to the mild panics I had on previous trips worrying about how it was going and stressing that the fuel would run out.  A couple of other sailboats left just after us and slowly edged past as they must have had their engines pushing more than ours.  Really the only suitable anchorage for us between Gladstone and Bundaberg is Pancake Creek.  It has a somewhat tricky entrance and with our draft of 2m we would only be able to go in or out on a high tide.  Of course for this trip late afternoon today and early tomorrow morning it would be low tide so anchoring was not an option.  The original idea was to go through the night and with an almost full moon, light winds and calm seas it was a viable choice.

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Bustard Head and Pancake Creek

From Gladstone to Pancake, which shelters below Bustard Head, it is mostly an easterly heading and from there we begin to round Bustard Head as the sun set behind us and turned south east towards Round Hill and then on to Bundaberg.  I decided to turn off the engine and let it cool so I could check the oil and coolant – just for peace of mind.  With a light breeze we hoisted the mainsail and let the boat drift at half a knot for a while.   The moon rise was stunning.  Winter here is a time of sugar cane fires, controlled forest burns and dry dusty conditions.  With an atmosphere full of smoke and dust a huge red moon slowly rose out of the calm seas into clear skies.  It was truly a wonder to watch.  I added a small amount of oil to the engine and then continued to motor sail our way south.

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Sun set behind us and the moon rose in front of us

Only a few lights from the Town of Seventeen Seventy and Agnes Water broke the darkness along the shoreline.  The calm conditions obviously triggered a rush of powerboats heading out of Round Hill Creek heading for the outer reef for the night or weekend’s fishing.  But once past Round Hill there was very little boat traffic other than one or two trawlers that could be seen slowly plying their way up and down the coast but that was all.

Whilst Michelle was at the wheel there was a big splash just off our port side.  A lone dolphin leaping out of the water was checking us out.  Dolphins are always a joy to watch at anytime but to have one play beside us and see the moonlight shine off it’s wet back during the night was a little more special.  Winter has never been a favourite season and as the night dragged on the temperature dropped dramatically.  Layer upon layer of clothes and jackets couldn’t seem to stop the chill seeping deep into bones.  With a rough two hour watch on the helm Michelle slept while I steered then turn about I slept for a while.  The journey continued easily and during the early hours of the morning we were soon able to see the dim glow of light above Bundaberg then the lights of the nearby coastal towns.  Our travel had been much quicker than anticipated and we approached Bundaberg through the early dawn.  Of course it was much too early to call the marina so we dropped anchor in the river adjacent to the marina and watched the sunrise over a very calm sea.

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Sunrise in the Burnett River

 I am not sure which was most welcome – the warm coffee or the few hours’ sleep whilst at anchor.  The berth that had been arranged for my boat wouldn’t be available until Sunday so there was a full day at anchor to sort things out, watch the boats go by and rest up.  After all this time to be so close to home but to be held up within sight of the marina was a little ironic.  But then Sunday came and we headed into the berth and she’s home.

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The marina and the end of the delivery trip was tauntingly close yet we weren’t quite there

So the delivery journey is finally done and has not been without the ‘odd hiccup’ but there will be so many more miles ahead.  For now though there is lots of work to be done – a haul out and long awaited hull clean and antifoul, new sails, empty everything and sort out what and where I want to keep things on-board.   Essentially, to make this boat mine.

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Home at last

The Forever Journey …..

It seems like such a long time since the first failed trip, had to leave the boat in Mackay and had to return to work. By now I had hoped it would be close to home and I would have been able to do some maintenance and make some small changes to make her mine and to go weekend sailing. In July I took another two weeks leave from work and things were looking like it will all work out this time.

At least this time travelling north we only had the essentials and just a few extras to take on board.  Unlike the first trip when I had to hire a ute and take lots of tools, cabin and boat necessities, personal bits and pieces and a tender, this time we only needed to hire a medium sized car.

We arrived at the marina late on Friday night and headed onto the boat and settled down.  Sadly, the weather was much the same that forced us to leave her here the last time – wet and windy.   The next day we headed off to do a spot of provisioning and drop off the rental car.

As the weekend progressed the weather kept us in the marina but at least we got some of the planned chores done before heading off.  A look at the forecast and Tuesday looked like our window to get going south.  There is no fuel gauge on the boat, there is a sight tube up the side of the fuel tank.  Crawl into the engine space and lean across the motor, shine a torch against the tube and it is easy to see the level of fuel in the tank.  As I had filled up in Airlie Beach before the first attempt at sailing home the level was obvious and just an inch or so below the top – no need to fuel up on our way out.

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Mackay marina – don’t let the blue skies fool you, it was very windy.

Monday night was a sleepless night for me, I tossed and turned all night. going through all the possible things that could go wrong.  I have never really had any anxiety issues or panic attacks before but this time it was real. I was feeling physically ill with worry so we put off our departure by another day – Wednesday.  Wednesday dawned with a beautiful calm day and we said – let’s go.  Motored out of the berth and out of the safety of the marina.

Just south of Mackay is a huge coal loading terminal and dozens of huge empty coal ships are anchored awaiting their turn to go in and take away what has been ripped from the Earth.  We continued to motor through them before setting sails and turning our nose towards our first anchorage – Curlew Island.  Winds were good and sailing was easy and we got to Curlew Island just before sunset.

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Huge coal ships wait outside Hay Point

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Curlew Island

A calm night and then off the next morning east towards the Percy Islands group.  Winds were fair but they dropped off during the afternoon so it was put the sails away and motor the last part of the day.  Whales were playing in the distance and we were accompanied by dolphins playing on our bow for a short while.  The anchorage was a little crowded but we squeezed our way in and settled in for anchoring sundowners.

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Middle Percy Island

The next day we planned to spend on Middle Percy Island.  I had joined the Percy Island Yacht Club in order to help save the island and iconic A-frame so had to pick up my burgee.  Whilst there we were able to listen in on a weather forecast.  Strong wind warnings had been issued so we would have to shelter somewhere for another day or two.  Middle Percy Island isn’t protected in the SE’ly winds.  A check of the fuel situation and WTF!!! It’s only a few inches from the bottom.

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Percy Islands Yacht Club

Early next day it was a short motor over to the protection of South Percy Island.  Because I would have time I decided I’d empty and crawl into the cockpit locker that sits on top of the fuel tanks and find a way to dip the tank to check.  After much squeezing, twisting, bending and knuckle banging I found the top of the tank and there was no way to access the contents.  The fill point and breather were on the outside of the tank against the hull so they would only show me the shallowest part of the tank.  More panic, “we’ll run out of fuel at the most in-opportune time!!!”

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I’m still not sure how I fitted into the cockpit locker – or how I got out again

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South Percy Island

Two days waiting at anchor at South Percy and then things eased for a departure and heading off to our next anchorage – Hexham Island.  Like the previous day the winds were fresh during the morning but eased to almost calm during the afternoon.  A far cry from the wind warnings of the days As we tacked to head west towards Hexham Is we started to see a warship peep up over the horizon.  Operation Talisman Sabre was on and we’d heard some radio contact from warships to civilian boats during the day.  Obviously this warship had heard of our reputation and headed off away from us as we approached.  They didn’t want our bad luck to rub off on them.  Finally motored into Hexham just on sunset.

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Even the USN got out of our way

Again the day started with fresh winds and chopped up seas as we motor sailed against a strong tidal current to round Hexham Island and head further south towards Pearl Bay.   And like the days preceding they winds eased during the day and on an occasion of trying to tack in fickle winds the headsail flogged against the spreader and – you guessed it – tore just along the edge of the sacrificial strip So it was furl the genoa and up with the staysail.   The combination of light winds, old sails and mounting frustration it was engine on and motor sail the last few hours to anchor in Pearl Bay.   But hey – I ad the number 2 genoa so in the calm of the anchorage it was off with the big genoa and up with #2.  All would be good to get home.  But the #2 genoa wouldn’t roll properly on the furler so it was off with the #2 and rehoist the staysail.

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Pearl Bay

An early start off anchor in the dark.  Nav lights keep tripping off so it was leaving the anchorage with just the tricolour lights on the mast head to warn any other boats of our presence and direction.  Before heading off I checked the fuel and found the level to be higher than when we started form Mackay.  Now I was totally confused and worried we would run out somewhere.   Motor sailing with the trysail and old main it was noticeable that our port tack was much faster than on starboard.  This slowed our progress and motored toward Yeppoon as darkness fell. To make things even more challenging there was a large bushfire just north of Yeppoon and the thick smoke was held down by the cooling night air and drifted across the sea to further limit visibility.  Luckily we were heading almost due south so with such limited visibility ahead I was able to look to the Southern Cross and it’s Pointers and steer by the stars.  We finally dropped anchor in Cooee Bay and awaited the next day before heading into the marina.

A quick day in Yeppoon.  Fuelled up and checked into the marina.  Hired a car for a half day and went to restock some needed supplies – rum and beer mostly, some emergency nav lights and also got a couple of jerry cans just to be sure of not running out of fuel.    The marina office also supplied a contact for sail repairs and Andrew came to our rescue.  Despite how busy he was he came and picked up the sail, repaired it and had it back to us later the same day.  Put it back on the furler and headed out for dinner.

“Zulu Waterways” warns that Rosslyn Bay Marina can be shallow.  During the night a quick check of the instruments showed a depth of zero under the keel at low tide. We were sitting in the mud, so not going anywhere too quickly.  As daylight Saturday broke we left the marina and again turned south trying to make for Gladstone.  Heading south into the prevailing winds was always going to be a challenge and it was clear to see we wouldn’t make Gladstone in a day.  Again just on sunset we tucked in behind Cape Capricorn and anchored for a rolly night.

Sunday morning dawned cloudy, windy with showers. Off anchor in darkness before sunrise and with full fuel and not really wanting to try and tack into the winds we decided to motor all the way to Gladstone.   The weather stayed cloudy wet and windy for some time but did improve slightly as we motored south.  The highlight of the motoring was a close encounter of the whale kind.  Michelle had to take evasive action to miss one that surfaced right ahead of us and we passed within feet of each other.  Michelle rang ahead and we were able to get a marina berth arriving late Sunday afternoon. No way was I getting to work tomorrow morning so it was settled in and make plans for tomorrow.   Tidied up the boat and organised another hire car to get home.

So that’s where she is now, sitting lonely in Gladstone marina waiting for the next opportunity to bring here the last leg of the journey home.   At least now it is only a weekend sail away from getting home.

 

 

What’s in a name?

As is well known most boats are given names. Often the name is a reflection of the owner. Sometimes the boats have good names and some, in my opinion are just ‘corny’.  I seldom use the name that has been given mine.  I mostly refer to her as ‘my boat’ or ‘the boat’.  It’s possible this is disrespectful to her but I plan to change the name so I am trying to not get used to it and so that everyone else doesn’t get used to it. As far as I am aware it is the same name she was originally given 25 years ago.   It’s not a bad name, I like it but it isn’t ‘me’ and there are a lot of other boats with the same name.

Changing the name of a boat is a contentious issue.  There are those who say ‘just change it’ and then there are those with a little superstition suggest it should have a proper name changing ceremony to avoid bad luck.  Based on my experiences to date I think I am going to err on the side of caution and do it ceremonially.   Maybe not so much to incur the wrath of the Gods but also for a lot of the fun of it.

It seems there are a few differing guidelines for a name changing ceremony but they all seem to have a few commonalities.  Everything I have read suggests striking the old name from everything on board.  They also call on the Gods to bless all those who have sailed on her, strike the old name from Neptune’s ledger and then invoke the Gods of the four winds for fair weather.  But why do we always seem to instantly recognise Neptune the God of the Sea?  Neptune is a God to the Romans but most other cultures all have their own names for their Gods of seas and waters.

With so many Australian indigenous tribes and territories I haven’t been able to find a local name and since I live in the Pacific region and is where I plan to do the majority of my voyaging I think I will invoke a Pacific God when I do change the name.  Tangaroa is used in the Maori culture and I guess is also recognised by other Polynesian cultures.  So it sounds good to me.

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At the moment ‘my boat’ sits patiently waiting in Mackay marina for me to get time off work to go back north and bring her all the way home.  Once home I will go through a ceremony and change her name.  More of that for another time…….

Are we having fun yet (part 2)

a.k.a.

Bring Out Another Thou$and

For an organisation manned by volunteers the guys who attended our ‘rescue’ were very professional at what they did and how they managed their boat, themselves and their equipment.  VMR – the auto-club of the waves, are like roadside assist and if you’re not a member you will have to pay for services.  I’m not a member but at least we kept our call out until the last hour and the tow was only 6 miles.  In truth I was surprised and happy at the reasonable rate they did charge.

They took us into the marina and put us alongside the first empty berth they came to and then a tender from the marina took us to a maintenance berth adjacent to the boatyard.   Plans for the next day were made over beer and dinner at the pub.  Sail repair, diesel mechanic and electrician.

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Day 4: Woke to a really windy day: “Where were these winds when we were trying to sail yesterday???”  First things first – check into the marina properly and get an access pass to showers and toilets better than those in the boatyard used by all the tradesmen and workers and to get the info on the best service guys to help us.  In fact, there was only a shower in the male toilets so I had to stand guard outside as Michelle showered.  Best mechanic is at the boatyard and they recommended an electrician so I got his phone number to call soon. But there are no sailmakers in Mackay, everyone sends anything they need by courier up to Airlie Beach – where we left from only a few days ago.  Called in to the mechanic on the way back to the boat, they’ll get to us when they can and then I called the electrician – left a message.

Yachties are a little like farmers.  They are often many miles from any qualified or experienced assistance so have come to develop a ‘can do’ attitude towards repairs or installations.  On our boat familiarisation day ‘Mr C’ had tagged and labelled a few things for us and pointed out a few idiosyncrasies.  Looking at the standard of some of the work ‘Mr C’ was one of those yachties who has left his mark.

Mechanic arrived promptly and got to work crawling into the engine space to check out the water pump issues.  Seems the impeller may not have been doing its thing to the best of its ability.  Access to the engine isn’t great – in fact there is no access to the port side because of the fuel tank so Jim is headfirst in the engine compartment reaching over to the other side and working by feel to change the impeller.  Lots of swearing, knuckle banging and blood loss later Jim emerges with said old impeller in hand – it was a bit shabby and in backwards.

As Jim dives back in to put a new one in the right way, Charlie the electrician rings back.  A few investigatory questions and then looking out the portlight there he is larger than life waving from the trawler in the next berth where he’s fixing a freezer.  He suggested he’ll call over and have a look when Jim has gone.  He has to let the freezer freeze and go into defrost cycle so can give us an hour or so while that happens.   Looks like our ducks are flying in formation.

Charlie arrives and quizzes us on our needs.  A quick look over the electrics and to see why the solar isn’t charging, check the refrigeration and we thought of some other things to look at as we chatted.  Solar panels were old and not really giving their best anymore.  We need to get a new solar panel and regulator and he’ll come back and install them when we get them.  Fridge and freezer are old but working okay.  Whilst the two house batteries were new, they weren’t quite enough for the needs of the boat – source two more exactly the same batteries and he’ll see they’re installed properly when we get them.  “Why aren’t these 240v power points working?” we ask – ‘Mr C’ had just said they didn’t work.  He probes them with his little meter thing and scratches his head.  Earth socket is live – WTF!!!!!!! More investigating and he determines there may be an issue with the power selector switch.  The one to switch on or off when plugged into electricity from the shore.

Access to the back of the switch is through the engine compartment.  I switch off the selector and he dives in.  Seconds later – ZAP!!! F@#K and Charlie is on his back on the saloon floor, shaken but thankfully alive.  Turning off the shore power supply at the dock, more investigation and he finds out the wiring was all wrong.  It was always live whether it was turned off, on or to the inverter.   Some tradesman’s skill in re-wiring on the switch and inverter and things are all ok.  We invited him back for a cold beer once he’d done the defrost thing on the trawler and he gratefully accepted the ice cold Carona offered.

Day 5: Woke to another windy day – no chance to try and get the big genoa (sail) off the furler again.  We both questioned ourselves why we didn’t get it down when we were becalmed for three hours way back on day 3.  Hindsight is such a wonderful thing.   But we spent the day researching batteries, solar panels and regulators.   Because ‘Mr C’ had sourced the cheapest batteries he could get the only place we could get them from was – Airlie Beach.  And the supplier there would have to order them from Townsville – Faaaaark.  A phone call to the sail loft in Airlie Beach to let them know a torn sail may be arriving in the next day or so – as soon as we get it down.  He gives us the name and number of the courier to best use.  More searching for solar panels and regulators and order two new batteries and organise the courier to collect them from Airlie Beach.

Day 6: As I lie in bed and look up through the aft cabin hatch I can see the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club burgee on the hoist.  It’s not moving.  Michelle and I look at each other – “Let’s do it”.  We spring out of bed and at 4am in light rain we get the genoa down and bundled up into my little red trolley.  Looking at the dock there is barely enough room to walk side by side let alone fold a huge sail.  “Let’s fold it up in the shed in the boatyard.”   There are two enormous sheds up there with very, very expensive boats having work done and neither of them are locked at night.

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As we spread the sail out on the dusty floor beside a million dollar yacht we expect security to be watching on their CCTV and turn up and arrest us or at least kick us out very soon.  This was the first time we got a good look at the tear.  About 2 – 3m long just above the bottom of the sail and it looks repairable.

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5:30am back to the boat feeling rather chuffed as the wind starts to freshen again and think about coffee and the day ahead.   At an appropriate time ring the courier and start our story “Took the sail down at 4am in the rain this morning……….”   “Stop right there!,” she says, “I’m not taking a wet sail with all my cardboard boxes.”    Aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!!  The marina has hire cars for marina patrons to use so a half day car hire and we drive back to Airlie Beach with the sail in the boot.  Sail loft guy inspects it and says we can come back in two hours.  That was a pleasant surprise as I hadn’t expected a while-you-wait service.  A nice lunch in Airlie Beach, a spot of shopping to stock up on fresh supplies then back to the sail loft just as he’s finishing the repair.  As I help him fold the sail on the nice clean loft floor he says, “No guarantee – you should think about a new sail soon.”  Drive back to Mackay and leave the sail on deck.

Day 7: Another early morning dozy look up through the hatch and the SICYC burgee is hanging limp.  “Let’s do it!” we spring forth again at 5am and get the sail back on the furler just as the winds begin to freshen for the day.  Michelle is struggling to hold the sail from flapping too much as I haul the head of it home and secure the bottom on the roller.  Then quickly furl it away as the winds pick up even more.

Another half day car hire and off to get a new solar panel and regulator and a few other bits and pieces. It’s Saturday but we let Charlie know we’ve got the stuff and he can come do his thing next week.  By now the south easterly winds have set in and there is no chance of sailing into them for the next few days.

That evening on the way back from our little journey to the showers we’re greeted by two boatyard guys who inform us that they lock the boatyard at weekends so we’ll have to walk the long way, the very long way round to get anywhere.

Day 8: Sunday. Another windy day – off to the marina office and see if we can shift onto a normal marina berth. Easy done they say and we do a little shift across the marina to a regular berth closer to showers and facilities – nice J

Charlie called on Tuesday to say he’d be around on Wednesday (Day 11) to do the work – new solar panel and regulator installed and two new batteries to make a house bank of four.  All the winds have been way too strong to even think about sailing south so the time was spent cleaning lockers and stowages and getting to know where things are.

Strong south easterly winds and seas are obviously going to continue for some time so there is no way we can sail into them to get home to Bundaberg on schedule.  We had to make the decision to get a hire car and drive home on Friday.

Day 12 – Thursday.  Day spent packing things away and sorting out what can stay aboard and what can come home.  ****It’s important to remember now that 7 weeks ago when I had the boat surveyed pre-purchase, the surveyor and I only sighted four sails – the main and genoa in their rigging and the spinnaker and storm jib in the spare cabin.  I mentioned to ‘Mr C’ that the sales specs said there were more and he said there was only what was on the survey.  Also please note that when ‘Mr C’ and I were in the forward V-berth he showed me all the tools and spares for plumbing, electrical work and rigging and what they were for before we left the V-berth.  When Michelle and I arrived on board a week ago we stowed all the things we used to transport stuff up to Airlie – empty crates, esky, bags etc, in the V-berth.   Now as I emptied the V-berth of said crates, esky and bags I decided to look under the bunk and check out the storage space.  WWWWWTTTTTTTTFFFFFFFFF!!!!!!!! – all the spare sails on the specs.  A #2 genoa, jib and trysail.  Faaaaarck we had spare sails all that time, we could have swapped sails and left over a week ago and got the solar and batteries installed here at home.

But in hindsight we are so much more aware of the idiosyncrasies of the boat and if we had used that power point we may have been a six o’clock news item and not writing this story now.  The boat is still in Mackay Marina awaiting available time and better weather to bring her home.   The friendly attitude and service we received from everyone in Mackay and the sail loft in Airlie was fantastic.  Despite things not going anywhere near to plan and only getting the boat a quarter of the way home we did have a good time and learnt heaps.

Are we having fun yet?? (part 1)

About seven weeks ago I bought a boat.  It’s a nice boat, an old boat but a nice boat.   It’s a 43’ (13m) centre cockpit sloop that is now almost 25 years old.  I know it will need some attention over time and modifications to suit my needs but it is a solid foundation for a wonderful ‘Sea-tirement’.

23 Mar '19a

Now, about three weeks ago with a one-way hired ute loaded with all the needs for a delivery trip home we, Michelle and I, set off on the 10 hour drive north to settle aboard and sail it home over 10 days.  A nice easy trip south through the lower portion of the Great Barrier Reef stopping at island anchorages along the way.  A dream of a trip.  On our arrival in Airlie Beach we moved our stuff aboard and settled in.  Next day the previous owner (we’ll call him Mr C because he was the third owner) came down and went over the boat with us.  He showed us the in’s and out’s, what to do here and there, where the spares were and what they were for.  Then we ended the day with a lovely lunch with Mr and Mrs C.

Day 1; Sunday; full of excitement and eagerness we woke early, looked at each other and said – “lets’ do this”.  Cast off the lines and motored to the fuel dock to fill up and then well before 0800 we were off out of the shelter of the harbour at Airlie Beach with big grins and full of happy thoughts.  Sailing was easy but for the genoa catching on the inner forestay at each tack.  Heading south through the Whitsunday Passage we easily cruised over 8 knots.

24 Mar '19k

A good day’s sail was had eventually dropping anchor in the shelter of Thomas Island.  A sheltered anchorage all to ourselves in a little cove with another small island for further protection.

Thomas Is.

Day 2;  another early start and heading off to the east of the island to continue south.  An early start followed by, again, easy sailing but as we were coming off the anchor I noticed there was very little water pumping out with the exhaust – our engine cooling wasn’t working properly.  Fair winds made smooth sailing but again at every course change the genoa caught on the forestay and around lunch time the headsail tore.  Minor panic erupted as it was hurriedly furled away and we began sailing on the main only until we put up the only other sail suitable – a storm jib, to assist us along.  The winds eased and our progress slowed eventually sailing onto anchor at Carlisle Island.

A brief inspection of the engine and there was nothing I could do at anchor.  The situation now was – a torn headsail, no engine for recharging batteries and the old solar panel wasn’t working to capacity either.  Limited battery power of course meant reduced refrigeration.  The decision was made to head in to Mackay the next day.

Day 3;   another early start on a glorious morning.  Sailed off the anchor in a light breeze and began a slow sail towards Mackay.  The winds eased further during the day until we were totally becalmed and the only headway we were making was with the 1 – 2 knot drift south on the tide.  With the tide expected to change in the mid-afternoon a radio call went out to VMR (volunteer marine rescue) about an hour before the change when we would be pushed back towards where we came from.  VMR responded promptly arrived and towed us the last 6 nautical miles to Mackay Marina where we berthed and connected to shore power to recharge batteries and cool down the fridge and freezer. Dinner and well-earned cold beer at the pub was had to drown our sorrows whilst we made plans for repairs and beyond.

To be continued…………. 

Getting started

I have a plan.  A plan to give up work and live on a sailboat.  After working for the past 45 years I have come to a point where I’ve had enough and want to get out and about and live a few more adventures while I am still physically capable to do so.

I learnt to swim at a young age and at school swam reasonably well in competition.   In my teen years a few of us got together and with the aid of a dad we made a kayak each.  Following that we spent a number of weekends out and about kayaking.  School didn’t suit me so the NAVY beckoned and I spent a few years there and whilst there got the opportunity to sail a little bit and learned to scuba dive. Lived on the Gold Coast and then worked around a swimming pool and in later years have come back to canoeing and kayaking, swimming and scuba diving.  The major influence and interest in my life has been the water so it seems almost natural that I find myself drawn to the thought of spending a few more years on the water living and touring on a sailboat.

For about the past four years I’ve been looking for the right boat.  If there is such a thing. Maybe it’s just the one that suits at the time and is within the current budget.  The journey up till now has been at times long and tedious and often frustrating.   Attractive boats have come and gone whilst I’ve bided my time waiting for the budget to get to the right place.   I’ve been a ‘tyre kicker’ going to inspect boats that I knew I wasn’t interested in buying. I am sure the astute brokers could see that in me.   But all those inspections helped in two ways.

A picture tells a ‘thousand words’ – not anymore.  With the aid of photo enhancement software photos can be touched up, brightened, darkened, cropped and doctored in many other ways to suit the story someone wants told.  Hours of looking through online boat sales sites and the myriad of photos attached to each listing coupled with actually seeing and touching the boats advertised enabled a better understanding of the reality of the condition of the boat being promoted.

Similarly all those hours crawling over, around and through boats has been enlightening by reinforcing  what it was I desired in my new home.  How a boat’s layout functioned, or where one fitting was in relation to the other. How easy it was to get at or over or around things to maintain engines or electronics or plumbing.    All of the different boats I inspected inspired different ideas and raised so many more questions.  Favourites were tagged, some well beyond the self imposed budget but still they made onto the ‘wish list’ in the faint hope that one day the price may be right.

Then one day it all comes together, all the planets align and a dream is within reach.  Living in a regional area there aren’t a lot of options in what I was looking for so the majority of inspections were always a few hours drive.  A ‘favourite’ came up and the budget was close to sorting itself out so there was the option of a long drive – a nine hour drive.  Call the broker, line up a couple of other boats to look at whilst we’re there, book accommodation and then the long drive north. Arrrghhhhh! All the boats are out sailing and the purpose of going was lost. But a nice weekend in a tropical holiday spot was appreciated.

Work has a horrible way of getting in the way of having fun or doing the things we’d rather be doing so it was a bit of a wait before a second opportunity to inspect the target of my affections came about.   So, organise a second trip, arrange all the same things – boat inspection, accommodation and on this visit so much more – a boatyard to lift her out, a marine surveyor to inspect it properly and then a test sail as she goes back in the water.    This time the weather intervenes.   The Summer monsoons bring flooding rains to the entire north of the State and the main highway is closed in two places.   Is this a sign I am not meant to have this boat or is it a test of my patience and resilience?

A third attempt at getting there, fingers toes, eyes, legs, everything crossed for her being still available.  This time it was a no holds barred situation and would be the last chance.  Again – boat inspection, accommodation, boatyard, surveyor and test sail. The weather looked acceptable, and it all came together.  The weather was okay, the lift went well, the surveyors report good, test sail went well.  Then afterwards negotiations over a well earned beer and I am now the proud but poor owner of a boat.

My ‘sea-tirement’ beckons.

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