Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lunar Ticks

Has it been a month already? Well actually it has. The Ups and Downs article was the 9th October and there have certainly been a lot of ups and downs in the life of Dreamagic since then.

We left our intrepid adventurers rather deflated with a damaged dinghy and a date at Airlie to recover same and at the same time deflate and recharge the phallic symbol that we call Danbouy.

We collected our latest crew, Jan and Michael from Hamilton Island where they had jetted in. 6 days of sailing, relaxing and gourmeting (is that a word? It is now.) The weather was perfect if a little light on breeze so after settling into life on board we set sail north for Airlie and a rendezvous with the rest of our fleet, namely Flipper the Dinghy.

We also had to collect our repaired frontsa’l (that is the one at the front. I know boats) so in a naval operation that would have made Lisa McClure proud we arranged the rendezvous with the sail loft, the dinghy repairer and the fuel wharf for 14.00. Make it so, Number One.

We arrived at Airlie early so picked up a mooring and had a lunch while waiting for our allotted space. The marina are very aware that boats use their wharf to collect things as they refuel and frown upon the process. After all there is a lucrative money extracting exercise in getting you to rent a different piece of floating concrete to do that. So at 13.45 we brought Dreamagic alongside handsomely and proceeded to refuel, albeit slowly as we furtively waited for our pickups.

By 14.05 the dinghy had arrived with our sail on board. However it was at the boat ramp not the fuel wharf. I walked over and started to row it around. As I neared Dreamagic, rowing with my back to the boat I could hear encouragement from the crew to make haste. “We have to get off this wharf, a boat is coming in!”. “And so?” I replied. “The marina want us gone now!’ came the frantic response. We had booked the wharf from 14.00 until 14.30 to refuel. It was now 14.10. Still concentrating on rowing, so looking at the stern of Flipper I replied in a technical term probably only familiar with yachties, “F#@k the marina! We have just spent $350 with them!” By now I was at Dreamagic’s transom and a very helpful woman from the Marina Office who I hadn’t noticed earlier caught my painter and helped put the dinghy on the davits. We set sail rather handsomely.

We spent the night in Nara, came past Whitehaven Beach, tried for Hazelwood which despite glowing references looked like a moonscape with bommies to match so diverted to Turtle Bay, then Thomas
Island, then Brampton Island. The weather was idyllic, the company was great and the days slipped by as we meandered south. At Brampton we initially parked in front of the resort, re opening early 2012 if the sign was to be believed. It was derelict as nature had decided to take back what man had built. Rusting cars and collapsed buildings made a mockery of the sign and the consensus among our crew was that this will never open again.

We took shelter that night to the outh of the island against a predicted northerly. It came with some force and the 5 yachts seeking shelter on this side had to anchor a long way off shore to counter the reef but in the morning we still had the same number of boats we started with which is always good. And they were more or less in the same place!

Our perfect weather window had departed and the northerly blew with increasing strength. The forecast was that it would get worse so we surfed with the wind behind us under frontsa’l only  to Mackay, a marina we have come to love having been trapped there for a week on the way up. We spent the evening on the boat and the next day long lunching before Jan and Michael departed for Brisbane by plane. Thanks guys, it was a pleasure having you on board!

The weather got filthy and we were trapped in Mackay for 10 days waiting for the strong southerlies to blow out. We spent the time reading, maintaining the boat and commuting between the Surf Club, the Yacht Club, the Tavern, and the fish and chip shop. We did hire a car for a day and found a fantastic bistro for lunch so caught a bus in a couple of days later for a return visit. Other than that, as in a line from Casablanca, we waited,…. and waited,…. and waited.

In my view there are three things you don’t need on a yacht. An umbrella, a time table and a naval officer. Of those, the timetable is the most dangerous. I have a good friend who plans his trips to the minute of departure. Each to their own, but to me that takes no consideration for eventualities. As Francis Chichester said when contacted by radio for an Estimated Time of Arrival by a cub reporter on nearing completion of his circumnavigation. “My Dear, I am a Yachtsman. We have destinations, not ETA’s”. A number of south bound yachts were trapped along the coast and all were eager to leave. We were keen to get away as another good friend had a 50th in Brisbane that we wanted to attend, however the safety of the boat is paramount and the weather is the mistress, and she said no.

We finally got away and overnighted at Digby. Our sounder decided to sulk so we anchored out a fair way to be safe. Then the sounder decided to work and showed that our anchor was probably not actually touching the bottom, it was so far beneath us so we moved closer inshore. A rather exuberant guy on the next boat wandered naked around his and we were grateful when night finally fell.

Digby to Pearl Bay which is the prettiest anchorage in the East Coast in my estimation, then Pearl Bay to Yeppoon which is like our second home. One that needs some work! We came in on a low tide but according to the chart with clearance. We hit the ground in the centre of the channel and had to wait 2 hours to float off! That is a bloody disgrace for a marina which houses the Coast Guard and the Police.

One of the great things about cruising the coast is the people you meet. We caught up with Mitch and Meg, whom we had met last time we were here, and Richard rode over from Rockhampton and stayed on the boat. We stayed here for three nights as we wanted to be here for the last Friday yachtie drinks. We made new friends with Will and Lyn who are from Manly Queensland and are making their way home, and Brian and Karen from the centre cockpit  Bavaria ‘Tis Fate. They are Melbourne based and leave the boat in Rosslyn Bay, flying up to sail her in the Queensland Tropics. Well you would, wouldn’t you? Great to meet all you guys, and we are bound to catch up in a bay somewhere.

Yeppoon to Pancake Creek where we waited out Cyclone Anthony on our way down in February, and then just a 60 nm trip to Bundaberg. We wanted to leave at 5.30 am but the tide kept us until 07.30. I refuelled from our jerry cans in Pancake Creek and we motored out into a beautiful flat sea with a 10-15 knt breeze just off our starboard bow. We unfurled the frontsa’l, set the autopilot and read books as Dreamagic made her way towards Bundaberg . ETA, 10 hours.

We were catching up with some old friends of mine here. Actually, that didn’t come out right and Nerida would take offence at the statement. Friends of long standing, how is that? Anyway, I hadn’t seen them for over 7 years so it was to be a great reunion the following day, which happened to be Melbourne Cup day. We were booked into the Marina, our grog and prawns order were sms’d to Ned to collect and our meeting was scheduled for lunchtime.

About 10 miles from Bundaberg we received a phone call from Ned asking if we were OK. The reception was bad so I sms’d back that we were fine and would be berthed in 1 hour and 45 minutes to be exact. The wind had started to go forward and we couldn’t hold a sail anymore so we furled it and motored. This reduced our speed by about a knot but still good.
Rona then got a weather forecast that predicted a southerly change with wind speeds to 30 knts. (60KPH). I wasn’t unduly worried as I felt that with only 90 minutes to go the sea would not have time to pick up. I was wrong.

The water around the north side of Bundaberg approaches is very shallow. I suppose that would be the reason why the waves, with nowhere to go, bounce back up. The wind reached 42 knts on our meter, and although I know everyone overestimates wave heights, I would say these reached 4 metres. They were enough to put rollers down the hull and on occasion they broke into the cockpit, putting us up to our knees in water. We were lifejacketed and harnessed on but the boat was proving difficult to handle in this weather.

Bavarias, like most modern yachts have a flat bottom, a fin keel and a spade rudder. This makes them a great all round boat and quite quick. However everything is a compromise. The flat bottom means that when the waves are head on, like they were then, the boat climbs the wave but drops of the top of it with a force that could snap the boat. To combat that, I took turns in angling the boat to the wave so that we climbed it and then slid to left or right to keep the bow in the water rather then in the air. This tactic saved the boat from damage, but a journey that was going to take us 90 minutes was now looking at taking 5 hours. The wind was horrendous. 40 knts is about 80 kms per hour. To put it in context, it is like standing on the tray of a ute doing 80 kms an hour over the roughest ground without holding on, and then trying to do something like tie a knot. We were persevering though, until the engine spluttered and died.

Now at the mercy of the waves we quickly got a small amount or jib out to stabilise the boat and give us movement and steerage. We could now steer adjacent to the waves but we could make no headway towards Bundaberg. And of course it was getting dark.

Dark meant that I could not see the waves which would make steering the way we were impossible. At about 4.30 pm we called the Coast Guard.

We finally got towed into Gladstone just before midnight. Rona was fantastic throughout this ordeal. When I left her alone in the cockpit while I crawled onto the foredeck in the dark and attach the tow line she held the boat head to wind, getting the jib furled and liaising on the radio with the Coast Guard launch while I steered she kept her head even though every third wave or so crashed over the boat in pitch darkness. Eventually we were towed to a berth and tied off, We thanked everyone for their help and promised to sort everything in the morning. Once we were alone I turned to the heroine of the day. She just looked at me and said those immortal words, “If you ever f#@king do that again!.....” then turned on her heal before I could reply and went to bed.

Every bad experience has to end and the next morning we surveyed the damage. The loss of the engine was easily explained, fixing it more difficult. When I had refuelled from the jerry cans I had neglected to put the fuel cap on. Not really a problem but when the weather turned and waves came down the decks they concentrated on the open filler and filled the tank with salt water. Eventually the engine, starved of fuel, died. Being Melbourne Cup day getting help would be difficult but the yachtie fraternity gathered around and we were given the name of a diesel mechanic who we caught at 7.30 on his way to work. He came down, used a pump to draw the water out of the tank, replaced the filters and drained the system. The engine burst into life and we motored around to our allocated berth, which was in a different marina to the one we had been towed to.

Craig and Nerida joined us with another friend Therese and we swapped stories, caught up with our respective lives and Rona and I said a quiet word of thanks that the damage could have been a lot worse, starting with loss of life and the very real possibility of loss of the boat. The Coast Guard came with our bill which was actually quite reasonable given two fellows had spent 4 hours in filthy weather rescuing us, and our three guests finally cabbed back as the shadows were getting as long as the stories. We promised to bring their car over the following day and we enjoyed a great lunch at their home on delivery. Guys, what a fantastic couple of days! Thank you so much for your hospitality and we look forward to returning the compliment in February.

We had taken on about 50 litres of fresh fuel in Bundaberg and meant to top up before we left. However when we went to the fuel wharf it was really designed for trawlers and was too high sided for us. I felt that we had enough fuel for a trip to Hervey Bay so we motored out in weather so different from the squall that hit us. Flat seas and calm winds. The engine was blowing white smoke but the mechanic and I agreed that was probably dirty injectors and they would clear.

We made Hervey Bay still blowing smoke but the engine was running. We called for a berth allocation and could they recommend a mechanic to remove the injectors and get them cleaned? Graham who ran the fuel wharf got on the case. Not only did he get someone to help, he rang to find someone who could clean them. The Hervey Bay company were closed for holidays, but a company in Maryborough could do them and get them back next day! Brilliant, but how do we get them to Maryborough? Graham is on the case again. He lives near Maryborough and can deliver them when he finishes at 1.30. “But we won’t be in until 2.00” “I’ll wait”

We have been in this marina before, (read the blog An Ugly American) so we knew it was going to be a pain to get in. None the less we came down our finger and identified our allotted berth, unfortunately just after we had passed it. No problem, just select reverse and…. The bloody motor died! Remembering Rona’s threat, “don’t ever do that again” I was a little concerned given that we had been given a berth in the posh end of town. Also knowing Dreamagic’s fondness for touching bright shiny objects that I can’t afford it was more by arse than class that I managed to let the wind turn her around and slide into her berth as if the motor had been going. I’m not sure Rona even noticed until we ever so slightly nudged the end of the berth. No reverse!

David, the mechanic was on the dock and we pulled the injectors and sent them on their way. David was on standby for when they would return at about 3.00pm the following day, which was a Friday. We’ll be here two days and out of here! We dined at the boat Club Hervey Bay.

I have been in this club even before the encounter with the Ugly American. Some 15 years ago I was bringing Carpe Diem, my 30 footer up from Brisbane to my new home in Cairns. I built that boat and spent a fortune. The stern gland, which allows the propeller shaft to exit the boat but prevents the water coming in was the latest and greatest. As used on Collins Class submarines, the advert said. I really should have thought that statement though. Submarines sink don’t they? Well, once over Wide Bay Bar, Carpe Diem decided to do a submarine impression and water came in at an alarming rate. With bilge pumps working flat out we had called Hervey Bay and arranged for the slings to be in the water ready to lift us. They did and bits were dispatched from Brisbane. A three day turn around but when we tried to wait in the sanctity of the bar on that occasion we were refused entry because we were not wearing socks. “What yachtie wears socks?” I asked. “Ours do” was the reply.

The dress code has fortunately been relaxed but the clientele are the same. Self funded retirees who live locally and know every trick to extend their pensions. They catch the courtesy bus in at 8.00am and play Bridge or Whist or whatever in the morning.  Free tea and coffee and Amy Klumpp entertains with piano and vocal accompaniment. At 12.30 the resident musician Trevor Judge gets up and plays along with the Karaoke while the line dancers get up and strut their stuff. About 5.30 there is dinner. The rush would leave an All Black front rower dazed as the hoard grabs the best tables and settle down for a huge roast dinner ($12.80) washed down with a passable $14 bottle of Sav Blanc. Dinner done, back in the main room. Greg Doolan, ex Wickity Whack and now solo but for his young wife, wows the old dears with stories and songs until about 9.00 when the courtesy buses take them home ready for tomorrow.

Just watching these folk is exhausting. There is the slender 70 something who wears a flower in her hair and a dress to match. Bright red on Friday. Her husband, who dances like he is auditioning for Thunderbirds on speed is dressed by her to compliment her outfit. So he is wearing bright red pants and a dark blue shirt with a thin red stripe. However they never look at each other, or touch. She sways around the room like an extra from the film South Pacific, alternately looking at the band, other dancers or an appreciative audience while he hops up and down in her vicinity trying to be noticed.

The table front and centre nearest the band has been reserved for weeks and is taken up by the Hervey Bay Rockers. Dressed like extras from Happy Days with slicked hair, black trousers and those shirts with college numbers for the guys and dresses that show their knickers during the frequent twirls for the girls,not one is under 65. Regardless of what Trevor Judge is belting out, they jive!

And then there are the line dancers. They take up station and, looking incredibly bored, step backwards and forwards tapping their feet twice here and shuffling there. They stare straight ahead and go through the steps that they have obviously rehearsed a thousand times. Just going through the motions, as the man who worked in the sewage farm said.

All that said, we had a great meal, a great night and went to bed knowing that we would have a fully functioning boat on Friday.

Friday came but although the injectors had been finished as promised by lunchtime, they didn’t get back by courier until late. Damn! But David said not to worry, he will come over first thing Saturday and fit them. Fantastic!

8.00am and David is there. He is supposed to be fitting a kitchen for his wife but he knows we want to get away. Besides it’s only a 20 minute job. Nice Guy!

10.30am. The last injector leaks diesel like the Niagara Falls. Nothing wants to stop it. There are some funny little washers with holes in them under the injector and although these are brand new, one may have failed. He’ll take it away and fix it, but it will be Monday. OK, back to the Club.

It’s quite a novelty for me to be the youngest guy anywhere nowadays, and I am very aware that there isn’t much age difference between me and this rat pack. We spent the day thinking about retirement. looking at units for sale and actually got a Real Estate Agent to show us a couple. Easy walk to the club etc. (How can I retire from something I haven’t started yet?)

Monday 8.30. The injector has gone to an engineer who is going to resurface it. It comes back at 3.00 and David dutifully bolts it in. It still leaks! We are running out of options when he thinks more new washers may be the answer. We book in another night at the marina and sign up for Line Dancing Lessons. If we get up early we may be able to catch Amy Klumpp and her piano vocals in the morning.

Tuesday 8.00 am David is back. Amy will have to wait. He has new washers which are exactly 1mm wider in diameter than the ones we had. A poofteenth, but it’s enough. The leak has stopped! We thanked David, who by now I count as a personal friend, motor around to the fuel wharf with all cylinders firing, all gears and no smoke, and finally get out to the bay.

We are now anchored in the Great Sandy Straights with about 20 miles North of the Wide Bay bar. Anchoring was an issue because while the anchor control would allow it to be lifted, the button that lets it drop doesn’t want to work. No more Mr Nice Guy,  I just chucked it all over the side. Fixing it is a tomorrow job. The Oracle, while working perfectly, now does not want to talk to the rest of the instruments, (which are all behaving themselves for once). I don’t care,  they will get along nicely tomorrow, or I will keep them all in detention. The fuel gauge won’t work. Is that the best you’ve got? The TV is sulking. And the head will pump out but not draw water in. (Suck it up! As our American cousins would say).  I don’t care. We are in Manly by the weekend and obviously, like an old war horse Dreamagic can sense this and wants to stay out. She has been playing up since we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn and doesn’t want to go home.  Bloody women!

So that is what we have been doing. Now, what have you been up to?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Ups and Downs of a Sea Going Life

Courtesy SOS Dan Bouy
 Nara Inlet
9th October 2011

We have one of these. We saw it at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show and thought “What a good idea!” You secure it somewhere in easy reach of the back of the boat and if someone falls overboard you just throw it to them. It hits the water, inflates automatically and they hold onto it until you can turn the boat around and recover them. It has a streamer to mark where they are and even a flashing strobe so that it can be found at night. One of those things one hopes you’ll never use, we attached ours to the rail on the stern of the boat.

Passing Hamilton Island on a reach it was a little rough. Not unduly for a 44 foot boat but Dreamagic was healed over and sailing well when a sudden gust brought the gunnel under the water. Exhilarating sailing but as the water drained off the rail it washed around the Dan Bouy which promptly inflated! I called to Rona. She came on deck to find me reluctant to let go of the wheel in these conditions, and the fluorescent, 7 foot phallic like object waving around while trying to find a means of escape to the sea rushing past just below it. Ever resourceful she managed to straddle it and get it under control. However there are some serious weights in the bottom of it which keeps it upright when immersed, and a drogue which stops it drifting away. Like a cat carrying a kitten she managed to drag the whole thing below and stow it, inflated in one of the cabins. A week later I am still not game to go in there.

Now here is a moral dilemma. We had dropped a sail off for repair at the dinghy dock at the Whitsunday Sailing Club. There was a stiff northerly blowing and the sea was lumpy as we made out way in with the rubber ducky, but once inside the wall it was calm. The sail was collected and we were preparing to make our way back out when a young fellow approached us and asked for a lift to his boat. I was not looking forward to the trip out anyway. Our monohull was rising and falling with the swell and boarding is generally done over a transom which coming up to a metre out off the water before plunging back down. Our dinghy is not that big but it is a 3 man, and while I didn’t want to make the journey any longer, the guy did need a lift. We all climbed into the dinghy, with his two bags and carefully made our way across the bay to his Catamaran.
This boat was suffering the same fate as our mono and rearing out of the water. The steps were on the starboard side but the hulls were quite narrow at the rear and the step faced inboard of the hull rather than straight back. I attempted to bring the dinghy up to let him disembark here but the difference between the movements of the cat and dinghy made this dangerous. We took the dinghy to the middle of the transom and he threw his bags into his dinghy, which was attached to the deck across the rear of his boat. So, now we just have to get him off.

The port side hull was marginally less affected by the movement of the boat so we decided to try that hull. I moved the dinghy into position and he alighted but the Cat transom came down across the bow of our dinghy. Not normally a problem, but someone had through bolted a fibreglass box to the deck to hold a gen set, and had not cut the bolts off. A two inch bolt pierced my dinghy making about a 4 inch tear in our bow. The dinghy deflated and rolled tipping the pump, shoes, and occupants into the sea. The outboard was saturated and we swam to the other hull and climbed aboard.

To cut a long story short, we brought the outboard back to my boat where I stripped it and dried it. The dinghy has gone to the repairers and I expect the bill to be around $300. We are out a $60 pump and one of a $40 pair of Crocs so let’s say $20. Our passenger, still dry beside us dripping over our boat thanked us and suggested that next time we catch up he’ll buy us a beer. What would have been a fair resolution?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Romantic Vagabond

I picked up this quote recently. Originally by Sterling Hayden (1916-1986)

Sterling Hayden
To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen, who play with their boats at sea - "cruising," it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.”

I didn't realise I had ever met him, but he certainly knows me!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Where the Hell have you been?

Hinchinbrook Island

When I was a kid in Sarf London we used to go to Saturday morning pictures. (I was 8, and unaccompanied in Sarf London. My parents didn’t take me there and pick me up, and I didn’t have a phone to call home if I couldn’t decide what colour Ice Cream I should have. “Be back by 4.00” that was it. The rest was up to me. Good eh? How times change. Probably explains a lot).

Anyway, the pictures, or movies as our language challenged cousins called them always had three components. There were cartoons, then a serial to get you back next week, then the film. After the movies we would re enact the film on the way home. It was great, but for the serial. Whether it was Sci Fi. War or Western the hero would always be left in a precarious situation. Pushed off a cliff by natives, fired through a torpedo tube by dastardly Germans or cast into space with only a pen knife and an oxygen bottle, that was it. I waited all week to see the end of the hero, (I was that sort of kid, always on the side of evil) but Lo! Here he was, not quite over the cliff, not quite in the air chamber that I had so clearly seen him inside last week!

What has this got to do with Capt’n Willi? Well, despite rumours to the contrary he wasn't hung for piracy. Nor did he sail over to Tortuga in search of truth, the meaning of life and a cold beer. However we did leave Airlie Beach shattered and bruised both physically and emotionally. After the crew left Airlie to go back to their lives it left a huge void on the boat. All good things come to an end, and that was the finish of one part of the adventure but it was hard to say goodbye. Thank you to the Airlie Crew, John, Linda, Kerri, Nik and Mik, and of course Rona. Maybe that’s why the French use Au Revoir rather than Bon Voyage when saying farewell. Not so final.

We left Airlie and drove the boat through shitty weather nearly cleaning up a charter boat to reach our own personal bolt hole, Nara Inlet. I read somewhere that you can spend forever seeing other people’s paradise, but you need to find your own. Mine is Nara Inlet. We went there, set the anchor and went to bed …..for two days!

My apologies for not keeping up the log of Captn Willi. Since then we have hosted Louise and Sonja for a trip from Hamilton Island to Magnetic Island. During that trip we attended a Pirate Party at Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Squadron of which I am a Vice Commodore, and on my birthday too! Thanks girls, a memorable evening, if only I could remember it!

We have competed and completed the Magnetic Island Race Week. John joined us again, together with Simon, Mani, Rona and I as crew. Sarah also joined us for a short while and then promptly flew home again saying she had never had so much fun. I would hate to see what she does if she isn’t happy, but her presence was greatly appreciated. Thanks to all that crew, and we kept the boat in one piece which was more than could be said for many boats including our sister ship which lost its entire mast over the side. That’s a $40,000 ouch! Also, thank you girls for allowing me to share your girls lunch. I learned a lot, and as promised, I am sworn to secrecy. I just wish someone had told me these secrets about 30 years ago. It could have saved a lot of problems.

John stayed after Maggie and helped us take Dreamagic to Cairns where we caught up with friends, and actually won a race! Yes, we had to sail from Brisbane to Cairns which would have to be the most expensive bottle of rum ever but we are going home with the hardware! Vini, Vidi, Vici. I Came, I Saw, I Conquered. (Or as we said during latin at The Little Ladies of Perpetual Flatulence, Vidi, Vici, Vini. I Saw her, I Conked her....)

We hosted Rona's mother Erica for a few days and we also hosted 4 delightful girls out for 3 days on the reef. Chris, Pat, Gabby, Bernadette, you were fantastic company. I haven’t laughed so much for a long time and for me that is a big statement!

So then that was the end of that part of the adventure and Dreamagic is now going back to Brisbane. Thanks to all our friends in Cairns, it’s hard to leave but hopefully next year we’ll be back for longer.

Currently we are sharing a beautiful anchorage at Hinchinbrook with a thousand March Flies. And it’s October!

When we came through here on the way to Cairns we had John with us. John is the sort of person you would want with you if the boat was sinking. Can he sail boats? Yes. Actually he was on a yacht midway from the Philippines when the rudder fell out. They patched the hole up with the loo door and made a temporary rudder from the spinnaker pole. Can he fly helicopters? Yes. Does he know anything about crocodiles? Well, he has been attacked a few times, including in a helicopter. Don’t ask! If half of what has happened to him had happened to me I would write a book and I think I have had a fair go at living dangerously. He is very modest about these things and never says anything unless asked directly. (In fact on the way up our exhaust blew a leak and it was a toss up whether the boat would would fill with exhaust and axphyxiate, the heat would set fire to the boat, or the leaking exhaust would fill the boat with enough water to sink her.Still, at least we wouldnt starve to death!) However, he is an outdoors guy and catching fish is the sort of thing he does easiliy. I don’t. For a start I don’t like killing things, especially if they are looking at me sharing the same mission statement, and some of the fish up here look like they could do just that. Anyway, on the way up John rigged big lures and dragged them behind DM teasing the fish, while Rona looked at him as some sort of Mountain Man and I felt like a geek  until something bit the lure clean off! John was disappointed  but if it’s that big I don’t want it aboard!  Fish 1, DM 0.

It is therefore fitting that I say John, you would have been proud of me today. Inspired by your lifestyle we bought a new crab pot in Cairns, rigged it, baited it and set it in exactly the same creek you said would have loads of crabs. I was wary of crocodiles but thought Sod It! Harden up, Geek!

I was surprised when I got back to the boat to see our float travelling down the creek at a fair rate of knots. Rona felt we may have caught a very large crab that was dragging the pot but I thought this unlikely as it had only been set about 3 minutes. I went back in the dinghy and retrieved the float and line, but no pot. I like to think a croc took it, but its maybe that I just can’t tie knots. Anyway, 1 $40 crab pot is in 3 metres of green soup and I am not diving for it. Crabs 1 DM 0.

Thanks again to everyone we’ve had the pleasure of catching up with recently. Chris and Sandra now floating around the Whitsundays on Time Lord. Gary and Joy for getting me drunk and then fixing Dreamagics exhaust at 3.00am This has been the best time, and I am sorry to leave, but its really just on to the next part of the adventure.

Greatness Is Not In Where We Stand, But In What Direction We Are Moving. 
We Must Sail Sometimes With The Wind And Sometimes Against It,
But Sail We Must, And Not Drift, Nor Lie At Anchor"
 Oliver Wendell Holmes

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Airlie Beach Race Week. Race 6 The Last!

Airlie Beach Race Week. Race 6

Last Race. Today was scheduled as an early start and a short race so that the presentations could be made early afternoon. We presented at the start line and had a middle fleet start but the wind died to a whisper and the fleet drifted for an hour or so before it faintly came back.
The course was more windward leeward today which suited us. Although we couldn’t catch the spinnakers again we were flying against the non spinnaker boats. We had a tousle with a brand new Beneteau 50 being driven by a bunch of hairdressers and their acolytes. I say hairdressers, perhaps they were not but every guy had the fake tan, the Bolles, the matching shirts and more product in their hair than in a Vidal Sassoon salon. They tried to push us down, a move that would not work with me even if I was in a good mood. Eventually their hull, about 30% of which was over our starboard quarter was close enough that a fender would not have passed between them. I heard a comment of “Geez, sail your line” which was odd considering my line would be as high as I could get going to windward. I thought about coming up and giving them a love tap followed by the red flag but the wind bouncing off our sails luffed them further and they dropped back and tacked away. We crossed them later, we were in front, we crossed them once more and they were in front, and at the turning mark we had the pleasure of sailing straight past them and home. Maybe the hair gel was slowing them down, or perhaps one of the bleach blonde 20 somethings with the boob tubes had a flat.

Our performance was really satisfactory and we decided to change our entry to Magnetic to Cruising Non Spinnakers. I got on with that while John, Linda and Kerri helped Rona clean up the boat. John and I then went to get some fuel and grog for the next part of the trip north before settling down to reflect on the past week.

It’s been hard work. It’s been very frustrating for me, I am not used to not being amongst the leaders in anything I do and I don’t think I have ever been last at anything before! It’s been hard on the crew too because I am not the easiest person to get along with when things haven’t gone right. However, it has been fun, we have met a lot of characters and we have had a lot of laughs. (We have also drunk a lot of alcohol!) We have ended on a high and I am really going to miss these guys when they go home. I have also realised something about myself. I thought my competitive days were over and I have been living a much more relaxed life these past 7 years. That is great, especially for my health but to feel alive as opposed to exist, one needs to push themselves, to test themselves if you like. To feel the fear of failure. After all, if you never attempt, you can’t fail.  I haven’t been doing that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Airlie Beach Race Week. Lay Day, Race 4, Race 5

Airlie Beach Race Week. Lay Day, Race 4, Race 5

Lay Day

We are like the walking dead. I don’t think I have ever been so exhausted. However, today is a Lay Day. Nik and Mick rented a Mini Moke and went exploring while the rest of the crew tidied up the boat and got the washing done. There was an all day party at the Whitsunday Sailing Club so we donned our Hawaiian shirts and went along. The girls saw a Mt gay promotion for rum whereby you buy 4 and they give you a free wet bag to keep things dry in a dinghy. I hasten to add I hate rum, and John doesn’t drink it either. Somehow we still came home with 9 bags.
We had dinner on the boat, I think, and being responsible crew many went to bed early. Linda, Nik and Mick stayed up until 4.00am and demolished the ships supply of Baileys and Cointreau. Thank God they forgot the alcohol in the compass.

Race 4

We had high hopes for today and I think we sailed very well. We have trouble getting the boat into second gear at the start but once away we roared up the course pulling many larger boats back. At the turning mark it was going to be a beat against tide to windward. Dreammagic did some clever stuff, the Oracle worked its navigation magic. Then we reached the down wind mark.
Kite flying is not our forte because we are one of only two boats in our division flying an assymetrical kite. Everyone else has full kites. Ours is great off the wind, but with it directly behind us, we are a no go. We could do little but sit and watch the great lead we had made over the past 3 hours whittle away until there was very few boats behind us. The results showed us 16th.

Race 5

Some people have pet names for their sails. “The Whomper”, or “Baby Blue”. We decided to change sails today and put up our only other headsail which we affectionately refer to as “That Blown Out Piece of Crap”, (but not within earshot of it!) Today was a much longer race with a much earlier start time. We had a reasonable start but some confusion with the race instructions saw some boats round a barging mark while some sailed straight ahead. We were cautious and rounded the barging mark, to subsequently find that we didn’t need to. None the less  the bigger headsail gave us the drive to race up the course and by the windward mark we were looking great. We climbed above and overtook a Beneteau 45 sailed by a sailing school so we felt pretty pleased with ourselves when we reached the windward mark. On the downhill run we knew that we would have kite problems so sailed about three miles wide of the rhum line to get a decent angle. It was always going to be a gamble, would the extra distance be compensated by the extra speed we would eventually get?  We watched the fleet sailing away from us, and eventually calculated the point at which we would be compensated. Sure enough we turned, kite at about 125 degrees and we shot down the course watching the sails that had so recently become smaller getting larger again.

Wouldn’t it be great if this story had a happy ending? Well, it doesn’t. 5 miles from the next mark the wind veered and we had a dead run down to bouy, and we can’t do dead runs. We rounded the mark eventually and clawed our way back to the finish. 18th on handicap.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Airlie Beach Race Week, Race 3

Yesterday was the best day we’ve had. We,or rather I am still having trouble with the starts. There doesn’t appear to be any sound signals and as we are the fourth division to get away there is some confusion as to the start time. It doesn’t appear to be even be on a whole minute so it could be 10.32.23 or something. Anyway, today is the day to get that sorted.
After a start that was about 4 minutes late we had a great sail to windward and caught a considerable number of the fleet, including our old nemesis Sundowner. On the downhill leg I elected not to fly the kite until we could get that sorted out today.  As we watched the fleet slip away I had a change of heart and we got our kite out. The problems of yesterday disappeared and Dreamagic took off like a cut snake lifting her boat speed form a sedately 5.3 knots to over 10 in places. Of course the boats that were getting smaller in front of us suddenly started to get a lot larger as we tore down the track, but we left the run too late and we got 16th.

Today is a lay day. A day of rest, it’s a bit like a Sabbath on a Monday. And boy! Do we need it. Last night the whole crew was so tired that our customary banter around the dinner table gave way to silence as we worked our way through a beautiful pork with garlic mash and hot and sour sauce. Bed was a 7.30 and when I got up this morning at 06.30 no one had stirred.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Airlie Beach race week Days 1 and 2

Airlie Beach Race Week. Races 1 and 2

Sorry for the delay in writing this up. We have been a bit busy, what with racing, partying, racing, socializing, etc. There has to be an easier way to make a living!

Race 1 19 miles

We were up early and pumped for this race. Our start was adequate and we were middle of the fleet by the turning mark. We don’t have a lot of practice with our spinnaker, in fact yesterday was the first time any of the crew had actually seen it up except me. None the less we had her flying for about 10 minutes before the wind built to nearly 30 knts and we thought it prudent to pull it down again. That proved a little more difficult than actually getting it up. Mick was physically lifted off the deck hanging onto it but eventually we had it in the bag.
Dreamagic sailed well in the conditions although not as quick as the other Bavaria 44’s which was disappointing. We got 11th from 24 yachts in our division.

Race 2 24 miles

Well we were first over the line! Unfortunately about a second too early and we were recalled. By the time we could extricate ourselves from the fleet and return to start again we had lost about 10 minutes. This multiplied to about 20 because of a kite problem we had, and then at the finish line a Beneteau that “didn’t see us” very nearly cut us in half. Even with us yelling, and me turning Dreamagic away the Beneteau missed us by less than 300 cms. I could see the helmsman of the other boat and he was shaking with shock as he went past our stern.

To recover from the shock we had a couple of beers on Time Lord before repairing to the Sailing Club for dinner. The singer/guitarist was brilliant, the red wine flowed and the Dreamagic Dream Girls danced, flirted, and one even fell on her bum as we proved that whilst we may be last in the fleet, Dreamagic is definitely first at the parties.

Airlie Beach race week: Pre Start nerves

12th August 2011
Airlie Beach Race Week -1

We have been drifting around the Whitsundays for a few days now. We are hosts to Nik and Mick, a couple who met on this very yacht a year ago in the Louisiades. We have reinforced the anchor windlass, Mick has dived on the boat and retrieved a fishing line that wrapped around the prop, and also scrubbed her bottom. We have drifted from Island to Island watching whales, turtles, dolphins and various other marine life. He weather has been beautiful with cloudless days and crisp nights. W have dined with Chris and his delightful guests Gary and Joy and generally led an idyllic life.

However all things eventually come to an end, and in this case the end is August the 10th and Airlie Beach Race Week. We spent th evening in one of my favourite spots on the planet, Nara Inlet. An early breakfast and then a short hop across to Abel Point Marina to register. As soon as we were in telephone range we called Abel Point for our berth allocation. It isn’t as if we are strangers to them, having written several times requesting that we be berthed near Time Lord but the receptionist immediately denied all knowledge of the entire Race Week and said we needed to speak to Stewart., who would not be available until midday. Dreamagic standing by.

At 12 we spoke with a rather flustered Stewart who said we were in M24. No problem, where is Time Lord? He is in N15. We don’t actually have a map of the Marina but no matter how I try, I cannot visualise a situation where M24 and N19 are adjacent. We reminded Stewart of our several requests, that we were actually the first boat to register and it was a provision of our booking that had our wish with the berthing arrangements, and that it was my birthday in a few days time so I have to get special treatment. Stewart did not appear to be a man who handles pressure well.  He explained that he has 130 boats coming in, that he can’t make special provisions for single yachts but will do his best.

We found our berth and tied up. Stewart had done us a favour and Time Lord had been allocated the actual same berth as us which we were assured would be big enough for the two boats. I assume that he must have missed the zero from the 50 when reading the registration form and clearly this wouldn’t work. We called Stewart. He was at lunch.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pirates of the Coral Sea

6th August 2011
Hamilton Island

Pirates of the Coral Sea

We crossed from Cid Harbour to Nara Inlet for the night. Nara has to be seen to be appreciated and I could not do it justice with words. Its like a Norwegian Fiord (Not that I have ever seen one) with wooded cliffs that drop straight into the sea. It’s long and narrow and very safe from wind and waves. Someone told me after we had been swimming that it’s actually the breeding ground of the hammerhead shark. My personal view is that even if it is, they are probably too busy breeding to be worried about me. Now if it was the FEEDING ground I may have been more concerned.

We had rendezvoused with Time Lord here and had sundowners on board before retiring.
Friday dawned miserable. The wind was up, the rain was in and visibility was down to about 300 meters. However the oracle worked its magic and we felt our way across the bay to Hamilton Island. Islands loomed out of the mist, safely to our port or starboard and we drank coffee and hid under the dodger relying on the autopilot to actually do the work.

We arrived at “Hammo” at about 10.00 and by then the rain had given way to brilliant sunshine. We phoned the Marina Office and asked if the berth we had pre booked was available as we would like to come in. Very politely we were refused entry until 11 “because none of the guests from last night have left yet”. We picked up a mooring and waited until our room would be ready.  Meanwhile, we might as well have a drink at the bar.

We called again just after 11 and a polite young man suggested that we put our fenders on the port side, that is the left side, attach our mooring lines front and aft and proceed to an orange buoy just inside the marina where we were to wait for the concierge to help us berth. We explained that we actually had picked up somewhere that the port side was the left side, that we were not a charter yacht, and that if they told us where the berth was we could probably park it ourselves. “Madam, we greet every boat” was the transmitted reply.

We entered an extremely crowded harbour and took up station as directed. One of the problems that non boat people possibly don’t appreciate is that unlike a car, one cannot just stop a boat. Like an affectionate puppy, you can tell it to stay, but if something catches its attention it will wander off. In our case anything large, shiny and expensive and Dreamagic is fascinated and drifts towards it. I whiled away the time practicing my seamanship skills trying to keep 44 feet and 12 tons of boat from hitting anything while Rona radioed the Marina Office to see if anyone was actually going to come out today.

The Marina Office was busy speaking with another yacht that wanted to “Just come into the fuel dock, but if we stay another hour is that OK? And do you have a supermarket? And what is the price of a can of tuna? And do you have a TV guide?” And…… can you get off the bloody radio!!! He was told the fuel wharf was full and to wait until he was called. Capt’n “I Own the Airwaves” wasn’t happy and wanted to be allocated a temporary berth at no charge until the fuel wharf became available.

Meanwhile the Hamilton Island ferry had given three short blasts and was reversing to leave the harbour. This was going to be tight with us doing laps at the entrance but it was doable. That was until Capt’n Airwaves, now Capt’n Foxtrot Oscar* decided that the Marina Office hadn’t a clue and decided to enter the harbour anyway. On entry, he realised that with a ferry bearing down on him he needed to move but his options were limited by a Bavaria 44 circling the entrance. He started to gesticulate to us in a sign language which roughly translated to “You are in my way. Can you sink because we need to be where you are”. Gosh, really?

Now entering stage left as the drama unfolds is a stink boat whose sheer size means we have to peer up to our first spreaders to see the diminutive driver, naturally dressed in blue and white, and with an embroidered cap. This boat has every toy imaginable but has been tastefully boganned by the addition of a Pirate Flag flying from one of its six aerials. Driven by Capt’n “I didn’t get where I am today by asking permission” he is taking his guests out doing whatever stink boats do, and either he is late or the two million horsepower diesels cant go any slower. Whichever, there is no slowing down and like an All Black seeing a gap in the Australian defence he is charging through.

The ferry manages to leave, we were lucky enough to have been on the edges and could move over, but Capt’n Foxtrot Oscar hadn’t been so fortunate. He was visibly shaken by the whole experience and we stood by and watched him very tentatively coax his boat towards the fuel dock while we waited for the concierge. If this is what it’s like now, I can’t wait for the egos of race week to get here!

The concierge came alongside and politely told us he would show us to our berth. We obediently followed his dinghy to a berth that was surrounded by monster stink boats of the same dimensions as the one that had provided so much amusement so recently. Marcus, (the concierge) was on the dock to hand our lines and welcome us to Hamilton Island. He asked if we had been here before, gave us a map, and told us about the amenities. He complimented us on our boat. “It’s a 44 isn’t it?” Difficult to hide given Bavaria 44 is written on the side, we agreed.  “That will be just $115, thank you”. We were booked for two nights.  That was a tad expensive, usually we pay about $45 a night but hey! this is Hamilton Island and it will make collecting our guests, flying in tomorrow, that much easier. No, that’s $115 per night. Marcus produced a wireless EftPos and I am sure I saw the Centurian on the Amex card lift his shield over his head as he went through the reader.

And not a sign of Johnny Depp

*Foxtrot Oscar is phonetic alphabet for the letters F.O. When using the radio they have a significance that I am sure Google would reveal if you need more information.

And just a thought, but why is Phonetic not spelt with an F?

Whitsundays: An Expensive Day Out

4th August 2011
Nara Inlet

An expensive day out

Where were we? Ah yes, we had fuelled and watered and left Mackay for the Whitsundays. The trip across to Thomas Island was beautiful, and uneventful. We anchored as the only boat off a sandy beach in the shelter of Thomas Island, one of my favourites.
All the islands here are stunning but Thomas holds a special place in my heart because I consider it to be the first of the Whitsunday Islands. One can see Lindeman from here, all the subsequent islands are less then 10 miles away, BUT Thomas is outside the area where Charter Boats can operate so it’s still a secluded anchorage. We set anchor, dropped our dinghy into the green/blue sea and went ashore for some beachcombing.
I know I have sung the praises of our plotter long and loud. I love it, and like love it just keeps surprising me. I have now found the Tide function which tells me when the high and low tide is at my location. Big deal, so would the Queensland Tide Tables but it tells me the secondary ports as well as the major ones without my needing to look them up. That’s no hardship either but the next bit is. It applies the rule of 12ths to where I am and at what time so that with my legendary skills at mathematics I don’t  have to calculate how much water is under Dreamagic’s keel now, how far to go before low tide, what the amount of water would be between high and low given the time we are making this calculation, take one from the other, up anchor and move, or sit still knowing that we will float at low water. The Oracle just shows a little +0.9 and sure enough, 3.5 hours later we have 0.9 meters under our keel at the turn of the tide.
We had a great dinner, played backgammon, a game Rona could not play a week ago and now regularly thrashes me at, and an early night.

We elected for an early start on Wednesday and put to sea about 06.30. I elected not to put the dinghy in the davits because we were only going 20 miles to Cid Harbour to rendezvous with Time Lord. We also elected to not put the fenders away but leave them unsecured on the deck.
Dreamagic’s fenders now have natty woven covers on them to try to stop the rubber leaving black marks down our topsides when we berth. Unfortunately if they get wet they suck up water faster than a thirsty otter and ours had done just that whilst in Mackay. Rather than put them away when leaving harbour we had dried them on the deck and promptly forgot about them.

Just outside Thomas Island there is an overfall. This is best described as a waterfall at sea. There is plenty of water, in this case 30 metres but one current falls over a cross current producing a very confused sea for just a few hundred metres. The waves pick up, the boat bounces around alarmingly, and loose things, like fenders fall off the sides. Missing in Action: One fender, $120, one fender sock, $60. An expensive start to the day.

We settled down for our romp across the bay. Wind and waves behind us, 3 hour run, great. We should have had the sails up but we needed to charge the batteries anyway so we elected to motor.

A lot of boats have names for their dinghies and they take on a personality of their own. Good friends with the boat Footprints named the dinghy Thumbprints which I thought was clever. Dreamagic’s dinghy never had a name, until now. We towed that dinghy from Cairns to Brisbane in horrendous conditions including over a very dirty Wide Bay Bar with never a worry. We have also spent a squillion building davits so that we can hoist it out of the water, but because we only had a short way to go we didn’t put it in the davits, nor did we put the other preventer tow line on. 2 miles from Hamilton Island it decided to surf down a particularly inviting looking wave, and flip over. The engine is now in the water, the propeller is now pointing skywards and the shipwrights design to make it aqua dynamic on the surface is working to drive her to the bottom. Full of air she is resisting these loads by making an impression of a submarine attempting a crash dive and things are not looking good. Stopping Dreamagic was probably a good idea so we did that and the dinghy finally came to a halt, upside down at the end of her painter, looking like a large grey pregnant  hippo. We retrieved the painter but even with the dinghy now nuzzling the transom, she was not going to be righted. It appears that she had somehow created suction and was firmly glued to the ocean surface. We finally managed to break her free and with all the strength the two of us could muster, together with a lot of luck she flipped back. Missing in Action: One dinghy seat, one dinghy anchor. Plus I will have to strip the motor, dry it out and get it to restart. An expensive morning tea too.

We motored into Cid Harbour and with judicious use of hammers, ratchets, screwdrivers and WD40 I got the engine to fire. I am no mechanic but I think the engine knows that and really I just need to get the tools out to frighten it into submission. “Start, or I’ll start taking bits off you” usually has the required effect.  Actually you should never criticise inanimate objects. They hate it.

And the name of the dinghy? They call him Flipper!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sailing North. Or rather, not.

31st July 2011
Mackay Marina

Hi again!

The more observant Ocean Racer Chasers may have noticed that Capt’n Willi Cinque has abandoned writing the ships log on a day by day basis. This is mainly because of the discovery of which invites cruisers worldwide to write their blogs.

Interesting as they may be, they all contain the same ingredients. Sailed here. No wind or too much wind or wrong direction. Another bloody tropical Island. Dropped anchor. These other boats were also here. Had sundowners with Sally and Harry on the beach/their/our boat. Watched another bloody tropical sunset. Had dinner, went to bed, had breakfast, raised anchor, sailed here. Of course the more unobservant ORC would not have noticed that the blogs had stopped, or merely assumed that we had sunk. To you may I just say, Thank you for your support, and after I have washed it I will wear it often.

So, Capt’n Willi missed writing about our night at Digby Island which was quite delightful. (Dropped anchor, watched sunset, went to bed, etc. etc.) or our sail across to Mackay Marina ( wind too light, wrong direction… actually that isn’t true we had a great sail.) where we arrived some 10 days ago. We caught up with a good friend of ours, Chris from the Bavaria 50 Time Lord. He’s doing Airlie and Maggie in the same division as us. They arrived direct from Bundaberg and made our 36 hour stints seem tame with the mileage they put under her keel in single hits. We had a couple of dinners with them before they continued up to Airlie. We stayed, and Rona went back to Brisbane for business while I got frustrated negotiating with various people with varying proficiencies in English in different time zones, trying to do some research for an “Exciting New Business Venture” as they call it in BRW.

Mackay is a fantastic marina with a Yacht Club, pub, restaurants galore, and a great 5 star hotel. What it doesn’t have is a supermarket, or indeed any shops whatsoever. (Now there is an “exciting new business opportunity”). The day after Rona had gone I was getting cabin fever so decided to go into town. It was at this point that I discovered another oddity of the Mackay Marina. There are only 3 buses a day to Mackay, and none at all on Sundays, being a religious holiday presumably. (It’s only fortunate that the Sabbath is not observed in Brisbane. If it were there would be no taxis on Fridays).

I had arrived at the bus stop at 07.15. An examination of the timetable showed that the first bus was 08.45. However, it also showed that the bus would arrive at the Canelands Shopping Centre at 09.00.  A 15 minute journey if my maths are correct.

I have written about the reasons for my lack of mathematical skills before in these pages. It was in the blog about my days at Private School, or Public Schools as they are known in England. I think that blog was entitled “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash”. No it wasn’t, that was the working title. It was called “Why I wish I had paid more attention at maths” and it is at if you are interested. Anyway, using the Mr Singh method of solving a mathematical problem:  Bus takes 15 minutes, allow for stops, a 7 minute actual ride, Mackay is just a brisk walk.

Are the buses made by Ferrari? Is that why there are so few of them? An hour and a half later I was not so much brisk walking as staggering into Mackay like someone who has just crossed the Simpson on foot. Fortunately I got there just as the Number 12 bus from Mackay Marina arrived. Had it beaten me I would have been very miffed.

I had a haircut, and a bite of lunch before wandering around the very quaint old part of Mackay. At about 1.30 I felt I had experienced enough and that I should get back to the boat and my conversations with Indians. I eventually located the bus stop, looked at the timetable and the next (and last) bus back to the marina was at 16.05. Or in two and a half hours time.

I would like to say that the trip back was much easier. I would like to say that but I would be lying. No hat, no suntan lotion, no sunglasses and no water. What do they say about mad dogs and Englishmen?

Well, that is why I am a Yachtsman. We don’t walk. All I can say is don’t try that at home. Overall it was in excess of 20kms including wandering around town. (I measured it when I hired a car to collect Rona at the Airport yesterday). My knee seized during the night and I could hardly walk for the next two days. Talking to the Land of the Waving Palms takes patience that I was sadly lacking, and for once they felt like hanging up on me. At least I didn’t call at dinner time.