Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sailing North: Just Bloody Whales

28th June 2011
The Wharf Marina, Mooloolaba

What is so bloody special about Whales?

Everyone wants to Save the Whales. The question is, Why? Why them? They are hardly cute and cuddly are they? They make crap pets. So they can spit out of the top of their heads. Is that it? Is that all they've got? A cool way to spit? Oh, and they have to travel to the other side of the world to find a mate. Well so did I. No one is feeling sorry for me. And they eat tons of plankton each day. Who worries about the plankton?  No one, that’s who.

Whales are the talk of the marina at the moment. Recent events have painted whales in a rather poor light. Firstly one got hit by a Coast Guard vessel, admittedly travelling at 30 knots. (The boat, not the whale). It took the front out of the boat which nearly sank. Then a couple fishing with their son off New South Wales got mashed by a whale tail and the kid broke his arm, (and wet his pants). Add TV news of a yachtsman who has fallen off his boat while his wife was asleep and is now lost (and I’ll bet that was the bloody whales again) and suddenly everyone is concerned about hitting one of the 13000 or so coming up the coast.

Rona has admitted that she has some concerns about whales. In fact I also had a poor experience once when I was 19.

In England a friend of mine and I decided to drive there for a weekend in my MGB. Anyway a long story but to say the locals were not friendly was an understatement. Whether it was my accent, the car, or the fact that the local girls were impressed by anyone who could finish a sentence without the word boyo, I came home with a broken nose from huge Hugh, and a vote of thanks from his rather gorgeous and suddenly ex, Megan, who told me that while she was Welsh she did wish she had some English in her, or something like that. I also almost bought home a criminal conviction for breaking an entry into a public house until in one of the more lucid moments of that evening I realised what a new chum of ours was attempting as he disappeared through a recently opened window and beckond us inside.  Oh, and I witnessed the same fellow set fire to his hands deliberately with cigarettes. (suprisingly, I used a be a bit of a tearaway. It was therefore a natural progression to Yachtie.) Anyway, no wonder we should be nervous of the Welsh.

So to be on the safe side we have upped the safety level of Dreamagic to Defcon Red, or should that be Green.  Whatever, the following precautions are now in place.

One never uses the words YACHT and LEAK in the same sentence without incorporating the word DOESN”T. However I have hung leaks from the pulpit of Dreamagic. (And I thought bananas were  bad luck? ) Leeks are the national vegetable of Whales so we should be alright.

I am wearing a daffodil. Well I would look stupid wearing a leak wouldn’t i?

I have learned all the words to Men of Harlot. Harlem. Harlech.

Men of Harlech! In the Hollow,
Do ye hear like rushing billow
Wave on wave that surging follow
Battle's distant sound?

I have no idea what it means, (It’s bloody Welsh, Boyo!) but it worked for Michael Cain against the Zulus at Rorke’s Drift.

I have bought every Harry Secombe album I can find in Mooloolaba.

I have also bought a copy of Tom Jones’ Greatest Hits.

It’s not unusual.

So there you have it. Dreamagic is now ready for her midnight sortie with the leviathans. I am led to believe I just have to listen for the sound of them blowing their spouts, and not confuse it with any involuntary wind emissions of my own.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sailing North: Evolution of a Yacht Club

27th June 2011
The Wharf Marina, Mooloolaba

We are trapped in Mooloolaba at the moment. The weather here is very overcast but sailable, but the forecast is not promising at all. 40 knots + wind. Given that there are no boltholes for the next few days if we do sail, we have decided to hang out at the Marina.

Which makes me give thought to that institution of sailing, The Yacht Club.  In the 20 years I have been sailing I have been a member of a few different clubs. Some were great, some were mediocre, a couple were seriously crap.

Big or small they all have one thing in common. Every Yacht Club was initially conceived with one common purpose, to let people interested in sailing get together and promote that interest. Unfortunately those lofty ideals can get often get sidelined.

The history of a lot of clubs is more like this:

  • A couple of friends, bored with sailing alone, get together and sail their boats each weekend. At the end of the sail they have a couple of beers on one of the boats.

  • A couple of other boat owners hear about the couple and ask if they can join them.

  • After a while the group has swelled to seven boats and it doesn’t seem fair that one skipper keeps providing the grog so they put $10 a week in towards the beer.

  • The boat fridge is too small for the amount of beer they now consume so they buy an esky to leave on the beach while they sail. One member’s wife comes down with the kids and looks after the esky during the afternoon.

  • The member’s wife invites a few friends and they put a BBQ on at the end of the day.The cost of food puts the contribution up to $20 per week.

  • The amount of food and alcohol that has to be transported each week gets too onerous for one person. They decide to rent a shed so that the BBQ, alcohol, food, sailing clothing etc can be stored.

  • The wives need somewhere to sit while the sailing is happening so tables, chairs, cutlery, crockery are purchased.

  • The amount of boats sailing has now reached 30 which is too many people to consult every time a decision has to be made. A committee is formed.

  • People who don’t sail but like being around boats, or have just heard of the fun, or because it’s local want to join. The committee agrees these “social” people are welcome but they need to contribute to the costs. A separate level of membership is made to cater for them.

  • Of the 30 boats, some are very keen to race whilst others prefer social sailing. The racers want crash boats, bouys, race officials, and membership to the peak sailing race body. The cruisers feel the cost outweighs the benefits and would prefer to invest the funds in their shed. Meanwhile the wives and social members feel the focus is too sailing oriented and want dinners, club nights, pokies, entertainment, and a children’s playground because “It’s all right for you, you spend all day sailing”.

  • The AGM is heated. The club has split into factions with each group convinced that their view forward is the only way of survival for the future of the club. Life long friends now glower at each other across the committee room as people jockey to become Commodore and then get their supporters elected, or get their particular viewpoint across.

  • Two yachties sitting at the back of the AGM and who have been with the club since its inception shake their heads and say, “I just want to go sailing”. They agree to meet next weekend and sail in company. One says he’ll bring the beer.
I realize that this is just my sarcastic humour. Unfortunately in too many cases it is also true. We spent yesterday evening in the newly opened yacht club here in Mooloolaba. Despite bragging about the speed the membership was growing, on a Saturday night the number of patrons, including the two of us, was....2. Is this the Mooloolaba Yacht Club? No, this is the Yacht Club at Mooloolaba. Not 500 meters away the Mooloolaba Yacht Club meets in the local pub. They have a few members but no premises. Neither club has sufficient members to fill a phone box but amalgamation is both inevitable and impossible.

Conversely, Rona has just joined The Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron at Manly, Brisbane. Admittedly it is a wealthy club with a large paid staff, but the most satisfying experience is the attitude of current members to a “newbie’ She has been invited to “New Members Drinks” where she was introduced to the flag officers, their wives and other members. Never once have we been into the bar and not greeted by at least one member joining our table and introducing themselves. Nothing is too much trouble for these volunteers as they promote their club. They are proud of what they have achieved, and it shows.

Compare that to one club I joined where, once I had paid my membership fees and even though I was in the very small minority of members who actually owned a registered sailing boat, far from being welcomed members and even Flag Officers pointedly ignored new members and made it difficult for them to get involved.

So, I think it is worth clubs taking a look at themselves if their membership is dwindling. Do they still exist for the benefit of ALL sailing members, or just a few “Old Guard”. Does a look at the membership show that people who join continue with the club, or is there a concern that first year members are not renewing their membership? What does the club give back to those who are willing to share their time, and boats for the benefit of their fellow members? Are the members of the Committee too busy fighting with each other or rival clubs to focus on why the club was actually formed?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sailing North: Mooloolaba

23rd June 2011
The Wharf Marina, Mooloolaba

Leaving Manly Harbour
We said goodbye to Steve who came by to untie our lines and departed RQYS Manly at 07.00. The weather was perfect as we motored out into the bay. The sea was flat and windless, the engine pushed her along at a steady 6.5 knots towards the top of the bay and the open sea. Dressed in thermals and beanies and cuddling cups of hot coffee life could not be better.
Well actually it could. The depth sounder appears to be stuck on 0.7 regardless of what my local knowledge is telling me, and the log which measures the speed and is found in the same instrument head is reading 0.0 which is blatantly untrue given that Green Island is definitely getting nearer. The standard fix for this is turn it off, and turn it back on again but with no success. To be safe we decided to head out towards Moreton and Tangalooma rather than push our luck with the shallows inside St Helena.

Perhaps it was the witches blessing on this the Winter Solstice but both instruments burst into life after an hour and guided us to Mooloolaba. The sea was so flat that we cooked sausages on the aft rail BBQ for lunch.

We are parked at the Wharf Marina, a marina we have used many times. Unfortunately we are tied up beside a feral yacht but the marina is pretty full. I say unfortunately because it’s hard enough to bring 12 tonnes of yacht with no brakes into a berth without trying to jump off between gas bottles, air conditioners, pots of varnish and all the other worldly goods the owner possesses now lined up along the berth because he can’t find a home for them aboard due to the stolen milk crates, rusted tools, bits of wood and other detritus that serves as his deck space.

We are staying in Mooloolaba until Monday morning when we push through towards Yeppoon. That will be a long trip and we are at little concerned about sailing north at night with the migratory whales. That said our choices are rather limited so it must be done!

Sailing North: The Best Laid Plans

22nd June 2011
Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron

Des-ti-nat-ion     A place to which one is journeying or to which something is being sent.
                                  Websters Dictionary.
                        The place where one wishes to sail, and from where the wind is blowing.
                        Capt’n Willi Cinque

Those of you who read the log of our journey south would know that we spent most of our time bashing into the prevailing South Easter, motoring a considerable part of our journey from Cairns. At times this South Easter was the size of Cyclone Yassi, at times a moderate 15 knts but relentless. Frustrating as it was not to be able to actually use this sailing yacht to sail, we consoled ourselves in the knowledge that going north the same wind which was being so disruptive to our plans would be harnessed to help us.

Imagine if you will then, our pleasure at waking up this morning to a sun hanging high in a bright blue sky. Not a cloud to be seen the morning is crisp and cool, and a gentle North wind is caressing the water with a forecast of increasing to 20 knts during the day. From the North. Where we are going. The one that only blows once a year,in September when we are due to ride it back to Brisbane. Oh, thank you weather gods!

Last night we hosted Steve and Dulcie from the yacht Monique aboard Dreamagic. We first met them in Cairns, then again in Yeppoon. We were rather looking forward to catching up with them in Yeppoon this year when they turned up moored on the same finger as us at RQYS two days ago. Then again, bumping into old friends (or should I say friends of long standing, they are not that old!) in some marina or bay is one of the pleasurable aspects of cruising.

After dining with them in Manly, and a few drinks to discuss the weather back aboard DM, we decided to delay our departure a day, and do WAGS!

Steve and Dulcie and their delightful 8 year old son Killi were our crew as we motored to the start. One thing we hadn’t managed to do is put the reefing lines in so we thought we would pop those in as the main was being hoisted. A simple job, no more than 10 minutes.
Thirty minutes later, and with less than 10 minutes to the start time the sail was half up, the second reef was tied to itself, the boom was parallel to the mast and things were looking decidedly awkward. The wind was gusting 20 knts, the shallow water was looking decidedly too close but in order to keep the boat into the wind that was the direction she had to point.
With 3 minutes to go we had a main up but with the reef lines cascading out of the back of the boom rather than through the clews, and a headsail on the furler was half out.
With 30 seconds to go we had the furler sorted, the reef lines abandoned and the start line in sight. We were 35 seconds late over the start. That deserves a beer, or several.
The sail was brilliant! I am very pleased with Dreamagic at the moment. Maybe the longer courses at RQYS are more suited to her than the short Cairns WAGS courses but her performance has been improving steadily since we got here in February. Dreamagic caught and held a couple of Seawind Cats on what is supposed to be their best point of sailing, the Broad Reach. Round the Hope Banks and beating to windward we said goodbye to our neighbours and caught most of the fleet. At the finish mark we were 5th from over 40 boats including several Farr 40 one designs. A great day sailing.

An early night because we are DEFINATELY leaving tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sailing North: T'was the Night Before Christmas

21st June 2011
Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron

Club House. RQYS
It’s that time of year again. The nights are cold, even in Brisbane. Birds have flown north for the winter and the roads are congested with columns of brand new four wheel drives dragging equally new huge caravans behind and driven by doddery grey nomads slowing the traffic as they go SKIing, or Spending the Kids Inheritance.  Labels on the back proclaim that it is piloted by Fred and Doris who can be reached on UHF Channel 47 should your following vehicle be radio equipped and you wish to anonymously abuse them for travelling at a very safe 45 kph in a 70kph zone.

The marina is also filling with another migratory species, the Cruising Yachtie. These folk, like their land locked counterparts are slowly following the sun, and the whales north. The Cruising Yachtie  has two distinct sub species, both or which are represented at The Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron or RQYS. The first is made up of very smartly dressed middle aged couples who have their boats berthed at the marina or on in the hard stand while hoards of workmen swarm over the boat like cleaner wrasse to a shark, picking off the considerable amount of financial crumbs that float their way. The BOAT, acronym for Bring Out Another Thousand thoroughly enjoys this attention, however the owner can usually be spotted sitting in his Mercedes, mobile phone to ear explaining to his Bank Manager/Wife/ Debt Collection Agency why the 5c wire that fell off the back of the depth sounder has so far cost in excess of $650 to diagnose, and another $780 should see it working.

The other group of Cruising Yachties are not parked in the marina but moored in the bay outside it. This saves the daily mooring fees. Like pensioners who know where to get cheap meals, they know the routine of the Marina Management and swarm into the marina 15 minutes after the Manager has gone home to steal a vacant berth. They use the electricity, water and ablutions, (taking the entire supply of toilet paper back to their boat with them) then disappear back to their bobbing existence before the Marina Office opens again. This sub species is called the Feral Yachtie. How can you spot one? They arrive at the Yacht Club on the first of the month with a $50 note and a clean shirt. At the end of the month they have changed neither.

Tomorrow we are destined to join both groups (and the whales) on our migration north. The boat is ready, and all pigs are fed and ready to fly. Thank you to everyone who replied with messages of Bon Voyage. Very many thanks to those who came down last Sunday for our send off dock party. It was brilliant and great to see so many. To those who are joining the boat on it’s way up the Coast, not long now! And to those who are joining the trip vicariously, think about joining the boat on the way back! Fares are ridiculously cheap, and it truly is a chance that doesn’t come up often.

See you on the water.