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!