Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sailing Season 2106

Fire on the Beach: Turtle Bay 2105
In 2015 I took a new direction and advertised for crew to join the boat during a two month cruise. The very loose itinerary was to take two weeks to sail to the Whitsundays, spend 4 weeks there and then take two weeks to get back. We left mid July, got to Hamilton Island by the end of July, watched the races at Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island Race weeks, and then took a leisurely cruise home, arriving mid September.

Taking people I had never met was always a gamble but we had a ball. People joined and left the boat at different times. We kept the costs to $50 per day including food, marina berths and fuel, we saw whales,dolphins, turtles, manta rays. We caught and ate fish, anchored in some beautiful bays, had camp fires on the beach. We ate out rarely, enjoyed great nights at anchor, even played guitars. Thank you Simon, Gabriel, Ryan and Natasha, Grant and Fran, Joost and Karin, Shane and Darrell for your company.

I propose to do it again this year, but with some variation.The draft timetable is as follows:

July 23rd Arrive Townsville
July 24th Depart Townsville
August 6th Arrive Airlie Beach
August 7th Depart Airlie Beach
August 24th Arrive Airlie Beach
August 25th Depart Airlie Beach
August 29th Arrive Magnetic Island
September 1st Racing. Compete Magnetic Island Race Week
September 7th Racing. Finish MIRW
September 9th Arrive Townsville

So this year we are competing in the cruising division of Magentic Island Race Week. If you have never been to a race week, see Dreamagic here. For info about the week try here

Places where crew can join or leave the boat are Cairns, Townsville, and Airlie Beach. You can join at Magnetic Island too, get to Townsville and catch the ferry across. While the boat is in the Whitsundays it is a simple matter to drop or collect people from Airlie or drop them at Hamilton Island at dates other than those above.

Costs will be about the same as 2015, except during Race Week when they will increase to $80 a day to cover race fees, insurance etc. Minimum duration to be on the boat is a week. Any less and you won't get the experience. Getting people on and off the boat usually takes up a day.

As I say, this timetable is very fluid at this point. If you are interested in joining the boat at all, register your interest and we can work up a plan once I know who is on board.

If you are interested, or have any questions, just write to me at this link

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Whitsundays 2015: Preparation

The plans for Dreamagic’s 2015 sailing calendar went a bit haywire early in the year and I found myself with the time, the inclination, but not the crew or the destination. Destination was an easy one, Cairns - Whitsundays- Cairns over a 2 month period. July August September would take in the three race weeks, Airlie, Hamilton and Magnetic Island, and the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club rendezvous. It would also take in my birthday.

Crew was a bigger problem. I can appreciate that not everyone can or wants to go for an 8 week sailing holiday so I chopped it into manageable chunks. Embarking / Disembarking points would be Cairns, Townsville, Hamilton Island, because that is where the airports are. So the adventure started to take shape. Leave mid July, 2 weeks to get to Hamilton Island, 4 weeks in the Whitsundays, 2 weeks to get back. Enthusiastic to make this happen, I floated the idea of joining the boat among my friends, starting with close ones and working outwards. However, whether they thought it would not happen, or didn't realise what was on offer, I didn't get far. Although I had a few nibbles, no one was biting my hand off to get on the boat.

I appreciate not everyone has my love of sailing, anchoring off deserted islands, fires on the beach, sundowners with fellow travelling yachts, listening to music, swapping stories, strumming guitars and sharing good food and wine. I don’t understand why they don’t, but it does take all sorts to make the world and if everyone wanted that lifestyle, there would be thousands of yachts out here.

Someone mentioned Gumtree, a free-ish online classified ad service. I put an advert on there, which was free, and bumped it up to keep it on the front page for a couple of weeks, which one pays for. I was very pleased with the responses and the next job was to try to sort them out and get a crew together.

Obviously I had never met any of these people and in hindsight it was going to be pretty amazing if the selection process produced 8 people who, not knowing each other could then live harmoniously for various parts of 8 weeks. Imagine putting a selection of people in a 44 foot container, locking the doors so they can’t get out, shake well for weeks and see who is talking to each other when you open the doors. With 6 people on the boat at a time, there are 36 individual relationships to manage. If just one breaks down the boat is a small place to be. Fortunately I didn't ponder this question at the time, just set about paring down the list of people who showed interest to a manageable level.

The criteria I set was not sailing ability, although that would be helpful, and it was neither age nor gender based. I just wanted to go and have a good time with easy to get along with people who had a positive attitude, didn't baulk at the first sign of adversity, and had a willingness to pitch in and sail the boat. The idea in my mind was to go sailing with friends, albeit new friends, rather than have a more formal skipper and crew arrangement, or worse still skipper and fare paying passengers with high service expectations.

With this in mind I wrote to everyone and explained my idea, directed them to this web page, my facebook page, that of Dreamagic’s, and of course Dreamagic Bob’s. In return I asked for their Facebook pages, and that they drop me a line with who they were and what they were hoping to achieve. The results were interesting.

I had a number of people who were trying to run. Run away from something or towards something is possibly a question they need to ask themselves but they were dissatisfied with their life and wanted to change it, and the popular view of sailing is that it's the perfect vehicle to do that. Listen to Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney often enough (I just realised as I write this I am anchored off Fitzroy Island and JB is playing in the background,) and you can believe that the sailing life is all wine, women, songs and sailing. It can be, but the cleaning fairies and the maintenance gnomes don't always come each day to make it as easy as that.

It great source of information was Facebook. (I knew there had to be some use for that.) Looking on someone’s Facebook gives you a fair idea of who they are, what they like, what their values are.  It's possible to form an opinion of whether they are outdoor sorts of people, if they are particularly political and if so what those beliefs are, if they are strongly religious, or someone who’s idea of a good time is to be wasted somewhere at 3.00 am, or curling up with a book at 8.00 pm.  In the absence of any other reference material I used a combination of their emails to me and Facebook to make the first cut.

To wander off the track a little here, some people reading this may think I am being discriminatory against overly political or overly religious people or people who I don't consider are like me. You are right, I am. I am against overly anything, except an appreciation of Jimmy Buffett. In my defense, I don't actually care what people believe, I know people who think there are spaceships behind the moon who are waiting to rescue them when the big bang happens, and another who believe they can hear voices that instructs them to tell others, for a modest fee, how to run their lives. They are nice people who just have different views to me, but I am not trying to organise a life changing experience for anyone, I am not running a business, I am not organising a support group. I am just going on holiday and trying to find people I would like to go with. Undoubtedly what our present Government is doing is either wonderful, or criminal depending on your persuasion. I don’t care, and moreover I don't want to discuss it. Evangelical anything tires me at my stage of life. here endeth the sermon.

OK, I am back, and clearly you are still here. That’s great. Having whittled down the list and culled those who had watched Pirates of the Caribbean once to often, women who were more curious at my relationship and financial status, (both….complicated), people getting over major upsets and disappointments in their lives that sailing could fix etc, I sent emails out to confirm dates and times. I also asked for a small contribution to the overall costs to be transferred to my account to pay for provisioning, fuel etc. This last request was really more to get commitment. It's wasn't a lot, we don’t know each other and I feel uncomfortable asking someone I have never met for this, but I can’t put t together if I have a couple of dreamers along for the planning ride, who enjoy getting involved, and telling everyone what they are doing, and then at the last minute change their mind. (It happened, with one girl telling me a week before we left she could not commit until the day before we pushed off whether she was coming as she may have to help her aunty move some boxes. She may not be in a position to make a decision, fortunately I can.)

Finally, crew organised, flights start getting booked, and I tried to get everyone involved at the outset in the planning. One way of doing this was to think of the provisioning. I asked everyone to come back with some recipes for what they would like to cook and I would make sure that those ingredients were on board. For the Cairns out leg I had 4 crew, which meant 8 people, who were meeting the boat along the way, would start the adventure with us vicariously. I felt it important to keep these guys engaged so that they didn't fly in like rock stars and expect it to happen, especially as our mobile phone coverage down the coast is not that good, regardless of what the telcos will tell you.

Our departure date was set for July 18th. Two weeks before, armed with the recipes and what aaI knew had to be put on the boat I went shopping for the non perishables. I also embarked on the myriad of jobs that needed to be done to make an 8 week sailing trip feasible. The engine and gearbox were serviced, all the ships batteries were replaced, a wind generator and solar panel were fitted among other tasks. Every  time something was ticked off the list, two more found their way on. It's a daunting task but fortunately I have done this a number of times before, including twice when going to the Louisiades where there is no help and support available. At least we are only coastal hopping. The key is to appreciate that the boat will NEVER be ready, and to keep uppermost in your mind a line from the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. “Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end”.

In the final two days the perishable provisions were stowed on board. Meat had been deep frozen in friends freezers and then put into Dreamagic’s. The day before we left the ham, bacon and smoked goods that I had previously ordered were collected, bread was bought, the local bottle shop was visited, the water tanks were topped off and, except for fuel, the boat was ready. Now I just need crew.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Whitsundays 2015: Finding the Crew

In my last post I mentioned that I planned to take Dreamagic south for a couple of months. Since then I have been busy getting a crew together to make that plan a reality.

The itinerary is to leave Cairns on the 18th July, and take until the 30th of July to get to Hamilton Island. Then sail around the Whitsundays for a month before making our way back to Cairns for mid September. One of the problems encountered early in the planning is where crew can embark and disembark. After Cairns, there is Townsville, perhaps Bowen, and then Hamilton Island or Airlie Beach. I know from experience it is much easier to move crew to the boat rather than the boat to the crew, so this became the skeleton for the trip.

I posted my plan on Facebook and also used word of mouth to see who amongst my friends were interested in coming along. Whitsunday Sailing at $50 per day for the boat, accommodation, food, fuel, marina fees, in fact everything except grog, I thought it was a good deal. My plan was a slow trip down, stopping at the islands outside the charter boat cruising grounds. Sundowners and fires on the beaches, swimming, snorkeling, reading, listening to music, playing guitar, (which is not the same thing if I am involved), swapping stories, meeting other adventurers living the same life. Somewhere fit in watching the Airlie Beach, Hamilton Island, and Magnetic Island regattas, and drop in on the SICYC Rendezvous as well. Alas, although a few people showed initial interest, either timing was poor or it didn't seem sufficiently exciting to attract a crew.

Next step was Gumtree. I put an advert on that for people interested in joining for all or part of the trip and got several replies. I had no preconceived ideas of who would be interested but I assumed backpackers would make up the majority. I was very wrong. I had multi national company executives, business owners, a farming couple and a couple of experienced cruisers. I had inquiries from New Zealand and even the USA wanting to join. Of course I also got a lot of inquiries from dreamers who had watched Pirates of the Caribbean once too often, or who who were looking for more than was being offered. I replied to all, and as an initial selection criteria gave them the Website and Facebook addresses to look at Dreamagic, and me, make a decision and come back if they were still interested.

Interestingly, the younger demographic were very keen initially and writing to me constantly with questions, queries etc, but then as the departure dates got closer the calls got fewer until they finally disappeared off the radar. I suppose there are always some people who want to keep their options open, and I suppose there are some who are full of intention but lack the courage or whatever to make that first step. The “I would like to but...” brigade. However it is difficult from a skippers point of view to commit a berth to someone if they can’t commit to the boat.

I was at a loss as to how to be able to select who was coming and who I had to turn away.  The most important qualification to get on board is not an ability to sail, but an ability to get along with everyone else. If there are 5 people on board then there are 25 relationships going on. Only one needs to break down for there to be problems aboard, and a yacht is a very small place to be. Like locking 5 people in a 40 foot container for a couple of weeks. Shake well, and see who is still talking to each other when you open the doors.

I found an unlikely ally in Facebook. I know all recruiters already know this but looking up someone's Facebook page gives you a good idea of what sort of person they are. What they share indicates what they are passionate about, what they post shows what is important to them. Its not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

Taking into account people's preferences for where to get on and off, I made the offers and assembled the crew. And I think Dreamagic has a great crew lined up!  I have at least two people for each part of the journey, as many as four for some. and we even have a professional chef! Some people are doing one leg, some are staying on for two. The pick up and drop off dates are finalised, commitments are now made, travel plans are in place, first leg crew are flying in on the 17th by which time the boat will be provisioned and fuelled. We will push off on the 18th, first stop will probably be Fitzroy Island, then wherever the whim takes us. 
More as the trip progresses.

Monday, June 1, 2015

New Horizons

SICYC Rendezvous. The picture is theirs
Hi Blog, it’s been a while.

Dreamagic’s plans are still in place but with some modifications. Changes in circumstances means I don’t have a crew for the trip north, so rather than turn left I am going to turn right, but more of that later.

If you follow Dreamagic on Facebook you will know that we did do Clipper Cup, or to give it the correct name “The Mickey Ink Port Douglas Race Week”. In fact we got back yesterday. A bit of damage, we broke a staunchion and snapped a steering cable, but out of 6 races we got over the line in second place 5 times. On handicap we got 2 firsts, and third overall in our division. This is great, but no where near as great as the fun we had up there. 2 of my oldest friends, Chris and Mark, flew in as crew. I say oldest carefully. Old in that I have known them 30 years, not old in that they are decrepit. Then again.

We also had a new chum who is about our age and is new to this life. Ian has bought a yacht but hasn't actually sailed on one. (Doesn't everyone do that? Read Becoming Permanent Crew. link above.) Our local sail maker suggested Ian make himself known to me and I would teach him all I know. That took about 45 minutes but he is such an easy guy to get along with that generally either he sailing on my boat or I am sailing on his.

To wander off the track a bit here, if you do have a passion that consumes you, like sailing does to me, then it would be worth taking the time to share that passion with other people if they are keen. I was lucky enough to do that with Ashley, and now with Ian. It’s obviously great for them, but that is returned 10 fold when you get to enjoy the experiences you know so well through their eyes.

Back to Clipper. As you can imagine, if the crew consisted of just the four of us it would have been a pretty tame week. Born To Be Mild, cocoa at 8 after the races and before an early night. So to balance the crew, and add the glamour we invited Penny, Lauren and Emily.

What happens on Race Weeks stays on Race Weeks so we can’t talk about the days, or the nights. However it was great, we had a ball, we did well, and that’s why we went.

So what is next? On the 18th July I am taking Dreamagic in company with Ian’s yacht Green Nomad, to the Whitsundays for a couple of months. I have an advert for crew on Gumtree which is bringing in results. We expect to have the boats there by the end of the month. Then I am going to float around for a while, watch the Airlie and Hamilton Island Race Weeks, before setting off on the return trip. I have an advert on Gumtree for crew for that too. I am going to go to the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club for their Rendezvous, (http://www.sicyc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=37&Itemid=205) and set off north straight after that. I MAY do Magnetic Island Race week, depending on who the crew and what the consensus is, but both trips I am thinking slow cruising, take in Hinchenbrook and the Islands, fires and Sundowners each night. I can think of worse things to do.

If anyone is interested in joining in any of this, see 2015 Looking for Crew.

Capt'n W