Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Happy Eighth Birthday Dreamagic!

The moment I took delivery
It was eight years ago on the 11th November 2008 that I took delivery of Dreamagic. I had driven down to Pittwater  from Cairns with Des Vizzard, to take possession. The plan was to spend a couple of days on her in Pittwater, he would then take my car back to Cairns while I stayed aboard, and he and some other crew would fly down early in the New Year and sail her to Brisbane, and then Cairns.

On first seeing her Des's only comment was :"They will hate you at the Yacht Club"

Jenny and Linda. Provisioning for
4 days Bowen to Townsville
I spent that Christmas on board with friends, watched the start of the Sydney Hobart on the harbour, and the NYE fireworks. The crew of 5 including Matt Regan and Richard Winter joined and we sailed her to Brisbane.

Since then she has sailed the East Coast of Australia several times, crossed the Coral Sea to The Louisiades and back twice and been to Lizard Island twice.  She has competed in a Brisbane to Gladstone, two Airlie Beach Race Weeks,, three Magnetic Island Race Weeks, and two Port Douglas Race Weeks.
Matt working hard at Wags
She has hosted probably a thousand people for parties. When she was in North Queensland originally she was based at Yorkey's Knob. I would spend the morning bringing her around to the inlet to be involved in WAGS and the legend of the Dream Girls was born. Simone, Shauna and Ashley Ayre were the originals and we may not have had the fastest boat, but we certainly had the best looking crew. For years I thought it was my boyish good looks and natural charm that brought the girls back, but I was eventually told that being the only boat in the fleet with a toilet was a big draw card too.

I made great friends back then, and I am still in touch with many.  I was sailing with Simone and her boyfriend Jacob for 10 days this year, and it was a message from Shauna last night that prompted me to wander down Amnesia Lane now
Racing a J24

A lot of people who sailed on her went on to buy their own boats. Vic Black, Jeff Hammond, Kerri Adams, Ashley Burke, John Pool, Louis Schofield, and most recently Andy Barbour got into, or renewed their interest in sailing sufficiently to lay out large lumps of cash and buy boats. I am proud of that.

The lovely Shauna, original
Dreamgirl with friends
And romance was always her strong point. Vic Black and Mindy met on board and are now married. Mick Rigg and the lovely Nicky met in the Louisiades on DM and now have a baby, (they unfortunately, resisted naming him Dreamagic, even as a second name!)

The lovely Simone, with friends
She has had her fair share of excitement. We rode out Cyclone Yasi in Pancake Creek with only the daily VHF transmission from the Coastguard for company and we were eventually rescued by the Coastguard after a microburst hit us on a beautiful sunny day just off Bundaberg, but she came through.

And recently she has taken to taking holidays each year in the Whitsundays, attending the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club Rendezvous.  For the third year running we have taken assorted crew down and back to the Whitsundays. They have been a real cross section of the demographic but united in a love of sailing and a need for adventure.

Dreamagic is leaving Cairns in December to go south to Brisbane. This time I have a reason to stay down there for a couple of years so she will be based at her old club, Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron and sailing in Moreton Bay. Then i hope to bring her back North, en route for the Sail2Indonesia rally in 2019. I have pretty much given up racing now, but WAGS there is good fun so look for sail number 6199 on the horizon!
End of the Brisbane to Gladstone 2009

Most of these stories can be found on this website if you are interested. If you are interested in sailing between mid December and mid January on her trip south, even for only part of it, get in touch.
Sally, Des and Simone, our
land support Louisiades 2009

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Yes, I have Morals. A Moral Dilemma

It’s not easy to be disciplined by the Cairns Yacht Club.  Sexually proposition the wife of the Resort Manager of your biggest Sponsor with racist innuendo? Nope. Start a fight with a member of another yacht club in their bar? Nope.  Start a verbal argument in another Yacht Club during a charity race? Not even close. In the 17 years I have been a member I can only think of one.

AirBnB is a World Wide organisation that arranges for people to stay in private accommodation. Looking on their website there is a variety of homes, boats, caravans and other accommodation to choose from. Dreamagic is a 4 cabin 44 footer with three showers, two heads, refrigeration, TV, stereo, and all the comforts of home. Actually it was my home, and parked at Marlin Marina it made the perfect base for anyone who wanted to enjoy a different lifestyle and the delights of Cairns. I advertised it and over the course of a year had about 8 families stay. The revenue offset some of the cost of ownership of a 44 and I didn’t think I was hurting anyone.

I have always lived by a belief that everyone should be free to do whatever they want, the only provision being that it doesn’t stop someone else doing whatever they want. So, if you want to go sailing without a life jacket on, fine. It’s your life. On the other hand If you want to take a motor cruiser through an anchorage at full bore and let your wash disturb other boats, you can’t. Simple isn’t it? However, there are individuals who don’t agree with this philosophy.  They have tiny lives with no colour or excitement so they live them vicariously through those who don’t live like that. Instead of getting on and enjoying the short time they are here, they seethe with resentment, meddle and try to control or destroy anything someone else is doing. Like sand flies you don’t see them, they are just irritating.

Clearly I was having too good a time and came to the attention of one of these pests. He or she researched my advertisements on AirBnB, and spent a considerable amount of time building a case before sending an anonymous letter of complaint to Ports North, MSQ, Cairns Yacht Club, Father Christmas and probably my Mother if she had still been alive. Ports North got in touch with the Yacht Club, and the Commodore called me for a meeting. Within an hour of the problem being explained to me my boat was moved, and I thought that was an end to the matter. I did have one couple already in transit from the US who were due to spend a couple of nights on the boat so I called Ports North and spoke with their Operations Manager. I explained the situation and asked if I could just fulfil this obligation. He agreed. End of the matter with them.

I also spoke with MSQ because I had been accused of taking people sailing for money. I explained to them that I did do that, on Wednesday Afternoons. I had been doing it for years with the money going into the till of the CYC. They laughed, said it was probably jealousy, just a vexatious complaint and they were fine also.

Alas the Executive Committee of the Cairns Yacht Club decided that the matter was not over and I needed to be “Punished” (their words). I haven’t been ‘Punished’ since I was 15 years old, and that was 6 of the best on my bottom for wagging school. Now in my 60’s. I am not sure that I can “Bend over and touch your toes”, but hey! I will give anything a go!

Punishment initially was just complete inaction. I was asked to return my amenities key so I pointed out that in Australia the sentencing comes after the trial, and as a member for 17 years there needs to be a disciplinary hearing so that at least it looks like fair play had prevailed. Days turned into weeks as I waited for the 6 members of the Executive to come up with something appropriate, and finally, a hearing date was set, coincidentally on the evening of the day I had already said I was leaving to take my boat South.

I wrote a letter to the Executive Committee stating my case. I explained that I didn’t think I had done anything wrong. I paid CYC $500 a month for that berth so they are ahead. I explained that when I rented the berth there was no rental agreement so I hadn’t broken any rules. I explained that Ports North and MSQ had no problem with me so why did they?  I explained that the practice of letting through AirBnB was common and indeed there are other boats doing it right now. And I explained that in the Australian Justice System one has the right to face their accuser, and mine was being shielded by the committee. All to no avail. I had clearly broken the unwritten rule. (That’s the trouble with unwritten rules but I was assured that while they couldn’t actually find it, I had broken it.)

OK, I was obviously going to be found guilty, so I tried clemency. I then explained that I had been a member for 17 years. That in the early days I had provide thousands  of dollars’ worth of copiers, printers, faxes, toner, paper and service technicians free of charge over a 5 year period while I was General Manager at Canon and that could be verified by two life members. I explained that I have always had a boat, and would bring mine around from Yorkeys each Wednesday just to do WAGS. I have taken hundreds of people sailing, and the club has benefited financially from that. I had introduced the current Commodore and a past Treasurer to sailing, both of whom went on to join the club and buy their own boats. In the past year I co-authored and help build the current website the club uses, and on probably a dozen occasions spent Saturday mornings helping junior sailing. Finally, I explained that within an hour of being made aware there was a problem it was resolved.

Alas all for nothing. The case was heard in my absence and sentence handed down. I had been told that “they needed blood on the floor”. All very S&M and the “they” bit was ominous. Unfortunately, I wasn’t available for the corporal punishment they felt I deserved so banishment would have to suffice.

In a ruling worthy of a Turnbull Government I was banned from bringing Dreamagic alongside a Club Berth for SIX months, unless I am picking up and dropping off people who have paid the CYC to sail on a boat that I provide for free. Wow! We don’t want your boat, but we do want the money.
But wait, there was more. Presumably disappointed at being denied the chance to dress up in leather and cane me I was also banned for THREE months from using the amenities. Now that hurt. I am in my sixties. How can I be expected to hang on for three months? I can’t last all night!

I thought that was harsh. Extremely harsh actually. I had been a member a long time. I felt I had made generous contributions to the Club and I felt it unfair. However, this was a democratically elected committee and if that was their decision so be it. Worse things happen at sea.

I sailed Dreamagic down to Townsville, and then to the Whitsundays. (Yes, contrary to what some Cairns sailors believe, a properly constructed yacht, appropriately crewed can leave the leads of the Cairns Inlet and safely return. In my experience “Here be Dragons” north of Double Island and south of Fitzroy is greatly exaggerated.)

In all I spent 11 months away and had a ball. As time went by I started to find my suspension was amusing rather than as hurtful is it was designed to be. It was no great impost. The club had moved a long way from what I consider a successful club should be, so I probably would have left anyway. There is no social sailing, indeed no social activities at all. Just a race once a week up and down the inlet designed to let elderly letchers ogle backpackers and keep the same couple of boats in rum. I joined Townsville Yacht Club and enjoyed their bar, restaurant, social weekends, big fleets, transparent handicapping etc.

Whilst away I met a lot of yachties, including a delightful couple at the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club Rendezvous. Our crew hung with them a while, and we arranged to meet in Cairns when they got there, which was a couple of weeks later.  I invited the skipper home for dinner and during our conversation he mentioned that he had to go south for 4 weeks. Marlin Marina is wickedly expensive, but he didn’t want to leave his boat on anchor. Any suggestions?

Well, I knew there is an unused mooring owned by a committee member beside mine. I know because they were both laid at the same time. I suggested that he ring the owner and see if he could use it. (I also suggested that he not mention my name, because I am about as popular as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip with that committee.)

Clearly he got permission and I helped him move his boat over to the vacant mooring. In the bar afterwards I asked if getting permission had been easy. It seemed it had, and only cost $200 for the 4 weeks.

So here is the moral dilemma. Unlike renting a club berth, to get an MSQ mooring one needs to sign an MSQ agreement, and that agreement clearly states than you cannot sublet. I know from experience that the CYC take breaking rules of this nature very seriously, so if a senior member of the Executive knowingly breaks those rules….what do I do?

 I see four options:

  1. Write anonymously to CYC, MSQ, Ports North, Water Police, Local paper, etc? The problem there is that sneaking around the shadows is not my style and that action would bring me down to the level of the holding tank dweller who did it to me.
  2. Confront the Executive who voted to sanction me while engaging in the same behaviour and accuse him of being a hypocrite as well as a bully? He probably would not understand the irony.
  3. Write to the Executive Committee and ask to have a review of the manifestly harsh penalty handed down to me given it’s a practice endorsed by them. What would I have them do to make amends? The time can’t be got back, and do I really want to be a member of a Club that stoops to that level?
  4. Enjoy my own boat, my own counsel, and leave it all in my wake?

 I think the only thing I have less respect for than being bullied is hypocrisy. I have pretty much made my decision, but I am always open to suggestions.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Orpheus Easter 2016

What are you doing for Easter? Going out Friday, coming back Monday. Same as Jesus.
Orpheus Anchorage. 18 yachts
The Townsville Yacht Club held a Bluewater Race to Orpheus Island which was then followed by a two day party on the Island over the Easter break. Notice of this event was given months before and I did put it the question to everyone, “Do we want to do this, or indeed anything over the holiday?”
 In true Dreamagic tradition I got no reply.  Sarah, a friend of mine from Cairns asked if she could come down with a couple of Easter Orphan friends for a sail. Absolutely! Then Jo, who is part Malaysian and the only Banana allowed on this boat found herself with time on her hands. (Before anyone criticises, Banana is Jo’s description of herself. Yellow on the outside, white inside. I think it’s very clever). Could she come down for a few days? Absolutely! So on the Thursday before Easter Jo drove the 3.5 hours down to arrive about 7 pm. Sarah had to work until 6 so that group were scheduled to arrive about 11pm. Jo and I did some provisioning as all shops would be closed Good Friday, bought copious quantities of wine and returned back to DM to attempt to stow it all. My first lesson that morning was early, my last lesson didn’t finish until late and by the time I had swapped cars, collected Bob, met Jo, shopped, stowed, I was pretty stuffed. It was 10.30 so I suggested I have a quick nap before Sarah got here. Unfortunately there was a disconnect in communication, Jo also went to bed, complete with earplugs and I was woken up at 2.30 am to Bob barking. Climbing out of bed I then heard the not very happy voice of Sarah.  Seems due to another communication breakdown I had neglected to tell Sarah which marina the boat was in. She had gone to TYC, finally got through the security gate, searched all the fingers looking for Dreamagic, and, as only Sarah could, got caught up in a Police siege with armed officers surrounding a yacht and trying to remove a dangerous nutter. Not satisfied with the level of excitement she had then come to Bluewater Marina, and scaled not one but two security fences to search the fingers for Dreamagic. Bob’s barking had located us. I then met Drew and Megan. You know how first impressions are important. Well I though these guys were delightful, fun and would be good travelling companions. Their impression of me as someone who has irresponsibly made them temporarily homeless, at that moment….well best get their stuff on the boat, and everyone bedded down.

Good Friday dawned a beautiful day. We left about 7.30 am, went to the fuel wharf to pick up diesel, and set off in a flat sea to make the 45 nms to Orpheus. Someone was definitely smiling at us. The wind filled and we put our kite up. Sailing with Spinnaker only we reached 7.5 knts and then a spotted mackerel committed suicide on our line. Reeling him in while the boat was still moving was challenging but successful. It seems Drew worked on a trawler and filleted the fish with the precision of a surgeon. Frame and head over the side, one fillet in the freezer, one in small chunks and marinading in lemon juice in record time. This holiday may have had an unfortunate start but sailing does not get better than this.

We made Orpheus at the same time as the leading race yachts. I was hoping to pick up a public mooring but alas, some yachts had obviously come out the day before and bagged those. We anchored in 10 meters of water, initially alone but soon surrounded by the rest of the boats from the TYC fleet. We were rewarded with the spectacle of the last yachts crossing the line with a setting sun behind them. It’s one day past full moon and the rise was equally impressive. The night was spent eating, drinking and telling jokes. The guitar came out and Jo and I took turns in murdering songs as, at least in my case, I found red wine appears to affect both my fingers ability to form chords, and my ability to memorize words.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Should crew be asked to contribute to the cost of sailing?

Boats are expensive toys. They are expensive to buy, and they are expensive to maintain. Just tying Dreamagic to a berth in Cairns is $350 a week, then there is the cost of wear and tear, fuel and damage. This whole cost falls to the boat owner, but should the crew contribute?

 The law says that a private boat cannot be used for charter. In Queensland it falls to Maritime Services Queensland to enforce this, and quite rightly they do. However, I asked them about whether making a contribution to costs is OK, and it is, providing it is reasonable. Insurance is another consideration and Dreamagic is not insured unless being used privately. I called my insurers regarding crew making contributions to cost and they are quite happy with that, under the same provision as MSQ.

So it becomes a moral decision. Some skippers want to shoulder the costs themselves, and that is their prerogative. Whether they feel some nobility in this action, or whether they feel that gives them more control over their crew I don’t know but it is their generous choice.

Some boat owners find the financial burden hard to carry, or feel it is unfair.  I admit I am one of these. I know how much boats cost and have no problem in contributing on the odd times I am a guest on someone else’s boat. I think the last time I did that was at the CYC Ladies Day Race in 2014, I was on an Adams 10 and I think it cost me $25. On DM I charge between $10 and $25 per day depending on what is happening, where we are going, how much fuel we will burn, and what provisions Dreamagic is expected to provide.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with this but some skippers, some crew and some clubs find this offensive. Some crew feel that they should not be asked to contribute either financially or in terms of time to prepare the boat. If your name is Dennis Connor, Jessica Watson or James Spithill I can probably see your point. If it isn’t, then another boat will probably suit you better. Some skippers get quite irate at the thought of someone collecting some money from their crew to use the boat. My view is simple. The boat cost $200,000. The weekly maintenance and parking of it is about $650 a week, so if I get $100 back, so what? Everyone has had a good time, and my crew are not complaining because they know I am still heavily subsidizing their day out. So try as I might, I do not understand the venom spat by other boat owners. Surely we all run our boats as we individually think fit.
And if you are a boat owner and reading this, and you think that some financial help would be handy, make sure you check with your Yacht Club before implementing it. With an attitude that would be the envy of Malcom Turnbull, some Yacht Clubs feel that while they have the right to charge people to sail on your boat. You don’t.  And for some clubs it’s serious. Very serious actually. More serious than say, starting a fight in a resort owned by your biggest sponsor. Even more serious than say, starting a fight in another Yacht Club that is having a Charity event. They are misdemeanours compared to breaking this unspoken law. And the penalty is harsh. Firstly, you will not be allowed to use the club wharf for 6 months UNLESS you are picking up and dropping off people who have paid the club to sail on a boat you have provided for free. That clearly has come straight out of the Liberal Party room, but if that is the punishment, then so be it. Suck it up.

 But wait there is more.

Additionally, you will not be allowed to use the amenities block for 3 months and must surrender your key immediately, (presumably to replace the 8 lost in the past three months). Now you see how serious this transgression is? The most serious penalty that can be handed down bar hanging, (and actually that may have been kinder). You will not be allowed to go to the toilet for three months. Now that is hard to suck up. Its inhumane.  Even the Nazis didn’t think of that.  And I am 62. I don’t think I can still hold it that long.

So, you have been warned.

This script is copyright, all rights reserved. John Cleese is currently considering using it for his sequel to Fawlty Towers.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Life's been good to me so far

Sailing 2016

Some yachtsmen love racing yachts. I used to be one of them but now, getting a crew together and stressing the boat to sail up and down the same courses week after week has lost its appeal. With a small fleet of very different boats the handicapping system is difficult to make equitable which can lead to the same boats winning each time. It’s demoralising for crews on boats not popular with the handicapper, and I would imagine embarrassing for the skipper who wins race after race after race. Then again perhaps not.
 I am however a keen cruising sailor. My idea of a perfect weekend is to sail with good friends, in company of other yachts, find an anchorage for the night and enjoy the ambiance of sundowners with likeminded people. Fire on the beach, great food, red wine, good music and stories that get taller as the shadows get longer. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to find that scene in Cairns, and despite trying quite hard, I could not create it.
At the end of 2015 I relocated Dreamagic to Townsville. A big step, but the sailing scene here is much more socially active, and a change is always good for the soul. I brought the boat down, parked it at the Townsville Yacht Club for January and joined in their activities. I went to the Christmas Party which was excellent. The club provided a terrific meal, the company was welcoming and we had a great night.
In the short time I have been here I have been made very welcome and I have sailed twice on club members boats for their weekly Wednesday Twilight Race. They get a strong fleet for this event and being a long triangle, rather than a repeated reaching course around close buoys, it  is very suited towards bigger boats and crew skill. On both occasions after the race we have repaired to the clubhouse for a meal where most crews have a table booked and share a meal together. This is why I am here and I am feeling at home very quickly. However Dreamagic doesn’t have her own crew.
I do have some friends in Townsville but they are crew on other yachts and it would be unfair to try to get them to jump ship. It’s also very bad form. Skippers put a lot of work into getting a crew to work together and they would view very badly someone who comes and tries to poach them.
So DM needs to find her own. I found an app on the net called Meetup which seemed to do the trick. I advertised on that for people interested in Wednesday afternoon social racing and weekend social sailing. I think it cost about $25 from memory but the response was 37 people who expressed interest in coming along. This is of course far in excess of the compliment of Dreamagic’s crew, but I thought it would be a good base.
I have advertised a few times recently for crew for various trips I have been organising. It is always interesting to see who makes an inquiry. In this advert I had made it clear that I wasn’t really interested in people who just though it might be nice to come out for a free ride around the bay on a sunny afternoon if nothing else appealed more.  What I was looking for was a group of people who would join the boat and get involved. Sail regularly, learn to sail, and learn to work together to improve the performance of the boat.
Doing what Dreamagic does. NB the couple at the back
The advert showed pictures of Dreamagic engaged in the sort of thing I was trying to recreate, and all of the requirement points in the preceding paragraph were included. Meetup allows you to ask would be participants a few questions so when it came to trying to pare down the 37, the first cull was to discard anyone who couldn’t be bothered to answer them. That could sound a little heartless, but I have to use some basis and my rationale was that if someone wanted to come sailing but could not be bothered to get into dialogue with me, they would be pretty tough people to go sailing with.
The next cull was anyone who could not be bothered to complete their Meetup profile. Along the same lines of thought. I am looking for a crew who I am going to lend my boat to, spend my free time with, and work with to teach them to sail. If you want me to do that, but you don’t want to tell me who you are, alarm bells are ringing.
I got down to about 10 and  invited them all to come down to the boat on January 2nd so that we could meet each other and make some plans.  Townsville Yacht Club had a Social Sailing Day planned for Australia Day on Tuesday the 26th January at Magnetic Island. My, (in hindsight probably quite ambitious plan) was to take Dreamagic out for the 4 days of that weekend, and crew could join and leave by ferry if they couldn’t make the entire trip. Alas, as often happens from an initial resounding “Yes! I am in”,  one by one they fell off the boat until only one crew and I remained and I had to cancel. 
I eventually imported my great friend  Andy Barbour, who has sailed Dreamagic out of Cairns for about 4 years and with his 4 year old son we took Dreamagic away for the weekend. We had an absolute ball. TYC certainly know how to throw a party. Magnetic Island, with 23 individual bays just lends herself to exactly the sort of life I am pursuing. The club used their crash boat to transfer a BBQ and tent to Florence Bay and we enjoyed doing the sort of things yachties do when they assemble en mass and anchor is a beautiful protected bay with a reef and a beach.  Dreamagic played host to a crews from a couple of other yachts and I realised that relocating to Townsville was a good move.
However, I still didn’t  have crew for DM. Much as I am sure he would enjoy it I can hardly keep importing Andy from Cairns, and everyone I have met are either busy, or committed to other boats.
A chance enquiry via the meetup site from Mary Anne fixed that. She and her husband had recently moved to Townsville, had sailed before, and were looking to get some sailing experience. Amongst the 37 original inquirers I had fielded an inquiry from  another woman who had told me she and her husband were keen to join the boat, but somewhere they fell by the wayside. I suggested that Mary Anne get on this website and make sure that she wants to do what I am trying to achieve, and also find the boat on Facebook. She followed through, nothing she read evidently turned her off so I suggested she and her husband come down to the boat.
What a great couple! Mary Anne and Louis came aboard armed with wine, (which on Dreamagic is the passport to success) We sat into the evening talking about everything and anything until late and made plans for a Wednesday night sail. Louis was travelling the following Wednesday but Wednesday week was locked in, and for good measure we planned the following weekend as well.
Komang. Bob the rescue dog on rescue duty
I invited what was left of the original crew to join, but commitments prevented that so I thought it would be the three of us until Komang, a Balinese National asked if she could join. She explained that she was female and was that a problem, she had never been on a yacht before and was that a problem, and she was nervous. Sound perfect to me, welcome aboard!
And then Joey got in touch. A guy with a lot of boating experience but none sailing he was keen to learn and sounded like a great asset to the boat.  We all met at 5pm on Wednesday at the marina, made quick introductions and hastily departed to get to the start line. On board I had two who had never sailed, and two who had a little experience. I also had the Townsville Yacht Club fleet of about 25 boats out there and I was keen not to look too stupid on our maiden voyage. My plan was to get the sails up, explain how it all works, then teach my new crew Basic Sailing 101 while keeping out of the way of the fleet, using it to pace us and give us some company.

The wind started kindly at about 10 -12 knts but quickly dropped out. We sailed for about an hour before retiring and coming back to our dock. I was so pleased with the way this had all worked out. We had a ball. The atmosphere on DM was great, the sailing was good, the company was excellent, so much so that we are all off to Magnetic Island for sail training and lunch on Sunday.

Meanwhile, like an old war horse I have smelled blood.

And these Wednesday races looks achievable