Brisbane to Gladstone 2009

Excerpts from a Captains Log:

Race day Minus 5

To those readers who followed our journey from Sydney here, welcome back. The readership has grown somewhat, and your comments, always appreciated has prompted me to start the Captains Log series again. For newcomers, the Captains Log is a sporadic publication of what is happening as Dreamagic makes her way up the coast. You are welcome to join in, literally, or enjoy the journey from the comfort of your PC. The distribution list is the one I used for the trip from Sydney, plus some additions, (including the crew from that trip who never read what I wrote about them). If you don’t want to be on it, please let me know, if you have any comments, advice, words of encouragement, please keep in touch.

Since being here a fair bit of work has been done on Dreamagic, and an awful lot of money has been spent. She now has an HF radio , which at $3500 secondhand is an absolute bargain, or so I am told. I had to do a one day course to be licensed to use it, but now it sits resplendent at the nav table and I am able to speak to anyone, even the space shuttle if I want. I can’t speak to the start boat which I can see if I go on deck, and calling Coast Radio Gladstone and Coast Radio Sydney didn’t produce the desired results even though they monitor 24 hours a day. However New Zealand answered which was nice of them , and eventually VMR Manly did too. However, given they are at the end of the jetty Dreamagic is moored on that isn’t really a terrific result. In fact they may have just heard me calling into the microphone.

We also have an 8 man liferaft sitting on the deck. These things are hugely expensive, but in the event that the boat starts to sink all you do is throw it over the side, pull a rope and it explodes into a capsule that will keep us all safe until help arrives. Seems simple enough but a couple of things do bother me. Firstly it takes three people to actually lift it let alone “throw it over the side”. Additionally, it is Chinese made and the label states “Store in a cool dry place”.

And Dreamagic now has a spinnaker, or as us yachties call it, a kite. For anyone going to the start I have enclosed an image of it so that you can spot us at the start. Another way to find us is to look at the back of the fleet.

The tension is starting to build as G Day gets closer. Dreamagic is certainly entering into the spirit of the moment. At 2.15 am on Wednesday an alarm went off which I had not heard before. Thinking I was sinking or about to blow up, I jumped out of bed to investigate. The good news was that no water was gushing in, no smoke was apparent, and the gas was off. The bad news was that despite turning everything off, the alarm continued until, dressed in my tropical sleepwear (naked) I had to pull the shore power out of the mooring. Having not fixed the problem I had a fitful nights sleep, which wasn’t helped the next morning when my neighbours mentioned that they too had heard the alarm and got up. I just hope they had not seen my moonlight streak. Being the nice people that they are, if they did they didn’t mention it.

I called Bavaria who after extensive research came back with the answer, “we have no idea what it is”. Bloody Germans. Disconnecting the alarm fixed the noise, but not the problem. Well that’s a chore for tomorrow.

Willi Cinque

Race Day Minus 4

Matt, the first of our Rock Stars arrived yesterday. Rock Star is a yachtie term of a guy who is (in this case unpaid) crew for glamorous races. They jet in with their designer sailing gear, zinc on their nose, and special $3000 sailing sunnies, jump on your fully prepared race boat, sail it to glory over the line, and then leave for the next adventure while the owner clears up and pays the bills. Rock Stars are about as faithful to the boat as a dockyard cat, but they do allow old farts who can’t sail the chance to bask in some lime light. As an indication of our sailing prowess, Dreamagic has three Rock Stars out of a ships compliment of seven.

Actually I am doing Matt a great disservice. He has flown in from Cairns to give us a hand though, which is very generous both in time and cost. I picked him up at the airport and went back to the boat where, to find the cause of the errant alarm mentioned yesterday, we immediately pulled all the wiring out of the charging circuits, the smart alternator, the extremely smart regulator which can charge up to 27 batteries simultaneously, and the downright gifted battery charger which automatically senses whatever an individual battery needs and bestows gentle massaging to the affected area.

Now of course these units are not sitting on the saloon table but are tucked under floorboards, in cupboards and in the engine bay. In the case of the alternator this means taking the bottom stairs out, and lifting the top stairs on a hinge to get access. As the day wore on and frustrations rose, the inside of the boat was getting hotter. Being Feral Yachties in training, (arrive at a yacht club on the first of the month with a clean shirt and a $50 note, by the end of the month we haven’t changed either) it made sense to work in just shorts to preserve what little clothing we have for the afterparty.

It was unfortunate timing that whilst I was lying in a pool of sweat on the cabin floor, head down a hole in the floorboards and arse in the air, and whilst Matt was trying to trace a particularly illusive wire which started where we wanted it but disappeared with many others in the general direction of the aforementioned hole in the floor, Steve, my neighbour came aboard. From his vantage point, above us on the deck, and with the lifted stairs obscuring some of his view, all he could see was two naked men sweating on the floor together.

After hastily composing ourselves and introducing them I think I managed to settle the confusion, although later in the afternoon when I asked to borrow a clamp he wanted to know the size of my nipples, and at dinner last night Steve sat particularly close to his wife.

The good news is that we did trace, and rectify the fault that caused the alarm to sound. Absolutely sure it was in the charging system, I was not surprised when, whilst looking at the alternator, I found a float switch in the bilge beneath the engine which was in the UP position. Switching it to the DOWN position and the noise stopped.

All we have to do now is put all this wiring back together.

Where did this white one go again?

Willi Cinque
Race Day Minus 3

Monday night we had dinner on Dreamagic and invited our long suffering neighbours, Steve and Amanda.  Linda, an old friend from Cairns but now living in Brisbane also dropped by to see how things were going. Impromptu parties often happen in Marinas and another nearby yachtie, Don joined us, bringing with him a 4 foot eel he had just pulled out of the harbour. Does anyone know how to cook it?
Personally I never see anything as food that is looking at me the same way, and this monster of the deep was certainly giving everyone a malevolent stare as we discussed, from a distance, the relative methods we had heard of dispatching him.
This morning dawned grey and windy which does not forebode well for our adventure. I really want this storm to hit and go but it seems to be hanging here. Maybe it’s waiting for the 11.00am gun on Good Friday.
Matt and I spent the day spending money on more bits for the boat, including a new anchor, and then the afternoon sorting out the course we intend to sail.
Besides the paper charts which we must have, we also have a boat GPS integrated into our boat instruments, we have a GPS attached to this PC which allows us to access world charts, and a back up hand held GPS just in case. Matt has also brought a state of the art GPS which tells him the best time to fish (?) where we are, where we think we are, where we think we are going, and where we will probably end up.

Additional to all this beeping out of the boat, we have two mobile phones, and an EPIRB which if activated brings helicopters, destroyers and sea patrol to our aid. We will also have a tracker which race control will give us tomorrow. This beeps where we are to their website at so that the whole world can see that we are last. Include the HF radio which sends a shock up the arm of anyone holding the backstay during transmit and the effects of the lifejackets we wear are negated by the lead aprons the crew needs to wear to protect them against radiation. Still, in the event of Man Over Board at night, (the worst thing that can happen) at least we should be able to locate them. They will be glowing in the dark.

Last night we ate at the venue we have chosen for our farewell dinner on Thursday. Good friends LeAnne and Tricia joined Matt and I as we made our way through their goat curry, lamb vindaloo and chicken madras, each accompanied with a special bottle of Vino Gusto Verdelho. ($4, First Choice liquor barn)  As we left and I said goodbye to mine host I realized that, just as I am apprehensive about the race on Friday, he feels the same way about our dinner the night before.

It’s a small world.

Willi Cinque

Race Day Minus 2

The rest of our Rockstars arrived today. Matt and I collected Simon and David from the airport. I have known Simon for about 15 years. He is now mid 30’s, blond, charismatic, erudite, amusing, good sailor, living with Miss Commonwealth Bank who won some award for hard nosed businesswoman of the century and earns about a $1m a year. Christ I hate him! Seriously he is a very handy guy to have around the boat, which is why he is here.

I had never met David before but you could pick these guys as yachties out of the crowd at the airport. Perhaps it was because they had the Stewardesses carrying their sea bags.

Back to the boat where we tidied up and made ready for sea, then a quick motor over to Royal Queensland for fuel. Now you would think that putting fuel in a boat would be easy but not at RQ. Having successfully negotiated backing Dreamagic into the fuel wharf and getting her secure, I went to the pump, which is fully automatic.
Insert Credit card. Check
Withdraw. Check
Select pump. Number 1
Is my boat a recreational craft? Yes
Registration Number. Now Dreamagic is registered in NSW and I had a feeling that Queensland boats would be cheaper. Being a feral yachtie and trying to save a few bucks I looked around for a boat with a Queensland Rego. 20685QC was parked on the next pen. I entered that number.
Invalid. Start again.
I tried this twice more with the same result and finally decided the machine was onto me and I should come clean.
Is the boat a recreational craft. No
Enter your Credit Card PIN. Check
By now the crew are all gathered around me as I wrestle with technology of a smartarsed ATM. It sat there for a while, deciding should I give him what he wants or no. It decided NO. Credit Card Declined. What!!
Looking at the slip of paper that it disgorged, it seems that my card could not handle the $9,999,999 pre authorization that it wanted. I knew RQ members were a wealthy lot but..
Simon and I went to the office where we were told that we could pay for fuel there and they would give us a card the machine would like. Great! $120 please.
Phone number
Email address
Boat name
Boat rego….
Why they need all this is beyond me, but the woman faithfully recorded it all. When we got to the boat rego I was stumped as I have no idea. Rather than walk the 200 meters back to the boat I used the one I had tried unsuccessfully before. 20685QC
“That’s a commercial vessel so you have to pay a higher price”. Of course I do. She gave me the card and we filled the boat. Whilst watching my hard earned dollars pour into the back of a sailing boat I glanced over at 20685QC. It is the start boat for the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron. The receptionists boat.

Caroline joined us as the token totty this afternoons race. (Her words) and Alan Glanville came down too. The handicapper, who has rather adopted us as we attempt to at least get up with the leaders gave us a fantastic start time. As she rather pointedly observed, had we started on time last week rather than 8 minutes late, we would have won. If we can get to the start line any time today, with this handicap we will definitely win. She knew this was our last attempt and was fixing the race!

Now is the time for the Rockstars to show their stuff. Out we went and the sails hoisted beautifully. Dreamagic caught the breeze and positively flew across the bay. Tack, tack, gybe, gybe, tack, up to the line, full power, over the line within 2 seconds of our time and away. Fleet ahead is getting nearer, fleet behind is getting smaller. THIS is what it’s all about! First mark, harden up. (No comments here please) and I am actually starting to feel guilty about our start time. The crew is working well, second mark, boat humming, bang!

We have torn the tack, that is the bottom bit, out of our headsail. It’s a very new sail, made by Michael Lee of Lee sails for his own boat, and the stitching has let go. We pull out of the race, head to wind, furl the sail and head back to port to find a sailmaker who can fix this by tomorrow night. No one can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as well as we do.

Last night was the skippers briefing at Sandgate so the four of us went to listen to their words of gloom and doom. The good news is that there is little chance of a cyclone. Even more gear has to be loaded onto Dreamagic, including a tracker which tells their website where we are. That is at although I don’t think it will be working before Friday. We got our handicap, which is ridiculous, (They think Wild Oats is a slower boat than us) had dinner in China town, and a few wind down beers at the salubrious Manly Hotel before retiring.

Thursday is learn to sail the boat day so another exciting time guaranteed. See you tomorrow

Willi Cinque

Race Day Minus 1

The Brisbane crew joined the boat so we now have a full  compliment, plus Linda who offered to act as beer bitch for the shakedown cruise. To clarify, beer bitch is not a derogatory term in sailing but an honoured position on the crew. Thank you Linda for your contribution.

We motored out into a very grey day and sailed up and down for a bit to get used to the boat. We had bust our #2 headsail the day before so got our #1 out. When I bought the boat I was told it was in poor shape but I had never actually seen it. The rockstars earned their keep we soon had the boat humming. The #1 turned out to be a terrific sail and we decided to keep it on the furler. Pity I didn’t know about that when while we were attempting the WAGS!

Eventually I could stall no further and the spinnaker had to be flown. Some people love spinnakers, usually spinnaker flyers who are on other peoples boats. I hate them, bloody vicious things. Sir Francis Chichester described a kite as an experience not unlike having a tom cat by one ear, one leg and the tail, and then wondering why it turns around and scratches you.

Anyway, with his natural exuberance for anything sailing that may kill or seriously maim you, Simon unpacked this thing and we sat on the front trying to work out how to actually get it up and open without sinking the boat. We ran the lines out, tweaked the tweakers, kicked the kicker, uphauled the uphaul, downhauled the downhaul, socked the sock and shit on the sheets. Or something like that. Finally when Simon had this plan firmly in his head, and I had no idea what was going to happen we hauled the sock up the mast and pulled the release halyard.

It is a seriously beautiful kite and was obviously keen to impress us with it’s ability. Dreamagic surged ahead and most of us stood riveted to the spot just watching. Fortunately not all and David and Simon managed to keep it under control until we were running out of water and had to get it down.

In hindsight, we should probably have discussed this before we put it up. It loved being there and really didn’t want to go back into it’s bag but we finally persuaded it to calm down. Maybe Simon offered it a saucer of milk.

Thursday night we had a farewell dinner at the local restaurant for wives and sweethearts. Interestingly some of the guys actually brought their own wives which is novel for yacht crews and the evening progressed into the night back aboard Dreamagic.

Thanks to everyone who came to that, and my humble to apologies to anyone I may have offended. I cannot actually remember going to bed, but I must have. Again, my unreserved apology, except the guy on the boat behind who came to complain about the noise and announced that “I have to work tomorrow’ Good Friday? Get a life! However he did wonders at building a team spirit for Dreamagic. They all wanted to kill him!

Race Day

Now this is what we have been planning for, working towards for 3 months. We are a highly efficient, well tuned crew who are going to brave the high seas to bring glory to our ship and treasure for ourselves.

The day dawned grey and windless. Our long suffering neighbours Steve and Amanda came down to say goodbye, probably to make sure we would actually go. LeAnne drove down to say goodbye too. S and A, it has been a pleasure living next door to you. Thanks for putting up with my nocturnal habits, and remember that what happens in the marina stays in the marina. LeAnne, thanks for coming down that early am.  Very appreciated.

We motored out, managing to miss the sandbar behind us and motored across the bay for our start in four hours.I don’t know what the others were thinking. Some had never been in ocean before, some were very experienced sailors. Some would be excited, some nervous. Some would be wondering what would happen when darkness fell, or in the case of Chris and Mark, whether love would blossom as they shared a cabin together. At least one was wondering whether we could get this boat to the after party before the faster yachts had drank the grog and stolen the single women.

I do know I was thinking. I just wanted the boat home safe and with no injuries. This was my idea, hatched in a bar and at a dinner party. Now we are out to sea. These are my best friends, and I don’t want to be responsible for anyone getting hurt, or worse.

The wind was nil, but started to fill about 20 minutes before the 11 am gun. By 10.50 it was blowing about 15 knts and it would obviously be a spinnaker start. That’s great for spectators but not for us. There is a good reason yacht races are not normally started downwind. It’s dangerous. All the boats are going downwind with kites up, you can’t stop, you can’t turn, you can’t slow down. It’s Ok for Blackjack. It’s not their boat and they have literally millions of dollars to keep the boat racing. I am the only one out here racing my home, so the start tactics were simple. Stay the hell away from the start! We stayed up high and as the gun went we crossed near the back but still high so realistically mid fleet. Kite up and pumping we were gaining on a few boats so it was a good feeling on board until the wind fell off completely and we were all stranded in the bay making about 3 knts forward.

We arrived at the first mark to find a mass of boats log jammed literally. It is an offence to hinder a boat, and it’s a bigger offence for boats to touch. The penalty for a rule infringement is to turn your boat through 720 degrees. This is supposed to be done so that it doesn’t affect anyone else but one complete arse decided to do his at the mark. Dancing lady hit him mid turn, we hit his stern, and as we sailed away everyone was shouting obscenities at him from close quarters while his hapless crew were apologizing to each crew that threatened to board and sink him, thereby fixing the problem. We sailed around them, checked Dreamagic for damage and carried on towards the ocean.

Race day plus 1

I will write this up properly but right now we are still on the biggest high.
We didn’t win but we did get a trophy for endurance. It was actually handed to me in a brown paper bag because the Awards had been handed out before we finally got home, BUT Dreamagic now has her first trophy. Does this mean I am atrophied?
Anyway, Thank you Ocean Racer Chasers for your support. What a buzz!

Brisbane to Gladstone: Post Mortem

The winds were fickle both in strength and direction for most of day one. I had figured that the crew would be running on adrenaline for the first few hours and no one would want to sleep. At 6.00pm we started the watches. Two crew up at all times, two hours on, four hours off. There is a saying that a skipper never sleeps on his boat. Certainly I don’t. Every bang, crack, noise, funny boat movement and I am awake so I floated, getting catnaps where I could and generally getting in the way of an otherwise smooth running ship.

As it got dark the race had thinned out. We could see a couple of boats ahead, a couple behind. We were still in contact with the land and those Racer Chasers who were in touch with crew told us that we were about 16th on handicap. Helicopters buzzed overhead taking photos and videos before it got dark. The weather on night one was steady and we were treated to a full moon which lit the boat up as if it were day. Dreamagic settled into a rhythm, virtually sailing herself through the darkness.  This is why we came here!

The day dawned overcast and the crew were showing signs of fatigue. Spirits were high though and everyone was in good humour. We could check our position against our instruments and had an ETA of about 3.00am on Sunday. We can’t see where other boats are except during the radio scheds, although everyone tracking the race from land could, but at this point we were satisfied with our performance

Late in the second night the wind started to pick up making the boat difficult to handle. The steering was so heavy at times that it took two to control her and the kite was overpowering the boat When we are sailing at night we wear lifejackets, and we are also strapped on. Losing someone overboard is a frightening experience, at night it is often fatal. The boat is moving deceptively fast and by the time the alarm is raised and the boat turned around you are searching for something the size of a coconut in the dark. Every yachtie knows this so it was very generous of David to provide an opportunity to practice man overboard by disappearing over the side leaving only his feet still on the deck! Fortunately I have a rule that NO ONE falls off my boat without checking with me first, and as I was already breaking my other rule about being strapped on, I was able to race over the cabin top, grab him and pull him back on board.

Morning finally broke and we could not see land, or any other boat. We have a lot of electronics on board so we knew where we were, and we felt that although we had been knocked around somewhat we could not be worse off than the other yachts. It therefore came as some surprise when we were called on the radio and told that as we were now the only boat still out could we just check in with Coast Guard from time to time so that the Race Control could close down and get to the party. Oh, and were we thinking of coming back any time soon?

We finally got back at about 1.30 pm, 5 hours behind everyone else. BUT to what a welcome! Our support crew had travelled up to meet us and frankly if we had come first we would not have been more warmly welcomed. Fantastic guys! Thank you so much.

I tried to find race control to check in and found a lone woman cleaning up. I gave her my tracker and in return she gave me a bottle of rum and a brown paper bag that contained my trophy and a Mt Gay cap. However, even she could not dampen the enthusiasm the crew felt for the bar, where we put up a performance that could not be matched by any of these plastic fantastic crews.

In hindsight we didn’t do badly. Because of the cost, this years race only had half the competitors of last year. They are talking openly of abandoning it next year, which considering this was the 61st would be a shame. Black Jack, the yacht that won it is an elite Australian boat for sale at the moment for a bargain price of $5m. All the others were first rate race boats, many with professional crew. I feel that Dreamagic acquitted herself and as my good friend Des said. “She must be a great boat, look how many boats it took to beat her”. I like it.

Black Jack and Dreamagic were the only boats mentioned on the ABC news. A journalist from the Cairns Post called and I understand that there is a quarter page article with pictures in today’s paper. I have had 3 people I don’t know write to me interested in coming to the Louisiades.

However, this is the bit of these things I truly hate. The flat feeling that comes after it is over. The plan was made, and executed. We did the Brisbane to Gladstone Stories are told, legends are made that will improve with the telling, and now what? The last of the crew have gone back and we all have to return to our lives. “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” Thoreau .

What did we achieve?  Well, with the help of the Rockstars, a bunch of old farts have had an adventure, a final hurrah. Men are hunter gatherers, an increasingly difficult role to maintain in a society that is determined to legislate any thrill, any danger out of life. The boat is OK, we are all safe and that is what we set out to do. Not a bad effort really. No, our performance was not the best, and some people have made fun of it. They are missing the point.

To everyone who has given us support, followed our trials and tribulations, encouraged us, thank you. You have no idea how much it helped.

To Chris, John, Mark, Matt, David Simon.  Nothing I could write would adequately express my gratitude.

But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day"
Henry V

It was an honour.