Ruby Charlotte

Ruby Charlotte

The only boat slower than us was our friend’s boat Ruby Charlotte. Liz and Jon have competed in Audi Hamilton Island Race Week every year since 2011 and in 40 plus race starts have only been able to complete one race. She’s not even a small boat weighing 35 tonnes so not exactly race weight. She also only can’t go to windward (can’t sail into the wind) but she is still a much-loved feature at the race week because she is a beautiful 60-year-old pearling lugger.

http://www.hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au/media-centre/ruby-charlotte,-the-pearl-of-audi-hamilton-island-race-week-2017

Image Credit: Andrea Francolini – Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2017

I was very fortunate to be able to sail on Ruby with Lis and Jon for one of the races.

   

If you want to see more of Ruby and what she looks like inside take a look at the video.

https://www.facebook.com/raceweek/videos/1890284307665161/

 

 

 

Racing with the big boys

Racing with the big boys

The highlight of our trip to the Whitsundays was to take part, for the second year running, in Audi Hamilton Island Raceweek. It is one of the top sailing regattas in Australia which attracts sailors and celebrities from all over Australia and overseas. This year Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark skippered Wild Oats X now called Nanoq.

 
                                                                                                                        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederik,_Crown_Prince_of_Denmark

Nanoq was one of the 4 big boats that everyone wanted to watch. It was thrilling to watch these 70ft- 100ft boats jostle for the best place on the starting line dwarfing the media boat and other boats.

 

 

 

I love the spectacle of race week. It gave me a chance to get some great photos of the yachts taking part.

One hazard of the start line is that the airport runway is behind the start line. Marshals on jet skis have to keep boats away from the end of the runway when the commercial jets fly in as in the past there and been aborted landings due to the yacht masts being too tall and too close to the runway.

 

Two Whitehaven Beaches half the world apart

Two Whitehaven Beaches half the world apart

I first came to the Whitsundays in 2001. As I sailed around the islands it amazed me that so many of the islands, bays and beaches I was seeing on the charts were named after the places where I was born and grew up in the north of England, in the county of Cumbria (originally Cumberland).

While bent over the chart as Russ showed me how to work out the way we need to sail to avoid reefs and shallow ground I came across names such as (See full list at end of this post):

  • Calder
  • Carlisle
  • Dent
  • Derwent
  • Esk
  • Keswick
  • Penrith
  • Solway
  • St Bee’s
  • Whitehaven

Source: Bates, J. 1997. The Last Islands. 3rd Ed. Moorooka: Boolarong Press, p41

The last one on the list fascinated me the most. Whitehaven Beach is the jewel in the crown of the Whitsundays. It is a beach all the tourists to the region want to visit and justifiably so as it is spectacular. A 7km beach of white silica sand that squeaks when you walk on it and has the advantage of being cooler than most sandy beaches because it is so white. It was named the best eco-friendly beach in the world by CNN.com in 2010.

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/news/2010/07/queensland-beach-named-worlds-best

Commander EP Bedwell of the SS Llewellyn came across the beach in 1879 and gave it its name. Named after a Whitehaven a town and port on the west coast of Cumberland, Cumbria. The town of Whitehaven also had a small beach so when I took Russell my husband back to meet my family in 2003 it was on my list to show Russell the original Whitehaven Beach. He was rather underwhelmed, to say the least. As you can see from the photos below the contrast couldn’t be greater.

© James T M Towil and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Source: https://www.thebeachguide.co.uk/north-west-england/cumbria/whitehaven.htm

When we are sailing in the Whitsundays we also like to take the chance to do the walk from Tongue Bay through the saddle of the headland to view Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet from the lookout.

Here is a short video of our most recent visit.

We usually anchor either in the inlet or off the beach as we like to enjoy the beach when the hordes of visitors that have come and gone all day via boats, ferries, jet skis and sea planes have left.

There is nothing nicer than having sundowner drinks with the beach to ourselves at the opposite end of the beach from where all the boats anchor for the night.

Time seems to slow down when it is just you and the local beach and marine life. It fascinates me to watch in the late afternoon around 4-5pm the stingrays hunting along the edge of the water chasing bait fish. As the bait fish jump in silver low arcs across the surface of the water the biggest jumpers often end up at the feet of the seagulls waiting along the shoreline for their appetisers to arrive. The soldier crabs come out of their sandy burrows and march in formation across the sand while the oystercatcher birds peck at the sand worms and feast on an occasional crab if they can get them before they can scuttle down the closet hole. A world, which at the human level and pace we live at, we are oblivious to. We need to slow down long enough to wait and watch for this other world to appear and enjoy being an observer of their routines and daily life for a short time.

 

Full List of Place Names in the Whitsundays named after locations in Cumbria

  • Allonby
  • Aspathria
  • Blackcombe
  • Calder
  • Carlisle
  • Cockermouth
  • Dent
  • Derwent – where I sailed
  • Egremont
  • Esk
  • Helvellyn
  • Hesket
  • Ireby
  • Keswick
  • Maryport
  • Penrith
  • Scawfell
  • Silloth
  • Skiddaw
  • Solway
  • St Bee’s
  • Workington
  • Whitehaven

Source: Bates, J. 1997. The Last Islands. 3rd Ed. Moorooka: Boolarong Press, p41

 

High and Dry

High and Dry

We could feel the grit when we ran our hands over her hull. The first indication that the barnacles were starting. Time to get high and dry. We don’t have anti-foul on the hull of our boat. The anti-foul keeps the barnacles off the bottom of a boat and without it we need to get her hull out of the water about every 10 days or less. This is because the air kills the barnacles if we have the boat completely out of the water for 24 hours. This was going to be the first time we were taking Tatui up on the sand. We were curious to see how she sat without water or a trailer and whether our bed for the night was going to be flat or with a severe lean to the left or right.

The Whitsundays where we are cruising can have up to a 3-metre tide difference so you need to pick your time carefully. Most essential is to check, double-check and triple check, then ask your crew to check that you have read the tide table correctly. Why so cautious? You must be sure that the tide the following day is higher than the tide you are bringing the boat up on. If you don’t you could be sitting high and dry admiring the view from the beach you have chosen for a month. Only then do the tide levels change and start to rise again. So, we checked, checked and checked again.

A fibreglass hull is unforgiving about small rocks that might be just under the surface of the sand. So, the first thing we did was to anchor the boat in about 2.5 metres of water then kayaked into the beach. We completed a thorough scout around the area that looked the flattest patch of sand, looking to see if it was clear of small coral debris and rocks. In Windy Bay, we were lucky to find a large area.

Once we were happy with the spot we lined up our chosen patch with something that would be out of the water to the right, left and in front of us so we knew where to head the boat as we came in with the tide. An area can look dramatically different once it is flooded with water.

We kayaked back to the boat, dozed in the sun in the cockpit and waited and waited. About 30 mins before high tide we made our move. We always move before high tide. This is so if we hit a higher area of sand and touch the bottom we will have a little more time to float off. The tide at that time has an inch or two more to rise and we can change our course and come into the beach at a different angle.

We headed into shore watching the depth on the GPS constantly so we knew when we need to lift the keel. In a bit further we checked the depth again then lifted the keel, in further still we lifted the rudders. Finally, we could see the ripples of the sand under us. We tilted the engine up. With everything up, we can still move in about 300mm of water. We continued until she nudged the sand and we stopped. Russ jumped into the knee-deep water and guided her in checking underneath for any stray rock, coral debris or tree branch until he was happy we are over a safe spot. Russ then laid out the anchor. We watched and waited as our boat slowly inched her way down as the tide receded.

It was a perfect touch down as we had no breeze. Other times when beaching our other boats, they have rocked and moved, the hull scraping on the sand. This time as she settled in crystal clear water and a sheltered bay we had a textbook landing. Best of all she was sitting up straight and didn’t tilt to one side once we boarded her. After a few rolly nights in the past week, it was bliss to sleep without a rocking boat under us.

The next day is when you cross all your fingers and toes to be sure all that checking has not been in vain. I sat in the cockpit about 2 hours before high tide and with a slight feeling of apprehension watched the water slowly, very slowly inch its way up the beach. Teasing us as it filled in to the left and the right but leaving our boat still high and dry on the sand. At last the water started approaching the rear of the boat. I kept glancing at my watch. It inched closer and closer until at last it filled in the sandy gaps around the boat. Will it be sufficient? Will enough water come our way to lift the boat in time before the tide turned? I held my breath as I thought I felt the very first small movement of the boat under me. I checked with Russ, ‘did you feel it’? ‘No, I don’t think so’ My apprehension returned. I watched the bow carefully. Is it moving? Maybe, maybe not. Yes, yes it definitely moved that time. Russ confirmed he had also felt it this time. We tried to rock the boat from side to side. No movement yet.

We continued to wait and watch. Slowly when you least expect it she starts to turn her bow towards the open water as if she is just as eager to get going. Russ jumped out of the boat and pulled in the long rope lying stretched out on the sand. Then he hauled in the heavy chain into the anchor well at the bow of the boat and finally stowed the anchor at the front. By this time, she had finally lifted from her nights resting place. We turned her bow out to sea started the motor and slowly inched away from the sand in the very shallow water and headed out for deep water. Russ tilted down the engine leg, a little further out the rudders went down and at last the keel was lowered and we are on our way.

Rolling, rolling, rolling

Rolling, rolling, rolling

As a way to travel sailing can be very disruptive to your sleep. Unlike sleeping on land, a boat at anchor is very rarely still. It moves sometimes to an alarming degree. This is not a problem so long as the anchor stays in place and you are just moving gently with the wind or tide in an arc around the anchor. However, if the wind should increase, sleeping with your head close to the side of the boat with waves slapping against the hull can deprive you of sleep very quickly. Now over the years, I have managed to keep out the worst of the noise by wearing ear plugs however ear plugs only block noise. What they can’t do is stop you from rolling from side to side. When the sea swell is relentless, sometimes without there being any wind at all, then you start to do the impression of a rolling pin trying to iron the bed sheets under you. This is worse if the boat is side on to the swell.

After the first two occasions it happened on this trip we had had enough of the sleepless nights. We had already tried sleeping across the boat so that the swell rocked us from head to toe rather than side to side but even that was often not sufficient to aid sleep.

After the second sleepless night, Russ being the extremely inventive man he is was determined to come up with a solution. He rigged up a ‘flopper stopper’. A piece of equipment to stop the boat rolling in the swell. The name is often used to describe the stabilisers put out each side of a boat often made from steel trays to keep the boat level at anchor.

We needed one that could be packed away easily in our small boat. Russ therefore fashioned ours from a heavy duty folding plastic drogue (a conical or funnel-shaped device with open ends, towed behind a boat to reduce speed or improve stability) which we already had on board, a weight from his diving belt and a rope attached to the end of our boom which is pushed out as far as it would go.

Voila! The drogue full of water slowed our spin around the anchor and the rolling motion of the boat. It doesn’t stop it completely but often by enough to allow us to sleep without an excessive rocking of the cradle.

 

 

The Race is on

The Race is on!

They came in to view about 100m to our right. A catamaran, who like us was steadily motoring until we both realised we were heading for the same anchorage and it was 4 o’clock. The race was on!

We increased our speed slightly, they increased theirs. We notched up ours again and were nosing in front of the imaginary line we had set between us and their bow. It must then have occurred to them ‘how is a little sailboat able to go faster than their 40 foot plus catamaran?’

Our little yacht is a little different and it takes a lot of people by surprise. Tatui is a hybrid boat, a Tattoo 26 (MacGregor) power sailer. This means as well as sails we have a 60hp motor on the back and can go nearly twice the speed of most sailboats, 16-17 knots to their 10 knots. We inched ahead of the cat but we still had to out-manoeuvre them in the anchorage if we were to bag a public mooring buoy for the night.

Tatui on the public mooring at Tongue Bay, Whitsundays

In the most popular bays in the Whitsundays there are public moorings to protect the reef. However, the system is a bit like parking spaces and parking meters. They are free but with a two-hour time limit. The times operate from 7am to 5pm. This means if you’re able to secure a mooring buoy by 3pm you can stay on it overnight. That’s why at 3pm there can be boats prowling an anchorage waiting to pounce as soon as a boat leaves a mooring. As many of the buoys are in deep bays if you don’t secure one for the night you often have to head back out to open waters and travel another hour or more to secure a good bay you can anchor in.

We could see there were many boats already moored in the anchorage. It was 4 o’clock not 3 o’clock so the likelihood of a free mooring was going to be very slim indeed. We started scanning the bay to spot a blue public mooring buoy among the white triangular ones that marked the edge of the reef. ‘Was that one over close to the beach?’, ‘not sure seems too close’. While scanning the anchorage we hastily looked back to the cat close behind us. As we were in front we knew they would be waiting for us to make a mistake. If we head to what we think is a buoy but isn’t it will leave them free to pick up one we may not have spotted. It was looking less likely that a buoy was free and feeling a little guilty for beating the cat (well only a little) we were starting to resign ourselves to another hour motoring to a new bay. Then to the left in the distance we saw a person making their way to the bow of their boat. Should we risk it and head there and miss out on any buoys coming free behind us. We could see another boat heading to the anchorage on the horizon. We have to decide quickly and make a move. We made our decision and headed left, the cat behind us headed right. Who would win?

Yes, we could see the person on the sloop bend over their bow, stretch down their arm and release the mooring. We made a beeline for their buoy and waved with gratitude as they slipped past us. Without any thought for anyone else we proceeded with our mooring pick up procedure. I grabbed the boat hook and headed for the bow. Lifted the boat hook up to shoulder height and used it to point in the direction of the large mooring rope attached to the buoy. When the rope was within reach of the boat hook up I stretched out as far as I dared, without toppling over the bow rail, to hook up the rope. I then brought the large loop of rope, swathed in a heavy-duty nylon sheath, under the bow rail and then hung on to it. This can take some effort if there is a strong tidal flow as the girth of the rope is larger than the span of my hand. Russ then made his way to the bow to join me to take the rope and secured it to the bow.

It was only after the buoy was securely restrained that I glanced over my shoulder to see how the cat had fared. I saw them moving through the anchorage looking forlornly for a free buoy. My guilt returned but hey we won the race! Then we saw another boat move off from a buoy. The cat swiftly turned and made it just in time before the boat on the horizon made it to the anchorage.

Even those in second place can be winners in the evening race for the buoys.