Wednesday, November 20, 2013

You could build your own yacht!

Valiam, On Strike, Sagittae, Pretty Alright, Roger Ramjet, Touchwood and Anui to name just a few...

These are the names of yachts built by their owners.

We have now met seven couples who have completely built their own yachts; sourced everything that Glenn and I take for granted as standard fixtures onboard of Sea Trek III. Their owners are not professional in the industry. They are regular people from varied walks in life who have willingly taken on this huge and unconventional path to boat ownership. They have committed themselves to years of work and hours totaling 3,000 to 4,000 to eventually are able to sail and enjoy their owner crafts.

Why would anyone undertake such an enormous task, for pleasure?

The dream, to go cruising...

A few favoured designs are readily accessible in kit form. They arrive as pre cut foam and glass sandwich pieces and instructions with paper pattens. "This seemed do-able in our back yard". Anonymous quote.

Some ambitious amateurs use professional help with the hull structure, and then continued the "finishing off". Sounds simple but multiple skills are required: carpentry, electrical, plumbing, upholstery, glazing, rigging, mechanical, and years of patience. For one couple this involved moving the hull and their new home, a caravan into an industrial shed. Years later they have an elegant and stunning Radford 55' yacht that races through the open waters. It's internal carbon fibre fit out is truely futuristic, and practical.

Several friends said that it was the only way that they could afford a yacht of the design and size that they wanted.

Saving money was mentioned by many. This was countered when most people admitted that it was far more costly than they had expected, and not the bargain that they had hoped for. The expenses were spread over 4 or 5 years and the pace made it manageable. "We could have bought a lovely yacht without all of the agony". Savings were made by finding the best prices by internet shopping, generally overseas products. A few industrious sailors sourced second hand deck hardware and engines. This required being in the right place at the right time, and networking.

Most couples mentioned that building was a way to stay focused on their dream of cruising and retirement, prior to being ready to go. Most also mentioned the strain on the marriage/relationship as the epic of frustrations dragged on.

I was curious to find out how new skills were aquired. "The internet, and just doing it". Hmmm. "So anyone with computer skills could build a yacht?" "Yes". Not this crew.

A real positive was repeated often "If I can build it, I can fix it".

Being self reliant was a commonly expressed idea. Repairs and maintenance can be financially draining. The owners of these yachts eventually know everything about the systems onboard, and as a result will be in the unique position of being able to fix things when they break. They have the spares, the tools and know the sizes and the sources. The marine environment of salt and humidity is harsh. Lots of gear will eventually fail.

The vast majority of sailors we know buy yachts fully assembled. There is a very healthy second hand market, and bargains abound. Our first few years onboard Sea Trek III have involved sorting out the systems onboard: idiosyncratic repairs of previous owners.

Recently we met Trevor and Fiona who aren't actually on the water as yet. They are still building their yacht in the back yard of their home and business: Granger 40' Catamaran.

The famous rear view of Glenn meets Fiona and Trevor.
We visited Fiona and Trevor's back yard project. "Just come up the driveway, and you'll find us out the back". A normal looking suburban house, driveway and garage. Veggies in the garden. Massive catamaran in the field. Mast, boom and rigging horizontal on wooden saw-horses. Ladders for access, and up we climbed.

Very impressive. Trevor has discovered that he is a craftsman. We saw beautiful finishes everywhere. Together they have meticulously smoothed over thousands of corners and edges. The paint finishes shine, perfect reflections. The design features for the galley are super stylish, and Fiona who is a professional cook is proud. "Cooking is what we do, and this kitchen will work well". I can clearly see what she means, everything is in it's most practical position, very accessible, an advantage when under way. They have sourced some stylish gear. Design and creativity are an underlining current of expression in building your own yacht. You get to build your own ideas. Sounds good and looks good.
Style in yachting +++
Trevor was happy to hear our feedback. Although we are not overly familiar with Catamarans, we do admit of 'Cat Envy' right now. I commented that spatially it all seems to fit: the right size headroom and step downs all become important when living onboard and sailing. I found plenty of storage body holes and expanses of room to move around the engines. The seating without cushions was comfortable: a good sign for voyaging. There was just so much to admire.
The bathroom are gorgeous, luxury for boat dwelling. Two private areas, to match the two hulls. Visitors will be spoilt.


Two differing toilet systems onboard as well, "just incase one fails".
The Airhead toilet is a natural composting toilet system that uses Peat to decompose 'solids'. The urine is separated and removed and is not part of the balance. I confess that when onboard of another cat: Hoo Roo I actually looked at Captain Wally's 12 month collection of Poo and it didn't smell. It looked like fertile garden soil. Glenn refused to look into someone else's toilet. "I'm not that kind of friend".
Trevor and Fiona were gracious hosts. Glenn and I shared a delicious coffee and cinnamon toast. Lots of chatter about plans, lifestyle choices, destinations and sail sizes.

Fiona with fresh baking.

Thanks Fiona and Trevor: the yacht viewing was "Definitely worth the drive". See you next year.











Sunday, November 10, 2013

Wide Bay Bar crossing. Our grand entry into Mooloolaba

We spent the night anchored in 7 mtrs of calm water at the southern end of Fraser Island. I woke at 4.20 am to the unfamiliar howling of a dingo on shore. This triggered a thunder of startled bird calls. Lying below the large escape hatch window I could see the first thin light of dawn. Glenn was already awake and preparing Sea Trek III for her final leg of this season. The yacht next to us had raised it's anchor and was motoring out. Other cruisers were on their decks readying equipment.

Up and moving at sunrise.
So why such an early start? (Being an 'evening person' I call it 'extreme sailing').

The tide, wind and sea conditions for crossing the dangerous and notorious Wide Bay Bar were perfect. An early start ensured plenty of sea time prior to the next port of call, Mooloolaba. The winds were predicted to be N NE, at 15 to 20 knots, promising a great day of boisterous down wind sailing.

Benign: Wide Bay Bar.

The Wide Bay Bar has an area called "the Mad Mile". It's a shake up of steep waves from all directions. The resulting wave action on a vessel is extremely confused. In anything other than perfect conditions a yacht's stability is under threat. Three sets of coordinates were kindly provided by local Volunteer Marine Rescue. We plotted our course. This crossing demanded concentration. We passed through the area without incident. We enjoyed the day of sail south.

The winds gradually increased as forecast. By the time we needed to drop the head sail the waters were becoming choppy. The vessel pictured past us heading out to sea and took many waves over the bow.

Beating against wind and tide.

We lined up the leads for our entry into the Mooloolah River. (waterways of Mooloolaba). The waters inside the grey stone breakwalls looked calm. But outside during our approach we were really being tossed around. The NE 25knots winds were churning things up. The depth sounder showed 2.5 mts; a new shallow bank had shifted since our last visit. Glenn was at the helm. My eyes were fixed on the rapidly approaching stone walls.

We were within 20 mtrs of the grey rock entrance when the engine splutter and stopped. I turned to see fear on Skipper Glenn's face. O M G, this was not a joke. We had momentum from the following winds and Sea Trek III was charging forward. It was chaos: "Jen get back here: raise the headsail. I can't controll her". We struggled against tremendous wind pressure in the narrow channel. The head sail flapped violently. We needed it unfurled it again to gain some control. The rock embankment was very close.

I contacted the Coast Guard Mooloolaba on the VHF radio to tell them that we were without engine power ; we were in the channel; that we would have to drop anchor; that we were rounding the corner, and that we would be needing a tow,..please. They said that they would come immediately to our aid. We dropped head sail and anchored. RHONDA RESCUE, in all of her sunflower yellow was on her way.

Ten friendly faces in bright orange uniforms reached out to help us. Multiple fenders and lines were attached to ST3, and within a minute we were nudged safety into a pontoon. As quickly as they arrived they left. A whirlwind of efficiency and professionalism. What a worthy volunteer organisation!

"Help me Rhonda,, help me Rhonda.."
With dock lines adjusted we breathed a sign of relief. Laurie a fellow cruiser and skipper of Pretty Alright motored past to check that we were okay. He had heard my distress call on the VHF.
A dinghy pulled up and more sailing friends appeared. Linda and Bill of Valiam (and more recently Lati) arrived with a bottle of Bubbly. They had returned from a Mediteranian adventure only weeks earlier. We spent the evening exchanging all sorts of stories. What incredible adventurers they are, and they live right here in Mooloolaba. Linda invited us to lunch with the promise of authentic Greek cuisine. (thanks to Christina).

Circumnavigators and fleet owners.
Bill and Linda supplied us with bicycles ('apparently' mine had brakes but only one gear) and took us on a tour of their favourite bike paths. We now know some of the best caf├ęs, BBQ spots, surf and waddling beaches. It's all just a convenient short dinghy ride away. Thanks so much.
Jen and a captive stolen toy.
We'll be here for a while now, and we think that we'll enjoy ourselves (even if it means employment).



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Where the wild things roam.

Without nauseating you, our blog readers too much, I would like to acknowledge Glenn as an accomplished skipper with improved nautical/sailing skills over the past six months. I also need to compliment him on his keen vision. He now spots wildlife long before I have the camera ready. The call of "Quick Jen, you must look at this", has caused me to strain my back several times rushing up on deck. In the last few days he has seen multiple dingoes on Fraser Island, jelly fish, sea birds and dolphins as well as channel markers and small fishing tinnies. I am always one step behind him with the camera.
The dingoes of Fraser Island are the purest breed on Eastern Australia. We saw this pair split up for hunting and pad around the muddy foreshores at Garry's anchorage. Last time we visited I thought the warning sign was a bit of a joke. I wonder if the crocodile signage is also current and correct. I might station Spotter Glenn in an obvious location next visit.
Wild dingoes on patrol at sunset.

I know jelly fish are common, but I am proud of this photo, partly because it is so difficult to capture a good image when taken above water.

Part of a massive flock floating by Garry's anchorage.
From Garry's in the Great Sandy Straits we headed down to Tin Can Bay. We are biding time until the conditions are favourable for a safe passage over the Mad Mile of the notorious Wide Bay Bar.
We didn't really know what to expect in the little town with such a curious name.: Tin Can Bay. An internet search revealed Tuncanba means : place of dugong, plenty of tucker.
The locals were very friendly and the town was quiet and sleepy (no cars moving around). I thought the name would refer to my desperate urge in wanting to kick a tin can down the street...(it seems to me to be the only way to break the sleepy spell). Not much appears to be happening here.
Tin Can Bay must be on the recommended bucket list for grey nomads to drive to/ through. We took our dingy ashore to look around too. Luckily a local muscle man helped Glenn drag it back into the channel at sunset.
We were pleased to see that Sailability (sailing for the disabled) was well supported by sponsors and volunteers here.
Lots of bright colours out and about.
The big attraction in Tin Can Bay (apart from the quietness) is the rare opportunity to see and feed wild Dolphins. It was not surprising to find that the Pelicans and Cormonants we keen to share the free breakfast.
So typical of Pelicans when food is free.
Cute but will peck at faces.
I am not in favour of humans interacting with animals for entertainment. I needed to read about the ethics and standards involved in this volunteer activity. The National Parks and govt. oversee what is permissible in relation to the dolphins. Hefty fines and strict regulations are explained in printouts prior to entry.
Some decades ago a fisherman accidentally injured a dolphin. He ensured that it was fed until it recovered. It started bringing family members to visit. That dolphin was the grandfather of the present alpha male. (No, not the guy who helped Glenn drag the dinghy into the channel yesterday arvo.) A few members of the pod of 9 generally visit at about 7am for an hour of so. Yesterday a female and baby visited. There is no guarantee of appearance. There are no bells or human signals made to the dolphins to come and get fed. The quantity of fish given each day and the species of fish is strictly limited.
To be permitted to see the dolphins at close range, we needed to wash our hands in disinfectant and agree not to pat or slash. Volunteers were aplenty: 5 during our visit. Two woman stood in the water facing the crowd and the other three herded birds away from people. Anyone not abiding by the rules was told to cease or leave. It was all well controlled and calm.
One at a time.
Bird herding flag.
The dolphins are Indo Pacific Humpbacks, and about 50 live in Hervey Bay. They struggle against sharks but their numbers appear stable. We were able to watch Patch and Mystique play together.
Patch often plays with leaves and can swim and dive while keeping one on her nose.
Patch at play.
It was finally our turn to feed a small fish to Patch. What a thrill but over too quickly. I noticed that these dolphins had sparse pigmentation, freckles and were pink in places. It is usual of their species. Patch also mudged my hand three times, but I chose not to sing my favourite dolphin song (protestant sunday school hymn) to her in public...( see previous dolphin encounters in blogs). I am learning to be discrete.
Dolphin man: one of his many encounters.
We are spending the evening in Pelican Bay waiting to cross the Wide Bay Bar in the morning. Then our final leg of our journey, ending at Mooloolaba for this season.




Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Inventing our own entertainment.

The life of a cruising sailor is often exciting with unpredictable weather and crazy sea conditions to add spice to the day. However there are many days of quiet when not much really happens. The challenge is to calm the mind and enjoy the surrounds.

So what has this got to do with the lively crew of Sea Trek III?

Well contunuing on with the theme that closed our previous blog, we found ourselves waiting for the tide to come in. A slight miscalculation in the timing of the lowest point of the tide left the dinghy a long, long, long way from water. An opposing opinion about the same event is that the beach walk was completed far too briskly and quickly. The differing opinions didn't really matter because the end result was the same. The sturdy dinghy was obviously very high and dry. The muscles used in yesterday's recovery event were still very sore. Glenn flopped down on the inflate's cushiony side. I joined him.

We looked at our sandals. They had kept us afloat when walking over the tidal flats, but the sand had turned to mud. Mud is sticky and smelly and can suck up your legs without warning. We had just spoken to another sailing couple parading around in their knee high mud 'boots'.

Pale blue was all the only colour in stock!

He got much worse than this.

So there was not much that we could do. We laughed and sat. Actually we started to notice how really comfortable the freshly inflated tubing was. We decided not to move. The tide would come in eventually and we would float again.

Hiding his face from the paparazzi.

Settling in for the afternoon.

We took off our sandles and positioned our selves on either side of the dinghy. No sudden movements were permitted, because the V shaped bottom would result in the other person being tipped out. We kept ourselves amused with chatter, and watching the ferry come and go. The local fishing locked pretty good as well. I finally realized that Glenn had been silent for some time. He was doing a lot of flicking and splashing of water over his side of the boat. I asked him what was going on. Apparently he was training small fish to come over to him. One was very cheeky, and not at all afraid. I thought that it was intelligent for being so easily trained, however I don't fancy that it will live long if it tries to befriend other humans.

A very clever fishy friend.

People on the wharf stopped and took photos of us sitting happily in our little boat on the mud flats, without any water in sight. I would have done the same. Weirdly we really enjoy ourselves.

Wide Bay Bar shortly...


Monday, November 4, 2013

Hiding from N and S winds: Fraser Island

We returned to Fraser Island in the Great Sandy Straits and to the recommended Kingfisher Resort. The predicted strong winds certainly did hit us, and we listened to the whistling in the rigging. Sea Trek III danced in circles. The anchor was holding fast, but our depths varied from 5 to 18 mtr. We must be in the middle of a deep hole. Our progress to Mooloolaba is slow and steady. We both use various strategies to cope with our sea sickness. No heroics from these cruising sailors.

The ferry to the resort runs several times a day. We anchored well clear of it's wash. Others chose differently.

Ferry lowering the ramp to access the yacht?

We went ashore to find out about the place. The Bravado crew spent several days basking by the pool.

But first the dinghy needed securing. A pylon seemed like a good idea, because the tide was flowing out, and the southerly winds were increasing. The length of the wharf should have rung a few bells of warning in the skippers brain: it was rather long and extended way out into the bay.

" I think this might be a bowline".
A good strong wharf to hold the dinghy in place against the winds.
Fraser Island has a dingo population, and recently there have been attacks because human activities overlap with wild dog habits. I liked the signage on every gate leading to the beach. Was it to keep children safe from drowning, or to keep dingoes away from the water. Curious.

Close the gate, Jen.
Ice cream, and a cool long walk. Simple pleasures that are appreciated. The jetty runs for quite some distance, and the little tram carries tourists and luggage into the tropical convention centre. We thought that perhaps they were being just a tad lazy.
Tram going out to meet the ferry.
At the end of the jetty we befriended a few birds with our kind words. Glenn suspected that they were just waiting for free food. Eventually they became bored with my company.
Hopeful and looking cute.
Dozing whilst waiting for the next handout.
We explored the resort. I found the architecture very interesting, with breeze ways and huge awnings creating a lot of cool external spaces. This resort is not within the Whitsundays, and seems to be doing well. Lots of day trippers, as well as convention attendees. Unfortunately the Sand Bar staff didn't seem interested in serving us, and so we eventually wandered off. I was hoping for a really good coffee.
Customers lost.
Away from the bay and nestled in the forest vegetation we found the convention complex. The cool air from the pools, and the casual planting of indigenous vegetation created an irrestible urge to lounge about.
Glenn locates the comfy armchairs in the foyer.
Lovers and awnings for internal climate control.
The resort is being regenerated by seeds found in the surrounding area. The unexpected contrasting berries were: red from a palm and the Blue Quandong.

Soooo bluuuue.: Quandong.

Nature loving cruisers eventually need to return to the ship.

Have I told you about the differing opinions between the skipper and crew of ST3 on the matter of large dinghy wheels. I have been reassured numerous times that there is absolutely no need for them, and that I will not ever be required to pull or push the keeled dinghy through any sand and mud. And so I haven't and didn't, and I wasn't asked. But just how does the water retreat so fast and so far?

"It's a long way to the ...."

From the Chief Editor: A note to all "melon head admirers"....

Please be aware that as the crew of Sea Trek III sail into cooler southern climates, there will be less photos of the curiously attractive bald head of Glenn due to the relentless "It's cold today" factor.