Off south for a winter cruise

The shortest day is only two weeks away, but these clear still winter days are somehow invigorating and irresistible. We haven’t taken the boat away since Easter, other than for a trip to the slip to replace the through-hull fittings (another ouch to the wallet!), so we jumped at the opportunity to join the CYCT winter cruise to Port Huon and Franklin. It fitted perfectly with Derek’s travel plans, as he’ll be flying off around the globe a mere 48 hours after our planned return.

On Friday I collected an old family friend from the airport. We chatted over lunch, then I handed her the keys to my sister’s car – on the proviso she drop me and our provisions to the boat on her way to stay with my Mum! We loaded up the boat – an unusual single barrow load for four nights away – and she farewelled me to stow the groceries and prepare the boat for departure.

Derek managed to wriggle away from work early and by 3pm we were slipping our mooring lines. A 12 knot northerly gave us perfect downwind sailing conditions, so we hoisted both sails and were able to enjoy a quiet run down the river at 7 knots.

On the previous weekend we had replaced our faulty VHF radio, but even with expert advice Derek had been unable to get it working with the masthead aerial (which means that someone is going to have to go up the mast again…). For this trip we will be using our emergency backup aerial, which did test out okay. We had also refitted our repaired chart-plotter (remember that at the height of excitement navigating the Vansittart Shoals in February, the backlight on this device had failed? See Surviving the Vansittart Shoals   for the full story!). Just a few weeks before, we had also replaced one of our failed ST70 instruments with a new version (another three ouches the the wallet!).

Early into our sail we started experiencing issues with the GPS and instrument readings. Alarms were beeping and signals kept dropping out. Which of the three recent electronic upgrades was responsible? After fiddling with things below decks Derek climbed into the port-side lazarette to investigate the wiring to our five binnacle-mounted instruments. Whilst he was head-down in the cupboard I kept the boat sailing, but as I turned in towards Sandy Bay Beach in order to avoid a close encounter with the John Garrow light, that beautiful northerly breeze started to fade. Soon it was replaced by a light 6 knot breeze from the south. Time to drop the sails and turn the motor back on.

Derek’s penance in the cupboard finally paid off after unplugging one device. He’ll need to get some new parts to fix the wiring, but that’s enough about electronics for now!

We were treated to stunning skies as the sun set over kunanyi (otherwise known as Mt Wellington) and then made our way into Quarantine Bay by the light of a sliver of moon and the brilliant stars – with the aid of the chart-plotter. We found a mooring in amongst the intrepid winter cruisers who were already bedded down in the darkness, and went below for dinner and a bit of tv.

Fast and Fantastic!

28 Jan

Crew: Derek and I, Tim, Willem and Paul
Course: P: Start – G (Garrow) – H (Howrah) – Finish
Wind: south-easterly, 15 to 20 knots

Only our second chance to race in the current BYC Twilight series, and conditions were perfect for us tonight. Being a heavier boat we go best in stronger winds, and the choppy conditions favour us also, being a heavier boat we don’t bob around as much as our lighter and nimbler competitors.

The start line was set quite a bit further north than usual, not giving all the yachts much room to manoeuvre before the race began. Despite this we found ourselves in a good position at the start with plenty of room around us, and were able to make a port tack early on without having to duck and weave around other boats. The first leg was a long beat into the wind, to the first mark, G, set about half a nautical mile SSE of the John Garrow light. This is a navigation light set a little off the shore south of Sandy Bay. Its huge red pylons usually topped by a gaggle of cormorants.

We tacked all the way to the Garrow, keeping in touch with the faster boats. Early on we furled the jib in a little, to stop the boat getting overpowered in the heavier conditions, and this gave us better control. The new jib has a foam-padded luff, allowing the sail to keep a better shape when part-furled. The young fellows worked hard trimming the sail on each tack, and we rounded the mark hot on the heels of Wildfire, who is usually well ahead of us! Dave was also sailing a good race on Trouble and had disappeared well to the front of the fleet.IMG_0959 IMG_0967

The next leg was a two sail reach on a starboard gybe – this means we have the wind at our right shoulder and all sails eased. The boat flew along and we kept our position mid-fleet all the way to the Howrah mark. This mark is close to shore just off Howrah Point, and can prove a little tricky if the wind is blocked by the point, however tonight the wind followed us all the way and we made a smooth gybe around the mark for another reach on port. We kept our position, and even gained on Wildfire as we approached Bellerive Bluff. Here we poled out the headsail, so the boat was goosewinged to catch the maximum wind from behind, and inched closer and closer to Wildfire, just pipping them at the finish line. Our maximum speed for the race was 8.9 knots – quite a clip for our heavy boat!

We joined Gary and the crew of Ciao Baby II at a table in the clubhouse for dinner, and awaited the results. In division B, Pyxis came third on handicap, Trouble was second and – yes! Ariadne’s Clew came first again by a whopping 1½ minutes! Now I have a club t-shirt to match Derek’s from last week.

Next week Derek will be away in Singapore, so we will give someone else a chance – perhaps Dave will win the t-shirt…