These next few posts are a diversion from the usual banality of business but will recount a successful project of going on a summer cruise of Moreton Bay in a Beneteau First 27.7. A vessel I describe as a small yacht or a large boat.
The boat Annabel and I bought in September was simply fitted, as it was designed, as a cruiser/racer with more emphasis on the racer. Which is how I like it but we also wanted to get some local coastal cruising value out of it but certainly no crossing oceans stuff. We named her Nemeau.
The cruise dates were set by available work holidays that unfortunately create the busiest time of year in Australia - summer holidays. Even we pagans get sucked into the increasingly meaningless commercial vortex known as Xmas. It can’t be avoided. So getting the boat prepared for the cruise involved coercing the rigger to “please get the job done this week” and ringing couriers who had ‘lost’ the new sail.
( Beware this blog is designed to be of possible benefit to other sailors contemplating their first cruise so may use nautical terms - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_nautical_terms )
This being our ‘first’ cruise in this boat we didn’t know what to expect since we had never sailed together without other crew. So how would we handle, docking, anchoring, the predicted 30 knot winds or the myriad of other little crises that occur on a boat? So to make things as incident free as possible we did a few things:
Practice - all sorts of manoeuvres in all conditions as much as possible with others more experienced;
Watch the weather patterns - but you can’t change it so just prepare how to deal with it;
installed a cutter rig - of sorts. This was to fly a stormsail. To enter a Category 4 offshore yacht race in Australia I have to show how I can reduce sail in a blow and in particular I have to carry a bright orange stormjib. The Beneteau First 27.7 is often overpowered in as little as 15-20 knots. It is light (3 tonnes) and has nearly 50 square metres of sail area as standard. So the SA/D (sail area to displacement) ratio is high. Fine for a racing crew but not for a greying cruising crew of two;
Ordered a stormsail online - My local sailmaker was too busy to make me a regulation stormsail so I ordered one online. It is larger than the maximum allowed for the racing rules but I figure it will work nicely between my smaller jib and the stormsail. I figured its role is more as a staysail that balances the boat in heavy winds rather than a pure safety sail - we didn’t use it all week;
Engine service - A lot of the above activity in the final week was driven by the experience of my Yanmar (1GM10) going gaga the previous Saturday in a narrow channel in thirty knots. Not fun! The main with furled jib was inefficient for beating up the channel into the wind so hence the rush to buy a staysail. The engine problem was a simple one I fixed on the water (the raw water cooling system had lost its prime) but remained a mystery as to why it happened. A Yanmar mechanic had a geek and replaced my water pump impeller and left me the old one as a spare. But we didn’t know why it happened. And Nathan from C-Tec Marine only charged me for the impeller So despite a week of anxiety about the engine it performed faultlessly. (In a boat, engine anxiety (engxiety) can lead to drink and erratic behaviour!).
So finally we stayed aboard the night before to get the early tide. Our plan was to leave Southport and travel via the inland channels up into Moreton Bay anchoring at Canaipa Point, Dunwich, Manly and maybe Tangalooma and be back in Southport a week later. We would pick up the kids and sail with friends in Manly. Too easy!
The 22 mile motor/sail up the passages was fast and furious with a following spring flood tide and 30 kn wind we were doing over 8 kn with just a jib out, gybing from one beacon to the next in the well-marked channels, dealing with all sorts of traffic and venturing further than we had ever been before to finally arrive at Canaipa Point in a near gale and started to hunt for an anchorage. Luckily I have had plenty of experience at this caper on other boats but on top of my engxiety I had also developed some ‘ancxiety’. This had come from the previous practice cruise when I couldn’t pull the 20kg CQR anchor out of the mud by myself. This small light boat has no windlass. Common sense and lots of reading told me that a 20kg CQR was overkill for our boat so I had swapped it for the 6kg Danforth anchor. It held well but my ancxiety was high for the next few nights. In the end this ‘light’ 13S Danforth held fast in 30+kn and swell every night we anchored. The ancxiety also increased as the tide fell and we saw the beach getting nearer every minute. Yet we were fine. One of the great features of this boat is its lifting keel that reduces draft from 2.1m to 600mm in about two minutes by pumping a handle. A feature that will save my arse many times in journeys to come.
Canaipa Point - Russell Island and Minjerriba (North Stradbroke Island)
The anchoring at Canaipa on night one of the summer cruise was completion of years of dreaming and scheming before planning and organising and finally doing and achieving. The gravity of that simple event was not lost on us. Sure we had done some charters before and sailed with friends many times but finally we were cruising on our own boat!