After frantically working to complete the last items on ‘The List’, Galaxy III slipped her mooring in Willoughby Bay at 745pm Friday 27th January 2017, bound 630nm south for Hobart and the Wooden Boat Festival. Except the navigation lights on the bow failed to light. So after passing through the Spit Bridge, Ben & I tied up at MHYC to fix the navigation lights. After some investigation with the voltmeter, it became apparent the time had come to replace the wiring, which is probably over 30 years old. Odd though how it happened, they were working fine the other day. We decided to get some rest and head out at first light. We could use the emergency navigation lights and do the rewiring in Eden.
While Ben needed to return to Launceston to collect his car and chattels, the trip to Tasmania was primarily a shake out before we depart for our 27,000 nm adventure after Easter.
On Saturday, the NE wind built through the morning and with some southerly set, we made good time to Jervis Bay, running downwind with the headsail poled out and experimenting with some variations with a newly fitted, second-hand staysail & furler. I decided it would be interesting to test the different response and rudder gain settings on the auto-helm while underway – I reduced rudder gain from 5 to 1, Galaxy steered off course and jibed – boom, the preventer rope failed and force of the boom swinging over broke the traveller car! Damn – that answers the question about how much rudder gain is needed to hold course downwind. I fixed a U bolt to the track to secure the mainsheet, giving single point sheeting! Moving the preventer so it has a better angle and is less square on is on ‘The List’.
Being shorthanded, I have deviated from the YA regulations on being tethered to the boat. If Ben or I were to go overboard, the likely worst case is we go over unsighted and would be on our own. I am not strong enough to lift my own body weight on board and the thought of drowning while being skull dragged underwater at 6kts is close to my worst nightmare. After seeing an article in Cruising Helmsman, I have made up 2 safety belts containing a PLB, strobe light, laser flare, inflatable signal tube, inflatable rescue tube and a knife or multi tool, to maximise the chance of survival in the event one of us does go overboard.
I also tried a new weapon against seasickness – Paihia Bombs from Paihia Pharmacy in New Zealand. These consist of a blue tablet containing antihistamine for motion sickness and a white capsule containing caffeine to counteract drowsiness and hyoscine for anti-nausea. Each dose last 24hrs and I found them very effective. They are pricey at $5/day and a bargain for anyone who has heaved over the side.
We arrived at Jervis Bay on dusk just before a southerly change came through. There was a spare mooring at Hole in the Wall, sans lines and one of the other skippers used his dinghy help secure a line, while I went for a swim to secure the second. Waiting for the wind to turn northerly again, we headed for Eden Sunday afternoon arriving mid-afternoon the next day.
First job was to the chandlery, to buy some wire and connectors for the navigation lights. After a cold shower, we sheltered across the bay from the S change due that evening.
With W winds forecast, we departed Eden with Nashira early morning, to cross Bass Strait to Babel Island. Galaxy crossed the current line a couple of times and I allowed us to head further out to take advantage of the southerly set. Just after passing Green Point, there was a huge thud on the keel, some grunting and straining of the motor and soon after, a light brown dorsal like fin emerged astern and swam away groggily. After consulting Dr Google, I discovered it was probably a Sunfish, which range from 200kg to over 1,000kg. At this point I was grateful for an old solid boat with a skeg in front of the rudder and lucky the propeller and propeller shaft also survived the encounter.
The fresh westerly winds arrived around midnight, as forecast, and inexplicably, I hadn’t put two reefs the main beforehand. After procrastinating for as long as possible, I had the pleasure of doing so single handed around 3am. Single line reefing from the cockpit sounds good in theory and in reality there were many times to go forward. It would be much easier to just hook the rings on the luff over the horn cleat and it’s on ‘The List’.
Our course was about 15nm wide of Babel Island and so decided to continue on to Wineglass Bay. The W wind and swell from two directions made for a bumpy and thumpy crossing across Banks Strait and once we were in the lee of the east coast, the sea state became a little more orderly. As Bass Strait crossings can go, we had a fairly easy time of it and still pleased to have made the first crossing unscathed.
Wineglass Bay is postcard beautiful and after enjoying some swimming (it’s warmer than you think, thanks to the EAC) and paddle boarding, we set off for Fortescue Bay and after an overnight stop, onward to Hobart. The final leg was assisted by a southerly change as we made our way up Storm Bay to our berth at Derwent Sailing Squadron.
Once in Hobart, Ben made his way to Launceston and I got to work on ‘The List’ ahead of Deanne’s arrival for the Wooden Boat Festival. As you do, I started chatting to a taxi driver and mentioned I had sailed to Hobart from Sydney in a S&S 39. I looked at him sideways as he asked which one. “I know Galaxy III really well & sailed in 12 Hobarts on Mark Twain (a well-known S&S39). He also asked about sailing downwind, ‘rolls like a pig’ I replied and he advised to rebuild the rudder and remove the skeg. No way I thought, aside from the cost, what if I hit another Sun fish?
We parted as friends and I have one crew if I ever do a Sydney to Hobart.
As much as I admire the beauty an
d craftsmanship of wooden boats, I was preoccupied with the thought o
f how much work they require and grateful for the invention of GRP. The stress was eased by some fine wines with the best oysters & mussels I have ever eaten. Deanne & I loved our few days in Hobart and Feycincet National Park.
I decided to take up the challenge to sail single handed back to Sydney and after dropping Deanne at the airport, departed Hobart around 7pm with a northerly wind to take me down Storm Bay and round Tasman Island after midnight. Once heading north, I settled into a routine of hourly checks with sleep in between. It took 5-10 min to check sail trim, heading, track, navigation & AIS working each hour. By the third night, I had settled into a routine that was working quite well and I felt alert & fresh. However, the routine did occasionally get interrupted by a wind change or passing ship. Crossing the Bass Straight shipping lane during daylight on Saturday, I passed seven container ships, one of which, fully loaded, was trucking at 20kts! Otherwise the AIS had a fairly quiet time, until I approached Port Kembla.
I was second time lucky, with a relatively comfortable crossing and I did get caught out by a westerly front with one reef, when I needed two. Heeling over, diesel came into the cockpit from the overflow (not the best design idea) and the carbon headsail ripped while furling it in. It was like sailing a greasy pole until I was able to wash the ropes and cockpit. The staysail worked quite well for the rest of the trip to Sydney.
On Monday, I passed through the 1415 Spit Bridge opening, 4 days and 19 hours after leaving Hobart. Out of curiosity, I looked up the race time for Galaxy III in the 1994 Sydney to Hobart, which was just under 4 days & 9 hours, finishing 174th across line in a fleet of 308 boats.
Overall, I was pleased with the shakeout and I’m working on ‘The List’ for a planned departure with Ben around 20th April.