Jon Sanders: Gold Coast to Sydney – yacht club musings

Queensland’s Southport Yacht Club is located inside the Seaway, waterways of the Gold Coast. The Seaway runs parallel to the ocean beach, its construction helped to make the Gold Coast what it is today. Big towers and lots of people in them, expensive, I suspect, looking down at the yacht club and its marina.

The ladies in the Marina office were nice and very helpful (so too the ladies at Coffs Harbour). Taking one’s lines on the finger when parking on the finger. I should sometimes write parking and re-parking. What do I mean re-park? Because the idiot just birthed in somebody else’s pen or T-end of the jetty. I’ve got to move (I’d arrived after hours – night time). I did not know where to go. Lost in a marina!

When I came in I had the two bow lines either side of the bow at the ready, as well as two spring lines for the middle – either side, likewise two stern lines. When possible, I pick the windward side of the finger, dock or wharf, come alongside near-to; stop the yacht and let it blow sideways onto the dock (fenders are out). Fenders, wind and friction hold the yacht in place sufficient to step off and connect the mooring lines.

Easy – just in the wrong bloody pen…

I was delighted at Southport Yacht Club to spot Andy Lamont’s S&S 34 on the opposite jetty. Andy and I were tied in the same marina in Colon, Panama, waiting for the transit of the Canal. Andy has just sailed a world circumnavigation making only one stop. He spotted my yacht (you can’t miss it), came and fetched my three empty jerry cans (diesel) and filled them. Wouldn’t let me pay. He’s a bit like that.

When I departed the Gold Coast, he gave (lent) me a spare iPhone, chock a block full of talking books, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) Pod Casts and music, with a cordless speaker.

There are more recordings than I am likely to get thru.

Andy also organised for me to go out on a Thursday afternoon-twilight race with renowned Past Commodore Rob Mundle on his catamaran named Two Canoes – Rob is an author (17 books, read some of them), yachting journalist and TV presenter. Also on board was a couple more Past Commodores plus former Head of Channel 10 (TV). It was all rather nice.

Meantime, on my iPad, I watch the weather, made easy by Sea Breeze 7 day wind predict. Every now and again they change the prediction; the more professional call that an update. I reckon they just look out the window then stick their finger out. I’m not very professional.

Way back in the old days when the east wind starts backing to the north with barometer falling one knows a southerly will soon come. Since Tony Abbott got elected Prime Minister, this all seems to be changing. (As you see, I don’t know much).

If the barometer falls fast and an impressive Roll Cloud is coming from the south, like a big scary sausage stretching from horizon to horizon, the initial and sudden squall can be 50 knots, even 60 knots.

Everyone else will say it is more. I know; been there, seen that, felt that.

The year 1984 in my S&S 34 Perie Banou I, competing in the Sydney Hobart Race. Richard Stainton (Bundaberg sailmaker) was then a teenager on board. We knew a change had been forecast. There it was, the big black sausage – from horizon to horizon – wired and fearsome.

It was exactly the same as the cloud Peter Nichol and I observed as we were approaching Durban South Africa, November 1975.

Didn’t know what it was.

Caught us out, so it did. We lowered the Genoa, sticking every reef in the mainsail. There was a bit of damage to roofs of houses in Durban that night.

In the 1984 Sydney to Hobart, there were yachts around us, all with spinnakers, running before a failing northeast wind on the way to Hobart, Tasmania.

It seemed we were the only one gathering the spinnaker, chucking the Genoa below, hanking the teeny tiny red storm jib on and putting lots of reefs into the mainsail – well three.

Whilst we were doing all this, yachts under spinnaker were passing one after the other. They must have looked at us and smiled from ear to ear. Then it struck.

Oh dear me! Some had spinnakers blow out, some had them streaming elongated from the top of the mast, and others turned around and were running the other way gathering the spinnaker, ditching their big headsail and reeling their madly flapping mainsail.

153 yachts started the race and 48 finished; many of those sheltered en route. There were not many yachts in Constitution Dock that year.

To reach Hobart one must pass the south side of Tasman Island, the most southerly point of the race, then cross Storm Bay, enter the Derwent River and sail a further 11 nautical Miles northwards to the finish in Hobart. Approaching Tasman Island with the wind now less and backed to a good northeast, we learned by the ABC broadcast radio, or maybe commercial radio station the Farr 40 designed yacht Indian Pacific had finished and was likely to be declared the winner unless the yacht Perie Banou finished by (whatever) time.

The three crew in the cabin, hearing this, dived onto the chart table – the winner being Richard – grabbing the dividers first (no Sat Nav or GPS in those days), they found they needed to be more delicate handling the chart. A movement of the hand, a shove of the parallel rule would tear or make holes in the chart. The chart was wet!

We would need to average 4 1/2 knots to beat Indian Pacific. We were doing 7 1/2 knots. If the wind held, we would do it.

The Derwent River has been the death knell of many a Sydney Hobart hopeful.

Ran out of wind. We came 3rd. (That will do).

Peter Blake (later Sir Peter Blake) took line honours (1st over the line) in the maxi yacht (maximum length of yacht permitted then was 80ft) in a yacht named New Zealand, also, sailing on NZ was Peter’s daughter Sarah-Jane.

The three great Ocean Races to be part of are: Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, managed by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia; the Fastnet Race (UK), managed by the Royal Ocean Racing Club and started by canon from the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS), Cowes; and Newport Bermuda Race, managed by The Cruising Club of America.

In 1984, I was presented the Chichester Award at the RYS by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, and in 2016, the Blue Water Medal “Without Date” by the Commodore of the Cruising Club of America at the New York Yacht Club.

I have completed seven Sydney Hobart races, three in my S&S 34 Perie Banou and four in my S&S 39 Perie Banou 2

To do the race one must sail from one side of Australia to the other, then return. I will soon be sailing, yet again, from Sydney, on the east coast, to Perth/Fremantle on the west.

I have sailed lots of different yachts, including my own across the Great Australian Bight, summer, autumn, winter and spring. This coming transit will be my 46th. Each a challenge.

My brother, Colin, holds in his library the log books for all those crossings.

Back in the real world, I stayed in Coffs Harbour long enough to get the perfect ride to Sydney; well, that is what I hoped.

But as sure as eggs, the Sea Breeze wind predict would shift the wind from east to south-east (south-east means I will be ‘on the wind’ and will have to chuck some tacks in to avoid the coast).

Blimey! What the heck, getting splashed never hurt anyone. True. (Yuk).

So SE ended up being the forecast. Mild to begin and slowly increased, 25 kts overnight, in the morning backed to the east and during the next night faded to almost nothing. Calm.

I cheated for the first part ‘on the wind stuff’ and motor sailed. Two reefs in the mainsail only and engine 1500 rpm. Points high like that. I only needed to put two short tacks in, but the wind being against the current was bumpy and wet.

At 6am I docked at the wonderful Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA). En route, plenty of ships were going north or south. They come up bold and clear on the B&G screen. Easy to avoid.

Did not see any fishing boats; they are a worry as they don’t go straight. Australian fishing boats tend not to transmit on AIS.

Before departing Coffs Harbour, Max the CYCA Harbour master rang to say birth B jetty #18 is temporarily available. (Kelly Scott from Royal Perth Yacht Club had rung the CYCA some days earlier).

On arrival, I did not know which was B jetty, so I tied to the end of C. (Didn’t know it was C, did I?) Walked to the base of the Marina where it is marked. Walked to B 18. “That will be easy”. It was easy.

Later in the morning, the CEO of CYCA, Karen Grega, came to welcome me. Thanks, Karen.

To me, the CYCA is a SUPER nice club.

Kindest regards to all. Raining today.


JPK 11.80 July 2024
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JPK 11.80 July 2024