The warm sun on your skin, the gentle rustling sounds of water flowing along the hull and the cool ocean breeze on your face. These are some of the thoughts that come to my mind when thinking about sailing.
For others the joy experienced while sailing may involve the edge of your seat adrenaline rush while challenging the elements.
Having owned both slow and fast yachts I enjoy going fast and the thrills associated with higher speeds. Alternatively I find it very relaxing laying out on the trampoline at seven knots with the autopilot maintaining the heading while enjoying the serenity of the marine environment.
I can remember vividly the first time I was really hooked on sailing and the euphoric feelings felt while standing on deck holding the mast, looking forward over the clear shallow water towards Faure island.
Clear blue skies, warm sun, seeing the sandy ripples and sea grass on the sea floor as the gentle breeze was blowing the sails nudging the boat slowly closer to Faure Island in Shark Bay. This was after sailing from Carnarvon about 100 miles away, my first long passage.
Since then I have bought, sold and lost yachts and sailed half way around the world eloping on the way.
My first yacht was a fourteen foot Windrush catamaran swapped with my next-door neighbour for a CB radio when I was seventeen and still living at home.
It had a licensed trailer and only one mainsail. I loved this boat and regularly sailed her a couple of miles offshore to Seal island, surfing her on the ocean swells that broke on the outer island reef.
My avid surfer friend I once took out to surf the island, whom I thought would love surfing on a catamaran promptly bailed off the back once the seven foot face wave inertia took the boat surfing, after which I had to sail back out to pick him up once the wave had finished.
I kept this catamaran for many years until I eventually sold her.
My first real yacht was an RL24 (Rob Legg 24) called Aeolin. I bought her in Carnarvon after my sailing experiences around there and Shark Bay on friend’s yachts. I loved having my own proper yacht and was ecstatic at having arranged a pen in the yacht club to keep her in. I felt like I owned a real yacht and loved spending time on her pottering around while in the pen preparing her for the epic voyages I was planning to take.
Aeolin was sailed in a few regattas in Carnarvon and a two week sailing trip around Shark Bay and over to the islands about thirty five miles out. Although it was quite tight quarters for a six foot plus solid guy, I loved cruising and going to new bays and islands and managing the boat, changing sails and general maintenance.
The boat felt like my own little world and vessel to take me where I wanted to go. I loved living and sailing around on Aeolin but felt a little confined sailing around the buoys in regattas and crusing around Shark Bay. I wanted to sail further to continously different destinations, plotting courses to new islands and destinations and not sailing back to the same marina.
My life took a dramatic change one day while I was out kitesurfing watching a yacht sail into Carnarvon harbour.
Once the fifty five foot Fountaine Pajot Marquesas had docked in the main harbour I had to go over and have a look. I was surprised to see a friend from Fremantle crewing on the boat for the owner. After being invited on board, my friend Paul and the yacht owner proceeded to show me photos and describe the trip and adventures they had from Fiji, from where they had just sailed.
I was in awe of this fantastic voyage and said to them, “I would love to do a trip like that” to which the owner promptly responded, “don’t think about it twice, just do it.”
He proceeded to tell me how he wished he had started sailing trips earlier. Even though he could not have afforded his current vessel, he would have been younger and fitter and could have explored and travelled more.
From this conversation and my desire to sail and travel, I was truly inspired and the following day put one of my houses on the market for sale. I proceeded to plan a trip to the USA to buy a boat as Paul had suggested and sail her back to Australia, exploring the South Pacific and islands on the way.
When I excitedly told my friends and family my plans they were all positive except for one friend who suggested I should take some courses and get more experience. I took his persuasive advice and booked a Yachtmasters course in the UK.
My house sold, I resigned from my permanent teaching job and flew to the UK to complete the Yachtmasters course work. I started the ‘mile builder’ part of the course sailing south from northern Scotland to log a minimum of one thousand sea miles.
Meanwhile back in Australia a friend I used to sail with in Carnarvon had bought a thirty eight foot catamaran in Queensland and was after crew to help him sail her back around to Carnarvon.
He asked me to join him on different legs of the journey but I was preoccupied building sea miles off the supposed summer in Scotland.
I dislike the cold and was cold most of the time, the final straw for me was when the forward hatch on the fifty foot Jeaneau leaked icy cold water onto my bag below soaking all my gear. So I huddled in my sleeping bag in the main saloon on the couch, enjoying the stench of vomit while other crew around me were throwing up as we punched into the wind and freezing seas.
Laying on the couch, taking in the sounds and smells around me thinking about my friend sailing his new catamaran in the warm seas around the top end of Australia and my current situation. That was it, I went to the captain of the boat and asked him to drop me off at the next harbour knowing I could complete my sea miles elsewhere.
After sailing on my friend’s catamaran I flew over to the US to buy my boat and continue my plans to sail back to Australia. After looking at many boats around the San Diego area, I felt that I knew how to sail but lacked enough knowledge on what to look for when buying a yacht to sail internationally. I decided to leave the trip for a couple of years to build up my knowledge of boats, their designs, quality of fittings and required equipment.
I flew back to Australia and went back to teaching while avidly researching the boating knowledge I required. During this time I met my now wife who was working on a one year working holiday visa managing a store in Fremantle WA. She is from the US and invited me to fly back with her to meet her family when her visa was about to expire, excitedly I agreed. When buying flights to the US I mentioned to her that we should buy one way tickets and sail back to Australia. She actually agreed, I was only joking.
My wife’s home town is Anacortes in Washington State in the heart of the San Juan Islands. Ironically it was the same town my friend Paul had bought a forty foot Cal yacht and had it stored for the last year.
It was also the town where, after much searching, we eventually bought our new yacht a West Sail thirty two.
My wife and I extensively looked at many yachts in the Pacific North West including Canada before we heard about the West Sail in her home town. I had only six weeks left on my visa by the time we bought the boat for the trip and another month of work and modifications to be done on her.
Work was completed with the help of many of Alicia’s family and friends and we set off with only two weeks to sail from the top of the west coast of the US to Ensenada Mexico just past Tijuana on the US southern border.
Sailing down the west coast of the US was simply awesome, visiting the different harbours and towns is great fun with plenty to see and do. We loved exploring the towns at each stop.
After our first nine days at sea from Washington State to Santa Barbara California I was so sure Alicia was the girl I wanted to marry I proposed to her while we were at Huntington Beach California where thankfully she said yes. We married in Laguna Beach California two days later followed by a reception lunch of pizza at Costco after loading two large shopping trolleys with supplies for the trip.
Sailing and exploring the Pacific is an experience I would recommend to anyone who loves sailing, adventure and travelling.
After settling back in Australia my next yacht was a Court 650 I bought in Port Hedland where we were living at the time. This yacht and trailer needed much work, which I did over a few months. She was called Lummalump but I changed the name to Blue moon.
She had new two pack paint applied, new rigging, self furler, electrics, repaired sails and a new trailer.
The islands south of Port Hedland are a fantastic cruising ground with many islands to visit and great fishing. It is well worth checking out Depuch island where the crew of the Beagle ship still have a signed rock you can see or visit West Moore fishing lodge.
Blue moon was sold when we left Port Hedland and moved to Kalbarri and it was not long before I purchased my next yacht, a Hobie 14 cat. Before long though I wanted a larger boat to sail in the ocean and fish from, so I purchased a nineteen foot Haines Tramp trimaran. This was a fun easy to sail boat but a little tight on accommodation being a day sailor on weekend trips away.
The yacht I was on when I was first hooked on sailing was an F25 trailerable trimaran by Ian Farrier called Tickle purple. This is very similar to the Corsair 24s which are made with Ian Farriers unique folding arma trimaran design so they can go on a standard road trailer.
Corsair trimarans are relatively expensive in comparison to a monohull trailer sailer of similar size, so although I had wanted my own trimaran since that day sailing to Faure island I had tended to purchase more affordable boats. The Tramp was the first Ian Farrier trimaran to go into commercial production and is a far bit cheaper than the Corsair 24s.
Out of curiosity I started looking at Corsairs for sale and eventually found one I liked and bought it! Tres hombres is a twenty four foot MK1 Corsair trimaran. I particularly like the MK1 for a few reasons, mainly though for the swing centreboard and rudder for when cruising shallow waters such as Shark Bay.
All the standing and most running rigging as well as all the sails on Tres hombres have been replaced with a few added extras including a top down spinnaker furler.
I simply love this boat with the large amount of level deck space coupled with her sailing performance. She sails with average cruising speeds around eight knots in light winds and ten to fifteen knots in stronger winds or flying the spinnaker.
A fishing line is regularly trawled while sailing out of Kalbarri and quite often I come in with tuna or spanish mackerel much to my kids delight. The trimaran is easy to set up, launch, sail and retrieve by one person and tows well.
Eventually in the future I would like a thirty five plus foot catamaran, once we have moved to a more permanent location, but there is no rush.
I sometimes wonder how much the people we meet subconsciously influence our decisions in life and if our paths would deviate much had we not met those influential people? Would I still be as passionate about sailing had I not lived in Carnarvon and had those few influential sailing trips?
These ordinary people probably have no idea the profound impact they have had on people and may be stoked to know they have inspired others, just as they were probably inspired by others in their lives. I have taken many people sailing and find it enlightening to see the excitement in some people who may end up hooked for the first time.