30 March, 2009

Man Over Board

Man over board - The cry that every sailor hopes he never hears. Well it came on Saturday when I was sailing in a race in Batemans Bay on a racing yacht. I am the pit man controlling the halyards and lines as well as the sheets for the genoa. We have a large fellow on the foredeck who invited along two young fellows for a trial sail. In the marina we fitted the inflatable life jackets and instructed then on their use and why even young fellows should wear them for the duration of the race.
After a good start, a beat to the windward mark, a run down wind. We did have an unexpected jibe rounding the mark but nothing serious happened. We set off for the windward mark again and rounded that in third spot ahead of most of the fleet. The waves had risen and the wind increased to slightly more than 20 knots. Up went the spinnaker with out problems and the crew took up their positions. One youngster was asked to sit on the boom to hold it out!
With little warning we were running by the lee and the boat came over to weather with the boom jibing across the boat. The fellow had nowhere to go but follow the boom. He was projected into the water with a smart hit on the head as a passing shot. The bowman and myself got the spinnaker down and started to sort out the spinnaker pole. We were sailing away from our crew in the water. The skipper was flapping about with the mainsheet trimmer to get the boarding ladder out of an underfloor locker while the youngster inflated his life jacket and started to wave at us.
After a bit of shouting to steer the boat towards the crew and leave the ladder we tacked and started to sail towards the fellow in the water. By this time another yacht was in the vicinity.
We threw the youngster a line and with one mighty heave his friend and I lifted him out of the water, over the lifelines and into the cabin top. A Saturn rocket would have been proud of his trajectory. A relieved crewman found the situation funny rather than serious and we continued on with the race finishing third - not dropping a single place as a result of the incident.
There were many lessons learnt from that situation - the most important is that the skipper should continue to steer the vessel to the overboard crew and not worry about unnecessary things that other on the boat are capable of handling.
My worry over the incident is that I don't have total recall of every second of the event. I have snapshots of sections but I can not run through in my mind the exact sequence of events in any clear detail. Many things just happened and I am sure I was concentrating on doing those that were important to me but to review the whole incident is difficult. I am sure adrenalin has something to do with it. Age may also play a part.
We live to sail again and hopefully a little wiser and much more careful.

25 March, 2009

Servicing the Mooring

Camrod Marine has a commercial mooring in Batemans Bay located to the south west of Square Head. It is the mooring from which Malua came loose the fateful day it landed up on the rocks. The mooring is located in a position that people believe they can use without my knowledge. Large vessels routinely used the mooring. I failed to check the mooring the night i secured Malua to it. When we left Malua on the mooring that night in preparation to sail to the Sydney to Hobart race the mooring parted and Malua drifted on to the shore. When I showed the mooring line to an experienced mariner he suggested it had been cut with a knife. This has been confirmed by other people who have examined the line. The evidence is so strong but I do not wish to think that someone would cut the mooring through spite. I do know that many people within the Bay would figuratively put a knife in my back but cut my mooring...well. I now service the mooring every year. Yesterday was the annual survey.
Stephen and I took his Catalina across the bar and out to the mooring. The mooring is in five meters of water. It has a large block with three chain links attached. To this we have shackled four meters of large link chain which is then shackled to a large swivel. Spliced to the top of the swivel through a galvanised thimble is a 25mm nylon line within a plastic tube. The mooring bouy is at the end of this 5 meter line. The tube is protection against abrasion and to make it easier to remove the marine growth that inevitably grows onto the line beneath the mooring bouy.
This morning the tide was about to run out so we either had to service it early at the top of the tide or hang around for the low tine. The weather was beautiful and the water was crystal clear so we started early. I scraped off the marine growth along the length of the mooring line as I pulled more of it into the dingy which we had towed behind the Catalina. After doing this for more than an hour the swivel was just below the surface and I had to don scuba gear and inspect the two swivels and the state of the chain and shackles. They where all in very good order. The lower shackle was buried in sand with no corrosion or wear. The upper shackle's stainless steel securing wire on the bolt had corroded so I replaced that with three strands. The nylon line was in almost perfect condition. The concrete block had not sunk into the sand as far as I would have liked so next season I will assist it into a hole with the use of a air lift pump to remove the sand at its base. I repainted the notice on the red mooring bouy – Not Safe – Do not use. So any person picking up my mooring will be well informed that they are not permitted and do so at their own risk.
Having completed the work we took Tegwin for a sail south towards Pretty Point where Denny has stationed herself with the camera. She took some lovely shots as we ran down wind then turned to sail back to the Bay. A great day.

19 March, 2009

Endless Summer

The southern summer is coming to an end and I fly north to again enjoy a summer in the norther hemisphere. This year the time at Batemans bay has been interesting if not challenging. I have joined the crew of a racing yacht. It is a light displacement with all the right gear. The skipper loves the boat and tries so hard but the crew and he just dont seem to have the skills to make it go fast. It is not always happy on board but I love the time on the water and enjoy the camaraderie of racing. I hope one day it will all drop into place and we will get the result the owner and crew deserve.

The Coastal Patrol has again sunk into the depths of factionalism and the control by the cronies. It seems to repeat itself every few years. It got so bad the local head quit and walked away from the position. I was asked to make a submission on the issues and way forward but as with all consultant reports they will only acknowledge what they want to hear. I wonder what will happen with the new organisation? Has all this impacted the rescue services is a moot point for we will never know because we have not been tested. There have been no real rescues for six months which is a good thing.

The marina, sailing club and rescue organisation has such characters it could be the subject of a crime novel - corruption, money and goods passing hands, court orders, boats adrift in the night, threats, lockouts, censorship, power plays and weak characters willing to go to any end to achieve their goals.......wow all we need is murder.

I cant wait to get back to the quit life of cruising in the Mediterranean.