Saturday, February 6, 2016

Life's been good to me so far

Sailing 2016


Some yachtsmen love racing yachts. I used to be one of them but now, getting a crew together and stressing the boat to sail up and down the same courses week after week has lost its appeal. With a small fleet of very different boats the handicapping system is difficult to make equitable which can lead to the same boats winning each time. It’s demoralising for crews on boats not popular with the handicapper, and I would imagine embarrassing for the skipper who wins race after race after race. Then again perhaps not.
 I am however a keen cruising sailor. My idea of a perfect weekend is to sail with good friends, in company of other yachts, find an anchorage for the night and enjoy the ambiance of sundowners with likeminded people. Fire on the beach, great food, red wine, good music and stories that get taller as the shadows get longer. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to find that scene in Cairns, and despite trying quite hard, I could not create it.
At the end of 2015 I relocated Dreamagic to Townsville. A big step, but the sailing scene here is much more socially active, and a change is always good for the soul. I brought the boat down, parked it at the Townsville Yacht Club for January and joined in their activities. I went to the Christmas Party which was excellent. The club provided a terrific meal, the company was welcoming and we had a great night.
In the short time I have been here I have been made very welcome and I have sailed twice on club members boats for their weekly Wednesday Twilight Race. They get a strong fleet for this event and being a long triangle, rather than a repeated reaching course around close buoys, it  is very suited towards bigger boats and crew skill. On both occasions after the race we have repaired to the clubhouse for a meal where most crews have a table booked and share a meal together. This is why I am here and I am feeling at home very quickly. However Dreamagic doesn’t have her own crew.
I do have some friends in Townsville but they are crew on other yachts and it would be unfair to try to get them to jump ship. It’s also very bad form. Skippers put a lot of work into getting a crew to work together and they would view very badly someone who comes and tries to poach them.
So DM needs to find her own. I found an app on the net called Meetup which seemed to do the trick. I advertised on that for people interested in Wednesday afternoon social racing and weekend social sailing. I think it cost about $25 from memory but the response was 37 people who expressed interest in coming along. This is of course far in excess of the compliment of Dreamagic’s crew, but I thought it would be a good base.
I have advertised a few times recently for crew for various trips I have been organising. It is always interesting to see who makes an inquiry. In this advert I had made it clear that I wasn’t really interested in people who just though it might be nice to come out for a free ride around the bay on a sunny afternoon if nothing else appealed more.  What I was looking for was a group of people who would join the boat and get involved. Sail regularly, learn to sail, and learn to work together to improve the performance of the boat.
Doing what Dreamagic does. NB the couple at the back
The advert showed pictures of Dreamagic engaged in the sort of thing I was trying to recreate, and all of the requirement points in the preceding paragraph were included. Meetup allows you to ask would be participants a few questions so when it came to trying to pare down the 37, the first cull was to discard anyone who couldn’t be bothered to answer them. That could sound a little heartless, but I have to use some basis and my rationale was that if someone wanted to come sailing but could not be bothered to get into dialogue with me, they would be pretty tough people to go sailing with.
The next cull was anyone who could not be bothered to complete their Meetup profile. Along the same lines of thought. I am looking for a crew who I am going to lend my boat to, spend my free time with, and work with to teach them to sail. If you want me to do that, but you don’t want to tell me who you are, alarm bells are ringing.
I got down to about 10 and  invited them all to come down to the boat on January 2nd so that we could meet each other and make some plans.  Townsville Yacht Club had a Social Sailing Day planned for Australia Day on Tuesday the 26th January at Magnetic Island. My, (in hindsight probably quite ambitious plan) was to take Dreamagic out for the 4 days of that weekend, and crew could join and leave by ferry if they couldn’t make the entire trip. Alas, as often happens from an initial resounding “Yes! I am in”,  one by one they fell off the boat until only one crew and I remained and I had to cancel. 
I eventually imported my great friend  Andy Barbour, who has sailed Dreamagic out of Cairns for about 4 years and with his 4 year old son we took Dreamagic away for the weekend. We had an absolute ball. TYC certainly know how to throw a party. Magnetic Island, with 23 individual bays just lends herself to exactly the sort of life I am pursuing. The club used their crash boat to transfer a BBQ and tent to Florence Bay and we enjoyed doing the sort of things yachties do when they assemble en mass and anchor is a beautiful protected bay with a reef and a beach.  Dreamagic played host to a crews from a couple of other yachts and I realised that relocating to Townsville was a good move.
However, I still didn’t  have crew for DM. Much as I am sure he would enjoy it I can hardly keep importing Andy from Cairns, and everyone I have met are either busy, or committed to other boats.
A chance enquiry via the meetup site from Mary Anne fixed that. She and her husband had recently moved to Townsville, had sailed before, and were looking to get some sailing experience. Amongst the 37 original inquirers I had fielded an inquiry from  another woman who had told me she and her husband were keen to join the boat, but somewhere they fell by the wayside. I suggested that Mary Anne get on this website and make sure that she wants to do what I am trying to achieve, and also find the boat on Facebook. She followed through, nothing she read evidently turned her off so I suggested she and her husband come down to the boat.
What a great couple! Mary Anne and Louis came aboard armed with wine, (which on Dreamagic is the passport to success) We sat into the evening talking about everything and anything until late and made plans for a Wednesday night sail. Louis was travelling the following Wednesday but Wednesday week was locked in, and for good measure we planned the following weekend as well.
Komang. Bob the rescue dog on rescue duty
I invited what was left of the original crew to join, but commitments prevented that so I thought it would be the three of us until Komang, a Balinese National asked if she could join. She explained that she was female and was that a problem, she had never been on a yacht before and was that a problem, and she was nervous. Sound perfect to me, welcome aboard!
And then Joey got in touch. A guy with a lot of boating experience but none sailing he was keen to learn and sounded like a great asset to the boat.  We all met at 5pm on Wednesday at the marina, made quick introductions and hastily departed to get to the start line. On board I had two who had never sailed, and two who had a little experience. I also had the Townsville Yacht Club fleet of about 25 boats out there and I was keen not to look too stupid on our maiden voyage. My plan was to get the sails up, explain how it all works, then teach my new crew Basic Sailing 101 while keeping out of the way of the fleet, using it to pace us and give us some company.

The wind started kindly at about 10 -12 knts but quickly dropped out. We sailed for about an hour before retiring and coming back to our dock. I was so pleased with the way this had all worked out. We had a ball. The atmosphere on DM was great, the sailing was good, the company was excellent, so much so that we are all off to Magnetic Island for sail training and lunch on Sunday.

Meanwhile, like an old war horse I have smelled blood.

And these Wednesday races looks achievable