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Boat Deliveries: Contingency, Redundancy and Backup plans

Curlew at Sea

There is a certain pride an owner has in their boat, mine is not the most recent design but she will suit me for my needs for a long time to come and sails much better than modern yachts in my humble opinion. After spending 2 days coastal cruising in her, this is an owner who is STILL very impressed.

Thank you to Sparkman & Stephens for turning out another quality design and the previous owner who’s perfectionist nature has kept her in good stead for the last ten years. This preface needed to be written because whether you’re buying a brand new boat or a project, things tend to happen ON BOATS. Non-boaters won’t understand the varying factors that influence things like a delivery and in particular, our delivery.

Our delivery: The variables were too many to mention, from work commitments, the upcoming Christmas break, hire car return challenges in regional towns, but the most influential in any real decision making around a delivery trip is the weather. You judge the distance to travel, look at immediate and medium range forecasts then choose your departure (but always to the mercy of the weather window because no one wants a hectic trip).

In our case, we were concerned about our newest crew member (AP), her first time extended stay at sea ( as opposed to drinking champagne on a yacht) and storm warnings for the scheduled departure day. So we decided to hang around Yamba for a day which gave Mick and I, (two boat-niks) an opportunity to ready all the systems, check and double check the route, sails, blocks, lines and stowage for one more day (plus catch up on some needed rest) prior to our departure. In hindsight this proved to be a prudent move because the weather gods smiled on us for the delivery. This also gave AP a great chance to catch up with some old mates who were coincidentally on holiday in Yamba.

We crossed the Clarence River bar at sunrise on Sunday following a procession of yachts and catamarans and greeted by local trawlers returning from a night’s work. Conditions were calm, but the wheel was heavy. As this was my first trip, I didn’t know any better and decided I would ask Mick about it later. (I forgot to ask later). Hoisting the mainsail and adjusting mainsheet we logged on to the local Marine Rescue Station who do an admirable job as a group of volunteers and scheduled to log on to Coffs Harbour that afternoon/evening. (We had numerous events where the local station contacted us or next of kin to ensure we were ok, so the service these volunteer agencies provide cannot be understated).

Curlew lurched forward when we unfurled the No.2 Headsail and seemingly moments after crossing the bar and removing the required life jackets (after all conditions were VERY calm and there were 3 on deck) we cut the engine. This was real sailing and Curlew meandered down the coast at a comfortable 7 knots assisted by current. (The EAC, "Coowabunga dude" for any “Finding Nemo fans).

Mick was a trove of knowledge, from his history of building his own boats to the systems he had implemented on my new yacht, I was a sponge and we talked for hours (in between cups of tea, Tim Tams, sandwiches and some re-heated curry). He explained that he didn’t have an automatic bilge pump and reasons behind it, also how the electronics were set up, the PSS shaft seal and how it had never caused any drama. (He spoke about a day too soon!)

Our new sailor AP was having a great time taking photos, videos and providing some of the catering services as we continued down the coast, taking most of the constructive advice in her stride. “I have never been seasick” were her famous last words, as the constant motion, a propensity to reading and going up and down from cabin to deck, caused a slight bout of ‘green around the gills’ for our intrepid sailor girl. I hadn’t seen it before but knew the look as she was ordered to the settee berth for a lie down. There is a first time for everything… And this was a first for Naughtical AP to getting seasick (And actually listening to the Skipper when ordered to lay down immediately…)

We received a wake-up call at 2am via a sheet block giving way while on watch, which caused the boom to swing wildly out held only by the remaining knotted end in the block (and a redundant preventer rigged to keep us from gybing in the following seas). This was solved with a blindfold and pair of jelly pliers, which is how everything feels when you are snapped in the face with an incident such as this. In fact, we were cautious and having the preventer rig and spares on board meant we were underway normally again within a couple of minutes. Our seasick naughtical jumped into the cockpit to find Skipper DK hanging precariously over the side (really I was inside the cockpit reaching for the boom preventer).

Sunrise is an amazing sight at sea, as is the first cup of coffee in the morning (A self-confessed caffeine addict here), and our first sunrise at sea aboard Curlew was simply that. Amazing. We are 30 miles off the coast with a tuned rig pushing along at a leisurely 7 knots. Our plan was to make Port Stephens before the predicted gales and thunderstorms rolled in and we almost made it before the winds started pushing 20 plus knots. The entrance to the marina was clearly marked. We did pass some inviting beachside courtesy moorings but were committed to a pen as this was where Mick was leaving and Curlew was to stay for the next 3 days.

Mick offered me the helm for the entrance to the pen, a seemingly simple task. I did the usual, brought her in slowly and cautiously to judge any current and pending wind effects. As I turned her into the pen a gust of 20 plus knots tore through the marina and pushed my bow away from the berth. We bobbed back and forth down the marina and on the final approach caught the anchor of a towering power cruiser that caught our safety lines and snapped two stanchions. Keeping Curlew’s shrouds away from the anchor we were able to get back into another pen with no damage outside a snapped stanchion and a couple of bent ones.

Lines were secured and we had a nervous laugh (Well, it wasn’t Mick’s problem anymore, he was the previous owner), and shutdown the engine. The problems hadn’t ended there as the normally dry bilge had a bucket full of water drained out of her. We ferretted about and found the PSS bellows was leaking ever so slightly as we turned the prop. Bring On Another Thousand.

In hindsight, we validated some vital lessons on this trip, firstly to always have contingency plans in place. Had we not rigged the preventer, we surely would’ve lost the boom. We hugged the coast so as to always have options if the weather window closed, but stayed with the current when pending weather was favourable. We could’ve pushed on but chose to wait out the weather in Nelson Bay (Not a bad spot to hang out either!) and always check your bilge. We are still waiting for the financial outcome to resolve from the trip, but we arrived safely and it is a testament to the safety mindset we adopted along the way. I think also the Gods were smiling on us and forced us to port instead of pushing on, knowing there was a risk if we pushed on that a catastrophic PSS failure would be more likely.

You can view some of the pics here and we will get some video footage up soon!

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