Friday 28 February 2014

Voyage to the Cut

We’ve sailed Ashiki this route before, last time the favourable wind died then the notorious sea breeze blasted in, on the nose. If the seas are too steep and right on the bow, Ashiki pitches and loses speed. She is a little bow heavy, having a great mast right on it… It was slow progress that day. This time we didnt need to complete the whole journey, it was only a day sail. For as long as the SE’er lets us. If it does, we get to have a beer at Port Bouvard, 10Nm away, at the far end of what is known as the Dawesville Cut. A channel excavated 20 years ago to enable a large inland inlet to flush itself to sea more easily. It had become infested with fertiliser induced algae and stank to high heavens. Wholly a man made problem, but the Cut really did work. The algae is gone and people aren’t holding their noses anymore. Then the population boom started and the traffic.. and the marinas..

Bridge over the Cut

But the Cut is good, someone built a marina at one end of it, and the place achieved brief national fame 2 years ago when during a 65 knot winter storm, one of the floating finger jetties with 40 boats broke free and floated off! It carried them onto the breakwater rocks. Several sank. A handful of the liveaboard people caught up in that little disaster are still there, sporting new boats :-D

Great storm of 2012

I think it was that very same gust which tore our fence down, 15km away in Mandurah revealing an under construction Ashiki to the world..

Fence gone, Ashiki making a break for it!

Back to the voyage. Firstly, we had to weigh anchor and leave where we were. Easy enough, the tide and wind would take us directly up the straits to where we want to go. Pull the pick, the elements do the rest, no need to turn the motor on. Nothing to it. 

We promptly ran aground. 

Ok, the boat hunted around while the anchor was winched up and ended up pointing towards the shallows by the time she was free. I had some foresail up too, which pushed her that direction. It was a case of heeling her over and rev’ing the outboard like mad to get her off..  With me letting go a few unprintables.. those fine folks in the those fine houses lining the shore needed a wake up call anyway..

It’s a fine sail in a SE’er, beam reach the whole way, Ashiki revelled in it. Pick a line between the heads and if you can time it with the wind shift, a fast 6knot cruise up the flat protected waters of the Cut itself, under the bridge and onto the marina restaurant. Well the public dock infront of the bar/restaurant was full, so we headed on out to the Peel inlet to anchor instead and had lunch from the ship’s stores. Most the inlet is too shallow for keel boats, but the area immediately at the end of the Cut is deep enough.

Anchored in the inlet, glimpse of the
Cut bridge through the porthole

After a swim, feed and a snooze I was still keen to head into the marina, if only to top up fuel. Which we did, replacing 17L of fuel we had used in the previous 2 months. At the dock some people, as usual, were interested in the boat. This person had seen Ashiki while she was behind our fence still under construction (the fence wasn’t tall enough to completely hide her), he used to drive passed her everyday and noticed she was now gone, so he was very pleased to see her in the water. Another bloke at the dock was on a Mac26. A famous (or notorious) runabout looking hull with a sailing rig on top. It was only 26’ but hanging off the transom was a massive 90hp outboard! We had a good chat, happens he is the state agent/saleman for that brand of boat. Typically he asked how the junk rig goes to windward…

Canals off the Cut

Finished chatting, we thought about anchoring in the Cut for the night, but decided the Mandurah channel would be more comfortable so we motored out of the marina, raised both sails and glided down the Cut with swirls bubbling from Ashiki's stern, fetching along at 6 knots again. We saw the Mac26 guy, he gybed around and tried to race us. No match, so we slowed down by dropping the main, to let him catch up. I planned to do this anyway, for the 8Nm downwind run in 20 knots back to Mandurah, no need for full sail. He did catch up on the flat water and we headed out through the heads together into the ocean swells. Beam reaching we matched speed, around 5.5 to 5.8 knots, he with full sail up, us with a reefed foresail and no main at all. lol. Ashiki will not be shown up. (He could have fired up that outboard, that boat motors at 20 knots.. )

We waved goodbye and bore off downwind along the Western Australian coast toward Mandurah. The foresail alone caused Ashiki to roll too voilently in the swells, so we tried a configuration I read about for junk rig schooners. Raise the main, sheet it out to drive the boat, sheet in the foresail to steady her. It worked, Ashiki stopped the death rolls. We spent the next 1-1/2 hours surfing the swells ranging from 5.5 to 6.7 knots. Always something new to learn. The versatility of the Chinese junk rig is endless.

Sunday 23 February 2014


View of the former Peninsular hotel site.

We are back to where Ashiki was born. It is probably one of the better ports on the Western Australian coast for a cruising yacht - on this part of the western shoreline anyway. Large protected waterway available to anchor in and all amenities close to the dock (pub, grub and Woolies). Boat lifting facilities, good chandlery next to the fishing dock (which is a public dock too). Every summer a number of boats, sail and motor, come and anchor for a week or two in the middle of town and enjoy the place.
The advantage of being at anchor in Mandurah - box seat for the new years fireworks display.

Anchorage on NYE. It was.. interesting.. watching the tide
of boats come anchor around us.

Anchored on top of, obnoxious music too.

Anchored in a tidal stream. The woman living opposite this small
(private) dock supplies us with fresh eggs, because she loves the view
of the (good looking) boat.

Fisherman's dock, favourite place to fix stuff.

Mandurah's ANZAC war memorial. Every town in WA has one.

Dolphin Quays Mandurah - good for fish'n'chips.
The place where this photo was taken has an
excellent Indian restaurant too.

Thursday 20 February 2014

The pylon not to be trifled with

You know the rule about only sailing in favourable winds? Didn’t stop us trying to sail in no wind, at all…. We had to navigate a big loop from Rockingham’s mooring field to round a large shallow, plus a big fish farm. After the 7am start it was a combination of sailing at 2 knots (top speed) down to 1/2 knot then motoring. We hate motoring, the outboard is a noisy damn thing.

2 hours later we had made 3Nm and we're through the Garden Island Causeway bridge and outside Cockburn Sound making our way towards Penguin Island (there actually is a penguin colony there). It wasnt till after 4 hours the wind decided to fill in a little, enough to make 3 to 4 knots, dodging lobster pots all the way till we were able to cross inside the reefs at Warnbro Sound. Now the sou’wester had started up and eventually increased to 20 knots, we were able to sail close enough to the southbound rhumb line to Mandurah another 10Nm to go. For a boat which (some say) doesn't go to windward, we seem to be going to windward all the time. Going hard on the wind, with a healthy amount of weather helm tugging on the tiller (We lash it to one side to take the load), Ashiki generally powers along at 4 to 4.5kts which we are entirely satisfied with.

Windward ho

It was going to be just 2 tacks to get there and as we drew closer to the shore some recognisable landmarks appeared. Like the cardinal marker showing submerged reef 1Nm off the beach, a pylon which is not to be trifled with. I decided to continue, sailing inside the pylon by about 1/4 Nm before tacking, that is, the pylon not to be trifled with, let alone collide with…   Hardly likely that would happen, there’s miles of water surrounding it.  Otherwise it would be like that story about the solitary tree in the middle of a treeless plain in Australia, and a car crashed into it. 

We tacked well past the pylon and started making sea room before the next and final tack to head into Mandurah, another 3 Nm away. I put Ashiki on a course to sail south of the pylon. But there seems to be some sort of drift to leeward, much more than I expected. The pylon, not to be trifled with, is in the middle of nowhere and any fool can avoid it…   loomed closer..

I pushed the tiller to make Ashiki track closer to the wind, but Ashiki then luffs and goes into irons, something which happens when you try to tack without enough boat speed. With tacking out of the question, I’ve no choice but to let her pay off only to head for…  WE’RE GOING TO COLLIDE WITH THE PYLON..  (the one any fool can avoid)!! 

It was as if Ashiki was magnetically attracted to this pylon, she seemed to be inexorably drawn to it from miles away no matter what we did.

At the last moment, with Ashiki’s bow only 30m from collision I pull the tiller to windward, let out some sheet and Ashiki pays off further and passes on the northern side. Fortunately the reef is 1.9m below the surface and we sail over it, missing the pylon by 10m.
Mandurah town dock, convenient to everything.
That was enough excitement for one day, Susie looking at me wondering if I knew what I was doing. Fortunately we made it to the Mandurah channel unscathed, motoring through the heads. Tied up at the town dock and made the post office in time to pick up some mail. It is yet again a relief to make port after a trying day. Sometimes I wonder how we pull it off.

Monday 17 February 2014

Ashiki Video

On departing Fremantle we were filmed and the people kindly gave us this video. The sails weren't set very well and weren't fully raised for the light winds either. But never the less, Ashiki made 2.5 knots to windward in around 8 knots of wind.

The little boat

About the dinghy. We are of the school of thought that the best dinghy for us is the least attractive to thieves. The reasoning is, it's an item which will be left on beaches for many hours at a time while we do our business on shore and we like to see it still there at the end of the day. It would be huge inconvenience to be without a dinghy, since it is the workhorse of the whole enterprise. The little boat hauls people and goods to and from shore. It enables living on the hook (or mooring) not having to rely on over priced marinas, or docking against abrasive pilings on town docks (Ashiki has a few scars to show from those).

It struck me about our friend with the pedalling kayak, he was happy with the $3,000 he spent on it. Compared to a inflatable with outboard (which a lot of people use) his will never run out of petrol, breakdowns are virtually nonexistent and because its pedal powered on a fast kayak hull, can go long distances quite quickly. Its a great deal. I don't know about leaving it on some beach unattended for 6 hours though, he’d have to extract the pedalling mechanism and take it with him I suspect. I didn’t ask.
Dinghy doing yoemans' work.
Ours is an old ratty fibreglass model, picked up for $180 on Gumtree, which I proceeded to cut in half, added another pair of bulkheads, which Susie glassed & painted, and ended up with a 2 piece boat. One half nests inside the other half and takes up less room on deck, in other words, a nesting dinghy. Means I need to assemble it each time we arrive somewhere. Small price to pay, it is then left tethered to Ashiki during the stay, and loaded  back on the foredeck with the help of the foremast halyard (a 3 part block). Also no outboard, we row it. I like rowing, you get used to it. I can row any distance now.

I’m not knocking Rockingham, its a great place and we really enjoyed our stay there. But there are a couple suburbs there which Perth people know about. Lets just say, things can get “borrowed” there.

Dinghy in happier times, when no one
is trying to swipe him..

We were away for about 4 hours, hopped the shuttle bus to the big Rocky shopping mall, and on coming back to the beach:

I can't see the dinghy. I think it's gone!

But then, as we walked closer I saw it but not where we left it. At least it was still there. Getting to it, we found someone else’s thongs (flip slops) inside. Odd. And the oars had been moved. We take the rowlocks with us when we leave, so whoever tried to use our dinghy would have had to use the oars as a pole and pole along. No rowlocks means no rowing. 

Out we rowed with our shopping stuff to Ashiki and later that day came across a couple from one of the anchored boats we were friendly with. They saw the guy on the beach acting strangely around our dinghy. He dumped his bag in it, walked up the beach some distance, stood around, came back to it. Tried to take it out. Paddling was too difficult. The couple watching this were a little distressed as they knew it was our dinghy but they didn't know what to do.  (I would have called out from the boat “Hey mate, that’s not yours”). But they didn't. The guy must have given up. Good thing no rowlocks. 

The couple in question anchor their dinghy - an expensive RIB with outboard - 10m off the beach to a small anchor. He strips off to his budgie smugglers and wades out to it. No one else appears to leave their dinghy on that beach..

Maybe Rockingham foreshore is a no leave dinghy on the beach zone.

Negative stuff like that usually makes us want to leave the next day. Since a big regatta was coming to the local yacht club and boats were vacating moorings all around us. It was going to be a week of racing and I didn't want to embarrass the yachties by entering, a fully loaded live aboard cruiser and junk rigged to boot, and out-sailing them all... We left the next day.

Friday 14 February 2014

A bit different

Having a unique type of boat makes for interesting times. There just aren’t any other Badgers around. We don’t expect people to know what Ashiki is. The first few weeks out on the water, at the marina and the town dock people for some reason thought she was a Dutch design. Just the lee board is missing. Many think she’s an old girl, judging by the curves, and Jay Benford did design some very nice curves on this boat, so she must be an antique. They are surprised to hear she is only just launched, brand new and the design is relatively new, from the late 70’s.

Penned at Port Bouvard

At some stage at the end of the first month the knowledgeable folks started showing up. One couple, quite elderly, 70+ insisted on taking our lines at the dock. They obviously knew their way around boats, she mentioned this is the first junk she’d ever help tie the lines (points for spotting she’s has a junk rig - not many do), then her Hubby looked at it and said, “She’s a Badger is she?”. (They were sailing veterans 50years+) Then a couple days later a chap walked over to us and said “thats a Benford isnt it”. He knew because he built a ferro cement boat in the 70’s and Jay Benford was quite famous in that field. One morning I looked out the porthole to see nothing but white gelcoat a few feet away. Susie popped out the companionway to investigate. A big 40’ish newish Beneteau luxury yacht was circling around anchored Ashiki. The skipper was calling out questions:
“Hello, been admiring your boat from over there, she’s a Badger is she?”
“Also is that a Belcher windvane?”  etc
They’re coming out of the woodwork I say.

Windvane - nameless as of now, at least,
not a name which is printable...

Contrary to what I expected, no one questions why a junk, people just accept it. I suppose people understand the more ways to skin a cat thing. Sailors, maybe the racing kind, tend to ask if she sails to windward (there are scurrilous rumours around the internet that junks dont). She sails fine to windward, infact she goes anywhere we point her.

Couple days into laying to the mooring in Mangles bay I was sitting in the cockpit watching the world go by, noticed a chap on an outer mooring climbing into his dinghy, which was really a kayak, one of those Hobie kayaks with pedal power. I watched him paddle.. or pedal up the bay with his knees pumping, he didnt need to take the shortest route to the shore like someone rowing would, he could cruise a 1km up the bay, passed the jetties and turn into the beach immediately in front of the town. I thought "that’s a pretty cool device". Later at the end of the day, I thought I saw him coming, then next thing I heard in a laconic kind of way:

“So are you voyaging on a small income yet?”

lol. Yeah, so far, I think.

He was referring to Annie Hill’s book "Voyaging On A Small Income" which is now quite a classic and inspired a number of people around the world to build Badgers and obviously, he recognised what Ashiki was..

Monday 10 February 2014

Taming of the Sou'Easter

Heading south we opted for the zig zag route, crossing Cockburn Sound and back and forth, the next stop was Garden island, a pleasant 1-1/2 hour beam reach away to a nice little anchorage with dozens of mooring balls to choose from. First up I decided to combine our first excursion ashore with modifying the dinghy. We spent the first 40 minutes on the beach wrapping foam noodles (the kind children play with in swimming pools) around the dinghy’s gunwales before a refreshing swim. It was a peaceful day of swimming and exploring, and a peaceful night’s sleep after. There’s not much to say about Garden island, its uninhabited apart from half the place cordoned off by the navy and the presence of Australia’s main submarine base.

Garden Island beach. The navy had signs all along it.
Pointless stuff like the Act of 1914 (about firearms...) and
keep out signs at the left end of the bay.

And there’s lots of flies…
Night #2 on Garden Is. started off well enough, then around 10pm, the Sou’Easter hit. This bay is protected from the prevailing SW’ers and the southerlies, but not from the SE’ers and their accompanying metre high waves from 12Nm fetch of the Sound. We are in the double berth in the forepeak. I can describe the motion as abruptly surging upwards 2’, then berth snaps downward and we are left bodily mid air like Wylie Coyote, before falling against the mattress for the process to start over again.

This won’t do. 

One option was to raise sail and head back to whence we came from, the weedy anchorage at Woodman point. But we didnt fancy a 2 hour sail in the dark. It seemed such a rude thing to be forced to do when one should be curled up in bed..

The other option was to sleep at the back of the boat. I cleared the pilot berth, this being a berth under the cockpit near the stern. Its there for sleeping in while on passage and theoretically is the most comfortable part of the boat when sailing. So one of us took the pilot berth and the other took to the galley floor with cushions. That solved the problem of sleeping in the SE gale. By morning the worst of it was over, but, you know, we had enough of that anchorage. 
Light breeze, but still reefed, one panel in the fore
two in the main.

The 12Nm sail to Rockingham and Mangles bay is an upwind beat, but in sheltered Cockburn Sound we’re on flat water. Ashiki doesnt mind slicing along upwind if the seastate is agreeable, she surges along, 45˚ off the wind with the proverbial, as they say, bone in her teeth, at 4 to 5knots.

I think we have picking up a mooring in 20+kts wind figured out, finally. We approach it from downwind, motor up to it and throttle down 10m to go, she glides to a halt, assisted by the 20kt headwind, right over the mooring ball. Susie picks up the pendant. Easy as pi.

Mangles bay is different to other parts of the coast. Contrasted with the sparkling wealth of the Perth/Swan River set (and the snooty “Royal.. such&such YC’s”), the yachts here have much more a “works in progress” look, sprinkled with several large behemoths, a decidedly low budget DIY feel.  My kind of joint.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Dark and stormy night

Fremantle has its downside. It’s a bottomless pit which hoovers the cash from you wallet. Too many great places to eat is the real problem. We had our week doing laundry, watering the boat, splicing a new anchor rode and even getting invited out on a motor boat for a quick trip out to Carnac Island (David Attenborough featured the place in one of his doco's, it is full of snakes…). Did I mention the people you meet while cruising around on a boat? We met lots of them, its always interesting. We bought a shiny new fisherman’s anchor (admiralty anchor) and 40m of 10mm chain to attach to 40m of 16mm rope, finally we may have solved our anchoring woes.
Anchors L-R, Super SARCA, Fishermans and a Plough

Time to leave and we were heading south. The rule here on the WA coast in summer is head south where its less windy. North, forget it, the winds are over the top. First stop was that same weedy anchorage 5nm south. Ashiki nodded towards it in a light easterly breeze, she barely made 2 1/2 knots in the zephyr.  Halfway the wind died altogether, since the depth sounder said only 4m deep we dropped anchor and made lunch. No hurry around here.

An hour later a wind sprang from the south east and we continued on, pulled into the deserted anchorage under sail and dropped our new 20kg fisherman's in 2.4m of water. I even dove on it to see how it set. There it was in the weed with one fluke defiantly pointing skyward. The next day was Susie’s birthday so we dinghied the bikes ashore and found a cafe to celebrate, had a ride around afterwards and checked out the new marina at Coogee. 
Woodman Point sunset

That night the winds picked up, looking on the Met Bureau’s website, winds were rising above 20kts. Then around 10pm "Ding, Ding, Ding.." goes the anchor alarm.  Wouldn’t you know it? Ashiki was dragging the fisherman's. 

At this point I was wondering, what were we doing here? We could be in a house on dry land like normal people, that doesn't try to drag itself onto some rocky coast on a dark and stormy night (it's all sandy beach around here but that's beside the point). There would be no stress from hearing some anchor alarm clanging away. But no, we like to suffer...  

So we were out on deck in the inky black moonless night, Susie held the motor while I hauled the anchor up and proceeded to pick up a mooring. No go, Ashiki would blow past the mooring too quickly to pick up. We dropped anchor again, maybe the fishermans will find better purchase this time, she dragged at the next 25kt gust. Off to attempt the mooring again, but then we lost the moorings altogether, our torches couldn't pick one up. I had the other anchor handy on the foredeck, a 14kg Super SARCA which I thought was underweight for weed, and dropped it over the side. Ashiki held under both anchors. With the anchor alarm set we turned in and the problem seemed over.

Derelict power station

Ashiki continued to hold into the next day, until around midday when the gusts increased to 30kts, she slowly began to drag again… This was the last straw.  But at least this time she was gradually making her way to one of the mooring balls. I looked at it, only 15m away and decided to swim a line out to it, rather than risk weighing anchor and try to motor onto it in this wind. Grabbing a spare 100m reel of 12mm rope from the lazerette, pulled out about 30m of it, gave the reel to Susie and dove in with the free end. Was onto the mooring ball in a flash, tied my end to the pendant with my best bowline, while Susie cleated the other end to the ship. It was then a matter of patiently hauling the excess line till the mooring pendant was cleated and secure on the foredeck. Ashiki was now moored.

The new fishermans anchor failed us. A big disappointment. Since then we have learnt that it is likely too small for Ashiki at 20kg. Also many of the south coast cruisers (where all the anchorages are weedy) modify theirs. We were told to sharpen the flukes, which we will do (when I get my hands on an angle grinder, ours was stolen).

As a charter captain told us in Fremantle, this (windy coast) is a great place to learn to handle a boat. Can't argue with that..

Saturday 1 February 2014

Sailing to Fremantle

Its a terrible place, no place to put a vessel, no shelter whatsoever...Any man who  would come a second time is a damned ass. Still blowing a heavy gale, I was never so sick of a place in my life, and may the curse of Christ rest on Fremantle and every son-of-a-bitch in it. God damn them all.
American Captain Natham Shaw 1892*

We did not have a good day. Beating to windward to an anchorage in Cockburn Sound. The water was murky and hard to tell if the bottom was sand or weed. The first two attempts Ashiki dragged and the anchor brought up weed. We tried picking up one of the two moorings in the area, and truth be told, our mooring pickup skills were not yet refined. We were using same old technique... none at all, since our previous boat was only 24' and we could muscle it with the mooring pendant from any approach. Not so with 5 ton Ashiki. Some people were telling us, in high winds, just drift a little upwind of the mooring and you'll drift back onto to it with plenty of time the pick it up and place around a cleat. Not true. We lost the boat hook, the only one onboard.

The day wasn't all bad, we were surprised to see another junk out and about.
This one, Blue Destiny, a 40' steel schooner ahoy'd us enroute to Fremantle

So here we were in failing light, in a 25kt mini gale, tired from beating all day from Rottnest Island, in a bay with no good holding (no good grass anchor onboard either) and boat hookless, so no way to pick up a mooring. Only one thing for it, head for Fremantle fishing boat harbour, 5Nm downwind. We had no berth there, no chance of getting one this late, since the place is tightly held, but as far as I was concerned this was a seaworthiness emergency. Which means, we can berth at the public dock for the night in the protected safety of the harbour. 

So up went 3 panels on the foremast and Ashiki went flying downwind at 6kts. We entered through the heads only 50 minutes later and berthed perfectly at the dock, in front of a couple guys speaking to each other in Arabic, who looked over at us, a loud red and yellow schooner 4ft in front of them, then turned to each other to continue their conversation. Anyway, the landing was perfect, all I had to do was step onto the dock with the line, but a foot caught the lower lifeline and I fell on onto the dock. The two guys chuckled, then went back to their conversation. I tied Ashiki off. (I really gotta install a pelican hook on that bottom lifeline!)

It felt great (despite new scratches on my shin..), as it always does after a hard day to make safe harbour.
Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour
Susie was saying we can't stay here, we were tied up in front of the "No mooring overnight" sign. I was telling her, "We certainly can, we have no where else to go, our boat is unseaworthy (no grass anchor and no boat hook!), so I'm claiming safe harbour if any ranger challenges us!"

And so we had a very peaceful sleep, in the middle of Fremantle boat harbour, but not till after a feed at the all you can eat restaurant at the Esplanade Hotel across the road... No one bugged us either. In the morning I even bagged the contents of the compost toilet and dumped in a public bin on the street (so handy those toilets).

In the morning I phoned up the evil government dept who looks after many of the pens there and snagged a stay for a week, for the princely some of $220 (!).
Not a great pen in Freo, in front of holiday apartments, tourist
get to photograph our every move. But, we're in Freo!
So off to the chandlers we went for more chain and an admiralty anchor to solve our weed anchoring blues.. and another boat hook. Also we took the opportunity to see friends and visit family up the road.
* The same week Capt Natham Shaw arrived, gold was found inland, and the fortunes of Fremantle and the rest of the state, changed forever. So the locals were probably preoccupied. That decade they dredged and built a proper harbour. He would have docked at a jetty jutting out to sea in 1892.