Sunday 30 March 2014

Creaseless in Busselton

View from the anchorage, Geographe Bay Yacht Club
After our easy peasy downwind sail we found a spot in front of the Geographe Bay YC (without the masses of racers, they’re tucked away in a marina some 3 Nm away), cruising in under sail to drop anchor. Busselton is another very pleasant place indeed, still in the tourist belt, and the anchorage is not quite as protected as Quindalup. 
Intrepid sailor (and tasteless dresser) on Busselton foreshore, after quenching thirst from another "filtered" water fountain.
Downtown Busselton

Busselton Jetty, longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere, over 1 mile long, built from the 1850's, length was added every few decades. Needs to be this long as the Bay is too shallow and they needed shipping to export Jarrah timber. Only a tourist attraction now.
There’s not a lot to tell about our stay here, except we changed the running lines on the rigging and rid the sails of diagonal creases! Took down one line (combined yard/throat parrel) and replaced it with two lines, yard and throat parrel. I think the difference in sailing is there, no way of quantitatively telling, but sure does look better!

Sails are now less creased.
During our 4 days we dragged only once…  as a result we have adopted the regimen of backing down on the anchor with the motor (after dropping anchor, put the motor in full reverse to dig it in). What’s that you say? We hadn’t till up till now? There’s not much power from the little 6hp outboard on a 5 ton boat, so I didnt think it much use, relying on wind to dig it in. But now we have noticed that backing down even with feeble power does make a difference.
Some days the water became really clear off Busselton, here are some pictures taken from the deck. A crab.

A sting ray of some sort, he just lay there waiting.

Thursday 27 March 2014

Downwind foolery

Quindalup became a time of much building activity, I altered the stern pushpit for the windvane mounting. Having all my tools on board, I could do this. Though most my power tools are too powerful for the 300W inverter (and too much for the house batteries even if I could use them), so arm powered cutting, chiselling and sanding it was. Susie had the sewing machine out (the very one she used to sew both of Ashiki's sails) and finished off upholstering the dinette and nav station cushions. The machine only uses 80W power, so no worries. We never intended to have the boat completely finished before launching, certainly not! A works in progress, a hive of industry, is Ashiki.

Liveaboard version of the workshop, or the shed (for Aussies).
The day came to say farewell to Quindalup and its crystal clear waters, and sample the delights of Busselton, the region’s major town 10Nm around Geographe Bay to the east. When the light Nor’west breeze was strong enough Susie yet again slipped our mooring and we made for deeper water. We had all 14 panels up, none reefed and Ashiki was content at a very pleasant 4 kts while we lazed around the cockpit watching the colourful display of spinnakers on the horizon. There was a huge regatta hosted by the Geographe Bay Yacht Club (Busselton) that week, so this fleet of 40 or more boats (most down from Fremantle & Perth) had been out racing every day.
Race flying passed our mooring. That must be Darth Vader's boat tearing up the field. (It's named "Black Betty")

Cruising along on a perfect day with a regatta on the horizon.

The wind backed a little and the foresail started to be blanketed by the main and lost its drive. So we gybed the foresail around to sail goose winged, or “wing on wong” I sometimes call it.

Wing on wong would be a westerner yachties’ spoof of the original term, “wing on wing”- for sailing downwind, the jib out one side and the mainsail on the other. A chinese junk therefore does it “wing on wong”. No, the Chinese themselves wouldnt have term like this…
Wing and wong.

The breeze stayed quite weak, under 10 knots, had Ashiki gently making way at 3.5 to 4 kts. I saw the race fleet come down to a buoy dead ahead of us, so we altered course a little towards the coast to give them room. I wondered how we compared speed wise, but those boats, 30 to over 40’, were all ultra lights with huge spinnakers, they had a good knot over us when we drew level in the light conditions. Can’t have everything. 

But there was another boat, 35’ ish, cruising style, without a spinnaker who had the same idea. He reached down infront of us, turn tightly around the buoy and gave chase to the racers. Having no good downwind sail, he slowed right down. We passed him. He had someone on the foredeck trying to hold out their big genoa, but after 20min, he was far behind. No match for the huge twin barn doors of a junk rig schooner I’m afraid.

The rule so far in light winds is, have a spinnaker, you may have a chance against Ashiki. No spinnaker, then be ready to be demoralised by a home built boat… Later another sailor at the Busselton anchorage said to me after I related that observation: "oh, you must love that".  I do.. :D
Anchored off Busselton, slid in under sail, dropped the pick.
Finished a great day's sail.

Of course it's unfair because we have more sail area than regular yachts. It’s the reason behind Ashiki’s good light air performance, superior off the wind and because the panels are cambered, she gives nothing away to windward. I realise I go on about this in this blog. But I know Ashiki proves a point over the online knocking that junk rigs get. Anyway, sailing performance interests me, as it tends to interest sailors who are thinking of going the junk route themselves.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Blown backwards

Down here in Eagle Bay we're a little disappointed the bay's only store had not yet opened, we opted to sample the walking trail to Dunsborough, to experience the hike and purchase a few supplies, so we pulled on our hiking boots and walked a total of 17km that day (only 'cause we missed a turn - added 3 or 4km). Oh sore feet! Slept well that night.

Eagle Bay - moving that solar panel around on deck following the sun is my twice daily gig. Charge, batteries.. charge!

We ventured to one tourist attraction, a beer brewery/restaurant inland about 3km. That was worth it! Excellent beer and food and views of the hills and Naturalist Lighthouse in the distance.

Safely moored - for now..
The trail Dunsborough to Eagle Bay.

On the forth day at Eagle Bay a Sou'Easter made the anchorage untenable by the swells. We had to leave, there was going to be no peace in these waters. Susie let go of the mooring and without touching the motor, we headed on course back to Quindalup, unfortunately, the wind was completely unfavourable.

6 hours to sail 6Nm! That would be 12km, I could crawl faster than that. Since the wind was on the nose and steep 1m waves hitting us, or as HW Tilman  calls it, bobbing up and down "in the same hole", we had to tack, or zig zag like mad to get anywhere. It took FOREVER. (Sailed 15Nm to cover those 6Nm as the crow flies). For awhile there I thought we were tacking back & forth towards the same rock! (That would be Castle Rock.)  

Castle Rock

A random beach on our hike. This region is full of perfect little bays like this.

I was wondering if we were going to run over the HMAS Swan at one point. This is some great navy frigate which was (deliberately) sunk very close to our course, used as a diver's exploration site, I think we missed it..
Our lovely route. Fun.. NOT. Check the tacking angles!
Note, we could have done one long tack. See the "meters" word top right? Sail up to there, then tack back down. Bloomin' miles that would be! And when the wind did back to the South late in the afternoon (see last bit of our actual route, angle is better), we would have been stuffed! So we did well making shorter tacks.

To cut a long story short, it was a looong trip, pounding away on those waves and with wind peaking at 35 knots - as I read on the weather site afterwards. I was happy Ashiki even made it, as 30 to 35 knots on the nose is formidable for any sailing vessel. Despite she being front heavy, but you can see why those kinds of conditions are best avoided. As it was, the other direction from Eagle Bay was either Bunker Bay (first of the surfing beaches - no protection) or around the cape where there are no anchorages at all, so we had little choice.

We made it back to Quindalup for dinner. We were getting hungry doing all that seafaring stuff!

Wednesday 19 March 2014

The Race to Eagle Bay

We needed a sail after a week on a mooring, and Eagle Bay was somewhere we really wanted to visit by boat, the place is famed for its picturesque beach. It is about 6Nm towards the end of the Bay, north west of us just before the Cape. The wind was from the North and light, meaning a windward sail but not uncomfortable. 10 minutes after setting out I noticed another yacht peel out from the mooring field, heading our way. We tacked, heading outwards from the coast which brought him level with us, but 1/2Nm inshore from us, we tacked to a parallel course and we seemed to match speed, then he tacked too…   The bugger was racing us.  A tall bermudan (meaning a normal yacht) versus the junk rig schooner (and towing a dinghy).

Sail to Eagle Bay - creases in the sails

Not a lot to report, he was catching up, but that was before I knew it was a race, when we did, I cranked her up, if there was any gap closing it wasn’t obvious. We were gliding along at 2.5 to 3 knots, 90˚ tacks upwind and he barely made ground on us for over an hour. I wondered what would have happened if the dinghy was on deck and the sails were sorted properly, they still had those terrible speed robbing diagonal creases in them…

Moored at Eagle Bay
Then we made our destination and I think our competitor was impressed, turning around and giving us the thumbs up and asked where we were headed. Racing finished, we found that Eagle Bay was chock full of moorings, but only a couple boats, so we picked one and settled in. This place didn’t have the crystal clear green waters of Quindalup. It had even more crystal clear blue waters, nestled in a horseshoe of typical WA powder white beach sand with green hills behind. It is simply a stunning location. Susie was very happy. Supposedly Eagle Bay is one of Western Australia’s finest beaches. I’ll give ‘em that one.

Eagle Bay

Sunday 16 March 2014


I can see why this place is popular with WA yachties, the water is like a crystal, ridiculously good visibility, the anchorage is generally very peaceful and the beaches are very white. The tourist madhouse of Dunsborough is 3km away via bicycle path and the rich pickings of WA wineries and (hic’) craft breweries beyond, but it helps to have a car to get to them, being so spread out, and some of the more organised yachties at the anchorage do.

Beach at Quindalup
Dunsborough Yacht Club (at Quindalup)

Right after arriving in the morning and picking up a mooring ball, we headed for the lovely Egyptian cotton lined double berth in the forepeak and passed out for a good 4 hours. That was the first thing we did in Quindalup. We didn’t go ashore at all that first day, but we got to see the mayhem of a convoy of luxury power boats rampage the joint. All the same brand, flying identical flags, must be a club organised by the boat dealer. 13 or 14 of the them motored through the mooring field and jostled around inside the most crowded part closest to the beach. Far from us thankfully, we stayed on the outer. Anyway, all those boats, million or multi million dollar rigs each, paraded past us, each with a woman on the bow with boat hook at the ready. After the mass hysteria of mooring pennant picking was finalised, they then activated their deck cranes to lower the power dinghies and head ashore, lining the whole beach with identical inflatables, with outboards several times more powerful than Ashiki's main auxiliary. Two hours later they were all gone..  and the anchorage was back in quiet mode (to our relief, don't think I could handle too many whirlwinds like that..).

Downtown Dunsborough

We did things like the 45min walk into Dunsborough, buy supplies, hang around the cafes, watch wagons piled with surfboards drive by, jostling with hordes of Audi & Porche SUV’s, another car load of young adults pour out and shout in German language at each other across the street. Dunsborough has several backpacker hostels and a steady stream of European and Asian backpackers. It is the gateway to the surfing coast, famous Pro Am breaks like Margaret River and Yallingup. Now days the housing prices have one too many zero’s for my liking.

Even the public water fountain has filtered water..
Dunsborough foreshore

Later snorkeled around the boat, the water’s so clear I could see the entire submerged hull like it was in direct sunlight. And sit on deck and watch the odd sting ray glide by and frequent dips over the side to cool off. A few days later we moved 2Nm up the bay to anchor opposite the township of Dunsborough itself, right near some huge 150’ passenger charter ship, but because the shallows extended off the beach so far, we had to anchor over a nautical mile off, which was a long row in the dinghy and by the next day it was clearly less sheltered than Quindalup. So we motored back to the mooring.

Beach at Dunsborough with new shark net! WA had been the focus of international attention with the controversial shark cull while we were there, the first drum lines where installed just 2 miles away from this beach, and sharks killed there fuelled international outrage - Richard Branson even had his say. We sailed past those very drum line buoys a few days later.

Quindalup anchorage

Floating around

Quindalup sunset

Thursday 13 March 2014

Geographe Bay Part II

Sunset on the voyage to Quindalup
The SE suddenly came alive at 10 o’clock, 12 knots became 25. It slammed Ashiki and she heeled and slammed into the waves. I was in the cockpit at the time, so I leaned forward and released the foresail’s halyard. The sail at that point should drop, but the fresh breeze was pinning the yard to the mast and it wasn't moving. I could have just rounded the boat up into the wind which would have taken pressure off the yard, but fortunately, a downhaul had been rigged a couple weeks earlier (in response to a posting on the JunkRig forum.. there you go..). A tug on that and the yard started coming down. I reduced two panels and three on the main, without changing course which had the required calming effect on Ashiki - relatively, it was still a lively sea. Susie popped her head from below and asked “Did you just reef?” 
“oh, ok” and went back below.

Ah yes, 2000 years of evolution of the junk rig, means we have an easy time of it!
The only glitch we had was because of modernity! The yard is light weight large diameter aluminium tubing. An ancient Chinese yard would be heavy timber and gravity would have no problem pulling it down. Maybe I should bolt a hardwood 4x2 inside it…

According to the GPS Ashiki was ploughing along at 4.8 to 5.4 knots. There was a steep 1m swell coming on the port bow and the green glow of the navigation light to starboard and red to port were illuminating the blanket of white water parting with each plunge of the bow. “Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh…” We were making such good time, still on the wind. Both of us sitting in the cockpit we spotted the Cape Naturaliste light house. One of the great Capes of the Australian continent. Counted the seconds between bursts of light, 2 flashes then 10 seconds pause.. including the argument about how many seconds.. “no no, that was 8 seconds..”, “no it wasnt… let me count this again..”. It was off the starboard bow, a position which I had always associated with open ocean, nothing till South Africa. But here there was a headland forming in that direction, though we could only see the lights, the western lip of Geographe Bay. Ashiki is starting to go places now! 

Our ETA at this rate would be around 3AM so we decided we’ll need to heave to for several hours, so as to arrive after sunrise, remembering the rule..

At 13Nm to go at midnight, we released the sheets, let the sails weathercock to the wind, and lashed the tiller to leeward, Ashiki settled with her bow pointing 45˚off the wind and her drift at around 0.9 knots 90˚ to the wind. She would run aground in about 13 hours, we planned to sleep 3 or 4 hours so its fine. I set the anchor watch with a 1Nm radius, so it should start alarming after an hour to wake us up to check outside. 

After first hour I grew tired of the clanging of the aluminium battens against the mast. So reduced all sail and sheeted them in. This just made Ashiki drift a little faster, at 1.2 knots. In hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have sheeted them in, maybe the drift would have been less. But she was quieter, apart from the occasional crash of a wave hitting the port bow. We experimented with sleeping in various places around the boat. Susie felt claustrophobic in the pilot berth and was actually quite comfortable in the double berth in the forepeak. Both of us couldn't sleep there, Ashiki was tossing and I’d land on her (Susie). Her back was giving trouble sailing in the bumpy SE’er and was relieved when we heaved to. I was fine in the pilot berth at the stern.

Smooth sailing in the daytime

We slept 4 hours in the dark middle of Geographe Bay in a raging minor gale, bashed by the waves, checking position every hour when the alarm went off. It worked fine, the junk rig heaves to without a hitch, she kept a constant angle to the wind and kept a slow steady pace towards the SW, which was approximately our destination. The only complaint was we both felt a little nauseous from the constant pitching.

By 4am we woke from our last hour long slumber (I never really slumbered - one hour intervals dont suit me too well), Ashiki had moved 4Nm, making 9Nm from our destination. The SE’er was still blasting away. I climbed into the cockpit still dark, released the tiller, raised 4 panels of the foresail (of 7 panels total) to which Ashiki responded with  3 or 4 knots southward, raised another 3 panels on the main which pushed her passed 5.5 knots, slicing and dicing the pre dawn chop. It was going to be a fast final 9Nm I thought. I appreciated that while still sleepy, grumpy and with a little sea sickness, no going out on deck was required. All sail can be set from the cockpit. Did I mention she has a good rig?

Soon in the pre dawn light the hinterland, low mountains of the cape and light house were visible to starboard, the mainland and the loom of Busselton was visible to port and at the hour mark the familiar cluster of tiny sticks in the distance, denoting a mooring field of yachts, rose over the horizon dead ahead. Quindalup.

We're here!

Sunday 9 March 2014

Geographe Bay

Coastal points of interest in this part of the state, readers, tend to have French names. There’s Cape Bouvard, Cape Naturaliste, Cape Leeuwin, Cape Clairault, Point D’Entrecastreaux and not forgeting Geographe Bay to name a few… well that would be most of them. The naming of these places indirectly lead to the settlement of Western Australia by the English. When the Governor of NSW in the young burgeoning settlement of Sydney town heard French explorers were snooping around the western end of the continent naming capes, reefs, bays, and having a merry time doing it (drinking French wine to boot), he dispatched a ship west to settle the place. And so HMS Amity made Albany in 1826, thus the British colony of Western Australia was established.

Geographe bay was our destination and initially we wanted to make Bunbury, a 50Nm trip. The boisterous easterly had given way to a light SE’er and by midday, after successive shaking out of reefs it was but a zephyr. We were still making way at 2.5 knots under a huge cloudless blue sky. The windvane, which surely must be sorted by now, having its power greatly increased, was still experiencing teething problems. This time the lead counter weights were fouling the main sheet at that particular point of sail and the linkage design I used was not very efficient. Fortunately Ashiki sails to windward quite well with only the tiller lashed, so we did not need to sit in the cockpit the whole day. But I was spending much of the time fiddling with the vane.

At one point, Susie mentioned there was another boat. “Eh!?” She had been watching it come over the horizon and catching us. “WHAT!!?”  And there she was, a catamaran off the starboard quarter, gaining on us. Our sails still had another panel to shake out as we weren’t really trying. Raised them to full size, the cat of about 38’, sat out there 1/2 Nm offshore from us, not able to pull ahead for the next 2 hours with us soflty gliding to windward at 2 to 3 knots. Then suddenly they pulled way ahead and disappeared over the horizon. I guess they turned on the motor to keep to a schedule. But this was the second indication of Ashiki’s light wind performance. The first was 2 weeks ago when we caught and overhauled a 30+ yacht on a beam reach, again in light winds.

We continued on over the smooth seas as the SE’er built a little, but it was looking like a night landfall in Bunbury. There’s one rule we made for ourselves and that is to never enter a new port or anchorage after dark. If we had prior experience of a port or anchorage in daylight, then a night entry is no problem, because we’d know where everything is. Since we can’t see the bottom in the dark, whether sand or weed, how do we anchor safely at night? So we made the decision to skip Bunbury and continue on to Quindalup, another 6 hours further down the coast. Of course this might bring us to that anchorage at 4am. Also too early. We’ll see how it pans out.

On we sailed, making 3 to 4 knots through sunset. Susie made tuna sandwiches for dinner, washed down with icy cold soft drinks. It was smooth sailing, we had the tiller lashed and Ashiki kept her course to windward. I used the pram hood for the first time at night. We took turns sleeping in the pilot berth and taking watch. It was a very easy leisurely sail, until around 10pm.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Southward Bound

We were bound for Bunbury, 50Nm south then further afield to sample the lovely environs of WA’s south west. But we had a couple of false starts. I blame it on the sun, rising too early in the morning and making us look like late starters. It's my excuse anyway. The trick to making a passage somewhere, anywhere, is to wait for favourable winds.

Attempt 1
Left Mandurah in a steady easterly breeze, which is quite favourable, had Ashiki sluicing along at 5 knots average - what a sail! At the 10Nm mark I had already had a large spell below, horizontal on the couch. This is a favourite position of mine, and is as far as I am concerned the essence of sailing. The sporting yachtsman can have his heroics on deck or “working on the foredeck” as they say. The junk rigged vessel needs none of that nonsense. This boat and its rig were conceived as one that needs minimal input from her crew, sails herself (attainable when the @#%~ windvane works!) and I can while away my sailing hours in comfort, asleep. If work is required, such as a gybe, tack or reef, those tasks can be performed from the sitting comfort of the cockpit. No rushing around on a dangerous slippery deck. Since we did not have the windvane working properly, Susie was doing a fine job as helmsman (something she loves to do). Until I heard the words from above, spoken quite robustly “OH S#@^!” …  causing me to jump. “The sheet is broken!!” or words to that effect..

I poked my head out the companionway to enquire what could possibly go wrong, then saw the foresail sheet, it was still attached to its cam cleat, but the double block was in the air and no longer attached to the deck. The shackle holding the block had exploded into a twisted mess. We had sailed a little beyond the Dawesville Cut.
Tucked away in Port Bouvard Marina
So yes, a trip on deck was warranted, so we made this junk rigged schooner heave-to (stopped the boat in the water) for the task. None of the spare shackles I had fit the block, so I improvised using some dyneema line. It worked, but, I really wanted to replace the block, and since chandlery supplies are a known quantity up here, and not down south, we turned back to Mandurah. A slower close reach, but we are in no hurry. I used the week in Mandurah to work on the trimtab too (enlargening it - I mistakenly made it too small).

Attempt 2
With new, stronger shackle on sheet block, we set off in another strong easterly. This time we'll sail off anchor correctly and not stuff up. 

So Ashiki tacked on the wrong side as the anchor broke loose and promptly ran aground. Again. In the same spot.

We knew how to get out of that one, and before long under the rays of the early morning light, we were progressing under sail through the heads passing the usual suspects fishing from the rocks. This time I heard a very Aussie voice booming from the breakwater, "Do you have any room on that boat?" (Obviously a personage wishing to leave his current predicament and sample the carefree life of the itinerant yotie, however we hadn't the will nor the means to comply with this particular request in the present.)

After a couple hours making another solid 5 knots, Susie’s back pain, which was aggravated a couple weeks before in a minor slip in the dinghy, was becoming unbearable. She can be quite stoic, but I knew this wasnt good therefore we decided to turn into Port Bouvard marina, which we had passed 2Nm back. A week’s rest in the comparative calm in a marina would do her back wonders. The sail in was well timed, the wind swung around to help us (which means it was no longer favourable for heading south). By the time Ashiki was through the heads and slanting up the Dawesville cut, she was flying on perfectly flat water and beginning to heel more sharply. It was pretty cool to be racing towards the bridge pylons, heeling at 6 knots and reefing down panels at the same time. Clunk, clunk as each batten drops and Ashiki stands up a little taller each time with no drop in speed. I don’t think the yacht coming the other way could believe what they were seeing. Yep there’s a reason we went junk, its all about reefing.

The marina wasn’t that calm either, the only berth available was partially exposed to southerly swells from the Harvey inlet. But Susie still managed to recuperate. We even made a train trip to Perth, saw family, picked up pot holders for our Origo stove top. Can’t cook anything while sailing without pot holders, the pot lands on your face otherwise…  Also sourced Susie’s favourite chinese back healing balm. I used the week at Bouvard marina to enlargen the windvane too. Susie spent the week recuperating by oiling the deck trim and painting said windvane.
Heading south
Attempt 3
It was a healthy easterly again, Ashiki blew downwind through the Cut goosewinged (two sails sheeted out opposite sides of the boat), under the big traffic bridge, through the heads and out to the swells of open sea. With the winds gusting 20+ knots we had only half sail up, we gybed the main and pointed our bow SW, so to clear Cape Bouvard before the straight run South. It was going to be our first overnight passage.