In this Podcast I interview Brett and Megan Bishop who recently acquired a 25 foot Top Hat design. They had never really done any sailing. This presented them with the problem of getting their yacht from Sydney to Brisbane, a 515 nautical mile offshore passage. Brett and Megan do a great job of sharing their story in this educational and entertaining account of their adventure.
LINDSAY: Okay today I’m really excited because a very old friend of mine, that I’ve been around – he’s not that old, he’s about as old as I am. I’ve known this guy for a long time. We were in the Navy together and we surveyed Foveaux Strait down the bottom end of New Zealand, and a few other places around the coast while on HMNZS Takapu. We had a lot of fun and a lot of memories. I always had a lot of respect for my friend Brett here, who set his mind to anything. I remember getting some photos of him learning how to ride a unicycle at one stage, while we were down there, riding around on the Bluff wharfs.
Brett was an electrician in the Navy. I’m really looking forward to telling you a bit more about the little adventure that Brett’s just had. He’s had a bit of life shift which revolves around sailing. Welcome Brett. We’ve also got Brett’s wife here, Megan, and Megan’s a little bit new to sailing. We’re going to be asking a few questions of both of them.
What’s happened is that all of a sudden a yacht was passed onto you through family members, and it’s a little Mk 1 Top Hat. Can you tell us a bit about that yacht Brett.
BRETT: It’s a Top Hat twenty-five. Twenty-five is twenty-five foot which is 7.64 metres long. It’s got a draft of 1.3 metres. Our particular one is an inboard diesel, two cylinder Yanmar, eighteen horsepower, but they can come with an outboard in the cockpit as well. It sleeps four. It’s got a V Berth up front and two singles in midships. Whilst it sleeps four, we had three people on the boat for our trip and that’s pretty tight. Four would be just a day sail I’d say.
It had an onboard toilet which we threw away and put in a port-a-potty, which sat between the V Berth. Which means that if you want to go to the toilet early in the morning, somebody has to get out of bed.
BRETT: It’s a sloop, and I got some things done to the rigging and what have you, which I can tell you about later.
LINDSAY: Yeah, okay. We’ll do that.
Now, there’s a problem that you faced straight away with having taken possession of this boat. The boat was in Sydney and you live in Brisbane, so your maiden voyage on the boat was Sydney to Brisbane which is a distance of 515 nautical miles. They’ve just finished this trip. They’ve been back for about a week now, so I was keen to get them while they were still fresh with the memories of the trip. We’re going to hear a little bit about some of the things that they came up against doing that costal passage in this little twenty-five foot yacht.
I want you to go back a little bit in time and just tell us a little bit about your background in the Marine industry Brett, for a start. We touched on the fact that you were in the Navy with me, and what sort of sailing experience you’ve had.
BRETT: When I was in the Navy, I did my apprenticeship in the Navy, it was electrical so there’s not really any sailing experience. When I was on small ships with an inshore survey craft, just being on that ship I observed other people – how they would tie up the boat, how they do knots, and things like that. Even though that wasn’t my role as an electrician, you tend to learn those things and I’ve always remembered them.
As for sailing, I have very little sailing experience. Sure, I used to do windsurfing when windsurfing was up in the 80’s and 90’s, but as for actual sailing – very little at all unless I was on somebody else’s boat.
Megan, your experience on sailing?
MEGAN: Mine would be a bit fat zero. I have never sailed anything in my life. I was born out in the middle of the country, so there was not even a body of water close. I have been in row boats, I have been in canoes, I have been a trailer sailor, but I know I was really sick with some flu so I don’t remember anything about that. I had zero experience coming into this adventure of 2017.
LINDSAY: You’ve been done, you’ve had a look at this boat and you’ve made the decision that it’s going to be good for you?
BRETT: I had a look at the previous survey, which was nearly two years ago and everything looked pretty good on the survey. After that survey it was put on the mooring and basically nobody’s been on the boat since then. So, I went down, had a bit of a look-see. We put it through another survey, which pretty much came up exactly the same. We had to give it a bit of a clean inside because there was mould on the inside, because it hadn’t been opened up for two years. I had to get the motor going. That was a crucial one. I talked to friends of mine who’ve dealt with those motors and they said, “Change the impeller on the water impeller and change the oil, and the filter, and get rid of the diesel – put new diesel in.” Well I found out that water pump was seized, so I had to get a new one, which was quite a lot of money.
LINDSAY: And so it starts.
BRETT: And so it starts. I changed the oil, filter, put new diesel in and I couldn’t get the fuel to go all the way through. I got a diesel mechanic in – marine diesel mechanic. He spent only half an hour with me, because he showed me how to pump it through. I had the manuals, that was okay, but there’s a few little tricks – you’ve got to turn the fly oil a bit so you can get the pump working full-stroke.
So I got that going, and we actually got the motor going. That motor hadn’t gone for at least two years, and she was sweet. She’s been sweet ever since. She’s run without a hiccup.
LINDSAY: It’s a little Yanmar?
BRETT: It’s a Yanmar 2GM. It’s an eighteen horsepower. It’s a 2 cylinder job and she’s pretty good.
LINDSAY: That’s driving the prop through the gearbox
LINDSAY: And a shaft is it?
BRETT: Just a shaft. Yep.
The other thing I had to look at was the rigging was probably more than ten years old, so that would need to be done for insurance purposes. The sails had to be looked at because some of them were torn and work out what was usable and what could get fixed. Yeah. That was at that stage.
The second time I went down, we got the rigging re-done. Completely re-done. Not only for insurance but it actually, if you’re going to get on a long trip, your rigging can be an unknown if you don’t know the boat. That was a safety factor too, to get that done. Whilst I got the rigging done, I got a furler off of the jib. I got a furling jib. I used the original genoa, which is probably 135%. It’s a big sail on that boat. It’s the biggest sail, and that’s the one that really moves the boat along. We got the reconfigured for the furler.
There was no boom bag for the main, because that got ripped and blown away in a storm, and the main got ripped as well. There’s a 50/50 chance to get that repaired, but they actually repaired that. Probably in another four or five years, we’ll need a new one. I do have a spinnaker and I’ve got other jibs, but I got the furling jib and we didn’t look at using a spinnaker or anything like that, to keep it really simple. Just a furling jib and a main sail. The main sail’s not a big mainsail at all. We’ve had that mainsail with gusting thirty knots, not a problem.
LINDSAY: Yeah, well that’s going to be interesting hearing some of those stories about your trip up the coast in a minute.
You’ve got this boat all sorted out. You’ve done all the maintenance that you needed to. I remember seeing a blog post and talking to you a little bit about before you left Megan, and all you could see from this end was the bank account going down.
MEGAN: Yeah, they say, you know, the acronym for boat is Bring Out Another Thousand. I think there might need to be another T on the end of that, because it seems to be just going out, and out, and out. But there’s got to be certain things that you’ve got to spend the money on, because your life is at risk if you don’t spend the money you need to spend on the boat. This is something that we had an amazing opportunity to take part in, and if it doesn’t work for some reason and it’s not what the two of us wanted it to be, we had the option to sell that boat. So you’d recoup some of your money back. It was just something we had to give it a red hot go. So we did.
LINDSAY: That’s fantastic.
You’ve got the boat ready and you were down there in Sydney. You joined him in Sydney?
MEGAN: Brett went down a week before we were intending to look at leaving and I followed down after Christmas. We wanted to be in Sydney for New Years Eve, because it was a prime opportunity. We’d be silly if we weren’t.
LINDSAY: Because in New Years Eve in Sydney they have this massive fireworks display don’t they?
MEGAN: Massive fireworks.
MEGAN: Peter, who was our other party was coming down on the 31st to meet us there. That was one of our catalysts for the timing, and the fact that we were all off work. Really not a very good time weather wise, to sail from Sydney to Brisbane, because we normally have northerly through that whole time. We would’ve been taking a long time to get back up. Wasn’t as far as the weather, the best time apparently, but we were very lucky for most of it.
LINDSAY: What were you feeling when you were about to slip the lines and start heading up the coast? You’d never been sailing before Megan.
MEGAN: I guess, I don’t know, maybe I’ve got an adventurous soul deep somewhere seeded in me, because I was never, at any stage was I ever concerned about anything going wrong. Maybe that was just blind faith and the fact that if you overthink it, I’m sure you’ll think of all the monsters in the world. I never was concerned about it. I was really interested to get out on the water and actually sail, rather than just motor. That first couple of days, bringing the boat from where it had been moored up to Sydney Harbour, we had to motor. I was really looking forward to getting the sails out and seeing, and experiencing that. I was excited, but I was never nervous or concerned. Which I thought was quite interesting that I didn’t actually have any apprehension about doing such a massive trip, and maybe it was because I was just so naive about what it was going to be. Then, when we had some very interesting weather and some interesting stuff happen on the trip, which could’ve caused people concern, and I was never worried at any of those times either. When you’re coming in the dark and you can’t really see where you’re going and you’re hoping for the best really. Or huge winds and big swell, which I’m sitting in the cabin and all I see is sky, and then white water, and then sky, and then white water – and that’s all I’m seeing, but I never felt worried about it.
LINDSAY: That’s a tribute to the boat design itself I would say.
LINDSAY: You always felt safe on the boat.
MEGAN: Absolutely. Never felt like the boat was out of any sort of control. Also, the two gentlemen that were on the boat. I’d only met Peter briefly. We went over to his house before Brett left to go to Sydney. I’d not met him before and I did request to Brett that I actually meet this other person that I was going to be spending two weeks plus, on a very small boat with, so at least I had some idea of what he’d look like for a start, and got a sense of his personality.
LINDSAY: That’s a very good point actually, it leads me into my next question, Brett. What were you thinking when you chose your crew. You knew you wouldn’t be able to bring it up yourselves, both not having much sailing experience. Tell us about the process you went through to get your third crew member.
BRETT: It comes down to personalities and risk. Personalities – you’ve got three people on a boat and even though one of them might be your wife, things could get a little bit tense.
MEGAN: It didn’t. I’m just putting it out there. It never got…
BRETT: One of the things I had to do was remind myself to speak kindly to my wife, even when things got a bit tense. I actually think on that trip, I did pretty good. The other thing was, is the third person, well what are they bringing to the party. Now I know Peter, I’ve worked with him before and I found him to be quite an agreeable person, but the other thing is he had the sailing experience. He’d sailed yachts all through his life. I wanted a person who had a good personality that would fit in with us and also he needed to bring skills to the party. I might have prepared the yacht using professional people like surveyors, and riggers, and sail lofts. I needed that person for the sailing part of it.
Having got the boat to the standard where I’ve got EPIRB’s and sails, and everything up to standard, that makes me feel better. I’ve mitigated those risks which makes me feel better of what we’re going to do. Bringing this other person on with his skills, and because he had the sailing skills, we had to defer to him in sailing. It actually gave me a big sense of confidence even when the seas were bigger, because I could see his confidence.
MEGAN: I think that actually, that comment about confidence permeates through your crew. You’ve got somebody that you’ve got confidence in that can sail your boat, or cook your dinner, or do whatever it is that you need to do, and that then just filters through. If you’ve got somebody who’s maybe sort of confident about what they do, but not really, and if they don’t embody that confidence, that will filter through. Everybody starts getting a little bit antsy and a little bit concerned, and then things start going wrong.
I know that Brett as the skipper, he was the main guy in charge, but allowed himself to defer to Peter without Peter then overstepping a boundary, if that makes any sort of sense. He was still quite a hierarchal thing in everybody’s head knowing that this is how it sat, so Brett still always had the final word.
LINDSAY: That’s really interesting actually that you say that. That’s good leadership to draw on the skills and experience of other people that are in the team, and that’s exactly what you’ve been doing.
BRETT: Yeah. The other thing is we had a good talk about the sailing that we want to do. I said, “We’re not racing. Yes we want to get up there as soon as possible, up to Brisbane, but we’re not in a race. We’re in an old boat. I would rather take the sails in well before it becomes a problem.” We agreed on that. He’s the type of sailor who if we’re going forward, we’re doing well. We don’t have to be going forward with the Gunwales under the water or anything like that. We just want to go forward. Also, that gave us confidence with what we’re doing as well.
LINDSAY: And you get to know your boat. Talk a little bit more about the boat. What are some of the things you really like the boat? You spent how many days getting up the coast?
BRETT: Thirteen. From Sydney Harbour to Southport.
LINDSAY: Just tell me some of the things you really like about the boat.
BRETT: The problem is I haven’t done a lot of sailing before, so it’s hard to compare. I love it when the sails are up rather than motoring because it’s a different motion. Even though we had some big seas occasionally, it felt very stable. Even though it’s a monohull because we didn’t have a lot of sail up all the time or the weather we were in, it wasn’t leaning over. There wasn’t that anxiety of leaning over, and she seemed to ride through the waves really, really well. For a beginner, that’s probably a good yacht to have. It’s got a good pedigree and a good history as being a stable, basic, no frills yacht. That’s the way we felt as we sailed it, and manageable. Twenty-five footer is a lot more manageable when you’re new, than a thirty-two footer or a thirty-six footer. It’s a lot easier.
Only having just the mainsail and the furling jib means you’re only dealing with two sails. That means I didn’t have more things to do with, I had less things to deal with. Once that main sail is up, that was up and I just had to play around with the jib. That was it.
LINDSAY: Keeping it simple. Very good.
What were some of the things you didn’t like about the boat?
BRETT: No shower.
LINDSAY: Yep. Home comforts.
MEGAN: When you go into a port where you’ve come in and you find that there is a shower you can use, that is the most amazing thing ever. I found that we would go to an RSL for lunch or something like that, and the first thing you do is go to the bathroom and splash water on your face and wash off salt. It’s the smallest things that you don’t realise just how much you take for granted until you don’t have it. We lived in, as I said, about three shirts and two pair of pants and that was it for thirteen days. Thankfully we were all smelly I think.
BRETT: Yeah, we couldn’t smell each other, but I think other people could.
MEGAN: I don’t know. Maybe you boys. I don’t smell because I’m a girl.
LINDSAY: Yeah, that’s quite a neat thing about the nose, after it’s smelt something for awhile it just turns off. It’s good. I remember after twenty-eight days at sea sailing towards Hawaii, that first shower in the Hawaiian yacht club – absolutely fantastic.
MEGAN: Washing your hair, and whether anyone ever sees what I look like, but I have very long curly hair. You can imagine what it would look like after some days at sea and some wind, and salt. It’s not attractive. The whole trip it was in a plait, but I would end up with hair – I looked like Don King really, it was sticking out everywhere. It looked hilarious. Getting into a shower and washing my hair was fabulous.
LINDSAY: But nobody sees you at sea so…
MEGAN: No, they don’t. There was a mirror on the boat somewhere but I never looked in it.
One of the best things about the trip was the pee pot. It was an old pot with a handle that Brett found. I think it came on the boat. That became the pee pot and everybody used it, me included. The boys it was easier for to use, but I had to get down into the cabin and we had a little door that we could open and slide a little lock in so I had some sort of privacy. Didn’t work when we were at sea bouncing around because everything fell out of the cupboards, so I’d have to just tell the boys to look in the opposite direction. That pee pot was the most used and the best thing on that boat I reckon. Because it had a handle I think, it was much easier for a girl to use.
BRETT: And a guy.
MEGAN: And a guy. You know. It was small things.
LINDSAY: Did you have any maintenance issues while you were at sea?
BRETT: We had on the traveller for the main boom. We were probably at about twenty knots and it came apart. We had the sheet of the main boom around the winch, just holding it while we were still sailing. Peter was okay with that. We managed to deal with that immediately so we kept going, then I sort of put my head together of how I could rig something up. I had a whole lot of stainless steel shackles – little shackles, and by using a pyramid of shackles, I actually made up a new one onto the traveller. It worked. That was something that failed, and that was just old age and everything like that. Not through abuse. It was just…
MEGAN: Big gust of…
BRETT: It’s an old boat. You don’t know what’s going to last. That’s why I wanted the rigging done.
LINDSAY: That’s awesome. That’s one of the things about going cruising on the boat. You’ve got to be prepared to do a bit of problem solving and thinking outside the square when things like that happen. It sounds like you came up with a good result. Sometimes some of those fixes can last for years before you get around to actually replacing the part.
I always ask this question about seasickness. Did you get seasick?
MEGAN: I did. Not badly. I was prepared for it because I hadn’t sailed before I didn’t have any real knowledge about whether I would or wouldn’t. It wasn’t until we got into some rally weather where it was much windier and the swells were quite big. I took a tablet knowing that that weather was going to be there, so I took it beforehand. I didn’t get seasick at all that day. Travacalm was the one I used, which I just got from the chemist.
I had on a Facebook group that I belonged to, asked the question about it. We had all of these old wives tales and everything else that…The latest one coming out is fix on your belly button and then you put just a bandaid over it. Somebody tried it and it worked for them, and randomly I had somebody else say that to me three days ago somewhere, I can’t even remember who it was now, was Vaseline. It’s crazy. I don’t know what that is. I think it’s because it feels uncomfortable you forget about being sick. I don’t know how that works.
LINDSAY: So say that again, you put Vaseline?
MEGAN: Vaseline or Vicks Vapour Rub on you belly button and then you put a plaster over it. I’m assuming the plaster is to stop it getting on your clothes, or your bikini or whatever you’re wearing, and that has stopped people being sick.
LINDSAY: I hadn’t heard that one before.
MEGAN: No. It was like, I went, placebo effect? How could that possibly work because it’s your inner ear – water things. My theory is it’s because it feels uncomfortable and it takes your mind off it. It is somewhat placebo and you think that it’s going to work, it will work. I was just talking to somebody about that and they were interested in speaking to somebody about it, so to find out whether there was any psychological discussion with that.
I used Travacalm so I wasn’t sick on that day. I took it before we started. There was another day that we had quite big swells and weather, and I didn’t take a tablet and about an hour into the trip I started feeling a bit queasy. I thought, “Oh don’t be a princess, just go and take a tablet because you’re going to be in this weather for sixteen hours or however long I am.” I took it and within twenty minutes I was good as gold. They do make me drowsy, that particular one, so I tended to have a bit of nanna nap at ten o’clock in the morning or something for half an hour, and then I was good for the rest of the day. Those particular tablets, they say take them every four to six hours or something, but I just took one first up in the morning and that was it.
LINDSAY: What about you Brett? Do you get seasick?
BRETT: I don’t think so. I didn’t take anything. I know from my Navy days, and that’s really bad weather, I felt queasy, but no I didn’t get seasick. No.
LINDSAY: You just touched on something there Megan about a group that you belong to that you learn some stuff off before you went down there. Could you tell us a bit more about what you learned from that group?
MEGAN: One of my friends is also a sailor, she’s currently – her and her husband have been sailing around Queensland and have just gone down to Tasmania. Rachael had suggested I get on this Facebook post, because it was specifically for women only. It’s called Women Who Sail Australia and it’s a closed group, and it’s women only and she had suggested me getting on there because you can ask the silly questions without feeling like a bit of a dill. In saying that, I got on that and it’s the most amazing group of women. There’s over a thousand members on it. It’s quite large and it’s all over the world. There’s people sailing all over the place. There are some serious sailors on that. They’re racing, they’ve done the Sydney to Hobart, they’re solo sailors. There’s a huge breadth of knowledge that’s there. I asked the basic questions that I needed to know first up. What seasick tablets or remedies I needed to know, and what the heck I was going to cook. That was my job, you know, on board the ship. I’m not going to be able to sail it particularly. That was something that Brett and Peter were going to do. I learned a lot, but I didn’t necessarily do a lot of sailing – physical stuff myself. Those were my first two questions, and the commentary that I got back was just amazing. It was so full of assistance and helpfulness. It’s a really good group for women who can just ask those questions that maybe they are not comfortable asking men, because they’re sometimes not the sailor in the family, or in the partnership. They might just be the hanger oners, like I am.
There was a group of them who happened to be down at Boat Works, down the coast between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. They said there was somebody there, they were having a barbecue or something or other, so I thought, “Well I’ll go down and meet these people.” It was their husbands or partners were with them as well. Brett was away. I think he was down at the boat doing something again. I packed up my little bottle of wine and went down there to meet these people to talk to them, who I had no idea what they were talking about, because they were talking about all of these words I don’t know, and their experiences over a time. I didn’t know where I was driving to. Didn’t know who I was looking for, but I thought I was being very brave. I thought if I don’t take the opportunity when there is a group of them together, to go and talk, so I went down there and had a little chat and had a barbecue with them, and then came home. I thought I was very brave. It was the start of my braveness.
LINDSAY: Very good. Yeah, I’m very impressed. This is a closed Facebook group called Women Who Sail…
MEGAN: Women Who Sail Australia
LINDSAY: Australia. Being a close group, how do you get access to it?
MEGAN: Because Rachel had told me their name for a start, I just Facebook messaged them, and I had said we had got this boat from family. They do do some checks, I had noticed as part of one of their posts that when they get a new member of somebody requesting access to it, that they do do a bit of a search on that person’s Facebook page, see if there’s anything that’s sailing related or boat related. Just to ensure that they’re not just getting some random person trying to get there – squiggle their way in. It may have been, I mean I had mentioned Rachel’s name so that would’ve assisted, because they know of her on that page.
LINDSAY: Because at that time you wouldn’t have had a lot of sailing …
MEGAN: No, well I had nothing. There was no post on my Facebook page about boating at all.
LINDSAY: It’s a bit now though. I was just having a stroll through it before. There’s plenty of sailing stuff there now.
MEGAN: When there’s that many days at sea, you got to do something while you’re sitting on a boat.
LINDSAY: That’s right.
Talk a little bit about the trip up. You didn’t sail non-stop all the way up, because at four knots, it would’ve taken you five days. Tell us about how you planned the trip and the weather that you encountered all the way up.
BRETT: We wanted to day sail and then port every night. That’s what we aimed for. It’s hard to plan really far ahead, so what we did is: Okay, we’re in Sydney that night we’re going to go to Pittwater the next day. Are there any possible stops along the way. Well, Pittwater isn’t that far, so we knew we could do it. We left early. We knew we could make it. The weather was good. We had checked the weather. We used WindyTy, we used Seabreeze, we used BOM – the Meteye. Generally they were very good. Couple of patches we found that …
MEGAN: They were so wrong.
BRETT: They were 180 degree out on their wind.
MEGAN: They were not easterlies, they were westerlies.
LINDSAY: That’d be local weather conditions?
BRETT: Yes. It was.
They’d do that every night. If then we wanted to go further, like we went from Pittwater to Port Stephens. We had a couple of stop off points on the way, so what we did is we’d say, it’s possible to get to Port Stephens but we got these other two places we could go to as well. We’d plan it and as we’re going along we’d go, “Hey, the weather’s good. We’ve reached this first destination.” We make a decision, do we stop here or do we carry on. Do we have enough time. It’s a thing that we’re riding all the time. We’re gauging the weather conditions and where we are.
Now, as far as where we were, how did we navigate? In port we used Navionics on a tablet. A Samsung tablet. The Samsung’s got GPS on it.
LINDSAY: That’s a free app that’s got charts?
BRETT: Well no. We got HD which is about $80.
LINDSAY: Okay. That’s pretty good value.
BRETT: It is very good value. Really good. So we used that in port, but we didn’t use that out at sea. We had a set of charts, admiralty charts, all the way up the coast, and we used just a handheld GPS that I had from my hiking days. A hundred dollar GPS. Simple. All it does is give you the coordinates, however you’ve got to make sure you set it up to the right coordinates that you want to use. I initially showed Megan how to do it on the chart, “Here’s the coordinates, latitude, longitude.” How to put it on the chart and put an X and that’s where we were at a certain time.
LINDSAY: So you plotted your position on the paper charts all the way up the coast?
BRETT: Yeah. About every hour roughly. Sometimes half an hour. It depends on whether there were…
MEGAN: Special queues.
BRETT: Or rocks or you know, like shells, or things like that. We want to keep well out. We tend to be on the safe side. You’re safer to get out to see than hug the coastline.
LINDSAY: These were skills that you would’ve got from the hydrographic survey ship?
BRETT: Some from hydrographic, some are from my hiking days.
LINDSAY: Oh okay.
BRETT: Charts are something that I’ve always really enjoyed. It’s very basic equipment we were using. People could say, hey, it’s electronic it could die. Yes, but we could still look at our visuals. We were doing visuals. We also had another hand GPS onboard as well, and lots of batteries. We had a second one as a back up. Plus we still got the Navionics as well. This is part of our risk thing that we did. This analysis of how we could minimise the risks. We had two, three methods that we could navigate by. We found the hand held GPS and the charts the best because we could actually see visually and match it to the chart. That took a little bit of getting used to as well because what you can see may not quite look on the chart, because there’s something’s happened behind what you actually see. That worked okay.
MEGAN: And that ended up primarily my job, was the navigating and projecting what angle we needed to be on to get to points. Because I spent more time in the cabin, because of space, and the boys outside. I would sit in there with my little GPS and my charts, but we need to get a place to put the charts properly because it was on my lap…
BRETT: Yeah, we had no chart table.
MEGAN: No chart table, so that was a little bit awkward, but you know…
LINDSAY: You work your way around.
MEGAN: Well yeah, you don’t have much choice. You just got to do it.
BRETT: We turned the GPS off. We only turned it on when we wanted to…
MEGAN: When we needed to.
BRETT: Wanted to use it. That’s how we got our speed over ground on the GPS, to tell us how fast we were going. Usually it’s about five, six knots. Tank out at 14.8 knots.
LINDSAY: Woah. That’s pretty good for a twenty-five foot yacht.
BRETT: They said that it can do ten knots on a good day, well we got 14.8 knots.
LINDSAY: Woah, that’s fast.
BRETT: We were sliding down those …
LINDSAY: So that would’ve been in the first few days.
BRETT: Yes it was.
LINDSAY: The weather that you got, we were talking about this a little bit earlier, you got nice south-easterly winds which were flying onto the shores, so there would’ve been fairly good sized waves with that. They were pushing you up the coast.
BRETT: We had three to four metre waves. It was supposed to be two metre waves, but they say you could be twice the height. We did get the odd four metre wave. It was supposed to be fifteen to twenty knots, but we were gusting to thirty knots. At no time did we feel worried at all. Everything was fine. That worked out quite well.
MEGAN: We were sailing through all of that. We weren’t motoring.
BRETT: We were sailing through it yeah. Sometimes we had to motor because we are actually trying to reach a destination to get the boat up to Brisbane. That’s one of the other things. We had a couple of days where there was just no wind. Nothing at all. There might be five knots, but northerly, which we had in the last couple of days. We just motored because we had to get the boat to Brisbane. Rather than wait, and wait, and wait and hope for good weather because the winds at this time of year, were northerly. We did get southerly and southeasterly for the first few days, which took us all the way out …
MEGAN: To Camden Haven.
BRETT: Crossing the bars were interesting. The Ballina bar which is supposed to be really bad – not a problem. Yamba was a bit of a fizzle. Camden Haven which was supposed to be really good, took us by surprise. We had one way just come out of nowhere. We were okay but we just had that one wave just come from nowhere. You don’t know about bars. We’re trying to come in on bars off of the Yamba and the Ballina one, we came in on the forth hour of a rising tide. We used Allan Lucas’ book a lot, which was really, really good.
MEGAN: Though some of it’s old.
BRETT: It’s an older book yeah.
LINDSAY: Alan Lucas has written a book about bar crossings?
BRETT: Yes. It’s about going up the New South Wales coast. He wrote another one for the Queensland coast which is brand new, but this is a borrowed one. A lot of good information in there.
Probably our worst one was from Ballina to Southport there’s not a lot of places to hide from weather. When we went, we went early, we ended up motoring because there was no wind, and we just kept going. Where there was wind, it was north-easterly. We were hoping to stop at Byron Bay but the winds weren’t good enough for anchoring. We just kept going into Southport. We came into Southport around about half past ten, eleven o’clock.
LINDSAY: Yeah that was a long stretch.
MEGAN: That was sixteen hours of motoring. We were done. Very, very glad to see the Gold Coast lights.
LINDSAY: At what sort of speed were you motoring at?
BRETT: Well it’s interesting because the currents kept changing and at one stage it would be fair to say we were going nowhere.
MEGAN: Evans Head.
BRETT: Evans Head never disappeared. It took hours to ….
MEGAN: Get up close to it.
LINDSAY: There’s a strong current comes down the Australian coast.
BRETT: It does yeah.
LINDSAY: You’ve got to stay in fairly close to the shore.
BRETT: It depends where it is. Sometimes we might be doing, on a flat water, we can get six knots. We were doing roughly about four or five knots out at sea. Sometimes we were only doing two knots. We must’ve had something pushing or pulling us back. We had to get there, so we’d motor.
LINDSAY: Have you got any future plans for your cruising? What are you planning now that you’ve got the boat in Brisbane?
BRETT: Weekend around the Moreton Bay. Up Stradbroke and Moreton Island. That’s what we want it for.
MEGAN: In the next few stages it will be about Brett and I using the boat on our own, and understanding our own jobs on that boat. Because the trip up we spent a lot of time with Brett doing the sails while Peter was on a turn, and then I’d come out and hold it in a straight line as much as possible while they were playing with sails. We’re going to have to do that with just two of us. We’ve got to work out who’s going to do what so we need to practice just together on our own. In the early stages, it’ll be about doing that. We probably won’t go too far afield because we will be practising, which is what we’ve got to do. We went out on the water yesterday, just motored down to the Gold Coast, but it was really nice to get back out on the water. Obviously that’s a problem now because I’m going to have to go back to work, and I’ll have to wait until weekends.
BRETT: Sailing is what we want to do, but again, we’ll go out, find a safe place to sail, because Moreton Bay does have some skulls and what-have-you, and just practice, and just get used to it. We’re good at anchoring, we’re good at mooring, but we just want to get that change. You know, taking the sail down, putting it up in the wind, different conditions. Work it out, how we’re doing it ourselves.
LINDSAY: Excellent. This has been very interesting listening to your adventure coming up the coast. It’s fantastic to hear how you just sort of jumped in, boots and all, the opportunity came, you took it and you ran with it. I bet you’ve got no regrets.
Knowledge Locker Latest
BRETT: No. I mean, the highlight was catching that MahiMahi. That was absolutely…
LINDSAY: Oh. MahiMahi is…
BRETT: Dolphin fish.
LINDSAY: Dolphin fish, Dorado, Beautiful fish
BRETT: Beautiful colouring. We were sailing along and Peter turned around to me and said, “We’re going to have to put in some sails,” and I said, “I just caught a fish.” We had a routine that he would bear off a bit, try to reduce some speed, I’d pull the beauty in and I didn’t realise it was that big. Pulled it into the cockpit, it took up most of the cockpit, about three quarters of the cockpit, and then I had to kill it somehow. I used the winch handle. There was blood all over the place. It looked like an abattoir. It was thrashing around and I was trying to kill it. Then we killed it and then we gutted it and cut the head off in the cockpit, while still sailing. Cut it into three pieces and kept it. Megan put it into the fridge and that fed us for three days.
LINDSAY: Yeah, beautiful fish too.
BRETT: Beautiful, beautiful fish. Watching all those sports fishermen out there with their expensive equipment trying to catch that fish, and I just had a hand line. That’s the way to go.
LINDSAY: Yeah, it makes it all the sweeter doesn’t it.
BRETT: It does.
LINDSAY: It was a pretty impressive fish. I saw a photo of that. I remember when we caught a Mahi-Mahi, that brilliant colours when you first bring it onboard and it’s alive with all these fluorescent colours.
BRETT: Then when it dies…
LINDSAY: Then it dies, you feel quite sad, just for a minute.
BRETT: The colour just dies away.
LINDSAY: It realises it’s beaten and just gives up.
MEGAN: Well, you know, if you go to catch fish the point of catching fish is to use the damn thing and eat it. If you don’t catch fish, just for the sake of catching fish.
BRETT: The three days we were eating it, we never threw the line out again. We had our fish. Once the fish was eaten, then we’d throw the line out again.
LINDSAY: What a fantastic adventure. Thank you very much for sharing that with us Brett and Megan. I hope that you have a lot more fun on San Felice.
MEGAN: I hope so too. As soon as I get new cockpit pillows, because my bum got so sore sitting on that.
LINDSAY: That’s an important addition.
MEGAN: Important things: Get some cockpit seats which are reasonable thickness and get a mattress which is thicker, because I very much learnt to sleep on my back because my shoulder and my hip got quite sore early on from lying on quite a thin mattress.
BRETT: And a Bimini for the the sun. When you’re sitting out there all day in the sun, the Bimini just makes a huge difference.
LINDSAY: Some way of keeping shelter from the sun. It’s a harsh sun up here in Queensland.
MEGAN: It certainly is.
LINDSAY: Well thank you very much once again for sharing it. Hopefully we’ll be able to come back to you and hear of more adventures that you have in the future, and we’ll look forward to that time.
MEGAN: Part two.
LINDSAY: Part two of the series. Yeah. If you want to hear more stories like this, be sure to go to: toseethesea.com, where we’ve got a whole collection of interviews where we listen to other people’s adventures.