Welcome to Yachting Girls

Welcome to a blog where the adventures of a team of crazy women who are mad about sailing can be shared.
We are living in the beautiful Huon Valley in Tasmania, surrounded by outstanding sailing waters.  In June 2007 my husband and I purchased a Columbia 27 cruising yacht.  My husband crews in a Top Hat 24 in the races held by the Port Cygnet Sailing Club so our yacht was going to sit idle for most of the sailing season.  A great idea came to us - lets have an all women crew and take on the men!

Follow our adventures...share our laughs...cheer us on...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Drama even when not Sailing

The winter has been very long. It is supposed to be spring but we are suffering from endless rainy periods. The land is saturated and the rivers and bays around the coast have a lot of floating logs and rubbish. Last Sunday a very deep low pressure cell crossed Tasmania bringing very high winds and tides. The storm saw waves of nearly two metres from the South West rolling into our normally sheltered bay. The locals say they have never seen seas like it. At least five yachts dragged or broke their moorings and ended up on the mud banks or the rocks around the bay. Pathfinder faired poorly. Although the mooring held well the severe winds broke the mast just above the spreaders. The loss of pressure on the mast from the stays caused it to fall over the side. Frantic phone calls were received at 8am in the morning. We went over but there was nothing we could do. The seas were too dangerous to take a dinghy out to the yacht. All we could do was just watch. We were consoled by the thought that everything would be fine - it was all insured and we could get everything back to normal. Every one at the club was very supportive and caring. It was hard to watch others risking their lives to get their yachts off the mud or rocks before too much damage could occur. By mid afternoon the stormy seas had eased off and Coach Harry was able to go out and have a look. It was too hard to get aboard but he was happy that the hull was largely undamaged. A stanchion was bent but no real damage to the fibreglass. The biggest shock came when we realised that we had missed the last payment on the insurance and they had cancelled it. They did not send us a reminder - or we did not receive it - and the brain has been so preoccupied with the new job that the payment just got overlooked. The stress levels have never been higher. One quote on a new mast was $20,000. Does it mean that the Pathfinder will never sail again? We are now battling with the insurance who are not keen to insure her as she is, but will not assist in fixing her even though we have been with the company for 6 years. The boys at the Club think they can fix her with a sleeve...but will the insurance company go along with that? Its emotionally draining and it looks like it could be financially draining as well. And I was just feeling pleased that I had got the boat looking beautiful for the opening of the season. All scrubbed, antifouled, polished and with a newly refurbished genoa. Alas, life is going to be tough over the coming months. I am very grateful to the boys who worked wonderfully as a team to dismantle the whole rigging and bring it all ashore. Apart from the broken mast all else seems fine. The furler has even survived intact. Everyone chipped in and gave a hand in clearing the decks and laying it all out in a friend's front paddock so we could see what needed repair. We are seeking materials and/or professional help to fix it. One of the club members - the Commodore - arrived the other day with a spare length of mast that we could perhaps use as a sleeve and the boys have had daily conferences analysing the task and looking at all the options. I just hope that the conferencing just not take over from the fixing! 'Til next time. Keep us in your thoughts.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

How could I have missed so much!

I am surprised that it is almost the end of May and I have not blogged on the site since February!
Life gets in the way I suppose. I have been incredibly busy in my new job and just have not got the writing done dear reader. Sailing was a highlight of the year to date with amazing opportunities throughout the season. I sailed almost every week end with the Cap'n and my significant other until the last two races of the season when I was able to take out Pathfinder with Cap'n Jim. The twilight series went well with the girls making 7 out of 8 races. The best we did was a third but we still came in 9th out of 30 yachts over the whole season. We have has a couple of third places and a second with Cap'n Jim so I cannot complain. The opportunity to sail was all I really wanted. The yacht is going well. She has been cleaned and anti-fouled twice this season so she should be going well. New Jib sheets have made tacking easier also. I feel that I own her now and have a commitment to getting her really smartened up over the winter. Will keep in touch...keep sailing and smiling!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Twilight Races 5 &6 /09 plus two Sundays!

Well dear reader, it is a while since I have blogged and a lot has happened. Invariably I come home from an evening or Sunday sail and am just too sleepy to take up the laptop and blog. To tell the truth tonight is not much different! Over the past three weeks I have gone back to work after a 5 week summer holiday which was very busy, got a new job, gone through a very stressful time telling my boss and colleagues that I am leaving and have actually done two days of work in the new position. As a school teacher I am required to give 8 weeks notice from my job but as I only work 4 days a week I am working the fifth day at my new school until I can start full time. This has been very tiring and it seems like a year already since we went back to work! We, the girls,  have continued to race on Tuesday evenings and have had a really good time. The weather - yes the proverbial weather - has been kind with lovely sunny evenings and steady sea breezes most of the time. Race 5 was really good but we still only placed 9th out of 15 yachts. We thought we had done better. We had a great time and the team work was excellent. The 6th race was also great and we were placed 5th out of 10 yachts. The winds were kind, the sea great. Having to give way to other yachts at the buoy seems to be a common problem and tends to put us behind. We enjoy ourselves, winning is not everything and we are improving every week so whose complaining. 
I hope to get Pathfinder out of the water on Saturday next to give her hull a clean and to get the jib removed and repaired. The boys at the club are going to help me as my "significant other" is far too busy with his work to be bothered with her at the moment. In fact he is really grumpy at the moment so to even ask him to help is beyond me!   

Sunday racing has been very interesting. Last week I again joined the Cap'n and my 'significant other on Wyvern on a novelty race which started and finished on the clubhouse verandah. We had to get aboard the dinghy, transfer to the yacht, set her up, sail a triangular course and then return to the mooring, pack up and row in to shore. It was good fun all trying to get into the dinghies and out to the yachts the fastest. The winds were very blustery and one of the Solings was almost completely flattened by a gust. Full of water she and her crew were in peril of sinking so we halted our race and were able to get close enough to throw them a bucket to bail with. We then kept them company until we were confident they could make it back to the moorings safely. We were credited with 20 minutes and were given a win. We deserved it!  It was very challenging sailing to aid the other yacht and Coach Harry, who was the other Helmsman, was most appreciative of our help. Sunday racing today was again aboard Wyvern and was a pursuit race. We headed off first and made it down the bay and across the river before being caught up by Bianco. We had a good downwind run home but as the wind became lighter and lighter we were gradually overtaken by a number of boats. It was a very pleasant sail and the 9th place out of 12 yachts did not really matter. I am continually gaining confidence and now feel comfortable if asked to take the helm or trim the sails. The joy of being on the water is worth more than the place in a race.   
We have also sailed for pure pleasure this weekend - we motored south into a stiff sea breeze on Saturday and after a nap at anchor in a sunny, beautifully quiet, serene bay headed back under sail through a cold, overcast evening. Just pure pleasure. 'Til next time... may your winds be light and your days warm...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sunday racing again!

Having planned to sail on Wyvern with the Cap'n and my "Significant other" I was delighted to receive a call from Skipper Jim suggesting we take Pathfinder on the long race from Cygnet to Port Huon. I jumped at the chance and we had a really interesting day.  The wind was very light at the start of the race - not unusual and at one stage we were completely becalmed on the far side of the bay and going nowhere. Wyvern was not far off and in the same predicament.  Out came the Spinnaker.  A new experience for me and quite a challenge to set it up.  It helped us make headway and once we got into the Huon river the sea breeze kicked in and we were flying.  The sea breeze unfortunately got too strong for us to manage the spinnaker so in she was hauled.  We managed to run before the wind very well under just the main and genoa and left we Wyvern in our wake. We made good time and crossed the finish line about 5 minutes ahead.  We were unfortunately a long way behind all other competitors so only came second last.  But we had a great sail.  Skipper Jim will not be available for a while so we will not be doing Sunday races for a while.  The learning curve continues.  Once across the finish line at Port Huon we had to return to Cygnet so we motored and sailed and made very good time into the head wind.  I had considerable practice on the helm, mainsail and job which is helping me gain more confidence and knowledge. 

Friday, January 30, 2009

Twilight Race 4/09

Perfect weather, a wonderful sea breeze and a sunny cool evening gave us the best racing weather yet.  It started a little slowly and we had some difficulty right at the start line in making a great deal of headway in the crush of boats and the fouled air at the line.  But once we captured enough wind we had a really good sail.  A couple of minor glitches with the jib sheets jamming on the winch caused us to loose ground on the rest of the fleet but we were able to make up a lot of ground at the finish. There were 12 yachts in the race and we were 8th which was not bad considering our sheeting problems.  Running with the wind was certainly a major improvement however we still have difficulty pointing to windward. More homework on sail setting is needed and perhaps getting one of our two coaches to have a look at the sail setup might not be a bad idea. We also need to look at job sheet handling and maybe some adjustments are needed on the blocks through which they run. 
Regardless of the sail handling issues one must admit that the relaxed relationship between us girls on board helped to make the whole event a pleasure. 'Til next time...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Twilight Race 3/09

Tonight we had the pleasure of sailing with a new crew member.  Wendy usually sails with her husband on their lovely old wooden yacht Jezebel, but I traded them my 'significant other' in exchange.  Wendy is a very able sailor with years of experience so we have gained a great deal. It was a baptism of fire however with very squally gusts of wind up to 25 knots which you could hear coming through the trees on the shore like a steam train and then flattening all in its wake.  Many of the yachts reefed sails or put on a smaller jib. Being cautious we started the race very well with only the mainsail and a tiny bit of the jib and even then we had to let the mainsail out at times just to stop being knocked down by the gusts.  We were the first across the start line but soon lost ground to the more competent and confident men.  Each leg saw us get further behind even though, as the winds settled a bit, we were able to use the full jib.  We did make up a great deal of ground on the last leg but still came in 12th out of 12 yachts.  We learnt a lot and we were proud of the fact that we completed the course in some of the roughest conditions any of us had sailed in.  We now have  full women crew so the pink shirted Pathfinder girls are now a compete team.  We all got on well and the jokes started to flow.  It was a scary night but also a satisfying one.  The men give us their respect - we earned it - and were very happy to talk tactics and give us their support.  With luck next week will have better conditions and we can really improve. 'Til then... fair winds and good sailing to all.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday sailing - the highs and lows again!

Today's race was a pursuit event where each yacht starts at a staggered time according to handicap.  Each yacht tries hard to run down the earlier starters.  What should happen is a massed finish at the end with all yachts finishing together.  I had hoped that  Skipper Jim would be at the club and willing to take Pathfinder out.  We have the slowest handicap and would have started first.  Unfortunately he was late and the 'significant other' was being a little obstructionist today so I gave up hope of taking her out and tagged along for the ride with the Cap'n on Wyvern. 
It always amazes me the fickle nature of the wind in the bay.  Starting first across the line we were soon rundown by the lighter weight Bianco in the gentle breezes that were blowing.  The two yachts only started a minute apart and continued to be well in front until the end of the first triangle when Gallivant overtook us followed by Aotea.  The breezes were at times quite fresh and helped us make up lost ground but they did not hold and unfortunately we were not able to make up enough time to be in the placings.  We were seventh out of 10 yachts.  I had the opportunity to helm for part of the race and was delighted to feel so much more confident.  We also had to goose wing the jib so I had some sheet handling work also. The 'significant other's"  petulance also made for a bit of a frosty atmosphere at times which did not make the sailing as enjoyable as usual.  It never fails, however, to make me feel exhilarated and healthy this sailing thing so regardless of missing out on taking my own yacht I still really appreciate the opportunity.  After the race I had a promise from the Skipper to come out with us on the next race and also a tentative agreement to sail in the Kettering to Cygnet race at the regatta so there is much to look forward to.  'Til next time... Buena vela!

Twilight Race 2/09

The second Twilight race for the year was great fun and we were, until the last leg of the race, very competitive.  A really good start was made and we were well in the mix up the first leg of the race and in fact were well ahead of most of the major competition until the third leg of the triangle when the wind started to die. We struggled to keep up over the final three legs of the race and finished 10th out of 14 boats.  We were definitely not disappointed and were congratulated on the fine race we had sailed.  It was simply a case of running out of wind that meant we finished towards the back of the fleet. We still only had two girls and a male which was fine but I was hoping to get one of the other experiences sailing women to join us.  I have approached a confident and competent woman from one of the other yachts to switch sides and sail with us, offering her my "significant other" as a trade. She is keen so we will see next week. 'Til then - happy sails to you...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Racing again

Today I had the opportunity to sail with the Cap'n and my "significant other " in the race around Huon Island.  This is a long race which today took five hours.  We had a great day battling the usual fickle winds and dicing with a group of five other yachts in a pack.  There were 14 yachts in the race with the fast racing yachts getting out ahead with the cruisers making a pack at the back. Each yacht had its share of luck with yachts within 200 metres of each other having different winds!  The opportunity to raise the spinnaker was taken as we sailed out of the bay and into the Huon River estuary proper and this certainly gave us an opportunity to keep up with the other cruising yachts.  Around the island with a strong sea breeze coming in and back up river under spinnaker - what a run. It was great to be of value aboard apart from having the galley chef task. I am the chief spinnaker hand, handling the sheets, adjusting the pole etc. It was fun and apart from a problem when the wind suddenly spun around and flattened the kite causing us to waste time swapping back to the jib - only to have the wind change back astern! Too late in the race to re-hoist but we still did well. We were second on handicap in the PCSC race and first in the Fred McLaren heat. The race is divided into a club race and an Interclub race - the McLaren. These have different handicaps.  We did really well for a day with light and fickle air,  and had great fun doing it! 'Til next time...enjoy life and good sailing

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Twilight Race 1/09

We had a great start to the Twilight racing season tonight with a 6th place out of 11 yachts competing but with less than 4.5 minutes between the first and last yacht on corrected time it was a very competitive event.  The wind was pretty strong all day and I must admit to being pretty nervous at the start.  At best the wind could be called squally - there were gusts up to 20 knots and then almost nothing.  Getting an all girl crew this season is going to be difficult.  Some girls say they would love to be aboard then change their mind on the day - so we had to take a token male as crew tonight!  As it was my"significant other" we were well crewed.  The 'Skipper'- who originally joined us at the start of last year's races was aboard and full of enthusiasm.  We started out cautiously with much of the large jib furled. This was really an opportunity for the 'Skipper' to get to know the boat once more.  As the race progressed we enlarged the jib sail area as the wind lightened. A couple of times on the last leg of the race we were almost knocked down by the gusts but releasing the traveller and letting the pressure off the mainsail did the trick.  For a cautious start the result was very pleasing. The enthusiasm was still there and the 'Skipper' is delighted with our performance.   Tuesday cannot come round soon enough.  'Til then... "my goal in sailing isn't to be brilliant or flashy in individual races, just to be consistent over the long run" so said Denis Connors - and I agree!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Racing again!

Firstly Happy New Year to you all.   We had a very busy Christmas and even New Year was good with a party at a friend's place.  The weather has at last become fine after quite a lot of rain.  The opportunity to race today came because my 'significant other' was unable to race with the Cap'n who had family commitments.  We brought Pathfinder in to add some snap strap and hooks to the new cover to replace the string which we had been using since the makers devices had popped off.  It worked well and took little time to complete.  My sister is visiting at the moment and she is an enthusiastic beginner so we decided to join the race and had a great time.  The weather was perfect. A 10-15 knot breeze that was a little fickle at times, beautiful sunshine and calm seas - all were just magic. We started really well and were well in the race with all the others. We had a very good first triangle although there was quite a bit of tacking required to make the third mark. We lost a little on the others at this point. A good run back was spoilt as the wind changed direction and pushed us across the bay, making it necessary to tack to the buoy at the apex of the triangle. All was going well and we looked like we would round the mark ahead of two other yachts when one decided to do a very sharp tack across our bows.  To avoid collision we had to pull away and as a result missed the mark and had to do three tacks to finally make the buoy.  That debacle meant the other two yachts got well away from us and with a couple of periods where we were almost becalmed we were soon tailing the fleet.  We still had a wonderful sail and really enjoyed the day. It was a great day for beginners and we were delighted to just be out on the water. 
Twilight racing begins on Tuesday - so now I must ensure that we have a crew. 'Til then... fair winds and good sailing.