A Day on La Rose

Posted in: Featured on Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

It was one of those perfect Moreton Bay days, with clear blue skies, mild temperatures and just enough wind to make raising a sail worth the effort.

We weren’t going to waste it.

Our friend and neighbour John invited us out for a sail on his boat ‘La Rose’, a beautiful Nantucket. It didn’t feel great leaving Tygress in her berth but a day on the bay on any boat is not something you pass up, besides she had Fluffy for company.

The breeze didn’t pick up until after lunch so in the morning we motored out of the channel and turned the bow towards St Helena Island. Most liveaboards don’t own a boat built for speed, we own what are generally referred to as cruising yachts, slower but built for comfort. Built for the journey as much as the destination. So what followed was a very peaceful and delightfully slow trip past Green Island in the direction of St Helena.


The chart for the area we sailed.

The chart for the area we sailed. Green and St Helena Islands are up the top right corner and our home port is bottom middle.


Ben and I had never been so close to St Helena, it was exciting to watch the indistinct horizon form into sights we could clearly identify. Through binoculars and the camera lens we could make out the ruins on the island. For 60 years onwards from 1867 St Helena was the site of colonial Queensland’s major prison, although the last prisoner left in 1933 thanks to the islands national park status the ruins are still there to see and explore through guided tours.  We were happy enough sailing past and enjoying the view from a distance.


St Helena and it's prison ruins.

St Helena and it’s prison ruins.


Entranced by the view we almost ran out of water, so we turned around and headed for a lunch stop at Green Island. Safely and expertly anchored I offered to prepare a lunch of roast chook on bread rolls. Simple fare yes, but what a place to prepare it, at a table with 360 water views and almost complete quiet. We weren’t that far from shore but the silence, when jet ski’s or motorboats aren’t roaring past that is, is almost perfect.  We ate, we talked and we waited for the wind.


Green Island off the portside, we had it almost to ourselves.

Green Island off the portside, we had it almost to ourselves.


Not long after lunch it came, not much, but enough wind came for us to set out and raise the sails.  Most motor boat owners will never understand the joy of turning off the engine and moving under the silent power of sail. For them it’s all ‘powerrrr’ and speed. But for sailors, the power of the wind is ancient, it’s free and it speaks to their soul.


Not much wind but we weren't in a hurry

Not much wind but we weren’t in a hurry

We were probably going even slower than we were under power but we didn’t care, we had no where to be other than in the moment. We headed toward King Island talking about boats, enjoying patches of silence and then back to boats again. John has lived aboard for almost 15 years, he has owned a few different boats and has many stories to tell. He has the kind of salty mind that unsalted, inexperienced sailors like to pick through for any pearls of wisdom, experience and ‘what not to do’s’ that they can glean. And if you like boats then spending an afternoon on one, talking about them with a fellow boatie is heaven afloat.

To top off our wonderful day on the bay John popped over to our boat, after an extremely frantic tidy up, and we spent a few hours drinking and trawling through boatsales.com and yachthub.com for our next boat! Life is good!


Captain John of La Rose and me.

Captain John of La Rose and me.



Not so far behind after all

Posted in: Uncategorized on Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Well it’s done. It’s booked. It’s on the calender.  We’re getting our recreational boating licences. And it turns out all that fear and doubt I wrote about leaving behind hasn’t been left so far behind after all.  It’s right back beside me again. It’s been waiting just outside my comfort zone for a time like this.

What if i fail? How am I going to remember everything they tell me? I should definitely take notes. Will I have time to make notes? What if I make a mistake and everyone secretly laughs at me or worse, openly laughs at me? What if i’m the dumbest person there and I don’t understand anything they tell me?

So many what ifs. My head is spinning and I feel a little bit sick. I think I might have some underlying anxiety issues.

‘Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage’ – Anais Nin

With my rational brain I know that most of these worries are ridiculous, and having read my fears expressed in black and white they look downright silly.  Yet they still have the power to immobilise and undermine me. They started the second that Ben suggested that I take the licence with him. I wasn’t going to get my licence for a few months, all of this was going to be future Sarah’s problem.

“Look at it this way Sez, won’t it feel better to take the test with me by your side than on your own?” Ben said over the phone.  He has a point rational me thought It would be better to have him with me. Then irrational me piped up ‘what if i’m dumb in front of Ben, or I don’t understand something basic and they have to tell me 5 times and I still don’t understand but stay quiet. I don’t want to fail in front of him’

According to the website, the course will cover the following;

  • General safety obligation
  • Qld marine regulations
  • Collision avoidance regulations
  • Trip planning & vessel preparation
  • Safety & emergency equipment
  • Weather & tides
  • Vessel maintenance
  • Navigation & charts
  • Anchoring
  • Basic knots

For the next two weeks it’s going to be a constant battle to keep things in perspective, to keep the faith in myself, to remind myself that I’m smart, a quick learner and at the end of the day it’s just a licence.  To help with this my personal motto will be Prior Preperation Prevents Poor Performance. So i’m off to go prepare, I think i’ll start by revising some basic knots (which might help undo the ones in my stomach).


Sheets ropes and lines

Posted in: Featured on Thursday, August 9th, 2012

I had no experience with boats or the world of sailing before buying Tygress and moving aboard.

I don’t come from a long line of salty sailors, there were no summers spent messing around in boats at the local dam, no fishing trips in the humble little dinghy. I was and in some ways still am, thoroughly a land lubber.

One very steep learning curve of boating life for the uninitiated is understanding and using the wonderfully rich vocabulary of the sea.

In the planning stages of our escape I bought any book I could find related to sailing, one of which was a hardcover dictionary for yachtsman.  I don’t normally read dictionaries, other than to refer to them as needed, but a quick flick through this one soon had me engrossed in the vast and quirky world of nautical terminology.

On my casual flicks through the dictionary’s pages, and particularly yesterday when posting the photo of the day it’s become apparent how little sailing lingo I know despite living daily on and amongst boats.

Time to begin my education. My teachers? Books, the internet and fellow sailors.

Today’s lesson, sheets, ropes or lines? The definitions are:

Sheet A rope attached to the clew of a sail and used to trim it / A rope used to control the setting of a sail in relation to the direction of the wind.

Line A small rope capacle of many functions, each with its descriptive prefix, eg gantline, heaving line, etc. Some are also described by their weight, and others by their functions in fishing / The correct nautical term for the majority of the cordage or “ropes” used on a vessel. A line will always have a more specific name, such as mizzen topsail halyard, which describes its use.

Rope Cordage of 1in circumference or more, made from yarns of hemp, jute, manila, sisal, coir, etc. Threads of fibre are spun into right-handed yarns that are twisted left-handed into strands, and the strands are laid up right-handed into a right-handed rope / A rope is a linear collection of plies, yarns or strands which are twisted or braided together in order to combine them into a larger and stronger form.

By my understanding of these definitions, and my limited first hand experience sailing, since the ropes in yesterday’s photo of the day are not primarily used to trim the sail or change it’s setting they are referred to as lines.  Their descriptive prefix would be furling because they’re function is to furl and unfurl the headsail.

But since they could also be used to trim and set the sail maybe they should be called furling sheet lines or furling line sheets.


Now the ropes in this picture to the left are coiled and not currently in use, so have no present function. I think it’s safe to call them ropes.

The ropes in the right hand picture are sheets because they adjust or set the main sail.

Main sail sheets

Hopefully with this knowledge under my belt I will be able to quickly and correctly identify sheets, lines and plain old ropes in future.

If any more knowledgeable sailors are reading this (who are hopefully not shaking their heads at my ignorance), please feel free to correct me or educate me further.

‘A Dictionary for Yachtsman’ by Francis H Burgess



Our first time out sailing

Posted in: Learning to sail, Video on Thursday, May 5th, 2011
Where to begin! Well I’ll start with the debilitating hangover I had after a night of watching the Royal Wedding with too much champagne.  I was ill.  It took all my energy and determination to get ready and even then I wasn’t sure I was going to be able go.  I was so annoyed with myself for being in that condition on the day I had been looking forward to for so long. Despite my hangover we left roughly on time.  Naively trusting our GPS for directions we didn’t research the route ourselves. This was of course a mistake. Ten minutes later we were still in the driveway waiting for the GPS to get a fix.  It was eating away at the fat in my carefully planned timeframes, my stress levels (and nausea) were rising.  I quickly raced back inside got a rough idea of the route praying for adequate signage along the way.The GPS finally got a fix before we hit the Story Bridge and guided us there on time.  We actually got somewhere on time and with time to spare.  Although we still manged to be the last to arrive.We met the other students and our instructor Rob.  Sailing with us were Trevor and Karen, a married couple refreshing their sailing skills before bareboat chartering throughout the Whitsundays in June. And Ian who was already very knowledgeable, he was partway through his professional skippering training.

First up was finding the boat in the forest of masts in the marina.  This marked the first time we had been around boats and marinas since the plan was born and for me it was an intensely moving few minutes.  The weather was absolutely perfect. As time slowed, blue skies stretched uninterrupted to the horizon. Bright, warm sun glinted off the water. The gentle rhythm of the boats knocking against their berths. It felt like a wonderland.

My reverie was broken when we arrived at the yacht that was to be ours for the day.  She was a beautiful 40ft Danish built vessel called ‘Foxy Lady’ and she certainly was foxy.  Ten years old and pristine.  Stepping on board was a bittersweet experience for me.  She was large, bigger than what we’ll buy. She was beautiful and still looked new. She was more expensive than we could afford.  It’d be like driving a Ferrari and then having to go back to your battered old Holden (although we love our battered old Holden to bits).

We gathered in the cabin to go over basic safety equipment and where to find it, then we learnt the different sections of the boat i.e. galley, head, saloon.  We were given a demonstration of the radio equipment and how to use the head (toilet). I knew I didn’t really need to listen to that part as there was no way in hell I was going to the toilet that day (and I’m pleased to say I didn’t have to. I’ll save my first marine toilet trip for another time.)

Then it was topside to be shown all the rigging and other parts of the yacht.  Even on a yacht that size with six people on board you’re always in someone’s way.  It was at this stage I started thinking that maybe 32 feet isn’t going to be big enough.

After that it was time to motor out of the marina and get sailing.  This is where specifics of what I was being told start to get fuzzy. I was in sensory overload. I was too busy checking out all the boats in the marina. Looking all around me trying not to miss a second and filming (very poorly) for this blog. On the way out of the marina we were told about the navigation markers that we were passing.

While still under power we were taught about the four points of sail and were given a chance steering into/across each.  From a distance to the casual observer we would’ve been going in slow, large circles.  It was at this point we were involved in our first bit of drama for the day. A marine rescue.

A group of windsurfers were training off to our starboard side when one of the girl’s sail snapped clean off her board and she drifted far from her group. It was a considerable time after that when we spotted her kneeling on top of her board in the recognised distress position (arms behind her head).\

We headed in her direction the radioed the harbour to advise of her presence in the water and our intentions. The harbour master then alerted the windsurfing groups assistance vessels (who weren’t providing much assistance). Ben was instructed to head to the bow, get her attention and offer our assistance. After about five to ten minutes of slowly circling and chatting to her the rescue vessel came and collected her out the water and we motored away.

Not long after that little bit of excitement the sails went up and we were all enlisted to help.  The thing I remember most is the sound of the sails unfurling and the sound they make when the wind catches them.   It was information overload for me. Rob was firing off commands and everyone was scuttling around carrying them out.  I had no idea what I was doing and felt totally out of my comfort zone. It was fantastic!

I think my biggest surprise for the day was realising just how physically demanding sailing is and just how unfit I presently am. My lack of physical strength is concerning me. I want to be a good deck hand who can do everything my skipper asks me to. I’m going to have to get stronger.

We anchored off Green Island for lunch (sadly my hangover combined with the gentle motion of the boat and food gave me my first bout of sea sickness). After eating we were shown how to tie a few basic knots and then went below to learn how to read charts and their symbols.  If you’ve ever seen a nautical chart you’ll know just how much information is shown on them. They’re covered in lines, symbols and notations in a multitude of colours.  Very confusing to the novice sailor.  But we’ll be doing some navigation training later in the year which will teach us what all those lines, symbols and notations mean in greater detail.

After lunch it was time to hoist the sails again and practice our skills at tacking. With the sands of Stradbroke glinting off the bow and the sun on our backs we spent the afternoon tailing and grinding, lazily changing course as we took in the ever changing view. The afternoon was hard work and yet very relaxing.

On our return to harbour, we were treated to a stunning sunset through the clouds which I was too busy piloting to fully appreciate.  It was exciting to get another turn at the helm as we headed back through the channel towards the marina.  My sole focus was the two white lights on shore. I had to have the bow of the yacht lined up with them while steering between the red and green channel markers. All while not hitting any of the oncoming traffic heading out of the marina!  To say I was nervous would be an understatement.

It was sad to have to go back to land after finally getting to be on board a yacht. We didn’t want to leave. But home we went, tired, sore and unbelievably happy.