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Finished with engines – elusive skills of a single-handed sailor

In this modern era of autopilots connected to chart plotters connected to bowthrusters connected to the Internet, Twitter and god knows what else, it is a joy to behold the single-hander equipped with no more than a tiller to steer with, a sheet to haul on and nothing else other than his learned skill and intuition.
Last month I watched in admiration as a lone yachtsman sailed his First 305 into Refuge Bay. With a constantly changing southerly breeze that came gusting down the valleys of the two bays at 15-20 knots he faithfully followed the entire two and a half mile shoreline around America Bay, back into Refuge Bay, through the usual gaggle of boats that congregate at the waterfall in Refuge and on until he disappeared around the point and up Cowan Creek.
Tacking and gibing he so closely followed the shore, I ungraciously suspected for a moment that there might be some engine assistance involved here. But after watching a while it was obvious that this smooth course was being achieved by a skilled boat handler.
I learnt to sail with a single-hander who despite having an engine, almost always sailed on and off the mooring or anchorage. These and other skills that were often necessary before modern sailing with all its electronic and mechanical aids came along seem to be a rarity indeed today.
Can there be anything more unseamanlike than using a bowthruster on a yacht? It’s the nautical equivalent to having giant nets to catch aeroplanes instead of having a pilot land them.
So it was with great pleasure that I gave the skipper of Elusive Spirit a round of applause as he sailed past me looking totally relaxed and as one with his boat. And no, the engine was not running.

Don Hartley,

Legality of marine flare guns

For some years my efforts to establish whether it is legal to own and use a marine flare gun on a vessel without a pistol or some form of firearms licence have been unsuccessful.
Various enquiries to authorities and persons that were expected to know or to have access to a definitive answer received responses that ranged between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ but were generally a mixture of uncertainty and confusion.
In March 2012, I was put in contact with Steve Brown at NSW Maritime who took the challenge and conferred with Larry Malone of the Water Police. He in turn conferred with the Licencing Branch and then advised that:-
Under Clause 4 of the Firearms Regulations 2006, Paragraph H, a flare gun is exempt from the need for a firearms licence and further, that a permit is not required.
Thanks to Steve Brown and Larry Malone, the issue of Marine Flare Guns is now clarified for all vessel skippers. Their efforts are much appreciated.

Peter Lubrano,
North Sydney.

Ban on anchoring in Little Manly and Quarantine

NSW Maritime along with the Fisheries department has recently proposed to ban all boats from anchoring in the area of Little Manly and Quarantine in Sydney Harbour.
They have done this with little or no consultation with the boating public. Boats have probably been anchoring in Little Manly and Quarantine for a hundred years or more and it seems they have coexisted with the environment and the sea grass all this time. Now some petty minded tree hugging bureaucrat who wants everyone to ride a bike and eat tofu has decided that they want to put a stop to anchoring in this area.
If this is such a concern may I suggest a possible solution to the problem. Let NSW Maritime spend some of the millions of dollars that they collect from the thousands of boat owners who pay mooring fees in Sydney Harbour each year, to put in place 40 or 50 public moorings.
This could have a number of benefits, firstly it would address the concern over the damage to the sea grass. It would stop the problem of rafting up as this could be restricted on public moorings. If you wish to raft up you are free to anchor outside the mooring area and raft up as much as you like.
The moorings could be laid in the form of mini artificial reefs to encourage the fish stock. Maritime could charge a small fee to rent a mooring, say $5 or $10 for 24 hours. The bookings could be made online in the same way that commercial boats make bookings to stop at wharfs in Sydney Harbour. You could even have an App on your phone to make bookings. I am sure that many people would be happy to pay a small price to reserve a mooring and this could go towards the cost of maintaining the moorings.
This system could be put in place at many other areas around Sydney Harbour and Broken Bay. If a public mooring is not being used you should be free to use it and only move on when asked to by someone who has the mooring booked, in much the same way as the unofficial system works at the Basin and Refuge Bay.
We need many more public moorings, it makes boating safer and if you don’t like using a public mooring you can always find another spot to drop your anchor.

Noel Parker,
North Sydney.

New valuations of waterfront properties

I am the owner of a waterfront property at Milsons Passage on the Hawkesbury River, New South Wales.
I have just received notice from the Valuer General’s Office informing me of our new valuation, which in turn allows the local council to assess council rates.
When I compare this valuation with previous valuations, it reveals an increase in the size of our land holding. Now how can that be? After consulting with other residents, I find they are in a similar situation. Someone suggested it was “because of all the rain, it must have grown”.
After much head scratching we decided to measure our wharf and boat shed area to see where the extra land came from. And yes, you guessed it; they have included the area we lease from the Lands Department into our land valuation.
This gives us a greater area and allows Council to charge us more. For those who have to pay Land Tax it increases their tax bill and on top of all this we still have to pay rent on our lease.
What all this means is those who do incur Land Tax will have to pay three times for their lease holding and the remaining will have to pay twice. I was of the opinion that land valuations set by the Valuer General was based on the unimproved capital value.
I bring this to your notice to inform those who just pay and don’t study their bills.

John Carrick,
Milsons Passage.

Lack of foresight to blame for reduced cruise liner facilities

Further to the various comments made in April Afloat about marina. hardstand and cruise liner facilities in Sydney.
The marina users are the Johnnie-come-latelies of the Sydney foreshore real estate, and yet they expect to ram through Government and local Council approval because they “now have a need” often stating dubious statistics.
They make reference to government red tape, when in fact the so called red tape is protecting the rights of the 95 percent of ratepayers who object to their weekends becoming a nightmare with the additional traffic, noise, and substantially devaluation of property values.
Marina developers are not interested in going up the Parramatta River where suitable sites are available because, with speed restrictions, it is an hour’s run to below the Harbour Bridge and silvertails do not want to keep their boats there. They would object if I parked a 7m trailer craft in front of their home.
Residents in nearby areas will fight and win because no one will take a half million-dollar drop in property value without a fight to the end. I have been in the marine industry for 55 years, live on the waterfront, and I say to those who want berths so that they can import more craft, too bad mate but you are not wanted, just as a trailer boat would not be wanted in front of your house.
Regarding the Woolloomooloo Navy facility. Fifty years ago in 1960s the Navy planned for the next 100 years, 50 of these years have now passed by. Sydney Harbour was then a very busy port with many overseas passenger vessels visiting at one time. Aircraft took over, and no future requirements for cruise liner facilities were foreseen.
Fifty years later and everyone who planned long term is being lobbied to roll over and make way for another Johnnie-come-lately industry whose ships more often stay only 24 hours. No wonder they want the best parking spots, Botany Bay is not good enough.
Too bad, try the cruise ship terminal at Miami USA and you will get a look at what a human cattle ship facility looks like.
Let’s continue to make Sydney, through long term planning and investment, a city where people come to stay for a week, not six hours ashore from a cruise ship.

Brian Poole,
Neutral Bay.

Precision pilot boat handling

Precision pilot boat handlingThe letter from Ken Gifford (Afloat Feb’12) stirred my memory. I was 3rd Engineer on the MV Neocardia in the 1950s and was lucky enough to see the scenes that Ken described in his letter – not in Brisbane but when we entered Sydney and Port Philip Heads to pick up or drop the Pilot – I think the Port Philip pilot boat was SS Akuna, I cannot recall the Sydney pilot boat’s name but both used long boats with oars to transfer the pilot.
On reading Ken’s article I phoned a former shipmate Gordon Manthey who was with me on the Neocardia as one of the seven Engineers.
Here are photos he took of the transfer of the pilot at Caloundra (Brisbane) many years ago which Gordon describes as a “display of casual precision” which indeed they were, and as Ken says “Just marvellous!”
Gordon sailed on several Shell tankers (as did I) namely MV Desmoulea, Neocardia, Neaera, Naticina (also known as the ‘Nasty Nat!’, and Sunetta all Shell tankers were named after shells.
My ships were TES Tomogerus, MV Dromus, Narica , Naticina, Neocardia and a short trip on the Sunetta.

Bob Cleworth,
1st Sailors Bay Sea Scouts.

Remote control

On Sunday (yes I know it was April fools day but this is true!) we were returning from Americas Bay to Pittwater. We were motoring along towards Flint and Steel when I noticed a large yacht coming up astern also motoring. The problem was that no one was visible in the cockpit, it was rapidly apparent that this boat was not deviating so we went hard over to avoid being struck.
After vigorous shouting as he came past us, the skipper leapt to his feet and disengaged the autopilot and stopped for a discussion.
His opinion was that he was right in the middle of the channel and therefore he was entitled to motor along at 7-knots on autopilot. I asked him to explain the channel to me and offered my opinion that he was failing to keep a proper lookout and being the overtaking boat had to keep clear of me.
Once again he said he was in the channel (right down the centre in fact) and told me that as I didn’t understand the maritime rules I was a danger to shipping … among a few other indistinct terms.
He headed off filled with self-righteous indignation.

K. Jenkins,

The great Hawkesbury slowdown

Last month I wrote to you about the new boundaries in the no wash zone on the Hawkesbury River. In testimony to the value of your great magazine, the residents and users of the river are most grateful for the changes and appreciate you publishing the letter.
Over Easter it was noticeable who reads your magazine. The vast majority of the express cruisers respected the new ‘no wash areas’ and slowed down. The only way they were notified of the changes was via your great publication.
We are grateful to the vast majority of your readers who have now slowed down as they enter the Hawkesbury, and for those that don’t read your magazine, or chose to ignore the warnings, what can you say?
On both counts they are mad!

Grateful residents of Wobby Beach (and mooring owners
of Parsley Bay as well as the kids who want to sail small
boats without having to climb the washes of inconsiderate
boat owners).

Kayak fishing foolish

Your Editorial (Afloat Mar’12) admires the skill and courage of kayak fishermen. However, in my view, they are more foolhardy, reckless and irresponsible.
A recent report in the fishing column of the local newspaper told of two kayak fishermen off Sydney heads. One hooked a large fish, probably a marlin, which took off at high speed emptying a whole reel of line, then towing the kayak.
With scissors always kept handy, the line was cut and the other kayaker also cut his line to avoid entanglement.
So here we have a large sea creature attached to a whole reel of line and facing a horrible death and another non-degradable nylon line littering the ocean.

Peter Webster,

Cruising trawler style

Readers interested in trawler style cruisers might enjoy exploring the USA website I found it while searching for an Island Gypsy owners club (there isn’t one).
Australians are already represented. There are ‘Cruising Down Under’ and ‘Halvorsen designs, including Island Gypsy’ sections, as well as sections for Grand Banks, Marine Trader (like Clipper 34) and other makes.
The site has thousands of users. Information is exchanged on subjects like power systems, maintenance, anchoring, electrics, cruising, living aboard, and many subjects dear to boat owners. You can view the site as a guest, it costs nothing to join or be a member. A huge collective knowledge is shared online. Raise an issue and you’ll get helpful advice. You can even get in contact with other trawler enthusiasts in Australia.
A site of interest to owners of Ford Lehman engines (often fitted to trawlers) searching for parts, is, the online site of American Diesel Corp run by Bob Smith, ex-Vice President of Lehman. They can supply most Lehman engine spare parts.

Bruce Kops,

Charter fishing in the ’50s

I was very interested in Gordon Petersen’s article The First Charter Fishing Boat (Afloat Mar’12).
My father ‘Chippy’ Reimer, a Sydney barrister for 50 years til his death in 1968, often told me of his regular fishing trips on a small steamer out of Sydney. It would have been during the ’30s. He was a fanatic fisherman. I have no doubt that his outings were aboard the SS Gosford II.
He was a regular customer of Mick Simmons fishing department. He told me that they would set out very early in the morning and fish wide off the Northern Beaches and usually sailed into Cowan Creek around lunchtime and tied up at a wharf on the western side of Cowan Creek downstream of Jerusalem Bay, roughly, as I recall it, opposite Cowan Point.
In the ’50s and ’60s we had a 30ft cruiser moored at the old Coal and Candle Creek boatshed and we would spend most weekends on these waterways. I remember my father pointing out the remnants of the wharf they used to use. There was a cleared section of the scrub behind and above this structure where they would have their picnic lunch. I wonder if any records exist of the Hawkesbury Steamship Company Ltd such as lists of passengers on these charters?
Also the Surprise was mentioned. I remember this old riverboat well. It was still plying its trade on the Hawkesbury in the late ’40s, during the ’50s and perhaps into the ’60s. Being an inveterate boatie, I remember being invited aboard for a look over her more than once while she was tied up to the wharf at Brooklyn. I admired the sheer size of Surprise and her large diesel engine.
Does anyone have any reminiscences or stories regarding an old River personality I met and spent some time with many years ago by the name of Archie Gale?

Nick Reimer,

Sportscraft built to order

Further to the speedboats Kerri-Anne and Skylark.
From 1955-1961, I was apprenticed to and worked for Ted Riley’s firm Sportscraft as a boatbuilder/shipwright. During these years we built many craft such as these. Each took 3-6 weeks or so to build, and 4-5 were under construction at any one time. There were 4-5 boatbuilder tradesmen, outboard mechanics, sales staff and at any time 2-4 apprentices to these trades. The boats were built in the workshop in the rear of the showroom at 129 Church St Ryde. The showroom and workshop are still there.
Boats were built to order generally, but in the latter years sold through Nock & Kirby’s, Sydney. Later than 1961 they were built elsewhere as well.
The Tilt Trailers were our invention, designed to keep the wheel bearing dry as the boat/motor package became bigger and heavier and more difficult to launch. Yes, they were made from 3x2, 4x2, and 6x2 hardwood with couplings, springs, mudguards and rollers all bolted on. I can’t imagine you would get a timber trailer registered these days. From 1956-1960 outboard power went from 2-cylinder 25/30 HP rope pull start up to 6-cylinder 70/80 HP electric start, top speeds up to match.
The smallest ski boats were just over 11ft with a 7.5 HP Riptide outboard and a pair of 8-inch wide skis – cheap slow skiing.
Ted Riley raced a series of ‘Fun’ boats: Fun, Fun Too, Fulla Fun, Fleet Fun. These boats broke many records including the 60 minutes for the Bridge to Bridge, for outboard powered boats.
Ted had a slogan “Fun is the essence of sport” it still is! It was Mercury against Johnston/Evinrude in those days and we were Mercury. Later they changed camps!
As well, many outboard powered hydroplanes and catamarans were built for the hot shot race boys – Frank Rice, Jack Marshall and others.
Along with our boats, we also modified Dundon-built clinker dinghies and Jax products – plywood hard chine rowing boats to suit up to 5 HP outboards and the fishing fraternity. We built canoes, kayaks, paddles, oars, surf skis, water skis and their towropes. Timber ute canopies and timber roof racks were also made on site and sold through the shop out front. Definitely a one stop business.
Boats like Kerri Anne and Skylark were 12, 14, 16 feet long, built from coachwood or sappeli mahogany plywood, with oregon and maple framing with silver ash trim. Decks were grooved and painted with white stripes to look like planks. Tail fins evolved with the car designs of the era, many with the same chrome plated tail lights fixed on the back.
Some of these boats were colour coded to match the tow vehicle. A pink and grey boat with tail fins and lights to match a brand new Chrysler Royal was one to come to mind for the owner of Vic’s Cabaret at Strathfield.
Sports Craft boats were in the days before FRP boats – fibreglass sheathing was all we did, though by about 1958 the showroom sold 9ft and 11ft fibreglass rowing boats, built elsewhere.
There is so much more to tell of this era and the development of what is now an enjoyable lifestyle for many.

Keith Lambert, Founding Member,
Shipwright and Boatbuilders Association of NSW.

Historic vessel register

As a former owner of the ex-MSB vessel Burragi, I was disheartened to read in the RSVP section of her demise (Afloat Apr’12).
Surely that fine piece of maritime history could not have rotted apart in 2000 as claimed by Graeme Andrews?
As far as I knew she was still a floating restaurant in Cookstown.
When we owned her in the late 1980s to the early1990s she was looking a real treat and was kept up to survey. Her timbers were polished, the brass shone and the paintwork was immaculate. We ran her as a private dining charter vessel on Sydney Harbour and she was very popular with corporations wishing to entertain their clients in style.
There should be some sort of register of historic vessels and owners should know that they will be under an obligation to maintain the vessel. There should be penalties imposed when owners fail to do this. Yes, it is a lot of work to keep a timber vessel pristine but anybody who is not prepared for this should not own a timber boat.
We have a duty to maritime history.

P. Maule,
Heritage Vessel Enthusiast.

Take all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum

In response to Barry Jackson’s letter The Hanging Tree (Afloat Apr’12).
What is plan B? Have NPWS cut down all the trees in the National Park?
Instead of blaming the rope, the tree or NPWS, perhaps the 38-year-old married father of two can be grateful that he survived and can learn from his experience.

David Lyons,

Macdhui’s derrick

With all the Macdhui talk in Afloat of recent times, perhaps this little vignette may be of interest.
Sometime in March 1944 I was in Port Moresby as a crew member of the transport (former coastal passenger ship) Ormiston.
We had just disembarked 500 Australian troops and were in the process of discharging their equipment when one of Ormiston’s old wooden derricks split and became unusable.
This was obviously a case for lateral thinking and fortunately there was an Army works unit in Moresby who did just that.
Within a day they took a barge out to Macdhui, which was lying on her side with most of her cargo gear accessible, unshipped one of her steel derricks and bought it back alongside Ormiston, where with minor modifications it was used as a replacement, and we were soon off and running again.
I sometimes wonder whether Burns Philp or their insurers were ever made aware of this laudable initiative. Somehow, I doubt it.

David Keyes,
Austins Ferry, Tas.


Please ensure letters to the RSVP section include your contact details (e.g. Name, phone number, email address and suburb).


MV Pamella

I am looking for any information on the motor launch Pamella. About 35ft, planked sharpie, built in Brisbane maybe 1960s. Moored in Breakfast Creek about then. Later in the Bulimba Reach. Owned by Roy Pratt possibly late 1970s. Last known owner Alex Blaw early1980s.

Colin M. Johnson,
1 Cockatoo Crt,
Regency Downs, Qld 4341.
tel: (07) 5465 7684; email

Halvorsen patrol boat paid  for Bob Dyer’s salaryHalvorsen patrol boat paid for Bob Dyer’s salary

You were kind enough to publish a letter I submitted re Loongana (Afloat Mar’12), asking your readers for any information on the history of that marvellous old Tuggerah passenger launch since it was sold by the original owner/captain Mr Lewis Taylor of The Entrance.
Soon after the March issue became available, I was surprised, and certainly pleased, to receive in my mail a brand newly-published book by that charming author of many historic books … Mrs G.M. Dundon of Gosford. Gwen saw my article and immediately posted me her latest book, which featured the full history of that “fastest launch on Tuggerah Lake!”
Which just goes to show the readers of Afloat have big hearts! Incidentally, her book in my opinion is the absolute best one any vintage boat-lover could have on their shelf, and covers every launch built during that era.
Further to my article, the Folkboat I mentioned (see photo) is such a vessel that ‘oldies’ like myself can handle it with ease, I was 75 at the time. Old sailors never die, they simply sail away!
Now I need some more help about a vessel that I photographed way back in 1948. The Fairmile 819 was originally a RAAF aircraft/airman rescue patrol boat.
At the time in 1948, I was performing in a vaudeville show called Can You Take It? starring the famous Bob Dyer. The producer of the show (Harry Wren), bought the patrol boat at a Brisbane Government Disposal auction and had plans to convert her to a pleasure-boat for his private use.
Halvorsen patrol boat paid  for Bob Dyer’s salaryHe had the boat delivered to the Cremorne Theatre in Brisbane which had its own wharf at the water’s edge – he can be seen standing midships in the photo. However, two days after his ‘dream boat’ sat at the wharf a Brisbane cruise company made Harry an offer he said “he couldn’t refuse” and “took the money and ran!”
He later said, “The money will pay completely for my next show, and maybe the one after … including your salary Bob!”

Bob Cornish,
2 Mills Place, Buff Point, NSW 2262.

S&S Starlight

I am trying to locate a Sparkman & Stephens  cutter Starlight which may now be in Australia. She was built in 1935, US #46. She was last known to be located on the West Coast of the United States, and now may be in Australia. Any information would be much appreciated.

Allegra Torrey,

Ferry Sun at BrooklynFerry Sun at Brooklyn

In response to Graeme Andrews’ article Tea & Scones on Lake Wallis in 1976 (Afloat Feb’12). The ferry Sun has been the Brooklyn–Dangar Island–Little Wobby, Hawkesbury River run since the early 1980s. She faithfully serves the many who live or holiday around the area.
This photo shows her coming alongside the Brooklyn Public Wharf.
She has been going all these years, and currently is having some panels above the water line replaced and no doubt a new coat of paint.
She will be right probably for the next 50 years of service and will outlast many of us!

Colman Chan,
Little Wobby.

Captain Fenwick, Dangar Island

Does anyone remember the Captain Fenwick that was beached for repair on Bradleys Beach, Dangar Island in the Hawkesbury in the 1970s?
It was a large timber planked hull of about 20 metres, could have been a motor-sailor, reputedly from the NSW Northern Rivers. The hull was sandbagged upright and it was a volunteer restoration project for several months. What happened to her and where is she now?

Les Reedman,
PO Box 148, Brooklyn, NSW 2083.
tel: 02 9985 7893.

1947 25ft Halvorsen cruiser Sea Spray

We were hoping to piece together the history and any photos of our 1947 Halvorsen 25ft standard cruiser Sea Spray Build No.776.
We bought it April 2011 as an unfinished project and are half way through its rebuild.
Originally built for a Mr Niven of Drummoyne and launched in middle of 1947, we believe. Above photo is circa 2004 when the previous owner bought her before starting restoration.

Bob & Anne Hoye,
0429 13 1962;