That coulda been fatal … it coulda
I’ve just arrived home after a near-death experience on the water which I would like to share with you in the hope that someone may learn from it and perhaps modify some part of their practice to prevent a similar occurrence. I am pretty fit and have owned yachts for over 25 years with a lot of ocean-going experience.
Today I rowed out on my own to my moored boat; once alongside I tied the painter to a stanchion and stupidly used the gunwale of the yacht to help me stand up – something I’ve done hundreds of times. This time something went wrong with my balance and the dinghy shot out from under me leaving me hanging from the gunwale with my feet in the bow of the dinghy.
I tried to inch the dinghy towards me with my feet but that didn’t work. There was nothing for it but to let go. I swam forward to where I knew a line was hanging overboard, attached to a rope ladder designed to cater for just such an occasion. Problem was that the line wasn’t there!
I swam back to the dinghy with great difficulty – fully clad with a heavy jumper and wearing shoes. The marina was only 200m away. I thought that if I flipped onto my back and swam slowly it should not be a problem – nor would it have been but for my negative buoyancy and the 10kts wind blowing! Luckily I had enough sense to abandon the idea.
I tried climbing back into the dinghy again but that proved impossible. I thought of going up the mooring line but realised that in my waterlogged state that also would be beyond me. So I just hung on, sort of vaguely hoping that someone would see me; really, no other plan came to mind! And someone did and hauled me into their tender and took me ashore. Lucky!
I must admit that I had always been slightly sceptical to the suggestion that one should always wear a life jacket while on the water. I’ve changed my mind!
There is no way of overcoming the fact that swimming while fully clothed is almost impossible; the other two lessons I have learned are:
To absolutely ensure that a means of climbing aboard is always to hand; and
To install some device in the dinghy (eg a line attached to the transom) to help one stand up without having to use any part of the yacht.
These may seem elementary but the regrettable fact is that I hadn’t implemented them!
Speed limits in enclosed waters
While agreeing in part with Mr Arnold re speed limits (Afloat Jul’11), I don’t think the whole issue is being looked at.
I have fished the enclosed waters of the Hawkesbury, Pittwater and Sydney Harbour for many years and have sat at anchor observing boats while the fishing is quiet and travelled these waters to get to various locations. I have done this in a small boats from 3-4.5m.
I think there are several issues that need to be addressed in this ongoing debate. Two of these are boat hull design and understanding the craft you are piloting. I would rather cross the wake of a Manly Ferry than cross the wake of a modern 40ft power cruiser … the wake of some of these modern boats would rival a set at Bells Beach.
These boats have been designed around ‘bling’ not efficiency as many of the older timber cruisers were. These were boats of comparable length but used much smaller engines.
I think smarter hull designs need to be investigated and implemented to help reduce the wash from the current generation of power cruisers.
I don’t believe a blanket speed limit is appropriate for these waterways. Due to the design of my boat hull I create less wash at 25kts than 8kts and at 4kts no wash.
When I get to a No Wash Zone (NWZ) I drop my speed to 4kts. I have never seen any of the current generation of power cruisers trimmed to give ‘No Wash’. Whether this is possible or not I do not know but whatever speed they seem to be doing there appears to be a big bow wave and a big wake. I think these boats need to be able to trim more efficiently. In their current default trim – nose up bum down – they will never eliminate the wash.
We need to ask ourselves is it appropriate to pump out a huge wash around moored boats and vulnerable foreshores? No. Is it appropriate to have trim your boat to reduce your wash? Yes. Is it appropriate to follow directives from Maritime including warning and restriction signage? Yes.
If a boat has to drop to 2kts to comply to the “NWZ” so be it.
No Wash Zones are just that … No Wash. This is what needs to be enforced. I don’t believe we need a blanket speed restriction because of poor design or poor seamanship.
Some Wash more than others
R.N. Wilkinson is not the only one to have had problems with ferry wash on the Parramatta River (Afloat, July’11).
As a regular kayak paddler there I encounter ferries many times every time I’m on the water.
When you’re sitting with your bum below the waterline, a wave that’s only a metre high comes rushing at you at eye level. I’ve learned to live with it, and I have to say that recently I have found some of the Rivercats actually slow a little when going past, which is much appreciated.
Not so the Fantasea ferries used on the same service. They come past very fast and very close. The rule of keeping at least 30 metres away doesn’t apply to them apparently.
But the biggest problem from my point of view comes from the blue environmental cleanup cats which throw up a big and violent bow wave. And they travel quite quickly.
I was swamped by one in front of the Armoury Wharf in mid-July. With the channel narrowed by low tide, it slowed as it crossed a Rivercat just behind me, then opened its throttle wide as it came up to pass me.
Hemmed in against the rock wall, I took a series of very big waves curling at the top head on. They crashed right over the bow and left me sitting in several inches of water. Somehow I stayed upright.
It wouldn’t do any harm if Maritime suggested to the people who provide these services that they be more conscious of small boats.
Among all the regulations and recommendations about lifejackets – who, where and when they should be worn – I think one thing has been overlooked.
The size of the boat, age of the person, place of operation are far less important than whether the person can swim or not and how well. Most Australians can swim, many are excellent swimmers, others not so well – but many new Australians and older people are poor swimmers or cannot swim at all.
If a person cannot swim they should always wear a lifejacket regardless.
Surfers, good swimmers and scuba divers should have one available but could find a lifejacket a hindrance, especially in a surf.
Phillip Dulhunty, OAM,
(Junior Open Surf Champion 1939)
Vale ’Arry Driftwood
I first met ’Arry Driftwood, or found him, back in 1989, draped over a bollard on a Sydney wharf. He was talking to a waterman while retrieving his Greek fisherman cap which had blown off in the gusty conditions. When one is draped over a bollard one must be vigilant.
’Arry’s boat Driftwood was moored in Gore Cove and he said I should drop in if ever I was in the area. I visited Gore Cove but could only find an old broken broom handle and half a pallet. I wrote him a letter and told him so and he wrote back to say he had moved to Summerville Cove, Drummoyne. Since then we have exchanged literally a couple of thousand letters. We averaged two a week. We kept the PMG afloat.
A frustrated farmer, sailor and one time communist he wore blunnies and long johns and often had various crops growing in his cockpit. It must have been hell in there.
Old Harry was diabetic and arthritic and dragged a couple of stainless steel knees around with him. I just about walked the legs off the poor chap once in Tasmania. He was tough ... and philosophical, walked for miles and still enjoyed cycling. Whenever I was on the slip, he was always there to help me, and he was the same with everyone that he knew.
He didn’t have a lot of money, he lived from day to day on his pension but he had something that was priceless, a generous spirit. He also had a wealth of knowledge, which over his 81 years matured like wine into wisdom.
Coincidently my boat Westwind is up on the hard at the Cairns Cruising Yacht Squadron, where Harry rebuilt Driftwood 30-odd years ago. The chap who took my lines as I came in, remembered Harry and Wilma his wife (Queen o’ the north) very well.
“She used to fish all day just down there while Harry worked on old Driftwood. He had a pronounced list to the left and wore a Star of David on his Greek sailors cap.”
He was too cantankerous and principled to live with other human beings and a life ashore would have been difficult for him in this less than perfect world. He was coming up to Cairns to see his old stomping ground that he was so fond of but not before he sailed to Tahiti and Antarctica. Now he can.
Harry was the genuine article. Sailor, farmer, dreamer, Harry was solid as a rock. Bon voyage old friend.
Though I never met ’Arry, I miss him. I became very fond of him and looked forward to his regular letters with all their warmth, humour and eccentricity. I was actually reading his last letter when the email arrived with the bad, sad news of death. Then followed photos of him standing in his dinghy – looking like the figure-head on an old sailing ship. Well carved from a solid piece of timber. Looking bravely ahead. My heart goes out to those who loved him.
Last year, I was helping another yachtie anti-foul his yacht, there were others there giving a hand. Being the new boy on the job, I took several photos for future reference. It turned out I had taken ’Arry’s photo as well and was told afterwards that was the famous ’Arry Driftwood!
For many years, I enjoyed his writings although many times I had to consult the Oxford English Dictionary! I will surely miss him and may he rest in peace.
An unreconstructed Marxist, I’m going to miss you as a multi-faceted voice for free speech and skulduggery, raging against a sea of dross that reflects modern life’s absurdities. You had a unique gift for the written word which I used as a study for my senior English students as your influences were very diverse, reflecting your adventurous life.
I’ve often seen you at the Drummoyne Sailing Club, usually picking up a chook or three at their weekly raffles and also shopping/provisioning at Birkenhead and your humanity was clear. I’d sail around old Driftwood prior to the DSC Twilights and say gidday, you’d pop your head out and say, “looking good boys but that’s a far more attractive woman on board!”
You are a champion, a waterman and a gentleman.
We met when you used to stop by Whitworths Marine in Drummoyne where I was working, to get your boat bits. Over the years we became friends .
We maintained mental contact after I moved back home to Queensland, by searching out each month’s Afloat, to read ’Arry Driftwood’s Rogues Yarn .
Your column will be sadly missed, dear friend.
I have loved the articles by ‘Arry Driftwood. To read of his passing is devastating. His articles were always a delight to read.
May his Sea God go with him. With great sadness.
Great front cover of the July edition of Afloat.
The photograph of the late ’Arry Driftwood with the word Priceless above him spoke volumes.
Summed up old ’Arry perfectly. Well done!
The great ’Arry Driftwood is gone. Taken by the waters of Sydney Harbour he truly loved so well.
He was drowned on a passage between the Birkenhead Marina and his good ship SV Driftwood. I know he wouldn’t mind me calling him great.
“Tis troo, I am!” he would have agreed, tongue in bearded old cheek.
A wonderful and humorous writer. Sharp of both tongue for word, and eye for a delicate line of sheer and curve of both boat and woman.
I was lucky enough to have been water neighbours with him over the years and to share a sunset chat with him from the dinghy alternativley cursing the government or the big white boat wash. He was a fixture on the Harbour.
Ferry crews would wave to him, steam boats would toot and there was always someone pulling alongside to have a chat including the Maritime and the Water coppers. He was much liked. He was a regular at the boat show but loved the Wooden Boat Shows most of all and would travel as far as Tasmania to feast his eyes on the lovely timbers of another time.
Henry you have left us fond memories in your stories. Farewell and safe voyage old friend and thank you for your writings, your humour and for maintaning the rage.
What is it about mid-20th century cargo-passenger ships that makes them so easy on the eye? Especially the photo of Orontes (Afloat, July’11).
Graeme Andrews’ article on immigrant ships made me recall visiting the then Museum of Technology in Harris St, Ultimo, before the days of the Powerhouse Museum. They had quite a few beautiful ship models, often located under windows on stair landings. Memories of wintery Saturday afternoon visits.
I wonder where they ended up? Still at the Powerhouse, or the Maritime Museum?
Wrecking of historical ferries
I agree with Ian Heather’s comments (Afloat Jul’11), re the demise of ex-Sydney/Manly ferries, it’s just unfortunate that in recent years two ex-Sydney ferries have come to a watery end in Melbourne.
As he mentioned, the 101-year-old Lady Chelmsford was retrieved by barge and grab and came back to daylight in bits. Reason being that no equipment big enough was in the Port of Melbourne to salvage her in one piece at the time, this, coupled with an insurance wrangle of over three years, saw the old girl slowly break up where she lay at Central Pier Docklands.
The other watery demise was the 1926 built Maheno which had many names in her life in Sydney, Newcastle and Pittwater. She came to Melbourne in 2005 and did many charters ’til, late in 2007 while cruising on the Yarra, she hit something in the river which holed her on the port side and despite all efforts, quietly sank on the edge of the river at Newport.
She lay there until late January 2008, almost the same time that Lady Chelmsford slipped beneath the surface. She was lifted and transferred to a nearby shipyard. Later, after investigation and inspection, being completely demolished by machine, ending her many years of service and lots of happy times cruising in many waterways.
Sydney Ferry Services
Recent publicity suggests that the NSW Government may consider an outsourcing arrangement whereby the day to day operations of the Sydney ferry fleet may be vested in a private enterprise.
While appreciating that there may be financial imperatives for such action, I am concerned that a private operator may wish to change the colour scheme of the ferries which would be seen as being particularly detrimental to the popular image of Sydney and the Harbour in particular.
The inner Harbour ferries with their cream, green and red livery are an adornment to the Harbour. They cross the water in style and feature in many promotions of Sydney and the destinations they serve.
In the boating community, the ferries are often spoken of with great affection and appreciation for their contribution to the beauty of Sydney Harbour and for their role in the transport hierarchy.
A condition of tendering for the private operation should be total compliance with the existing livery for the duration of the outsourcing contract. This would bury many concerns in a community that holds strong views on the preservation of Sydney Harbour and all its attributes.
Floating rogue WWII mines
I found Alan Lucas’s research on the Raider Wolf fascinating (Afloat Jul’11). Also, Alan’s nervous night, watching an old loose mine bobbing near his yacht, brought to mind my similar frightening confrontation with one of these monsters.
In 1963 I was working as a deck-hand on a 50ft Seine netter in the Moray Firth, Scotland. One dark night, our net caught a ‘haud’ (the local vernacular for a snag on the sea bed).
With warps straining and winch screaming, we eventually managed to dislodge the obstruction (obviously a huge rock, or somesuch) and hauled the net to the surface. As the cod-end appeared and started bashing against the side of the boat, I leaned over the side with a torch to determine the problem – and my heart nearly stopped!
Less than three feet away, and slapping against the boat in the swell, were the foot long barnacled horns of a mine, protruding from behind the flapping fish in the net. I distinctly remember my initial thought was – where the hell do you run to in such a situation!
Almost paralysed by fear, we managed to lower the net and mine clear of the boat. We then used a warp to drop the mine back to the sea bed and marked its position with a buoy. Next day a Navy bomb disposal team blew it up. It had been a live WWII mine!
The Wolf mines
Having just read Alan Lucas’s article on the Wolf and the Cumberland (Afloat, Jul’11) I wonder if anyone has read the award-winning book The Wolf by Richard Guilliat and Peter Hohnen (pub. 2009).
The last known Wolf mine was washed ashore near Karamea on the west coast of New Zealand on December 11, 2008!
It had been roaming the seas for a staggering 92 years! Where had it been? The bomb squad was called in and deemed it to be inactive.
The list of mines known to have washed ashore between WWI and 1929 is amazing in itself. They ranged from New Zealand, Australia’s east coast, the Maldives and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) with a total of 30 people killed and 150 injured as well as killing some horses. The mines had been detonated by various means (eg. by hitting with a stick!) by curious onlookers.
My father’s oldest brother had been taken prisoner when the Wolf captured the Matunga off Rabaul in August 1917. After an amazing voyage, he ended the war in a POW camp in Germany and returned home in1919.
This true story of the sea makes astonishing reading right through to the sad end of “the honourable man” Kapitan Karl Nerger who died in a Russian concentration camp in Germany in 1947.
West Pennant Hills.
Rising Sea Levels
In response to Philip Dulhunty’s letter (Afloat July’11), I refer him to an American Centre for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services website in which Sydney Harbour (presumably Fort Denison measuring station) has recorded a steady 0.59mm/year rise from 1886 to 2003.
At this rate the Australian Climate Change Department’s modelling of 1.1 metres rise (predicted by 2100) would not be reached (presuming the rate was maintained) until 3700AD.
I recognise that releasing this information reduces my ability to purchase a Sydney waterfront property at a knock-down price.
Real old fashioned Australian business integrity
I could not believe my good fortune. Last Lake Macquarie Yacht Club May cruise was a wonderful sunny lunchtime progressive soup affair with 18 of the club’s boats in attendance.
Our three-year-old labradoodle was kept entertained by other members and titbits from the tables. Later we all went back to our yachts to prepare dinner when another boat asked us over for happy hour drinks.
Dog fed and windows open, off we went. Back on board before dusk we found the boat chewed out. Companionway handles eaten, window surrounds mangled and even the aerial munched off the EPIRB. The EPIRB was only six months old … the little mongrel!
I sent an email to GME service describing the missing aerial and chewed plastic bits hanging off and as quick as a flash comes back the reply, “Just send it to us and we can look at it.”
Two days later, to my surprise a brand new unit arrives with a zero cost invoice advising that I will need to advise AMSA of the new details. The new warranty now runs out in June 2016.
Should any readers require bloody great service with real old fashion Australian business integrity, don’t go offshore with your purchases. No questions asked has helped rebirth my faith in Australian business and should anyone be considering an EPIRB, GME Kingray should be your choice.
Well done, GME!
Lake Macquarie Yacht Club.
Afloat Online Discussion Forum
Have you visited our online discussion forum recently where you can get instant replies to your queries?
Are you being tracked?
Just an observation from a radio watch keeper of 25 years on the NSW Coast. (RVCP then MR).
Too often we find vessels calling us to “log off” from a coastal voyage when we had never received a tracking sheet to log them on!
When yachties/boaties/mariners speak to coast stations to obtain local information/weather reports etc. some of them seem to think that this automatically leads to their “voyage plans” being notified to stations further along the coast, without any formal instruction from the vessel’s skipper. This situation can predispose to quite perilous circumstances with a false sense of security.
To initiate your voyage to be “tracked” a tracking sheet must formally be requested and the prerequisite information supplied to the Marine Rescue station (in NSW). This is not an arduous task but common sense would tell that at least a description of the vessel, the number of people on board and the type of radio installed plus mobile phone number would be required to help any rescue effort if needs be.
The above together with a commitment to contact a given station by a given time is what tracking is about. Tracking is a two way communication process starting with a formal request from the vessel to be tracked and supply of the required information for the station to record and pass on.
I urge mariners not to presume anything and if they require tracking along our coast that they check carefully that the station they are departing from is aware and has the necessary info.
Please ensure letters to the RSVP section include your contact details (e.g. Name, phone number, email address and suburb).
Aoma – 1963 Halvorsen 30
I am trying to create a historical file on Aoma being the last 30-foot Halvorsen built at the Ryde yard for a private buyer, Mr W F Hopkins and launched 01/05/1963; build number 1185.
The boat has also been known as Librestraum, and later Montana.
Figurehead of bark Woodburn
The Woodburn was built in Port Glasgow, Scotland and launched 1896. Later in life was purchased in 1926 by Burns Philp (South Seas) Pty Ltd from Gustaf Erikson, to end its life as a coal hulk, first at Levuka, Fiji, and later, it appears, at Suva, before being scuttled near entrance to Suva Harbour, Fiji.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 March 1934, reported: “Before the luncheon, Captain Green unveiled the figurehead of the barque Woodburn, which was recently presented to the Naval Depot, Rushcutter Bay, by Mr James Burns.”
The attached photo from the collection of Roderick W. Glassford (1920-1995) at the ANMM is described as “the figurehead of the Woodburn in the grounds of HMAS Rushcutter, Sydney” but is blank on the back.
The figurehead no longer survives in that location. What information, or other photographs especially if dated, can be provided by any readers regarding that figurehead?
Col Gibson, (Volunteer Model Ship Builder, ANMM),
; tel: 02 4973 1597 (too deaf for phone, so please email)
32ft timber boat
I am trying to distinguish the make and history of this fine 32ft twin engine timber boat located at Lake Macquarie that I have just purchased.
It is listed as a Williams on the papers but I was told by the former owner that was incorrect.
The boat had no name when the previous owner of 16 years bought it from a John Greenwell on Lake Macquarie. He mentioned the boat had been a Coastal Patrol boat at some time. The boat is well built timber construction and previously had twin flathead petrol engines.
I am researching the ship Effort that foundered in 1852 at Tuggerah Beach NSW during huge gales that hit the east coast.
Any information regarding this tragedy would be greatly appreciated.