Letters - drifting bulk carriers

Drifting bulk carriers

Have any readers encountered drifting bulk carriers off the NSW coast? We did recently when returning from Lord Howe Island.
First sighted before sunrise on 26/11 were the lights of a large vessel about 65nm east of Crowdy Head, on a converging course. This sighting was unremarkable and the usual radar watch was maintained to avoid a close quarters situation.
When the range reduced to around five miles things started to not add up. No nav lights were showing and a quick calculation indicated it was either stopped, or moving slowly downwind. The depth was around 3,500ft, so it couldn’t be anchored.
A call up on VHF16 elicited no response, so we decided to hold our course and pass about a mile off, by which time daylight revealed … nothing. No crew anywhere on deck, no funnel smoke, no NUC (not under command) signal.
No sooner had this mystery ship dropped below the horizon when we sighted a second vessel off our port bow. By now the wind had picked up to 20kts and we were running by the lee with a preventer on the boom and moderate following sea.
The fact we had right of way is not really a consideration in these situations, and gybing was going to be a real effort, so we steered to go under the stern of this monster. Once again, something felt wrong and it eventually became apparent our bearing on this ship was not changing, it was also drifting, so we gybed and shaped a course around its bow. VHF calls again proved a waste of time.
If we had taken the first option and ended up in the lee of this ship which was being pushed downwind, beam on, by the combined affect of a 20kt NE wind and the east coast current, then maybe we could have lost the wind and been overwhelmed. I doubt whether anyone on board would have bothered to report such an incident. Probably interfere with their schedule.
My best guess is that these ships drift to save fuel on the way down to the Hunter coast parking lot.
Brian Gulley,
Fishing Point.
[Peter from allhandsondeck says, “This has occurred after the new rules from Newcastle Port Corp prevent ships from anchoring except 48 hours prior to entering port.
“You can actually see the ships at sea on the AIS site www.marinetraffic.com” ]

New water sport – bozos rent-a-houseboat

Pittwater is not only scenically stunning but also an ideal playground for a diverse range of water sports such as water-skiing, fishing, sailing or just cruising. We were very fortunate to spend a week there recently and very much looked forward to a serene break from our hectic lives ashore.
We had not realized, however, that a new water sport has become popular in Pittwater.
Namely – renting a house boat and imbibing until rendered so completely insensible that others must suffer through unsociable behaviour and generally worry that injury may occur.
Despite changing locations several times during our stay we were unfortunate enough to discover that it was not one or two house boats hired our for the purpose of debauchery but what seemed to be a whole fleet.
On one occasion my husband was subjected to a barrage of insults because he dared to suggest that anchoring quite so close might not result in the best outcome. On a separate occasion our dingy was ‘borrowed’ by a bunch of hefty young fellows. It was very worrying to return from a bush walk to find it gone and after a frantic search quite intimidating to ask for it back.
There was of course the constant noise of pissed people yelling enormously hilarious and razor sharp jibes that is the wont of hooligans the world over. Finally we witnessed the desecration of the beautiful landscape in the form of stubby bottles bobbing merrily where they had been slung.
While, I’ve made it sound like we had a terrible time, we thoroughly enjoyed Pittwater. Our appreciation of the beauty and grandeur of the area could not be dampened by a bunch of bozos.
I am just saying, I find it heart breaking that we live in a community where drinking oneself to oblivion is a common male bonding activity; infuriating that peaceful people must suffer through the antics of these buffoons; and, gratifying that I am not employed by the house boat hire company to clean the returned vessels.
Sarah Steel,

Courtesy moorings either side of the Spit Bridge

NSW Maritime have recently installed courtesy moorings either side of the Spit Bridge in Middle Harbour for the benefit of boaters waiting for the now less frequent bridge openings as imposed by the RTA.
The moorings are specifically for “parked waiting boats” and not a convenience for fishing craft or long stay visitors.
This excellent result has been achieved by the campaigning by the Boat Owners Association of NSW to NSW Maritime especially Trevor Williams NSW Maritime Regional Manager.
It could even be considered that the moorings should be marked ‘BOA Members Only’ because of the time and efforts expended by this voluntary association even though NSW Maritime are paying for and maintaining the moorings.
As always the BOA is endeavouring to improve infrastructure and facilities for all recreational boaters and this is one of the good news items that will be appreciated by all Sydney Harbour boaters.
So when you tie up and save doing never-ending circles waiting for the bridge to open … give a thought to the money you are saving and consider putting it towards membership of the BOA ($30/year with $10 joining fee) and being part of a very active association of boaters always trying to make things better throughout NSW.
Membership application forms are available on the BOA web www.boaters.org.au or phone/fax 9960 1859
David Lyall,

Pirates of Port Macquarie

Anyone following the complaints about NSW Maritime in your letters pages might think that Maritime have the water all to themselves.
There is, however, another NSW Government nasty out there on the shoreline waiting to wreck unsuspecting boaties.
Once called the Lands Department, they now have the bizarre title of NSW Land & Property Management Authority. Both titles have no maritime reference, suggesting that they are unable to tell where the land ends and the sea begins.
Here in Port Macquarie this pompously titled bureaucracy have slipped into the local harbour with muffled oars and taken over control of the shoreline from the town council.
Like all true pirates their first act has been to demand increased ransom from the local town wharf users, many of whom rely on a fluctuating tourist trade for their income.
Again like true buccaneers they have shown no mercy to innocent citizens and have fired a broadside demanding more gold from the local Maritime Museum. The Museum’s crew of volunteers, unable to pay the ransom to the mercenaries from Macquarie Street, have sailed away up river in their restored ex-Sydney Harbour launch, Wentworth.
As the Macquarie Street Mercenaries now control the shoreline, the Museum’s launch Wentworth can no longer afford to offer river cruises from the town wharf. The popular Wentworth raised much needed money to help keep the Maritime Museum open.
With rum in mind the pirates are now rumoured to want the wharf replaced with taverns where they can extract even more gold.
Bill Olson,
Port Macquarie.

Safety harnesses

Regarding the article Man Overboard! (Afloat Dec’10). Please tell me I’m missing something.
There was no mention about a safety harness (perhaps it snapped, though unlikely). I thought everyone who went on deck had to be attached to the boat.
I’m not a racing person, but anyone who goes on deck on my yacht has to be clipped on, even in good weather especially offshore, it’s easy to make a misjudgement.
Saves all that drama they went through.
Kevin Collins,
Berowra Waters.

No more caravansNo more caravans

To all the Grey Nomads (present and future) there is an alternative to motor homes and caravans. It’s called a boat. A boat such as my trailable/water ballasted Deltacraft Islander.
It has similar amenities to land-based vehicles, is economical (1lt diesel per hr), and manageable by one or two people. While on land it is used as a caravan, on water it is a floating home.
Presently I am part way on my Oz journey which began at the beautiful Gippsland Lakes. Seven weeks of exploring from Sale to Lakes Entrance and the many bays, beaches and rivers in between.
The Gippsland Port Authority provide ample jetties, floating pontoons and moorings (all 48hr limit) such that the anchor stayed in the locker the whole time.
Now on the Hawkesbury, I find you definitely need a dinghy. Sometimes you may feel the need to use shore-based facilities like laundry, longer showers and dining out. Peter and his dockhand Kris at RMYC were extremely helpful in this. I leave the tow vehicle and trailer at a caravan park, (storage is cheaper than site fees) like Malaluka at Spencer, Greg very helpful.
This country has some of the finest lakes, estuaries and river systems in the world. They are nice to look at but believe me nothing beats being out there living the dream not dreaming of the life.
It’s affordable (anchoring is free) and living on the water is cheaper than living on land. Buy a boat and enjoy life afloat.
Gordon Cox,
Gypsea II.

Way down upon the Parra River

I greatly enjoyed reading Blaxell’s article Angela Catterns – still a river girl at heart (Afloat Dec’10).
I grew up around the same time on the other side of the river at Gladesville. Her story rekindled old memories of my childhood playing around the construction site of the then new Gladesville bridge.
We would use the insides of the square blocks as slippery dips, dangerous, illegal but what fun. Chasing eels and making sheet tin canoes from liberated building materials and road tar to set out on adventures down Tarban Creek.
I literally grew up on the harbour and the wharves as my father was a ships chandler with Kopsens in Kent Street. I spent much of my childhood riding around the then working harbour in Stannard Bros Launches and meeting ships’ captains and crews.
After moving ‘up the river’ to Gladesville in the late ’50s my father secured a job on Cockatoo Island.
I was able to explore all the bits of the river that interested me by bicycle initially, but the draw of the river was too great and my fellow conspirators constructed many homemade unseaworthy boats, using road tar and galvanized tin.
Then after many nautical tragedies in home built craft launched from the Gladesville asylum I finally talked my parents into letting me buy an aged VJ. I think my parents took pity on me to be truthful. What pleasure it was to explore the river with a friend and not have to paddle or swim ashore and walk miles home.
I was reminded, also, of my venture into competition sailing as member of the fledgling Hunters Hill sailing club and later moving over to Drummoyne sailing club. I was never any good because I just enjoyed the sailing and not the competition. Besides, my boats were put together on a budget so they were never going to compete seriously.
One of the things I remember about the Parramatta River, however, was the smells as you went up the river. There was Meggits Linseed Oil and Dulux Paints, the old gas works and any number of industrial odours as you travelled up the river. I found these somewhat interesting rather than offensive and it would be many years before I worked out what these places were making.
The river has a special place for me, also, as during my later career in the Navy as a submariner, I was based at Cockatoo Island during a refit period when I met the love of my life who worked at Dunlops (now Birkenhead Point) and lived at Abbotsford.
Although we have long since moved away from the area we still frequent the Drummoyne sailing club and Sydney Rowers. The River will always hold a special place in our lives.
Thank you Blaxell for the memories, and Angela for your wonderful radio shows over the years.
Thor Wesenlund (Yes, half Norwegian half Irish),
Baulkham Hills.

Five-star service

Returning to hot and steamy Cairns after eight years cruising from Africa to Asia our trusty 12 volt Danfoss fridge started to give problems. One morning we awoke to find our fridge batteries absolutely flat. The reason? … the unit was not switching off.
The solution seemed simple enough – buy a new thermostat. Finding a local supplier, we bought what we thought was the equivalent of the old one and installed it. It didn’t work ... still the unit didn’t switch off.
Everyone in boating will be familiar with this scenario where logically something should work but doesn’t.
Days later after thinking of every possible reason why the new thermostat was not doing the job we eventually contacted Moorebank Marine who supplied the whole unit 15 years ago. Mr Lee Bruce said the thermostat model we had purchased was not the recommended one and we should buy the recommended one. They offered to supply this but as we were going to return the thermostat to the local supplier we thought it would be simpler for accounting reasons to get the local supplier to order the correct thermostat.
One week later the new thermostat arrived and we installed it. Still didn’t work. We couldn’t believe it!
We emailed Mr Bruce. He didn’t know why either. Instead of just leaving us to it (as we hadn’t purchased the thermostat from him), he worked with us to try and fix the problem. After exchanging 12 emails, we found the correct adjustment to the wiring scheme and we were in business.
Now the fridge is working like a dream perhaps it’s time to set sail for another circumnavigation!
Talk about after sales service. We hadn’t spent a penny with Moorebank Marine for 15 years and still they felt obliged to help us get the unit working. You can’t beat that can you? Five-star service.
Keith Fletcher,
S/Y Tenacity II.

Lady Commodores

I realise that you have been inundated with many replies regarding the many great women who have led our sailing clubs. But I am compelled to add another name to that list – Marlene Jacobson.
A member now for over 60 years, Marlene was elected President of South Lake Macquarie Amateur Sailing Club in 1983, a position she held for over 25 years. During this time, Marlene led the club from strength to strength, one of the many highlights being South Lake’s selection as host club for the world Moth championships.  
Marlene was awarded Life Membership of the club in 1976, followed by the award of Life Membership of the VJ Federal Council in the ’90s. Further recognition was forthcoming in 2001 when Marlene was awarded a Federation of Australia Centenary Medal for services to the sailing community.  
Marlene has resigned from her many official positions but continues each weekend to support several of the amateur clubs on the lake.  
We need more of her like.
Peter Jacobson,

When the bridge fell down

Further to Graeme Andrews’ article on Hobart’s bridge and the ship Lake Illawarra (Afloat Dec’10).
We were in Tasmania on a Vintage Car Rally the following year and I have a copy of the result of the enquiry into the Tasman Bridge incident which was published in the Hobart Mercury.
There is no great mystery as to what happened. Lake Illawarra was caught in a flood tide and lost steerage way. The helm was put hard over with no effect and then the engines put astern without returning the helm to midship. This resulted in the vessel screwing around sideways and consequently taking out a bridge pylon.
When you recall the reported sequence of events on the bridge of the Titanic, you can see a remarkably similar set of circumstances, but with an iceberg and not a bridge.
While we were in Hobart on the rally I took a photo of our 1929 MG on a wharf with the Lady Wakehurst in the background. Wakehurst went back to Sydney when the bridge was completed and was eventually fitted out in a harbour cruise configuration, but was never used as such. I saw her at the Thames Street depot being boarded up for her trip to Auckland.
As recorded by Graeme, Lady Ferguson was too far gone to be of use – it is a wonder she made it down there even under tow.
Kosciusko was used (with Lady Wakehurst) until the bridge was reopened. Then the authorities in Hobart are said to have promptly demolished the wharves they were using.
Part of one of her ends has been incorporated as an outdoor feature at the Bellerive Hotel.
Ian Heather,

Lucky escape

Yes, I remember when Hobart’s bridge fell down.In 1974 I did the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race aboard my Cole 43 Ruffian.  
After the race my wife and I were returning to Sydney by car across Tasmania from Hobart to Launceston then by air to Sydney. Jan and I left Hobart and headed north west towards Queenstown along the Lyell Highway. Our first stop was at Zeehan where we spent the night in a motel.
We were awoken at about 4.00am by a radio in the bedroom loudly announcing that the Hobart Bridge had been smashed by a ship which sank and that many cars had fallen into the river with loss of life.
We had crossed the bridge a few hours before the accident.
We immediately phoned our family to reassure them and advise them that we were OK, having crossed the bridge safely.
I remember it well!
John Kinsella,

More than OK dinghies

Judy Powell’s nice letter A marriage made in heaven (Afloat Nov’10) prompted many memories for me of her late husband John who himself was a fine wooden boat builder as well as an enthusiastic devotee to sailing Heritage.
In 1962 I saw a dinghy sailing in Watsons Bay slipping through the water with such grace and efficiency that I fell in love with it.
On enquiry I learnt that she was an OK dinghy and about to start racing at Vaucluse YC. She was already racing at the Western Suburbs club at Cabarita where a group of amateur builders were constructing more.
Among this group of stalwarts were: John Powell, Don Board, Norm Fennell and John Hardy, whom I was privileged to meet when I hastened up there to buy a boat – not having the skills to build one myself.
The OKs these blokes built each year were superb pieces of furniture and were treated as such by their owners. But several visiting OK pundits, world champion Goren Andersen of Sweden and co-designer Axel Olsen of Denmark, who were amazed at the quality of the workmanship, declared that they were too good thereby declaring their view of function before aesthetics.
Before I met this group of cavaliers, they, led by John, had been building and sailing Vee Esses with considerable success at the highest competitive level.
In addition, John’s sportsmanship both on and off the water was always of the highest order.
Telling me his sailing history, Don Board said, “I joined Western Suburbs where I was privileged to meet John Powell.”
I felt the same.
Alan Clark,
[Shortly after receiving his letter, Alan Clark died on 25 November 2010. Our most sincere condolences to his wife and family – Ed]


Bruce Stannard’s newly gleaming brasswork (Afloat Oct’10) must be a joy to him. I have respect for him, and his family’s tradition about our waters and waterfronts for generations.
However, there’s a difference between ‘brightwork’ and ‘brasswork’. Your heading Brightwork has nothing to do with polished brass or other metal fittings.
Brightwork refers to the sanded, raw-oiled, and triple-coated varnished decorative timberwork about a vessel. The term has no boundaries by size, style, area or surround. It most usually addresses handrails, toe rails, porthole surrounds, cabin to cockpit ladders, and lots more in and around the cockpit.
Brightwork is a term usually reserved for outside areas to display the upkeep and condition of the vessel. The timber tiller or steering wheel may be brightwork, but the hounds which bind these are brasswork.  They do make very complementary tones in a vessel.
Alan Chapman,
Warners Bay.

Insurance – will your insurer act in good faith?

I recently had an engine wrecked as a result of overheating due to absence of cooling water.
My insurer refused to accept my claim or appoint an assessor until I had the motor stripped, tested and a quote received.
Subsequently the assessor claimed the motor damage was due to mechanical failure and denied the claim. The insurer then refused to reimburse me for the costs of removing the motor, stripping it down and the quote.
I appealed to the Financial Ombudsman. A time consuming and laborious process.
The result was that the Ombudsman found in my favour and was very critical of the insurer. I quote one paragraph from the Determination:
“The FSP (Financial Service Provider) has therefore acted contrary to the policy. It was in no position to insist on a repair quote when it had not accepted liability for the claim. It was also poor insurance practice and inconsistent with an obligation to act with utmost good faith to hold the applicant at ransom by refusing to act on his claim until he provided a quote.”
It is clear the insurer knew of its obligations to me but deliberately chose to ignore them in an attempt to save money. Hoping that I, like most, would not have the time or resources to appeal their actions.
Few of us have the time to mount an appeal to the Ombudsman so it is important to be aware of our rights. Anything your insurer, or his assessor, want you to do after you have claimed, such as slipping the boat, must be ordered by and paid for by the insurer.
If the insurer disputes your claim the onus is on him to justify that – you don’t have to prove your claim is valid.
W.L. Scarr,

Mooring minder solution

If moorings were able to be transferred, the ‘mooring minder’ problem would disappear.
Bill Mobbs,
Careel Bay.

Email scam warning

Eric Wegman from places unknown has sent us advice of a possible email scam.
We, too, at Afloat have received similar emails. We dispose of them in our junk mail bin.
Eric reckons “he is offering too much money and it all sounds seriously fishy – would not be surprised if other advertisers have been approached in a similar way”.

-----Original Message-----
From: undisclosed sender
Sent: Sunday, 21 November 2010 7:37 PM
To: Eric Wegman
Subject: Re: Elliott 5.9 great little yacht $8000

Am glad to read back from you regarding the boat. am highly interested and $8,600 is my offer for it. right now, am at my working place on the sea and won’t be able to come for this transaction in person but i will be making the payment through my PayPal account, so kindly get back to me with your PayPal email account for me to effect the payment into your account. i have a pick up agent that will come for the pick up of the boat from your address as soon as i make the payment.
I hope to read back from you soonest.
------ End of Forwarded Message

Tunks Park boat ramp load limitLoad limit

I took this photo at Tunks Park boat ramp. Maybe it’s a little unclear but you can see they are unloading three pallets of sandstone onto the floating jetty, which is bending under the strain. There are 20-odd 1-tonne bags of sand on the truck behind it.
A commercial barge had just left after unloading a dump truck. Skips are being delivered. Perhaps a load limit should be imposed on this new jetty if it’s going to make it to Christmas.
Simon Paterson,
Hervey Bay.
R.S.V.P. Old Schooner

Old schooner

Could anyone help with the identification of this yacht?
The house on Hamilton Hill dates it after 1905-6 and the flag is, I believe, the Queensland Separation Flag. First flown after 10 Dec 1859, it was described by Flag Society of Aust Inc. as “Light Blue flag with red St George’s Cross & Union in the corner”.
I always get your mag one or two months old, passed on by a friend.
Colin M Johnson,
Regency Downs, Qld.