PC Jay delivery voyage

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This forum is for members to share their top hat sailing experiences, whether it be an interesting day sail, a coastal passage, or a journey across the oceans.
These experiences may be good, bad or ugly!, it is intended that we can learn from each other, & encourage each other to get out there & enjoy these wonderful yachts.

PC Jay delivery voyage

Postby Jakub76 » Sat Aug 12, 2017 4:44 pm

Firstly let me say 'Hi Hatters'. I did a lot of research before deciding to purchase my first sailboat in July and this website has already proven to be a great resource. I wanted a project and after watching hours of sailing videos on YouTube I decided it was time to get involved rather than living vicariously. I purchased a 1982 Top Hat Mk2 with an inboard 16.5hp Kubota diesel. The vessel has been modified with an additional skeg and a transom hung rudder.
494 471 476
While I'm not sure exactly why this modification was made I can tell you that this boat steers very well (forward NOT so well in reverse) and also gets a lot more speed under sail than I was expecting...read on for details.

I'm based in Sydney and the vessel was in Grafton. Eventually we met in Yamba where I had a pre-purchase inspection and engine service done while the previous owner, Don and his sons Chris and Nick installed brand new rigging as part of our negotiated conditions of sale. Don motored down from Grafton with the mast down to get under the Harwood bridge which was undergoing maintainence and not opening at that time. The vessel needed some TLC and was a bit rougher than I had expected. We spent a few days working on her, I was mostly just cleaning and trying to fix the freshwater plumbing leaks, replacing bulbs, killing cockroaches and going through all of the stuff that was left on board.

We had the boat slipped at Yamba marina and after the inspection we re-installed the mast. While all this was going on a lady there noticed my enthusiastic scrubbing as I acid washed the hull. She came over and told me that if I buy the boat I should put a gold coin under the mast. I thought this was an amusing bit of superstition and laughed it off. I soon learned that the lady was Kay Cottee, the first female sailor to achieve a single-handed circumnavigation of the globe unassisted. She and her husband Peter own Yamba Marina. I decided Kay is someone I should probably listen to so when she returned to give me a dollar coin I assured her I would do as she suggested and we placed the coin under the mast.
Eventually all of the rigging work was completed, I had it looked over by Scooter - a highly reputed rigger (and accomplished sailor) based at Yamba marina. It was time to prepare for passage home. I had thought I would hire a captain to sail with me so I could learn from them as well as for safety...but I do enjoy being self sufficient and can get a little stubborn so I eventually decided I would attempt at least part of the passage home solo. It was an ambitious plan as I had very limited sailing experience - I read 'Sailing for Dummies' and had crewed on a Wednesday afternoon racing yacht 3 times...yep that was my sum total sailing experience. Plus I was pretty worried about crossing the bar at the Clarence river entrance, running into whales and also sailing overnight without support. I spent a couple days sailing the vessel on the Clarence river getting acquainted and ironing out some problems.
Things were going well and the weather looked favourable so on a Monday morning I set off out across the bar which was very forgiving that day and I headed for Coffs Harbour. The wind was blowing a moderate westerly and when I got the sails up I was so impressed with how well my little boat sailed. Auto-tiller keeping us on course, sails trimmed to balance power and heel and we were quietly cruising along very nicey averaging 5.8 knots. I had planned the trip expecting 5 knots and was told to expect 3.5-4 instead. I decided that if the wind wasn't allowing 5 knots then I'd fire up the engine...after all we had a lot of distance to cover.


I learned a lot that first full day solo sailing. It was a beautiful experience, I saw a bunch of whales and was joined by several pods of dolphins that swam alongside. Conditions were kind of perfect and I reached Coffs Harbour around 730pm to drop anchor beside the old jetty in the outer harbour. I had never anchored before so that was an interesting experience. I ended up downloading an anchor watch application to my iphone to alert me if we started drifting.
The next morning was beautiful and after breakfast I went to start the engine but the circuit breaker kept flipping before I could warm the glow plugs and fire the engine. I pulled out the toolkit again and tried swapping the breaker with a breaker from a different system. Same problem...I decided to risk it and bypassed the breaker on the ignition circuit all together.
I wired in an alligator clip and hotwired my little Toppie to get her going again. I filled up with diesel, topped up the water and set off for Port Stephens...an expected 30 hour sail :shock:

I was glad that I had experienced a little night time sailing the previous day coming into Coffs. I was still a bit anxious committing to an overnight passage buy once night came I felt prepared and calm. The stars were bright and awe-inspiring but what really impressed me was the constant visible phosphorescence in the disturbed water around the boat. This looked absolutely amazing, constant sparkly dots like fairy dust. I'm surprised that people don't talk about this more. I've seen phosphorescence in beach sand and that was pretty cool but I've never even heard about it in the water like this, in the wake and on each side of the boat where ever the water is disturbed. At one point through the night I was sitting at the bow on the upturned dinghy, my favourite place when out in open water. I saw a shimmering shape in the water heading straight for the boat like a torpedo, my heart raced as I was expecting impact then at the last moment the shape turned with the boat and a dolphin surfaced. This dolphin was trailing sparkly phosphorescence like magic, seriously it was amazing and lent some insight into seemingly far-fetched old fashioned sailors' stories.

Luckily the conditions remained perfect - moderate westerly and very little swell. The water was glassy and the night was calm and peaceful. When I recognised mental fatigue I decided to allow myself a quick kip. I calculated that we were at least 1 hour from any land based hazzards and using the 'Marine Traffic' application I could see there were no commercial vessels that I would encounter within an hour...so I allowed myself a 40 minute nap. I set multiple different alarms to ensure I wouldn't sleep through and to be honest it was pretty hard to actually allow myself to relax enough to get to sleep but the rest was definitely worth it. I waited to pass a bit of traffic and then allowed myself another 40 minutes a few hours later. Sunrise under sail was absolutely beautiful.
I don't think I've ever worked harder for a cup of coffee, between the heel and the waves it was very difficult to grind the beans, load and boil the percolator, warm the milk...but when it was all done it did make for a great cup of coffee - more appreciated for the effort of making it.

The wind was still pushing us along very nicely and I was really enjoying trimming the sails to achieve the most efficient balance. I've attached a photo here where you can see my live Navionics details - yes that really is 8.3 knots.
I was getting that speed quite regularly that morning as everything was just working together so well. Shortly later my fishing reel started buzzing and I pulled out a nice mackerel which I bled and filleted. That would be my dinner later that night. As if on cue the wind settled a bit as I was pulling in the fish. After all the cleaning work was done I fired up the engine to keep making good progress.
Most of the day continued without incident until about 20nm out of Port Stephens. The weather turned a bit nasty and I was a little far off shore for my liking. I was now trying to sail into the wind which must have been around 20-25 knots as it had whipped up some unpleasant waves and the whole thing felt like survival. I tacked and trimmed and tried but I couldn't make any headway upwind towards shore so i started the engine and tried to power through the chop. The engine was barely moving us along and with all of the constant rocking in the waves I think it got starved of coolant as it quickly climbed to 240f...way too hot. I cut the engine and tried to keep sailing but was not making any headway, feeling beaten and not having much fun anymore I could feel the sleep deprivation effect my mood and decision making. At this stage I just wanted to get into port. I topped up the coolant and started the engine again but shortly after the revs dropped and the engine died. I fired it up again and sure enough minutes later it died again. I was starting to stress now. I figured the engine was dying because the fuel level was getting low and the engine was being starved of fuel when lurching over these constant waves. I put in 10 litres more fuel that I had in a jerry can. Third time lucky? Afraid not. I jumped on the VHF radio and got in touch with Port Stephens Marine Rescue declaring a 'Pan Pan' and requesting assistance. Not my finest hour.

I was told the necessary phone calls were being made and they would send assistance. In the meantime I remembered about a fuel priming pump that the mechanic had shown me. It was plumbed into the fuel line but not wired onto the battery. I took the loose pig-tail wire ends and jammed them into the battery terminal connectors. I started the engine again and this time I think the pump helped keep enough fuel pressure despite the crappy conditions. Marine Rescue checked in on me and I told them that the engine was running ok and that I no longer needed assistance. I limped into Port Stephens around 730pm and picked up one of the many vacant private moorings in Shoal Bay.

Unfortunately I had left the front hatch open a crack for ventilation, now all my bedding and clothes were soaked through. I fried the mackerel fillets and served it with sliced apple. I felt broken. I had a beer and slept like a log. Next day my awesome son drove to Nelson Bay to pick me up and take me back to Sydney for a work commitment. I left the boat on an RMS mooring in Nelson Bay and returned a few days later with my girlfriend Sandra to complete the passage.

We arrived on Saturday night and paddled aboard. I fired up the engine and took the boat to Nelson Bay marina to top up on water. We then motored to shoal bay and picked up another vacant mooring. We cooked up a nice dinner and got a few hours sleep.

1230am we began our journey to Sydney. Soon after leaving Port Stephens we were able to raise the sails and were getting good speed though the conditions were a lot rougher than what was forecast. I was quite happy with the wind but Sandra was suffering from the relentless rocking over waves. Eventually I coaxed her out into the cockpit with a cup of ginger lemon tea and she bounced right back.
Before long she was reeling in another mackerel so I cooked up some sushi rice and prepared sashimi nigiri for lunch.

Late afternoon we made it through Sydney heads under sail and it was a magic feeling.
Not without drama, with our lure trawling behind we hooked a bird. It was quite an unpleasant experience freeing him as the treble hooks were through his wing and both feet and he was focused on trying to bite me as often as he could. Then once we started the engine the oil pressure gauge read 0. I was worried, even though the engine sounded fine and the oil level was all good I was confused and concerned so we left the champagne in the fridge and limped home under sail with barely enough wind to push us along.

But we made it and already this cheap little sail boat is bringing me and my family joy and adventure.

I have lots of projects planned and some unplanned engine repairs required now so stay tuned for lots of questions and requests for info. Thanks for reading.
Jakub :)
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Re: PC Jay delivery voyage

Postby Sailtime » Sat Aug 12, 2017 8:40 pm

Great read, loved the photos, sounds like an awesome trip! Well done!

Post some photos of the interior sometime.

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Re: PC Jay delivery voyage

Postby dism » Sat Aug 12, 2017 9:17 pm

Great story Jakub. Glad you got home safe and that boat is now getting used.

Your trip is pretty much the reverse of what I did, even up to the last 20m (it was on adjacent mooring). I should write my trip up.

They are great boats and plenty of projects to make them better
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Re: PC Jay delivery voyage

Postby Phillip » Sun Aug 13, 2017 10:22 am

Talk about jumping in the deep end Jakub !! :D

For just a great first time effort I think we are going to see more of your voyages that will inspire other Top Hatters to get out there.

Well done mate and welcome to Top Hats. :D :D
A 1969 Mark 1

Home port is at Dunbogan on the Camden Haven Inlet, Laurieton NSW
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Re: PC Jay delivery voyage

Postby percyverhance » Sun Aug 13, 2017 8:50 pm

Good on you Jakub.
You're a problem solver mate,and you're going to love you're Top Hat.
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Re: PC Jay delivery voyage

Postby Shaun » Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:02 am

Well done Jakub, you did very well resolving the problems. Sounds like your hooked on coastal sailing.
Great read, thanks for posting, with photos & videos too!
"Blue Moon" MkIII Junkette rig,
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Mid Nth Coast, NSW

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Re: PC Jay delivery voyage

Postby Miker » Mon Aug 14, 2017 2:44 pm

Good on you Jakub, what a fantastic effort. Shame you didn't have more time to enjoy the coast and see the sights. I guess you'll just have to go back and do it again....

Welcome to the club....
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