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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.


Postby Miker » Tue Sep 22, 2009 5:27 pm

Following a prompt from Greg (Felicite) here is the story moving Dulcamara to Careel Bay.
Seeing as how Gladesville bridge is a good two to three hours from the heads I decided that to make sure I had plenty of time to get to Pittwater in the day, I would stay in Manly on Saturday night. This turned out to be both good, and bad, depending on how you look at it. I really had no choice on days, unless I put it off for another month or so. This meant going in whatever conditions presented themselves, with the exception of truly ludicrous weather of course 
They say "Timing is everything" and they have never been truly correct in this circumstance. I dropped the mooring at 4pm, said my farewells to the Gladesville Bridge Marina and my good riddance to the freeway of the main channel under the bridge itself. Hoisted the main, unfurled #2 (it's all I have apart from a stormsail) and headed east. Winds were ENE most of the way to the bridge and realising that I'd not make it before dark if I sailed, I furled the #2 and started the motor and “George” the ST800 Autohelm. By the time I got to Bradley's Head it was dusk and the wind had gone more north, so sailing up the main channel to the heads and Manly would have meant tacking a considerable number of times. So I dropped the main as well and tied it down. Lucky I did, because when I rounded Bradleys, the wind had increased to what seemed like 30 or 40 knots, plus I was going against the incoming tide, so the going was pretty slow. No problems for the 8HP 4 stroke Tohatsu though. Once in Little Manly cove I searched around for a free mooring, and found one fairly close in, which was good because Gabi and my son Chris were joining me for dinner. We ended up with Chinese Take away in the cabin, because it was so blustery outside still, even in Little Manly. I set them ashore in the rubber dinghy at about 10.30PM, made sure all was secure and hit the sack.
Strangely enough, Little Manly Cove isn't as secluded and still as one would think and the incessant rocking from the ferry wash and other boats moving around kept me awake most of the night. (I've priced spectra halyards already!) So at 5.30 I was up in the dinghy scrubbing the waterline from the muck that accumulated in the river, then swabbed the decks to get rid of the road grime from the Gladesville Bridge traffic and double checked everything to make sure I was legally covered with all the safety gear. WARNING - Never believe the previous owner when he tells you that the flares are in service.... they were out of date and stupid me hadn’t checked them, just assumed. So lesson learned and another item for the shopping list. At 8am my father John and my son Chris (25) arrived to join me for the trip. Dad has done some sailing with MHYC many years ago (he's now 70) and Chris had been out once the week prior to learn what a sheet was and how to tiller the boat to the wind..... so he was a complete novice, but enthusiastic all the same.
The next thing one must remember is to do a radio check the week before. When I called Coastal Patrol Sydney I got no response. I tried a couple of times and still no response so I called them on the mobile to log in. We did a test whilst they were on the phone and got no transmission. I could hear them, but they couldn’t hear my response at all. It may be either my antenna is stuffed or the radio transmitter circuit or both.... another lesson learned. The Coastal Patrol people were brilliant, and happy that I had at least three mobile phones on board to check in and log off. They asked me to check in at Long Reef, then again when I got inside Barrenjoey.
By the time we got our gear stowed and dropped the mooring it was about 8.40am. Plenty of time says I, plenty of time. In the words of Jeremy Clarkson, “How hard can it be?” So, under brilliant sunshine and not a breath of sailable wind, we motored out through the heads with the main up and sheeted hard, expecting to get about 2nm off shore and pick up the forecast North Westerly,..... Well, how wrong can a forecast be? By about 10am we were still under motor and just south of Queenscliff. Not too bad think I, when the wind finally came up. With great relief we lifted the motor and set sail eastwards under an un-forecasted North Easter. With the wind about 30 degrees east of North we decided to go east for a bit, until we thought we had enough sea room to get around Long Reef with the Macquarie light still in sight. This kind of worked, but we still had to tack out a mile or so near Long Reef, to be on the safe side. When I checked in with Coastal Patrol, they were really nice and helpful and said we were making reasonable time. As it turned out plenty of other boats went much closer in to Long Reef on the high tide than I was prepared to do myself. It slowed us down some, but we were sure we were far enough off. The next tack was about Newport which took us out far enough to see the Barrenjoey light and get around Bangally Head by a mile or so. At about 3.30pm Coastal Patrol Sydney called me to check our progress thinking we had forgotten to log off. When I informed them of our location and that we were in a Top Hat, they said “Oh, of course, well, the Top Hat may be a bit slow, but it’s a good boat to be in if you’re stuck in a storm”. Again I had miscalculated due to the wind going a bit further North and the South East swell was on our aft starboard quarter, however once I persuaded my Dad to let “George” the Autohelm to steer another 10 points off the wind we picked up some speed and had a much smoother ride. That was until the storms started coming in. We actually didn’t get anything ourselves, but we could see them and as the southerly hit further South, we lost all wind for about 30 minutes at Whale Beach, and lost it again when we got just south of Barrenjoey. Each time I lost the wind we just motored up a bit until it picked up again. There was one period of NW at about 30 knots for 10 minutes, then it settled back to the NE after another period of calm.
As we went inside I called up Coastal Patrol Sydney who were in the middle of a hailstorm! They could hardly hear me, but they were glad to hear from us that we had made it. I could see a storm due east, another south and two more cells to north and west. Where we were was eerily calm and pleasant and the typical calm before the storm. Once around Barrenjoey the Southerly came right up our nose, but we were ready for it with everything furled and tied down all we had to do was motor into the calm of Careel Bay and find our mooring. While we motored in, Dad cleaned up the cabin area, washed the dishes and coffee cups and straightened everything out ready to unload. We had eaten a whole egg and bacon pie, drank a couple of beers (only one for me, skipper is responsible!) and had plenty of fruit. There were periods where Chris read for over an hour up on the cabin roof, Dad and I chatting away and postulating about our lives and realising that we had on board the first son, of the first son of the first son. I’m 50, Chris is 25 and Dad is 70 and it’s the first time we’ve actually spent that much time all together without women or other distractions for such a long long time, it was really very therapeutic.
Finally we got Dulcamara moored, got the dinghy back in the water off the foredeck, rigged the little 3.3 Mercury and loaded for the first trip in. Dad too Chris and most of the gear to meet Gabi on the jetty. Not a bad place to land, and they have fuel there too. Once the dinghy was unloaded, Dad came back out to pick me up, but couldn’t find me in the dark, so had to go find his phone and call me to guide him in. Very funny, I could see him, but he couldn’t hear me over the noise of the outboard.
All in all, we had a great time. It was a long trip and we learned a lot about sailing along the coast into a wind, and we learned some more about each other, which was perhaps the best thing about it. I’ve learned that even in a brisk NE wind, you can do Sydney to Pittwater in a day in a Top Hat. I’ve learned that they’re pretty capable little boats that surprise a lot of people, but I’ve also learned that you need to be very well prepared and re-check your equipment often to make sure it’s serviceable and won’t let you down. I’ve also learned that I really do like coastal sailing and just have to ease Gabi into it, so we can have a sailing holiday in the not too distant future.
Now Dulcamara is a little closer to home, and back in her home waters, as apparently she was there with the owners who had her before the people we bought her from. Careel Bay Marina seems like a reasonable place to be, it’s got a lot of old fashioned air about it and Darby and Bluey seem like reasonable people. There is a sandy beach to launch the dinghy, tender service, petrol, ice and bait and it’s sheltered from all but NW winds. It’s not far to go outside for an ocean sail and it’s not far from Brooklyn or Coal n Candle creek, as well as Brisbane Water. So Gabi and I are looking forward to being there for some time. We’ve applied for a mooring in Careel as well, and once the mooring fees are cheaper we can start doing some restoration on the old girl.
Last edited by Miker on Thu Aug 04, 2011 9:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Dulcamara" - MKIII
Careel Bay, Pittwater
"Order of the Tipping Dinghy" 2017
Posts: 757
Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 2:15 pm
Location: Pittwater NSW

Re: Dulcamara

Postby auriga » Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:28 pm

Excellent post and well done!

Am going to be making the same passage myself soonish and will (hopefully - availability dependant) be a neighbour in careel over the summer :)
Posts: 96
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:15 pm
Location: Tarban Creek, NSW

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