User Tools

Site Tools


Our First Outing

Soon after picking up the boat I enlisted Michelle's help in “stepping” (standing upright) the mast onto the boat on dry land for testing and practice. Neither of us fancied working out how to do this at a boat ramp with an audience. The mast has a pointy bit on the bottom that rests in a cupped divot on the middle lateral aluminium bar. The mast is held in place by three stainless steel wire “stays”. Two to the side and one to the front. These clamp the mast down to the boat. This feels as perilous as it sounds, but it seems to work.

A photo of the boat at the dock with the fore and side stays highlighted in green. The mast step has a green circle around it.

It was wise of us to try this in the comfort of our own front yard - it took us a few goes to work out the order of operation. We ran into problems with weight distribution on the boat tipping the trailer up, and how best to lift the mast. Our first attempt lead to the mast being dropped onto a U-shaped mast rest on the trailer and the top end banging into the ground. Unfortunately my torso was above the shorter, lower arm of the balance lever and I spent three weeks enjoying some cracked ribs. I cannot recommend. We eventually worked out a sequence of steps to get the mast up and down with minimum calamity.

Now it was time to keep an eye on the weather forecast. We wanted a nice gentle 5-10 knots of wind and low chance of rain. Michelle and my sailing lessons were a few years ago now, and with two kids onboard a new-to-us boat we wanted to play it safe to build confidence before working up to some sportier sailing. Finally, on boxing day of 2023, we headed out for our first sail.

2023-12-26 Brisbane River

Brisbane has a river running through it, dotted with boat ramps. River sailing is generally safer because there's more boat traffic to help out if you get into a pickle, and the shore is always swimmably close if worst comes to worst. There are downsides though: Messy wind due to obstructions and lots of anchored boats to dodge. Our closest boat ramp is a ten minute drive from home, in the Colmslie Recreation Reserve. We'd been geocaching there in the past, and we'd been out more recently to scope out the lay of the land.

Our modest goal for the day was to get out on the water and make it about 1km downriver to the Colmslie Beach Reserve and back. We turned up bright and early, ribs aching, and stood the mast up in the parking lot. The boat and trailer combined are light enough for two adults to comfortably maneuver, even on a slippery ramp, so we unhooked from the car and wheeled it down to the water. We let it off the trailer and tied off to a cleat at the end of the dock. I got the sail situation sorted while Michelle hauled the trailer back to the car.

This was the first time I'd actually fully rigged this boat. The family patiently waited while I remembered the difference between a halyard and a cunningham and got the sails up in one fashion or another. Meanwhile, a kind gent living on a boat in the river gave us his phone number in case we needed a tow back to the dock. I am sure this was mostly due to the innate mutual respect shared between all humankind, but also partially due to me repeatedly failing to fasten the jib halyard into a clearly ineffectual cleat. I eventually tied it off to a random loop on the mast and hoped for the best. Then we all got our life jackets on, clambered aboard and cast off into the wide-ish brown wonder of the industrial end of the Brisbane river. All told we were underway in about 40 minutes. Not great, not terrible.

It was fucking fantastic. The wind was perfect, there was little traffic, and the kids were excitedly gabbling about everything that hove into view. Whenever a motorboat went past we'd steer into the wake and bounce up and down, laughing at getting splashed. We tacked back and forth up towards the Gateway Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges and tied up to the jetty next to Brewdog Brisbane for a breather and a stretch. My ribs were emphatically informing me of an upcoming bill, payable in ibuprofen. We considered going into the pub for lunch, but we didn't feel our attire was restaurant-compatible.

A photo of Michelle, Alex and Sam standing around the boat tied up at a dock. A large car carrier is visible in the background. The sky is littered with fluffy white clouds.

A photo of me, a man with a beard and a hat. A large concrete bridge is in the background.

A google earth screenshot with a crudely drawn red line showing our path from the boat ramp downriver to brewdog, then back upriver to the ramp.

We made a straight run downwind back to the boat ramp. As we passed the incomprehensibly massive car carrier in the photo above the crew shouted out a merry Christmas from their deck 30m above the waterline. We caught the jetty and disembarked without incident. I dropped the sails (into the water, erk) and we got the boat back onto the trailer easily. In the car park I took out the bungs and we tilted the boat up. About five litres of water poured out of the left port pontoon. This was only mildly alarming. It wasn't enough to meaningfully affect the boat during short sails, but it would need to be addressed if we were to go on longer trips.

In summary: Fantastic success. We did not hit anything or sink much, we learned about our boat and how to make it go, and meet some nice people while out and about. The kids loved it and Michelle was enthusiastic about another outing soon.


When we got home and cleaned up I thought I'd try to find the leak in the left pontoon. I wrapped a thick bundle of gaffer tape around the end of a compressed air gun and wedged it in the bunghole with a cable tie providing a gentle trickle of compressed air. I then sprayed soapy water all over the boat looking for bubbles from escaping air. The bottom-most bit (keel) on caper cats has an aluminium strip riveted along the length to protect it during beaching. I'd previously repaired the leading edge of the one that had come slightly loose on the other side, so I figured there might be some water getting in through a small hole there. I was wrong. Everything seemed airtight except for the top front bit where the top and bottom fibreglass halves were held together by an aluminium casting.

I was confused; only a little bit of water splashed over the front during our outing, when driving through wake from other boats. Finding no other leaks I took off the casting, prised the fibreglass apart a little bit and blorked in some construction adhesive and clamped it overnight. I then followed up with a liberal quantity of “roof and gutter” silicone I had leftover from fixing a roof and/or gutter. I reinstalled the casting and congratulated myself for completing my first moderately serious boat repair. Ominous undertones intended.

projects/sailing/blog/3_first_outing.txt · Last modified: 2024/02/12 04:53 by tjhowse