In this chapter of the challenging and fulfilling sailing journey lasting many years, we travel through the trials and tribulations of launching a home-built boat.
……to an almost-finished boat that’s ready for the launch back in the 1980s. Resembles the above plan?
Although there’s always something else to finish and this time, it’s getting the cradle ready for the launch.
Launching a boat
After 5.5 years marooned on land and growing taproots, the boat is finally ready to launch.
Excited, apprehensive, and very nervous feelings flood in my mind, although at least we know she floats, compliments of the floodwaters.
Strapping the boat down as don’t want it falling off the trailer on the journey to the river…
…the launch doesn’t go without its own hick-ups.
The launch day is nerve-wracking. It doesn’t help that the tow truck is late. You may be wondering what’s the big deal if it’s late? Need to make high tide at the Hawkesbury River. If the tide recedes too low then won’t be launching today.
The tow truck finally arrives for the next problem.
The boat and trailer used this piece of land as a bed for so long that the trailer’s wheels are settled deep in the ground. The flood didn’t help either. The gutsy tow truck can’t budge the weight.
Today, our Suzuki proves invaluable and manages to pull forward enough to shift the boat, trailer, and tow truck from the land’s entrapment – unbelievable!
The white Suzuki soft-top you see is another little side-project whilst building the boat and deserves a mention following its extraordinary power.
This side-project included stripping down a second-hand 4WD, treating rust spots (becoming a favourite past time), an undercoat, a re-spray, replacing the original motor with a Corolla Toyota motor, a new gear box, rewiring some electrics, new canvas covers, and re-assembling everything back together again. Masochists?
This new toy and little gem did provide respite from building the boat on the occasional break and release for a spot of beach camping.
Wanted to add the Suzuki fit-out to this post as looking back on these years, still think we were young and naive to take so much on although completed everything…eventually. Money is an issue in your early 20s, so not a bad effort.
Following the tow truck along the road with the hired escort, our precious baby of hard labour and love for the past 5.5 years is on the first of its maiden voyages. Okay, it’s by road, but we need to launch first – tenterhooks and nerves run high today.
Visions of the boat and trailer spilling over the hard bitumen, horribly scraping the smooth topcoat, or worse, denting the boat’s side, flash through my mind.
Arriving at the slipway safely, another glitch in today’s events unfolds…
…at the critical point of letting go of the land’s tenacious umbilical cord, the tow truck breaks down and everything comes to a standstill again.
Finally fixing the truck’s issue, the boat launches with the skipper hoisting onto her and starting the engine. Running for several minutes, the prop shaft seizes and billows some smoke. The stuffing box is too tight. Seriously?
Luckily for us, some friendly yachties tow the boat using just their dinghy and outboard – still just a shell and very light – to help anchor in the river next to another newly launched beautiful boat built by Roper Yachts.
Also noticing that the bow is much higher than the stern, this indicates she still needs more ballast for a better trim – another job.
Becoming great friends with the Roper family in this little pocket of the Hawkesbury River, delicious dinners and travel stories are enjoyed on each other’s boats. Savouring some time in this sheltered waterway although it’s for more work fixing the prop-shaft and ironing out a few new issues. Moving our stuff on and then provisioning, it’s time to head out for good.
This time, on the first real maiden voyage.
Real maiden voyage
For those that don’t know of the beautiful Hawkesbury River in NSW, this winding river runs for around 65NM (120-kilometres) before spilling out through picturesque Broken Bay and into the Tasman Sea, hours north of Sydney.
The maiden voyage motoring down the long scenic Hawkesbury is slow-paced to break in everything slowly – including skipper and crew (me), including the new motor and prop-shaft. Breaking the journey up and to give the motor a rest, we stop along the way and anchor overnight. Finally arriving near the mouth of Broken Bay, decide to play around near the Brooklyn Bridge – yes, we have one in Australia – for a couple of days.
Continuing on, we finally arrive in Pittwater’s spectacular playground area, which sees many boats and campers in this amazing nature reserve.
Nestled between Sydney to the south and the Central Coast to the north, this fabulous marine playground is dotted with numerous safe and secluded anchoring spots. You can easily spend months here on a boat or camping in the gorgeous lush surrounds with natural fauna and flora visiting on occasion.
I could easily live in this area, although Sydney beckons for work and to finish the boat.
I’m including a couple of maps in this post not just because I love maps, but also for those that are not familiar or haven’t heard of these areas in Australia.
First sea voyage
Picking a patch of good weather and with boat issues hopefully under control finally, it’s time to leave the safe haven of protected Pittwater.
Motoring down the last of the Hawkesbury River – no stick (mast) or sails yet – we spill out of the heads and into the mighty Tasman Sea.
Playing it safe, decide to hug the coast should we run into new issues.
The boat bobs around like a dry cork swept and pushed over swells in a furious storm. Not quite and exaggerating a little, although we do bob around as the boat is quite empty and not weighted down by a mast yet.
Following an uncomfortable and tense start, 5 hours later of motoring south, we round Sydney heads unscathed and still in daylight.
The sheer excitement of finally leaving the Hawkesbury River after years of building and now motoring along Sydney Harbour is both euphoric and surreal.
Suddenly awoken from this dreamlike state by the sheer volume of water traffic to dodge as need our wits about us and to stay to get through everything. Passing the Prime Minister’s Kirribilli House, Sydney’s landmark Opera House and Lunar Park, finally round Ball’s Point Reserve. Heading for an anchoring spot in Waverton’s cosy Ball’s Head Bay, we weigh anchor and this becomes home whilst working and finishing off the boat.
More boat-building chapters
Check out more of my chapters in this boat-building series!