Alan Mountford has been working on his Falcon 24, Blue Gum, to get her ready for son Dave and his family to take on a cruising trip up the coast of Queensland. We have been carrying this story on Blue Gum's page (click here to go there) but now its time to 'restructure' and put it in our Stories Section. We have excerpted from Alan's past emails to get this page going.
March 18, 2016. It had been a while and we wondered what Blue Gum was up to. Here is Alan's reply (edited)
Thanks for your e-mail – nice to hear from you. Poor Blue Gum has not been used very much in the last year due to factors such as difficulty finding crew, the area here consisting of narrow, shallow channels making it not conducive to sailing very much, and my health. I get quite tired at times.
Also I got into radio control model aircraft and joined the local club – an interest I have long had.
However, early in the year got an e-mail from my younger son, Dave, who currently lives in Wellington, New Zealand, saying he would like to take Blue Gum cruising with his family for about 6 months on the coast here. So I have been busy building a removable table with hinged sides for the cockpit, measuring up and ordering a cover for over the boom that can be set up either fairly flat or tied down like a tent with gutters on the edges to catch rainwater, along with rebuilding a horizontal axis, wind vane self steering gear that has sat around for years.
I also have covered the paddle-wheel for the log with copper shim to reduce the need for it having to be pulled and cleaned regularly.
October 15, 2016. We got the following update and photos from Alan.
November 11, 2016.We received a sailing report from Alan and the adventures of FiveOn24.
Here are several pics of Blue Gum on the hard in preparation for my son Dave and family to take her cruising.
The self steering gear was designed by Bill Belcher who years ago was wrecked on Middleton Reef during a Trans-Tasman yacht race from New Plymouth to Moolooba. Well known Kiwi in yachting circles in NZ. I bought the gear second hand years ago.
The vane rotating mechanism was way overbuilt and I modified it to make it a lot lighter. Also the vane axis was horizontal originally and modified it to an inclined axis vane of 20 degrees as all modern self steering systems are. While a horizontal vane works OK – it does have an issue of over steering the boat when running before the wind. With the 20 degree inclination of the vane axis it will steer a good course downwind.
Blue Gum is now back in the water and temporarily based in Manly Marina in Brisbane before they take off cruising. Dave, his family and I have done a number of sails to get them familiar with everything and also test out the self steering gear.
I have to say I am thrilled with the performance of "George". On all points of sail it steers a very good course. Even on a dead run which is the most difficult point of sail for a self steering gear to cope with, our heading didn't vary more than about 10 degrees either side of our track made good in 10 to 15 knots of breeze and ¾ to 1 metre seas on Moreton Bay.
The awning (above) can be set up as a tent as in photo (below) or out relatively flat with PVC tube battens. It can also act as a water catcher with a pocket along the bottom edges acting as a gutter. It makes a significant difference to the temperature below in the climate here. Dave also bought a wind chute that catches the wind from any direction which mounts in the forward hatch.
Dave has 3 children all boys aged 8 yrs, 5 yrs and 10 weeks. Their names are Daniel, Finley and Zacharia. Dave is calling the record of their cruise "Five on 24".
The elder two boys have taken to living aboard and sailing, like ducks to water. The last couple of trips out the boys have sat on the lee rail with their legs over the side laughing and shrieking their heads off as the waves wash over their legs - as kids do when they are having lots of fun. Last time when we got back the two boys were in the dinghy with Dad while he rowed the dinghy to a vacant pen to haul it out. After Dave got out of the dinghy and before he hauled it Finley took the oars and tried rowing the dinghy. Dave saw it and put on a much longer painter. I was amazed at how well Finley managed considering this was the first time he had tried doing that. He will be a good sailor one day no doubt ??
Dave - Click here for a larger image
Webmaster Note: We have included the self steering gear comments and photos in our Technical Section. Click here to go there. And, we standby for "Fiveon24"!!
Hopefully finally caught up with things for the boat at long last. It has been flat stick since Dave and family arrived. Along with last minute jobs to finish have had a numberof unexpected breakdowns of gear - the last being the lid on the water strainer for the engine raw water cooling leaking. The plastic of the lid had cracked taking tension off the O ring it seals on. Dave was able to find a new lid – but I may have to make a stronger, new one myself later from a piece of Lexan since it doesn't appear very strong.
They had a good sail up to Mooloolabah a week and a half ago from Scarborough on the north side of Brisbane averaging 5 knots over the ground. There is a current that runs down the coast of Queensland called the East Australian Current which in places can run as fast as 4 knots. It is unknown just how much current they had against them – but may not have been more than a knot - perhaps less.
Mooloolaba is about 60 crow fly miles up the Sunshine Coast
Apparently not good holding in the river at Mooloolaba where they are as they dragged one evening. The anchor is a Delta high holding power anchor and it wasn't blowing very hard – maybe 20 - 25 knots.
I rode out the tail end of a cyclone in the Bay of Islands one summer years ago sitting to a 13S Danforth anchor in up to 50 knots. I wasn't able to break the anchor out by hand when I came to move later and had to cleat the rode off and power it out with the motor. The Delta is at least the same weight as the Danforth.
Click on the Google Earth image at right for a larger image
Mooloolaba Habor looking east - click here for a larger image
Here is a link to the four videos they have posted so far of their trip. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMUAvKep0bJX30zEnAlOA_Q
Webmaster note: If a picture is worth a thousand words a video is probably worth 10x. Check them out - Fiveon24 - 4 episodes
They all seem to be enjoying life aboard.
I drove up to visit them and do some more jobs on Sunday 5th November at Mooloolaba (2 hour drive each way from here). I was surprised to see Findley (5 yrs old) row the dinghy all by himself along with his dad as passenger the 150 metres or so to shore to pick me up. Finley has never set foot in a dinghy until he arrived here in mid September!! So he has picked up things pretty fast!! They will be heading further north shortly to Hervey Bay.
November 12 Postscript (minor edit)
Thanks for posting the latest on the website.
As you can see from No 4 episode/video the self steering gear has been steering a good course on all points of sail!
While there were many jelly fish in Moreton Bay I have, in the past, seen them so thick that you couldn't put a pin down between them. These jelly fish sting which brings up a red rash. Not serious – but quite uncomfortable.
Blue Gum is anchored in the river (see picture above) just to the left of the boat anchored north of the island in the middle of the river. (That aerial view above is looking pretty much east) The tiny piece of beach on the north shoreline (lower centre of harbor picture, left of single boat anchored in the middle) is where Finley rowed to to pick me up last weekend. There are some 30 odd boats anchored in that area currently. .
We have had an unusually high amount of northerly quarter winds in the last couple of months and few days of southerly quarter winds which means picking a weather window to head north. The weather is looking good for early next week for their trip further north and across the Wide Bay Bar and into the Great Sandy Straights and Hervey Bay.
November 16, 2016. Adventures of FiveOn24, continued
I got word from Dave this morning that Blue Gum is now safely anchored in the Great Sandy Straits after crossing the Wide Bay Bar this morning.
They sailed north yesterday (Tue) from Mooloolaba and anchored west of Double Island Point for the night. Wind was SW on leaving and gradually swung to SE during the day - 10 to 20 knots. It is not a particularly good anchorage behind the point as any swell bends around it making for a rolly time – and it is an open roadstead in northerly quarter winds.. However the swell was about one metre and winds dropped off considerably overnight - so they found it quite tenable.
A dawn start this morning for the last 10 nautical miles up to Wide Bay Bar. High tide was 8.57 am. This bar can be quite dangerous in any swell or fresh onshore winds so am relieved thay had pretty good conditions for the crossing.
Unfortunately there will be no footage of this part of their trip as they have now lost both movie cameras overboard – the last one in Mooloolaba – so maybe quite a while before any further YouTube updates....They do have a fixed camera though.
A big area to explore there and up to Hervey Bay. Got to keep your eye out for crocodiles as the odd ones hsve been seen in the Straits in recent years.
December 5, 2016. Alan sent in the following report (minor edits)
Mid Sunday morning a few days before Dave and family left Mooloolaba to head further north I got a ring from Dave saying there had been an accident and that Blue Gum's dinghy now had a hole in the bottom. Oh Dear!!
Apparently Cherrie-Ann had taken the dinghy ashore with Findley to get water in the 25 litre plastic jerrycan. As they were about to leave the beach to row back Findley knocked over the jerry-can and the resulting impact punched a hole in the bottom. It is only 4 mm plywood after-all.
So I managed to load my other heavy fibreglass dinghy onto the roof-rack (no one else was at home at the time to give me a hand and all the neighbours I know were out too. (Isn't that the way it is sometimes!). It is about twice the weight of the plywood one!
Drove the two hours up to Blue Gum, swapped the dinghies over and brought the damaged one home to repair.
These photos was taken with the much heavier dinghy
Above, in a breeze; right, at anchor
Click the pictures for a larger image
You can see Blue Gum is no slug under way with a bit of breeze!
After several days at Tin Can Bay they sailed north to Garys Anchorage about ¼ of the way up the west side of Fraser island.
After a couple of nights there they sailed further up the Fraser Island coast to Kingfisher Bay where there is an eco-resort called Kingfisher Lodge....Yachties are made welcome and can use the facilities there. The kids made good use of the swimming pool.
Dingoes (Australia's wild dogs) are common on Fraser Island and have been known to attack unaccompanied children and young teenagers - so i warned Dave to always keep the boys within arms reach, and to carry a stick if he could find one, while they were out walking along the tracks there or on the beach.After leaving Kingfisher Bay they sailed to Hervey Bay and anchored off Scarness Beach for lunch. The anchorage started becoming uncomfortable so they sailed around to Hervey Bay Marina where they stayed a number of days. Dave said he was caught out by a cross current across the entrance into the marina and needed full power to counteract it. At one point he said he feared of being swept onto the training wall. Nothing he had read had warned him of that possibility.
They had a couple of anchor holding issues there due to the seabed shoaling rapidly. The anchor tended to slide down the slope rather than digging in properly.
After they rested up for a few days and caught up with chores, etc., they made an early start (about 4.30 am) for Bundaberg on Tuesday a week ago. (It is dawn here that time of the morning this time of year).
Forecast weather conditions were for easterlies turning NE later in the day about 10 – 15 knots. (heading to Bundaberg is about NW) However Dave tells me they motored in glassy conditions till 12.30 pm when a slight NE breeze of about 5 -8 knots filled in. So motorsailed for another hour or so before they were able to shut the motor down.
They had planned on anchoring inside the Burnett Heads for the night – but as it was only 3.30 pm, when they arrived, and the tide was still flooding they decided to carry on the last 10 miles up river to the city of Bundaberg – a 13 hour trip from Hervey Bay Marina!
They are still anchored in the river in town and enjoying the sights of the area. Bundaberg landscape is quite flat with thousands of acres of sugarcane grown in the area.One evening they watched the local Santa parade. Bundaberg Distillary has been producing dark Rum there since 1888 (known as "Bundy Rum") and they do tours of the factory. Also Bert Hinkler who was the first to fly from England to Australia was born there. The house where he lived in England was re-located to Bundaberg and there is, I understand, now a small aviation muesum there.
Dave ordered another couple of movie cameras and they arrived at the Bundaberg Post office a couple of days ago.
So hopefully soon we may be able to see some more video of their adventures.
They are hoping to get out to Lady Musgtave Island about 53 miles NE of Bundaberg when the weather will let them. Wind has been blowing northeasterly since they arrived in Bundy.
Lady Musgrave is a coral cay of about 14 hectares at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef with a small sandy island in the SW corner. There are a few bommies scattered throughout the lagoon
(help - bommies is an aussie term - Coral bommies are stand-alone coral structures that can be as small as a beachball or as big as a car. They are structural stepping stones, offering refuge and homes for many marine organisms in the maze of reef structures. These reef structures are named after the aboriginal word bombora, meaning outcrop or mountain of reef......often resembling a column, that is higher than the surrounding platform of reef and which may be partially exposed at low tide.
The word (Bommie) is derived from the French bombax and is sometimes spelled bombie, but more commonly bommie. The term is not normally used in scientific papers but is usually understood to describe anything from a single coral boulder to a large reef structure.
However Wikipedia states it comes from the Aboriginal word "Bombora" Take your pick I guess (LOL).
Tourist boats run regularily from the mainland to the cay on day trips. They have a semi-submersible there to show tourists underwater views – or you can dive or snorkel there.
December 24, 2016. We got the following update from Alan
Dave and family left early morning from Burnett Heads and sailed out to Lady Musgrave Island arriving in the early afternoon.
Google Maps view - Lady Musgrave Island is 68 acres surrounded by 5000+ acres of cay/reef
Early morning departure from Burnett Heads
Anchored in lagoon at Lady Musgrave Island
Daniel and Finley snorkelling off Blue Gum in lagoon
The first night anchored there was as Super Moon. I can only imagine what an awesome scene that would have been!
They spent two nights here and left in the afternoon of the second day to head to Platypus Bay on Fraser Island. That is the big bay on the NW side of Fraser Island (see chart above).This was their first night sail and having a full moon and light breeze must have been a magic passage!! Anchor down in Platypus Bay about 6 am.
Next day they sailed down to Kingfisher Bay for a couple of days. Then on down to Garys Anchorage.
Currently they are in Pelican Bay behind Inskip Point awaiting the right weather to cross Wide Bay Bar and head south to Mooloolaba.
Weather permitting I will meet them in Mooloolaba for Christmas Day – otherwise in Tin Can Bay.
They plan on completing their cruise at end of January.
Happy Christmas to all
postscript I also meant to mention that they have been having problems with the self steering gear of late, and it has now stopped working completely. They were having problems keeping the wind vane mounting locked to the shaft it pivots on. A final tightening attempt has split this aluminium casting making it impossible now to use it.
I have bought some aluminium round and flat bar to make a new vane mounting piece – but won't be able to get that completed until near end of January, since many businesses like welders and anodisers are now closed for holidays until at least mid January.
When the vane was working properly Dave said the self steering performed brilliantly.
Webmaster Note: We'll add this postscript to Alan's page covering Blue Gum's self steering gear.
February 3, 2017. Well, all good things must come to an end. Here is Alan's final report on Fiveon24
Well the crew on Five on 24 have well and truly finished their cruising and are now back in New Zealand.
They left Pelican Bay at dawn and the passage back over Wide Bay Bar was uneventful – but since there was more swell running this time there were breaking waves in the shallower water on the sides of the channel around them. They had a good sail down the coast to Mooloolaba arriving about 6pm
On the way back down inside Fraser Island the self steering had broken when Dave tried to tighten the set screw that locks the casting that holds the wind vane to the pivot shaft. The casting had split and could no longer be locked to the pivot shaft. So it was hand steering all the way to Mooloolaba.
On Christmas Day morning I drove north to Mooloolaba to meet Dave and family. It was a wet drive up with some very heavy rain not far from the Mooloolaba turn-off on the highway. Fortunately the rain cleared to a nice fine day shortly after arriving. Dave had Blue Gum tied up in the marina there. We found a nice Indian restaurant for Xmas lunch. In the afternoon we went to the beach where the boys played on the playground there and on the beach.
I slept on board that night and next day (Boxing Day) I took Dave and the boys shopping for Xmas presents. Here they have big sales starting Boxing day – and the traffic was bedlam!! Took an hour to find a carpark!! I drove back home that afternoon.
The family spent a few more days in Mooloolaba anchored in the river and again had holding problems. The mud is so soft that the anchor drags through it pretty easily.
The sail back to Scarborough was light and necessated sailing close hauled most of the way. Dave said he had the motor on for a fair bit of the way due to the light winds.They anchored outside the marina for the night then sailed back to Manly Marina next morning.
There they completed their travels and unpacked the boat before flying back to New Zealand a few days later. I asked them if they would do a sailing trip again and got a resounding "Yes" – but in a bigger boat next time. Five on 24 is a bit of a sqeeze – but they managed OK despite that.
I have made a new wind vane carrier from aluminium and it is ready to be fitted back to the boat. From next weekend once I have the self steering fixed hope to be able to do some more sailing on Moreton Bay.
I have put BlueGum up for sale.
Webmaster Note: Alan must have caught that 'bigger boat disease". We'll see if we can get his ad specifics. Thanks to Dave and family for sharing their cruise with us, and thanks Alan for the reports.