Thursday, June 25, 2009

About 'Just Jo'

'Just Jo' is a Custom 30 sloop that was designed by Naval Architect, Mr Peter W. Ebbutt, as a competitive cruiser/racer under the International Offshore Rule (IOR) held popular in the early 70’s. His design is reported to have won the Australian Half Ton Titles in the eighties, and 33 years later still performs competitively; often scooping the prize Rum during midweek twilight races.

'Just Jo' was reportedly built in 1976 at Fremantle by owner of Custom Yachts Mr Neil Cain, for his son to race in the waters off Western Australia (WA). The most significant and appealing change in contrast to the full blown cruiser version, was the sleek, low profile GRP blister cabin top and flush Burmese teak deck; similar to the design employed by round the world yachts. The strength in build quality (3/4" solid glass layup) and design is still well reported by Marine Surveyors. She has competed in many offshore regattas in WA and bears the plaques of success right up until the late 1980’s.

Peter Ebbutt has designed super-yachts for the well heeled and also yachts that have raced in the Great Circle Race around the world.
One of his projects in 1989 was a 100’ mega yacht worth in excess of USD$2M that took 7 years to build. I like to think of 'Just Jo' as the concept yacht that led to 'Christine' (hah hah) check her out at Peter heads up the multi-national salvage and environment control group Ocean Motions in the USA. Peter confirmed to me by email he is the designer of the Custom 30 and was very excited to hear his design was still sailing competitively after 33 years.

'Just Jo' has a history that can be traced back to Fremantle. Following her sale by Cain, she was a live-aboard fast cruiser for a couple who cruised from Fremantle to Darwin. 'Just Jo' is Australian registered and is reported to have voyaged through Indonesia. The couple parted ways and 'Just Jo' was sold to a sailor from Queensland. She was sailed ‘over the top’ and around Cape York to Bowen in North QLD; testament to her seaworthiness.

'Just Jo' was then sold to Bryan and Jenny Thomas who sailed her back to Townsville in 1997. By this time she was showing signs of wear and tear and they refitted her at great expense. Bryan regularly sailed 'Just Jo' single handed and won many twilight races, much to the disappointment of the skippers of more expensive and modern yachts. Not bad for a 70 year old!

I took ownership of 'Just Jo' in March 2005 and continued the on-water refit over the next 18 months. I should acknowledge a few people here...thanks dad for the work ethic and those metal, maintenance and hand skills, Mr Tooke from my school days for the Tech Drawing and Woodwork knowledge, brother Dave for the paint and preparation knowledge. Still can't sew yet.....I have sailmaker Relle covered off on that task! My lifetime of accumulated knowledge and skills of maintenance, engineering, woodwork, mechanics, design, aircraft avionics, electrical and electronics permitted me to undertake a level of refit that would be cost prohibitive to the average person on such an old yacht if contractors were to be employed. The result is an exceptionally strong and seaworthy yacht that still, after 33 years, maintains a competitive edge on handicap.

In late 2007 early 2008, I solo sailed 'Just Jo' over 1100 nm from Townsville to Port Stephens north of Newcastle, where she is currently moored. In Dec 2008 I replaced the standing rigging and continued to improve her condition...must stop those annoying leaks one day. A new mainsail and Genoa are planned for the new sailing season. I have sailed her regulary in and around Port Stephens, and in Apr 2009 I sailed her solo to Sydney and return in 30-40 knot winds and 4 m seas. On a broad reach I achieved a new hull speed of 11.4 knots under a single reefed main and rag of a headsail! We are now waiting for our next challenge – a circumnavigation of Australia in 2010.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Vision

In Reflection......
My dad was born in the Channel Islands.....the island of Guernsey. He spent 7 years in the Royal Navy on HMS Ark Royal and HMS Cummberland before we left England on one of those government sponsored 10 quid package deals to Australia onboard the ocean liner Flavia way back in the early 60's. I am sure that this heritage and six weeks at sea at the age of two and a half is where my passion for the sea started.

From then on, every year my parents worked hard, scrimped and saved so our family could holiday near the sea. Urunga, Batemans Bay, Long Jetty, Kogarah and Shoal Bay were the more regular haunts along with visits to our very few relatives near the beach in Sydney. Growing up in the Central West of NSW we looked forward to our annual coastal holidays as they were the treat of the year. I remember begging each year for dad to buy a boat but we were by no means a well off family. Our first dinghy had a cantankerous seagull outboard but I thought it was just the ducks guts!
I should thank my parents for creating my passion for the sea.

Since our dear departed friend John Kumm first thrust the yacht tiller in my mate Glenn M and my hands way back in the early 80's, I have realised I have felt at home near the water and boats. I have sailed, boated and fished with some great people over the years and we have enjoyed many memorable moments.

Back in the early 80's, I learnt from experienced skippers the right way to stay safe at sea and how to assist others in distress; for this I thank the old Skippers and crew of Southport Air Sea Rescue (now Volunteer Marine Rescue). The opportunity to train on the Old Southport Bar before it had walls was the biggest adrenalin rush one could have. To be Skipper of a 23ft 470hp Sharkcat Rescue vessel in 2-3m breaking seas is a buzz! Most yachties and boaties are happy to just get in or out of a bar or seaway once.......we would spend hours training in and out of the broken water looking for the deepest channel of the day/week so we could escort yachts safely through the bar. The eight years I spent as a volunteer with ASR were some of the best in my life....although Relle may not agree!!

Some moments were more memorable than others for the WRONG reasons!!! Like five ASR Skippers on a J24 with wings, broaching whilst crossing the Gold Coast Seaway after a passage race, skipping down the barrel beam on with Kev wringing the neck of the outboard whilst surfing inside the 2m breaking wave.......the old 9.9 Jonno never missed a beat!! The old adage too many Chiefs not enough Indians may have applied......

My most memorable job was the rescue of 19 Japanese tourists from an upturned Flybridge Cruiser that flipped on the seaward side of Wave Break Island in the Southport Seaway on a run-out tide on New Years Eve. My crew were first on scene and rescued 11 people (it was a little crowded and no-one spoke English) and stood by until a second vessel arrived, We also coordinated the entire rescue including helicopter assistance....very satisfying result with no loss of life.

Its was not always fun and excitement. Often a pleasant day on the water would be saddened by injury or loss of it a head on collision between boats at night; a man throwing a stick to his dog and then duck diving in the shallow water to hide from the dog only to knock himself unconscious on a solitary rock on a sandy beach; an old man with dementia drowning at the waters edge or a boat flipping on the bar or seaway. These days made you even safer at sea.

This leads me to the purpose of this Blog which will probably astound my beautiful children as much as it did my wife! I want you to join me on an adventure as I tackle the goals I have set for myself as I approach the ripe age of 50.

To procrastinate is to perish.

My Vision

For many years I have imagined inside my head space that a time would come where I would sail the that solo, with my wife Relle or just a mate.
In preparation I have set myself three goals:
  1. Achieve RYA Yachtmaster qualifications.
  2. Circumnavigate Australia in 2010.
  3. Compete in the 2011 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race (S2H) in 'Just Jo'.
The Concept
A crew of six is required to race in the Sydney to Hobart. I have five highly skilled and top blokes in mind and over the coming months will attempt to coerce them with offerings of wet, cold and windy nights at sea accompanied by bouts of sea sickness and sheer terror whilst rewarding them with adventure, exhilaration and accomplishment.

The Plan
I plan to take in the East Coast races where possible and arrange the voyage in legs. Detailed planning will commence shortly but for the purpose of this post my initial thoughts are:
  1. Gain commitment from the crew.
  2. Seek sponsorship.
  3. Undertake a Safety at Sea Course in Jan 2010 in Brisbane so the crew can meet, greet and get wet together.
  4. Circumnavigate Australia by race and cruise 2010.
  5. My intent is to invite the crew to join me on various legs to get used to the yacht for a week at a time...or longer. This will assist in gaining the necessary sea time to enable an entry in the S2H race.
  6. Preliminary timings:
  • Depart Late July 2010 for Sydney
  • Race - Sydney to Gold Coast late July 2010
  • Cruise to Brisbane inside the Broadwater.
  • Race - Brisbane to Great Keppel Island early Aug 2010
  • Cruise to Airlie Beach
  • Race - Airlie Beach Race week mid Aug 2010
  • Cruise to Townsville
  • Townsville to Cairns
  • Cairns to Lizard Island
  • Lizard to Thursday Island
  • Thursday Island to Nhulunbuy (Gove)
  • Nhulunbuy to Darwin
  • Darwin to Broome
  • Broome to Perth
  • Perth to Albany
  • Albany to Kangaroo Island
  • Kangaroo Island to Hobart
  • Hobart to Sydney
  • Sydney to Newcastle
  • Haul for maintenance.
  • rest......
  • Sydney to Hobart 26 Dec 2011

As the plan evolves I hope you will enjoy following the circumnavigation of 'Just Jo'.

'Just Jo' at her mooring in Nelson Bay NSW


I have set up this Blog site to keep my family, mates and potential crew abreast of my pending nautical nonsense and how you can become a part of the Around the Edge adventure!

Stay tuned in the coming weeks!