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Cruisers and Deliveries

Posted by on January 25, 2012

Do cruisers make good boat deliverers?

How I came by my answer to that question started yesterday, when we came down the river from the Launceston Wooden Boat Rally and picked up a mooring at Gravelly Beach.

We had met an old school friend at the Rally, and she had kindly invited us to her home for dinner Monday night. After an excellent evening in fine company (with a reasonable approximation of WW3 as fought with nerf guns provided by the kids) they very kindly brought us back to the boat and we rowed out on the still water with starlight to guide us.

The plan was to go shopping at Exeter on Tuesday morning so I could be available to picked up for this delivery trip, while Lis and family took ERIK down to West Arm until my return.

This delivery trip has been on the cards for a while. The boat is a friend of a friend’s. He’s had it for a while but it’s been based in Kettering while he lives in Launceston. Understandably he’d like to avoid transversing the State to spend a day on the boat, so he organized getting the boat up with some cruising friends as crew.

The first trip was marred by strong weather coming in sooner than forecast and an engine problem in Wineglass Bay, so the boat went to mooring in Triabunna. The second trip also had bad weather and some green crew in more ways than one, and they were turned back to Triabunna again.

With work schedules pressing, the owner was getting very keen to get the boat up into the Tamar. This trip with my involvement represented the last opportunity before various commitments kept opportunities away until May, and the prospect of a winter delivery wasn’t very exciting at all.

So the plan called for getting a life-raft from Devonport, getting food for three for the trip, picking me up and going down to Triabunna. There we leave at midnight on Tuesday, make the 100nm to Banks Strait in 24hrs, catch the tide through at midnight on Wednesday, make the next 100nm along the north coast in 24hrs to make the midnight tide on Thursday into the Tamar.

The weather looked okay on the forecast, in that if it all went to plan and we were at the right spots at the right time, the forecasted weather at this locations should be favorable.

But we didn’t go.

Why not? Well, a strong northerly had been blowing for a while on the east coast, and there was a 3 meter swell that would abate but not subside completely by the time we would be there. That combined with the forecast southerly change would mean pretty sloppy conditions in the shallow Mercury Passage area, and some bouncy going from Wineglass Bay northwards as the southerly swung east.

The weather just before the planned trip and immediately after was not favorable, with various wind models forecasting 20 to 30kts, depending on which one you looked at. The forecasts for the NE tip were pretty diverse but it seemed only okay plus or minus 3 hours of our ETA there.

With a 3 to 6 hour window at Banks Strait, the importance of making the tide there, limited shelter options to anchor in, and a pretty crappy forecast likely to make things unpleasant if we were 12hrs later aiming for the next tide, the trip had more than few concerns for me. Plan B options were looking pretty limited if anything went wrong….

Like the forecast, or the boat, both of which had thrown a spanner in the plans before.

So we didn’t do it. Was the right decision? I don’t know… I’m going to monitor the weather off Eddystone Pt. and Swan Island to find out, but it got me thinking about cruisers and deliveries.

Cruisers usually know their boats intimately. They travel from place to place without any schedule beyond that which the weather decides. Above all, cruising is a lifestyle choice, so it has to be self rewarding, otherwise you wouldn’t do it.

It struck me that these three attributes of cruising don’t make for a good delivery skipper/crew. You want someone who doesn’t care that much about the boat beyond making sure it’ll survive the trip, someone who doesn’t care about how uncomfortable life is between A and B, so long as its not life threatening. You want someone who can make a schedule.

I know some cruisers that do deliveries to supplement their cruising income and I realized that all of these people I know have a quite a bit of ocean racing experience. It struck me how much in common ocean racing has with a delivery trip…

Do you believe in karma? I don’t, but while walking back with the shopping from Exeter I fell and strained the muscles in my lower back. Lis had to row us back to the boat and I spent the rest of the day resting, unable to do much physical activity at all…

Still, it gave me time to reflect on what might have been, and why not.

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