Time Bandit

Gone to the "Dark Side" with an Outremer 51.

20 April 2019
11 April 2019
04 April 2019 | All Action!!
28 March 2019
22 March 2019
16 March 2019
08 March 2019
28 February 2019 | Ann Bay
21 February 2019
19 February 2019 | Bryan's Corner, Schouten Pass
11 February 2019
10 February 2019
03 February 2019
25 January 2019 | Smoke on the Water
21 January 2019
14 January 2019
04 January 2019 | Down to my last "veil" in HK airport
23 December 2018

Where Did We Go Wrong!

20 April 2019
Stuart Letton
A very long time ago, really, way way back in the mists of time, every Spring, my dad would head for the overgrown, weed and junk strewn yard that was Willie Boag's boatyard. The old wooden shed where Willie built some of the finest of the Clyde, Loch Long fleet dominated the yard, all black creosote and sawdust. Piles of planks lay around in the weeds in various sizes and shapes beside the cast iron boiler that was the heart of the plank bender.

It was an adventure playground for kids and we'd run around mad for hours. Meanwhile, dad and his pals would be on their hands and knees scraping, sanding and antifouling getting ready for the nip and tuck of one design racing come the start of the season.

Fast forward fifty years and the weed and junk strewn yard is transformed into a small industrial town. Massive sheds, like aircraft hangers line the "streets". Pristine, well, it was before we got here, concrete pads are all set up under canopies to protect you from the blazing sun, or lashing rain and with electricity, running water, seats and work benches.

It's all very fancy but, in the end, it's still a boat yard.

The biggest difference is that while we're cutting a dash in our antifoul splattered white Tyvek boiler suits, rubber gloves and equally splattered safety glasses through which you peer like your bug spattered windscreen during a summer nights drive home when you've run out of windscreen wash, the other boat owners are either conspicuous by their absence, or, standing around chatting, hands on hips while squads of $100 per hour tradies clamber over and under their boats.

Where did we go wrong?

Current Affairs

11 April 2019
Stuart Letton

In or out. That's the question of the moment.

Well, if Mother Theresa and her incompetents in the British government think they've a tough choice, try it here.

In or out? In, there's rocks, fishing boats, lobster pots and assorted other impediments to safe progress. Out, its open sea but........there's the East Australian Current.

Oh, that was great news on the way down to Tassie, whooshing south with two to three knots under you, free gratis. Now the tables are turned and it's an uphill struggle all the way.

We have a mini SSB radio Net going with Colin who left Port Stephens about eighteen hours ahead of us. Colin's strategy was kind of Soft Brexit. In during the day and Out at night, preferring sea room to the clutter of inshore in the dark hours. His Net reports of what happens Out kept us In or, as a local Cruiser said, "keeping one foot on the beach".

We gybed round every headland to follow the surf line of every bay, nimbly dodging rocks and shallows, like we were back in the kayaks rather than a biggish boat but critically staying out the grip of current.

The plan was OK during the day. In the pitch black of sliver moon nights it was a bit nerve wracking. We got little sleep and our nerves are shot.

To compound the problem. Our kettle has lost its whistle and as we followed the coastline keeping in really tight I sat at the chart table for a good ten minutes wondering how there could be stars in the sky yet it was misty...only to realise the kettle boiled dry steaming up all the windows.

Nonetheless, our strategy paid off and we took sixty miles off Colin and had an extra night in our pit.

Timing is critical as we're headed for the Southport bar and sadly, not the kind that sell beer.

Hopefully another blog will follow. How I wish we were going somewhere else this morning!

Don't Need Shoes. Need Beer

09 April 2019
Stuart Letton
The ultimate pre-dinner checklist. These telling words muttered by he who should not be named as he stepped into the dinghy, en route Time Bandit for Sunday dinner.

Previously, while the shoeless wonder and I were guzzling down beer, having gate crashed the Sail Port Stephens Regatta Week party, Anne was back on board doing great things to a Woolworths chicken, parsnips and spuds.

We on the other hand were endeavouring to keep a low profile, trying to blend in amongst the race crews by muttering about uphauls, tacking angles and other such nautical terms. There's upwards of a hundred smart looking, "sharp boats" here, most clad in seductive black carbon or fetching translucent Mylar sails. Unfortunately we got busted fairly quickly as we were pretty much the only ones not wearing branded yachtie gear, Gill, Musto and the like. Instead, we were in cruiser gear; over-worn, T-shirts, faded shorts and Crocs and Decathlon gutties.

We watched the beginning and end of the first two races and delighted ourselves that our tactical knowledge and racing skills were still right there, just under the cruising mantle, as we harshly critiqued the passing boats, "his main needs flattened ". "SHEEEET you muppets", all while sipping down a cold one.

Strangely our skills increased in direct proportion to the number of beers consumed.

AIS Stalkers and Passing Droolers

04 April 2019 | All Action!!
Stuart Letton
Stalkers and Droolers

A month or two back, one of our regular readers, made a comment, "more video please" and a few days ago a passing yacht confessed to "drooling" as he passed and admired Time Bandit.

On the assumption Huw's request meant video of a sailing nature we started taking more footage and even more photos. Consequently, we now have a growing library of material covering our last thousand miles or so, all clogging up my hard drive where more important material awaits my attention, such as Suits and as yet unseen episodes of The Big Bang Theory.

The challenge, as with the Blog, is to make the content riveting, enjoyable and attention grabbing. We thought we had some great Southern Ocean footage from our Port Davey departure when we sailed out into four to six metre seas, climbing way up 'till the bows were pointing skyward then plunging down into the next trough. Skooshing along at ten and eleven knots, cooking Thai curry but somehow, the drama seldom seems to show on screen. So Huw, more video coming but don't expect Spielberg!

There's technical issues as well. Most of the sailing stuff we shoot on my iPhone, some on our Coolpix camera and some on Anne's phone and therein lies the problem. To make up a video I need to get it all transferred into my iPad and whatever bits, bytes and BIOS are required to achieve that are, well.......knackered. That and the iPad's little memory is stuffed full of other rubbish. Like posts like this and Big Bang Theory.

And so, earlier this week I found myself back at school in the Apple Store, Sydney, having lashed out exhorbitant amounts of cash on a Mac thingy and signed up for the Idiots Introduction to Macs class. I had my pens and pencils, a wee sandwich for break time and of course, my lucky and inspiring Gonk for my desk.

Three hours later, suffering from serious information overload, I departed, heading back to the boat, anchored off Manly at Sydney Heads to put into practice what I'd learnt. That didn't take long. Most of what went in one ear seemed to have largely shot out the other, or, slipped away in the ferry ride as I watched the carbon sails of Sydney's racing fleets, including some 505's which had me reminiscing of times gone by.

However, hopefully enough stayed in to let me start populating my largely ignored YouTube channel, SV Time Bandit and those self described Blog and AIS "stalkers" and passing "droolers" will enjoy the forthcoming, all action videos. That is if Big Bang Theory doesn't take up all my time.


28 March 2019
Stuart Letton
It was our cruising buddy Julian who first introduced me to the concept of FOMO. I probably already suffered. I jut didn't know it was a condition with a name. Younger readers will know this acronym but for the benefit of the Sinclair ZX generation, or indeed, CAC; Cars With Carburettors, it stands for Fear Of Missing Out.

Guilty. Especially on yucky days or when Stuart's Patented Cruisers Scunnerometer blows its lid. On such days I sometimes think how nice it would be to have a simpler, less stressful life (yes readers, less stressful. This cruising gig isn't all beer and skittles, despite what assorted glamorous "YouTube Sensations" would have you believe). We could live in a house where unbroken sleep, other than getting up to pee four times a night, is the norm. The rooms don't wobble, the wind generator doesn't wake you to announce another gust threatening to hoick your anchor out and there aren't rocks all around waiting to give you a crunchy and watery short walk ashore in the dark. Instead, back home where sensible people live I could call up all my mates and go back to do a bit of kayaking or having Richard haul me up a few more mountains, while I can still walk and perhaps even cuddle a grandwean. And of course, the clock is ticking. Viewed from a dark, dreich, wind swept deck with the coastguard phoning up to ask if we really knew there was a strong wind warning out, domestic life as we knew it seems quite appealing.

But then, like Alan Sherman's song Camp Grenada, you wake up in a sunlit Port Hacking Bay, Sydney sky scrapers on the horizon and guys are swimming, guys are sailing and the Scunnerometer gets instantly drained a good bit.

You then hear on the radio that apparently it's "Bedroom Project Season" and that caps it. Life ain't so bad. Anchor up, hoist the sails and let's go race Colin round the Sydney sea cliffs to Manly for evening beers, a barbie and a stroll on the prom. Rob Bryden is on at the Sydney Opera House. Maybe we could get tickets?

It's About The People

22 March 2019
Stuart Letton
Back when I was working class, each month I'd eagerly await the publication of Yachting Monthly so I could read of the adventures and exploits of folk cruising in the far off seas. The Hiscocks, the Pardeys and the like. Nineteen sixties and seventies versions of the rugged, sun bronzed chaps and their skimpily clad partners one can ogle on YouTube nowadays. (No darling. I only watch them for the sailing content. To see how they're setting the sails and such like. Honest).

In one of the Yachting Monthly articles, the writer said that the best part of cruising, or voyaging as some prefer to call it, thus distancing themselves from the beginners, "rally people" and generally cruisers with boats bigger than theirs and/or with, heaven forbid, electronics. To the writer of the article it was not the places they'd been, the endless silver sand beaches, the waving palm trees or the azure blue lagoons but simply, the people they've met.

At the time, my gut reaction to this was a bit in the yuck and chuck category, my cynical view of people hardened by way too many years working in the world of commerce. However, over our years of voyeuraging (see previous post back in the mists of time) I've come to understand that in fact the writer of that article was spot on. It is all about the people, some of whom should best remain nameless. We've met millionaires and folk without a baw-bee. CEO's of global corporations, medics, sales folk and even accountants, whose training really should allow them to know better than to "invest" in a boat.
There's those that enjoy a wee G&T.......at any time of day. Beach BBQ enthusiasts, singers and songwriters. Lawyers and doctors.

And yet, even with that wide-spread range of acquaintances and friendships we were absolutely delighted that Sir Richard Branson was happy to take time out his busy schedule down here in Eden, southeast Australia to come to the boat, get on his knees, take apart and fix our cooker this morning.

Now aflame, it has lost its Virgin status and we can finally get a bun in the oven.

Thanks Dicky.

Remind me. Where Are We?

16 March 2019
Stuart Letton
West coast of Scotland or west coast of Tasmania?

That's the question we keep asking ourselves and it seems every day the likeness is reinforced and strengthened. Rocky, barren mountain tops all around. Mist rolling down the valleys. The trees and scenery reflecting perfectly in the still of the early morning. The lashing rain drumming on the deck. Hail.

Equally, just like home, the weather has just done a complete flip. Only a week ago the sun was splitting the rocks and tourists were walking around the village in Strahan lashing sweat, waddling around in the blistering thirty seven degrees. The miles and miles of beach mobbed with its full compliment of four sun worshippers and a guy fishing while his missus sat at the high tide line wondering what might have been.

We were pretty much land locked in Macquarie Harbour, tucked away up the creeks and rivers sheltering from a break in the weather which was bringing all kinds of Southern Ocean winds and waves to our doorstep. We had hoped to be making headway south for Port Davey but the weather guy was reporting a seven point three metre swell outside the entrance to the harbour. The entrance to Macquarie* Harbour is a fairly tight channel narrowing and constricted with a hard right required around the rocks and motoring in we had a full two or three knots of outgoing current. Not the Cuan Sound, one of Scotland's major tidal gates, but scary enough in the new boat. Quite what happens out there when that current meets the giant swell I hate to think. And so, with our heating system having joined the long list of depressing breakages and failures we had a duvet day, including hot water bottle, and stayed firmly put. We couldn't go anywhere even if we wanted. All the windows were steamed up and there was no way I was forfeiting my place on the hot water bottle and going sailing.

Fast forward a week or so and we have tied the knot on our circumnavigation of Tasmania and are now sat in Bryan's Corner, (he doesn't seem to mind), in company with Endorphin B, waiting on the winds to turn south so we can all head back for the mainland. Bass Strait here we come. Hold on to yer hat.

*Governor Lachlan Macquarie was brought up in Ulva off the west coast of Mull, Scotland. After a career in the military, Big Lachlan was the first governor of the newly formed penal colony of Australia and was kind enough to put his name to every alternate street in Sydney and Hobart, a number of rivers, probably a pie or two and the harbour we found ourselves in.

Of all Australia's many governors I think Macquarie could be said to be the most influential. He finally got fired because some government lackie reported back to Westminster that he was too soft on the convicts.

What this idjit failed to recognise was that Macquarie's foresight and management of the convict labour force had resulted in laying the foundations of not just many of Sydney's finest buildings and architecture but probably the nation.

And isn't it lovely to see the colony doing so well after all these years.


08 March 2019
Stuart Letton
When I were a lad, every year our pal Henry would load up a bunch of us on his boat, Smarty Pants, to join the week long Scottish Series on the west coast of Scotland. For the twenty years we did the Series we had a core nucleus of crew members, me, Henry and Jane, the others being added as we could press gang them. With over two hundred boats racing, from Sonatas to Admiral's Cup flying machines, all needing on average perhaps seven crew, getting experienced hands was tough, and that's where our core, long service award "afterguard" came in useful. The three of us made it every series for these twenty years but each year we still had to find the extra hands. Jane was in charge of the press gang and each year, in the marina before the off, I'd ask who we'd managed to get. "Well" Jane would typically respond, "we've got Neil. He's a great folk singer and guitarist. John, he plays fiddle and then Martin, he's on bodhran. We didn't win many prizes but we could play great tunes.

The thing is, each year we quickly formed as a crew. A tight knit bunch who sailed together, ate together and thrashed around the ceilidhs like demented idjits together. We were, like all the other crews, socially independent. Of course, we'd stop and say Hi and chat to old and new friends but, in the end, we and all the other crews would be in our own huddle, doing our own "thing".

When boats have enough crew to be socially independent, they simply don't need a couple of strangers turning up and changing their team dynamic.

Seemingly unable to break into the social circles of the rally and feeling like Billy No Mates, or perhaps we've lost our mojo, we were ecstatic to see Gradiva pop up on the AIS a week ago. We first met Scott and Rachel in Vanuatu a year or two ago and stayed in touch as they are Tasmanian and have cruised both the east coast of Australia and most of Tasmania extensively. Scott has been my "virtual" pilot book as we've cruised around here the last two years. And he makes great home brews. They are sitting with us in Birchs Inlet and also waiting on the weather. They want to get north. We want to get south and it's rubbish for both of us, such is west coast Tassie weather. Maybe Sunday.
Vessel Name: Time Bandit
Vessel Make/Model: Outremer 51
Hailing Port: Largs, Scotland
Crew: Anne and Stuart Letton
About: ex dinghy and keelboat racers now tooled up with a super sleek cat and still cruising around aimlessly, destination Nirvana...
Extra: 2018 New Caledonia to Sydney Oct '18 and on to Tasmania early '19
Home Page: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/timebandit/profile
Time Bandit's Photos - Main
No Photos
Created 19 October 2018
1 Photo
Created 20 October 2017
7 Photos
Created 23 June 2017
An interesting perspective on evolution in the Galapagos.
23 Photos
Created 7 March 2016
18 Photos
Created 30 September 2014
Mediterranean Spain to the Arctic Circle
67 Photos
Created 12 August 2013
Scraping and sanding hull back to gel coat for epoxy and Coppercoat treatments.
6 Photos
Created 3 February 2013