Slipyards we have known…

Bunbury slip
Ian standing in the rails waiting for the Andante to come in. Note the discarded Randall.


The Andante with her pilot boat neighbour at Albany.



One of the surprises of boating life has been the other world / underworld of slipyards. There are curious similarities and curiouser differences.

Dogs… slipyards seem to have resident semi owned dogs. Bunbury took the prize with the wonderful dingo (see blog titled “preparing the Andante… or slipping a boat” . Albany came a close second with a three legged mangy bullterrier. (see blog titled Plan 37 b (i))  Devonport comes a slow last with a groomed and clean springer spaniel.

Corpses ….. mainly of the boat variety, but also piles of old machinery.

Here Albany was the clear winner with a whole cemetery of dead boats and accessories. There was a knackers boneyard of outboard motors piled up on the back wall of the shed, some buried deep into the sand of ages with hardly any discernible paint; and further up the pile you climbed, the brands became recognisable … Mercury, Yamaha, Evinrude, Johnson etc. and the blues, blacks, reds distinguishable. Masts and spiders webs of stainless steel rigging marked the perimeter of the yard. Some looked good enough to put straight back on a boat but mostly it was just more rubbish. Piles of ropes, stacks of planks or cut-out steel plates, nests of old caulking, mounds of discarded sails. Nothing useful any more but kept “just in case”. The yard held about 30 boats in varying states of disrepair, some returning to dust; others somewhere along the continuum of boat -dream.

Bunbury comes second here with a couple of totally buggered boats which no-one seems able to remove. One good looking 60′ Randall planing hull cray boat had been deserted complete with 2 brand new Cummins engines. The owner couldn’t pay the bills and had simply walked away leaving the boat in the yard. It had gradually been cannibalised and the only resident when we were there was a very dead swan. Bunbury also had a very unwanted squatter “doing up’ his boat. He had moved an old wooden boat on to land next door to the slip shed, then moved in, then moved a caravan in, then moved his cats in… and three years later no-one can evict him because he managed to put the boat on the boundary between the slipyard land, and council property.


Devonport has a couple of dying boats. Especially sad is the old Rita-K, a sagging, tired rotting old ply motor launch; who is hanging on to her pier with the last of her strength and ropes. It also specialises in a good collection of gangways which are gradually been overtaken by the wild fennel. An interesting collectible.

Operators…. slips definitely attract characters. Devonport is owned by a good-looking bloke with a grey plait, who rides a brand-new Indian motorbike, and who seems capable of doing any and all of the slipyard jobs. He came on to the Andante for a cup of tea, and I was wiring up a 12v fan, so he whipped back to the office and grabbed his electrics bag, and soldered it for us. His staff though, deserve first prize. “Sav” is about 30, with a shaved head apart from a small mowhawk only down the back, and zebra teeth. He drives a loud, big fat ute, with an unbonneted engine and big fat wheels. He is quietly well spoken (apart from when he’s screaming invective at recalcitrant machinery). He is a fantastic sandblaster and spray painter when he’s there, but is rather catholic about punctuality, even attendance. The other main guy epitomises what drink does to a talented working man. Neither of these guys has a mortgage, or a home for that matter!

Bunbury slip was owned by the despised “Dept of Transport” but operated by the wonderful Ian McRae. A big-bellied, chain-smoking, limping, talkative guy who ran “Hav-a-chat Marine” he was generosity itself, offering his car when we were stranded. There were three chairs outside his office. One armchair was sagged almost to the ground and reeked of old cigarettes, with two or three ashtrays balanced on the arms. The other armchair was covered in the off-white hairs of the fairly dusty dingo. The visitors chair was a remnant from the laminex and chrome dining settings of the fifties. The politics of the yard was pervasive, complex and unexplained.

Albany was operated by the civilised Englishman Darren, and his efficient and hardworking off-siders. Scarcely worthy of scandalous comment.

All slipyard operators seem to suffer from boat romanticism. They have “projects” on the go, generally old neglected wooden boats, with classic lines and interesting history but heart and bank breakers.

Intolerance of bureaucracy….. just about a dead heat here. Boating, particularly commercial fishing, seems to attract hard men; and those who operate slipyards are from this mould. Minor details like OHS, residency, pollution etc are given lip service, and generally treated commonsensically, but not necessarily following every stipulation of the law.  I don’t think it would be feasible to expect otherwise.

Facilities….. Devonport has a toilet, shower, washing machine on site!!!!!! This gives it the highest accolades possible. They may be less-than-sparkling-clean; but they are available. Neither Albany nor Bunbury had any facilities at all for clients…. at Albany the nearest toilet (and cold shower) was 100m away with a warm council-operated shower 1km away. Bunbury comes last with a public toilet over 1km from the slipyard.

Grot…all slipyards have an accumulation of the toxins of ages. Sandblasting dust and crystals, paint, rust, fibreglass residue, barnacles. This shifting, blown dust gets into everything, coating sweating bodies with a patina recognisable to other boaties.

Friendship…. perhaps because of all the privations and hard work; friendship is generously offered. We’ve been honoured to have made several great friends from within the confines of the slipyards.



2014 and a brand new start

Col and I slept the new year in on the Andante, lulled by the gentle Inglis River, only disturbed at 4 am by some local lads cavorting drunkenly in the river, but that was as short lived as the pleasure of the freezing cold river I imagine.
We are heading north on the 11th January (or as soon after that as the weather gods allow) with Niko, Matt, Jasmine and Huon accompanying us on the first leg to Eden. We are planning on stopping over on Deal Island, and enjoying our last bit of Tasmania for several months to come.
From this point we’ll pick our way north, stopping where and whenever we like the look of a place. We have a Bruce , a plough (SQR) anchors, 2 admiralty picks, and Col is about to make a reef kellick – so we should be able to get good holding whatever the bottom is like.
The Andante has had such a refurbishment that there can’t possibly be much else… (she says crossing her fingers and toes). In the past three months we have:
cleaned all cooling units and replaced the gearbox cooler, renewed cooling system zinc anodes, replaced all rubber tubing in cooling system; replaced all exhaust system piping; replaced all raw water intake tubing and the impellor; modified all below water line plumbing system and replaced it with above water line outlets; made and installed new deck drains and welded up old ones; put new raised tails on the fuel and water fillers, cleaned and flushed the fuel tanks, replaced the stern bearing, replaced the gear box gasket; made and installed a raised railing around the foredeck, installed ply bulwarks; slipped anti-fouled and touched up the paint !
And today Col is in the shed fabricating a framework for us to put a shade awning over the aft deck (our cabin roof) for us to sit and sip sundowners in after a day snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.
So 2014 – in the sparkling Andante – a year for sailing. A year for enjoying the sights and wonders of our amazing country from the water’s edge. A year for restoration and recovery of health.
Before we leave Tasmania for the second time, we’ll try and get as many friends together as possible and celebrate in a summer / boat / pirate party. Join us if you can. Friday 10th January from 4 pm onwards.

The journey by sea begins

After sitting on a borrowed mooring in the delightfully sheltered Casuarina Bay at Bunbury for the past fortnight and still getting our teeth blown out by the southerly gales, we are putting all our atheistic faith in the Bureau of Meteorology and trusting their forecast of “light and variable” winds will accompany our trip from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin and on to Albany. First stop today will be at Quindalup, where we’ll check all the things that can only be checked after a few hours at sea. Then, at about 2am we’ll head around the capes. We are scheduled to arrive in Whalers Bay near Albany at nightfall on Monday. There will be a lot of wind and waves between here and there. Yesterday’s waves around Cape Leeuwin… a 7m swell with 2-3 m waves on top!

We welcome Wayne Phillips on board. He’s a local Bunbury-ite with loads of sailing experience; and is a thoroughly delightful companion to boot. The 36 hour stint will be made so much easier with three to share it.

Watch this space… Albany next.

Preparing The Andante – or “slipping a boat”


lining up
Andante getting lined up between the slipway arms

For those who are not used to sailing any of the seven seas, the preparation of the Andante for the next 12 months was an adventure on its own. “Slipping” the boat sounds like a low energy activity, but couldn’t be further from the truth. Slipping, in our case, involved getting our 20 tonne boat onto a rickety timber framework running on railway iron, tieing it off with multiple ropes, then being winched slowly onto dry land. Places where things could go wrong:

a) getting the combination of wind / tide / current /speed spot on to enter the framework with only a few centimetres leeway.

b) tieing the 20 tonne boat in EXACTLY the right place so it doesn’t fall over!

c) having the ropes actually hold the boat on so it doesn’t slide ignominiously and far too fast back into the water (and having the winch mechanism work)

but nothing did. It worked beautifully, with Tony (previous owner) only yelling a few instructions to Col and Wayne. I was designated official photographer (read for that – too girly and useless to have aboard!) which gave me a great view point of all activity. And a wondrous sight it was too, the ponderous manoeuvre to land, especially as the winch cradle sported a couple of square wheels!

Now the work began. A dirty bottomed baby has nothing on a dirty bottomed boat. The accumulated barnacles, sludge and seaweed was blown off with a water compressor first. Then any flaking paint was chipped off, and edges “feathered”, then bare metal is treated with phosphoric acid. That’s just day 1! By then of the first day, Col, Terry and Tony were all covered with grot and totally exhausted. The only access to the boat (and all the tools required) was up a 6m metal ladder and clambering over the railings. Roxy got quite used to being zipped up in my windcheater for the journey up or down.

Day 2 is washing off the acid and priming the metal. As soon as the primer was dry the first coat of foul, poisonous anti-fouling paint was applied. Every inch of the 13.2m boat under the water line needs to be covered with two coats of this obnoxious but indispensable stuff. The bright red or white top coats were applied to the parts above the water line. A shower and bed at 7.30 after this effort.

Day 3 saw the zinc anodes which act as sacrificial lambs to the on-going process of electrolysis of metal in seawater, removed and replaced; and a touch up of any paint jobs. Then back in the water… which was uneventful, much to everyone’s relief.

All the blokes at the slipyard were great. Very ocker, with various shaped and sized bodies crammed into dirty, oily hi-viz shirts,stubbies and blundstone boots – but incredibly helpful. The resident cream coloured dingo had Roxy in total awe, a case of star-struck poodle.

The dingo has its own story. A young bloke who is working on restoring a boat in the yard rescued it as a very young pup, and they’ve been a partnership for years, but the dingo has always wandered the surrounding district reducing the numbers of rabbits and the odd stray cat. It was picked up and impounded by the local animal ranger because it wears no collar or registration tags. The owner was unable to pay the fine to release it and contacted the national parks people. The upshot was that the council animal ranger was severely admonished for restraining an endangered species! The dingo now has the official right to wander wherever it bloody well pleases!



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