Hobart for the Holidays--Koalas and MOB Practice

December 20 Michelle finally gets her chance to cuddle a koala. I have the day off from sailing practice after yesterday's pool training and tonight's class. Michelle and I make the trip out to the Koala Park Sanctuary to fulfill her reason for letting me do this race. Here is one of the few places in Australia where one can legally touch a koala. In case you are wondering, their fur is not as soft as one would think by looking at them. Michelle gets to put her arm around the koala and get her picture taken. And, no small children or old grandmothers were pushed out of the way so she could get to the koala. In addition to seeing and petting the koala's, we hand feed emus, caraways, kangaroos, wallabies, and cockatiels. Even though we need to leave a little early so that I can get to class, the day fully meets her expectations. Class covers heavy weather sailing, fire extinguishing, distress signaling, and a variety of other topics. The class grows due to the addition of a group from the UK that have taken a course in their home country that needs to be converted for Australia. Getaway Sailing has arranged the charters for many boats here. Throughout the course Andy has cautioned us to sail conservatively and to be sure to preserve the boat, the sails, and the equipment. He notes that on the average 10 percent of the fleet never gets out of the harbor and 30 percent of the fleet retires without reaching Hobart. The race is about endurance and attrition as much as it is about making the boat go fast. Before the test we have a quick review that goes over the key points that will be tested. Then comes the test itself. It is neither hard nor easy. But, one needs to read the questions carefully. I am not sure, but I think I might have missed one question. Thirty-seven correct out of forty-five questions is passing. December 21 Rich arrives and the full crew is now in Sydney. We go out into the Tasman Sea again for practice drills. On the way out, just as we clear the heads, Mike throws out the horseshoe for another sudden man overboard drill. We execute a so-so quick stop that takes us amazingly far away from our MOB. But, we deploy the life sling and bring it close aside the MOB easily. Being an inanimate object, our MOB is quite unresponsive and fails to grasp the life sling. We take the life sling back into the boat as we circle back, bring the boat aside the MOB, and retrieve it with a boat hook. After sailing offshore some more, the number 4 goes up to let us take a look at it. Turns out it will not work. The bolt rope is flattened near the bottom and will not stay in the tuff luff in even the modest wind we are seeing. Hopefully it can be repaired before the start on Sunday. We have now looked at all the sails. We put in a reef and then a second reef just to drill those procedures. We had discussed on a previous day starting with the first reef rigged and with a messenger for the second reef. After trying the messenger system, we decide it is not something we want to do in 40-knot winds. The decision is made to run both reef lines at the start. We are remembering Andy's lectures about sailing conservatively. We also set the storm sails again. That procedure goes off without incident. We think it unlikely we will use the trysail unless we loose use of the main completely. The problem with using the trysail is that the main has to come off the mast in order to rig the trysail. But, we have to sail by the committee boat on Boxing Day with the storm sails set. In the evening Getaway Sailing holds a social and private weather briefing for the crews chartering boats through them. The main message of the weather briefing seems to be that it is shaping up to be a "classic" Sydney to Hobart race weather pattern. That means a downhill slide along the coast of Australia with occasional storms possible, a windy and uphill slog across the Bass Strait, and dying breezes offshore of Tasmania. If the weather forecast holds true, the faster boats should get the worst of the weather in Bass Strait. But, we are told that typically the forecast models predict weather movement faster than what actually occurs. Tomorrow I have the day off again. We are planning a night practice session from about 6 p.m. to midnight. For more journal entries from the Fine Line USA crew, click here