High tide at Ballina on Sunday 25 May was noon, just right for a day sail. Like at Leigh-on-Sea on the Thames Estuary, where I spent my childhood sailing, it is only possible to sail in the estuary for around two hours before and after high water.
Nicky Greenlaw and Lee Fenton had put up their hands to come along and crew. So it was down to the weather - fair or foul? It turned out to be a superb late autumn day, warm, sunny and a great sailing breeze.
We decided to launch at Fisheries Creek where there is an excellent double ramp and all mod cons. It is used by all the recreational fishing boats. Sailing boats usually motor out of the narrow creek and wait until they get into the main channel to hoist their sails.
This time Nicky, Lee and I managed to rig in half the time that we took on the day of the launch - but I reckon that there is still room for improvement. The first photo shows Nicky concentrating on connecting a fiddly bottle screw.
I was particularly pleased that Gary Fenton was coming along as a shore party. I knew that if I made a mess of backing the trailer he could help me out and he had agreed to take photos of us underway.
This time I managed to back the trailer down the ramp first go - due almost entirely to excellent guidance from Gary. I really must master the skill, there were tinnies waiting to get in and out and I don't think they would have appreciated being held up for long. I think I will have to check into the trailer backing school at Grafton (I am serious there is one).
The outboard started easily and we motored out of Fisheries Creek with great aplomb and as planned hoisted the sails once we got into the main channel.
Then we sailed up the river to the RSL car park where Gary had said he would be waiting. We tacked backwards and forwards and Gary took literally hundreds of photos.
I have selected one where the sails are setting reasonably well. I am embarrassed to admit that some of them would be used in a training session on how not to sail, jib in tight while the boat is on a run.
After strutting our stuff for the benefit of the RSL Club we kept going to the Richmond River Sailing Club where Gary had said he would take more photos. I hadn't bargained on sunday afternoon racing. We had to wind our way down the river keeping out of the way. More practice on "we're on port tack so we have to get out of the way NOW, READY ABOUT!"
This photo is of Gary. You may wonder what he is doing with that turtle. The answer is that he, along with Nicky and several other swimmers, have joined Ballina Seabird Rescue and are learning how to care for sick turtles. Far too many of our local turtles are found to have their stomachs full of plastic bags.