I started to get the sailing bug soon after I started with Jock and probably while sailing to Sydney on ‘Mavis’. The Sydney Vaucluse Junior or VJ fascinated me especially because there were none in Hobart so I decided to build myself one. We were living at Number 3 Colville Street by then and that had the tiniest woodshed. I extended that by a couple of feet and managed to squeeze in my new challenge. Launched at Battery Point on the waterfront of Tom Pilkington’s property, I sailed it with the fledgling Sandy Bay Dinghy Club, which eventually grew into the Sandy Bay Sailing Club. Over a Christmas and New Year while I was building the VJ, Mum and Dad were away and on New Year’s Eve some of the boys came in for a few drinks and we had a real mixture of booze when the beer ran out. Next morning the polished table in the lounge room was covered with white rings burnt from booze around the glasses. The only thing I could think of to clear the table was to polish it with shoe polish. I spent a lot of time that day polishing that table and I think it was passable. I carried all the bottles out to the shed and put them under the VJ where they couldn’t be seen. This was great until I asked Dad to help me turn the boat over when the outside was finished and I’d forgotten about the bottles. He said, ‘That must have been a decent party you had.’
After sailing the VJ for a couple of years, including the time on Sydney trips, the VJ became a bit slow and at that time an old school mate Rex Nichols was building a heavyweight 12 square metre ‘Sharpie’, a beautifully shaped German design sailing worldwide and introduced to Australia in the 1930s. Rex was building this with a friend of his, Vic O’Brien, and wanted to sell his share. I bought him out and for the next few years found the excitement of sailing one of the fastest yachts of that time.
We started with Dennis Beare as main sheet hand and the next year Dave Wardrop took Dennis’ place and stayed with us for the remainder of the time we owned it. I have great memories of sailing between Sandy Bay point and the starting line off Castray Esplanade in a hard south-westerly breeze with the smaller shy spinnaker set and not believing the speed we were sailing at. We weren’t the fastest sharpie on the river, nor the slowest, but we had the most remarkable time. The Royal Yacht Club at that time had two premises. The main headquarters were on the corner of Harrington and Davey Streets and I have talked about the waterfront property at Battery Point previously. Here, Sharpies and Cadet dinghies were stored and launched every Saturday. Cadets were light enough to be carried into the water but Sharpies had a minimum weight in their building specification of 506 lbs or some 250 kgs. Each had their own wheeled cradle and were launched and recovered on these. It was a busy place on race days but we had just as much fun sailing on Sundays and other holidays. Our favourite day trip was down to Maryanne Bay just north of Opossum Bay on the South Arm peninsula (only accessible by water), spend the day on the beach and sail home in the constant hard sea breeze.
A regular visitor to the slipyard was John Donnelan who with a Mr McGuire operated a chandlery in Montpelier retreat. John owned a 30ft yacht named ‘Mavourneen’ and one day he offered it to me to use as I wished as long as I looked after it. What a wonderful offer. We not only sailed it locally but several times we packed the yacht with two Sharpie crews and a couple of others, towed the ‘Tern’ and Graham Griggs ‘Dovekey’ down to Barnes Bay on Bruny Island and spent the weekend having a wonderful sail around the bay. Neither of us were all that keen on racing and this was an amazing way to spend a weekend. I hope I left it in good condition for him.