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Our day aboard Pioneer, a couta boat with a borrowed gaff rig started with drizzling rain at the Tewantin boat ramp on the Noosa River.

Noosa Gaff Rig Couta BoatThe forecast 10-20 knots from the South East, was sure to be chaotic and swirling about the motel complexes constructed on the southern banks of the estuary.

A wandering piece of footwear was deftly retrieved by Jayce as it threatened to drift upstream with the tide.

Pioneer is a 20-foot replica of the famed Couta Boat, once common on the waters of Port Phillip Bay. She is being fitted out by Jayce Raaschou, and this is one of her first outings using a borrowed set of sails.

The headsail is off a 20-foot fibreglass catamaran, and the gaff rig is from a more traditional open sailing boat of similar size and character.Noosa Gaff Rig Couta Boat

In 2019 we sailed Moonlight in the inaugural Noosa Gaff Rig Regatta. The good news is that after we skipped a year, Valere and his team at the Noosa Yacht have organised another event that is open to the public. It is to be held in June An invitation is extended to old-style Gaff rigged boats, replicas, originals, trailerable or not. The regatta is run in conjunction with the Noosa Come Together Festival held in the Lions Park next to the Noosa Yacht and Rowing Club

It was the first time I had sailed in a race – its always been cruising and recreational sailing in Moonlight, so I had to quickly come to terms with the rules of racing. The sailing was fast and furious. Noosa Gaff Rig Couta BoatWell actually it was neither fast nor furious, but the competitive drives come out whenever two boats are sailing together in the same direction, so it was plenty of fun and every boat won a prize!

If you watched last weeks video, you will have seen us out sailing in Moonlight on the Maroochy River in a pretty strong blow. My son Peter joined us and helped me catch some of the action on the GoPro.

I lost control of the boat whilst preparing to sail, and it surged backwards in a gust into the sandbank near the mouth of the river. There was a rending gnarly sound as the aft part of the rudder blade sheered off. Still keen to go out for a sail, I careened around without much in the way of steerage, bumping off various things and nearly capsizing the boat.

After a while, I regained control and found that with plenty of boat-speed I had reasonable control of the boat, and enjoyed several tacks and gybes back and forth across the river. Gybing was still perilous.Noosa Gaff Rig Couta Boat

Once back in the workshops, I was confronted by the sadly separated pieces of 3000-year-old Huon Pine, and faced with the options of replacing the blade or repairing it using the existing pieces. In the end, I decided to repair it using the bits I had, adding another battle scar to the previously repaired blade.

I used strong flexible epoxy. I prefer Araldite that has served Moonlights need of the occasional bandaid over her 40-year history.

Once the glue had cured, I found the belt sander handy for removing the excess, as the glue itself is so tough it is difficult to remove it any other way. It was a good opportunity to strip the rudder back to bare wood using precision sharpened a long-handled scarsden scraper. Many people don’t realise that a well-honed scraper is a perfect cutting tool to deal with cranky grain and awkward shapes.

Once the bulk of the old varnish is removed by the scraper it is a matter of working your way up through the grits in sandpaper to get the desired finish. I always prefer to use planes and chisels, to get the full character of the timber in the finish, but in the case of this older timber, it has lost a lot of its oils and extractives and has taken on a crumbly texture that tears out easily, so sanding is the only option. I used 60, 80, 120 and 240 increments.

Once sanded, several coats of conventional turps based clear varnish. Feast Watson makes a product called marine spar varnish. Unlike a lot of products, it dries to a flexible and durable finish. Beware of products that cure too hard and brittle, because when you are working with timber, you need to allow it to move with changes in humidity and immersion in water. No finish forms a 100% vapour barrier, so it is best to work with it rather than against it.

Couta Boat

Sailing on a borrowed Gaff Rig.

Watch the full video here.



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