Even Keels Cruising Club Inc (club website example only)

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Even Keels Cruising Club INC 9897603 ABN 37599776442

Ruth Carter

My first experience of sailing, apart from a brief encounter when my father bought a trailer sailer with a friend, was on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea when Peter and I were first married and he was stationed there as a young doctor in the navy.  

Here, we had lessons given on Saturday mornings by one of the shipwrights in small boson dinghies. Although I enjoyed the experience it wasn’t really a passion that I felt I had to pursue. But it did spark something in Peter, a dream to do something a little adventurous before he moved onto the next stage in his career.

During our time on Manus we had our first child and also met a technician, who came to PNG to service some of the medical equipment.  Over dinner one evening he told us of his plans to sail around the world with his wife and three children aged between 8 and 4 and was looking for crew for his 52’ ferro cement ketch. Ideally a doctor and a teacher, but in the real world you can’t have everything so he got a doctor and a fashion designer with a very young child.

We spent the next 6 months partially in Melbourne, where Peter completed his term in the navy and the rest in Brisbane preparing for the journey of a lifetime. We had never been to sea at this stage and I really had absolutely no experience of ocean sailing. Peter had some knowledge of navigation but my sole role at this stage was looking after our young son. I did not attempt to learn anything about the nitty gritty of navigation and sailing, was young and carefree if not a little naïve.

Below: “…a doctor and a fashion designer with a very young child” - on board Moonshadow in 1976

We set out in 1975 on our grand journey from Brisbane, heading up the Queensland coast. Along the way we broke the mast off Lady Elliott Island and had to pull into Maryborough. A beautiful job was done to the boxed wooden mast and we set off again headed for PNG.

It’s interesting to look back on those days now. There were no such things as GPS, chartplotters, satellite phones or mobiles. Our only communication was by VHF and all navigation was done with dead reckoning, coastal fixes and sextant. On approaching PNG we used an old transistor radio to pick up Port Moresby radio to have some idea that we were heading in the right direction. We did make it into Port Moresby and after a short time were anxious to be on our way.

Unfortunately, if we had had the benefit of modern technology we may not have come to grief on a reef off the coast of PNG. It was a mixture of inexperience, time constraints, lack of local charts and fatigue that led to the sinking of the yacht when it very quickly broke up after hitting the reef not far from land. All were safe on board as we were not far from villagers who came to our rescue.

Ruth Page 2 Leanne Grant Peter Ruth Page 1 Photo of Ruth Carter Andrew, Ruth and Peter Carter on board the ketch Moonshadow in 1976

Unable to continue on our journey we said farewell to the skipper and his family as they continued overland to Europe and we returned to Sydney, a little shaken but not altogether against the idea of one day sailing our own boat to places unknown.

Over the following years Peter pursued a career in Ear, Nose and Throat surgery and I got involved in raising our, by now, two children and developing a passion for and studying ceramics, working for many years as a studio potter and running a gallery and pottery supply outlet. During this time our only contact with sailing was on our holidays when we would rent a yacht with friends somewhere around the world and go cruising.

Peter, from an early stage, had taken steps for an early retirement, so, as his age of 55 approached we set about looking for a boat we could go cruising in. From our earlier experiences we decided that the main requirement should be that the boat be sturdy and hence the search for a steel vessel. We found the boat that took our fancy in Pittwater. Byamee was a round bilge steel cutter rigged yacht built in 1978 but beautifully maintained by it’s original owner who had the boat built by the well known Maas brothers in Blackwattle Bay, Sydney.   NEXT PAGE >>