Redwings Round the World

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Ancient History

Redwings.... what's it mean? Who knows? Anyway, its better than "Hanky Panky", the name the boat started off life with. Hanky Panky's owners were, according to the Certificate of British Registry that came with the boat when we bought her, Greek. Apparently, they became bored of indulging in Hanky Panky and sold the boat in 1987 to a Scottish couple named Alistair and Christine. The couple was running a charter business of a sort in Turkey aboard a Moody 34 called REDWINGS (we found an old copy of a charter brochure for that Redwings among the ship's papers). Alistair and Christine renamed Hanky Panky (our Redwings) "Red Sunset". It seems they were going to try to run both boats at the same time. Perhaps this proved too difficult as they changed the name from Red Sunset to Redwings about a year after they bought it. Shortly thereafter, it appears they went broke and the boat was repossessed by the bank. This is where the previous owners, John and Caroline, stepped into the picture:

John and Caroline Durville's Ownership

John e-mailed us the following: "Buying Redwings was quite a sudden affair. I'd been looking casually at magazines and assembling a list of wants and must-haves, and had got as far as putting a one-page description of what the boat had to be like for agents to respond to. I'd sent out a load of these (50?) and we'd got a lot of junk back, mostly entire listings from agents. We'd seen maybe three boats, all unsuitable in one way or another, when I got a fax one Wednesday evening from an agent in Mallorca about Redwings. He said it was everything we wanted, but a little bigger (we were looking for 38-42 feet). A bank repossession, the price was right (30k sterling). He faxed a surveyor's report, one year old. I bought the air tickets Thursday, we flew Friday, got drunk until very late Friday night with friends in Barcelona, and met the agent in Barcelona airport on Saturday morning. He flew us down to this little yard in Spain a few miles from Gibraltar in his private jet, and we got two hours to look her over, hung over. She was ashore, no batteries, no way of checking the engine, plumbing or electrics. The previous owners were unknown, and there was no documentation other than the registration book. We had to decide on the way back. We said yes. So from hearing about her to committing was under 4 days."

John and Caroline then sailed her back from Spain to Italy where John was working for NATO, cruised around for a bit and substantially upgraded the boat, and then left in April 1991 for their Atlantic crossing en route to San Diego where John had a new job waiting for him. In early December 1991 they arrived San Diego. Within a year they had another crew member when Casper was born followed by Alex in late 1994. In March 1995 the family, (two sons and two cats), and their crew Todd, left San Diego for a Pacific Crossing enroute to Singapore where John had yet another new job waiting for him if and when he ever arrived. They sailed through French Polynesia, down to Australia, through Indonesia, and finally arrived in Singapore in October, 1995. The boat rested in Sabana Cove, Malaysia for one year, before I (Aaron) saw her in late 1996.

Our History

In early 1996, Colleen and I (this is Aaron here - we are a married couple) started talking about leaving Asia after almost seven years of fighting it out in the manic depressive world of investment banking. But simply moving back to the states and getting another job in another city did not seem like it would offer much salvation. Lets take some time out. We've earned it.

Both avid sailors, the thought of going cruising greatly appealed to us. The idea was to find and buy a boat by early 1997, carry out any necessary re-fitting during the summer, cruise and race the boat in Hong Kong during the remainder of the year, and then dump our jobs after bonuses in early 1998 ahead of a planned March departure via the South China Sea Race (an annual race from Hong Kong to the Philippines).

We decided what we wanted in a boat: a 40' to 50' fast yet comfortable cutter-rigged sloop kitted out for short-handed long-distance cruising. In late October 96', I started looking and almost immediately stumbled across an add for Redwings. From the start, I was pretty sure that this was "The One".

Wild ride on a black Triumph

A trip to see the Redwings was quickly arranged and on a squally Saturday in November 1996, I found myself flying over rural Malaysian roads at 100 mph on the back of the previous owner's new black Triumph motorcycle as we whizzed from Singapore to Sabana Cove in Malaysia where the boat was moored. New bike. Got to break her in. You know... Hey I wasn't scared in the least. Right. However, I did feel that if God meant for me to live through that ride it must be fated that I would live to sail Redwings.

Although a bit run down aesthetically, I could see that Redwings had the fundamentals we were looking for. That previous owners John and Caroline, also a husband and wife team, had successfully sailed her 2/3 of the way around the world and lived comfortably on her for almost five years, further boosted my confidence. John's enthusiasm to help "us poor kids" get to know and love the boat, and his offer to assist in a delivery to Hong Kong, sealed the deal. We married the first girl we kissed. Not always the safest and most logical approach, but I believe that if it feels right, go for it.

Colleen and I returned to Singapore in February to help bring Redwings from Sabana Cove to the NatSteel Marine yard in Singapore where basic work would be done ahead of the April delivery to Hong Kong.

Yacht wins out over job after bad day in the office

The delivery trip from Singapore to Hong Kong, which was shared by myself, Colleen, and John, was a huge success and is well documented by John in his Chatty Log II. The weather was almost idyllic and the fishing excellent. Bit of excitement, but not too much. Learned a lot, read a lot, ate well.

As we pulled into the dock at the Hong Kong Yacht Club, I started wondering how I was going to survive another year of writing fixed income research now that we truly had the bug and the boat to boot. Fate again seemed to be pushing me to go cruising. On return to the office, I learned that several key things I had been pushing management for had fallen through. The next nine months would be miserable without the resources to do the job and a poor outlook for the markets. All of a sudden, it dawned on me. Leave now. What's stopping you? As soon as the seed was planted, there was no turning back and it relatively easy to give my notice.

Colleen had already sensibly dumped her job as a Thai equity broker (before the market and currency completely melted down) before the delivery. My last day of work was 27 June, ironically the last working day in Hong Kong under British colonial rule.

The original, original cunning plan

1) Start work on re-fit in May. Work expected to be completed by the end of July, August at the latest.

2) After a land trip to Nepal and Tibet in early July, spend second half of July moving out of our apartment, shipping our stuff to the States for storage, and move into to a room at a friend's house.

3) August, focus on pushing through and finishing up re-fit.

4) September, take a few weeks to go to the States to visit friends and family before setting off.

5) Return in late September for three final weeks of sea trials and provisioning ahead of a planned 11 October departure. Our crew Kerry (a university friend of Colleen's) to join us during the first week of October.

6) First port of call Philippines (Subic and then to Palawan) before continuing on to Borneo and Singapore.

The actual refit: welcome to the real world of yacht ownership

Rather than returning to the water at the end of July, the boat did not get back in until 25 October, exactly five months on the hard!!!! Needless to say the fantasy trip to the states was not taken. Its now 28 October as I write this and the last 5%-10% of the re-fit work is still not complete.

What happened? The rainiest summer in recent Hong Kong history combined with an untimely management vacuum at the yard, an expanding job profile, and several major "unexpected" difficulties.

The Mast Saga gives a good idea of the whole re-fit experience. Here is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent to the previous owner John seeking sympathy:

Initially, I was planning to have the mast hardware simply reconfigured to handle a spinnaker and replace the lateral shrouds. Probably a week of work max with the help of an expert rigger. But, hey, if your going to rig for a spinnaker you need to add another winch on the coachroof and more spinlocks so might as well lead the genoa and staysail halyards back to the cockpit as well. If you are going to do that, might as well remove the winches and cleats on the mast as they will just be extra weight, windage, and get in the way of all the new strings. If your are going to replace the shrouds and be drilling holes at the top of the mast for spinnaker halyards, it probably makes sense to take the rig out as net net, the cost of poping it out will probably offset the value of the extra time spent to do the work from a bosun's chair. Out pops the mast. Gee see where the foot of the mast was stepped in just a piece of marine plywood, might as well take the opportunity to make a proper aluminum mast step and bolt it into the keel (an easy sell as a boat in HK without a proper mast step was recently sunk on the way back from Vietnam in a typhoon as the mast worked out of a dodgy step fitting and punched a hole in the hull). Look at how water in the mast and the fact that its been sitting in bilgy water has pitted the foot - better cut off 1 1/2 inches. With the rig down, might as well re-wire the electrics. Never have a better opportunity. There was not a steaming light fitted before. Should probably have one. What about adding one of these permanent bubble radar reflectors. Hey, someone actually gave me one for free as they have two. Lets stick it on. One of the spreaders has a hareline crack. Better re-weld it. These halyards are definitely going to need replacing within the next 18 months. In fact, the staysail halyard is about to go. Might as well replace the lot now and reduce the cost of shipping the new spinnaker halyards, sheets and guys. Never have a better chance to fit mast steps all the way up the rig. How much are they? #@% $ a piece for a bit of aluminum? Well, I'll be cursing the day I'm up at the top of the mast trying to cut a stuck main halyard with the wind a 40 knots and building... lets do it. Hmmm, now that the rig is out, and as the rest of the boat will look so smashing with its new paint job, might as well paint the mast. Half the hardware is coming off anyway. Won't take long to remove the rest. Lets say a day to strip it of bits, a day to strip it of paint, a day to prime it, and a day for the final gloss coats. No more than a week's job. Try 2 day to get the stuff off (I've learned the joys of the impact driver, blow torch, drill, and hack saw - no rivet or screw will ever stand in my way again), 3 solid days of bathing in skin dissolving stripper to get the paint off and mast sanded, rain, rain, rain (no priming) oh a bit of sun two coats etch primer and two coats of base, day of putting epoxy filler in holes and pitted areas, sand back, replace worn rivets - might as well add some more at points where the head of the sail is when reefed. After sanding back, adding new rivets (with a few resultant scratches as the gun jumped out of the hands of this amateur), makes sense to sand back again, wash again, base prime again. Well some of the holes I thought I filled really need some more epoxy - gone this far might as well make it look good. Fill, fill, dry, dry, sand, sand. Ok finally ready for painting - two weeks after its out! Typhoon! Four days later, cleaning again, ready for paint... afternoon showers. Ready again..... rain, rain. Ok now its today. This is it. Cleaned it again. Its sunny. Its dry. The first coat is sprayed on. It dries. The second coat starts. The wind picks up. Dark clouds form. We spray faster. Half done. 75% done - it starts to sprinkle. Just for 5 minuets. Just enough to pock mark the job. Then the sun comes out. I've got to sand the damn thing again tomorrow morning and try again. I feel sort of like the mythical guy in Hades who has to keep carrying the same stone up the hill over and over...

But wait, there's more. The above was written in late August. The mast was not successfully stepped until mid-October! An excerpt from another e-mail:

It turns out the bottom 20% of the rig is fundamentally twisted to starboard by about 10 to 15 degrees. Seems to have been a permanent feature. We originally built a mast step that would put the mast back in the boat lined up on the centerline. But it went back in and you looked up, the port spreaders were shifting to stbd and the stbd ones to port. So the mast had to come back out (about six weeks ago) and the new step altered to account for the twist and also to make it adjustable. The lower spreaders had also been chopped up a bit by us, and previous owners as well to apparently try to get them to line up better. More cutting and drilling would have been required so I opted to get new spreaders. These were custom made by Allspar and hand delivered at the end of September by an Allspar employee participating in the China Coast Series (a big regatta here that we hoped to participate in). Only problem was that instead of being the ordered 96 cm, they were 69 cm... Arrgh!!!! Another 10 days to get a new pair made and sent up, two days to etch prime, gloss, and dry, two days to fit them. Finally, we got the rig back in earlier this week. It is actually right and looks really solid and well tuned.

To find out how things have progressed, go to Ship's Log

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Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved by Aaron Henderson and Colleen Duggan