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Lord Howe Island - New Year 1993
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The next thing we tried was clamping a piece of 20 mm by 40 mm pine batten between the two arms with two G clamps. To stop the clamps crushing the wood we used two 20 cent pieces which were deformed into a cup shape over a period of time by the pressure. The clamps gave us very limited steering, perhaps 20 degrees each side of centre and you could not afford to put much pressure on the wheel or the clamps would fall off, which indeed they did from time to time. We got very good at rushing down and clamping it all together very fast when the helmsman shouted out the steering was gone again. We spent the better part of another 24 hours steering like this. I kept thinking that there had to be a better way to repair it and on the fourth morning and last day of our return trip it came to me, and very simple it was to.

We already knew that the wire rope was good on the steering to keep it together when the arms were in extension but we needed a system to keep the arms apart when they were in compression. We had already tried the ring spanner but it didn’t work and we had limited resources. I finally hit on the idea of using 3 pieces of pine batten, two longer pieces separated by a shorter piece and screwed together, then forked between the arms and held in place with the clamps. This was not only successful, it was brilliant even if I had to say so myself. The steering was almost 100 percent, but how long it would last was anyone's guess. We had gone from getting close enough for a tow to sailing right into Newcastle Harbour.

That last day was exciting. We had been able to see the heads at Port Stephens for most of the day starting when we were still well north and east of them. It seemed that we were nearly there but in reality had quite a way to go. The usual summer north easterly was roaring across the Bight and in fine form, gusting to perhaps 20 knots. The swell following us put the steering repairs fully to the test and when we had to load the steering right up from time to time I gritted my teeth. This was not the time for it to let go as the sea was to big to be able to work on the rudder if we needed. We definitely didn’t want it to let go as we were entering the harbour. We were still four or five miles out when I rang Sandy to let her know we were home OK.

When we were still a mile or two off the harbour entrance we started the motor and motored casually in to the Police Wharf and tied up. It was such a good feeling to know that we were home and that considering our predicament of a few days previous, we had made it without help. We had arrived at Newcastle on the evening of 14th January 1994 at about 11:30.

After the boat was tied up Col and I walked up to Newcastle train station only to find we had more than an hour to kill. We filled in some time by going up to my work at the Herald and saying hello to Dave Beesley and giving Col a bit of a look around.

We arrived home at about 1:00 am and crashed out. I had arranged with Ivan to be back at about 10:00 am with the welder to fix his steering but wanted to take Col home to Clarence Town first. Although it was the last thing in the world I wanted to do I got up early, took Col home then went back to Newcastle. The repairs only took about 20 minutes but it was the welder that did the job and it was this one thing we didn’t have while we were at sea. After it was fixed I felt better. Even though it was not a particularly strong steering set up, it had been me that had broken it and I wasn’t happy until I had fixed it.

We had all had a terrific time. Ivan had gotten the chance to cruise his yacht that he had been building for 7 years to a tropical island. Rosalin also got to go cruising, which although not a new thing for her it was something she wanted to do in Australia. Col had a good time and I had a chance to test myself out on the ocean. The experience was invaluable. I was sorry that Sandra had not been able to come and vowed that I would at least take her on a proper holiday to somewhere similar if not Lord Howe itself in the near future. I was sorry also that Joshua had not been able to swim with the fish at Ned’s Beach. This was something I had to rectify as well

There ends the story of Lord Howe Island, although not completely I hope. I shall return one day.
Completed writing this on 1st February 1995

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