Banyandah - unique from the waterline up
Reviewed Sep 2016
Now our boat ain’t worth a lot of money, but she’s been around the world. Bless her. And she’s sailed across the north Pacific with snow falling on her decks; buried her masts underwater on that voyage, poor baby. She took that better than us, just as she did crossing the Great Australian Bight one frosty August when cargo ships were lost to sight and mile wide swells swept us off our feet. She’s a stout little lady, all 38 foot and 12 tons of her.
Born in a Sydney backyard that overlooked the Opera House back in the days when it was being constructed, she’s homebuilt, and became our first home immediately after touching the sea at Berrys Bay in 1973. Our mate christened her Banyandah from a book of nice sounding Aboriginal names, meaning ‘Home on the water.’ That’s what she became, our home on the water for the next sixteen years while our two sons grew into men while sailing the world seeking wisdom and adventure.
Banyandah didn’t cost much to build, we didn’t have much raising two babies, and that was okay because we took them to see pretty corals and amazing fishes on the Great Barrier Reef. Fortunately we already knew how to survive on next to nothing ‘cause that’s all we had - a good boat, some fishing gear and a big bag of rice.
Calamity Jane had nothing on us as we didn’t really know much about sailing the boat we’d just built. Crikey, Jack was soon swearing a blue streak while clinging for dear life atop the masthead while trying to figure out the strange bright light close to the setting sun. He couldn’t navigate either. Too busy building the darn thing to learn and figured he’d have time enough once underway. But, after more than a couple hundred thousand miles under our keel, we now think that you’d better have darn good luck to get away with that sort of thinking. The sea can be mighty unkindly. Beautiful, yes. Awesome too. But a place where your spirit will be tested. And, if you’re found wanting, then God forbid, you unnecessarily endanger your fellow crew. We read before getting into this business that true sailors never leave port unless prepared to look after themselves and we think that’s a truism lost on some of today’s fair-weather sailors. So, when preparing for sea, remember you’re a sailor in a long line of folk who dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s, and then were able to look after themselves.
The first item needed to look after yourself is a good seaworthy ship. That sums up Banyandah. Long keel, decent draft, full forefoot, easily handled rig of stout gear, and solid handrails to keep us on board. Her accommodation is split by a roomy, well-protected cockpit that contains only basic instrumentation. Nothing conspicuous that’ll attract thieves; just depth, speed, and two engine gauges plus a trusty Saura compass, and a chartplotter we remove when leaving our lady. Our radios are unobtrusively below. Under her cockpit sits the diesel that made Perkins famous. Robust and simple to repair, it delivers an honest 70 horsepower to her 50cm three-bladed propeller through a 2:1 mechanical gearbox that’s controlled via a lever that we simply nudge for a few revs, fore or aft, to ease into the tightest spot.
Up forward, below a flush deck so large it’s held slumber parties of ten, is a galley to starboard and settee to port that converts into a double bed. Then comes our loo, which we boast has a hot shower and homemade Lavac style dunny that’s uncloggable, which is a definite plus. It can be diverted into a sump for in-port use. Opposite that there’s another seat, then through a fancy doorway trimmed in silver ash, a double vee berth cabin.
Aft of the cockpit is our domain. As Jack used to say to the tourists we once took on overnighters, “You can sleep anywhere, but not that double bed.” It’s in a huge cabin with our nav station, electrical panel, and clothes drawers. It’s cosy being panelled in Aussie red cedar with Scented Rosewood trim, and features full headroom above floor panels of cork. We’ve learnt from hard years of scraping back varnish that polished timber survives best below decks. So above, where timber is exposed, we’ve used only durable teak, qwila, and a bit of Toonas Australis trimming the dodger.
Banyandah is a very practical sea boat. Her roller furling headsail comes off the end of a short bowsprit that keeps her anchor away from her topsides. Then we have a hanked-on staysail to save money and the extra windage forward. Her mainmast carries a slab-reefed high-aspect sail that goes aloft on Dacron halyards around a winch with base handles permanently attached to the mast. And at the bow sits our workhorse 1200 Maxwell anchor winch that quickly brings up the 20kg Manson BOSS on 70 metres of 10mm chain that we almost always put all out. Two handy footswitches lets Jack easily direct Jude with a raised arm, so she can drive right up to our hook while he picks it up. Banyandah is so suited to travelling the oceans, yet she’s hardly worth what her gear cost. Why? Well she’s one of those ferrocement gals. Yep, lots of mesh and 6mm rods, all filled up with cement – just add 10,000 hours of hard-yakka.
We raised our sons aboard while visiting about every continent and culture. We fished, dived, and sailed our way to most of the world’s top spots, battled the Red Sea, immersed ourselves in Europe, stood in wonder under the statues of Easter Island, and marvelled at nature in the Galapagos. After all that, Banyandah was rather tired. A lot of sea miles and raising two boys had taken their toll. So, as it was time to get the kids away on their own path, we plucked her out the briny and stood her on our front lawn. The years that followed were kind to Miss B while we established a joiner shop.
Fortunate really because when a decision had to be made whether to dig a big hole to bury our lady, we elected instead to refit her for another bash at sailing the high seas. Everything came out; cupboards, valves, wiring, everything right back to bare hull. Well, you know how it goes. Best laid plans and all that. Five years became ten, then fifteen. Banyandah stood patiently, passer-bys tooted, while we, her builders aged. Then the day came when everything important found its place. On our 38th wedding anniversary we took the decision to refloat the old girl and give her a quick spin around Australia to see if we could both cut the mustard.
All up, it took 16 years to rebuild our “home on the water.” Relaunched ten years ago, she has now sailed twice around Australia, across the bottom a few times, and can be found more often than not in the wilds of Tasmania, or anywhere else there’s adventure, beauty and fun. If any of this appeal then we invite you to watch a few of our videos , or read one of our books to find out how it can happen for you.