Episode 9: Andrew Randell Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Folks, welcome to this week’s episode of the ocean sailing podcast, this week we’re with Andrew Randell and he’s got a really interesting story that really is quite unique and again came across it by chance, a neighbour of mine who sails with me regularly, knows Andrew through his work and just to take a couple of steps back, back in 2011 Andrew received the Hal Harper Award for a boat that he had completed the construction of and he’ll tell you that story. 

Andrew Randell receiving the Hal Harpur Award in 2011

We’re going to retrace that story today and really the story of what turned out to be a 48 year project in total and the Hal Harpur award that Andrew received is awarded each year to a person who has best contributed to the New South Wales Wooden Boat Association’s objectives of encouraging the retention of wooden boat building skills and the preservation of historical wooden boats and artefacts. Quite a mouthful to explain the objectives. 

Welcome along Andrew, thanks for joining me today.

ANDREW RANDELL: Thank you very much for that, a pleasure.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Interestingly, Andrew, when he won this award, it was the first time the award was ever given to somebody that was a first time boat builder and non-sailor at the time. Andrew is a unique entrant for a number of reasons and reading an article published shortly after this award was given to Andrew, there was a comment in there about the judges being issued a pack of Kleenex tissues before hearing Andrew’s story, it’s quite an interesting story.

So Andrew, I guess lets goes back to when you were young and this story is about you, it’s about your father, it’s about your family, I guess its something that’s probably consumed a reasonably large chunk of your life.

ANDREW RANDELL: It has. Probably going back to before I was born. Back in the late 50’s, my father who was a keen sailor, had done many races to Gladstone and used to race on Sydney Harbour. He was looking for a boat to build himself to compete in the junior offshore group and he was searching out several designs in the late 50’s and he happened on a design that was from Western Australia by Len Randell.

The Rugged 23 designed by Len Randell in Western Australia

The review of the Rugged design published in 1960 in Power Boat & Yachting Magazine

So he got the plans for a 24 footer and he started construction with that a year after I was born in 1963. He was a very skilled wood worker even though that wasn’t his profession, he started building this boat and I had a sister who was a couple of years younger than I was and unfortunately, we used to go on holidays down the South Coast in Sussex Inlet and unfortunately on one of those trips in 1966, my sister Jackie fell off a wharf and drowned and dad never touched the boat after that.

It was just a hull, steam bent ribs, timber hull with a deck, the cabin was made, no interior, just bare and that’s how it stayed till he passed away. In the meantime, the boat was shipped from Sydney where he started building it, in Cronulla up to Lismore where we bought a farm after he retired and then it was shipped up there in 1976 and then it stayed in a shed for 20 odd years and then they decided to move down to Yamba so the boat was in shipped down to Yamba where it was in a sort of a tarpaulin tent.

So it stayed there, I tried to encourage him to work on it but he wouldn’t. I think he couldn’t bear to part with the boat, but he sort of couldn’t bear to finish it, so he was sort of stuck in this conundrum of what to do and I loved the boat. When I was very young and my sister Jackie who passed away, we used to play in the boat in amongst all the sawdust while dad was planking it up, I still remember that, even though I was very, very young and I used to sit in a boat when I was in my teens, even thought it was in the shed and just loved sitting in it, just loved this boat.

Andrew with his sister Jackie in front of the families boat building project

When he passed away, I said to mum, “Well do you want the boat?” Because she was still alive and we got it valued and it was worth nothing as a bare hull. So she said to me, “Well do you want it?” I said, “Yep,” and knowing nothing about building boats, I’ve built a few houses before so I was good with woodwork, like dad. I think watching him over the years sort of taught me that, his accuracy and everything like that. So I decided to finish the boat. So I spent a year reading about how to build wooden boats, several really good references and then slowly but surely started pulling it apart.

Of course in those last 10 years, the cover on the boat had failed so it had a bit of rot in it, so I had to replace the hull, deck, tops of the cabins, all the deck beams had gone, bar or few and there was a bit of rot down near the bottom of the keel in the back end. I had to replace all that and rebuild the boat to a point where I could start completing it. That was pretty tough, I did a lot of research, glad the internet’s around these days because it taught me a lot too.

Called on some old friends of dad who actually helped in plank the boat up when it was first being built and they sort of guided me here and there on a few of the harder issues. I think building the boat now is probably good for the boat because it’s probably going to last longer than what would have if it had been built years ago with the modern products out.

The rot that needed cutting out down the bottom of the keel in the back end

So I think she’ll last a lot longer than if dad would have finished it. But anyhow, I finished the boat, it took seven years to finish it, so I was doing it every second weekend, I could only afford to go there every second weekend to finish this boat and it was a good bonding time with my mother too because she had a lot too play in the boat. She used to help dad steam bend the ribs and help with the little things with the construction and put up with him building a boat.

Keel rot repairs and the replanking well underway

It was a culmination of when we launched it, I named it after my sister who’d passed away so calling it Jackie after my sister, was a big thing for the family. The loss of Jackie was a big thing, my parents grieved terribly over that, as you would. So yes, launching it, calling it after her, mum being at the launch, was just a big circle of everything that had gone on over the last 40 odd years, 50 years, had just sort of just come together.

Mum was a keen sailor, very keen sailor and from 2011 when I launched the boat until she passed away a couple of years ago, she used to come out with me and sail with me every time I was down there sailing, because the boat’s at Yamba, it’s not in Brisbane. Great sailor, and always wanted to go faster, a little bit of a thrill seeker. The boat has done a lot in bringing the family together in different ways and finishing chapters of everyone’s life, which is funny about an inanimate object like that. But it had a very important role to play.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So tell me about your earliest memories of your parents and because they both had a passion for sailing, they both were active sailors and then your dad actually stopped sailing didn’t he once the accident occurred in 1966?

ANDREW RANDELL: That’s right. I remember going to people’s places that he used to sail with and helped build their boats, I’d play with their kids in the sand pit or something or play with a box of wood, anything we could make the boat out of that floated, we’d do that and then I remember watching dad and his mates build these boats and they’re all offshore group class boats, so the were all about the same size as Jackie. So I guess I’ve been around boats on and off for a fair while with dad.

The people used to come over when he was building Jackie, I remember guys coming over and helping him lay planks or screwing planks and all that sort of thing. So early memories of sailing, I have a fair bit and all through our family, my grandparents, one was a game fisherman, one was another fisherman. So I’ve always been around the water and loved it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Then your dad didn’t sail much after that?

ANDREW RANDELL: No, not at all. He didn’t sail, he didn’t have anything to do with the water, nothing to do with the sailing club, it just all finished in 1966. The sailing fraternity was good they came around and they tried to get him to finish the boat, they did a little bit I think here and there but nothing substantial, that just sort of waned and he didn’t lose contact with his friends, they’re all good mates to him but nothing ever came of our boat. It just sat there.

Andrew Randell's father working on the hull construction prior to 1966

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s pretty awful for anyone to lose as a child, lose a sister or brother.

ANDREW RANDELL: Absolutely. It was interesting too, sort of another part to the story that when dad was researching the design of the boat, it started around about ’58, he was writing to Len Randell who was the designer and this Len Randell, we always thought it was amazing because he had the same surname as us and when dad passed away and we’d launched the boat, after 2011, mum was always keen to do the family tree.

So she was following along the family tree and happened to find a link to Western Australia. Found out that Len Randell is actually a relation of mine and dad and Len used to write letters to each other because there was no faxes or anything, it was all surface mail. So they were communicating, didn’t even know they were related, by about the sixth generation and then I rang Len after the boat was launched and I have a video of the launch and everything so I sent Len that and speaking to him was very interesting. He was telling me that I needed to adjust the weight and had to move this forward and move that backwards and that. I think he’s still going.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: What age was he when you last spoke to him?

ANDREW RANDELL: He would have been in his 80’s and he’s still sailing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So when he designed the boat, he must have been in maybe 20’s or something.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, probably would have been.

Jackie R under construction in the tent in Yamba at Andrews mothers home

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Back in 1952?

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, he probably would have been. He’s the same, exactly the same age group on the family tree as dad would be. They would’ve been the same…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And so you were related all along.

ANDREW RANDELL: We are.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: With the boat designer that lived on the other side of the country.

ANDREW RANDELL: The salt must be in the veins because that generation goes back to the Murray River and our family apparently were the first pliers I suppose you’d say of the Murray River. The captain that built the first paddle steamer and actually used the river as a freight centre and conveying the freight was a Randell and he came out from England and started that way back when. That was quite interesting. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s fascinating to be able to retrace it right back like that. Especially those kind of formative days of the country.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: River boat captains and…

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, well they’ve actually got streets and that named after us. I sort of thought, “Wow, it’s pretty good.” Haven’t been able to see them yet but hopefully one day I’ll get down there, down around Adelaide.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, that is fascinating. So if you go back to when your dad started the boat building project, what lead to him building his own boat?

Andrew often worked on the construction of Jackie R late into the night

ANDREW RANDELL: I think the love of his sailing, he just loved sailing. My grandmother used to say dad would grab anything he could find and make it sail. He’d sail a wooden box if he could plug the holes in it. He was always, he grew up around Watson’s Bay, Rose Bay in Sydney and he was always down the water’s edge, mucking around in the water and building boats, whether they be model boats or whatever.

The documentation my father has, he’s got every seacraft magazine since the first one was ever published, I’ve still got them. Huge library and catalog of magazines and books on sailing. He followed the Sydney to Hobart race from the very first race. Then he got involved in Sydney Harbour with the Vaucluse Juniors and then the Vaucluse Seniors, so he sailed on Sydney Harbour with those and then he moved down when he married mum to Port Hacking, south of Sydney and was involved in the Port Hacking sailing club.

So he’s had quite a career, he had a stint working in Queensland where he sailed some. He did a couple of Brisbane to Gladstone races. I think there was a win under handicap in Simba back in 1958 I think it was. Dad’s always been big on the water.

The 1952 Seacraft magazine review of Len Randell's Rugged design

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, was your mum a sailor when they met or did he introduce her to sailing as well?

ANDREW RANDELL: I don’t quite know that part of it. I know she sailed, whether it was with other boyfriends and then met dad while she was sailing and she was secretary of the Vaucluse Sailing Club. So I think that whole association way back then is how they met, so they’re both in the same club and friends introduced them, she’d go out on some VS’s or VJ’s. Don’t know whether it was that competitive of whether it was a “come on, let’s go for a sail” and bit of a romance there, I don’t know? But she loved sailing, she loved being out in the water and certainly loved sailing when we had Jackie on the water. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So did she largely stop sailing too then for the next few decades when your dad wasn’t sailing?

ANDREW RANDELL: When I was growing up, I never saw mum on a sailing boat, this was all sort of earlier before I was born I would say. We certainly had some funny times sailing, mum and I. One of them if I can recount was when we first took Jackie out and we hadn’t got the sails up yet, she just been launched a week and I was dead keen, I had never been in a sailing boat till I launched Jackie, never ever stepped on a sailing boat.

The cabin top had to be constructed from scratch

I said to my mum, “Let’s just take it out under motor, we’ll just go for a bit of a putt around, test the motor and see how it goes and make sure everything’s fine.” I think we got around the corner from the Yamba Marina and I hit a sand bank. Because I just thought, “Oh well we’ll just go out here and the water looks deep and that.” Apparently around there the sand banks everywhere, which I know now. I did have the brains to go out on the rising tide, so if we did get caught we could float it off.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Saving grace.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah I sort of had that smarts about me but nothing else and it was quite funny, we just stopped and I’m sort of going forward and nothing’s happening and mum said, “I think you’ve run aground.” I said, “Really?” Because I hadn’t calibrated the depth gauge properly or anything like that. So we sat there and we sat there and we didn’t take any lunch or anything with us because it was only supposed to be a quick little motor.

Luckily enough it was just around the corner from the marina so It wasn’t that embarrassing. Then maritime came and saved the day, they pulled up and they said, “You know you’re on a sand bar?” I said, “Yeah, I know that.” They helped us get the boat off and he said to me then, he said, “So you’ve got to be careful now, the sandbar, the channels are here, there, you look for the marks here,” and I’m going, “I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about,” and I said “No, it’s fine, I’m just going back to the marina, I’ve had enough for one day.” We’d only had been 200 meters, that’s as far as we got. So went back to the marina and the guy was really good, he followed us back in, and I thought, “I’m in trouble.” He pulled up at the wharf next to mine, he said, “hop in my boat and we’ll go and have a look at the channels,” so he was brilliant.

Cabin top construction in progress

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Great.

ANDREW RANDELL: So he was taking me through all the channels and yeah, great. After that I knew what I was doing then.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that helps a lot. I mean if you’ve sailed around the Gold Coast, or you’ve sailed on Morton Bay, it’s not a matter of if you run aground, doesn’t matter how many times you’ve run aground particularly if you’re racing and you push things to the limit. Because unbelievably, sand and mud seem to move and don’t always stay where they are supposed to be on the charts.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, I’ve heard that bout Morton Bay, scares me a bit.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s all pretty soft landing stuff, I don’t think you’d want to be doing 10 or 15 knots under spinnaker and run aground but other than that you sort of bounce your way to a standstill and no harms really done other than rubbing a bit of anti-foul off your keel. 

Okay, so if someone’s listening to this and certainly in the show notes we’re going to upload a whole lot of detail around photographic information that Andrew has, so you can see pictures in great detail but how would you describe the design of Jackie R in detail if you are going to describe the kind of yacht that she is.

ANDREW RANDELL: I think she looks beautiful. Sweet lines, very traditional. I haven’t changed any of the design at all, it’s built as per the plan and I’ve probably tried to strike a medium between easy to maintain and functionality. It’s very traditional, she has the wooden mast that was designed for her. All the fittings that dad bought. He was even still buying fittings before he died. The strange part about that I guess is that he labeled everything, probably knowing that I was going to finish it, so he put all these little labels on the things tied with strings saying, “This goes there and here and there,” and all that sort of thing.

Andrew and his daughter, Jaime sailing Jackie R on the Clarence River

Dad was a bit of a perfectionist in that sort of arena. All the original fittings were on it from the 50’s and 60’s. I had to make a few fittings, there was no detail on the plan as to how to make fittings for the mast, there was no cad drawings obviously in those days, so there was no detail. I guess the people that were expected to build these boats were yacht builders who knew what they were doing. So I to sort of work that all out but I’ve kept it as traditional as possible. 

It has very sleek lines, fairly narrow beam I guess, seeing that she’s a racer I suppose. I’ve left the interior showing all the ribs which gives it a bit of character. The interior’s comfortable as you probably see from some photos, I’ll give you to upload. Sparse but comfortable so you can sleep on it, there’s a toilet in it, and there’s a galley and an icebox. So it’s got all the basic things in it. I just think a very pretty yacht.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, what’s the length?

ANDREW RANDELL: 24 feet.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: The draft?

ANDREW RANDELL: Three foot six she draws.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s pretty modest, for shallow sailing, that’s helpful.

ANDREW RANDELL: She’s got about 1.8 tons of led in the bottom I think it is. I’d have to check on that but a beam of 7 foot 3.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and then overall weight, do you know what that is?

ANDREW RANDELL: I don’t, there’s no figures on the plans, to get the displacement figures here, I wouldn’t have a clue. I’d be guessing two and two and a half, three tons maybe.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: How high is your mast, do you know? What sort of rig have you got on?

Andrew and Jackie with their Dad

ANDREW RANDELL: It’s just a Bermuda rig, which was as per design, three quarter rig, so it’s got jack stays up the top of the mast. Mast heights 34 feet, it’s a fairly high mast ratio I suppose, but the three quarter rig brings some of that weight down a little bit. It’s got a large main sail on it, I don’t remember the square meterage of it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s all right.

ANDREW RANDELL: Traditional where the boom goes right over the helm position so it doesn’t finish short, so it’s a head breaker if you're not watching out. Yeah, just a very traditional nice little boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and what sort of sailing have you done so far?

ANDREW RANDELL: Just river sailing. I’ve only ever, as I said before, I’ve only ever hopped in a boat after it was launched.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s your first time sailing ever was seven years after you started the building project and then jumped in on day one.

The interior fit out of Jackie R progressing well

ANDREW RANDELL: Exactly and then the first sail was — I’m going to sort of digress a bit was when the rigger put the sails on her which was a couple of weeks after mum and I run aground. He said, “Oh, well let’s go for a sail,” and he’s a great bloke, he’s become a friend of mine and yeah, we took it out and run the motor and this is me never been in a sailing boat and never having hoisted a sail. We got outside the channel at the Clarence River and he said, “Cut the motor,” which I did and he said, “We’re sailing,” and I went, “ Wow. It’s great. No noise, it was just such an exhilarating feeling the first time.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Had you visualised that day all those years you spent working on the boat? Is it something that sort of tucked in the back of your mind?

ANDREW RANDELL: Not really, I didn’t know what to expect. I really didn’t know what to expect having never done it before. It was quite strange, I guess I approached it with a lot of in trepidation but felt really valiant I suppose that I was going to take off in this boat and do all these great things but yeah, my sailing is basically just river sailing. I sail up and down the river, that’s enough for me at this point in time.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: How wide is the Clarence River just to give people an idea because it’s not a small river is it?

ANDREW RANDELL: No, it’s actually a port, we do get big coastal freighters in there, there’s a tug boat in Yamba and as big as the ones in Sydney, basically some of those. I don’t know how wide it would be, it’s deep like in places that’s 30, 40, 50 foot deep and there’s a big channel that goes to the actual port where they unload the freighters. It is a big river and it goes all the way to Grafton, you can’t sail that far, not in a keel boat.

The cabin top construction stage commences

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And they have a big regatta on every Easter.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, very big yacht club there and awfully good people yet again and they do twilight racing once a week and I think every second weekend they do comp racing on a Sunday I think it is.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, what sort of fleets would they get down there what sort of sized fleets?

ANDREW RANDELL: I think they’d probably get 12 yachts out at a time but they probably draw on 25, 30 yachts, they have a lot of members but its who can make it on the day. Yeah, 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s good; it’s not dissimilar to the Gold Coast.

ANDREW RANDELL: Very strong sailing community, a lot of yachts there

Ocean Sailing Podcast: When your dad started the project originally, what sort of tools did he have to work with back then, sort of 50 odd years ago from now?

ANDREW RANDELL: He was very traditional, of course back in those days he wasn’t on a good wage as most people weren’t. He had all very nice tools, strong tools but nothing electric, the only electric tool, I think I ever saw him use was a very old metal cased drill, aged drill with a sanding disk on it. He had the loan of a band saw which I think eventually bought, then a friend of his used to bring in a belt sander and they are the only three tools I ever saw on the job, the rest was all hand planed, using adze to cut the keels and hand saws, everything was hand saw cut and even routing, he routed with the hand router and it’s a carvel planked boat and Monel nailed between the planks. 

The planks are only three quarter by three quarter on steam bent Tasmania Oak ribs and they’re all screwed and glued to the ribs and then nailed to each proceeding strip plank so it was quite solid and he used to screw all those screws into every rib. I think there’s 168 strip planks on each side, all that was hand screwed with brace and bit. Very traditional tools. 

Jackie R under construction prior to 1966

I take my hat off to him and the boat is just so symmetrical when I was building it like you, you fit off the rub rails and things like that. You measure where it’s going to go on the side of the boat for example and you can guarantee if you went to the other side, it wouldn’t be five millimetres extra or half an inch extra, it would be spot on so the overhang would be the same on both sides. It’s very well built.

I remember him lofting the boat from the plains in a local scout hall, I do remember that, I must have been so young but I just, well maybe I remember the lofting sheets that he still had. I remember them in the garage that he didn’t throw away. I remember all that, very traditional.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Did you have any other brothers or sisters?

ANDREW RANDELL: Apart from Jackie I’ve got another sister, Meredith who was born sometime after Jackie passed away in 1968. She’s six years younger than I am and she goes out sailing with me when she has the time.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. After 1966, did you still carry on going away on the same family holidays, or did lots of things change about life?

ANDREW RANDELL: Yes, that finished, all that finished because those holidays were connected with the ocean and the sea, we used to go down there and my grandfathers and myself and dad would go out on these little single cylinder putt-putt boats, go fishing for the day or whatever and the ladies would stay and do whatever they wanted to do and then we would come back in at night and clean all the fish and eat them. All that sort of finished, they didn’t want to take the risk, there was just no more water.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. That’s really sad especially when its something that carries through the decades following that tragedy.

ANDREW RANDELL: I took mum back to Sussex Inlet a couple of years before she passed away because she wanted to go back down there and revisit the site so that was a good thing to also do. I guess that was because I was down at her place working on the yacht all the time, I had to drive from the Gold Coast down to the Yamba to work on the boat. I’d do it every two weekends, every second weekend for a whole weekend, so we sort of got a bit closer.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: In that time.

ANDREW RANDELL: Then she said she’d liked to do that. So I said, “Yeah all right, let’s go.” That sort of completed another part of the story I suppose. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Did you think your dad suffered a whole lot more than your mum in terms of getting past, I know everyone suffers at the time, but in terms of being able to move on?

ANDREW RANDELL: Back then, men were stoic and there was no support systems for men back then, you didn’t go down to the pub and tell your mates or anything, you just kept it to yourself. For dad I think it was probably a bigger load to carry, mum did have support with all her girlfriend’s of the day. It was a big thing for dad and I think that was the major effect, he just didn’t know what to do.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s like a post-traumatic stress syndrome type situation.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, that went on for 40 odd years and he sort of had to carry that load.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s interesting reading your story about having conversations with him about kicking the project into gear and you saying, “I’ll bring my tools down,” and him saying, “That would be great,” and then he just found other reasons never to start again.

ANDREW RANDELL: I was Mr. Power tools and he was Mr. Traditional tools. So yeah, I’d pack all my electric rip saws and docking saws and routers and everything in. I’d say to him, “I’ll come down and help you,” and it’s be on and he’d say, “Yes, let’s do it, let’s do it.” And I’d get down there and he’d find any excuse not to do it, “Ah, beautiful day, let’s go fishing from the rocks,” or something like that. I never wanted to force the issue with him. No is no, and no will always be no with him.

The cabin top being attached to the hull on Jackie R

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Especially after all that time.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, which was a shame but yeah, he would have loved to have seen the boat in its current form. He would have loved to have been on it. I think I did him proud by how it’s turned out. It’s exactly the way he would have wanted it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It looks immaculate. I mean to be recognised by the Wooden Boat Association, given the criteria and given the high calibre of people that are lifelong craftsman and sailors that you’re competing with, it’s a huge acknowledgement.

ANDREW RANDELL: It was a big thing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Given the background, it really is.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, that was a huge thing because I’ve never really sought any acknowledgement from anything and to be nominated for that and then winning it, then I had three judges come up from Sydney to have a look at the boat and they were the ones that came up with the winning entry and yeah, took mum down and we received the prize in Sydney at the Wooden Boat Association meeting and yeah, it was really nice to get that and the little plaque that goes on the boat. It’s sort of yeah, it’s sort of says I’ve done a good job.

The Hal Harpur Award Plaque proudly displayed on Jackie R

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I guess it takes you from thinking, “I’ve done a great job with this,” to, “Wow, I really have done a great job with this,” in terms of when you get outside people validating the quality of your work.

ANDREW RANDELL: Well, that’s right because I’m no boat builder. For your peers to say, “Yeah, you have done it.” It’s a good reward.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You definitely did your dad proud…

ANDREW RANDELL: Oh thanks.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …too with that kind of acknowledgement. And to pick up any project and work away diligently for seven years and from where you live right here to where Yamba is, is a good two and a half hour drive, maybe more in a bit of a traffic.

ANDREW RANDELL: Back then there was no bypass.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So to do that every second week for years on end. That says a lot about your character and commitment to the project. 

ANDREW RANDELL: Having said that, there was one stage in particular where I was going to throw it in because I’d done a fair bit of work on the boat and I’d checked everything and I thought it was sound and then probably about 75 to 80% through the construction or the restoration of it, I found rot in the knee at the back of the boat. Of course it got to the point where I was working away from the front of the boat to the back of the boat inside and it was time to do all the engine beds and things like that and the plumbing for the exhaust and all that sort of thing. 

I was sanding it down, ready to paint the undercoats and the final coat for the engine bay and I was poking around with a screw driver and the screw driver went straight through the side of the boat, it was just rotten to the core and I thought, “This is now beyond me,” I thought. I went down to Sydney and saw this friend of my father’s that helped build the boat originally and spoke to him and he said, “Oh that’s all right, it happens all the time when these things get a bit of fresh water in them.” That’s what it was from, fresh water, because that was the lowest part of the boat. It found it’s way down there and just sat there, and we didn’t know. 

The cabin top and forward hatch taking shape

Ocean Sailing Podcast

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, it wasn’t too bad. It was the knee that was gone, which supports the transom and the keelson, so it was just basically a wedge of timber but it’s quite important to the whole integrity of the boat. So I started pulling the planks off from the outside because it had rotted through to the strip planking and the boat is constructed from solid, straight lengths of spruce. 

When dad was building the boat, he happened to be talking to someone at the hardware store and they said, “We’ve got all this,” — he was looking for boat building timber, “We’ve got all this spruce out there that someone was going to make an aeroplane with.” And he said, “He never came and picked it up so we want to get rid of it.” So it was worth a fortune but he got it for next to nothing and they were longer than the length of the boat, so the whole thing was planked without any butt joints or anything like that, only blocks end to end, which made it quite strong.

Anyway, this little bit that I had to do was probably about a foot from the keelson and probably a couple of feet long so it only went over two or three ribs. So I pulled all that apart, it was rotten both sides because it was down beside the knee, made a new knee, got some spotted gum which is what the keelson’s was made from. Used the old one as a bit of a template and the plan, I still have the plans of the yacht. 

I was able to reconstruct it. I built new ribs for it and then I got some spruce, which costs an absolute fortune these days. Re-planked it and scarfed all the joints in as they are supposed to be overlapped over several ribs, it’s as good as what it was but yeah, that was a bit of a back breaker that one. Because that was a mammoth task

The cockpit construction underway with cut outs for windows and lockers

Ocean Sailing Podcast: How far were you into the project time wise by the time you discovered that?

ANDREW RANDELL: I’d actually fibreglassed the boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh right.

ANDREW RANDELL: It’s glass sheathed, always was meant to be. I had fibreglassed the boat because it seemed solid from the outside. I’d fibreglassed the boat early on to protect it and didn’t know it was rotten. I had been around most of the boat and tapped everything and checked it out but for some reason, that bit — because it was down beside this knee, this block of timber, it was down in the valley that you wouldn’t normally go in to. Probably if you knew more about boats, that’s be probably the first place you go to.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Lucky you found that while it was still on land, not on the water.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah exactly, yeah exactly. I think the back of the boat would have fallen off but yeah so anyway, fixed all that and that was just the major thing and then the motor was another thing trying to get it going. I was a couple of days out from the launch and had the cranes all arranged to come and pick the boat up and truck it down to the marina and I thought, “I better try and start the motor,” and it wouldn’t start, I spent hours and hours and hours trying to get that motor to start. I’m now an expert on Kubota diesels because I found out they’d been sitting for so long that all the injectors in the pumps had frozen.

Cabin top complete at last

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right. That was originally in the boat, the motor.

ANDREW RANDELL: My dad had it, he bought it, it wasn’t the original motor, the original motor was a five horse power Stuart Turner petrol motor.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right. 

ANDREW RANDELL: Dad hated petrol, petrol and gas in a boat, he hated it, hence the galley’s got a metho stove in it and the motor’s diesel. So I remember going to a boat show in 1965 I think it was and in those days it was in the old Sydney show grounds near Randwick, Maroubra. I remember going to buy the motor and it was a Yanmar single cylinder motor and I don’t know what model it was but this motor just sat on a pallet, we had to go and pick it up several weeks later and I remember throughout my whole childhood time, this motor just used to sit in the garage on this original pallet from Japan.

It had never been started and dad sold that unfortunately and then bought a two cylinder Kubota marinised diesel, which is probably a better motor, it’s 15 horse power which is more than adequate for that sized boat but I believe some astute person bought this motor as a museum piece because it was brand new out of the factory, never operated, had all the original paint on it and it’s quite a good buy for somebody I’m sure. Yeah, getting the motor started was a big thing and when I finally fired and smoke went everywhere and I thought, “You beauty I’ve got you.”

The hardware being fitted to the cabin top

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, that’s good. In terms of how the boat was stored, how was it stored in the years before you started the project, where was it stored and how well was it looked after?

ANDREW RANDELL: Not looked after at all basically and when we moved from Sydney to Lismore in the late 70’s, it was stored in a shed that dad built, so it was a purposefully made corrugated iron shed, that was a good place for it, concrete slab on the floor so it was put on blocks there, in its cradle. Rats got into it and all the timber he had, dad collected timber like you wouldn’t believe. Unfortunately, so do I.

It was all just stacked up there in the shed and that’s where it stayed, that’s where I used to get in with my mates and play sails and that sort of thing. Would have been a perfect place to work on the boat, because they had power there and it was sheltered and it was just brilliant. Then when they moved down to Woombah, near Yamba, it was put under a sort of a make shift tent with a metal frame so it was like a canvas tent and the boat had a cover over it. Those cheap plastic covers you can buy.

Yeah, that’s when it started to go downhill, like that’s when water got into it, fresh water rot. The rot made its way through the decks between the cabin and the top of the deck and got down, that’s when it traveled down, would have flowed in there and then down to that keelson area, that I was telling you about before were rotted out.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Just sat there.

ANDREW RANDELL: Just sat there and stagnated and rotted out. I guess that was probably in the last couple of years before he passed away. Even though there was rot there, it wasn’t bad but in the interest of getting rid of the spores in the timber and fixing the whole thing, that’s when I decide to just rip the whole thing apart and just rebuild it. Luckily the cabin sides were okay because they were all mahogany.

All the important timbers that are the show pieces of the boat remain, it was just a deck and the beams which gets fibreglassed over anyway so it was no great way.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, okay. When did you first seriously considered taking in this project on and you thought, “I’m going to do this.”?

Andrews father in 2002 in front of Jackie R, 39 years after he started construction

ANDREW RANDELL: 30 years ago. I’ve always had my eye on it but never been game to say it to the old fella when he was alive but it was pretty much instantaneous because the first thing I thought of when dad passed away, was the boat. At Woombah where the boat was when he passed away, it was basically right outside the back of the house, so you couldn’t miss it. You saw it all the time.

I don’t know, I guess I just knew I had to do it. I just wanted to do it. There was probably no question about it and I suppose in the back of my head I knew mum would say, “I did want it,” at some point in time. It was only valued at $500 when he passed away. You’d probably be better off burning it really.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s hard to get someone else take on a project. Given the time and money to complete it.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, well you would have to be really keen, the amount of work that would have had to do. You couldn’t pay someone to do it and I couldn’t afford to pay someone to do it, so I had to do it myself. Like building a wooden boat is horrendously expensive in man hours. I’d hate to tally up how many man hours I spent. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I was going to ask you that next.

The anti-fouling paint goes on after the topsides have been finished

ANDREW RANDELL: Every two week for seven years and then occasional holidays thrown in plus all the planning. So I’d have to — of course I was working in Brisbane, I’d have to preplan what I had to do when I was down there the following second week and sometimes I would go down every weekend if there was something important going on that I had to be there to do it.

You have to preplan your materials so that you could drive down the Friday night, you wake up early in the morning on the Saturday, hit the ground running and get stuck into it. Because there was things like the resins curing time and all that sort of thing that I had to make sure that that was all done and completed before I went home to start work the next week.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You couldn’t leave something for a couple days and come back to it. I that to fit in that two day window every two weeks.

ANDREW RANDELL: The chemical bonding of the painting and rather than paint something and then sand it off and then re-paint and sand it off. I’d do it during the drying times of the paint. So that you got the chemical bond and not the mechanical bond. So there was all that to consider and getting stainless steel parts made in the background and all that sort of stuff.

So even though I’d go down there and work every second weekend, the weeks were taken up with preplanning or zipping away in my lunch hour to get something knocked up at the stainless steel shop or getting bolts and screws and researching all that and buying parts. Yeah, it basically took the whole time in some form or researching the next part of the project.

The painting and varnishing is underway on the cabin top

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hours would easily run into the thousands really.

ANDREW RANDELL: And we won’t talk about the money, okay?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. That was my next question.

ANDREW RANDELL: No, no, no. I can’t be doing that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, we won’t talk about that. But knowing how — I’ve done a little bit of upgrading, refitting and the hours and the money just runs away. The more you find, the more you find that you want to do next.

ANDREW RANDELL: I think my acumen with the boat is use it or lose it because I just get down there as much as I can, I’d be sailing every day if I could. My target is to go down every two weekends and every second weekend and sail, which I generally do but there’s been some poor weather, six months ago where I couldn’t get out for some reason, things happened but I’d still go down there and start the boat, at least run the motor, and just check all the seacocks and everything.

The boat, it’s got a full cover over it. The sail maker put a full cover over it. Of course there’s so much varnish, it’s not as much varnish as a traditional boat, it should have been varnished all the way down the cabin sides and the cockpit because it’s all mahogany but as much and all as I love timber and I love to see varnished timber, I sort of thought of the maintenance aspects, I’ve actually glassed that painted it the same colour as the boat.

I spent a lot of time agonising over that, but there’s still enough woodwork around the combing of the cockpit, around the cockpit hatch way and the rub rails and the toe rails, they’re all still varnished and the masts are varnished and the boom. So I’ve got enough woodwork there to make it look traditional without a huge amount of maintenance but the cover has just saved it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s gold isn’t it? ‘Cause this climate is really tough on varnish.

ANDREW RANDELL: Well the varnish has lasted, I just did a bit of touch up on the varnish in November last year, it’s lasted basically five years. The original varnish we put 10 coats on which I did when I redid it, I put 10 coats on. I’ve had the mast done once and re-varnished it 10 coats again. But it pays, it pays.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. That’s for sure, the time that goes into prepping and putting extra coats on while you’re doing it makes a lot of sense.

ANDREW RANDELL: Well, all through the construction, I use the best that I could possibly buy, the best paint, the best fittings. I suppose being a non-yachtie at the time, I thought to myself, “Well I’m going to put my trust in this craft when I’m out on the water. I don’t want a seacock to blowout, I don’t want this to happen or that to happen.” For my own safety and sleep, because the boat’s two and a half hours away from me now. I don’t want anything to go wrong with it and get a call from the marina saying, “Your boat’s sinking.”

The bilge after painting is complete

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, cause you can’t there in a hurry.

ANDREW RANDELL: No. So I’ve used the best quality materials.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. So in your 93-page summary of the project, that I read through, it really showed your passion for constructing a yacht and sort of staying true to the original design integrity, right down to the materials that you used and how easy was it to do that, given how much has changed with technology and boat building methods since Jackie R. was first designed in 1952?

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, it was no surprise in the fact that I guess I read a lot about traditional boat building. So I was sort of locked in that vintage of boat building because I had to be. The products available today like the wood hardening products, there was sort of none of that at all, back in those days was all copper naphthenate, red lead, white lead, which dad had used in places, which in some areas I’ve dug that out and used other materials.

The two pack paints are far more durable than the old paints and the glues, the resins. So I’ve used epoxy resin throughout the boat only for the sheeting and some joints to back the quality of the joint up with the traditional screws and bolts or whatever but the boat is basically traditionally built with just that touch of new products, originally she was supposed to be Dynel sheathed. I sort of researched that, the deck and the cabin sides where you’ve got a lot of sharp turns, where you can easily mould Dynel, that was really good in the rudder in places. 

So I’ve reinforced corners in that with Dynel but the basic fibreglassing was done with modern composites, epoxy resin and heavy grade woven mat. So I think yeah, doing it that way I think has been the best thing for the boat. I think it will last a fair while, the keel is not iron, it’s lead keel, lead that my father and I collected over the years. That was a big job, the lead keel. One I don’t want to do again.

The rudder under construction

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Did you pour that yourself?

ANDREW RANDELL: Yes, very difficult to do trying to keep over a ton of lead hot enough to pour that…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh and that’s a lot of weight to actually just manage.

ANDREW RANDELL: Well it was.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Into the right spot.

ANDREW RANDELL: To pour near the boat. Then using old Roman way of rolling things on logs and stuff like that, that’s how we sort of manoeuvred it around on winches and ropes and jockeyed it into position. I suppose the hardest part was to lift the boat up so that I could get the keel under it and drop it back down. But yeah, it took weeks to do that. It was just one of those big jobs that just inch by inch…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Did you manage to draw any sort of mates or friends or volunteers and supporters in along the way to help you here and there with some of the tougher jobs that required more than one person?

Clamping the tiller during the lamination process

ANDREW RANDELL: Not really, as soon as I mentioned the boat, everyone would disappear. There was a fellow next door who lives next to mum’s place that he helped me on a few things but basically, I just did it the smart way. There wasn’t too much I couldn’t do by myself with a block and tackle or whatever so I didn’t really have any help. 

The only trouble I had was actually towards the end when I was fitting it off like putting all the deck fittings in, the cleats, et cetera, you couldn’t be holding the screw head or the bolt on the deck while you’re trying to do it up from underneath. So the fellow next door had come over and helped me do that. So I know it was basically a self-effort, the only time that I nearly did something stupid was I was putting the belting around the side of the boat for the rub rail, that’s a fairly substantial bit of timber, it was laminated timber and trying to spring it around the side of the boat so it was all epoxied up and I’d predrilled all the holes.

I sort of got to the point around the bow where it was starting to come in rather sudden. I’m trying to get this timber to slowly screw it into the side of the boat and the damn thing let go and nearly sent me flying off the ladder, cause it just sprung back. I’m off the saw horse and I’m gone and that’s nothing too. I’ve never fallen off the boat while it’s been in the water but hell, I’ve fallen off the boat when it was up in the cradle a few times.

The laminated tiller is completed and ready for fitting to Jackie R

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I guess it’s quite high up too, especially once you’ve got a keel underneath them.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, that’s right. I have been sanding away and suddenly oops, there we go, off again. Yeah, I didn’t really get too much help.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Along the way, did your mum keep quite close tabs on progress, did it to become a growing interest for her?

ANDREW RANDELL: Oh yeah, it was fascination for her and another part of that story was the boat where I was building it was underneath a lot of trees, big gum trees and that was always a constant worry for me and I mean huge gum trees, just one branch is coming from one of those, would have just destroyed the boat.

I’ve actually got some photos of such an occasion, where we had a huge storm and every time I’d go there and there was a storm, of course that area is renowned for some pretty good storms. So in the summer I’d be standing on the veranda with mum and we’d be just watching each lightning strike, thinking, “Oh no. Please no.”

One day a big branch did come down and it just clipped the bow — no it clipped the tent that it was in and the tent fell down sort of on to the bow and just put a very slight mark in the toe rail or something, it was near the end of completion but it was hardly any damage. I think the old man must have been watching over me at that point in time because it was so close. 

If it had been another foot it would have possibly knocked it off the cradle. It fell from a fairly good height and there were just tree branches, there’s a photo of tree branches just all around the boat and there’s the boat just standing in the middle of it. That was quite amazing.

Jackie R narrowly missed serious damage after the storm passes through Yamba

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Somebody was watching over you. Those things weigh tons when they shear off and come down.

ANDREW RANDELL: Well mum was straight on the phone, “Quick, get down here, there’s been a storm and I think the boat’s been moved off the cradle.” So I was panicked and I’ve flown down there, the two and a half hour trip that seemed to take a lot less that day. But got down there, luckily the boat hadn’t moved. It was just the tent was all skew if, and we put it all back up and everything was fine.  So lucky escape for Jackie R. there. Very lucky.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: With your mum during that time, did you have any conversations about what might have been if you completed it earlier? Did it ever come up or something she…

ANDREW RANDELL: All the time, we used to sit out on the veranda because we don’t mind a wine each. So we’d sit out on the veranda with a bottle of red and some cheese or something and just look at the boat and discuss what was done that day and she would always come down, I’d be working away on the boat and she’d always come down and see how it was going with it, checking the progress, see if I was still alive or something probably.

I’d go back down there after dinner at night, she’d be down there with a torch at 10 o’clock at night saying, “You ever going to come to bed?” So yeah she was quite actively interested in it. I’d tell her “I’ll be down this weekend” and she’d say, “Oh, what are you doing this weekend?” Yeah, it involved her completely and I think in a way, when the boat was lying idle and it was just a bug bear in a way to her I think, because the boat had cost money to drag it from Sydney to Lismore, from Lismore down to where they were. I think mum sort of had a bit of a thing about that where she couldn’t understand why dad would want to keep it. So that became a bit of an issue.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: An issue between them as well?

Andrews Dad relocated Jackie R from Sydney to Lismore when the family moved north

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, I think so because when dad was alive, she’d say things like, “Why don’t you burn the thing?” Or something like that, or, “Get rid of it.” I guess because it symbolised Jackie as well. So there was all that going on in the background. When I started building the boat, she did a 180 on that. So then it became a passion for her as well and it was good for us because I used to live a long way from mum and dad so I never used to catch up with them very often. But again every couple of weekends was good for mum.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Great for her, at her age, to see her son every second week all of a sudden for years on end.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, so it was really good for her and then going sailing with her was great because then once she was launched and we went sailing and we’d come back home, bottle of red wine on the back veranda and talk about the sailing. So it was quite a good thing, a great togetherness there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Pretty special kind of last chapter for her really in her life.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah well that’s right, and I’m glad I finished it before she passed away so she had five or six years of still being involved in that and seeing dad’s project through, which I think was a bit of a, I don’t know whether a light bulb moment would be the right thing to say, but a turning on of yeah, it was a good thing to do and she’d often say, “Ah it’s a shame your father’s not here to see the finished product,” so as I say, she’s done that 180 and yeah.

Andrew preparing to take his mother Fae out sailing in Jackie R on the Clarence River

Ocean Sailing Podcast: For her to actively sail with you too as your main crew member.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, that’s right.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Up until she was what - 83?

ANDREW RANDELL: 83 yeah. 

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah up until then, probably 12 months before then but yeah, no worries she’d hop in the boat and she’d love it and it was easy I had someone to hold the rudder while I was hoisting the sails in the wind and that sort of thing, so it was quite handy and I’d just give her the tiller and she’d quite happily sail down the river and I’d just sit back and look at the world go past. Suited me. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Do you prefer sailing upwind or downwind or any preference?

ANDREW RANDELL: As long as the boat’s moving in a forward direction, that will do me. I like tacking, I like sailing upwind, I like the tacking. I like being busy on it so to do a good tack and to see you go through your 90 degrees or whatever and come out of that without losing too much boat speed, I’ve got an appreciation for that and I do like doing that, gets a bit monotonous sometimes like if you’ve got an easterly blowing on the Clarence River and you got to tack all the way home, it gets a bit monotonous. You could put hundreds of tacks to get home.

The finished cabin interior 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s a long slog.

ANDREW RANDELL: But yeah look, I’ll leave it as long as I can before I have to start the iron sail up. I hate doing that. So I’m determined that I’ll get home under sail if I can. Unless I run out of light.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: How much time do you typically spend out on the water on any one day?

ANDREW RANDELL: Oh it’s usually about four hours. I try to pick it as the tide’s sort of building. So I’ll go out on the incoming tide. Of course coming to the marina there, I don’t — I’d have to have another look at the chart. The depth sounder always goes off in low tide when I go through there. So I know the channel, there is a sand bank in the middle of the channel that is quite shallow.

So I’m always just a bit weary of that, plus that’s where I ran aground last time or not far from it. So I have a healthy respect for that part of the river. I generally go out as the tide’s building and come back in at the top of the tide towards the end of it, which presents a little bit of a problem because Yamba’s got a training wall you’ve got to go through and that is the main channel, just on the other side of the training wall as you’re coming from the marina.

The plushly fitted out interior of Jackie R is completed to a meticulous standard

To go through the gate, it’s not very wide and you’ve got to really approach it with a bit of a gusto otherwise — because as soon as you get past it, the tide will take you either port or starboard, depending if it’s going in or out. You got to be ready for it and then the same thing applies, probably worse when you’re coming back home if you’re on a run out tide or a run in tide or something like that. You’ve got to basically put your bow right into the tide and then flick it at the last minute to get through the hole because it’s not very big.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: If you can handle that, you can handle most marinas. That’s about as tough as it gets. I think I’ve berthed in a marina once on a river where you had to point your bow 45 degrees to crab your way through the channel with mud on either side because if you pointed straight, you just got swept down river and onto the mud bank.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, scary stuff.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s a bit unnerving, you’ve got to commit, you can’t half commit.

ANDREW RANDELL: That’s right, you got to commit, and sometimes I’ve been through the wall at 45 degrees just keeping the bow to that tidal line, ‘cause it’s very strong, very strong tide there. You’re dropping down into, probably going from 12 foot into the 25, 30 foot or something like that.

The cockpit finish is first class complete with windows and lockers

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah right.

ANDREW RANDELL: So it’s a fairly big drop away.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That is a big tide. Okay.

ANDREW RANDELL: Correct me if I’m wrong, any Yamba sailors out there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: What’s next for you Andrew? Do you have plans to get out of the river one day? You have plans to be cruising, any racing, any…

ANDREW RANDELL: Racing is definitely on the menu, I’d like to get involved in that very much so. I don’t know what the future holds where I will keep Jackie. I don’t know whether I can continue driving down there for the next 20 years or whatever. I don’t know about that. 

I do like the Clarence though for what it offers. I can be sailing when it’s fairly crappy outside which I like. Sailing outside, I really don’t know, I need probably help with that. It’s not off the menu but I don’t have enough confidence in my skills or the boat because I only started sailing five years ago and I’m 54 now.

So if I’d have mucked around with boats right from the start, I’d probably have that — not blasé approach, but I would certainly know my limitations and of other boat’s because I probably would have stepped from the boat, to boat, to boat.

The sun sets as Andrew takes Jackie R for a sail on the Clarence River

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

ANDREW RANDELL: I would have liked to have the opportunity as a kid sailing lasers and that sort of thing, I’ve even thought of even buying a laser so when I’m not down at the boat, I could at least muck around up here on the Gold Coast on a laser.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s a good idea. I mean out of Hollywell you can launch off the beach there quite nicely indeed, and store your boat there if you want.

Launch day for Jackie R

ANDREW RANDELL: Relationship wise, I think I would be killed but anyway. Yeah, I’ve often thought of that. So going outside is a bit daunting to me. I like it, I’ve been outside before but for me, in my boat, yes, I don’t know.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Crossing bars just for the benefit of people listening, crossing bars on the Australian East Coast, you’ve got some that are a lot nastier than others, you’ve got to time it all right and then they’re not suitable in all weather conditions. So there’s a little bit of a challenge getting in and out of, and over the bar there.

ANDREW RANDELL: I read a lot of yachting magazines, I subscribe to Cruising Helmsman, a few other good magazines. You read the hell stories there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well they don’t write stories about the people who make it, because that doesn’t sell covers, they write the horror stories.

Jackie R is carefully craned onto a waiting cradle on the back of a truck

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah well that’s the trouble, I’m reading all these stories and going, “Cross that off the list.” So it doesn’t really help me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: There’d be hundreds of movements a week in and out over the Gold Coast Seaway out over the bar there.

ANDREW RANDELL: Successful ones.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Successful yeah. Certainly good to give them the respect they deserve.

ANDREW RANDELL: Its things like that. You hear about the odd green one that comes over the side and stuff like that. I’d probably need someone that knows more about sailing than myself to assess the boat and say, “Yeah okay.” It’s things like reassurance, “Yes, your cockpit is good enough to drain, yes, your bilge pumps are good,” which they probably are but I need someone to say, “That’s it.” Before I trust the boat to go and do that or, “Your propulsion’s good enough,” and all that sort of thing. That’s the only limitations that are stopping me.

A very proud Andrew and his mother Fae watch as Jackie R is lowered into the water for the first time

Ocean Sailing Podcast: What sort of speed can you motor at?

ANDREW RANDELL: I tried under motor with the GPS on, I’ve got a chart-plotter and everything on board. Probably five to six knots.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, yeah so that’s pretty reasonable. So it’s always good to be able to motor sail out over bars or back in over the bars just for safety sake and getting through as fast as possible.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah. So yeah it gets along at a fairly good clip.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Well that’s great. I guess when you look back over the last 50 years but certainly over the last 15 years, what has this whole experience taught you about life I guess? It’s an interesting story.

ANDREW RANDELL: Hard question. That you can achieve anything if you want to. I’d have never really consciously thought that I would be finishing the boat 20 or 30 years ago. It was probably an idea but to do it, to actually get in there and do it, under some fairly adverse conditions with problems that cropped up and just the enormity of pulling the whole thing apart and with some sadness too that I was pulling apart dad’s work.

Jackie R is finally complete after 48 years

But I think that if you tackle something and you do enough research, I would think you can do it. So it’s probably a bit like, “Yeah I can probably sail outside,” I’ve just got to look at that and get the mindset right. I can do it, I know I can do it, it’s just a matter of doing it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And it sounds like the boat’s more than capable of doing it.

ANDREW RANDELL: Probably. It’s probably the owner that’s the problem. I mean that’s what she’s designed for, she’s designed to be smashing her way through the sea because that’s what she was designed for. The original prototype’s still going, that Len Randell made.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Do you know how many were built under the design?

ANDREW RANDELL: I don’t. And I’d love to see another one. There’s been one for sale in the Afloat Magazine, I noticed it last year or the year before. Quite a pretty little boat too. More traditional than mine. In the original design, they actually had slatted cockpits so all the water would go down and you’d have someone there with a bucket and they’d bail it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Jackie R's wooden mast in construction and finished with 10 coats of varnish

ANDREW RANDELL: The idea when they used to sail those, the whole race you’d have someone there bailing and that was it, that was your job, you just bailed. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s not all that fun.

ANDREW RANDELL: No. I don’t know how many are around, I’d love to know. I’d like to see and I think there’s rumours I read the other day, the JOG classes sort of, there’s a bit of a rumour that they might be starting it up again, which would be nice. I’m sure there’s a lot of old ones still out there. Even in the modern guys, there’s a fibreglass 24 or whatever the tonnage has to be to pass, I think it would be a great idea. That just adds another dimension to sailing. 

I’ve had a call from another fellow in Western Australia that is doing up another boat called Rani. So I’ve had a few email conversations and a few phone conversations with him and I’ve sent him over my plans, I’ve got the full set of plans. Apparently this fellow went and asked Len. I don’t think he had any of the plans left or didn’t have any copies of them. So I’ve got the original plans for the — it’s called a ‘rugged’, the class of boat, a rugged design. 

The meticulously constructed wooden mast and spreaders

So I sent him over the copies of those and he’s got a lot of work to do, he’s basically pulled that whole boat apart. Of course it was in need of a lot of rib replacements, a lot of cracked ribs because the original design was kauri planked, corked with roves on the ribs so dad for some reason, in discussion with Len and decided to carvel plank it and then fibreglass it, which Len seemed to think that was fine.

Bu it made it a bit lighter than the original because kauri’s a lot heavier than the spruce. Which just meant he had to have more weight inside the boat but we I’ve got more moveable weight in the boat now, I’ve got led ingots that I can move around the boat, depending on who is there, it’s very sensitive to weight.

Okay. Well that’s handy when you’re racing as well, if you can put the weight in on a heavy day and take it on a light day.

The masthead contains 21st century marine electronics 

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, I’ve got a couple of the ingots I’ve got left over that are made up from the keel lead, so they’re quite handy so I just got big handles on them and I can move them around. Yeah, it’s an amazing project, I’m glad I did it and I guess the recognition from the Wooden Boat Association plus fellow sailors that I’m just out on the water with. I was out on Saturday with my nephew and I’ve got a yell from another boat saying how pretty she looks and that’s just common place. I’m not blowing my own trumpet. It is a pretty design. I think dad picked a nice boat and I think Len designed a beautiful boat and it’s all in the Randell family.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s fantastic really and I think any yachtie admires a classic well built boat that just doesn’t date. It’s a timeless kind of look. And then, if you own a boat, you appreciate the upkeep involved when there’s varnish and timber and there’s a lot more to keep a boat looking great. 

ANDREW RANDELL: Maintenance wise, I think my idea of how I did it is working well. Like the maintenance is doable and all the products were good products like two pack paints and that. It sat out quite well.

Andrew playing on Jackie R in earlier years when his father was still working on her 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Keeping it covered is good.

ANDREW RANDELL: Yeah, that’s the main thing, keeping it covered. With the covers off it looks as good as the day it was launched. So she’s doing all right.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well it’s great. Well Andrew, it’s been really great talking to you today. It’s been really interesting reading your story and hearing your story. Talking to you has been really, really fascinating.

ANDREW RANDELL: Thanks.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: If I can give you any help with the bit of a test sail out over the bar on Jackie, or doing some offshore racing here, just with me…

ANDREW RANDELL: I’d love that.

Fellow sailing friend; John Green with Andrews father in earlier years

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …feel free to, because its just one step at a time, if you’ve got a boat that’s fit for purpose, which she sounds more than fit for purpose, then it’s just a bit of building up your skills and confidence and knowing where your limits are as well and…

ANDREW RANDELL: I think going out on other people’s boat too gives you that aspect of the other side of it and you can relax more and probably learn more because I find that when I’m sailing, I’m very attuned to where I’m going, how I’m doing it and all that sort of thing. Even though it’s a pleasurable experience, it’s great but you’ve got that worry about your boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You’re busy, you’re responsible, you’re navigating and.

ANDREW RANDELL: That’s it, yeah. When you’re and someone else’s boat, it’s not that you don’t care, it’s just that you have one less thing to worry about potentially.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. You can soak up whatever detail you want that’s interesting to you, cause you don’t have to look 360 degrees as well.

Jackie R safely under cover in her berth in the Yamba Marina in Northern NSW

ANDREW RANDELL: I have found that when I’ve been sailing in other boats that little bit of a worry factor is gone, so therefore you’re sort of taking it all in, you probably are enjoying it to a different degree. Yeah, that would be lovely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Great, well, we’ll wrap that up there and when publish this, we’ll make sure that in the show notes that we upload photographs and plans and everything else. So lots of detail in terms of checking the website when you hear this episode so you can really appreciate the beauty and all the thousands of hours of pain and passion that have gone into completing the Jackie R project and I’m sure our listeners will really love to be able to see that level of detail which will really put it into context for them.

ANDREW RANDELL: Thank you very much for the opportunity to tell the story.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You’re welcome.

ANDREW RANDELL: I’m glad someone’s taken me up on that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well it’s my pleasure and it’s going online so it will keep it somewhere forever.

ANDREW RANDELL: That’s good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s great. Thanks Andrew.

Andrew Randell sailing with his mother Fae in Jackie R on the Clarence River

Interviewer: David Hows



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