The following stories were written by guests who have visited us aboard Shear Madness
John - March 2004
I recently had the pleasure and privilege of joining Shear Madness for a two week cruise from Tasmania to Queensland. Although I have had previous sailing experience, the 'cruising thing' was new to me and I was keen to experience it first hand. Bradley promised that there would be No tense race starts, no instant meals, no deadlines and, best of all, no washing machine experiences on the bow, no flying lessons up the mast, and no extended periods freezing 'the balls of a brass monkey' on the rail (and no that’s not a rude expression - see Bradley for a historically accurate explanation if you don’t believe me!).
So if none of the above sailing experiences were on the agenda, then what did we get up to for two weeks? We'll, in short, if you don't like great fair weather sailing, sun, swimming, diving, fishing, exploring, walking, excellent scenery, fine company and great culinary experiences then don't sail with Bradley and Kathy on Shear Madness as you will be forced to undergo a gruelling regime of all the above. A snapshot example - a day at Lady Baron Bay Flinders Island: Up early for a breakfast of fresh coffee and fruit, move the yacht to a new location, go for a walk/explore, go diving with a local and get presented with excessive quantities of Crayfish and Abalone, have a fine dinner aboard with your local host who, in addition to providing the seafood for dinner, provides excellent renditions of Aussy bush poetry for impromptu entertainment! All unplanned, unexpected, and truly entertaining. Can it really get any better?
Cruising onboard Shear Madness is a truly exceptional experience! While I must confess to taking some time to settle into the luxuries and hassle free lifestyle onboard, I did finally succumb to the cruising lifestyle - even if it was only for a too short holiday. From the light air cruising to the reaching blasts, Shear Madness is a fantastic sailing experience. And of course, the excellent adventures at all our stopovers meant that there was always plenty of adventure whilst ashore.
Thanks to Kathy, Bradley and Ron for a truly excellent holiday and cruising experience. I sincerely hope it will not be my last. You have redefined for me the ‘sailing’ experience.
Mike - January 2004
I met up with Kathy, Bradley, and Ron in Hobart on January 6, 2004 to spend some time with the Shear Madness Tasmania 2004 tour. We had a great time exploring parts of Hobart, South Bruny Island, and the Huon River valley.
Kathy and I were able to play a few rounds of golf and learned that it is possible to hitch a ride with a full set of golf clubs. The Tasmania Golf Club was my favorite - even if we did walk 18 holes starting less than an hour after I arrived from Colorado. To anyone who is worried about being able to sleep after a long flight and a huge time change, I recommend walking 18 holes of golf starting within an hour or two of landing at your destination – you will be guaranteed a sound nights sleep!
We were able to take several hikes on the trip. The Mt. Wellington hike was tough to beat. When we made it to the top of the Mt. Wellington, we were greeted by an impressive snow squall. The wind and the snow made it seem like the middle of winter – we were all happy there was a shelter at the top so we could warm up a little. Kathy and I spent some time at the Pontoon table in Hobart. It took us a few hours to figure out there are no 10s in the deck during a game of Pontoon, but we had fun and didn’t lose our money.
Tasmania was a great place to visit. The people we met were all extremely friendly, except that one lady who gave us the finger while we were hitchhiking – haha. The scenery was awesome. This was my second trip aboard Shear Madness and once again Kathy, Bradley, and Ron made it a horrible experience to have to endure - haha! Hopefully, I will be able to go through another painful Shear Madness adventure in the future.
Salvadore - December 2003
I had a very short and uneventful trip in Shear Madness, on the passage
from Mooloolaba to Sydney , nevertheless it was a very pleasant and
enjoyable time. The sailing was easy , too easy for me! I sail
an old timber classic yacht and on her everything is done the hard way, not
like on Shear Madness! The enjoyable part for me is to get to know
people in a very closed and unusual environment. You get to know people real
fast at sea , we are free of our usual props and defensive walls and there
is nowhere to go. Also at sea you get to see people doing what they love ,
no one will go sailing who does not like it , it is too hard and unforgiving
, so you see people at their best - , well , most of the time .
Neil & Shelley - January 2004
Going to Australia was a big treat for me, the day I boarded my flight from my home in Edmonton, Canada, I left behind temperatures of –40F. But significant improvement in the weather was only a small part of what made the vacation great.Never in my life have I slept on board a yacht before, nor have I ever really spent more than an hour or two on a sailing boat in my entire life. Those days I spent aboard Shear Madness were full of relaxation, new experiences, a few good laughs, great weather (although Neil was always cold!), wonderful food and hospitality, and great conversation. After only a few days aboard, I couldn’t even begin to pretend to understand the intricacies of sailing, what I took away was an appreciation for the complexity, science and art of sailing.
I have many memorable moments and will share my favorites. The first would be the night we went out to go and see the little penguins. Bradley, Neil and I went out in the dinghy Insanity towards the island where the little penguins were to be found. Unfortunately, the water was too shallow for the dinghy, and Bradley and Neil had to get into the freezing cold water and pull the dinghy in to where it could be anchored. I, who apparently didn’t listen to Bradley’s instructions very well, didn’t bring any shoes that could go into the water, so I got to stay in the dingy until I we were close enough that I could be carried ashore (and carried back to the dinghy -ed). A little embarrassing, but my feet stayed warm and dry! We waited until dark and sure enough, we saw the cutest little penguins waddling out of the ocean and walking up the beach to their nests.
The next memorable moment is one that will leave me feeling privileged forever. We were off hiking towards a settlement on Bruny Island and spotted something off in the distance. To my great delight, it was an adult white kangaroo! I was fortunate enough to have the zoom lens on my camera, and I was able to get a really great look at the white kangaroo as well as some good photos. I understand very few people have ever seen an adult white kangaroo in the wild. This sighting will be one of my top Australian experiences of all time.
Since meeting Bradley and Kathy during the 2000 America's Cup in Auckland; we had planned to meet up again in the not too distant future. Time and circumstance prevented that meeting until February this year although unfortunately, meeting up with Kathy is going to take a little longer.
Arriving in Hobart, with my lovely Canadian friend Shelley, we could spot the mast of "Shear Madness" from some distance away, standing proud in the Marina. On arrival at the dock, we found Bradley proudly standing around the BBQ. After the fond greetings and introductions to the legendary Mate Ron, we got down to the serious business of consuming large quantities of beer and judging how little we had both aged in the past four years. There was no need to ask the obvious question; "So, what have you been up too, Mate…", as the wonders of email had answered that question on an almost weekly basis.
Sailing got underway late the next morning and we were joined by my long lost cousin Malcom, for the first leg. It was his first introduction to a large, comfortable yacht and he was suitably impressed. My boating abilities were tested to the limit on departure when I was given control of the dinghy and not being able to start the motor I did the next best thing and paddled out to meet the rest of the Team on the yacht. Nobody told me that the key in my pocket was needed to start the outboard motor! I was consequently made to wear an Aussie Bushmans hat with outboard keys around the brim instead of corks to keep the flies away; not that there were many flies, it was too cold! (I don’t know where Ron & Bradley got all the outboard keys from; they must have robbed all the dinghys in the Marina in anticipation of either loosing a key on a regular basis or the arrival of an expat Aussie from New Zealand with very little cruising experience.)
Sailing down the Derwent River in calm conditions I was impressed by the performance of "Shear Madness" in light breezes. The big stick (mast-ed.) and fully battened mainsail helps, but the lightness and accuracy of the helm is a mark of design quality for such a heavy vessel. I can only wonder how the boat would perform with a 120% genoa instead of the yankee (a sail type, not Bradley-ed) and staysail currently fitted; but then you would need Team New Zealand to make it all happen. Why have the hassle when performance is more than adequate for a cruising yacht; and as we all know, "Gentleman (& Gentleladies) don’t go to Weather"!
It's not easy for a racing yachtsman to relax when aboard a yacht. The last thing a race crew needs is a relaxed crewmember. Conversely, the last thing a crew of a cruising yacht needs is a hyped up passenger, running around adjusting sail tension and plotting imaginary laylines and generally disturbing the tranquillity of the boat. It took me a day or so to realise that if I saw a sail that needed some adjustment, it didn't really matter if I left it alone or just casually slip the traveller (sail adjustment-ed) a fraction when I felt like getting up to get another beer. With Bradley's relaxed and masterful command of the good ship "Shear Madness", I had no choice but to kick back and enjoy the passing scenery. Such is the cruising lifestyle.
The days of sailing and motoring were a sheer delight with not a hint of madness. Ron's abilities in the galley are only matched by his abilities on deck. Shelley and I took far too much advantage of his constant attention to our needs. I think I only washed up the dishes once.My only disappointment for the trip was not getting the Spinnaker up. No matter what I said to convince Bradley that it would be alright; that I knew what I was doing and the chance of rolling the boat where minimal, he would not be moved. However, I have planned my revenge. The next time Bradley is in Auckland we will get him on the foredeck of a large race yacht and treat him to the odd Chinese jibe (a terrifying experience-ed) and a good dose of salt water down his oilskins. He's getting far too soft in his dotage.
There is a lot more to add to what was a superb trip, but space limits more verbiage. The delights of sailing in a warm, dry, quiet and comfortable yacht is too good to be true. Sailing is supposed to be hard, cold and miserable so you can feel really good when you step ashore. It would be very easy to get used to life aboard "Sheer Madness" and never go yacht racing again; and I don’t really care about the spinnaker!
It was good to see Bradley; to meet Ron and I look forward to seeing Kathy again, perhaps in Auckland where I can return some of the hospitality shown to Shelley and I. Thanks again guys; for the Vegemite; for the care and attention, and a great yachting experience. And Bradley; I wont give you my Yacht Club Burgee but I will recommend you for Membership, if you let me put the spinnaker up next time!
Neil Spencer & Shelley Bablitz