Part 2          CrusoeRCS  to TomCrusoe Sailing   

Welcome to Part Two of our group’s sailing history. This edition (Dec 2016) takes us through some dramatic changes in regards to where and how we sail.

Please read on and share these reminiscences with me if you were there, have a smile if you were not.



Coming up in the world.

No sooner had they filled Crusoe up than we got a few days of really heavy rain and in time the water was overflowing at the low area of the main walking track just before the jetty. For several days it was at least 30cm deep and swiftly flowing, cutting of any use of the track altogether..

Talk about Feast or Famine.


With the shoreline right up into the low vegetation we decided to move camp up onto the main bank and see how it went. Summer had started and we knew it was going to get hot up there after Christmas.


At the first park seat (number 1, there are 64 numbered seats around the track at Crusoe) we decided it was a as good a spot as any to try it out for a few days.

Well, a few years as it turned out.


With the reservoir filled  the water covered the largest area possible.

With all this new water came a lot of sediment and vegetation discoloration that hung about for at least 2 years.

Brian and bought Lasers that year and before long the white hulls were discoloured with red suspended matter. The sails never quite got over it.

It gave a whole new viewpoint as we were now looking down and across the water, not just across. As there were only 5 of us then, Brian, Noel, Charlie, Billy  and myself, organizing things was pretty easy, we just turned up on Wednesdays and stayed until well into the afternoon.
Because there were permanent markers already out there we did not have to lay our own, we had the two yellow that we still use but another that was out a fair bit further than the pontoon, which only came along a fair bit later. If you think the outer buoy is a bit hard to see you should tried this one, but it did make for two very long legs in the course.

  • Note the multicolor main on the Monsoon!

There was no “Lady” as we know our female voice starting system to be, but we did have a rather Asian sounding Miss on a simple hand held countdown timer , she was very emphatic with  Ten SECK—Ons!  But somewhere along the track in time we got our first “Lady” with the sound track we are all now familiar with. I’m not sure but I think Brian is into his 4th replacement player right now.

Although the waterline was only a meter or so down the rocks, it was pretty clear that this was not ideal for Senior footing and balance.  The ranger at the time, before Miles, was very supportive and around mid-2011 got the council to dump a tip truck load of screenings downhill over the rocks so the job of launching was a lot easier, but far from perfect. The aggregate was a bit on the small size and it was not hard to have your feet loose traction with the angle of the slope. As well the heavy rain, at times, tended to wash the fines down into the water. You could still see signs of this recently to the left of the beach. I used some of it winter 2016  to fill in around the stepping stones we use today coming off the stairs to the right. At some time, and I hazard a guess at a year or two later, Miles became responsible for Crusoe and kindly, at his own time and effort, scrounged up some old concrete kerbing and installed it to where it still is today.
The aggie slope is still exists, some must wonder why on earth it was ever put there. So now it was easy to place and retrieve your boat in the water over the edges of the lower steps (all those large retaining rocks came later in an effort to stop the steps being vandalised by yobbos.

I’m going to try and remember who came along next but those that did will know how many were there when they joined in. But I must add that Alan showed up one day early in the piece and has been a colourful regular ever since.

I recall saying to Brian that it would be good to keep the group to about a half dozen and so we resisted invitations to be in newspaper and TV events. While that may sound a bit “airy” there were offerings, mainly via the ranger who was keen to get more people using the park. And in fact there were very few of these compared to these days, Crusoe was still largely unknown to most people and only became more popular as the media publicised it.  While I thought six would be ideal, Brian was happy to see a lot more. And so in time he got his way. But the thing was, our 6 pretty much all turned up every week (one day though, not two) whereas today, as you know, our 20 or so casuals come and go so that 12 is considered to be a large turnout.

The Lasers were a complete break away from the Shunbos we all owned, some having more than one. As we didn’t want to have this seen as a breakaway from the style, and budget cost, of the boats in use we decided to sail them separately on a Monday. But we also knew this was a different boat altogether and one based on an International class, unmodified standard. We wanted to match race these together while we learned to sail them better. If anyone has tried sailing a Laser for the first time you will know what I’m on about.

Then we added a couple of Surmounts which were to be our then “little” boats. But the Phantom became the top owned model even until to this day although I expect one of the newer ones might soon overtake it. The Phantom has been the most modified boat of all we have, and sometimes quite extensively so.  It is somewhat the Holden/Ford of the combined fleet.

Around April 2011 the pontoon arrived and the yellow buoy in that area was moved way down to the pine forest end. We tried using the pontoon as a rounding mark but those with less than ideal eyesight soon became a victim to it and so something Had To Be Done.

And so we began setting an outer buoy by towing it behind one of the boats, the lead sinker being held in place, just, by Velcro and it required a perfected quick jerk to send it overboard and the marker thus set. This was fine except when the wind was up and before the boat. Tacking, with a large ball of foam half a metre or so behind, acting as a sort of sea anchor, made tacking a real effort of concentration and execution..
So, what next?  The motor boat enters the scene. We knew well enough that powered craft were off limits on Crusoe but we were advised that so long as we used it with nobody else in sight and stored out of sight afterwards we should be Ok. So Brian and I worked on a few ideas and the installation of a quick release trigger (spare channel on the Rx) made it all happen. I have no idea how many kms that little boat has worked for us but currently it would have to be 20 kms per year, at least, for the 2 weekly sailings. Not bad for a $45 toy.

In those days it was not unusual for one or the other of us to have to go “walkies” to retrieve a loss of control boat from the far shoreline. We tried using the motorboat to run a fishing line out and around the drifter and back to shore, which sometimes worked Ok if we were quick enough and the breeze not too powerful. But more often than not it meant a 2 km, a least, return walk, something I can recall on a hot summer day, and me in gumboots, a real day spoiler.
So I started thinking about something more effective. A number of ideas were tried and rejected but eventually I came across a video on YouTube that headed me in the right direction by using a rc Laser hull.. In time (took 2 years of fiddling) I got the Laser recovery boat to do a great job. Today it is used more often as a mobile video platform.


Charlie got right into the spirit of the game in 2012 with his amazing Chuck Wagon”. This carried everything including a gas BBQ.




It seems I do not have a single photo from 2013. I have thousands over the 7 years but not that year. But I think it was a year of not a great deal of change. We were sailing two days a week but usually less than 6 of us as I think we had only 8 in the group at that time. Possibly the only change was that Brian was fast becoming the group champ as he pretty well still is today. I recall Graeme joined our ranks early that year.

It was in 2014 that I bought my current Canon camera and that’s when photo production went through the roof.  There’s been over 8000 since then (thank heavens we are still not on prints).
 That was the same year (about October) that the Vikings Landed!
Well, maybe not Eric the Red and his mob but at least a half dozen of Bendigo Yacht Club present or past members. They’ll know who they are. I thought to myself “Ah, they won’t stick to this after sailing Trailer Sailers for years” but I was dead wrong, and happy because of it. It was amusing to hear things like “How come I can’t tack the damn thing when I’ve been sailing Trailer Sailers for umpteen years” and so on. Due mainly for not being onboard the boat itself.
I know that because I had been one too, but on much smaller craft such as Dinghies and Cats. You can no longer depend on the tactile feedback from the boat itself, first you have to be able to SEE the jolly thing. If you are laughing at this you are also much younger. If you fly model planes, and several of us have and some still are (I did but stopped when I bought a boat to “try out”, it’s pretty much the same thing but the water instead of the sky.
They also boosted the number of Phantoms with nearly each of them getting one.
I think you’ll find they’ll all say it was a timely transition and a whole new lifestyle the likes which you’d be hard put to find anywhere. It also sets the week’s calendar for many of us. Since then our numbers have come and gone to around 20 with some leaving us for other pursuits, or out of the area altogether.

I also had a small HD video camera and at least one of the Mobius small video cams I use on the boat.  In 2015 I added another one of those to my bag and updated the Kogan HD video to a Panasonic with a lot of bells and whistles. Since then my multimedia backups have now exceeded 100 Gb.

Around this time the Dragon 65 made its appearance and pretty well blitzed the sales of RC sailboats globally, OZ selling thousands. This small but powerful racer was quickly adopted by most of us and it still features highly on many days, especially those dedicated to it. Some are now changing hands and being given the Phoenix treatment and coming alive in great new finishes and sail designs.












Then in October 2015 I was offered the very first DF95 (south of the equator) prototype to test sail and promote. Having enjoyed the 65 so much, and the Explorer, I took to this with everything I could.

 I produced video on YouTube that were first of their content anywhere in the world. The most popular has passed 7000 viewings. Right from the start I was smitten and those around me who could see what I found so exciting, agreed that it was going to be a game changer for the Shunbos. And that’s where it is today. Still, all our boats are favourites to ourselves in one way or the other, a bit like kids.




That same time there was a sudden influx of Budgies from Gippsland, they were letting go of them and selling them onto the northern tribe who were keen for larger, lighter and speedy models.
With over 90 boats between us at October 2016 one might wonder where it will all end. Well, it won’t, not while we are still around, hey?

As summer 2016 came along the water level in Crusoe continued to drop alarmingly, and it was predicted that water weed would likely become a problem. I wish I had been wrong but by late Feb sailing was not feasible with the weed beds all along our bank. Worse still was the windblown drifting weed and very soon it was time to do something.
One Monday morning right on 10 am (I remember such things but hardly anything else at home, I told) it was decided to go have a try on Lake Tom Thumb at Eaglehawk, Lake Neangar being low in level and unsuitable. We didn’t really know what to expect but off went the 10 of us, boats and all. And there we sailed exclusively until Crusoe came good with cold conditions finishing off the weed around late April. At that time it was suggested that we sail Crusoe on Mondays and Tom Thumb on Wednesdays. Which we did until high runoff from unseasonal spring rain in September filled Neangar (as well as topping up Crusoe a great deal). It was an easy decision to change Tom Thumb for Neangar as the latter has proven to have the best conditions and accommodation as well as being a fully service park area with all mod cons.

We are hopeful that it will stay that way through summer but if it isn’t kept topped up we will go back to Tom Thumb, which just over the road and down  the track a bit.

Just recently (Oct 2016) we heard that Crusoe is to be maintained at the same 60% level then. This was hopefully to keep it open for sailing all year round.

But then late November the news came out that the Council had decided to fill it and keep it that way. Not because of us, of course, but to continue to benefit the city with Triathlon events, at least twice a year.

And so they have.

Thus, within seven years we have gone from one excellent venue to two, and of late, three. It seems that we are truly blessed in this respect.

So, with 2016 winding up one wonders what fun and games will keep us occupied in 2017.

I trust this edition has been informative and interesting to recent skippers and a bit nostalgic for those of us who have been a part of it.

Hopefully this should become an annual feature around Christmas so long as we are still at it, and how could we not be?

I’d like to dedicate this edition to Brian, a selfless bloke if ever there was one, a real gentleman and a highly successful skipper. Oh, yes, and a great mate to us all.









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