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US Built F-9RX Cruising The Pacific Reaches Darwin

December 18th, 2004

Curtis Nettleship's F-9RX KELLOWYN has now reached Darwin after a 27 day passage from Vanuatu. It was a pleasant sail for the most part; although in the last week, heading across the Gulf of Carpentaria, the consistent southeast trades began to lull and were filled by a daytime void and northerlies at night.

Curtis and crew Ben anchored in Frances Bay off the Dynah Beach Yacht Club in the river channel, where they were welcomed with friendly enthusiasm by the neighboring yachts whose owners quickly warned of the massive tides and the sudden vicious squalls that begin arriving that time of year.

Unfortunately one of these was soon to involve KELLOWYN, and Ben writes that when they say Darwin is the lightning capital of the world, he now believes this with no reservations. KELLOWYN was pitched up and down by six foot waves and subjected to 80 plus knot winds in the heat of the fury. Her quarter-inch welded chain bought in Mexico had then failed under the pressure of the pseudo-cyclonic activities, sending her into rocks.

There were fleeting thoughts of selling the boat, ending the circumnavigation, and going back to northern Idaho where they belong. But after some encouragement from the locals. "She'll be right mate" they knew they belonged on the tropical oceans of the world on a minutely less than perfect KELLOWYN.

After three weeks of solid work they had repaired nearly the full length of the starboard ama, both beams attaching it to the main hull, some major damage to the stern of the main hull, and a few other little projects. There was heaps of support and help from the locals who supplied them with sanders, lights, leads, masks, mixing trays, gloves, hoses, etc., and even a few cold beers. Their current plans are to now wait out the cyclone season, and then continue in late March or April on the circumnavigation.

Curtis had purchased the plans for his F-9RX in 2000, and started building KELLOWYN in Idaho with the stated intention of touring the world. He finished it in 2003, trailered to Seattle, and headed south. Curtis writes:

Just finished sailing your F-9RX from Seattle to LaPaz. It performed pretty much like I anticipated, which was a great relief. I had been plagued with a nagging feeling that I had done something fundamentally wrong during the building process like instead of mixing up epoxy resin I had mixed flour and water together and had unwittingly made a big pinyatta, or something. Must not have. I would have noticed for sure on that day we were punching into 30 knots with a full main. The waves were coming over so fast and furious that I think they knocked my beard off. Thanks for all your help. Best wishes to you. Curtis.

Curtis then headed across the Pacific, with the intention to circumnavigate, which is not really the intended use for an F-9, but it is nice to know that it is capable of some very long voyages, as Curtis is demonstrating.

Photo above shows KELLOWYN departing Port Vila for the day to take some local friends out for a sail.