Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Cyclone Preparation

Hi everyone,
Darwin is under cyclone watch this evening - the first of this cyclone season.  Interesting thing is there isn't a cyclone yet!  There is a high probability one will form nearby in the next day or two.  The BoM's current 4-day chart series shows a cyclone forming more or less over Darwin on Friday night.  Happily Zen Again is well prepared, in part because we're already booked to fly to Perth tomorrow!

Cyclone preparations include removing awnings, doubling up mooring lines, clearing the decks generally and lashing down anything which won't fit below etc.  The photos below show most boats in the marina are now "stripped for action"...

We have left lashing down the dodger and stowing the air conditioner until tomorrow morning.  Otherwise she's ready.

Irish Melody and The Doctor
Zen Again
And here's a picture of sunset earlier this week...

Tipperary Waters Sunset
Here's hoping the cyclone heads west.

Happy Christmas!

Friday, 2 December 2011

New Batteries and more

Hello everyone,
Another month.  Another set of jobs completed.  Since the preceding blog we have:-
  • Fitted four Harken 1968 locking double foot blocks in the cockpit (to handle four lines per side - jib sheet, staysail sheet, reaching sheet and boom brake).
  • Neil (the shipwright) installed a large shelf and sliding doors in the old pilot berth on the starboard side of the cabin.
  • Removed old batteries and their mounting boxes, creating a large stowage space under the quarter berth.
  • Rebuilt the "larder" (saloon table/locker unit) to house new batteries, prompting a name change to "the power station"
  • Installed and connected four new Lifeline 105Ah AGM batteries, giving us 315Ah of house battery capacity.  This included all-new wiring to the engine and the instrument panel.
  • Fitted BEP Battery Isolation Switches and Voltage Sensitive Relay.  The latter automatically charges the start battery from the engine before switching to charge the house bank.
  • Fitted a Xantrex TrueCharge2 40Amp battery charger for use when in marinas (like now!)
  • Our new staysail / storm jib is now enroute to us from UK Halsey in Fremantle.
  • All new mooring lines installed on-deck gear stowed - cyclone preparation.
Here are a few pictures....

New sliding doors on starboard side in saloon
New batteries and isolation switches
New Lifeline AGM batteries
It's now hot and humid in Darwin.  Thank goodness for air-conditioning!  Last night we had a violent thunderstorm appear overhead.  I woke up about 0.5m above the bunk.

Still plenty to do on the job list, but most of the expensive interior and on-deck work is now done.

Hope all's well where you are!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Headliner installed

Hello everyone,
A few more jobs ticked off the list over the last few weeks.  The most obvious is a nice new headliner in the cabin.  The old headliner was the original fitted in 1986, and had seen more than its fair share of tobacco smoke.  The new one is made from Laminex AquaPanel and was fitted by Neil the local shipwright.

New headliner (looking aft)
New headliner (looking forward)
The cabin is much lighter with this addition, and with the lights on it's dazzling.  Just as well we went for the white "glaze" rather than "gloss"!  Another difference is the "bling".  Previously the fasteners were buried behind teak plugs, which was pretty but made the deckhead unreachable.  We've used s/s screws in saddle washers which are easy to remove and add a little "bling".  ;)

Other jobs completed recently include:
  • Fitted new Plastimo Contest 101 compass (20 year old unit was 1/5 full of air)
  • Replaced galley sink faucets
  • Stripped discoloured foam-backed nylon liner in quarterberth (will fair and paint)
  • Fitted coachroof U-bolts for use as jackstay anchor points
  • Fitted deadeyes on foredeck for jib furler and MPS downhaul lines
  • Removed spinnaker pole mounting brackets (we've decided to ditch the pole)
Items still on the to-do list include:
  • Fit locking foot blocks in cockpit
  • Fit new Lifeline AGM deep-cycle batteries and associated switches/sensors
  • Replace broken galley sea-water footpump
  • Order new storm jib to fit on inner forestay furler
The weather in Darwin has turned wet over the last week.  We've had two good downpours and a few showers - all from thunderstorms.  They certainly cool things down.  The marina basin now seems to contain more fresh water than salt water since the local run-off passes through the basin en-route to the sea.

Hope all's well where you are!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Three Months in Darwin

We've now been in Darwin for three months.  Time flies!  We've been here so long we've had to get Northern Territory driver licences.

One decision we've made recently is to join the SE Asia cruising events next year.  These depart Darwin in July and we plan to go through Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, arriving in December 2012.  After that we'll resume Plan A (South Africa).

Under canvas
We are both working so the cruising kitty is doing well.  Or should I say the to-do list is being attended to!  Since our last blog we have:
  • Fitted an all-chain anchor rode
  • Fitted a boom tent and foredeck awning from The Canopy Man
  • Removed the old cabin headliner, found replacement material (Laminex Aquapanel) and sanded, epoxied and varnished the teak battens which mount the headliner
  • Fitted new Spinlock deck organisers, Spinlock clutches and Andersen winches
  • Fitted permanent inner forestay with ProFurl furler
Fitting the new deck gear followed removal of the headliner.  With the headliner down all the bolts were easily accessible so the time was right.  It took quite a while to clean and fill all the old bolt holes with epoxy since the end-grain balsa core in the coachroof soaked it up as fast as we could add it! We only discovered the coachroof was a sandwich construction when the headliner was removed.  Should be light and strong.  While we were at it we decided to replace the cockpit winches and turning blocks.  Just as well since several of the bolts securing the turning blocks were rusted through.
Deckhead exposed
New Andersen halyard winch
New Andersen sheet winch
By the way, we sold the old winches on eBay and recovered 1/3 the cost of the new winches.  The old winches were in very good order but the self-tailer wouldn't grip the (smaller) modern ropes we use and servicing required complete removal of the winch from the deck.
Still plenty to do!

The best investment we've made since arriving is the purchase of a $50 second-hand air-conditioner.  Life was much more comfortable after we got that running.  With the "build up" to the wet season well underway the aircon will keep us cool and help keep the boat free of mould.

Another investment which is working out well is the Coppershield anti foul (known as Coppercoat outside Australia) we applied in Sydney early this year.  We're getting very little fouling in the marina, and since Coppershield is non-ablating we can go for a swim and simply wipe off any minor growth.

It's been fun meeting other Western Australian yachts here.  Mike and Jan from Fully Involved passed through recently, having sailed their lovely yacht from the US this season.  Dan and Elise from Babar are also here.  Both are from Hillarys Yacht Club.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Staying in Darwin for the Wet Season

Hi everyone,
We've had a busy three weeks since arriving here in Darwin.  Lots of work done on the boat, and plenty more still to do.  We've settled in at Tipperary Waters Marina and met many of the sailors here.

After reviewing the state of the cruising kitty we've decided to stay in Darwin until next year.  It looks like we'll not have trouble getting work and I have secured some initial consulting work.  Staying here will allow us to better prepare the boat for ocean sailing.

Jobs done here so far include:
  • Installed a new (but same Garmin GPSmap 451 model) GPS chartplotter, giving us a 5 minute swap-out with the old
  • Purchased two 32W flexible solar panels from SolarTechPlus.
  • Replaced bolted-in brackets for the "larder"/"pedestal"/saloon table with glassed-in brackets
  • Had a removable wooden chopping board / work surface sink cover fitted
  • Had a wooden cover / work surface fridge cover fitted
  • Had a removable wooden insert fitted to convert the forward V berth into a double
  • Had cushions made for the above insert and also two cockpit seat cushions
  • Had the mainsail, No 3 jib, storm jib and trisail checked and made good by Nautical Supplies
  • Replaced all rope bags (the old ones were _very_ old)
  • Purchased courtesy flags for Mauritius, France and South Africa from National Flags
  • Fitted retaining lines to washboards
  • Fitted storm-retainers to several lockers 
  • Purchased canvas cockpit dodgers and companionway cover from The Canopy Man
  • Sanded back and epoxied the original (and current spare) tiller
  • Had a wooden emergency forward hatch cover fabricated
  • Purchased a spare electric macerator assembly for the head
  • Lodged our fy1011 tax returns!
However by far the biggest job we've done was inspecting the "egg crate" on which the mast support column sits.  For non sailors, this vertical stainless steel column fits between the deck and the hull, transmitting the load from the mast to the hull.  We wanted to inspect the area under this column since there was evidence of some water getting into the cabin around the bottom of the column.

Mast compression post removed to expose base plate
Base plate removed to expose forward "egg crate"
My parents visited us and helped with the inspection.  We had to move the foot of the mast a few inches aft to gain access to bolts securing both the step and the top of the column.  That was fun!  Then we had to jack up the deck enough to take the weight of the mast so we could get the column out.  With the column out we could then remove the base plate, give it and the fibreglass "crate" a good clean up, and then seal and refit them.  There's more work to be done there in due course, but the work helped prove the boat is structurally sound (as the shipwrights in Mooloolaba confirmed).

Work still on our to-do list, and all subject to cruising kitty constraints, includes:
  • All-chain anchor rode 
  • Boom tent and foredeck awning 
  • Replace winches 
  • Replace cabin headliner 
  • Permanent inner forestay with furler and new storm jib 
  • No 2 headsail 
  • Trisail track 
  • Towed generator 
  • Replace cabin windows 
  • Sea anchor 
  • Manual watermaker 
  • Retainers for remaining cabin lockers
Sunset over Cullen Bay from Darwin Sailing Club
Oh yes, HMB Endeavour caught up with us a couple of weeks ago...

Monday, 25 July 2011


Hi everyone,
We arrived in Fannie Bay anchorage at 2100 last night after a 5 day 10 hour passage at an average of 6.3 knots.  We logged 824nm through the water but only 756nm over the ground, so we had a lot of current against us - 68nm worth!

Zen Again Track
We're now in Tipperary Waters Marina and spent today cleaning up the boat.  It's amazing how much salt attaches itself to the boat.  Lots of international boats here, many of which are heading towards South Africa in a month or two.

In the lock at Tipperary Waters
Our cruise so far has logged 2896nm, we've had the engine on for 99 hours, and been at sea for part or all of 36 days during the three months since we departed Batemans Bay.  The boat has performed really well.

Darwin is a major decision point for us.  Originally we thought we'd either head overseas (Cocos Island, Mauritius, Reunion and South Africa this year), or head coastwise to Perth.  We now have a third alternative which is to stay in Darwin until next year, topping up the cruising kitty here before heading overseas.  One thing is sure - we'll be here for at least three weeks and don't need to make a decision for a couple of weeks.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Enroute to Darwin

The last day has been very pleasant sailing. Yesterday afternoon we changed from the No 3 (small) to the No 1 (big) headsail on the furler. Quite fun changing the sail at sea in a 2m seaway but we got it done. We could then drop the main and sail under the big headsail alone. This is our "trade winds" sailing configuration and we wanted to try it out for real. The sail sets very well when furled down to a No 2 size and we were still doing 7 knots in a 20 knot breeze. We can also run dead downwind without fear of gybing.

Tradewinds Rig
We've now done nearly 700nm on this passage. The long passage has encouraged us to start thinking about the sailing as an "end" rather then it being a "means" to get somewhere in a day or three. For ocean passages we need to enjoy the passage, not just the destination! We're doing a lot more reading and listening to audio books, and making the daytime watch system less strict (although one of us is always "it").

Just another sunset
Yesterday and today the CoastWatch aircraft buzzed us - that's four days in a row. We had a mostly clear night and are continuing to improve our knowledge of the stars. Handy if we ever need to get out the sextant. Saw a satellite and several shooting stars too.

Earlier today we saw a sea snake in the water, and we've seen several turtles during the passage. Right now we're moving into shallower water as we approach the Coburg Peninsula. That's reducing the waves and giving us a much more comfortable ride.

Tonight the winds have gone very light as we approach the land. We're ghosting along at 3.5 knots with full main and No 1.

On arrival in Darwin sometime Sunday night or Monday we expect to initially anchor off the sailing club. We'll move into Tipperary Waters Marina a day or two later.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Bypassed Wessel Islands

We are still underway today after bypassing the Wessel Islands. It was blowing 30 knots from the south, and a very dark night when we sailed past Cape Wessel under storm jib and double-reefed main. It's a shame because we really enjoyed the islands last time, but we didn't fancy beating south to the anchorage after rounding the cape, nor entering the anchorage on such a dark & stormy night. I suspect there are no boats there due to the sustained poor weather in FNQ for the last few weeks.

Storm Jib and Double-Reefed Main
The previous night was a different matter altogether. A nice sailing breeze and clear skies. We practiced our star/constellation recognition until the moon came up at about 11pm. During yesterday the wind and seas gradually deteriorated.

Unsure exactly where we'll stop before Darwin, but probably around the Port Essington area. Or we may simply press on the Darwin. Today we have a nice 15-20 knot SE wind but it remains overcast.

Hope all's well where you are.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

In the Gulf

Hi everyone,
We're now over halfway to the Wessel Islands and are having a very pleasant sail. The wind has gradually decreased from 25 knots to 15 knots and we're currently sailing along under single-reefed main and full No 3 at 6 knots. Best of all the cloud gradually cleared overnight and this morning, leaving a clear sky this afternoon. The water temperature is 27C according to our instruments. Definitely in the tropics now!

Chasing the sunset!
Early this afternoon we were "buzzed" by a CoastWatch aircraft. They came up from directly astern while I was standing in the companionway, so I saw them coming. Gave 'em a wave. They whizzed past at 200ft or so and about the same distance to leeward. Zoomed up and away dramatically, then called up on the VHF a few minutes later. Asked far fewer questions than they used to.

We started the engine to charge batteries later this afternoon and found there was no water flowing. Had to tighten the water pump belt. My first engine "repair" at sea for a while.

Hope all's well where you are.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Enroute to Wessel Islands

Hi everyone,
We departed Mt Adolphus Island this morning and have just entered the Gulf of Carpentaria. The sail across the top of Cape York and past Possession Island was fast, with a 25 knot SSE wind. Passing Possession Island we had 3-4 knots of tide with us and were doing 10 knots over the ground. Sadly no yachts anchored at Possession Island. Where is everyone? ;)

Possession Island ahead
Captain Cook memorial on Possession Island
We then had a close reach down Endeavour Strait before crossing the shallows at the western end into the Gulf. The wind was quite variable in the Strait but appears to be settling down at about 20 knots from the SE in the Gulf. We're sailing along very comfortably under double-reefed main and partly furled No 3.

We're 45nm into a 350nm passage to Two Island Bay in the Wessel Islands. Should take about 3 days and take us to a different state. In addition to political boundaries perhaps it will be a state with a little sunshine! Time will tell...

Hope all's well where you are.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Mount Adolphus Island

We're now at anchor 7nm ENE of Cape York, in Blackwood Bay at Mount Adolphus Island. We covered the 150nm track in under 24 hours, logging 164nm. Average speed 6.8 knots and maximum 10.0 knots. That's probably our best 24 hour run so far. It was certainly a blast. The anchorage here isn't perfect, but I don't think there is a perfect anchorage in the Cape York area when its blowing 30, gusting 35.

We departed Lockhart River late-morning yesterday, beam reaching out of the bay at 7-8 knots. We spoke with another yacht which was entering the bay and they said we looked like we were doing 30 knots! Once out of the bay we could bear away to bring the wind behind us which was much more comfortable. The wind was 25-30, gusting more. It stayed that way for most of the passage, decreasing to 20-25 for a few hours during the night.

Thankfully the only fishing boats we saw were at anchor. A number of cargo vessels passed, the bigger ones travelling at up to 18 knots. Happily they all appeared on AIS well before we could see them, allowing us to get into a position where passing would be easy for both of us. At one stage three ships were in sight and we were all talking to each-other on the VHF.

Although it was a great sail the weather was miserable. 100% low-level overcast all the way with limited visibility, frequent showers of drizzle and occasional light rain. It's a shame we didn't see so much of the coast we sailed past since it was "in the murk".

Anchored in Blackwood Bay at Adolphus Island
We'll remain here for a couple of nights before heading through Endeavour Strait and into the Gulf, where winds are predicted to be lighter. We'll be heading towards the Wessel Islands - one of our favourite places from our previous sail around the country.

Finally, this passage marks our passing the place where the boat had her encounter with a rock near Turtle Head Island on 9th August 2000. The rock is still not charted, but I believe it is that shown by Lucas in his plan of Escape River. The accident led to the boat staying in Australia and her owner Zen returning to Japan. Zen did an amazing job (while sailing single-handed) to keep the boat afloat and sail her to Thursday Island where she was lifted out of the water and shipped to Cairns for repairs.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Lockhart River

We arrived at Lockhart River at 1600 today after a 33hour, 207nm passage from Lizard Island. Our average speed was 6.2knots and maximum 9.8knots. It was a great sail, starting with 25knot SE winds which lightened off when we entered Princess Charlotte Bay yesterday evening, and then built overnight and today. Yesterday was partly cloudy but today was entirely overcast with occasional drizzle. Summer in Tassie is better than this!

The sail across Princess Charlotte Bay was fun. Flat water, gentle breeze and lots of coral islands and islets to miss. Most were lit but some not. Happily we had a moon for most of the night which helped confirm our position.

Arrival at Lockhart River seemed to take forever since one has to travel about 8nm from Cape Direction. We are anchored just outside the river mouth since the entrance is barred. Happily it is a good anchorage. Unhappily Lockhart River proved once again to be a place (for us anyway) where gear breaks. The anchor windlass didn't want to play so we had to disassemble it and manually pay out the chain. We'll take a look at that tomorrow.

Anchored at the mouth of the Lockhart Rive
We'll be here for a couple of nights taking it easy. Next stop probably Possession Island.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Enroute towards Lockhart River

We departed Lizard Island this morning at 0700 and have had a fantastic sail so far. Moderate to strong SE winds and we've been broad reaching all day, doing 7 to 8 knots. After rounding Cape Melville we sailed into flat water and that gave us absolutely "champagne sailing". The breeze is dying a little at the moment - we're only doing 6 knots! By the way, Cape Melville is very spectacular - a huge pile of huge boulders.

Cape Melville
We encountered only two trawlers today, but expect many more to come out to play tonight. We saw two warships today too - A01 and A02 to those who care to look up their names. Also spoke to two of the cargo ships which passed to arrange "who's going where". Great to have their name, course and speed from AIS so calling is easy.

We had a great time at Lizard Island despite the strong winds throughout our stay. Yesterday we spent most of the morning on the beach and snorkeling over the reef just 50m off the beach. Amazing fish, clams and coral. Earlier in the day we spectated as flocks of birds and big fish enjoyed a feeding frenzy on tiny fish around our boat. Got some good video. In the afternoon we went up the hill to where mobile coverage allowed us to order a couple of bits for delivery to Darwin.

Just missed a dolphin!
It's a shame to be bypassing Flinders Island. We had hoped to stop there but decided to push on to Lockhart River, which then puts us in striking distance of Cape York. The boat's going great and we're having a ball.

Hope all's well where you are.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Lizard Island continued

The strong winds continue to blow through the Watsons Bay anchorage, with gusts to 30 knots or more. Regardless, we're having a great time here at Lizard Island.

Yesterday morning we woke to find the bark Endeavour anchored nearby. She is sailing around Australia, heading north as we are. She only stayed for the day but it was great to see her here, and to get photos of Zen Again and Endeavour in the same anchorage. Endeavour was built in Fremantle in the 90s and is of course a replica of James Cook's famous ship which discovered, charted and claimed for Britain most of the east coast of Australia.

Endeavour and Zen Again
We went ashore briefly yesterday to have a walk along the beach and use the "facilities" ashore. Most of the day was spent watching the world go by (and regularly "freshening the nip" on the anchor snubber. Very relaxing.

The Facilities
Watsons Bay
Today we went ashore for a longer walk - past the ruins of Mary Watson's cottage to the airstrip and the resort, then up Chinaman's Ridge. The ridge lies between the Watsons Bay anchorage and the resort and has nice views of both. The top of the ridge also provides limited mobile phone access via the resort's link to the telstra network.

This afternoon we visited Eva and Georg aboard their Swiss yacht Kopernik - a very nice 40 foot aluminium centreboard cutter. They are heading for Darwin, Africa and home after a 4 year (so far) circumnavigation. Hopefully we'll stay in touch with them along the way to Darwin, perhaps further.

sv Kopernik

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Lizard Island

We arrived at Watson's Bay at about midday after a 23 hour passage. 135nm by the log and the GPS so no net current. We took it pretty easy, sailing under jib alone for part of the passage. This morning we were getting tired of the rolling so hoisted the main with two reefs. That reduced the rolling and hurried us along to complete the passage. The strong winds winds predicted for this area only arrived late morning today. We had mostly 10-15knot SE winds but it's now blowing 25-30 through the anchorage.

Two RAN patrol boats at Watson's Bay
There are only six other vessels in the anchorage so we have plenty of room. Two of them are RAN patrol boats which turned up late in the afternoon.  Apparently tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the "Royal" being added to "Australian Navy".

Watson's Bay is spectacular with crystal clear water, sandy beach, coral reefs scattered around the bay just below the surface, and all overlooked by the big hill James Cook climbed to find his way onward.

We'll be staying here for a few days for some R&R. By the way, the water temperature here is 24 degrees C and the wind is warm(ish). At last!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Enroute towards Lizard Island

We departed Yorkeys Knob at 1300 today and have had a pleasant sail under single-reefed main and No 3 jib in a 10-15knot SE breeze. Reefed coz we're lazy and we're sailing along very comfortably thankyou.

Departing Yorkeys Knob
It's just after sunset and we're being accompanied by four trawlers which departed the Low Isles as we sailed by. No doubt they'll be zigzagging all over the ocean in front of us before long as fishing folk like to do.  We visited the Low Isles from Port Douglas as tourists some years ago. The snorkling was quite good there but not a patch on Lizard Island. Hence we're sailing on and expect to reach Lizard Island during the day tomorrow, hopefully before predicted strong winds arrive.

We'll see if there's any mobile coverage at Lizard. There is a very expensive resort in the next bay and no doubt the punters there must have their mobiles working. 'Twould be good for us too!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Yorkeys Knob continued

We've now spent three very pleasant days here at Yorkeys Knob marina.  It's the first place where we've been consistently warm!  We expect to depart tomorrow towards Lizard Island.  We expect to be out of mobile phone and internet coverage until we reach Darwin in about a month so our blogs will be text only, sent via HF radio.

Yorkey's Knob clubhouse
A number of items on the to-do list have been crossed off the list.  Most importantly the new fridge is in and working, using far less power than the old fridge.  On removing the old Engel we discovered it was manufactured in 1985, so it has almost certainly been aboard since the boat was launched in 1986.  Very impressive that it was still working at all, but it certainly needed replacement.  We can run the new fridge 24/7 and the solar panel provides enough charge.  At sea we'll need to run the engine, but we like to run it for an hour or so each day in any event.

Other jobs done include:
  • stripping back, priming and antifouling the Aries vane gear's water vane;
  • fitted rubber pads to the Aries vane gear swinging arm (to soften the impact when it hits the stops);
  • refitted the autopilot pin on the tiller and installed a spare nearby;
  • fixed an engine fuel leak (several loose bolts);
  • rerouted the boom vang line to eliminate chafe;
  • rearranged the boombag attachment lines and the lazyjacks;
  • refueled the main diesel tanks (we used 80litres in 2 months) and filled the spare jerry cans;
  • restocked with perishable food; and
  • cleaned and tested the "shower" (a garden spray bottle with hose and shower head attached).
We expect to spend 4-6 days at Lizard Island before moving on to Flinders Island, Lockhart River (or other anchorage nearby), Possession Island, Wessel Islands and Darwin.  We hope to spend several days in the Wessels.  We're booked in to Tipperary Waters marina in Darwin from 5th August.

The passage past Cape York will be poignant since it is there our lovely boat had her nearly terminal encounter with a reef.  Happily the boat and her crew (Zen) managed to stay afloat and got to Thursday Island where they returned to Cairns on a barge for repairs.  Zen Again is back to try again!

We'll keep posting blogs and position reports so long as HF radio propagation allows.  Photos will have to wait until we reach Darwin.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Yorkeys Knob

We arrived at Yorkeys Knob at 1100 this morning, just after the top of the tide - good timing!  Entry into the marina was very simple with good buoyage and plenty of depth.  The minimum depth we saw was 3.3m with 2.0m tide (ie 1.3m reduced to chart datum).  The marina has good facilities and is costing us only $30 per day - half the cost of Airlie Beach.

Zen Again at Yorkey's Knob
We had a fun sail overnight and this morning.  The breeze died off to practically nothing in the evening so we had to "run the fridge" for three hours.  Then a nice land breeze came in and we had a great sail up the coast, passing inside some small islands to stay out of the shipping lane which was fairly busy.  The radar is great for confirming the islands are where the GPS chartplotter says they are - especially on a moonless, cloudy and drizzly night.

This morning we raced a big ugly rain cloud across the bay from Cape Grafton to Yorkeys Knob.  Happily we won.  The boat was powering along at 7.5 knots beam reaching under full main and No 3 jib in 20-25 knots.  She's a great boat.

We'll be staying here for several days to install a new fridge (portable type like the old) and to do a few other jobs.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Enroute to Yorkeys Knob day 2

Hi everyone,
We had a great sail overnight and today. The wind has stayed SE and gradually decreased to the 10knots we have currently. We have reefs to windward now and so the swell has disappeared. Sailing along quietly under full main and No 3 jib with barely any rolling or pitching.

We have Hinchinbrook Island on our port side. It is an amazingly rugged island with very tall hills/mountains. Spectacular. Sorry to be sailing past without stopping but at least we did explore the channel last time (in 2002).

Passing Hinchinbrook Island
The density of yachts has rapidly decreased since leaving the Whitsundays. On our passages up to that point we would often have a yacht in sight. We haven't seen one all day today, although we heard a couple on the radio as we passed Townsville.

Hope all's well where you are!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Enroute towards Yorkeys Knob

After 8 days at Abel Point Marina we finally departed this morning. The stay at Airlie Beach was very pleasant but the week-long strong wind warnings were a bit of a drag. It was great to spend some time with Peter and Paula from Valhalla during our stay. Yesterday was Peter's 60th and a party of seven had dinner to mark the occasion. Getting up this morning was just a little more difficult than on most days. ;)

Departing Airlie Beach
We departed Abel Point around 0900 this morning and have made good time so far, especially considering we're sailing under No 3 jib only. We're doing 5 to 6 knots in 15-20 knots of SE wind (right behind us).  This is our cruisiest sail so far since we've always had the main up throughout previous passages. There's a 2m left-over swell which should die down gradually. Very pleasant sailing nonetheless.

We hope to arrive in Half Moon Bay marina at Yorkeys Knob on Monday sometime.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Airlie Beach continued

We're still at Abel Point marina, "sailing around the pen" as the strong winds continue.  The first couple of days were windy but sunny, but since then it's been both windy and rainy.  Glad we got here when we did!

We've reprovisioned the boat and done a bunch of maintenance jobs.  The to-do list continues to shorten.  Best of all we now have cockpit speakers which will be great on long watches.

Zen Again at Abel Point
Abel Point Marina
Also here at Abel Point are Peter and Paula on Valhalla.  We first met them at Coffs Harbour and it was nice to find them here.

We expect to escape the Whitsundays on Friday and head directly for Yorkies Knob near Cairns.  Should be a passage of two full days, perhaps longer if the wind dies altogether.  Winds are meant to be moderating from Friday but should hold in long enough for us.

One item waiting for us in Cairns will be a new fridge for the boat.  The existing unit is very, very old and still works.  However it draws an extra amp with every month which goes by, so will surely not last much longer.  It will be good to have a fridge we can run without the engine on.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Airlie Beach

Instead of Laguna Quays we're at Abel Point Marina at Airlie Beach.  It turns out Laguna Quay's entrance channel is badly silted and we would only get in on a high tide.  So we pushed on to the Whitsundays proper, arriving at 2pm after a 26 hour passage from Middle Percy Island.

It was an interesting sail with light winds yesterday and strong winds from the early hours of this morning.  'Twas fun zigzagging through the islands south of the Whitsundays in the light airs and exciting doing the same in the Whitsundays islands themselves in the strong winds.

We'll spend a few days here restocking, doing a few minor maintenance jobs and collecting our mail from Laguna Quays.

Photos to follow after we've had some sleep!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Middle Percy Island

This morning we motored across the glassed-out channel between South Percy and Middle Percy Islands. Dead calm. 'Twas only 7nm and we anchored at West Bay at 0920. The water was flat, crystal clear and 23C so we had the first swim of our voyage so far. Fantastic.

Anchor chain and reflections
After lunch we rowed in to the beach to take a look at the famous huts full of memorabilia left by yachts since the 50's (probably earlier). We spent the morning preparing a simple wooden plaque recording Zen Again's visit. Hopefully it will be around for a few years. A yacht crew who have been here for several days opened a coconut and we tasted our first ever coconut "au naturelle". Could be addictive.

West Bay, Middle Percy Island
The original hut
The relatively new A-frame hut (aka "Percy Hilton")
The informative welcome board
A tiny sample of the memorabilia
Vegetation on the island
Winds are expected to return tomorrow, when we expect to head for Laguna Quays overnight, arriving Thursday.

Monday, 20 June 2011

South Percy Island

Today we motored the 45nm from Island Head to South Percy Island. The weather forecast was for light south easterlies, and that's exactly what we had. So we motored along in exactly zero apparent wind. At least the drinks are cold and the batteries are fully charged.
Passing Steep Island enroute to South Percy Island
We anchored just after dark in North West Bay. There's just one other yacht here. It will be interesting to see exactly how close to the beach we are in the morning. Hard to judge at night. We relied on the depth contours, assisted by radar.

North West Bay, South Percy Island
Our two days at Island Head were great. Yesterday we went ashore for a walk along the beach. Lots of trees on the edge of the beach appear to have been undermined and have fallen down recently - presumably during the summer cyclones & floods.

Island Head Creek beach with many dead trees
We got a few jobs done on the boat: connected three fans in the cabin; constructed tackle to hold the boom steady at anchor (rather than using the mainsheet); constructed outboard motor canvas cover; assembled a dinghy anchor; fitted a bridle to the dinghy so we can more easily launch and retrieve it). The sort of little jobs done to make life aboard easier. But mostly it was a relaxing couple of days in a place we visited last time around and really like.

Tomorrow we expect more light winds, so will probably motor over to Middle Percy Island. Winds are supposed to pick up on Wednesday when we hope to head for Laguna Quays. Regardless of the winds, it remains unusually cool. We're nearly at the Whitsundays but are wearing our Musto Snugs still!

Departing Island Head, passing islets inside entrance