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.