Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Koolama Bay (not)

Hi everyone,
We had hoped to spend this week at Koolama Bay in the Kimberleys.  The bay is at the mouth of the King George River.

We departed from Fannie Bay last Friday but a few hours later our autopilot started misbehaving.  When we watched its compass readout it was constantly spinning, despite our course being straight.  We pulled up the installation guide on the laptop and went through the recalibration process without success.  Given cruising SE Asia is our goal this year we decided to return to Darwin to sort out the problem.

We have a spare autopilot aboard but it is 20 years old.  We decided we need a spare which allows us to "swap out" a faulty module of our main autopilot (a Raymarine SPX-5 GP).  That's now been ordered.

After a couple of days in Fannie Bay we decided to head over to Woods Inlet for a few days R&R.  We joined Babar and The Doctor there.  The sail over there on Sunday morning was somewhat boisterous, but proved a good test of motorsailing with the staysail in 25+ knots.  The staysail certainly stabilised the boat nicely.  Running the engine allowed us to prove the oil leak we've been working on appears to be fixed.

On Monday Rob, Diana, Dan and Elise joined us for coffee aboard Zen Again which was fun.  Everyone's getting excited about getting "outa here" and heading for East Timor.

Of course, we ended up getting a number of jobs done at Woods Inlet:
  • Relocated the autopilot's fluxgate compass to a new (and hopefully better) location;
  • Climbed the mast to inspect the rig and lubricate the masthead halyard sheaves (pulleys);
  • Rewired the batteries from 3 house + 2 engine start to 4 house + 1 engine start;
  • Replaced the jib furling line;
  • Applied vinyl Zen Again decals on each bow and on each side of the boom;
  • Replaced the engine oil and oil filter;
  • Replaced the engine primary fuel filter (and practiced bleeding the fuel system);
  • Cleaned the engine bay to remove oil from our (fixed) leak and oil/fuel from above; and 
  • Polished lots of stainless steel fittings.
View from second spreaders
Woods Inlet with The Doctor and Babar
While at Woods Inlet we received word that our Indonesian "CAIT" has been issued, so Zen Again is good to go to Indonesia.  The Sponsor Letter required for us to apply for an Indonesian Social Visa has also been received at the Indonesian Consulate in Darwin, so we can now apply for our individual visas.

We sailed back to Fannie Bay today.  About 15-18 knots of wind and a great close reach under full sail.  The new furling line is a great improvement - much less friction.  When approaching Fannie Bay we experimented with heaving-to under partially furled jib and full main, which worked very nicely and was very stable.  We also tried fore-reaching which was fun too - fore-reaching is our preferred approach to recover a man overboard.  We then tried heaving-to under main alone, which was less stable but a nice way to slow the boat right down temporarily.

When back in Fannie Bay we motored clear of the anchored boats and ran the calibration process for the autopilot.  With the fluxgate compass in its new location the system calibrated very well indeed.  Only 2 degrees deviation (vice 9 previously) and the "auto learn" process (which figures out the steering characteristics of the boat) did a much better job than when we initially calibrated last year.  Previously we had to reduce the autopilot's sensitivity right down, but now it is much better behaved and turns are much more positive with little overshoot.

We expect to be in Fannie Bay for a few days to collect some mail, apply for Indonesian visas, do the laundry, top up the provisions etc.  We'll probably head back to Woods Inlet on Sunday for a few more days of quiet and zero cash-flow!

Less than three weeks to departure!


  1. Hey! I've been following your blog for a few weeks now and it looks like you're going to have a great time. I spent a year travelling around Australia in a bus with my family and always wanted to do some travelling in a yacht.

    The reason for me commenting on this post is that I was hoping you might have some info to help me out. I'm travelling from Perth to South Korea (I'm leaving this Sunday!) and I'm planning on not using a plane for any leg. It would *seem* like convincing someone in the Sail Timor Leste to take me along would be a good option but I'm hitch hiking up to Darwin and don't want to put anyone out (assuming I could convince them) although I do expect to only take a week to get up there (based on what friend have said in of their attempts).

    Do you have any ideas, or have you met anyone that might be interested in having another set of hands on board their boat heading north? I've done a little sailing, but I'm no expert.

  2. Hi Bodey,
    Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately I don't know of anyone looking for crew. Most boats going to Timor Leste are going on to Indonesia. Indonesia requires crew lists well in advance so you may be better looking for a boat going directly to Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand, where the rules are more relaxed. Good luck!

  3. Oooh. Thanks for the information! I hope your trip has been going well!