Saturday, 31 May 2014

Geraldton Departure

Hi everyone,
Nicki and I returned to Zen Again at Batavia Coast Marina yesterday morning. This morning we departed in a 20 knot NE breeze, following the shipping channel out of the harbour then heading south. We are currently at 29 56.6S 114 48.8E, sailing a course of 175 at about 4 knots.

We had a great sail this morning under single-reefed main and partly furled No 2. We were sitting on 7 knots and sometime hitting over 8.5. The wind gradually eased and backed around to the north. During the afternoon we had to head up to keep sailing, ending up on a course of 140 before gybing when the wind got a bit of west in it. At 1700 we were down to below 3 knots of boatspeed so put the motor on. We saw several strings of craypot lines during the day, and two cray boats tending some of them.

We motored until 2100 when a new NE breeze started to come in. Also we saw some craypot floats come by and decided that was a sign! Ten minutes later and under sail I heard a set of floats bump down the side of the boat, or think I did. Didn't see them. Just as well we killed the motor. 'Tis a bit of a lottery out here in light winds at night.

We're 1/3 of the way to Fremantle and hope to do the final passage to FSC in one leg. It looks like the winds will be light for the rest of the way, with S-SE winds predicted for tomorrow. We'll see what actually happens. Right now the new NE wind is holding in. With luck it will build a little and stay in all night. As if! ;)

After my arrival at Geraldton I had a nice two days with the guys on Divided Sky and Aqua Vitae. Twas good our paths crossed.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Geraldton (Sea Rescue)

Hi everyone,
Zen Again is now alongside the service jetty at the Batavia Coast Marina.  We logged 506nm through the water and 547nm over the ground for a passage lasting 4 days and 13 hours.  We used the engine for 53 hours - about 50% of the passage - due to frustratingly light winds.  So much for the windy west coast!

The last two hours of the passage may not count.  We spent them entangled in a fish farm before being kindly extricated by Geraldton Sea Rescue.  Before that story, first the track and speed profile for the passage...

Zen Again Track - the zig zags show we sailed when we could!!!
Speed Profile
So, the story begins on Thursday morning when I had decided to divert to Port Gregory since there was a strong wind warning for the Geraldton area.  However this was cancelled by midday so I reverted to the original plan to go to Geraldton and wait out the fronts and bad weather here.  As mentioned last night I would be arriving at night.

The weather for most of Thursday was light E, then N then NW winds.  They only got above 10 knots  during rain showers, one of which was a beauty and gave the boat a good rinse.  On approaching Geraldton the choice was to heave-to outside and face much stronger winds in the morning, or enter the harbour.  I decided on the latter.

Gratuitous silly grin in the rainstorm
All went very well until a few hundred metres short of the anchorage.  I slowed down and with the boat on autopilot I went forward to unlock the anchor and prepare the snubber.  Just as I finished I saw a red buoy passing by about 3 metres away.  I raced it back to the cockpit and managed to get the engine out of gear just in time.  However the buoy was part of the mooring for an UNLIT fish farm and the mooring line from buoy to farm was between our keel and our rudder.  Sticky situation.

The fish beds lie where our track SSE abruptly halted
Gradually we slid along the mooring line from the buoy end to the fish farm end.  Fenders out and on the mobile phone to Geraldton Sea Rescue.  They were superbly efficient.  It was 2200 and their rescue boat was in the water within about 30 minutes and arrived about 15 minutes later.  In that time I'd discovered all sorts of things about fish farms I never really wanted to know.  Primary amongst the lessons was that this one was entirely plastic - there is a god!  So the hull wasn't being "eaten" as we banged into the structure while stern-to in a 0.5m to 1.0m sea.  Twasn't pleasant.  I kept the engine going (in neutral) and revved it occasionally to ensure the waves weren't forcing water back up the exhaust into the engine.  We took a couple of small greenies over the transom which wasn't fun.

The two guys on the rescue boat did an excellent job, communicating throughout on VHF.  We tried several strategies to extricate Zen Again.  Eventually one worked (precisely how is a mystery to all of us) and we were suddenly floating free.  From there they led me carefully across to the marina where we're now secured.  The guys were quite angry that the fish farm was not lit.  There are buoys around it which carry lights but only one was lit and it was extremely dim.

We did sustain a little damage - the PVC tube holding our boat hooks and dinghy paddles was broken off our quarter and the gas bottle knocked partly out of its s/s holder.  The guys went out again and found the paddles!  We also lost two fenders which were ripped off the boat as it repeatedly hit the fish farm.  I'm not sure how badly the topsides paint was damaged but as far as we could see it isn't very bad which is a minor miracle if true.

So it was an exciting end to the passage.  At the end of the day we made it to Geraldton intact and I've now increased my single-handed sailing miles by a factor of five.

Zen Again at Batavia Coast Marina
Now it's time to sleep!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Zuydorp Cliffs

Hi everyone,
Last night was a bit of a tiral with varying winds and more traffic than we've seen since Dampier. Happily boat and crew came through without issue and the crew (me) managed to get some good ZZZs in between manouevres. As our track shows, we were sailing and the wind was dead against us. Our tacking angles were horrible but we made progress.

By first light this morning the wind was quite light - so light that the autopilot lost the plot and tacked the boat. After getting her back on course I used the wind vane for a while which worked well. However I don't like using the wind vane in coastal waters while I'm sleeping since a wind change could send us inshore and onto the rocks. With the autopilot it either gives up and alarms or I wake up because the jib is luffing or we're reaching off. Anyway, by dawn the wind was too light to sail so the engine came on. Very obvious on our track since we start heading directly down the coast!

Glassed Out
The engine stayed on until 1630 this afternoon. During that time the wind died out entirely and the sea glassed out for a couple of hours. I took the opportunity to transferr two jerry cans of fuel to the main tanks so they're nearly full again. I also gave the s/s around the cockpit a bit of a wash off since everything is coated in lots of salt. Last night we charged through quite a few waves - something Zen Again seems to enjoy at times - so everything is very salty. I also found 5 flying fish (all dead sadly) around the deck and in the cockpit. The latter one was buried under a snakepit of rope so not immediately obvious.

This afternoon during the glassy period I saw whales "blowing" in the distance. They can really throw the misty breath up quite a way. I think I saw one of their backs break the surface but happily they stayed well away. Otherwise I've seen little wildlife - no birds at all, just a few fish.

It looks like a cold front will be crossing the coast tomorrow night, with strong winds reaching as far north as Geraldton. I've more or less decided to stop in Geraldton since the bad weather appears likely to persist for a while. I'm unlikely to get to Geraldton before sunset tomorrow so may heave-to off Geraldton and wait for Friday morning before entering harbour. Zen Again heaves-to quite well so that shouldn't be a problem. It's been cloud free for most of today but clouds are starting to gatheri on the western horizon.

The strong winds aren't forecast to start until later tomorrow, so hopefullly we'll have a peaceful night tonight. Right now we're at 26 41S 113 01E, sailing along quietly at 4 knots in a 6-8 knot WSW breeze.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Passing Cape Inscription

Hi everyone,
Tonight we're close-hauled tacking offshore from Dirk Hartog Island. We've had to earn our miles today. Our current position is 25 29S 112 37E. We have been beating into the wind all day but at least we haven't used the engine since 2000 last night. The wind has varied from SSW to SSE and ranged from 10 to 20 knots in strength. So our sail has ranged from full main and No 2 to one reef and part-rolled No 2.

More Sailing!
As we approached Cape Inscription I briefly dreamed of sailing into the calm waters of Shark Bay. But this is a delivery voyage so we tacked offshore and continued south. I'm gradually getting into a rythm of sorts. When there's nothing on AIS or in sight I take up to one hour naps, setting a loud timer to wake me. I find I wake a few miniutes before the alarm most times. I take a good look around, check the AIS and if all's still clear repeat. If not either deal with it or set a 30 minute timer. I use this routine day and night, but actually sleep more at night. Technically I should be looking out more often but that would result in a much more severely sleep deprived skipper. Seems to me its better to be alert than slavishly keeping lookout when traffic is clearly very light.

It looks like the weather will stay as is for another day or so. Then we're supposed to get a NW change. It will be nice to ease sheets! The GIRBs aren't showing strong winds so hopefully it will be a weak front which gives us a break from the southerlies.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Passing Cape Farquhar

Hi everyone,
We've made reasonable progress today. We're now off Cape Farquhar at postiion 23 35.8S 113 14.0E. Our noon to noon run for day 1 was a modest 113nm, about half of which was motoring.

Last night a nice SE wind came in around midnight and allowed us to sail at last. Initially we were close hauled but the wind gradually backed around to the east by dawn. We had a great sail, initially with a single reef and a few rolls in the No 2 since the wind got up to nearly 20 knots. As it swung it eased and by dawn we had full sail up. The wind lasted until just after noon when the engine had to go on again. Right now we're motoring into a 5 knot southerly and hoping an easterly will come in tonight too. There's been a 2 metre swell running throughout which slows us down a little when the wind is light but otherwise isn't a problem.

We've seen several big ships passing by hull-down offshore. Those we saw initially on AIS. No other vessels seen. Last eveningt the stars were spectacular with no clouds at all. The moon rose around 2200 and then we had a very bright night with very good visibility.

It's still warm here. Water temperature is 28 degrees and air temperature gets close to 30 during the day. Pleasant temperature at night too. I'm sure things will cool down in a day or two!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Exmouth Departure

Hi everyone,
Zen Again and I departed Exmouth marina at noon today. We've been motoring for most of the time since then, with only a couple of brief periods when sailing was possible. Happily we've got a lot of help from both the ebb tide up the gulf and now the Leeuwin Current. As we rounded NW Cape we were doing 8 knots over the ground, with 4 of those being current.

Exmouth Gulf departure
I've seen a lot of flying fish and heaps of jumping fish - fish jumping our of the water. Quite a few sea birds too. We're following hte 100m depth contour at present - closer in than planned because the current has stayed with us so far. Since passing NW Cape we've only encountered one commerical vessel - at tug and barge heading north which passed well offshore from us.

I've just had dinner - stag chilli with the leftovers of last night's rice, followed by chilled peach slices. Very nice.

The wind is currently a very, very light south-westerly. Right on our nose but only 2-4 knots to it so we're just motoring down the course. I'm hoping for a bit of a land breeze tonight. Time will tell. There's a 1.5-20.0m swell which is quite long so isn't slowing us down. Glad I changed the engine oil and topped up the tanks and jerries!

Trust all's well where you are.

Saturday, 17 May 2014


Hi everyone,
Zen Again has now been in Exmouth for three days.  The weather was overcast on Thursday and for most of Friday.  A thunderstorm on Friday appeared to blow the cloud away and since then it has been clear and sunny.  The temperature is very pleasant, particularly at night when it is cool.

Zen Again at Exmouth marina (with new jetty in foreground)
On Thursday we got a lift into town from Kevin of sv Icecube.  We had a nice breakfast at the bakery while waiting for our laundry, then did the shopping at the local IGA and walked the 3km or so back to the marina.  The landscape is very, very green as a result of the recent rain.

Icecube did the 2011 Fremantle-Bali race but retired to Exmouth and has spent three years here.  They are preparing for a cruise to Indonesia and the Philippines.  Icecube is a very fast-looking Schonning (sp?) catamaran with lots of carbon fibre.  I spent a couple of hours helping Kevin with his HF radio and we tried out routine calling via DSC which worked very well.

On Friday morning we gave the boat a clean, filled the water tanks and changed back to the No 2 headsail.  Then Nicki prepared to fly back to Perth and to work.  Kevin lent us his van and we drove south to the civilian terminal at RAAF Learmonth for Nic's flight.   Nice little terminal.  Later in the afternoon I changed the engine oil and oil filter, and sorted out the food I'll be using while sailing south.  Kakadu arrived during the afternoon and berthed behind us.

Zen Again and Kakadu
Today I walked to and from town for a final shop and this afternoon cleaned the starboard side topsides which was getting a little "streaky" from the "holy" aluminium handrails.  I also greased the Aries vane gear and had a good check of the deck gear - shackle pins, split pins etc.

I plan to depart tomorrow around midday which is an hour or so before high tide.  I hope to carry the ebb tide to NW cape and hopefully will find a nice sailing breeze.  It looks like winds will be light for the next few days, but hopefully I'll be able to sail for much of the time.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Exmouth Arrival

Hi everyone,
We arrived at Exmouth marina this afternoon at 1500 and are now alongside at 21 57.3S 114 08.5E. We had a great sail from Serrurier Island, with a nice 15 knot southerly which slowly eased to less than 5 knots by early afternoon. We had to motor-sail for the last two hours but twas a great day sail nonetheless. We covered about 38 nm with an average speed of 4.5 knots, and only had to back-up to clear weed once.  Here's our track...

Zen Again track
Our night at Serrurier Island was very pleasant since the wind was light to moderate all night. We departed at 0630 this morning, needing the engine for only 5 minutes or so before setting sail. The new manual windlass is working very well - far more reliable than our old electric unit. Along the way we saw several sea snakes and (again) lots of sea birds Not much commercial traffic until we reached Exmouth Gulf where we only had to dodge one tug and barge. We took a fairly direct route which required us to carefully avoid a number of shallow patches and reefs, but saved a few miles and probably allowed us to sail for longer.

Fetching towards Exmouth (Full main & No 3)

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Serrurier Island

Hi everyone,
Last night we had little wind and so motored nearly all night. This was followed today by a little more wind but it only held in for a few hours. On top of that we weren't getting the boat speed we normally expect from the engine. We suspected that was due to weed, which proved to be the case. After lunch we decided to stop overnight (tonight) at Serrurier Island. We arrived here at 1600 and are anchored in 6 metres over sand at 21 37.3S 114 41.7E.  Here's our track...

Zen Again track
Apart from the lack of wind it was a nice day. We saw several sea snakes and lots of sea birds. Commercial traffic was quite light. Our route took us along a meandering path through the islands and reefs between the mainland and Barrow Island. So the navigation was interesting. The engine ran well but we weren't getting our target boat speed. We had to stop and "back up" a couple of times to get rid of weed on the keel and rudder which slowed us further still. Frustrating.

Approaching Serrurier Island we saw dolphins and (I think) a dugong. After anchoring we went for a swim and found a ball of weed around the propellor, which was clearly the culprit. With that sorted we had a quick scrub around the waterline, removing some slime and growth. The water is very clear here with the sand bottom very clear 6 metres below. The beaches look very nice but we won't have time to go ashore.

At anchor at Serrurier Island
Anchorage location at Serrurier Island
For the 32 hour passage we covered 116nm by the log, for an average of 3.6 knots - quite slow. Over the ground we covered 140nm for an average of 4.3 knots, so had considerable help from the tides. We have a little under 40nm to run to Exmouth which we'll do tomorrow. We're going to wait in Exmouth for better weather on the west coast - at present southerlies are predicted until the weekend.

Trust all's well where you are.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Dampier Departure

Hi everyone,
We departed Hampton Harbour, Dampier at 0900 today. We motor-sailed until midday when a sailng breeze arrived - a nice 10-12 knot easterly. We've been sailing since and are now in position 20 41.1S 116 07.1E, on a course of 250 at about 3 knots. The breeze is slowly easing and has been backing around towards the north all afternoon. Bright sunny sky with only a few clouds to the south over the land.

Our destination is uncertain at the moment. There's a chance we'll bypass Exmouth and head down the west coast towards Geraldton, but that depends on the weather forecasts over the next 24 hours or so. Most likely we'll stop at Exmouth since the outlook seems to be for S-SE winds for some days to come.

Today we've seen large flocks of sea-birds hunting fish, diving into the water while bigger fish were herding the smaller fish for themselves. We've seen one large (about 1.0m) sea snake and several fairly large (over 0.5m) fish jumping from the water. We've sailed past one oil/gas installation and will see quite a few more as we sail between the mainland and Barrow Island. Not much commercial traffic, just a couple of supply ships which appear to be going between Dampier and Barrow Island.

We had a great time in Dampier. Hope it isn't another 10+ years before we visit again!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Dampier Day 4

Hi everyone,
Today we took a drive around the area, visiting Karratha, the Burrup Peninsula, Port Walcott and Point Samson.  It was great to have a loaned car to get around in.

Hampton Harbour Boat and Sailing Club harbour (dinghy jetty is on LHS)
Our chariot for the day - Thanks Mark!
On the Burrup Peninsula we visited the Petraglyph Park where ancient rock art is spectacular once you find it.  Partly by luck we found what appears to be the best part very quickly.  We met one man who had been searching for two days unsuccessfully and set him right!

A river was running - you don't see that very often in the Pilbara!
Spot the turtle, emu and wombat
Amazing colours
From the ancient we went to the modern, visiting the LNG plant Visitor Centre.  Sadly it was closed but we had a good view of the plant and there were good information boards outside the centre.  Back in the 80's I helped install and maintain weather stations at the plant and on the North Rankin A rig which were under construction at the time.

View of LNG plant from the Visitor Centre
We then drove to Port Walcott Sailing Club where my family used to take our trailer sailor for the annual regatta.  The club house was deserted and has seen better days.  It appeared there may be some renovation happening.

Point Walcott beach
120 ton Haulpak on show at Wickham
We drove around Wickham and Roebourne, but both appeared very quiet.  Roebourne has some nice looking old buildings.  Both have quite a few recently constructed buildings, particularly Wickham.

We had lunch at the Point Samson Resort overlooking the harbour.  There were four shiploaders in action and half a dozen ships waiting their turn at anchor offshore.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Dampier Day 3

Hi everyone,
We've been busy since arriving in Hampton Harbour.  Happily the boom bracket problem has now been fixed.

On Wednesday we cleaned up the boat and went ashore to clean ourselves too.  Hampton Harbour Boat and Sailing Club offers free temporary membership for short-stay cruisers and has clean showers, laundry, beer and good food.  We had a very good dinner in the club with Graham and Anne from Kakadu.

Zen Again anchored at Hampton Harbour
On Thursday Nicki and I removed the boom from the boat and took it ashore with Graham's assistance.  Bill and Janey from Jezebel gave us a lift in to Karratha with the boom on their wagon's roof rack.  We went to KAW Engineering in the light industrial area and got some helpful advice but they weren't able to help us until next week.  We decided we'd use Graham's tools to drill and tap the old (stripped) holes out to take 10mm bolts.  Additionally we'd put a single 10mm bolt all the way through the boom and bracket to stop it detaching if the new tapped holes strip out.

From KAW we went to Atom, a sort of mega-Bunnings for tradies, where I bought the bolts needed for the boom repair and also a spare V-Belt for the engine.  On Thursday evening an old friend Mark came down to HHBSC for a few drinks.  He offered us the use of his car over the weekend which we very happily accepted.  Twas good to catch up.

This morning I topped-up the main diesel tanks with 60 litres from our jerries.  At 0900 we went ashore and Graham and I drilled and tapped the boom and bracket.  The bracket appears to be very solidly attached now, but given recent experience I'm still not convinced about the tapped holes.  The thru-bolt is worthwhile insurance just in case.  We returned the boom to the boat and re-rigged it.  Then we replaced the No 2 jib with the No 3 jib in preparation for tackling the west coast.

Dampier lookout
With all today's jobs done we went for a walk up to the Dampier lookout, then the others visited the Dampier Seafarer's Centre while I collected Mark's car for us to use over the next two days.

Over the weekend we plan to do a little local touring using Mark's car.  Then early next week we hope to head west.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Dampier Arrival

Hi everyone,
We arrived at Hampton Harbour in Dampier at dawn this morning and secured the boat alongside the Hampton Harbour Boat & Sailing Club pontoon at 0630.  We had a date with customs and quarantine officials for 0800 so had time to hose down the boat and clean up a little.

Entering Hampton Harbour at dawn
Zen Again ready for inspection
Clearing in was very straight forward, taking only 30 minutes or so.  No sniffer dogs, just two guys who did all the paperwork and looked around the boat for anything suspect.  The customs guy enjoyed reading a copy of a news article describing the boat's previous $127M drug bust.

We are now at anchor off the club, near Kakadu which found an apparently free mooring.  We're having a lazy day apart from some cleaning up jobs around the boat.  I've started to look for companies which may be able to fix our boom bracket problem.

We had to motor the last 24 hours since winds were extremely light.  The motor is performing very well.  A couple of maintenance jobs to do before we move on but nothing major.

Here are some basic stats for our passage from Benoa to Dampier...
  • Distance Logged = 777nm
  • Distance by GPS = 735nm
  • Duration = 5 days 22 hours (4 days 4 hours sailing, the rest motoring or motor-sailing)
  • Engine Hours = 42 hours
  • What worked well 1 = HF skeds with Kakadu on 4483
  • What worked well 2 = PredictWind Satellite Communicator email system
  • What broke = boom forward bracket bolts stripped themselves out of the bracket
  • Noon to noon runs (approx) = 150nm; 140nm; 130nm; 140nm; & 120nm.
And here is our track.  The "kink" is where NE winds replaced E winds and we had to head up to maintain boat speed.  We gave that up when the wind died altogether and motored most of the rest of the way.
Zen Again track
Finally, here is our speed profile...

Zen Again speed profile
We plan to spend a few days here before moving on, probably to Exmouth initially.  Hopefully we can get the boom bracket reattached here, as well as do a few relatively simple maintenance tasks.

It's great to have the boat in WA.  Not quite home yet in her home state!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Benoa Outbound Day 6

Hi everyone,
We are currently motoring at 5 knots towards Dampier at position 19 52.8S 116 46.4E. There is a very light northerly as we motor south.

A small thunderstorm we managed to miss
Last night we encountered a large thunderstorm which produced 25-30 knot winds for half an hour and gave the boat a very, very good wash. Previously it had been covered in salt but is now very fresh! A couple of other thunderstorms passed us by, and apparently there was a lot of rain in Dampier itself (still 100nm away at that time).

This morning we managed to sail for a few more hours until the wind went back around to the north and lightened off. We've been motoring all day and this afternoon we stowed the main entirely to avoid furhter working the joint which is coming apart on the boom. This afternoon we motored past a moored drilling ship and then a gas platform. I believe they feed into the North Rankin A rig which I visited several simes during its construction in the 80s. North Rankin A is further to the west - pity we didn't see it. Mid afternoon we returned "into soundings" - reading the water depth for the first time since last Thursday.

This evening we're continuing to motor south. We appear to be bringing better weather with us since the sky is gradually clearing and the stars are appearing after a day of overcast mid-level cloud. Customs is waiting for us and we have a "date" at 0800 tomorrow morning. Hopefully we won't be late!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Benoa Outbound Day 5

Hi everyone,
It's been a fairly quiet day today with mostly light winds. We are currently at 17 46.2S 116 55.4E, about 170nm north of Dampier. The wind is northerly at 8-10 knots so we're having to zig-zag downwind towards Dampier. Boat speed is between 4 and 5 knots.

Sunset Day 5
Last night winds were quite light during the evening and then died almost completely after midnight. We motor-sailed from 0200 until 0700 when a sailing wind returned. It was good to motor for a while since it recharged the batteries and chilled the fridge. There was an amazing thunderstorm well west of us for much of the night. Lightning was striking horizontally across a large cloud mass many miles wide. Dawn was spectacular this morning, shining on the underside of the clouds left behiind.

Today has been very hot and we've been staying below for much of the time. The wind change from easterly to northerly means our progress has been slowed too. A little frustrating but we expected less favourable winds during the last days of hte passage.

We found another rig issue this afternoon. This time the bolts holding the boom to its forward bracket were coming loose, and one is gone altogether. Happily they don't appear to have stripped out. I've retightened the three remaining bolts and added two lashings to help keep the two items in place together. Very frustrating that the rig refurbishment has caused more problems than it solved.

We're gradually eating up our remaining fruit and veg, which we'll have to surrender to AQIS otherwise. The clearing in process will be expensive, but hopefully it'll be carried out efficiently.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Benoa Outbound Day 4

Hi everyone,
We are having a very nice sail this evening under full main and No 2. Current position is 16 08.7S 116 22.2E. Wind is 8-10 knots from the ENE.

Last night started with quite light winds and with a big flying fish in the cockpit. Iridescent blue and a get me outa here attitude. Eventually we figured out we needed to cover him to calm him down which we did with a towel and could then drop him back over the side alive and well. As the evening wore on the wind strengthened until we had a reef and the staysail up and doing 7 knots.

Today the wind moderated gradually and we only took the reef out at 1800 this evening. At 1430 we were overflown by an Australian Maritime Surveillance aircraft, callsign "cCstoms 55". He passed by only a little higher than masthead height and a few boatlengths off to one side. Twould be nice to be able to buy the photos they take! A few minutes later he called us on VHF and asked the usual questions and cautioned us regarding our arrival responsibilities when we reach Dampier.

First Reef
Heading South
Tonight the sky is almost completely clear of cloud and there's a Spielberg moon (one of those you could sit on and fish from). We can see the "big dipper", Orion, Scorpio and of course the Southern Cross constellations. We can't smell Australia yet but as I said to Customs 55, after they've found us we know it's not too far away!

We have 270nm to run to Dampier.

Trust all's well where you are.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Benoa Outbound Day 3

Hi everyone,
We're having a very pleasant sail this afternoon under full sail and a sunny sky. We are currently at 13 43.2S 115 49.0E, sailing at 5knots on a course of 170 in about 10 knots of wind.

Yesterday afternoon, overnight and this morning we had easterly winds of 20-25 knots and spent most of the time under single-reefed main and staysail. We were moving along at a comfortable 6 knots, occasionally getting up to mid 7's. We were taking plenty of spray aboard and an occasional "greenie". We each spent most of our watches below, just poking our heads up once every 10 minutes to check the world outside. During slightly quieter patches we'd lay on our backs in the cockpit watching the stars - very spectacular and nice and cool compared to down below. Twas nice to doze there and wake up to a cold slap in the face (from spray) and see the milky way above. We had our lifejackets on and tethers attached - just in case.

The wind gradually eased late this morning and by the afternoon we were gradually increasing sail in stages. It is nice to have a break from the abrupt motion of beam reaching in a lumpy seaway. I just hope the wind doesn't ease further! The forecasts say it should remain around 8-15, occasionally up to 20 at times. We'll see.

Nice sailing
We're seeing large schools of small flying fish from time to time. Whenever we sail near one they all burst from the water and fly away. We're also seeing large flocks of sooty shearwaters (we think) and have seen one tropic bird (we think).

We should reach the half way mark sometime in the next 24 hours. That will be good!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Benoa Outbound Day 2

Hi everyone,
We currently sailing directly towards Dampier on a course of 172 and with a very nice speed of 6.3knots. Current position is 11 45.8S 115 37.2E. The wind has been E to ESE for the last 24 hours, ranging from 10 knots to about 20 knots.

Zen Again
Last night there were a few thunderstorms about but we managed to stay out of their way. Otherwise there were only a few smallish cumulus clouds to spoil our view of the stars and planets. There was only a small sliver of moon which set a few hours after sunset.

Twilight Approaching
Kakadu slowly caught up to us yesterday, passing us just after sunset. We could see their sternlight all night but they're now about 20 miles ahead of us I expect. They had an eventful exit from Benoa harbour, snagging a large tarpaulin and attached ropes on their propellor. Graham had to dive to cut it away.

Today the winds gradually increased during the morning and then decreased in the afternoon. At one stage we had two reefs and a partly furled No 2 and were still doing over 6 knots. It has been a hot day with the fans working overtime down below. Everything's now cooling down nicely now the sun has set. We've only seen four vessels in the last 24 hours - a big chance compared to the Java Sea!

The weather outlook appears to be a similar day tomorrow with winds decreasing after that. We'll see what actually happens.

Trust all's well where you are.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Bali Stay and (eventual) Departure

Hi everyone,
We had a great four days away in the Bali hills with Graham and Anne from Kakadu. We stayed in a villa near Klungkung for two nights, then another villa near Sideman for the next two. Both were very nice in different ways.  Here are some photos...

The pool at Puri Pondok Villa outside Klongkong
There be dragons at the Klongkong markets
and spices too!
Klongkong temple guardian (one of many)
Klongkong temple art
Tanto Villa near Sideman
Trekking around the rice paddies near Sideman
Sunbrellas in the grass
Twas a long walk with fantastic scenery
A River Somewhere
Well tended rice paddies
View from our lunch restaurant
Climbing up to the temple
Worshippers at the temple
A beach at Candidasa
We returned to Benoa on Monday, stopping at Candidasa for lunch. That proved to be a bad idea since 3 out of 4 of us got bad food poisoning and we've only just recovered fully from it. Y'aint been ta Bali if ya ain't had da Belly...

Yesterday we did our final preparations and cleared out of Indonesia. Clearing out requires visits to 5 separate offices and it took nearly 3 hours but was uneventful which is the main thing. This morning we settled up with the marina and departed at 0930. We had 1.5knots of current against us in the Benoa harbour channel as expected, but then found the main current in the Lombok Strait was running north. It's supposed to be running south by now (and actually was a month ago).

It took until 1400 to motor-sail through and out of the area of contrary current. The wind gradually built and we are now sailing along close-reaching under full sail with a very nice 12 knot ESE breeze. Lovely blue sky, clear horizon (no haze) and isolated Cumulus clouds. Champagne sailing and heading for home!

We are aiming towards Dampier and expect the passage to take about 6 days. This morning's forecasts showed nice easterlies pretty-much all the way, which of course won't come true but one's gotta have a dream!

Trust all's well where you are.