Friday, 30 January 2015

Rockingham Long Weekend

Hi everyone,
We spent last weekend with the FSC Cruising Section at Rockingham.  We had a good sail south to Rockingham on Saturday morning in a light and quite variable SE wind.  The sea breeze came in just as we arrived at around noon, and then blew hard all afternoon.  Good timing.

Zen Again Track
Zen Again Speed - FSC to Rockingham
Zen Again Speed - Rockingham to FSC
The long weekend was very social - Saturday evening at TCYC, Sunday breakfast ashore and Sunday dinner also ashore.  Nearly all moorings off TCYC were occupied.

Not many free moorings!
On Monday morning we sailed back to FSC and into our "new" pen.  By coincidence Stolen Kiss went into our old pen at exactly the same time.  Zen Again is now in a 10m pen which is a much better fit and considerably cheaper.  We'll only stay in this pen for a couple of weeks before we move to another 10m pen for the next few months.  The sail home was in a nice easterly which died right on time to make entry into the new pen easy.

Zen Again in FSC pen C44
This week we've been working on a number of maintenance tasks (in between real work)...

  • Completed installation of external antenna and power supply for Iridium Go!
  • Sanding and varnishing "door frames" and "skirting boards" in cabin

The Iridium Go! now shows a full five bars of signal strength continuously.  Much improved over the temporary installation under the side deck!

Iridium Go! external antenna
This evening we enjoyed a spectacular sunset from the cockpit...

FSC Sunset
By the way, we're working on labelling our blogs to simplify finding subjects/places of interest.  They're listed on the right hand side.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Moved Aboard and Extreme AIS Range

Hi everyone,
Last weekend we moved back aboard Zen Again.  It's good to be back.  It was an extremely busy week but the gear we brought aboard is now either stowed or disposed of.

During the week we installed a couple of items...

  • 300W inverter
  • VHF antenna splitter

The inverter replaces the 100W portable inverters we had been using previously, and which are getting a bit old - their fans are now quite noisy.  The new inverter is a Sinergex PureSine300.  It is performing well and so far none of our loads have caused its fan to start at all.  A big improvement.

The antenna splitter allows our Vesper XB8000 AIS transponder to access our masthead antenna.  Previously it was using the emergency antenna on the pushpit which is much lower so gave a much shorter range.  Even with a masthead antenna the normal range is around 50nm.  Tests today showed that we're getting extremely long ranges, which _must_ be due to unusual propagation conditions.  We can see targets 700nm away!

700nm AIS range
Weather Map
Is the High producing a temperature inversion and VHF ducting?
Just to be clear - the above AIS picture is directly from our class B AIS unit and displayed on the OpenCPN chartplotter software.  No satellite AIS here!

Interestingly our Garmin chartplotter, which receives its AIS data from a separate AIS receiver, blanks out AIS targets when zoomed out a long way.  However, by zooming in just enough to keep the targets on-screen and panning away from our current position we can see the same targets shown in OpenCPN.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Fremantle and Moving Aboard

Hi everyone,
This morning we sailed from Rockingham to FSC in a brisk SE wind to complete our New Year Cruise.  Zen Again is safely back in her pen and we will now focus our attention on moving aboard.

We had a pleasant two days at Rockingham with Aqua Vitae.  We all had dinner aboard Zen Again on Tuesday and had dinner ashore together on Wednesday.  It was a nice way to end the cruise.

The last leg of our cruise was very pleasant.  The wind was E-SE and ranged from 18 to 25+ knots.  We had two reefs in the main and 2-3 reefs in the yankee yet were still doing over 6 knots all the way.

Zen Again track
Zen Again speed
Our overall New Year cruise logged a total of 270nm over 14 days with about 60 hours at sea.  We only used the motor for about 6 hours, much of which was entering and leaving harbours.  The new equipment all performed very well - the Extreme Sails yankee, the Fremantle Ocean Canvas dodger and the PredictWind Iridium Go!.

Zen Again's New Year Cruise
Over the few days we will be completing our move back aboard Zen Again.  This will be our next big step towards resuming blue-water cruising this year.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015


Hi everyone,
Today we had a great sail from Mandurah to Rockingham via Challenger Passage.  We could have returned to FSC but are enjoying our cruise too much to end it today!  We logged 35nm during the 7 hour sail, for a 5 knot average speed.  We are now moored off TCYC at 32 16.49S 115 43.36E.
Zen Again track
Zen Again speed
Last night the crews of Alegria, Stingrey and Zen Again joined Aqua Vitae for a sundowner.  It was a very pleasant evening.  We decided to sail to Rockingham rather than return to FSC.

Zen Again moored off Pt Robert
Stingrey, Alegria and Aqua Vitae (L-R) off Pt Robert
We all departed Pt Robert at about 0600, hoisting double-reefed sails for the 25-30 knot WSW wind.  As the speed profile shows Zen Again loved it, doing over 7 knots as we close-reached out of the bay to James Service Reef.  A little wet but lots of fun.  The weather was interesting, with the wind appearing to be associated with a very low band of cloud which passed over us heading ENE.

After the cloud passed the wind gradually decreased.  It swung through the S to the E and for a while we had a nice ESE wind.  Then that died and we had to motor for a couple of hours from off Warnbro Sound to Challenger Passage.

Once in Challenger passage there was a nice SW breeze of 12-15 knots.  As we entered Cockburn Sound the wind gradually piped up over an hour or so to 25-28+ knots.  Alegria and Stingrey had headed direct to FSC but we and Aqua Vitae had a great close-hauled "drag race" down the sound.  The two boats were quite evenly matched.  We went from full main and a few rolls in the jib at Challenger Passage to double-reefed main and a deeply rolled yankee when half-way down the sound.

Aqua Vitae overtaking Zen Again in Cockburn Sound
Once on the mooring we watched the low cloud scudding overhead at a great rate of knots.  We had a bit of everything today - twas a blast!

Monday, 5 January 2015


Hi everyone,
Last night we sailed from Quindallup to Mandurah.  There was a full moon and a fair wind which made it a very pleasant sail.  We logged 78nm over 14 hours for an average speed of 5.5 knots.  We are now on a mooring off Point Robert at 32 31.16S 115 42.46E.

Quindallup anchorage yesterday afternoon - from a helicopter!
(photo by Revision II)
We started with a nice 20 knot S wind which was expected to go E then NE overnight.  We set our initial course to keep the yankee working, and our track below shows how we gradually turned to port as the E land breeze came in.  We were sitting on 7 knots for much of the evening with one reef in the main and quite a few turns in the jib.  Our best speed was 8.5knots on a wave.

Zen Again track
Zen Again speed
The E land breeze was quite variable in strength.  At times we were doing 5 knots and others 6.5.  For a while we had the second reef in the main and the yankee well furled.  Around dawn the breeze went around to the NE and became very light for a while.  The speed profile shows this clearly!  We shook out all the reefs and had a great sail along the beach as the NE wind settled in.

Sunset over Cape Naturaliste
We picked up the mooring at 0800 with FSC yacht Alegria also here on a mooring.  We had a good rest this morning and right now Stingrey and Aqua Vitae are arriving from Bunbury.  I suspect they did a lot of motoring since the wind was very light for several hours.  A light sea breeze is now in which is cooling us down a little.  It has been 42 C in Perth today and pretty hot onboard too!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Quindallup Continued

Hi everyone,
We've now been at Quindallup for three days.  Despite the mooring infestation it is still a very nice place.  We're borrowing a mooring but it is still possible to anchor between some of them.

Between socialising and relaxing we've done a few jobs around the boat.  Zen Again now has her side dodgers mounted.  We did a massive reorganisation of our video and e-book libraries.  We replaced a blown fuse between our solar regulator and house battery bank.  The latter was deliberately undersized at 15Amps so we would knew if the system ever tried to exceed that amount.  We're now getting 15-20 Amps from the panels with the correct fuse installed.

Another system we played with was the AIS transceiver.  It has been connected to an antenna on the goalpost, so not very high.  We tried temporarily connecting it to the masthead antenna and the image below shows the receive range achieved - over 130nm!  All the way from off Fremantle to off Albany.  That's got to be partly due to atmospheric ducting but is far further than on the lower antenna.  As a result we have decided to install an antenna splitter, primarily to increase our transmit range.

AIS range of over 130nm!
We have also been playing with our best new electronic kit - the Iridium Go!  The unit is performing very well and we have our laptops and iPhones configured and communicating with the unit.  We will need to move the antenna outside the cabin but with it inside SMSs are being sent and received very reliably.  Emails are proving more difficult with the antenna mounted under the side deck - no big surprise there!

Beautiful yawl Swanhaven under a big sky and over lovely clear water
Revision II
Yesterday many of the FSC cruisers here met ashore at the DBYC clubhouse.  Twas a very pleasant sundown with a spectacular outlook.

 View from DBYC balcony 1
View from DBYC 2
We hosted the crews of Koniara and Alegria on Zen Again this afternoon.  Always fun to compare sailing plans, ideas and attitudes with other sailors.

We plan to depart Quindallup tomorrow evening and sail direct towards Mandurah.  It's a 70nm passage so ideal for an overnighter and there will be a nearly full moon.

Quindallup soon after dawn today