Friday, 31 July 2015

Cocos-Keeling Arrival

Hi everyone,
We are now safely anchored off Direction Island ("DI") at Cocos-Keeling.  We arrived at 1400 (local time) after a passage of 1367nm by the log over 10 days 4 hours.  Entry to the anchorage was quite straight-forward.

We called Cocos Customs on VHF 20 when 12nm out.  They instructed us to proceeed to the DI anchorage and call them again when anchored.  They then visited us in their RIB and cleared us in.  Very friendly guys and clearing in was a no-fuss exercise.

We'll do a full summary post tomorrow, but in the mean time here are a couple of photos…

Approaching DI from the east

At anchor off DI

There are about 8 yachts here at present, including Vulcan Spirit and Apogee.

Cocos-Keeling Inbound Day 10

Hi everyone,
We are now in position 12 00S 97 13E, sailing at 6.0knots on a course of 325 in a 15-20knot SE breeze. The day's run was 159nm and the total so far 1345nm. That's a good day's run for us! Best of all we have less than 20nm to go to Cocos!

Yesterday afternoon the wind continued stubbornly in the SE, putting Cocos-Keeling dead downwind. There was more cloud than on previous days, with one larger cumulus even producing a light shower. Towards evening however the band of cloud moved away and the wind backed to ESE. This allowed us to parallel our route to Cocos, just being about 20nm east of it.

As the evening wore on the wind gradually built. We had a great "sleigh ride" for several hours, sitting on 6.5 to 7.0 knots consistently. Eventually the boat started surfing to 8 knots and got that "skittish" feeling down below. Every move the autopilot made translated into a "shimmy" down below. The wind was 20-25knots. The boat was loving it but it was clearly time to reef! Interesting to ponder the daily runs one could get racing this boat!

After reefing the ride was much more cruisy, although the rolling increased. We sat on 6 knots for the rest of the night. This morning the wind lightened and returned to the SE.

We've seen rubbish and some debris in the water over the last 3 days. Mostly plastic waste such as drink bottles. We've also seen a couple of planks of wood - don't want to hit them! Last night we saw (on AIS only) our first ship for 3 days or so.

It's amazing to know we'll soon be at Cocos-Keeling. I've dreamt of visiting this place for 30 years! Vulcan Spirit arrived there yesterday evening so we will be less than a day behind.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Cocos-Keeling Inbound Day 9

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 13 39S 098 38E, saling at 5.5knots in a 10-15knot SE breeze. Unfortunately our destination is now dead downwind so we are "zigzagging" our way there. The day's run was 139nm with a total of 1186nm for the passage so far. We have only 140nm to go.

Yesterday afternoon the great sailing continued. During the evening the wind veered to SE which was taking us well east of our route so we gybed at midnight. By 0600 the wind appeared to be going around to the ESE so we gybed back. Now the wind is SE and doesn't look like changing to help us out. Never mind, the sailing conditions are almost perfect and we're enjoying them. Perfect would require zero swell - we're not going to see that for a VERY long time!

Last night there was little cloud and a nearly full moon. It's amazing how bright moonlight shines. The varying moonlight makes sailing at night vary enormously, but it's always fun. Overnight we collected one flying fish aboard. Nothing unusual in that except that it was tiny - about 40mm long.

At the 0300 watch change we decided to have a cuppa. Kettle on. 30 seconds we flamed out! (sorry). In SE Asia a 9kg gas bottle lasted us at least three months. We now know that on the winter WA coast it lasts two months. Just as well we have two bottles aboard. At dawn the conditions were OK to swap the two bottles so flame was on again. The bottles are stored separately, one on each pushpit quarter, and they have to be physically swapped to access the gas line.

This morning we saw what we think was a sea turtle. We weren't close enough to be sure so it might have been some sort of basking fish. We're continuing to see a few sea birds, mainly a beautiful bird with slender wings. They have white breasts and are otherwise jet black, looking like they're dressed for a black tie dinner. They soar the swells exactly like albatross but are only about ~0.6m in wing span. Our best guess is some kind of shearwater but we're guessing since our bird book is buried somewhere.

Our ETA is early afternoon tomorrow. Must go and find our Q flag!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Cocos-Keeling Inbound Day 8

Hi everyone,
We are currently at 14 48S 100 11E, sailing at 6.5 knots in a 15-18 knot ESE breeze.  It is a lovely sunny day with picturesque cumulus clouds scattered across the sky.  Definitely champagne sailing today.  Our noon-to-noon run was 115nm for a total of 1047nm on the log.  For reasons unknown we lost about 30nm on the log last night, which I have added back in the day's run but not the total (to avoid having to carry it forward forever!).  We have 250nm to run to Cocos-Keeling.

Last night the wind held in just enough for us to avoid motoring.  We were sailing at 3 knots for several hours and the sails were slatting but not violently.  Eventually the wind filled back in and we were sailing at 4-5 knots for most of the night.  The sky was clear for most of the night and was spectacular.  One flying fish stranded itself on deck overnight.  We try to help them back into the water if we hear them but this one didn't make itself known until the morning when it was smell that got our attention.

Today the wind has settled in at 15-18 knots and Zen Again is loving it.  We're romping along and barely taking a drop of water on deck.  We don't often have the top hatch open at sea when doing 6+knots.  Late this morning a pod of maybe a dozen dolphins checked us out.  They were about the same length as the WA type but seemed slimmer.  They were certainly fast.  They only hung around for a couple of minutes but it was great to have visitors.

We learned a great little trick from Robert and Lori of sv Apogee.  They suggested stuffing all rubbish in a plastic container.  They said it's amazing how much you can get in, and they were right.  Below is our rubbish after a full week, and there's still room for more!  It's great to no longer be just filling plastic bags, stowing them away and hoping they don't burst or leak.

Yesterday and overnight I worked on an issue we've been having with our HF radio.  It was transmitting very poorly and apparently failing to tune to each frequency.  I tried all sorts of things but swapping the microphone appears to have improved performance.  We spoke with Minnie B which is about 400nm west of Cocos-Keeling last night.  We spoke with Vulcan Spirit this morning and they were about 120nm NNE of us.

And finally, here's a picture of those clouds!

We bought unlimited data on our Iridium Go! plan so we might as well use it.  Hope you're enjoying the photos.

On Eating Our Elephant

Hi everyone,
Previously I've mentioned "eating the elephant", or how we're planning to break down our cruise to Cape Town this year.  Clearly, the only way to eat an elephant is:
1.  Piece by Piece; and
2.  Without undue regard to the amount still to eat.

The following "elephant pie" charts illustrate the menu by size (distance) and duration (time enroute and resting).  The total distance is approx 6800nm.  The total planned duration is 6 months - June to December.

So distance-wise we are on target, having reached the 3 o'clock point so far.

Likewise, we are on schedule time-wise - exactly if we arrive on Friday!

We've allowed a week for each stage along the South African coast but this is an average.  We expect to move along the coast as weather allows, stopping only where bad weather dictates.  Exceptions are Knysna and Simon's Town which we'd really like to visit.

Few plans survive contact with reality, but so far so good!

Some reading this will say "shouldn't he be on lookout or something?".  Good point.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Cocos-Keeling Inbound Day 7

Hi everyone,
We are currently sailing along at 5.5 to 6 knots in a 12-18 knot SE breeze with full sail set.  We are heading directly for Cocos!  Our day's run was 120nm for a total of 962nm so far.  We have 375nm to run.  It is a bright sunny day with typical a tradewind sky of scattered cumulus clouds.  It feels like we're in the tropics now - the water and the air are both 28degC.

Yesterday afternoon we had a very pleasant sail, albeit with less sun than today.  The S wind gradually faded from 20 knots to 10 knots at 1700 (WA time still) then 2-3 knots at 1900.  Our speed gradually decreased which is reflected in our day's run.  We then motored until midnight with the sea completely "glassed out" (swell aside) for most of that time.  The GRIBs did suggest we'd get a calm patch - they're usually right about that. ;)

At midnight a gentle SSE wind came in and we shutdown the trusty donk.  We had a beautiful sail in 6-8 knots of breeze.  There was little cloud and the 3/4 waxing moon was spectacular.  The moon set at about 0300 and then the stars came out.  Twas tempting to crack the champers but we settled for the unadulterated champagne sailing with stunning view.

Here's this morning's sunrise…

This morning the wind gradually built to around 15 knots and we're making good progress.  Great sailing.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Cocos-Keeling Inbound Day 6

Hi everyone,
At noon today we were at 16 35S 103 38E, sailing at 6.5 knots on a course of 280M.  We had a good sailing breeze of 20 knots from the NE.  Our noon-to-noon run was 135nm and the total for the passage so far 842nm.  We had 470nm to run to Cocos-Keeling.

Yesterday afternoon we had a very pleasant sail in a 10-15 knot NE breeze, beam reaching along in sunshine.  The wind gradually died in the early morning and we ended up motoring for 5 hours from 0300 when we were down to 2 knots of boat speed and the main was slatting violently in the swell.  Here's a picture of last night's sunset.

This morning an ENE breeze came up and we have had a pleasant sail with winds varying from 8-22 knots.  The wind has backed to the NNE.  We've kept it on our beam all day since the forecasts all say the wind will veer back into the SE tomorrow and we don't want to find ourselves directly to windward of our destination - we much prefer broad reaching.

Unfortunately it has been overcast for most of the day, so we haven't been able to dry the many rags which were stowed in the cockpit lockers.  How did they get wet?  I never got around to replacing the rubber seals atop the sills of the three hatches after our refit in Thailand.  The sills seemed very deep, but they weren't deep enough for the green water we took aboard in the gale.  That job is firmly on the to-do list now.

We found a little water in the aft bilge (about 500ml).  We think some of that is from the poopings since there are holes between one cockpit locker and the engine space, and the side channels (outboard of the engine beds) drain forward into the aft part of the saloon.  Twas good to pull up the floorboards and dry off the champers and wine supplies.  The first glass in Cocos will taste good.

And here's a picture from during the gale.  Practically impossible to catch sea state on camera!

Trust all's well where you are!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Carnarvon Outbound Day 5

Hi everyone,
The sun is out. For the first time since our departure we are getting some sunshine. At last!

We are currently in position 17 33S 105 31E, on a course of 315M with a 10-12 knot NE breeze. We have the full main and headsail set. We logged 136nm to noon today for a total of 707nm overall. We have 600nm to run to Cocos-Keeling.

Yesterday afternoon continued windy and rainy. We broad-reached with a deeply furled headsail only. We were pooped twice but happily the green water into the cockpit only half-filled the well. Not sure if that qualifies as being pooped, but either way it was a first. The cockpit drains work well!

We also had a couple of waves break into the side of the boat. Each was breaking over at least a 1m height (I was watching through the saloon windows) and hit us close to broadside. They caused a heavy shock which moved the boat bodily sideways and healed her to perhaps 40 degrees. The boat seemed to skid sideways over the water in response, which is a good thing. She did so despite the leeward side-deck being underwater. Ken Hayashi san did a great job in designing the boat, and Yamazaki Yachts and Precision Shipwrights built/strenghened her very well too!

It's interesting that the pooping and side-swiping occurred after the worst of the wind had passed. I think the waves were starting to break up and so were breaking more violently than they had been in the steady wind. We were doing the same speed since we had rolled out more headsail to maintain our speed to give the autopilot plenty of stearage way. The Raymarine SPX5 tiller-pilot has been marvellous throughout, and was on its second least sensitive setting!

It's interesting that our experience has closely matched what's described in the book Heavy Weather Sailing, originally by Adlard Coles. Essential reading for offshore sailors.

Last night we spoke with Minnie B on the Indian Ocean Crosser's HF net. They have departed Cocos and were bemused by the SE swell. I described the conditions we've had for the last few days and that explained it!

Overnight the wind decreased to around 25 knots and swung a little to the ESE. The rain gradually increased until by 0430 it was torrential. At 0530 we hoisted the double-reefed main and unrolled more jib since the wind was below 25 knots. 30 minutes later we had 1 reef and an hour after than the full main was up. The wind was down to 10-15 knots from the N and we were close-reaching to the WNW.

At dawn it was still overcast but there were patches with only high cloud. By mid morning the clouds had nearly all cleared and we had sunny skies. Marvellous. Zen Again is now covered in wet towels, rags and mats which will hopefully dry. The solar panels are pumping 10A into the batteries. What a change!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Carnarvon Outbound Day 4

Hi everyone,
We are now at 19 14S 106 50E after a 24 hour run of 146nm and total of 571nm. We are heading 330M and doing about 5.5knots under deeply furled headsail and no main. The wind is 30-35knots from the ESE. Tis windy out here! We have 720nm to go to Cocos-Keeling.

The weather yesterday was overcast with persistent rain and winds around 25 knots. Overnight the wind gradually built up to 40knots. At 0500 we handed the main since we were starting to surf down waves (with trisail sized main and handkerchief-sized jib!). With the main down the ride improved. The boat is handling it all very well and all's well aboard.

This morning the wind has stayed around 30 knots and gradually swung towards the east. All the GRIBs say we should get out of this weather this evening. Vulcan Spirit is NE of us and this mornign they were sailing in much nicer conditions with only a little cloud. We're still looking forward to seeing the sun.

Thankfully we haven't encountered any traffic at all. We're relying on AIS to alert us to shipping. We appear to be well off any shipping lanes.

Hopefully we're earning some "credits" with the wind Gods on this passage. It is usually reported as being idyllic. Happy to trade this for an idyll from Reunion to Richards Bay!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Carnarvon Outbound Day 3

Hi everyone,
We are now on a course of 330M, sailing at 6.5knots in a 25knot ESE breeze. Still completely overcast. We have two reefs in the main and three in the headsail. Our position is 21 12S 107 59E. We have logged 155nm in the last 24 hours and 425nm in total. 155nm isn't bad for a 34 footer! We have 840nm to run to Cocos-Keeling.

Yesterday afternoon we continued to make good way to the west despite a rolly ride with the swell nearly on our beam. At 1800 we gybed and headed north. The difference with the swell behind us was huge - a much nicer ride. We sailed with one reef in the main and a well furled headsail for most of the night.

In the evening we did our normal HF sked with Vulcan Spirit then listened in to the Indian Ocean Crosser's net. Reception was good so when the net controller Minnie B asked for other yachts we jumped in and they could hear us quite well. Twas good to make contact with a boat at Cocos. Minnie B gave glowing reports of the lovely anchorage with turquoise water, sandy beach and sunshine. Sounds a million miles away given our weather!

In the early hours of this morning the wind gradually increased and the rain became persistent. We estimate it was blowing steadily over 30 knots. The boat handled it very well and we're very glad we invested in our new "cruising" main which has extremely deep reefs. Extreme Sails built it well. The ride below was very smooth and we both slept very well during our off watches. By 0600 the wind was getting closer to 40 knots and we tucked in the second reef in the main and reduced the headsail to No5 size. That was a good move and the boat was still doing 6knots and very comfortable. The autopilot is doing a magnificent job.

This morning the wind has moderated and the rain is now in showers rather than steady. Still 8/8ths cloud. We're keeping the second reef in the main and adjusting how much headsail is rolled out as the wind varies. The boat seems to like this configuration.

We're heading north of the rhumb line at present in hopes of breaking through this line of weather which appears to lie West to East. The trades have got to be up there somewhere! Vulcan Spirit texted us this morning saying "Reached Tropics. Weather Horrid". Couldn't have put it better myself!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Carnarvon Outbound Day 2

Hi everyone,
We are currently sailng on a course of 275M at about 6.5knots in a 20knot SE breeze. The swell seems to have reduced a little to 2m. Our position is 23 08S 109 29E. We have logged 138nm in the last 24 hours and 270nm in total. Distance to Cocos-Keeling is 980nm so we are about 1/4 of the way there.

Yesterday afternoon the wind gradually filled in. Later in the afternoon it got above 20knots and the boat was trucking along with one reef in the main and a well furled headsail. Overnight the wind moderated to 15knots or so and we had the full main back up. Our course gradually changed from 300M to 270M as the wind backed.

We've seen little shipping traffic so far - just two ships on Tuesday night and two last night. One of them last night was going to pass very close. We hailed him on both VHF 16 and via VHF DSC call with no response but a few minutes later he called us. He volunteered to change course to pass behind us. Always interesting watching ships at night when you're crossing their bows. I think last night's two ships were in the shipping lane between Fremantle and the Sunda Straits.

The weather continues to be completely overcast with occasional light rain. Not particularly pleasant on deck but its quite cosy below and we're sleeping well. It takes us a day or two to get into our cruising rhythm but we're just about there now. We're eating well despite the rolly conditions. Last night we had savoury beef with black beans and fresh green beans followed by freshly stewed rhubarb.

We are keeping in touch with Vulcan Spirit via HF. DSC routine calling is working well between the two of us. This morning they were about 60nm ESE of us. At 8pm each evening we also listen to the Indian Ocean Crosser's HF radio sked. A boat at Cocos is running the sked and several are on their way to and from Cocos at present. We hope to be heard as we close the range. Other yachts (mostly those which left SE Asia via Sri Lanka) are further west but have a different sked time/freq.

Trust all's well where you are.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Carnarvon Outbound Day 1

Hi everyone,
We are currently sailing along very slowly (about 2 knots) in a 2-4knot SE breeze. There is a 3m swell which is making it hard work with the main and headsail both slatting to and fro frequently. Our position is 23 53S 111 48E.

We had a great sail yesterday and headed west to keep the boat sailing well as the wind lightened off during the evening. Later we gybed and headed north. At 0100 last night we turned the motor on because the wind was very light and the sails were slatting so badly they were shaking the whole boat. Motoring steadied things down and we motored for 9 hours in very light wind and significant swell. You know the wind is light when the swell moving you around creates more apparent wind than the actual wind!

Despite the light winds we logged 130nm in our first 24 hours at sea. Vulcan Spirit is 40nm behind us since they managed not to motor. When we spoke to them this morning they had 10 knots of breeze while we had next to nothing - the ocean was nearly glassed out around us.

It was great to turn the motor off an hour ago and resume sailing. The breeze does seem to be gradually settling in and the slatting is decreasing (although that may be wishful thinking)! It has been overcast since our departure. Hoping to see the sun eventually.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Carnarvon Departure

Hi everyone,
This morning we cleared out from Carnarvon and are now on passage towards Cocos-Keeling. We are currently sailing at about 6.5knots in a nice SSE breeze which is varying between 12 and 18 knots. Our position is 24 48S 113 23E.

We slipped the mooring in the fascine at 0945 and had a trouble-free exit from the fascine. We had 0.8m of tide and never saw less than 2.5m water depth. In the harbour we tied alongside the SW end of the T jetty where there was a metal ladder for the BorderForce folks to board us.

Mikhael and Lisa of BorderForce arrived at 1045 and it was a very quick and simple exercise to clear out. We even got stamps in our passports. It felt very strange putting the X in the "departing Australia permanently". We know we'll be back eventually. Mikhael emailed us an electronic copy of our Port Clearance within minutes as a backup to the paper document. Most helpful.

We had a great second week in Carnarvon. Our friends on Vulcan Spirit arrived mid last week and it was nice spending time with them exploring Carnarvon. Our friends on Apogee departed Carnarvon on Monday last week and they are approaching Cocos-Keeling this morning.

It seems strange to be heading out into the Indian Ocean. This is the third boat we've prepared for this voyage. At last we're on our way! Friends of ours crossed the Indian Ocean last year. They described it as "eating the elephant - bite by bite". We're taking our first bite!

Sunday, 12 July 2015


Hi everyone,
We're enjoying our stay in Carnarvon.  There have been strong winds every day until today.  The wind has been very chilly and we had to dig out our thick sleeping bags again.  Today it has been overcast with occasional light rain.  Regardless of the weather we're enjoying our time here.

Zen Again in the fascine
We've got a number of jobs done since arriving:

  • used the CYC laundry to wash all our sleeping bags and sea-rugs as well as usual laundry
  • topped up provisions at the local Woolworths (quite well stocked)
  • topped up fruit and veg at the local Saturday market (limited range but good quality and cheap)
  • topped up petrol supplies (for dinghy outboard motor)
  • fitted and tested new HF antenna tuner
  • changed engine oil and filters
  • lubricated Aires vane gear and replaced missing split pin
  • deck inspection found a nylock nut on the boom vang gooseneck is no longer "locking" so thread-locked it

New antenna tuner fitted
Servicing the engine
On Friday the CYC opens and puts on a good feed.  This week they had pumpkin soup followed by beef and chicken roast.  It was a chilly evening but there was quite a good turnout.  There is a small community of liveaboards whose boats are either in the marina or moored in the fascine.  On Tuesdays they gather ashore for a pizza evening.

US yacht Apogee (left) and Zen Again
We haven't yet decided when we'll depart Carnarvon.  Could be this week if the weather outlook continues to hold, or we may wait for our friends on Vulcan Spirit to catch up with us.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Monkey Mia to Carnarvon

Hi everyone,
We departed Monkey Mia this morning at 0010.  The tide was low but rising and the (half) moon was up.  We had a nice 12 hour passage to Carnarvon and are now on a DoT mooring in the fascine at  24 53.25S 113 39.28E.  Here are our overall track and speed plots...

Zen Again track
Zen Again speed
Our departure from Monkey Mia was a little exciting.  We had thought we could pass behind several yachts to the first port marker.  Turns out the one monohull in the bunch is either a bilge keeler or right on the edge of the bar.  We backed off the sand bank without drama and leaving the boats to starboard (instead of port) gave us plenty of water to cross the bar.

Once over the bar we set the main and set course for Carnarvon.  Unfortunately the wind was right behind us so we had a few hours of rolly, uncomfortable sailing before the wind moved around to the SE and strengthened.  With the wind off the stern we could unroll the jib.  As the speed plot shows we ended up with a very nice breeze for much of the passage.  The wind only faded as we approached Carnarvon, which was perfect for finding our way up river to the fascine.

The channel up river starts near the end of Teggs Channel.  There are a set of port/starboard markers which show the way.  We entered the channel with 1.0m of tide above chart datum and had perhaps 0.5 knot of current with us.  We just maintained steerage way and let the current take us up.

The shallowest part of the channel is about 200m from Teggs Channel.  We stayed close to the starboard markers but the deepest water is on the port side, close to the seaward sandbank.  As close inspection of our track (below) shows, we ran aground in one spot.  This was where we passed a larger boat hard aground to port.  After getting past him we grounded briefly before finding the deeper water.  It was weird passing people out for a walk along the beach only 20m from us!

After this initial trouble we always had at least 2.5m of water (or 1.5m above datum), and mostly over 3.0m.

Turning into the channel from Teggs Channel
Deepest water is initially very close to the seaward sandbank
Keep the leads in line!
Passing the yacht club marina
On the mooring
Finally, here are two plots of our track up to the fascine.  Hope they're useful to someone!

Southern Part - Teggs Channel to Pelican Point
Northern Part - Pelican Point to the Fascine
It's great to be back in Carnarvon and on a good mooring.  We were last here in 2002 with the Splash event.  Strong winds are forecast for the next few days so we're pleased to be here.  We have a few jobs to do on the boat, including final provisioning before clearing out for Cocos-Keeling next week.  Our friends on US yacht Apogee have been here for a while and are on the next mooring.  We expect our friends on UK yacht Vulcan Spirit to arrive later this week.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Jordan Series Drogue

Hi everyone,
We haven't spent all our time here at Monkey Mia watching the world go by.  We've also been working on the to-do list.

The biggest job has been assembling our Series Drogue.  These are assemblies of small nylon cones attached to rope in series.  The drogue is designed to be deployed over the stern of the boat to slow it down in very rough weather.  We purchased a set of 107 cones from Series Drogue Australia.  We saved $1000 on a fully assembled drogue but had to attach the cones to double-braid line for form the drogue.

Ready to start!
The finished product is about 45m long (without cone-less "leader")
Stowed ready to deploy
The only issue we encountered was the company not shipping the latch-hook recommended for attaching the cones.  They didn't even after we complained.  By experimentation we found that Nic's crochet hook worked very well.

To put credit where it is due, Nicki assembled 106 of the cones!

Other jobs done while here include:
  • assembly of a new Y-pattern anchor snubber to suit our new bow roller and bow cleats
  • re-attached side screens using shock-cord to help them survive the Indian Ocean
  • lots of HF radio testing, including contacting several boats over 1000nm away
  • Topped up water (140 litres) and diesel (20 litres)
The to-do list for Carnarvon is now reduced to fitting those items we've ordered recently and are now waiting there for us.  We'll top up water again of course and do an engine oil & filters service.  We expect to depart for Carnarvon in the early hours of tomorrow morning.  The plan is to catch the tide up the channel to the fascine tomorrow afternoon.

Monkey Mia

Hi everyone,
We've been here at Monkey Mia for nearly a week.  Time flies when having fun!  Tis a very relaxing place with lots of wildlife to watch and good facilities ashore.

We've enjoyed watching sunsets from the Boughshed restaurant.  Good coffee and fantastic view.  The restaurant is only a year old.  Last night we had a nice meal there at prices only slightly above those down south.

Boughshed restaurant
Each morning there are several dolphin feeding sessions which are very popular.  The dolphins come close to Zen Again once in a while, but the highlights have been seeing a huge turtle up close and a 2.5m tiger shark.  The latter checked us out thoroughly and convinced us not to swim off the boat!

Dolphin viewing/feeding session
Pelicans on the beach (where are all the humans?) 
There is a 4km walk marked from the resort which we explored one morning.  The red sand is spectacular and contrasts vividly with the green vegetation.  The walk returns to the resort along the beach which (as you can see in the photos) isn't red sand.

Zen Again from the beach S of the resort
The sand spit which shelters the anchorage
We've been welcome to use the resort's facilities.  This has allowed us top up our diesel and water supplies - the latter was free and desalinated.  Both were filled by dinghying jerry cans ashore.  Note that most water taps are non-potable bore water.  The staff can show you the potable water taps.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Iridium GO! Email with SatPhone.Me

Hi everyone,
We've had an Iridium GO! aboard for six months now and have been cruising for a month.  We've become increasingly dissatisfied with the email app provided by Iridium.  We looked around and with PredictWind's advice selected SatPhone.Me.

SatPhone.Me is sold by SatphoneStore, the company which provides the GO! units and airtime contracts to PredictWind.  SatPhone.Me uses the well-known XGATE software from Global Marine Networks.

Satphone.Me  (XGATE) App

For us, the issues with the Iridium Mail & Web app included:
  • Only available on iOS and Android (not Windows or Mac OS X)
  • Not integrated with native email apps on supported devices
  • Poor quality overall with frequent crashes
The only Iridium GO! app which has been reliable for us has been PredictWind's Offshore app.  This allows us to obtain PredictWind GRIBs and other weather data, but not all the data we'd like.

We find the lack of integration of Iridium Mail with our normal email very frustrating.  SatPhone.Me has proved to be the answer.  We have been using it for a while now and it is great.  As they say, "it just works".  We now forward all our normal email to our SatPhone.Me account without problems.  We didn't dare do so with Iridium Mail & Web due to its frequent crashes.

For us, the advantages of Satphone.Me  include:
  • Supported on Mac OS X
  • Integrates with Mac OS X mail app
  • Automatically uses existing network connectivity when present, otherwise uses the GO!
  • Manages "big mail" well
  • Allows us to send and receive any attachments we want direct from/to our laptops
  • Stable and reliable

A Satphone.Me account costs about $100/year which is great value for us.  It is allowing us to get far more use (=value) out of our GO!  We really like the GO! and with SatPhone.Me it is now delivering everything we hoped for.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Broadhurst Bight to Monkey Mia

Hi everyone,
Today we had a pleasant 24nm passage to Monkey Mia.  We initially motored around Cape Peron then had a great sail for a couple of hours until the wind died completely.    We are anchored in 4.5m over sand at 25 47.4s 113 43.3e.  Here's our track...

Zen Again track
The anchorage at Monkey Mia is a "pool" entered across a bar on the W side.  We saw a minimum depth of 1.8m (reduced to datum) just after we passed the last red mark shown below.  Beyond the bar the pool is about 3m deep (ditto).  There are several moorings but there is plenty of room to anchor.

Zen Again track detail
Since arriving there has been no wind to speak of.  Tis like a millpond...

Approaching final red mark to enter anchorage
View of the beach, jetties and village from the anchorage
We've seen a few dolphins and a couple of sea turtles so far.  Looking forward to seeing more.  This is certainly a lovely spot.  Very tranquil.

We expect to stay here for several days.  5 bars on the mobile!