SKIE'S THE LIMIT

"For the truth is that I already know as much about my fate as I need to know. The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze."
Richard Bode
Phil Reid - Nice tuna off Portland, Bass Straight
Phil Reid - Nice tuna off Portland, Bass Straight

Bundaberg to Gold Coast - Queensland Nov 2009

Our son James and I flew up to Bundaberg, boarded SKIE and immediately we arrived, shot south to Southport on the Gold Coast, taking 35 hours and claiming Seaway Tower at 2300 hrs the next night.
James (aged 30) has spent a lot of hours on the boat to date (over 4000 nm) and has been an enormous help for deliveries, but being a sole parent to Chloe (7 yr old) and a racehorse trainer, he is restricted to time constraints.

One of the main reasons to get to the Gold Coast so quickly was to arrange for the boat to be hauled for the first time since she went into the water brand new 30 months ago. This was to apply new bottom paint, Prop Speed, check running gear, replace zinc anodes, cut and polish all fibreglass, brights, and attend to 70 items for servicing, inspecting, repairs, and a full internal detail. I think the old girl deserved it after 16,000 nm.

Whilst this was being done I reflected on how kind and generous she has been to us, and a supreme testament to the boat building integrity of PAE, the makers of Nordhavn, and wondered why we shouldn't continue on with what she was built for, and see the rest of the world.

I mentioned previously that we met the triple circumnavigators Wofgang and Heidi Hass in Bundaberg, and Wolfgang pulled me aside to share some of his personal wisdom and life philosophy. He asked me to imagine a one metre long wooden ruler, cut it off at a point that represents my life expectancy i.e. 80 years = 800 mm, then mark off my current age i.e. 66 = 660 mm, then paint it black up to this point, then red for the following 140 mm. It is scary to say the least, particularly when you work out how quickly the red section left went so quickly looking back. At 100 mm ago I was 56, and surely that was only just yesterday.

After a deep and meaningful discussion with Margaret back home over a couple of bottles of wine, she gave an emphatic thumbs up without any hesitation, and so our quest for SKIE (spending the kids inheritance early) is going to take on a serious hammering.

We have booked SKIE onto the Dockwise yacht transporter Super Servant 3 and she departs Brisbane on Jan 30th 2010, and float off  in Ensenada Mexico, 20 days later. We will meet her when she arrives having crossed the Pacific nibbling canapes on a Qantas flight. She will be then steamed by a professional delivery crew north to Victoria BC, Canada, and then further to Alaska for the NH summer.

From then on the next major goal will be to Dockwise her again to Palma Mallorca in the Med in 2011 0r 2012.

Having 16,000 nm under the belt always at the helm I have nothing to prove to myself by crossing big oceans, so the boat is all now all about about milking destinations to their fullest, and taking the tough, unpredictable, and sometimes boring parts out of the equation.  I owe this sage advice to my good friend Milt Baker a fellow Nordhavn owner from the US, to follow his lead coming back from the Med to the US, and also the example of another US friend Christine Bauman,  who is bringing her N55 on the same boat to Australia from the Med this coming January.


I am aptly reminded of the header quotation on this page from Richard Bode  


Whitsunday Island Group to Bundaberg - Queensland

This has been a great trip as it was just Margaret and I on board and without others timetables, we were able to amble down the coast at a leisurely pace and securing an anchorage every night. First stop was at Scawfell Island, then Middle Percy Island, Pearl Bay, Great Keppell Island, Pancake Creek, and finally Bundaberg.

It was our primary aim to get claim the Gold Coast, but the brisk SE trades wouldn't let up, and quite frankly Marg had had enough of the pounding, so decided we would sit out a few days in Bundaberg to see if the wind direction and intensity would change. What would be ideal is anything that was more abeam or behind us as the SE trades dominate here for most of the year, and any boat coming down from Cape York has to travel approx1240 nm to Byron Bay in NSW almost on a true SE heading, before the mainland eastwards bulge ends, and affords a more southerely course for any port south.

Arriving in Bundaberg we were delighted to meet the famous Hass's who are on their third world circumnavigation on their Nordhavn 46 - Kanaloa. Wolfgang and Heidi Hass (and Zulu their little dog who was just released after a month in Quarantine) were fascinating to listen to, and we particularly probed them for their favourite places around the globe. Obviously they love Australia, but I couldn't convince them to come south of Mooloolaba to see Tasmania which is my boating heaven. Something about growing up in Berlin vowing never to experience cold weather again, was the explanation we received I believe.
Waiting for a change in the weather for three days which didn't eventuate, we ran out of time to attend our son Chris's University graduation ceremony back in Melbourne. Chris has just been appointed the General Manager of our business, after having been in it for 10years, except for 3 years off for Uni, it's going to be almost impossible now to pick up one of our most accessible crew members as he has lot's of work now on his plate. We drove down to Mooloolaba in the Hass's car as they needed it down there before arriving on Kanaloa, and saved us from renting one.
We claimed the PalazzoVersace Hotel marina at 2000 hrs on November 15th, and early in the morning steamed SKIE around to the Gold Coast City Marina on the Coomera River, where she was pulled out of the water by a 180 ton travel lift to reveal an extraordinary site of a bottom that had been in the water for 30 months since new.
What a testament to Pettit Trinidad anti foul applied in the factory when built. Sadly it has been banned in Australia because of it's high copper content so we have had to use another product. This give us a chance to also polish the topsides and fill a few dings that occur when you put 16,000 miles under the keel. The worst of the problem occured in Broome when the steel strapping on a very large mooring bouy we were on finished up scraping the hull which is very rare as the boat should hang off some distance by a line, but in Broome when you have a tide counter the wind, everything becomes neutral. However with a bit of gel coat and a polish it has dissapeared fortunately. Well the guy that applied it and myelf can see a difference, most others wouldn't. 

Cairns to Whitsunday Island group   - Queensland

Just arrived at Blue Pearl Bay at Hayman Island which is significant as this was our first anchorage we made in July 2007 when we went solo for the first time after the handover. Technically the circumnavigation has been fulfilled as SKIE left from here one year ago to go south to Hobart. We can say we have now visited every state capitol city in the country, excluding our countries inland capital Canberra where socialist bureaucrats sip chardonnay and dream up ways to tax mariners.
On board with me was Dave Reid and his partner Teresa who will stay on board for a week. Dave has previously been on a couple of long voyages before without seeing the anchor wet. He's the boats barman and uses NZ time as his reference for the right time to whip the top off one - gotta luv 'im though.

The three day trip to the Whitsundays had us leaving Cairns at 2200 hours on Monday 28th Sept, and claiming our first stop at Hancock Island at the south of Hinchinbrook Channel 18 hours later. What a sight this is to behold and it reminded me of being in the Leeward Islands of French Polynesia. I must say that this is one of the three top places I've visited over the whole trip around our wonderful and diversified country. It has to be the closest you can get to soaring mountains so close to the water.


The southern entrance to the passage had us going past a town named Lucinda. This entrance, or exit for us, is full of shallow shifting bars and leads were in place for a back reference to get out. However my charts revealed if we stood to the leads we would have only 1.2 m under us, but of course we had more as we were on the rising tide an hour before slack water. Lucinda is a hub for sugar distribution and the conveyor belt wharf goes out 3 nm (or 5 plus kilometres) which we followed before the leads could be seen and we moved away from the wharf to find the deeper water.

Next stop was at Cape Bowling Green for a sleep and at first light we headed south to Blue Pearl Bay on the north side of Hayman Island at the top of the Whitsundays. Getting in at 2200 hours we had a good sleep and prepared to go to the famous Whitehavn Beach where we were to have a reunion with 3 of my previous shipmates, Peter O'Brien and his wife Sal, Marcel Hendricksen and wife Inga, and David Brown and partner Trish who were keen to show off their new Selene 59 power boat which was very impressive indeed.

The boat is booked into the Hamilton Island marina for two weeks so I can get back to Melbourne and welcome home Marg who has been in Europe for 4 weeks visiting her niece in the UK and our daughter and two grandchildren in the Netherlands.

Apropos of nothing really, but we berthed next to Il Volpi a major mega yacht that was used in the latest James Bond movie so I'm told. Just out of the harbour on a mooring is another giant named Texas. What these boats have in common is that both owners live in my home town Melbourne, both billionaires, and would you believe it, both conked out due to mechanical problems. ll Volpi has the US clothing designer Donna Karan on board and as she wanted to go diving over at Blue Pearl today so they had to hitch a lift on a friend of mines little 65 footer

SKIE
is now very spick after finally getting rid of the red dust that's been on the whole northern E Coast of Australia and I expect to be back up here with Marg to do another stage down to the Gold Coast (560 nm) in about 2 weeks. This will be my 3rd attempt to haul the boat for the first time ever to repaint anti foul and check running gear, seacocks, zincs etc. I just dived two days ago on the boat and found the bottom almost perfect apart from some slime that could be rubbed off with a towel, and incredibly it was last scrubbed 6 months ago in Hobart just before we left. Just goes to show about a rolling stone not gathering any moss (barnacles in our case)

By the time we get to Hobart in Jan the boat will have travelled the equivalent since new (2 years, and six months ago) almost around the world. i.e. Oz to the Red Sea via SE Asia, through the Med, across the Atlantic to Panama, then SE to French Polynesia. Ad nauseam again I unabashedly claim, the boat continues to be faultless without any serious issues, so we are very blessed.

Royal Australian Navy coastal patrol boat entering Darwin. 
 
 
Darwin to Cairns 11th - 19 th Sept 09
 
 
We departed Bayview Marina Darwin at first light on Friday 11th Sept for a very long haul of 1338 nm (2700 kms) to Cairns FN Queensland. As we didn’t bunker at Broome two months ago because of the high tidal range to be expected at the fuel pier, we took on 7249 litres at Darwin which will get us comfortably across the top and south around to Cairns. If you work this out at $1.39 a litre it is reasonable to assume that this is less dosh the kids are going to get one day. Thanks kiddo's. 

 

On board is Rick McClure who has now put a lot of miles on SKIE (4,618 nm), and his friend John Saviene who recently retired as a Qantas 747 flight engineer officer. Always good to have an engineer on board who can intuitively wade through any manuals explaining in simple language to an old shoe saleman what needs to be done to fix anything that may crop up. First thing he worked on was my HF radio that has never worked properly, then proceeded to tell me Qantas threw them out years ago and rely on Sat phones, which was relieving because that is all we have used.

 

Although it is rare to see another recreation boat going across the top we have passed at least 10 ships, and are being buzzed each day by the Coast Watch plane which gives us a little comfort as we head across the wide boring paddock north of the Gulf of Carpentaria. If we needed to get to a port it would be much closer to go north a few miles to PNG. We are also shadowed by Navy Patrol boats that cover this area being so close to Papua New Guinea. They don’t show up on AIS, or radar for that matter, so must be using some new radar avoidance stealth system.

 

First two days out in the Arafura Sea showed us what we were to expect for the whole four to five days duration when we pass adjacent to Thursday Island in the Prince of Wales Channel. Wind on the nose, current on the nose, and plenty of isometric exercises on the old bod from just trying to get around. The Torres Strait/Arafura Sea is reputed to have the strongest and most consistent Trade Winds in the world, marginally more than the Windward Islands in the West Indies, and parts of the Southern Indian Ocean.

 

When we get around Cape York, the most northern landmark in Australia to head south we will still get them but will be behind the Great Barrier Reef which should offer some respite, and maybe some south setting current which runs down the eastern seaboard of Australia. We have put our rods away as having to stop to pull fish in would be too uncomfortable, but the freezer is still stocked to the gunwhales through previous successful encounters.

 

Our routine of 3 hours on watch, and six off, is working well, and we have a stack of DVD’s to keep us company. Rick brought on board the completed DVD that he produced of our Kimberley Adventure, and I’m blown away of how professionally it was done. However there will be very little to shoot on this trip, with maybe some footage of Lizard Island where we plan to stop over one night once around the corner if we can pick up some speed to meet our planned average of 7.3 kts

 

Long distance passagemaking is like everything in life I suppose as you have to take the good with the bad, but in our case so far with 14,640 nm on the log to this point in just a touch over 2 years, this is the only one of a handful of tough passages we have seen so far, and our cooking has been somewhat a less creative than we would normally have, and we toast Tony Peach’s culinary skills each night in absentia. John not having been to sea like this before, when relieving me on watch at 0300 hrs, always asks whether we can see Tahiti yet, which is the significant landfall when crossing the Pacific at 40,000 ft in his 747, so I bet this has been uttered 1000’s of times by him and the flight crew.

Arrival in Cairns occured at 0500 on Sat 19th after 19 hours from Lizard Island, where we stopped for a couple of hours to have breakfast and check our oil, with the main taking 3 litres which we expected. The trip from Darwin has taken 8 days, travelling 1338 nm and consumed 8489 lts of fuel.

From Lizard Is at  last we found a virtual rhumbline to our waypoint at Cairns with the wind, finally for the first time since leaving Darwin, off our nose. We still had consistent 20 to 30 knots across the deck (sometime got 40 kts) as so far for the whole trip, but this time the severe pitching had stopped and we got a lean on the boat for the first time with the wind 60 deg off our port bow. To celebrate, John had a brainwave that the skipper should miss an overnight watch so he would be fresh to bring us in. This was most appreciated by me, but as said before, skippers never sleep soundly until tied up at a marina, which I did last night in my Ekornes chair to awaken at first light, with my Billie Connelly DVD still on and my nice glass of red drying on my lap and the carpet. Sorry Margaret.
 
Rick and John caught a plane later in the day back to the Gold Coast after a flurry of cleaning activity. Cleaning the boat is a big job after a trip such as this. First job is to blast off the salt build up with a high pressure unit, then start all over again with the detergent and brushes.

Next leg will be from Cairns to the Whitsunday Islands, and I have good friend David Reid (the fisherman who reeled in the boats biggest fish so far crossing Bass Strait) and his partner Theresa on board. Marg is still away in the UK but may be able to make it up here on her return hopefully. We plan to depart on the 28th of Sept stopping off each night for the 3 day trip and see some local scenery. Can't wait to get down there to catch up with some buddies and drink some nice red wine in one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

Arrival in Darwin

After an easy 36 hrs trip from the mouth of King George River we arrived in Darwin around midday to claim Bayview Marina where we would park for a couple of weeks whilst we went back home to Melbourne. Margaret was anxious to be with a close friend whose husband was dying, and the night before we left he sadly passed away, so timing was fortuitous as we had been in the wilderness and out of touch for so long.

Bayview Marina was one of those special experiences that I am thrilled to have under my belt as it is locked, like the other three marinas in Darwin. However to get to Bayview we had to travel up this rapidly narrowing creek with very little water under the keel. The creek has a lot of boats moored down the middle, and we soon cottoned on to zigzagging between them to find the deepest water.


Finding the entrance to the lock amongst the mangrove lined creek revealed that we had to manouvre our big 60 tons into the lock with an area hardly much bigger than the boat. Fenders alongside and the use and sheer neccesity of our bow and stern thrusters to keep us aligned without scraping the hull up against steel and concrete, we tied up inside whilst the river gate was closed, and 3 metres of water was pumped in to raise us to the level inside the marina, then the other gate was opened so we could get into the marina finally and fix our lines. I had done this before in the ICW on the E coast of the US, but never at the con, so very grateful for another experience finding Darwin being unique in Australia for their locked marinas.

Little time to see much of Darwin, but could see such change when I was there 20 years ago, and pleased it had become a very modern well laid out city, and the wide dual roads lined in Frangapani trees, reminded me of Singapore a bit.
 
We left the boat very quickly to get home to Melbourne with a 6 hour plane trip, and early in the morning to boot, I wasn't overly happy as I usually like a whole day to shut down the boat, and double check everything. Problem one was we didn't arrange to have anyone checking on her, and just hope the power isn't lost to destroy our freezer full of fish. This happened back in Hobart and I vowed and declared I would vacuum seal all fish and meat from then on. When fish in particular goes off and is not vacuum sealed, it leaves a solid sludge of foul smelling juice in the bottom of the freezer which is terrible. Well it was bad for Dave and Phil who did the clean up job coming across Bass Strait. We now put a container of ice cubes in both freezers, and if this is a flat block when we return it means we have had a power outage, so everything in the freezers is thrown out. Ah well - more fish to catch.

Rick and his mate John are joining me for the 1350 nm trip to Cairns on Thursday 9th Sept, and Marg is off to Europe, and both our sons are going overseas as well. Our watches will be 3 hours on, 6 off, which is comfortable, but as usual for the owner/captains they always sleep with one foot still on the floor.
 
This is mainly a non stop delivery trip with hopefully one day spent at famous Lizard Island inside the Barrier Reef, thus taking 7 days. Expectations are that this trip will be straight forward navigation wise, as we will be mostly in shipping channels which are well bouyed and lit, contrasting the past the 4 months. Our AIS (Automatic Identification System) will obviously get a big workout  identifying everything we need to know about keeping safe when tracking ships in our midst.

The boat has been travelling without any dramas, again a testament to the boatbuiders PAE. Only problem to deal with is high pressure alerts on the air con units, but guess we may have sucked some mud into the sea chest as we had so little water under us at the marina (0.6 m)

Two years ago I set up a website "The N55 Heads Up Report"  which is for the owners of the same boat, and we have contributed to over 3400 postings on any issues encounted. This has been a godsend for me for gaining support from my peers, because when  anyone has a problem or a discovery, we share the information to get the best fix. Boats are never without problems because they are so complex, and SKIE is a very complex boat because of all of the added options available.
 

Geranium Harbour to King George  River.

We have now travelled 2400 nm (4800 km) since leaving Fremantle, and 4000 nm (8000 km) since setting out from Hobart early May, We have about 400 nm to go to complete stage 4, arriving in Darwin.

 

Stage 5 will be a pure transit leg of about 1000 nm going across the top of Oz, rounding Cape York, then down to Cairns. There is very little to see here unless we explored the Gulf of Carpentaria which has no special appeal compared to what we have seen, and of course the need not to be in this region too late with the cyclone season approaching. 

Everyone goes back home at Darwin, and two new crew plus Rick will join us for the eight day passage. Rick has had a lot of experience with the Great Barrier Reef which is somewhat foreign to me, so that adds some comfort. Four people will make this non stop trip comfortable so we can space out our watches accordingly, and we will be traveling a lot in shipping channels from Darwin as we go across the top of the continent to Cape York, and wend our way SE inside the Great Barrier Reef, but may stop over at Lizard Is for a night if time permits.

Yesterday we were hailed by a passing yacht heading south to Fremantle asking us if we could help him out with fuel which we unfortunately couldn't oblige with. We have only run into two recreation boats on the whole trip, both sailing boats, and both under motor as the last few weeks have been completely devoid of any wind. This boat, Pioneer, was on the home leg of a circumnavigation of the country, and the other was a catamaran with a couple on board with two young kids who were heading to Indonesia and Micronesia for a couple of years.

 

We have now been trolling since we left Hobart so many miles back, and two types have alluded us, GT's (Giant Trevally) and Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish). However this was about to change when Margaret's rod went off with a scream, then almost within seconds, Rick's as well. What we pulled on board were two GT's with Margaret's being slightly the bigger. Marg had a real fight to land hers (see pic) but she was pretty pleased with herself after previously hooking up a large Lemon shark whilst at anchor in Talbot Bay with my light Barra rod, and busting off the tip.

 

 

Mitchell River

Our next major destination was to visit the Mitchell River for some serious fishing and crabbing, and to climb up to the Mitchell Falls, but after a 10 mile trip up the narrowing river with it's high rocky cliffs, and negotiating the rock bar partly covered, our enthusiasm quickly waned as we were to tie up at a spot that must have had clearly had one of the biggest crocs in the Kimberley lying on a flat rock. This fellow was ginormous (see pic) and had to be 5 metres long if he was a centimeter.

 

By this time we had gotten into the routine of picking our tidal currents for our departure NE to the next anchorage, and tried to do a distance of about 30 nm, and 4 to 5 hours traveling to allow some fishing time on arrival. We also came to the realization that our fuel would have to be carefully managed as we had not bunkered since Fremantle. We decided we would reduce our burn from 24 lts an hour down to 16, and seek 12 lts if we did shorter legs with favourable currents from behind.
 

SKIE topped up to 8000 lts in Fremantle by filling the two main tanks, but not the two smaller forward tanks that hold an extra 500 lts each. In hindsight this was an oversight expecting that we would probably top up in Broome if needing to, but this turned out to be difficult for a small boat as it could only be done at high slack water at the end of a long commercial wharf, so we let the opportunity go knowing that we still had Wyndham 100’s of nm further north up our sleeve in case we were found wanting, although taking us off the track to Darwin and adding extra miles.

 

However I tried transferring fuel from the forward tanks finding one empty, and the other with a bonus of about 400 litres that was put in over two years ago which I thought had been used. The forward tanks do not have a fuel gauge or sight glass, and are put there for seriously long voyages such as crossing the pacific from the US to French Polynesia which is a distance of 2700 nm. The idea is to transfer this fuel back into the main tanks when space is available. We concluded with 2000 lts left on board we could get us to Darwin with 30% in reserve, but only if we cut down to using a burn rate of 16 lts an hour.
 

Another issue that held my attention was water production and consumption, as 6 people on board really chews it up, so we made water everyday from our RO watermaker which needs the genset on, which of course burns fuel as well. I have had much trouble in the past with my Village Marine watermaker, so a plan was put into place that if we couldn't’t make water we could still get to Wyndham or Darwin without dying of thirst, or heaven forbid having to knock off all the beer supplies.

One interesting thing was to observe how do 6 people get on in a small boat together. What eventuated was that our wives were heavily into consuming books, while the guys were usually running the bridge and planning routes, taking watches, and often just shooting the breeze on how we could improve on the boat.

We all had our favourite places to go to on the boat for some solitude and private space, and the rule of only eating together for the evening meal, and catches catch can for breakfast and lunch has worked out very well. If you are hungry at anytime you feed yourself from what we have in the pantry or fridge.

Tony was the head chef and bore the brunt of preparing and cooking the evening meal which was always fabulous. We often joked about the rule we made that if anyone complained about the cooking they would have to take over the job, and that if say someone said that the food tasted like shit, they must remember to add “but well cooked though” to save becoming the new slave to the galley.



Kimberley Cowboys

Anyone who has seen Baz Lurnham's latest movie "Australia" will have witnessed Hugh Jackman, and Nicole Kidman as cowboys in the Kimberley region. We saw another type of cowboy that operates up here in the aviation field.

1. At Beagle Bay the whole area was surrounded by smoke from a controlled bush burning, when we spotted some isolated black smoke coming just inland from us. I thought this was strange as it could only come from some sort of petroleum product like fuel or say burning tyres. Not long after helicopters were hovering over the smoke and one landed out of our sight. When Rick and Tony returned from fishing in the inflatable they told us of an amphibian plane flying quite low overhead and so we guessed that it had crashed and caught on fire. This was confirmed next day on the internet, but fortunately no one was killed.
2. The float plane that brought Rick and Dianne into Talbot Bay was taking off with young Paul returning back to Broome, the take off was aborted just on lift off. Alongside the plane on take off was one of the falls boats with the two big 250 Yammies trying to outrun the planes speed in a race of sorts. We jumped in the dinghy and went over to the pontoon where the plane had returned to. Explanation - they had just realised that they didn't have enough fuel to get back to Broome.
3. We didn't witness this but we heard later that one of the float planes coming also into Talbot Bay full of sightseers flipped over when the pilot landed with his wheels still locked down.
We thought to ourselves that the best way to see the Kimberley was certainly on the good ship SKIE


Raft Point/Red Cone Creek, via Montgomery Reef

Next stop was Raft Point via the spectacular Montgomery Reef. We had to time this to arrive close to the bottom of the ebbing tide to witness the open ocean quickly becoming a mass of exposed reef whilst anchored in a narrow gutter and observe at close hand the water rushing off the reef and dropping 10 metres into the gutter. An absolutely spectacular sight to experience. Like much of the areas up here we were in locations without any soundings (depths) on our charts, serious eyeballing and reading our depth sounder became a matter of critical importance.

 

From Montgomery Reef after an hour we high tailed it across to Raft Point where we dropped our pick for the night just on dark. To get to Rubys which is the bay at the mouth of the Red Cone Creek so we could go up to the waterfalls and have a swim, we had to negotiate a winding 10 nm journey through Whirlpool Point and Strong Tide Point. This was fun as we had the current behind us but still had whirlpools spinning us around like a cork. Strong Tide Point was where the original charter boat True North hit a serious rock causing major damage some years ago. Apparently the skipper had the autopilot driving from chartplotter waypoints, whilst reading a book. The only book I would read is the good book during this passage.
Out trip up to the falls in the inflatable was filled with great scenery, and when we arrived there we found guests off two other charter boats enjoying a swim under the falls.

 

Talbot Bay

We weighed anchor at Silvergull Creek and headed to the famous Horizontal Falls in Talbot Bay. This is where we were to pick up Rick and Dianne from the float plane, and young Paul was to fly out. This place is visited by most of the cruise boats who take their punters by high speed boats through both the falls offering a spectacular experience. The speed with which the water rushes through is phenomenal, and an operator has told us that the water can actually drop over 5 metres at the ends and explained that this could pitch pole any type of boat, and that he personally stops at around 2 metres.

Many fishing expeditions over the 3 days netted us Mangrove Jack, Mulloway,  Honeycomb cod, but not yet the allusive prize of the north, the Barramundi.

We decided we would spend our last night in the adjacent Cyclone Bay where we could get some great pics early in the morning with the sheer red coloured cliffs in the background.

We now had ace cameraman Rick now on board, so the serious videos and photo’s were about to begin. Negotiating SKIE through a couple of narrow rock passages, one only 30 m wide, was fun, and the thrusters certainly earned their keep by keeping us off the sheer rock faces as we came under the influence of fast currents, even though we were having neap tides (small range from high to low) of about 2-3 metres. As the spring tides were approaching with the event of the full moon, moving towards into the 9 metre range, our short trip was timely

Silvergull Creek

 

By now we have had already a big taste of the sheer diversity of what lay in store for us over the next few weeks as we head N/NE to Darwin. Not only the incredible scenery, but the tides, currents, out of the way places to go, different fish to catch, and of course the much maligned saltwater crocodile.

We were very early able to try out our Jarrah Nulla Nulla (hardwood club) on one too over friendly chap who came straight to our mouth size inflatable dinghy with a fascination with Tony’s popper lure, so Tony had the privilege of administering the persuader.  We think the saltie got a serious headache, but naturally didn’t stick around to enquire.

The only time you ever hear about when someone is taken by a croc it has always been always death by human misadventure. Up at Kings Cascade falls on the Prince Regent river in the late 80’s an American model, Ginger Meadows, was caught stranded on a rock ledge as the tide rapidly rose and had to swim back to the dinghy, and ran into a hungry crocodile that had been patiently waiting for the main course.

 

 The rules we should follow up here are: 1; Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they are not here. 2; No fish cleaning off the swim step. 3; never go ashore arriving at the same spot as previously done. 4; Don’t invade their territory particularly when eggs are hatching, and of course “You should never smile at a crocodile”. This is all so simple to learn, just like not passing a car on a bend.

 

Our first stop from “The Pool” at Sunday Island was Silvergull Creek some 50 nm (100 km’s which was adjacent to the well known areas of Crocodile and Dog Leg Creeks. The trip had us going through places called Whirlpool Pass and dodging many reefs and sandbars, with tidal currents pushing you along, or holding you back on the nose, and reported to sometimes run up to 6 knots. This section has been an interesting test of navigation and the most testing so far, but were relieved to find our charts very accurate. We had 4 different electronic charts on board. Nobeltec, C-Map, the new MaxSea, and Garmin, as well as paper charts, so we were pretty well catered for

 

Crocodile Creek was fascinating, as like most of the inlets you can go into are usually big and named after the creeks or rivers that flow into them. Crocodile Creek dries out on LWS (low water springs), but a pond exists up at the falls where you can tie up your big boat to some mooring lines on the rock face if you go in on HW springs, and become completely landlocked in an area of about 200 sq m. There is a SS ladder put in by mining company BHP that allows you to climb up to the pool under the waterfall and visit a famous hut with a BBQ area. This hut is adorned with all sorts of objects where passing boaties have left a memento of their visit, and similar to the A frame hut on Middle Percy Is on the east coast, adjacent to Mackay.

 

We were surprised to find the pool and hut full of fit young men, who were enjoying some R&R off the Navy patrol boat HMAS Maryborough anchored around in Silvergull Creek. They had been dropped off from a boarding boat that had gone fishing. Glad to see our taxes at work close up, but after 3 months at sea guarding our coastline from illegal immigrants, and fishing, we believe they deserved their break. I asked whether Lisa McCune was on board, but was told it was an all male crew. (Lisa McCune is an actress who play the XO in the TV series “Sea Patrol”

 

We left a contribution by writing our names and what we were doing on our 10,000 nm Nordhavn pennant given to owners by PAE, and displayed it with the hundreds of other articles that varied from items of clothing to mooring buoys. These pennants are sent to you when you reach milestones of every 5,000 nm.(see pic) I thought about saving this pennant but knew it was to become redundant as my 15,000 nm pennant should be sent soon.

 


Sunday Is, Kimberley - North Western Australia 16.25.308 S; 123,09.669 E - 30/7/09

 

Robbie Burns said that "Nae man could change time or tides" and we have just been inducted into the world of tides, and the might and power they possess. We are currently in the area that claims the second highest tides in the world. The highest is in the Bay of Mundy in Nova Scotia.

An appropriate overnight anchorage was selected from the cruising guide at Sunday Island, which is a sacred Aboriginal reserve with lots of rock art. We enjoyed the flooding tide scooting us northward at 9.5 kts at 1000 rpm from our last overnight anchorage in Thomas Bay. However this making tide became our achillies heel because arriving at the only anchorage in the guide along Meda Pass where the chart clearly shows currents 4 - 8 kts and "dangerous overfalls" when we tried to stop we were doing 8 kts sideways.

 

Only thing to do was abort staying here and seek out another anchorage "The pool" on the other side of the island that appeared in an older version of the Western Australian Cruising Guide, but had been chucked out of the latest edition but claimed "don't go there". We had no choice as our next stop would have us arriving in the dark, or we would have to return against the tide back to Thomas Bay.

Claiming "The Pool" was an experience of a lifetime which gave us a baptism of fire fortuitously nice and early in our Kimberley experience. Getting there with just the engine ticking over was giving us 13.4 kts over the ground speed and we were going through overfalls and whirlpools like I have never seen. However soon we were about to learn what it was going to be like going against all of this as we dodged some rocks to get into this little sanctuary that was was used as a cyclone shelter for pearling luggers. Now we had r.p.m. of 2000, and speed of 2.2 kts.

Once in with some breathtaking moments looking at the sounder we dropped anchor, deployed the dinghy, and did some exploration on what we actually had underneath us. First light in the morning with an ebbing tide and young Paul out in front in the dinghy being our pathfinder, we safely departed to our next stopover, having learnt a number of valuable lessons.

Firstly don't take the guide as gospel as Sunday Is is not a place you can anchor during spring tides. I have written to the editor of the Western Australian Cruising Guide urging him to delete Sunday Is as an anchorage completely. We noticed that in edition 2 of the guide they had The Pool as an anchorage, but took it out completely in the latest edition. This must be done for the the southern anchorage as well for the next edition. Secondly always have an alternative anchorage in fairly close proximity if the guide let's you down, that can be claimed in daylight

 

Broome, North Western Australia 17.57.545 S 122.11.550 E - 26/07/09

SKIE arrived in the famous holiday resort Broome over a week ago to complete stage 3 of the circumnavigation and has us 3,640 nm (7000 km) from Hobart and roughly at the half way mark. Stage 4 will be the exploration of the Kimberley, arriving Darwin around Sept 1st.


We left West Lewis Island just west of Dampier, anchored the first night off Depuche Island, then made a 32 hour leg to Broome. Overnighting is a bit tough on two people with watches 3 hours on, three hours off. Usually the symptoms are a bit like jet lag, but when we arrive we have a nice long crash in the cot. I suppose a cot is unfair on our beds as they are very comfortable with the owners stateroom a king size with the best mattress etc available

Again the only company we had over this 32 hours was the fish, and we experienced (or nearly) one of the greatest thrills a fisherman could have, we hooked two sailfish. My line was the first to go off and I couldn't stop the reel peeling off as close to 200 m of line was paid out before it stopped, then this magnificent creature became airborne, and crash, the line became lifeless which allowed me to reel in a lureless line.

I'm not sure Tony believed me, as he was in the head at the time, but in less than 30 minutes he had hooked up another one and was treated to the magnificent aerial display, only to be lost like previously. We of course didn't have the right gear in place and vowed to get heavier line and wire leaders when at Broome. SKIE has an aft control pod, so when a fish goes on, the motor can be wound down to low revs with the boat just barely moving, but with the auto pilot still keeping us on course, the stabilizers still working, and the use of the bow and stern thrusters to change direction if we need to.

In the meantime we were still taking Spanish Mackerel on board which are terrific eating fish. If we continue doing this we will have to start jettisoning meat out of the two freezers just to make room, although a Giant Trevally, Mahi Mahi, and of course what we came for, Barramundi and Mud Crabs, but soon there will be six of us on board to lighten the freezer load.

We have enjoyed laying up at Broome for a week to rest, reprovision, and to attend to some boat maintenance chores. One issue that gave us some consternation was we were just sitting down to watch the Melbourne news one night (sat TV), when a loud crack came out of the TV cabinet as the screen was being raised, which blew all the power on the boat. After isolating the TV power and reclosing the main breaker, we left the problem to the morning. What we found was all the umbilical cables that move up and down with the screen had caught on the lifting plate and ripped apart.

 

The original installation was completely sloppy but with a trip to Dick Smith and a box of small cable ties, and some cord wrap, Tony put is all together properly this time which took over two hours to do, whilst his head was stuck in a small cavity. He claims this will stand the test of time now and probably outlive the boat.

One of nicest thing about boating is the great people you meet along the way. We spoke to Chris Wright who runs the VMR (Volunteer Marine Rescue) in Broome to alert him that we were enroute and our ETA. He also arranged for a fixed mooring behind Gantheume Point which belonged to the big tourist boat True North which was away in the Kimberley. Not only did he do this, but came aboard and gave us pointers not only where to go in the Kimberley, but many tips on dodging unchartered reefs and techniques on handling 10 m tidal ranges. This will be our biggest navigational challenge as some of the tidal flows get up to 10 kts, and if not careful can leave you high and dry with disastrous consequences, including breaking off our two stabilizer fins.

I was very interested in the crocs we will be sharing the water with, and Chris's son Paul said if they come too close when we are catching fish, just dong them on the head. Just as we were discussing this Paul looked out and spotted a 2.5m saltie on it's way towards the Cable Beach Resort for lunch. This is very rare to see a croc in Broome, so we called the Police and rangers, and Paul followed him in his boat to keep on eye on his movements. We were told this is the only sighting they have had in 5 years of a croc at Broome, and the last one was shot, but this one was ushered out to sea. If a croc takes a tourist on the beach you will have a resort calamity like in the movie JAWS.

We have invited Paul to join us to come up to the Horizontal Falls in Talbot Bay to show us a few things, and he can fly back on the float plane bringing Rick and Di in a weeks time. Margaret flies in this morning and we plan to take off as soon as she arrives. I haven't told her that she has to walk into the water to almost waist deep to get on the inflatable though. Paul has given us a gift of his croc donger which is a 5 ' rounded piece of heavy Jarrah just like a skinny baseball bat. Just might take it for the Marg's pickup, but I could have it around my head when she finds out what I subjecting her to. 


Dampier, Western Australia 20.35.124 S 116.36.433E

Our trip up from Tantabiddi which is now behind us south about 300 nm, had us arriving at a lovely location named Surrerier Island which was recommended by the "Whalesong" guys. We tried to poke our head out the next morning but found the seas to tough and the wind up to 30 kts on the nose, so we retreated back to our anchorage to spend another night there. However the next morning at 0400 hrs revealed things hadn't changed so we just soldiered on finding the worst conditions since we left Hobart on May 1st.

 

This was a long uncomfortable journey and we arrived just on dark for a seriously needed good night sleep. Apart from the mental stress of the motion it is surprising how the body gets isometic exercise as you are bracing yourself constantly with muscles hardly used. No noticable changes with the gut though.

 

Next stop was Hermite Island which is a part of the Montebello Group, made famous by the first atomic test in 1950 by the British and Australians. We have been trying to do day trips if we can because overnighters takes its toll with just two on board, and we have had 3 since we left Perth.
From Hermite Is we headed east back toward the mainland, and apart from perfect weather we managed to have two fish commit suicide on our lures, producing a bounty of a yellow fin Tuna, and a beaut spanish mackerel, both despatched in steak form to the freezer in vacuum bags. Our two freezers are full even after two weeks of non stop eating, so only need a GT or mahi mahi to round off the compliment. We are now out of fresh vegatables and fruit so will have to get our vitamin C out of a bottle of fine Margaret River Shiraz.

 


The boat is going superbly devoid any dramas and 12,000 nm (22,800 km) have just ticked over almost 2 years from the day the boat made her maiden voyage to the Whitsundays, so I feel contented that this has provided me with heaps of experience tucked under the belt.


We are en route currently to Depuche Island for tonight, tomorrow to Port Hedland, then a 32 hour trip to Broome where we pick up our wives.
I must say that Tony is an exceptional chef and I can say I have never ever eaten so well in my life. Tony and I both like spices and asian flavours and we have had a marathon of these so far, although we may have to start the rotation again or burrow into some of my cook books (mainly Asian) but we have a good book on ways to cook fish.

 

Dampier is a busy port for the export of iron ore, petrochemicals, salt and natural gas, and the landscape is very sparse and boring, devoid of one tree. We have seen many oil wells and gas heads on our way across from the Montebello's and we expect to see hundreds more as we gain north.

 

Everytime we look out there will be a whale to be seen, and would you believe we saw our first sailing boat since Hobart which was over 6000 km away. This sail boat was returning to Fremantle with two others cruising in the Phillipines and SE Asia

 

Yesterday was about studying the Kimberley and the issues we will have with 10 m tide ranges, the fast currents that they produce, and inadequate charting. I expect much time will be spent on the flybridge with lots of eyes peeled.


I have been shooting some film, but much of it is boring, but this will change when we get to the Kimberley I expect as we will be treated to scenes not found anywhere else on earth. As I write this we paused to pull in another "Spaniard" about the same size as yesterday.


We expect that our range for internet will be lost shortly and maybe not available for two days. If you can imagine that WA is so big, but only about 2m people, and they all live down south, they don't have many Next G stations out here for a signal.

Tantabiddi inside Ningaloo Reef WA 12/7/09

The trip up from Carnarvon was an overnighter and we found a beautiful spot behind the Ningaloo Reef at the top of North West Cape, which is the most western part of our island continent. Tantabiddi is a spot where tourists come to to see the famous Whale Sharks who migrate at this time of the year very close to the shore. We are starting to see many whales who like us are heading to the Kimberley where the whales calve and mate before heading back down south to the Antarctica.
We had the good fortune yesterday to meet the occupants of the whale research vessel "Whalesong" which is owned by two scientists Dale Jenner and his wife Micheline, and a team of young Marine biologists who are tagging whales with transponders to research their migratory patterns as well as many other projects. www.cwr.org.au
Apart from hearing the interesting stories about their research, they kindly gave us some valuable advice about places to see and where the best spots are to anchor. They are moving Whalesong north following the whales, and we will be catching up in the Kimberley which we look forward to very much.
Yesterday was a big day attending to maintenance issues and we topped off our water by running the watermaker most of the day. In an hours time we are slipping our mooring and look forward to a short trip of 46 nm up to Surrurier Island which was recommended by Curt and his friend Dale who have stayed there many times.
Thursday July 2nd, 2009 - Departure to the Houtman Abrolhos 28.58.54 S 114.0.99 E

After a few hectic days of running around we departed today at 1200 hrs heading north to the Houtman Abrolhos group of islands east of Geraldton. This group is the lowest coral reef in the Indian ocean and flourishes from the warm currents coming down from Indonesia, named the Leeuwin current. Western Australia has many places named after the Dutch explorers who were around here in the early 17th century. The Houtman Abrolhos was named after a Dutchman, and the word Abrolhos is a Portuguese expression for "open your eyes" and this place was made famous for the wreck of the Dutch cargo ship the Batavia, which also has infamy for being the ship that had the worlds biggest ever mutiny. Of the 316 people on board, 276 scrambled ashore safe only to be butchered, except 40, after the Owners representative took a long boat and a handful of sailors to Java to find a rescue ship.
I am currently reading a book on the events surrounding this rebellion so I will relate to these sad events when we arrive tomorrow about midday. When we do we will be up on the fly bridge with our polaroids on and going very slowly as there are thousands of uncharted "bommies" around the islands. We plan to stay here for about 4 days and do some diving and a course a lot of fishing. It is reported that at least 17 boats have perished her over the last 4 centuries.
Our first anchorage after leaving Perth was the Palseart Is Group which is the most southern group in the Abrolhos. It was an interesting experience coming into this coral reef fringed area as the charts were somewhat lacking in soundings, so it was up on the flybridge with all eyes peeled. Our arrival time was late and we had the sun in our eyes which is not conducive to spotting "bommies" which are coral heads coming from nowhere. However we safely made it in to just off Post Office Island and deployed a heap of chain rode, and celebrated our safe arrival with Tony's Margeurita's made in my new blender.
Fishing next day was fruitless until we decided to seek the advice of a local who had just arrived to work on his pearl farm right next to us. He said go 600 m over there to where the ledge drops off, and no sooner had my sinker hit the bottom, we were on the snapper.
As some bad northerlies were on the way in two days, and with poor shelter from northerlies, we departed at 1000 hrs on Sunday 5th to head north to Shark Bay 170 nm away. Shark Bay is renowned as the best fishing location in Australia. My new MaxsSea Time Zero shows the biggest chlorophyl concentration on the WA coast here, and we are told everthing that swims will be found in plentiful proportions. Just heard that Rick and Dianne will join us up in the Kimberley, and they will fly in on a float plane to the Horizontal Falls

(to be continued)



Sunday 31st May, 2009 - Prep time Melbourne

Having some respite at home on dry land for a month has given me lots of free time for planning stage 3 for the circumnavigation.

This is the time that I can look at various legs in detail such as travel time duration, appropriate anchorages, and any contingency plans. Working on this as well is my friend Tony Peach (N40 0wner) who will be with me on the trip all the way to Darwin, arriving mid September. Tony has just bought a cruising guide that I have on the boat "Cruising Western Australia" which is an excellent planning resource, and produced by the Fremantle Sailing Club where SKIE is currently berthed. Tony lives in Hobart and will be overseas on business until we take off at the end of the month, but is sure to have the guide with him all the time knowing his astuteness to detail.

Our plan is to go much slower than the first two legs to explore the wonders we have in front of us, and try to do shorter day hops and finding secure and safe anchorages each night. We schedule arrival around 1600 hrs each day, and earlier in the coral reefs, being the prudent time to drop the pick, and always allowing sufficient time leeway for any unexpected circumstances.

We also plan to spend a number of days in a couple of specific regions, namely the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, and the Montebello Group before arriving in Broome where we will be met by my Margaret and Tony's wife Lyn before moving up north and exploring the exciting Kimberley region for a month. Good friends and cruising buddies, Rick & Dianne MacClure have also been invited, but yet to confirm. Rick is a professional diver and film maker and trained as a Diesel Mechanic years ago, but only drinks light beer which is somewhat uncharacteristic for guests on the good ship SKIE.

I had a brain wave yesterday when contemplating what got my passion going on the Kimberley. About 4 years ago Marg and I had a holiday in Broome, and attended the Melbourne Cup Luncheon at the Cable Beach Resort. There we were kindly invited to join a table of local friends by a couple, Gay Potter and Graham Bulford, and had a great time. Gay and Graham charter their boat "Red Sky at Night" www.redsky.com.au out to guests for Kimberley trips, and had been doing this for years. We almost signed up on the spot with the amazing stories they told of their adventures. However the SKIE dream intervened when we ordered the boat to be built, which meant that we didn't go ahead with Gay & Graham, but vowed we would see this place one day.

I have just e-mailed them both to tell them of our forthcoming trip, and although having a break themselves for a while from their business, seemed clearly pleased we were going to finally get to the place that they inflamed us with their passion. They also said they would like us to meet Dennis and Annette Ford which have a website www.kimberleycruising.com.au which is the bible of cruising the Kimberley. I wrote to Dennis recently asking him a couple of questions about crocs, and paricularly about inflatables. He sent me a pic of one monster that had half his tail missing. If it was done by another croc the imagination shudders how big it was.

I am purchasing a dive tank compressor in Fremantle so we can fill our own tanks whilst at sea.  However everything gets locked away when we head into white pointer and croc territory further up north. I sent out a signal to the members of the website I created for all of the N55 owners, and received some highly qualified answers/suggestions about model, size, and installation location, tips, etc. This Blog has been a godsend for a lot of us as we can share so much about our boats, having just passed 3000 posting/contributions in two years.

Recently received two new watermaker master circuit boards from the US, but must ensure that what has blown two boards in the past is just a power spike coming from the Genset, and must be rectified with the help of a marine sparkie. It is essential that out RO unit works well or we will be forced to take our showers under waterfalls all around the Kimberley. 
Damn, no soap shelf, towel rail, or modesty screen!
Onwards, and upwards.

Adelaide SA ( 34.55.10S -138.25.25E) to Perth WA (32.1.70S – 115.43.72E)

 

After a short stopover of 3 days in Adelaide for crew change, fueling, & provisioning, we departed at 1200 hrs on Sat 9th of May for Esperance WA, course of almost due west at 274 deg to log another 811 nm, totaling 1556 nm since leaving Hobart (42.52.02S – 147.21.85E) on May 1st

On board was “Pommy James”, my son “Aussie James” and good mate Rick MacClure from the Gold Coast. Rick has been making a video of our trip and has a film production company specializing in exotic and off the beaten track dive sites around the world.

This trip would have us up to 218 nm south from land about half way across to Esperance, and that is slap bang adjacent to the middle of the Nullabor Plains where the only inhabitants are kangaroos. With two rods out the back, we hooked 5 Southern Blue Tuna just past Port Lincoln, but dispatched them to where they came from, as our freezer was still full of Tuna caught on the previous leg just off Portland Vic.

We were about to experience a trip made in heaven as we found ourselves for most of the trip across the Great Australian Bight in a slow moving high pressure zone reading 1030 hPa. In fact we have had high pressure almost since leaving Hobart. There were times the only reading we had on the wind gauge was what we were making ourselves with boat speed.

Half way across the Bight we could see the few clouds in the sky coming back as a perfect mirror finish from the water. We decided to launch the inflatable and take some video of the boat moving through the water and a tanker passing us in the background, which looks fabulous.

We all got on well, had some great meals, and much relaxation time for reading, watching satellite TV, DVD’s, and always many naps of course. Night watches were 3 hours on and six hours off, so we weren’t deprived of much sleep to say the least.

We only saw a few ships en route and they were the only ones heading to Adelaide or Port Lincoln, as the major shipping route was miles south doing the rhumb line from Cape Leeuwin in WA   Naturally as usual for most of SKIE’S travels, we never ever see another recreation boat at all, just ships and the odd fisho. I find this quite bewildering to think we are the only ones travelling the high seas, but then of course very few boats have ever done the trip across the Bight east to west, but surely we would see someone at least coming the conventional way. No Siree!

As we have problems with our SSB radio with reception, we were in touch across the Bight everyday using our Iridium Sat phone with Allan Meill who runs Coastal Radio American River on Kangaroo Island. Allan is a very pleasant chap who was extremely helpful in many ways, so if anyone reading this follows in our footsteps, contacting Allan is a must.

When we finally made the WA coast we dropped our anchor at remote Middle Island just off the coast of south Western Australia, as travelling the Archipelago of the Recherché at night is not a good idea, particularly when we found an uncharted reef in our path just before Middle Island. I’m going to report this in Perth as it is on the rhumb line to Adelaide, and this is a very serious omission.

Our trip to Albany from Esperance, and around Cape Leeuwin to Perth had overnight travel because we were anxious to beat a low pressure trough heading towards us, and rounding one of the serious capes in the world in bad weather is foolhardy. As well the charts could be relied on as there is enormous shipping in this region as the main route to and from SE Asia and Europe. Our AIS certainly will pay for itself just here and there was always a ship showing up on the radar and plotter monitors.

Called into Albany for a few hours to have a look, get some wine and groceries, and some water as the new circuit card for the water maker is still waiting for us in Perth, so we can get the watermaker back up and running. Before I install this I will have to get a sparkie to install some sort of surge arrestor from the genset to stop the cards blowing, as we have now blown two in 12 months. At $1000 each it is expensive, but at least one of them was provided under warranty. Albany is a very lovely place and I strongly suggest it as a place to visit as it has so much history being the first settlement in WA in 1793.

We are still catching tuna but carefully return them after carefully disengaging the hook. Most have been juveniles around the 10 - 15 kg mark. Crossing to Cape Leeuwin early this morning we are running into schools of salmon, but don't wish to stop to try catching any. Dave Reid would not be happy.

The routine of 3 hours on watch and six off is working well with just the three of us since Aussie James (my son) flew home from Esperance via Perth.

Cape Leeuwin was left some distance to sea because of the rocks that litter the corner close in, so we didn't really see it due to lots of smoke haze around due to burning off taking place in this region.

Three waypoints to claim, and we will be safely tied up in the Fremantle Sailing Club, which incidently was the host club for the first Americas Cup Challenge outside of the New York Yacht Club after so many years.

What can I say apart from what a fabulous boat we have to take us on this journey. It has certainly been my biggest challenge so far on the water, but on the other hand it has been the simplest without any dramas to speak of.

I would sincerely like to thank my ship mates for their participation, professionalism, fine endeavours, humour, and absolute great company.

Hobart to Adelaide
James Cowles: Mr Fixit and mower down of cray pots

Dave Reid: The grunt man on the rod, and fine wine connoisseur.
Phil Reid: Fishing glory seeker, and outstanding chef.
Fish caught: One 30 kg Southern Blue fin Tuna

Adelaide to Perth
Rick MacClure: Cameraman, clapper, grip, editor, sound engineer for the epic video coming up soon.

James Cowles: Now referred to as the "Pommy Bastard" due to familiarity gained in 18 days. Mower down on more cray pots - again.
James Sheppard: My race horse trainer son gaining quiet a few sea miles now (3,300nm to date)
Fish caught: Nine Southern Blue fin Tuna at around 15 kg, and released

 

Thursday 7th May, 2009, ADELAIDE SA  34.27 644 S - 139.29. 178 E

Arrived Adelaide SA at 0700 hrs on Wed 6th May after 5 days non stop from Hobart Tasmania - going the wrong way as the bar stool mariners say. We maybe got lucky as we were protected from harsh elements being in a consistent high pressure zone rising to 1030 hPa for most of the trip. The run up to the NE corner of Tassie with wind from the west and reasonably close to shore, we had a nice comfortable run until we rounded into Bank Strait just north of Eddystone Point which has the 3rd highest wind average in Australia (19 kts).

Going through the Strait on a flooding tide from the East and meeting the wind and sea from the opposite direction, we had 36 hours of bumping and grinding until we got out into the middle of Bass Strait heading in a NW direction that would have us shaving the coast of the mainland just off Portland Victoria to maintain the rhumb line to north of Kangaroo Island just south of Adelaide.

We had been dragging 4 assorted lures from the boat all the way during the day hoping to run into the famed southern blue fin tuna, and were sure our luck would change when we got to follow the 350 m contours about 30 nm south of Portland and Port Macdonnell in SA. Fortunately we lucked it as just about the time to retrieve our lures, we finally had a strike and hauled in a nice 30 kg SBF tuna.
 
Phil the master chef in no time got to work with the filleting knife, a glass of red close by, and the vacuum packer, and the biggest smile you have ever seen, and prepared us dinner of fresh tuna after some shashimi as an appertiser. Dave his brother was very content, but tired as he was the grunt man that hauled the fish in. All of us agreed that the DVD I bought just before leaving Hobart on catching SBF tuna, gave us some great tips on how to do it correctly, even down to cleaning and filleting.

From the third day into the trip the conditions became sublime when the westerly backed to the SW, and the wind dropped out to zilch, and sea became like a mirror. The only company we had were dolphins, as the sparse traffic, mainly cargo ships, were a lot more inshore than us. We came across only one fishing boat chasing shark around the soundings, and we had a little chat to ask him how our red & green  port and starboard navigation lights looked after rigging temporary ones on the hand rail after the inaccessible blown bulbs couldn't be changed because of their height. This is a step ladder job more suited to changing when docked and today we bought new LED bulbs.

Tuesday morning early had me out of bed in a hurry after terrible banging and crashing, revealing after doing a 180 to go back that we had just seriously spoiled a rock lobster fishermans day after running right over and destroying the ropes to his pots. I 'm pretty sure his ropes were in our prop and our Spur linecutters connected to the prop did the job they were designed for, causing the commotion we heard.

Another incident caused some anxiety when the watchkeeper went down for the hourly engine room check to find the utility and engine room a foot under water. What had happened was a fresh water strainer in line to one of the toilets under house pump pressure had fractured, and sent 1600 lts of our fresh water down below. What was most important is that the sump in the engine room that drains down into the bilge, and is easily despatched to the sea from the bilge pumps must have been blocked, resulting in the flooding state. This was not overly serious after all as we were only just moving our water from one spot to another, but we had lost most of it and showers were off the roster for the next couple of days.

Now in Adelaide it is a major job to get everything back in place, and prepare to cross the Great Australian Bight of 1150 nm to Perth, with almost nowhere to pull into for external assistance if something goes wrong.
We expect to be here in Adelaide for about four days, and I will be much happier when we get things squared away for this very difficult passage. Keep you posted.






Friday 24th April, 2009, Hobart, Tasmania

One week to go before pointing the bow NW from Hobart, with first stop being Adelaide, a trip over 5 days non stop.
Few things to finalise before we go but nothing of any seriousness i.e. watermaker repair, Sat phone to operate in docking station (phone works fine anyway, but not using the dedicated antenna from inside), new Ericcson amplifier with external antenna for much better internet service, new Trac stabiliser control panel to be replaced  that will be easier to see with better back lighting. These issues will be good to knock off but not essential for our first leg, just convenient and of course what I paid for in the first place.
I have James Cowle, a very experienced young Brit sailor, and good friends Dave & Phil Reid for the journey. Dave and Phil are mad on fishing, and we will be going through a frenzied biting Blue Fin Tuna area just off Portland in Victoria. I have loaded up on more fishing gear, and two DVD on how to get them.
Phil is a cook to die for, and very handy to fix anything. Young James is a qualified skipper, mechanical engineer, and has crossed the Atlantic. Will put his head into some manuals to find some unsolved mysteries.
Dave will have calming influence on us all with his placid nature, and just gets on with his job, smiling as usual.
Margaret comes down will "Elly the low slung dorg" for a week before we go, so this makes me "molto contento".
Everyone I talk to tells me we are going the wrong way around Oz, which is the usual convention, but I don't agree one bit after extensive research and study, and Jimmy Cornell the US author of the penultimate World cruising guides agrees. We are probably one of the few power boats to ever do this, and we have an enormous advantage over sailing boats as we go to where we point, under stabilisation where we don't roll, air conditioning, gourmet meals prepared in a state of the art galley (kitchen), and relaxing in front of a 45" Plasma with sattelite reception, and 50 DVD's, in reclinable leather chairs with foot stools.
If it's tough out there weather wise, we delay, or diverge a few degrees to Port Fairy in Victoria  for some respite, splitting the trip into two legs instead of one.
It will be sad leaving Tassie as it is fabulous for the cruising mariner, however I have itchy feet to see the Kimberley region which I rate number one to see, followed of course by Tasmania, then the Great Barrier Reef.
Being a new cruiser my learning curve has been steep to say the least, but I would guess hanging around the Kimberley with 10 m tides will surely equip me for anything the rest of the world can throw at me.

If anyone reading this site would like to do a leg on SKIE, and can bring some value to the boat and trip e.g. chef, mechanic, experienced watchkeeper, fisherman, local knowledge, electronic/electrical expert, etc, drop me a line - peter@petersheppard.com.au. This will be from May 10th to Oct, 2009

 

 
Setting new course - April 1st, 2009

We are in the planning stages to embark on a circumnavigation of our beautiful country - Australia. This 7200 nm round trip was inspired by a special moment in Bathurst Harbour in Tasmania just recently when I found one of the most beautiful scenic environments I have ever been in after 40 years of travelling the world, causing me to contemplate that we may have only just scratched the surface with what our country has in store to see from the water.

Jimmy Cornell mentioning Australia in his Noonsite blog concludes why he doesn't see many Aussie boats around the world proportionate to boat owners 
"Why would they want to when you see what they have in their region" 

How could you see the rest of the world just yet when you haven't seen, say the Kimberley, the Great Barrier Reef, New Zealand, the South West Pacific, SE Asia etc - all on our backdoor.

I'm currently planning for this trip, but the timetable should evolve on the wing as we go around, because it would be a shame to pass up an opportunity to drink up what is in store for us as we move from place to place. We have to of course avoid the cyclone season around the top from Dec to April, so SKIE may move quicker or slower to meet this circumstance. 
The trips route will be clockwise from Hobart where the boat is currently waiting to be hauled for the first time, and expect departure should be mid April 09.
Going against the westerlies across the Great Australian Bight is not the convention, but advice is that if we hug the shore across southern Australia we should find a reasonably comfortable trip with lot's of offshore easterlies and high pressure fronts more south. This stretch is of course not for the faint hearted, but we have a boat that is designed to cross oceans, and some prudence with careful study of weather patterns, no set timetable apart from cyclone time, we should hopefully mitigate any serious discomfort.

I will update this blog page as my research evolves. Remember as said before that cruising plans are written in the sand at low tide.
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Friday 27th March 2009

Now back home in Melbourne after being away for nearly two months and to catch up with business and see the result of 6 months of renovations to our home in the country. This has been Margs project completely and the result is very satisfying to say the least.
The boat is tucked away safely at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania marina where she will stay for another couple of weeks before I have her hauled for new bottom paint as she has been in the water for 20 months, and the log has just ticked over 9000 nm.
Before leaving Hobart I had a look at Hobart from Mt Wellington and could see SKIE away in the distance. Tony Peach who was on the rally in his N40, drove me up the mountain, and we enjoyed a chilled bottle of Sav Blanc to enhance the scenery.
There was a final dinner for the participants and some fun presentations were made. The Yacht MIRI received an award for the best secret sound recorded on a cell phone of our Yamaha on the inflatable screaming as we hit a mud bank at full throttle up the Maleleuca Creek, and we received an award for the best radio sked after announcing that we were miffed at having to do the dishes by hand as we were low on water due to the circuit board on the water maker blowing up. It was suggested the dish washer needed more water, so we had to conserve. The trophy was a dish mop and rubber gloves. The "Stick and Rag" guys pissed themselves.
Before leaving to come home, we loaded on board a pile of "Stick and Rag" friends we met on the rally and went up the Derwent River for a spin, giving them a taste of the comfort we had enjoyed for the circumnavigation over the past 5 weeks. They loved it, and I suspect thoughts may have reflected on those cold nights beating out to sea to gain some south going down the west coast on their sail boats, while we were in our air conditioned cacoon watching a video on the 45" Plasma, drinking cocktails. (of course someone was on watch in the Pilot House without cocktail, I think), but nevertheless watching the video on another screen in the PH)
Macquarie Harbour to Port Davey - March 8th 2009

We left very late in the day to go through Hells Gate whilst we had some light to get out because we didn't want to get to Port Davey too early in the dark. As it was usual with a big motor yacht, we were first to arrive and had to stooge about a bit in the dark to get through the reefs and into Spain Bay. A fairly pleasant trip was found in company with a cray boat who was closing in on us from astern, so I switched on my deck lights to make sure he was awake on watch. Our fellow Nordie friends Opal Lady & Westwind 2 some miles back said it almost lit up the sky.
With a couple of days in Spain Bay at Port Davey, which is regarded as the ultima thule of Tassie, and some serious exploration in our Caribe inflatable at 30 -40 mph, I found at last the advantage of having a 40 hp pushing us along to see a lot in very quick time We also set our new rock lobster pot with some shark heads which sadly proved fruitless. No worries, keep on trying I guess.
The trip up to Bathurst Harbour through the Bathurst Channel was a delight in the sun and easily navigated. On arrival we were met with one of the most beautiful vistas I have ever seen, dropping our pick at Claytons Corner at the mouth of Maleleuca inlet.
How can I describe the view we had of the majestic Mt Rugby at 772 m of vertical up, and the changing colours occuring during the day. It was breathtaking to say the least.
The next day we took the Caribe up Maleleuca Inlet then through Maleleuca Creek to the airstrip where hikers are flown in twice a day, and we explored the abandoned home of the fabled three generation King family who were originally tin miners, and then Deny the son became a serious naturalist, environmentalist, and protected the rare orange bellied parrots, and fire tail finches. They are fed today by birdwatches in a hide that they occupy in the summer months. Shame Richard and Loretta from S Cal weren't still with us as they are avid birdwatchers
We headed back to Bramble Cove in Port Davey for a fleet BBQ, and conducted the inaugural VDLC Ashes test cricket match between Tasmania & Victoria. No one can be sure who won as much treachery took place, with corrupt umpires, dubious styles from Michael and Suzan from Seattle, and the scoreboard written in the sand being stomped on by spectators from both teams trying to balance the ledger. Most people voted this as one of the best days of weather and fun on the whole trip so far.
Pete O'Brien (great cook, but ugly unfortunately) and I headed SKIE out to sea the next morning, turned south to the East Pyramids, skirting around some cray pots, around SW Cape then almost rhumb lining to SE Cape running between De Witt and Flat Witch Is, and inside Maatsuyker Is.
This trip to SE Cape and into Recherche Bay for the night was again sublime as we drank in the beautiful scenery of the rugged south coast. As we were ahead of the fleet as usual, we decided we wouldn't visit the few overnight stops up the D'Entrecasteaux to Hobart, as I had visited there last year quite a bit, and plan to do a lot more in the future as it is so close to Hobart, and easy to travel in most weather being in the lee of Bruny Island.
Arriving at the RYCT and seeing some old friends, meant we were back on broadband and download a hundred or so e-mails. Whilst in Hobart I am having a new system put on to receive e-mails via satellite connection, expensive but reliable. 
5 weeks and 830 nm, plus the 610 nm from Sydney, has been a wonderful experience, and one I will never forget, and was just a shame Marg got off the boat half way around to attend to builders and renovations at home.
Special thanks to Mark Johnson, Loretta, & Dick Rose, and Marg for being my shipmates to Beauty Point, Iain Couper & John Shuttlewood to Macquarie Harbour, and Peter O'Brien for the home run back to Hobart.
It has been an absolute blast. 
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Sunday 8th March - Strahan, Macquarie Harbour 42.09.04 S, 145.18.52 E

We steamed from Beauty Point at the mouth of the beautiful Tamar River to Devonport after saying goodbye to our new American friends Loretta, husband Dick, and Mark.
Loretta and Dick joined the boat at the Rally kick off in Hobart along with Margaret, and Mark Johnson had been with me since Sydney helping to get the boat down to Hobart.
It was great to have Mark on board so I could pose a lot of questions to someone qualified, having an N55 himself, about a lot of possibly dumb questions. Mark has crossed the Pacific twice and is a good manual reader, but I tend to give manuals a cursory glance, and get right into them when I have a problem. So far very few problems found at all with the good ship SKIE.
Margaret left from Beauty Point as well as she had to get home to see how the house renovations were going, and to give Elliott and the grandkids some big cuddles. Little did she know she would be arriving into a serious bushfire environment which we monitored as well as we could on the boat using our Sat TV link. She was very cautious and moved into the city to stay with our son Chris, leaving our heavily treed 22 acre property in a potential hotspot. The first fire event claimed over 200 lives and 2000 houses.


From Beauty Point I was joined by Iain Couper and John Shuttlewood, both owners of N47's, Bacchus, and Dauntless. They were to stay on until first Stanley at the top of NW Tassie, and around through the Hunter Group, and South to Macquarie Harbour, which was an overnighter.

This trip was met with some difficult conditions, as the wind was gusting 35 kts, and worse for the sailing boats as they had it right on the nose, and had to keep tacking out to sea to gain south. When we got through the Hunter Passage we found a 4 kt following tidal current colliding with waves and swell from the SW, and right on the nose. We had one brave sailing boat behind us, and just before we could alert them what they were in for, turned around and prudently returned to Stanley, to join another ten smart boats.

Arriving at Hells Gate just on dawn after slowing down to 5 kts for a while, we followed the Nordhavn 40, West Wind through the tricky passage, and said farewell to them further along the passage when we changed course to head to the source region of the beautiful Gordon River our destination for three nights.
Eventually 8 boats joined us, and we were to experience only two dangers, the first on weighing anchor with a tree attached, close to the shore, and 5-6 kts of current whooshing down the river after two days of heavy rain. The other danger was being invited over for a drink on one of the 3 boats from the Geelong contingent who were rafted up to a sandbank. The danger came in the form of a 49% proof Scotch, that they felt I had to drink for helping them out on an issue in Stanley.
We visited the Sir John Falls, and took the dinghy right up as far as we could go skirting rapids in the Franklin , until the current velocity and depth sent us back home - very fast.
A memorable event, and something I would like to definitely do again.
We went back to Mill Bay at Strahan where Peter O'Brien was to join me, and Iain & John headed back to warm Coffs Harbour & Brisbane.
Peter and I leave tonight for the overnighter to Port Davey where we hope my son Chris will fly in on a hikers plane from Hobart unless he has to play in the baseball Grand Final next weekend. (afternote: They got in -and won)
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Thursday 19th Feb 2009

The VDL-C kicked off about 01100 hrs on Wed 11th Feb. First destination was Port Authur where we dropped our pick just off the old Penal settlement . Other boats went around Tasman Is to Fortesque Bay to spend their first night. Our next destination was to anchor at Coles Bay just north of the Shouten Passage, and close by to Wineglass Bay which was on the ocean side. We decided that we would hike up to the lookout the next day and see Wineglass Bay from a distance and elevation, and the long uphill hike was truly worth the effort. Wineglass Bay got it's name from the early days when whalers used to cut up their catch on the beach, turning the bay into a see of red (sorry!)
The same day we steamed around the corner to Bryans Bay in Shouten Passage where most boats met for an on the beach BBQ around 1800 hrs, and everyone disappeared like clockwork when the mossies arrived just on dark.
Next day was a long overnighter up to the north of Clarke Is, which is the southernmost island of the Furneaux group, and this group of island were actually the link to mainland Australia 1000's of years ago before the seas rose cutting it off. We went with the two other Nordhavns, but pulled out entering through Sea Lion Passage due to the strong current, wind, and it still being dark, and went around the Islands south against a strong current taking us down to 3.8 kts on cruising revs going around South Head and up through Armstrong Channel passing Preservation Island to our Port and taking an anchorage in Kangaroo Bay. Preservation Island was the site of the ship Sydney Cove sinking in 1797, with a cargo of rum bound for India. A long boat then set off from here to reach the mainland in a long boat which also was wrecked just off Gabo Island, and only 3 of the 17 that set out in the long boat surviving, who then took 62 days to walk to Sydney by foot. Three trips were made to rescue the survivors back on Preservation Island, and on one of these trips Matthew Flinders was sent to survey the area, and the subsequent circumnavigation of Tasmania for the first time. The soundings going into Kangaroo bay had only about 2 feet under our keel for a while as we were coming in at low tide from the west.
We left here on Monday around 0730 hrs to get to Beauty Point at the mouth of the Tamar River where stage 1 of the rally was completed, and a few days of reprovisioning, rest, cleaning & maintenance, a rally BBQ, and crew change. Margaret and our 3 American friends head for home, and Iain & John come on board for the rest of the trip heading westwards across the top of Tassie and down the west coast where some of the worlds wonders await us at Macquarie Harbour and the Gordon River, and then down to Port Davey which is a World Heritage site. We have 5 days in both locations and we still won't be able to take in all the sights which are spectacular. Today I have become licensed to carry Rock Lobster pots and plan to buy two of them tomorrow. Lets hope they will be bountiful pots.
We have West Wind rafted up against us for the night at the wharf, and tonight we are going to have a feed of Tassie scallops which Tony the owner of West Wind dived for.


Wednesday 4th Feb 2009

Slipped lines at 0600 hrs on Sat 31st Feb from Middle Harbour Sydney, Hobart bound for 630 nm.
On this trip I'm trialling a service from OMNI, a weather router based in the US who has been giving me some guidance on weather forecasting for the trip. Bob who does the routing gave me some great info, but not overly needed as we have such wonderful tools available to us in Australia, including the Bureau of Meteorology. Bob's services will come in handy when I leave our shores, like crossing the North Indian ocean to the med.
I am accompanied by my friend Mark Johnson from N55- 27 "Myah" and we are doing night watches of 3 hrs on, 3 hrs off. Mark has played a big part in my education with my boat and is a medical specialist from Las Vegas. His boat is in Brisbane having some additions and warranty work done.
The trip down south had us revelling in N/NE following wind and seas. I am again at a loss why we cannot see another pleasure boat, but of course a lot of ships. Crossing Bass Strait we had a radar target of a non AIS boat. Getting closer it looked like an oil rig being towed southwards. Getting even closer under binos we find it is the beautiful square rigger the "James Craig" heading for Hobart as well. We chatted a bit during the night, but as she had all canvas aloft and close hauled, we soon left her with our luxury of maintaining the rhumb line at 8 plus kts.
The wind changed to the SE just on reaching the N/E cape of Tassie and we had a tough night with not much sleep to be had off watch. I made the decision to duck into beautiful Wineglass Bay a third way down the East coast for a decent 6 hour uninterrupted sleep before continuing on with a fortuitous wind change back to the N/NE to give us a perfect ride all the way to Hobart. 
Coming into Wineglass Bay we had to rely on a local pilot book, as unbelievably no details or soundings appeared on our C-Map chart. We split the entrance and was blown away as a departing fishing boat lit up the whole bay for us with their spotlight as a pathfinder - very kind of them.
The run to Hobart was perfect and we tied up at 0530 hrs on Wednesday, just at first light.
Quite a few things to do before we start the VDL-C on Wed 11th. Like getting the bottom scrubbed and anodes checked, installation of my Bohlken Barograph, arranging for the boat to be hauled after the rally for new antifoul applied to the underwater hull, a few electrical issues fixed, and of course having a professional cleaner to come in to do the interior making the boat spick for Marg coming down on Tuesday for the rally.
The marina at the RYCT is my favourite place and the people are so friendly. Tied up close is a brand new Nordhavn 43, Opal Lady, just down from Brisbane for the rally, and a Nordhavn 78, Voyager 111 moored directly opposite us.
Mark has gone off for a short trip with Loretta, Richard, & Kevin, all old school mates from the US, and they all come on board except Kevin on Wed for 11 days cruising northwards and around to the Tamar.
So life is good here for me except being up all last night watching the news about the bushfires back home in Victoria, and the tragedy as it unfolded.
Also had friends Peter and Margaret Bryant from my club, the WBC, make an unexpected visit yesterday, and it was nice to show them around.
This morning I had a visit on the boat from Randy Repass who is the founder and Chairman of West Marine in the US, and is the biggest boat chandlery business in the world. I proudly showed off Skie to him again as we had met up in the Whitsunday Group last September. Randy is sailing around the world on his PH yacht "Convergence" with his wife and son.
Tonight we are to attend the VDL-C briefing of skippers and will hear more detail on what lies ahead over the next 5 weeks

(Sorry about the underlined text - will write off for some advice)







Tues Jan 20th - Sydney Harbour

Back to Melbourne tomorrow to check a few things out for a few days before returning for the 630 nm trip South to Tassie. I have purchased a second dinghy that is collapsible, can be put back together in 2 minutes, and tack on a Tohatsu 5 hp motor. I haven't trialled her yet as I am adding some things to her first. This is a Porta Bote made in the US, and if I can believe the write ups, it is just perfect for us. It's so light one person can drag it up the beach with ease, which we couldn't do with the Caribe.
Have had a suggestion by a fellow Nordie owner to leave the company of the VDL-C for a couple of days to go to an Island south in the Furneaux Group to stock up with crays, scallops, and abalone, which we have to dive for. Way to go!

Am doing some research currently on replacing my standard SS CQR (anchor) with a NZ made ROCNA.
I am speaking to a few guys who I respect, as they have actually been to places where your anchor is your second best friend after the main engine. I have decided to stay with what I've got for the time being because Jef Appel tells me his anchor (the standard) never moved more than an anchors length, once set, and he always dived on his anchor before relaxing. Jef has single handed down to the Patagonian Channels south of Chile.
I have two things to fix before the Tassie trip next Thursday. One I have to get my Sat phone working on its docking station and to the handsets around the boat, and I need to find out why the position of the boat on the Fly Bridge plotter is a couple of hundred metres out of true compared to reality, and the two Pilot House plotters positions.
We will be watching the weather for the trip south, especially crossing Bass Strait. I asked Andy Brennan who has done this trip many times as to what he thought. His view was to just put the bone between your teeth and just go.


Tues Jan 6th 2009, - Sydney Harbour 

Well another New Years Eve party ticked off watching the spectacular fireworks display on the harbour amongst hundreds of other boats. Great to have sons James, Chris, granddaughter Chloe, the boys partners Paige & Amanda, and some of their friends aboard. Chris left on an overseas study tour two days ago as the final unit in his Masters Degree. Also even better to see them all finally head off home so Marg and I (and seadog Elliot) can get some seniors solitude around in Middle Harbour for a few weeks. Our daughter Fi and, husband Mick, and their three kids, Paddy (Patrick). Emmy (Emily), & baby Harry (Harrison) arrive tomorrow from Melbourne to spend a few days. Five year old Patrick will be enthralled to see the bridge being raised to allow sail boats to pass through which is adjacent to our marina berth. 
Time is on the wing for getting things together for the VDL-C in Tassie. Yesterday I had a technician on board to fix up my computers so that we have a network going off one router. I'm having a specialist John Deere mechanic coming on board shortly to check the computerized diagnostic report on the main engine before we head off for our next 1500 nm journey.
Have to fix up an odd issue on the boat such as PH windscreen wipers not working, and attend to 33 maintenance alerts showing up on my Seakits preventative Marine Maintenance System, which is controlled online from a server in the US, and is a boon for a mechanical greenhorn like me. Most current alerts are just about inspecting every component we have on the boat, and there are a lots of them. These alerts are based on the manufacturers recommendation for inspection and maintenance. This is activated by me by updating hours of usage from the 3 engines, and all I have to do is plug in our engine hours. This system also controls our spares inventory which is pretty extensive, but will be more so when I add the offshore kit which has spare starter motors, house water pumps etc. When we use a part it is automatically put onto a "parts to replace list", and at a push of a key, these parts will arrive in 3 days from the US via DHL. Naturally bulky items like oil are sourced locally.
The boat has been a dream so far with minimal problems after 7000 odd nm over the past 18 months. I would rate the unblocking the PH head the toughest physical job I've ever endured due to nil space to work in. I'm going to keel haul anyone who puts anything down these toilets that is not the toilet paper supplied, or natural body waste.
Just received some pics from fellow 55 owner Roger Allard showing his set up for his Besenzoni Passarelle (gang plank) which we will need for Med mooring (anchor out, and backed into the dock) when we get to Europe. Roger also sent some pics of where he stores his second smaller RIB inflatable. This is something we have to buy as the big 540 kg Caribe inflatable cannot be beached as it is much too heavy to drag with just the two of us. I fortunately have a wizard SS fabricator in Sydney who is incredibly inventive and will design and make storage for these new items. As the Yanks say just some BOAT units (bring on another thousand) are needed.
 The trip to Tassie will be planned a lot more carefully than last year to make sure we don't get knocked around by the weather this time. The best lesson I have learnt is never have anyone on board for a passage that's on a timeframe, because mother nature just aint interested. We have two ports of refuge on the way to Hobart, and if we have to we will gunkhole there until the conditions are right. We don't wish to see Bass Strait in her full fury, and as I'm re reading Fatal Storm which is an excellent book on the disastrous 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race, it is etched indelibly in my mind.
 

2008


Sunday 14th Dec, 2008 - Log 6884 nm

Time to get back to the boat which is currently docked at the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, and prepare it for a 2.1 day trip down to Sydney where the family all come up to see the New Years celebrations on Sydney Harbour. The fireworks display is regarded as one of the best in the world. (see pic Gallery)
Have been home in Melbourne for two weeks to attend to some business, see the kids, grandkids, get eyes tested, attend Xmas parties, sadly a funeral, and to see how Marg is progressing with the house renovations.
On my return I am looking forward to catching up with fellow N55 owner Mark Johnson, who has just arrived after steaming across the Pacific from Mexico in Myah. Mark will be my first face to face meeting with a 55 owner and one who has gained so much experience out on the water. I have a thousand questions and thoughts to discuss with him as it's been pretty lonely down under without a fellow 55 comrade in arms.
Plans are being finalised for our participation in the Van Diemens Land Circumnavigation around Tasmania commencing February 11th 2009, and lasting for 5 weeks. This rally is for 45 boats who will see Tassie the way the locals know it and is run by my club, the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, in conjunction with the Royal Yacht Club of Geelong.
The trip will be over 780 nm and it has stringent rules of entry for safety due to the sometimes inhospitable areas such as the rugged west and south coasts, but we did it earlier this year in almost perfect conditions.
Spoke yesterday to Warrick and Maryonn who have just arrived back home after completing the Sailindonesia Rally. The report of their adventure held over 3 months in the company of 100 other boats was nothing but positively delightful, so our excitement is even more heightened as we join the 2009 Rally leaving from Darwin at the end of July. Warrick and Maryonn have a 65' aluminium PH sailing boat and it is currently tied up in Langkawi, Malaysia, awaiting their return for still to be determined passages.

Sunday Nov 15th 2008
Just arrived at 0430 hours at the Palazzo Versace Marina at Main Beach Gold Coast in SE Queensland.
The trip down from Hervey Bay took 18 hours and was a great experience as we transited the Great Sandy Straits which is in the lee of Fraser Island, the biggest sand island in the world (Wikipedia)
My good friend Rick McLure (about to become a N55/60 owner) traveled with me and we had some fun navigating through the "narrows" at Sheriden flats. The trip down from Urangan boat harbour was pretty quick as we had a flooding tide pushing us along at over 10 knots, and when we got through the narrows (which is about about half way down behind Fraser Is) at high slack, we picked up the ebb to push us along again continuing South. This is an interesting phenomena as the tide floods up Sheriden Flats from the North and from the South, then ebbs back to the north and the South, so we were flying, so much so that this got us into Seaway Tower at the Gold coast in the dark which is 3 hours earlier than anticipated.
One of the big issues was getting out into the ocean via the infamous bar. We checked in with VMR Tin Can Bay to check conditions and to see whether the published waypoint coordinates had changed, and found the bar had migrated slightly to the North. The crossing was uneventful but interesting to see the sounder out at sea go down suddenly to 5 metres for about half a nautical mile - 25.24S, 153.09E
The trip down the coast was one of the most tranquil I have ever experienced, and uneventful if you discount 33 prawn trawlers in our path, and the P&O Sun Princess who had left Brisbane on it's way to Noumea passing just astern with it's lights ablaze. This passenger ship on it's return picked up an EPIB alert and diverted to pick up 4 sailors who lost their boat under them on a reef in the Chesterfield system 500 nm miles east of Mackay
Staying at the Gold Coast for a few weeks before the trek down to Sydney for the NY celebrations gives me some time to do a little maintenance, and make some purchases. I am hoping my barograph coming from Germany might arrive so that it can be installed by a good electronic guy I've used before when installing my KVH Sat TV.

Wednesday 11th Nov 2008
Skie arrived at Urangan Boat Harbour, Hervey Bay after a quick trip down across Hervey Bay from Bundaberg. It was a bit lumpier than I wanted for Marg, after her trip down from Middle Percy, but as usual didn't make one complaint. On board as well was our son Chris, and my sailing mate "Brownie" (David Brown) who I introduced to the "dark side" after a lifetime of being a "stick and rag" sailor. David is having a Selene 59 built in China and can't wait for it to be delivered (
myselene59@talkspot.com)

Arriving at Urangan was not without it's dramas as the marina spot allocated, although being on the end of an arm, would not fit us in, so we proceeded down the fairway and grabbed another spot that was free. It turned out this was a differently owned marina, but the dockmaster (actually mistress) was very obliging and let us stay. I have learned now to exaggerate the length of the boat when making a booking, and argue later about the charge when it comes to pricing by metres. It was blowing 30 kts on our port beam as we were docking starboard tie up. I just set up to allow the wind to blow us onto the dock, and boy did those fenders take some punishment.
Urangan boat harbour is at the Northern end of the Great Sandy Straits, and a day and a half of steaming inside Fraser Island to get to Southport our next stop.

Monday 4th November 2008 
Arrived Bundaberg after aborting our next leg out to Lady Musgrave Island on the reef. We had just left the most idyllic anchorage in Whites Bay in Middle Percy Island two days previously, but found that the forecast for a southerly change came in at 2300 hours on Sat night, 18 hours earlier than predicted. That's probably why they refer to the Bureau of Meteorology as the Bureau of Maybeology I guess. We heard a lot of fishing boats on the VHF cursing having to up anchor to find the new lee side of an island. I was on watch after having 8 hours of the tripe knocked out of us, so made an executive decision while everyone slept, to change course by 40 deg to reach Port of Bundaberg.
Bundaberg is a busy customs port for pleasure boats coming in from New Caledonia and Vanuatu, and it was a veritable united nations of accents asking for clearance while we were there. My friend Mark Johnson was making this his landfall here from New Caledonia a week later, so I was able to give him some guidance and alert him to the fact that the marina has the cheapest fuel on the eastern freeboard ($1.43 lt) with Qld boat registration discount. I have read on Noonsite some bad reports about customs clearance in Bundaberg, but saw only satisfied arrivees. A highlight for me was to see a fishing boat next door unload its deep water catch of the most brilliant fish I have ever seen. I expect it is all exported, unless they change the name of it when it gets to our fish markets.

Nov 1st 2008, Log - 6421nm
Left Hamilton Is, 20.18'54 S - 148.56'41 E Whitsunday's Queensland,  to Gold Coast SW Queensland 27.53'44 S - 153.22'08 E - 577nm
The trip south was a pleasant trip, anchoring on the southern side of Skawfell Is on the first night which was an nice place, but the holding was on coral or rock and the chain made a racket all night in spite of the anchor chain being snubbed. We left very early to arrive at Whites bay on the southern side of Middle Percy. This has to be the best place on the East coast of Australia in our opinion. Just magic.
We had out rods out with our smikko lures, but we needed the luck of Jeff Whitehead on board to catch something, and finished up just rinsing off the lures - as usual. 

Sept/Oct 2008
Cruising Whitsunday and Northumberland Island Groups
As usual we were arguably in one of the best place in the world for boats, with absolute devine weather non stop. We caught up with fellow Nordhavn owners Iain and Ros Couper, and John and Gloria Shuttlewood.
John and Gloria on BACCHUS have been up this neck of the woods for over 40 years, and Ian "Coxwain" Couper was on his first to sea adventure on DAUNTLESS, and laid to rest his sobriquet of the "Morten Bay Bug"
This was the time of the Hamilton Island Race Week, and our friends Marcel & Ingrid buzzed us in their Maritimo REX on the way home from a race lay day at the fabulous Whitehavn Beach at about 30 kts. On their second time around three of us replied in typical displacement hull speed defiance with a full "mooning" I can't believe my first time experience of this was done at age 65, what is worse still is that I instigated it.
Margs friend Veronika came up to spend two weeks with us, and with guests on boats, like fish, tend to go off after three days, she swung into defensive mode and started to cook me some great meals which immediately negated the pressure of the occassion.
We explored much more than the previous year, and had a chance to anchor off some lovely locations. I tried out my "flopper stopper" for the first time and it worked beautifully in a rolly anchorage, when Rick and Diane came up for a few days. A flopper stopper is a SS collapsible plate suspended by line from a 12' whisker pole which is deployed 90 deg from the hull, sits a couple of metres below the surface, and creates a resistance when the boat wants to roll one way and collapses when the roll is the other way. 

August 3rd 2008 Log - 5010 nm
Steamed Melbourne 37.49'06 S - 144.57'51 E, to Whitsunday Group 20.18'54 S - 148.56'41 E - 10 days - 1539 nm
We departed Docklands Melbourne early to time our arrival at the notorious rip at Port Phillip heads at slack water. Using our Virtual Passage Planner navigation software I thought we would be spot on, but underestimated the slow time getting out of the Yarra River, so we finished up in the rip 30nm away with a 4kt ebb smashing into an apposing 30 kt winds. It was like a washing machine with waves breaking over the bow coming from all directions. This phenomonem is something you would rarely see anywhere else in the world, and the rip is regarded as one of the toughest in the maritime world (Wikipedia)
On board was my son James and Dave and Phil Reid, and the washing machine found in the rip sent "gung ho" Jamesy to retire below for the next three days - sick as hell. Sea sickness effects most people and can be over a sustained period a very debilitating experience. We considered dropping him off at Hastings on Westernport Bay close by and which was probably our last chance for the next 18 hours, but with a bit of encouragement from Marg over the phone, he soldiered on for the next three days, finally coming good 631 nm away just off Sydney. He continued on for another 1000 nm up to the Whitsunday's without any further problems, so may now have this licked forever hopefully. Not the seasickness, but the "gung ho ness"
The trip westwards across Bass Strait was a little uncomfortable as we still had a heavy fetch on our starboard aft quarter, being the leftovers from a sustained trough that delayed our departure by one day. We should have waited an extra day on reflection. Passing inside Ronondo Island at the most southern tip of mainland Australia at Wilsons Promontory was an attention seeking, and anal pucker experience, taking this route to avoid the traffic separation lane for shipping south of the rock. Our AIS (Automatic Identification System) revealed that there were 11 ships transiting at the time, 0130 hrs, and I decided we should let the big boys have their own playground. However getting back on course we found the Iron Monarch on a full recipricol course with us, showing a CPA (closest point of approach) of 30 metres, and a TCPA (time to closest point of approach) in 14 minutes. She was doing 18 kts with a full cargo of iron ore, and I quickly accepted that I knew which side my bread was buttered on, hailed her to flag our intention to change our course by ten degrees to starboard, and she replied offering the same intent, and we passed 1 nm apart finally. Phew! 
We proceeded passing through the Bass Strait oilfield marveling at the wonderful light display they offered.
Claiming Gabo Island early in the morning we headed NNE to Sydney Harbour 400 nm away where we would nose the bowsprit into Doyles Wharf at Watsons Bay for just seconds whilst Dave piled off, and Jeff clambered aboard, full astern, then back out the heads to sea. Our friends Graeme and Marguerita Weir had steamed down from Pittwater to show us their new 40' Nordhavn, which was a beautiful boat to see on the water, and they motored out of Sydney Heads with us for a while.
From Sydney we found the weather heading north became more agreeable, and motored past Seaway Tower at the Gold Coast 3 days later at about 0400 hrs. On this leg we had blown up our watermaker circuit board (just after being serviced s usual) Jeff, Mr fix it, opened the electric power board and got a whiff of burning synthetics, and headed outside immediately to the big chunder bucket - the sea.
Coming up past Fraser Is we were treated to the sound of screaming reels and pulled in three Stripey Tuna. Jeff gave us a lesson on the whole procedure, and James filleted the last two like an expert.
We arrived at Hamilton Island about 1200 hrs amongst a 100 boat racing fleet that was just returning to dock. We loaded on board James' partner Paige and his daughter Chloe, took on some water quickly and went out to Dent Passage to find a mooring. We deployed the 12 Caribe RIB dinghy to get Rick to the airport but found we had no steering, later to find the system was locked shut with salt set like concrete. Again Jeff "Mr Fixit" sorted things out. 

March 2008
Steamed Hobart 42.51'37 S - 147.18'23 E to Melbourne 37.49'06 S - 144.57'51 E, via southern and western coast. - 487 nm
Waited out a very serious storm in Tasmania (hurricane proportions), and ducked down to Recherche Bay to hang loose with the fisho's and to follow them out when the time was right two days later, then to swing around SE Cape and run across the bottom of Tassie, past SW Cape and into Port Davey.
We hailed one of the fishos en route to find the best coordinates to enter, and his reply was to follow him in through a short cut. This was a hairy experience but we kept back far enough to see if he founded we could do a handbrake turn and get the hell out of there.
Port Davey is the most beautiful place I have visited in my life. Incongruous for me to say this, I can reveal it was an extremely spiritual experience. One of the last untouched, unspoilt areas in the world. It is claimed to have the purest air in the world, and is of course a World Heritage Site (Wikepedia). I was determined to come back here and explore, and this will happen in 2009 on the
Van Diemens Land Circumnavigation
  

Feb 18th 2008

Steamed Sydney 33.54'22 S - 151.17'58 E to Hobart 
42.51'37 S - 147.18'23 E

We left for Tasmania a little later than planned due to the modification of our tiller collar attached to the rudder post. This modification was made due to an inadequate design fault in my view with the steering assembly that nearly sent us into the cliffs at North Head coming into Sydney Harbour when the collar bolts became loose and steering contact was lost. At the same time we made serious changes to the emergency steering tiller as well due to the above problem highlighting the problem we would have if we lost our steering completely from the wheel or autopilot function.
We set up the completely modified emergency tiller with an attached handy billy or block and tackle system which means we could steer by adjusting the lines, and locking them in place with jamming cleats, not have to endure a Windjammer around Cape Horn in a storm type of effort with six rain soaked men together fighting the wheel to keep her from rounding up.
Four us (men - thankfully Margaret wasn't with us to be revealed below) were on board and the plan was to rhumb line it in almost 4 days straight to Hobart. However one of our crew became seriously seasick just out of Sydney Heads, and we had to duck into Eden a 100 nm south on the south eastern corner of the mainland where his wife was going to drive 5 hours from Melbourne to pick him up. It was his lucky moment as he missed out on a disastrous time at sea crossing Bass Strait and down the east coast of Tasmania.
The weather forecast had a settled ridge over Tasmania which was what we wanted, but we were to learn at a physical and mental cost that a strong and sustained 30 kt wind apposed to a south setting current and the shape of waves coming from the Antarctic at 500 m deep hitting the 50 metre continental shelf, was not a pretty picture. Bass Strait on its own is regarded as one of the most treacherous bits of water in the world by all mariners. In fact this was the scene of the disastrous 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race where nine boats sank, and six lives were lost.
After bouncing along for 48 hours with one crew member seriously injuring his back and completely incapacitated, and another hurting his back as well, but less so, and me being thrown out of bed (with the mattress) up against a bulkhead wall, we turned finally around Tasman Light for a trip up Storm Bay to Hobart in tranquil conditions. The fatigue coupled with sheer joy of salvation, led me to drop my vigilance and go down to the engine room and change fuel tank draw to get SKIE on her lines, and proceeded to shut down a near full tank, and open up an empty forward smaller one. This was a lesson that is now indelibly etched in my mind with the notion of what would have happened the night before, rolling out there without stabilizers due to a dead main engine. I immediately removed the valve handles on the two smaller forward tanks never to use them again until I have to cross the biggest ocean. These are reserve tanks that are there to supplement the main tanks via a transfer when capacity become available. I also vowed to have a spare pair of reading glasses in situ in the engine room.
We were made very comfortable with a nice berth at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, and I decided that this  club was so friendly and nice that I would become a member, and will always fly the burgee from my jack staff from now on.
Margaret joined me with our dog Elliott, and her friend Veronika and we cruised down the D'Entrecasteau channel down to Recherche Bay on the SE corner of the island for a week in the lee of Bribie island. The weather and fishing was great and a relaxing time was had by us all. Tasmania is my very favourite cruising destination so far in my limited experience and can't wait to get back next year for the Van Diemens Land Circumnavigation run by the RYCT, and to get to know the locals and their beautiful State. Plus the best seafood ever.


 

2007





Dec/Jan 07/08

Pittwater/Syd harbour/News Year Eve

Oct 2007
Steamed Airlie Beach, Whitsunday's  20.18'54 S - 148.56'41 E to Gold Coast 20.18'54 S - 148.56'41 E

June/ Sept
Cruising the Whitsunday Islands

May 2007
Maiden voyage from Brisbane 27.24'54 S - 153.03'47 E to the Whitsundays