Thursday, December 4, 2008

A busy month heading south

It has been a month since our last update. In that time we have gone from the Whitsundays to the Fraser Island/Sandy Straits and had 2 periods ashore off the boat.

The northerly winds didn't last long but made for good sailing south while they lasted. We had some long days (10 - 11 hours) from the Whitsundays to Yeppoon but they were very comfortable with just the spinnaker up and getting along at 5 - 7 kts. The last day with the spinnaker was from the Percys to Port Clinton when we had problems getting the spinnaker down at the end of the day. A pulley broke at the top of the spinnaker sock and jamed the rope that is used to lower the sock. That meant that we couldn't gather in the spinnaker before bringing it down which is a problem with such a big sail. It took us a while but we finally managed to get it down and stowed without any damage to the sail or injury to us.

We booked into the marina at Rosslyn Bay, Yeppoon as a strong southerly wind change came through. Here we caught up with people off 3 rally yachts (Eaglehawk, Hadja, and Querida) for sundowners on Eaglehawk. It was good to catch up everyones news since we were last together. We left the boat in the marina and caught the train to Brisbane for a week. As well as seeing Cran's family, the Rooneys were having a long weekend at Stradbroke Island to celerbrate Brian's 80th and Carmel's 40th. It was a great weekend catching up with everyone with the bonus of good weather.

After returning to the boat we had 4 relaxing days anchored at Long Beach, Great Keppel Island where we caught up with Mark & Susan off La Scandell again and met new cruising friends Mike & Lyndall off catamaran Montage who sailed with us down to Pancake Ck. We went on to Bundaberg while they sailed on further to Hervey Bay.

We were in Bundaberg for Patrick's birthday - yes another Rooney birthday. We also had a couple of days with Trevor, the previous owner of our boat, and his new partner Christine. They have a rural property at Mullet Ck north of Bundaberg. We had an evening at the Yandaran pub with Trevor, Christine and Trevor's neighbours Clive & Theresa. The pub was having a Rocky Horror theme night, a live band and a pig on a spit. A real country pub, it was a fun night for all. It was a relaxing weekend and good to see what Trevor is up to now that he is land based.

We are now in the Sandy Straits anchored off the Kingfisher Bay Resort. We have been here a couple of days. Unfortunately, Cran put his back out on the way down and was forced to have a rest day yesterday but he is improved enough to launch the dinghy and go ashore to the resort today. The resort has facilities for day visitors, including yachties, which has 2 swimming pools, a bar, bistro & showers. Tomorrow, we plan to go up the Mary River to Maryborough for a couple of days. We have friends there on the boat Vagabon from our marina at Newport. We have just missed them on the way north so it will be good to see them again.

The long range weather forecast looks like we will have favourable winds to cross the Wide Bay Bar and get to Bribie Is on Wednesday or Thursday next week. Then back into Newport and start the boat maintenance & business jobs as well as catching up with friends & family.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Back in the Whitsundays

Well we are back in the Whitsundays on our way south. The region is a huge tourist area with Airlie Beach a backpacker hub with heaps of backpacker accommodation as well as being the gateway to the islands. Most of the bareboat charter fleets operate out of Airlie now with only one from Shute Harbour and one from Hamilton Is. Despite all the tourists and charter boats it is still a fantastic boating area with 74 islands to explore and plenty of safe anchorages no matter which way the wind is blowing.

We arrived here on Sunday and went directly into Macona Inlet to catch up with friends, Mark & Susan off "La Scandell". They joined us for drinks, dinner and a talkfest where we caught up on each others adventures since we were last together at the start of the Louisiades Rally. It was great to catch up and hopefully we will again in the Sandy Straits on the way back to Brisbane.

By the time we left on Monday to go into Airlie Beach to do a small amount of provisioning Mark & Susan were already into their maintenance day - painting the decks.

The trip from Dunk Is has been mixed. Dunk to Orpheus Is then to Horseshoe Bay Magnetic Is were good days, not too long, calm seas and reasonable winds. We got into Horseshoe Bay in time to go ashore for lunch at the gallery/restaurant Barefoot, Food & Art. We had lunch there on our way north and were glad to get there in time to experience it again. From Magnetic Is to Cape Upstart was a long day (11.5hrs) into a choppy seas with the wind just off the nose. We were able to motor sail but it was a very rough & uncomfortable trip. Cape Upstart to Gloucester Is was also long (10hrs) but better conditions.

Today we woke to totally calm conditions - not a breath of wind. We decided to have a Whitehaven Beach stopover on our way south. By the time we got to Whitehaven the wind was up to 10 kts but it was still great to anchor off the brilliant white beach in clear waters. The beach is 5 Km long so there is plenty of space for everyone. On previous visits we found that most of the yachts and the big day charter boats from Airlie go to the southern end of the beach where they spill a couple of hundred tourists onto the beach for a few hours, so we anchored towards the northern end of the beach where there weren't any other boats for about 300m in either direction. Perfect for a quiet swim off the back of the boat. Within an hour we had 2 boats come an anchor within a 100m and a helicopter land on the beach straight in from us with a couple who spent 30 minutes on the beach having a bottle of champagne but not even getting their shoes off and feel the sand on their feet.

We have come around to Crayfish Bay on the southern side of Whitsunday Is for our night anchorage, very protected for the current northerly winds. Tomorrow we will get away early and put a few big days in to take advantage of these northerly winds and get as far south as we can while they last. If the forecast holds we should make Yeppoon by Saturday/Sunday where we want to catch up with friends and will need to reprovision. If the southerly trade winds hold off a bit longer then we may hopefully get to Bundaberg mid next week where we leave the boat for a week while we go to Brisbane to catch up with Brian Rooney, Ann's father, for his 80th birthday celebrations.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Revised sailing plans

Well we did get away from Fitzroy at 5:30 am but the wind was not as strong as forecast so we had to motor sail close hauled (sailing with the wind close off the bow). We had the main & staysail up and starboard engine on but not making very good time with the light winds. By midday we made the decision not to go all the way to Dunk Is but to stop over at Mourilyan Harbour and go on to Dunk the next day. Mourilyan Harbour has a sugar loading wharf and not much else but it is a very protected anchorage with a narrow entrance but opens up into a large basin which is feed by the Morseby River.

Today we had a leisurely start as it was only a short run down to Dunk Is and we upped anchor at 8:45 am left the harbour to find even lighter winds than yesterday. However, the angle to the wind to get to Dunk was more favourable so we were able to sail without the aid of motors. We put up genoa, staysail & main and were able to get along at 5 - 6 kts in 10 kts of breeze.

The staysail is the small sail in the middle. It is the only original sail on the boat and wasn't used much by Trevor & Heather, the previous owners, nor by us last year as evidenced by the wrinkles in the sail. This year we have used it quite a bit especially when sailing close hauled or on passage to & from the Louisiades with reduced sail area - it is great for balancing the boat.

The trip down to Dunk Is took 4.5 hrs and for the last 40 minutes the wind picked up and made for a brisk sail at 8 - 9 kts. A good way to finish a nice sailing day.

As we arrived at Dunk there were 2 naval vessels manoeuvring off the island with smaller boats running between the naval boats and a large charter boat in the bay. We finally worked out they were filming for the TV show " Sea Patrol".

Once at anchor it was great to jump off the back of the boat for a quick dip before getting lunch. The water seemed cool after the Louisiades but it was still over 27 degree and was 3 degree warmer than when we were here on our way north.
We have checked the weather forecast and tomorrow we plan to go down to Orpheus Is and then on to Magnetic Is the next day. They are shorter days than originally planned but won't be as tiring so we can move on each day without the need for rest days.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Heading South

Finally underway again. It has been a busy time in Cairns catching up with family and doing work on the boat. There was a lot to do with the boat. Everything has been washed down with fresh water to remove the salt crystals from the return passage. The watermaker has been backflushed. Patrick & I fixed the genset. Patrick went up the mast again, this time not to the top but to the crows nest to repair one of the spreader lights. I've serviced the starboard engine and Ann's done all the washing - sheets, towels as well as clothing. Also we have had to reprovision -groceries, fruit & veg and drinks. Patrick flew home to Bundaberg on Friday, and straight back to work. We were sorry to see him leave, we miss his company and sense of humour.

We left Yorkey's Knob at midday and motored down to Fitzroy Island a 3.5hr trip. Frank & Pam off "Kooltandra" came over to see us off and help with the mooring lines. As were were coming out of the channel we met "Sanctuary", the rally organiser's boat. They had just cleared customs & quarantine and were on their way back into Yorkey's Knob Marina.

We arrived at Fitzroy Is to a pleasant surprise - friends, Ross & Yvonne off "Halcyon" were anchored in the bay. We had caught up with them in Cairns before going to the Louisiades but didn't know their current whereabouts. It was great to join them for sundowners and share our Louisiades adventures as they are looking to joining the Louisiades rally in 2010.

We have a weather window that will make for reasonable southern passage after all the strong south easterly trade winds so we need to take advantage of it. From here we will leave tomorrow at about 5:30am and travel down to Dunk Is about an 11 hr passage. Then the next day down to Magnetic Is - a 13 hr passage. Then rest up for a day before doing a 3 day jump down to the Whitsundays.

Will use the time over the next couple of long passage days to sort the photos to update the blog. Now that we are back on the Qld coast we have almost total phone & Internet coverage - what a difference from the last month.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Back in Cairns

A quick update to let everyone know we are safely back in Cairns. We arrived in the Marlin Marina mid afternoon and have cleared Customs & Quarantine. Being back in a marina is a bit of a culture shock after being in the Louisiades for a month.

Pat and Ann decided that it would be pizza for dinner so after a few quick beers and a bottle of champagne ! we are off to find the best pizza in Cairns. Will be in touch soon after the hangovers have cleared - we have had a fantastic month and look forward to sharing our photos and lots more stories over the coming months.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

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18/10/08 On passage to Cairns

It is 8:00 pm, the moon isn't up yet and we are in the middle of a heavy rain squall. It is totally black when you look around. The wind have increased all day and for the last 5 hours we have had 20/25 kts and bigger swells. We are sailing conservatively with reduced sail area to minimize the stresses on the boat and crew. We were doing 8 - 10 kts with a big reef in the main and about half the genoa out and for night we have put the genoa away and put out the small staysail and reduce speed to 6 -7 kts. We have put 1 engine on to charge the batteries and it is just providing enough propulsion to steady the boat in the swells. Unlike the trip out from Cairns these winds are from a more favourable angle so it is much easier on us & the boat.

My next update will be in a couple of days time when we are closer to Cairns and I can get Internet access. We have done 220 Nm since the Johnston Pass and are 340 NM from Cairns. I was hoping we get to Cairns Monday 20 Oct but with the light winds the first day we should arrive on Tuesday.

17/10/08 Louisiades to Cairns

Up early and Patrick & I completed preparing the boat for the passage crossing: Fit the cover on the dinghy, tie down the fuel jerry cans, secure the kayaks on the starboard transom, lock all deck hatches and set up the jack line.

We all were out of the anchorage by 8:30 and through the Deijei Radi (Johnston) Pass and into the Coral Sea by 10:20 am. The pass is just over a kilometer wide and the conditions were calm but it still gets the pulse up as you approach and can see breaking surf each side and you know you could get strong currents. The current was 3kts against us but we motor sailed through with no problems.

The rest of the day we settled into passage conditions with small long swells and light 10kt winds.

It is 1 am and I'm on watch. The moon is up and is very bright being the 2nd night since the full moon. There are no clouds above us and plenty of stars but we are surrounded by rain clouds the closest about 6Nm away. The clouds are all lit up by the moon and it is like being in the eye of a storm. It is very surreal.

16/10/08 Nimoa Is to Lijiliji Bay, Sudest Is (Position 11.34.4 S, 153.7.2 E)

Early start, repaired the dinghy while it was suspended off the back of the boat. Jim off "Aussie Oi!" came over to return a USB memory key so got his assistance with the repair by working from his dinghy at the back of ours while I was working from inside ours.

Put a radio call out to the boats at anchor for our surplus meat that we can't take back into Australia. All was redistributed to yachts staying on longer in the Louisiades in no time.

A quick scrub of the waterline again as our next & final anchorage in the Louisiades will be in croc country so I'm not getting in the water there and we are away with "Catamaran Imagine", "Hadja" & "Kooltandra", "Tenacious" departed on the same course a couple of hours earlier. Final chance to catch fish and I wasn't disappointed - 2 small spanish mackerel, enough to replace the meat from our freezer. The trip was 35 Nm and we were able to motor sail for the first part and have a genuine sail for the final part, which was nice after all the motoring in the last section of the rally. While we were underway Ann started baking and cooking for the passage to Cairns. It is much easier & safer to have meals & snacks pre-cooked than trying to cook while bouncing around in 4m plus seas.

This area down the southern side of Sudest Is has a lot of reefs but they are easy to see even in overcast conditions. The anchorage in Lijiliji Bay was nice and protected with clear waters until a downpour as we were anchoring. By the time the rain had stopped the water in the bay was muddy from the runoff and it was impossible to see the reef around the bay, just as well we anchored when we did. That night you could here the crocs calling in the mangroves along the shore, good job I did the hull clean this morning.

Ran the generator to charge the batteries for the passage, however, it shutdown again with an overheating alarm after just 20 min. That's a job for Cairns.

15/10/08 Nimoa Is at anchor

Today, the final day of the rally program was spent at the Nimowa Catholic Mission. The Mission has been a community focus of the rally with cash and goods raised by the rally and the individual yachts in aid of the school and the hospital. We arrived at the beach in front of the school to a greeting and traditional dancers. The school children formed 2 lines and the yachties in 2 lines went up the children's lines shaking hands and talking to the children. Most were very shy and for some it would have been the first time they had shaken hands with a "dim dim" (whiteman). After a tour of the school it was back to the beach to present the goods and materials donated to the school by the yachties then into our dinghies and around to the Hospital in the next bay.

The hospital has about 26 beds, 6 nursing staff and no doctor. The nurses are advised by radio for procedures they are unfamiliar with. They also are desperately short of medical supplies. The Senior Nurse told of how they are forced to use verbal anesthetic when stitching up wounds - as they are out of supplies of local anesthetic they talk soothingly to the patient to distract them from the pain. The hospital services a large area of communities and only receives a limited amount of funding from the church and the PNG Government so the donations and materials provided by the rally were a great aid to the hospital. The hospital doesn't have the resources to feed patients so the patients have to have a family member with them to cook and feed them.

The mission that has so little hosted a lunch for the yachties as honoured guests. It seemed out of place but was explained that it was part of the tradition to treat honoured guests to a feast. After lunch a more lighthearted activity was arranged - sporting matches between the locals and yachties. First was a soccer match - a team of adult men of varying degrees of fitness and soccer skills against a team of local kids between 8 & 16 with very good soccer skills. The only thing we had on them was a height deferential which turned out to be a disadvantage as they ran rings around us. It provided much entertainment & merriment to the large spectator crowd of locals & remaining yachties, especially when one of the kids won the ball off us or when a yachties fell over, which happened often. Final score Local Kids 3 - Yachties 1.
The female yachties played a team of local girls in net ball with similar differences and outcomes.

The final rally BBQ was held on the beach that evening where Guy Chester had a final set of awards for each boat. We were awarded the "Best Fishers Award". Don't think that was true as there were a lot of keen fishermen in the rally fleet but it was all in good fun.

After the BBQ , launching our dinghy from the beach to return to our boat we found the whole bung assembly had come away and water was pouring in. Managed to get back to the beach, drain the water out and block the hole. Another repair job for the morning. On inspection, it appears to be a design fault. The dinghy is only 6 months old so the manufacturer will get some feedback when we return to Australia.

14/10/08 Nimoa Is at anchor

"5 O'Clock Somewhere" was leaving for Cairns today and Rob & Pam came over to say farewell. Rob had business commitments and needed to leave the rally early to ensure he was back in Cairns by the weekend. "5 O'clock Somewhere" was next to us in the marina at Yorkeys Knob for the week prior to the rally when we were all madly working on getting our boats ready for the ocean passage. During that time plus on the rally we got to know Rob & Pam and their outward bound crew Andy & John quite well. Andy & John left the rally in Misima to fly back to Australia. They are a great fun loving group and I'm sure we will keep in contact.

Today we did a river trip to some waterfalls on Sudest Is. We had 8 long boats with 5 yachties and 2 crew in each. We all left the anchorage together as "5 O'Clock Somewhere" was leaving - the long boats racing across the bay. It was spectacular and fun until we left the bay and crossed the passage to Sudest Is. The conditions went from flat calm to choppy swell but the long boats didn't slow down and sitting at the front on the floor you had to hang on for dear life as the boats pounded through the choppy passage - not good for me with my back problems. Just as well Patrick decided to stay on the boat to give his leg another day to recover - it would have been painful for him.

With the rain the previous night the waterfalls were in full flow but the real treat was vegetation growing on the river banks. There were giant pandanus, sago palms, beetle nut trees and the trees they get the ebony from for their carvings.

Once back at the anchorage the skippers from the other 3 boats leaving together on the 16th, Warren off "Catamaran Imagine", John off "Hadja" and Frank off "Kooltsndra", met on "Lettin'Go" with Patrick & I to discuss route & anchorage options. It was agreed we would go down the southern side of Sudest Is, anchor for the evening and exit the reef through the Johnston Passage the next day.

13/10/08 Wanim Is to Nimoa Is (Position 11.18.6 S, 153.13.4 E)

Great news I left out of my previous post - "Quintessence", the yacht that went up on the reef has been recovered from the reef and sustained only minor damage from its reef encounter. Unfortunately, some villagers from a nearby island came over and had stripped the boat of just about everything except the motor. The locals who where looking after the boat were powerless to stop them but could identify them to assist with the recover of some of the gear. The full "Quintessence" story will be on the rally web site

This morning John off "Hadja" bought his diving huka over and helped me scrub the hulls below the waterline. It is a dual hose model so we could work under the boat together. There was a thick strip of green weed growing on the waterline and other growth below. Nothing like 29 degrees water temperature to test the antifoul paint. Several boats had similar growths but quite a few were clean. It has given us a good indication of how the various antifouls perform in the tropics. The purpose of the cleaning was two fold: 1) reduce drag to improve the boat performance & efficiency for the trip home & 2) clean hulls on arrival back in Australia so Quarantine won't make us slip the boat to have it bio-cleaned.

The trip to Namoa Is was another to windward so it was motoring again. It was the first where I didn't put any trolling lines out. We had plenty of fish, a freezer of meat that we can't take back into Australia and I didn't feel like cleaning fish today. When provisioning for this trip we had no idea what the fishing would be like here so Ann allowed for several meat meals consequently we will have a large surplus of meat when we leave.

When we went to bed is was a beautiful calm night but at 3:30 in the morning some severe squalls came through. The good news was it filled our water tank with fresh water - the bad news was it caused "Tenacious" a steel mono in the rally to drag its anchor and it was banging against our bow. There was only minor damage but it caused us to be pushed back closer to "Kooltandra" so we had to re-anchor in the morning.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

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12/10/08 Wanim Is at anchor

Beautiful day today, clear skies and a light breeze, perfect for getting some washing done and for snorkeling. Had a great snorkel along the edge of the reef here. It was quite special with sections of vertical coral wall going from 2m down to 12m and other areas of canyons coming up from the deep where you can just float along with the fish up the canyon. Saw a painted crayfish but missed it with my hand spear - need to practice that one.

All the rally boats came in today, it was good to catch up with everyone and hear what they have been doing the last few days. Bruce off "Dancer" provided his smoker and expertise to smoke some of the mackerel I caught yesterday. It tastes great and we will vacuum pack some of it for meals on the return trip home.

We all had a BBQ on the beach this evening which provided an opportunity to socialise as a group on our own without an official function. Unfortunately Patrick decided against coming ashore and stayed on the boat to rest his injuries. He is much improved and we hope will fully mobile again in a few days.

11/10/08 Gigila Is to Wanim Is (Position 11.14.7 S, 153.05.7 E)

Saw Christine again this morning and gave her a wind up torch. It has LEDs and doesn't require batteries so it should last quite a while. She was embarrassed by the gift and insisted that we take some chilies in return. She decided we were very good friends and that when we return to the Louisiades we should bring her various household items. It is a humbling experience meeting this people who lead a very simple subsistence lifestyle but are starting to need money for health and education services.

The villagers knew the boats were leaving today and were out early to see if they could trade before we left. We even had one canoe hanging off the back of the boat while we were trying to get the anchor up. You can't blame them, it isn't often that there would be 5 yachts in their bay and there mightn't be any more for several days.

The trip down to Wanim Is was another motoring one with flukey winds around the islands. It was only 14Nm and we managed to catch a couple of nice fish - a spanish mackerel and a trevally. We kept 3 quarters of the mackerel and gave the rest & the trevally to a local guy fishing from his canoe. He was very pleased with his catch. We have marinated some of the mackerel and will smoke it tomorrow.

Wanim Is is the location where the rally boats are meeting up again tomorrow. A beach BBQ is planned.

Patrick's wounds are slowly healing but with his immune system down his gout has flared up, so he really is forced to rest up. Not the holiday he had planned.

10/10/08 Gigila Is at anchor.

Today has been the busiest since arriving in the Louisiades for canoe visits to our boat. Mostly people from the local villages wanting to trade fruit & vegs for clothing, pegs, soap, kerosene or fishing gear. There are 3 villages around this bay and the people kept coming all day. It wasn't long before we had all the fresh produce we needed and then it is hard to say no but you can't keep trading for things you don't need. Usually they will have young children with them so even if we didn't trade the kids got a lollie and a balloon. The other type of canoe visit is the young kids coming for lollies. They paddle around all the boats at anchor and do well but they keep coming back all day.

The water here is not as clear as Boboeina for snorkeling but there is some great coral formations. Not as clear means 10m visibility rather than 15m, so it is still pretty good and there are plenty of tropical fish to swim with.

Later in the afternoon Ann & I went ashore to one of the villages to give a couple of the women there some kerosene. They both had been to the boat in the morning trading fresh produce and asked for kerosene but we didn't have small bottles ready to provide it in so we said we would bring it later. One of the women, Christine, invited us into her home where we met her husband Joseph and most of her family. It was a typical village hut, quite large, raised about 1.5m above the ground with one small internal room and a large common area. What surprised me was the internal fireplace. Everything was timber or woven fronds so the fire would have to be small and closely managed. Christine explained that she uses the kerosene in her lantern to weave mats at night for visiting yachts. She takes an order from a yacht during the day and makes the mat to size that night and delivers it the next day.

Frank, Kevin and Eelke from "Kooltrandra" came over for sundowners and for Frank to check & change the dressings on Patrick's legs. His wounds are starting to heal but he has to keep the leg rested.

9/10/08 Boboeina Is to Gigila Is (Position 11.10.1 S, 152.56.0 E)

The start of another beautiful day in paradise, but with a maintenance job to be done - sort out what caused the GenSet to shut down yesterday with an overheating fault. This time we start at the salt water pump and sure enough there is the problem - the impellor had 2 blades broken off. Unfortunately we could only locate 1 of the blades, the other has gone into the heat exchanger and hopefully through to the exhaust outlet. This impellor only lasted 16 hours. Not sure if it was caused through the heating problems or the age of the impellor or both. Here in the tropics we have had constant overheating problems with the genset and the battery charger because of the air & water temperatures and humidity. We have found that if we run the battery charger on its own it draws too much DC current (100 - 130 amp) and over heats within 20 minutes. If we run something else on the 240 V circuit that reduces the amount of current available to the battery charger and keeps the charger current below 80 amp DC then it doesn't over heat. The only 2 units we can run on the 240 V system to do this are the watermaker and the air conditioning, so we have a cool boat once the water tank is full. Because it is a slower charging process we are running the genset morning & evening to keep the batteries charged. A job to sort out once back in Australia - cooling the operation of the genset. The air temperature of the cupboard that the genset is located in gets above 50 degrees when the genset is going and the cupboard doors are open.

After Patrick & I had fixed the genset it was in for a quick swim with goggles to check how our anchor & chain were lying amongst the coral before departing to Gigila Is. Unfortunately Patrick's leg infection had got much worse so he decided to stay out of the water. With the water temperature around 29 degrees it is very easy for minor cuts and wounds to infect and become tropical ulcers. By mid morning his wound on his leg was very inflamed so it was out with the travel medical book which recommended a toothbrush and saline solution to clean the gunk out. Not a pretty sight and a job the Patrick had to do himself. Once we got to Gigila Is we took Patrick across to Frank on "Kooltandra". Frank is a retired doctor, who wasn't impressed with the toothbrush cleaning but dressed the wounds (2) and confirmed the antibiotics Patrick was taking were appropriate.

While we were having a late breakfast in the cockpit at anchor about 100m from the beach at Boboeina a young boy about 3 or 4 yrs old was playing on the beach. He keep watching us, we must appear so foreign to him. The was a light breeze blowing towards the shore so Patrick blew up a balloon and threw it overboard. The boy tried to appear not interested but kept moving along the beach in line with the path of the balloon. You could see his beaming smile 100m away when he picked it up. He waved the balloon at us and ran along the beach to his mother who was collecting coconuts.

The trip to Gigila Is was only 15 Nm but with a strong wind right on the nose so we had to motor all the way. I managed to catch a spanish mackerel within 3 minutes of setting my trolling line while we were still in the bay. Caught another large spanish mackerel about half the way down to Gigila and decided that was enough. The smaller one I filleted and shared with "Kooltandra" & "Hadja", the larger one and the frame of the other one I took to the village we are anchored off.

Anchored just behind us at Gigila is a sailing boat that has been built by the cruising yachties in the area as a community project. It has been made from 2 banana boats, long narrow boats powered by 40 hp outboard motors, where they have joined the front sections of 2 boats together to form a double ender. Written on the side of the boat is the web address I'm sure it will contain plenty of information about the project.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

(no subject)

Apologies for the delay in updating the blog. It has been a combination of no reception or spare frequencies at some anchorages and very full days when I've not had time to write the update. Needless to say all is well onboard and everyone is going fine and having a ball. But with the problems with communications we will be seriously looking at Satellite phones before we go into remote areas again.

8/10/08 Boboeina Is at anchor

Birthday wishes to Val. Don't know when she will get to see this but I'm sure that she knows we will be having a drink to her tonight.

All 3 rally boats here were planning to depart for Gigila Is today, about a 2 hour trip. "Hadja" departed around 10 am after they finally got their anchor up. They were snagged on coral bommies so I swam over with diving mask on and was able to direct them from the water at their bow. Their chain was wrapped around one bommie and their anchor caught under another. The water was clear enough for me to see the bottom from the surface in 15 metres of water.

We and "Kooltandra" were planning to depart around midday but just before then we had tropical downpours come in and it was too late to leave by the time the rain had cleared - not that anyone was disappointed, this spot is just magic. But I'm sure Gigila will be equally enchanting.

A late problem surfaced today - the GenSet shut down with an overheat error after only 35 mins of running and it wasn't as hot today because of the rain. Looks like another maintenance morning for Patrick & I before we leave for Gigila.

7/10/08 Boboeina Is at anchor

A relaxing day with a chance to catch up on some washing and boat chores in between swimming, reading, swimming, kayaking, swimming etc all in the most beautiful setting. Once we are back in Australia with broadband Internet access I will post photos of the area because words just cannot do it justice.

The day was concluded with sundowners on "Lettin'Go". Joining us was Bruce off "Swaggy" as well as the crews from "Hadja" and "Kooltandra". "Swaggy" isn't a rally boat but was in the same anchorage so we invited him over. He is on his own at present as his wife had to return to Australia for medical treatment of an injury received on the boat. Consequently, Bruce is looking for crew to assist him get the boat back to Australia, hopefully one of the rally boats might be able to assist. It is Bruce's 4th trip to the Louisiades and he was a wealth of knowledge about the area and the local customs.

6/10/08 Bwagoia Harbour, Misima Is to Boboeina Is (Position 11.07.3 S , 152.43.4 E)

The harbour was a hive of activity Monday morning as crews were organising fuel & supplies before departing. We only need one jerry can of outboard fuel and some fresh bread from the bakery so we were completed fairly quickly and got away by mid morning. As previously mentioned, the harbour is only small. Not mentioned but implied was the poor water quality in the harbour. On the shore there was a local public toilet that was out over the water where the sewerage went straight into the harbour, combined with 24 yachts in there for 3 days the ecolli count would have been fairly high. Although the local kids swim in the harbour we disinfected all our ropes and shoes once we departed. Talking of the kids swimming in the harbour, it is shared with a couple of crocodiles - the largest about 2 metres long. We asked the kids about swimming with the crocs and they reply was that they were friendly crocs. The local men said that they move the crocs on once they get much bigger than 2 metres.

The rally fleet has 6 days before we met again for our next activity so the fleet is scattering to get some R&R time. We are going to Boboeina Is with "Hadja" and "Kooltandra" 2 other cats in the rally. None of us have been there before but it looked good when we sailed pass it going from Bagaman to Blue Lagoon. Outside the harbour there was hardly any wind so we motored all the way. Managed to catch 2 good size green jobfish on the way. I filleted one and gave the other and the frame to a local at Boboeina Is. The are no permanent villages at the island but 2 temporary ones that are used when the people come across from Bagaman Is to tend their crops here.

It is a beautiful anchorage off a white sandy beach with palm trees and the thick forest coming right down to the beach from the high mountains. The water is crystal clear and the coral spectacular. We anchored in about 12 metres of water but swung back towards the shore and were sitting in 3 - 4 metres with coral all around us. As soon as the anchor was set and the boat organised we were all off the back of the boat for a swim - the first for 3 days after being in the harbour. It was fantastic - water temp at 29 degrees, the best coral we have snorkeled in the Louisiades and heaps of tropical fish that are not afraid of us and swim all around us.

To round off a great destination we all got together on "Hadja" for sundowners. After a few drinks it was decided that we 3 boats, "Hadja", "Kooltandra" and "Lettin'Go" would be the core of a small fleet to cruise the Kimberly Coast together next year with a possible further 3 boats that we think will be in it.

4 & 5 Oct 2008 Bwagoia Harbour, Misima Is

The people of Misima had planned a big weekend of celebrations to welcome the yachties and showcase their culture. It started with the yachties assembling on the wharf where we were greeted by children in traditional dress doing dances to welcome us. We were lead in procession from the wharf to the oval by several different dance groups and arrived at the oval to find several hundred locals waiting to witness & participate in the celebrations. The people had come from all over the island and several groups had walked over the mountains from the northern side of the island which is not joined by road. Special seating was provided for the yachties as the guests of honour, unfortunately the seating was on the oval without any shade. After the official welcome speeches we were able to move about so it wasn't too bad and we were able to get out of the sun by 11 am. It was a huge program the people of Misima put together and it was as much for themselves as for the yachties. The island once had a large mining operation but that has closed recently and the island economy hasn't recovered as they are still trying to establish alternatives. Attracting more cruising yachts to the island is seen as an alternate income source as it is one of the few places in the area where you can get fuel and trade stores.

During Saturday the yacht crews went up to the Misima Guest House to do our Customs clearance. Since the mine closed Misima isn't an official port of entry into PNG but the rally organised to fly the customs officer to Misima to clear us all in & out. As a consequence there were several other cruising yachts at Misima to take advantage of the arrangements. The other cruising yachts were charged a small fee by the rally organiser and the money went as a donation to the local hospital so everyone was happy with the arrangements. By midday the guest house recreation room was full of yachties chatting over a beer while waiting their turn to be processed by customs at a table in the middle of the room. It was very informal but worked well.

Sunday started with combined church services at the oval which several of the yachties attended. This was followed by a Pempewa ceremony. It is a gift giving ceremony where people line up in 2 lines facing each other and you exchange gifts. On one side were the local women and the other were the yachties. The Pempewa was very popular with the local women and the were 250 involved but only about 60 yachties so we made up several gifts each and kept reforming the line to exchange with a new set of women. The rally organisers gave us a list of suggested items for the gifts and suggested about 10 Kena ($5) per gift. We got to the Pempewa to find the women with baskets full of fresh fruit & vegs and handicrafts. It was a terrific but humbling experience to see people with so little giving so much. Talking with some afterwards we learnt that for them it was the giving that was important not so much what they received from us. As you can imagine we were laden down with gifts having participated 4 or 5 time each and the local women came forward to help us all carry our gifts down to the wharf to transport back to our boats. Once on our boats we sorted through the food items and the surplus was taken to the hospital the next day.

3/10/08 Blue Lagoon to Bwagoia Harbour, Misima Is (Position 10.42.0 S, 152.51.0 E)

Knowing that we are going to be in Bwagoia Harbour for 3 nights and that the water quality there was very poor, we ran the watermaker in the clear waters of Blue Lagoon and filled our water tank before leaving. It was a great sail to Misima with winds of 15/20kts off our beam for most of the way over and it was only the last 5 Nm where it dropped to 10/15kts . It was 29Nm trip and we did it in under 4 hrs which included anchoring in Bwagoia Harbor. Bwagoia Harbor isn't very big, in fact you could call it fairly small. There were 16 Rally yachts plus another 8 non rally yachts in the harbor over the weekend in a space for 13 max. Guy Chester got us organised with bow anchors into the mangroves and a stern anchor to stop us from swinging, and arranged for the cats up the northern end of the harbor in the shallower waters and the mono's up towards the mouth where the deeper water was. Frank & his crew off "Kooltandra" were in their dinghy ready to help the cats coming in to deploy the stern anchors. It all went like clock work and we were all settled in short time waiting for Quarantine to clear us into PNG, which happened on each boat without any drama. That evening we had the local choirs singing on the wharf which could be heard throughout the harbour. It heralded the start to a very special weekend.

2/10/08 Bagaman Is to Blue Lagoon (Position 11.08.0 S, 152.45.5 E)

A relaxing morning at Bagaman was planned before going around to the Blue Lagoon. We all had a snorkel around the boat. The water was clear and there was a variety of coral in about 2 - 4 metres of water. The relaxing didn't last long as we found we had a problem with the generator. There was no salt water flowing out the exhaust - the salt water flow is part of the engine cooling system. Patrick & I started at the water intake end and worked our way up the the genset engine where we found the impellor in the salt water pump had lost a blade. Fortunately we located the broken blade at the opening to the heat exchanger where it had blocked the flow of water. It was in one piece and nothing had got into the heat exchanger otherwise we would of had a major job on our hand. As it was, it was a hot and humid task as our genset is located in the back of long narrow cupboard - by the time we had finished I was wringing wet from sweat and just fell overboard to cool down.

It was a humid morning so several swims were had before all the rally boats at Bagaman left for Blue Lagoon around 11 am. It was only 5Nm and the winds were flukey with rain squalls so we motored all the way. Luck would have it that we stuck a heavy rain squall while going into the lagoon and it was impossible to see the channel or the coral reef. Fortunately "Sanctuary" was already anchored in the lagoon and guided us in via the VHF radio.

All went ashore for a beach BBQ. There were plenty of light rain squalls but it wasn't a problem in the tropics with the temperature over 30 degrees. It was the first time we yachties had had time to socialise with just ourselves without a function with a local village so it was good to relax and share a drink & chat.

1 Oct 2008 Nivani Is to Bagaman Is (Bagaman position 11.07.3 S , 152.42.2 E)

The start of another beautiful day in paradise. Had the usual early morning visits from the local kids in canoes. Some look that young that they wouldn't have been walking long and they are out in canoes. The youngest sit in the middle and have bailing duties which is a constant job with these low sided canoes. The kids have worked out that if they hang around the back of the yachts and look cute they will pick up lollies or score gifts like caps. Before leaving Nivani we provided Bruce off "Dancer" with some more fresh water - his watermaker isn't working. Dancer is staying at Nivani for a few more days and will rejoin the rally boats in Misima on Friday for customs & quarantine clearance.

The trip down to Bagaman Is was about 30Nm (about 55Km) and has 2 large reef passages to go through. We had light winds that were directly on the nose so we motored for all of the trip. Just after passing through the first passage leaving the lagoon around Nivani/Panpompom the weather changed and we had rain squalls develop near us. Luckily we did not have rain while negotiating through the reef passages. It is very much visual navigation here for reef passages and getting in & out of anchorages. The electronic charts are only used for larger scale navigation. There are very strong currents through this part of the Louisiades and as Murphy's Law would have it, the currents were all against us. Most of the way we had a 1.5 - 2 Kt current and up to 4 Kts through the second reef passage. It made for a long trip, 6.5 hours with no luck fishing until we were close to Bagaman when we caught a good size green jobfish and a mackerel tuna. The fishing here has been superb and we have had fresh fish most days. There was plenty of meat on the jobfish so we gave half to friends off "5 O'Clock Somewhere" and gave the tuna to "Sanctuary". The jobfish head & frame we gave to a local who saw me filleting the fish and paddled over to see if he could get the frame. All our fish frames have been claimed by local villagers so I make sure there is still plenty of meat on them.

As the trip took so long we missed much of the activities at Bagaman which included singing and traditional dances but we arrived in time to go ashore and see the carvings & handicrafts before the speeches and mumu (feast). Ann & Patrick found a few pieces of handicraft to purchase as gifts for family back in Oz.

Finally managed to connect with Mark & Susan off "La Scandell" via HF radio tonight. It was great to chat and hear their plans and we hope to catch up again on our way south down the Queensland coast. Mark has offered to do a weather watch for us as our departure for Cairns gets closer. It is good to have a backup as we have had trouble getting weather details via email over HF radio and Mark will have Internet access being on the Australian coast.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

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30/09/08 Nivani at anchor

The bulk of the rally fleet left today for the next anchorage where there are planned activities with the local villages tomorrow. We decided to stay and have a R&R day and go down early tomorrow. We snorkeled over a Japanese Zero from WW2 that is in only about 3 - 4 metre of water. The coral is starting to grow over it in parts but it is still obvious what it is. The cockpit is open but the word is that it is home to a large moray eel so it was a case of look but don't climb in. The reef at the southern end of the island has some great coral especially on the edge of the drop off and we were treated to a wide variety of coral & fish while snorkeling.

Another treat today before the rally boats left was a call over the radio this morning from Stuart off "Orpailleur", one of the rally boats, he was offering free use of his Satellite phone for today. He was on a prepaid monthly plan and had heaps of time left that would expire at the end of the month. So we were able to do quick calls to family - a great opportunity to catch up briefly and tell them all was well.

29/09/08 Nivani at anchor

Today we lived up to the definition of Cruising - "Cruise is doing maintenance in exotic places". It is the first day we have had since arriving to catch up on repair jobs. Our danbouy self launched in the big seas during the passage on the way over and the flag pole came away from the float - luckily the life ring didn't go with it otherwise we would have lost the lot. We have been able to do a makeshift repair that will be OK until we get home and access to a wider range of materials. The other repair was the anchor light at the top of the mast. Patrick volunteered to go up the mast and I was very quick to accept as I'm not very good at heights. The anchor light is part of a 2 in 1 unit that houses the anchor light and the navigation lights. The nav lights are working and the anchor light was working until a couple of days ago. After checking the switch at the cockpit it looked like it was at the light end so up went Patrick in the boson's chair with a bag of tools and test gear. Fortunately it was a very calm anchorage so he wasn't swinging around at the top of a 16m mast. The light is a LED system and was new last year in January so we knew it wasn't a bulb. It turned out the the unit had water in it and a wire to the anchor light had corroded away from a junction fitting. Patrick had to bring the unit down to the deck where we were able to replace the wiring and junction block. Then another trip up to refit it. We suspect that it was not installed properly as there was no rubber seal in the unit's mounting system. Patrick took a tube of silicone sealant up and has done a temporary seal until we get back and can check how it is meant to be.

It was good to get the maintenance jobs out of the way and while it was hot work with the temperature about 32C we has several quick swims off the back of the boat. We are anchored in about 4 - 5 metres of crystal clear water with small coral outcrops scattered about with the usual variety of tropical fish - there is always something to see while swimming.

The day was topped off with sundowners (drinks & hors d'ouvre) on the back of "Lettin'Go" with friends off a couple of other yachts.

28/09/08 Nivani/ Panapompom Inaugural Canoe Regatta

The day started with a heavy downpour and things were looking very wet for the regatta. Proceedings were meant to start at 8:30 am but that was "island time" and it all started to happen around 10:30 am by which time the rain had cleared and most of the people coming from the neighbouring communities had arrived.

It turned out to be a big day, well supported by the island communities - the cash prizes donated by the local MP helped. There would have been over 200 local people attend the regatta plus about 50 yachties off 17 boats anchored in the bay. Things started with speeches then traditional dances. The dances were concluded by a group of children doing a dance depicting a dugong hunt which was fantastic. I've taken a movie of it and if it is OK I'll post it on the blog when we get back.

The regatta included 4 swimming races plus 4 paddling canoe races for Girls, Boys, Ladies & Men and 2 sailing canoe races - one for under 5m and the other for over 5m. There was much merriment amongst the locals with the races especially when something went wrong like a swimmer heading off in the wrong direction or canoes colliding. The sailing canoe races were quite a spectacle with 17 small canoes and 16 large canoes on the water together. The way they can control the sailing canoes is amazing. A special treat for us yachties was the opportunity to go for a sail on these after the race was over. To see the simplicity of the boats compared to our yachts but these are the main form of transportation here.

It was a great day and finished with a traditional feast (Mu Mu). There were fund raising activities for the yacht rally to raise money from the yachties for the local medical clinic on Panapompom.

27/09/08 Panasia to Nivani (Position 10.47.3 S, 152.23.3 E)

The conditions were prefect for us for the sail up to Nivani Is, a distance of 23Nm. We had 15/20Kts coming right on our beam for most of the trip and very little swell as we are now inside the outer reef. Lettin'Go is heavy for a cat but is a great sea boat and she revelled in the conditions sitting on 10/11 kts for most of the trip. The only downside was we were going too fast to troll for fish and only had one strike but we didn't land it. Other boats traveling slower caught more mackerel.

Nivani Is is another beautiful tropical spot that words cannot do justice so you will have to wait for the photos to be posted once we are back with Internet access. Nivani is a small uninhabited island about 1 Nm from Panapompom Is where the local village is. The people in this area have planned a big day for us tomorrow with a sailing canoe regatta. As soon as we had dropped anchor we were greeted by a man (James) in a dugout outrigger canoe who gave us a printed sheet with the program for tomorrow and had a frangipanni lae for each of us. James explained how the whole community were looking forward to the regatta and pointed to 5 huts on the beach at Nivani that had just been built for the occasion.

26/09/08 Panasia to Duchateau & Return

This morning we woke to voices outside the boat at about 6 am. It was a local family in a sailing canoe wanting to trade fruit & vegs. I don't know if it is a deliberate ploy to get us negotiating before we are fully awake or they were just very keen. I suspect it was a bit of both.

Today the 2 catamarans at Panasia, "Sanctuary" & ourselves went back to Duchateau to assist in the retrieval of personal effects off the yacht that had gone onto the reef. 3 yachties from the rally came with us, Bruce & Mark off "Dancer" and Peter from "Medusa". We anchored on the northern side of the island, went ashore and walked around the southern side where the stricken yacht was. What a sight it was - the yacht had been pushed right across the reef and onto the beach where she was sitting upright against some rocks. She has a long shallow keel which would have contributed to reducing the amount of damage sustained. She was in remarkably good shape but unfortunately will be very difficult to get out of the the reef. The reef runs about 150 metres out from the shore and she ran aground on the highest tides for some weeks. The people off the yachts that went to assist the day before had been working with the owners, Chris & Wendy, to identify the important personal things they wanted to retrieve and had taken them off the boat and stacked them on the shore. It was heartbreaking to see, Chris & Wendy were still in shock so it is hoped that they remembered the all the personal things that have special memories and can't be replaced. It was about 1 Km walk back around the island to where the yachts were moored and it was hard work carry heavy loads in soft sand at midday in the tropics. Fortunately with the number of people it could be done in one trip.

On a lighthearted note, Bruce & Mark are keen fishermen and Lettin'Go is a great fishing platform so the most was made of the trip over and back. We caught 3 good size mackerel on the way over and had 2 more onboard on the return trip when Ann pointed out we had more than enough. So lines came in for the the rest of the trip and we began preparing the fish which was completed back at Panasia. 2 of the fish were filleted into meal size pieces and 2 were done into mackerel steaks and 1 was left whole for the local villagers. A BBQ was held that evening for the rally yachts and the locals where there was plenty of fish plus a lot of the meat from Chris & Wendy's boat so no-one went hungry but also nothing was wasted.

At the BBQ, Guy, the rally organiser, presented all the boats with a rally nameplate plus some fun awards. We got the award for 1st place on handicap - it has very little to with how we performed as the handicaps were determined by a random draw both at Cairns & here at Panasia then combined together and applied to our passage time. We were the 4th boat the arrive which was good given how much we eased back to reduce the strain on the boat and crew. Also, it is a rally not a race.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

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25/09/08 10pm Panasia Island (Position 11.07.871 S , 152.20.087 E)

A quick update to the details below. Position Lat & Longs have been provided so you can use Google Earth to pin point where we are.

I was hoping to get this blog update emailed this morning but the conditions were unsuitable and I couldn't get a connection. We are currently at anchor at the lagoon at Panasia Is. It is a beautiful setting much like Thailand with high cliffs, sandy beaches, fringing reef and crystal clear waters. We have caught up with a couple of the rally boats that came here directly this morning rather that coming into Duchateau but unfortunately the mood of the rally boats here is subdued with the knowledge that one of our rally companions has had their boat go up onto a reef outside the Duchateau group. It happened this morning while we were traveling across from Duchateau to Panasia. The rally organiser's boat Sanctuary had come across an hour before us and we were at the front of the remaining boats traveling across when the distress call came across on the radio. The boats closest went to see if they could assist and we being closer to Panasia acted as a radio relay boat for Sanctuary who was in the lagoon at Panasia behind the mountain and had poor reception.

At this stage it is still uncertain the condition of the yacht but we will be part of a few boats from Panasia taking manpower to Duchateau tomorrow to assist in getting personal effects of the stranded vessel. The couple on the yacht are permanent liveaboards like us so we can really feel for them, they haven't just lost their yacht but also their home. It will be devastating for them to have this happen at the end of a 5 day passage when they were coming into calm waters after a severe night at sea.

We update on the outcome in the next few days.

25/09/08 9am

We are at anchor at Duchateau Islands in the Louisiades. It is a beautiful anchorage with all the features you would expect of a tropical hideaway - palm tree covered island with white sandy beach and coral reef. We arrived yesterday at 1100 hrs and managed to catch 2 fish trolling through the channel between the islands. A 1.2m barracuda and a green jobfish. We gave the barracuda & the frame from the jobfish to some of the locals who were fishing in the area. They wanted to give us a very small lobster in exchange but we said it was a gift. Later another couple of locals paddled out to us and traded 2 t-shirts and 2 caps for 2 good sized lobsters. They were all from the same group so the fish we gave earlier would have been shared.

By yesterday evening there were 6 boats here and we all got together on "Sanctuary", the rally organiser's boat, for drinks, BBQ lobster and we all shared stories of our passage experiences.

Today it is blowing 25/30 kts and this anchorage is a bit exposed. It is a safe anchorage with crystal clear water and coral bommies but is rolly with a small swell coming in over the reef. Compared the past 4 days of the passage it is quite comfortable. Later today we will be sailing across to Panasia Island which will be more sheltered in the lagoon on the north side of the island.

I've had problems getting my last lot emails out via the HF radio, had to connect 8 times to get 3 small emails out and 2 emails with weather details in. Other boats are experiencing the same so it must be the atmospheric conditions. As a consequence I've decided to combine my blog updates and up load every 2 or 3 days.

24/09/08 1am

I'm 3 hrs into my last night watch for a few weeks. We arrive at the Louisiades tomorrow morning and it will be short day hops within the Archipelago until we do the return trip to Cairns. I've enjoyed the night passages - there is something special being at sea at night, you really tune into the rhythm of the boat. Tonight is very dark, the moon hasn't risen yet and there is total cloud cover at times as rain squalls pass through so it is difficult to see the horizon. There is plenty of phosphorescence in the water and our boat is leaving a trail of light through in our wake which is quite surreal. We are getting close to the shipping lane and have sighted several ships and had to alter course a couple of times to avoid some of the closer ones.

23/09/08 12 noon

What a difference 12 hrs & 10 kts of wind can make. Today the winds are down to 10/17 kts from the 15/27 kts of the first 2 days. The sea swell is the same but chop has reduced with wind and things are much more comfortable. Everyone is back to eating normal meals today instead of snacking on fruit & muesli bars like the last couple of days. We are 116 Nm from Duchateau and have set the sails for a steady passage to arrive at approx 0900 hrs when the sun will high enough to allow us to navigate through the coral reef into the anchorage.

Our watch system of 4 hrs each is working well. Patrick is doing 0200 - 0600 & 1400 - 1800 hrs; Ann 0600 - 1000 & 1800 - 2200 hrs; and I'm doing 1000 - 1400 & 2200 - 0200 hrs. During the day when off watch you can relax or grab a nap. Sail changes happen at between 0700 - 0800 hrs to set for the day and around 1730 hrs to set for the night passage - everyone is on deck for those.

Ocean passage is certainly different to coastal cruising. The only vessel we have seen in the last 48 hrs was a ship heading for Cairns at 0400 hrs yesterday on Patrick's watch - it got to within 3 Nm of us. I can pick up 3 vessels on the radar but none appear to be rally boats judging by their course and speed. The closest is 14 Nm away but when you look out all you can see is water. We have contact with other rally boats via radio and have scheds at 0900 & 1830 hrs where everyone gives there current position, heading and speed. Tonight a number of rally boats will converge as we head towards our common goal at Duchateau. It is also a busy shipping area so a sharp lookout will be required by the watch.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

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Just over half way through our first offshore passage. 263Nm to Louisiades and we have done 265Nm since leaving Cairns. We expect to arrive in the Louisiades on Wednesday afternoon.

The weather has been rougher than we would have liked with 15/25 knt winds and seas generally 4 - 5 metre swells with the odd set coming through at 6+ metre just to keep you on your toes. The main problem with the seas is the chop on top of the swell that slams the boat at times. Unfortunately the weather conditions have taken a heavy toll on the rally fleet with 12 out of the 26 vessels retiring as on this morning's radio schedule with gear failure, structural problems or sea sickness. It is a great shame that so many boats have had problems and we really feel for them as everyone has put a huge effort into getting themselves and their vessels ready for the trip. Our friends Mark & Susan off La Scandell have had to retire from the rally but may leave Cairns on Wednesday to rejoin if repairs can be completed. Obviously we are hoping that they can still make it and if they do we will wait for them at Duchateau Island - the rally's first planned landfall.

We are sailing conservatively with sail area reduced to a point where the boat's motion isn't too bad and the stresses on the boat are minimised, but it is still a rough ride at times. All on board have found their sea legs and we are able to get plenty of sleep which is essential with doing night watches. Our boat "Lettin'Go" is handling the conditions fairly well with just a few minor leaks around some of the fixed windows when the decks are awash with sea water. We will see if we can do a temporary fix once we get to Duchateau as the conditions don't allow for that now. Patrick and I have had to go out on deck a couple of times and it has been difficult getting around. We wear harnesses and are always clipped on when on deck so it is only for urgent things that we go on deck for. We have both managed to get minor injuries to the feet while on deck in these conditions, nothing serious but a reminder to be careful.

Managed to catch a tuna while leaving Cairns out the Grafton Passage through the reef but have decided not to put lines out again until the weather settles as it is too dangerous to be landing and filleting fish in these conditions. The forecast is for a change on Wednesday to very little wind so we will need to motor if it stays to forecast.

Will do another update once we are anchored at Duchateau. If it is not on the blog by Wednesday evening, don't panic about our whereabouts as it probably just means that we didn't get to the anchorage before 4pm and are standing off the reef until Thursday to enter with the right conditions.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

The rally started without incident in 15/20 knt winds.  Unfortunately the winds are coming from the wrong direction and we are motor sailing for the first 3hrs until we can change angle and go out Grafton Passage through the Great Barrier Reef.


The start was quite spectacular with 27 boats starting at once.  There are 13 catamarans in the fleet so some of the anchorages in the Louisiades will be crowded.


The weather forecast looks good for the 4 day passage with favourable winds for the first 2 days and then they are swinging more east so we will need to make as much easterly progress as comfortable in the next 2 days then head more north.


This will be the last post with photos until we get back to Australia in late October.  Within the next couple of hours we will offshore beyond the range of our mobile internet access.  From now on all posts to the blog will be via HF radio using plan text emails.



We have Ann's brother Patrick coming with us for the Louisiades trip. The extra crew means we can do 4 hr watch shifts day & night and get a reasonable break between watches.

Final preparations completed and we are ready to depart the marina for the official start of the rally at noon.

Last night we had a farewell function with representatives for the PNG government and the PNG Cosul General. Traditional dances from the Louisiades put on a show and a great night was had by one and all.

The boat is setting very low in the water now that we have full fuel, water plus food & drink for 5 weeks. Ann has prepared meals for the 4 day trip to the Louisiades so we won't have to cook while underway. Patrick was cooking sausages on the BBQ on the back of the boat and the smells were causing lots of comments.