DARWIN – CYCLONE SEASON

I arrived in the Cullen Bay Lock on 27-10-2016 & left the lock (temporarily) on 03-05-2017 – 5 months in the lock at $595/month. This lock is very good with great shelter, restaurants & bus service, but very hot & humid. Not much wind in the marina due to the private houses surrounding the marina. The last week of May & 1st week of June has been cooler due to a high pressure system over Victoria bring SE winds all the way up the east coast to Darwin. The humidity has been around 30% instead of the +80%. Nights see temperatures around 22 deg. instead of 26+ deg.
CullenBayMarina
The major shopping centres – Casuarina & Palmerston are a 1/2hr bus trip away – $3 for 3hr – or $1 if you hold a seniors card – not too bad. As with Townsville CBD, Darwin CBD has no department stores & seems very few people around during the day. Night time is a different story with most restaurants full. There are a lot of Aborigines wondering about, seemingly homeless  – some young men ‘talk’ with very loud voices, but I don’t know what they are saying – they seem angry. There seems to be a lot of backpackers – especially with Queens English accent. I see many Aborigine women slapping & telling men off – quite funny really. I was approached by an Aborigine man to call the cops, because his woman was holding a weapon (stick) & he felt for his safety. I said no & reminded him he was probably doing something wrong. Most young Aborigines sit at the back of the bus & are very noisy, while the older generation sit near the front, perhaps discarding those noisy blighters.

One cannot go to Darwin without visiting the Mindil Beach markets on a Thursday night & Sunday arvo/night.

Darwin has a great wave pool & lap pool. The lap pool was hot February to April, although fed from the Darwin Harbour.

DarwinLapPool

Darwin Lap Pool

I found out, in the CBD one can only purchase 2l wine casks & only 1 per customer/day. However, if there was a different person serving later in the day one could purchase a second cask.
I did quite a lot of maintenance on the yacht – replaced the rigging chain plate bolts, replaced engine mounts & seating angles with s/s ones, antifouled, checked rudder in case it was loose (was good), repainted cockpit & engine oil change to name a few. I did not check the alternator but did replace some wiring in the area.

I flew to Melbourne early November 2016 & returned early February 2017 (via Sydney) & worked on board with an air conditioner – unfortunately I did not have much work so relied on my superannuation. In Sydney I attended the Compass Yacht regatta & was awarded the Jim Brown trophy (by last years winners) for the longest journey in a Compass during 2016 – 2160NM.

Phil & Di presenting Allan (Ophelia) with Trophy20170205_195348

Early April, I made a date to leave the marina & head west on 03-05-2017 with a friend John McDonald from Melbourne – he arrived on 01-05-2017, the same day I returned from 2 weeks holiday with my wife in Thailand & Singapore. So after purchasing supplies we went through the marina lock on 03-05-2017 at 10am & anchored near the marina for the night.
A client was hopeful to get a job, so I intended to call into Truscott airbase, hopefully catch a vehicle 30km into a town to call my client. Truscott was about 1/2 between Darwin & Broome & a place I could re-fuel. So it meant I could start on the job once I got to Broome 3 weeks later. That never eventuated.

There were 3 cyclones – all passing Darwin with category 1 or 2 intensity – all about 80NM north of Darwin battering the Tiwi Is. (Melville & Bathurst Is.). For a second cyclone season I missed them.
The Cullen Bay Marina beach is a great place to sit while watching the sun set, but cannot swim in the wet season due to stingers – never mind the crocs as I saw only one at 0530hr one morning.

The 3m to 6.5m tidal variation is not a problem around Darwin. The Cullen Bay lock opens (when required) on the hour from 0600hr to 2200hr & has been designed to hold enough water. It sits about 5m on the Darwin tide charts. The water level varies up to 350mm maximum between tide changes.

Cullen-Bay-Marina-Beach

Cullen Bay Marina Beach at near low tide

TIME TO LEAVE DARWIN & HEAD WEST
On 04-05-2017 we left Darwin at 1000hr with spinnaker for the 36NM sail/motor to Bynoe
Darwin-Spinaker Harbour catching the ebb tide from Darwin & flood tide around the corner into Bynoe Harbour, arriving at 1830hr & a wonderful sunset. Not a good place to go walkabout as no beaches. At 0700hr on 05-05-2017 we left for the 50NM journey to Fog Bay anchoring at 1800hr 2NM offshore due to very shallow water. We caught a Spanish Mackerel along the way.
SunSet-Bynoe

Bynoe-Mackerel
There was no internet here & I had to complete some work so next day backtracked some 13NM to Dundee Beach (famous for it’s fishing) anchoring in thick grey mud 300m from shore. This place has a pub next to the boat ramp – perfect place for a week, except in westerlies. We left next day for the 65NM sail/motor to Cape Ford – a wonderful sheltered area from the SE breezes. I even had internet from the mast head aerial but no cell phone reception. No reception according to the Telstra coverage map.
JohnMcD
On the 4th day at 0700hr on 08-05-17 we left for the 48NM sail to Wadeye (or Port Keats) arriving at 1400hr, where according to the Telstra coverage there was 4GX internet & they were correct. I had to complete some more work here before losing internet into the Kimberley’s. Again, not a good place to spend time as no beach – all mangroves. Our intention was to cross the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf from Wadeye to the Berkeley River – a distance of 110NM. That never happened.

While at Dundee Beach I noticed the alternator didn’t seem to be charging the batteries & the solar panel regulators didn’t seem to be working properly. By the time we arrived at Wadeye I could not fix the problems so we decided to return to Darwin a.s.a.p. to get them fixed. That was 2 very long days to get back – 160NM from Darwin. However, I received 6wks work from my client (who I was going to call from Truscott) so decided to stay in Darwin. After a week in Darwin, having a 120A alternator installed (‘The Beast’ I call it) & new solar panel regs (all for $2,400 installed), we did go 35NM north to the Vernon Is. for the weekend. It was rather horrible as there are no beaches & anchored in 15m water 30m from a 1.2m deep reef at low tide.

Vernon Is

Vernon Islands

We did not catch any fish. More engine problems with the engine overheating. After limping back to Darwin & contacting Bukh in Sydney (Ophelia has a 10HP Bukh engine) it was decided air was entering the raw water filter bowl causing pulsating & low water levels – I fixed that & then the syphon started leaking salt water all over part of the engine. I have been waiting for eight working days for a new one to be delivered from Brisbane. I found one in Darwin so installed that today (03-06-2017) – motor now fixed with a spare syphon.

Perhaps I was not meant to travel through the Kimberley’s this time.

Unfortunately, John had to go back to Melbourne three weeks into the six week holiday. I now intend to leave Darwin mid August but will have to bypass The Kimberley’s to get to Perth by mid December. Darwin – no beaches so not a cruiser’s holiday area.

Darwin-Wadeye
The map above shows our track from Darwin at top of map to Bynoe, to Fog Bay, north to Dundee Beach, south to Cape Ford & then further south to Wadeye.

When I came into Darwin (October 2016) from Cape Don, 100NM north, I got the tides wrong & now realise why (see map below) :-
– An ebb tide in Beagle Gulf – north of Darwin Harbour – sucks the water from Van Diemen Gulf west through the Vernon Is. thus creating the appearance of a flood tide in Van Diemen Gulf.
– Conversely a flood tide in Beagle Gulf creates the appearance of an ebb tide in Van Diemen Gulf by pushing water east through the Vernon Is.

This is the reason why one can leave Cape Don 4hr before a Beagle Gulf ebb tide, reach the Vernon Is. in 8hr & pick up the change in tides to get a flood tide to Darwin – 12-14hr  travelling at approx. 8kn, instead of 20+hr travelling at 5kn against the tides as I did.CapeDon-Darwin.

Here are some videos of my journey :-

  1. Lazy Sailing Day Darwin Harbour – https://youtu.be/c4CP9ut5TMM
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TOP END MOTOR SAILING

I tried to leave Groote Eylandt on 30-09-2016 but it was just too rough with wind from the northerly direction so I turned around & went into Bartalumba Bay for 2 days. I eventually left on 01-10-2016 at 1800hr, but was very slow going into a  NE breeze & tide against me for the first 6 hours. However, as luck would have it the wind shifted to north so I could motor sail through the night in a NE direction. There were trawlers all around me, counted nine at one stage. I slept in about two hour cycles for two hours. By the time the sun arose the wind had died to zero knots so I had to motor through the day to Gove.

01-gove-darwin

I arrived at Gove 2030hr (26.5hr & 130NM) & nearly ran over a rather large mooring while searching for moored & anchored vessels ahead of me with the torch so decided to attach Ophelia to it. Upon waking next day, I could see numerous vessels that appeared to have no light, in fact most are derelict & have not been used for some time. I had worked in Gove, June to August 1978 so was keen to see the changes – so much more has been added over the years but so much is now not being used – like the alumina refinery. The accommodation units I stayed in was still standing. It was open slather buying grog then but now one requires a liquor license to purchase liquor. Probably a good idea from my 1978 memories. Those days, when I was 26 y.o., I ran from the refinery to the township at end of day, while other less fit drafties used the bus – now one drives.

I managed to get a lift with a local yachty into town one day to fill the two 20l diesel jerry cans & some petrol. There is a bus service three times a day also. I met a fellow solo sailor, Alderd, from Cairns, in a Compass I33 called Pelorus II, who is on his way to Darwin for this cyclone season, Kimberly’s & back to Cairns next year.  I counted nine vessels stranded on the beach around the harbour – all had been pilfered & left to rot. Apparently there are moves afoot to burn them as they are an eyesore. I managed to pilfer a Muir manual anchor winch, with 8mm gypsy, in good condition, installed it, then realised the dinghy covers it. I also replaced one dorado. I did not realise until I had left Gove that the main & genoa sheets had gone a reddish colour, from the bauxite dust in the air.

While at Horn Island, I applied on line for shore access at 4 places between Gove & Darwin. I was refused access because I could not stipulate the exact days I would be at these places – Elcho, Milingimbi, Maningrida & Sth. Goulburn Islands so I had to plan my next trip carefully. Gove to Darwin is approximately 560nm & I had enough diesel for 525nm so I had to do some sailing to make sure I did not run out. My intention was to arrive at Darwin on 27-10-2016 & fly to Melbourne on 07-11-2016. I need the week to set up Ophelia for the cyclone season & to work.

I left Gove after a week on 10-10-2016 at 0600hr for the nine hour, 48nm journey to the ‘Hole in the Wall’ or Rugari Rip – a deep channel about 100m wide between two islands of the Wessel group – Raragala to the south & Guluwuru to the north. I had to be at the eastern entrance by 1415hr for the change in tide from low to high – flood tide runs west through the channel. I made good time with an easterly breeze and tide, and arrived spot on time. There was no swell.

02-rugari-rip

ENTERING EAST SIDE OF RUGARI RIP

I fixed the Gopro to the solar panel frame & recorded my 18 minute journey from east to west. An aerial view from Google shows lines on each side of the channel as if the islands were once joined. Even the navy has left it’s presence on the rocks.

GOOGLE EARTH VIEW OF RUGARI RIP

GOOGLE EARTH VIEW

3/4 OF WAY THRU' THE RIP

3/4 OF WAY THRU’ THE RIP

ROCK ART

ROCK ART

I anchored in a nearby bay & went fishing – caught one reef shark (throw back) & one coral trout (keeper). Coral trout are beautiful in colour & eating. Saving diesel was going to plan so far.

The next day, 11-10-2016, saw me sailing very slowly to Refuge Bay, 43nm to the south, at top of Elcho Island, but I only had 1.5hr in this rather large bay before setting off for the 206nm journey to Sth. Goulburm Island via Maningrida. Refuge Bay is very shallow & I could only anchor about 1/2nm from the shore in 5m of water. Another yacht also anchored for the night who were on their way east. I left at 1830hr and due to very little wind had to motor all night passing Milingimbi at 0600hr, with limited cell phone reception so sent some text messages. Milingimbi Island apparently has good internet but has a 2km exclusion zone so anchoring in this place seemed to be out of the question & I was refused shore access anyway. By mid-afternoon on 12-10-2016 the wind increased to 20kn E and then NE and stayed until later that evening – managed to sail and therefore save diesel. I entered the beginning of Mangingrida about 1600hr and realised the area is very open to the NE so turned around and headed to Sth. Goulburn Is, 64nm west. I had some cell phone reception so sent messages to family and friends to say what I was doing. I arrived at Sth. Goulburn 0445hr on 13-10-2016. The SPOT Gen 3 has 3 pre-recorded messages, so at 0800 & 2000hr local time each day, I pressed one of the buttons to say ‘I was OK’. This message was sent to four pre-defined mobile numbers, via satellite.

STH. GOULBURN ISLAND

STH. GOULBURN ISLAND

The next day being 14-10-2016, I phoned the local Land Council for shore access, who put me onto the traditional owner – he gave me permission to land & took me to the village for a look around. There is no industry and therefore no work. There is a primary school, but secondary school children are sent to boarding school in Darwin. There is a problem with one boarding school running out of money, which the state and federal governments have provided emergency funding until a solution can be found. The island is very dry with a limited water source from a spring. There are also very skinny brumbies, kangaroo’s and wallaby’s and lots of mango tress – all green still. Off course favours are expected to be returned – his wish was satisfied and shall be kept secrete.

AFTER SUNSET - GOULBURN IS.

AFTER SUNSET – GOULBURN IS.

CUTTLE FISH

CUTTLE FISH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent 10 days here as I had a lot of work to do & there is no internet between Goulburn & Darwin – some 300nm. It was a lonely place with no one to talk to. I did go for walks along the beach with its very soft sand and many crab holes. I also swam night & morning as I could not see any croc’s. The water temperature was cooler at the beach than from Ophelia. I had to cool my body somehow. I could receive ABC radio from Darwin, which was saying the wet season had started one month earlier this year, which means I had to be on the lookout for rain squalls. None arrived although I could see them to the west & south. I went fishing & caught a cuttle fish and small reef shark, amongst other fish.

SIMS ISLAND

SIMS ISLAND

So on Saturday 22-10-2016 0445hr, I left Goulburn for the 54nm sail and motor to Valencia Island, being close to Bowen Strait, which I had to move up the strait with the tide & hopefully SE wind. My intention was to leave Valencia Is. at 0400hr next day to catch the flood tide going NW. I anchored on the SW side, but about 1830hr a rain storm arrived with 20kn W winds putting me on a lee shore with dragging anchor. So up came the anchor and I set off for the 33nm motor up the Bowen Strait to Palm Bay, NE corner of Crocker Island. There are two channels in Bowen Strait – wide side against the mainland and narrow side against Crocker Island. I had been told by three yachty’s to use the narrow side. Apparently 150’ long x 50’ wide x 7’ deep barges use the narrow side. Well I got to 1m under the keel and shot out towards the wide side into 7m deep water. That was close. Next morning I was watching one of those barges on AIS going down the wide side – confuses me. I dropped the anchor in Palm Bay 23-10-2016 0115hr, however I was motoring towards a bright light that I thought might have been the barge ramp (like at Goulburn) – turned out to be Pelorus II 30m away from me when I shone the torch. I could not see any hull, which is why I have a bow, stern & mast head all round white lights on at night.

Same day I left for Port Essington 31nm to the west.

SAILING PALM TO BERKELEY

SAILING PALM TO BERKELEY

But first I had to pass the north entrance to Bowen Strait – must have been SE wind against the tide as it was very rough. I had the genoa poled out to windward and main to leeward in a building SE wind. I soon got rounded up by three larger waves – a good reason to remove the pole & lower the main. I suspect I have a loose rudder on the rudder stock so have to be careful. The rest was uneventful, sailing only, to Berkerley Bay in Port Essington arriving at 1400hr exposed to any west winds. There is a very large reef one mile off the shore at entrance to Port Essington so one has to stay well clear. I stayed here for two full days wondering if any rain squalls will arrive – none did of any significance.

ONLY JUST HANGING ON

ONLY JUST HANGING ON

There was no one else around, although I did see three other vessels heading north out of Port Essington. From Wikipedia Port Essington is an inlet and historic site located on the Cobourg Peninsula in the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory. It was the site of an early attempt at British settlement, but now exists only as a remote series of ruins.

CREEK IN BERKELEY BAY

CREEK IN BERKELEY BAY

 

 

 

 

At 0545hr on 25-10-2016 I left for the 38nm motor sail to Alcaro Bay, adjacent to Cape Don – turn left here & head to Darwin with the tide. I felt it was too stressful watching for the rain storms so I would arrive at Darwin one day early. I did receive a couple of rain squalls but the anchor was well set.

Travelling from Cape Don to Darwin is all about tides for yachts. I read an article on the internet to leave Cape Don 4hr before high tide Darwin & get to Vernon Islands in 8hr – 64nm traveling at 8kn with the flood tide – first 2hr against tide & 6hr with tide. I was given diagrams for the tide direction every hour from Cape Don to Vernon Islands and onto to Darwin – 100nm. Navionics shows the tidal flow at Cape Don – flood south – In summary :-

High tide Darwin 26-10-16 – 0234hr

Therefore leave Cape Don 25-10-16 – 2234hr – 4hr before high tide Darwin

High tide at Cape Don 26-10-16 is 0320hr as below – leaving Cape Don at 2234hr, I should have tide against me for 5hr but actual was with me for 2hr traveling at 7 to 8 kn.

CAPE DON TIDE

CAPE DON TIDE (AEST) ADD 1/2hr for NT time

Perhaps the article should have stated 4hr after Darwin HT. Then the tide turned to ebb & I was fighting the tide for next ten hours to Vernon Is. travelling at 4.5 to 5kn. Twelve hours in total instead of eight. I arrived at Vernon Is. about 1030hr 26-10-2016 1hr before high tide Vernon Is. and picked up speed to 6 to 7kn going through the islands.

VERNON ISLANDS

VERNON ISLANDS

Once past the Vernon Is. my speed dropped to 4.5 to 5kn for the 30nm to Darwin’s Fannie Bay, where I anchored at 1815hr in 5m of water perhaps 1k from shore – almost 20hr travel. There were about 20 vessels at anchor or on moorings. When within cell phone range I called Cullen Bay Marina about entry – was told to call fisheries to get clearance – no trouble, just had to answer a dozen questions, but could not enter the marina until next day 27-10-2016. The light wind was all over the place during the night but no storms. The anchorage would be horrible in northerly’s, & being on a lee shore.

DARWIN YACHT CLUB

DARWIN YACHT CLUB

So on 27-10-2016, after the paper work had been finalised for berth & lock entry I was allowed to enter the lock at 1000hr (opens on the hour every hour from 0600 to 2300hr with a booking only) and motor to berth F12 – that completes my cruising for 2016 – 2160nm from Mackay to Darwin.

CULLEN BAY LOCK

CULLEN BAY LOCK

The lock relies totally on spring tides to replenish the water in the marina – seems the marina sits about 4.5 to 5.0m relative to the Darwin tides. There is no pump, so over a day between high tides the marina actually loses water but one does not notice the difference in water level. The extremities of the marina is lined with large houses and floating jetties while the marina is situated in the middle of the ‘lake’ with restaurants at the north end. It is a ‘pretty’ marina compared to others I have been to. Cost $595/mth for a 10m pen. I have installed a 1.6kw box a/c through the wash boards to control the mildew while I am in Melbourne from 07-11-2016 to mid-February 2017.

CULLEN BAY MARINA

CULLEN BAY MARINA

Here are some videos of my journey :-

  1. Horn Is. to Weipa – https://youtu.be/ET0MBLYdYj4
  2. Weipa to Groote Eylandt – https://youtu.be/d1JYESyw0AQ
  3. Lockhart Groote Eylandt to Gove – https://youtu.be/aogFgfu9DzA
  4. Gove to Rugari Rip – https://youtu.be/eeiPZ1VVb2U
  5. Rugari Rip to Goulbourn – https://youtu.be/umUrQI_8tKI
  6. Goulburn to Alcaro – https://youtu.be/KY97GllIVB4
  7. Alcaro to Darwin – https://youtu.be/zXQhJhp7Ke0
  8. Cullen Bay Marina – https://youtu.be/qKsvnZfMBr0

Cairns to Horn Island

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While in Cairns I was checking Meteye for Cooktown to Cape York winds. Every day was 20-25kn SE with a strong wind warning most weeks – to 30kn. Some days the wind dropped down to 15-20kn. I was wondering how I could do it but accepted that everyone one else goes north in the same conditions, so why can’t I. I planned to go close to the west side of the Barrier Reef to hopefully get some relief from the wave action. This worked where there was reef above water & to a lesser degree for submerged reefs. For no reef it was still OK with a slight swell. Against the mainland the swell would have been awful.

I left Cairns on 01-08-16 via an overnight stop at Low Islet – possibly my worst anchorage to date – due to a swell side on, and arrived at Cooktown on 02-08 – a great sail all the way.

I spent 9 days at Cooktown and finally, on 11-08 the perfect window opened for 2 full days with 15-20kn SE for the planned 235NM 47hr non-stop sail to Lockhart River. I wanted to spend a week at Lizard Island, but with no internet for work I had to bypass it.  I spoke to others later who said it was 30-35kn that week so I was lucky.  The trip actually worked out to be 237NM on the chart plotter and 45hr.

I could sail at 5-6kn with just the #2 genoa up in 15kn breeze – tide, don’t really know & did not feel it. I passed Cape Bedford with its distinct flat top & escarpment, then Cape Flattery, 35NM north of Cooktown with its open roadstead sand loading jetty & the turn off to Lizard. A few miles further north my mobile phone started dinging away – I must have crossed the line between the mainland & Lizard Is. for the internet signal. I checked my emails & sent a couple that did not send when in Cooktown.

I was able to sleep in 1hr cycles and had numerous waypoints set at 5 to 10NM apart to coincide with a reef or beacon structure. 5NM = 1hr. By the time I got to Cape Melville at 2am Friday, 106NM north of Cooktown, I was 2hr ahead of my schedule. The wheel pilot could handle a full #2 genoa up to 15kn wind over the starboard stern quarter, mostly SE, but I had to furl to about ¾ when sleeping for my 1hr. I did not pole out the genoa at night. Sailing up that coast is quite difficult as often the heading was close to NW +-10 deg. (with wind SE) so one had to be careful not to gybe the genoa – I did numerous times while hand steering in the stronger winds & at night. The autopilot would do it as well when a wave passed under & Ophelia wanted to turn towards port & sometimes starboard into the wind.

The waypoint alarm went off just before Cape Melville while I was sleeping just as the wind increased to a constant 30kn. It seems Cape Melville is like Gabo Is (south end of Victoria/NSW border) wind wise. It was a quick trip around the cape & past Flinders Island with no moon & water breaking all round me. A tug (no AIS) was heading south towing a barge – thank goodness I was west of the shipping channel at that stage. Once past Flinders Is. the wind dropped to 15kn and I went down for a sleep. I awoke in Princess Charlotte Bay to the sun rising & many trawlers (no AIS) to the east on Saturday 13-08 (my 64th birthday) with no wind, so on went the motor for 4hr. Then at midday the wind belted in from the east at 20kn so I flew along west side of the reefs at 6-7kn for the next 6hr. I had to furl the genoa to ¼ so I could get an hours sleep. Then from about 7pm to 4am I had to hand steer to Lockhart River in 20-30kn SE, sometimes hitting 8.3kn. There was a ½ moon but it went to sleep 1hr before setting the anchor at Lockhart – a perfect anchor in the middle of a very large river system. Later that day I moved up the river further to escape the stronger winds where the anchor symbol is shown below. Over the course of the week three more vessels came in for a couple of nights to escape the strong wind warning.

Lockhart-River-Lucass

I caught two trevally and one barracuda while trolling around one of the islands – the barra was used in the crab pot, the fish carcass used in a soup & the flesh I cooked numerous ways – one was the Street Kitchen cuisine packaging. No crabs and I was told there are no crabs in the Lockhart River system – no idea why. There are 2 local yachts & they are looking at Cairns or Weipa for haul out. I met a couple on a 42’ seawind cat. named Sunny Girl from Perth. They are heading to Darwin. The internet, 3G 4 bars was reasonable but seemed to slow down during the day – perhaps over crowded.

I stayed at Lockhart for 7 days working & then set sail on 20-08 at 0500 for the 70NM journey to Margaret Bay, Cape Grenville. The autopilot belt broke not long after leaving Lockhart so it was a long 14hr day. I motored with the full genoa in 15-20kn SE to get to my destinations faster – at times doing 7.1kn. Sunny Girl was in Margaret Bay after visiting some reefs. At 0130hr on 21-08 I set off for the 70NM journey to Escape River with no autopilot. I struggled the first 4hr as the south 20kn wind was on my north rhumb line so I had to gybe a number of times in sloppy seas. Once I could clear the reefs I could then set a NW course. I stopped for 1/2hr in the lee of Hannibal Islet for breakfast, drink & very short rest. The rest of the journey (11hr) to Escape River was fantastic sailing, even with no autopilot. The entrance to Escape River is shallow at 3.5m when I entered, but 10-20m deep inside. I set the anchor at 1620hr – 15hr 20 min. sailing & 1 stop. There were 4 American yachts (on AIS) anchored – on a ARC world rally. Sunny Girl left Margaret Bay 2hr after me & reached Escape River about midday – about 9hr to my 15hr.

With no internet I left Escape River at 0600hr for the 12NM journey against the tide to be at the southern entrance of Albany Passage for the tide change at 0930hr – flood going north. Around the Whitsundays the flood tide goes south. Sunny Girl left 1hr later & overtook me with spinnaker flying and stopped at Somerset Bay in the passage. I joined her for 1/2hr before heading to Horn. They went to Adolphus Is for a swim then to Horn Is.

Sunny Girl had husband and wife and 2 young men on board. Mike is an engineer from Perth so has sailed from Perth. There was no time to discus their voyage from Perth. A fantastic group. On photo above Mike is playing with the spinnaker while Tessa is sitting on a chair.

Escape-Horn-01

Above image shows Escape River lower right, 17NM to Albany Passage middle, 8NM to Cape York slightly above and 24NM to Horn Is. anchorage top left.

Back in the late 1800’s half way up Albany Is. was going to be the now Thursday Is. (T.I.) but due to the currents in the passage the town was set up in the now T.I.

I rounded the light house on Eborac Is. just north of Cape York at 1206hr on 22-08-16, the same day 246 years ago Capt. Cook took possession of the ‘east coast of New Holland from latitude 38 deg for King George III’ – 38 deg. is just south of Lakes Entrance in Victoria. Another milestone completed for me.

It did not take long to cross the ‘ditch’ to Horn Is. with a west flowing flood tide, 20kn SE behind me and motor – at times doing 8.3kn. I had to point 10 deg. higher than my rhumb line due to the current. With genoa only I had to point 25 deg. higher and even then I was dipping below my rhumb line. I set the anchor on 22-08-2016 at 1530hr and had a good scotch to celebrate the milestone.

However next day I had to organise the following replacement parts :-

  1. autopilot belt & NMEA2000 network cable from Raymarine under warranty
  2. hand held remote VHF Simrad radio – battery went to sleep – under warranty
  3. gasket for a leaking water pump on the Bukh engine
  4. 2 spare autopilot belts

I have also found, while doing my 4-6 week maintenance cycle, the single bolt holding the stemhead – the green looking thing in the picky, which the fore stay/furler fixes to, has corroded. This could have meant losing the mast.

Today is Sunday 04-09, I have the cable and 3 belts. Navico did not send the radio as they promised last Wednesday so I have to wait until at least next Tuesday to receive it. Still waiting for the gasket.

My after-thoughts about the trip from Cairns to Horn: the trip was made difficult with no autopilot, but I had champagne sailing conditions all the way by choosing my sailing times.

Here are some videos of my journey :-

  1. Cairns to Cooktown – https://youtu.be/hSHnwq1kBqE
  2. Cairns to Lockhart River – https://youtu.be/ELQhf9mLHpk
  3. Lockhart River to Escape River – https://youtu.be/kTodeBd2biw
  4. Escape River to Horn Island – https://youtu.be/KItty037dI4
  5. Sunny Girl – Albany Passage, FNQ – https://youtu.be/b_QsDQBHSzQ

Townsville to Cairns

I have been soooo busy working & sailing I have not had time to create this section as yet.

I left Magnetic Is. on 18-06-2016 & arrived at Cairns on 16-07-2016 after a few hours at Arlington Reef.

To be continued ….

Here are some videos of my journey :-

  1. Fitzroy Is. to Cairns via Arlington Reef – https://youtu.be/a8aTscUd72k
  2. A short visit to Cairns – https://youtu.be/sbGa5_BAlW8

Mackay to Townsville

I left Mackay on 09-04-2016 at 4am after a relaxing 17 weeks in the marina over the cyclone season. The cost worked out to be $18/day – cheap as camping in a tent in a marine park.

I arrived at Outer Newry Island just before midday after a solid sail in good SE breezes. There were strong wind gust & rain all around but I never coped any. This place is noted in the sailing bibles & is a great place to hide from the SE winds. Anchor set in mud & never seemed to move even though Ophelia swung with the tide. I took my dinghy (some one in Airlie called it ‘soap box’) to the Newry boat ramp, perhaps 2nm away & up Victor Creek for a of bit fishing – got none. On the way back the wind picked up to 20kn so took a bit of water & got drenched – but the wind was warm so doesn’t matter.

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Outer Newry Is used to be inhabited a number of years ago by a family & one can stay in the hut that is left, with detached toilet facilities as the picture shows. There is also a track to the east side where there is a pool – I had hoped to get back fishing in the pool but my desire was to go north & never  got there. As usual in many of these places, landing a dinghy at low tide presents a few problems.

There were a number of vessels moored in the Victor Creek, one caught my eye as being a bit derelict.

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This one has had her day

 

So after a week working, where I had excellent internet, I left on 16-04-2016 heading for Happy Bay via Long Island Sound on the west side of Long Island. I had to pass through the sound on ebb tide (out going tide moving north) or at slack water as the flood tide (incoming tide going south) was probably too fast for Ophelia – I made it thru’ just as the tide was turning south. My speed went from 5kn to 3kn at the north end of the sound. I had stayed at Happy Bay prior to Xmas so it was just an overnight stop on the way to Airlie.

I made the most of the ebb tide next morning & arrived outside Able Point where I anchored for the next week while working. I caught a Spotted Rock Cod adjacent to the marina rock wall.  This is a good anchorage for the southerly winds however after provisioning I left on Saturday 23-04-2016 heading for Bowen via Gloucester Passage.

Spotted Rockcod

Gloucester Passage is famous for the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club (SICYC) get together at Monte’s each year end of August – raising funds for Prostate Council of Australia. There are two resorts on the mainland of Cape Gloucester – Eco Resort & Monte’s Resort.

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Every member of SICYC is a Vice Commodore of some place in the world – mine is Taupri Bay in New Zealand where my father grew up as a child.

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Echo Resort Bar

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Monte’s Resort

I stayed here for one week – problem is, all tracks lead back to the beach & the resort where one just has to have a beer or two. What a fantastic place this is.

Next place to work for the week was Bowen, tied up to piles. In the end I stayed here for 3 weeks. The conduit in the mast seemed to be entirely loose so I had no choice to slip Ophelia & remove the mast. The conduit was in very good condition as a 25 diam electrical conduit so with hired help it was riveted back into place. I found it difficult to press the rivet gun so my hired hand did the work for me. I also sanded the hull – in 4 hours -, raised the water line by 70mm & had the International Micron 66 sprayed on by the ship yard. Daily hard stand fees were $110/day so I was keen to get Ophelia back in the water where the pile berthing fees were $71/wk. However the crane driver broke the $130 internet mast & wind vane. I climbed the mast in Townsville to replace these.

Bowen Harbour-south

I did venture out of the harbour to Middle Island, 1hr east of Bowen for two nights & caught my first Queen fish – 900mm long. I was very nice eating but the flesh was quite tough.

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Middle Island

Queenfish - 900 lg

Queen Fish

An unfortunate boating accident happened 1nm from the Bowen harbour entrance while I was there – a 60ft timber trawler was somehow holed (the initial story said a tug rammed her) while being towed & sank. The captain lost his life & two others were saved.

So on Saturday 28-05-2016 I left the pile berths at 4am for the 70nm motor/sail past the coal loading facility, Abbot Point, to Cape Upstart for the night & then 40nm to Townsville next day. Sailing was good with low swell & 10 to 20kn SE breezes, however there must have been tide against wind round Cape Bowling Green as the sea was quite rough. Ophelia glides nicely over the waves & the bow shape seems to push the waves away from the hull instead of onto the deck.

Abbot Point

Abbot Point with very long wharf

Abbot-Point

 

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Inside Cape Upstart

Rounding Cape Bowling Green

Cape Bowling Green on the chart plotter

Cape Bowling Green

Cape Bowling Green at 0945hr

Cape Bowling Green is nothing more than a sand spit – anchoring behind it is not very comfortable I have been told.

And into ‘The Duck Pond’ at Townsville at 1425hr on 29-05-2016 in 2.6m water and soft mud. I could only stay here for 2 days due to the king tides – at low water there was only 0.9m depth – I require 1.5m – so I went into the marina for 5 days where I hired a person to hoist me to the top of the mast & replace the internet aerial & wind vane. I also ran a new 10mm coaxial cable up the back stay for the internet to replace the 5mm cable inside the mast.

Townsville seems a nice place to spend a cyclone season, however I could not get over the lack of people in the city centre – apparently they go the suburban shopping centres.

I left Townsville on  Saturday 11-06-2016 for one week at Horseshoe Bay, before heading to Cairns over 4 to 6 weeks.

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Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island

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Horseshoe Bay at low tide with stinger net

Mackay Marina

After a fantastic 5 weeks in Melbourne over Xmas I arrived back at Mackay on 23-01-2016. Ron Hastings (of Irene Beatrice) picked me up – thanks Ron. Prior to departing for Melbourne I removed all sails to leave nothing which could attract the wind in case of a cyclone while I was away. I bought new berthing rope & rubber snubbers and had double rope on every available cleat. No early cyclones came along.

Ophelia at Mackay 2015

Ophelia at Mackay prior to turning readying for cyclones.

For the month February I was very busy working & have not done any maintenance as I had intended – that leaves March to do the maintenance – add new stronger lifting points in the dinghy, make a cover for the BBQ & helm/autopilot & I am sure there will be more. I was hoping to use an additional 100l in a fresh water tank built into the keel but it is contaminated with diesel due to a crack in the roof of the tank, so will have to buy 20l containers & strap to the safety line.

I organised a new sail bag as the last one was too old & ripped.

I did organise a chap to change over the steel halyards to spectra rope, make 2 new plastic pulleys at top of mast which had ceased, put the internet aerial at top of mast, new LED anchor light on top of mast & an LED steaming light 3/4 up the mast. I was going to slip the yacht & remove the mast but now don’t need to.

After Cyclone Yasi passed by Mackay end of January 2011 & Cyclone Marcia hit Yeppoon on 02-02-2015, the height of the breakwater wall has been raised a couple of metres & widened, so hopefully we are safe here. It is probably the highest I have seen on my travels, but Coffs Harbour would go close. The wall is so high one cannot see over the wall while having a drink at the bars. There are 2 hotels & four restaurants overlooking the marina. One can hire a bomb (no a/c) for $25/day or a/c Mazda for $39/half day.

The tides have a range of approx. 6m. The marina is about 4m deep at low tide & the adjacent shipping berthing is about 10m deep at low tide.

Mackay Marina-central

View from the Clarion Hotel

Mackay Marina-south

Mackay Marina looking south

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Mackay Marina beach

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Mackay main beach looking toward Hay Pt (to the south)

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The raised break water wall

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Looking back to a rather empty Mackay Marina

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This small creature appeared near my yacht one day. About 75mm diameter & is a :-

Side-gilled Slug Euselenops luniceps

 

 

The month of February has been very hot & humid. I have a small 240V fan going 24hr a day & some days were so hot I had to move into the air conditioned laundromat for relief. The room is so cold at 23 deg., 4hr is enough at a time. I will require an air conditioner in Darwin.

The last week of February & first week of March has been very wet & a lot cooler (24 deg. at night) although quite humid. I am working this weekend (05-03-2016) as it is wet so no maintenance.

There is really not much to do in Mackay – the rather empty town (due to mining downturn) is about 5km away. Busses run 4x a week day, 2x on Saturday & none on Sunday. There appear to be no holiday makers here – they would all go to Airlie Beach. There are no tourist boats although there are 3 islands close by – Brampton, St Bees/Keswick & Scawfell. I sailed past Scawfell on my way up & stopped at Brampton instead.

I am trying to plan my trip to Darwin & Kimberley’s leaving here about mid April. It appears there is not much internet in the Kimberley’s.

Mackay-coast-islands

WHITSUNDAYS – WORKING & WANDERINGS

I arrived at Airlie Beach on 08-09-2015 – 12 weeks ago. In that time I have circumnavigated the Whitsundays 3 times & travelled to Bait Reef twice, Hook Reef once, Shaw Island, Driftwood Bay (south end of Hamilton Is.) & Double Bay north of Arlie. It has been a great time but has been hot working in the cabin. Some days I have had to put up the sun shade cover, especially in the marinas. While the 20 knot SE winds were blowing the cabin was cool enough with front hatch open.

Fishing, well not too successful, catching one bonito, one spotted mackeral, one school mackeral, one big eye mackeral, one small black tipped reef shark, 3 or 4 parrot fish & one yellowfin tuna when Scott came for a visit. Even lost a lure & all line to something.

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My goal when I arrived was to catch a spanish mackeral & coral trout. No luck this year so far.

About 3 years ago Cumberland Yacht Charters had a web site boasting about 250 or so sunny days a year. What they did not mention is perhaps 85% of those days is SE trade winds blowing 20 knots, with gusts much more. The bullets from the higher hills coming down the valleys are horrendous. I stayed on the mooring for the first month because it was too windy anywhere else. Beside there was good internet & cell phone reception in front of the Whitsunday Sailing Club.

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Airlie on a good day

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Airlie on a bad day

On weekends I did brave the 20+ knot winds & crossed to Whitsunday Is to Cid Harbour & Hook Island’s Nara & Macona Inlet. While tide with wind wasn’t so bad it was the wind against tide that was uncomfortable, but still better then sailing the east coast of NSW below Sydney. One soon gets the idea of sailing with the better conditions. I admire the charter boat hirer’s who just have to move no matter the wind strength otherwise they would just sit in the marina. It seems there are more places to hide from the SE than northerlies. I did stay on the mooring at Airlie one night with 10 to 15 knot northerlies & it was so uncomfortable. I soon realised why all cruiser’s move across to Nara.

The first weekend was too windy I thought so the 2nd weekend I braved the elements to Cid Harbour, which is not a harbour as one might think but a very sheltered place from the SE with bullets.

For the 3rd weekend I went to Nara, Whitehaven Beach, Chalkies Beach, Tongue Bay, Blue Pearl Bay & back to Airlie.

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CID Harbour

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Looking up Nara Inlet

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach

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Hill Inlet – note the yacht tucked in

During the 4th week I was lucky enough to go out to Bait Reef for a night on Sandringham yacht Christine, who won the Hamilton Island cruising division race. It was on this trip I caught a bonito which was eaten in a Singapore Chilli Bonito. Hopefully all on board liked it. A lovely night was spent in the Rum Bar when we returned to Able Point Marina.

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Bait Reef with large bommie 1m below surface

 

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Rum Bar line up

 

4th weekend (being 5th & 6th October) I spent it in Abell Pt Marina reprovisioning & chilling out so to speak.

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5th weekend saw me travelling 2hr north to Double Bay East & back to Airlie on the Monday morning against the wind. It was in here that a ‘bullet’ flipped my 20kg dinghy with crab pot & oars. I had to swim for the oars & managed to retrieve the crab pot which had sunk to the sea bed. It seems travelling from day break (5am) one can miss the stronger winds.

6th week saw a visit by Scott Cumming so we headed to CID

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for the night & walked up to Whitsunday Peak in the light rain, Whitehaven Beach via Fitzalan Passage & Solway Passage, Mauren Bay at top of Hook Island for the night & then out to Bait Reef for a night. A stop at Blue Pearl Bay was a must before heading to Nara Inlet for the night & a short climb to the Aboriginal Caves next day. We spent the last night of Scot’s visit at Abell Pt Marina where Scott shouted a very nice meal of Coral Trout & a few rums at the Rum Bar / Fish D’vine. I enjoyed the company of Scott & having someone to enjoy the wonderful surrounds with.

The 7th week saw me sailing to Happy Bay north end of Long Island for a few days (good internet & cell phone) before going to a 2hr public mooring off Henning Island for 2 days & onto a public mooring off Hamilton Is. Marina for the night & then onto Beach 25 at bottom end of Whitsunday Is. Then it was back into Abell Pt as my 10 y.o. Telstra modem had given up working. Wow what a difference a new modem with the latest technology makes. The  7thth weekend, 31st October & 1st November saw me sail around to Whitehaven & up to Deloraine Is. thinking I should catch a nice red coloured coral trout – only a small blue spotted coral trout & some other coloured fish – both throw backs – before spending the eighth week in Macona Inlet working. I had internet all the way from Whitehaven to Deloraine to Macona.

Henning Island & mooring

Happy Bay on Long Island

Happy Bay on Long Island

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Blue Spotted Coral Trout

The 8th weekend saw me back into Abell Pt re-provisioning & then down to Shaw Island for the week before moving to Plantation Bay south end of Lindeman Is. when the northerlies came in. At 0630 hr I started to climb Mt. Oldfield the hard way from Plantation Bay through thick grass & ‘black boys’ until I came to a formed track near the top. I then walked the 2km down the formed track & another 1.6km along the airfield to the closed down Lindeman Resort before walking back along the boulders at sea level. About 6km. A good swim, shower & sleep was reqd. My legs itched for a week after that walk.

I then moved to Driftwood Bay south end of Hamilton Is where I met up with a fellow yachty Tino (I met him in Macona the previous week) in a Compass 28. He caught a coral trout which he shared with me. Very nice eating. On 16th November we watched the afternoon sky light show with black clouds before we were forced to get out about 1500hr due to a southerly change – not forecast. My anchor was dragging such that I was going backwards past Tino. The anchor was on coral & my chain seemed to be wrapped around a bommie sliding along the bottom. It was not easy lifting the anchor manually in 30 knots with a coral blob on it. I spent the evening outside Hamilton Is. Marina on the mooring before going to Gulnare Inlet. This was a good sheltered anchorage from most winds except SW with good internet & cell phone but nowhere to get off the boat.

So on 20th November I headed back to Abell Pt to re-provision & pick up my replaced Gopro & new manual  water pump. The following day I headed for Hook Reef, but stopped at Blue Pearl Bay for the night. I continued to Hook Reef, which is very large & nothing above water to see. Unfortunately it was raining & quite windy on the reef so back I sailed to Stonehaven in 20kn winds & rough seas. I tied up to a 30m mooring being 1 of 2 available in the area. Following me was a 30m vessel whose occupants ask if I would mind moving to the other mooring, which I obliged. Within 10 minutes a tender arrived with a pretty young lady & a bottle of white wine to say thanks. Only the bottle was left with me.

The next move was to back to Happy Bay to shelter from the SE winds for a few days then onto Driftwood Bay to shelter from the northerlies. By this time it was nearing end of November & time to move south to Mackay via Plantation Bay, Goldsmith Is., Brampton Is. & Keswick Is. At time of writing there is a strong SE arriving for 05-12-2015 so I will be in Mackay on 02-12-15. That is the end of a fantastic 11 month sailing – working – holiday adventure. Let’s hope for no cyclones.

I have loved every day, well perhaps not the strong SE trade winds.