Adelaide to Launceston

I returned to Adelaide, completely refreshed, on 20-09-2019 after three months in Melbourne with family & two weeks with my wife in Bali at Uluwatu & Seminyak. Following day I removed the mast & slipped Ophelia on the hard stand for a few maintenance jobs :- antifoul, replace batteries to Lithium, replace cutlass bearing (for the prop) as it has been leaking for two years. The bearing was burnt so at some stage water was not lubricating the bearing. The cutlass bearing was replaced in Mandurah November 2017. The last time the mast was down was in Bowen 2016 where I replaced the VHF aerial & added an internet aerial so had two 10mm super low loss cables plus three electrical cables. The VHF cable & electrical cables went down inside the mast but with no more room inside the conduit & my allocated time running out, I had to fix the internet cable down the back stay with sail hanks. I had trouble ever since with the wire main halyard being wrapped around the back stay & hanks a few times. So I inserted another conduit & ran the internet cable inside the mast.

So on 12-10-2019 at 0915hr it was time to leave Outer Harbour, Adelaide & head to Launceston by 09-12-2019 to catch the plane back to Melbourne on 14-12. I had 8 weeks & 6 to 7 places to stop for a week working. First stop was a patch of sand amongst the weed at Brighton Beach for the 100th opening day of the Brighton & Seacliff YC about 4hr motoring since no wind.

I had dinner & left at 2000hr for the 11hr sail & motor across Backstair Passage to Christmas Cove marina, Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island. The entrance is rather shallow with 0.2m under the keel near low tide. It is a great marina very protected in the hollow, although I am told a strong NW is rather swelly. It was while walking up the hill to the town I noticed I was getting puffed out & did get some pain in the left side chest & lower left jaw – same pain as I had a couple of times in Melbourne after some strenuous exercising. Marina cost is $20/day if staying 8 days or more, otherwise $30/day. After 9 days working I moved around to Hog Bay, the main beach for Penneshaw ready to leave at 1900hr for the 28hr, 130nm, journey to Robe, S.A. which took 31hr due to no wind for at least half the distance, arriving at 2300hr.

The channel at Robe was very narrow & difficult to see at night & ran aground so anchored outside the first channel markers only to be awakened about 3am with around 20 cray boats leaving with their bright lights on. I went into the marina at 0700hr with a 0.7m high tide & 0.5m under the keel. Ophelia’s draft is 1.5m. I believe some cray boats hit the bottom at times but with huge props they work their way through. I did watch a few boats navigate the short channel. There are ideas to dredge & with about 30 cray boats, one wonders why it has not happened already. Inside the marina depth is approx. 3m. The boats must bring in a lot of money. I saw many 45l boxes stuffed full of live crays every day bound for the Chinese market. I stayed here for nine days & hired a bicycle for $20/wk to get around. Robe has a number of women’s clothing shops for which it is well known for. I sat out a 40kt easterly gale side on (blow on berth) which bent a couple of safety rail stanchions as Ophelia lent over forced into the pontoon. Cost for a berth was $25/day.

On 30-10, I left Robe at 1330hr for the 28hr, 136nm trip to Portland in Victoria. I had a good motor/sail in SW breezes arriving at a respectable time of 1700hr. For each place I had arranged a few days beforehand a berth. For Portland there was no room in the marina so had to sit rather exposed behind a floating pontoon on the visitors berth. The yacht club members are very friendly, some 15 min. walk away. I did show my ‘show’ videos one night to 30 members. There were numerous strong winds from all directions and we survived. One very interesting chap I met was Gary Kerr, a cray fisherperson & video maker of history. Some of his videos are about cray fishing around SW Tassie, Huon Pine loggers in the Gordon River Tassie, Pearl luggers around Thursday Is. top of Australia & many more. He gave me six videos which I passed onto Royal Brighton Yacht Club after watching them. Another chap very kindly drove me around the area & out to Cape Nelson Light House. Portland is home to a large wood chip exporting terminal & making wind turbine columns & lets not forget the aluminium smelter. However the wood chip dust is blowing onto the main beach which is now brown silt, not white sand. Cost for pontoon berth was $20/day.

After 11 days in Portland a weather window opened on 10-11 for the 8hr, 34nm, journey to Port Fairy. After passing Lady Julia Percy Island, just over half way, the bay opened to the ocean & the sea was rather rolly. Port Fairy is tucked in behind an easterly point giving quite good shelter from the SW & S. I did wonder what the entrance would be like but once inside the reef the water was smooth as. The Moyne River depth varies 4-6m for the 0.5nm into town, but at the jetty where visitors tie up was very shallow at 1.5m normal low tide. Ophelia sat in the mud, but upright. This is a very sheltered place with very high Norfolk Pine trees planted many years ago which shelter the river precinct from the westerly gales. Protection is also from all directions. There is a yacht club & council owned great facilities with kitchen, laundry, toilet & showers. I rather liked Port Fairy.

Time was running out for me to get to Launceston so on 16-11 at 0830hr I left Port Fairy heading to Warrnabool to pick up Scott (who caught the train from Geelong) about 1100hr who was joining me for the 85nm trip to Apollo Bay. The wind was a good sea breeze 15-25kt SW with some rocking motion and was the first time in ages we could sail the whole distance without the motor. We passed Cape Otway lighthouse which was so dim one could quite easily miss it. Scott steered Ophelia into Apollo Bay arriving at 0200hr Sunday 17-11-2019 into an allocated berth – very swelly. Upon arrival we had the usual nip (or 2) of Timboon Christie’s Cut single malt whisky – very expensive which I bought at a fair in Portland – before retiring for the rest of the night. Mandy came down from Ocean Grove to pick up Scott, who like me had to work next day. Apollo Bay is home to the famous scallop pie – I had a couple during the week – was very nice but had to be careful of the hot sauce. I met John who had a small yacht in the marina – he invited me to his place for a very enjoyable evening & meal with his wife one night. There is a fish shop at the wharf with lots of varieties to purchase including $120 crays.

I had been very lucky with weather windows since leaving Adelaide – there were a lot of SW gales for days on end. The gales subsided for a week which allowed me to leave Apollo Bay 0300hr on Saturday 23-11 heading to Grassy on SE corner of King Island, almost due south of Apollo Bay. I was going to stop east side of Christmas Is. & New Year Is. at NW corner of King Island for the night sheltering from a 20-25kt W wind, but the wind got up too strong before I got there so headed down the east side straight to Grassy onto a public mooring. I stayed here for two weeks sheltering from the gales. Some were from the south straight into the entrance of the bay with a swell. However on the mooring it was comfortable, but disconcerting with the rock wall 50m behind. Landing a dinghy at the concrete embankment was tricky as the swell would rise onto the embankment. I often took the dinghy up the ramp out of harms way or landing on the adjacent beach. Grassy township, about an hours walk up the hill, is now deserted with no facilities except a mechanic & ‘eco’ restaurant. The main town Currie, with a terrible harbour, is 30km away. I hitched a ride into Currie to pick up a hire car for two days on the first weekend & drove north to Cape Wickham Lighthouse & golf course, stopping at King Is. Dairy to taste all the cheeses, one day & to south of the island next day to Stokes Point & Seal Rocks. Grassy was the home to a scheelite mine many years ago. The infrastructures have almost disappeared but there is still a large open cut mine with some water in it. While walking around this area I had the left chest & lower jaw pain so had to limit my exercising. I googled the symptom & found out the possible problem. The Grassy Yacht Club is a great place with a number of school children involved. They spend Sunday mornings on the water learning to sail with some more advanced sailors. Being nearly Xmas the club was selling Xmas cakes for fundraising – I bought two and eat them with custard & whisky.

I spent another week on board due to the SW gales & finally at 2130hr on 07-12, I could leave heading direct to Beauty Point in River Tamar – 28hr & 143nm. The first 6hr crossing between Grassy & mainland Tassie was good breezes but then gradually dropped out as predicted by BOM. I had to work the sails a few times and felt the pain again. I had been informed of the very strong currents in the Tamar so had to stop at Beauty Point on someones large mooring for 6hr to wait for the flood tide heading to Launceston some 40nm upstream. The current was against me entering the Tamar which is 50m deep at the entrance and 30m deep at Beauty Point mid river. Huge eddies abounded but we made it. Beauty Point is on the west side of the river with Darylimple Bay (or Bell Bay) on East side. This is home to Bell Bay Aluminium, South 32 (processing manganese), Ecka Granules, TasPorts, Qube, Forico, Timberlink and a diverse range of businesses. I stopped at Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory in 2016 where South32 mines manganese & ships it to their Bell Bay Refinery for processing which then goes to mainland Australia, Asia, North America & NZ.

After the customary nip of whisky I got some sleep & left 0600hr on the turn of the flooding tide heading to Launceston which I made in good time, being with the current, doing 7-8kts at times. Under the Batman Bridge the river was 30m deep & perhaps 50m wide with twirling water. I could not use the autopilot in these conditions as Ophelia was almost side on in places. I did unfurl the jib in places but had to be careful with the heart condition. We arrived Launceston on the high tide slack & motored into the nominated berth at Old Seaport Marina for $256/mth. For that you get a great berth & sit in the mud at low tide with lots of restaurants at top of walkway. Showers ($2/4 min), toilet & laundry is about 5 min. walk way. I made an appointment to see a doctor next morning 0830hr. On the way I had the pains but this time tingly arm – the doctor called the ambulance & next day had a stent put in – 98% blockage with two more at 25% & 50% blockage. My problem is Diabetes & high cholesterol. I never made that plane on 14-12 but ended up at a friends house in Penguin, west of Devonport, for a day before booking a cabin on the Devonport to Melboune ferry on 14-12-2019. Jan & Peter took me on a journey into the hills which was very nice before catching the ferry later same day.

The cost of the ferry trip was reimbursed by travel insurance – $311 less $88 (air fare). I was very lucky. I spent the next two months in Melbourne recuperating. The 10 minute ambulance trip cost $1200 paid by private health insurance.

Adelaide to Adelaide via Spencer Gulf

After three weeks at CYCSA it was time to move on. I decided to head south down Gulf of St. Vincent to American River, then north west to Kingscote, both on Kangaroo Is. before heading NW across Investigator Strait back to Port Lincoln to make my assault up west side of Spencer Gulf to Port Augusta. After that I would make my way down east side of Spencer Gulf back to Adelaide by end of June to catch the plane to Melbourne on 02-08-2019. I had 3.5 months to travel 820nm working week by week as I go. I thoroughly enjoyed my time, however by mid June the air temperature was very cold at night – a beanie & fingerless gloves with warm pj’s was the norm.

During my time at North Haven, some days I would leave the hot marina & anchor in 5m water depth in Largs Bay for the day working & catching blue swimmer crabs with the crab pot. I would always retain 2 to 3 good size male crabs – threw many small ones back. One day I was going for dinner at a friends house & caught 20 in no time.

North Haven to American River was 87nm which I motor sailed in 19hr, after leaving North Haven 0815hr on 16-03-2019, passing another wind farm & crossing the notorious Backstairs Passage (between mainland Australia & Kangaroo Is.) where the current can run at 2.5kt. Wind against tide I am told can be very rough. My crossing around midnight was good during the flood slack high tide. Flood tide runs north west & ebb runs south east through the passage. Ships use the passage between Melbourne & Adelaide. I anchored off the beach west of the river for a week & then organised a mooring in the very fast flowing river opposite the main wharf. I had to lift the dinghy onto the yacht each night due to wind against tide conditions. I did sit out a few strong southerlies in the two weeks on the mooring. Interestingly a replica of the old sailing schooner Independence is being built by local labour. The frames were in place & awaiting the arrival of the planks from Canada I believe. The next stage was the keel which is a solid piece of timber full lenth of the vessel – a rather large piece. I bought 4 planks for $40 to help the process. The progress can be tracked at https://www.facebook.com/rebuildindependence.The original 45-foot top sail schooner was built at American River, between April and August 1803 by the crew of the visiting American sealing brig “Union”. The Independence set sail from Sydney in June 1805 bound for the Antipodes Islands south of New Zealand and was lost on the return journey, never to be seen again. (As for communication an article I read said there were other sailing vessels around the islands who did return). I caught my largest blue swimmer crab measuring 600mm across the outstretched nippers.

After 10 days I moved into the Christmas Cove marina at Penneshaw on 26-03-2018 for nine nights to fill up with fresh water (desalinated) which tasted great. Also to load up with food for the next month. Penneshaw is not the main town, although the ferries berth here, so does not have much in the way of shops – no laundromat. It does have a pub, restaurant, cafe, post office, supermarket & a very green footy/cricket field – all the basics. I even caught a Blue Gropper, which I returned to the water. I returned to Christmas Cove later in the year on my way to Launceston.

Next move was to Kingscote on 06-04-2019 for three days, the main town on K.I. where one can anchor on each side of the disused ferry wharf, depending on wind direction from north to west to south – the wharf sits approx. east-west. The welcome sign is OK, but you wonder when you look at the old shed. When it gets too rocky, one can go into Bay Of Shoals amongst the moorings with wind against tide as well, but current no where near as strong as American River. The anchorage is about 5km from town. I never walked the distance as I was too busy working for the fours days I was there. Bay of Shoals sits behind a long tidal bank called The Spit giving it good wave/swell shelter from all winds.

So I left Kingscote 0300hr 13-04-2019 for the 120nm motor sail across Investigator Strait to the wonderful town of Port Lincoln, arriving 0430hr next day – 26.5hrs travel. I had a lure out the back but lost all my 100m of braid & $25 lure about half way across. I never saw the culprit. After crossing the Bight I anchored not far from a rather large mooring buoy. A heavy 50′ launch tied to it while I was there, so I tied to it this time & tried to contact the owner. He did turn up after three days & was happy for me to tie to the stern of his launch.

It was only for one day because I set sail for Whyalla 1915hr on 17-04-2019 for the 140nm sail through the night in a northerly direction up Spencer Gulf. The aim was to get to Whyalla before the next southerly change on 19-04 & hopefully not get any northerlies. I passed Sir Joseph Banks Group of islands at midnight & did not stop. This group while very low lying is supposed to be sheltered from swell & a great spot for fishing. I arrived at Whyalla midnight 18-04 into the allocated berth for $60/week – cheapest ever, but it does come with free coal dust with northerlies. The easterlies breezes were 15-25kts when I started but dissipated to 0kts by midday so had to motor for 12hrs. The berths lie north/south. If the bow is pointing north to minimise the dust in the cabin, one gets the southerlies over the stern & into the cabin. Can’t win. I stayed here for nine days, enjoying the Whyalla Festival & plenty of walking, before moving 30nm to Port Pirie (up a long river system) on 27-04-2019. An 85 y.o. dude who owned a yacht in the marina came across with me & caught the bus back to Whyalla. He was a very interesting person who had sailed all over the Gulf in his younger days. There used to be a yacht club, but is now closed due to no one being interested. Most yachts in the harbour are derelect with seagulls taking over. A couple of weeks after I left, the council was to start upgrading the berth – It seems from their FB page it did happen. The town is a fascinating place with the industry close by. I saw a rather large barge being loaded with coal at one of the wharves & then towed out to a waiting ship perhaps 2nm out & unloaded – double handling – which shows how much the product is worth. It is too shallow for the ships to tie to the wharf. They sit in a drowned valley 25m deep. Hummock Hill sits above the town with 360 deg. views. There were four anti-aircraft guns during WW2 to protect BHP’s infrastructure. There are also tame dolphins in the marina which certain locals feed.

I was looking forward to staying in Port Pirie – when one looks on maps & Google Earth it is difficult to see that there is a river here that can take ships with 5-6m draft. From Wikipedia – Port Pirie is one of the world’s largest primary lead smelting facilities, starting in the 1880s and the third largest silver producer that has been in continuous operation since 1889. Port Pirie is strategically linked to the Hobart smelter through flows of by-products such as paragoethite and leach products. The most striking feature is the recently added 205m high stack which outputs the vapours higher & further afield – https://www.flickr.com/photos/82134796@N03/11831389274. There are also many grain silos, but sadly ships do not call to load grain – trains & trucks are used now. I did see the local play ground & streets being hosed down twice a week – in response to the lead problem from the smelter. The houses within the town are very old & most have been renovated to keep original styling. The local fish & chip place was very nice offering cooked meals as well. On my return to PP end of May I did show some of my videos to the yacht club members and also PP Rotary Club. I was also interviewed by the local ABC Radio. I hired a bicycle for three weeks. There is a sand bank at the entrance to Port Pirie which is about 1m above low water – the Royal Port Pirie YC holds a cricket match every March (except 2020) – a great time is had by all – https://royalportpirieyachtclub.org.au/cockle-spit-cricket-match/

After two weeks here I set off for Port Augusta, 60nm north, and the extent of travel for yachts due to a low bridge for the main east-west highway Perth to Adelaide. I had intended to take a week but the great anchoring places I was informed about were open to the south & so was not inviting for me. I stayed one night in a sheltered bay & then went straight to PA on the flood tide arriving 1900hr. The last 20nm was rather winding with many port lights not working. Ophelia went off course at one stage & onto a sand reef, while I was organising a cuppa, due to EV1 autopilot giving up. It took me an hour to back off with the flood tide & anchor out the back to winch onto. After many phone calls to Raymarine over the next two weeks & methods to fix the problem, it was eventually suggested to reverse the polarity of the power leaving the computer to the chart plotter – that worked – no idea why. I had southerly light breezes so could use the spinnaker for a couple of hours. I even had dolphins for a time. Berthing was also at a floating pontoon free of charge, but one gets all the bow waves from passing speeding boats whose drivers were oblivious to the damage they were causing. I parked on the inside of the pontoon.The waves would pass under the pontoon, hit Ophelia’s keel, & rebound on the wall under the heritage wharf back onto Ophelia’s keel. The wave action has cracked the concrete pontoon in many places. I did not go many places here, although I had a bike, as I was very busy work wise. A few aboriginal children came down to the pontoon one day so I took them out on Ophelia & they took turns to helm to their delight. I also meet a lovely couple from Sydney driving around the area who took me to the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden which was full of flowering plants. We all took many photos. I also met another interesting piano playing gentleman in his 70’s by name of Doug Wallace who circumnavigated Australia solo in 1992-1993 taking 18 months. He wrote a book of his journey aboard his 36′ ferrocement yacht called Mistery- fantastic reading. There is a very large solid wharf from the early 1900’s. Sailing vessels would call into PA from Adelaide to pick up grain. The story goes – at one stage the vessels filled the river and one could walk from one side to the other – they were waiting 3 months for the southerlies to cease. The yacht club is active with 4-5 yachts racing up/down the tidal channel. The whole of the Spencer Gulf and all it’s ports are steeped in history with the grain removal to Adelaide & overseas – perhaps the most famous was told in the book The Last Grain Race. A 1956 book by Eric Newby, a travel writer, about his time spent on the four-masted steel barque Moshulu during the vessel’s last voyage in the Australian grain trade – fabulous reading.

I left PA twelve days later at 2100hr on 24-05-2019 to catch the ebb tide arriving at Port Pirie again to give my talks. I left PP two weeks later heading to Port Broughton arriving at 1700hr just after a low tide. Another hour & I would have had a very fast tide to contend with. I had no idea how fast the tide runs. If one missed the pontoon the shallows are about 50m past the pontoon to run aground. Syd on his 40′ yacht arrived from PP two hours before & had no problem. Another small yacht with Kaz aboard arrived after dark & after hitting a buoy, hit the end of the wharf side on & sat for 2hr pinned to the wharf until the fast flowing flood tide stopped at 2130hr. One safety rail post snapped off in the accident. Kaz left for Wallaroo next day. The narrow channel is 4.5nm long with 3-4m depth at half tide – 1m variation.This is another interesting place, not only to get into, but the history of the grain ships. The larger ships had to stay in the Gulf while smaller sailing vessels carried the grain in large bags out to them. How they managed the current I don’t know. More information at https://veryphotographic.com.au/port-broughton

I tried to leave PB on the flooding tide 15-06-2019 0400hr but ran aground twice 100m from the wharf so returned & waited for daylight & higher tide, eventually leaving at 1000hr on the high tide. It was 35nm to the next stop Wallaroo, arriving 1915hr, which took me 9hr instead of 6hr – can’t remember why so long now. I stayed 6 nights & paid $40/day – rather expensive compared to my frugal living the previous 3 months. Wallaroo seemed a nice place with a recent real estate being completed overlooking the marina and south westerly gales. There were some still for sale – very nice living except for the gales. It would get quite rough in the marina under those conditions. There are trawlers tied to the floating pontoon inside the entrance – don’t know if they stay there when the gales are on. It is a great marina for model yacht races & a lot cheaper than owning a yacht.

After six days I left Wallaroo, midnight Friday 21-06-2019, for the 215nm journey to Royal South Australia Yacht Squadron (RSAYS) at Outer Harbour, Adelaide’s port . There are places to stop but I was running out of time & there were a few southerlies starting to arrive making it unwise to stop on the south coast of Yorke Peninsula. While the days were warm & sunny, the nights got cold. The winds were forecast to be light from the east & north, exactly the direction I was heading. So after 51.5hr sailing & motoring I arrived at RSAYS 0330hr Monday 24-06-2019. The journey was un-eventful & could use Fleming when there was wind & the EV1 autopilot when no wind. I decided to keep to west side of Gulf St. Vincent out of the way of shipping but just when I wanted to cross to Outer Harbour a slow moving ship came up the gulf so had to wait to cross behind it. Being a major shipping channel there were lots of lights around & was difficult to see the extent of the rock wall south side of the channel entering Outer Harbour. It was icy cold at the helm with no bimini for shelter – luckily wind was not blowing too much. I had eight days to work & book Ophelia into the hardstand upon my return on 20-09-2019. By this time Ophelia had mammoth amounts of barnacle growth on her hull so had her taken out for a wash down ready for the three month spell while I flew to Melbourne to continue my working/holiday. The best place was Adelaide Markets which I could take a train from Outer Harbour to the city for $5 per trip – the ticket lasted 2hr. In the marina are two former Royal Brighton yachts – Audacious & Gusto (being re-organised is the best word).

Mandurah to Esperance

Ophelia spent 11 months in Mandurah (09-10-2017 to 22-09-2018), while I spent some time back home in Melbourne with my family. I picked up a job so decided to stay I was hoping to move from Busselton in the south to Rottnest Island to the north, but due to constant storms in June & July, and home trips, my movements were limited.

I flew to Melbourne middle of December with a rash appearing around my chest & back, between the tummy button and nipple right hand side. This turned out to be shingles which lasted for a full two months. For two weeks after the blisters healed up I was in pain – from the web ‘neuralgia is a sharp pain that you feel in the skin in one part of your body. It is usually caused by irritation or damage to the nerve that goes to that body part. It is also sometimes called neuropathic pain.’ Clothes against the skin causes irritation so had to spend the day & night with no shirt on. Luckily the weather was warm. Night time, I slept on the couch with a tent over me so no clothes touched my skin. I work from home, how do people get on working in an office ? When the blisters almost healed I could use a neuralgic patch under a 2XU compression sleeveless vest. This stops cloths moving on the skin & allowed me to go outside with ‘normal’ cloths on. This was a life saver.

I flew back to Perth on 16-01-2018 to prepare for the next leg to Adelaide, however I was offered a job to work on the New Museum Perth detailing steel in the old heritage buildings so decided to stay around WA for 6months. Some other detailing company detailed the monstrous structure over top of the Heritage building in the picky below.

My part of the project went on longer than I had quoted so have lost a fair bit of money. As I sit in Adelaide (March 2019) I am detailing the last of my quoted scope of work.

I was hoping to move from Bussleton in the south to Rottnest Is. out from Freemantle but due to many storms in July & August I was marina bound in Mandurah. However I did manage to spend sometime in Freemantle Sailing Club, Rockingham on a public mooring & a week on anchor in Longreach Bay Rottnest Is. in April, open to northerlies. Luckily there were not many vessels on the moorings for that week. There is a sand patch east end of the bay which is ideal for anchors. And I went searching for the Quokka in the sand hills – found a cutie as well. When a northerly breeze was forecast I moved back to Freemantle & flew to Melbourne for two weeks late May.

Longreach Bay, Rottnest Island
a Quokka busy eating a very tough leaf.

I spent one week on a mooring in Rockingham which is open to the northerlies. This is not a place to be in a northerly, as is Bussleton, due to a completely open fetch of water many hundreds of miles into the Indian Ocean. On one occasion I heard of a number of yachts being beached during a storm, must have broken away from their moorings.

Rockingham – red buoys are public moorings

I arrived Mandurah beginning of June 2018 & flew to Melbourne end of August for a two week holiday in Bali. Altogether I spent 12 months around Mandurah to Freemantle. Mandurah would be the best place for families that I have visited on my trip around Australia due to the Peel-Harvey Estuary where one can go crabbing & many other activities on water & on shore.

The new bridge in Mandurah

While at Mandurah, I house sat for Mike & Tessa (of Sunny Girl catamaran fame) while they were enjoying themselves on their Seawind 1260 catamaran around Raja Ampat area of Indonesia. At one stage a pair of Willy Wagtails made a nest & produced 3 babies in a large tree in the backyard of Mike’s property – below is a video I produced of the family. They came back for the following two years. I had a wonderful time at Mandurah.

At 0200hr on 22th September I left Mandurah for the final time heading to Bunbury for the night & then onto Bussleton where I anchored in 4m close to Geographe Bay Yacht Club. Bussleton is the home town of a cousin, Heather, whom I had not seen for about 40 years. So I spent 2 weeks there with a few days in the marina to shelter from some northerly breezes. Heather made me a large fruit cake which went very nicely with a scotch each night. This cake lasted until I reached Esperance late October, about one month. Heather & Ray took me to look at numerous places – Cape Naturaliste, Cape Leeuwin, Augusta Boat Harbour, Mary River township and a winery. Many thanks to Heather & Ray & best wishes to Heather after her hip surgery.

Busselton Wharf

On 11th October 1600hr I left Busselton heading to Augusta Boat Harbour 86nm distant. The aim was to pass Cape Leeuwin between the many rocks just after day break when hopefully the wind was blowing too hard. After light head winds from Cape Naturaliste to Leeuwin I did round the cape at 0900hr in perfect conditions arriving Augusta at 1130hr. The water depth thru’ the rocks got to 5m with sandy sea bed and crystal clear water. Like so many marinas in WA it is owned by DOT WA & costs $52/night for a mono.

Augusta Boat Harbour

I stayed here three days before heading to Albany 140nm & 27hr later arriving at Emu Point on a curtesy mooring 16th October. The trip to Albany was an eye opener for me as I had not travelled in waters so rough before. Ophelia was rocking violently side to side with light SW breezes, almost directly behind us. There was no use using the main as the apparent wind was only 5-7kts. The jib had to be set with a whisker pole to stop it from slapping. I had to replace the jib in Adelaide as it had such a large belly from stretching.

Just another wave action

I travelled perhaps 500m to 1000m from the shore edge & saw some amazing water spouts.

Beside the Emu Point anchorage there is the Nature Reserve which was full of small flowers of many varieties that I have no idea what they were – some looked like orchids with their distinctive shape. Take a look at the video mentioned below – A Walk in the Park. One morning I decided I would motor my light weight 15kg dinghy, with 2.3HP outboard, from Emu Point to Albany Town Centre – some 2.5nm away. Going there was no problem with a 10kt following breeze, which was supposed to stop 2hr later. It never did, but increased to perhaps 15kts & was too rough to motor back. I managed to find an open tray ute and offered the driver $50 to take me back – of course he obliged as it was on his way home.

After a few days I took Ophelia into the town centre & tied up to the free public floating pontoon (max. stay 4hr) for 2 days where I met numerous people who came down to say hi. When a stronger wind was approaching I moved into the marina. There was a yacht that I came across while in Exmouth 2yrs previous. The owner had solo sailed around Australia in 18mth – way to quick for me.

After 2 weeks the weather was suitable (24-10-2019) to set sail, at 0500hr, towards Esperance via Two Peoples Bay (19nm) on anchor over weed for 1 night, Waychinicup River (9nm) for 1hr, Bremer Bay Boat Harbour (71nm) on a free mooring for 1 night, past a mysterious island not on any maps, except Navionics, called Investigator Island & onto Esperance (142nm). This Island is locally called Rocky Is. but was changed officially in honour of Matthew Flinders for some reason. After 3 days I arrived at Esperance upon daybreak and anchored to the south of the marina entrance over sand & weed. After a week I moved into the yacht club marina, where Ophelia eventually stayed for three months after a failed attempt to cross the GAB to Ceduna.

Videos :-

Exmouth to Mandurah

The next section was always going to be the hardest – down to Perth – this time of the year southerly winds in the afternoon up to 25kn are common, while easterly to northerly are dominate during the night to midday. There are not enough ports for day hops to suit a 5kn vessel so at some stage I know I will hit a 25kn period along with the southerly swell. Oh well, just have wait & see.

Looking at BOM’s Meteye, late on 3rd of September looked like a good time to leave so I could get to Coral Bay (87nm) & wait for the next cycle of easterly breezes. So at 1800hr I set off in mirror conditions with whales around me and rounded N.W. Cape 2hr later where a slight NW breeze started – perfect when travelling south. Off Tantabiddi (20nm) about 2230hr the winds switched to SW 10kn & then freshened to 20kn and by midnight gusting 25-30kn – oh well so much for Meteye. Ophelia handled the conditions OK with furled genoa to the mast base & two reefs in the main & motor. The wind ceased during next day & approaching Coral Bay (87nm) at 1600hr, Meteye was showing favourable southerly winds so I kept going to Denham (290nm), being the next stop. However off Cape Cuvier (184nm) at 0500hr day two the winds shifted to SE & being a headland was rough. We handled the conditions and eventually ended up at Denham on anchor in weed at 0900hr 6th September – 63hr for 290nm which I was happy motor/sailing 4.6kn average into the wind. This is the first time I have had to sail into the wind for so long. The autopilot handled the 20kn & sail configuration.

From the time I left Darwin to Denham, I had sunny days all day, every day, however later that day rain came in & with it a sudden violent storm from the NW not predicted by BOM. When the wind got to 20kn, Ophelia was dragging anchor in the weed so I managed to pick up the anchor (manual winch) & slowly make my way out to the largest mooring buoy I could find. It was very rough with wind up to 30kn when I pocked my head to check conditions. Little did I know Urchin & five other yachts were anchored at Shelter Bay 20nm to the east – Urchin landed on the beach with no damage & headed back to Denham for checking next day. Another 50′ cat. hit rocks but was still afloat & set off for Perth next morning. Another 40′ mono Honey Bee tried to bring up the anchor but the motor kept tripping. They faired OK as is & sailed on down the coast next morning. Two other yachts faired OK & left early next morning. I have no photos of Denham due to the weather. The first storm went from 1630hr for 4hr then a 1hr calm period followed by another 4hr front from the south. I wanted to visit Monkey Mia, but there was no time due to more consistent stronger southerly winds.

I left Denham next day being 7th September 0700hr heading past Shelter Bay & Steep Point, being the most westerly part of mainland Australia. A not very nice rain front was approaching from the NW & my thoughts turned to last night, however it moved south & out to sea so I never received any rain or wind – perhaps the weather gods remembered my acts previously releasing the two large fish.

Steep Point

A few sea miles south of Steep Pt. is the Zuytdorp Cliffs – 150km long they range from 50m to 250m above sea level & are spectacular with waves crashing into them forming many caves & water spouts. The cliffs are named after a trading ship called Zuytdorp which was wrecked against the cliffs in 1712. I sailed/motored 2-5nm off the cliffs in 20m to 40m of water. I was amazed at the fountains of water & took many photos with the telephoto, many were too blurred to keep.

I had a good passage with no rough weather, but the autopilot ‘ecompass’ stopped working about 2230hr due to a shorting fault. I could still use the autopilot but could not track along the route I had made on the chart plotter. I arrived at Geraldton 0350hr 9th September in berth L41 as it was spare. Luckily the marina staff accepted me & I stayed put for 3 weeks. The whole marina area is very swelly & requires the vessel to be tied up tightly to stop movement. I met up with Urchin, Time & Honey Bee & met Catherine & Peter who were on their way back to Adelaide after completing an eight year world circumnavigation on their 45′ catamaran ‘The Southern Cross’. They arrived back in Adelaide November 2017. Honey Bee was returning after their 2014 Indonesian & Malyasian jaunt to somewhere – their Hobart house is still rented out. As at beginning of January they were in Portland, VIC. I met Time in Exmouth & he was returning to Albany from his very quick mostly solo circumnavigation of Australia.

Replica of Batavia Longboat

Geraldton Main Beach

I spent the next ten days in Geraldton working, fixing the NMEA network for the navigation instruments, raw water engine leak & making a box to protect the chart plotter. I also visited the Geraldton Museum which has some fantastic displays of various ship wrecks in the 1700’s & the Australian HMAS Sydney (II). I also visited the Sydney Memorial over looking the ocean. I learn’t that the dome has 645 seagulls which is the number of men lost at sea on Sydney. She sank on 19-11-1941, but was not found until 16-03-2008 112nm west of Steep Pt in 2480m of water. After paying $35/day, on Tuesday 19th September, I left Geraldton for the short 8-10hr sail to Port Denison (or Dongara) but 1hr out, the NMEA network went out again so I returned to Geraldton.

A mother looking out to sea to HMAS Sydney (II)

 

I paid a specialist $187 to fix the problem – don’t know what he did that was any different to what I did, but it worked. So after more working & waiting for a weather window I left for the second time 0530hr Saturday 30th September to Denison arriving at 1600hr & tied to a fixed jetty for $52/ night – first one for a couple of years. I went past many cray pot buoys in 40-70m water depth – a danger to those with exposed rudders & props. I left next morning hoping to arrive Fremantle 26hr later, but 70nm out & going past Jurien Bay, I noticed the motor was vibrating so made an emergency call in Jurien Bay marina. I paid an expert $390 to realign the motor. Four of six 10mm bolts had sheared at the universal joint probably due to motor shifting slightly in the rough conditions of the WA coast.  I was very lucky. The WA Department of Transport (DOT) have a condition where they allow 3 days grace of payment due to emergencies so I only had to pay for one day at $52/night.

Jurien Bay

On Wednesday 4th October looking at Meteye there was a 20-25kn front coming through early next day & all gone by 1100hr Thursday. So that was my leave time. Next day there was no front so I thought it did not develop, although Meteye was still showing it disappearing same time. So I left at 1100hr & got hit by it 4hr later. I had to do 110 deg. tacks at 4.5kn with furled genoa & motor for 1nm to make any headway for 8hr. Ophelia handled it very well with not much water in the cockpit. The autopilot worked as well, which was a godsend. 33hr for 120nm – slow at 3.6nm/hr – but I made it safely to Freemantle Sailing Club Friday 6th October 2030hr just before another southerly front came through. I tied up to the collector jetty & was moved elsewhere in the morning. Three days was free. I met up with Honey Bee, Time & The Southern Cross as well. On the hardstand I noticed a fast looking yacht used by Gaetano Mura in his record attempt to circumnavigate the world – his yacht impacted with an unidentified floating object on the night of December 9th, just after passing Cape of Good Hope. His attempt ended.

My final destination for the year – Mandurah – an 8hr motor/sail south in light 5-10kn S breeze (head on) – where I house sat for Mike & Tessa of Sunny Girl fame, sailing in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. I left Freemantle at 0200hr & arrived Mandurah 1000hr same day – Monday 9th October, 2017. I was given a berth after tying to the 200m long collector jetty & had a good size scotch once tied up. So after 2271nm, 9 weeks, using the motor 476hr from Darwin to Mandurah I flew to Melbourne on 11th December to spend two months with my family. Considering it took me 10 months for each of the previous two years to get to Whitsunday & Darwin, this was a very quick trip – due to late leaving Darwin.

Oh, and stress is supposed to bring on shingles – my stomach came out in blisters 2 days before leaving Mandurah to fly home. At time of writing, although the blisters have cleared I am in a lot of ‘dagger stabbing’ pain. Hope it clears up soon.

 

These are links to a couple of videos in the area. Mr & Mrs Wagtail are in the backyard of the place I am house sitting. The fantastic music is by a local artist Glen Ridgwell. As soon as I heard the Manna Crab song I knew what I wanted to produce. :-

  1. All in a Days Sail – https://youtu.be/MCRUx6uIXkI
  2. Mandurah Tinnie Trip – https://youtu.be/Nf6_waAWoPE
  3. Mr & Mr Wagtail – https://youtu.be/OMwgwD4Uly4

Broome to Exmouth

While on anchor in Roebuck Bay, Broome I met another couple on Urchin, a 40′ Fountain Pajot catamaran, from Mandurah nearing the end of their circumnavigation of Australia. I believe their trip took 4 years by the time they flew back to Perth twice a year. Over some cider/wines & cheese we were discussing the best time to depart Broome as the winds were starting to increase in intensity during the day. I decided to leave Broome on Friday 18th August at 2100hr. Brian & Maree left a couple of days later & got hammered by 40kn winds for a few hours. I had completed my work to allow me to travel three days to Port Hedland. It seems most cruiser’s by pass Port Hedland, but having detailed a number of jobs in the area I wanted to see the area. BOM’s Meteye was showing good SE to SW breezes for the next three days. I decided on 2100hr which allowed me to arrive approx. 68hr & 313nm later in Port Hedland in the morning day light – based on 5kn/hr. If it took me longer I still had the whole day.

SW breezes are a problem as I would be travelling SW, WSW & later SW into Port Hedland. I decided I would follow the coast about 10nm from shore instead of straight across – reason, if it did blow up the waves would not be as large 10nm out as 30nm. I had calm conditions the whole time with no more than 15kn wind – the motor was used a lot.

Once I turned SW I had the breezes head on so had to change my sail set up with the furled genoa fixed to base of mast as photo shows.

Port Hedland is probably the busiest port in Australia with very large ore ships arriving/leaving every 1/2hr or so. Since the port is not set up for cruiser’s it is my responsibility to keep clear & inform the harbour authority upon my arrival & intentions. They would see me on AIS since I transmit & receive AIS. As I got closer I could see all the ships at anchor and the continuous movement of the ships on the chart plotter. Another cruiser friend had to wait for 2hr until the channel cleared to cross. About 10nm out I contacted harbour control, but they never heard me until 5nm out. I stated my intentions to anchor in front of the yacht club so was allowed to motor port side of the port channel markers, about 10m from them as it was very shallow 20m away. I anchored at 1715hr in 2.5m water – about 1hr after low water with a 5.3m tide. I had to move two days later as I was close to hitting the bottom. Although many ships pass, they don’t present any bow wave. The tugs present much larger bow waves. The trip took longer at 71hr with motor on for 65hr.

A diesel hose decided to leak so had to organise a new hose with banjo fittings each end – Port Hedland was a good place to replace it – plenty of hydraulic hoses in the area, but would they carry a small hose ?. $35 taxi each way and $120 for the 1/2″ x 12″ length.

Ships – they were large – one I noticed upon arrival – Amber Horizon at 300m long – was sitting at 8m with top water line at 18m – that is up to 10m of product on board upon leaving. It had 3 tugs to control her – each one 35m long. Everything was stained in a reddish tinge from the disused yachts at the yacht club to concrete footpaths to buildings & off course the ground. However the salt pile was very white – there is a large salt works at Port Hedland. The yacht club has a ‘duck pond’ which I could have gone into on high tide but the high tide was too low for me when leaving. The entrance is high & dry 3hr after high tide.

I left Port Hedland 2230hr on Wednesday 23rd August for the 63nm journey to Depuch Is. and arrived at 1030hr, motoring the whole distance. I anchored in 8.5m water with 5m tide. This island is covered in red rock about 30 to 50cm long. One has to be very careful walking over it due to the loose rocks.

Depuch Island

View from Dampier Yacht Club

I stayed over night & after doing some work left at 1830hr Friday 24th August for Dampier – 73nm away – via Flying Foam Passage. Leaving at that time allowed me to get to top of FFP at day break, tide running with me & before a stronger SE breeze came in. I timed the passage perfectly with up to 30kn wind side on & down the passage into Dampier at 1200hr on Saturday 25th. Anchorage was in mud in 5.5m water at high tide with 3m tide. Urchin had arrived 2 days before me having sailed direct from Port Hedland to Dampier. Once again the motor was used the whole trip. While in Broome I organised replacement parts for the autopilot to be sent to Dampier so now have two spare gear boxes & two belts. I enjoyed my very short stay in Dampier, leaving 1930hr Monday 28th August for Exmouth via Onslo – 183nm & 37hr at 5kn/hr.

Once again BOM’e Meteye was showing more SE to SW breezes 10-15kn with 20kn on Exmouth Gulf. I had to anchor off Onslo for 6hr to miss the stronger gulf wind. So arriving at Onslo on Tuesday 29th about 2200hr with no moon, I was lowering the main when I looked in front & saw a huge black object in front of me. I raced to the wheel to disengage the autopilot & turn to starboard just in time to miss a large black tug on mooring. The only lights were four orange lights up high which I took as being on shore – why would a vessel have orange lights ? This is the closest I have come to destroying my yacht. I felt I could have reached out & touched the black object. So after motoring over the 15cm diam. mooring line I anchored with knees still shaking & slept. I left Onslow, Wednesday 30th 0100hr for the 12hr crossing of Exmouth Gulf arriving at the huge naval towers & then 5nm south into the Exmouth marina by 1430hr. I felt a huge relief arriving with no strong winds since leaving Broome – 627nm in 11 days with 3 stops. From the log I motored 98% of the distance from Broome. I caught my first ever cobia about 1m long, but let it go as it was too big for me to eat – wind gods looking.

Exmouth  is home to the ‘Big Prawn’ & some very powerful cyclones as shown by the height of the piles in the marina. Ophelia’s mast is about 12.5m above water level. I had been informed by cruiser’s that unless one has time to anchor other side of the peninsula (with suitable weather), to hire a car & visit Ningaloo Reef & others.


This I did and thoroughly enjoyed the day. I visited the Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt north of Exmouth (which is an impressive site from the water), crossed over to the west side of the peninsula & drove down to the end of the sealed road to Yardie Creek, stopping off at numerous places including Turtle Rookery, Tantabiddi, Mangrove Bay, Turquoise Bay for a drift swim, Oyster Stacks, Sandy Bay for another swim & Osprey Bay. Apparently Turquoise Bay is where one swims with the whale sharks & manta rays.

Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt

 

There were lots of wild flowers on the road side and also lots of campers in designated areas along the coast.

 

 

 

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Darwin to Broome

I left Darwin on 1st August 2017, for the second time, & arrived Mandurah, south of Perth on 9th October 2017, nine weeks & 2271nm of travel. I have been so busy I have not had time to update this blog until now.

From the time I had to return to Darwin, after the first attempt with John to 1st August, I worked my butt off, sailed to Tiwi Islands (mid June) for a weekend & flew to Melbourne for the month of July to see my family. The trip to Tiwi Is. up the Aspley Strait between the two islands, Bathurst & Melville, was cut short due to a bush fire crossing the strait making it too dangerous with embers in the air. Also one cannot land on Tiwi Is. without an invitation from a Tiwi Islander & permit – I did not have a permit.

So after refuelling at Cullen Bay Marina & saying goodbye to fellow cruisers Albert, who was on his way east to Airlie Beach after a short trip to the Kimberley’s and Mike & Tessa on their way to Indonesia on their Seawind 1210 cat., I was on my way at 1030hr Tuesday 1st August heading to Wadeye 140nm south where I anchored for 24hr waiting for a strong southerly to abate. I had a total of 150l of diesel on board which should take me 700nm safely. On my way I caught a nice size spanish mackerel. At Wadeye, I had to move across the bay as the stronger wind came from a different direction & put me on a lee shore – 1m deep reef. Wadeye was the last anchorage that I could access internet so I emailed the last job to my client. The next anchorage with internet would be Broome, 660nm away. I had to start a new job on Monday, 13th August. This mean’t I could not spend time in the Kimberley’s.
Darwin-Berkley RiverThe second part of my journey was across Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, 105nm, to Berkeley River & a neap high tide river bar entrance. Leaving Wadeye at 0745hr on Friday 4th August, I made good time & crossed the inner bar at 0600hr Northern Territory time in pitch black darkness. The moon disappeared at 0500hr. There are two channels from the east on the Navionics chart & a cruising book recommends the south entrance west of Reveley Is., but both seemed to go over a shallow area. Ophelia’s keel is 1.5m deep & we had 0.8m under the keel at shallowest place. I normally zigzag along a channel so I keep in the deepest part. The crossing took 1hr due to the slow progress in the dark & I dropped the anchor inside the river before sun rise & had a two hour sleep. I do sleep while travelling – roughly 2hr on watch & 2hr sleep.
IMG_6162-cropAfter a good sleep & breakfast I motored 4nm into Casurina Ck. arriving about 1000hr. After launching the dinghy & looking out for croc’s I went ashore via a rocky oyster ridden ledge & clambered up the cliff. The rock face could be very dangerous due to the loose small rocks, but there appeared to be a path which leads to top of the nearly dry water falls. I had the obligatory cool fresh water swim before taking many photos & returning to Ophelia. No croc’s were seen.
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Later same day I left Casurina Ck. & motored back down to the river mouth for the high tide crossing at 0600hr next day and the 44nm, 7.5hr motor/sail to Koolama Bay. Crossing the bar on Sunday 6th August was without incident with 0.8m under the keel, but I had moved too far off the northern channel so with zigzagging I found it with 2m under the keel. I noticed the Berkeley River Lodges on the cliff edges to the south overlooking the J.P. Gulf.

Berkeley-BiggeIMG_6182R

The weather was sunny with up to 10-15kn SE breezes near journey’s end. I arrived at 1330hr dropping the anchor in 5m of water. The log showing the motor was used for 5hr of the 7.5hr. I could see a catamaran inside King George River & a small cruise ship called TRUE NORTH – a 36 guest luxury vessel anchored other side of the bay.

After a good sleep, dinner & another sleep I left Koolama at midnight same day, Sunday 6th August to pass Cape Londondery (the most northerly mainland part of WA) at 0600hr with the ebb tide & hopefully easterly breeze. According to others, this cape is notorious for wind against tide conditions, however with neap tides, perhaps not so bad. I had been warned by others with much more knowledge than me. I made it right round the cape with the tide & no wind, moving up to 7.5kn SOG. There were large eddy’s which tried to turn Ophelia so I had to hand steer rather than use the autopilot. I had intended to spend a night in Honeymoon Bay, but the thought of 12hr motoring there & back (24hr total) put me off so continued onto Bigge Is., which was on my route for the next stop. I arrived 1145hr on 8th August at Boomerang Bay, Bigge Is. The log shows nearly 36hr & 167nm. The motor was used 23hr of the time. By now I had no idea of the weather so while passing Wary Bay, Bigge Is. I called up the captain of a cruise liner L’Attitude at anchor who said much the same weather for the next three days. Perfect, as it would take three days to Broome. I had been travelling 8 days of the 11 day trip so the 7 day BOM forecast from Darwin was now gone.

Wary Bay, Bigge Island

While at anchor I had a swim (watching for croc’s), filled the diesel tank & made dinner all in 1.25hr. I left at 1300hr heading for Cape Leveque, pronounced Lee Veek. The breeze disappeared so had to motor through the night – the log saying the sea was a mirror. At 0600hr I passed Champagny Is. with full main & furled genoa poled out in a light northerly breeze. At 0700hr I replaced the genoa with the symmetrical spinaker but within an hour the wind started turning to the west & did not function properly. Most days the wind is from north early morning changing to south by midday & east during the night back to north early morning.

All the time travelling during daylight hours I had a lure out the back & at 1530hr I brought an estimated 1.5m spanish mackerel to the side of the yacht, after at least 1/2hr back & forth on 80lb braid & 150lb s/s trace. It was just too big for me so I managed to extract the lure & let it go, hoping the wind gods would see my act & be kind to me. Soon after a light south west breeze came in so I motored for a while with main only.

Bigge-Broome

I then decided to call into Powerful Is., Yampi Sound where there were two tugs & a large heavy ship loader at anchor – I could see them on AIS. I arrived at 2230hr 9th August in moonlight and anchored on rubble in 10m water depth. I could make out a dark patch changing to a light patch on the rock wall perhaps 30m away. After a good sleep I awoke at day break & noticed the dark patch was the tide variation – 9m during the king tides. Leaving at 0600hr on 10th August to catch the tides, I also saw a sleeping whale, which I initially thought was a large crocodile.

This area was my first time travelling in strong currents, narrow channels & large tidal variation – I had to work the tides to make headway with the 10HP engine. I passed Cape Leveque with tides generally in my favour about 1430hr and anchoring in Pender Bay at 2215hr same day 10th August with a 15kn head on SW breeze. From Bigge Is. to Pender Bay I had travelled 225nm in 52hr actual travel time using the engine for 47hr. Pender Bay is very large but well protected from the south to east to north. The wind dropped off during the night. I did try to anchor in a bay not far from Cape Leveque but was too shallow & exposed. While dropping the main in preparation for a suitable anchorage I was hit by a moving large eddy which stripped the autopilot cogs again. This mean’t hand steering the 6hr to Pender Bay & 95nm to Broome next day.

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Cape Leveque

So I left Pender Bay at 0800hr on Friday 11th August with a slight head wind travelling SW for most of the day. I had to re-arrange the sail set up, furling most of the genoa & bringing the clew to base of mast. The mainsail was slightly backed and engine running. I could travel at 4.5kn in a 15kn head wind. I had to stop along the way for a 3hr sleep. I also ran over some buoys nominating a fish aquaculture area while dozing in the cockpit during the night. Upon hearing some birds I sat up & saw the buoys strung together with rope. Luckily with a full length keel the rope never got caught by the propeller. The wind dropped out during the night as usual.  I arrived at the south end of Broome’s Cable Beach on a $30/night mooring at 1015hr Saturday 12th August. I felt so relieved having spent 12 days travelling without getting off the yacht for exercise, except Berkeley River. I spent two days on the mooring rocking in every direction due to a southerly swell, before moving into Roebuck Bay on anchor. This was heaven and close to town with a 10 minute dinghy trip and 5 min bus ride.

IMG_6418RCable Beach-01

Cable Beach is a meca for 4 wheel drives – locals and ‘grey nomads’ with a beer, wine & sometimes shade watching the sun go down. The yellow ‘rubber ducky’ is on wheels to ferry passengers from ship to shore.

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Looking north with the Cable Bay Resort in the far distance

I arranged for new autopilot cogs & a spare gear box to be flown from Sydney so spent six days working, walking and a bit of time in town. Broome is not a good place in strong winds & therefore not a cruiser’s paradise, but I did enjoy my time here.

In summary Darwin to Broome was 798nm, 11 days exactly, stopped 3 nights for 8hr, used 110l of diesel, motored 147hr = approx. 60% of travel time.

Apart from Koolama & Wary Bay and Powerful Is. I did not see any other vessel. I guess I was nearing the end of the Kimberly cruise season. I saw lots of whales – most kept away from me apparently due to motor noise.

A video of Darwin to Berkeley River can be seen at :-

  1. Darwin to Berkeley River – https://youtu.be/rYhLLUhP2y8

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.

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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.
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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

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