Saturday 16th July. Distance sailed: 16403.8nM
Pete's quote of the night: "This is a yacht not a bl***y avery!"
We've made it!! We reached Australia yesterday and it seems weird to think that we have now definitely sailed half way round the world. I think that we are getting too used to the routine and the weather and it's probably going to be a big shock to return home. I suppose now we are starting to think more about what we are going to do when we get home, but then again we remember how far we still have to go - what a shame!!
The journey from Vanuatu was as forecast, although the wind was a little light towards the end and some diesel had to be surrendered to the cause. The cause has been to arrive during quarantine and customs working hours, to avoid hideous overtime charges. We arrived with a few hours to spare, not bad planning for a 10 day voyage.
The highlight of the trip must be the wildlife we've seen along the way, Sara insists on naming the birds that land on the boat, so below there are photos of Bob (on the boom) and Dodge (the look out) on the front of the boat. The second bird to spend the night on the front of the boat I named Dodge II so that we could tell them apart. (Original...Ed.)
We arrived in the marina in Cairns and had to wait for Customs and Quarantine to visit the boat before we could go ashore. This started with two Customs Officers who boarded to complete all the paperwork, then 3 Customs Officers who searched the boat and took swabs to check there are no traces of drugs. Then after a while ..... wait for it.... Bruce from Quarantine arrived. Sara struggled to keep a straight face after I had spent 10 days practicing my greetings "G'day Bruce, how's Shiela? Mate. Are we having a barbie?" Nevertheless, he was great, let us keep the mayonnaise but took the basket we were given in the Caribbean that was made from banana leaves. He also took the garlic and Chillies we have hd since the Mediterrean.
We now have about 6 weeks to travel from Cairns to Darwin and to enjoy some of the sights of Australia. At least we are going to slow down for a while - we are only planning on covering the same distance as we've done in the last 10 days. We'll probably end up increasing this so that we can travel down the east coast to visit the Whitsunday Islands.
Unfortunately the first week or so will be spent in Cairns having a pit stop. Not as quick as a Formula 1 car, but we need to be hauled out and get some of the wildlife cleaned of our bottom... and a list of about 20 other things! Hopefully some nice locals might help us out with the list and give us some time to go diving on the Great Barrier Reef, which we sailed over yesterday morning.
Monday 25th July. Distance sailed: 16403.8nM
Pete's quote of the night: "Why didn't you come and help earlier?"
We were lifted out of the water on Wednesday and have been battling the weather since. To Pete's delight the boatyard were short staffed so he got to play with the pressure hose, he was positively ecstatic when he realised the gloves and heavy duty scrapers bought for removing stubborn barnacles were completely unnecessary. Safety goggles may have been a good idea as the barnacles were blasted off the boat!
Saved a day of scraping we were straight on to the painting, 2 layers of undercoat were swiftly applied between showers on Thursday and we managed to get the topcoats finished on Saturday. We're a well matched painting duo. I get to paint up to Sara level then Pete does the high bits. This has the advantage that I don't have to contend with any edges. As usual the majority of the paint ended up on me, some on the boat and Pete came away looking spotless- obviously not working hard enough. Now we're polishing, well Pete's polishing and I'm writing this! Earlier Pete was trying to take the propeller off to change the anode. Whatever he tried- hammer, chisel, levers- didn't budge it. I walked past every hour or so offering moral support and sympathy. After a couple of hours I suggested that perhaps rather than slipping off maybe it needed to be unscrewed, 10 seconds later and it was time for a celebratory cup of tea. All we need now is a new anode!
We have managed a day of sight-seeing, hiring a car and exploring the Cairns Highlands. The main sights were (very big) trees and waterfalls. We were also endlessly entertained by the Aussie road signs. We're hoping to get the boat back in the water early this week and then spend some time exploring the coastline and the Great Barrier Reef before heading north.
Sunday 7th August. Distance sailed: 16522.4nM
Pete's quote of the night: "No koala cuddles for you my lass, you're out of pocket money."
Well the anode arrived eventually, having probably travelled more of Australia than us (apparently Perth sounds a lot like Cairns to distributors!!). As you can see it definitely needed replaced. Unfortunately it wasn't designed to fit alongside our rope cutter, happily the very nice Ozzie in the boat next door let us borrow his grinder for some fine tuning and then took the anode home to trim a bit more off with his lathe. It was a beautiful fit. Sadly the bolt required to hold it in place was less agreeable, shearing on contact and giving Pete a healthy jog around Cairns trying to find someone (?anyone) who could supply a metric sized bolt (it's all to do with the thread apparently!). Bolt found and attached we thought our problems were behind us and cheered as the crane came to lift us back in the water. The crane broke down on approach. A couple of jump leads and a big battery later and we were floating. Hooray- no leaks and our clean bottom is adding knots to the speed (or so Pete claims).
We've been catching up on the sight seeing. Disappointed with our inability to find any local wildlife (except dead on the roadside), we headed to the zoo to get our fill of kangaroos, koalas, cassowaries, crocs and red pandas (ok so they're not Australian but they are pretty cute). Although I was very tolerant and let Pete play on the tractor (photo banned from publication by P.) he wouldn't let me spend our lunch money on cuddling a koala (boo,hiss). We've also visited Port Douglas, Fitzroy Island and Green Island, whilst trying unsuccessfully to outrun the wind and rain. We've been into the rain forest and taken a floating train up the Daintree River (well to take the boat trip would be a bit like a busman's holiday!). We've seen Cape Tribulation from land and from sea, although fortunately not as closely as Cook saw it- the wonders of GPS! We are currently in Cooktown for a brief stop before we heading back out for more reef action, preferably with less rain- well it is the dry season!
Monday 29th August. Distance sailed: 17716.3nM
Logbook 14th August 2005: "Lost big fish, reel handle, reel spool and sense of humour."
I think this is going to be a bit of an epic update however the next one won't be for about another 4 weeks, so take your time over it! When we last wrote we had been, again, following in Cooks footsteps, beaching (sorry I meant anchoring) our boat in Cooktown. We had a pleasant day visiting the museum, seeing Cook and the Gold Rush man and finishing up with take away Fish and Chips aboard watching the sunset- fantastic! From Cooktown we headed north first visiting Egret Reef, great coral and MASSIVE clams, then continuing on up to Lizard Island. More trailing of Cook on Lizard Island as we climbed up to Cooks Lookout, I'm impressed he made it without the handy path. The view was spectacular, extending out passed the Outer Barrier Reef and to the Pacific.
At Lizard Island we met John and Sally-Ann who entertained us over beers and persuaded us that "The Cod Hole", one of the worlds premier dive sites could not be missed. The next day we sailed out to the Cod Hole for some snorkelling. It was fantastic. The fish were huge and plentiful but best of all there were reef sharks. I was still assuming that they were fairly harmless, however Pete felt we should move on when instead of swimming away from us 5 of them surrounded us and started licking their lips! Video footage available!
The trip north continued, the wind was generally kind helping us to cruise along at 6 plus knots with not much sail up. We reached a lovely set of islands called the Flinders Group without difficulty and decided to spend a day sheltering from the stronger winds coming through. It was about here that we realised our fresh food provisioning had been a little inadequate. When leaving Cooktown we hadn't fully thought out that it was going to be 3 weeks to Darwin and we really hadn't appreciated quite how empty the north of Australia is. This in mind we decided to do some fishing. We hooked a BIG one. Pete worked it, tiring the fish out, then the rod handle broke. No worries, he valiantly continued reeling it in by hand. He got it up to the boat...and the line broke. We will not be beaten, a different line was promptly put out. Almost as promptly the spool fell overboard leaving about 500m of line trailing behind the boat, all of which had to be brought in by hand. Strangely after pulling it all in Pete didn't want to fish anymore!
I was still keen on catching a fish. The reason stems back about 10 years (sorry to those who have already heard this story!). Once there was an impressionable young girl and a bloke trying to make an impression, so he invited her for dinner. She put on her best clothes, make up and perfume and imagined candles, soft music and at least 3 courses. She was served Corned Beef Hash whilst watching TV on the sofa. Obviously it all ended happily ever after, they got married and are sailing around the world. The lesson learnt however was that Corned Beef Hash is bogging. 10 years later, the cupboard bare except for a tin of corned beef, a tin of baked beans and some potatoes it was served again. This time it was worse. I am never ever eating Corned Beff Hash again.
Fortunately after a short period of sulking over the broken rod handle Pete Fix-it came up with an ingenious replacement. This involved a 4mm socket, a 5mm allen key and some putty. It looked quite cool at the half way point, however the corrosion prevention measure of covering it all in putty has made it look a bit Blue Peter, although I have been assured that it gives perfect comfort for the user with its ergonomic shape!
The trip north continued with us sailing up and anchoring in Escape River awaiting fair winds and the right tide to sail through Albany Passage and around Cape York. The first attempt was aborted, coffee and pancakes winning out over wind force 8. The second attempt was more successful. Our tidal calcs had been checked and re-checked but there was still a trace of doubt as the tide seemed to be against us on the approach. The entrance was a mass of white topped waves as opposing currents met, however once in the passage all waves and all doubts receeded. We cruised through sailing at 5 knots but moving at 10 knots thanks to the tide. Our speed maxed at 10.2 knots, almost a record! We rounded Cape York and anchored in a sheltered bay awaiting the next favourable tide to begin our 5 day trip to Darwin. The bay was lovely and the water very tempting were it not for the threat of crocs and the 4 knot tide. We were even more glad we didn't indulge when the next day we spotted 2 huge sea snakes and a couple of sharks!
The 5 day trip went well with good wind and plenty of sunshine. As we approached Darwin we were amazed at the thick smoke sitting over the land and coast. It soon became clear this was due to a large number of bush fires along the coastline. We were welcomed into Darwin by the fisheries department who sterilised our waterworks, fortunately our new anti-fouling avoided the need for them to examine our bottom! We set off for a little exploration of Darwin and the Mindli Beach markets and proved my theory that you should never shop after a night shift. We came home with a large amount of tourist tat, a trivet with 3 positions and a didgeridoo dance album, but it was fun!! The next day we did a bit more exploring of Darwin and went to feed the fish at Aquascene ( Darwins top tourist attraction!). Pete had his fishing rod confiscated at the gate, apparently it's bad form to take the fish home for tea! (Also attracts a $10,000 fine!)
Over the last couple of days we hired a car and went to see a little of the outback taking our trusty tent with us (I knew it would come in useful!). We visited the spectacular Katherine Gorge, taking a boat trip along it, doing a short hike along the top and laughing at the Dragon Boat races taking place. The campsites local wildlife was friendly but (as with most Australians we've met) not impressed by the offer of a xxxx. Our last stop was at the Cutta Cutta Caves very impressive, and our first tropical cave visit (see I even listened to the tour guide!).
Sadly all this fun must end and tomorrow we plan to set out to tackle the Indian Ocean. It will take about 2 weeks to reach Cocos Keeling, then another 2 to reach Mauritius. Don't forget we love to get messages sent to the sat phone, we look every day and laugh at the gossip that's sent!! send message, 120 characters max, if the link doesn't work for you the address is: email@example.com
Thursday 15th September. Distance sailed: 19769 nM
Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes, Re: Darwin to Cocos Keeling "This is normally a fast sail.."
So with Jimmy's advice in mind we patiently worked our way through the first couple of days with little wind, sailing when we could, motoring when all else failed. As the windless days continued we became a bit more anxious and the time when we would have to stop motoring to conserve diesel and leave ourselves drifting on the current (mainly against us) drew closer.Fortunately the wind arrived eventually and we've had a very pleasant downwind sail over the first half of the Indian Ocean.
The main excitment came one night when the car on the boom which holds the sail out decided it's time had come. A small bang and a baggy sail signalled the need for some ad hoc repairs. As with every boat repair nothing went smoothly and a simple job turned into a mornings event, culminating in Pete having to go up the mast- no mean feat when the ocean swell is determined you should be swinging 5 ft out from the mast rather than beside it. Think I'll stick to the winching! After that little bit of hilarity we eventually managed to secure the outhaul with a piece of rope- just like I used on my mirror dinghy!!
We've just arrived in Cocos Keeling, a group of coral islands stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We would send postcards but the Post Office is only open for 2 hours 3 days a week (in common with the shops, bank, restaurants...) and we've missed them all. The locals are very friendly, there are currently 5 reef sharks circling under the boat! The water is beautifully clear so we are looking forward to a couple of days snorkelling before heading off for another long sail to Mauritius.
Saturday 1st October. Distance sailed: 21840 nM
Sara's e-mail(s) of the trip: "Dad, can you order us...."
After a lovely couple of days relaxing in Cocos we set off in good winds for Mauritius. It has been a swift (2071nM in 13 days) and rather wet (big waves and a few squalls) trip. Thanks to the constant wind we have time for a weekend break on Rodriguez before finishing the passage to Mauritius.
For some reason we seem to have been a major attraction for thrill seeking (suicidal?) ocean fauna. A large number of flying fish have met their ends landing on the decks, as did one rather extraterrestrial looking squid. Most dramatically a rather foolhardy sea bird attempted to land on the wind generator causing one of the blades to break off. I think the bird came off worst. Annoyingly with the weather as it was the wind generator had been doing sterling work, keeping the batteries charged without the help of the engine. We also had a whale breach directly alongside as we surfed down a wave. Fortunately it was happy not to come any closer, I wouldn't like to predict which of us would come off worst if it had!
With the broken outhaul car, wind generator blade and a leaky toilet (thanks to one of us, i.e. not me, trying to flush a kitchen roll down it) it is a good job that our mobile chandlery (aka Ma and Pa) will be arriving in Mauritius shortly!
Thursday 6th October. Distance sailed: 22190 nM
Hooray! Have arrived in Mauritius and found and internet cafe that will let us update the website! Now for a couple of weeks Rest, Relaxation & Repairs. The stories will appear here after we have had some sleep and food!
Monday 17th October. Distance sailed: 22190 nM
Apologies for the delay in the update, but we've been ruining ourselves with some serious eating and sleeping since arriving in Mauritius. It shouldn't have taken this long to recover, but we're not rushing ourselves. To keep you all up to date with our ordeals the last, enroute to Mauritius, involved the alternator deciding to pack up just after we left Rodriguez. For those of you who are keeping up with us, you'll realise that normally this should not have been a serious problem, except for the wind generator already having been sabotaged. Anyway, it meant that we had to conserve all our power to ensure we could start the engine on arrival to Port Louis. It was good to see that the contingency plan worked well and thanks to Peter and Dan for the GPS wedding present!!
We have to thank Raymond, my aunts brother in law, who came to see us and instantly made phone calls to sailing friends to find the right people to start the repairs. He then took us out for a great afternoon of sightseeing around the island.
Also the support team of Sara's family arrived last weekend, weighed down with spares, guide books and some presents - thanks to all. Also a big thanks to Sara's Nanny from all of us for funding a meal out or 3!!! Yes it really is that cheap here.
The boat is almost ship shape once more. We're having a great holiday, a bed that stays still, a kitchen (with fridge AND freezer), ice and sunbeds. Even immigration have now let us stay for more than 2 weeks, but after Sara went to see them they insisted the skipper made an appearance, it's good to know I still have some uses!!
Anyway, another weeks holiday to be had, then we look to the final leg of the Indian Ocean, crossing to South Africa.
Tuesday 25th October. Distance sailed: 22213 nM
After a very relaxing break, Sara's family have left us and returned to their respective parts of the Emerald Isle. We've had a few days to get used to the idea that we have to continue sailing. We stocked up with a small mountain of food, while we had access to a car and a very large supermarket. All of the jobs on the boat have been completed and tomorrow we are going to get back into the routine, firstly trying to complete all the formalities associated with leaving and make a quick trip to Reunion, our last island in the Indain Ocean before continuing on to Africa. We should be there for only a few days before departing.
Monday 31st October. Distance sailed: 22347nM
Pete's thought of the night: "Is this a road?..."
After a pleasant overnight sail, supplemented y a bit of motoring we arrived at Reunion. Since we didn't want to stress ourselves too much we decided to stop for a few days. The check-in formalities were a dream, 1 form and a quick chat with customs on the boat (this mainly involved the Customs man staring at our passports in amazement and asking questions about where he should go on holiday!). It is great to be (technically) back in Europe! Even better, the marina is free for the first week, including water and elctricity.
Foolishly we had let the family go back with all the tourist guides so we had to adopt our previous strategy of picking up all the free leaflets that can be found. Armed with one photocopied map of the immediate area, a photocopy of an ariel photo of the town (with important places marked in Tippex) and half a leaflet from a car hire place, we were set. First stop the car hire place where an amusing conversation in pigeon french (me) and pigeon english (them) ensued. An hour later and we had a car, a map and an itinery for the next 3 days. The car hire people were supremely helpful, although I did wonder why they insisted quite so many times that we should ring if there were any problems.
We set off for our afternoons activities in high spirits. These were quickly dampened by a long traffic jam, a wrong turn and the car starting to kangaroo hop up a steep hill. Pete assured me it wasn't just his driving so we about turned and revved our way back to the car hire place, learning en route that engine is 'moteur' and misfiring is 'rater' in french. Once back the car was rapidly exchanged for a newer model and we took the time to wonder why the firms pre-printed contracts did actually have a space specifically for writing in the details of the second car as well?!
After exploring a couple of seaside towns and markets on the first afternoon we got up early on Saturday morning to go and see the volcano. The people at the car hire firm had been very insistent that the best route was to drive round the island clockwise from where we are (Le Port), even though the anti-clockwise route looks (much) shorter. The first hitch occured at the capital, St Denis where we found that, in common with the rest of Europe, work on busy roads is carried out at the weekend. A long traffic jam and a quick diversion and we were off again.
It was as we travelled through picturesque towns with rutted roads that I began to realise our tourist map had only about a third of the actual roads marked on it and that many of these were in the wrong places. Having apparently missed 5 turnings for the volcano we also realised that our definition of a road (that you are willing to take a Peugeot 106 with a £500 excess up) is entirely at odds with the local definition of a road. Disheartened we stopped for lunch and to explore the picturesque town of St Pierre. One yell and an emergency stop en route through town found us outside a chandlery that actually sold sicaflex. This is very exciting for two reasons, one, we needed some and two, we had been unable to find any despite a thorough search of Mauritius and a large part of Reunion. Buoyed by our success we set out anew to find the volcano. The route was steep and winding but the views from the top were absolutely spectacular.
Yesterday was spent driving along more steep winding roads, this time to see the beautiful town and views at Cilaos up on a crater rim in the centre of the island. Here you really could see the French influence, Cilaos would not look at all out of place in the Alps. The views again were magnificent. Scarily the road up at times disappeared into the hillside on single track. Headlights were put on for illumination and to warn off any cars that should try to come the other way. Pete after commenting how dim our headlights were found that in fact he could see better if he took his sunglasses off. Dim headlghts or husband?
As if to add a postscript to our visit here we were driving along the motorway when there was a loud noise and the car started to rattle. The back tire had lost a large chunk of its re-treaded tread. The tire change was quickly achieved by Pete grunting a lot and me helpfully removing the hub cap and helping with the bolts. I feel that since I both got my hands dirty and broke a nail I must have contributed quite a large amount. I even remembered that we should tighten the bolts a second time once the weight of the car was back on the tyre. Did I ever tell you about the time Pete had just changed a wheel and the car started shaking whilst going round a roundabout en route to York...?!
Anyway that's all for now. Pete is currently filling the boat with water and later today we should be setting off for South Africa. Again, don't forget we love to get messages sent to the sat phone, we look every day and laugh at the gossip that's sent!! send message, 120 characters max, if the link doesn't work for you the address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday 11th November. Distance sailed: 23780nM
Pete's thought of the night: "Dear Neptune, please can we have less waves and a 10 degree wind shift?"
10 days has felt like several lifetimes!! Taking a break from sailing in Mauritius seemed to put us right out of practice, we both spent the first half of the trip pining for land and a good nights sleep. Before leaving Mauritius our friend Steve had given us a great new way of getting weather updates. The disadvantage of this was that once you know there is bad weather on the way (we found out on day 3 it would hit us on day 7!) you can't stop thinking about it.
The bad weather hit us right on cue (ie my Tuesday night shift). There was some spectacular lightening and the first half of my shift was spent steering to avoid the storm. Successfully achieving this and with only an hour of my shift to go I relaxed. What could happen in an hour? Two further electrical storms (one each side), a torrential downpour and a 100 degree wind shift associated with a 10 knot increase in wind speed later, my shift was thankfully over. My next one was not much better, caught in another downpour as the autohelm veered of course in a gust of wind. Soaked to the skin the fact that my oilies are no longer waterproof was reinforced. As the sun came up I decided to make myself a cup of coffee. Sat on deck looking very much like a drowned rat the Nescafe ad came into my head "I can see clearly now the rain has gone...". Smiling to myself I looked up.....
During this trip I have found comedy in shouting for Pete's assistance when he is in compromising positions. Needless to say Pete finds this less amusing than I do and the last time I tried it gave me a lecture about the boy who cried wolf. I maintained that he would know if there really was a problem. After looking up and thinking for a few seconds I went down below and gently woke Pete, calmly asking if he could come up and give me some advice. I have never seen anyone jump out of bed so quickly (point proved I think). The problem found on looking upwards was that one of our lower shrouds (the wires that hold the mast up), was unravelling itself. This was not good, especially since it was on the side taking the majority of the load. We quickly reduced our sail area and started motor sailing. It has been a long and tedious 3 days since. Fortunately the wind and current, initially our enemies, swang round beautifully on cue to drop us off at Richards Bay. So here we are, we've been inspected by the police, passed by immigration and are now awaiting Customs, then I think we'll go out for lunch...