Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Australia 2 Sydney to Adelaide

Australia 2 Sydney to Adelaide

Heading out from Sydney it felt good to be back offshore with a destination and a plan. Australia, up to that point, had been a bit confusing for us. We knew we had to remain south of the cyclone belt, but our Visas and plan basically ran out after Christmas. Having resolved the Visa issue, and now having formulated a plan that held excitement and progression, we were all feeling much better and with the wind in our sails we started on our journey south and round to Adelaide.

Having watched the wind carefully while in Australia, I knew that the grib files were often inaccurate and that most afternoons a strong sea breeze could easily add 15 kts to forecast, wind speed. We had a number of weather systems to progress through, and with cold fronts rolling through the southern ocean every 4 days or so we had to get our timing right if we wanted to have a fair passage.

Approaching Eden, the last port in New South Wales, we decided to pull in and let a southerly change come through. It would only take 24 hours but the wind would strengthen and shift from North through West to South then back up to the North East again. That would then stabilise and weaken for a few days giving us light offshore winds along the East part of Victoria, an exposed 250-mile leg to Wilsons Promontory. This is a notoriously ugly place if you get it wrong, but there is an anchorage that can be used to wait for clement conditions, or until the next front passes, so we had a fallback plan. There was another potential stop aprox mid way: a narrow Bar entrance leading to the Victoria lakes (Creatively called Lakes Entrance!) This would only be passable in very mild swell conditions and at the right time. We planned to have a look on route, and if feasible stop there for the next system to pass.

We left Eden at 6pm the 10th January with winds ENE at 10kts, all looking good. We rounded the corner and made our way into the Bass straight. The forecast was for light wind and by 2am in true Australian fashion it was blowing 30+ kts. No problem, just not forecast, but the sea was not threatening at 3m swells so we pushed on. As fast as it appeared it stopped and by 7am it was back to 15kts then decreased over the day, so by our approach to Lakes Entrance the wind was 5 kts offshore, mild (2m) swell conditions and the top of an incoming tide. Perfect for the Bar, so we made our way into the lake system, found a shallow, pretty anchorage and were all settled and secure by 5.30pm. We could now wait for the next weather system to pass, which looked like it would be a strong one and take a few days.

As the wind backed it became unbearably hot at 37 degrees. The water, at just 18 degrees provided welcome relief and we spent a few days at anchor, shopping and swimming.

It was noticeable that as the water temperature dropped heading out of Eden, the sea life became prolific. More often than not we had dolphins on the bow or around the boat, and there was plenty of bird life. The fishing was supposed to be excellent, but I guess, because of our speed during daylight, we didn't catch anything.

The forecast looked good so we headed back into the Bass straight on 14th Jan, unsure how far we would get but hopeing for Portland, 150 miles west of Melbourne, and 300 miles west of Lakes Entrance. There were a few options for default once past Wilsons Promontory, and with the weather looking mild I was confident we would make good progress before the next system rolled through the straight. We made steady way with light NE winds, which backed quickly to S then SSE then ESE, so well behind and at only 15kts we had good steady sailing.

After 40 hours we were 10 miles NE of King Island and pushing to exit the Bass straight. After downloading the latest weather it looked like we would be 8 hours short of Portland when the wind backed into the W at 25Kts. There was no way we wanted to be there when that happened. It's a dangerous coast with the swell rolling in from the Southern Ocean and hitting the continental plate squeezing into the 50 -80 meter depths available. The wind can also stiffen considerably as its funnelled between the Australian coast and Tasmania. Not the place to be, so we aborted and headed N for 35 miles to Apollo Bay and a pretty, secure harbour just under the lea of Cape Otway. We arrived before lunch, but as the wind freshened so our anchor dragged and we went alongside the harbour wall for security.

Luckily while in Eden, the boys and I had found a 3.5m plank on the beach. I had been keeping my eyes open for one, and while on passage I made a set of fender boards. Figuring that we were now off the popular cruising routes, we were really in fishing harbour territory and most mooring would be alongside piled wharfs, so fender boards would be needed. We pulled the new boards out and secured alongside without worries as the wind blew through the 30 kt range for 3 days.

We had a pleasant time in Apollo and met another cruising boat that had crossed from Perth. Over drinks on Pegasus they recounted their trip: 18 meter waves, dinghy being ripped from the davits, by the swell, mortal relief at arriving in Port Lincoln. Wow, not the sort of place I want to get stuck in. In passing they mentioned they had dragged their anchor in Esperance so the subject turned to their new purchase, a stockless anchor. I had not heard of these before, but rather like a fisherman's or Admiralty, it can penetrate hard sand, weed and rock, making it ideal for the South coast of Australia. I now knew, as I had suspected, I was going to need another anchor, and resolved to look for one in Adelaide..

Whilst alongside, a Cray fishing boat tried to come alongside the dock between us and another fishing boat. I was on the dock talking with the skipper and just couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was clear that he wouldn't make it, and as he aborted and reversed out hard, he clipped our bow scouring the paint and fibreglass. I wasn't very impressed.

Now understanding that all fishermen are "angry" I approached them and asked what they intended to do about it. Well they were pretty quiet, so I told them what their reaction would have been if I had done it to their boat. I left, making the point that it was ridiculous that they hadn't ask me to move, and fully expecting that that was the last I would hear from them. 10 minutes later the skipper came over full of apology carrying 2 huge Cray fish. What a kind gesture. They were enormous, at least 2-3kg each and provided 3 family meals for us without skimping. We had certainly had our fill of exceptional southern crayfish.

We waited in Apollo for the wind to ease and back for the next leg W then NW up into the gulf of St Vincent. This stretch of coast is practically dangerous and I wanted to get it right. It looked like the best plan was to take 12 hours of wind weather early giving us the 48 hours of settled weather from the south, which we needed to get up into the gulf, passed Kangaroo Island (KI) and up to Adelaide.

We set sail on 20th Jan into what turned out to be quite windy weather. It blew a good 25kts on the nose as we beat offshore past Cape Otway, trying to get off the plate and into deeper water. By 1700 the wind had backed from NW to SW and we tacked heading NW along the coast. It was pretty lumpy, those first few hours, and both boys were sick, which sometimes happens if we have been alongside and still, then get into lumpy seas on day 1. The following day the wind died off as expected and we made steady progress along the coast. The wind built up again and at dawn day 2 we had some pretty big winds. We were heading up to Kangaroo Island and the infamous backstairs passage (between KI and the mainland) another dangerous straight due to the tides and shallows.

Unexpectedly the wind built up all morning so by lunchtime it was blowing some 35+ kts, just aft abeam with 4 meter seas. For only the second time since leaving the UK I had to put 4 reefs in the main. For the very first time since leaving the UK I was struck by the strong feeling that this was really the wrong place for small children

We were really humming along, albeit with not many cards left in the deck, and were making good time. As we approached the Backstairs passage so the wind eased and seas flattened. By 2300 we were motoring into Antechamber bay (on KI) looking for a place to pull over for the night All was black and very dark and we felt our way in on instruments, anchoring in 5 meters of water. After messing about a bit we got the anchor to hold and settled down for a well-earned sleep. We had made it through the bass straight and were now, at just 80 miles, a hop and a skip away from Adelaide.

We decided to regroup before heading up to see my Father, so spent the following day in Kingscote on KI. After dinner ashore and a good nights sleep I was up early, slipped lines, and set sail for Adelaide. Being in the gulf we had flat water and a good 15-18 kts on the beam. With full rig we had a fantastic sail up the gulf, arriving at the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron at about 1600 on Sunday 24th January

After stowing the boat, my Father arrived at 1700 and we all had a merry time at the clubhouse. He met JJ and Louis for the first time and both boys gave him a wonderful hug. I was glad to see him much improved since I last saw him in December. He came on board and we all shared a lovely lasagne that Amanda had put together on the way up to Adelaide. The RSAYS is quite a way out from town and we planned to see him and my half brother and sisters over the next few days.

Tuesday 26th was Australia day. We all congregated at the clubhouse with a few others and had a long lazy BBQ. JJ and Louis swam and had great fun playing with their aunties, while Dad and I sat, ate, drank and talked.. We all had a memorable day together.

The general plan had been to stay in Adelaide for a month working on Pegasus and to take her out of the water for antifouling etc. It became apparent early on that there was not the facility to haul Pegasus at the RSAYS. It was a great shame but we were just the wrong shape for their lifting system. I sorted some electrics, replaced engine mounts and found a second hand Admiralty anchor, exactly the right size. I think it had been waiting for us. We did many other small jobs during our 2 weeks there and had a hire car for running around. We spent a few enjoyable afternoons and evenings with Dad and generally just enjoyed each other's company around the boat or at his place in town.

The days were flying past and I was starting to get concerned that we were running out of time (stable summer weather patterns) to get across the Great Australian Bight and round to Perth. We had finished as much work as we could so I felt it was time to push on. We would set sail before dawn on Monday 8th February.

As we couldn't antifoul, I scrubbed Pegasus as my last job. I wanted the boat to be as fast as possible getting across the bight. In addition we took Silver the Optimist, off Pegasus and left her, along with other items, in a chandlery in Adelaide. We had great fun in silver, but, although a great idea, we actually only used her occasionally and she was pretty heavy to lug around. I couldn't see us using her for at least 6 months so she had to go. Pegasus was delighted and felt light and responsive again. A good move. We were ready to go.

Sunday came and I planned that we should all have lunch in the Club which was busy hosting a kids day in aid if charity. We had a lovely table for 9 in a fine setting and all settled down for a great lunch. Oysters, steak, a rather good cheese board and good company made for a memorable day. We retired to the lawn where there was a band and a bouncy castle for the kids. I sat with my father and we mused about life, both conscious that this could well be the last time we saw each other. We said goodbye and both felt sad that we had to part so soon. It had been 6 years since we last saw each other. We both agreed that what we really needed was a couple of weeks together just to let the questions and answers flow.

Its one of the strange and sad things about cruising that there are so many goodbye's.

Although things transpired against us a little, I carry fond memories of our time in Adelaide and feel pleased that we all made the effort to see each other, and for him to meet his grandchildren I hope, while we are still in Australia, we make the opportunity to see each other again.

A still Monday morning, just glowing on the pre dawn, saw us slip lines and glide out of Adelaide on dark glassy seas. We wanted to get south early, as the sea breeze sucks the air up the gulf, giving strong southerly winds from midday onwards. Further south there is less effect. We were keen to sample some of the great cruising in South Australia so headed back to Kangaroo Island and found a beautiful anchorage in Emu bay on the North side of the island. White sand under crystal clear, turquoise water. Fantastic, the only drawbacks being that these waters are the breeding grounds of the great white shark, so absolutely no swimming off the boat or in deep water. The Beach looked safe enough, (watch out for the snakes) so we went ashore, all swam and took a long walk down the beach. It felt great to be back out there.

The cruising in the 2 gulfs is wonderful, and on route to Port Lincoln, our departure point for the bight, we spent 8 nights at anchor in 6 anchorages and 3 islands. We reprovisioned in PL and, while waiting on weather, headed out to the Sir Joseph Banks group to see the islands and spend a few days on the beach.

All through SA the sea life was plentiful and visible, with daily sightings of dolphin, shark, fish, sealion and plenty of birds, although no Albatross. We had last seen them approaching KI in late January. I was hopeing that we would see them again when we returned to the fringe of the southern ocean, on our immanent passage to Western Australia.

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Monday, 22 February 2010

Australia 1, Bundaberg to Sydney

Australia 1, Bundaberg to Sydney

WE arrived in Bundaberg on 26th October 2009.

As part of the Port to Port rally we were welcomed with open arms and after completing customs, quarantine and immigration formalities we settled down to a week of parties and social with our friends from across the Pacific. Taking the opportunity of available mechanics and supplies, I serviced the engines, completed some maintenance and had some additional Bimini and hatch covers made to keep the aggressive Australian sun at bay.

While it's relatively straightforward to obtain a cruising permit for a foreign flag vessel, many of our Australian friends were faced with a mountain of paperwork, formality and cost to import their boats, and those who's trip had finished were wrestling with the emotion of selling their boats and returning to life on land. This lead to some good parties and emotional farewells.

After a week or so in Bundy we headed south down the inside passage of Fraser Island. We stopped with our friends the Blues and spent a peaceful few days at anchor at the Kingfisher resort and Garry's anchorage. Being inside the island we had an opportunity to watch the weather and gauge the accuracy of the weather forecasts before we headed out through Wide Bay Bar, our first Bar crossing in Australia, and notoriously dangerous exit into the Coral sea.

As with any new cruising area, there are local techniques that the newcomer must learn. Crossing the Bar is an East coast classic. In essence the East cost has a number of harbours that are accessed through river mouths. The seaward side of the entrance tends to silt up causing a shallow area on which the offshore swell breaks. If the tide is ebbing, this can cause a violent short sea, dangerous to small craft. The trick is to cross the bar with an incoming tide and low swell conditions, making the passage safer. This makes timing arrival at refuge a key part of the passage plan and with the changeable Australian weather was another factor in our cautious approach to cruising the East coast.

We left Wide Bay Bar without incident and headed South for the day arriving at Mooloolabar late afternoon. We had arranged to meet our friends on Vagabond Heart and were welcomed by Bill and Debbie standing on the harbour wall waving. After mooring Pegasus we all went to the Park next to the marina and had a great evening BBQ. The Australians encourage outdoor activities and most parks will have free BBQ's and a play area. We spent many happy evenings in the park, eating with our friends and letting the children play into the night.

Mooloolabar is a great place for cruisers. There are all the usual facilities and services, the town and shops are close and there is a park between the Marina and the Beach, which happens to be only 150 meters away and have great surf on it. We planned to stay a while and meet Amanda's parents there. They had arrived in Sydney and were travelling north to spend some time with us all. Another issue that needed sorting were Jean-Jaques teeth.

During the last ocean passage of the Pacific, JJ had developed toothache. After taking him to the dentist in Bundaberg, it became apparent that this was not a straightforward issue and that he needed to see a paediatric dentist. There was all sorts of talk about general anaesthetic, multiple crowns and extractions, which we found pretty worrying. After some time in the "Consultation and referral" stage we found a great dentist some 20KM from Mooloolabar who, after our consultation, was confident that she could give him 3 crowns without a GA, using gas and air. This was a relief, as our insurance was not that comprehensive, and we didn't want JJ to have a GA if it could be helped. The work was completed successfully without incident and we were delighted that we had finally resolved this issue and could move on without worrying about his teeth and any pain he may be in.

Amanda's parents arrived and we all had a great time both on the boat and in their campervan, which the boys loved. They had rented a large campervan and driven North staying at various campsites, and on arrival in Mooloolabar found a campsite just 5 minutes walk from the marina. Perfect for all. The boys really enjoyed seeing Granny and Grandpa, and much fun was had in the surf, on the beach, BBQing and eating out. WE all spent a memorable day at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo where JJ and Louis fed kangaroos and elephants and generally saw and touched Australian wildlife. Amanda's father, who had spent some time living in the bush in his youth, let us know which animals tasted good and which to avoid. I found it fascinating, but I hope we don't have to use the information at any point in our travels!!!

We had a plan to have Christmas in Sydney with Vagabond Heart, Lucey Blue and my Father. The Production company had wanted to film my Father meeting his grandchildren for the first time and so I had bought tickets for him to fly to Sydney and join Pegasus from 21st to 30th December and time was pushing on.

Early on the 27th November we headed south with the plan to meet Amanda's parents in Distinction Bay where we thought we could moor Pegasus and they could camp. After leaving early we arrived there in the afternoon and Bob and Yvonne were not far behind. We took the BBQ ashore and had a great evening with a fire on the beach and lovely food. The following day we swan, BBQ'ed and had fun on the river. This would be our last day in the bush, as we planned to head into Brisbane the following day and the nearest campsite to the marina was some 10km away.

We left early and arrived in the mouth of the Brisbane river at 10am. There is a marina right in the heart of Brisbane, some 10 miles up the river, and by 12am we were tied up alongside in the centre of the city. I was surprised and pleased to see our old friend Ian on Mikado in the marina, along with a few other boats we knew. It had all the makings of a good party, and the first night Ian and I put the world to rights, although we never did find the Rum thief!!!

Bob and Yvonne had another day or two with the campervan, so the boys went and stayed with them and had a ball. They were to spend their final 5 nights on board Pegasus before flying back from Brisbane. Some 15 miles to the west on Morton Island was the Tangalooma wild Dolphin resort. This looked like a suitable place to anchor for a few nights and enjoy the beach. We had a straightforward passage and with some messing around managed to drop the hook securely opposite the resort.

It was the 3rd December and Amanda's birthday. After some discussion as to weather to stay in Brisbane and go out, or go to the resort, Amanda decided that she wanted to get out of Brisbane for a few days. After presents, Champagne and fun, we decided that I would take Amanda for dinner in the resort. Well the Wild Dolphin Resort was not exactly as we imagined. The Wild Dolphins were fed every night by up to 300 Japanese tourists waiting in line to feed the dolphins while a photographer took the all important souvenir photo. After watching for a moment or two we were asked to move on, and after that, we found that we were not welcome at the resort. We couldn't buy a drink and we certainly couldn't have dinner in the empty restaurant. Quite incredible, and we were a little shocked. There's something slightly unnerving when the unwritten rules of capitalism are flouted and you and your money are unwelcome. We later found out that this has been a resort policy for years and only resort guests were welcome after 6.30pm. In all the resorts we have been to over the last year we have always been welcome: it's just a shame that we couldn't celebrate Amanda's birthday at the Tangalooma "not so" wild "its 6 o clock I'm feeling peckish" Dolphin resort.

We were, however, welcome during the day, and after a few great beach days we headed back to the mainland and the lea of Woody point, expecting a windy night. The following day we headed back to Brisbane centre as Bob and Yvonne had some shopping to do and we wanted to go to a few museums and art galleries.

It was whilst I was with the Boys in the maritime museum that I received the call from my Half Brother Daniel. Dad had suffered a stroke and was in Hospital in Adelaide. Well, not sure how to take the news I decided that I should fly to Adelaide without delay. The next morning I was in the hospital with Dad, and although shocking, it was apparent that he had been extremely lucky. By an act of God he had manage to call an ambulance and get his front door open to get to hospital. IN terms of severity, it was by all accounts a mild stroke but with significantly disabillitating medium term effects. It was also a shock for all the family, and now, 2 months later, he is doing much better, and we hope will make a full recovery.

I spent a week in Adelaide with Dad and his Australian children, and flew back to Brisbane where Amanda and the boys had been keeping busy with the many museums and attractions that central Brisbane offered. Amanda's Parents had flown home, so we were back as a family again and thinking about heading off to Sydney for Christmas and New Year. The time pressure was now off as there was no way Dad could fly and then handle being on the boat for a week. What a shame. I was particularly upset as this had been in planning for a while: We would have to sail to Adelaide to see him in the New Year.

We set off from Brisbane on 14th Dec heading south along the inside of Sandy Island to the Bar exit at Southport. The weather was fine so we decided to push south for Sydney. WE exited the Bar at Southport at 9.30pm and sailed south in light winds close hauled. After 2 days it looked like we in for a blow so we decided to head into Camden Haven, a quiet town some 150 miles N of Sydney. WE arrived as the wind picked up, got through the Bar without incident, and anchored in the River opposite the town of Lauriston. .

Lauriston was lovely, a quiet country town with all amenities within easy reach. There was even a swimming pool that, we all enjoyed in the windy but hot weather. Saturday night and a cruisers drinks party on the dock introduced us to the other boats at anchor. We all had a jolly time and good social with the first Australian cruisers we had met since arriving in October. On Sunday we went to the local Market, which was just fantastic, bought some provisions for our next passage and a few Christmas gifts, then went back to Pegasus.

On our way back the faithful 15hp outboard just died. No rhyme or reason just stopped working. Now outboards are not that complicated, if it has spark, fuel and air it should go. Nearly always the issue is the carburettor, but after stripping it, soliciting help from experienced cruisers and stripping it again, there was ho way I could get it going. Oh well, plan B, take it to a Yamaha dealer in Sydney. We had our little 2hp, so we still had transport.

We set sail on 20th Dec bound for Pittwater, some 15miles N of Sydney, where our friends on Vagabond Heart lived. 24 hours later and we sailed into Refuge bay picking up a buoy alongside the Vagabonds. Within minutes the children were all on the beach and the adults drinking coffee, catching up on events of the last month.

After 5 years sailing, the vagabonds had arrived back in their homeport, and we listened with interest at how they were managing their integration back into the shore-based life. Debbie had returned to her work as a doctor, and Bill was working part time with some old colleagues in Management consultancy. The Children had been to their new schools for induction and would start the new term after Christmas. They had decided to keep living on Vagabond Heart for consistency, and they still had a good let in their house. Remarkably, after only a little teasing, their car was still operational, so they were all set. We thought they had managed the situation very well and lessons were learnt and filed for our return to the UK.

The plan was to spend Christmas in Pittwater and then head to Sydney for fireworks on New Years Eve. The Film company were still keen to film our arrival in Sydney as the end of the programme, so it was arranged that Ben the Cameraman would arrive in Pittwater on 29th Dec to sail down and through the harbour with us. Christmas was a little damp, but we all had great fun on the beach, and were joined by our friends the Blues who had sold their boat and were due to head back to Norway imminently. It was quite a party and everyone had a great time with presents, god food and bonhomie

Ben arrived on schedule, but the wind was not perfect so we spent a rough and windy morning sailing the 15 miles south to Sydney. Arriving in the harbour close behind the vagabonds we sailed past the shore side cameraman, Opera house and under the Harbour bridge. It felt quite surreal to be in Sydney, literally the other side of the world from our base in Cowes.

An old friend from the Isle of Wight, now living in Singapore, was in Sydney with his family and we had arranged to all have lunch together. We were a little delayed, but at 2pm we picked up a buoy off Mcmahones point and I went ashore to pick up Tim and Yulin and their family. We were pleasantly surprised to see Tim's father with him and after getting everyone onboard we had a great lunch party, eating, drinking and swimming. There was much merriment and it was great to see everyone and have them on board Pegasus. We will see them all again in Asia I'm sure.

Late afternoon we said our goodbyes and headed up to Athol Bay where we planned to raft up with the Vagabonds and watch the fireworks the following evening.

Another good party and spectacular fireworks saw in the New Year. Sadly that really marked the end of our time with the friends we had made in the Pacific.

We said farewell as the vagabonds departed back to Pittwater leaving us in Sydney to prepare for our passage south. I had a number of issues to sort out with Pegasus, not least of all buying a new outboard. The old faithful 15hp was terminally ill, or rather the dealers couldn't find the fault. After much deliberation the best option was to purchase a new one, so that was a priority when the shops opened after the New Year break. In addition I had some fibreglass repairs to make and items to purchase before we headed off again.

As I worked on Pegasus, Amanda took the boys to the sights around Sydney. We had anchored in Rozelle bay; right by the fish markets, so were in the centre of town. Amanda toured the Fish market early one morning to watch the fish being auctioned, while I took the boys for breakfast, then on to the Immigration offices to sort out our visas for a further 7 months. After a few hours we miraculously organised our visas, and we set for the full term of our intended stay in Australia.

Our Cameraman Ben was still in town, and as this was the last sequence to be filmed, it was the end of the production from our side. We arranged to meet up and all had an extravagant dinner in darling harbour to celebrate, what we hoped, was a job well done. It was now up to the skilled series producer James Nutt to make the programme, and I'm sure that it will reflect, in many ways, the spirit of our adventure. (The programme will be aired sometime in 2010, on channel 4 and is part of the series called "Family Gap Year". I'll keep you posted.)

By the 8th January we were ready and the weather looked good. A little apprehensive of our forthcoming endeavour, we slipped out of Sydney heads early with 15kts on the starboard quarter. Great sailing conditions, but things change quickly in Australia and without warning. We were headed south and unsure how far we would get before the next southerly change would find us looking for shelter.

The cards had been laid when my Father had his stroke. We were bound for Adelaide and see what it was like down south and spend some time with my father. After that we could head back to the east coast and backtrack, or, if the weather looked good, head over to Perth, an altogether more challenging and appealing option. Once across the Great Australian Bight, 1000 miles of lea shore in the southern ocean!! We could slowly make our way up the west coast, through the remote Kimberly region (Crocodile country) and try and be in Darwin for July. That had the makings of a good plan so off we went south to see just how big those waves get in the Bass straight and Southern Ocean!!!

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