Australia: Reunions and fun whilst out and about in Sydney

Thursday afternoon (28 November) we arrived into Sydney domestic airport from Brisbane having enjoyed the short Qantas flight. We got our luggage quickly and headed to the nearby Holiday Inn for the night which was functional at best and both of us were disappointed that there wasn’t a bath in the room. Oh well, never mind, at least there was unlimited hot water LOL. We had a lazy afternoon and evening followed by an early night. Was lovely though just to relax.

Friday morning after a surprisingly good breakfast we returned to the airport and collected our hire car which was pretty nice, a Holden Equinox.

We headed out towards Erina Fields having travelled through various tunnels to escape Sydney. Once we had left the City behind the traffic was pretty light and we were amazed by the roads cutting straight through limestone hills.

We were heading to my nephew Jamie’s house in Green Point for the weekend but, on the way, we picked up Christmas presents for the kids (and the new puppy Budd) and enjoyed wandering around the shops for a while. Then we headed to Jamie’s and had a very emotional reunion after a seven year long gap. But it felt like it was only yesterday since we had last seen each other, which was absolutely lovely! We caught up over a cup of tea and carried all our gear upstairs to our room. Jamie and the family had purchased this house about six months ago and it was a really great place. Felt so proud of what they had achieved since making the decision to emigrate to Australia all those years ago.

Soon the kids turned up with Hayley – Jack said that he remembered us but Adam was only a babe in arms last time so wasn’t expecting him to. They appeared pretty comfortable around us though and we had lots of hugs and played games with them. Later on we had a BBQ dinner in the garden listening to the noise of the chicades…. The bush fires were close to them the previous week when they were threatened with evacuation so it was quite a relief that they managed to get that one under control although you could still smell the smoke in the air. Was a lovely evening.

Saturday we had breakfast then headed out in the cars to Terrigal. Sadly because of the smoke haze and the cloudy conditions we didn’t see it at its best. But it is a really pretty seaside place and we enjoyed delicious ice creams before heading back.

In the afternoon Adam had a Parkour demonstration to take part in so Hayley took both of the kids and we headed out to the Erina waterfront to a rather nice restaurant with Jamie and had a lovely lunch. In the evening we had great fish and chips from the local shop. It was a very busy day but was a lot of fun!

Sunday morning we all headed out to Davistown to the Dart and Feather for breakfast. Great food and ambience. Coming back we chilled for a while while Budd decided to chew us to death – his puppy teeth are really sharp. He is such a cutie though you couldn’t get angry with him just doing what comes naturally LOL.

In the afternoon Jack went off for a birthday party with some friends while I popped out shopping with Hayley for ingredients for dinner. When we got back I got on with preparing dinner whilst Hayley and Jamie caught up with some stuff they needed to do. Richard and I then just chilled in front of the TV (and yes being a puppy chewing bone again!) until the family returned. In the afternoon we enjoyed some more games (with Jack surprised at our skill at Super Mario LOL) before having dinner and a chilled evening with Jamie and Hayley.

Monday morning and it was time to say goodbye. But this time we knew it wasn’t for long as we plan to base ourselves in Australia next year and will obviously see them again soon. We had great big hugs from the boys before they headed off to school. It had been such a lovely weekend.

We drove back to Sydney airport to return the car and, of course, the guy claimed that some of the damage was done by us. We managed to persuade him that this was incorrect when we showed him photos that we had taken on delivery of the car – thankfully he accepted this evidence. All very stressful though! Having finally relieved ourselves of the car we met our booked driver to take us into the City. We were pleasantly surprised by our one-bedroomed apartment in Surry Hills – it was really lovely, large and well-equipped including full kitchen, dishwasher, washing machine and tumble drier. So we took the opportunity straight away of doing some laundry LOL.

We got ourselves settled in then headed into the City. We walked down to Central, purchased our Opal cards and topped them up (they cover all trains, buses and public ferries) and found the information centre. Armed with maps we then headed to the waterfront and enjoyed a nice bottle of wine sitting on the dock. The City was full of smoke so the sunset was pretty hazy. Afterwards we headed back to our apartment via the local supermarket for basic supplies and then had an early night.

Tuesday morning we were up early and caught the bus and the double-decker train to North Sydney where we met Peter who Richard used to work with in London about 15 years ago. We had a nice catch up with him over a coffee.

Afterwards we headed back down to the wharf and went on a Captain Cook’s Cruise around the harbour, admiring the sights and sounds of the City which was being dwarfed by a cruise ship. Thankfully by now the smoke had started to clear up a bit so we were able to enjoy the wonders of the huge Sydney bay area.

After the cruise we wandered Darling Harbour which was fun. It is a really buzzy sort of place and we had a few happy hour beers in one of the waterfront hostelries.

We were both hankering after a Chinese meal though so decided to take ourselves off to Chinatown and found all the tourists queuing to get into the highly-rated restaurants (on Trip Adviser). So we followed our normal instinct which is to seek out where the locals eat and found a pretty scruffy little Chinese which served absolutely fantastic food. After dinner we headed back to our apartment pretty exhausted by a full day (and laden with takeout boxes).

Wednesday morning we headed out early to St James Station to pick up a coach tour waiting by the spectacular fountain.

This covered a lot of ground and we saw lots – from Mrs Maquerie’s Chair to Bondi Beach – but it really wasn’t enough time in any one place to explore. But it certainly gave us a taster of what Sydney has to offer and we look forward to returning next year to see the City in more depth.

After the tour we visited St Margaret’s Cathedral which was pretty stunning…..followed by the SydneyTower Eye inside the huge up-market Westfield shopping mall. But it wasn’t worth paying to go through to the observation deck as the smoke was dense again and visibility was poor.

Having wandered the mall for a while we then headed over to the Rocks, a historic district. We had a look around and had a snack before heading to the Glenmore Hotel. We had arranged to meet Sam (who used to work in London with Richard and is now based here) and Mark her fiance. We also met up with Matt who I used to work with in London.

So we had a very social and boozy time catching up. Was a lovely end to a great trip. We thoroughly enjoyed Sydney and look forward to spending more time there in future.

Thursday morning (5 December) we were up early, did our final bit of laundry and packed. We then checked out and waited for our booked car to the airport. We arrived too early to check in with Qatar Airways so had brunch before queuing for the desks to open. Finally they were manned and we shuffled along. Checked in we headed to the Duty Free and Richard bought a new unlocked Samsung phone as his old one had finally died. My old iPhone is on its way out too so looks like Christmas presents are sorted LOL.

We then waited for our first long flight of the day to Doha, Qatar. Sadly it was delayed by almost an hour but we were kept informed and eventually boarded. Eventually we took off and settled down. The flight was very busy but it was quite comfortable and we enjoyed the huge seat-back screens, large entertainment on-demand, plus lots of good food and drink during the 17 hour flight. Eventually we landed at Doha and, because of the delay, we had to move quickly to our next gate. We got through security again and waited to be boarded – thankful we had made it on time. This flight was on time and we took off again for another 7 hour flight. More food and great service until, eventually, on Friday morning (London time) having been flying for 24 hours we landed at Gatwick airport pretty exhausted.

We got our bags quickly (very pleased that they had made the tight turnaround in Qatar), cleared immigration, customs, then headed outside to meet Alison who was driving us home. It was cold and raining…..although, apparently, we were lucky as it was actually about 10 degrees earlier than the day before! Brrrr…… And, so we were home again.

Will do another blog soon to reflect on this year’s sailing season.

Bye for now


Australia: Final days with Morpheus in Coomera

Thursday morning we were up really early as we wanted to get our sails off before the wind kicked in. First was the staysail which we dropped to the deck and then pulled it over the rail onto the dock where it was flaked and put into the sail bag. Next in line was the genoa, a much bigger sail, but all went well. Finally it was the turn of the main. This is never that easy with just the two of us as we have to remove vertical battens as the sail is lowered. But all went to plan and we both breathed a sigh of relief that they were all flaked, bagged and ready to go. During this exercise we identified a few areas of wear and tear that need addressing. In discussion with Evolution Sails (who are Rally partners who confirmed a discounted rate) they agreed to collect them on Friday. This is their “busy” season but this didn’t cause us a problem as we are returning home for Christmas. They confirmed they were happy to do any identified and agreed repairs and then store them for us until we return next year. Such great people to deal with!

Next job on the list was to get the diesel jugs off the rail so that we could wash and wax the topsides. We were just getting ourselves sorted when this guy walks up and asks if my name is Jan?!? Replying in the affirmative he then rushed off…..leaving me slightly bemused….then returned with an Eski filled with a selection of local cold beers. These beers were a gift from our friend Dave (back in the UK) and it was his uncle, Peter Thompson, who delivered them (he lives in Brisbane). We had a nice time chatting to him (although slightly embarrassed by the state of ourselves and the boat at this stage LOL) and thanked him so much for the visit. Thanks Thomo, great surprise and much appreciated.

After Peter’s brief visit we masked up the capping rail and eyebrows ready for varnishing. Weather had stopped us doing this earlier in the season so we decided to change our plans and organised to be lifted first into the Works Yard (on Friday) before being moved again to Long-Term Storage (where working on the boat is not allowed). The BoatWorks were incredibly responsive to all requests and it was very simple to get the arrangements changed. We were very impressed with their ability to be flexible to accommodate us.

Masking completed we then dropped dink into the water and stripped him bare and stowed everything away. Then we cleaned dink’s topsides before turning him over to give his hull a clean too. Finally all done we hoisted him onto the bow ready for storage. We didn’t strap him down or cover him with tarp at this stage as we need to keep the rail area clear for varnishing. Final job for the day was to install the mast cover which we use when Morphie is being left on the hard. That was it for the day – it had been a long and tiring one so we just had dinner, a couple of sundowners, and retired for an early night as both of us were physically shattered.

Friday morning and Evolution Sails came along just after 7am as promised. We were getting ourselves organised to get lifted later on when EnaVigo came in and were lifted up. Jody and Steve had won a good prize in the Rally welcome week so it made sense that they would lift here to get a few problems resolved. Was great to see them again.

At 9.30 am we were heading towards the lift only to be told to come in backwards… Richard went back out into the river, turned around, and reversed in. All went well and we were soon properly fitted into the strops using our labelled lifting points (something we had done in New Zealand). We also tied the two strops together to ensure that the forward one didn’t slip on our keel. Job done we were slowly lifted out of the water and dangled above the dock where they pulled up some steps to let us off. We got off (having remembered to switch off the fridge and freezer first) and watched Morphie be moved slowly into the wash down area.

She was pretty clean so we were very happy with that. We had a coffee while Morphie was being jet washed and then followed her progress to her position in the Works Yard where she was placed into her cradle. Lots of boat movements going on all the time here in the yard.

It went all very smooth and, despite these being anxious moments, it was very professionally done and we were unusually relaxed. Thanks guys!

We were then given some steps so, around noon, we climbed back on board. No climbing ladders here, what a luxury! This place is amazing with over 40 businesses on site and you could certainly spend a fortune if you didn’t want to do the work yourselves – boats are constantly being lifted or splashed. But I think you would need very very deep pockets LOL.

Then the hard work started. We rubbed down the wood in preparation for the first coat of varnish. Richard started varnishing while I headed to the (free to use) Liveaboard Ensuite facilities to get cleaned up. There are a number of these all around the boatyard, are impeccably clean, and there is lashings of hot water. Lovely!

When I came back Richard had almost finished varnishing the rail (but decided to leave the eyebrows until the morning) so I packed up a cooler with food and drinks and headed to the Cruisers BBQ area on the waterfront.

I met Steve and Jody there and Richard joined us shortly afterwards. It is quite a meeting place this area and is very social despite it being a bit buggy.

Saturday morning, Richard got up early to varnish the eyebrows. After that we did some laundry in one of the laundry areas (which are also complimentary) and then headed to the on-site restaurant, The Galley, for breakfast. Was absolutely delicious.

We then returned to Morphie and started rubbing down the rail. I kept an eye on the time and ran back to the laundry room a few times to swap stuff in and out. Eventually we finished rubbing down the rail and then started on the eyebrows which had dried quickly in the heat. Richard started varnishing again whilst I rested up as my back was starting to complain a bit.

After he had finished applying the second coat we got cleaned up and then headed to the BBQ area and bumped into Mark on Makluska. He had had a difficult passage as his yacht had started taking on water 150 miles off the coast of Australia which resulted in equipment being airlifted to him which enabled him to come into Coomera under his own steam. Coomera is not an official port of entry but, as he was officially a ‘vessel in distress’ it was allowed and he was cleared in situ in the boat yard. Quite a story and very pleased that all ended well for him. It was pretty late when we returned to Morphie, had dinner, and went straight to bed.

Sunday morning we were up very very early. The heat during the day here is pretty difficult to work in and the deck is so hot you can’t actually walk on it! So we wanted to start rubbing down as early as possible. By 9 am we were pretty much done with the sanding and I went and got cleaned up. I left Richard finishing off while I went off with Mark in his courtesy car to the bottle shop as our supplies were depleted.

By 11 am I was back with tinnies and some ice to keep them cool. We then had a small brunch and I started on this blog whilst Richard continued varnishing. In the evening we again went to the BBQ area and chatted to a few people before retiring for an early night completely shattered once again.

Monday morning and we rubbed down again then varnished for the final time. Then we removed all the canvas.

Afterwards we headed to Garage 25 for a complimentary pastry and coffee and admired the fantastic display of cars and motorbikes. The owner of the BoatWorks used to be a racing driver and this is his personal collection. He was actually in the cafe that morning – cleaning tables would you believe – and we were very lucky that he let us in to see the vehicles up close. What a guy!

In the afternoon we borrowed a courtesy truck (which are also complimentary to liveaboards in the boatyard) so that we could fill some diesel jugs and fill up our tank. We always try to leave the fuel tank full to avoid any condensation problems. I also cleaned some of the stainless….. Again another long, hot, physical day. In the evening we headed to the BBQ area and met up with Steve and Jo (fellow Island Packet owners on SV Tamanu) who had arrived into the marina earlier that day. Was lovely to catch up with them again.

Tuesday and we were up early. Again I was using the laundry while Richard went to collect our rented scissor lift as it was time to work on the hull. He wasn’t that comfortable using it to start with but soon got the hang of it.

So we both climbed in and went around (and up and down) peeling all the tape off and cleaned the stainless under the rail plus the rub rail. Then we went around again and washed and polished the hull. So she was now stripped bare and ready for storage. She looked pretty sparkly at the end. Thankfully that was it for the day!

Again we headed to the BBQ area and toughed it out with Steve and Jo despite the huge fat black mosquitoes that seem to like to bite us! Another early night followed.

Wednesday morning and it was time, at last, to work down below. We got our clothes out and packed our suitcases for going home plus the hand baggage sorted. We then prepared everything else for storage. We pickled the watermaker and made sure the water tank was full up as this was our last chance to do this. At 3pm Sid the travel lift turned up to move us from the Works Yard to the Long-Term Storage Yard. So we watched Morphie being transported across the road and into her final position.

The guys were very professional and made sure we were level to minimise any water sitting on the decks in our absence, including lifting Richard up on the fork lift to do the ‘water’ test.

We had showers and ate dinner before heading to the BBQ area for the final time. We were joined by Steve & Jody and Steve & Jo so had a fun evening, also being joined later on by Mark. We did take a selfie but Richard managed to cut both himself and me out of the picture LOL! Eventually it was time to say final fond farewells and return to Morphie for our last night on board.

This morning, Thursday, and we got out stuff off the boat and did a final clean around and check before heading to the showers. Then it was that sad moment of each season when we had to say farewell to our girl. Always makes me feel quite emotional! Take care Morpheus, thanks for looking after us this season, and enjoy your well-earned rest.

At around 8.45 we were eating a healthy fruit breakfast in The Galley. At 9.20 am the Uber turned up to take us to Brisbane airport. We had a good drive and arrived in good time. We checked in (although the computer said no a few times first annoyingly) and then enjoyed Qantas hospitality in their Business Class lounge whilst we awaited the flight. We are both pretty tired and are looking forward to relaxing in our Sydney airport hotel later.

We are really excited about going to Sydney not just to view the sights but also to have long-awaited reunions with both family and friends whilst there.

Bye for now


Australia: Bundaberg to Coomera (Sunshine Coast to Gold Coast)

Thursday morning we had a lazy start and just got ourselves ready to go to sea. In the afternoon we caught up with Norm to find out that his little dog Pip was poorly but he still entertained us royally in the Cruisers Cove over sundowners. Great singalong and even Pip seemed to rally at the end. This was all very impromptu and we were joined by Jody, Steve, Katie, Jeff and a few other people popped their heads in to see what was going on. Later on we headed back to Morphie for an early night.

Friday morning, at 4.55 am, we slipped away from Bundaberg marina and enjoyed a great sunrise as we made our way towards our chosen anchorage for the evening, the bottom of Great Woody Island in the Sandy Straights as we could get some shelter there from the forecasted freshening northerly winds.

We sailed along under genoa alone taking advantage of the rising tide to give us a lift from the strong currents. It was a rolly and hazy day. The reason for the haze became apparent when we saw the smoke plumes from the bush fires in Woodgate. Very sad for the people and the wildlife that is being devastated by the widespread fires here in Australia.

We arrived around 2.45 pm, set the anchor, having covered just over 52 miles. The sand was very good holding, thankfully, as the wind blew hard during the night.

On Saturday morning at 8.25 am we left to make the most of the rising tide so that we could navigate across the Sheridan Flats. The rest of the fleet (Bla Ellinor, EnaVigo, Mezzaluna, French Curve and Jonas) followed on behind as we made short work of the passage doing 7.3 knots in 7.5 knots of breeze!

We could leave earlier than the rest of the fleet due to the depth of our keel so could get across the shallows at an earlier stage of the tide than they could. Amazingly strong currents here as we navigated the twists and bends of the route. It would be much easier to navigate around here at low tide as you could see the sand banks and mud flats but, of course, then you couldn’t move anywhere!

Our destination was Garry’s Anchorage which is located on Fraser Island. This is a World heritage site although much of the interior is closed to hikers at the moment as it is tinder dry from the ongoing drought. We got a relatively sheltered anchoring spot near the shallows, having covered 25 miles, but the rest of the fleet ended up anchoring in a much more exposed position.

We all met on the beach for sundowners and, although Jeff (who had scoped out the beach and picnic area) told us there was nothing to worry about, the signs said otherwise LOL! Sadly we heard that little Pip had died so we all raised a glass in her memory. Was a nice social evening.

On Sunday morning we were off again at 8.15 am headed to Tin Can Bay. Again we were running downwind with the tide so were sailing in very light airs under genoa alone. It was a very bright day. Lovely. We dropped anchor in very shallow water and got a great set with fantastic holding. Which was a blessing later…….as the weather came in fast and furious.

There was thunder, lightning, howling winds over 30 knots, wind over tide, and torrential rain. Our anchor held (although we had to reset the snubber a couple of times) even though we did a couple of complete 360s in the horrendous conditions. Others were not so lucky and had to re-anchor a number of times in the deteriorating weather. Finally, by the evening, the situation moderated and the wind fell back to only 20 knots so we celebrated with a single can of beer each just in case it got bad again during the night and we needed to act.

Monday morning we decided to head down to Pelican Bay to stage for crossing the notoriously challenging Wide Bay Bar. Well, we travelled 7 miles there, admired a few sailing boats and fishing boats, dropped the hook, and looked around.

The conditions in the anchorage were dreadful and there was no way we were going to stay there the night. So we sailed the 7 miles back again enjoying watching the birdlife on the sandbanks on the return leg. This area has charter house boats and speed boats so the rules of the road certainly didn’t apply with many of them cutting us up and wanting to go starboard to starboard in the channel. Oh well….

Back in Tin Can Bay and it was more sheltered. We headed ashore to find the IGA for a few items that we were running low of and found some more interesting-looking birds. We then found a sleepy motel / bar and we all met there for sundowners (although Bla Ellinor were missing). This was to be our last social time together so it was a nice before we all go our separate ways.

Tuesday morning and we were up at the crack of dawn and headed ashore just before 7am. This is because this area has a pod of Australian humpback river dolphins. They are truly wild in the river and look quite different from the normal bottlenose breed. The story goes that, back in the 1950s, one of these river dolphins was badly injured and swam into Tin Can Bay. The locals felt sorry for it and fed it fish while it recovered its strength. This turned into a regular occasion and the pod now have learned behaviour and turn up every day at 7am to show off, be photographed (not touched!) and fed by their adoring public / volunteers. These are truly wild animals and are quite rare so it was lovely to see them up close and personal. Richard even fed Aussie one of the females who had a calf with her.

Oh yes and don’t forget the rescue cormorant who turns up every day hoping to steal some fish LOL.

After the dolphin experience we had a full breakfast (and were joined by another cheeky bird who fancied some bacon) and then headed into the Tin Can Bay Coastguard station, to find out what the conditions were on the Wide Bay Bar. The wind had just dropped dramatically and the conditions were incredibly benign.

So we rushed back to Morphie in dink. And we were accompanied by some dolphins! Amazing…..

Back onboard we got the outboard on the rail, dink on the arch, and ourselves ready. We headed out at the back of the mass exodus of boats taking the opportunity to cross in almost perfect conditions. We were at the back of the fleet as we were the slowest boat and had to punch a bit of tide during the initial stages.

We crossed the bar, and despite it being a bit rolly for the last mile, it was easy peasy. Yay! We had decided to continue down towards Brisbane and take the outside sea route for speed. This was a passage of about 140 miles to the Gold Coast Seaway and then another 20 odd miles through the canals to the marina. The conditions were pretty good although we could have done with more wind at times so had to motor sail at times to keep our speed up. The timing of this passage was crucial as we had to enter the Seaway on a rising tide and, again, this bar is also a notoriously dodgy place in the wrong conditions. So it was important that we kept on top of the speed.

As the sun set it was against a smoky backdrop and had a red hue. Storms were hitting the mainland and I saw two lightning strikes hit. Plus there was the sinister night glow of the bush fires. But that wasn’t the challenge of the night. Fishing boats here travel fast and have right of way and, guess what, they don’t have AIS. Damn….all you can see are huge white lights and it is really difficult to work out what they are doing. I was able to pick a few up as a radar target to track them but then one turned at me, hard. So I had to run the engine hard too. Oh yes, and don’t forget the cruise ship Pacific Asia who decided that to cross my stern at only 200m would be an appropriate thing to do!!!! So I radioed him and they confirmed they had seen me (really?!?) and, thankfully, as a result of the call they changed course. There were ships everywhere and it took some getting used to.

In the morning the beautiful red sun glowed just like Mars.

We had a nice following sea and were committed to going through the Seaway at this stage. And then, of course, there was a strong wind warning for further down the coast. We carried on with a reefed genoa to increase our speed and to give us a back-up in case of engine failure and, thankfully, made it through the Seaway on a rising tide with no difficulties.

As we then moved through the canal system towards The Boatworks we were suddenly sheltered by the mangroves and the 25 knot breeze dropped to very little. The canal systems with their expensive housing and private berthing reminded us a little of Fort Lauderdale in Florida apart from the kangaroos grazing on the grass LOL. An interesting thing that we spotted though was that boats over a certain length are restricted to 6 knots but small speed boats can do 30 knots! So we got buzzed a few times as we meandered the 10 or so miles to the marina up the Camoora River.

At 14.44 we were safely tied into our marina slip (surrounded by huge stink pots) and were definitely pleased to have arrived. We have covered 4,452 miles this season since leaving New Zealand and feel ready for some R&R both here and at home with family and friends. And Morpheus certainly has earned her rest.

But, first, there is loads of work to be done preparing her for our departure. So I’m blogging this afternoon while Richard is filling up with water, washing her down, and connecting the power. We have checked into the facility and were surprised by how empty it appears – but we haven’t had a good walk around yet. So the work starts tomorrow! But, this evening, we are going to enjoy a few cold ones in the cockpit to celebrate our final destination of the season.

Bye for now


Australia: Rally fun in Bundaberg

Wednesday morning we headed to the Rally office and picked up our goody bags.

Later on we headed to the Welcome Down Under Cocktail Party suited dressed in our official t-shirt and Australia tie…… We mingled with other cruisers and were even interviewed by the local press.

At 6pm we settled down to watch the official welcoming ceremony which was given by a local aboriginal family. Very interesting to hear a little bit about their ancient culture.

The owners of The Baltimore restaurant are actually from New Zealand so they invited a Maori family along to give us a traditional welcome also. Very nice to see both indigenous peoples coming together.

Oh yes and SV Begonia didn’t get the dress code memo and came dressed to impress. Can you believe that Kyle (who is actually American with Scottish heritage) carries his full Scottish gear on a boat? They both scrubbed up very well and looked great.

We then had welcome cocktails, loads and loads of canapes (which were really more like full meals with quiches, fish and chips, sausage rolls, prawns etc etc). There was live music and dancing. Overall a fun evening. Here are Jacob and Hanny enjoying their cocktails….

Thursday morning and we headed to the Lighthouse Hotel in Burnett Heads on their courtesy bus for the first of our information seminars. This was about how to stay safe amongst the many hazards we could face here Down Under – all very low key and amusing – but very pertinent information for those of us who had never visited this country before. This was followed by information about VHF usage here (as the marine volunteer service will keep track of us throughout our journey) and then useful weather resources.

After a short break there was an introduction to cruising the East Coast of Australia. When we signed up for all these seminars we weren’t sure how much value we would get out of them. But, I have to say, they are absolutely worth attending. You certainly can’t beat local knowledge of where to go and what to look out for plus ‘do not miss’ anchorages. These sessions make rally participance particularly worthwhile.

Later on we stayed at the Lighthouse for drinks and ended up being on the last courtesy bus back. That seemed to set the scene for the week LOL.

Friday we were back at the Lighthouse and this time the seminar was focused on cruising from Tweed Heads to Sydney. The information about anchoring / mooring / marina dwelling in Sydney was particularly helpful, especially finding out more details on the restrictions on liveaboards and the madness in the harbour that is New Year’s Eve for the firework display. We definitely plan to be in the Sydney area for Christmas and New Year 2020 so we’ll bank all this information for then.

Oh yes, and throughout the scheduled rally days there are prize giveaways. Here are just a few and some lucky winners.

After another short break we attended the next seminar which covered Sydney to Tasmania. This was very interesting although, realistically, I don’t think we’ll sail down that far. The flight sounds like a much more attractive proposition LOL.

Back on the courtesy bus to the marina we headed to Morphie to rest up for a little while then to the Cruiser’s Cove for a pot luck / hootenanny (jam session). The marina very kindly supplied all the meat again (sausages, lamb chops, steak and chicken) and Aso (SV Bla Ellinor) and I prepared the BBQ meat. We started cooking and everyone just left us to it – at one point I had people queuing with plates to get their meat. I refused to play that game and Katie (SV Mezzaluna) kept them at bay as we filled plates of meat which were then put out on the pot luck (sharing) table. Eventually the whole lot was cooked and I was able to sit down too (I had kept some back on the BBQ for us as I knew there was a good chance there would be none left by this time). John (the Rally organiser) appreciated the not-insignificant effort involved and thanked me for cooking for everyone – and then bravely cleaned up behind me! Thanks John.

Saturday and it was Mud Crab Racing Day! We headed over to the Ocean Pacific Seafoods parking lot and got ourselves prepared for the Bundy Muddy Derby. We had a look at the lovely fish in the factory before we started to bid on the crabs.

These crabs would cost about AUS $40 to buy in the market so we set that as our upper limit for the auction.

We were lucky enough to secure a nice big boy (you only eat the male of the species here) and obviously was named Morpheus.

The auction was over, the crabs were placed on the Down Under flag and the first one that left Australia (as chalked on the ground) was the winner. And Morpheus came joint first with SV Jonas. Woo hoo! That meant a $50 credit in the marina against our berth. Very happy. Jacob and Hanny were very nice and released their crab but we kept ours and he was put in the pot for us to collect the following day.

After the crab racing we headed to the Cruisers Cove and had free beer, wine and prawns. They were huge and absolutely delicious, and the cold beer and wine went down well too. All very kindly donated by sponsors – amazing support here in Australia for this rally – and they should know that we thoroughly appreciate their kindness and deep pockets. Too many to mention by name but particular thanks to Ocean Pacific Seafoods, the Down Under Rally, the Northern Breweries and the Bundaberg Port Marina.

After the feast we sat down to watch the iconic Australian movie The Castle. Really enjoyed this – it was very funny. Afterwards we headed over to Jodie and Steve’s boat for pontoonies. What another great day!

Sunday there was a Charity Swap Meet in the marina and lots of cruisers turned up with their treasures from the bilge. Before that started we headed to the laundry as we knew many cruisers would have gone to the local market or be searching their boats for treasure. This worked out just perfectly as the machines were free and people had to wait for us. We even got to have another great breakfast in The Baltimore while the washing was going around in the tub. A good start to the day for sure. We did wander the event and were not sure how much was sold or swapped but it did raise a bit of money for the Volunteer Marine Rescue Service here in Bundaberg so it must be considered a success.

Oh yes and Richard went and picked up Morpheus who had now been cooked which had turned him a lovely red colour.

In the evening there was another Hootenanny session but this time we were a little late arriving and a little early departing. Think the hectic schedule might have just caught up with us at this stage LOL.

Monday morning and it was the 11 November. In Burnett Heads there is a memorial park and we walked there for the 11 am service. It was very moving and I got quite upset thinking about Mum and all those who had left us and it felt particularly poignant to buy a poppy this year. Was very glad that we had attended.

Afterwards we headed into the Lighthouse Hotel for lunch (which wasn’t that great) and then settled down for the next seminars. First session took us cruising the east coast from Bundaberg north to Cairns and beyond. We definitely plan to head north next season to explore for a while so, again, another very interesting and relevant session.

Another short break and there was a Land Cruising seminar – great help and resources in terms of flights, rental cars, which season to drive around (particularly in the Outback), what to watch out for (apart from the obvious dangerous critters LOL) etc. As we plan to stay in Australia next year this was another helpful slot.

Afterwards we stayed behind (again) and had a really fun evening….coming back on the last bus cuddling the blow-up boxing Kangaroo!

You know I mentioned the numerous sponsors….well, the prizes pulled out of the hat throughout the week were amazing and valuable up to the tune of $1,100. On the last day alone there was $1750 of prizes given away. We weren’t lucky enough to win any of the serious prizes but were very pleased to come away with some dinghy boat wash. Our luck was clearly limited to the horse and crab racing sessions LOL.

Tuesday and it was the last formal day of the rally. We had an impromptu lunch break in the Cruisers Cove where Leanne very kindly cracked open Morpheus and showed us how to clean a mud crab. Richard was very happy munching his way through all of this…..

In the evening it was back to the Lighthouse for the Done and Dusted Rally Party. We were treated to canapes and a couple of free drinks plus a live band.

So there was chatting, laughing, music and even a bit of dancing. And, yes, true to form we were back on the very last bus again getting back to Morpheus around 11.30 pm.

So the questions those of you will probably be asking are: Why do the Down Under Rally at all? What are the benefits? Is it worth the money? And the answer to all of them is, definitely do it, it’s a no-brainer!

The rally is actually not that expensive; you get advice on how to prepare for your arrival into Australia to ensure you meet the custom / bio-security needs; all your arrival costs (including the wood pratique) are covered; you are virtually guaranteed a discounted marina slip on arrival; and Bundaberg is wide open so no difficult navigational hazards to boot. Bundaberg Port Marina are very welcoming and the staff are incredibly helpful.

There are also prizes, events and discounts from lots of sponsoring organisations which we are definitely going to make use of (for example our haul out and storage costs in The BoatWorks later this month is at discounted Rally rates). And do not under-estimate the huge value of the local knowledge being imparted. I just know that we are going to have a much better stay here than we would have otherwise with the information that we have gleaned throughout the welcome week.

The other main thing to mention is that this is a “Destination Rally” not a hand-holding one. So you need to be self-sufficient and make your own passage decisions, particularly about departure dates as you are free to leave when the conditions are right for your boat and arrive in your own time. And you can select what you wish to attend and what you don’t – there are no compulsory elements. You can also be as social as you like or not if you are not that way inclined.

Overall we’ve had an amazing time and would definitely recommend joining the Down Under Rally if you plan to head to Australia in the future. John and Leanne make it look easy but they have both worked their socks off to make it so seamless for us – so a huge thank you to them both for their efforts and friendship.

This morning, Wednesday, we have just come back from shopping in Burnett Heads (with a ride back from the supermarket courtesy busy, what a fantastic service!). I’m blogging while Richard is chilling. The wind is howling and we are trying to plan our departure – it is looking tricky and, of course, we have the added pressure of haul out dates organised and flights booked. We can obviously delay our arrival by a few days and just work longer and harder to get ready to haul but that’s about it. So any plans of exploring as we head south is definitely not going to happen. We just need to focus on getting there. There is a window to start moving south in the next day or so for at least the first half of the journey. We’ll then plan to get to a protected anchorage and wait until the conditions are good for the final push and run as fast as we can. To be fair, it is actually not that far to go but the strong winds, forecasted storm activity and potential hazy conditions because of the smoke from the bush fires all need to be factored into the planning.

Bye for now


Australia: In and around Bundaberg

Friday we went out with John and Stella (SV Exocet Strike) in their hire car. They were planning a shopping day in and around Bundaberg and very kindly invited us to join them. So at 9am we headed into The Baltimore (the marina’s restaurant) and had the most fantastic cooked breakfast which was a lovely treat.

Afterwards we met John and Stella and headed out. We popped into Bunnings (hardware store) followed by BCF (Boating, Camping and Fishing) where we picked up a V sheet. We had never seen one of these before but is a safety equipment requirement here in Queensland.

Then it was time to visit Dan Murphy’s which is a huge liquor store (they don’t sell alcohol in the supermarkets here in Australia) and we picked up some real bargains. with lots of wine priced at only AUS $5 to $7 (that makes the cheapest bottle only £2.67). Then it was back to the Hinkler Mall to revisit Woolworths for some fresh salad for the evening. We went out with a very small shopping list but we somehow managed to fill a marina cart on our return LOL. Overall was a very good expedition.

In the evening there was the Cruisers Pot Luck in the Cruisers Cove area of the marina. The meat for the BBQ was supplied by the marina (steak, sausages and chicken). Some long-term Australian cruisers were doing all the cooking (for over 40 people) so I pitched in for a while (as did Aso from SV Bla Ellinor) as most people were just gorging themselves and not even thinking about cooking for themselves. Not sure what planet some people live on. Anyway, eventually, we sat down with the crews of SV Bla Ellinor, SV Begonia and SV Jonas. People started moving away once the food was finished but we decided to stay out and watched the remainder of the New Zealand -v- Wales match. Well done to the All Blacks.

Saturday we had a lazy start and debated what to do on a grey and cloudy day. We decided to walk to Burnett Heads – the nearest village – and took the river-side path watching some boats racing in the river in very light airs.

We came to the Bundaberg Marina Rescue Association building so went inside and thanked them for their assistance on our journey into Australia. They liaised on our behalf with the marina and the officials to ensure that everything went smoothly and efficiently on our arrival. This volunteer service will also keep radio tabs on us as we move south towards Brisbane in the coming weeks. Very nice people.

Whilst there we checked out the sea eagles who were nesting nearby. They had babies in the nest and we were lucky enough to see the adults fly off, return, and then feed them (with sea snakes).

Moving on we reached Burnett Heads and had a look around. We were amused by the drive through Liquor Store. That’s a first!

We stopped at the Lighthouse for lunch and made arrangements to reserve a table for the evening to watch the Rugby World Cup Final in Japan. We then had a quick look in the supermarket and the bakers. At the bakers, the lady was just shutting up shop, and decided to load us up with free bread rolls and a huge cream cake. Seriously, the cake was even on a china plate. She told us just to return that another day. What a country! Can’t imagine that happening at home…..

Walking back towards the marina we stopped to feed a black and white bird who looked a bit like a crow. Very vocal and noisy he was too. Then we watched the black and white pelicans in the lagoon. We had never seen them this colour before and they were certainly much more attractive than their grey/brown Caribbean cousins.

So on we continued admiring the pretty flowers as we strolled.

Then we had our first kangaroo encounter – a mob of wild ones. There were three of them and two of them had joeys in their pouches. So we thoroughly enjoyed watching them as they eyeballed us back.

At the marina, pretty tired having walked quite a few miles, we visited some “friend” boats and dished out the cake and bread. Everyone was very happy.

In the early evening we got the courtesy bus back to The Lighthouse. The large screen TV was in action and we all took a seat to watch the rugby. It was quite stressful and, sadly, England was not able to produce the dream finish. South Africa were too strong for them on the day and deserved the win. What an amazing run our lads had, despite their disappointment, they should be very proud of what they achieved. We actually found it quite amusing that the locals in The Lighthouse stayed elsewhere and completely ignored the match – bet that wouldn’t have happened if they had been in the final LOL.

Sunday we had another lazy start and then headed to the laundry. Job done we returned to Morphie via the small fresh seafood store here in the marina and purchased some huge king prawns (which were very reasonably priced too). Back on board we quickly peeled them for lunch. Absolutely delicious!

We didn’t do much for the rest of the day and just stayed on board. But I did manage to organise our 2019/20 boat insurance. Topsail were obviously impressed by my polite ‘very disappointed’ email because I got a direct reply from the Managing Director who was trying to see if they could be more flexible for us. I thanked him for his intervention but let him down gently. There was no point getting angry as you don’t know who will be in the market at the next renewal date and I certainly don’t want to burn any bridges. By this time, however, I had secured a great deal with Admiral who came up trumps and gave us exactly what we were looking for (including cyclone coverage whilst on the hard in The Boat Works). Very relieved – just the paperwork and payment to be done, then we are all sorted! Phew…

In the afternoon it was chilly and had rained a little, despite this area of Australia having a long-term drought so obviously we are the rainmakers this season! We ended up staying put and had a movie night on board.

Monday morning we headed into the main town of Bundaberg again and did some more shopping – nothing special, just some toiletries and a few other items. We just wanted to get off the boat really. We did have a look around this time but mainly we were people watching.

Late afternoon we headed to the Cruisers Cove and met up with Jeff and Katie (SV Mezzaluna) who had just arrived into the marina – they had been anchored out since their arrival in Australia. We were chatting to them and some other locals when this couple walked through….hang on….we know them. After some collective wracking of brains we realised it was Jodie and Steve who we used to race with / against in a variety of regattas in the UK many many years ago. How bizarre that we should meet again half way around the world on the same Rally!!! Absolutely amazing coincidence.

Tuesday morning and we had a relaxing start before heading to the courtesy bus at 12 noon to take us to the Lighthouse again. This was Melbourne Cup day so we joined other Rally participants and enjoyed the event. People were dressed up in hats and all sorts – just like Ascot. We didn’t really have anything suitable on board….

Anyway, we did the Rally sweepstake and won 1st and 2nd. And our fellow winners were Jodie and Steve.

And we had placed some other bets and won 2nd. And we entered the charity raffle and won again! We ended up covering all our costs and then some.

After the racing was over most of the cruisers headed back to the marina but we stayed out and caught up properly with Jodie and Steve over a few glasses. Was lovely. We finally returned and then headed to The Baltimore for an excellent dinner. Had been a great day.

This morning and this is officially the start of Rally week. We have to go and pick up our t-shirts and goody bags this morning and, then this evening, we have drinks, canapes and welcome entertainment. Really looking forward to the whole social event – and there are prizes so you never know, on current form, we could be in with a chance of winning something LOL.

Oh yes, and hope you all enjoy Firework Night at home. Stay safe.

Bye for now


New Caledonia to Bundaberg, Australia

Monday (21 October) we busied ourselves preparing for our passage. Whilst out and about we met some fellow cruisers who were giving directions to some tourists to Baie de Citron and warning them about not swimming there in the murky water. “Why not?” was our question (bearing in mind we had been swimming in this bay cleaning our hull recently) only to be told of a fatal bull shark attack in the marina next door off one of the docks. OMG! We realised at that point how naive we had been to naturally assume that it was safe to swim. Lesson definitely learnt and thankfully we still have all our limbs LOL.

In the evening we went on board SV Tamanu for dinner with Steve and Jo. Was a lovely evening and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Tuesday morning at 8am we met Audrey from Noumea Yacht Services who was assisting us with our outward clearance procedures. The process is relatively simple, however, you have to visit three offices (Customs, Immigration and the Harbour Master). They are quite a distance from each other (particularly on foot) and also the Immigration office closes at 11.30 am each day. By paying a small fee, Audrey drove us around and facilitated the paperwork. When we arrived at the first building we realised that paying for this service was definitely the right decision. A nondescript building, no Doune (customs) signs, coupled with a buzzer entry system for each floor. Think we would probably have struggled at this first hurdle to be honest.

Back to the marina with exit papers in hand we carried on getting ready. We met Steve and Jo for sundowners in the bar and enjoyed our last evening together.

Wednesday morning and we were ready. We said farewells to Steve and Jo and then slipped away to the fuel dock. Having fuelled up we headed out to sea. The passage was a mixture of everything from strong winds to light airs; bumpy, lumpy seas with uncomfortable conditions; flat calm and perfect sailing conditions; and motoring along under bare poles. And of course I mustn’t forget the beautiful sunsets and sunrises. All in all we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves although Richard was disappointed not to catch any fish.

By early Tuesday morning (29 October) we knew that we would definitely arrive into Bundaberg that afternoon so emailed (using our satellite connection) both the marina and the authorities to confirm revised ETA. As we got closer to Australia we wondered whether we were in the right place as we couldn’t actually see land until we were only 15 miles away!

We made contact via VHF and they gave us our slip assignment and said that they would clear us on our allocated slip. It was a tricky one being pushed off by the stiff wind and into a skinny spot next to a large catamaran. Richard made it in beautifully despite the challenging conditions. Before we were even tied up, the officials were waiting on the dock for us. We were told to get off the boat (under supervision with barely enough time just to kill the engine) and Sally the sniffer dog was put on board and promptly jumped straight off LOL. So she was put back on and did her job before we were allowed to climb back on board. Customs and immigration were first – all questions and forms completed and answered to their satisfaction and we were then welcomed to Australia. Next were the three bio-security guys who searched cupboards and lockers for evidence of insect infestation, particularly in the wood. I had one passage meal left in the freezer so that was confiscated (as we had made better time than anticipated) but otherwise we had no fresh food or meat left. The guys laughed when I told Richard he had to take me out to dinner now as the cupboards were bare. All the officials were friendly, very thorough, professional and courteous. The only thing that concerned me was that they were all wearing guns.

Woo hoo, we were legal so down came our yellow quarantine flag and up went the Australian courtesy flag. Can’t believe it, we have finally crossed the South Pacific and sailed to Australia! Woo hoo….

Tuesday evening we went ashore to the marina restaurant and had dinner and a few restorative cold beers admiring the view.

Wednesday morning we were up early and booked ourselves onto the marina’s courtesy shopping bus to Bundaberg. This is quite a large town but we were focussed on our jobs rather than really exploring – that can wait for another day.

We found the large Hinkler Mall and purchased our TelStar SIM card; got some cash out of the ATM; I got my hair cut; we re-provisioned in Woolworths; and picked up some real bargains in the Liquor Store with bottles of NZ Marlborough Savignon Blanc costing only AUS $7 a bottle.

We returned to the boat fully laden, restocked all our cupboards and freezer, and then caught up online with emails etc. This started an increasingly frustrating sequence of events with our current yacht insurers informing us they will offer us a renewal but it is certainly a lesser product (ie more risk/cost to us) and they will definitely NOT include coverage for cyclone / named storm / numbered wind events (which we currently have). So now we are searching around to find another insurer who will supply us with a policy that actually meets our needs, particularly as we had based all our (already booked and paid for) plans around the restrictions contained in this year’s policy. Talking to other cruisers and we are not the only ones facing this difficulty. Not impressed!

In the evening we got another courtesy bus to the Lighthouse Pub and Hotel in nearby Burnett Heads.

We had a few drinks there – catching up with Stella and John from SV Exocet Strike again – before returning to Morphie for some pontoonies and bed. This hotel (which is a grand word for a place that is stark and feels more like a cafe than a bar) has a big screen TV and will be screening the World Cup Rugby Final on Saturday night. Come on England!!!!

Today, Thursday, we are doing boat jobs yet again. Richard has washed the boat while I’ve done the laundry. He has also made up some new shore-power cables and got them PAT tested so we are compliant here in Australia and he has just topped off the diesel tank.

Going forward we’ll be staying here in the marina for a couple of weeks to enjoy the events of the Down Under Rally Welcome Week before heading further south. Should be fun and very social.

Bye for now


Passage to Australia – part 3

By noon Sunday (27 October) we had covered another 125.9 miles towards our destination.   The wind had completely died (less than 2 knots recorded) and we were motoring along on a flat calm sea on a hot and sunny day.   The temperature had definitely increased as we get closer to Australia so we are both happy sailing along in shorts and t-shorts once again.   We had officially crossed into Australian waters during the day but still no other boats around that we can see either by sight or on radar although we know, from the SSB net, there are at least five yachts en route to the same port as us, Bundaberg. Richard fished all day again but nothing came close other than a couple of curious sea birds who hovered over the lures bobbing along the surface behind us.

During the day we continued reading the Rally documents aimed at facilitating our arrival into Australia.   One thing that we hadn’t noticed was the need to clean all shoes to ensure that there was no foreign soil on them.   So I got the shoe box into the cockpit and gave them all a clean and polish….kept me out of trouble for a while.

Later on, after the net, we had dinner and for the first time ever on passage we actually sat at the cockpit table to eat from plates with knives and forks rather than from a bowl in the lap.   Was very nice….

During another dark starry night the wind picked up a little so we pulled out the genoa again to try to increase our speed as we were now experiencing adverse currents.   By 6am on Monday (28 October) the wind has gone forward of the beam so we got all three sails out to try to maintain our speed.   We continued motor sailing though as the airs remained light at only 7 knots.    That worked for a short period but then the wind switched to the west and died again.

By 10 am we were motoring with just the main up and the fishing rod was deployed.  By noon we had picked up a positive current and were speeding along at 6.5 knots with very low RPMs.   Our next 24 hour period saw us covering 133.8 miles.   The main eventually started flapping in the light airs so that came down again.

By the time the sun was going down we were officially in Australian waters, approaching the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Reserve.   So no fishing from here….so sadly Richard had to retire his fishing lures for this trip.   No fish landed just one little fishy nibble and that was it.    We were now in a shipping lane and saw three large ships going north all in very close proximity.   MV Romi crossed our bows around three miles ahead whilst the other two went behind our stern.

At 9pm we were motor sailing with the genoa up in very light airs.   All SSB net boats reported the same conditions, including those on their way to New Zealand, so there doesn’t look like there will be much wind any time soon.  Despite the 10 knot forecast…..   

We motored all night across a glassy sea and it felt more like being on a lake than being in the ocean out of sight of land!   All very strange.   By 6am on Tuesday (29 October) we were approaching Fraser Island (not that we could see anything) and the wind finally picked up.   By 9 am the engine was off – having been on for 48 hours – and we were sailing again.   Woo hoo!   The seas were lumpy and we were bouncing around but we didn’t care.

By 10am we were sailing towards the port of Bundaberg, our destination.   We hope to arrive there later this afternoon so this will be the last passage blog.   We are excited to be arriving into Australia and look forward to getting cleared and being made legal.   We are ready for the officials to come onboard and do their thing and we have certainly prepared like we have never prepared before.   So fingers crossed it will all go smoothly.   Will be in touch when we get back on line.

Bye for now

Passage to Australia – part 2

By noon on Friday (25 October) it was a beautiful bright and sunny day.   The seas had settled down to a gentle 1.5m swell and the wind had eased to between 10-14 knots.   It was just a stunning (albeit chilly) day in the most perfect conditions with blue skies and deep navy blue seas.  In the second 24 hour period of this passage we had covered another 129.4 miles.   

At 6pm the sun went down and the conditions remained the same.   It was another black night with no moon but, instead, we were mesmerised by the fantastic show that are the planets and the stars.   The Milky Way was very apparent and we are always in awe of the beauty of nature on a night like this.  It is interesting to the constellations as they are different to what we can see at home in the Northern Hemisphere.

During the night the conditions were fickle with higher gusts again and strong currents requiring us to change course to stay moving in a straight line.   By 3am on Saturday (26 October) the wind had swung north easterly, so we gybed.   Then within an hour it had gone south easterly again so we gybed back.   That will teach me to say earlier that we wouldn’t  have to do much to the sails once set LOL.

The sun came up in an amazing colour show and the day was another beautiful sunny one.   Richard threw out the lures and was hopeful for a fish.  By noon we had covered another 129.5 miles so, again, making steady progress.   At this point the wind dropped back to around 6 knots which is really light for us as we are such a heavy boat.   So we poled out the Genoa and then the main and were sailing along slowly wing-on-wing.   We kept our speed up around the 4.5 knots region so actually pretty happy.   By 5pm, however, the wind eased even more and we struggled to keep both sails full.   So we left the poled-out Genoa but put the mainsail away.   At 5pm we motor sailed to top up our batteries for a couple of hours then turned the engine off at 7pm.   We continued to slowly sail towards our destination.   As we went into our night shifts, having eaten dinner and witnessed another lovely sunset, we were maintaining speed despite the light airs.   We also pulled our lure back onboard – no fish again today. 

Each afternoon Richard is participating in the SSB Offshore Pacific Cruisers net to find out how other yachts are faring.    There is currently an exodus from the Pacific Islands heading to both Australia and New Zealand to seek shelter before the cyclone season starts officially on 1 November (although many stay much later as there is little danger very early in the season).   Most of us, however, are driven by the restrictions in our respective insurance policies.  Those behind us are experiencing strong winds and those ahead of us are motoring with no wind at all.    The forecast, again, is pretty accurate.

During the evening we continued sailing in light airs.   At 11.30 pm we motor sailed for an hour to top up our batteries again and were also assisted by a positive current.   At 12.30 am, when it was time to switch off the engine the wind had died back to 4 knots so we admitted defeat and continued motor sailing with the poled-out Genoa.  Again another dark night as Mr Moon is not putting in an appearance until around 3am.    There was some cloud cover so not such a great starry night but I was kept entranced by the glittering show of the phosphorescence in the water behind our stern.

This morning, Sunday (27 October) and the wind has died completely so we are now motoring  under bare poles.   Looks like that will be it for the day.   So far no large sea creatures have been spotted but, now that we are within Australian waters (with just over 300 miles to go) we are ever hopeful of seeing dolphins or even whales (although a big late in the season for them).   So far all we have seen are flying fish who skim across the top of the water trying to escape from us as we plow on through.

Bye for now

Passage to Australia – part 1

At 10am on Wednesday 23 October we left our slip in Port Moselle marina, Noumea, New Caledonia, and headed to the fuel dock.  There was already a yacht on it so we went around in circles for a while but the remaining gap was constantly being filled by speedy motor boats sneaking in.   Eventually we made our move to get in behind SV Blithe Spirit.   When we got closer we were pushed on by the increasing wind and became pinned.    And, of course, that end of the dock only had petrol.   So we waited for SV Blithe Spirit to depart and then ‘walked’ Morphie along to the diesel station from above.   And I mean from above as we had to climb a ladder in the dock’s wall to get up there LOL

Finally we were tied in the right place and quickly filled up our diesel tank and a few spare jugs with 170L of duty-free fuel.  Then it was our turn to get off the dock.   Thankfully, unlike the yacht before who had smacked their transom in the manoeuvre, we successfully pivoted off the dock using our bow thrusters and were free (unharmed) and on our way to Australia.

By noon we were heading towards the Passe de Dumbae, the main shipping channel.   We were overtaken by a pilot boat who met a bulk carrier who had already crossed our bow.   We weren’t quite sure what was going on and assumed the ship would turn towards us to enter the port so we stayed close to the edge of the channel to pass port to port.   But he kept on going out to sea so clearly the pilot was being picked up rather being dropped off.   Was all a bit confusing for a while…..

The seas were quite large even inside the lagoon’s fringing reef so we knew we were in for a bumpy ride.    As we came through the reef, we left the channel behind and turned towards our next waypoint (over 700 miles away), the seas were boisterous at 2.5m and the wind was between 18-25 knots with higher gusts.   It was cloudy and grey and we settled into our passage routines.    It was pretty sporty to say the least LOL as we sailed along downwind under the Genoa alone.   It was definitely like being in a washing machine down below!

By 6pm we had eaten and it was time for my first solo watch so I watched the sun go down.   It was a very dark, chilly, cloudy, bumpy night with few stars peeking through and the moon only made an appearance briefly in Richard’s early morning shift.    For a few hours during the night we got some respite when the winds moderated and the seas smoothed but it all picked up again as the sun rose and we were back bouncing around being picked up and surfing down waves or being slammed on our port quarter.   But, despite the conditions, we were enjoying ourselves although sleep was a little elusive.

Thursday 24 October the conditions remained the same for most of the day with brief periods of lighter winds.   By noon we had completed our first 24 hours at sea and had covered 133 miles.   By 4pm the winds had settled back into the 15 knot region and the seas were at 1.5m and less confused so conditions were much more comfortable.   The sun went down with a beautiful display of colours and then, again, it turned into a pitch black night.  By midnight some stars were trying to show themselves through as the cloud cover started to lessen.  We had light airs for a while during the night so we both slept well between shifts and, at this early stage of the passage, we were not concerned by our hull speed.

By 6am on Friday 25 October the winds had picked up, they had switched to ESE (which was a better angle for our course) and we flew along at 7 knots for a while.   But, of course, this was short lived and, come 7am, the winds had settled back to the 15-18 range so our boat speed fell back again.

Normally, on passage, we focus on speed and this one is no different.   However, there is so far to go at this stage we will just sail the best course until we get closer when we can recalculate our required speed to facilitate a daylight arrival.  It does feel strange though that, apart from reefing if the weather deteriorates and easing/hardening according to the wind direction, we will probably not touch the sails for hundreds of miles…..    Now I’ve said that, of course, it will probably blow from a different direction and cause us to gybe.   But, right now, surprise, surprise, the conditions actually match the forecast!!!   

Bye for now

New Caledonia: Final days in Grand Terre

Tuesday (15 October) it was Richard’s birthday. Sadly the weather refused to co-operate in terms of us moving on somewhere to celebrate so we just went across to Ile Casey (only five miles away) for a different outlook. This island is another nature reserve so there were moorings available here also.

Richard enjoyed reading all his birthday wishes from friends and family but we treated it as a normal day and decided to celebrate the day after (which was still his birthday in the UK anyway). So we got busy. We emptied 18 lockers, all drawers and cupboards onboard, cleaned them out, sprayed for bugs (we didn’t see any so relieved about that as passengers are unwelcome in Australia), and then loaded them all up again. This was back-breaking work and the boat was a mess most of the day. Later on we sat in the cockpit, enjoyed the peace and quiet, before having a movie night on board.

Wednesday morning we dropped the mooring ball at 5.40am as we wanted to get through the Woodin Canal on the rising tide. We motored through the Canal and then sailed under genoa as we checked out the lovely scenery along the way.

We arrived at Ilot Maitre at 10.55 am, having covered just over 28 miles. What a beautiful resort. We dropped dink, went ashore, and finally raised a glass to officially celebrate Richard’s birthday.

We enjoyed the surroundings but, as the resort was full, they weren’t offering day passes to use the rest of their facilities so we made the most of the beautiful public beach (on a lovely sunny and hot day). We quickly returned to Morphie, got into our swimmers, and took supplies to the beach and went bobbing. Finally Richard got to enjoy his ‘official’ birthday LOL.

On Thursday the wind started howling through the anchorage and we were nodding into the swell. We moved to a more sheltered spot within the anchorage but that soon became uncomfortable too. So at 14.05 we dropped the mooring ball and motored through big swells and 30 knots of breeze the three miles to Baie des Citrons. This was much more sheltered and we enjoyed a peaceful night at anchor (despite the noise from the nightclub on the shore) and the light pollution. It was very strange to be back in a densely populated area again.

Friday morning we headed under the little bridge in dink to Port Moselle.

We planned to go shopping (having completely run out of food now), speak to Noumea Yacht Services about checking out procedures, and then return to Morphie and clean her hull (the final job we needed to do prior to arriving in Australia). I went into the marina office to get a tag for the dinghy (required to gain access to the dinghy dock and other services) and was told that we could actually have a marina berth if we wanted it. Yes please! So we rushed back to Morphie, got in the water and cleaned her hull, and then picked up anchor and worked our way round to the marina. By 14.20 we were in our slip and very happy to have access to unlimited water and electricity again LOL.

Later on that afternoon we headed out shopping – needing to re-provision for passage meals – and found the large Johnston supermarket. We got everything we needed apart from beer supplies as, for some reason, the alcohol aisles were closed that Friday afternoon. Not quite sure why.

Back on board we unpacked and then headed to the marina bar and restaurant and enjoyed some cold ones listening to the live band. They were pretty good although the music was all French and not recognisable. But still we had a good time and enjoyed having walking access to facilities once again.

Saturday morning and we got up at a reasonable time and cleaned Morphie’s exterior – she is looking real pretty once again.

During the day Steve and Jo on Tamanu (fellow Island Packeteers) came into the marina and we hadn’t seen them since New Zealand so we quickly arranged to meet up later. Once we had done all our jobs, in the afternoon, we went wandering Noumea (which is the capital city) to find most of it shut up and were surprised by the number of homeless and down and outs around.

Heading back to the marina we met up with Steve and Jo and we settled in to watch the World Cup Rugby. Steve and Jo (although based in Australia) are British so we were the only four English supporters in the audience. And we beat Australia – OMG what an exciting time – although the commentary was difficult to follow in the excitable French. We had a great evening. After our enthusiastic celebrations we noticed the huge security guard was standing behind our table for a while – whether he thought we were at risk from the wider audience after the win or not we weren’t sure LOL – but the Australian supporters tended to just wander off in misery. We did stay to watch the start of the New Zealand -v- Ireland match (particularly the Haka) but soon gave up and retired to bed.

This morning, Sunday, and we checked the weather again. We originally planned to leave on Tuesday but it may be that Monday is now better. But we are watching the weather carefully as it has been very changeable – the main concern is over thunderstorms expected near the coast of Australia. Potentially, today could be our last day here so we need to finish our jobs. I’ve been up since the crack of drawn and have cooked and frozen all the passage meals whilst Richard has done the laundry, his engine checks and cleaned the floors down below and the cockpit. We’ve completed all the documentation for departure and have an appointment at 8.30 am Monday morning to go to Customs / Immigration. The French officials are pretty relaxed allowing us 72 hours to depart after the official clearance has been done so we can delay without impacting on our current arrangements. It is definitely a ‘watch this space’ moment.

After our jobs were done we headed into the local fish, meat, fruit and vegetable market (and this was still only 9am in the morning!). There were also stalls selling local handicrafts.

It was all very busy and, with our purchases made, we had a leisurely croque monsieur / toasted baguette breakfast over the largest cup of coffee we have ever had (it was really a bowl as it didn’t have handles LOL). This evening we are entertaining Steve and Jo onboard Morphie before we head off to watch the Wales rugby match.

So this will definitely be the last blog from New Caledonia as we head off on another long ocean passage (800 miles) to Bundaberg, Australia. I will be blogging from the passage (obviously only if the weather permits) but don’t forget you can always follow our tracker in real time on our “Where are we now?” page.

Bye for now