2009 Ships Log

Back where it all began

Sunday 30 August 2009 (Bayview, Pittwater, NSW)

The night at the CYCA Marina was wonderfully still and we say a big thank you to them for again providing a complementary berth for the night.   There to meet us was Bob and Jim and their supportive wives, Bev and Liz, many of Bob’s family, my brother Andrew (who owns the other half of the boat), and his daughter Elizabeth.  As the lines were attached to the pontoon it was a great feeling to be able to relax.

The final task, however, was to relocate Chimere, out of Sydney Harbour and up the coast to Pittwater; usually a sail of about 6 hours.  After a sleep-in till about 7:00am, no night time watches and amid the sounds and smells of central Sydney, we got away from the marina around 11:30am.  A bit later than we’d expected, but with reports of a gale warning and winds of 30-40 knots from the south west (ie from behind) we anticipated a fast trip.

As it turned out, winds along the coast were already starting to abate by the time we’d cleared the Heads and under a beautiful sunny Sydney sky we were soon shaking out the reefs in the sails and racing along at around 7-8 knots over flat seas before a 20 knot breeze.

Andrew, who had driven down from the Central Coast (where he lives) the day before, drove ahead to take photographs of Chimere as she passed along the coast.  He also liaised with Gibson Marina at Bayview to ensure our old long term mooring was still available upon arrival.

In the end, the trip north took around 4 hours and that’s including 30 minutes doing circles in Rushcutters Bay as I went to the top of the mast to clear a main halyard pulley issue – great view from up there!

Photos of Chimere coming up the coast should be on this website soon – she cut a fine figure, fully clothed against a backdrop of blue sea and sky.

Upon arrival at Bayview it was a very quick process of finalising the cleanup, transporting gear off (quickly before the marina dinghy service packed up for the night) and making our way “home” to Andrew’s place on the Central Coast.

Along the way, Terrence was dropped off (he lives on Pittwater – Alvina Bay), Kate was dropped off (now, I didn’t mention Kate – but she’s Tony’s niece who lives in Sydney and along with her sister Sally, caught up with “Uncle Tony” at the CYCA for breakfast and at the very last minute, while aboard having a look at Tony’s home for the past two weeks, decided to stay aboard for the sail north – great to have you aboard Kate – promotion from passenger to crew is available anytime!!) and Kevin was dropped off, leaving just Andrew, Tony and me.  Andrew’s wife Nila had a lovely home-coming dinner waiting for us upon arrival, after which sleep – in a lovely bed with crisp sheets and no movement whatsoever, came very easily.

Tomorrow, Monday, it’s back down to Pittwater to do a final cleanup, removal of gear and check, before coming back up the Central Coast for the last night; at Andrew and Nila’s.  Tony and I are then booked on the 11:15am Virgin flight out of Sydney – Melbourne bound.

Again, a massive thanks for all concerned with the mission and I suspect there won’t be too many more “Ships Logs” after this – after all, you really need to have a ship for that.

Thank you again for your support and we all trust you have enjoyed following the adventures of the Medical Sailing “Mini-series” over the past 4 months.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and … are you sure this bed isn’t rocking?

Rob

Safe and sound in Sydney Harbour

Saturday 29 August 2009 (Rushcutters Bay, CYCA, Sydney)

[more photos available – admin]

As was the case four months ago, we are once more tied up in the safe, secure, comfortable surroundings of The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, here in Rushcutters Bay, Sydney.

Back in May it was very much a time of anticipation.  Of the voyage ahead.  And the uncertain task of transporting medical volunteers amongst the many remote islands of Vanuatu.

Now, it’s a time for reflection.  Of looking back, recalling the experience and the wonderful opportunity to have served in the unique way that we have.

It is said that by giving, we truly receive and there is no doubt, all of us involved in the Medical Sailing Ministries have received much by our involvement in the recent mission.

In this, one of the last Ships Logs, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone involved for sharing the vision, giving of their best, plus their shear hard work and dedication in so many areas…

… to the ship’s crews, those in the background helping with administration, budgeting and the website, the many sponsors who helped prepare and assist the ship, to the Vanuatu Prevention of Blindness Project and their partners, for the trust and faith they showed in us, the Uniting Church congregation in Ringwood North, my wonderful wife Linda and boys Matt and James, the dedicated medical volunteers we were privelidged to transport, those of you who have been following the website and especially the generous people of Vanuatu, who enriched our lives through their openness, joy and welcome.

To finally enter Sydney Heads this morning was a great experience.  We proceeded directly to Neutral Bay to clear Customs and Immigration, but not before waving to (my brother) Andrew and niece Elizabeth who had made it out to Bradley’s head to welcome us home.  Then, it was straight over to the CYCA in Rushcutters Bay, where the nice man from Quarantine caught up with us in the afternoon to check aboard for bugs, diseases and the like – none found by the way.

Tomorow, we do the short, 6 hour hop up the coast to Bayview, on Pittwater Harbour, where Chimere has a permanent mooring.  (We’re hoping the current Gale Warning has abated somewhat by then.)  Then for me and Tony it’s home to Melbourne early in the week after we’ve all had a go at cleaning and tidying Chimere.

Right now, it’s 11:30pm, and Kevin, Tony, Terrence and I  have just come back from a celebratory dinner at a nearby Indian Restaurant.  Prior to that, however, it was all ashore for a (much needed) shower and shave at the CYCA facilities.

It is now time for sleep.

The last night in my little bunk, in my little cabin.  I was thinking about my little bunk last night and just how cozy it is.  So much so, that I wrote a short tribute to “My Bunk”.  So if you can only handle a short “Ship’s Log”, then stop reading now, otherwise feel free to read on:

My Bunk

My bunk is more than a bed.  It’s a haven, a retreat, a place to curl up and feel snug inside, while outside the elements rage.

Each bunk is different in it’s own way.  They have a personality.  But strangely, all seek to both hold you snug when the boat heels one way, and then throw you to the floor when the boat heels the other.

My bunk is the lower of two, in my own cabin, on the left, or port, side.  We call it the “wardrobe cabin” because of the, you guessed it, wardrobe which takes up one corner.  A rather flash, solid affair, with two doors, one of which has a full length mirror.

Although there are two bunks, some say the upper bunk isn’t really a bunk at all, just a place to store stuff. That’s because it has a stainless steel support rod rising from the hull below to the deck above, right up through the middle.  To lie in the bunk you have three choices, this side of the steel rod, that side of the steel rod, or somehow, in the middle of the steel rod.

But my bunk is special.  Sure, it’s an odd kind of shape to fit in with the contours of the room.  The mattress is a cheap piece of old foam and the blanket and sheets could probably (no definitely) do with a scrub, but each time I manoeuvre my way into the space, without hitting my head or gaining another bruise from the lurching motion of the boat, it’s like a warm comfortable embrace.

After a lengthy watch on deck, with the wind, the waves and the cold chipping away at my senses and sleep becoming harder and harder to fight, a return to my bunk is like a welcome home; a place where sleep quickly consumes and warmth helps restores the soul.  A space where time stands still, as the boat moves forward, closer to our eventual destination.

Lying on my back there’s also the clear deck-hatch above me, revealing the stars of night and the passing clouds across the blue sky of day.  There’s the mast and sails which can clearly be seen, their set and angle, along with the heel of the boat, revealing our state of progress through the water.  At the top of the mast there’s the navigation lights shining at night and the wind vane giving away the direction and force of the passing air.

Opened just a little, my hatch lets in the passing breeze and on gentle nights, when the rain begins to fall, light droplets of rain fall on my face through the flywire letting me know it’s time to get on deck to bring in the washing.   At other times, when we’re pounding into the sea and water extends across the deck from the breaking waves, there’s contentment in looking up from my snug, dry nest and watching it all passing by.

On one side, my bunk is defined by a raised wooden board, which helps hold me in and on the other, the curve of the hull, through which the ripples of the passing sea can be heard.

When the wind is strong, its shrill, high-pitch voice, like a dozen whistling kettles, enters the cabin from every quarter and when we wallow on the “big blue” in search of a zephyr, the flap, clatter, bang of the sails and rigging strike a mournful tune.

But in the warm, comfortable, snug embrace of my bunk lays a trap.  A voice that whispers from somewhere deep in my pillow … “It’s Ok.  The sails are fine.  Go back to sleep. The wind isn’t that strong.  You don’t need to reef the main.  It’s cold and wet out there.  You’re on a good course.  If you go outside you’ll need to put all that gear back on.  Stay here…”

Then consciousness fights back and the upward journey to reality begins; sometimes with a bang – literally and sometimes with a shuffle to the cockpit and a gentle inquiry to the one on watch … “how are things going?” …  to hear the words my pillow would never utter … “wind’s up, I think we need to reef, or … it’s just about time to tack”.

The task complete, my warm bunk and I are once more united, as the shiver of the night resides and my pillow resumes those words of comfort, sleep and dreams.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and home safe and sound

Rob

Land ahoy!!

Friday 28 August, 9:23 PM (32 50S  152 29E)

[check out photos in  return voyage gallery – admin]

Wind … no wind … wind … no wind … north west wind, then south west wind, then east, now north … and that just describes the past 48 hours.  The good news, however, is that we sighted land today and are now less than 100 miles, or about 16 hours from Sydney.

It feels strange, that after 4 months of voyaging, providing transport, visiting remote locations and adventuring, that it’s finally come down to this … the last night before crossing the finishing line.  And it truly is a beautiful night.  No cloud, a bright moon, a calm sea and a steady 15 knot breeze from behind, which has finally arrived.

Because of the increased shipping we have had two on watch for the last few nights, and on account of the autohelm giving us grief the other day, it’s been a case of taking it in turns to hand steer since Wednesday.

Our fishing exploits were as successful today as they were yesterday and I might try to get arefund on that lure – or buy some more expensive ones next time.  Our long line fishing enterprise was officially declared “Dolphin Free” today, and as Justin wryly observed … “It’s pretty much “Fish Free” as well”.

Speaking of dolphin, we were joined today by a large group, which this time played around the bow for some time.  We also spied a pod of 4 whales, with one diving and then disappearing, a couple of hundred metres from the boat.

Being close to the coast today it was a case of dusting off the electronic gadgets and checking out the range and coverage … Telstra next G seemed to win … although Tony took to climbing part way up the mast and after poking at his wee machine with a small stick finally declared … “I’ve sent an email!”  I powered up my laptop with its wireless Turbo Card and sure enough … onto the internet and the W.W.W.  I could even check out the MSM website … and yes, all those Ships Logs and photos have indeed made their way onto the site.  Well done Liz Mallen, and before her, Mike Clarke.

It was wonderful to read in the last day or so about Lerika, the young Ni-van girl  who has finally undergone life saving heart surgery, largely on account of Don Macraild’s tireless efforts in pushing through with the paperwork and supposed legal requirements.  We met Lerica and her devoted aunty, Serah, when we were in Port Vila and at the time it was uncertain whether the surgical trip to Australia would get over the line, or be stymied at the last minute by some decidedly uncaring attitudes in the Australian Consulate.  Congratulations to all concerned and best wishes to Lerica and Aunt Serah.  No doubt  there will be a lot of stories to be told back in the small Pentecost village when it’s all over.

For those who’ve been following the Ships Log, we hope to report back soon on Linda Sor, the young woman requiring a caesarean whom we evacuated from the island of Mere Lava some weeks ago.
A final note on the culinary front.  Tonight we ate the last of Martin Purcel (see Ship’s Crew) frozen pre-packed, organic beef meals.  We took onboard a supply in the ships freezer 4 months ago and amazingly we had one left.  Great tucker Martin.  If you need any product testamonials in order to market to the sailing fraternity, then just sing out.
Smooth sea, fair breeze and land ahoy!
Rob

Excitement’s mounting

Thursday 27 August 7:31 PM (31 S 33   154 E 30)

[admin note: see also Don and Meg Macraild’s letter on Lerica’s heart operation]

With two sleeps to go before we enter Sydney Harbour the excitement is definitely starting to build aboard Chimere.

Terrence braved a shower on deck this afternoon to officially become the cleanest man aboard.  He commented that all this sea air is good growing conditions for his beard, which is quite a bit bushier now than when he shipped aboard nearly two months ago.

I’ve heard on the grapevine that it’s been a bit breezy down south.  Well unfortunately the lack of wind continues to plague our journey and to make things worse we had a rather strong current going against us for a few hours today which managed to slow things event more.  But we live in hope that our much anticipated northerly will arrive soon.

With the severe lack of action on board, it was suggested that tonight’s Ships Log should contain a few “Tall Tales & True” from the imaginary present – such as the pod of nine whales that breached and frolicked off the bow all afternoon, or the 120kg marlin we manhandled aboard after a 45 minute struggle, or the submarine that surfaced alongside us and … but I thought it better to confine things, as best I can, to the truth.

The fact is, we saw one shark fin, very briefly this afternoon, a pair of really big albatross which were doing the best they could to stay aloft given the lack of wind, lots of small black albatross, no ships, and still no fish on our lure – we think the birds might have scared them off.

Justin has again taken on the mantle of this evening’s celebrity chef, whipping up what he calls tuna and potato rissoles with onion, chili, oregano and  no doubt some secret herbs and spices.  Added to this was the last of our lettuce and cucumber from the Port Vila market – very delicious I might say.  Although “chef notes” for those following in Justin’s footsteps are that Deb lacks the binding power of fresh potatoes.  (I think Deb makes up for it afterwards though)

All seems in order with Customs, Immigration and Quarantine upon our arrival.  We are to proceed to the Customs wharf in Neutral Bay upon arrival, after first phoning their 24 hour phone number to provide an ETA.  At this stage we are hoping for Saturday – sometime.

At the moment we are about 90 miles from the NSW coast and about 230 miles from Sydney Harbour.

Got to go, there’s a whiff of a northerly in the air and there’s a chance we may be hoisting the jib!

Smooth sea, fair breeze and excitement’s mounting with 2 sleeps to go

Rob

Letter from Don re Lerica’s Heart Operation

The following letter updates us on Lerica’s story. She was mentioned in the Is Today Saturday and The work is not yet over posts as needing urgent heart surgery.

Without Don and Meg and Richard’s persistence and God’s miraculous help it would not have been possible.
Graeme.

Don wrote:

We landed back in Melbourne with Lerica Bovu and her aunty Serah Lenga on Sunday 16th August. Lerica is a child from Pentecost who was suffering from rheumatic heart disease that had caused a major leak in her mitral valve. We found her 2 years ago but had had no luck in getting a place for her in any of our hospitals until now.  ROMAC had contacted me in May to say that if I could get her there a place was available at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane in late August, but no actual date was possible because of the demand on intensive care beds being caused by swine flu.

In the 2 years since Dr Matt Labattaglia had diagnosed her problem and indicated surgery was needed Lerica  had ‘dropped off the radar’ completely. Richard Tatwin had made some enquiries and had established that she was now somewhere on Santo but no one knew where exactly. On the off chance while we were waiting between flights in Luganville I decided to go to the Hospital and make enquiries about her. Quite miraculously it happened that Lerica and Serah were sitting outside the children’s ward (!) and so we were able to start the ball rolling in getting them here. The two year delay had meant Aunty Serah had taken over care of the child and through regular medical support good diet and loving care had transformed her. She had been very sick when we saw her but was now looking in good condition and far more able to face major surgery.

Getting their visas  proven quite a challenge and meant that Meg and I had to stay in Vila for an extra very busy and frustrating week. The High Commission was horribly frustrating, and after fouling up their forms and losing their medical clearances refused to accept that Aunty Serah was the legal guardian. Lerica’s parents are illiterate and don’t speak English but we had managed to get a letter written that was translated to them and the father signed on behalf of both of them. However the Immigration Department would not accept it because it was not on the correct form and only one parent had signed. Actually obtaining this form proved totally impossible. As a result I rang a nurse on Pentecost and dictated a letter to him. He then walked to the village translated the letter to the mother and got her signature on it. This they then got a person who was flying down on the Sunday plane to bring through to us. This was still not good enough.

I protested as you might imagine but did not get far. They told me the only way to get around what to me looked an impossible demand was to have a court order, so off I went to the magistrates court. They sent me to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court said that the High Commission’s ruling  was nonsense and all I needed was a letter from the public solicitor confirming the medical urgency as documented by the various doctors who had been dealing with Lerica and stating that as far as Vanuatu was concerned Aunty Serah was the legal guardian. This I duly obtained only to be told that Vanuatu might think this was OK but not our Immigration Department. For them the signatures were still not good enough in spite of the fact that the head of the Health Department, the pediatrician from Luganville and the Medical Superintendent of The Vila Central Hospital  had confirmed that Serah had been looking after the child for the past 2 years and that surgery in Australia was Lerica’s only hope.

In the end Donald Simon from down stairs at Sutherland House suggested that I take it to the Deputy Prime Minister as he is man Pentecost. When I suggested this to Serah she told me she was related to him and he knew Lerica and her family situation very well. So off we trotted to see the Right Honorable Ham Lini and he wrote a letter that finally swung the case for us.

Expecting at least a couple of weeks before getting the call to go into hospital in Brisbane we brought them back to Melbourne. Both Aunty and her charge were travelling very light and needed clothes and shoes to survive our winter cold. This we soon remedied and decided a trip to the Zoo was in order as a part of the surgical preparation. With Dr Graeme Duke’s help we got extra medications for Lerica and then headed for Valencia Creek.

No sooner  had we arrived home, than ROMAC called to say that surgery had been arranged for Wednesday 26th and could we get a basic medical done and have any dental work attended to? Thanks to Dr Ann Miller this was done and we flew Serah and Lerica up to Brisbane on Sunday. I managed to arrange Dr Ron Ramm who had been a doctor in Vanuatu to go with them to have the pre op stuff done on Monday. He speaks Bislama and was able to help to calm a very apprehensive Aunty Serah and that was great. Surgery went ahead yesterday and was successful.

I rang Serah a few minutes ago (Thursday 27th) and she told me that Lerica was looking fantastic and was up walking around. I am completely amazed at this and can only say thank you God.

Don and Meg Macraild

Another day of motoring

So much for sailing home. At this rate we’re going to drive there. The wind left us last night and in it’s place we were left with a sea that we’ve described as “slop”. A frustrating mixture of waves and swell from all directions. Consequently we’ve been doing the best we can with engine on at low revs to continue some forward motion – albeit at 4-5 knots. But one minute we’re picked up from behind by an advancing wave and the next we’re hit from the side by another of equal size. It creates a kind of corkscrew motion which sets you up for the next wave which invariably you hit head on, bringing the boat to a near standstill. So much for the happy northerly I saw on the weather chart.

Lovely sunset though.

And fishing excuse number 27, is that the dolphins we saw yesterday ate them all.

Apart from that, there’s very little else to report.

Water conservation has been big aboard, evidenced by the fact we have only just now switched from tank number 1 to tank number 2 (of 4 tanks). The tangy BO aroma is probably another indication of our water conservation drive, but none of us seem to really notice it. Maybe the first person to have a serious shower might though.

On the food front, our pile of bake beans and spaghetti cans is getting smaller. Thought today I’d mix it up a bit, ‘cos every time I say, “you want beans or spaghetti today?” the answer seems to be the same, “either, doesn’t matter”. So today, I put three cans of one and two cans of the other in the same pot. Quite innovative I thought. And the response from the crew was positive … “wow, look at this, a mixture? What do ya call this darl?” And the standard response, “Oh it’s just beans and spaghetti mixed in the one pot luv” … “Arr, but it’s the way ya do it darl”.

Beans and spag in the one pot saved on washing up too. Although, in this regard I draw the line at one saucepan and 5 spoons – we have our standards you know.

We put the “Australian Coast” disk in the chartplotter machine (aka Ray) yesterday. We’d been using the Pacific Islands disk for the past few months, so now we really feel we are homeward bound.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and “more wind please … but not too much”

Rob

Just passed Middleton Reef

Wednesday 26 August, 2:21 AM (29 09 S, 158 59 E)

As they say, be careful what you wish for. Like the farmer who wanted rain but got flooded out, we wanted a bit of wind and … let’s just say, it was a bit more than we needed. In a way, the wind was OK, but wind has a tendency to bring along it’s mate – the rising sea, and it can make for a rocky ride. But for the past 24 hours it’s been a great run, 6-7.5 knots in speed, no engine and the wind and waves off the starboard beam (right side) And the deck hatches are keeping out the water – of which there has been plenty – coming over this side and going over that side.

Then, just when you think it’s set for another day or so, the wind simply stopped. In the space of about 3-4 minutes it went from 20 knots to nil, leaving us with lumpy seas, which now, after a couple of hours, are starting to calm a bit. Consequently we have the engine back on and are lucky to be doing 4 knots. Our weather maps suggest we are between a High and a Low pressure system and we expect the Low will finally bring us some wind, but at the moment all we can see are a few clouds illuminated by the crescent moon and the shimmering waves as they rise and fall around us. And no wind

The main reason we are keen to maintain a steady course at the moment is that we are about 20 miles to the north of Middleton Reef. Now, you don’t hear much about Middleton Reef these days, and I suspect Mr Middleton found the place by accident, because there’s not a lot of it. Just a coral and sand outcrop to the north of Lord Howe Island. We’re not keen to put the place on the evening news, so we are being very careful to pass by quietly without anyone noticing.

Passing land, however small, does mean we are getting closer to home and at last count we were 480 miles from Sydney and closing. (Closing slowly if we don’t get some more wind)

I should mention, this afternoon as the wind whistled in from the north west and the seas regularly sent water over the deck, we witnessed a pass-by of more dolphins than you could count. They were spread out over a very large area of sea and were going flat out in a westerly direction. At any one time there would have been, maybe 20-40 of them clear out of the water, seemingly suspended in the air above the waves as they hurtled on. It was an amazing sight and lasted for maybe 5 minutes. The more we looked the more we saw, in all directions. Then as fast as they’d arrived, they’d gone.

Not a lot more to report. All going well.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and good-bye Middleton Reef

Rob

Three cheers for Kevin

Monday 24 August 5:41 PM (27 37S 161 44E)

The much anticipated north-westerly wind has finally arrived, after another significant period of (painful) calm. The engine is now OFF and we are doing over 6 knots with the wind coming in from the right – sheer luxury. It’s quiet, tranquil and above all we are conserving diesel.

Before we could turn the engine off, however, we were all alerted to a high pitch noise – lets call it an alarm, coming from the engine control panel. Not a happy sound, but the sort of sound that immediately makes you think, “Oh dear, something’s wrong. What do we do now?”

After turning the engine off (hey presto, the noise stopped) the technical and mechanical heads on board (led by Kevin) set about ticking off the possible causes – water intake, broken hoses, heat exchanger thingy, wiring, fuses, switches – man this thing is complicated. Floor panels up, lots of poking about. Kevin perspiring with his head down in the bilge undoing things and asking for spanners. After a short interval, Kevin declares – “belt’s gone off the alternator”. Doh! why didn’t I think of that?

“Have we got a spare belt?” inquires Kevin.

“Oh-Oh-Oh-I think we have one!!” says I. “We packed so many spares on this boat, there has to be one. Now where did that get put?”

Five minutes later … “tah tah, here she is. A stack of fan belts. Any of these fit?” At 10 paces, Kevin says … “yep, that one” How did he know?

Another five minutes, perspiring Kevin, hand me more spanners, head down below the floor boards and there you have it, all working again. Is this guy good or what. Back working in less than 60 minutes. Lets, celebrate with a “lemonade” and peanuts and watch the sunset.

Three cheers for Kevin came the cry from the stern!!

Not a lot else happened today. It’s been very calm. Justin washed his hair and I cooked two batches of choc chip muffins and a chocolate cake which received universal approval. (Note to all, you can use drinking chocolate to replace cocoa when cooking)

Oh, I should also clarify something about last night’s meal comments. Apparently Justin was reading about the amount of rice in a pack of Continental Spanish Vegetable Rice, when he said it contained 77% rice, not a plain pack of rice. Tonight, Justin, is backing up last night’s effort by throwing down a mean challenge to Ocean-chef Tony, by cooking (mostly dolphin-free) Tuna Falafal on a bed of special mashed potato (read Deb) We’re all dressing for pre-dinner drinks at 7:15pm at the captain’s table.

On the fishing front (“let’s not talk about that”, says Justin) things have been a bit quiet. (well, actually extremely quiet) Our excuses to date include … “engine’s too noisy”, “line’s too long”, “lure too big”, “lure too small”, “going too fast”, “sea’s not rough enough”, “sun’s too high”, “fish too smart”, “fishermen too dumb”, “no fish” .. there are more, but you get the idea. We’re hanging our hopes now on the fact that we have turned the engine off. Maybe tomorrow is our day. I knew I should have paid more that $9.95 for those lures.

I received a response to my initial Arrival Notification from Australian Customs. All’s looking good for our arrival in Sydney this week-end!! 647 miles to North Head, and it’s all downhill.

Smooth sea (yes we have), fair breeze (ditto) and three cheers for Kevin

Rob

Another day on the big blue

Sunday 23 August 5:55pm (26 18 S, 163 28 E)

Sailors have a lot in common with farmers. We talk a lot about the weather!

Well, we got our much needed wind; sometime last night. It came in from the west-south-west and so now we are chugging along at a bit over 6 knots. Still with the engine idling in the background because we want to go south-west, which is very close to where the wind is coming from, so we need that extra punch to keep us moving.

We prefer the wind to be from the side, or behind, (hard to please aren’t we) but at the moment we’ll take what we can get. Fortunately, after a few days of light or no wind, the seas aren’t too big, so what would normally be called pounding, or punching, into it, is a more moderate affair. Still we are healing over a bit, but it’s bearable.

The sun just went down, to our right. A round orange ball sinking out of sight in a cloudless sky. It’s still cold, but we expect the wind to shift more to the north tomorrow and the next day, which is something akin to knowing Santa’s on his way.

Oh, and Justin has stepped forward to tackle dinner. He’s just informed us all that rice is the world’s most popular grain, and further, that a packet of rice contains up to 77% rice. Fascinating!! Every good meal requires a certain amount of research, discussion and contemplation.

After lots of contented “Sailmail”, via our HF radio, over the past few months, I received an email from the equivalent of “Sailmail High Command” yesterday informing me that we have exceeded our weekly time useage. You’ve probably heard us talk about “no attachments” and keeping “emails short”, well instead of using my allotted weekly allowance of 90 minutes (you may have guessed, it’s not broadband) through a combination of distance, slow connections, equipment interference (not forgetting my ignorance) I did over 400 minutes in the past 7 days. So if my email response to you in the future is brief, or non existent, don’t take offence, it’s just that there’s a higher power at work. I thought I was being good, but I must confess, I have been downloading a few weather maps recently and the system has been very slow – that’s my (current) excuse.

The process of us clearing through Australian Customs began tonight, with me sending off our “Notification of Arrival”. This must be done at least 96 hours before turning up. (Or else!!) None of this old fashioned, lob in the bay and hoist the yellow “Q” flag and if nothing happens, row ashore to track down someone official. There’s more to arriving in the land of Oz – especially by sea, than meets the eye. Stay tuned for more (hopefully mundane and procedural) news on this topic.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and just 770 miles to Sydney (as the albatross flies)

Rob

Oh wind, where for art thou?

Saturday 21 August (24deg 32min S, 165deg 02min E)

There may be Wind In The Willows, but there’s none here.

Sailing purists would be horrified to know we’ve had the engine running for the past day and a half. Initially to clear the strong currents off the end of New Caledonia and then to simply make forward progress in the absence of wind.

It’s a strange sensation. Driving over oily-blue, flat seas with the hint of a regular swell causing us to rise and fall in a gentle lulling motion. We’ve packed away the two headsails, leaving the mainsail sheeted in tight with it’s occasional flap, flap, flap the only indication of it’s presence. Oh, and the nice shade it affords from the sun.

We are getting closer to Australia at a rate of 5 mph, or about 9 km/h. Which is painfully slow. But faster than 0 mph, or exactly 0 km/h, if we didn’t have the engine running. Our course is still south west, or as direct a route to Sydney as we can make it, with the hope that winds will pick up a bit as we head south.

Ocean-chef Tony is starting to whip up a storm in the galley. Like we say, no one opens a can like our Tony. And on the cleanliness front, we have video evidence of Kevin using a solar-shower this afternoon on the foredeck to wash away a few days of accumulated salt. Whilst it’s not my place to keep tabs, I’m sure everyone else has also had a shower, or some sort of wash, since leaving Port Vila – in case anyone was in anyway concerned.

The brilliance of last night’s moonless sky as we glided through the peaceful, calm sea was even better than usual. Lying on my back on the deck, looking up, I was my usual worst at picking out the shape of the well known constellations such as the lion and the scorpion. There were just so many stars and the Milky Way was like white clouds casting a reflection on the sea. For the benefit of astronomers the world over though, I was actually able to identify a whole lot of new constellations by joining up the dots – I gave names to my new ones – “the giraffe”, “the octopus”, “the sandpit”, “the jellybean jar” and “the blue whale”.

For the benefit of animal watchers, we had a brief glimpse of two whales yesterday, which must have been very good at holding their breath because we looked and looked but didn’t see them again. There were also two dolphins that escorted us into and out of the small “stop-over bay”, Ugo, on Isle of Pines.

Despite our tropical location, when the sun goes down it’s actually very cold, requiring us to rug up with all our woollies for the nightshift.

Smooth sea, fair breeze and slow boat to Aussie

Rob