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Wind from the north at last

Wind from the north at last

Sunday 20 October 2013

Off Newcastle,, NSW

After 20 hours of faithful service Perkins was finally turned off mid morning upon the arrival of the much-promised northerly wind.

Starting as a mild breeze it soon climbed to around 15-20 knots with sails trimmed and in the case of the jib, hoisted.  The seas began to build from the stern and pretty soon we were doing 7-8 knts; the noise of the motor giving way to the rush of the wind and the parting waves.


Around lunchtime we spied some whales inshore of us and for about 15 minutes they occasionally lept from the sea showing their white tummies as they landed on their black backs with a big splash.  Dolphins joined us briefly for a time too, but they were gone as soon as they’d arrived, obviously having something more interesting to do than muck about with us.

The coal loading dock at Newcastle certainly acts as a magnet for ships and so far today we must have seen 10 or more travelling up and down the coast.  Our ship-spotting AIS alarm was worrking overtime there for a while.

We’ve each taken it in turns to sleep during the day, catching up on time lost to our bunks through last night’s watches.  At the moment Sally is working hard in the galley, made remarkably stable owing to having the wind from the stern and seas reasonably calm, Bob is up in the cockpit keeping an eye on the autohelm, David is dressing for dinner I believe and I’m at the saloon table typing – and needing to tidy the table for dinner.


A smoky haze can be seen onshore – evidence of the continuing fires down the coast and at last calculation we expect to be in Sydney around 6:00am tomorrow moring.  The wind is expected to continue blowing from the north for a couple of days yet, so we’ll be out and heading south again just as soon as the crew changeover is complete.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and wind from the north at last
Rob Latimer

Back to sea again.

Back to sea again.

Saturday 19 October 2013

Off Smoky Cape, NSW

After nearly two days tied up at the Coffs Harbour wharf, at around  2:00pm this afternoon it was time to release the lines and make our way back out to sea; south to Sydney.

With the wind still blowing in from a roughly southerly direction, (but with the promise of northerlies to come), we prepared for the usual lumpy conditions – at least for the first 12 hours or so.

I mentioned “releasing the lines”, well in many cases you can just do that and drive away, but the problem we faced today was that the wind was blowing us side-on to the courtesy wharf (for which you pay $50/night) and to the front and back of us were either more yachts or another wharf.  The only way out was 90 degrees to the right, something we don’t usually do.

So with an audience of nearly 50 (it’s festival day here in Coffs Harbour and of course everyone likes  walking along a pier on a sunny day) including 3 old salts off another yacht heading south later in the evening, we embarked on a classic wharf-departure-strategy involving first releasing the bow line and then reversing onto a stern line so as to pivot the bow out from the wharf.  By overhanging the stern off the wharf we were able to pivot the bow to around 90 degrees and then calmly motor away.  Ai, it was a grand sight.  A text book manoeuvre.

It’s now nearly 9:30 in the evening, the seas have dropped and we have been tacking our way down the coast (with the aid of the motor it must be said) and we’re about to round Smoky Cape.

Sally cooked up a lovely dinner around 8:00pm, David did the washing up and Bob is now on watch till 10:00pm.  It’s then my turn on lookout with David and Sally taking over at 12:00 midnight.  Bob’s then back between 2:00 and 4:00 and I get to watch the sunrise.  By then we hope to pick up a wind change from the northeast.  Nothing like having the wind going your way !!

Arrival in Sydney looks like it might be very early Monday, with our plan being to set off south again soon after the new crew arrive – around mid-day Monday.

Thanks go again to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia for their generous assistance in providing a berth for us to tie up at – in Rushcutters Bay.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and oh to have the wind going your way !

Rob Latimer

Tag-team crew changeover …

Tag-team crew changeover …

Friday 18 October 2013

Coffs Harbour

The arrival of Chimere into Coffs Harbour, (instead of Sydney), 9 days out of Pt Vila, almost brings the return voyage to completion.  Customs, immigration and quarantine formalities were completed on arrival with the crew, consisting of Skipper Bob (and fixer of autohelms), Carl, Cameron, David and Sally who did a sterling job with the weather generally good apart from the usual bad patches – wind on the nose or lumpy, horrible seas – which seem hard to avoid completely in a voyage extending beyond just a few days.
The diversion to Coffs Harbour was due to a patch of bad weather about three days ago and the reason I’m back at the saloon table typing up the day’s Ships Log is because last night Bob called to say that Cameron needed to get back to work as planned and Carl was concerned about the current fires (here in NSW) and understandably needed to get home too.  That left just 3 onboard and there’s still the last bit to complete to Sydney before the the final batch of sailing volunteers step aboard for the last hop around to Westernport.

So, the long and the short of it is that late last night I booked a flight to Coffs Harbour, via Sydney, and after juggling a few work commitments, flew out of Melbourne at 1:00pm arriving here around 5:00pm this afternoon.

The weather upon arrival was wet, grey and gloomy, not really bushfire weather in these parts, but with a promise of improvement tomorrow.  I certainly hope so.


We are currently tied up at the visitors wharf and after an amazing hamburger nearby for dinner it is now time for some sleep.
Smooth seas, fair breeze and back aboard once more…

Rob Latimer



Port Vila to Sydney (Coffs!)

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Current position 28 57S 154 53E. Distance covered in the last 24 hours – 146NM


Last night was very pleasant with calm seas, a clear star filled sky and a light northerly wind. Perkins pushed us along with a little bit of help from the mainsail and Arthur steered beautifully. Sadly the night watches wearing a T shirt and shorts are way behind us.


We are now 120NM north east of Coffs Harbour and if we continue at our current pace should be there by 7 AM Thursday. Rob has arranged Customs and we are hoping for a quick turn-around to continue to Sydney.

This morning the wind grew strong enough to put Perkins to bed and pole out the jib. Chimere is running wing and wing comfortably at 6 knots with and all aboard are eagerly awaiting lunch. Sally has filled the cabin with the smell of fresh buns cooking in the oven to go with the hamburger patties cooking on the stove. Yummy!


After lunch the wind started to increase soon we were belting along at 7 and even 8 knots at times. Alas the wind swung around to the north west and soon we were fighting to point toward Coffs Harbour and not long after sunset had to heave to and ride out a 40+ knot gale.

Another uncomfortable night but eventually the gale moderated and with a lot of help from Perkins we made it into beautiful Coffs Harbour at 11AM Thursday.

The wind is still howling from the north and plans are being revised.

Catch you next time.





Port Vila to Sydney
Tuesday 15 October 2013
Current position 27 27S 156 38E. Distance covered in the last 24 hours – 90NM
When I left you yesterday afternoon a squall line came through and dumped heavy rain and left us with a 35 knot south westerly wind directly onto our nose.

A little while later we had two reefs in the main, the jib furled, Perkins at work again and were bashing into a nasty head sea plodding along at 3 knots and only able to head as far south as Brisbane. A long and lousy night followed but thankfully the wind and seas eased and by sunrise full sail was set and we could head further south.
Right now it is a beautiful day, the wind is still on the nose and we are heading for Coffs Harbour. The plan is to clear Customs at Coffs on Thursday at about midday and depart immediately for Sydney.


We are all feeling weary after the bashing we took last night. Hopefully we won’t have a repeat performance.

Bob has just woken up from a nap and is studying the parts diagram for Arthur and declared he has an idea. Sure enough a little while later the call comes from underneath the cockpit to switch on the auto helm and wonder of wonders Arthur is back at work steering the boat. Bob says he found a loose wire and reattached it and Arthur is back to his good natured self.
For this marvelous achievement we have awarded Bob the title of Grand Master Of Sea Going Fixing and appointed him as the Living Legend of the Coral Sea!

Off to bed now to rest up for the night watch, catch you tomorrow.

Day 7 Vila to Sydney

Day 7 Vila to Sydney

Hello again.

Lots of action today.

At about midnight last night a 15 knot north westerly breeze piped up so good old Perkins was given a well deserved rest leaving Chimere jogging along very comfortably under mainsail and jib. At about 1 AM Arthur the Auto-helm pulled a heart muscle and refused to steer for us anymore.

At 6AM the decks were still dry. Cam got into his bunk after his night watch and with cool air flowing through the hatch above his bunk fell soundly asleep. As he slept the wind increased to about 20 knots and then up to 25 knots.  No one on watch noticed the open hatch but and a sly wave did and jumped through the hatch and into bed with Cam. Certainly a refreshing way to wake up!

Our forecast said light north westerly winds and calm seas.  It seems the weatherman the “Solstice” is using was better than ours!
As anyone who knows Bob will testify, he is a man who often goes well beyond the call of duty to serve his crew. After breakfast, Bob squeezed in under the cockpit to have a talk with Arthur and with tender affection pulled him to bits, removed some grit and other gunk, greased up his insides and put him back on his perch.  Alas even with such love and devotion Arthur has refused to play and now sits under the cockpit and sulks. Maybe he is grumpy because Perkins is having the day off?
It’s great to be sailing again and Chimere is loving it too!

Anyway it’s time to put the spray dodger back up as it is getting wet outside.

Well we got a lot more than just wet. A few heavy rain squalls and a sudden wind change to the south west. We have gone from a pleasant but bumpy fast sail directly to Sydney  to a very slow, very rough, bash into a 35 knot south westerly and the best we can do is aim  toward the Gold Coast!

Best regards ’til next time.



Port Vila to Sydney

Sunday 13 October 2013

Current position 24 22S 159 40E. Distance covered in the last 24 hours –  140NM.

Hello again from Chimere and crew.
Perkins is still pushing us along with a little help form a light north westerly wind. Good old P he has been going non-stop since Friday morning and his mate Arthur the auto-helm sings along with him. Arthur likes the light weather and keeps us on course without complaint.

Once again the weather man has scored 100%. The light northerly wind has bought higher air temperature and as we are traveling south at about the same speed as the wind it is quite hot onboard today.  There is a 1 metre southerly swell against a small northerly chop which is tossing us around but still dry decks and open hatches! The swell is a harbinger of the 20 knot southerly predicted for the day after tomorrow. So, I am hoping our friends at the BOM are wrong about that.

We will pass the half way point in another 11 NM then it’s only 702NM to Sydney. We have started an arrival time sweepstakes for North Head Sydney Harbour. The GPS, who doesn’t know about the predicted southerly wind says 8PM Thursday the 17th. (Go GPS!!!) David is optimistic the southerly will blow out quickly and reckons 5PM Friday the 18th. Cam is still optimistic but has seen Chimere’s enthusiasm for going to windward reckons 12 midday Saturday and Sally obviously thinks Cam’s pretty smart and agrees but can’t have the same time so says 3PM. Carl who has more experience sailing Chimere reckons we’re dreaming and says Sunday the 20th at 10AM and Rob, from long experience guesstimates Sunday at 12 midday. We don’t know what the prize is yet as Bob is keeping it a surprise. If it’s like the Hobart race the winner will get chucked overboard then made to drink 10 beers!

The sea here is still pretty empty. No ships or other boats, no dolphins, or fish and the flying fish are hiding. We haven’t even seen any flotsam. The air is doing better with more birds, a jet way high last night on a reciprocal course and a few satellites whizzing by.

Well so much for saying the sea is pretty empty! Just after I wrote that paragraph the passenger ship Pacific Dawn and the yacht Solstice appeared on AIS and when we looked where the AIS indicated we could see them both. Bob had a chat to them on VHF. Pacific Dawn was enroute to Noumea and the Solstice from Noumea to Brisbane.  Interestingly Solstice said his weather forecast was for 30 knot north westerlies by 4 AM tomorrow.  If his forecasters are better than ours we could be in for a fast ride.

Well that’s enough excitement for one day.
We are all well and still enjoying the ride.



Port Vila to Sydney

Saturday 12 October 2013

Current position 22 16S 161 07E.

What a lovely day! Calm deep blue sea, a light south easterly breeze coming out of an almost cloudless sky, main and jib set and Perkins pushing too so Chimere is making almost 6 knots most of the time which is OK. The chart plotter says only 873NM to run to Sydney so by tomorrow evening we should be half way there. If these conditions persist we won’t want to stop!

The weather man has so far been very accurate with his (or her – no sexism here but I won’t write weather person!) forecasts and predicts much the same weather for the next two days. It is a good thing the people who built Chimere put in such big fuel tanks!
Sally has prepared a curry for dinner and is helping Bob sort and reorganize spare parts, David is resting, and Carl is standing watch. Well that is stretching the truth a bit as Carl is lying on the cockpit seat reading a book, but still ever vigilant! Bob is very happy as he has found the Soda Stream and a new canister of gas so now we will be blessed with some bubbly cordial!

Since setting sail we have only come across two other vessels both on the first night and within an hour of each other. Both of these boats were first visible on the AIS (Automatic Identification System).  It was a dark night and being able to “see” other traffic and immediately know if a collision risk exists when they are still a safe distance away is very comforting.

Surprisingly there has been very little wildlife. We’ve seen a couple of long ranging ocean birds, probably petrels, and a few flying fish. No dolphins or sunfish or and certainly nothing is interested in our trolling line.
So life continues to be good onboard Chimere.

Day 4

Day 4

Port Vila to Sydney Blog

Day 4 Friday 11 October 2013

I am looking out over a beautiful deep blue sea and looking down into the depths it has an amazing purity and richness. The sky has almost no cloud and we have washing hanging out to dry in the rigging. It is a good washing day, hot with a light north easterly breeze, and a gentle swell enabling dry decks and open hatches again.
It’s not great sailing weather for Chimere so Perkins has been pushing us along since 6AM this morning but pleasant enough for the five of us on board.

Last night a 15 knot wind gave a lively sail and helped us make over 150NM in the 24 hour period which means we have cracked the 1000NM to go point! Yep it’s all downhill from here!

Not much else to report today, I’d better get the washing in.


Onboard Cub Reporter, Cam Heathwood

Blog Day 3 Vila – Sydney

Blog Day 3 Vila – Sydney

Day 3 Thursday 10 October 2013

It’s 3:30 on a lovely afternoon, the chart plotter tells me we have 20 miles to run to the Grande Passage at the top of Noumea. Chimere is happy and bowling along at 7 knots with a 15 knot southerly breeze on the port quarter. We should be through this fairly narrow passage just before dark if the current is favorable. The decks are almost dry, some of the hatches are open and the off watch crew sleeping well.

It wasn’t like that last night. In the early evening the wind though light, blew from exactly from where we wanted to go. Not only was the wind on the nose but a lumpy confused sea came with it. Chimere was not comfortable and pitched up and down like a seesaw. No dry decks, no open hatches and even with our much loved Perkins doing his best there wasn’t much progress, and not much sleep for the hot and uncomfortable but uncomplaining crew either. The moon disappeared over the west horizon early in the evening, cloud obscured the stars and we pitched, rolled and wobbled our way through a dark night.

But by sunrise the wind come around to the south and picked up to a good sailing breeze just as the weather man said it would. Perkins went to bed, the jib was rolled out and Chimere came to life once again.
That’s how we like it!!

Onboard Cub Reporter, Cam Heathwood