Hobart to Queensland, May-June 2011

Hobart to Eden

Wednesday 25 to Saturday 28 May 2011

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We leave the fuel jetty at the RYCT at 8:30am. The winds are favorable but light, so we motor-sail round to the Denison Canal, making good time for the tide. Drop sail to motor through the canal and the very shallow Blackman's Bay, negotiate the Marion Narrows and are out into the open sea by about 4pm. Greeted by a pack of seals and an albatross, but not the forecast SW winds. Put sail up in hope, head out round the bottom of Maria Island and turn north as the sun sets. Motor-sail up the coast in the dark. Although there isn't much wind, there is enough swell to make the mate/cook seasick, so meals are off.

Sunrise Thursday finds us between St Mary's and St Helen's. We make one attempt to do without the motor about the middle of the day when we have some brief SW wind, but can't get a respectable speed. At dusk we are north of Eddystone as the wind finally starts to match the forecast in strength and direction. We set jib and double-reefed main and start sailing.

By midnight we are level with the top of Flinders Island and the wind starts to increase substantially. We shorten the jib and race across Bass Strait at an average 7kt. Seas are lumpy, so the mate is reluctant to go below and stays on deck most of the night.

Wind and waves increase as we go further north, so mid-morning on Friday we reef down to the third reef, which gives us a more comfortable ride, still doing 6-7kt and over 8kt down the waves. As we approach the Gabo island corner the wind decreases a bit, the waves are a bit lower but much nastier, biffing Nahani across the bows, rolling the boat, and slopping into the cockpit on occasion (but not into the doghouse). The self-steering gear doesn't like it and we have to hand steer for about 9 hours before we get into the lee of Victoria and conditions improve. AIS proves invaluable for missing the shipping going round the corner, allowing the captain to take diversionary action while the mate sleeps happily unaware below. Much calmer once past Gabo, and really rather pleasant sailing up toward Eden - lovely starry night. Mate is confused by two AIS warnings but no ships visible on the chart, until she finally locates them both berthed in Twofold Bay. Wind drops out on the mate's watch so the motor goes on for the last 7nm of the journey as we headinto Twofold Bay, round the woodchip mill and naval jetty where one of the aforementioned boats is berthed, finally anchoring in the middle of the little bay below the jetty at 4am Saturday morning. Highlights of the trip - watching lots of albatross soaring over the waves. Lowlights - falling into doors while trying to adjust trousers below decks. Score is doors 1 (mate has a bruise on her chin) crew 1 (shed door came off second best and off its hinges when the captain fell on it).

If you would like to see how Nahani coped in Bass Strait, watch a bit of our passage on YouTube. [Top]

Eden to Jervis Bay

Sunday 29 to Monday 30 May 2011

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We leave Eden at sunrise (7am), skirting round a thick seafog in Twofold Bay and keeping an eye out for the Sunday fishermen in their runabouts who come roaring out of the fog across our track with twin outboards at full throttle. Fog spills out of most of the harbours we pass as we head north, but out at sea it is sunny and clear. We expect to motor until about the middle of the day, when the wind is supposed to increase. We put up the main at midday but the SE winds are less than 10kt so we motor-sail until well after dark. By contrast with Bass Strait, the sea is calm with properly-behaved 2m swells that all roll in from the same direction a decent interval apart. We sit up front in the sunshine to get away from the motor noise and decide this is more like it. Meals are back up to standard, coq au vin for lunch and pasta for tea.

The wind may have been less than the forecast during the day, but it increases as predicted overnight, and we progressively shorten sail, dropping the mainsail altogether just after midnight when the wind is getting to 25kt. The seas increase as well and we are back to rocking and rolling. The AIS warns us that a big ship is coming up right behind us, and we watch its progress closely for several hours, finally diverging a bit from our course to ensure it passes safely. Another warning tells us that the Aurora Australis, which we are used to seeing in Hobart, is in Jervis Bay. Although the AIS is a wonderful safety device, we need to work on the settings so that we don't have it meeping at us for hours, as we do on this trip. About two hours out from Jervis Bay we find a new hazard. We can see lights on the horizon that look like a ship, but it appears on neither AIS nor radar. As we get closer, it is obviously not moving, yet it is outside the bay so can't be land-based. And there isn't any kind of beacon shown on the charts. By the time we are closing on it, the wave and wind action is giving the self-steering difficulties, and we don't want it to go off-course at a critical moment, so it is back to hand-steering again - hard work in the dark with an object ahead to be avoided. We change our minds twice about whether to leave it to starboard or port, diverging from our course and then coming back. When we finally pass it, it appears to be a boat or a platform moored outside the entrance to Jervis Bay - possibly being used by the navy practising night diving, as there is a wreck nearby. Fine for them, but not much fun for passing yachties trying not to run into things in the dark. It is very well lit - we saw it from about 15nm away - but that's not much help if you still don't know what it is.

Once safely past we furl the jib that had been driving the boat at 6-7kt, and turn into Jervis Bay under motor. Very bouncy conditions going through the entrance and then we are heading into the wind toward the sheltered S end of the Bay. Now pouring with rain, so the mate has a cold wet time of it keeping watch for fish farms and other beacons as we head down to our anchoring point. Very pleased when the anchor holds first go. As we've both had a sleep while off watch during the night, we plan to stay awake until dawn and then move to a mooring, but after the mate has washed up and the captain has fixed a torch that stopped working en route, we both pass out where we are sitting. We wake again at daylight, decide not to bother moving, and go to bed. [Top]

Jervis Bay to Newcastle

Wednesday 1 to Thursday 2 June 2011

Big easterly swells are forecast to continue for several days, so we decide to go on Wednesday when the forecast is for enough wind to push our big boat through the waves, rather than wait in hope that the swells will go away. Winds are generally ideal for Nahani, around 18-22kt. During the day on Wednesday we have one reef in the main, two reefs overnight and on Thursday morning, and we adjust the amount of jib to cope with wind variations. We have some periods of lighter winds when we have to resort to the motor, and some more taxing moments when there are short squalls of over 25kt. Since the squalls are usually accompanied by short but heavy rain showers, we are inevitably trying to furl the jib in the wet. The wind direction means that the furler is on the downwind side, so one is also at risk of a wave in the face, particularly if the wind is well up before you start furling. So the sailing part is fine - Nahani just shrugging off the waves as she ploughs along at around 6kt. But the crew are less comfortable. The mate isn't as seasick as on the Bass Strait crossing, when there were close encounters with a bucket, but isn't really seawell either. This means that she isn't hungry, avoids going below as much as possible, catnapping in the cockpit when off watch, and leaves the captain to feed himself and do most of the tasks that involve lurching about below decks. She does manage to make smoked salmon sandwiches for lunch, and to find the cheese and biscuits for supper, but that's about it on the culinary stakes.

Heading out of Jervis Bay we enjoy the magnificent sight of the tallest cliffs in Australia rising straight out of the sea (Cook was right when he named the head Point Perpendicular). Less enjoyable are the swells reflected from said cliffs interfering with those still rolling in. We motor-sail and the mate tiller-steers for the first hour or so until we are well out to sea to clear St John's Bank and the swells are more regular. Further north the AIS comes into its own as we pass Port Kembla and dodge the big ships going in and out. One crosses our track slowly heading toward the port, then does a U-turn and crosses our track again coming the other way, by which time we are close and have to take diversionary action. One wishes that if these big vessels need to stooge around while waiting to go into port, they'd keep away from the through traffic. We pass the Botany Bay / Port Jackson (Sydney) area in the middle of the night when there isn't much vessel traffic coming in or out, and then the AIS is most useful again as we pass the anchoring ground just S of Newcastle, telling us, for example, that one of the anchored ships has just got underway, and that another vessel has turned and is now heading straight for us. We avoid them all easily using the AIS data and feel it has already earned its keep.

Coming in closer to the shore with the waves shortening in the shallows makes steering into Stockton Bight and into the river hard work, but once in the protection of the river it is easy travelling up to the marina, where the captain takes over for the final moment of berthing. The moment the motion ceases the mate becomes ravenous, so first priority after berthing is a big lunch to compensate for the skimpy meals en route. And even before that, a gin and tonic to celebrate having reached 33 degrees S. We started at 43 degrees S as we passed the Iron Pot in Hobart, so we are half way to the tropics, and about two thirds of the way to our endpoint for this voyage, which we now think will be Southport on the Gold Coast. [Top]

Newcastle to Coffs Harbour

Sunday 5 to Monday 6 June 2011

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After a couple of very pleasant days in Newcastle, stretching our legs with a walk into town and doing the washing, we decide that the weather is looking good for the next move. We leave Newcastle at 5:45am on Sunday to ensure we have ample time to get to Coffs in the daylight on Monday. We motor or motor-sail most of the way, with only a few periods without the engine. Mid-morning Sunday we have the MPS up and jib poled out, but the wind drops at midday and we motor the rest of the afternoon. Forecast is for more wind overnight so we put up the main while it is still light, just in case. At about 11pm the wind gets up to a respectable speed and we have a brief period of quiet, then a second one at about 4am. Finally we have a proper sailing breeze at about 10am on Monday, the motor goes off for good and we have a lovely sail the rest of the way to Coffs. This is our most enjoyable leg so far - sunny weather, no big swells, no encounters with large ships, and at least some good sailing. The only anxious moments are two rather narrow misses of craypots.

En route we see: Brightly lit quaysides, ships, wharves and three large tugs coming up the river as we leave Newcastle in the dark. Early morning sun creating patterns of sunlight and shade on the sanddunes fringing Stockton Bight, just outside Newcastle. Sunshine, all day Sunday. The lovely sight of our MPS flying. Huge thunderstorm overnight, fortunately well out to sea from us, that provide a light show for hours (too far away to hear the thunder). Looks like the gods are playing some giant pinball machine. Two sunrises and a sunset. More sunshine, all day Monday. A whale broaching, several nautical miles away, but still clearly visible as a huge object appearing out of the water, creating a big whitewater splash on return. Caledonia, a bigger and lighter yacht, sailing past us as we approach Coffs after a long stern chase that started near Port Stephens.

Murphy's law of wind says that you always get it just when you don't want it, and sure enough, the strongest wind all trip is as we enter Coffs Harbour. As a result of a strong SW wind as we come into the marina, we overshoot the guest berth we've been allocated, and once downwind of the berth, there is really no recovery other than backing out and starting again, and even that isn't easy in Nahani. Instead we manage to back across to a large empty space on the next arm behind the berth we were aiming for, and make a rather inelegant but quite safe landing side-on to the arm, occupying about three berths, which fortunately have no dividing finger or pillar, and are empty. Apparently some boat has been there for months, but luckily (for him as well as us) had left a week ago. Marina people are unfazed by our unconventional arrival and don't mind if we stay here, so all is well. [Top]

Coffs Harbour to the Gold Coast Broadwater

Wednesday 8 to Thursday 9 June 2011

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In Coffs we spend a quiet afternoon recovering from our trip, particularly the last 15 minutes trying to berth in the marina, then have an early night and a late morning. After breakfast we quietly turn Nahani around in the pen so that she is facing in the direction of OUT - all done with ropes and winches. Coffee and lunch ashore, a long walk, a supermarket visit for fresh bread and more tonic, and ice cream (indulgences rather than necessities). By then we are refreshed, the weather looks OK and we decide we will leave shortly after 9am the next day, as soon as the marina office has opened and we can pay our dues.

This means we don't have to be up horrendously early on Wednesday and by 9am we are up, breakfasted and more or less ready. The captain goes to the office to pay and on return drops the key into the box saying "We won't need this any more". The mate has a moment of unreasoning misgiving and is about to say "Wait", but the key is gone. Murphy's law strikes in the most unexpected way: when the captain goes to take off the shore power lead, he can't unplug it. Brute force having failed, we try more technical approaches such as wiggling, liberal application of WD40, and levering with a screwdriver. Engineer unscrews the panel in which the socket is mounted to get better purchase with the screwdriver, but only succeeds in pinching his thumb, then bleeding copiously over everything. Short break while we return to the ship for the mate to bind up the thumb with lots of plaster, until it looks like, well, a sore thumb. Mate goes ashore, hoping that by the time she returns from the loo the problem will be solved, which it is. Seems that the industrial strength plug mandated by the RYCT in Hobart has a long earth pin which jams in a more conventional electrical socket. We resolve to use a standard extension lead next time, rather than our Hobart power cord.

A helpful bloke on the next yacht pushes the bow out for us and we exit more gracefully than we entered, although the helper has to push rather hard to keep Nahani off the finger as we pull out. The sun is out, seas are calm, we wonder at the fisherman who had cast doubts on the weather and told us that it was lumpy outside the harbour. We have a rather boring day, motoring with no wind to start with, then into a steadily increasing headwind. The forecast was for NW winds, but this is more NNW. We try sailing, but find we would have to tack and our resolved speed would be about 3kt, so we just keep on plugging into the wind under engine. By now we do indeed have lumpy seas, but a pitch not a roll, and the cook is able to produce curry and rice for tea without too much difficulty. Forecast is for stronger winds at night, so we reef down at about 4pm. At 7:30pm the wind finally goes where it belongs, on the beam, and we sail all night until the wind drops at sunrise on Thursday. We are glad we put two reefs in the main as the wind gets over 20kt around 3am and stays there. As usual we adjust for variations in wind speed by letting the jib in and out, even furling it altogether for a period when the wind gets close to 30kt.

By staying off the coast we get enough wind to assist the motor in the early morning, and another period of straight sailing midmorning. As we near the Gold Coast Seaway entrance at midday we lose the wind, strike all sails and motor in slowly, avoiding jetskis, jet boats, and a small runabout whose owners have chosen to fish right in the middle of the channel. Once in the Broadwater we turn left toward Southport, then left again to anchor in an area called the Marine Stadium, where there are lots of other cruising yachts. Anchor down and voyage complete at 2pm.

In Coffs, we saw whistling kites, lorikeets, gulls. En route, the various Solitary Islands, then not much of interest apart from various boats we had to avoid. Moderately interesting sunset, boring sunrise (lots of cloud). In between, stars, briefly, before the sky clouded over. Finally, after miles of rural coastline, the extraordinary sight of the skyscrapers of the Gold Coast rising from the beach, which you can see for miles, almost from the Queensland border.

After a good sleep we contact the Southport Yacht Club the next day to organise a berth. We up anchor as soon as that is done, so that we can get safely into a pen while there is not much wind. Captain works out that if he can reverse into the channel between the arms, he will be in a perfect position to swing the boat into the berth, and this all works well, although the owners of boats on the other side get a bit anxious when Nahani stops its reverse track only feet from their sterns. A few days later we discover we have been put in a pen that isn't available for rent, and which the owner wants to re-occupy, so we have to repeat the manoeuvre of backing down the channel to a berth about 5 pens further in on the arm. We have lots of help from the marina manager, the berth owner, and the bloke next door, so we manage without too much difficulty, even though this time there is a lot more breeze. Nahani is to stay here for about 6 weeks while the crew return to Melbourne.

The Gold Coast experience: In Southport Yacht Club, grey nomads at rest on yachts and power boats being used as houseboats. Down Tedder Street, young women wearing shoes that would compete with medieval instruments of torture - super high heels, platform soles, wedges. Their ankles wobble with every step. Back in the marina, elderly blokes in Bermuda shorts. White shoes. Women wearing sun-visors. Bling (even a boat called Bling). Punning boat names: Super Fun'd, Fete Accomplie. [Top]

Summary & reflections

We made it from Hobart to Queensland in 15 days, 5.5 hours, anchoring in Southport in the Gold Coast at 2pm Thursday 9 June. We spent one night anchored at Marine Stadium, then went down to Southport Yacht Club where we settled in, as Nahani was to be there for about 6 weeks while we embarked on the project to replace the kero stove and made the return trip to Melbourne. (As with the Repowering Project, there is a separate blog to report progress on the Stove Project - see Weblog on the menu on the left.)

Taking stock of our northward journey: Of the 15 nights, we spent 8 nights in port, 7 at sea. Of the 15 and a bit days, we had 9 and a bit at sea, 6 rest days in port. We've probably had the engine on more than off, although a lot of that was motor-sailing - using the motor to keep up speed in light winds. We averaged about 6 kt. We had beam reach or broad reach winds almost all the way - only on the penultimate day did we have a brief period of headwinds. The adverse current seemed to affect us less this time than on our last trip, perhaps because we have typically been further out to sea.

Improvements to the boat since our last voyage up the east coast which proved well worth the price:

Having a reliable autopilot also helps, although it did give up a couple of times in difficult conditions.

We have found that a day-night-day sail is workable, but the captain still doesn't enjoy being at sea at night and so from here on we will be trying to progress in day sail hops. Our conclusion from trying passage-making two up is that we will only do more than one successive night at sea if we have to (eg to cross Bass Strait). In other words, we won't be sailing Nahani to New Zealand on our own, and if we ever want to take her to far-away places we will either have a delivery done without us, or use a passage crew to assist us.

We finished the trip before we exhausted our provisions - there were still two pre-cooked meals in the fridge plus a carrot and some cabbage, eggs, bacon, salami, prosciutto, smoked quail, smoked salmon, bananas, lots of Tassie apples. Some of the fresh food was transported back to Melbourne and eaten there. All of Carroll's delicious ginger shortbread went, but we still had cake and even a bit of chocolate. Don't know what we're going to do with all the tinned food and instant noodles that were stocked for emergencies... perhaps they'll get eaten on the return trip. [Top]