05/07/2012, off shore from Port Macquarie
Last night we had a very pleasant sail. The wind came up about 8 PM. If was not strong (8-10 kts) but was right off the beam and the seas were flat. Those are the conditions where this boat really shines. For such a traditional design loaded down with all our stuff its amazingly good in this sort of light air conditions and we averaged close to 6 kts all night.
We have been trying to stay in close to shore to avoid the strong south setting current that occurs in this part of the Australian coast. There was another reason we were glad to be in close to the coast. The shipping traffic through this part of the coast is very high.
We have an AIS receiver on board. It is a tiny radio (smaller than a pack of cigarettes) that receives signals that all ships above a certain size are required to transmit. The ships' transmitters send out the ship''s position, course, speed, rate of turn, direction of turn, size, name, call sign and destination. The software automatically calculates the point of closest approach between our boat and each ship and also the time until that point is reached. Knowing this information can help us adjust our course so that we can avoid ships and, sometimes, we call them to make sure they see us.
The data that are captured by our little AIS receiver are routed to our navigation computer and to our chart plotter. Both devices have alarm functions that will warn us if a ship is on a collision course or getting too close for comfort.
In the olden days we would see ships headed our way and try to call them on the radio with hails like "southbound freighter, southbound freighter, this is the sailing vessel Active Transport". Ninety percent of the time they never answered us. They cynic in me thinks it is because if they acknowledged our call they would not be able to deny knowledge of our position if they ran us down.
With AIS we usually have the name of the ship and their call sign and we get answers almost every time we call them. They can't know if the Coast Guard is listening or not. They usually say they saw us but quite a few times they change course right after telling us they saw us all along. They dont want to tell the coast guard, on the radio, that they might not have been keeping a careful watch.
The reason I brought this up is because the AIS traffic we saw last night was overwhelming. The only place we have seen more ships on the screen at any one time was when we were on a mooring near the Pacific end of the Panama canal and there were between 30 and 40 ships waiting for their turn to go through the canal.
Even in big ports like Los Angeles or Callao (Peru) we did not see as many ships as we saw along the coast of Australia last night.
The vast majority of them, that were displaying Australian destinations, were not headed into Newcastle. We saw them headed for Syndey, Melbourne, Port Kembla and Hobart. A few were headed into the waiting area off Newcastle (to load coal) and quite a few of them were headed away from Newcastle. The majority of the ships headed from Newcastle (presumably full of coal) were headed to Japanese ports. I assume that because Japan has shut down all of its nuclear reactors has forced them to import a lot more coal for electrical generation.
Unfortunately I did not have the presence of mind last night to snag a screen shot of the high density AIS signals but I just captured a screen that shows one ship that is steaming north past us. I will post that screen shot at the top of this blog entry.
The red line on the left with the cross hairs symbol at the top shows our track over the past several hours. The cross hairs is our current position., not a link to Sarah Palin's blog.
To the right of our position you will see a green triangle representing a ship and, what looks like a lollypop sticking out of the pointy end. The orientation of the triangle shows us the direction the ship is headed and the length of the lollypop handle is indicating the course and speed of the ship. If the ship were turning the lollypop would not be sticking straight out in front of the ship but would show the directions she was turning. The line behind the ship shows its track over the past 20 minutes.
Next to the image of the ship is the detailed info on that particular ship The Hebei Zhangjiakou. So much for the rule that you should give your boat a name that is easy to understand on the radio. She is bound for Singapore, going 10 kts, and in half an hour will be as close to us as she will get. She will be 12 miles away.
Last night there were times when there were more than 20 ships on the screen at a time and sorting out their course and speed was not always easy to do. Fortunately our navigation software turned the ones that might be a problem red so we could check up on them first.
Ill bet that the number of ships you can count in a given evening is a pretty good barometer of the health of the Australian economy. The Aussies ship a lot of minerals to China and other Asian destinations and import a lot of finished goods.
05/07/2012, Off Port Stephens
We Stopped in Newcastle on Saturday after a 50 mile trip from Pittwater.
We stopped in Pittwater to visit with our friends Mike and Sue Powell . we were afraid we would be moving up the coast faster than they will and will not see them again before we leave Australia.
We have a very nice visit with Mike and Sue and then got under way at the crack of dawn the following morning so we could be sure to get to Newcastle before dark.
We had originally met Mike and Sue in Bahia Magdalena in Mexico and then ran into them again in Mooloolaba. They are Australian and were on their way back from an Alaskan adventure when we saw them in Mexico.
In Newcastle we tied up at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club and then went home with Tony and Maryanne Purkis for the night. We had a very pleasant evening with Tony and Maryanne, nice hot showers and a comfy bed for the night.
We spent the following morning working with Tony with some of the navigation software he is learning to use. Tony is a very well known Australian sailboat racer and always working to add new technologies to his skill set. Shawn googled Tony's history and Ill let him fill in the details on another blog post. Tony is a very remarkable man.
After fun with software was over Maryanne and Tony took us to Aldi's (a upscale version of Costco) and Coles (supermarket) so we could finish our provisioning for the trip up the coast. Being able to get this done with help with friends with a pickup truck makes the job much easier.
We spent last night on the boat and got up early to finish getting ready to go to sea. For one thing I had started a batch of zucchini pickles the night before and needed about half an hour to complete them and get them in jars. We got the zucchini pickle recipe from Linda Callahan down on Raymond Island and I think this recent batch was the fifth time I have made them. They are really easy to make and are incredibly good in corned beef sandwiches. They are also really good in grilled cheese sandwiches. I dont think there is a way to post PDF files on this webite so anyone who wants the recipe should send me an email.
This morning we got laundry done and got the boat organized for a passage of a few days. We got underway around lunch time andare making good progress under power since there is not much wind. We may have to motor all the way up to Brisbane. I think our expensive bottom cleaning job in Sydney will pay for itself in fuel savings on this leg alone.
We are stopping in Brisbane to visit friends we made on the way down. We should get into Southport on the gold coast on Thursday and then motor up to Brisbane inside some barrier islands that will let us keep going even if the forecasted conrtray wind comes to pass.
It will take us less than a day to get from Southport to Brisbane if we time the tide right.
So far all the repairs we made in Sydney are holding up well.
05/04/2012, Morning Bay, Pittwatter
We have a very unambitious plan for our first day out of Sydney and executed it without a problem.
We left our anchorage around 8:30 this morning and were anchored in Pittwater before 3 PM.
We are going to visit our friends Mike and Sue Powell on the boat Yaraandoo II before taking off tomorrow morning for Newcastle.
Our friend Tony Purkiss is going to try to get down here tomorrow morning and do the sail to Newcastle with us but if that does not work out we will be meeting up with him and his wife Maryann in Newcastle.
From Newcastle we will head up to Camden Haven. The swell may end up being to big for us to get in there so we might have to divert to a place called Foster /Tuncurry that is supposed to be easy to enter even when there is big swell running. We need to pick Mike and Sue's brain tonight and find out if Foster/Tuncurry is a suitable place to leave the boat to visit our friends in Tyree. If that works out we will skip Camden Haven and Leave Tuncury on Tuesday morning and head straight for the gold coast near Brisbane.
As always our plans are at the whim of the weather gods so we will see how this all plays out.