SailBlogs
Bookmark and Share
East...
Blogs from our sailing vessel SV Sänna. UK to New Zealand... & then circumnavigation.
South...
Dave
18/10/2011, Whitsunday Islands to Brisbane

Photo: Paradise in the Great Barrier Reef.

Marie didn't much believe my account of our passage through the Whitsunday Islands. She came back onboard Sänna in Mackay and, with the wind from the south east again, we beat the forty miles or so back up to the Lindeman Island anchorage in the southern Island group. We dropped anchor in the dark as usual but it was good to be back together again. I miss her so much whenever she's back in the UK, but Henry needed to be in school. Our three month adventure with Henry around Australia had been fantastic and I was growing to love the frontier feeling of this country, even though we thought Queensland no match for the deserted shores and desolation of the Northern Territories. Now we were back to our normal intimate crew of two and there was a job to be done; Sänna had to be out of Australian waters by November so we needed to make our way southward to Brisbane and be ready to depart for New Zealand....

I had promised Marie that we would return to the Whitsundays before working our way down the Queensland coast to Brisbane. It was relaxed, good sailing and fantastic! The Islands were nearly deserted and the fleets of charter boats gone. We found anchorage after anchorage to ourselves and our magical relationship we both relish devoured us. My head was in a good place and Sänna was in a magnificent mood too. She reared her bows, flaunted her sails and slid effortlessly southwards through easy seas, wanderful islands and treacherous reefs. These were treasure days and I didn't want them to end. We tracked the Queensland coast with good winds but then a threatening storm forced us into Gladstone Harbour for a few days shelter. It was good too. Then we threaded our way through the Fraser Island shallows and Brisbane was not so far away...

We are now moored in the centre of Brisbane making ready and provisioning for the long voyage to New Zealand. We need a favourable weather window as the Tasman Sea and the Southern Ocean can be demanding and unforgiving. But we have received word that Fat Annie has already arrived in Whangarie, having themselves sailed their way south from Vanuatu in the Pacific.

She is waiting patiently and she knows we'll be there soon...

Australia to New Zealand
| | More
Wot’s it with the Whitsundays?
Dave
28/09/2011, Whitsunday Islands, Queensland.

Photo: Sänna, Lindeman Island Anchorage

Even back in the UK we'd heard about the Glorious Whitsunday Islands off central Queensland. "A Sailing Paradise" and we were now not so far away...

As we crept our way south downwind through the wild Hinchinbrook Channel to Bowen I was at last grateful to lose the relentless SE trade winds which had made our passage from the Torres Straights to Cairns so miserable. Not so now. Our decision to wait a couple of months in Port Douglas gave us the chance to travel around the interior of this stunning country and to use the wind change that Aussie sailors had told us would come at the end of the dry season. And here they were. We now had gentle downwind and beam reach NE winds allowing us to make very good progress. But, as ever, we were never far off the relentless Queensland coast.

My brother Gary joined me onboard in Cairns to help sail Sanna down to Mackay whilst Marie returned to the UK with Henry. Unfortunately, his school year is beginning and his three month sabbatical touring Australia with us in our hired camper van has ended. Gary and I would knock off a couple of hundred miles southwards until Marie returned. He knows his stuff does my brother; but he's Commodore of his local sailing club and we had to adhere to protocol a little more than Marie and I are used too. We easily made Bowen Harbour and so Gary and I, armed with a free copy of the unbelievably complex '100 Magic Miles' cruising guide, tacked our way into a northerly wind from our overnight anchorage in Woodwark Bay to the first of the 'magical' Whitsunday anchorages on the east side of Hayman Island. We both enjoyed more dream sailing and my brother eagerly played with the sails to squeeze out the extra knot of speed. When we dropped sail and motored into the bay we found it was rammed with charter boats and big plastic pig cruisers, anchored so close together that any swing in the current instantly wrought collision havoc. WOW! Later in the evening we smiled and laughed as a huge antique tripper boat with party music blaring onboard thrust his massive bow spit over us in a typical Aussie attempt to force us off the mooring buoy we'd managed to pick up to stay overnight. I've long since learned the only way to deal with these Alpha Australians is to drop your trousers and bare your arse but I couldn't get my Commodore brother to do it...

We slipped the buoy early light next morning and left, a little disillusioned to say the least. We again caught a good northerly and worked our way through the impressively scenic Islands and channels, avoiding numerous chartered catamarans, even queuing to pass through the narrows between Hook Island and the northern tip of the main Whitsunday Island. I gave these Islands my best attention and I have to say they are not as beautiful or as comparable as the remote Island groups we'd passed through off Arnhem Land, east of Darwin making for Gove. But they are very nice and I can see why most folks are impressed. I sometimes think Marie and I are a little too 'beautiful islanded out'. Eventually, we veered south east to the south of Hamilton Island on the back of an increasing NW wind that gave fast downwind sailing under full out headsail. We only just missed a huge hump backed whale that dived just before Gary could get his equally huge zoom lens attached to his camera.... and just before sundown we dropped anchor in the beautiful bay east of Lindeman Island. This was perfect; with only a few other yachts around, this was out of bounds and a little too far for the charter fleets. The next morning we took the dingy ashore over a stunning beach and walked a good few miles through the fabulous grasslands and forests... until we found a Club Med all inclusive resort over the next headland.

The Commodore paid the $70 fee for day visitors and we sat with holiday guests through the all you can eat buffet. We sat and laughed by the pool, drinking fizzy Aussie beer from plastic glasses and watched a throng of holidaymakers swinging through pool activity exercises to blaring music, presumably to keep them fit and tanned. This was exceptionally good brotherly bonding...

We drew anchor the next morning and headed south under sail for Mackay. But I will be back with Marie. She's excited about seeing the Whitsunday Islands...

Australia to New Zealand
| | More
The wrong way to say 'goodbye'...
Dave
20/09/2011

'So long guys' is the way we used to say our goodbyes in the neighbourhood where I grew up as a kid. I don't suppose it's that much different in your home towns in Norway. But I'm sure we didn't much care about these things back then in Kudat? Getting our tired boats fixed up in the hot sun and the dusty grime of the boat yard was just fine as long as we could all drink the cheap Malay beer when the sun went down, sitting in the cool evening shade and the dirty Chinese restaurant, eating our way through dubious dishes of fabulous food that never ended...

Me and Neil from Sanna and you hardened Berserk adventurers, with John and the Phillipino Princess from the rusting Sir Gallagher. And Graham fixing up his boat before his mother arrived, Marco and the gorgeous Rosa aboard the Italian Borossa. We even sat and laughed through the lazy evenings with the impossible Germans off the boat who's name we cannot remember, the ones that never bought their own beers? We listened to your incredible tales in the northern ice and you laughed at our own stories of misfortune and pirates. Even Hadji the Muslim smiled and beamed his toothless grin, though he never understood anything we said...

And I'm sure it was you Tom who sneaked off in the night with the young Malay girl from the canteen. You know the one? She cried through the day after you all left...

SV Berserk
Disappeared, Southern Ocean 22 February 2011. Tom Gisle Bellica. Robert Skaane. Leonard Barb....

http://www.oldsaltblog.com/2011/02/25/off-antarctica-hope-fades-for-crew-of-yacht-berserk-ii/

| | More
The Alpha Australian Male
Dave
20/09/2011, Mackay, Queensland.

This big island continent on the southern side of the dotted line is a fascinating country. It's taken more than five years to sail here aboard Sänna and, truth be told, we've heard varying reports from other sailing boat crews we have come across who had already docked in Australia and left. The country itself is stunningly beautiful in its desolate and rugged way and the frontier mentality of the people who live on the edge of the infamous outback is both refreshing and breathtaking. And then there is the diversity of animal life not seen anywhere else on earth, a good deal of which would readily kill you for no other apparent reason than they do not wish you around. But there is one strange creature we've increasingly encountered as we've made our way southwards along the Queensland coast and, surprisingly, in increasing numbers. For reference purposes we ourselves use the term 'AAM' and we breath this in hushed whispers so that we do not alarm or provoke what we've identified as a volatile and unpredictable beast. Its lifestyle and habits are fascinating and we have taken to studying it in great detail so that we can try to understand and learn if it's possible to communicate with the great Alpha Australian Male....

And we're making good progress. So far we've established that the 'AAM' is predominantly found in the eastern and southern side of the continent, particularly around built up and urban areas close to the shoreline. Clearly there is a marine connection and greater numbers are undoubtedly concentrated within marinas, harbours and some mainland and island anchorages that do not pose undue dangers to its existence. But the 'AAM' is deceptive as there is a definite sub species that is far more adventurous and shows distinctive 'hunter gatherer' tendencies that could clearly define it as a possible species in its own right. However, we ourselves are primarily concerned with the main branch of the Alpha Australian Male that shows much less spirited tendencies and any sub species are better left to the studies of more experienced experts than ourselves. Right now, we've definitely established a number of key characteristics that identify the type of 'AAM' that we are ourselves concerned with....

Research shows that some form of transformation takes place in the primary male grouping of the Standard Australian Male (SAM). This possibly occurs around the age of 35 to 40 years but more research is needed. We've also identified signs of an extreme competitive nature within the Alpha Australian Male which readily extends to aggression and, in some instances, clear signs of a developed killer instinct. These more extreme characteristics seem to occur when the 'AAM' comes into contact with Alpha Males of other species, more notably a northern hemisphere type commonly known as the POM. Undoubtedly, the POM is speedily recognised as a dangerous competitor to the Alpha Australian Male which must be challenged at all cost. The stakes appear to be high and no quarter is given. The ensuing verbal calling of the 'AAM' when contact is made is relentless, sustained and aggressive. More research is needed. But distinct signs of challenge occur when the POM is in close proximity, particularly when the POM calls its own territorial warning of "Good Morning", "Lovely Morning" or even "Do you cruise that plastic duck far?" which seems to illicit more extreme reactions from the Alpha Australian Male. So far we ourselves have made a number of contacts and we are gaining experience. Our first reactions were nervous and tentative when faced with clear signs of territorial protection. We also noted strange muscular twitches when we mention how far we have sailed. We think maybe there could be a softer, friendlier underbelly but, again, more research is needed...

Marie and I have decided that we must gather much more information before we depart the Australian shoreline in November for New Zealand. We will share our findings through our blog site and invite our readers for their own comments. We are both fair minded individuals and do not wish to prejudice our public into thinking our own way. As experienced marine researchers we'd much rather present our findings in an unbiased manner for you to decide. If you do have any comments then please share them. We will accept both negative and positive views in the interest of balanced research. In the meantime we ourselves will post examples of contact with the Alpha Australian Male through the Sänna blog site so that you can be the ultimate decision maker...

Australia to New Zealand
| | More
Dunk Island Devastation
Dave
18/09/2011, Cairns to Mackay, Queensland.

Photo: Wrecked beach houses

So my brother and I pitched in to the Dunk Island anchorage, showing off our sailing prowess by entering under sail ready to drop our hook close by the pier. We knew the bar at the foot of the pier was a homing place for Aussie yachties and we were sure to impress them with our English skills whilst they sunned themselves drinking their stubby beers. We dropped anchor without any problems and congratulated ourselves as much as we could, looking forward to the stinging banter we were sure to receive ashore. Next, we showered and donned our best shore gear before lowering the dinghy to head for a nice cool beer. My brother Gary had even decided his steak dinner for the evening....

We neared the pier and it didn't look quite right. I tied the dinghy and climbed the twisted steel steps to face utter devastation. The whole concrete structure was a mess and didn't even reach the shore. And the 'Shack', the very same establishment where we were sure of our esteemed boozy welcome, was a deserted wreck. We beached the dinghy and climbed ashore from the bay to face a total disaster and warning signs stating 'Danger, Do Not Land'....

The whole island and resort had been battered and destroyed by Cyclone Yasi earlier in the year. I for one had not realised the power of these storms and the extent of the damage Hurricanes can cause. We walked around the island quietly and humbly, trying to understand how these people who had survived were coping and trying to rebuild. There was no one around to witness our sailing skills and no one there to laugh at us in our stupid pride. And we would move on southwards whilst these Aussies sat around waiting for the next storm to torment them.

We anchored for the night and cooked onboard. It was an undisturbed night and we were grateful for the sleep. The following day we pulled up our anchor and headed for the Hinchinbrook Channel and scenes of more devastation around Cardwell and the smashed up Hinchinbrook Marina. Another lesson learned...

Australia to New Zealand
| | More
Dilemma
Marie
26/08/2011, Port Douglas, Queensland

Well, we've returned from our land trip round Oz, it's been great, and we've a few days to get some jobs out the way before my sister Ali arrives. Once she's here we'd planned on sailing out to the Low Isles on the barrier reef to do some snorkelling, however this morning we discovered a birds nest on the back roll bars under the solar panels, with a baby chick in it. Now what do we do???

Australia to New Zealand
| | More
Smashed Up...
Dave
18/07/2011, Port Douglas.

Photo: Now back up to three crew....

We've sailed to other side of the world and we've crossed vast empty oceans. Curiously, we've only had two really bad storm experiences and both times the coast was only a few miles away and clearly visible. The first was Bab Al Mandab and the massive gale at the southern end of the Red Sea which nearly saw the end of us. The second has been the relentless beat down the Coral Sea from the Torres Straights to Port Douglas. Well inside the barrier reef, we at least got some protection from the big seas, but not from the 30kt headwinds. We eventually made shelter in Lizard Island and a welcome rest having tacked ourselves into exhaustion. And the toggle fastener to our inner stay sail Furling gear sheared, it was only fitted in Darwin....

We're in Port Douglas and I've been carrying out running repairs. Marie has travelled back to the UK and returned with Bealy (Henry). We've got a new crew uniform, courtesy of some weird material Marie found on a local market. And my little best mate will now be with us onboard for the next few months....

Well worth getting all smashed up for.

Australia to New Zealand
| | More
Dave caught a fish....
Marie
10/07/2011, Great Barrier Reef

Once again we were sailing along and once again Dave 'suggested' we cooked fish for dinner, and he was the man to catch one... So he happily spent the next hour looking for his fishing box, sorting his line, choosing the lure, looking for his rod... I spent my time more fruitfully deciding what we'd have for dinner after he finally admitted defeat (I personally think the fishy grapevine operates whenever he's fishing in the area, they know they're safe...) He even asked what type of fish I wanted - oh the optimist!

Several hours later a strange noise was heard on deck and, as usual, we both jumped up and began looking round to see what was going on to cause us a problem this time. But no, we realised that it was the line being pulled out. Something had taken the line!

A frantic 10 minutes then followed while we worked out how to get the reel to pull in again, and then a long tedious and hard hour followed as we slowly reeled in the line. It was coming closer and seemed quite large, much discussion followed about what type of fish it was and whether it was a shark...

Eventually we got it close enough and then had to find the net to land it (and my camera to record the event - strangely people never believe Dave's tales about his fishing prowess). It was a fair size, another 30 minutes passed and finally it was on deck. It was Tuna again.

3 days later we were fed up with Tuna bake, tuna sandwiches, tuna salad, tuna curry...

Maybe next time we will let it get away....

Australia to New Zealand
| | More
Escape River
Dave
25/06/2011, Torres Straights, Great Barrier Reef

Photo: Rest & Relief - Lizard Island Anchorage

The relentless head wind gave us nothing and we worked hard for every mile by tacking endlessly between the reefs. We'd made only fifteen miles progress since leaving the Mount Adolphus Island anchorage at daybreak and, fighting the wind and current, we were tiring rapidly. Ahead, tantalisingly, lay the entrance to the remote Escape River where we knew there was a sheltered anchorage among the mangroves. But the entrance was treacherous and shallow. Marie worked the sails and we tacked again in the big sea, heading towards the headland in the failing light. We needed to take a critical bearing from the point to navigate our way into the river, so a night time entry was not feasible. We could just do it.

"When's low tide?" asked Marie. "In about fifteen minutes," I told her. She looked worried as well as tired. I knew what she was thinking. The charted entrance depth over the bar was just over two metres; Sänna's draft was two metres. It was tight. We needed tide depth for a safety margin but I reasoned it could be done. "This sea is nearly three metres," she said. She was right; we could easily bottom or go aground if we got it wrong. The alternative was to tack our way through the night and the next day to another remote headland anchorage. This was a tough call. I was torn between our two choices... "Let's go for it, we can do it," I shouted above the wind. "No," Marie screamed at me in her way of taking charge, "We'll end up dead."

We tacked back through the wind and headed out into the long black night...

Suez Canal to New Zealand
| | More
The Nuhulumbuy Aboriginal Touring Band…
Dave
17/06/2011, Gove Harbour, Northern Territories.

Photo: Nuhulumbuy Celebration...

We dragged the dingy up the beach, clear of the rising tide and mindful of the warning sign informing us that crocodiles were a danger to anyone landing here. Making our way through the shuttered 'club' grounds to the dusty road to Nuhulumbuy 12 kilometers away, we had to find a way of getting there to buy supplies. There was no bus or anything like that. Nothing much else happening either...

We came to the road just as the dust cloud came towards us. It was a decrepit four wheeler heading in the right direction so I stuck my thumb out half heartedly and without much feeling. The four wheeler screeched to a halt and reversed back towards us. Inside were three beaming aboriginals, two men and a young angelic looking girl. "Where you heading?" said the driver with a broad Aussie accent. "Nuhulumbuy" said Marie and they told us to hop in the back. We were off...

"I'm Dave" I said, introducing myself. "Well. I'm Dave too", the mean looking one in the passenger seat offered. "And I'm Dave as well", laughed the driver in his mirror. We all laughed together striking instant friendships and Marie introduced herself to the little girl Hollie. This was good. We had a fine time hurtling down the gravel road towards Nuhulumbuy...

And in the middle of this wilderness land we discovered that Dave and Dave, two of the toughest aboriginal males you could wish to come across, used to be the lead singer and lead dancer in the ethnic Nuhulumbuy Aboriginal Touring Band. And they had toured the world. They visited England, to Nottingham in fact, our home town, to Scotland and the Isle of Sky. Pretty much everywhere it turned out. They were very proud and we were genuinely impressed. I looked out of the rear window into the dust cloud and wandered how it was we could all meet in a wild place like this...

Dave and Dave took us to the small outback settlement of Nuhulmbuy and showed us around. We got our fresh supplies and found a lift back to Gove Bay. We stayed on anchor a couple more days waiting for the storm wind to die down and then left to cross the Gulf of Carpentaria, towards the infamous Torres Straights...

Australia to New Zealand
| | More
Wilderness...
Dave
10/06/2011, South Goulbourn Island, Arafura Sea.

Photo: Heading into South Goulbourn Island Anchorage

We left Darwin behind us by beating into the prevailing easterly and south easterly trade winds. And we were leaving civilisation too. Considering we were now in a first world country it dawned upon us both that this part of Australia was desolate, wild and empty. And huge....

We had nearly 600 nautical miles of nothing ahead of us before we reached our first port of call. We were heading for Gove, a small harbour bay served by no road links to the rest of Australia except for 500 miles of dirt tracks. The harbour served the bauxite mines, existing to load up ore carrying ships and it was our only port of call. But along the way we picked up a couple of remote wilderness anchorages among the islands and mangroves. Valencia Island and South Goulbourn Island gave us some good rest from the relentless tacking into the wind. But the weather was turning foul so we decided to go for it and complete the final 280 miles to Gove in a series of long tacks that took us through the infamous 'Hole in the Wall' and 12kt currents....

Fabulous Gove. A run down 'yacht club' that at first offered not much, a dusty road to the mining town of Nuhulunbuy and its aboriginal settlements. The harbour bay gave us good shelter from the passing storm except that we dragged our anchor. The 'club' served us some good beer and revealed a shady garden area and a fine barbecue. It was a good place to rest and stock up....

And we began to make new friends....

Australia to New Zealand
| | More
Engine Refit....
Dave
30/05/2011, Darwin

Photo: More transient friends...

Finally arrived back onboard Sänna floating serenely in Tipperary Waters Marina. The weather here in Darwin is surprisingly fresh and much colder in the dry season than when we arrived back in November during the wet. It's actually very pleasant now, much like an English summer day but these Aussies find it cold.

The engine has been hauled out of the boat, taken to the Cullen Bay Slipway workshop and completely reconditioned with new piston rings, cylinders re-bored and the cylinder head skimmed down. Together with a new seawater pump and fuel pump we should now see the last of our Volvo engine problems that have plagued us up in the Philippines and down through Indonesia. Sänna has also been fitted with a new stay sail with new inner stay furling gear and a new main sail. The genoa head sail has been repaired. The cost of both engine work and the new sails has been stunningly expensive and my wallet has taken a pounding, mainly due to the poor exchange rate between the Aussie dollar and UK pound. The work has all been completed during our absence back in the UK and everything seems good. We shall see....

Our problem now is leaving Darwin. Marie came back on board at the end of May and we are ready to sail. But we have the usual problem in that we both like Darwin very much and we have made new friends here. Andy and Pauline from the steel sloop Windcutter together with Barry and Sue from Nerfititi. Both boats have sailed up from Brisbane and they are planning to leave sometime soon for SE Asia. We had the usual crazy last night party aboard Sänna and it's nice to see that we are using the Aussie socialising protocol which means they all turn up with cool bags full of their own drinks, food and trimmings. It beats the English protocol that requires ourselves to provide and prepare everything and the Yankee protocol that requires everyone to be over 21....

We're leaving to go eastwards across the Arafura Sea and the Aussie boats are appalled. Big trade winds and seas will hit us on the nose. So here we go again......

Australia to New Zealand
| | More
We're Married!
Marie Ungless (Tee hee hee)
12/02/2011, Nottingham, England

Our wedding in Nottingham was initmate, informal & fun with only immediate family and a couple of friends knowing before the day.

Dagmar Kienast, our good friend and sailor from S/Y Iltis travelled to be with us and was our 'Bestwoman'. We had a fantastic day and we are both very happy.

x

| | More
Life with no Frontiers
15/01/2011, Darwin

Old map makers used to say that beyond the end of the world there lived dragons. And it's true, there are dragons there.

It's a long journey and a difficult one too. But anyone who's had their judgement day and experienced the loneliness of the great oceans will reveal the most secretive of secrets and tell you the hardest part is the decision to go there. In reality, no one ever makes a conscious decision to leave the known world of map makers to go in search of dragons. Fate takes you there and no map shows the way home again. Only a traveller's sense of adventure and a fear of strange beasts mark your return. First, we must leave the conformist world behind and cross into a life that's unknown, unexplored and uncharted. It's an amazing and sometimes treacherous journey.....

Marie and I have been there. We didn't know we were going there, not until we'd transgressed from the world of rule and morose lifestyle where individuals do not count. We'd always suspected there was some mysterious place, somewhere, we reasoned, discovered only by fearless explorers, gallant sailors and the lonely vagabonds who keep their secrets to themselves. We'd seen something strange in their eyes, a look that is distant and difficult to fathom. It seemed they were peering into the horizon to find a missing friend or mark to show their way home. Soon, we realised, travelling to the very edge of the world and beyond is about the journey itself.

Our voyage to the land of dragons and mysterious things began by chance. We had no plan to go there and didn't know it existed until strange feelings began to possess us. This took a long time. Easily more than five years. First, we began to voyage ever longer distances over oceans that were vast and empty, just the two of us looking out for each other and learning to be a sole companion. Days and weeks of no one else, only the endless sea, the big sky and remorseless wind that often threatened our lives. We didn't realise it then but we were morphing into lonely travelers, sailors who need nothing much in their life to be at ease. We found our loneliness bound us together, we loved a deepening love realising we were unique, a devoted relationship that many in the groove of their lives never find.

Then we slowly transformed and, when we came across the vagabonds and lonely sailors, they would listen to us being together and see what we'd done. The mysterious look in their eyes would fade and diminish with a knowing smile. "Ah, we see you are heading to the secret world with no frontiers". We laughed their laugh and then they said, "But you must be careful there, for there are strange beasts, serpents and other demons to torment your unsettled minds"....

And we found the demons and ancient dragons and we saw the uncharted way. We fought and loved; we laughed and planned our life together knowing that we too had the mysterious look in our eyes. Our loneliness as one became unique and we know, one day, our hearts will be tormented and broken. But we've been and seen, tried and sometimes nearly died. We lived with the privileged few and learned the knowing smile. So, we talked, we vowed and then we got married. We know the friends we left behind can never understand.

There are dragons at the edge of the world. And the seas are vast, the wind is wild and no chart, or map, or mark will ever show us our way home....


Dave Ungless and Marie Beal. Married 8th January 2011. Our wedding was small, private and privileged.

| | More
Big Johnny Beale....
02/12/2010, Darwin, Northern Territories. Australia

Raise your glasses boys, and drink your beer
To Big Johnny, Cloudy Bay who, I'm told,
Slipped away, his wide eyes filled with fear
Claimed by the feisty sea and howling cold....

John Beale. Cloudy Bay. Missing overboard presumed lost. 2nd November 2010.

http://www.ntnews.com.au/article/2010/11/03/191711_ntnews.htm

| | More
Sea of Glass
25/11/2010, Arafura Sea

Photo: Arafura Sea, south of the equator.

The voyage south from Bitung was becoming arduous due to lack of wind. We crossed the equator and headed to the island of Bacan and the anchorage at Selat Sambaki. This was an idealic place to lay on anchor a couple of days to see if the wind would finally arrive. But after two peaceful nights we continued 100 miles south to another remote anchorage tucked inside the island of Tawa, with Dan's eagle eyes successfully conning us through the reef entrance. But still no wind....

After waiting two more fruitless days for the wind to arrive, we decided to make the dash south to Ambon and I felt uneasy. The engine was beginning to worry me. Grey smoke was blowing from the exhaust and drifting in the light breeze but Dan kept me re-assured. He's a diesel engineer with huge experience driving overland adventure trekking trucks through Africa and other remote parts of the world. I sensed he was uneasy too, but he was simply loving this too much to care. "I've seen much worse" he kept telling me....

We finally made Ambon, once again, in the dead of night. We knew from other sail boat skippers that Ambon was a difficult place to anchor and its bad reputation did not disappoint. It was awful, dirty and dangerous. The only safe anchorage we found was under the scrutiny of the Indonesian navy and they moved us on just as we were all about to get some much needed sleep. The dinghy landing was probably the dirtiest we'd ever experienced and the amount of rubbish in the water meant that our engine had to remain off for fear of sucking plastic bags into the sea water intake. This was not a place to linger for very long but we needed to check out of Indonesia and go through customs and immigration. Lauren and Dan were also jumping ship here to continue their travels through the islands. I myself was glad to get away from Ambon harbour because we were not safe. After three restless and difficult days we left, refueled and replendished...

But where was the much fabled east wind from the Arafura Sea that I was relying on to take us the remaining 600 nautical miles south to Australia? Nothing.....

All we had was a strange, glass calm sea only interrupted by the occasional shoal of dolphins and three large sperm whales. Luckily, we had loaded up with extra diesel in jerry cans on deck so we had the range to motor all the way to Darwin if need be but the engine was still worrying me. Our new racor twin filters were easily coping with the awful diesel we were picking up in Indonesia and our infamous diesel bug problems were now a thing of the past. But I could sense distinct changes in engine pitch and the exhaust smoke was worsening. We needed the much vaunted easterly wind to give our Volvo engine a rest. Sänna is a sailing boat and we rely hugely on our sails to power us, our engine being only an auxiliary means of propulsion. The weather forecasts downloaded through our HF SSB radio showed nothing for the next three days so we were in for a long drag, our alternative being to just sit and drift with the current like the old sailing ships of the distant past. So we kept going.....

Eventually, something had to happen and it did. I stopped the engine to check it over and I found the sea water cooling pump leaking water and, even worse, a small hole had appeared in the side of the turbo heat exchanger. It was blowing hot air with a mixture of water and oil all over the engine cover hatch. I knew the sea water pump would probably be ok because we'd had this problem before, but a hole in the engine? Wow! I called Dan on the Sat phone and he told me not to stress. He'd had much worse on his many overland trips, but I didn't believe him....

So I bunged the hole with epoxy glue purchased from a hardware store in Bitung and it held. I told Marie it was her chewing gum she'd chewed and thrown away and I could tell she was visibly impressed. I decided not to elaborate further as her praise was both welcome and unusual. So we kept going...

On day five out from Ambon we were nearing Australian territorial waters and early in the morning we were buzzed by a twin engined aircraft from Australian Customs. Over the radio they requested our details and they circled us three times checking us out. But we had already conformed with Australian regulations and previously informed them of our ETA before we left Ambon. They were expecting our arrival and they were friendly, helpful and offered assistance when we informed them of our worries about the engine. We declined their assistance. I told Marie I had full faith in the strength of her saliva mixed gum but I could see she was having her doubts. She'd already found my discarded epoxy glue container. So we kept going...

We continued SE, negotiating the shallows and shoals of the Timor Sea with little or no wind to hinder us and after another day and night we neared the entrance to Darwin harbour in darkness. The buoyage was easy to pick out and I didn't want to hang around with engine smoke advertising our presence to any laughing Aussies. It would be an easy entrance and we altered course into the ship channel. As dawn crept upon us we turned to port out of the navigational channel and picked a good spot in Fannie Bay to drop anchor. The chain went out in seven metres but we had to allow for an extra eight metres of tide too. It was calm with a beautiful sunrise and red Australia was there before our eyes.

We had arrived safely after five years trying and we needed sleep.....

Philippines to Indonesia & Australia
| | More
We Crossed the Equator...
Dave
16/11/2010, Molukka Sea, Indonesia

16th November 2010, 0105 hours. Course over ground (COG) 124 degrees true. Position 126 degrees 49 minutes 1 second East. Speed over ground (SOG) 4.9 knotts. Wind NE F1. Crew - Dave (skipper), Marie (1st mate), Lauren and Dan (crew).

We crossed the equator heading south. We drank beer, sang songs and celebrated in the traditional way by saluting Neptune, God of the sea....

894nm to go for Darwin......

Philippines to Indonesia & Australia
| | More
Indonesia...
Dave
09/11/2010, Bitung, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Photo: Bitung Harbour

Heading south at last. We left Tawau in Borneo calling at the dive resort of Mabul along the way. After departing Mabul we headed for Bitung on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi expecting the infamous hard time from the Indonesian immigration and customs officials. Armed with our new CAIT (cruising permit for Indonesia) we entered Bitung harbour in the dead of night and nosed around for two hours before we found a suitable depth to anchor. This was hard going. We then had a dinghy treck of over a mile to the nearest landing point to find Immigration...

We had a fantastic reception. They simply could not do enough for us. These guys arranged our Visas, stuck me on the back of a motorcycle to take me to Quarantine, Customs and to the Harbourmaster. They then arranged our diesel re-fueling and to collect my daughter Lauren with her boyfriend Dan from the airport the next day. And when Lauren and Dan's luggage never arrived.... they sorted that too!

The best place to land ashore with the dinghy was the local bum boat dock which was a colourful and noisy maze of small boats and shouting boatmen. We paid one of the boat guys a few Indonesian coins and left the dinghy to his mercy. When we returned a few hours later it was neatly and safely tied between the bum boats. We knew we were perfectly safe in this busy and bussling harbour and the friendliness of these people was simply overwhelming. We departed Bitung a few days later, now with a crew of four and headed south towards the equator. We were sorry to leave.

Bitung and Sulawesi is third world bliss.....

Philippines to Indonesia & Australia
| | More
Darwin
Dave
30/09/2010, Kudat, Borneo

Photo: Sänna again anchored in 'Crossroads' Kudat

We were anchored in the lagoon in 'crossroads' Kudat for the fourth time. Our plans to return to the Philippines were well advanced and we would depart northwards the next day. I was on the mobile phone to Fat Annie and Robert mentioned that Audrey and Ken aboard Fast Forward had applied and received their Indonesian CAIT sailing permit from the Consulate in KK in five days instead of the normal five weeks. "If we could get a CAIT through in five days we could be in Darwin Australia in four weeks time", I said to Marie. She looked at me and smiled, "Well, let's go then....."

So we did....

Philippines to Indonesia & Australia
| | More
The Ship's Fixed
Dave
15/09/2010, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

We would dearly have liked to stay in the Philippines but we could find no safe place to leave Sänna. We needed to return to the UK to see my father and to travel to Germany to see our very good friend Peter, both suffering from cancer. Most of the Philippines lie in the world's most prolific hurricane belt and there are very few safe havens to leave a sailing yacht. So we made the decision to sail back down to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo to leave Sänna below the hurricane belt and fix up all the problems when we return. Some of the work could be done in our absence by my mate Neil and the infamous Mr Wong, the loveable Chinese mechanic. Mr Wong is 72 and fondles Racor diesel filters like they are women's breasts. And he doesn't know he's doing it...

I returned to Kota Kinabalu in early September with spare parts galore and the work schedule went amazingly well. Everything is now fixed, working and tested. I'm uneasy and suspicious....

I'm now waiting for Marie to come and join me. She's flying to KK in a few days and we will make yet another new plan. We're thinking of returning north to the Philippines. If we can make Subic Bay near Manila then we can wait for the monsoon change and then head for Hong Kong and maybe Japan. This would put us in a good position to pick up the westerly winds to cross the Pacific eastwards to the west coast of America. This is a good plan.

But this would mean giving up Australia and New Zealand.....

Singapore to Borneo & Philippines
| | More

Newer Blogs... ]  |  [ Previous Blogs... ]

 

 
Powered by SailBlogs

www.sanna-uk.com