05/27/2012, Butterfly Bay, Hook Is., AU
We remained at Butterfly Bay today as we watched the ragged edge of the trough that had been battering us for the last couple of days slowly drift to the east. Morning was mostly overcast and it was not until about 1500 that the skies above us started to clear. By 1700 there was clear blue sky above us. The winds have eased and it is very quiet and still here in the anchorage as I write this.
Even though the trough passed us by, the cold air has stayed. However, as the skies cleared our closed in stern cockpit acted as a sun room and kept the entire boat warm.
Last night we had played with the thought of moving back to Stonehaven Anchorage today but nixed that idea since the reason we were going to move was to go snorkeling and the air was just too darn cold to hop in the water. Today was our last chance to go snorkeling. Tomorrow we head south to Hamilton Island marina, where we will be staying for the next three days. After that, we will start to make our way north as we head off for Darwin. The marina is just 15 or so nm from here as the crow flies but we may have to sail about 30 nm to get there. Based on the weather report, I am expecting 20 knot winds from the south so we may have to tack a few times to cover the distance. It could be a bashing sail as the seas will be short period and about 2 meters. It was this type of conditions that forced our friends of S/V Infini to abandon their attempt to sail south to Nara Inlet a few days ago and instead opted to go west to Airlie Beach. Keep your fingers crossed for us that the wind will be more from the SE then the S.
Our stay in the Whitsundays has been disappointing. Of the three weeks or so we have been here, we have only have gotten in 4 days of snorkeling due to the bad weather. The water has been murky but what we saw of the reefs we really enjoyed. Thus, I guess those 4 days did make our stay here worthwhile.
For the last 1 ½ days we have been draining our 4 ½ year old batteries. We have let them slowly deplete themselves by cutting off the wind generator, covering the solar panels and not running the generator. We have 5 195 amp-hour gel batteries and each year we need to drain them down to empty (10.5 volts) and then fully recharge them. It takes about 2 to 3 days to fully recharge them on shore power and this is what we are planning to do once we get to the marina tomorrow. I would like to do this twice in a row but we will not have enough time to do that.
We have discovered by reading and then by doing, that draining your gel batteries and then recharging them restores their rigor. I have noticed over the last few weeks that they were accepting less and less amps when we would charge them with our generator. By draining them, we pit the outer surface of the lead plates, which reduces the resistance of amps going into them. I wrote up a few techno-tips on this last year when we were in Auckland getting ready to go to Fiji. If you wish to learn more about this, then go to the Year 4 Day 124 blog and read that tip and a couple of the next ones.
05/26/2012, Butterfly Bay, Hook Is., AU
Today I told Dave I would write the blog. I have been waxing philosophical and once again decided to share it with the people who read our blog - sorry about that!
We have been sailing for 4 ½ years. We have been so blessed because we have had lovely weather most of the time. We would have the occasional squall for a day or two of rain but for the most part we had had great weather. This last year when we went back to the states, we traveled all over - east coast and west coast. We had amazing weather! We were on the east coast for 3 weeks in December, visiting my sisters, Dave's brother and friends (all terrific visits by the way) and we had wonderful weather. It was tremendous! Well it is time to even things out. The gods have said "Time to pay the price of all these blessings!" We have had three weeks of "not so good weather" here in the Whitsundays. It looks like we need to pay a little more because the weather is still bad. But in all fairness we are safe, snug, have food and are with a loved one. What is wrong with that?
We did laundry, cooked, read, played games and rested for when we could swim in the future. In life, it is what we make of it When you get lemons make lemonade! Well, until we speak again
05/25/2012, Butterfly Bay, Hook Is., AU
This morning we watched this massive trough approach and then pass over us. The skies to the west of us were black and ugly. The winds, which had been mild, warm and coming from the east, instantly snapped to the SW and blew 20 to 25 knots. The seas started to build and our very quiet anchorage became like a rolling coaster ride as the short, choppy swells started rolling in. The SE is our exposed side at Stonehaven Anchorage and the winds have their longest fetch when they come from that angle.
It took Mary Margaret only a few minutes to suggest that we move back to Butterfly Bay and the great protection it offers. Thus, in the wind, rain and building seas, we released our mooring lines and headed north to round the top of the island and make it into Butterfly Bay.
It was only a few nm to get there and we arrived in about a half hour. By now the rain had created a white out as our visibility was down to about a ¼ nm. However, thanks to the radar, we knew exactly where we were and as we entered the bay, we could see the shore on each side and the reefs that sneak out into the bay. Thank goodness it was low tide as this made seeing the reefs that much easier to see.
Fighting bullets of up to 35 knots and a torrential downpour and with a determined look on her face, Mary Margaret eased up to the first mooring ball we came to and then held us rock solid on top of it while I grabbed its pennant and threaded our two bow lines through it and secured them to their respective bow cleats. I think it was the best that Mary Margaret has ever done in regard to keeping Leu Cat on station and she did it in the worst imaginable conditions. Yea!!!!!
We sat out the rest of today biding our time by watching a movie, reading and playing cards. As the day progressed, we felt the air getting colder and watched the thermometer drop into the mid and lower 60's. I even put on slippers to keep my feet warm. Brrrrrrrr. As we ready for bed, Mary Margaret is putting on two (not one but two ) heavy blankets. The wet air and the lower temperatures just chill you to the bone.
However, with my new outlook on life that I mentioned last week, I can say that we are having just the most wonderful time here in the Whitsundays. Life just doesn't get better than this
Techno-Tip Of The Week: Be Careful When You Follow The Track You Have Laid Down On Your Chartplotter
I have preached to anyone who will listen not to sail into an unknown anchorage at night by relying on one's GPS chartplotter. There are just too many unknown opportunities for errors. The charts may not be surveyed accurately (a very common occurrence once you get away from the heavily trafficked cruising areas), the survey datum used may be out of date, plus the error from the GPS satellites varies based on the number of satellites your GPS is reading.
A number of people have argued with me on this issue but some have stopped after experiencing firsthand the problems of trusting their chartplotter. A number of other people have said that when they leave an anchorage at night, they follow the tracks they laid down on their chartplotter when they came into the anchorage during the daylight hours. We have done this also but even that makes me nervous and I try to avoid leaving in the dark if at all possible.
I have noticed that when we enter and leave an anchorage a number of times, following the same route, the tracks do not overlay very well. This was very apparent when we were in Musket Cove in Fiji. We came and left that anchorage many, many times and discovered the spread of tracks was much greater than they should have been.
We noticed that again today when we returned to Butterfly Bay from Stonehaven Anchorage. The tracks we laid down when we left Butterfly Bay were now running over reefs along the shore. If we had followed those tracks, we would have end up washed up on the reefs! Originally, the track was right in the middle of the channel between Hayman Island and Hook Island but now, it had mysteriously shifted and was about 500 feet to the south. Wow! I do not know what caused that shift. To confirm that we were where we thought we were, we relied on the radar which was overlaid on top of the chart. It showed that we were in the middle of the channel and our depth gauge tracked well with the reported depths. Whew!
My point in this discourse is to just warn you that unexpected things can occur with your chartplotter and that it is best to use it as a guide and to reply on eyeball navigation. In other words, do not blindly trust what the chartplotter is showing you. If you must rely on something other than your eyes, then turn to your radar as a secondary source of information. Use it in combination with your chartplotter to be a secondary source of information, augmenting your eyesight
05/24/2012, Stonehaven Anchorage, Hook Is., AU
A couple of days ago I received an email from John of S/V Sea Mist. It turns out that between S/V Sea Mist, S/V Kilkea and S/V Leu Cat, we have three birthdays all about the same time. Marian of Kilkea has her birthday on May 26, John of Sea Mist has his on May 28 and I have mine on May 29 (this is just a very subtle reminder for our kids, hint, hint, hint...).
John has suggested that we all get together for a trio of birthday parties at the Hamilton Island Marina on May 28th. This is a great suggestion works great for us since we had made reservations at the marina starting the 28th. I am anxious for an electrician to go up our mast then to see if he can fix my mast head light problem.
David and Marian of Kilkea apparently have decided that the weather is just too crappy here in the Whitsundays and have given up on rolly anchorages. They have booked an entire week in the marina! This is quite a feat since this is the most expense marina we have booked into. As a catamaran, we will be paying $120 a night! Ouch!!!
We last saw Marian and David in New Caledonia last year so we are anxious to see them again. Last fall they decided to sail SE from New Cal and spend the cyclone season in New Zealand. We first met them in 2010 in the Galapagos. We anchored next to each other at Isla Isabella. The six of us go back two years and about 7 thousand nautical miles, they have known John and Cheryl of Sea Mist for over 6 years. They all met while sailing around the Med and have followed each other ¾ of the way around the world!
We will look forward to seeing both the folks of Kilkea and Sea Mist in just a few days and after a super duper birthday celebration!
05/23/2012, Stonehaven Anchorage, Hook Is., AU
The good news is that we did not have any liquid sunshine during the daylight hours today. The bad news was that it was hard to know when we were in the daylight hours. A dark grey, thick overcast hung over Leu Cat all day today. Additionally, the winds were remarkably still. Thus, between no sun and no wind, we did not take in much of nature's energy today to charge our batteries. The poor solar panels and the old wind generator just sat there and looked pretty, not doing much.
This meant that we had to run the generator a lot today. Normally, we can get away with not running it or, at most, just an hour. However, with no energy hitting our solar panels or wind generator, we first had to run the generator for 2 hours in the morning and then another hour this evening. We like being as green as we can and try hard to minimize our carbon print. However, today we failed miserably...
With it being a low energy day outside, it made for a low energy day on the inside. I scoured the boat hunting for boat projects to do. I found two little ones. The first was making some adjustments to the hanging boat steps I made for Mary Margaret. When we dock in a marina, sometimes we cannot use our sugar scoop steps to get off the boat. With smaller slips, our stern sticks out past the dock. When that happens we have to use the one little foot hold that is molded into the side of the hull amidships. With Mary Margaret's short legs, it is a challenge to reach that foothold and then it is a big leap to the dock. Last week I made a set of hanging steps that hopefully will make getting on and off the boat a bit easier for her.
The second little project was removing our speed sensor: what I call our "speedo". It is a little propeller that spins in the water and measures and reports our speed through the water. Whenever we sit at anchor or in a marina for a while, growth develops on the speedo and clogs it up. Thus, I removed it and put it in glass of diluted vinegar which will dissolve the calcium carbonate of the shells of the little critters that latch on to it.
After that, it was just reading, listening to music and playing Mexican Train Dominos and Sequence with Mary Margaret. Great day, huh?