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SV Saraoni
Alison cloudy,5 knots NE

After finally leaving Malaysia, we encountered 40 knot winds gusting off the mountains of Langkawi and The Thai island of Taratau. Unfortunately the direction was not favourably once we cleared the gap betwwen the two islands so we had to motor up to the northerly bay to a relatively peaceful anchorage off the national park headquarters. We previewed the weather situation and decided to stay two nights waiting for the weather to moderate and have been lucky enough to find a wireless link from the small national park resort. We took the bikes ashore and rode 12km to the other side of the island , stopping at creeks for a cool off along the way.

2009 Malaysia and Thailand
Leaving Malaysia
01/12/2009, Telaga

Tomorrow we are off to Thailand, leaving Malaysia behind us and the beautiful Pulau Langkawi. We hope to arrive in Ao Chalong next Sunday night in time to clear immigration formalities on Monday morning. The wind seems to be firmly established in the NE so hopefully there will be a bit to blow us to Phuket. It is a little showery at the moment but that brings the temperature down a bit which no one would complain about.

2009 Malaysia and Thailand
Alison / No wind / hot and humid
12/11/2009, Telaga Harbour

Final preparations are now nearly complete for the Indian Ocean crossing.
After a circumnavigation of Langkawi, we are back in Telaga and have spent a day climbing up to the top of the cable car hill , Machinchang, and several half days exploring the area up to Telaga Tujuh waterfall, where the water was almost ice cold. Langurs have been active everywhere close to the coast and dolphins have been seen at times in and amongst the growing fleet in Telaga's outer anchorage. Some boats have already departed for Thailand and many more are on the move. We will be leaving the Langkawi area around about the 30th November at first for Phuket, and then as soon as weather permits will be heading to The Andaman Islands via Thailand's Similan or Surin islands. The North East monsoon or "trade winds" have sort of arrived in fits and starts with a lot of rain in thunderstorms still. The picture shows us looking South along the main waterway in the "Hole in the Wall", along Langkawi's East coast.
Up-to-date contact details are on the profile page.

2009 Malaysia and Thailand
Back from Indochina
05/10/2009, Rebak Marina

We have now been back a couple of days from our month long trip to northern Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. We are certainly glad we made the journey as it opened a window for us on another part of the world.

We are now preparing for our massive trip to the Mediterranean. We will be putting the boat on the hardstand at Rebak for a week or so to paint underneath and then we will be departing the marina and staying around Langkawi until Geoff's sister arrives on 23rd November.

The wind is still staying firmly in the west so we will have to still be careful of anchorages around Langkawi. Further info and photos will appear on our main website soon of our recent trip.

2009 Malaysia and Thailand
The monsoon has arrived.
27/08/2009, Rebak Marina Langkawi

Back at the boat in Langkawi for a few weeks, before our last overland trip this year. So far we have made three interesting trips within Malaysia : the first a 1100 km trip by our rusty, trusty bikes up the East Coast, the second to Taman Negara and the Cameron Highlands and the most recent to Sarawak and Sabah. Fuller details on our personal website : google "Saraoni" and you'll find it! Our last trip takes us up to Bangkok, Laos and Cambodia.

The "monsoon", which has supposedly been around since May, seems to have arrived at long last at least in terms of heavy rain, if not wind or sea. We have sorted out some outstanding maintenance issues in between the floods of rain and now only have a few things left to do in October. We should be ready to leave Langkawi with sister Sue visiting from England at the end of November for Phuket initially and then the Andamans.

Pied hornbills have been exceptionally active around Rebak, and have taken a liking to the wattle buds and casuarinas around the marina. We discovered a new / old track on the island which leads to a remote beach on the North West side and meanders on the ridge top past many pitcher plants and strange remnants of Rebak's former life. The resort management has now put arrows marking the track!

2009 Malaysia and Thailand
Harbour bound for now
04/05/2009, Langkawi, Malaysia

Saraoni is now in Rebak Marina, Langkawi for most of the wet season. We have been back in Malaysia for just over a month while the seasons have changed from sort of North Easterlies to Westerlies. We will be off the boat exploring inland from Vietnam to Sabah in Borneo. As usual we will be concentrating on the bits of wilderness left in South East Asia, although inevitably we see what the human inhabitants are getting up to as well.

Saraoni needs quite a lot of attention before our anticipated departure for the North Indian Ocean in December this year, and we will have to be busy in the short periods back on the boat in between trips.

2009 Malaysia and Thailand
22/11/2009 | John Grainge
Wow you certainly make the best of it don't you. Isn't that Rebak resort something else??
Pity about the coral dug out to make the entrance, but what the hell the Pesidents daughter got what she wanted and you got a great place to hole up. All the best for your Indian ocean crossing. Don't worry abour saying helo to the Somali's for us.
I am taking a yacht delivery fron Coffs Harbour to Wangarai leaving Dec. 6th Dec. Have a happy and safe Christmas. John and Sherrill Grainger ex Tonic.
2008 Australia to Malaysia via Indonesia
Geoff and Alison

January 2008

The month started with two new cyclones swirling around the north: TC "Melanie" off the WA coast and "Helen" in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf. Helen made it's way across Arnhem Land into the Gulf of Carpentaria, but died (for a while - see later) and ended up dumping plenty of monsoon rains in far North Queensland. Meanwhile, another low caused summer havoc and floods in the South East.

The arrival of rain in significant amounts meant that new life erupted in the eucalypt and paper bark forests around Cardwell: frogs started croaking, birds breeding, insects shrieking. Below decks, life was not so pleasant for us: cabin fever beginning to take hold!

We emerged out of the marina at Port Hinchinbrook just as the rekindled remains of "Helen" passed to the South of us, crossing the coast near Townsville and then tracking over Charters Towers, Emerald and Charleville, across New South Wales and Victoria, finally emerging in the Southern Ocean! The rain from the low was enough to break the drought in most of Eastern Queensland - in many places, it has been the most rain and flooding since the last La Nina in 1998. We waited for a week or so for the weather to right itself with the return of south easterlies for a while. During this time, we spotted the only crocodile we saw around Hinchinbrook. It swam over to the boat for a closer look, then submerged with a splash. We sailed back down to Magnetic island and Townsville in one long reach from the channel: back to work for both of us, but with now only three months before we set off for Asia.


Serious stuff for us: Alison back to work at Kirwan High School and Geoff tackles a number of jobs on the boat. It is still very hot and wet. Several low pressure systems sweep past North Queensland with drenching, flooding rain in many places. The Ross river dam is full for the first time and the floodgates are released twice. Fantastic waterfalls cascade off the escarpment and every creek is full. Normally brown Townsville is as green as New Zealand!

More momentous things are happening in Australia : the new federal Labour government is blowing fresh air into Australian society after 11 years of stale, narrow minded conservatism under the Howard led Coalition. Federal parliament in Canberra opened for the first time with a ceremony by the indigenous people and a moving apology to the stolen generation. Australia signs up to Kyoto and appears to be taking global warming seriously and puts in motion the repealing of very unpopular Coalition anti labour legislation.

March and April 2008

Alison slogged it out at Kirwan until the end of term - gruelling stuff with mostly low ability classes or at least low interest classes! Geoff fits a new watermaker, chartplotter, AIS radar, stuffs around with the engine and steering and pretties up the interior. One of us gets a cocktail of air conditioning and teenagers, the other neither! To cap off this period of hard work, ten days up on the hard stand at Ross Haven boat yard see us remove the rudder, replace bits and pieces of propellor shaft and bearing, paint a lot of stuff including ourselves and do battle with a bush rat which has occupied the boat - we think it has got on board from camping equipment after a trip to the upper Burdekin river.

The annoying rodent resists all poison bait and any type of trap. We think it is a member of the Aussie Olympic team as it puts in hours of gymnastic training just when we get to sleep. We finally leave the dirty boat yard together with our elusive guest on a windy afternoon. The engine and clean hull power us against the tide down the Ross River at a speed we haven't experienced for ages, but the steering mysteriously collapses in the open sea. We hurriedly fitted the emergency steering tiller and make it back into the anchorage and later the marina in safety.

We plan to leave Townsville for Cape York and Darwin at the end of April. We have joined the Sail Indonesia rally leaving Darwin in July for Timor : not our usual way of sailing, but it avoids a lot of hassles with the paperwork. One last fling with our little red Daihatsu takes us up to Cairns and the Daintree. We walk up Mount Sorrell and look for wildlife in the coastal rainforest. The forest seems surprisingly quiet, but the scenery is attractive enough to compensate.

May 2008

We finally left Townsville with the boat loaded to the gunwales with food, water, diesel and spares. The wind was fair from the South East and in quick succession we passed Magnetic island, Orpheus in the Palm group, the Hinchinbrook channel, Dunk island, Mourilyan and Fitzroy island arriving in Cairns for a short stay after six days. A few teething problems with the engine and steering systems meant a bit of unwanted work inside the boat.

The trade wind had taken hold well and truly right through Northern Australia so it seemed unlikely we would need much diesel - considering the ever rising cost, this was just as well. The lagoon seemed a bit silty on the route up to Cairns, but fringing reefs at Fitzroy were in good condition.

June 2008

Arrived at Seisia after a very blustery trip up through Albany Passage and round Cape York. The tide was thankfully with us right round the Northern most tip of Australia and, together with an unwanted 40 knots of wind in places, we made nearly 11 knots. Seisia was full with yachts and 4 wheel drive visitors that had made it up the peninsula. Nearby Bamaga had had an injection of government money, but otherwise remained sleepy. We took 60 hours to cross the Gulf of Carpentaria to Cape Wessel with strong winds the first day out, but these faded to a calm on the third day. We were windbound at the Wessels for several days, but explored the deserted islands with rock wallabies, cockatoos, crocodiles and a strange dwarf vegetation of eucalypt, wattle and grevillea.

With constant rain showers the creeks were still running and we even found some large freshwater pools on Marchinbar island that were big enough for swimming. With the trade winds easing we made tracks along the Arnhem Land coast stopping at Elcho island, Cape Stewart, Maningrida, North Goulburn island and Bowen Strait before rounding into Port Essington at the North western end of the Top End. Galiwinku on Elcho island seemed to have had a downturn in fortunes looking poor, dirty and less well managed than on our last visit seven years ago.

Maningrida was cleaner and looked more prosperous than before, but the exorbitant prices of fuel and provisions in the community run stores made us wonder how the local community survived on CDEP wages or the dole.

July 2008

We spent a few days recovering in beautiful Port Essington and roamed around our old favourite haunts. Only a few days sail from Darwin we used to come up here during the long dry season school holidays. Nearly empty for most of the year, the "port" is a natural harbour twice the size of Sydney harbour with loads of interesting wildlife, great anchorages and fascinating history.

Because of its position on the usual westward track most yachts are desparate to get to civilization in Darwin to replenish supplies and have little time to explore, leaving it empty. East and west of Essington are half a dozen other deep indented harbours making it the Territory's best, but least known, cruising ground. We passed notorious Cape Don with a spring tide, but not much wind, in company with two other yachts and motor sailed all the way into Darwin stopping off at Cape Hotham to get some sleep on the way.

The three city marinas were all full with the huge influx of rally boats and we joined the masses anchored in Fannie Bay. Three hectic weeks of provisioning and organising money, visas and flights to England kept us busy and at the time of typing this we are just about to set off for Kupang in West Timor.

The next time we will be able to update the website will be in three months time in Malaysia after passing the length of Indonesia's Nusa Tenggara from Timor and Alor in the East to Bali in the west and then up to Southern Borneo and the string of islands off Sumatra's Eastern coast. Left Darwin eventually just before the main stream of rally yachts in very light conditions which continued right across the Timor Sea to Kupang. Had an interesting if confusing encounter with Indonesian fishing boats half way across - near the shallow banks, but otherwise the whole passage was more about burning diesel than sailing. Kupang was reached on the last day of July.

August 2008

Cruised from Kupang in West Timor up to Lewoleba on Lembata island surrounded by huge, steaming volcanos. Climbed 1600 m high Ili Api, near Lewoleba. This volcano was still active and it was hard to breathe at the top close to the vents. Then followed the Northern coastlines of Adonara and Flores islands to the Komodo island group which is a national park. Here we explored the underwater world and spent days in isolated bays watching huge komodo dragons wandering the beaches with deer, buffalo and hordes of long tailed macaque monkeys.

September 2008

Sailed along the Sumbawa coast with Ramadan in full swing, arriving in North West Lombok underneath Indonesia's second highest mountain - Gunung Rinjani. Next stop was Bali, then Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) before heading up through the eastern islands of Sumatra to Singapore.

The anchorage at Teluk Kombal in Northern Lombok was a nice, neat bay and the water very clear. We made a trip to the little coral island of Gili Air, which was out of season and quiet. We did some snorkelling in clear water. We also walked around the roads around the anchorage and there were many motor bikes. Nobody seems to walk much in this part of Indonesia. The trip across the Lombok Strait was windy and we arrived in Lovina Beach on the north side of Bali late afternoon. We encountered lots of individual, colourfully painted sailing outriggers coming back from a night's fishing. Gunung Agung towered high above.

Lovina Beach near Singaraja is great for those who like eating out in cheap restaurants. We went with a small group in a minibus to Bali Barat National Park for the day and saw black monkeys, long tailed macaques, giant squirrels and some birds. We also visited a Buddhist monastery, a Hindu sacred monkey temple, where a cheeky long tailed macaque stole an apple out of my hand, and had a dip in the hot springs. We took a minibus across the island to Denpasar and Benoa harbour. Very busy and modern. There was also a rally dinner at a local restaurant which included some musical contributions from Peter on "The Southern Cross" and Rob from "Mary Eliza".

Our next stop is going to be the marine reserve at the western end of Bali and then up to Borneo.

This was not what we expected as the wind seemed to be coming from the West as we proceeded along the coast and it was difficult to find a suitable anchorage. However the next two anchorages en route to Borneo were very good - namely Pulau Rass and Pulau Bawean. We were at that time sailing with "Solan", a New Zealand couple, whose boat was a lot faster, but they always waited for us and secured a spot in a new anchorage for us.

We had some quite reasonable sailing from Bali to Pulau Rass, up to 20 knots SE, and the next day to Pulau Bawean which was partly at night and we encountered many different types of boating traffic from semi-lit small boats to large ferries and freighters. On approach to Bawean there were many unflagged bamboo fishing rafts to contend with.

We spent two nights on Bawean, a strangely modern small island in the middle of the Java Sea, where seemingly, income is secured from work found in Singapore in the merchant seaman industry. Here "Tonic", "The Southern Cross", "Just Jane", "Solan" and ourselves made the two day, one night trip to the Kumai river mouth. There was quite a bit of shipping traffic again and at dawn we had a close encounter with a tug boat towing a coal barge. We enjoyed the chat on ch.77 which kept us awake. There was a 10-20 knot SE wind as well which minimised the amount of motor sailing we had to do. As we approached the coast of Borneo, late afternoon on the second day the wind turned on the nose and we hit the remains of a thunderstorm.

October 2008

Safely arrived at Sebana Cove marina, Malaysia, tucked into a mangrove fringed riverside on the Eastern side of Singapore after a nerve wracking crossing of the Singapore Strait from Batam in Indonesia. Our AIS radar showed about thirty large ships moving east and west throught the strait at speeds of between 10 and 25 knots. We went in a convoy of three yachts with sails up and motors on and had only two narrow encounters.

From the Western end of Bali, in full view of the magnificent volcanoes of Eastern Java, we had three overnight sails, island hopping to the Kalimantan (Borneo) coast. Here we spent a few days up the Sekonyer river in Tanjung Puting national park on a narrow river boat called a klotok. This was one of the best experiences we had on our entire Indonesian trip, with close encounters with orang utans, proboscis monkeys, macaques, bearded pigs, hornbills and lots of other Borneo wildlife. At the same time it was hard not to be aware of the rapid deforestation of much of Borneo and the huge pressures on what remains of Indonesia's biodiversity and wild places.

The weather was now beginning to change as the trade wind season was coming to a close. Afternoon thunderstorms and squalls were common up the Kumai river and night thunderstorms developed offshore in the warm and shallow Java Sea. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of smoke haze that we had expected from reports read on boats in the area in previous years Ramadan came to a noisy close while in Kumai and this was followed by the fast breaking holiday of Idd Ul Fitr. Most of Kumai and the neighbouring city of Pangkalun Bun closed down over the last fasting day and the holiday while the mosques went into overdrive. A rather interesting feature of the town of Kumai were the swiftlet nests that inhabited specially constructed tower like buildings strung along the main street of the town.

The mucous that the birds use to make a comfortable base for their nests are harvested for bird's nest soup, apparently a Chinese delicacy. Sail Indonesia took us on a day tour of the Kumai area which included a fast trip on a longtail on the river (hold on tight) a welcome to a longhouse, a visit to an orangutan conservation project base and a rally dinner. The whole event was a great end to a memorable journey from Australia to see the orangutans.

From Borneo, we had a long and tiring two day sail to the Sumatran island of Belitung. Good SE winds up to 25 knots as we sailed along the southern Borneo coast and then it eased off to almost nothing in the Karimata Strait. No significant thunderstorms around just distant lightning. This was the final rally location and it proved to be the best, with an incredible welcome, day tour and final dinner with entertainment. I (Alison) gave a speech in well rehearsed Indonesian which delighted the 2000 or so locals attending the event. The anchorage was prettily nestled amongst granite boulders but rather a tempestuous sea breeze got up from time to time making the dinghy ride ashore difficult.

From Belitung we sailed up the Eastern Sumatran coastline, stopping at Pulua Gaspar, Pulau Bangka, Kentar, Mesenak and Batam. The weather was gradually changing as we got closer to the Equator. The weather was squallier with thunderstorms and the occasional westerly but nothing more than 20 knots and the whole trip involved a motor sail. As we approached Singapore, the shipping traffic got busier and the sky smoggier.

November 2008

The first half of the month was occupied by a tiring and hectic trip to England to touch base with relatives. Unfortunately our odd trips back to our old home country seem to coincide with near winter conditions and time spent on the motorways leave us feeling quite jaded and with little enthusiasm for a return trip. It was good to see so many people we care about, however. Most seem to be doing well and immersed in their own diverse lives.

On our return, we had to hastily prepare the boat to take part in the Sail Malaysia rally starting at Danga Bay in Johor Strait opposite Singapore. As with the Sail Indonesia rally, the Malaysian Government's Tourism Department organises the series of events up the western side of the Malay Peninsula to help its tourism promotion and we yachties benefit from the contact with the communities on the way, free meals and tours!

Our trip from Sebana Cove in Eastern Johor half circumnavigating the island of Singapore was even more hair raising than the crossing from Indonesia - or driving up the British M1 for that matter - with seemingly thousands of large ships anchored or moving around unpredictably. A large chunk of land appeared on the horizon where it was not shown on the chart - a new extension of one of Singapore's many ports. To cap it off, a thunderstorm obliterated our view as we were making our way up the Johor Strait.

We are now anchored off the town of Lumut about 100 km South of Penang. Most of the trip up the Malacca Strait has been hard to windward or motoring with no wind. The sea has gradually got less muddy and dirty and is almost greenish. Nearly everybody has had at least one entanglement with plastic bags or bits of fishing net. Much of the coast has been urbanised or industrialised or both and air and water pollution more than anything than we have been used to. Malaysia, of course, has been developing like mad and its environment has been paying the price of new found affluence. Despite all this, the constant warmth and rain seem to ensure an intensely green landscape wherever there is no concrete. The bits of rainforest we have seen have been fantastically beautiful. Macaque monkeys, langurs, pigs and squirrels seem to inhabit any little bit of jungle and seem quite habituated to humanity.

Along the coast, we have seen plenty of fish eagles, kites, a few dolphins and one dugong but no turtles so far. The coast in the region of Lumut is hilly and quite scenic with the island of Pangkor just offshore. We are now only a day sail from Penang where we stay for a week, then another day sail to the Langkawi islands where there are plenty of anchorages. Hopefully, the "dry season" will have settled in by then!

Wild pied hornbills munching on pawpaw at Pangkor island. These birds, part of a larger group of about a dozen have been fed daily by a Chinese family on the Pangkor waterfront for many years. It was fascinating to watch the males delicately picking up small pieces of pawpaw and passing them tenderly to their female partners!

December 2008

Penang from Pangkor was a long day sail with the usual light winds, rubbish, fish traps and fishing boats. Here we joined up with a number of other yachts and "sailed" under the Penang bridge. Penang proved to be a fascinating stop over with a lot of it's cultural heritage in the form of old colonial buildings, temples and winding, crowded streets in Little India and Chinatown well looked after, rather than facing the bulldozer as has happened in Singapore.

Malaysians love eating out and Penang must be one of the best places to do this, with thousands of restaurants and hawker stalls. Apart from eating frequently and cheaply we also explored the more natural side of Penang walking round the north west coast protected by a national park and up to the highest point of the island at 840 m. Macaques, leaf monkeys, wild pigs and squirrels and a lot of Malaysia's beautiful lowland dipterocarp rain forest.

By the time we left Penang something had happened to the weather. Either we had slid into the trade wind zone or the doldrums had retreated South. The wind arrived from the direction of the mainland and the skies cleared of the murk that we had experienced for most of the way up the Malacca Strait. We are now in the beautiful Langkawi islands - a few miles from the Thai border. Geologically this is much more like the Thai coast than Malaysia and the islands have steep limestone cliffs and hills, caves and karst features often covered in dripping jungle.

The main Langkawi island is pretty well developed for tourism but there are plenty of places that are undeveloped and protected, with a lot of fantastic anchorages. Here we had the last of the low key Sail Malaysia rally functions - the last party for the bunch of yachties that had been sailing more or less together since the East Coast of Australia. Some of these are now getting ready for the Indian Ocean crossing next month, but most will be staying in South East Asia for another year. Others are off back to wherever they came from by plane to sort out the remains of their savings or see their families.

We'll be leaving here sometime in January and spending two months in Thailand, then the rest of the year exploring inland South East Asia or working or both. We intend leaving for Africa in January 2010. It is about a week to Sri Lanka or India from here, three months to Europe, five months to the East African coast, but that involves spending time in the Chagos lagoons waiting for the change over of winds to take us westwards. We have now sailed for 7600 nautical miles since leaving Opua and we are closer to Italy in distance than New Zealand.

2008 Australia and Indonesia to Malaysia
The Queensland Coast: Bundaberg to Townsville
Geoff and Alison

January to April 2007

Sailed back to Bundaberg and put the boat on a mooring in the Town Reach. We have a few misgivings about being so far up the river in summer when the river could flood, but people who live here assure us that the new Paradise dam which is near empty would have to overflow before any problem with the river. We sort out our Queensland teacher registration and work through to April. Geoff gets a ride up to Childers and Alison mostly working at a Bundaberg high school. We spend much of the spare time at the weekends exploring inland from Bundy - the South East of Queensland is in real drought and the landscape is a bit sad.

May 2007

With the school term finished we had time to explore the interior further in our little Daihatsu. We revisited many places we had been to before including Carnarvon Gorge and Bunya Mountains and several places we hadn't been to. Everywhere, except the North, was really dry. Eungella, at the back of Mackay, was wet - very wet, but we did see our first platypuses in the Broken River. With travels over and the cyclone season also at an end it was time to set off North, aiming to get only as far as Townsville this year.

June 2007

Sailed North via Pancake Creek, Gladstone, scraped through the Narrows with only a few centimeters under the keel, Yeppoon and the Keppels, Port Clinton, Port Townsend and then up towards the Cumberland Group. The weather alternated between a few light days and blustery, wet and windy trades. Stopped in at Mackay marina for a few days while we hired a car to go and see the head teacher at a Townsville school - we will be teaching there at the start of the third term, which means we also need to get a move on - another bolt up the Barrier Reef! Last time we sailed south through the reef we said that our next trip would be leisurely for a change - little hope of that this time.

The Whitsundays were very windy and wet and we escaped to the relative shelter of the mainland. The weather became very cold (for North Queensland) and south westerly and we sailed up towards Bowen and then Capes Upstart and Cleveland on the way to Magnetic Island.

July 2007

Stopped at Magnetic Island for a few days - it's a lovely, relaxing island as long as the wind isn't out of the North. There is a resident koala population here in the hills which was quite active because of the cool weather, but there is always plenty of wildlife in the Australian bush and especially here on Magnetic island. Tried snorkeling, but it was still too cold and the water a bit silty. Then we had to tie up at Breakwater Marina in Townsville for a money making /teaching stint which would last us to November.

August to November 2007

Teaching in Townsville with plenty of weekend escapes out along the escarpment to lovely creeks and waterfalls. The inland freshwater is more inviting than the sea in tropical Australia. With our contracts finally over in mid November we made the decision to stay in the North for the cyclone season rather than sail all the way down South again. We have decided to join the Sail Indonesia rally from Darwin to Malaysia next year but won't be leaving Townsville until May.

In the meantime, we sail up to the Palm group in light and pleasant conditions and then into the safety of the Hinchinbrook channel. The summer storm season starts in earnest and we need a good anchorage every night.

December 2007

The Hinchinbrook channel is full of biting insects - mosquitos and sandflies!! Have a great few weeks mucking around the huge island and the mangrove reaches and then plump for Hinchinbrook marina for Christmas - a lovely, quiet place with a swimming pool.

2007 Australia
New Zealand to Australia
Geoff and Alison

May 2006 - we follow the South African yacht "Mahimahi" down Whangarei harbor with Manaia and Bream Head to port.

Summary of the first few months of our circumnavigation between the Bay of Islands, New Zealand and Bundaberg in Australia via New Caledonia.


We finally left RayRobert's Riverside Drive marina in Whangarei in mid May and sailed up to the Bay of Islands via Tutukaka. As we had told the management that we would be away for several years we just anchored in the outer bay rather than take up our marina berth. It was lovely Autumn weather in Northland and we enjoyed the last week or two of May in the sunshine getting our last spares and supplies before trekking North towards the tropics.


Set off on June 6th with a good forecast. Had to heave to off the Cavallis with water mysteriously filling the bilge. Suspected it was siphoning in through the toilet system, but this had never happened before. We were also unhappy with the self-steering which needed fiddling with far too often.

The final straw was when my (Geoff) only pair of glasses fell overboard fiddling with the wind-vane approaching North Cape, so we made the decision to return to the Bay of Islands to fix all three problems properly and then leave on the next window. Not long after we tied up on a spare Kerikeri mooring the heavens opened and a storm blew through - a so called weather "bomb" - it was very uncomfortable in the river and almost impossible to get ashore. The last part of June we commuted between the various bays around the BoI watching the weather carefully.


Gave up the crossing at the end of the first week in July and retreated to Tutukaka to lick our wounds. More importantly, we fixed the problem with the self-steering by adapting the emergency tiller and the loo problem simply by clearing out loads of calcified 'gunk' in the outlet pipe. We were able to get a nice, cheap car hire in Whangarei and plenty of relief work meant at least we weren't going backwards financially.


Finally saw what we thought was a comfortable weather window up into the tropics and as luck would have it we were given a week long contract at Kawakawa's Bay of Islands College just before the window started which put a neat $2,000 into the cruising kitty!

Our Trans Tasman crossing proved to be relatively cushy. The Tasman was in tranquil mood most of the way - so tranquil to begin with that the huge white and black albatrosses we passed were a bit put out with not enough wind to launch themselves. Apart from finding it very hard to sleep, the trip up was pretty uneventful and we were able to chuck the anchor down off a nice white sand beach, palm and pine trees at Kuto on the Isle des Pins within a week after leaving the Bay of Islands.

Photo shows Baie du Kanumera on the Isle des Pins - landfall after our trans Tasman crossing.

Spent the first few weeks around Baie du Prony and off Isle des Pins South of Noumea and the last few weeks North in the Baie de St Joseph area.

We were last up here in this bit of "France" 19 years ago, so it's been interesting exploring the changes - in the eighties, more revolutionary times everywhere, and New Cal was racked by attempts by the indigenous Kanak (Melanesian) nationalist movement to get its independence from the "Metropole". The colony is one of France's best overseas investments with huge nickel mines so it was never going to relinquish control too easily - on the surface everything seems pretty orderly and affluent -especially on the west Coast and around Noumea where we've spent most of our time. Funny for us to see burly Melanesians, looking otherwise just like Papua New Guineans, kissing each other on the cheek, giving the limp French handshake and playing chess and petanque in the main square in the city.

The trade wind has been unseasonably strong most of the time we've been here, so we haven't been able to explore the myriads of little coral cays and reefs in the lagoon as much as we'd have liked, but have still enjoyed all our explorations. Southern Grand Terre (the main island) is a harshly beautiful place, not quite like any other in the South Pacific. Seen quite a few dugongs - one just off a crowded Noumea city beach, turtles and a humpback whale further south in the lagoon. Plenty of walking and climbing potential and we thought we might bring the bikes over at some other time for a circumnavigation as the roads have little traffic and are mostly paved.

Looking out at pine covered cays from Pic Nga in New Caledonia


Back to Noumea and got ready for the last ocean leg this year across to Bundaberg on the South Queensland coast. Very windy as usual and then mini Cyclone Xavier turned up - in the Southern Solomons. This was very early - too early in fact - and we got caught up for a while in the port of Noumea's cyclone preparations. Thankfully, nothing came of it and the cyclone just fizzled out. We set off with light winds forecast and expected a 6 day crossing.


Arrived in Hervey Bay with light winds. Lost our staysail over the side and it sank before we could retrieve it -damn! Got into the Burnett River well before dark; completed Customs and Immigration and found a bottle shop at Burnett Heads after a very long walk through the back roads. Relocated up the river to Bundy Town moorings and bought two new cheap bikes from Big W. The idea was to cycle down to Sydney, buy a car and bring it back to Bundaberg so we could use it for teaching. Everyone thought we were mad because it was so hot. Set off on the bikes and made good progress every day by getting up dead early and then finding a camping site before noon - preferably one with a swimming pool or near the sea!


Finally arrived in Newcastle, almost in reach of Sydney. Found a cheap car - a red Daihatsu Charade and we piled the bikes and newly acquired camping gear into the little squirt of a car and set off back through the dry New South wales hinterland to Queensland. Stopped at the Border Ranges NP with bellbirds in full throttle. Saw an echidna on the New England tableland. Back in Bundaberg, we dropped the car off with friends John and Heather and sailed down to the Great Sandy Strait. This has always been one of our favourite parts of the East Coast. Turtles, goannas, dolphins, wallabies and the sand forest on Great Sandy Island. There were quite a lot of boats around but not enough to be a nuisance.

Hot bike ride through New South Wales

Goanna on Fraser Island in the Sandy Strait

Pelicans enjoying uncomfortable Newcastle roost, NSW

2006 New Zealand to Australia
A Tale of Two Boats

Corsair on sale in Port Moresby in 1998 - the end of an era

Corsair was our first boat, purchased in June 1986 in Auckland. It was a 30 foot (9 metre) timber sloop with the hull built in kauri in 1933 by Fred Lidgard. The Lidgard family were well known boat builders and the family tradition has been continued to the present day by John Lidgard.

Corsair was originally built as a gentleman's racing yacht for the Hauraki Gulf area for Roy Lidgard, who apparently disappeared on his way to Fiji in a fishing boat he was delivering. There is a legend which says that his wife kept a light burning in the window of their Kawau Island house hoping for his return.

The mast was solid oregon and originally the boat was not designed with an engine in mind. When we first removed the mast from the boat in Cairns in 1987 we discovered a few coins in the mast step - including a 1947 NZ halfpenny!

Various people had owned Corsair before we bought it and it had been kitted out pretty basically for cruising. It also came with several broken ribs and more problems known and unknown than we were probably able to deal with!

But it was cheap for its size and we had, probably rather naively, a vision of preparing the boat for the ocean, and sailing it back to England!

We spent the first six months working hard on just about everything with Corsair up at Lane's boatyard in Panmure, Auckland. The professional boat builders worked on doubling up the ribs, improving the cockpit and companionway and marinising a new Kubota diesel engine we had bought with the boat. We knew very little to begin with, but soon learnt that the more we knew, the more we were able to do ourselves and the cheaper it would be! This message has been a recurring theme throughout our boating life: self sufficiency and skills are a real asset. However, we still remain basically motivated by exploration and nature -

Corsair on a mooring in the Tamaki River at Panmure, Auckland, just after purchase in 1986

We owned and lived on Corsair for 12 years. We sailed in it across five stretches of ocean and never regretted any of the time spent on her. The boat was eventually sold in our absence in Port Moresby to an Englishman, who again had grand dreams. We have no idea of its movements or whereabouts since 2000.

Saraoni in Grenada 2014

Saraoni was our second and present boat. It is a fibreglass South Coast 36 ketch, which means that it is 36 feet or 11 metres long the deck, although the presence of a bowsprit, davits and windvane make it longer overall. The boat hull and deck were manufactured in Port Kembla, NSW, and purchased by Keith and Vivienne Kingsland from Nowra who completed the fitting out, some of which was professional and some was done by themselves.

The original boat name was "Tekin JB" which meant "escape from Jervis Bay", where Keith and Vivienne lived. We renamed it "Saraoni" from the PNG island that protects the mouth of Kana Kopi bay at the entrance to Milne Bay in the Eastern end of the island of New Guinea: probably one of the nicest anchorages we have spent time in.

Saraoni is now 28 years old, but basically in good shape. The engine is a four cylinder 38 hp Nanni diesel, installed in Lanzarote, Canary Islands in 2013 so quite new. Reluctantly we had to buy and fit a new propeller in Mindelo, in the Cape Verde Islands later the same year.

Saraoni has a centre cockpit which is very comfortable, a large hard dodger which makes beating relatively dry, a main saloon, a fore cabin where we sleep, and an aft cabin which could be used by guests and is otherwise used as everything from an office to a storage space for surplus boat stuff. There is place to sleep in the main cabin, the cockpit or the saloon deck depending on numbers and weather.

There is a small galley along the port side, a separate shower and toilet and an engine room.

Compared to Corsair, space for stores and personal junk is great.

Steering is by hydraulic wheel operation, while self steering is by electric autopilot if motoring, or by Fleming wind vane linked to an emergency tiller for ocean passages.

Sails include a furling genoa and main, a stay sail and mizzen. The height of the main mast and the ketch rig means that downwind sailing can be slow in light winds, but it is well balanced in other wind directions, when the full spread of sails can be used.

We have a small desalinator to make freshwater, an AIS radar detector useful in detecting large ships, and a wind speed indicator to tell us what our eyes can already guess at! There is a SSB for long distance radio communication and a VHF for shorter distances. The rest of the electronic clutter includes a pactor modem for HF generated emails and weather GRIBS, GPS's by the bucket, chartplotters, computers and 2 echosounders.

Electrical power by non fossil fuel means appears to be adequate except to power the stove. We have one wind generator and five solar panels installed, which provide electricity for our navigation instruments, fridge lights, computers, vacuum cleaner, TV and anything else!

We have altered many of the features on the boat and have got used to its sailing strengths and weaknesses. At present there seems to be no strong motive for buying another boat - even if we had the cash!

As with many other yachties living aboard, our ecological footprint is relatively small compared to the average for a western "household" due to very conservative water usage, small space for consumer products, so few of them are bought and used, transportation by wind as much as possible and the use of non fossil fuels for electricity. Of course, this changes when we are holed up in port and buy a car etc etc!

We note that if the offshore rallies we have been involved in are anything to go by, Saraoni is on the smaller size of average - but size itself is not a complete guide to comfort and convenience. Just like mobile phones - or bicycles - there is an optimum range of size above or below which functionality suffers.

As for boat number three if there is one in the future it will probably be smaller and lighter and more fun to sail - unless we decide to cross any more oceans after returning to NZ.

A Tale of Two Boats
Alison's story

These photos were taken a long time ago, but my attitude towards adventure hasn't waned. I spent most of my teenage years in Devon. As well as going to school I spent many of my holidays exploring Dartmoor on horseback and later on foot. I had a go at canoeing and dinghy sailing, as well as the Ten Tors and attended an outward bound course in Wales. By the time I had reached the age of 16, I had crossed the English Channel to France and the Channel Islands, by yacht, with the Ocean Youth Club and was also an active member of the Dartmoor Recue Group.

I spent so much time in the outdoors as a teenager that it was only luck that I managed to get to university and achieve a BA degree! I travelled extensively in my holidays to France, Germany and Holland in one trip, daring myself and a friend to hitch hike through East Germany to Berlin and across the Berlin Wall to the East. A further trip took me down to Greece and, in the cold depths of winter, with a companion travelled to Spain and across to Morocco. After graduating I took time out to work on kibbutzim in Israel. Hard work , but it satisfied my fascination for other cultures and their lives.

Returning to England, I found a job in London where not long after I met Geoff, who was to be part of my adventure through life to come.

We were reunited in New Zealand in 1979 after a year apart - I had to complete a teacher training course. We spent a year travelling to the Pacific Islands, Australia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Kenya. Working in London for two years we set off yet again for a year travelling to the Caribbean Islands, Venezuala, Ecuador, the Galapagos, through the Darien Gap on foot from Columbia to Panama and further on to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico and the USA to Washington.

Back in London, in the same jobs, we planned our next adventure. Inspired by the sailing adventures of the 19 foot yacht "Shrimpy" and the earlier adventures of the Hiscocks, we decided to fly back to New Zealand and buy a yacht and sail it via the Great Barrier Reef, Asia, Sri Lanka and the Red Sea back to England.

The 1933 yacht "Corsair" was bought in Auckland in 1986 and slowly refurbished but only scantily equipped we set off in July 1987 for Fiji. What an ordeal it was! The wind constantly blew from the North and our plans for going to Fiji were dashed. Even Norfolk Island was a difficult prospect.

After 10 days, the wind finally moved round to the south east as we hit the trade winds and some 7 days later, we spotted Amadee lighthouse at the entrance to Port Noumea. We breathed a sigh of relief as we only had a cheap plastic sextant for navigation and we were never really sure where we were. Our sea legs were well and truly established when we set ashore on the Noumea wharf and found it hard to co ordinate properly for a few hours.

Three months later we made the 8 day trip to Bundaberg in Australia and spent the next few months sailing and exploring the islands and anchorages of the Great Barrier Reef and other sheltered harbours along the east coast.
1988 was to be a big change in our lives as late in the year we made landfall in Papua New Guinea and stayed for nearly 10 years.

After a brief trip by plane back to New Zealand to finalise our PNG work visas, we returned to start our first teaching job in a remote part of the Gulf Province. We couldn't take Corsair with us so we left her on a mooring in Bootless Bay, under the watchful eye of Ron Prior, for 18 months . We visited in the holidays to tidy up and relax, snorkelling and sailing on and around the nearby islands and reefs.

1991 we set sail again to the western part of PNG after securing jobs on the island of Daru (the "town of a 100 good mornings" we called it as we had to say good morning 100 times every day walking to work each day from the harbour). It is situated a couple of hundred kilometres north of Thursday Island in the northern Torres Strait. We stayed here for nearly four years working hard for this period entertaining, teaching and being entertained by the richness of cultures that abound in this region. This was a place where being alive was feeling alive and we were privileged to be part of it.

Geoff's story

Old photo of me on a dugout on the Paya River in the Darien Gap, Panama

*I was born in Lewisham, South London in 1953

*I moved to Burgess Hill, Sussex when six months old with Mum (from London), Dad (from Lancashire), older brother Steve and younger sister Sue. This was home for the next six years. Across from the house was a large area of woodland. In 2003, revisiting Burgess Hill, the wood had been replaced by an industrial and commercial complex with a Mac Donald's right opposite the old family home!

*1960 - in a caravan on a dairy farm amidst the slag heaps of old coalmines half way between Bury and Bolton, Lancashire - Dad doing his teaching course near relatives. This was good fun, with loads of other kids. On a much later revisit to the slag heaps, the whole area had been turned into a wildlife reserve, complete with ponds and orchids. Better than being filled with a home for Big Macs!

*1961 - 1966: Back to Sussex and living in a council house in what was then a newly created suburban extension of the old town of Crawley. Our first TV (black and white), timorous adventures in the first car - a beat up Anglia and then, with growing prosperity, longer trips in a Commer campervan - down through France, the Basque country and Valencia. My adventures had begun.

*1966 -1969: Sailed to the East African coast in a passenger liner through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal. Dad was on a contract with the Tanzanian government and our family spent an exciting three years living close to the beach and a fringing coral reef. Long and unpredictable safaris took our family across the length and breadth of Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Malawi as far south as the Victoria Falls. These were formative years - I developed a passion for the world's wild places and the diversity of life in them and a sense of Man's blunders in the pursuit of progress. Together with this my exposure to young Tanzanians of Arab, Indian and African backgrounds and the ideas of passionate teachers led me to a firm belief in the equality of all people and a strong distaste of racism.

*1969 - 1971: A long ocean trip down the East African coast to Durban and, for me, an eye opening trip through Apartheid South Africa was followed by a brief return trip to England and then back to Africa - this time the inland capital of Kampala, close to the Northern shores of Africa's largest lake - Victoria - and the start of it's longest river - the Nile. Uganda was politically in unstable times with ethnic tensions leading to two coup attempts and the bloody arrival of Idi Amin. In Kampala I finished school with A levels in Chemistry, Physics and Maths but with the simple desire to spend my life in the wilderness, wherever that was. I spent two months in what was probably my most enjoyable job as a volunteer at an ecological institute close to the Zairean border - tracking elephants, counting hippos and buffalo and driving researchers in the middle of the night to watch how hyenas and lions interacted.

*1971 - 1974: Three long years at Sheffield University, studying Zoology. Coping with being a young adult in a large city without having learnt any social skills was far more difficult than the zoology course. Lucky enough to escape to Fiji (where Dad was working) several times during this period - climbing up and down mountains and river valleys, exploring the outer islands on copra boats and the fantastic underwater life of the reefs, Everywhere, I discovered and enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of Fijian families : my introduction to the Pacific.

*1974 - 1975: Before I got my degree, I was off to New Zealand via Fiji - working and travelling by motorbike the length and breadth of the country. I hitch hiked or bussed or trained it back across Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Yugoslavia ( as it was then), Austria and Germany arriving back flat broke and itching to get back to the Pacific.

*1975-1976: A year's postgraduate course in teaching was to be my ticket to return to the Pacific : close to the fantastic mountains of Snowdonia and the North Welsh coast at the University of Wales - I spent much of my spare time walking and camping in the mountains.

*1977-1978: There were few teaching jobs in Britain in the late 70s and I moved to London after graduating - I met Alison while working in a government office at Lisson Grove.

Life got quite a lot more complicated for a few months. Eventually I headed off for my first teaching job in a small school in Timaru, New Zealand, while Alison did her own teacher training course in Hull. She flew out to join me at the end of 1978 and our joint adventures together began.

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