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SEAKA, On a Solo Voyage Around Australia in 2015
At Grafton
Hot and Overcast
30/03/15

Wednesday 25th March.

There I was just sitting quietly stitching in the two new sail lugs when there was a knock on the hull with "Anyone home Seaka". I looked out it it was Greg and Jane who good friends, in fact I sailed with them on one leg of their return from Queensland some years ago. I had thought that Greg and Jane had returned to Europe to sail their new yacht across the Atlantic in the Atlantic Rally with some 260 other yachts. After a while they had to move on and I finished the sail repair.

Later I decided that waiting until 2200 was of no benefit and so just after 1900 I motored out of the Coffs Harbour Marina into a slight drizzle of rain. As I had planned to go at 2200, it proved fortuitous that I had sailed out before dark as I had a few problems with jib sheets and the reefing sheets. Eventually all was sorted out and I made our way east until I was clear of the immediate shore before I turned north to my first way point.

I had motored out and once we were heading north I put the motor into neutral but there was insufficient wind to sail north on. So the gear box was re-engaged and for the rest of the night we motor sailed in light winds and a very slight sea.

Thursday 25th March.

Come morning we could just see Yamba and eventually off Yamba Head we lowered all sail and made ready to cross the Clarence River Bar. I made contact with MR Yamba stating that I was just about to cross the bar. Now they can see the bar and they waited until I was just about to enter the disturbed water, it was an ebbing tide, to call me again for a chat. Needless to say I was rather short with them! Later once I had cleared into the river beyond the standing waves I called them up to find that they only want to know if I was going to sign off now. Arrgh!

Moving into the Iluka Bay I quickly got the anchor down sorted out the gear then stripped off to crash for two hours of much needed sleep. That afternoon I dried wet gear and sorted out Seaka. At 1600 I went ashore to collect my next visitor, Steve McConnell, who owns a Top Hat in Port Phillip Bay. Being on holiday in the area he was hoping to view my horizontal wind vane. Steve has built his own version of a windvane and he was most impressed with mine. Returning Steve to shore we had a quick drink in the pub before I returned to Seaka, there I booked a raising of the Harwood Bridge on the Pacific Highway for 1200 tomorrow.

Friday 27th March.

I'd looked at my records and knew I had to be away by 0830 at the latest, which we were. What I hadn't added to the equation was that there was still some flood water coming down, an ebbing tide and a strong SW wind. Realizing after I passed the commercial wharves that I wasn't going to make it at 1200, I rang bridge operator and postponed the opening until 1300. As it turned out I got to the bridge 5 minutes after noon, so I did 15 minute circles in front of the bridge until it was opened. I was later to hear from locals that the new highway bridges will be high enough for any yacht to pass under but the old bridge will be retained for local traffic which means the local council will be responsible for the bridge openings and everybody is wondering how long that will last.

Moving up to Maclean I went onto the wharf and started to organize myself. Here I have to re-water, refuel, get some fresh food and do the washing. During the motor sail here I noticed that there was once again some diesel floating around so on checking that out I found that the return fuel lines were a bit buggered to put it mildly. The hunt was on around Maclean to find some hose and after one false purchase I ended up with petrol hose which will be OK in the short term, but I will replace them ASAP in Queensland.

Ok, first problem sorted, next was the AA battery charger that was blowing fuses left right and center I couldn't get one in Maclean, so that will have to wait until Grafton.

Saturday 28th March.

A visitor to a motor boat on the wharf kindly ran me up to the petrol station to get 40 litres of Diesel which saved about two hours of walking carrying 20 litres of fuel!

I had just finished the re-watering when Top Hat 'GINGER MAN's' owners turn up. Dr Rob and Faith invited me to their riverside house to do my washing which also turned into lunch. Rob and I then went down to Yamba to inspect his MK2 Top Hat, as Rob wishes to bring all his gear back to the cockpit. On our return it was getting late in the day so I was lent a car to duck down to Seaka for fresh clothing and returned for a very welcomed shower and dinner with Rob and friends. I was then dropped off to Seaka. An excellent day! Thank you Rob and Faith.

Sunday 29th March.

Rob and Faith came down to inspect Seaka and while at the wharf Alan Lucas came ashore and they introduced him to me. A great bloke, who has just got a well-deserved OAM for his work in Navigation Safety and Journalism.

At 1000 I proceeded upriver en-route for Grafton. After a couple of hours I stopped and anchored up for lunch. At first it was beautiful and flat with no wind, but as the weekend wore on the NE'er came in and I eventually raised the Yankee sail to assist. We averaged 4 knots over the day which was mainly against an ebbing tide. We arrived at Grafton just before dusk and anchored close to the public wharf.

Monday 30th March.

Today I walked up to the Grafton shopping center with the aim of getting a new 12 volt AAA charge. I was unsuccessful, but on my return to Seaka I manage to get it going with an USB cable, so all the small batteries are charged again.
This afternoon I cleaned up the boat in preparation for rain tomorrow and the return trip to Maclean. We will move to Iluka on Wednesday and then sail for Byron Bay on Thursday thence the Goldcoast via the Seaway on Friday.




Solo Around Australia from 2015
We are Under Way!
Fine [at last] NE'ers
23/03/15, Coffs Harbour Marina

There is nothing like a baptism of fire!

Last Friday I completed all the jobs both on Seaka and at home. Shaun [of Bluemoon] and I retired to our yachts at Dunbogan for a night's sleep before we departed north. Shaun is to accompany me, instead of sailing Bluemoon, on this leg to Iluka as we had lost last week to bad weather and he only had four more days to get some sailing in.

That night was one of my worst on board. We were hit buy 30 plus knot winds that in combination with the tides overnight meant that Seaka was ducking, diving and rolling about all night. I only got a few hours broken sleep. Next morning I said to Shaun that we would review the weather later in the morning. Eventually it appeared that a departure around noon should be OK. Note, I said should.

So I picked up Shaun from Bluemoon and we proceeded downstream to the bar. We had only got halfway when our gremlin, the overheating light, came on, yet again. Slowing down we made it to Pilot Beach, just inside the bar, and started to sort out the problem. First I cleaned the raw water filter and then fiddled with the wires behind the offending light. The light went out and stayed out so we had a go for our direct sail to Iluka.

We went over the smooth Camden Haven Bar out into a roughish sea. The alarm bells should have been ringing but all the holes in the cheese were starting to line up, we were committed. I deployed my new Horizontal Wind Vane [HWV] and away we went. Unfortunately I haven't quiet worked out the settings yet and we tended to track to starboard. As it got rougher and the wind up to around 20 knots I abandon the HWV to a day when conditions were more conducive to working out just how to adjust it.

We were sailing with the Yankee and 2 reefs in and getting 5 to 6 with the odd 8 knots, so we were happy with our progress but the sea action and increasing wind was starting to tire us. We had been keeping close inshore to avoid the coastal current but early on realized that with the water around 27⁰C we had a southerly current against us that went well inshore. As our progress slowed and the wind built the decision to stop overnight at Trail Bay was made and this was reported to Marine Rescue, after a bit of confusion by them as to who actually had us on their book, it was eventually sorted out as MR Trail Bay until 1800 then MR Coffs Harbour, whee! After dark both Shaun and I manage to get a little sleep in turns down below. Never having had anyone on board for a night sail I thought this was rather luxurious. Then around 2200 as we prepared to enter Trail Bay Shaun, who was on the tiller at the time, said somethings wrong, there was a couple of thumps and three large white foam buoys to a fish trap appeared in our wake. Yep. We were towing them, trap and all.

The holes in the cheese had all finally lined up!

Eventually I managed to get the buoys on board with the rope going tightly under Seaka to her propeller area. No matter how I pulled nothing happened. Lucky we were not under motor at this time so I was sure the rope was not around the propeller, so I went below and turned the propeller by hand to make sure, we normally don't have the propeller spinning when sailing and lock it by putting the gear box in reverse, hard to turn at first it then turned easier. Going back on deck I pulled the rope in to find that it had snapped, not cut by the propeller. Shaun said that it's still there and then all of a sudden we were free.
By this time we were both getting pretty tired, what after last night, the days sailing and now this. We eventually made it into Trail Bay and tucking into the eastern corner of the bay in 4.5 meters of water we anchored for the second time. It was only then that we realized that it was 0130 on Sunday morning. We crashed.

Next morning at 0930 we departed from Trail Bay, abandoning the floats as we sailed out for Coffs Harbour. Smaller steps were called for. That morning the winds were below 5 knots and we eventually shook out both reefs to get speeds of around 4 to 5 knots. With the light winds and still being tired I abandon the HWV again and we hand steered north. I didn't use the auto helm as we had had over three days of overcast weather and the poor batteries had been struggling under the load. As I type this they are back up to their normal 14 volts. During the day the winds dropped and as we hugged the coast to keep out of the current, we started to rely on the katabatic winds to keep us moving. Eventually around 1500 I started the diesel engine and we motor sailed towards Coffs Harbour. Did the overheating light come on, yep, but I wiggled the wires and it went out and stayed out. The temperature stayed the same on the gauge so on we went.

I had been in contact with Tom [ex of Top Hat "Tales" from Melbourne] who was sailing his new/ old yacht south and as it happened was presently in the Coffs Harbour Marina. Tom arranged a berth for us and met as we arrived at 1930 in berth 12D. We had a long talk fest that night with three Top Hatters together for the first time.
After a good night's sleep I started on the list of repairs we had. First stop to the chandlers for a swivelling shackle for the boom brake to prevent the sheet from twisting and some sail lugs, we have broken 2 of them, why, I don't know. Will be cleaning the electrical contacts to the overheating light! Also had to trace a leak in one of the lockers but have now decided it was the anti-syphon device for the engine raw water supply. So I will have to clean that also. Latter in the day Tom offered Shaun a ride back to the Camden Haven which he gladly accepted, no train ride for Shaun this time. Tom and Shaun departed at 1800.

At this stage I am looking at going to Iluka early Wednesday morning, but will make a final decision later today [Tuesday] when we get the 1600 weather report. It actually looks better on Friday at this stage so will have to wait and see.

The voyage has begun!

See video at http://youtu.be/OSriE_b8u-s

Solo Around Australia from 2015
Getting Started!
17/03/15, Camden Haven River

OK, the decision has been made, we will go north on the Southerly expected early Saturday morning [21st March].

Hope to be over the bar by 0700 and our ETA at Yamba is 1200 the next day.
Should be a fast sail for the first 18 hours and then more stately.

In fact we may have to motor the last few miles if the expected NE change
comes in early.

Seaka is ready, only clothes and fresh food to go onboard.
On Friday I will move from my mooring over to the local free wharf at the Laurieton United Services Club.

Solo Around Australia from 2015
Bar Bound by Weather
16/03/15

Still not looking any better.

Moved the dinghy, cockpit grate and the charts onboard today.
Sorted out the blocks for the windvane.
Repacked the cockpit lockers.

Only the outboard motor, fresh food and clothing to go onboard now.

Solo Around Australia from 2015
Bar Bound
14/03/15, Camden Haven River

Well we should have gone last Tuesday!

The weather , influenced no doubt by the cyclones in the Pacific, has meant forecasts of 20-30 knot winds and 2-3 m seas. All not at the same time of course but just connecting enough to make a passage north very hard. Would also have meant some time at the Coffs Harbour Marina at $50 a night, ouch!

So have decided to wait it out at home with a glimmer of hope around next Saturday, 21st March.

We are all ready to go, except for the fresh food.

Ongoing Preparations.
Fine
11/03/15, Camden Haven River


I have replaced the old fuel lines today after having a new set made in Port Macquarie. I am glad I did that now as it would have been a real hassle somewhere up the coast.

After getting the Nanni diesel going again I cleaned up the boat. I then started in on the bilge [24 hour job] and will finish that Thursday morning.

Then went and did the first bit of the food shopping and about $400 later I have the basics to go on board tomorrow. Still a bit of food to get on Thursday with the fresh stuff to be brought the day before we leave.

The weather is looking dicey [2 m swell] and as I don't want to get trapped in Coffs at $50 a night our departure date is under constant review.

Solo Around Australia from 2015

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