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Watt sailing adventure
Family sailing adventure - circumnavigation of Australia with two children aged 16 and 14.
The Rain!
Sue Watt
03/01/2012, Batemans Bay

It has been raining for some days now and earlier today, when we were off the boat and In town having coffee with some friends, we were asked if we were going crazy.
It is certainly quite interesting being on the boat for extended periods without being able to get off. We have had this experience a few times now - in Rivoli Bay SA when the wind meant that it wasn't safe for us to be out in our inflatable dinghy heading across the bay to the land, and a few times when we were in Refuge Cove at Wilsons Prom, waiting for horrible weather to clear so we could leave. We have handled these situations quite well. No one has died yet, or really even come close to it - we have developed a few strategies to ensure this is the case!
We play lots of games - especially games we don't play all the time - even monopoly gets an airing! We cook together - often making things we don't usually have time or the inclination to make - like pancakes for breakfast or lunch, pikelets for afternoon tea, cakes, slices - things that make it feel like the reason you have to stay on the boat has a silver lining!
We make sure we are not all on top of each other all the time - this often means suggesting people read quietly in their rooms or similar things. And if we have power we watch movies - which we never normally have time to do.

So we manage quite well - and if it is possible to get to land at all - even if it is raining - we go - we walk, we have coffee, we browse shops, we enjoy some time on land.
Sure there are times when the stress of all being huddled in one small space kicks in, but I have found that if you are smart you can see it start and you can address it - do something fun, get out if you can, whatever.

The last few days here we have essentially been on board almost 24/7. The rain has been so persistent. Yesterday it was also very windy for a while in the afternoon and early evening - with wind gusts up to 25 knots. It wasn't at all pleasant! Today we decided to get on shore for a while - have coffee or something. Sometimes, because he doesn't feel this as much as the children and I do, Peter is in a hurry to get back to the boat so today we ditched him and did our own thing. Initially we were going off in the dinghy on our own - with the outboard this time so no worries about being stranded like the other day! But just at the last minute Peter heard someone yelling out to him and realised his cousin was on shore trying to get his attention. So we all headed off in the dinghy.
The children and I headed to the shops and then the little café we have been enjoying here - called The Olive Tree - where the coffee is great - and then finally to the supermarket before coming back to the boat, leaving Peter chatting with his cousin. We had a lovely walk, browsing shops, and then our coffee and milkshakes, and then finally our groceries. Then, as we headed back, we realised that we didn't really know how we were going to get Peter's attention to let him know we were ready to come back to the boat -assuming that he had returned some time before us. Ah, the joys of marital communication!
As we crossed the road to the jetty, who should be waiting there but Peter! Yes, he had waited the whole time for us - as we leisurely browsed, drank coffee and shopped!
He had spent a few minutes with his cousin, and then sat and waited patiently for us - oh dear! His cousin had kindly brought some oysters for us - oysters he had collected himself from near the mouth of the Bega river. They were truly beautiful and as I am the only one here who eats them, well I was rather happy!

After returning to the boat (I think with a little relief for Peter that we'd finally appeared!) we have been blessed this afternoon with a period of time with no rain.
Maybe tomorrow we might even see a bit of sunshine again - wouldn't that be lovely!

Ps The photo is of Erina sitting at the top of the mast - after checking for chaffing on ropes - apparently its very nice up there!

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03/05/2012 | colin & Jackie
Sounds like England, well Cumbria, we've spent the last six months with rain day after day, or grey skies threatening rain. Today would you believe we woke up to sunshine and what a difference that makes.
03/08/2012 | Sue Watt
Yes - it has felt a lot like my early life in England here lately! Its not usual for us to get so much rain in summer but its been pouring like crazy for the last few weeks!
How are you guys going????
Saling plans for the coming summer????
cheers Sue
Tides!
Sue Watt
02/27/2012, Batemans Bay

Time and tides, it is said, wait for no one. They are out of our control. We cannot affect them in any way.
We have been at Batemans Bay for five days now and the tide has certainly been a theme for us!

We came into the Bay on Thursday morning. It was a lovely, still, blue-sky day. After we crossed the infamous 'bar' - the shifting sandbank that builds at the edge of the channel that the river flows through, we were greeted by the fellows at the marine rescue base, all waving cheerily to us, and by a couple filming us on their ipad. (BTW - If you are reading this we would LOVE to see the footage!) We had come in with the last hour of the incoming tide so that we had the depth we needed to cross the bar and the flow of the tide to assist us as we motored up the river.
Then as we progressed along the river bank and into the town we were waved at by loads of friendly people - some locals no doubt and some on holidays. We caught a glimpse of the approaching jetty that we were to tie up at until Paul, the moorings manager, came by to show us which mooring he had prepared for us. We were motoring along quite nicely, happy to have arrived.

The jetty lay before us. Erina and I had ropes ready and Peter began manoeuvring us in to position. The jetty got almost close enough to throw a rope, but then we drifted diagonally away. Wham. The bow sprit hit the jetty as we swung around amidst echoes of San Remo and the tide race there. Suddenly we realised - this river has a tide that flows strongly - and we hadn't taken it into account at all.

There was a man standing on the jetty as we pulled in, later he introduced himself as Brian. He caught a rope for us as we made our first attempt at tying up, before the bow-sprit hit the jetty. He helped push it back off for us. It was thanks to him that we did no damage. Then Peter realised what was happening and that to come alongside successfully we would need to turn into the tide and let the tide push us on to the jetty instead of trying to motor against the tide.

We pulled out, motored a little further down, turned and came alongside nicely. Within moments the ropes were on and we were done.
Tides, we said - got to learn to handle these tides!

That was on Thursday. On Friday we were shown where our mooring would be. A little further back up the river, on the café strip. It would be very close to the shore, which was good as we have been having problems with our outboard motor since Emu Bay in South Australia and while we knew what was wrong - the problem was with the prop - we have yet to be anywhere long enough to get a new one sent to us. We spent some time chatting to people who came down to the jetty to look at the boat and then, after lunch, organised ourselves to go and pick up the mooring.

We discussed the little bit of wind that was blowing and that it shouldn't hamper our capacity to get close to, and then pick up, the mooring buoy and we set off. We pulled into the tide without much difficulty and headed over. We were soon approaching the buoy - Liam and I readying ourselves to reach down and hook it up with the boat hooks, Erina between Peter and us to relay any instructions to each other as we got close. Not realising that Peter had a moment when he could no longer see the buoy Liam and I watched as Peter turned just too far from the buoy for us to reach, too late for us to let him know we wouldn't be able to reach it. We would need to come in for a second attempt. This time at least we knew that Peter was going to be relying on us to let him know if he was close once the buoy went out of his field of vision. But alas, once again we were just too far off it to be able to pick it up on the boat hooks.

Needless to say we were feeling a little exasperated. Peter with us for not picking up the buoy, us with Peter for not getting us close enough! In reality we should all have been unhappy with the tide which we soon discovered was our real adversary!

We came in for our third attempt. We were all ready. Liam and I poised with the boat hooks, Erina ready to relay messages, Peter trying his hardest to get us as close as possible - when a tour boat started honking at us loudly to get out of the way. We were so focussed on the task at hand we'd barely even seen him in the distance - or noticed as he came towards us so quickly. To get out of his way Peter swung slightly more widely than he'd intended and then to our horror the momentum generated by our movement and the other boat's wake pushed us closer to the river bank and with the inevitable thud we felt, we realised we had hit the bottom!

Oh joy!

We tried reversing quickly. Nothing. We tried rocking the boat. Nothing. We were stuck fast in moments.
Right outside all the café's still full from lunch time. Jovially I announced that the Argos Show was on for the diners entertainment but we all felt very far from entertained ourselves.

We've been in this situation before - 2000 nautical miles ago. We weren't as scared as we might have been in the past. These days we know stuff happens. We don't have to feel embarrassed or ashamed. And we don't have to wait for a passer-by to offer assistance. We immediately called sea-rescue to see if they could assist with a tow. They were happy to do so, knowing that the longer we stayed on the mud the harder it would be to get off, and even waiting for the high tide might not free us as the mud can cause a suction. They advised us it would be about ten minutes till they could get the loat launched and on their way. We thanked them profusely and tried the engine again. Still no movement. Then Peter remembered the mooring manager, who had taken him to see the mooring in his powerful boat. Peter recalled him saying he spent most of his day in the boat doing this and that. We called him and he said he was already nearby and could be with us sooner. We let sea rescue know that we might be fine. They decided to be on standby in case we needed further assistance. Relief began to develop immediately!

Paul was soon alongside us and grabbing a hold of our tow rope. What a wonderful piece of equipment that has been for us - definitely something to not leave home without!
Paul very easily had us out of the mud within seconds and then helped us to pick up the mooring buoy and passed it to us. Within just a few minutes the whole thing was done. The sea rescue fellows had decided to come out anyway, so they would be on hand should we need them, which was lovely - what a wonderful thing they do - but they weren't needed and turned around, amidst cries of thanks, and headed back to their own mooring. Paul then also headed back and we sat down, relieved and thankful that help had been so quickly available. The whole thing had taken only about ten minutes.

It was, we realised as we discussed all that had gone wrong, the tide that was the cause of our problem. The tide was pushing us away from the mooring buoy every time we came close - it wasn't just that we were out of practice - the tide was making it harder.
'We've got to learn to take tide flow into account more,' we agreed as we finished up our de-brief.

Yesterday we had more practice with tides!
Liam, Erina and I had gone shopping in town. We rowed ourselves over in the dinghy and tied it up at the jetty that is nearest to our mooring. We did fine. No dramas at all! The shopping done we walked back to the dinghy which was still tied up just where we had left it, all good. We climbed in and pushed ourselves and the bread, milk and lamb chops off. Argos wasn't far away and while the tide flow was very visible and I'd told Erina that we could row against it quite ok - well I was wrong! Argos wasn't getting any closer despite our urgent rowing. In fact, before long both Argos and the jetty were getting further away from us. We hastily tried our hardest to get back to the jetty, pulling out all stops and with relief Liam was able to grab on as Erina and I kept rowing. We pulled ourselves back and with pounding hearts tied the dinghy back up. We climbed the stairs and slumped onto the bench placed at the end of the jetty for people to sit and watch the water and decided that we would just have to wait for the tide to diminish. The water was still flowing very fast and we marvelled at our capacity to get ourselves back.

Peter must have looked then and seen us at the jetty. Not realising that we had tried to row across and failed abysmally, he was perplexed as to why we were just sitting there! We could just hear him and he us, if we yelled, so we tried to explain. He seemed to understand something and decided to try throwing out a line, tied to a floating buoy, attached at its other end to Argos, which we could grab as it floated along with the tide, and then then pull ourselves back. It was a great idea, but even if we got back into the dinghy so we could get a little further out into the river (as far as the dinghy rope would go - I wasn't untying us!) we still could not reach it. The current seemed to swirl towards then quite well away from the jetty making the manoeuver impossible.
We sat back down. We would simply wait for the tide to ebb as it approached its end, and then as it slowed down we would be fine. I signalled to Peter that we would simply wait.

While waiting I decided to call the people who were trying to locate a new prop for our outboard motor - thinking all the time that it was only the outboard that was causing us to have a problem.
The man at the marine shop explained that he had been trying all day to contact a supplier for us to no avail. In our conversation I mentioned how much we were in need of the motor and how we were at that time stranded! He volunteered to come down and collect the broken prop so that he could better determine alternative suppliers.

Shortly after this Peter decided that the only way to get us back - thinking the tide wouldn't turn until 9 pm and it was about 3 pm by then - was for him to swim over with the rope and then tie it to the dinghy and then we could pull ourselves back. Oh what a sight we were!

In the midst of this of course the man from the marine shop appeared and remarked what a hard time we were having! Yes we were!

We did get back to the boat, got the prop for him, returned to the jetty where he was waiting AND back to Argos again - Peter had succeeded in managing it all and we learned yet again that the tide here has a bit of oomph!

The man from the marine shop told us that they had an outboard in the shop that belonged to the owner and maybe he'd loan it to us until ours was sorted. Well that was music to my ears! He returned to the shop, made arrangements and at the end of his working day, dropped it in to us. Oh what a welcome sight he was!

It was lesson time after that - learning how this different motor works - but the end result is that we now have the motor until ours is all good and there will be no more strandings!

We have, I hope, grown now in our understanding of tides and their capacity to exert themselves on us - it seems as if we needed to learn the lessons properly and I hope we now have - I have no doubt that this is just the beginning of our experience with tidal rivers and such - rather than berating ourselves in all this we have simply accepted that this was an area we had need to learn about!

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Setting the square sail!
Sue Watt
02/22/2012, Snapper Island

I watched from my port hole as the sun climbed from the horizon, and filled the sky with orange and pink murmurs of morning over Snapper Island as I woke this morning. Yesterday, after we had said our goodbyes all around Bermagui we untied the ropes that held us at the wharf and aimed for Bateman's Bay.
I always find I have mixed feeling when we leave somewhere we have been for a while. I get attached and it feels a bit sad to leave, but I am excited too as we are moving on to our next destination and somewhere along the way the excited feelings take over from the sad and I remember the thrilling journey we are on!
Sailing up this part of the New South Wales coast was particularly poignant for Peter, who spent most of his childhood summers at one or other of these towns, beaches and camping places. As we passed a place he would mention, that's where I learned to surf. Or that's where I got on a surf ski for the first time. Or that's where I caught my first five fish in a row. It was like having his childhood flash before his eyes - but he also remembered how many times he looked out to sea and watched a passing sailing yacht and something in his heart stirred. How privileged I feel to have responded to that heart stirring.
I am familiar with some of the coast too, and delighted in watching as towns and holiday destinations of recent years were spotted.
The highlight of the trip was when we put up the square sail.
The wind was right up our tail and Peter had said these were the perfect conditions for using it. I had lamented that we still hadn't done what we always said we would - practiced putting it up in port or in a calm bay. I was very tentative about it - having only watched Peter and another fellow put it up and get into all sorts of mess. So when he mentioned putting it up I once again said, we must do that practice thing this time when we stop.
I was scared of course. Scared I wouldn't be able to do it. Scared it would be so big and heavy I would mess it all up - and then we'd have this monstrous thing out of our control, flapping around, taking us every which way.
The wind continued at our rear. The booms were banging and the sails flapping noisily as it went one side and then another, and I knew that Peter was dead right - the square sail would be perfect for these conditions. It's like a massive spinnaker but we have to unfold it, attach it, hoist it, and then when the wind shifts, pull it back down, unhook it and then fold it all back up to stow away again. A great amount of work sure, but more than that - work I wasn't sure I could actually manage - and I was quite worried that we'd get half way and this sail would fill with wind and become impossible to manage. But still, I thought, its time to give it a go. So I suggested we try.
Peter was on to it in a flash! And I have to say it was remarkably easy to get it up. I had watched one time previously as Peter and a sailing instructor tried and it hadn't been easy at all. So I was very glad I'd suggested that we did give it a go after all. The truly great thing though was how after hoisting it and lowering the other sails it took over. The flapping banging noises of the other, less efficient sails in the conditions, were gone and the speed! Wow - suddenly we were doing 5 ½ knots where before we were struggling to do 4. It was fantastic. The wind filled the sail and pulled us on mightily - finally I could see why it was worth using!
The wind of course didn't stay in that quarter for as long as we would have liked, and swung around so that it was on our beam (at our side) before another couple of hours had passed. So we had to lower it and stow it. The lowering was fine - but trying to fold that massive sheet on the front of the boat was another experience entirely! It was interesting to say the least. A little like trying to fold a king size sheet in a broom cupboard! Except this broom cupboard had a lot of wind in it, flipping the sheet around violently, and the broom cupboard was moving back and forth as the waves set it in constant motion! Eventually we got it done and stowed away and - yes, I fell onto the bed for a much needed rest!
And then we reached Bateman's Bay.
We were welcomed to the Bay by a huge school of dolphins - who stayed with us, dancing and playing for ages, as we turned the corner and prepared to set the anchor. We were planning on anchoring overnight just outside the Bay so that we could enter the bar on the high tide that would come in the morning. The local marine rescue also welcomed us as did several friends. The anchor set perfectly in one go which was rather thrilling and soon dinner was on the plates and we were relaxing with a glass of wine and sense of accomplishment. Being at the Bay means we are in close proximity to many friends as well as the family and we are looking forward to a great time of catching up with people. We are also hoping for some work so that we can, in time, head further north with more reserve than we have. We also have some jobs to get done on the boat - as always!
Batemans Bay is tantalisingly close this morning. A narrow sand bar lies inconspicuously between us and a mooring we have arranged to use. To look out at the Bay you could be deceived into thinking that it's just calm flat water and head straight across - I can see why inexperienced sailors avoid it! But we can see the leads that we need to follow to cross, and we have a particularly high tide this morning - which is why we have waited for this day to attempt a crossing - there won't be another tide this high for ten days - so with a flat and calm bar and the right tide, the conditions are perfect. Our crossing will be safe and before morning tea we will be inside Batemans Bay ready to begin our adventure there!


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Bateman's Bay here we come!
Sue Watt
02/20/2012, Bermagui

The weather, wind and tides have all got together this week and the consequence is......we are leaving for Bateman's Bay!
Tomorrow the wind is expected to be a south easterly at up to 10 knot, strong enough to make the trip do-able but not so strong as to make it unpleasant. It will take around 8 hours to sail up and while we will probably have the motor on, just ticking over, we hope we can get the most out of the available wind.
We will drop anchor at the Tollgate Islands over-night so that we are close by for the end of the incoming tide which will peak around 10.24 am. This tide is needed because the depth of the bar is between 0.6 and 1.6 at low tide. Thursday morning there will be a 'spring tide' - a higher than average one that will give us an additional 1.7 beneath us - a total of between 2.3 and 3.3 mts. We need at least 1.9.
Once across the bar we will directed to a mooring that has been arranged for us by the mooring manager, with the assistance of some of our lovely Bateman's Bay friends close to town.
We are so eager to be in the Bay. Being in Bermagui has allowed us to catch up with some family members, but the Bay is even closer to home so already friends have made plans to drop by. How thrilling it will be to see people who knew us before the metamorphism we have undergone!
While we have been in Bermagui Argos has had a little attention - with paint. We have a little bit left to do, but it's really nice to see her looking less shabby on deck and the new colour is very pleasing.
While we are in Bateman's Bay, Peter will be looking for work. He has a lot of knowledge now about boats and combined with his building and carpentry skills hope to be able to assist people with work on yachts as well as with general building and carpentry. If any of our Bateman's Bay readers know of anyone needing any work done, please let us know!
So today will be a day of lasts for us in Bermagui. Liam and Erina have had the best time swimming every day it is warm enough at the Blue Pool, or the beach. Liam really has improved his capacity in the water enormously, with Erina's support, and is now swimming quite confidently. I will be busy shopping and getting the last little bit of washing done so we can leave well stocked and all clean!
We have really enjoyed this stop, but so look forward to the next step in this lovely journey. Bateman's Bay, here we come!

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Doing the Washing!
Sue Watt
02/16/2012, Bermagui

A Nor'easter is blowing again this morning, whipping the waves a little. The children are trying to get their school work done early so they can go to the 'blue pool' before the afternoon breeze turns it into a choppy mess! With no wind the pool is like a sheet of glass, clear and lovely to swim in, but when waves crash over the edge it's not quite so easy! Liam is gaining confidence in the water every day as Erina gets beside him and helps him remember all those things he learned when I took him to swimming lessons and will soon be an unstoppable force - or at least he will be able to fall in without panicking!
While they do their work this morning I am doing the washing. Actually I am sitting at the beach writing while for $4 a handy machine does it for me! Soon it will be finished and I'll load it back into my huge laundry bag that I have tied on to our trolley and haul it back to the boat. One day I'll make a sign to hang from the trolley saying something like, 'My other car is a yacht' to explain to all the people who glance at me with curiosity why I am wheeling this ridiculous trolley behind me!
I wonder if I will ever tire of the delight of sitting listening to waves crash onto the beach in their never-ending dance. I wonder if I will ever tire of having the time to just 'be' instead of spending my days rushing around 'doing' all day!
Lately I have been writing stories about 'Charlie, the reluctant sailor' - inspired by the real-life Charlie whose owners sailed into Bermagui a few weeks ago and stayed for a week. Charlie is a Border Collie who is sailing with his owners to Tassie. He's not quite comfortable with life on a yacht yet but his lovely placid temperament sewed a seed in my writers imagination and a book for younger readers seems to have blossomed. 'Charlie' now has six chapters and formed the basis of a longer story for adults that I entered in a national writing competition. Many thanks to the visiting sailors who introduced us!
Peter has spent the last few weeks attending to repairs and maintenance on board Argos. There is always so much to do to keep her looking wonderful. He has been painting the 'brightwork' (who thought of calling the woodwork that I wonder!!??) and dealing with all sorts of little jobs as well as a bigger than expected repair to an area of deck that had been damaged by some water at some time. He's also been helping another fellow on his boat and when he's not busy doing that he has his nose firmly in the high-seas drama novels he loves! Occasionally I can get him away for a coffee, but he still loves to be on the boat more than anywhere else!
On Valentines Day I introduced him to sushi - turns out he's not a fan! Adventurous in life but not when it comes to food! Oh well, it was worth a try!
We find plenty to fill our stretched-out days - swimming, reading, walking, fixing, having coffee and spending time with other sailing friends we make as we go - what a privilege is ours to be able to take time to slowly enjoy life as we live each day. Life is so precious and we truly savour each moment we have.



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Coffee around the Country
Sue Watt
02/10/2012, Bermagui

Coffee has been a big part of my life for a long time. From helping to open and then run a café for many years and then opening the café training site at Red Hill with Inanna, I have become accustomed to making and enjoying good coffee as a daily part of life. I knew where all the good café's were in Canberra, and made a habit of visiting them frequently!
Dealing with my coffee issues was a significant thing when we were getting ready to live on board Argos and leave our home. I tried a few different ways of trying to brew a good coffee on board, but nothing I tried satisfied me and I found myself feeling sad that I had had to leave my grinder, coffee machine and favorite café (Urban Pantry in Manuka) behind!
The good news is though that I have found good coffee in several places along the coast from Albany to Bermagui, and because we have the time now to relax more, I have happily enjoyed my 'daily brew' quite often!
In Albany, after several experiments we found LIBERTE down near the harbour. Liberte has a quirky décor and interior style reminiscent of the baroque era, which may not appeal to everyone, but the coffee is superb - every cup, every time.
In Esperance the Taylor Street Restaurant down near the jetty and yacht club offers delightful scenery and delivers excellent coffee time and again.
In Port Lincoln, Robe, Portland, Port Fairy, San Remo, Lakes Entrance and Eden we found nowhere that we could say made wonderful coffee. There were some places that we got coffee and it was okay, but nothing to warrant a note here. Then we got to Bermagui and happily we have once again come across a café that rates a mention! Woohoo!
We tried a couple of different places when we first arrived but then one wet afternoon when the children and I got stuck across in town in a sudden down pour, we wandered into a café called Zest. What a treat faced us! The owner of this café makes really good coffee and we have been happily enjoying regular visits there every day!
I still dream about making good coffee on board, but I fear it might be one of those elusive things - what with limited power at times and limited space I have kind of resolved that maybe this is the part of my life when I get to enjoy relaxing coffee's in good café's rather than trying to figure out a way to make coffee on board.
As we continue to travel I'd love to hear about café's in other places we have yet to visit, so we can head on in as soon as we arrive and enjoy a good one!



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