What a trip from Vanauatu! We started across the start line without a single sail up. We had to replace the furling line for the main sail right before we left (due to some severe chaffing) and were a bit behind in getting started. There was little wind for the first hour or so but once out from behind Vanauatu a gentle breeze began. The forecast called for light winds so we raised the spinnaker. We broke our rule of never flying it at night and kept it up because the winds were predicted to stay light. Unfortunately, the wind clocked around to the point where we could no longer us the spinnaker so once again at night we were pulling down the spinnaker and changing sails. We were much more successful this time and began motor sailing due to light winds. After putting 14.5 hours on the engine, it was never to be turned on again during the trip. The rest of the sail was primarily 20 - 30 knot winds and 10 - 15 seas with spurts of light winds and flat seas. I think we reefed and unreefed the sails more times than we had in the previous five years of owning the boat. We got quite good at it by the end of the trip. We also had many, many squalls which gave us much rain - we were grateful to have the full enclosure up around the cockpit which kept us dry. Some of the squalls were wet and windy while others were wet and without wind. One of the hardest parts of the trip was discovering in the middle of the night that you had too much sail out. Then, we would have to decide whether to wake the other up or wait until the next change of shift to reef the sails. Waiting caused us to work the boat much too hard at times. Overall, we sailed quite well and were ahead of many of the boats that are usually right around us. Mark attributes this to me breaking another Kindle and deciding to do sail trim instead of reading. He did gently point out to me that during his shifts his average speed was about .4 knots higher than mine. He got my competitive nature to kick in and thus I did work much harder on sail trim.
Once we were about 125 nautical miles outside of Mackay, we went through a passage that cut through the Great Barrier Reef. We were told to expect currents and countercurrents of up to five knots. We were lucky to enter the passage during a favorable time and had a three knot current pushing us through most of the trip. We entered the passage during the dark so both of us were up during much of the last evening at sea. We were both a bit anxious about the reefs and the increased traffic once we entered the pass. We did end up motor sailing through much of the reef due to the wind being right on our nose. Although the passage was a shipping lane, we were grateful not to see many cargo ships. We were welcomed by a pod of whales upon entering the harbor of Mackay. They were huge and amazing. We actually saw one's tail flip up right out of the water. Beautiful.
The passage was shorter than we expected (seven instead of eight) due to the high winds. Our average speed was 6.7 knots which makes this passage one of our fastest yet. So far for the entire trip, our average speed has been 6.2 knots. You should see Mark's excel spreadsheet on these figures. We log every three hours during our passages keeping track of everything from miles per shift, average boat speed, wind speed, wind direction, etc. The most miles we have traveled in a day on this passage was 176.8 nautical miles. The highest number of miles per day since the beginning of the trip was 180.6 nautical miles on our way to the Marquesas.
Cooking while underway continues to be a dangerous undertaking for me. I had made two individual size pizzas for us on the last day of the passage. I needed to get rid of all the meats in the freezer and all of the fresh vegetables before entering Australia, so I made a veggie pizza and a meat lover's pizza. When taking my veggie pizza out of the oven I caught the pan on the safety bar and dumped the hot pizza on my leg and foot. I quickly wiped off the hot pizza with a dish towel but did get about five good size burns which quickly became huge blisters. I once again found myself sitting on the galley floor in tears for a brief moment. The scares on my body will be able to tell some great stories about the difficulties of living on a boat for two years!!
Overall, the trip did not feel as difficult as the last passage to Vanauatu. I think that I am beginning to understand that the future passages are just going to be more difficult, meaning bigger winds and seas. This passage was uncomfortable at times but also held some excitement with all of the reefs, squalls, and changing winds and seas. We did feel that we worked the boat a bit too hard at times and as a result we are entering Mackay with some repairs to do. We discovered a rip in the main sail while we were in the passage to Mackay. We also sheared four bolts on one side of the mast where the boom attaches to the mast. Luckily all of the bolts on the right hand side were intact. We discovered this also in the passage to MacKay. This failure was a potential disaster if the other bolts sheared off. These difficulties led us to many of discussion on maybe not pushing the boat as much and going as fast. Arriving safely and in one piece surely ranks higher.
We arrived in Mackay around 4:00 pm in the afternoon and were quickly boarded by customs and quarantine. We did need to throw out some of the food items on board but we had done a fairly good job of cleaning out all of our meat, fruits and vegetables. The quarantine officer checked all of our cabinets for any sign of infestation by any type of creatures. He also went through our food and souvenirs. I was happy that the wooden kava bowl we had bought in Fiji was not a problem and the woven basket we were given in Vanuatu also passed inspection. He did have me put the woven basket in the freezer to make sure any bugs in it would be killed. I had to leave it in the freezer for 7 days. This was not an issue since our freezer was now just about empty. We seemed to have an easier time with quarantine than other boats. Some of the boats were boarded by dogs that were sniffing for any drugs. Several of the boats were also unlucky enough to have the dog pee on their beds. We completed customs and were in our slip by dark. We were thrilled to have the crew from Samsara and Brizo take our lines as we pulled in. Almost all of the World Arc boats were on the same dock. We were quickly whisked away to a cocktail party on Anastasia. What a wonderful welcome to Australia!!