10 October 2014 | Darwin
Chaotic Harmony has been sold. Her new owner appreciates her as much as we did and I am sure will tend to her needs and have some fantastic experiences.
The photo is the last time I saw her after her test sail in Brisbane last weekend.
Time for that new adventure!
Life Ashore to the Next Big Adventure
25 February 2014 | Darwin
Well, we are well and truly settled in Darwin, Northern Territory having rented a house and beginning the search for work to fill up the bank accounts. Life is again dull with no sailing the seas and oceans as we explore our little planet.
Chaotic Harmony is in Brisbane and up for sale. I cannot see the point in having such a wonderful cruising boat if we just use her for day sails. It would also be such a distraction from work that it may prove impossible to be serious about making good dollars.
We left from Darwin and now we are all trying to adjust our lifestyles to one of life in suburbia again.
Hopefully it is not for long as the next trip is now in the final planning stages with designs for a new boat to look at the northern European climates and seas.
The Ice beckons..........................but meantime you can see Chaotic Harmony at http://www.multihulls.net.au/catana-42s-cruising-catamaran/
14 January 2014 | Darwin
Now I know what it is like to be despondent.
We arrived back in Australia in October at Brisbane in Queensland and spent around 9 weeks at the East Coast Marina at the Manly Boat Harbour before the complete crew left her in berth J12 to head for Darwin, work and school commitments.
It was a period of cleaning, repairing, replacing and painting as we worked on Chaotic Harmony to put a bit of sparkle back into her topsides and to repair, replace all those little things that added up during the last leg of the Pacific Ocean. I think we have left her just as beautiful and as functional as when we first laid our own eyes on her in Cairns in February 2010 when Gavin LeSueur and Catherine first invited us aboard for a tour before we took her to Darwin and onto Asia and the Indian Ocean. She has done many more miles since then and had her fair share of adventures but I believe her to be one of the best boats I have ever had the pleasure to sail.
Although our “Round the World Voyage” was a completely unplanned event she managed to do it in style where other vessels sank, were badly damaged in heavy weather, could not sail due to a lack of wind and basically suffered major structural issues. CH always gave me some excitement during large seas with the sounds she would make as she flexed her muscles between swells. After large storms I would be picking up screws that had worked their way out on various screw holes, finding the home and reinserting. This was disconcerting at first until I realised that “she” was built for these conditions and where the newer, more un-flexible vessels cracked and suffered damage CH just kept on keeping on.
We encountered winds over 72 knots and seas in the Indian Ocean that would best be described as horrendous and which laid over many a good vessel and crew but it was great to have complete faith in CH and in the seamanlike fashion in which her entire crew sailed her. We met every obstacle we encountered at first with expressions akin to terror but which soon softened with the dawning realisation that we had a fine seaworthy vessel and that she was crewed by a bunch of sailors that were also exceptionally capable and very able seamen.
CH gave us the opportunity to live as a family together and experience three year’s worth of joint memories including encounters with foreign places and peoples, establishing friendships that I am sure will last the test of time, meeting like minded sailors many times over in different countries, schooling in exotic locations, coping with the arrival of enough hormones to float home on and seeing the world’ continents, islands, beautiful anchorages and its oceans in all their glory and tempests.
During our voyage we had our fair share of dramas on the high seas as well as dramas in anchoring, mooring and entering ports which in reality became high quality learning experiences even if they were not caused by our own misadventures. We soon became very adept at handling most emerging issues and learned to expect (and enjoy) the unexpected. We learnt that we could live together and enjoy our own company during long passages as we coped with stressful situations together and with the four minds available soon were able to overcome most issues in time to enjoy our surroundings.
So why am I despondent after these wonderful experiences?
It is all over for a few years while we refill the rapidly depleting bank accounts and he kids complete high school to give them the best opportunities that they deserve. I don’t want to stop this adventurous life and go back to work but the kids need the extra peer friendships and “things” that we cannot provide while my new employer needs to be able to fill the bank balance to healthier levels. I want to plan our next trip to the seas we have not yet visited and experienced and to look forward to meeting and experiencing the people that live there but it all seems so far away.
Meanwhile Chaotic Harmony awaits us in Brisbane. She is offered for sale but one part of me does not want this to happen as she has become our life and our home and the other says we need to move on to our next life. It will be a sad day if we sell her but perhaps I will go back to Brisbane and bring her to Darwin for the dry season and to allow us to explore the Kimberly Region.
There may be just one more adventure left in her for the Johnstone family.
09 December 2013 | Brisbane
Merry Christmas from CHAOTIC HARMONY
An Accidental Sail around the World
29 November 2013 | Brisbane
When we purchased "Chaotic Harmony" in 2010 from the mighty LeSueur family in Cairns all we thought about was getting her back the odd 2000nm to home in Darwin where we could make plans and sail the Top End of Australia in speed, comfort and in style. We followed the Inner Route through the GBR up to Cape York and rounded Cape Wessel at 20 knots. Speed is a wonderfull thing in a catamaran unless you are just learning to sail her and a hull rises up and out of the water. A good Darwin friend in Adam Gollow helped us all the way to Gove where he flew back to Darwin and we were on our own. Myself, Jo, Gill (11 at that stage) and Keely (9).
The thought of a round trip never entered our minds in the short term but after arriving in Darwin and being visited by Gavin LeSueur and son Baden when they brought their new racing cat into town the feet became itchy, the confidence levels rose again and we arranged hasty holidays and sailed for Ashmore Reef slap bang in the cyclone season on our way to Phuket, Thailand via Singapore; another 2000nm odyssey.
Ashmore Reef is a lonely Australian outpost full of Indonesian fishing boats and Australian Customs officals, bugger all fish over 2.5cm but lots of protected turtles. The first day's sail went well with over 200nm but then it was a motor sail with little wind for the remaining 240 where we were shadowed by Navy and Customs for the entire trip. Great folks though as they passed over a large bag of choclates for the kids.
Ashmore to Singapore was a complete motorboat trip with little or no wind whatsoever except for the last 10nm when we scooted along the approaches to the south of Singapore Island at 12 knots and whizzed in amongst the massive amount of shipping this place receives. Tying up at the Raffles Marina we stayed for a week enjoying the delights that only Singapore can offer then flying back to Darwin for a month before tackling that craft strewn waterway called the Malacca Strait.
This was actually the start of a totally unplanned circumnavigation. We decided that as we did not really feel like beating all the way back to Darwin we might as well keep going to Phuket, do a small refit, repower and head off to explore the Indian Ocean. Back to Singapore in January 2011 and deliver the boat to Scott of Precision Shipwrights at The Boat lagoon Marina via several stops in Malaysia where the kids got an introduction to rural Asia but managed to find Maccas at most of them and arriving in Thailand on Gill's birthday.
By May 2011 all work had been completed and "Chaotic Harmony" was glistening with new Yanmar engines and saildrives, a new windscreen between the cabin and hard dodger, stainless steel enclosure for the cockpit and a zillion other small jobs. Have to hand it to Scott. He and his crew did an excellent job.
By June we had left Thailand and cruised our way back down the Malacca Strait with strong headwinds as the SE Trades began to kick in with the change of seasons. Luckily most of it is day hopping with great, secure anchorages. At One Fathom bank we turned to port and entered the busy shipping lanes and a 30k headwind. At 2am we were confronted with an imminent collission that turned out to be a very persistent pirate. As they tried to come alongside and board the sky lit up and a Singapore warship appeared off our starboard stern and the would be pirates fled. The first of many close shaves we were to have over the next couple of years. The day before this we were at Port Dickson in the Malaysian Penninsula and met the first of many very good life long friends in Joseph and Marci, a USA flagged Hans Christian 38ft cutter. We were to see a lot of these guys over the years.
From Singapore it was a motor against the trades all the way to Sunda Strait and Krakatoa when we finally allowed the new diesels some rest and hoisted all sail and charged along to Cocos (Keeling) Islands; a distance of 640nm. With the great winds we had we did it in 50 hours with out best days sail of 340nm. Wind speed averaged at 32knots for the leg and it was a brilliant sail with rope drogues out the back to assist the autopilot.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands was my home back in the late 60's and it was my first time back since I had left to go to Australia as a boy sailor with the Royal Australian Navy. The islands had not changed but the folk sure had. Gone was the laid-back lifestyle (except for the cruising sailors) and now with three flights a week. It was once a month when we were there. The fishing had not changed and Keely became an avid and adept angler while we were there. One month later, several more great friendships with yachts from USA, Canada, Dutch Antilles (Onno on "Sogno d' Zul), France, UK, Germany, Sweden, Norway and South Africa and it was time to head off to Rodrigous and Mauritius Islands. Another great 1800nm passage in 9 days in constant gale force conditions saw us at anchor in Rodrigous Harbour to enjoy the local delights and friendly people. It is a very tight anchorage. You anchor in the supply ships turning circle so when the supply ship arrives or leaves so must you. This is normally at 0500 so the tug captain goes around sounding short blasts to wake up all the yachts slumbering after consuming their $1 bottles of excellent rum and 6c baguettes from the local bakery. The customs and immigration officials are stoked that the yachts are coming through as they have been off the beaten track for a long time. We met Di, Gerald and Princess Bea here on a catamaran called "Whiskers" who were completing their second circumnavigation. After arriving in Durban after the first they just left again. I can understand why.
The first thing you see when you tie up at Mauritius Customs dock are the golden arches of Maccas and as the kids had been deprived of the delicacies that only children understand it was our first stop before moving the boat into the Marina for a couple of weeks to plan the passage to South Africa and around the Capes of Aghullus and Good Hope with several of our Indian Ocean sailing mates with "Whiskers", Kirk oin "Salsa", Marnix on "Ino", Mike and Lyn on "Wombat of Sydney" and Mats and Ulla on Hokus Pokus 2". We sailed in company with "Whiskers" in fine weather and headed for Reunion Island but it was apparently full so all sail raised to round the bottom of Madagascar and head for Durban. The weather was quite nasty so we headed NW after rounding Madagascar and being trapped in the world's largest eddy for a few hours. We sailed NW then West then SW to make use of the Indian Ocean High and negate the constant lows that travel across the tip of South Africa. This was a good plan as several boats suffered a large amount of damage with one sunk during the crossing from Madagascar. Landfall made at Richards Bay was great with all of us smelling the grasslands of eastern SA before we could see it. A week later and we sailed the mighty Aghullas current down to Durban where we stayed for 2 months visiting elephant parks, big game parks and the cheapest shopping in the world we had yet experienced and were to experience in our travels.
All sailors in Durban are in awe of the wild weather and heavy seas associated with this part of the world and left in weather windows. Unfortunately most of these windows close very rapidly and most copped a hiding. We stayed till January when the weather breaks are at their largest and berthed near "Muneera" owned and crewed by fellow Australians Nick, Andrea, Ella and Millie. It was at the markets in Durban that we picked up a small bundle of fur named Tizer the HoP as Ship's cat. In January we took a 4 day sail from Durban to Knysna at the bottom of South Africa in perfect weather and David Attenborough type scenery resplendent with leaping, feeding and breaching whale migrations, tuna and dolphins trying to outdo the whales in acrobatics and birds going nuts over bait fish while the whales, tuna and dolphin would come straight up through the bait balls into the air spilling fish. It was a truly memorable trip in the current of 4 to 5 knots until a whale breached directly alongside and sneezed all over the boat and the crew. We think we received about 5 to 10 kilos of green, smelly snot.
Knysna is a wonderfull stop-over. You enter through a reef strewn, cliff enclosed narrow passage with the Southern Ocean behind you and a large estuary ahead. The port is so difficult to enter the British initially described it as the worst port to enter anywhere in the world. We surfed in and enjoyed every second of it and our stay there. You tie up directly alongside the restuarant of the yacht club and enjoy a $3 breakfast. Did I mention how cheap it is in the Republic of South Africa?
We still had the dreaded Cape Aghullus and Cape of Good Hope to round so a week later the weather was holding out so we bolted and actually had to motor sail around the Cape of Good Hope in very heavy fog to arrive at the marina and yacht club of Hout Bay with radar as our main nav tool. Hout Bay is a small fishing port for snook just a small bus trip south of Cape Town and the resident smell here is of kelp, sea lions and smoked snook. Unfortunately it is also a windy place with two nights there at over 50knots and several hours averaging 70k in the marina. They breed this lot of sailors and fishermen tough. Lots of sailors out in the big blue and not many seaman but I take my hat off to the Africans. They cut their teeth in Lasers while young and sail training is only cancelled at 45k true wind.
We had survived the Indian Ocean. Average wind speed in the low to mid 30's and average days run of 185nm so now it was time to hit the South Atlantic. Chaotic Harmony is a very forgiving vessel so we reckoned we were prepared for just about anything with a full suite of safety gear and an ocean competent crew in the family to get us across the Atlantic.
30 hours of gales as we left Cape Town saw us make quite a few miles. Then the wind died for the next two weeks to SE at 12 to 15 knots. The spinnaker stayed up for the next 10 days in an ocean devoid of seas and swells as we cruised at a steady 7 knots all the way to St Helena Island where the English incarcerated the French champion Napolean. Not much has changed since Napolean left and it is an unspoiled paradise in the tropics. The biggest decision to make there is what fish to catch for brekky. The history is amazing and the speech of the locals is a strange speeded up version of Olde English. Beware though as it is expensive. More so than Australia which is pretty bad. Gill met up with some kids and swam most days in the chilly waters with Whale Sharks. Not too many ports around where the kids get so close to nature.
The lack of kids boats saw us make a departure for the Caribbean after 10 days and back up with the spinnaker till we hit the doldrums and had to fire up the Yanmars. During this brief storm encrusted interlude we heard of a Soyuz rocket launch at Koru in French Guyana so we altered course to port and entered our anchorage in Koru River with 12 hours to spare to hear a noise of a thousand backfiring Harley's just outside the cockpit and a very rapidly rising fireball at 0200. Just off Koru is Devils Island of Papillion fame. Sorry to disappoint you but his book is fiction. The atrocities are not but the book is and Papillion used other peoples stories. One of the guys there was hung and quartered for killing another inmate without the wardens permission !. Devils Island is also acknowledged by the French as their version of the Australian Penal Colonies.
A quick trip up the coast of South America saw us in Grenada in the West Indies or Caribbean as the Americanos call it. Great place for a haul out so we hauled and antifouled, stayed three months, toured around and went up to the island nations further north of Carriacou and Tobago Cays in the St Vincent and Grenadines Group. There are so many countries up here you need a large passport to collect all the stamps.
Grenada is full of Canadian and American sailors who call it their winter home. Most fly north in the summer and winter in Grenada and Trinidad. Strange lot, as there is always something organised like hiking, quiz nights, pizza nights, regular radio skeds but bugger all sailing in what is undoubtably one of the best sailing areas we have encountered. A lot of people get trapped here. Cheap to live I guess. We decided the spinnaker needed work but changed over to a Code Zero instead to handle the Pacific trades. Another sailplan to learn.
From here to the ABC Islands of the Dutch Antilles. Bonaire was our first stop and Gill became an Open Water diver and so took on the role of ships diver with our hookah gear to keep all parts wet clean. Bonaire is a great stop and highly recommended. You hire a car here and do an island tour in 2 hours but it is a great spot unless the wind turns west. You must take a mooring here and the harbour master provides warnings to head for sea if a westerly is forecast. The moorings are in 3 to 5m and the water depth immediately behind you to the west is 150m and open sea so you do not hang there if you do not want to be beached. The annual South American Harley Owners Group all descended at Bonaire while we were there for the annual rally. It takes about 1 hour to drive around Bonaire and you could hear them for the entire journey. Very pretty spot though.
There are two other islands in this part of the Caribbean Sea. Curacao and Aruba. Aruba is for the rich and fabulous (not much to see except high rise condominiums and hotels) and Curacao is for the not so fabulous, cruising sailors and backpackers. We anchored in Spanse Wasser (Spanish Harbour) for $10 a month while we sampled the islands delights and back in the company of ocean sailors like Australian's Kerin and John sailing "Sabai" and the Swiss catamaran "Yela " with Eric aboard who we first met in Durban. Onno on "Sogno da' Zul" had also arrived completing his circumnavigation.
From Curacao it was onto Santa Marta in Columbia. The 5 star marina here is only a few years old unlike the city of Cartahena just down the highway which was sacked several times by Francis Drake the English "pirate capitan". We were there for the first and inaugral Santa Marta Regatta. It was worth entering the regatta as besides prizes (we won a free world air ticket and several bottles of rum for retiring early with a shredded genoa) you received a months free marina berth. Santa Marta is a great place with only the ocassional bombing and grenade tossing contests by the revolutionaries in the markets. I highly recommend this marina and city.
As it was nearing Christmas we headed for the San Blas Island group in Panama and spent a delightfull six weeks eating fresh crays, swimming in pristine water and catching a great deal of conch and fresh fish with boats and crews that we would cross the Pacific with. Another great place to hang the hook and live the life of Riley for a pittance. Meandering down to Colon in Panama in the early new year we met up once again with the Garner family on "OneWorld" a Lagoon 50 with Wes, Kim, Max, Lely, Ella and Solomon who we made very good friends with. Gill will spend Christmas and New year with them in Wisconsin this year and get to hang out in a cold climate for the first time.
At Colon we again hauled for anti-fouling to prepare for the Panama Canal and the Pacific crossing. We had made good runs in the Atlantic and looked forward to a great Pacific crossing with lots of islands, kids and sun. The Panama Canal is a highlight of any trip. We blasted the last lock with a loud "I come from a Land Down Under" by "Men at Work" and had out pilot and linehandlers dancing and singing as we made it into the Pacific Ocean. The old Americans on the tourist boat that traversed with us were amazed but joined in. A fabulous experience for all.
One week in Panama City to provision then off to Fench Polynesia. You can buy anything in Panama at a fraction of the cost in the Pacific so if you are there, stock up on everything as you will soon begin to hit prices similar to Australia. We left Panama under Code Zero in 5knots apparent and 4knots boat speed. Life looked good. The next leg was 4000nm. Not our longest but it ended up our most accident prone with the loss of a rudder and several smaller failures like forward scanning sonar going up in smoke when trying to enter Papette with little to no steering. Gill up the bow with a fishing rod, small sinker and float at 2m that you can flick and retrieve very quickly is a good substitute. If you see the float you may be about/are about to hit something.
French Polynesia to Suwarrow Island is a short hop of about 700nm but is the best place we think in the Cook's. Unspoiled and great sea life from whales, Wahoo, turtles, coconut crabs and just about anything else you can think of. Unfortunately it was also the beginning of very strong to gale force ESE trades from Tahiti all the way till we hit westerlies 120nm off Brisbane. From Suwarrow we headed directly for SavuSavu in Fiji and once again spent the obligatory 2 months there. This time trying to organise our African pussy cat entry into Australia while touring the Yasawas and Mananucas to the west of Viti Levu. Great stop with fish and some live coral.
We cleared Fiji in September and made a departure for Brisbane where we arrived in early October 2013 after 35,000nm, no injuries besides a few broken fingers and toes and no bad memories. We lost the Code Zero the first day out of Fiji in a wild squall and this seemed to be the weather we enjoyed for the entire return. Unseasonal winds effectively "squashed" from the rapidly moving highs to light gale force was our lot for the passage.
Life is truly an adventure so we made it a challenge and worthwhile for the family before the rot set in and the kids can experience the people, the voyage and the cultures we experienced. We made it back and now we look forward to the next adventure whatever and wherever that may be as a family that can accomplish what it accidentally sets out to do. For me it is the challenge of the open ocean, for Jo and the kids it is the people you meet and for the cat it was the bonus of fresh fish every day at sea.
What, when and where is the next adventure? Gill is heading off to Wisconsin to spend time with the Garners, Keely is enjoying being back at school and Jo and I pretty up Chaotic Harmony and get ready to go sailing again.
10 October 2013 | Brisbane
Chaotic Harmony arrived in Brisbane 08th October 2013. More later but the flag says it all. Weary and worn but ready for another adventure.