27 October 2009 | Gibraltar to Canary Islands
21 September 2009 | Reggio Calabria
04 September 2009 | Split, Croatia
Back in beautiful Sydney!
09 November 2010
First Mate Hels
Oh what a feeling???!! (Think the old Toyota ad). It truly was a special moment to sail through Sydney Heads on Saturday and arrive to a bunch of family and friends dockside cheering us on! Despite the absolute downpour at the exact moment of our arrival people braved the conditions to come down to see us which was fantastic! The champagne flowed and the stories started coming out!
Thanks everyone for all your support and encouragement as it has been wonderful to see you all. We look forward to catching up properly with everyone soon. For those who couldn't be here, thanks for your well wishes!
We really feel so very lucky to have had the opportunity of this trip and particularly to have a year as a family together. It really has been quite incredible and we have all bonded tightly. It actually feels quite strange to be sitting here by myself typing this blog as JD has dropped the kids at school and already I am missing them! How ridiculous I know!!!
Life is quickly returning to some normality. The kids are on Day 3 of school and have settled in nicely. They are still a bit of a novelty and are being asked a lot of questions about their trip but are taking it all in their stride!
JD and I are busy with the more mundane but necessary aspects of land life like buying a car, facing up to tax returns and a mountain of paperwork. We are starting slowly to check out some job prospects and are making enquiries about the sailing scene and where best to leave our boat long term.
I take this chance to say to you all that it has been great having you all following our travels and encouraging us along the way. Without all the support from our friends and family we would probably be stuck in a hole somewhere in the middle of the ocean. It was been brilliant to get all your messages of support along the way and it has meant a lot to us. We have met some wonderful people, been to some amazing places and really now have life long memories. Hopefully we are better as people for it and can appreciate life just that little bit more! We urge anyone who gets the chance to dip out of the ratrace and do something special for a period to just do it!!! Whether it be a boat or a caravan it really will be a life highlight for you!
As I write this last blog to you all I must say how proud we are of the kids and of course Nika. The kids have grown in many ways in the year. They have rarely complained on the trip and we feel lucky that they have been willing to tag along on such a massive adventure. We are also proud of Nika who has treated us so well and proven to be a fast reliable and immensely enjoyable and comfortable boat to live on and sail. We also feel proud of ourselves for "pulling it off" so to speak and thank the weather god and other angels who have watched over us over the last year! On that note I say a a final goodbye to the blog. I trust you have enjoyed the snippets of our life and not been too scared by the dramas. It really has been mostly plain sailing so to speak! Well for now it is Nika Out for the final time and back to Channel 16 for a listening watch!! Look out for Nika in the harbour or Pittwater and we look forward to getting our friends and family out for a sail soon. x
It's not over until the Fat Lady sings!
03 November 2010 | Somewhere off Port Stephens
We're just passing Seal Rocks and are not far from Port Stephens. After a quiet night where we mostly motored due to the light winds, we now have 20 knots from the east which is pretty good. We expect to arrive at Pittwater late this afternoon where we'll anchor for the night before sailing around to Sydney Harbour for the "Grand Entrance".
For those who wish to see Nika in action, we'll be sailing down past Curl Curl beach around 10:30-11:00am on Saturday 6 November and through the heads at around midday on Saturday all going well.
1:00PM at Middle Harbour Yacht Club!!!
We can now confirm that we will be coming in to berth at the end of "A" Dock which is the southern-most dock at MHYC - just turn right as you walk through the breezeway entrance to the docks. You shouldn't have to sign-in unless you want to go upstairs into the Yacht Club itself. If in doubt, ask the staff for directions to "A" Dock.
Parking will be the difficult thing. For those of you coming from the south, the easiest thing is to park in the large public carpark (pay and display) on the western side of Spit Road just before the bridge. For those coming from the north, either turn right into the same public carpark from the right hand lane (yes, it is legal) or turn left into Parriwi Road which is on your left just past the MHYC entrance and try to park on the hill. Because Saturday will be a race day, there won't be many spots left so you might have to u-turn on Parriwi Road and cross over Spit Road at the lights to gain entry to the public carpark.
We'll have a couple of bottles of champagne and some beer but it might be a good idea to bring your drinks and nibbles and cups. We're very excited about catching up with you all soon.
It's hard to believe that we have less than 100 nM to sail after sailing some 16,000 nM, but remember:
It ain't over until the Fat Lady sings...
Family welcome in Brisbane - almost home
26 October 2010 | Brisbane River
After a fabulous week cruising the Whitsunday Islands, we made our way down to the marina at Mackay where we had to hole up for a few days while a 40 knot southerly blasted through. Fortunately we caught up with our good friends, Stewart and Trish off Rhiann Marie, and had a couple of hilarious nights waiting for the weather to abate.
We then made for Bundaberg, 290 Nm south and on the second night sailed into the Burnett River (Bundaberg) and put out the anchor at around 9:00PM for a well earned rest. The next morning we had a lovely sail down to Urangan and thence through the Great Sandy Straights which separate Fraser Island from the mainland. Whale spotting was the order of the day and we were not disappointed!
Last Wednesday we went over the Wide Bay Bar at 6:00am at high tide
(a rather notoriously difficult bar but on this occasion thankfully there was only a little swell), then sailed down to Mooloolabah where we dined out on fish and chips with Shane, Nicole and 3 kids off "Grace" who have now settled down to 'normal life' after cruising the world on their Hallberg Rassy for 3 years. Had a surprise visit from Carl Schmidt who I used to race against at Black Rock YC years ago which was lovely.
Another day's sail brought us down to Brisbane and along the way we saw several whales quite close to us. We had a lovely sail up the Brisbane River as the sun was setting and were delighted to see cousins Keith, Glen, Cassie and Jaime waiting to take our mooring lines at the Dockside Marina adjacent to the Story Bridge. They took us to Uncle Bill and Aunty Anne's house for a Dransfield family BBQ that went long into the night...
On Saturday morning, we were nicely surprised to be visited by the Darveniza clan - Nada (Helen's mum), Uncle Ted/Esmai, Uncle Matt/Irene, Uncle Louie/Marion, cousin Paul/Julie. Thanks go to Marion for the wonderful lunch.
We have also been to cousin Elspeth and Chris's house for Sunday brunch and seen all the Darveniza cousins and we're having dinner at Martin's new house tonight. Wow, we've had a wonderful time here in Brisbane - as usual spoilt by all the rels and thanks to Uncle Bill we have had a car for the whole time which has been brilliant. We fitted in a trip to South Bank and to the lovely parklands and city beach area and museum which was a delight!
Tomorrow we depart for Southport where we hope to take the kids to Seaworld. Then it's on to Sydney via Coffs Harbour where we hope to catch up with the Sunboy crew and also our crazy friend Daniel Freuden.
THE BIG NEWS is that we've just found out that Helen is pregnant!!!!!!! When she continued to feel seasick inside a marina we knew that there was something else going on! A bit of a surprise but we are very excited! Sorry to be telling you all via the blog but as we have so many friends to call and Hels blushes every time she tells anyone we thought this might be an easy way to spread the word!
The other big news is that we will be coming into Sydney Harbour on Saturday 6 November and berthing at Middle Harbour Yacht Club at 1:00 PM. Everyone is welcome to come along and say "Hello" on board Nika, which we're told will be berthed at the end of "D" dock. Parking is available in the yacht club car park (if you're very lucky),or up Parraween/Parriwi?? Road or at the Pay & Display public carpark on the opposite side of Spit Road. Please come, bring some grog, nibbles and cups - we'd love to see you!
For those who wish to see Nika in action, we'll be sailing down past Curl Curl beach around 10:00am on Saturday 6 November and through the heads at around midday on Saturday all going well. Looking forward to catching up with you all soon.
01 October 2010
First Mate Hels
Greetings from the Whitsunday Islands! You guessed it! The temptation to sail north to the Whitsundays on our own boat was just too great. After such a fabulous time at Lady Musgrave Island with the Dransfield crew on Manaroa Bay spotting whales, turtle spying and bird watching it was a mere 270 nm up to Hamilton Island. One morning we managed to catch a mummy and a calf whale putting a show a mere 100m from our dinghy for a good half an hour! Absolutely superb!!
So here we are after a week of "boat camping" sitting in resort land at the Hamilton Island marina feeling rather pleased with ourselves. We blasted up here in a 20-30 knot SE which was a pretty fast and furious ride. But just a normal day at the office for Nika who handles it all with aplomb! I am now salivating at the thought of a restaurant meal and clean clothes (not sure which is the more exciting!). We are then really looking forward to escaping out to the numerous protected anchorages to explore, snorkel and bushwalk. We were last up here 9 years ago with Jesse 9 months old in our trailer sailor Pretty Woman. Before that, we were here with JD's folks on their yacht Déjà vu when they sailed it up from Melbourne. The other time was when I did a delivery trip on Brindabella for Hammo Island race week so it all has some good memories for us. We plan to spend 10 days around the islands before starting the big trek south. Hopefully by then the summer north easterlies will have replaced the still howling winter southerlies! Ciao for now the Nikas!
Landfall at Bundaberg!
20 September 2010 | Bundaberg QLD
I am thrilled to report that we are back in Oz having made landfall in Bundaberg late last week. We feel a mixture of emotions: elation, a huge sense of achievement, exhaustion and excitement. The passage from Noumea was a delight - calm seas, light winds and generally easy. With Grandad Pete on board it was especially nice getting a 6 hour sleep stretch at night instead of our usual 3 hours on 3 hours off with just JD and myself.
Highlights of the passage were: sighting whale spouts, JD's bacon and eggs on the BBQ for breakfast, Grandad Pete's beef bourguignon, kids making pancakes for breakfast, seeing land at Fraser Island.
It feels bloody good to be home and to be back in a land where we are on the same time zone, everyone speaks the same lingo and our mobile phone works and is not horrendously expensive to use!
We are enjoying being in a classic country town like Bundaberg where the main street has everything you could possibly want from a bakery to a pie shop, chemist, supermarket etc. We have had our first meat pie and a juicy steak at the local pub. Don't fear Grandma Nades, we are also going beserk in the fruit and vegie aisle of the supermarket. This really is the land of plenty!
Yesterday we had a lovely time at the Hinkler museum learning all about one of our pioneer aviators who was born in Bundaberg and was the first person to fly from England to Australia in a lightweight glider plane. With lots of interactive exhibits the kids had a great time. We then reacquainted ourselves with Australian native plants in the adjacent Botanical Gardens.
We have just heard that we are fully cleared from a Customs perspective having coughed up the necessary import fees (ouch!). All went smoothly excepting for the somewhat ridiculous quarantine requirement that we must have a sniffer dog inspect our 3 year old boat for termites. There is absolutely no evidence of such a problem but due to the fact that we have wood panelling and we have spent a significant part of our trip in what are considered high risk areas. The prospect of a termite flying in a window whilst we were at anchor or termites swimming onto the boat seems unlikely. We looked into Fido joining us in Bundaberg but given he would have had to be put up at a hotel (the Hilton I suppose) we have decided to now book in Fido for when we are in Southport. The whole exercise will cost us in excess of $1000 which is the most irritating part of it all. Suffice to say I shall be addressing my complaints formally to Australian Customs and Quarantine! It is no wonder some yachties choose to head to New Zealand and bypass Australia altogether.
Grandad Pete joined us in Noumea and sailed the final leg across to Bundaberg with us. It has been a delight having Grandad Pete on board - he is always great company and a pleasure to have as a guest. At 82 he is quite extraordinary - after crossing the Atlantic with us last year, he visited Uzbekistan before spending his usual sojourn on his canal boat "Robert" on the French canals. Then Pete chartered a yacht in the Adriatic, took a cruise from Vancouver to Alaska and had a couple of weeks sailing around the Vancouver islands. Amazing stuff - let's hope we can all be as active and healthy at his age!
Next up we will head out to Lady Musgrave to meet the Brisbane Dransfield relatives who are coming up on the big Manaroa Bay motor cruiser. Weather permitting, we are hoping to hang out there and also at Fitzroy Lagoon for the next 10 days or so. The jury is out as to whether we duck up to the Whitsundays after that (Skipper JD's preferred plan). Alternatively, we may just head south calling into to visit friends and relatives at Mooloolaba, Brisbane, Southport and Coffs before heading for Pittwater late October, early November. Hoping this finds you all healthy and happy. We are very excited about seeing everyone later in the year and swapping some stories!
Ciao for now from the Nikas.
07 September 2010 | Noumea, New Caledonia
First Mate Hels
Today is a bit of a milestone for the Nika crew. It was exactly one year ago that we left Split, Croatia bound homewards and apart from two nights living on the boat on the hardstand we have not slept on shore in that whole time. Reminiscing over the year, helped by our computer screensaver being a random scroll through our trip photoes, it can only be described as a pretty amazing year! To think we set off into the unknown not really knowing much about boat cruising life and with so many miles to cover and now it is fantastic to think we have covered so many sea miles and are close to home! At one level it has all felt quite surreal. At another level it all seems quite normal and living in our house will feel weird!
Enough philosophising for now!!!
What you really wish to hear is where are we and how was the passage from Fiji to here. In a nutshell we had a mixture of winds and overall an ok passage excepting that as we head more south the tradewinds "back" more to the south so we are sailing more on the beam and hence the ride is less comfortable! Amazingly most of our trip has been downwind sailing and apart from a gentle roll one often does not heal over much at all. As you sail more close hauled the ride gets faster but the healing makes moving around down below difficult. Work in the galley is especially tricky.
Thankfully, the kids have developed great sea legs and a terrific sense of balance and, so far, we have had zero accidents. Even managing without our main companionway stairs (whilst they were being revarnished) we managed to leap around without incident!
The cold on this passage was rather a shock to the system. At times we were in full thermals, beanies and full Musto wet weather gear and still cold! Give me skis and a blizzard and I will be the first out there making tracks but somehow on a yacht with your precious kids on board, heading into a cold front is less attractive. We definitely have become tropical cruisers where one can wear a swimsuit and a sarong year round!
To escape the cold winds and to avoid a nighttime entry into New Caledonia we made an unexpected pit stop at a northern anchorage on the island of Anatom which is the southern most island of Vanuatu. Feeling a bit like illegal immigrants as we had not officially checked into the country we lay low. We felt more comfortable when the local village chief rowed out in his dugout canoe for a chat and assured us "it was ok man. No problem". Armed with some whisky, some petrol for his outboard and some pressies for the kids he left a happy man. The following morning he arrived bearing a bunch of super sweet oranges, some fish and a bunch of coconuts. All very welcome!
After an easy overnight sail we arrived at the port of We on Lifou which is one of the Loyalty islands which lie to the east of the main island of New Caledonia. Most of the inhabitants are the local tribes and it is not nearly as French as we imagine Noumea will be.
Being back in the land of fresh baguettes the skipper is in great form. Each meal generally consists of baguettes, French pate de foie with lashings of French butter. All washed down with a Panamanian cardboard Clos red vino! Nice!!! Speaking of our grog supplies you will be pleased to hear that Nika's extensive alcoholic supplies are dwindling nicely and will be appropriately rationed before we hit Aussie customs! With Grandad Pete, who is partial to a drop or two, soon to join us in Noumea we should have no trouble polishing it all off.
Happily chilling out in We catching up on some boat work we were pleasantly surprised and delighted when our neighbour on the boat next to us invited us on a tour of the island in his car. It turns out he lives in Noumea and travels as a doctor up to the islands from time to time. This trip he sailed his yacht up leaving his family in Noumea. We had a lovely afternoon at a gorgeous beach and to thank him for his efforts we took him out for a lovely meal.
We have found people generally on this trip to be extremely kind and helpful and can't tell you how many times complete strangers have helped us out. There is something about the cruising community or maybe travellers which brings out the best in people. It reminds me of the time in Aruba at the Hageen Daaz icecream shop. I merrily ordered double scoops for the whole family and the kids were quickly licking away. When I went to pay I was slightly horrified to learn that the Dutch gilders I had were not acceptable (despite Aruba being one of the 3 Dutch Antille islands) and that the only acceptable currency was Aruban gilders or US dollars. Blushing a deep shade of purple I was taken aback as I realised the money we had saved from Curacao (another island in the Dutch Antilles) was useless. Thankfully a nice American lady next to me helped us out handing me 10USD and assured me that it was her "good deed for the day!"
The kids are in fine form. Tykes has become an absolute card shark having learnt Uno from the Sloane kids back in Tonga. He is happy to play the game all day long and is really quite hard to beat. As an added bonus he has now learnt his numbers from 1-9 and can read the word "Wild". Not a bad first word for him I guess!
Jesse and Zoe are cruising along. We are in Maths mode at the moment desperately trying to make it all a bit more interesting and apply it to everyday life! Zoe has her hair beaded a la Fiji style and is looking gorgeous!
Next up we will make our way around to the bottom of New Caledonia and to Noumea. Grandad Pete will join us there. It will be great to see Pete again and for the master seaman to see how much we have all learned since he left us in the Caribbean many months ago.
We hope, weather permitting, to leave for Bundaberg around Friday or Saturday 11th September. With a 5 day passage in store it will be our last big paddock to cross (yippee) and we can then enjoy some coastal cruising in Queensland before heading to Sydney town! We are starting to get really excited about being back in Oz and catching up with everyone. We can almost smell Oz and we are starting to dream of being back home. Hopefully by the time we are home the country will have a Prime Minister. Apart from that I guess not much will have really changed! Over and out for now until our next update!