Owl & Pussycat / Sonsie of Victoria BC

The adventures of Jim and Isabel aboard S/V Sonsie of Victoria

Sailing off into the sunset

23 November 2021
Isabel Bliss
Hi everyone,

Thanks for reading and enjoying this blog.

This is the end of the journey for Jim and for me. So this will be the final blog post.

Happy sailing to each and everyone of you. May the winds be fair and favourable, and your compass a trusty guide to a rosy future.

Sonsie of Victoria BC - welcome to our blog!

31 December 2019
Hello and thanks for looking us up.

Sonsie of Victoria BC is a Canadian-registered Southern Cross 39, hull #12. A cutter rig designed by Thomas Gilmer and built in Bristol, Rhode Island in 1985.

After a three-year pause we are back onboard ! View our current location and track by searching for us on marinetraffic.com either by name: Sonsie of Victoria; or by our MMSI number: 316 014 991

The photo was taken in Clayton's Corner, Bathurst Harbour, in SW Tasmania in March 2015.

Thank you for your interest. Our blog follows this post.

We always enjoy hearing from our readers so please add a comment ! :)

Arrival into Brisbane, after a journey of just under 1,000 nm from New Caledonia

28 October 2019
Isabel Bliss
Up goes the Quarantine flag, down comes the mainsail, time to tuck things away and make things shipshape for our arrival!

Jim's route planning and timing is impeccable. We arrive at slack water to tightly squeeze past the superyacht that's blocking the customs dock and thrusting its ostentatious bow out, halfway blocking the opening to the docks. Stupid thing. Jim manoeuvres deftly.

However because of where the marina manager is waving at us, we initially aim for the wrong berth. This requires Jim to reverse, backing up almost into that presumptuous prong of egotistical bow, much to the wide-eyed wonder of nearby crew, before powering forward into our rightful berth.

Tie up.

Blessed land!

Relief at being still - such a blissful feeling :)

Extremely cordial and congenial officials. The various visits take a few hours. They take our remaining fresh fruit and veg as well as our NZ honey :( and ask many questions, though oddly enough not one about the vessel's hull. We are accustomed to countries being concerned about imported organic hitchhikers. Australian biosecurity officials conduct a thorough timber check and Sonsie comes out clean.

When asked if we've seen anything suspicious en route - e.g. illegal fishing vessels, unmarked boats, packages in the water (big problem with illegal drugs), Jim makes them laugh by saying we passed a local hobo on a weird-looking homemade boat floating down the river.

They give us practique. "All bonza!" The yellow Quarantine flag can come down and the Australian courtesy flag raised.

Great! Now we can go get the key to the marina showers......!!

Oct 28 all nighter up the river

28 October 2019
Isabel Bliss
The 49nm river approach to Brisbane's Australian Customs dock will take us approx 10 hours to navigate. It is a dredged twistyturny channel lined with innumerable marker bouys that must be heeded at all costs. The surrounding waters are shallow and dotted with tidal flats, as well as marked shipwrecks!

Being the main channel, the course is the choice of all great ships arriving from overseas and barrelling along at 20+ knots.

Sonsie holds her own, barely going 3 knots against the formidable river current and 15 knot headwinds. Blinky red and green lights flash at us in various sequences from the different channel marking bouys. There are also yellow directional and some mystifying blue lights blinking away.

Port traffic VHF channel 12 is crackling with call-in's from ships and directions from the tower. Nautical pilots are getting picked up from and dropped off onto massive ships steaming in and out. Jim is thrilled by the all the activity and commotion!

At the first turn south after entering the channel the Yokohama approaches going outbound followed immediately by an equally massive inbound ship. VTS (vessel traffic control) suggests we go west of the channel while they pass each other. There's adequate water there so we do as asked. In a nice touch, VTS thanks us afterwards.

As we pitch up and down to windward towards the safety of port, the wakes from all these container ships, bulk carriers, and tankers sideswipe Sonsie with their sudden sharp waves. It's physically daunting keeping up with all the motion. We are trapped in a capsule on a wonky funfair ride.

We opt not to go via "Spitfire Bypass Channel" as its least depth is 1.5m and Sonsie draws 1.8m. The NW direct channel is deeper and provides a measure of separation from ship traffic. This section straightens. We follow it, on autopilot, and for this 4 hour run, Jim goes down to sleep. It's crucial to stay alert in the river channel, but also important that both of us get some sleep to be able to function sensibly.

It's inky black and starts to pour. I am tethered in but still must brace myself against whatever I can to close up the cockpit to prevent getting drenched. Buckling up the plastic windscreens initially reduces visibility as they're encrusted with salt, but the fresh water will rinse them quickly.

Water still finds ways to drip and seep in. Perched on the helm seat, for redundancy, is an iPad with Navionics tracking our route and progress. Naturally it's positioned immediately under a hitherto unknown leak, and the water dripping its way down the headphone jack is making the iPad screen flash berserkly.

It's 4:30 am and thankfully Jim wakes for his watch. I make him a pot of coffee and hand him a big bowl of muesli. Rested and fed, he's ready to go.

In order not to bounce about I wedge myself on top of the lumpy rolled up dinghy between the drop down table leaf and the portside storage locker. Comfy is a relative term. Oblivion is welcome.

So is visibility! Dawn on Jim's watch brings better viewing of the low-lying shore and its various stands of eucalyptus and mixed industrial activity, as well as a non-stop, fascinating array of vessel traffic. Daylight also brings speed as a change in current sees Sonsie now going 7 knots up the river on the flood tide.

In time, after a few more twists and turns in the channel, the motion starts to even out as we enter more protected waters. Using his New Zealand phone, Jim connects to cell towers and starts calling ABF and the marina. The Customs dock is already occupied so he arranges a berth.

Oct 27, escape

27 October 2019
Isabel Bliss
We turn, and it’s not immediately apparent that we’ve made the right decision but about 5 minutes later the radar shows the bilious clouds starting to move away. They will pass slightly behind as opposed to directly overhead.

Thunder and lightning continue to light up the night sky for hours but from enough of a distance that we can safely watch the show.

Oct 27 radar targets, continued

27 October 2019
Isabel Bliss
The cumulonimbus clouds, crackling with energy, grow enormous, and darken the sky. Without warning, they change course in synch with Sonsie. They threaten us.

As much as the motion of the boat allows, we stay away from the metal bits, and Jim swiftly unplugs what electronics he can. We study the radar, using its vector target tracking tools to determine - which way is this storm heading??

When I dreamt of sailing around the world I never envisioned being chased by a thunderstorm with ominous intent!

My spidey sense kicks in, we’re in peril, I shout at Jim to turn 180, again!!!
Vessel Name: Sonsie of Victoria
Vessel Make/Model: Southern Cross 39'
Hailing Port: Piers Island BC
Crew: Jim Merritt & Isabel Bliss
Retired from aviation, Isabel and Jim enjoy sailing in the South Pacific when not busy in the Northern Hemisphere with home & garden, family & friends. Jim is a former member of the Yellowknife NWT's Great Slave Cruising Club, Isabel of White Rock BC's Lower Mainland Yacht Club. They thank all [...]
Gallery Error: Unknown Album [1:]:25682
Sonsie of Victoria's Photos -