SV Saraoni

13 January 2019 | The Broadwater, Southport, Gold Coast, Australia
03 January 2019 | Curigee, South Stradbroke Island, The Broadwater, Queensland
29 December 2018 | Dunwich, North Stradbroke Island, Moreton Bay, Queensland
23 December 2018 | South Moreton Bay, Queensland
11 December 2018 | Great Sandy Strait, Queensland, Australia
04 December 2018 | Tweed Heads, NSW, Australia
20 November 2018 | Lake Tuggerah, NSW Central Coast, Australia
11 November 2018 | Bundaberg, South East Queensland, Australia
01 November 2018 | Burnett River, near Bundaberg, Queensland.
31 October 2018 | 110 nm from Bundaberg
30 October 2018 | 240 nm from Bundaberg
29 October 2018 | 360 nm from Bundy
28 October 2018 | 460 nm from Bundaberg
27 October 2018 | 560 nm from Bundaberg
26 October 2018 | 670 nm from Bundaberg
24 October 2018 | Ilot Maitre New Caledonia
09 October 2018 | Isle Mato, Southern Lagoon, New Caledonia
15 September 2018 | Baie d'Orphelinat, Noumea, New Caledonia
02 September 2018 | Mare, Isles Loyaute, New Cal
30 August 2018 | Cap Boyes Mare Iles Loyaute

The Discombobulated Catamaran!

13 January 2019 | The Broadwater, Southport, Gold Coast, Australia
Alison and Geoff, dry, hot, with mild easterlies
Photo shows one half of a discombobulated catamaran!

We are anchored just off Australia Fair, one of Southport's big shopping centres. It's quite a spectacular anchorage and free - as long as you move out of the area for 24 hours every 7 days! The towering apartment blocks of Gold Coast City are on one side, a more muted Southport on the other and a series of sandbanks, between which ply the constant phalanxes of boats of all sizes and shapes, mainly far too fast for the comfort of those of us freely anchored. Just over the sand dunes lies the surf beaches of the Tasman, or is it the Coral Sea?

A billion dollar view of billions of dollars of real estate, both on land and on or close to the water, but this Southport anchorage of ours is free for a week at a time!

We have had the survey of the Beneteau. It went o.k. The surveyor was very thorough and spent a total of 6 hours on it, first with the boat out of the water, peering and prodding at its keel and then crawling all around its interior. We thought we knew all there was to know about boats, but Captain Tim found things about Sundari that we hadn't, mostly things that no longer worked! In fact, it's amazing that such a nice looking boat had so many things that weren't working, perhaps because the businessman owner had hardly used it for so long.

Saraoni, despite being somewhat tattier, has everything working and if something breaks down we get it going again as quickly as possible! In fact, Saraoni is better equipped than many of the fancy looking marina boats we have seen recently - solar panels, a wind generator, an HF radio, a VHF radio with AIS, a desalinator, a working outboard and dinghy, a nearly new anchor winch, nav. lights that work, water tanks, a stove that works, an autopilot that refuses to give up the ghost and a wind vane. Did we mention the relatively young Nanni diesel?

Anyway, we have convinced ourselves it's time to move on. Sundari's owner is buying some stuff to replace the things that don't work and getting other things fixed that shouldn't need to have been fixed and no doubt we will part with some of our cash at the end of next week.

We will then have two boats - perhaps we can tie them together, like a discombobulated catamaran? Or maybe we can put the two boats end to end, making an 83 foot long odd-looking bendy schooner?

The plan, such as it is at this point, is to take them one at a time back to the channel between Karagarra and Macleay islands in Southern Moreton Bay and haul Saraoni out at the nearby boat yard for some much needed TLC and a bottom paint before tentatively putting it up for sale. Meanwhile we should have our new 47 foot boat to live somewhat more luxuriously on while plotting the next step.

"Relative luxury?"

There’s a Red One, Then a Green One...

03 January 2019 | Curigee, South Stradbroke Island, The Broadwater, Queensland
Alison and Geoff, light easterlies
Fireworks explode by the Brisbane River at New Year's Eve. We were anchored at New Farm, around the corner from the main viewing points near Eagle Street and South Bank, so we didn't get a full view of the display. We did get an ear full of drunken yahooing from each bank, though!

We are anchored off the west shore of South Stradbroke island, just up from the Southport Spit in the Broadwater. The tall skyscrapers of the Gold Coast are close by to the south of us and the sheltered passages between here and Moreton Bay are buzzing with boats of all shapes and sizes, mostly small motor boats and jet skis. It's not the best time to be on the Gold Coast as the area goes crazy with boat activity, but the survey of the Beneteau is now only a few days away.

In amongst the growing human presence, migratory birds find quiet places to grab a takeaway feed. This lovely little Rainbow bee eater was seen catching flies on St. Helena Island, in Southern Moreton Bay. St. Helena was once Queensland's Alcatraz, but is now a peaceful refuge for birds and wallabies.

We made a diversion up the Brisbane River in time for New Year's Eve. Brisbane was our 'home city' during the many years we spent teaching in Papua New Guinea, Queensland's closest neighbour to the north. We had lost our NZ permanent residence status while in PNG and England was just too far to go when we had time off, so we used to fly down to Brisbane (or Cairns) for some R and R from time to time.

A year before we ended up, rather accidentally, in PNG, we had spent several months moored in the river by the city's Botanical Gardens, right by the Brisbane CBD. We had been working in the city while sailing our old kauri yacht, Corsair. When Alison's older sister, Susan and husband Nick turned up on their backpacker jaunt around the world, we took them down the river and across to Moreton Island. The trip was memorable as we went aground (for the first time) just past the Gateway Bridge - with full sail up and the engine on! We had to wait for the tide to come up before continuing, something that Sue and Nick always remember!

Passing the Brisbane CBD near the public moorings located by the city's Botanical Gardens. They used to be the cheapest way to access Brisbane, but the city council is now removing half of the pile moorings in favour of providing better facilities for kayakers and other small boats.

Between Moreton Bay and the Gold Coast, the meandering shallow channels need constant attention to the chart and the location of the beacons, green,red and yellow! It's well charted, with the beacons occasionally moved when the channels move around, but it's easy to go aground if you get the tide wrong. This area is somewhat scenically challenged with its low,mangrove covered banks, but is enormously valuable as a breeding ground for fish and feeding area for birds, dugongs, dolphins and turtles. No crocs, yet!

It's the fifth time we've made this trip and every time we have passed by it seems as if it's getting more and more (over) developed. Fortunately, the sand islands are hard to build on and have been left as national parks in the main, with their wilder side, the ocean beach, forming a 'road' for 4WDs at low tide.

Saraoni anchored just off the beach near the Gold Coast on the sheltered side of South Stradbroke Island. One wonders just what will happen to this whole area and its hyper active development as climate change continues to bite unabated. It ain't much of a barrier between the ocean and all those fancy McMansions on the mainland!

All roads don't necessarily lead to Rome! Here on the ocean side of Stradbroke, the 4WD tracks are all headed south towards the Gold Coast high rises looming out of the haze from the surf. These long ocean beaches are marred by constant busy 4WD vehicle traffic, although the high tide removes most of the traces.

Motoring the last few miles down the Broadwater. Skyscrapers in Southport to starboard and the Gold Coast beaches to port. Thousands of boats everywhere!

The Southport Spit anchorage aka "Bums' Bay." We are anchored just outside popular but crowded Bums' Bay, within spitting distance of the Spit and just across the water from Southport. Main Beach and Surfers' Paradise just down the beach

The next blog should be after the survey. If all goes well, we should be the owners of 2 boats, which is going to be an interesting and challenging experience! If not, we might revert to another boat of the same type that we originally put an offer on near Sydney, or do something different altogether!

Minjerribah Dreaming

29 December 2018 | Dunwich, North Stradbroke Island, Moreton Bay, Queensland
Alison and Geoff, dry, sunny and calm(ish)
Blue Lake National park lies in Quandamooka territory on Straddie / Minjerribah

The scrubs are gone, the hunting and the laughter.
The eagle is gone, the emu and the kangaroo are gone from this place.
The bora ring is gone.
The corroboree is gone.
And we are going.

(from a poem by Kath Walker / Oodgeroo Noonuccal from her first book, "We are Going" published in 1964.)

We are anchored off the northern end of North Stradbroke Island, Straddie to the locals and Minjerribah to its traditional owners, the Quandamooka people. The normally hot, sticky, stormy Brisbane summer weather has gone away for the moment, perhaps for a holiday (!) We are getting day after day of dry, sunny skies and light to moderate easterlies, perfect for anchoring on the east side of Moreton Bay or off the sheltered west coast of the big sand islands like Straddie.

Minjerribah is now mostly owned by what is left of the Quandamooka Aboriginal people, after a landmark Native Title decision in 2011 which saw most of North Stradbroke returned to their stewardship, as well as the southern end of Moreton to the north, Peel Island to the west and a fair bit of southern Moreton Bay. The Quandamooka people once roamed right through this area and on the mainland from the Logan River through to the Brisbane River. No doubt there was plenty of tucker to eat and life was generally easy before European colonisation, albeit with an average life expectancy about half the present day one!

Colonisation followed a familiar pattern as elsewhere. Despite early reports that the island's Quandamooka people were generous and hospitable to the ragbag of foreign stragglers who landed one way or another on Straddie's shores, they soon lost all of their land and were reduced in numbers by disease, the sorry remainder herded into a reservation at Myora, where there is a natural freshwater spring. If it wasn't for activism in the 60s, that would probably have been the end of the story. One of the Quandamookas, Kath Walker, became a well known poet and author and campaigned for Aboriginal rights at a time when the first Australians were denied citizenship in a land they had occupied for 50,000 years. She changed her name in disgust at the approach successive federal and state governments were dealing with Aboriginal affairs to Oodgeroo Noonuccal, a Quandamooka name. She was instrumental in helping pave the way for the 1967 referendum which decisively confirmed Australian citizenship for all of its first people, but died before her island's Native Title determination came to fruition.

Today, Straddie is still very much a modern European Australian entity. Hundreds of SUVs and other vehicles pour off the car ferry from Cleveland every day, exploring the 4WD tracks, the Brown and Blue lakes and ocean side beaches. Dunwich, Amity and Point Lookout, the island's three settlements, are like any other small Australian seaside villages, inundated by summer crowds. However, there have been changes. The Quandamooka islanders now have a much bigger say in development and conservation and have helped to impose limits on destructive sand mining and are slowly asserting themselves. Interpretive signs have been erected wherever there are cultural and natural reminders of what went on before Australia was colonised.

They are often sad to read, giving a glimpse of a period in human history when people had an intimate self sustaining relationship with nature, rather than the out of control, consumerist Titanic that we have today.

Some visitors to Australia despair of its lack of 'culture' and the vacuous uniformity of its identikit towns and suburbs, but these indigenous links to the past, for those who care to find them, are like juicy half hidden currants in an otherwise tasteless Australian cultural dough.

In 2017, one of South East Queensland's electoral districts was named "Oodgeroo," in recognition of Oodgeroo Noonuccal's contribution to the fostering of a socially more enlightened Queensland.

Blue lake / Kulburra is a naturally occurring freshwater 'window' lake formed by seepage from the water table. You have to walk 3 km to it through the bush, which limits the number of gawpers considerably!

Freshwater Brown lake / Bummiera, looking suspiciously blue in this photo, is easy to access by day trippers and has a lovely, white beach.

These grass trees are all over the place in the eucalyptus understorey on the sand islands.

Sand Island Sailing

23 December 2018 | South Moreton Bay, Queensland
Alison and Geoff, gusty south easterlies
We are anchored in the passage between Lamb and Macleay Islands to the North and Karagarra Island to the South in a well protected part of South Moreton Bay near Brisbane. We are now only 25 nm from Southport through the maze of shallow waterways that lie behind North and South Stradbroke Islands but are not heading south yet, as Christmas and New Year are almost upon us. Anyone with a boat of some kind - big, small or ugly - gets out on the water after Christmas, making it awfully busy!

Saraoni in the sheltered passage between Macleay and Karragarra Islands in Southern Moreton Bay

We have made good progress since the Sandy Strait. We first had to cross the Wide Bay Bar that acts as a shallow entrance and exit point at the southern mouth of the strait. It can only be safely crossed when the swell is down at around high tide on a flood tide. It was pretty bumpy but only the same as the last 4 crossings we have made. A pleasant overnighter under a full moon brought us down to Moreton Bay.

Waiting for the tide to rise near Inskip Point before crossing the bar south of Fraser Island.

The coast of Queensland to the North of the Tweed River is composed of a series of huge sand islands - the Stradbrokes, Bribie, Moreton and Fraser. They are built from sand swept up from New South Wales and dumped as Australia makes a left turn. To the north of Fraser lies a gap before the first of the Great Barrier Reefs begins in fits and starts. It's that gap that makes it an easy target for yachts making it to Australia. Moreton Bay is full of sand banks and shallow water and can be treacherous when summer storms greet the offshore visitor.

Three of the rather weird Glasshouse Mountains, Beerburrum, Tibrogargan and Beerwah, old volcanic plugs, rise above sandy Bribie Island on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane.

Saraoni running before a north easterly wind off the west coast of Moreton Island

We've met up with old yachtie friends on this trip. Ralph has been bringing his catamaran, El Misti, back from South East Asia where we last saw him and his partner, Jenn, eight years ago. He's had to do it all single-handed as Jenn is recovering from a foot injury.

Ralph is bringing El Misti back to SE Queensland after a single handed marathon from Timor - seen here off Rainbow Beach after crossing the Wide Bay Bar safely.

Meanwhile, Rosie and Mike have also just arrived back from South East Asia and by coincidence have a home perched a half kilometre from us on Lamb Island with their yacht, Shakti, on a mooring, conveniently just below them in the channel. We last saw these two on their old boat, Jemimah, in the Andaman Islands.

These South Moreton Bay islands have become a resting place for yachties who have taken advantage of cheap land prices and sheltered water. Cheap and frequent ferry services between the islands and the mainland where Brisbane can be reached as well as increasing services make them attractive places to swallow the anchor, or keep it stowed until the next adventure. We might use this area as a base if the Beneteau passes inspection next month, if only to get our stuff transferred over from Saraoni and get Saraoni ready for sale, but for the next couple of weeks we are looking for some cleaner water off one of those big sand islands.

As for New Year resolutions, humanity collectively has some pretty challenging hurdles to jump. Can the planet remain habitable for all of the present generation's kids and grand-kids? Can the current rapid loss of biodiversity be arrested? Can democracy survive? Can the trend towards ever increasing levels of income and assets inequality be tackled? Good Luck, Planet Earth. You need every bit you can get! Perhaps, thousands more Greta Thunbergs might swing it!

Cyclones and Crocodiles ...a Very Australian Christmas!

11 December 2018 | Great Sandy Strait, Queensland, Australia
Alison and Geoff, light easterlies
We left Port Bundaberg early this morning, punched our way out of the bumpy, shallow entrance channel and are now anchored behind Big Woody Island at the northern end of Sandy Strait, the complex system of often shallow waterways that lie behind World Heritage listed Fraser Island (K'gari) and the Queensland coast. This is an area we know well. We have spent two Christmases in the past here. exploring the many anchorages, scrambling along the sandy tracks on Fraser Island amongst the island's bush and hidden jewel like dune lakes. There is plenty of wildlife here from dolphins, turtles and dugongs in the water to wallabies, goannas and dingos on land, in addition to large numbers of 4WD tourists!

Anchored behind Big Woody Island at the northern end of Great Sandy Strait

Migratory waders like this whimbrel spotted near Port Bundaberg are making their way south when the wind allows them - like us!

We have enjoyed our times here in the past, but this season it may be a little different! Tropical cyclone Owen, the same system that fizzled out a week or so ago as it approached from its birthplace in the Solomons, has now reformed as a category 1 cyclone and is forecast to strengthen in the Gulf of Carpentaria. It is then expected to track right across land to the North East Queensland coast and then down the coast to Fraser Island and even Brisbane as an 'intensive system,' with destructive winds and very heavy rain. Great! Well, just as well we don't have 2 boats to look after!!

Update: TC Owen is causing a nuisance in the Gulf, but is now no longer forecast to come down as far as here.

One of the snuggest anchorages on the Fraser West coast is Garry's Anchorage, well known by every yachtie that passes this way. It often has a yacht aground at one end or another, an easy mistake in this complex network of channels. A new sign has been erected on the shore: "Warning: estuarine crocodiles." We used to make jokes about crocs in this area. The last time we were in Queensland, the slow southward march of the scaly reptiles had only reached the Fitzroy River at Rockhampton. Despite the odd, false sighting of crocs further south there was never any confirmed sighting. That's now changed. Several crocs have taken up residence in the Mary River estuary and the mangrove areas of the Strait. A 4 metre croc has been seen several times off popular beaches on the Fraser west coast but is wily enough not to be tempted by the pig's head that has been used to try and trap him (or her).

Saltwater crocodiles have expanded their range and increased in numbers since they became protected, so it's not surprising they have now reoccupied their old stamping grounds. The heavily populated Moreton Bay and Broadwater areas further south are likely to be the last frontier that still provides suitable croc breeding and feeding habitat, although with climate change could crocs be seen soon off Bondi beach?!!

The sign at Garry's anchorage. No crocs seen so far, but quite a few dugongs and turtles.

Dingoes are pretty habituated to humans on Fraser Island, so much so that campgrounds have to have fences around them like some of the campgrounds in North America have to keep bears out.

End Game?

04 December 2018 | Tweed Heads, NSW, Australia
Alison and Geoff, hot and sultry
Photo above: Saraoni waiting patiently in Port Bundaberg

We are in Tweed Heads, just south of the Queensland / New South Wales border and, thank goodness, driving the last 400 km or so north tomorrow to Saraoni, which has been waiting patiently back in Bundaberg.

The weather has been chaotic for some here and a portent of the climate calamity that the Australian federal government and its backers in the coal industry seem in no desire to address. In Sydney, a huge dust storm enveloped the city, whipped up by strong north westerlies blowing over dry land, followed by torrential rain the like of which Sydney has rarely if ever before experienced. Up in Central Queensland, bush fires spread so quickly and were so destructive that they were labelled "catastrophic" by the Queensland government, a label never before used. An early cyclone, Owen, is now heading for the Queensland coast to tease weary emergency workers.

We have been on the road for three weeks and feel tired of roads and traffic. Christmas is on the horizon and the holiday traffic and crowds are going to make driving even more tedious. We have made two separate offers on yachts, one in the Pittwater, just north of Sydney, and the other in Southport on the Gold Coast. They are both Beneteau 473s and about the same age and more or less the same inside. We have tossed a coin and settled on Sundari, the Gold Coast boat, although probably either would have been fine acquisitions, although quite different in design from our first two boats.

Neither boat is "turn key" and we would have had to adapt either boat to our standards and in particular get whichever boat we chose ready for an off-shore passage next year.

Because of the pre-Christmas boating rush we won't be able to haul Sundari out for a hull survey until early January, so the jury is still out whether we seal the deal with the ex surfer business owner or not. It's enough time for us to sail Saraoni down to its old haunts in the Broadwater and "Bum's Bay" near Sea World. This is a mad place to be over Christmas as we remember from the last time we were there, so we won't be in a hurry.

Lovely Sandy Strait and Fraser Island are on the way, so we shall probably dawdle down that direction before making the final leap in open water from the Wide Bay Bar to Moreton Bay then thread the needle through the shallow, winding passages of the Broadwater in early January.

We have a lot of work to do organising both boats if we buy Sundari during the rest of January, then we are going to escape to the South Island for a couple of months to get fit amongst the mountains before returning to figure out how to get Saraoni ready for its end game, at least with us.

"Sundari" - a Beneteau Oceanis Clipper 473 in its berth in Southport. We've made an offer on it, but still have to seal the deal after an early January out of water hull survey to make sure it is seaworthy.

Eeny, Meeney, Miney......

20 November 2018 | Lake Tuggerah, NSW Central Coast, Australia
Alison and Geoff, strengthening northerlies, warm and windy!
Photo shows 3 emus defying the odds in farmland early in the morning near the mighty River Clarence, NSW Northern Rivers.

Eeny, meeney, miney, mo....with which boat should we go? We are down near Sydney on the New South Wales Central Coast after a fast trip down the Pacific Highway from the Gold Coast. We put Saraoni into a berth in Port Bundaberg last Thursday and hired a car for three weeks and have already seen 7 boats, located between Scarborough in Moreton Bay and Southport in the Gold Coast. We are now nearly 1300 km south of Bundaberg and in the rapidly developing part of the Australian East Coast - the best way to see this area is by boat as the roads, residential and camping areas are already overcrowded.

The NSW coast is a part of Australia, south of the Southport Seaway in Queensland, which is open to the ocean swells and is punctuated every so often by a river mouth or harbour with a barred entrance. Port Stephens, just north of Newcastle, is the first easy harbour to approach in swelly conditions.

We have been as far south with Saraoni as Yamba on the river Clarence, our southernmost turning point just after purchasing the boat in Queensland's Whitsundays. The Tasman in June 1998 was in malevolent mood and a providential offer of a job in Darwin's Kormilda College meant a return to the far north for three years rather than a winter crossing to New Zealand.

As far as the search for a Saraoni replacement, no yacht we have seen has been perfect..... for the price (!), so we have made up a list of preferences. We are looking at 2 more in the Pittwater, just north of Sydney tomorrow, partly because we are taking our broken Parsun outboard under NZ warranty into the Sydney Parsun dealer for a replacement. We reckon that we will make an offer on a new boat within the next few days and have, as all good yachties should have, plan A, B and C ready!

Watch this space for developments!

Cocky near Wynnum in Queensland having a chuckle at human pretentions.

Return to the Rum City

11 November 2018 | Bundaberg, South East Queensland, Australia
Alison and Geoff, sunny, windy and warm
Photo shows the Town Reach at Bundaberg on the Burnett River. You can anchor right near the heart of town now as the 2013 flood destroyed the marina, the up river moorings and many of the boats. The flood reached the Burnett Bridge shown in the background and was a frightening experience for many Bundy residents.

We are anchored in the Town Reach just by the Bundaberg city centre, waiting for the Go West! rally boats to disappear from the Port Bundy marina so we can put Saraoni in it for a few weeks while we hunt for boats near Brisbane.

Bundy has changed very little over the last 12 years. It used to be Australia's equivalent of Whangarei, with many cruisers choosing to spend the cyclone season either upriver near the city or downstream at Port Bundaberg. Climate change is gradually taking its toll on Oz. We have arrived yet again in the middle of a dreadful drought, although the Burnett's banks seem green enough.

Two bad floods that 'should never have happened' destroyed the city moorings, marina and many upstream yachts, making it no longer a harbour of choice for locals and visitors during the wet season.

Bundy is still a very useful city to provision from. It's an unpretentious place, surrounded by vege and sugar fields, its vistas stretching to the ever flat horizon. The coastal settlements of Burnett Heads, Bargara, Coral Cove and others have attracted retirees in their hundreds like many other East Coast locations.

For us, apart from the easy and free access to the city centre, the attraction lies in the abundant birdlife that is probably finding the city attractive because of the dry conditions elsewhere. The huge fruit bat colony that once existed just beyond the Burnett Bridge, has relocated since the 2013 flood to the safety of the Baldwin Swamp, where many birds and other creatures make their home. As in 2006, hundreds of birds, especially herons and ibises, are nesting noisily in the Botanical Gardens just a few kilometres away.

We have had a busy social life since arriving in Bundy. Heather and John, who we have known since 1998, live here and still have their Adams 30, 'Kindred Spirit' moored down the river, while there are many other yachties nearby we know, some we met either in New Zealand or across the oceans.

Bundaberg is home to hundreds of noisy birds and other creatures. From the top and from left to right: darter, pukeko (Aussies call them purple swamp hens), sacred ibis, rainbow lorikeet, fruit bat, pied stilt, pelican, cattle egret in breeding plumage, bearded water dragon.

Rum Done Over

01 November 2018 | Burnett River, near Bundaberg, Queensland.
Alison and Geoff, sunny and warm
Anchored just around the corner from Port Bundaberg marina in the lower reaches of the Burnett River after what turned out to be a rather rum customs clearance in the rum city. The Border Force official (new Aussie combo of Immigration and Customs) told us that she was going to put Saraoni on a 'control permit' while in Australia or we would have to pay import tax 'immediately.' This rather bizarre decision was then revoked within a few hours by a much more clued up official (the Regional Commander) who took our control permit off us and said that Saraoni would be considered 'imported'.

Apparently Australia has a rule (that few seem to know about) that demands an Australian boat has to be 'exported' when leaving the country for any extended period, then 'imported' when it is brought back, at which point it may, or may not, attract duty. The duty is only likely to be levied if improvements have been done overseas and the boat's value increased. We never 'exported' the boat when we left Australia last in 2008, as we didn't know we had to, and no customs officials in Darwin told us we had to, hence apparently creating a dilemma. It seems that the same issue has happened quite a lot recently, something that hasn't been helped by a total lack of information on the Border Force website and inconsistent knowledge of the rules by some of the officials themselves.

Anyway, we have to hang around for a bit as we need a 'timber inspection.' We're going up the river to the city of Bundaberg, 8 miles up, and catching up with old friends and Bundaberg residents, Heather and John, who have sailed with us in PNG, Australia, New Zealand and Greece. We were last in Bundy in the 2006/2007 cyclone season when we taught for a few months in local high schools.

A small mob of roos are sheltering from the sun on one of the river banks. Herons, shags and sacred kingfishers stalk fish close by and the anchorage is calm and peaceful after a week of rocking and rolling on the ocean.

Day 7 on the Rum Run

31 October 2018 | 110 nm from Bundaberg
Alison and Geoff
Currently less than 70 miles out from Fraser Island off the South Queensland coast. We make 'landfall' at the light marking the end of Breaksea Spit which juts out from the North end of Frraser Island. The wind has slackkened off a bit and turned to the east. We are wing and wing hoping to get past the 2 knot southbound offshore East Australian current before passing the spit and making an overnight passage across the relatively well protected Hervey Bay down to the entrance to the Burnett River and Port Bundaberg where we clear into Australia. Saw our first boobies yesterday, probably nesting on remote Cato Island, well to the north of our track. ETA Bundy is tomorrow, Thursday morning and back to the sound of the kookaburra. Oo oo aah aah ooh aah ooh!

Day 6 on the Rum Run

30 October 2018 | 240 nm from Bundaberg
Alison and Geoff
What a difference a day can make! The trades arrived back gently yesterday afternoon then Bang! a trough passed over with sheet lightning and rain. Now the sky has cleared a bit and we have south east winds up to 20 knots and swells from the south and south east. Should have similar all the way into the Queensland coast, saving us from rationing the diesel. ETA Bundy is noon Thursday.

Day 5 on the Rum Run

29 October 2018 | 360 nm from Bundy
Alison and Geoff
Slow progress yesterday, although comfortable enough. Had a countercurrent again most of the day of up to 1.5 knots. At one point we stopped the engine to top up with fuel and check the oil and noticed that we were making 1.5 knots back towards New Cal but pointing towards Oz! Weird.

Had a light westerly headwind until 4 pm when it shifted to the South and we could sail until the wind died a few hours ago. The ocean is now flat and glassy. The wind should fill in later tonight from the SE and we should have that all the way into the Burnett River. ETA Bundy is noon Thursday.

Day 4 on the Rum Run

28 October 2018 | 460 nm from Bundaberg
Alison and Geoff
Calm morning after light head winds and countercurrent yesterday so only making slow progress towards the Queensland coast. Keeping an eye on the diesel stock as we don't expect significant sailing wind until Tuesday morning. Current was positive again over night, but back to negative again now, about a knot against us. 4 other yachts on same passage we are keeping in touch with. Just passed a fishing boat out of sight and drifting, probably grabbing some sleep in the calm. Our track passes between 2 offshore banks, so expect more fishing boats around. Link for position is

Day 3 on the Rum Run

27 October 2018 | 560 nm from Bundaberg
Alison and Geoff
Photo shows this morning's calm sea!

Light winds and a full moon overnight. Yesterday one cup of coffee flew from one end of the saloon to the other but apart from spraying its contents didn't actually break. Haven't seen any other boats today and lost contact with the yacht behind. Slowly motorsailing westwards towards the Australian mainland for the 3rd time. Not much wind for the next day or so and a countercurrent of about a knot at the moment. Our at sea email is

Day 2 on the Rum Run

26 October 2018 | 670 nm from Bundaberg
Alison and Geoff
Light winds today after a bumpy, lurchy day yesterday. Will be looking for a mooring in Bundy when we get there while we check out a few boats further South. Might also be flying to Auckland as there is another boat for sale there we are interested in.

This ocean passage could very well be the last moana for this little Aussie battler.

Bundy Bound!

24 October 2018 | Ilot Maitre New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, warm and sunny
Just left Iliot Maitre for Bundaberg, Queensland, 790 miles away. Brilliant blue sky day after 40 knots yesterday bouncing around on the mooring. Mixed bag to Oz, some good wind, and some no wind! Should take a week.

Last Dip into the Southern Lagoon?

09 October 2018 | Isle Mato, Southern Lagoon, New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, sunny and not too windy!
Saraoni's swimming pool - anchored near the Kouare pass on the Outer Barrier

We are anchored in Isle Mato's inner lagoon - a lagoon inside New Cal.'s massive Southern Lagoon. The weather has been benign - light trade winds and plenty of sun so we have been meandering around some of the little cays that dot this expanse as well as out to the outer barrier. The last time we passed that way was in 1987 after a torrid trip up from the Bay of Islands in our first boat 'Corsair,' but just on the other side of the rollers!

Approaching tiny Isle Kouare

Isle Ua and Uaito make an easy trade wind anchorage and good snorkelling

The water inside the lagoon is generally not sparklingly clear. It has a light silty appearance, but out on the main reef, the water is as clear as gin. We are heading back tomorrow to stop at Recif Tabu, near Isle Amedee. The reefs nearer Noumea have been protected for longer as reserves, so are brimming with life, although the coral is better where we have been the last few days.

With time edging on, the first yachts have already been heading down to NZ, while Oz bound boats have been leaving in dribs and drabs every week or two. There are now, as usual at this time of the year, many yachts in and around the lagoon as the season nears an end. We haven't made a decision yet as to where we head Saraoni. We have 3 yachts lined up in Grenada and St Vincent int the Caribbean, all worthwhile, 2 more near Brisbane and 2 more in Sydney.

If we buy a boat in Australia, we will then sail the new boat as well as Saraoni to NZ across the Tasman. If we buy a boat in the Caribbean, we would preferably leave Saraoni in Tutukaka and then sail the new boat to Panama and back across the Pacific, which would take a year. We will have to make a final decision next week!

Dolphins all over the world love to ride a bow wave - these New Cal. ones are no exception!

Decisions, Decisions!

15 September 2018 | Baie d'Orphelinat, Noumea, New Caledonia
Alison and Geoff, 15 knots Easterly wind
Photo shows one of the lovely beaches on Mare Island near the main village of Tadine.

We're back in Noumea after a week rocking and rolling off the gendarmerie in the bay at Mare. With the end of the sailing season in sight, we are now having to make decisions about what we do over the next few years with one 20 year chapter of our life coming to an end. We know we said that last year, so we should add that we are very cautious about what we intend to do, mainly because we haven't a clue!

Noumea is full of yachts, many of which are pretty scrappy* and used for live aboards working in the big smoke, but there are some nice boats here, too. We've had our eye on at least 4 or 5 and have had a good look at each of them. We're looking at a larger, lighter boat, easier to sail in light winds and faster than Saraoni with its heavy long keel. There are 5 Beneteau 473s here and we are definitely interested in one of these models, a complete break from the past as our last two boats have emphasised safety over speed and comfort!

The benefit of buying a boat here in Noumea is obviously that Saraoni is here and we can transfer heaps of personal stuff from one boat over to another. It still gives us the challenge of getting 2 boats back to NZ before the cyclone season really kicks in, or at least taking them to Oz, an easier prospect.

There are many decisions to make, one of which is the payment of import tax. Taking a boat into NZ incurs a 20% tax from anywhere except Australia, from where it is is only 15%. We are guessing that Saraoni may be hard to sell and don't fancy spending too much money on keeping it safe while we sell it. The advantage of taking it back to NZ is that we have our own marina berth there - the Penguin Pad - which costs us virtually nothing to keep Saraoni in safety while it is up for sale.

If we don't choose a boat here, Australia and French Poly have the next best selection of boats.

Stay tuned for updates!

Another lovely Mare beach

Mare, like Lifou and Ouvea, the other loyalty islands, is an upraised limestone (coral) platform. Mare and Lifou do not have the protection of a barrier reef and lagoon like Ouvea, making the anchorages less protected and somewhat swelly.

A quiet Mare Island road north of Tadine.

* One real survivor in Noumea's live aboard anchorage off Port Moselle is the iconic 'Operculum.' We first came across this boat in Kerikeri's Town Basin back in 1987 when we were just getting used to our first boat, Corsair. It was owned by British/ Chinese /Russian / French (?) Henry and his French wife Yanique. Yanique had sailed around the world by herself one and a half times in her own yacht before settling down with Henry in Martinique. They sailed Operculum to the Bay of Islands and bought land along the Kerikeri River. We first met Yanique when kiwifruit packing. She would row swiftly from Operculum to the Town Basin jetty and wave to us with one or two of her feet as she passed by!

We last saw Yanique in Whangarei in 2006 before our circumnavigation and she said that she was going to sail Operculum to Noumea to sell it there. It's still here, having survived 12 cyclone seasons and looking a little worse for wear - probably the roughest boat in Noumea, but with a story to tell!

Henry at one point decided that Operculum should have some new portholes, but rather than buy them, he just decided to paint them on the sides of the yacht! In the Cooks, on the way to NZ, he fancied turning Operculum into a ketch, so he chopped down a pine tree and stuck it up at the back of the boat. Voila!

Operculum of London in Port Moselle. Think the mizzen has been chopped down and the 'portholes' have rubbed off!

Lukim Yu Wantaim, Vanuatu!

02 September 2018 | Mare, Isles Loyaute, New Cal
Alison and Geoff, hot and sunny
Unnerving! - the reef break at Lenakel by the anchorage.

We're heading back to the Loyalties after a pleasant, but brief, stop in Lenakel, Tanna's somewhat decrepit main centre. We are taking advantage of a nice beam wind to make the 130 mile hop back to Marè in the Loyalties where we will stop for a few days while a big fat high (bfh) rolls by below us, strengthening the trade winds to an uncomfortable strength.

Our main purpose in going to Vanuatu was to extend our customs limit on Saraoni in New Cal. By leaving and re-entering we are allowed another 6 months before an import tax of 18% is payable. We don't need an extra 6 months, but we do want enough time to choose when to make the hop down to Aotearoa rather than be forced out by the Douanes!

It's a bit of a culture shock going to Vanuatu. New Cal. is an affluent western country, albeit with an indigenous 3rd world layer. Kanaky in New Cal. is like Vanuatu, but bolstered by an economic subsidy from the French state. Is Vanuatu poor? In many ways, it is, but the ni-Vanuatu are a resilient, self-reliant lot. The majority of the people own their own land, build their own homes, grow all their own food, have few problems with crime or violence and have retained a strong identity with their family, tribe, language and culture. There's no easy economic value to place on all that, otherwise they would probably be considered a lot wealthier.

We'll be back in Vanuatu on our next trip up to the islands, whenever that is. It's not such an easy country to visit, as the chain of islands stretches South East / North West. Any progress along the chain makes it agonising getting back against the trades. It's easier to head on to the Solomons, then PNG and Australia.

Tanna, in particular, is a popular, but tricky place to visit. It's the second island in the chain from the South after Aneityum, where we stopped last year. The only safe anchorage is Port Resolution. This is close to Tanna's famous active volcano, Mt Yasur, but there is no way to clear Customs and Immigration there, no bank and no fuel unless you pay someone to take you over to Lenakel, an expensive 1 and a half hour ride on a rough road. Lenakel has the services, but it's not close to the volcano; its 'anchorage' is pretty hairy at the best of time and has to be abandoned quickly in any onshore winds, or big southerly swell. We must have had two of Lenakel's calmest days, but the rollers crashing on the reef that gave the anchorage some shelter, were still quite spectacularly unnerving!

Another difference between the close neighbours of New Cal. and Vanuatu - it's a lot warmer further north! The southern winter sailing months in New Cal. are more like a NZ summer. It's great for walking and cycling, but a bit on the cool side for swimming, snorkelling and diving. Tanna was a lot warmer; the water off Lenakel was crystal clear and significantly warmer than New Cal.

Thanks must go to Iau and Willie, Lenakel's Customs and Immigration officers. Iau kept in touch with us all the way from Kuto in the Isle of Pines. What bureaucrat anywhere in the world would send you a personalised email after leaving a country thanking you for visiting and wishing you a safe trip? Can you imagine that when flying into and out of somewhere as an ordinary tourist? Vanuatu Customs is up there in our estimation for general niceness, with Fiji and Yemen. Maybe Yemen is still ahead! The Port official in Aden actually burst out in song after welcoming us on radio when our yachtie convoy of 20 arrived off that country's troubled port city back in 2010. More was to come when we checked in, when all we got were smiles, and 'Salaam Aleikums!' Poor Yemen and the Yemenis, now devastated by a forgotten but deadly civil war, sponsored and subsidised by the U.S. and the Saudis.

Coastal supply boat at the Lenakel wharf

Coastal supply boat leaving Lenake

Lenakel stores

Outrigger with a Mercury outboard

Just Passing Mare

30 August 2018 | Cap Boyes Mare Iles Loyaute
Alison and Geoff, 10 kn Southerly,clear sky
We are just off Cap Boyes, the SE tip of Ile Mare, the most southern of the 3 main Loyalty Islands and there is an internet signal!

The passage has been rock and rolly so far with wind right behind us. 140 miles to Lenakel on the west side of Tanna. We saw a few whales spouting as we punched our way out of Kuto yesterday morning and a spectacular display by a spinner dolphin.
Vessel Name: Saraoni
Vessel Make/Model: South Coast 36
Hailing Port: Tutukaka, New Zealand
Crew: Alison and Geoff Williams
Saraoni is named after an island in Milne Bay which guards and protects one of our favourite anchorages - Kana Kopi Bay - frequently occupied by us while we were teaching in Alotau, PNG. We have lived, cruised and worked for the last 30 years on two very different boats. [...]
Extra: CONTACT DETAILS Telephone / SMS number +61 477 285 361 (Australian mobile no.) Email (main email address)
Saraoni's Photos - Main
The ABCs - Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao are mostly low lying dry, scrubby islands in the Western Caribbean near the Venezuelan coastline
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Images taken in and around Suriname's capital
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River Images
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What we saw in the USA
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Photographic images of our long walk along the Appalachian mountains in the USA
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Created 17 December 2011
Some of the shots taken of us while on one of our 30 odd days on the three main mountain trails we walked in the Anapurnas and Helambu region of Nepal's side of the Himalayas
10 Photos
Created 15 December 2011
People make the Himalayas a unique place to walk through. From Hindu rice and buffalo farmers in the foothills to the Buddhist villages in the highlands so influenced by Tibetan ancestry and trade over the passes
16 Photos
Created 15 December 2011
Nepal has ten of the world's highest mountains within its boundaries or shared with India and Tibet - these are truly giant peaks!
22 Photos
Created 15 December 2011
These were all photographed in the wilds of Chitwan and Bardia National Parks - which are two of the last havens of biodiversity in Nepal's low lying Terai district.
18 Photos
Created 14 December 2011
Saraoni hauled out on Finike's hardstand for biennial maintenance and painting
3 Photos
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8 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 6 March 2011
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Ruined city
4 Photos
Created 10 January 2011
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7 Photos
Created 30 December 2010
5 Photos
Created 28 December 2010
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Created 11 December 2010
The small rocky island of Kastellorizou is Greece's most remote island
7 Photos
Created 11 December 2010
Cruising and walking Turkey's Lycian coast September and October 2010
19 Photos
Created 11 December 2010
8 Photos
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Images taken while walking sections of the 500 km Lycian Way or Lykia Yolu on the South West Mediterranean Coast of Turkey
11 Photos
Created 9 November 2010

Post Circumnavigation

Who: Alison and Geoff Williams
Port: Tutukaka, New Zealand