SVs Saraoni and Sundari

22 December 2019 | Christchurch, New Zealand
16 December 2019 | Christchurch, Canterbury, NZ
28 November 2019 | Christchurch, SI, New Zealand
19 November 2019 | Picton, Marlborough, NZ
04 November 2019 | Collingwood, Tasman, South Island, NZ
04 November 2019 | Collingwood, Tasman, South Island, NZ
29 October 2019 | Nelson, South Island, NZ
22 October 2019 | Christchurch, Te Waka o Māui, New Zealand
15 October 2019 | Scarborough, Queensland
05 October 2019 | Scarborough marina, near Brisbane, Australia
16 August 2019 | Southport Spit, Gold Coast, Australia
06 August 2019 | South Stradbroke Island, Gold Coast, Queensland
15 July 2019 | Boatworks, Coomera River, Gold Coast
25 May 2019 | Biggera Waters, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
12 April 2019 | Coomera River, Gold Coast, Australia
02 April 2019 | Southport, The Gold Coast, Australia
16 March 2019 | Southport, Gold Coast, Australia
09 March 2019 | Currigee, South Stradbroke Island, Gold Coast
21 February 2019 | Santa Barbara, Coomera River, Gold Coast, Australia
04 February 2019 | The Broadwater, Gold Coast, Australia

Season's Greetings

22 December 2019 | Christchurch, New Zealand
Alison and Geoff Williams | calm and sunny
Photo above of pohutukawa tree flowers - NZ's very own Christmas tree.

O.K., so that's another year gone down the gurgler, then. It wasn't exactly a stellar year, was it? The whiff of fascism just got that much stronger. The tendency for people, and particularly governments, to ignore the science that seems too inconvenient to them continues to be baffling, depressing and increasingly frightening. Those at the top of the world's heap of 9 billion have again used everything in their arsenal to stay at the top (no surprises there). Too many towards the bottom of the heap have given up understanding what's going on, or blame those even less fortunate than themselves for their woes.

It would be easy to ignore all this, but unfortunately you can't. The ramifications of the reign of Trump, the election of reactionary governments in Australia, Brazil, Britain and elsewhere, the failure of international bodies and governments to tackle the looming calamity of climate change affects all of us. We are unlikely to be the only ones to wonder whether humanity has created such a monster that it is incapable of controlling it.

As we all roll into 2020, a new decade, we hope that we are not being too pessimistic. This is no time for complacency and retreat into individual self-gratification. It's time to become aware of the alarming situation humanity and this beautiful planet and all that live in it and act. Vote, march, shout, argue, defy and denounce fake media stories and lies, live within the planet's means and think of others as much as you can, especially those who still have a lifetime left to live. Us old farts have had a bloody good innings. Those born today should be able to look forward to the same.



Australia's Prime Minister explains his government's climate change policy clearly after he was discovered hiding in Hawai'i during his country's worst ever bushfire crisis.

Tiki Tour - South of the South

16 December 2019 | Christchurch, Canterbury, NZ
Alison and Geoff Williams | wet and cold!
Photo shows the Cook massif and the Hooker Valley, South Canterbury high country. Mt Cook is on the right of the photo. All other photos can be seen here in the gallery

We are back in Christchurch after a tiki tour* around the bottom half of the South Island. Our attempt to complete another multi day walk was thwarted by the weather. Basically, as soon as we had left Christchurch a few weeks ago, the forecast was for a huge storm that would barrel its way across the Southern Ocean below Stewart Island and expected to dump large amounts of rain on the west coast and the high country - more or less where we wanted to choose a walk.

The forecast proved correct as we ascended onto the Mackenzie Plateau and passed the three large green Alpine lakes of Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau. The sky looked tortured and black to the west. Because of the rain shadow effect of the Southern Alps, we have learned before to keep East when the wind is from the West (and more rarely vice versa). We explored the Otago coast and the tussock country of Central Otago as the rains poured elsewhere, swelling the rivers, and causing floods that broke the two main western and eastern highways - NZ's one lane 'motorways.'

The Otago coast has plenty of marine wildlife to goggle at. Sealions on the sandy beaches, fur seals on the rocks and Hector's dolphins in the surf. Little blue and rarer yellow eyed penguins were nesting, as well as shags of three species, gulls, terns, waders, ducks and black swans.

Central Otago is getting invaded by the dreaded pivot irrigators and dairy herds, a matter of some strong controversy here in NZ, but there are still plenty of raw, red gorges, tussock covered hills and rocky countryside to admire.

We timed an arrival at Wanaka, the first of Otago's High Country lakes, just as the lake levels had peaked and the weather cleared to clear blue skies. We skirted around both Lakes Wanaka and Wakatipu (Queenstown) and then made a quick dash down through Southland to Fiordland and Milford Sound. It's the only one of the 14 sounds (correctly called fiords) that tourists can access and can get quite crowded, especially now Chinese tourists have arrived in their thousands.

Although we should have been used to being in the South Island, it's always a surprise to discover just how varied the landscape is. Just when you would think Mother Nature would have become exhausted creating such a surfeit of beauty and put her feet up wih a cup of tea, you turn a corner and the scenery just seems to get better and better. It's certainly like that along the Milford Road. A single kea (NZ's alpine parrot) arrived and attempted to destroy just what could be removed from vehicle rubber. Because of the recent heavy rain, there were waterfalls falling off the sheer walls of the valleys and the sound itself everywhere.

We were lucky to have lovely weather while passing back via Mt Cook and we walked up the Hooker valley to where the Hooker Glacier descends off the Mt Cook massif. There are around 3,000 glaciers in the Southern Alps, the most spectacular around Mt Cook and Mt Aspiring further south, but they are all in retreat, like glaciers elsewhere in the world. It's hard to imagine even the huge Tasman glacier surviving another 20 years.

The other event that has dominated the news here and overseas of course is the explosion on Whakaari / White Island, a small volcanic island about 20 nm off the Eastern Bay of Plenty coast. In a moment of incredibly bad timing, a group of tourists were blasted as they explored the crater rim, killing 16 of them and injuring many more.

We spent a few weeks with Saraoni in 2006 attempting to get to Whakaari. It's not an easy island to stop at, as the only half decent anchorage is on the south side. To anchor there, you need northerly winds, or no wind at all. That puts the boat at a risk as the volcano then sends ash and smoke in your direction.

No doubt when the recriminations and accusations die down, it won't stop people trying to tempt fate with nature's fury. The episode reminded us of of the volcanos we have visited before - Ili Api near Lembata in Indonesia, Vulcan in the Med. near Stromboli, Rincon de la Vieja in Costa Rica, Isabela's active craters in the Galapagos and more recently Yasur on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu (although we only anchored at Lenakel and saved the volcano for 2020!). Any one of them could have blown up in our faces and we would have no-one to blame but ourselves.

* a 'tiki tour' for non NZ ers means a leisurely jaunt by car or bus seeing the sights without too much exertion!



A kea on the Milford Road - the world's only alpine parrot, endangered of course!

In the Moa’s Shadow?

28 November 2019 | Christchurch, SI, New Zealand
Alison and Geoff Williams | Hot and sunny
Photo of a robin coming to say 'Kia Ora' at Cannibal Gorge hut on the St James Walkway.

We are back in Christchurch to check out the house (and cats) we are looking after over Christmas. It was 35 degrees today, 10 degrees hotter than Moreton Bay where Sundari is sitting in Scarborough marina. Beaches at Sumner and Taylor's Mistake were full of sunworshippers and surfers. It's a whiff of the usual weather in the Gold Coast, but it'll probably be raining and freezing here, tomorrow!

We have time for 1 more long hike, or perhaps more, depending on the weather. We've just come down from the Lewis Pass and the west coast where we walked some, but not all, of the St. James walkway, one of NZ's oldest tracks.

Much of this area,which straddles the northernmost of the South Island's 3 passes that cross the Southern Alps, is public conservation land, clothed in southern beech forest.

As we trudged up the sometimes steep track that follows the lovely, raging Maruia River, high above Cannibal Gorge, we heard, then saw, the 3 K's - kea , alpine parrot, kākā, forest parrot and kakariki, yellow fronted parakeet, but not in large numbers. The other 'K', the flightless kakapo, the world's fattest and only nocturnal parrot used to live around here in the thousands, but is almost extinct, but holding its ground in Fiordland.

Our old friends, the little robins, hopped out of nowhere for a close up inspection. Like the tomtits, fantails and weka, we have always wondered whether these birds live in the shadow of the long extinct moa. The behaviour of these wild birds is far too consistently 'friendly' to make sense, unless there is a genetic component to it. Maybe in years gone by when giant birds stalked these same forests, the smaller birds foraged for food stirred up by big feet. We'll never know of course!

We're looking at the weather as usual before choosing the next walk. It looks crappy for the next week as lows roll in over the Tasman.



Lewis Pass tarn and lower Maruia Valley



Suspension Bridge over the Maruia River
at Cannibal Gorge




Cannibal Gorge DOC hut.There was only us, the birds and the sandflies here.



Maruia River on the track to Ada Pass



Maruia Valley



Ada Pass DOC hut, St James Walkway



Ada Pass loo with a view

Blown Away on the Crest of Totaranui

19 November 2019 | Picton, Marlborough, NZ
Alison and Geoff Williams | Mix of cloud and sun
Fern trees and Queen Charlotte Sound at every bend

We are back in busy little Picton at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, after a 5 day jaunt along the Queen Charlotte Track. Like the Abel Tasman, it's a popular track and one we have avoided before because of its popularity and the expense of getting to the start of it. Queen Charlotte Sound is the main entry point to the South Island from Wellington by ferry and like so many others we have traversed this route and across the Cook Strait many times before, but never bothered to walk its length.

The track follows the northern coastline of the sound from Ship's Cove through to Anakiwa, about 75km in length. In the middle part, it traverses the ridge between Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sound to the North. Boats take walkers to different access points along the track, so you can more or less do as little or as much as you want, staying in anything from simple DOC campsites to 5 star resorts. As usual, we chose the cheapest option, loading our packs with camping gear and 5 days worth of food and got a ride through to the far end of the track, Ship's Cove*, where Captain Cook dropped in several times on his various exploratory jaunts to and around Aotearoa.

The track is also the first section of the South Island half of the Te Araroa trail, the 'long pathway' that runs from Cape Reinga in the North to Bluff in the South. The TA has become more popular since we walked a part of it back in 2016 and we met quite a few TA walkers on the track, a nice soft starter before the rigours of the Richmond Range.

The weather wasn't so generous this time, with strong to gale force north westerlies for the full 5 to 6 days of walking. The first night we spent in a picture perfect grassy clearing at Schoolhouse Bay with a feast of mussels on the shoreline, but the wind raged all night, threatening to topple the tent and break its slender aluminium poles. Despite the weather, the scenery throughout was surprisingly unspoiled and we met far few hikers than the Abel Tasman.



Schoolhouse Bay before the gale



Camp Sundaoni above the Bay of Many Coves



Above Roitama Bay looking South



Punga Cove



Coffee time!



Endeavour Inlet

The Sounds are a patchwork of DOC managed conservation land and private property. The first colonists, eager to turn NZ into their version of Merrie England, chopped most of the original forest down, including the huge tōtara trees that Maori had sought out for their canoes and had given rise to the Māori name for the sound - Tōtaranui (big tōtara). They then tried raising sheep, which became uneconomical once the world's appetite for wool and sheep meat waned. Now, much of the land is slowly regenerating, or has been put into pine plantation. It's a hard slog trying to revert this convoluted and steep land back to what it might have been, but there are signs of progress everywhere and the walk itself was rewarding despite the weather attempting to blow us off the track or the campsites at times. As in Abel Tasman, there seemed to be weka around everywhere. Even in places where we just stopped for a breather, one would pop out of the bush looking to see what mischief they could make.



Large rimu tree that escaped the settlers' axe



Tiki?



Hoi - Come Back With That!

We are back to tapping away to make some money for a short while before we venture out again in to the wilds, probably a 5 to 6 day walk in the high country East of the Lewis Pass. We are keeping an eye on the ongoing fire drama in NSW and SE Queensland. We can't understand just what more Aussie politicians need to get in to their thick heads before they junk King Coal and Uncle Rupert (Murdoch) and get serious about climate change. The fires have been catastrophic for the people and habitats concerned, but haven't threatened our two boats, except perhaps showering them with black ash!

* Just missed the arrival of 2 Polynesian ocean going sailing waka and the replica of Cook's bark, the "Endeavour" and the Spirit of NZ in Ship's Cove. It's all part of the 'commemorations' surrounding Cook's 1770s visits down under, and have been a very controversial and thought provoking series of events, with the Endeavour banned by local Māori in several North Island ports.

Glorious Weather Along the Wrecker Weka Trail

04 November 2019 | Collingwood, Tasman, South Island, NZ
Alison and Geoff Williams | Warm and windy, rain soon
Photo shows two flightless male weka facing off against each other at the Anchorage DOC campsite in Abel Tasman NP.

We are in the small village of Collingwood, almost as far north west as you can get along the top of the South Island. Past here is Farewell Spit and the Puponga Reserve, which we will explore tomorrow.

We spent four days walking on the Abel Tasman coastal track in glorious sunny weather. It's one of NZ's 10 (soon to be 11) Great Walks, hiking trails we have always avoided because of their popularity and cost (their campsites and DOC huts are much more expensive than those along ordinary wilderness tracks in the public conservation estate. Camping is normally free and 800 odd non Great Walk DOC huts can be accessed by a 90 dollar hut pass on non Great Walk huts). We assumed because it was only November it wouldn't be too busy. In fact, perhaps because of the weather, it was quite busy with people from all over the world using the trail.

The Abel Tasman coast is atypical of the South Island's other, more rugged, parts. It's more boutique and easier walking than, for example, the North West Circuit of Stewart Island which we have walked twice before, taking 12 days each time.

It's a very lovely walk, easily the best coastal scenery since we walked the Yedi Burun on Turkey's Lycian Coast. The track winds up and down from one golden bay to another, sometimes challengingly steep for our old legs, but plenty of views to keep the camera clicking.

We last walked part of the track in 1986 after packing kiwifruit in nearby Motueka (the island/ motu of the weka!). Since then, apart from the track becoming almost uncomfortably popular, there has been a huge restoration effort to restore the park area to something of its former faunal and floral glory. The weka that so teased us back in 1986 completely disappeared under pressure from stoats in the 1990s, but have since been reintroduced and are now seen everywhere, alternately delighting and enraging campers. Kākā parrots have joined the park to add to depleted wild ones and are merrily making mischief around Bark Bay. Predator control has also meant the return of the orchestra like dawn chorus, as bellbirds chime along in unison early in the morning.

South Island birds like the weka and SI robins seem to be more oblivious to danger than their North island cousins, something which has not helped them after the introduction of mammals. Weka can't stop themselves, poking and prying and stealing or destroying whatever they can find. Even if you chuck something at them, all that does is encourage them to come closer. The DOC warden at Bark Bay said that the kākā there have learned how to turn on water taps when they want to, but don't bother turning them off again.

We are off to Farewell Spit tomorrow while our muscles and joints get some rest, then will plan the next long walk.



It's one lovely bay after another along the Abel Tasman track



and another



and another



and another



and another



Kākā parrot at Bark Bay.This is one that has been recently reintroduced.
Note the bands on each leg.




This lovely Californian quail is an introduced species, but is no threat to other native birds.

Sounding Out the North of the South

04 November 2019 | Collingwood, Tasman, South Island, NZ
Alison and Geoff Williams | Warm and windy
Photo shows "Sounds Fine" steaming down the Kenepuru Sound.


We've been keeping away from ice and snow by moving North in the South Island. Nelson and Marlborough are two of NZ's sunniest regions and the sun has been shining since we left Kaikoura. No doubt that will soon be about to change, but for now we are enjoying the warmth and blue skies.

First stop was the town of Blenheim, where old yachtie friends, Alastair and Vivienne, have comfortably settled in a relatively new house on a hillside out of town, conveniently right next to a vineyard and a golf course. Since selling their 40 foot Island Packet, "Largo Star," they have bought a new, smaller motor cruiser, perfect for cruising the extensive network of waterways in the Marlborough Sounds. They wanted to rename the cruiser "Piwakawaka" after the movements of the fantail, but gave up after learning that according to Māori legend, it was the harbinger of death!

We went for a short cruise up the Kenepuru Sound with them from their marina in Havelock, enough to give us an idea of this potential new cruising ground. Unfortunately, it's not an easy task sailing down to the SI from Northland. A Belgian yachtie we first met in Tenerife was on a mooring in Picton, on holiday from Wellington, 30 nm across the Cook Strait. He crossed both the Atlantic and the Pacific at the same time as us and got work in Auckland, then sailed down the East Coast of the North Island in "Boxing Kangaroo" to take up a new job in Wellington. Bregt single-handedly stopped Saraoni from dragging on to rocks while we were off walking in Isla Isabela in the Galapagos. The boat dragged as the wind got up, then luckily passed a mooring, just as Bregt got to it to tie it up securely.

Next stop is the Abel Tasman National Park. We might come back later to walk the Queen Charlotte Track that lies along the Sound of the same name.



"Sounds Fine" in Havelock marina. The Sounds are more suited to chugging along in a motor boat than in a yacht.



Alastair and Geoff in "Sounds Fine," Vivienne steering.



Kenepuru Sound, looking East



Freddy, the dog, Geoff, Alastair and Vivienne. Geoff's just looking chuffed after not collapsing after a 3.5 km walk near Havelock



Queen Charlotte Sound from the windy road between Picton and Havelock

Kaikoura – A South island Taonga

29 October 2019 | Nelson, South Island, NZ
Alison and Geoff Williams | warmish and sunny
Photo shows the Seaward Kaikoura Range from Kaikoura's wharf. Mount Fyffe is the lower, broad peak, middle left at 1,600m. Manakau is the highest of the Seawards at 2,600m, middle centre.

We are up at the top end of the South Island, preparing for our first real walk - an easy stroll along the Abel Tasman coastline. It's normally one of NZ's most popular walking tracks, particularly in summer, so hopefully quiet at the moment.

We have spent a few days in Kaikoura on the South Island East coast. We've passed through a few times over the years, but haven't actually taken time to explore the peninsula itself since 1978 (!) Then, the little town was just a fishing village and seals and whales were there to be hunted or shot.

Most of the residents here now make a living from taking tourists out on the sea to see the sperm and humpback whales and several species of dolphins that come close to the coast here. There are also a lot of seabirds, especially shearwaters, petrels and albatrosses. Fur seals have expanded in large numbers all along this coast since a ban on hunting. There must be thousands of seals between Ohau Point, where the larger colony is to the North, and the peninsula itself.





Fur seals on the Kaikoura Coast

The 2016 earthquake resulted in 2 to 4 metres of seabed being raised along the entire coast. The town and the environment is generally only now recovering.

The two high snow covered mountain ranges, the Seaward and Inland Kaikouras, march along parallel to, and very close to, the coast, making for spectacular scenery when the sun is shining. The country between the ranges is one of NZ's latest conservation areas, Ka Whata Tu o Rakihouia, easy to access, but rugged once you get there, in the valley of the Clarence River.

We both climbed Mount Fyffe, almost by accident, back in December 1978. It was the first walk we did together and almost the last!

We had camped at the base of the mountain in a hinau forest, then left everything behind to climb to the top. By the time we got near the peak, it was almost dark and there was ice on the track. We found a hut and made a fire and helped ourselves to food and coffee that had been left inside. We didn't know at the time,but this was one of the country's 900 strong back country huts built and maintained for the public to use (then by the NZ Forest Service, now by DOC). In the past, we haven't always used DOC huts and have preferred to camp, but they can be a life saver!



Cabbage trees along the peninsula walk



Looking South along the head of the peninsula, raised seabed clearly visible.



The Seaward Kaikouras across the Northern bay.


From the Mountains to the Sea

22 October 2019 | Christchurch, Te Waka o Māui, New Zealand
Alison and Geoff Williams | Cold and rainy!
Photo shows the Southern Alps rearing up in the background across the city and the Canterbury Plain. The Heathcote Estuary is in the foreground.


We are in the South Island of New Zealand, Te Waka o Māui / Māui's canoe. Māui claimed he caught the biggest fish in the world, the North island, Te Ika o Māui, from his waka while anchored at Kaikoura. Mind you, Māui had about the same reputation for bullshit as Boris Johnson, so there you go.

We have another couple of days in Christchurch before heading up the coast to Kaikoura and then starting a series of walks. The weather has varied from abominable to mildly sunny and pleasant since our arrival, but we have never been down here this early, so we will start in the North and work our way South, alternating between tapping for our kai and heading for the hills.

We haven't been to Christchurch since 2006, before the two bad earthquakes which radically reshaped the city. Christchurch was settled as an uber English colony back in 1856, planned in England even before anyone had a clue about where to place the city. The nearby deep water port of Lyttelton, nestled in one of the two extinct craters that make up the Banks Peninsula, had too little flat land for a city.

The decision was made to build the settlement on reclaimed swampland on each side of the Avon River / Ōtākaro. 165 years later, that decision came back to bite the founding fathers when the soft ground under the city centre and the eastern suburbs liquefied during the two earthquakes, resulting in the death of 185 people and necessitating many of the CBD's buildings, and 10,000 private houses in what is now the Red Zone to the East, to be demolished.

It wasn't the only strange decision made back in the nineteenth century. The settlers cut down what was left of the native trees that survived the depradations of Māori moa hunters, and planted just about every species of English tree that could grow, plus quite a few others,including gums. Just to make them feel more at home, English birds were brought in, like sparrows, blackbirds, thrushes, yellowhammers, chaffinches and skylarks, as well as Aussie magpies.

Christchurch seems to have survived emotionally after the earthquakes and the recent slaughter of 51 Muslims in the two city mosques. The best parts are still lovely and there are huge areas of parks and green spaces scattered around. The Red Zone, all 6,600 hectares of it, between the city and the beach, is finally to be regenerated with wetlands and recreational facilities. There are cycleways popping up everywhere and the number of residents who walk, jog and cycle matches the number of jetskiiers and motor boat users in the Gold Coast - it's a huge contrast.

We've been to see a couple of old friends who live here. Pete and Cathy arrived back in NZ just before us in 2015 on their steel ketch "Waverunner." It's now in the new Lyttelton marina, parked next to Largo Star, Alastair and Vivienne's old boat. Pete and Cathy live 20 km out of the city and are trying to make up their minds whether to put Waverunner on the market. Good luck with that! We also saw Rowan Taylor, last seen up the Ruatiti River at Riamaki, a 1,000 hectare block in the Whanganui back country to the west of the central North island volcanoes, bought by us and several others back in 1978.

Rowan and I (Geoff) shared a tumbledown timber house for a while back in 1975, coincidentally just behind what is now the Al Noor mosque in Riccarton, scene of the March massacre.



Rowan Taylor and Geoff. Rowan was last seen 40 years ago in the Whanganui back country. He now lives a stone's throw from his parents' old place near Lake Ellesmere, where his dad had an eeling business.



Library with a view. The New Brighton library has a great view of the Pacific.



From Red Zone to Green Stripe. The Te Ara Ōtākaro cycle trail is the first step to regenerating the eerie green void that used to once house 10,000 houses along the Avon. The grey shading on the poster is the part of the city most damaged because of liquefaction. It is too risky allowing any rebuilding on this once swampy land, so it will become Christchurch's newest park and wetlands.



A poignant lingering display outside the Al Noor mosque. The Silver Fern flag seems a bit incongruous though.



Can't get away from boats. Largo Star, last seen in Turkey, lies alongside Wave Runner in Lyttelton marina.



Lyttelton Harbour - one of two breached extinct craters (with Akaroa) on the Banks Peninsula



Brrrr! The Haast Pass was closed last night after a wintry blast and the Alps were covered in fresh snow down to 800 m. this morning. That settles whether we go North or South first! Pic from the RNZ website

Sunny Days on the Sunshine Coast

15 October 2019 | Scarborough, Queensland
Alison and Geoff Williams | Sunny and windy from the NE
Photo shows Mounts Beerwah and Coonowrin on the Sunshine Coast from Mt Ngungun

We've always enjoyed gazing at the oddly shaped Glasshouse Mountains that rear out of the flat coastal plain on the Sunshine Coast. Maybe it's because of their evocative names. They had a lot of spiritual significance to the mostly long gone indigenous people who lived in this area and it's not hard to see why.

The Glasshouse Mountains are all eroded plugs from a series of volcanic eruptions about 25 million years ago. A few are easy to climb, like Beerburrum and Ngungun, but the others are rock climbs or tricky scrambles. With a few days of car hire, mostly to sort Saraoni's new berth out back on the Gold Coast, we had a couple of days to spare for exploring further North.

We climbed Ngungun with what it seemed like half of Brisbane (tip: avoid weekend bush trips anywhere within 100 km of Brisbane!) and had all the other 12 or so mountains in sight from the top. Think we scrambled up Beerwah many years ago on a trip into Brisbane from PNG, but it didn't look so easy when we looked up this time and with healthy twenty somethings rushing up the bare rocky slopes we decided to give it a miss!

Should be in NZ in a couple of days, where the mountains are a lot higher and no doubt covered in white stuff.



Panorama of the Glasshouse Mountains. Tibrogargan is the highest, centre left.



Rocky Beerwah, too steep for us today. In Aboriginal mythology, Beerwah was the mother, Tibrogargan the father, Ngungun the (dingo) dog, the other mountains the children.



Culture clash. Uluru (Ayers Rock) is from this weekend officially not climbable, but it might be hard getting Brisbanites to stop climbing these lumps of rock.



Coonowrin, the tallest son of Beerwah and Tibrogargan. Definitely one for the birds!



Forget snakes, spiders, scorpions, crocs, dingos, blue ringed octopi and angry rednecks, around here at this time of the year the main danger is swooping magpies! Cyclists are a prime target so those in the know wear helmets with spikes on!

Sundari and Saraoni Tied Up in Harbour for Now

05 October 2019 | Scarborough marina, near Brisbane, Australia
Alison and Geoff Williams | SE, windy afternoons, calm cool mornings
Photo shows Sundari in Scarborough marina. Saraoni is tied up back in Park Cove in the Gold Coast enduring a steady stream of fender kickers and uncommitted wannabe yacht owners.

We are in Scarborough marina with Sundari on the Redcliffe Peninsula in Moreton Bay. Sundari will be here for the next 6 months while we spend our time over the cyclone season / Southern hemisphere summer getting fit and healthy clambering over the South Island (NZ) mountains and doing a cycle ride from Wellingon to Whangarei. At least that's the plan for now.

Our Tekin GC stalled after dealing with the steady trickle of wannabe yacht owners coming for a sticky beak on Saraoni and counting their pennies (not enough of them!), while a steady trickle of nasty lows emanating from the unusual 2019 polar vortex cut across our route between the Gold Coast and New Caledonia. It didn't look much point so late in the cruising season bashing our way eastwards then hanging off a buoy near Noumea just doing more weather watching before the trip down south to NZ. The last straw and decider was when we did a close check on Sundari's 17 year old genoa. It revealed a rip behind the UV strip on the leech, and the feel of the sail indicated it was on its last legs. That means a new sail has to be ordered, costing anywhere between $2,500 and $4,500. Ouch.

We've hired a cheap car in Christchurch for 3 months and will do as much tramping as our 60 year old legs and backs will stand, then fly back to Brisbane to check out the 2 boats (assuming Saraoni hasn't been sold by that stage) in January. We then fly back to Wellington and cycle up to at least Auckland. We will check out the penguin pad in Tutukaka for measurements. We don't think that it will fit Sundari, but you never know. The marina manager said that he might do a swap with another berth in the middle of the marina to fit Sundari's draft.

We'll be back here on the boat early April, ready for the first weather window to New Cal. and / or Vanuatu. Depending on the Brexit result, that gives us 6 months in the islands before we need to sail down to the Bay of Islands in NZ.

Scarborough is no stranger to us. We left Corsair, our first boat, a 1933 kauri sloop, in Newport marina, just around the corner for a couple of months back in 1988 while we tried to make some money picking fruit in Victoria. It's a bit old-fashioned around here. Redcliffe seems to have hardly changed in 30 years and reminds us of a rather seedy, down at heel, English seaside own.


Not everything in Redcliffe is so English. There are always the raucous cockatoos and parrots to remind you are down under. Here in a quiet part of town is a darter, a little pied shag, seagulls and three penguins (eh?), or maybe they are supposed to be dolphins?


However, Moreton Bay is shimmering in the sun not far away and the sand hills of Moreton Island are only just over 10 miles away across the bay. There are as many dugongs, dolphins and turtles around as we remembered and humpbacks are now using the Bay to give birth and generally have a holiday away from their Antarctic feeding grounds.

We took Alison's sister, Susan, and husband, Nick, across the bay in 1988, a trip they still fondly remember. What they don't remember is the all night vigil we had over at Moreton Island when the wind suddenly turned and blew from the west most of the night, putting us on a lee shore. After bouncing around most of the night, the wind typically died and became a lovely sea breeze coming off the sand hills.

Before leaving the Gold Coast we made the second trip this year into the Brisbane CBD to take part in the international climate strike. Compared to March, the crowd was much larger and more diverse with an indigenous group leading the way down George Street. Coming just after the ravages of Hurricane Dorian you would think governments would be getting the hint by now. Unfortunately, ScoMo, Australia's Prime Minister is caught between a rock and a hard place, beholdened to both Rupert Murdoch's hold on the Australian media and the power of the coal lobby.



Climate strike posters in Brisbane CBD: ranging from the plain to the funny, witty, angry and frustrated.



Some of the 30,000 climate strike march in Brisbane

We caught up with old Sail Indonesia friends along the way to here. Rosie and Mike now live on Lamb Island in Southern Moreton Bay, but haven't entirely swallowed the anchor as they still have a yacht they bought in Trinidad. Catherine and Peter on "The Southern Cross" had just sailed back from Noumea and are on their way down to Sydney, contemplating their next move. Ralph, who we met up with last year as he was single handing "El Misti" down from Indonesia, has tied up to a mooring just out of the marina in Deception Bay

Much of Southern Moreton Bay is relatively free of the encroaching sand banks of the Gold Coast and we have at last had an opportunity to put Sundari through its paces.It is certainly a delight to sail.

The Waiting Game to Tekin G.C!

16 August 2019 | Southport Spit, Gold Coast, Australia
Alison and Geoff Williams | cold nights, clear skies, mild northerlies
Photo of "Sundownie" anchored just behind the Spit in Southport.


Saraoni's original name was "Tekin JB" which apparently meant "Escape from Jervis Bay" in the local indigenous Dharawal-Dhurga language. We changed it to "Saraoni" assuming that this Jervis Bay place must be a helluva nasty place. It isn't. In fact, it is a lovely large bay on the Southern New South Wales coast. Guess it was just that the previous owners of Tekin JB had just got bored with seeing the same old place, however lovely it was!

We are now in the Tekin GC stage with Sundari. The boat is ready, we are ready, and we are just waiting for the "right" weather for the crossing of the Coral Sea. It's the old frustrating waiting game that is the most annoying aspect of moving a yacht around the larger stretches of ocean as any reader of this blog would have noticed.

The only thing we haven't really had a chance of doing is putting Sundari through its paces in the open sea. The Broadwater and the inland waterways between the Nerang River and the Southern Moreton bay are blessedly well protected, but not a useful place to go sailing, as all the stretches of open water are hemmed in by sandbanks, mudbanks, mangrove islands and, at least down this way, expanses of numbing suburbia. We'll exit through the Seaway a couple of times this coming week and see what the boat is capable of. At the same time, we may get close to some of the humpbacks that have been cruising up this way on their annual winter holiday. We saw a couple from the dunes at the Spit today and more a couple of weeks ago from Burleigh Heads.

It's only just over 5 or 6 days to one of the passages through the Southern lagoon reef. The trick is to leave here on the back of a high as a low passes to the south so you can use the westerly winds to advantage before hitting the trade winds closer to New Cal.

As we are playing the waiting game, we are keeping an eye on 16 year old climate activist, Greta Thunberg's trip across the North Atlantic in the racing yacht Malizia II. She and her Dad have never been on a sailing yacht before, but she is determined not to fly across the North Atlantic. Currently, the 60 footer, none too plush by the sound of it, is beating into 20 knot westerlies at over 13 knots. Makes us feel like wimps, but maybe it's better not to know what ocean sailing can be like?



Greta Thunberg, her Dad, 2 beefy racers and a blue bucket for a loo thrashing their way across the North Atlantic from Plymouth to New York. No doubt Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a cast of thousands will give her a rousing welcome on arrival. Doubt if President TChrump will be there, though!

3 Weeks From Smash to Splash!

06 August 2019 | South Stradbroke Island, Gold Coast, Queensland
Alison and Geoff Williams | Lovely, sunny days, cool to cold at night
Sundari is launched back into the Coomera River at Boatworks - just around the corner from where it received a nasty smash just over three weeks ago.

It is just over three weeks since we were hit by a hit and run motor boat owner in the Coomera River just after midnight, holing the boat and causing extensive damage to the stern and rear stainless steel, worth $29,000 in insurance costs.

We are now back in the water again after 3 weeks up on the hard in Boatworks. Sundari had its shattered stern backed into a shed, while we alternated between doing extra jobs on the boat that could be done because of the location and escaping the inevitable cloud of fibreglass dust and smell of curing resin.

All credit is due to Craig Humphries' crew at Signature / Shed 16, who won the contract to do the repairs, as well as the prompt treatment by Club Marine's (Insurance) assessor and HQ who approved the $29,000 bill without too much of a murmur. Funnily enough, it's only the second time we have been comprehensively insured. The only other time was a couple of years in Darwin (again with Club Marine) just after Cyclone Thelma's almost near wipe out of the city in 1998.

Sundari is now looking better than it ever was. The repairs have almost miraculously rebuilt the stern to look like new. The stainless steel pulpit and davit have been replaced or repaired. Signature's crew have also thrown in a polish of Sundari's topsides, repaired a couple of noticeable chips in the bow and replenished the obvious blemishes on the topsides that a previous repair had bungled before we bought the boat.



Sundari's new stern with rebuilt starboard quarter, new davit repair and pulpit.



Sundari backed into the shed at Boatworks, ready for relaunching


We've made good use of the time. Apart from several days in an apartment paid for by insurance, we have done important upgrades on Sundari that probably wouldn't have happened if we hadn't been hauled out. For a start, we have cleaned the hull and painted it with antifouling. We have replaced the so-called "clears" in the bimini, installed a ground plate for the HF radio, replaced 2 dodgy seacocks, replaced an equally dodgy port nav light, marked the anchor chain with 10 metre markers, fitted two huge removable wheels on to our new dinghy, and swapped the VHF radio with Saraoni's better AIS radio unit.

As they say in Hindi "Hamaaree naav phir se sundar dikh rahee hai!"
"हमारी नाव फिर से सुन्दर दिख रही है" (Our boat is looking beautiful again - Sundari is Hindi for beautiful!)

We have been very lucky with the weather,with superb, sunny, dry days, day after day. The last job was fitting a new rubber strip which had to be imported from Beneteau in France, but otherwise there was no delays due to rain or other potentially nasty winter weather,

Of course, it hasn't been pleasant living on the boat while it has been parked in a dusty shed, but hey ho, it's another of life's experiences. We are now looking at the next available weather window to head ENE to Noumea.



Saraoni is safely tied up in Palm Cove marina awaiting a cashed up new owner. Bye Saraoni!

French Crunch

15 July 2019 | Boatworks, Coomera River, Gold Coast
Alison and Geoff Williams | cool to cold westerlies, sunny
Photo shows the damage done to Sundari's starboard aft section after the boat was hit by an unidentified motor boat early Saturday morning.

Our plan to leave the Gold Coast and sail to New Caledonia soon came to a crunching halt early last Saturday morning at about 1.30 in the morning.

We were anchored overnight in the Coomera River, not far from the Boatworks boatyard where we had gone for last minute boat bits. In the dead of night, we were woken by an almighty crunch. Rushing out on deck we saw a boat speeding off into the distance. Sundari had been hit badly and part of its lovely stern smashed to pulp, one of the new davits snapped in two and the starboard pulpit buckled.

We limped into Boatworks' marina later that day, after contacting the police and Maritime Safety Queensland, in charge of marine incidents, as well as our insurer, Club Marine.

To give the insurer credit, by this afternoon we had had visits from one of the main boat repair firms, been given a quote for nearly $30,000 in repairs, had a visit from the assessor and had the repair work approved by Club Marine. Sundari will now spend the next two weeks or so getting its bum done and stainless steel repaired. Fortunately, we don't have to worry about Saraoni as it is now tucked up in a private marina off the Coomera River under the wing of a broker.

We will be looking for the next weather window north east to the tropics in three weeks time. Meanwhile, we will try and get away from boats while the work is being carried out.



The snapped davit




Side crunch



Sundari anchored off Stradbroke island a few days ago, captured by our drone's camera - nearly ready to hit the high seas!

Messing Around in (Too Many) Boats

25 May 2019 | Biggera Waters, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
Alison and Geoff Williams | Cool at night, warm in the middle of the day, southerlies
Photo shows the Nerang River from a leisurely canoeist's low down view point.

We are anchored with rather too many boats off Biggera Waters in the Broadwater. We have to keep re-anchoring every now and again because of the Gold Coast anchoring rules which are supposed to stop people hogging the best anchoring spots. There aren't too many boats around now apart from our little menagerie as plenty of yachties have buggered off to warmer parts of the world - the Go East Rally finally left for Noumea just over a week ago and many boats have left to go up the Queensland Coast.

Heather and John, our old Bundy friends, came to visit and got the big fore cabin to themselves while they stayed - rather a step up from Saraoni's aft cabin which they have used several times before over the years!

We are getting itchy feet ourselves, but haven't sold Saraoni yet, although there has been quite a lot of interest. and one offer, a bit on the low side. Just to make life more interesting, we have bought two second hand inflatable kayaks and a windsurfer and are about to buy another dinghy so the present smaller one can remain with Saraoni. That makes 7 boats in total here with us. There are two more in Tutukaka, probably with a lot of cobwebs and leaves on them!



Too many boats! The kayaks, dinghy and Saraoni behind Sundari.


The inflatable kayaks are of good quality and allow us to pack them up and take them in a car or on a bus to somewhere interesting. We've kayaked up and down nearby Tallebudgera Creek and then took them up to Nerang by bus and kayaked down the Nerang River which flows from the hills to the west around Canungra and Tambourine Mountain down to the Broadwater at Surfers Paradise and on to Southport.



The two kayaks in bags waiting for the bus to Nerang in Southport.

Once upon a time, this area would have been spectacularly rich in wildlife. From Fraser Island south along the East Aussie coast, the sand dunes which are built up by the constant onshore swell block the progress of the numerous waterways which cascade down from the Great Divide, the escarpment which runs parallel to the coast from Victoria to the Cape York peninsula. The water can't get out easily, so backs up and forms the series of waterways which makes this part of South East Queensland so distinctive. Unfortunately, here on the Gold Coast, much of the waterways that are formed by the lower Nerang and Coomera Rivers are built up and fronted by lifestyle properties that are stunningly boring. Amazingly, wildlife still survives and manages to co-exist. Here where we are anchored, bottlenose dolphins turn up every few days and there is a resident dugong.

It's getting pretty cool for us, now, especially during the long nights. The first good weather window back up to Noumea this year is turning up next week, but we won't be able to take it. Perhaps the next one? The trick from the Australian coast is to leave with a southerly or westerly, get as far east as possible before the wind inevitably turns back to the south east.



Kayak kaleidoscope down the Nerang River. Note the Surfers Paradise skyline in the bottom picture.

Alien Invasion of Saraoni!

12 April 2019 | Coomera River, Gold Coast, Australia
Alison and Geoff Williams | Lovely, sunny day, but cool - down to 19C last night!
A couple of spaceships from a more enlightened planet decided to have a look at Saraoni from above, presumably deciding whether to make an offer! The total cost of the balloon rides would have probably been more than we are asking for Saraoni, though!

We are now anchored again just down the Coomera River where we stayed during the anticipated arrival of Cyclone Oma, about a mile and a half from Boatworks, the Gold Coast's best known (to yachties) boatyard, where Saraoni spent a couple of days getting its bum scraped off and repainted.

We could have spent longer, but technically we only have 24 hours at a time at anchor in the Coomera River and with Sundari anchored in the river just off the boatyard, we had to get in and out quickly. Hopefully, at least for Saraoni, it will be the last time for us!

It was a particularly lovely, still morning when the hot air balloons drifted across. Not sure why they chose this rather industrial area of the Gold Coast to transit, though. Maybe that's the way the wind was blowing!

Boat Works is frequented by many overseas yachties ( as well as many Australian based yachties, too) hauling their boats out, to the benefit of the many boat services here. It's like Whangarei on steroids, although quite a bit more expensive. Here we saw Australian catamaran Toucan, last seen with its mast toppled limping up to the Town basin in Whangarei after hitting a channel beacon. They are off to PNG and Irian Jaya. Catamaran Impi, the South African cat that made the YouTube doco on 'Moose' the Isle Casy (New Cal.) dog that died recently. Also, American / Australian mono, Fair Winds, bound for a circumnavigation. but delayed because of 'boat problems - expensive ones!

We will be looking to put Saraoni somewhere secure for a month or so while we concentrate on getting Sundari ready for the Coral Sea crossing.



Saraoni ready for the splash at Boatworks, Coomera yesterday.

SARAONI IS NOW FOR SALE!

02 April 2019 | Southport, The Gold Coast, Australia
Alison and Geoff Williams | showery south easterlies
The view of Saraoni from the top of Saraoni's main mast yesterday, just outside of Bum's Bay in Southport.

Saraoni is now for sale - after 21 years of ownership and hundreds of memorable adventures together.

Everything is working and Saraoni is looking better than it has ever been and about 20 cm higher in the water than it was before.

Meanwhile, Sundari has sunk about 20 cm!

We are selling Saraoni for around Aus$60,000 ono (£32,000, NZ$62,000, US$42,000).

Interested? Ring 0477285361 in Australia, or +61477285361 from anywhere else or email us at saraoni@gmail.com The main ad with all recent inventory, specs and photos will be on Yachthub until the boat is listed with a broker. The link will be added to this blog post as soon as the entry is finalised.

Link to interior photos

Link to exterior photos

Link to specifications

Link to main ad on Yachthub



Saraoni's mast makes a great place to look around. This spectacular view is of the Southport Spit and Bums' bay with the anchored boats. Sundari is in the foreground on the right of the picture.

The Very Best of Days.. and the Very Worst of Days!

16 March 2019 | Southport, Gold Coast, Australia
Alison and Geoff Williams | wet, stormy and very humid
The best of days....kids in Brisbane taking the lead on climate change



The worst of days...the Christchurch massacre.


We took the day off yesterday in support of combating climate change and the kids who were striking all round the world. It's hard being in Australia for too long without realising just how the world's climate is changing and how badly adults, especially privileged older ones, are handling it. We took the train the 80 odd km into Brisbane to attend the Brisbane school kids 4 climate demonstration. On the train we followed the thousands of kids in New Zealand earlier who had filled the streets, even in little conservative towns like Whangarei, New Plymouth and Blenheim. It was inspiring to listen to such impassioned youngsters taking the lead on what is the planet's most important challenge....after all it is their future and not the future of us old fogeys. Similar large turn outs were expected here in Australia and elsewhere around the world.

We reflected on the last time we attended any sort of political demonstration. It was 8 years ago in Luton, a gritty, grey but multiethnic town northwest of London where we had gone supposedly to make some sorely needed cruising funds teaching. A fascist group, the EDL (English Defence League) was expected in the city and were planning to wreak havoc in the Muslim neighbourhoods of Bury Park in Luton. In the end, we never saw the EDL. They were separated from us by hordes of cops, but we went with other protestors down to Bury Park to join some pretty heavy Pakistani and Bangladeshi dudes in that majority Muslim suburb to show our solidarity against white supremacist far right wing violence.

And then...the first news of the tragic shooting in Christchurch filtered through before we got to Brisbane. Maybe it was a coincidence but it was also 8 years ago that we listened to the news of the earthquake in that city and wondered "why Christchurch FFS?" The world's partial lurch to the right has reached far away New Zealand. Events are unfolding as this blog is written but it does seem now that the 50 people who died yesterday were all shot by the same young man. He seemingly had spent a very normal upbringing in small town Grafton, NSW, a town we have been through many times. He was radicalised in Europe and influenced by the growth in the far right white supremacist movement but still seems to have planned everything all by himself.

In Brisbane, we joined the kids march through central Brisbane. It was rowdy, funny, smart, multiethnic and multiaged, despite the obvious student leadership. Just how could this very best of days for humanity be the same as the very worst of days for some? The kids' stand against adults inaction against climate change has been overshadowed by the slaughter in Christchurch, but the only consolation is that Tarrant's murderous attack has probably done more for interracial understanding not just here in the Pacific, but elsewhere in the world and put a spotlight on the danger of far right terrorism than anything else.

Email from Greenpeace NZ

Russel Norman, GREENPEACE via server8839.e-activist.com
6:10 PM (31 minutes ago)
to me

Kia ora Geoffrey,

Yesterday we saw the best, and we saw the worst.

Thousands of young people came together to demand a brighter future, and a white supremacist inflicted a terror attack in two Christchurch Mosques.

It's hard to hold those two things in your heart at the same time.

Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones, to the Muslim community, and to the people of Christchurch.

It's a day of deep sadness for Aotearoa. It's a sad day for all of us who harbour a love of humankind living together peacefully on Earth in all our wonderful diversity.

It was a jarring contrast of hope and hate to have the dark events in Christchurch so closely follow the bright light of the school Climate Strike.

What should have been a day remembered for the peaceful calls of our striking rangatahi marching in the streets for climate justice, will now go down as one of the darkest in our country's history.

To the young people who organised and participated in the School Strikes for Climate, you gave us hope on a dark day. You stood for hope and for the future, united across cultures, across religions and united around the world.

Together we will keep that hope alive and stand for peace and cooperation. We will stand against hate and and oppression, and work to promote peace, in this country and around the world.

Already people around the country have responded with overwhelming love and solidarity.

We must grieve and heal, but let's also make sure that love and hope triumph over hate and ignorance.

In peace,


La Lotta Continua!

09 March 2019 | Currigee, South Stradbroke Island, Gold Coast
Alison and Geoff Williams | Sunny, hot and northerly
Photo shows the two boats off South Stradbroke

We are back off South Stradbroke Island in the Broadwater after a lot of dithering around. It's hard work with two boats to look after, especially when the weather turns funny. Work is continuing on both boats intermittently between moving from one anchorage to another. Saraoni is slowly having an internal face lift, but we will soon have to put it on the market and maybe take it down to the Pittwater.

We expect to sail Sundari when it is ready up to New Cal., then down to New Zealand later in the year. One bit of welcome news is that the Tutukaka marina manager will arrange for us to swap our leasehold berth for one that will fit Sundari. Unfortunately, the Penguin Pad just behind the breakwater will be too shallow and probably not quite long enough, so the idea is that we take a berth on the piles in the middle of the marina when we leave Sundari any time.

It's been hectic at times with the two boats although we've been becoming adept at manoeuvering both at the same time, generally with Al on Saraoni and me (Geoff) on Sundari, mainly because at the moment it's easier to see through Saraoni's nice clean glass in its hard dodger rather than Sundari's rather hail scarred clears, which need replacing.



Mr Whippy, mobile boat version. On weekends, this guy chugs up the Broadwater selling booze and ice creams. It has been hot, so plenty of customers!

We've had two dramas. One when we both went aground more or less at the same time trying to anchor behind Wave Break Island, just inshore of the Seaway. Luckily it was at low tide so we got off easily. The next drama, which could have been more serious was when anchored off Runaway Bay after Cyclone Oma disappeared. The weather was quite squally, but most of the time OK. As we were getting covered in goo, paint and other crap on Saraoni, a squall came through and we noticed Sundari dragging - even with its 60 lb Manson Supreme! I rushed over in the dinghy to get it before it hit the rocks on the mainland while Al watched as Saraoni started to drag, too! I managed to reanchor Sundari, rush back to Saraoni, up anchor and then Al hung around motoring up and down, while I dashed back to Sundari as it was dragging again. Then we set off round the sandbanks and re-anchored again in the shelter of South Stradbroke. As we have very rarely dragged anywhere in the world, we assume the Runaway bay area has terrible holding - it's probably hard-packed sand, swept by the strong tidal flows.

Since then we have been up to Coomera again and into the Gold Cost City marina to get Sundari's Volvo engine crankshaft oil seal replaced, which was leaking.

Sundari now has a rather sporty looking pair of davits, a wind generator, two of the three solar panels strapped to the deck, a home made boom bag for the new main sail and some nice new hatch covers to stop the hatches from crazing any more.



Sundari's solar panels draped on the deck off South Stradbroke in lovely, if hot, weather. Note the new boom bag and hatch covers!

In between looking after the two boats, improving both of them, we are still furiously tapping away at the computers making the money to pay for it all!

Think we need a holiday!

O Ma God!

21 February 2019 | Santa Barbara, Coomera River, Gold Coast, Australia
Alison and Geoff, sunny, hot and windy
Picture shows TC Oma bearing down (slowly) on the SE Queensland coast.


We've been blessed by remarkably pleasant weather since the last big storm experienced in lower Moreton Bay before Christmas, but now the Yang is overcoming the Yin. TC Oma, the same cantankerous storm that savaged Far North Queensland in January is making a direct beeline for South East Queensland.

The movements of tropical cyclones in the SW Pacific are notoriously difficult to predict and Oma is one of the more difficult of the bunch. It started as a storm in the Gulf of Carpentaria several weeks ago, crossed the Far North of the state, dumping shitloads of rain. The Burdekin River swelled at one point to 65 km across. Many tens of thousands of cattle drowned and part of Thuringowa and Townsville were evacuated because of flooding.

Not content with making mischief in Australia, the storm made its way out to sea, headed for Northern Vanuatu and reinvented itself as a cyclone, did enough damage there, then skirted past the Beleps and the North of Grande Terre in New Caledonia. One model has it arriving off the Fraser Coast or even closer to Brisbane or the Gold Coast and then heading North West again and finally tracking across the coast further north. Another model has it skirting the southern coast right down towards Sydney.

Not taking any chances, we have brought both boats up the Coomera River and have them anchored together off a park in Santa Barbara on Hope Island, one of those rather amorphous lifestyle deserts so common all over the Gold Coast. At least we can get off the boat easily, and there's water, rubbish bins, barbecue facilities and a short walk to a booze shop and a Coles supermarket.



Saraoni and Sundari quietly anchored in the Coomera River off Charles Holm Park on Hope Island

It's pretty gusty at the moment, but the shit really hits the fan tomorrow, so we're hoping the anchors hold.

We've done this all before of course, but not with two boats! Cyclone Justin was a memorable cyclone in 1998 when we holed up at the end of Milne Bay near Alotau in Papua New Guinea for 10 days with 40 knots blowing constantly. The cyclone was massive in size and just slowly shuttlecocked between PNG and Cairns.

Also memorable was the appearance of Cyclone Thelma early in the cyclone season in December 1998, east of Darwin. We had only recently bought Saraoni in Queensland and were living on it up a creek in the mangroves on a Darwin City Council mooring when the cyclone appeared. It hovered around for some time before we got sick of the suspense and abandoned Saraoni to the elements and hightailed it into a hotel. The storm decided to veer off and menace the Kimberley instead and we and Saraoni were spared.

And then of course we've weathered many a gale in New Zealand, but they tend to be very short lived at that latitude.

As for what's happening with the two boats. We are making slow progress and at the moment it's more work than pleasure. We are sorting out Saraoni's interior before hauling it out, while gradually installing equipment on Sundari. We now have our solar panels feeding the batteries, although they are just lashed to the deck at the moment. Two nice shiny new davits are waiting to be fixed. We fixed the recalcitrant old echosounder with a secondhand display unit bought at a shop in Coomera. The new wind generator doesn't seem to be working which is a bit of a bummer. (Update Sunday - it is now, just a poor connection. Plenty of wind = plenty of free power!) We had both Saraoni's and Sundari's old liferafts checked and discovered both were ok, so are opting for the bigger one of the two. Sundari has still many mysteries we haven't fathomed out yet. We'll probably be still finding things out in a year's time!



Google map showing our cyclone anchorage up the Coomera River. Lots of birds around and a mob of kangaroos in the remnant scrub across the river.



Update late Friday -it has been very windy all day, although it is quite safe here. Another yacht was anchored not far away yesterday evening, but today no-one was aboard. The yacht, a nice Amel ketch, dragged when the wind and tide were strong and is now leaning over down river on a sand bank. We couldn't do anything as it was too windy and we needed our spare anchors in case the same happened to us. the Coastguard sounded rather weary when we told them as it was unlikely to be the only boat 'gone with the wind!' (Update Sunday - the water police came yesterday at high tide with the VMR rescue boat and managed to drag the ketch off the sandbank, so we are on our own again! The cyclone is now a low and headed back towards Noumea, possibly reintensifying again!)



The Amel ketch down river where it grounded after dragging. Looks like it has just been antifouled at the Boatworks boatyard a mile or so upriver.Probably will need another antifoul, now!

Sundaoni Sailing!

04 February 2019 | The Broadwater, Gold Coast, Australia
Alison and Geoff, SE wind, sunny and showery
Saraoni and Sundari next to each other by Australia Fair in the Broadwater.

Sundari has been paid for and we are now ensconced in relative luxury on board, with poor old Saraoni close by in the Sea World anchorage, aka Bum's Bay.

The first day didn't get off to such a good start, as we hadn't had a chance to familiarize ourselves with Sundari before having to leave the Palazzo Versace hotel marina the morning after signing the Bill of Sale. Alison rather courageously edged the boat out of the marina and we did a quick trip up to the Seaway entrance and back to the Australia Fair anchorage.

We noticed that the engine was leaking oil from an oil seal which should have been replaced before final purchase (the mechanic didn't think it was leaking).

The roll up dinghy which we had spent time rolling down to the boat with the owner fell apart on the deck when we tried to blow it up.

The echosounder display was unreadable making it a bit scary moving around these shallow waters.

The freezer wouldn't work.

The 3 hp Yamaha outboard that came with the boat either shot off like a startled goat or chugged along at snail's pace.

Then we decided to make a move up to Runaway Bay, only a few miles to the North, a less crowded anchorage. We decided to singlehand both boats, and coordinate our movements with Captain Al in front on Saraoni and Captain Geoff following on Sundari. We started off well, with anchors hoisted and Sundari's genoa catching the breeze. The newly reconditioned autopilot didn't work with Sundari careering off at an angle as soon as the auto button was punched!

Then, disaster!
Saraoni's engine stopped, just after a large launch passed us, with its usual huge wake.

Alison dropped the anchor right in the middle of the channel and Sundari anchored nearby in the Sea World anchorage. We had found an abandoned fibreglass dinghy on the beach a day before so were able to get between each boat by swapping the two dinghies with the roll up a chuck out. The engine problem was soon solved - a rag had fallen on top of the engine and got sucked over the air intake, starving the engine of air. We decided to lick our wounds and stop where we were.

Things have improved since then. We have fixed two seacocks, got the saltwater pump working, worked out what was wrong with the freezer, got the old navigation instrument that the owner thought was broken (back when he bought it in the U.S.) working, giving us wind and depth information, fixed the weather display, calibrated the autopilot which now works well, ordered new solar panels, a wind generator, a hand held VHF radio (the old aerial had blown off the top of the mast a year ago) and carted hundreds of items over from Saraoni, filling up most of the nooks and crannies on Sundari.

Have we done the right thing? Well, Sundari is a lovely, big boat and very comfortable. No doubt there will be things to improve on it, but hey, where can you buy a 3 bedroom home with a view of the sea and no rates, rent or hotel bills to pay (so far!) for what we paid for Sundari?

As soon as we get everything off Saraoni of any value, the next step is to concentrate on cleaning it and getting it ready for sale. It looks like a few weeks yet! Luckily, we have had some fantastic weather, although very hot in the day time. The same huge, almost stationary, high pressure systems that have been hanging over Australia and giving it some of the hottest temperatures on record have given us very benign weather. Hope it continues for the next couple of weeks.
Vessel Name: Saraoni
Vessel Make/Model: South Coast 36
Hailing Port: Tutukaka, New Zealand
Crew: Alison and Geoff Williams
About:
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 three very different boats. [...]
Extra: CONTACT DETAILS Telephone / SMS number +61 477 285 361 (Australian mobile no.) Email saraoni@gmail.com (main email address)
Saraoni's Photos - The ABCs
Photos 1 to 15 of 15 | Main
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Stone fish, Bonaire
Fish under wharf
Fish and elkhorn coral
Well in Bonaire
Saline pond, Bonaire
A colourful troupial - a type of oriole - Curacao
Brilliant yellow saffron finches in Curacao
Through historic arches - old Punda on Curacao
Oil platform off Willemstadt
Lac lagoon, bonaire
Saline froth, Bonaire
Windward beach, Bonaire
Heron, Bonaire
White egret, Bonaire
Yellow headed Amazonian parrot, Bonaire
 
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Post Circumnavigation

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