Our Next 30 Years

16 January 2019 | Rivergate Marina, Brisbane River, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
11 November 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaberg, Australia
09 November 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaberg, Australia
04 November 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaberg, Australia
01 November 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaber, Australia
30 October 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaberg, Australia
28 October 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaberg, Australia
24 October 2018 | 24 45.6'S:152 23.3'E, Bundaberg Port Marina
22 October 2018 | 24 19.6'S:153 01.6'E, Fraser Island
21 October 2018 | 23 47.9'S:155 18.0'E,
20 October 2018 | 23 28.4'S:157 31.3'E,
19 October 2018 | 23 15.1'S:159 37.8'E,
18 October 2018 | 22 58.8'S:161 39.4'E,
17 October 2018 | 22 38.0'S:163 48.7'E, Departure from Noumea, New Caledonia
11 October 2018 | Port Sud Marina, Noumea, New Caledonia
09 October 2018 | Ilot Mato, Southern Lagoon, New Caledonia
12 September 2018 | The Wall, Yachting World Marina, Port Vila, Efate Island, Vanuatu
06 September 2018 | Port Vila, Efate Island, Vanuatu
04 September 2018 | Port Vila, Efate Island, Vanuatu
04 September 2018 | Port Vila, Efate Island, Vanuatu

Schedules and Cruising Don’t Mix

16 January 2019 | Rivergate Marina, Brisbane River, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
It started when we made the decision to ship SV FullCircle back to the west coast (Ensenada, Mexico) on the DYT float-on and float-off yacht transport (a story for another time). At that point we were committed to a schedule - we had to be in Brisbane to meet the loading window. We also had another schedule constraint - we had to spend the Holidays with the family. And so our schedule began defining our situation (the tail wagging the dog so to speak) - we left the boat in Bundaberg, returned to Austin for the Holidays, and then flew back to Australia where we started looking for a weather window to sail down to Brisbane to meet the yacht transport.

We arrived in Bundaberg Sunday afternoon, where the weather was being influence by a tropical cyclone to the north and a ridge coming up from the Tasman Sea to the south. Winds were reported at 40kts offshore with 3-5m seas. But there was some hope. A 2-3 day window looked promising as the winds and sea-state subsided prior to a southerly coming through with no end in sight, that could make our trip south a mess. We began preparing the boat and were prepared to leave Tuesday evening for our overnight sail to Fraser Island, with the plan to arrive at the Great Sandy Straits at daybreak and low tide. We would then ride the incoming tide to the mid-point and high tide, where we would ride the out-going tide to Pelican Bay to anchor for the night. The next morning we would cross the Wide Bay Bar (assuming the swell had subsided enough to allow boats to cross the bar!) and have a slow overnight sail to Brisbane, arriving at the Brisbane Bar at daybreak. The southerly was forecast to come through later that afternoon. It wouldn’t take much to derail this plan and leave us high and dry. But it was all we had.

To make this work, we needed to leave Bundaberg Tuesday evening. Unfortunately, the winds were still blowing 15-20kts and the sea-state in the shallow Herve Bay was a washing machine. Our first two hours were going to be motoring out the Burnett River and the sea-channel into the bay straight into the wind. It wouldn’t have been fun in the daylight and it certainly wasn’t fun at night! After about 30-45 minutes of motoring the genset overheated and shut down. We turned around and sailed down wind (very quickly I might add) back to the Marina. After getting the boat back onto the dock, I found that the culprit was kelp that had been sucked into the raw water strainer and was restricting water flow. As a precaution, I changed out the impeller and we got underway (Cindy almost left without me, but I managed to talk her back and got on the boat - it was still blowing 15-20kts!). We were now down two hours on our magic schedule!

Once we got into the Great Sandy Strait the sea-state totally changed and things were wonderful. While we missed the optimum timing (schedule) of the tidal currents, we didn’t do too bad and arrived at Pelican Bay around 5PM. The motor-sail through the Great Sandy Straits was fabulous and I only wish we had the time to anchor and explore Fraser Island. Pelican Bay was a great anchorage as well. We shared the anchorage with two other boats that were also waiting to cross Wide Bay Bar. I contacted the Tin Can Bay Coast Guard to check on the Bar conditions and was told that one charter fishing boat had gone out that morning and reported that it was passable, but not at all comfortable. The Coast Guard had gone out on a training mission the day before and turned around half-way out the first (of two) legs because every one on-board was sea-sick! However, they said the forecast was for improved conditions the next morning.

The next morning several fishing charters went through the Bar early and reported that it was not bad. We set out after logging in with the Coast Guard and making sure that all loose items were stowed, not knowing how rough it might actually be. The optimum time to cross the Bar is two hours prior to high tide. We timed our departure to make this “schedule”. About 5 minutes prior to arriving at the first of three reference points (provided by the Coast Guard) to transit the Bar, the genset once again shut down due to overheating. I turned the boat around and we notified the Coast Guard that we were heading back to Pelican Bay to assess the problem. The Coast Guard informed us that it wasn’t uncommon for raw water pumps to fail due to the high sand content in the disturbed water around the bar - now they tell me these things! While it wasn’t sand, once again, we found that the raw water strainer was partially plugged by a kelp bulb. After taking care of this and making sure that everything else was ok, we turned around again and notified the Coast Guard that we were ok and would be taking another run at it. We lost about an hour against the optimum “schedule”, but I felt that it was still worth trying after listening to the other boats report that conditions were not bad after you got past “the Mad Mile” to reference point two. This time we managed to avoid any kelp and made it across the Bar with no issues. I did manage to take away several burns on my hands and arms from servicing a hot genset as a reminder of our Wide Bay Bar crossing!

Once we cleared the Bar, it became evident that the Southerly was approaching. The easterly winds we had hoped to be able to sail in were shifting more to the ESE and SE. We took an initial tack out to sea to clear Double Island Point, before assuming our long port tack to Brisbane. Unfortunately we quickly found ourselves going too fast, so we started slowing down by reefing - initial to the first reef, and then to the second reef and finally partially furling the jib, to time our arrival into Moreton Bay and the Brisbane Bar. The good news was that we had clear skies and a beautiful Southern Hemisphere of stars to look at all night long. As we approached Moreton Bay the commercial shipping traffic increased significantly. I was glad we hadn’t tried to do this at night, as we altered course multiple times to avoid areas of breaking seas, and found ourselves on the edge of the channel to give way to the commercial traffic (aka the Big Boat right-of-way Rule).

We passed Fisherman’s Island (commercial wharfs) where we will be loading onto the yacht transport and proceeded up the Brisbane River to the Rivergate Marina. While the incoming tide made for a quick trip up the river, it also made for tough docking getting into our assigned birth. We managed to get in with no drama and both the Dockhand and Marina Dockmaster commented on how good of a job we did bringing the boat to the dock in those challenging conditions.

Yes, we managed to make the schedule, and we now only have a 6nm sail back down the river to load onto the Transport, which is currently scheduled to take place about a week from our arrival into Brisbane. Yes, the southerly did come through as forecast later that afternoon, so we managed to make the one magic weather window we had available to us (at the time) - even with a few obstacles that we had to overcome. With a little luck I’ll be able to relax now!

Australia's Great Barrier Reef - Lady Mustgrave Island

11 November 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaberg, Australia
It is always a busy time at the end of the cruising season as we get the boat ready to sit unattended for a bit, while we spend time back in Texas with our family. There are a number of things to do as part of routine maintenance and always a few things to “fix”. On our list of things to “fix” over the past couple of weeks were a torn screecher, re-galvanizing the chain that had gotten a bit rusty (the anchor went along for the ride too), splicing a new dockline that was chafed, and rehabilitating a section of plugged hose/pipe/valve in the blackwater (waste) system (still to be dealt with). Besides the normal inside and outside boat cleaning and polishing, we also serviced the outboard.

We decided to participate in the Go West Rally primarily because they covered our cost of Inward Clearance in their registration fee. If you do the math given the cost of the timber inspection, discounts and give-aways, dinners and drinks, etc. you come out way ahead of the game. They also make sure that you have plenty of fun things to do and and lots of company doing it.

Since we weren’t going to get to do much cruising in Australia (only the section between Bundaberg going south about 200nm to Brisbane), and our land touring will likely be oriented more south due to the time of year, we decided to take the opportunity to visit Lady Mustgrave Island - part of the Southern section of the Australian Great Barrier Reef. We boarded a high-speed catamaran (The Lady Mustgrave Experience) that departed from our Marina, making it easy for us to make the 7AM boarding time. It was about 2.5-3hr to make the 60nm trip out to the reef. That’s correct if you are doing the math, they run at 20+kts - even entering the pass! Lady Mustgrave is a beautiful atoll with a small island that evolved over the years. Besides having some amazing coral and associated fish, it is a haven for breeding turtles and birds. Our time on the reef was spent snorkeling, hiking around the island, and seeing more of the reef via a glass-bottom boat. The tour company in addition to getting us there and back quickly, serving us morning tea, a great lunch and afternoon tea, also passed along a significant amount of information about the reef, the coral eco-system and the birds peculiar breeding habits on the island. We got to see turtles resting in “cleaning stations” on the reef as well as swimming around. The fish population was great with plenty of examples of both large and small species, including rays and sharks. Similarly, we saw examples of all the major coral groups.

We were fortunate to have a dive group from Bundaberg on the tour with us that gave us some great perspective on the Great Barrier Reef. They explained to us that they are upset with the level of miss-information being spread about the condition of the Great Barrier Reef. They feel that the reef is in good condition - both the coral and the fish - and that the stories of the reef dying are all greatly exaggerated. The group participates in a project that photo-documents the condition of the reef (geo-referenced) so that comparisons can be made year after year. The Tour Operators had a bit different perspective, sharing that of the three sections of the Great Barrier Reef, the Southern section (where we were) was by far in the best condition, with limited (10% or less) coral bleaching, etc. The Central section was a little worse off with 20-30% bleaching, and the Northern section was the worse off (closest to the equator) with 40-60% bleaching. Both groups agreed that you could take photographs that could depict what ever story you wanted to tell, and that you needed to understand how corals (both animals and plants) grow, to properly observe them and document their health.

I’ll leave you with a few statistics to put this World Heritage Site in perspective. The reef area covers approximately 344,400 sq km, or roughly 70 million football fields, which is about the area of Italy. The Great Barrier Reef is comprised of over 3,000 coral reefs and 600 islands. It is home to 600 different varieties of hard and soft corals, 1,625 different species of fish, and 133 different varieties of sharks and rays. We feel fortunate to have been able to see a small piece of this marine wonder.

G’day from Down Under

09 November 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaberg, Australia
Given that I have finally gotten caught up on our stay in New Caledonia, it is time to start talking about where we are currently - Australia. If you followed our posts as we were on passage from Noumea to Bundaberg, you know that we had a very, very calm passage (just the way Cindy wanted it). Upon arrival into Hervay Bay, we were greeted by a large humpback whale that put on a tremendous aerobatic performance for us. Our Clearance into the country was handled by both Customs (Border Force) and Bio-security with great professionalism, and was at the same time very relaxed. Because of the number of arriving boats our Timber Inspection took place about a week after we arrived, and we can report that every nook and cranny of the boat was looked at and that we have no signs of boring insects!

I thought I would share with you some of the introductions that we were given to Australia.

Yes, we have seen kangaroos - walking past them as we go to the supermarket! They seem to be everywhere - like deer are in Texas! We kept our distance, choosing not to “spook the herd”. That said, they are fun to watch once they all start moving! They bring traffic to a stop, since there is no telling what direction they might move.

We were introduced to the many animals in Australia that we should be on the look-out for. You can catch up on that list here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdihHnaOQsk

Yes, we have eaten a Vegemite Sandwich. No, neither Cindy nor I will be doing it again. We were told that it is good for putting on sand fly bites, though I won’t be doing that either. You might enjoy this clip of Americans trying some of the foods unique to Australia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ru6wri23Ljk

And, we have found that like Texans, Aussies are very proud of their heritage, as shown here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMdbVHPmCW0

And, we have been introduced to a number of iconic Australian movies (the ones you probably have never heard of), including:

1)Red Dog, True Blue
2)Red Dog
3)Tracks
4)The Castle
5)The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (not the American remake)
6)The Dish

Noumea, Grande Terre, New Caledonia

04 November 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaberg, Australia
Making our way into Noumea was unlike any experience we have had since leaving the US. As we entered the inner harbour I was amazed at the sheer number of recreational boats - in marinas, on moorings and at anchor. With all the local boats, it is no wonder that it is next to impossible for visiting boats to find a place to anchor within the prescribed boundaries. It was also great to see the youth dinghy racing activity, complete with on the water coaching, etc.

We were lucky to be able to quickly address our Genset cooling system issue that brought us to Noumea a bit earlier than we had planned. With the problem fixed, we were able to enjoy the big city and take in the sights. We would have loved to have headed back out into the Southern Lagoon, but the weather was not cooperating. With recommendations from some locals, we visited the Aquarium, which was very well done, and the Maritime Museum. After several attempts we also finally found a time when the cultural museum was open and enjoyed learning more about the history of New Caledonia. There is a large Market open daily, but to be honest, we felt like we enjoyed the local Markets in other locations far more than the more commercial feeling one here. We did enjoy wandering through the downtown area and seeing sights like the Cathedral. We found it easy to get around the town whether by foot or bus. And yes we had some great French meals as well!

Unfortunately our stay in New Caledonia was cut short by a week or so, when we received notification from our weather router that a window was available to leave for Australia. After some discussion we decided to take the guidance and leave, rather than wait and hope for more good weather in a week or two.

The Southern Lagoon … and Another “Gotcha”

01 November 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaber, Australia


The Southern Lagoon encompasses a large area inside the reef surrounding the southern coast of Grande Terre. It is a shallow area full of small islands and coral reefs. The water is beautiful and the islands fascinating. We selected several islands to visit in the Southern Lagoon, starting with Ilot Mato.

Ilot Mato has two narrow passes that bring you into a small anchorage of nominally 15-20ft depth. You are surrounded by reef and a small island off to one side. It is a great experience anchor in these settings. We ran into our friends on SV Saroni, and caught up with their travels since we last saw them in New Zealand. The snorkeling around the reefs was great, and we found an amazing section of coral with outstanding colors, fish, and other creatures that kept us staring in amazement. We had a great, calm night at anchor.

The next morning we decided we would leave for Ilot Kouare, at the southwestern corner of the Southern Lagoon. We were having a wonderful motor-sail when …. the Genset shutdown giving us a temperature fault. I checked the coolant level and … the reservoir was empty. I opened the Genset to find coolant everywhere! I won’t repeat the words coming from Cindy’s mouth because I don’t want to damage her reputation. I made the decision to head to Noumea, where I knew we would have the resources to once again, address the problem. Looking at where we were (about 50nm from Noumea) and the time (10:30AM) that it was meant that we needed to sail quickly to get into the harbour before nightfall. No problem, we hoisted the spinnaker and had a fabulous sail at 8kts to Noumea. On the way back, we called our Agent at Noumea Yacht Services and a friend at Noumea Ocean to see if they could work some magic and find us a berth at one of the two Marinas. We were fortunate to have the Dock Captain at Marina du Sud go above and beyond to make a space for us and meet us at the dock as we arrived at 4:30PM. We go situated and connected to shore power, meaning that Cindy didn’t have to “rough it” again in energy conservation mode. We also were able to make arrangements for a diesel mechanic to meet us the following morning to figure out what had happened and more importantly why it keeps happening!

The next morning I got the Genset pulled out and we began the process of troubleshooting (for the third time this season) where the leak was (this time). After filling the reservoir with some water, we were able to spot the leak - yes, it was right where it had been the last two times. I was astonished when I reached in and pulled off the hose clamp - it had broken! The brand new one that we had replaced in Vanuatu! What was going on! The mechanic confirmed that the hose clamp was a high quality one and so we needed to figure out why they were breaking. After removing the heat exchanger, we began to get a better picture of the root cause of the cooling system failures we have had during the season.

Evidently when the heat exchanger had been removed for cleaning 2 seasons ago in New Zealand, it had not been put back in place properly. Instead of resting on a rubber pad at the back end (like it was at the front end), it was resting directly on a metal support. AND, there were two hose clamps holding the heat exchanger in place in the front and none holding it in place on the support in the rear. We inspected the heat exchanger to make sure there was no damage to it and replaced the rubber pad (it had come unglued). We used zip ties to hold the pads in place and then used the hose clamps to hold the heat exchanger in place on the pads and support. This way the hose clamp holding the hose wouldn’t vibrate against the metal and break the hose clamp! Of course all of this was going on back in an area that was 1) out of sight and 2) next to impossible to get your hands - which explains why it wasn’t put back together correctly and why we hadn’t “noticed” it before.

If you think I might be a little gun shy about our cooling circuit you can understand why! Now add to that the fact that we had an 800nm passage coming up to Australia, with the forecast for light winds and lots of motoring! The fact that we were able to find (what seemed to be?) a likely cause for the failures was the only thing that gave me the confidence to depart (and as you now know we arrived Australia with no issues).

Across to Grande Terre and Baie de Prony

30 October 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaberg, Australia
Across to Grande Terre and Baie de Prony

We left the beautiful waters of Ouvea early morning (6AM) bound for the east coast of Grande Terre (the large island of New Caledonia). Normally we would have a more specific location for where we were heading, but the truth is, in this case since we had light headwinds, we just wanted to get as far south on the east coast as we could and still get anchored before dark. There are numerous passes that we could come in through depending on how far south we were able to get. I choose three, a best case, worst case and probable. We anchored in Baie de Nakety as the sun was setting around 6PM. The bay is the home to a mining operation, so while it was a secure anchorage for the night, it wasn’t a “paradise” anchorage. This was our first stop as we moved to the Baie de Prony on the south coast of Grande Terre.

The next morning we once again got an early start to try to get as much progress down the coast as we could before the afternoon headwinds made traveling too uncomfortable. SV Whisper HR had made landfall a bit further north and we touched base by VHF radio agreeing to stop at Port Bouquet for the night. We arrived by noon, allowing them time to catch-up, and had a nice evening. The next day was a bit more challenging as the headwinds made it slow going as we motor-sailed to Yate. We had a pleasant evening at anchor, and made plans to enter Havannah Pass the next morning and finally arrive in Baie de Prony. Havannah Pass has strong currents and needs to be entered following a slack, rising tide. While we followed the guidance, it seemed we were a little early since we had some adverse current initially. That afternoon we entered Baie de Prony and made our way to the public moorings at Anse Majic.

Baie de Prony is a large bay with numerous anchorages. The bay has a variety of areas to explore, with rivers, hiking trails, reefs, islands, etc. Even though the area has been heavily mined, it is still a beautiful spot. Anse Majic provided us access to a great snorkeling spot and a fabulous hike to the lighthouse and overlook of the area. Moorings have been provided to protect the coral reefs in the area, and you are not allowed to anchor there. This area is very protected from winds, and is often used as a hiding place while waiting for settled weather to venture out into the Southern Lagoon and/or Ile de Pine. Since we had a period of settled weather coming, we made the decision to leave and go to the Southern Lagoon, thinking that we would likely be coming back later in the week as the enhanced trade-winds came back.
Vessel Name: Full Circle
Vessel Make/Model: 50' cruising catamaran designed by Garry Lidgard
Hailing Port: Austin, Texas
Crew: David and Cindy Balfour
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S/V FullCircle

Who: David and Cindy Balfour
Port: Austin, Texas