Our Next 30 Years

02 March 2019 | San Diego, Ca
28 February 2019 | San Diego, Ca
28 February 2019 | San Diego, Ca
28 February 2019 | San Diego, Ca
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

Land Touring Australia

02 March 2019 | San Diego, Ca
David Balfour
While SV FullCircle was on it's way back across the Pacific, Cindy and I spent 3 weeks touring Australia. Since we only had three weeks, and Australia is so big there is no way to take in all it has to offer in that time-frame, we first had to decide how we would spend our time. That was difficult. While we were in Bundaberg, we took advantage of our time there by visiting the Great Barrier Reef. We knew we would be putting SV FullCircle on the transport ship in Brisbane, so we took advantage of our time there seeing the city and visiting both the Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin Zoo), and the Kowala Sanctuary. Both of those were amazing experiences! For the remaining 3 weeks we spent time in Melbourne, Sydney and Uluru. We missed Northern Australia, which because of the time of year was both very hot and experiencing terrible flooding. We also missed Western Australia, SW Australia, and Tasmania.

Melbourne was a fabulous experience. It is a great city and we had a great time. We have always had good luck with the Free Walking Tours and Melbourne was no different. We learned a lot about the history of Melbourne and what allowed it to become the city it is today. Melbourne has some fantastic street art and more restaurants and bars than most any other city. They have taken advantage of all the back alley ways and turned them into amazing areas. While we were there the Australia Open was taking place, so everyone was talking tennis. We were lucky to meet up with our friends on SV Blue Summit and SV Lettin' Go for a great dinner at the marina where they were staying in downtown Melbourne Harbour. We spent a day at Brighton Beach (home of the brightly painted beach sheds) and did a coastal walk to the Luna Amusement Park, home to the oldest merry-go-round and organ in the world. We did most of our getting around by public transportation (trams, trains, buses and ferries), but we rented a car so we could drive a section of the Great Ocean Road. We started in ? home to Rip Curl and Billabong Surf Shops, and went all the way to the 12 Apostle's rock formation. That day the area saw record breaking high temperatures (116 F)! Luckily we had done most of the walking earlier in the day before it got too hot.

Sydney grew on us. As with Melbourne, we did the Free Walking Tour - actually we did both of them (two areas of town). While the Opera House, harbour and Bridge were iconic sites, there is a lot more to Sydney. We happened to be there for Australia Day, and got to participate in that spectacle. While Australia celebrates Australia Day, the aboriginals view the day as when they lost their land and culture. We saw both sides of the story, as well as those that were trying to bridge the gulf and move forward. Every country seems to have their version of this story. Amazingly within the sea of humanity, we happened to run into a friend from SV ? who was in town to leave on the TallShip Endeavour for Tasmania. We go to enjoy the fireworks together that night. There is quite the good natured competition between Sydney and Melbourne, and while Sydney is the biggest and has the Opera House, Harbour and Bridge, Melbourne has a lot going for itself to claim it's position as the top city in Australia.

Uluru is something you have to experience - it is far more than a geologic formation. You can tell people about the sites, the history, etc, but to understand what Uluru is you really have to experience it. We really had not had much of an introduction to Australia's native people and culture until Uluru. After much discussion, the Australian government is finally accepting the position of the aboriginal people that Uluru is their sacred place and that everyone should respect those cultural beliefs. As such this October, no one will be allowed to climb the mountain any more. The Park Service is now working closely with the aboriginal people to both respect their culture and give people the opportunity to experience the site. If you are not familiar with Uluru (or Ayer's Rock as named by the explorers) or Kata Juta, they are large geological formations in the center of Australia. But as I said above, they are so much more. We got to experience these amazing areas at both sun rise and sun set and at all times of the day. We were thankful that we took the guided tours vs just going to the sites ourselves, because of the historical and cultural insights we gained from the local people. Cindy and I had both become very impressed by the "dot paintings" that we had first seen in the museums in Melbourne and Sydney. We were fortunate to take a workshop from a local artist that gave us greater insight into these paintings, and how this relatively new medium relates to their culture. Respecting Uluru as a sacred place is respecting the aboriginal people, and when you respect the people, the place can take on a greater meaning to you.

Future Plans

28 February 2019 | San Diego, Ca
David Balfour
Writing this post is difficult for me. Putting things in writing always has a way of making you face the reality.

As Cindy and I discussed our future cruising plans, it began to become clear that her primary goal is to be close to our kids and grandkids, and the move back across the Pacific was the first part of achieving that goal. While she wants to continue doing coastal cruising, she has no interest in doing any more long-distant voyaging. As we explored ways that we could meet her needs we talked through various scenarios. The one that seemed to most match with what she is comfortable doing is to return to the Pacific NorthWest. The cruising there is predominantly day sails in protected waters. The summer cruising season there matches our situation well - avoiding the hot summer in Texas. While Mexico is another option (we enjoyed our short time there), the issue of avoiding hurricanes has to be addressed (moving the boat back and forth), and the cruising season (winter - summers are just as hot as Texas) is not as good of a match for us.

Our experience in the PNW and SE Alaska was wonderful - although a good heater and a dry boat are a must to enjoy it! We also realized after talking with folks that had been cruising there for 5-15years, that there were enough anchorages that we could enjoy exploring the area, seeing new sites, and meeting new people for quite some time. That said, it isn’t a great match for a sailboat (often referred to as “Stick boats” or “Cave boats” in that area). We seldom sailed when we were there and only occasionally motor-sailed, but mostly we motored. With the tidal currents and the winds that can come down the channels (always seems to be on your nose), being able to motor at 8-12kts is more of a priority than sailing. As we talked through things it became clear that if the PNW is where we will spend out time, we would enjoy it more on a motor yacht (trawler, etc) than SV FullCircle. I believe that one of the reasons Cindy enjoys cruising and stuck with it for as long as she did is that SV FullCircle was built to do what we were doing. She is at home on the ocean and is outfitted to make it enjoyable. For that reason, if we are going to go back to the Pacific NW, it makes sense to get a boat that is made for those conditions.

And so, that brings us to our present day decision to sell SV FullCircle. It is my hope that there is someone out there that wants a proven boat to go ocean voyaging and that will find her as perfect a match as we have over the past 6 years!

Back in the USA

28 February 2019 | San Diego, Ca
David Balfour
Once on the docks at Cruiseport Marina in Ensenada, we began the process of getting SV FullCircle ready for the short (70nm) coastal hop up the coast to San Diego. In addition to putting sails back up, setting up all the sailing rigging, etc. We also wanted to take a day or so to make sure that all the systems were working properly before taking off. After bleeding the raw water system to get rid of an airlock, everything checked out good and we were ready to go. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating, with Northerly winds to 20-25kts and 2-3m swell. We made the decision to wait a day as things died off and then left in the evening with lighter winds forecast overnight. This allowed us one last visit to 240 Grill for their great fish and octopus tacos! We had a pleasant trip, motoring or motor-sailing with a semi-clear sky, making for pleasant star gazing on watch, and enough of a moon to allow us to see any fishing boats along the way.

We arrived at Shelter Island as the sun was coming up and pulled alongside the Customs Dock at the Harbor Patrol dock. Customs had changed their procedures from the information that I had, with the process all being done online via an “App” - assuming you had the ability to do that. As it turns out, the “App” being used to do the check-in is in beta. I got a message to call support and when I did they told me that the Govt Shutdown was impacting their ability to respond to issues. So we had to wait and do things the old fashion way - with people involved. An hour later two Customs Agent arrived at the boat thanking us for getting them out of the office! After clearing US Customs, we left the Customs dock with no Foreign Courtesy Flag flying - only the US flag flew from our stern. We had left the US (San Diego) for Ensenada almost to the day in 2015!

We had a 2 hr motor and motor-sail up San Diego Bay to Chula Vista Marina. While there are marinas in San Diego Bay that can accommodate catamarans our size, they are few and far between and there are more than enough local boaters to take up these slips leaving nothing for transit yachts like us. We found a space in Chula Vista Marina and were lucky to get it. About an hour after getting settled another round of wind and rain hit and we were glad to be on the dock. The rain and cold makes us believe we are back in the Pacific Northwest. We have been glad that we have a diesel heater to keep us warm and dry! Now if we could get some of that sunny, warm California weather!

Hitchin’ a Ride Across the Pacific

28 February 2019 | San Diego, Ca
David Balfour
As I mentioned in an earlier post, we made the decision to give ourselves and FullCircle a break from long-distance voyaging and we both hitched rides back to the other side of the Pacific. We took an economy airline, while FullCircle took a first class trip back on MV Yacht Express. Yacht Express is DYT’s float-on, float-off yacht transport ship. We had heard nothing but good reports from other cruisers that used this service. While the cost is an initial slap in the face, the reality is that it is a great deal given the time saved as well as wear and tear on the boat (and crew). Everyone that I have talked to that has done it say they would do it again with no hesitation. Our experience was no different. We would not hesitate to do it again and highly recommend it to others.

We had an opportunity to board MV Yacht Express the day before our loading in Brisbane, with the decks dry and all boats sitting on their blockings. The Loading Master showed us around pointing out where FullCircle would sit. One of our friends (SV Exit Strategy) had already loaded in New Zealand, so we got to see their catamaran as well as a number of other large sailboats and motor vessels. Eleven boats loaded on with us in Brisbane the next morning, including our friends on SV Golden Glow, a full size tug and former USCG Cutter. When we arrived the ship had already taken on water and was sitting with it’s back doors open. We had to wait for one boat to unload, but then the Loading Master began calling us in one at a time. As we motored into MV Yacht Express, her crew were there to take our lines and bring us into position. With FullCircle tied along side a large motor yacht, we began the process of putting her to bed for the trip, shutting down all systems and securing everything from moving around. Once all the boats were aboard, we met with the Customs Agent and took care of the final paperwork. The divers were in the water starting the process of securing the boats. We were not allowed to stay on the boat while it blew ballast and pumped the decks dry (about a 3 hr process), so we said our good-byes and took off for the airport. MV Yacht Express left Brisbane the following day, going direct to Ensenada.

Fast-forward 3 weeks (I’ll catch you up on our land touring later) and we found ourselves in Ensenada (Sydney to Hawaii to San Diego by air and San Diego to Ensenada by bus with a walk across the border to clear Customs into Mexico) with friends from SV Exit Strategy and SV Golden Glow waiting for MV Yacht Express to arrive. Somehow our plans for lunch never materialized and after the second round of drinks we found ourselves at Houssong’s Bar - drinking more lunch. If you ever find yourself in Ensenada, make sure you check this place out. It is over 100 years old and has an amazing history - to which we tried our best to leave our mark! You will find gringos as well as locals - all having a great time celebrating what ever is important to them on that day. We finally made it to dinner at Chervicheria Oyster Bar, which along with 240 Grill are other don’t miss establishments in Ensenada!

The next morning we all arrived at the Port to go through the formalities of receiving and off-loading our boats. It was an amazing site to watch from the bridge deck (we couldn’t be on our own boats), as they flooded the decks and began to sink MV Yacht Express. The crew and divers worked to secure each of the boats as they floated off their blocking. We were then allowed onto our boats to get all the systems turned on so we could off-load. We were impressed with how clean the boat was (better than most stays in a boatyard on the hard). Each boat being off-loaded had been washed down that morning, but looking at the other boats they were also very clean. SV Golden Glow was first boat off. Once they moved the tug out of the way, we were next. As we said good-bye we headed for the Cruiseport Village Marina. About 12 other boats off-loaded in Ensenada, including SV Exit Strategy. The following day we watched as MV Yacht Express left the Port for Costa Rica before going through the Panama Canal and on to Port Everglades.

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.
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