S/V Nereida sails around the world

Day4 to Xmas Island - excellent 24hr run!

There I was checking around, when I spotted that the starb'd diesel filler cap looked a bit proud of the deck... it was loose!... & seawater has been sloshing around it with the big seas we've been shipping occasionally. You can imagine my thoughts/curses!!
Went to look in sight-glasses on filters - inside the one on starb'd tank, it looked very murky whereas the one on the port tank had nice clear fuel in it - but was one-third full of dark water - I turned the screw & drained that out, wondering where it had all come from. Then drained the starb'd glass... I let out quite a bit but looks as though it's a mix of fuel with some water - I wonder if seawater has formed an emulsion of sorts with the diesel, hence the murky look. Think I'll leave it for the night & let it settle & have another go at it in the morning.
My worry then was ... what if engine doesn't start tomorrow when I want it for anchoring - would be ironic if I go to Xmas Island to help out "Trudel' ... and then end up myself with a major engine problem!! So I switched over to port tank, with OK fuel (I hope!!) and ran the generator, theory being that if it ran OK for a couple of hours (charging batteries & running fridge at same time!), then I should be OK to run main engine on same fuel line tomorrow... I'm keeping my fingers crossed tightly, hoping I've caught it in time!!

Today has been great sailing - think I've made Nereida's best 24hr midday distance to date - 172n.ml. by log (167 by GPS), doing ~7.5kn & well over 8kn when surfing...! Decided at midday that I'd better reef down! ... wind was increasing... has been SE5/6 all day. Now have full genoa & 2 reefs in main - but still doing ~7.2 kn - so should get to Xmas Island early afternoon.

By this morning at 0900, I'd cut down my distance behind 'Trudel' from 43ml yesterday to just 19ml! (Quite likely to get there first, at this rate, despite leaving a day later!)

I was sitting in the aft cabin this morning reading, when BANG! - we got really hit by a wave ... and WHOOSH!... a load of water came in via locked-in-vent-position hatch - I was furious - how could I be so stupid..??? (Easy!!) I was lucky the computer didn't get wet! Took ages to mop it all up and saltwater damp things aren't going to dry so easily...

It's been suggested that the steering cable may be over-tensioned... I've been thinking the wheel seems a bit stiff (even checked several times to make sure lock was off) so maybe I'll try to ease off a little on the tension tomorrow when I'm stopped.

Mike & Bryan, of Nightwinds, my knowledgeable 'website guys', have worked their usual magic on the website and put in a link to the TV and radio interviews I had in Cairns on making landfall there in July, after completing my Pacific crossing - go see!

Day3 Making excellent speed at last - but in 'bumpy' seas!

Mon 17th Sept
We're finally making good speed - 7-7.5kn in around 18kn ESE/SE wind, broad reaching with not much current against - unlike earlier today (& overnight) - today's daily run to midday was ony about 120ml but should be a lot better tomorrow if this wind keeps up as forecast. Seas are a bit rough but not too bad - SE swell of ~1.5-2m (4-5sec period) and a bigger, much longer S swell, all with choppy waves on top. Of course, it's when 'Nereida' happens to be where the two swells meet that life gets really interesting, in the resulting heaped up seas... as happens fairly regularly! I'm having to be very careful moving around and I've closed most of the hatches!!

Cloud seemed to build up this afternoon, but with nightfall seems to have disappeared - just lots of bright stars, to match the twinkling phosphorescent lights in the sea as we rush through the water - like diamonds sparkling... beautiful.

I'm hoping we don't meet up with any more fishing strobe lights again tonight .. saw two lots off to starb'd last night, well over 60 mls from the Java S coast (worrying! - what if I'd ploughed straight into the nets/pots...?) and this morning, as I was busy taking down the pole (we'd been goosewinged overnight), I saw a small, open, flimsy fishing boat ... amazing to be so far out in these big, rough seas.

I had a look at the new steering cable under the aft bunk this afternoon. It has been squeaking, so has been worrying me that it might be wearing again. The problem turned out to be at the turning blocks (with newly-made bushing) taking cable from engine compartment to steering quadrant. I put lots of grease between moving parts where I could and then sprayed thick lubricating film into crevices between the two moving blocks and their spindle - seems to have done the trick!

I've also been looking to see what weather info I can get for approach to S. Africa (& the infamous Aghulas current!). Seems radio weather fax is no longer available, although I shall try previous frequencies/times just in case, but there is a daily Ham Radio Net (which I heard tonight) where weather info is relayed - so I shall email to introduce myself, ready for when I get to within range...

"Nereida", rushing along in the dark under a crescent moon.... under 295ml to Flying Fish Cove, Xmas Island, at 10pm LT Monday.

15Sept07 Indian Ocean crossing started today - 1st stop Cocos Keeling(1100ml)

Much as I enjoyed Bali, it's really nice to be sailing again....albeit rather slowly, as I write this - 3.7kn SOG, 4kn boatspd, wind ESE 3-4 (10-12kn). Soon after leaving Bali Marina, around 1.30pm LT, I was beam reaching at 6 kn, helped by well over a knot of current, but when I changed course around the SE peninsula, our speed dropped - we're now broad reaching within sight of the coast still.
It's close to sunset, so I'll keep sailing for time being, although if our speed drops right down, as it might well do this close to land, I'll start up the motor & motor-sail for a bit overnight. Hopefully, we'll stay ambling at around 4 knots under sail alone. Light winds are forecast for the first day or so but there should be reasonable Trades once I get further west - my rhumbline course is just under 260T. The moon will be waxing as I sail - so it'll be lighting my way more and more over the next few days - always nice!

It has been very nice to be back among a cruising community for a change (last was in Vanuatu). It's always enjoyable chatting to other friendly 'yachties' about their cruising experiences & there's always something to be learned from that! Several helped me away from the marina today - I was docked beside a very long boat with an enormous bowsprit & threatening to get blown onto that as I left - but with helping hands on several lines as I started away from the dock, all went well.

In my week in Bali. I managed to see quite a bit, exploring a little of Kuta and Sanur on foot, as well as taking a longer tour around the island by taxi (VERY cheap in Bali!) on both Wed & Thurs. I saw the craft centre of Ubbud, renowned for its lovely wood carvings, several temples and palaces, the monkey sanctuary (lots of very twee babies!), a Batik centre (I was very tempted to buy some beautifully patterned silk!), temple dancing at sunset with an accompaniment of a large chorus of men (no orchestra) and generally got to see a lot of the lovely & fascinating countryside and towns. Not being familiar with the Hindu way of life, it was very interesting to get to know & understand a little about that religion - an integral part of everyday life in Bali.

Sun has now set, lights are appearing onshore, speed still around 4knots... We're sailing very gently in a fairly calm sea towards a crescent moon hanging high up above the remains of the sunset - looks as though the night will be clear and dark tonight - good for stargazing...

"Nereida" makes landfall in Indonesia (Bali) on 8thSept07

Sun 9th Sept '07

Arrived safely in Bali Marina (Benoa) on Sat morning after, yet again, struggling against strong S-going current on approach - 4.4kn for third time - all N-S channels between islands here get a really strong tidal flow, especially at springs, of course.

Hoping to explore a little before I move on next weekend... in meantime, trying out trysail today, ready for strong winds in Indian Ocean.... Plenty of other boat jobs to keep me busy. Have to make sure I'm ready for what will be a long crossing, even with stops at islands on the way.

Fri 7Sept Last day (Day 7) from Darwin to Bali... lovely sailing!

8am: What a great sail in bright sun I'm having just now....beam reaching at 6.5 kn in 15 kn of wind with slightly reefed genoa! Changed course slightly to mke for nearest Indonesian island to north of me shortly after sunrise: Pulau Sumbawa (lovely name!) Rhumbline course to Bali was threatening arrival in dark unless I slowed down anyway, so I thought I'd take a peek at a couple of other islands on the way, thereby lengthening passage a touch -in theory, at least! Actually making excellent speed now, so may yet have to reef down overnight... but since I'm having to cut out hoped-for sail to Lombok from Bali (due to lack of time...!!), I thought I might as well see something since my route was passing pretty close anyway. 

Just threw overboard yesterday's flying fish which I'd found on deck in the morning ... had intended doing it as 'ceviche' but got too busy with preventer project & other things.

2.45pm Fri: Still having a lovely sail. Passing S end of Selat Alas (channel between Lombok and Sumbawa) - clearly good S-going current affecting us - making 6.6kn boatspeed but only 4.4kn SOG. Wind up to just under 20 kn, sea's a bit rough but not bad, occasional bit of surfing in biggish wave (8.3kn just seen!).

Just got email from Bali Marina: ... "you may have to anchor because the marina is still full at this time and we are trying to find a space for you."!! (Probably they didn't like to say 'no', so instead they said what they know you want to hear!!) Oh well, no big deal...

Hearing occasional English voice on VHF.

4.30pm: Well, it's always nice when things calm down after some excitement!! TEATIME!! - & I feel I deserve lots of Tim Tams (Australian yummee choc biscuits.... )!!

I needed to gybe the main but realized the wind was rather strong for the full canvas that was up - so thought I'd better reef first. Not too easy when almost dead downwind... but even worse when the wind gets up to around 25kn - as it did.... I'd just about got the first reef in when the knot came undone..... Well, I'd tied the new line in, so no-one to blame but myself - had thought it was rather slippery rope at the time - so should have made doubly sure of my knotting!! Fortunately, since wind was up so much, partly-reefed sail more-or-less stayed put, held against lazyjack lines, so hurriedly went for 2nd reef - took a time, but eventually got it in OK.
I reckon that was all due to an 'acceleration'/'cape' effect - there were the high mountains, which I'd seen from afar, on the one island (Sumbawa) and the channel between the two islands both enhancing direction & strength of already quite strong wind - should have taken rough water as a warning to reef far earlier, when it would have been easier (but was just thinking 'wind over current'!). Always so easy, when running, to ignore building wind!! Problems come when you want to manoeuvre... now
it's still around 20kn - but far, far calmer. Just took pole down since about to change course more to port, so no longer needed.

Sat 8th Sept07 7am All fine - approaching Benoa (Bali) now in pre-light of dawn. Had to start motor for final approach - current in channels between islands here far too strong - finding 4.4 kn of S-going current yet again, even now... 2.5kn SOG!

Should arrive in marina (or anchored off!) within a couple of hours or so, current permitting!!

More anon!

Wed&Thurs 5th&6thSept, days 4&5 to Bali: Finally...nice sailing!!


We'd been sailing by the lee most of the night - more or less on a run but not enough to stop mains'l from trying to back regularly in the swell, despite preventer & being as far for'd as it'll go. I'd been trying to ignore it but finally just had to get up to take it over to port side where it would behave better. Was dark (~5am) but some moonlight, so all fine a little later and I sat out in the cockpit stargazing, waiting to see what effect that had on our speed - genoa was poled out on port
side & I was hoping to leave it until daylight .... but, no - it needed to be changed over as well, naturally ... 6.10am Still dark but hint of light in the east... I furled genoa, lowered pole, & then tried to goosewing the genoa (without pole) ...but it kept collapsing around inner & main forestay (threatening a 'wrap'!).... no good, so needed to raise pole on starb'd side ... we're now rolling around in a biggish NE swell ... I left genoa out while got I pole over, past inner forestay & connected
up lines (sounds so simple when you say it fast!) - genoa still out, flapping & jerking sheets. Then went to furl it in .... furling line went bar taut almost immediately..... found the line had got itself in a twist around forestay under drum.... So now, furling line had to be brought for'd to undo mess & then led back again (genoa still jerking/flapping etc!) before I could finally furl in genoa, attach sheet to pole, raise/position pole & unfurl genoa ....!!
But it's now 7am (just before sunrise!) & I've acquired several bruises & bashed a few ribs falling onto the lifelines while manoevring pole (painful!)... Oh well, could be worse...! At least Nereida's sailing more happily. Wind now 10-11 knots. Time to check in with 'Sheila' Net on 8161kHz in Australia.

11am Wed - wind dropped to 6-7 kn - motoring... grrr!!

Later: Predictably, wind DID get back into SE - by early afternoon, in fact, so had to change pole back again... but after that made excellent speed under sail alone - beautiful afternoon's sail - so peaceful & gentle - uncomforable swell lay down completely. Think it had found gap between end of Timor & next island to W but then we passed that channel. Sat in cockpit and read in shade of sails. All very pleasant & a nice change....
Was helped along by a 1.5kn fair current - pity this didn't all happen sooner or I'd have got in to Benoa by Friday easily. As it is, I'm most probably now going to have to slow down for daylight arrival on Sat morning!! (Made excellent 7.0-8.0 SOG for a time, but kept varying..)
Passing 45mls to S of Sumba island, then we'll be passing S of Sumbawa, then Lombok & finally Bali...


5pm Had a good night's sleep - no AIS alarm going off & I think I'm far enough away from land not to be bothered by locals - certainly seen none until half an hour ago when I noticed a small white boat heading other way on N horizon as I sipped my tea.
Another very pleasant sailing day ... until now, when started motor. Batteries down a bit anyway and wind died down to ~5-6kn from astern, boatspeed 2-3kn. Hopefully wind will pick up again soon - shan't stay under motor for too long since I'm well ahead on getting to Benoa by first light Sat - just need average of 5.5kn or less to arrive early morning. Been getting SE swell again - on port quarter, so knocks us about a bit sometimes.
Played around with preventer today - occurred to me that I have unused clutches on each side which I could make use of with a length of line to block on quarter, hence to winch, with shackle at other end of (shortish) line, ready to take remaining section of preventer which leads to bow cleat & then aft to boom (as previously). Measured & re-measured umpteen times before cutting off length of line from spinnaker downhaul which was WAY too long - provides just enough line for both sides now - have
some whipping to do before I use it. Good to have spare blocks & shackles on board to make such projects feasible! We'll see how it works out... will continue with it tomorrow.
Reading Lisa Clayton's book about her singlehanded non-stop antipodal voyage around - interesting reading - she had a lot of people helping & supporting her.
6.45pm Sitting in cockpit with tea, reading & waiting for sunset....sky completely clear.. green flash?? 4knots SE wind - hope it picks up again soon.....

24hr distance run to midday Wednesday was 125 n.ml. & Thursday was 141 n.ml. Distance to go (Thursday midday) to Benoa Hbr entrance is 233 n.ml.

Tues4Sept07 Day4 to Bali Photo:...Ambling along under stays'l...

0900 Just been calculating average speed needed for daylight landfall in Benoa hbr.. need 5-5.5kn for Saturday 8th (& would need 6.5 kn for Friday just before dark - unlikely in these light winds!!) About to put some diesel into tank from jerry cans.

1130 Poled out genoa earlier & just lowered staysail (of no use with wind abaft the beam - just flaps) - problem bagging it because so stiff (new) & removeable inner forestay fittings make things awkward. Need to change that & organize a bag that will fit over sail when hanked onto stay. Wind has been increasing a touch over the morning - now ESE3 (~10kn) but course is now 292T - & for remaining 500 mls to Bali. Wind not quite as strong as I'd like but have turned off motor for some peace & quiet
- lovely, gentle but slow sailing(3.5-4kn), under part-cloudy sky. Just saw small boat (Indonesian fishermen?) with bright blue sails passing a couple of miles off in opposite direction.

3pm Getting 'chute ready to hoist. 4.2 kn boatspeed at present... 3.45pm Well, I'm not convinced that was worth the effort!! But I think we may have gained 0.5kn... always good to see the red & white striped 'chute flying. At least I've now got all possible canvas deployed... & NO motor! Would be nice to sail the rest of the way if possible, it's so nice & peaceful. Boatspeed now 4.9kn in 10-11 kn true wind from dead astern.

Well, I managed one & a half spinnaker wraps!! Wind was so dead astern that we ended up sailing by the lee as our heading varied slightly - so much so that the 'chute was blanketed by the mains'l and ended up wrapped around the inner forestay - took a time & quite a bit of thought & effort to unwrap it. Initially, wondered if I was going to have to sail to Bali with it still wrapped, it looked so impossible to undo...!! Then, near sunset, it nearly happened again. Fortunately, I was on deck &
managed to prevent it from getting too badly wrapped - decided to take it down for the night to avoid further worries!! Need a 'net' to prevent it.

Beautiful clear starry sky and big spots of phosphorescence in the sea as we pass through. Amazing to see the Milky Way - looks just like a wide streak of misty cloud from N to S dotted with stars, ending near the Southern Cross.

24hr distance run to midday Tuesday was ~152 n.ml. by log (142 by GPS!) and distance to go to Benoa Hbr is ~500 n.ml. (I'm hoping for Saturday)

Darwin to Bali Day 3: Mon 3rd Sept (Timor Sea)

Hot & calm again today - 5-6 kn from SE...& grib files seem to indicate wind will continue very light for a couple more days yet, if not die more, before getting slightly stronger - expect just 10-12 kn as I close Indonesian islands. So I'm motor-sailing with maximum canvas ... apparent wind (4-5 kn!) makes us close-hauled so I decided to attach inner forestay & hank on the larger storm jib - looks great! Not sure if I've increased our speed at all but it was fun & informative doing it - sail is
almost brand new, having rarely been used up to now. Might be able to use it on Indian Ocean crossing soon.

Yesterday afternoon got busy .... I managed to run out of fuel...!! Stb'd tank fuel gauge was misleadingly optimistic & I thought I still had plenty of time in hand when engine stopped. I tried manual pumping - seemed to work initially, at least up to primary fuel filter but then had to stop to attach little electric pump into the fuel line to the lift pump ... Eventually all was fine but took a couple of hours of drifting around in the glassy calm sea. Luckily, current (1kn) was in right direction,
so most of drifting was roughly westward! I must obviously now fill tanks with spare fuel while the sea is relatively calm (there's a slight swell, but not much).... and keep an eye on hours/miles run on port tank since yesterday...! Should get at least 60hrs or 400mls, whichever comes sooner.

The good news today, apart from "Nereida" turning into a cutter from sloop, is that Jim Corenman, who's kindly been trying to help me with my radio problems, had me adjust some Airmail settings - so I'm now transmitting at maximum power recommended - I instantly connected into Brunei and also Manila - previously impossible - excellent news!! I've been reading sections of Jim's excellent 'Primer' - full of useful radio info, although I may have to wait to S. Africa to get anywhere with cutting down

Had AIS alarm go off yesterday night - big ship was headed East towards me & looked as though it might get rather close - we spoke on VHF, agreed to pass 'port to port' & all was fine.

I spent quite a time last night checking over timing of Indian Ocean passages to make sure I could still make S. Africa out of cyclone season - will be tight but looks OK. Lombok looks as though it's for the 'chop'!!

Have continued to organize boat more (put netting/basket up again over table in saloon for fruit) and must now go and chop up eggplant etc for ratatouille - it's so warm, soft vegetables out of fridge won't last much longer so must be cooked.

24hr distance run to midday Monday was ~140 n.ml. and distance to go to Benoa is ~640 n.ml.

Darwin (Australia) to Benoa (Bali) - Days 1&2, Sat/Sun 1/2 Sept07

Left Cullen Bay Marina lock at 0840 to start passage to Bali. Cullen Bay marina was a pleasant place with convenient chandlery, helpful staff and plenty of nightlife with lots of restaurants/cafes around - useful for wi-fi Internet connection also. No.4 bus in to town stops fairly close by. Main drawback was lack of food shops close by.

Despite supposed strong wind warnings, I'm writing this in a glassy calm sea - wind is all of 3knots from SE & I have had the 'iron horse' on since leaving! Only good thing about that is I can play music & switch on lights and fans to my heart's content! I've been busy cleaning brightwork below decks - aft cabin, galley & head are all sparkling and main cabin almost so... with calm conditions continuing, rest of boat should be spotless too, very soon. It always feels rather weird when it's so calm
out here with nothing else in sight - seems to emphasize the emptyness of the ocean.

Radio emailing is causing a problem again - I can't understand why voice transmissions are so good & strong, yet my Airmail program for emailing only transmits at less than half power...annoying since I have spent so much time this year trying to get my radio comms sorted out... yet again! I can, with difficulty, connect in OK to New Sth Wales, but not Brunei which is closer... most odd. I've been told to check for interference but that's not so easy under way solo - I must find a weak stn & then
turn all elecs OFF, check signal strength and one by one turn elecs back on... Got rather worried earlier when my laptop transformer died..... fortunately I found another which had played up previously but so far seems OK - if the transformer goes, that means the laptop is down & really puts an end to emailing both by SSB radio and via InmarsatC (satellite) so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Sat. afternoon, I had an Australian Coastwatch plane swoop low over me - I called them on VHF to ask if they'd seen any other sailing vessel headed for Bali - 'no'!

Had a nice tide pushing us for 6hrs (ebb) when we left, but when it turned we were losing ~1.5kn - made 8.2kn for a time but then it became 5.6kn!

Thought I'd try the pre-cooked lambshank, in sauce, that I got in Cairns, with potatoes & broccoli for dinner - it's very good - definitely to be recommended!

I've changed my ship's time back by half-an-hour from Darwin time (wich is GMT+8.5hr!) which roughly puts me in local time - simpler to be working in complete hours' difference from GMT.

Distance travelled over 24hrs to midday Sunday was 157ml by log (although from GPS positions it was only 144ml - shows effect of current on log reading), with 777 ml to go.

photo: Crocodile resting in Yellow WaterRiver, Kakadu Nat. Pk.

Thursday trip to Kakadu was very good - long day (5.30am - 9.30pm) but worth the effort. Just seeing the countryside we passed through was interesting and it was most impressive at the Ubirr Rock Art site - paintings were on & under rock faces on ancient sandstone 'outliers' (outcrops) close to vast wetland area with lots of different birds, plants & trees. Saw rock wallaby at Ubirr, lots of crocodiles & birds (including an big flock of large brolgas - they 'dance' in courtship) on the Yellow Water River ...and a dingo on way back! Those crocs definitely know they're 'topdogs'!! Weren't slightest bit concerned when our tourboat nudged right up close to them!!
I have been frantically busy with final preparations for leaving Saturday - 1st September - time moves on!! Lots to do but all done (Clearance, refuelling, provisioning, Bali visa, plus ABC radio interview Friday afternoon!)
Have booked 8am lock exit from marina, to catch ebb tide ....

Full eclipse of the moon tonight - fascinating! Lasted for two hours from 7.30pm.

Tuesday 28thAug07

Good news today was that I managed finally to mend water leak from connection below cold water tap in galley - access wasn't too easy & I was worried I wouldn't cope, so I'd been putting it off for some time. Turned out the fitting was cracked but I didn't discover that until I'd undone it & tried to re-make it .. ending up with a broken off fitting, part inside a metal piece & the other fixed firmly on the pipe... I borrowed a ginormous screwdriver from a boater nearby & hammered it inside the broken-off bit which then wasn't too difficult to remove (using vice(?) grips - marvelous invention!!) & then, fortunately, I had a replacement fitting, so after a bit of fret-saw use to remove remaining old bit from pipe and hot air heater to warm pipe end to persuade it to fit over end of new fitting - all ended up fine.... well almost... had to undo & do it all again with loads more PTFE tape because it leaked slightly on first putting together - but all good now... phew!!
Waited around all day for new steering cable to be fixed - nada!! After slightly(!) irate phonecall to firm which removed old one last Friday, have been promised 8am tomorrow... In meantime have cleaned chain and other bits ready for major greasing when new cable fixed in place. Sheave that caused problem is having a new bushing in hope it will stop movement - would be nice if new steering cable lasted longer than last one (Oct05-July07 isn't very long!).
Did some shopping after seeing Customs about Clearance for Friday. Will pick up Indonesian visa and see Customs again Friday morning, then fresh-food provisioning and then I'll go & fill up with duty-free diesel at midday. I'm hoping to do a visit to Kakadu on Thursday before leaving... if I can spare the time!
Cleaned boat during heat of afternoon - was lovely playing with water with the temp well over 30C (sorry to mention that to all those of you suffering bad weather in UK!!) - cockpit was filthy & drains quickly became blocked with gunge so that was an important pre-passage job to have done.
Replaced masthead lights (tricolour & anchor)the other day with LED bulbs - should help cut down power consumption. Was quite funny - I went up, fixed tricolour bulb in place & cursed because I thought red/green/white were facing wrong way... replaced old bulb, started back down mast... & then realized that, of course, I was facing stern of boat when climbing mast steps, not forward,.... so back up, to undo fitting and put in new LED bulb yet again... at least I'd only got part way down!
Lots of little jobs have been done here in Darwin and still some to be done.
Went to Fannie Bay for sunset another day - a very nice anchorage and sailing club venue and felt much more like a cruiser's place, unlike Cullen Bay Marina which is pleasant but very full of holiday-makers & tourists and fishing/tripper boats... not cruisers!
Darwin is clean & pleasant ... and has a few lovely public buildings and park areas but hardly feels historic!
More anon....
Photo shows broken steering cable (now replaced) discovered at anchor on Mt Adolphus Island, nr Cape York, before passage on to Darwin.

Just a nice photo of July dive on Barrier Reef from Cairns - with friendly Maori wrasse!

Couldn't resist showing this photo while I have good Internet access here in Darwin - the fish followed the photographer around like a pet dog...!! And it was just as friendly - I didn't feel the least threatened - I even stroked it!

C. Wessel to Darwin - Sat-Mon 11th-13thAug07 Photo: An overnight deck catch!

Soon after sunset yesterday, we passed 9 mls north of Cape Wessel, marking the end of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The lighthouse was clearly seen, flashing every 4 secs. Hopefully, the swell that has built up may gradually abate as we move into the lee of the chain of islands with C. Wessel at their northernmost point.

Yet again, today started grey & overcast, despite a lovely clear, starry sky around midnight, but it cleared up nicely by mid-morning, becoming a pleasant, sunny day of good enjoyable tradewind sailing. I'd left the genoa poled out overnight, but eventually had to take it down during the morning and we're now broad reaching at around 6-6.5 knots.

More sitting reading in the cockpit, after domestic duties seen to and yet another thoroughly unsuccessful couple of hours spent trying to connect in for weather & emails via the SSB radio - so frustrating! I managed a short connection last evening, long enough to post a 'blog' & see that messages were waiting, but then it gave up... & nothing since. Will try again around sunset today.. I might have also managed to post yesterday's position report with a fleeting connection this morning - but I'm
not sure.

What a beautiful sunrise in a clear, clear sky...! We'd just changed course slightly to round Bramble Rocks - whoever named those must have known the Solent just north of Cowes...!! We're now headed to Cape Croker and will then continue to make regular course adjustments as we come around the Coburg Peninsula & then S between Melville Island & the peninsula towards Darwin, hoping to arrive tomorrow morning.
The wind died in the afternoon & what little there was backed to E & then NE... had to motor to be sure of a good arrival time, but hoping wind will get up later so we can sail overnight. 3 large dolphins came by in the vivid pale blue water (shallow all around here). Nice to see them, as always, but they didn't stay long.
Coburg Peninsula is very flat & low .... can just see it in the distance. Feels very remote here - have seen no sign of other life since leaving the Torres Strait - dolphins & occasional birds apart!
Later: The wind suddenly died more & swung to SSW (all of 3knots!) - dead ahead... so much for sailing! ... but the sunset was lovely (no green flash!).

Overnight & in to Monday:
It's pitch black outside, apart from millions of stars - no lights on either shore each side of this wide but full-of-shoals channel.... utterly dependent on my electronic charting & GPS for course-keeping- feels very uncomfortable.... Even staying awake all night to keep an eye on depth wouldn't help much... if it unexpectedly shoaled suddenly, I wouldn't be at all sure which way to head... Added to which, we're struggling to make 4 knots over the ground under motor - tide of nearly 3 knots against
us! It's going to be a long night...
Later: Actually, things turned out slightly better than I'd thought - there were the occasional lit, channel markers beside or on shoal areas - but they were few & far between and there was such a strong (foul) ebb current & almost no wind....Coming through the long Howard Channel between the Vernon Islands - 7.9kn boatspeed (motoring hard!), 2.4kn over the ground.... tried to go over to opposite side of channel in hope that the current would be less, but while that helped a bit, not much... good
thing the engine & steering are both working fine!! Wind is about 3 kn from astern!!

Well, the strong ebb tide kept up through to dawn but once out of the Howard Channel, its effect was far less. The day dawned sunny and eventually hot - made a nice change!!

I arranged to come in to the outer dock beside the lock gate in to Cullen Bay Marina - the worry here over green mussels means I have to be inspected by a Fisheries diver and liquid poured into various points and left for 14hrs (meaning overnight now) before I can enter the lock for access to the Cullen Bay Marina.

Being a springs ebb tide, the very low water level meant I had a slight problem coming in at about 0830. As I made my final approach towards the high stone breakwater, to a narrow gap between it and a green marker, the depth disappeared to 2m... but my draught is only 2m!! Hurried backing off... followed by a radio call to the lockmaster to confirm whether or not I should try again ... "just how much depth would you expect...?!". I cautiously tried a second, very slow approach (otherwise, I'd
have to drop the anchor & wait until early afternoon for more water), keeping as close as I dared to the stoney bank... depth went down to 3m for a bit... and then I was through.... a few anxious moments there!! I tied up and was lucky that another boat was just about to be inspected and dived on by Fisheries, so they were able to 'do' me at the same time, meaning I'd be able to enter the lock & get into the marina early Tuesday morning(as happened).

I suddenly realized that a radio interview with ABC 'Far North' (Cairns) was due to take place soon after, so I had to quickly rush off, hoping to find the relevant marina office to receive the phone call from the Producer, Juliana Doupe.... Robbie Standaloft was very friendly & accommodating, a 'boat-person' himself, naturally, and the ABC interview about my passage from Cairns to Darwin went well (being broadcast in the Tuesday morning show). An added bonus was that the recently-introduced, extremely
high, 'locking' fee was also waived - a very kind gesture & much appreciated - thank you, Robbie.

I then went in to Darwin city - a very pleasant place with some lovely, very large, old trees in several park areas... I found free Internet access in the beautiful airy Parliament building (!!!) which has a lovely view over the water. I'll stay here in Darwin for a bit while I get various things done over the next week or two (steering cable included!)... with some sightseeing & visiting, maybe.

Thurs9th/Fri10th Aug07 Gulf ofCarpentaria

Sailing well still - each day, it seems the wind backs slightly as morning progresses, to become ESE, so I have to pole out the genoa. It makes quite a speed difference - we went from under 5 knots to well over 6kn. Then, by late evening, wind veers again to SE, enough to have to take the pole down for overnight. Last night, I tried leaving it out, but ended up having to take it down at 11pm - with no moon (actually saw crescent of new moon this morning around sunrise). The current is varying with the tide - and now, around springs, will be the maximum tides. Fortunately, the flood current (W-going) is stronger than the ebb (E-going) presumably because there's an underlying W-going current anyway. So we are helped along more than slowed down as the tides vary over the day. It has been very 'rolly' over the past 2-3 days - the SE swell has built up now to a good 2m every 4-5 secs and is guaranted to knock the boat about quite badly every so often!

Very relaxing now - the grey overcast of this morning has disappeared and been replaced by a blue sky, so there's nice sunshine - but the air feels very cool with the following wind. I'm actually sitting reading books again, in between emails etc. But got very frustrated this morning when I particularly wanted to send an email today (being Friday) - just could not get a radio connection despite trying all possible stations & frequencies over & over, so email still not sent. I think that in the early evening propagation tends to be best, but I haven't previously had quite such a problem connecting in the morning.

From time to time, I'm checking the steering cable & quadrant under the aft bunk (have to move mattress etc, first!) - all seems fine, although cable a bit looser than it should be.

As I write this, around 1.40pm (EST), we've 436 mls to go to Darwin, ETA Mon 13th, hopefully. On arrival, there'll be a delay while strong liquid is poured into drains & left to work for 12 hrs or so before we're permitted to pass through the lock into Cullen Bay Marina area.It's a measure supposed to try to prevent green mussels getting into the inner Darwin waters.

Steering cable nightmare/Torres Strait/Capt Cook's path!

Tues 7thAug07

Was about to leave Adolphus Island & final item to stow was my dive gear - left out since Cairns where I got it serviced. What a good thing I hadn't put it away before..... I spotted a strand of wire on the battery box.. I lifted the underbunk cover further for'd - horror of horrors..... the steering cable was absolutely shredded in area around a sheave- REALLY in a mess & hanging on by just 2 thin threads - lucky it got me this far.
I knew I had spare cable and I'd bought bulldog grips in San Diego, ready for rigging emergencies, but I felt sure I would have trouble cutting through cables (old & new) & also thought I'd need another pair of hands to keep tension on whilst trying to replace the damaged section. I put out a call on VHF, although, to be honest, I didn't really expect any useful reply, since so few boats are around & those that are are usually big ships, not small sailing boats. The pilot of a ship I'd spoken to the day before came up - willing to help but only able to suggest I try to get to Thursday Island for help - a good few hours sail away... Then, to my delight, 'Anitra' came on frequency - they were headed to Thursday Island and would divert to be with me shortly. Great news!! I actually needed more bulldog grips & they had some small spares. I was very lucky they were close by and able to help me.
Geoff was able (with great difficulty!) to use my croppers to cut my spare rigging cable - which we then found was way too stiff AND wouldn't fit into the sheave groove. I already had out some thinner cable (used for hoisting dinghy) so we used that (was JUST long enough & far easier to cut!) and eventually replaced the damaged section, using 4 bulldog grips, with more-or-less the correct cable tension... took quite a time to complete.
By now it was well gone teatime - so I suggested they go back to their boat while I cleared up & stowed everything away ready for the next day's passage & then I'd make them dinner - we had steak and freshly-cooked ratatouille & got to bed rather late!

Wed 8th Aug07

Wasn't up too early this morning!! But I'm now having a good sail on passage to Darwin - passed Capt Cook's stone cairn around 1030 on way past Possession Island - excellent current and good wind meant I was doing around 8knots SOG!! ... I hoped it would continue but after a while I had to let out all reefs - wind was way down on the previous 20-30 knots....

Later: Just exhausted myself!! Got a genoa 'wrap' as I was getting pole organized - took ages of heavy physical effort to persuade it to undo - I need a bit more body weight, I reckon, would have made it easier.... but eventually I undid it & poled the genoa out.

I still can't get over how lucky I was to find my steering cable problem before disaster hit me! That's the second time I've been lucky in that way - last time was last May when I was just about to take off from Pt Townsend for San Francisco offshore. Why has it gone so soon?? Cable wrong type? Too stiff maybe?? Strands woven differently? Rigging, not steering, cable?? Clearly, though, it's not running through the sheave properly.

I've now lost the nice tide advantage: Boatspeed 6kn, SOG 5.4.. We're gradually getting away from the big area of shallows as we sail W from Cape York Peninsula & the islands to the NW of it (Thursday Island, etc)- depth has been down to below 9m but slowly getting deeper.

The couple on 'Anitra', who helped me yesterday, stopped in Escape River - I mentioned that I'd given it a miss having heard about unmarked nets & difficult shallows around the entrance - they agreed - said nets were horrendous (pearl fishing, they seemed to think) - shallows bad also... they'll avoid going back there!! Seemed very concerned about crocs also, both there & at Adolphus Island...

At sunset, as the sun sank, it appeared again below a cloud, so I saw it clearly as it dipped below horizon ..& then, AFTER it disappeared, there was a tiny 'blip' of green - a tiny 'green flash'!! Not a major event, but only the second time I've actually seen a proper 'green flash' rather than the sun turning green as it disappears - which is not a flash at all!

5/6Aug07 Shelburne Bay to Mt Adolphus Island

Sun 5Aug07
Up well before dawn to raise anchor & mains'l ready for passage to 'top of Australia' (NE point is Cape York)! Only 5-6 knots of wind, despite strong wind warnings of 20-25, becoming 25-30 later today.

2pm Finally have fair current - switched over from foul a short while ago - coming up to HW around 4pm so seems must be flooding tide causing good N-bound current (display says 012T, 0.4kn!) So finally managed to cut engine, since there should be no problem now making Mt Adolphus Island anchorage under sail alone before nightfall. Wind still nowhere near the f'cast 25kn - generally been SE 15kn for a time now - a pleasant sunny day, although a 1-1.5m SE swell has built up, making us roll quite a
lot - especially since goosewinged.
Presently 4 miles off Escape River - was going to anchor there tonight but it has a very shallow bar at the entrance, is shallow inside also, reported to have lots of flies - and I'd received warnings of both unmarked fishing nets and crocodiles... Whereas Mt Adolphus Island is supposed to be very pleasant, as well as being an easy-to-enter, good, protected anchorage - worth getting up early for & going the extra distance today!
Trying to track down where a broken rivet has appeared from!.... went part way up mast to have a look around but so far nothing obvious seen up to first spreaders.

Mon 6Aug

Anchored yesterday evening in 6-7m in big W bay on Mt Adolphus Island - beautiful, deserted place. Was in good time to relax & enjoy sunset before cooking. Will rest here over morning & get boat organized for 5-6 day passage to Darwin from Possession Island. Don't think strong wind warnings of up to 30kn have come to anything around here. Expect around SE4-5 (15-20kn) for onward passage - hopefully making for nice sailing.

Later.... well, I decided to stay put! Was intending leaving for Possession Island in the early afternoon to gain some tide advantage.. but as day progressed, got rainier and windier (even got some swell creeping in around SW point nearby, so swell must have built up quite a bit in strong winds outside here)... and I've been getting some useful things done, some of which (like replacing missing telltales on mains'l and windvane & varnishing wooden servo blade on windsteering gear ) I've been meaning
to do for ages. Decided I might just as well continue the good work here, as in anchorage at Possession Island, just under 4 hrs sail away, and go there for a short stop only. Had an excellent sleep last night to compensate for several early mornings, ready for forthcoming 5-6 day passage to Darwin. Will leave for Possession Island tomorrow definitely - feel very much in Capt Cook's path around here - feel sure he must have anchored close to where I am here - & he definitely visited Possession
Island because there's a stone cairn built by his crew on a high point on the island - labelled 'Monument' on my chart!

Sailing (& anchoring!) in middle of nowhere..... Thurs2Aug07

I'm sitting out in the cockpit typing this, watching grey clouds approaching - rain?? Darkness is falling & I'm at anchor in lee of Morris Island - just a low sandy islet, on the edge of a large reef, with two palm trees,lots of bushes and what look to me like lots of agave plants. Tern, pelicans and possibly crabs (holes in sand near water's edge at low water when I arrived here) are the only signs of life. Wind has tended to die down overnight & then get up as the day progresses. Today kept reminding me of the Bahamas - sailing along in relatively shallow, pale blue water, with no land in sight, although today's water was around 15-20m deep whereas in the Bahamas it was often 7-8ft! Most channel depths inside the Gt Barrier Reef seem to be 25m or a lot less. The wind, yet again, has varied in strength a lot over the day, meaning I have had to motorsail a little (when speed drops to less than 3knots!), but mostly I had a nice sail on anything from a beam reach to a run (goosewinged) in SE-E winds. The sky has been clear, so it was nice and sunny, but it feels quite cool in the breeze with air temp of around 26C - maybe I've acclimatized! After leaving last night's anchorage, where there was one other boat, I saw two fishing boats but then nothing all day until just now when I saw a freighter passing by in the distance, headed north. Several boobies flew past, as I left this morning - but generally, there has been a distinct lack of obvious life around - no birds seen until tonight, around this islet. It's certainly not over-populated hereabouts!! And if anything should happen, you'd need to expect to be self-sufficient, although I suspect help would be available eventually on VHF or HF (no mobile phone transceivers here!). I'm checking in each morning, as I did on passage from Vanuatu, at 0800 EST with the 'Sheila' Net on 8161kHz - run by cruisers for cruisers - nice to hear a friendly voice! I'll continue to do so until Darwin and on leaving for Bali from there in mid-August.

Wed 1st August - Lizard Island to Flinders Island

Passed Cape Flattery yesterday on way to Lizard Island!! Home page on my website shows Tatoosh Island with Cape Flattery LH at Pacific end of Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Lizard Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef and was where Capt. Cook spied a way out of the reef in 1770 from what is now named Cook Look(out). Cook Passage is actually quite small and to the SE. A larger pass further north is Two Mile Opening - used by big ships. I saw 3 this morning, turning after entering the area but then saw no other boats all day until I came in to anchor tonight.

Shortly after leaving Lizard Island in the dark, well before 5a.m. this morning, I was puzzled by the relative position of the Pleiades in relation to the 'belt' of Orion- until I realized that Orion was standing on his head...!! There was a lovely, bright, full moon still visible at sunrise - good colour contrast.

As I left, there was excellent wind for a time, but it then died somewhat & turned rather flukey, added to which my change of course put the wind dead astern.... so I was forced to motor-sail for several hours to ensure making my intended anchorage before dark. Not always much choice of path through these reef-ridden waters! In fact, the wind came up this afternoon and I had a short but enjoyable sail around dramatic, gigantic-boulder-strewn Cape Melville, which meant I made a further anchorage
- Flinders Island: lovely scenery, highlighted by a beautiful sunset as I was anchoring. I did 82mls in all, today!

Around midday (high water), I was passing through a vast expanse of seemingly clear water - but there was a big area of reef just below the surface. This is where the Gt Barrier Reef curves around to the NW & comes closer in to land.

At last, today, I benefitted from an excellent amount of favourable current for a change, as I headed N - I wonder if it's the effect of a W-going Equatorial Current, which must pass N of Australia if it's present.

Tomorrow, I'll be up at the more civilised time of 5.30a.m., instead of today's 4 a.m., ready to be well away by 6 a.m., just before sunrise.

Lovely sail today! (31July07)

Tuesday 31 July '07 (10am)

What a great sail I'm having just now!! Perfect beam reach in bright sunshine passing Cooktown off to port several miles away. Doing just over 7 knots with full canvas in ESE 16-18 knots of breeze, although losing a bit to current, so making only 6-6.5 SOG. (There seems to be a fairly constant S-going current so far, losing me a good knot at times.) Makes a nice change from last two days when I had to motor or motor-sail a lot to make the anchorages before nightfall - I'm hoping to make Lizard
Island well before sunset if the wind keeps up. Hopefully, it'll stay up for next two days, before lessening a bit around Friday, according to my grib weather files.

Low Islets, Sunday's anchorage, was interesting and quite busy, being so close to Cairns. As are so many islands & reefs here, it's a Marine Park & is where Steve Irwin was fatally stung by a large stingray not so many years back. I gather he pulled the sting out of his heart which then bled massively - likely he would have died from the sting anyway, even if he hadn't pulled it out - they've got pretty potent stings! No way I was going to get in the water there or anywhere else on my way to Darwin.
If it's not stingrays, it's crocs or sharks or stingers (even out of season, as it's supposed to be now, there are a few of those jellyfish around) - all can be rather terminal! I cooked myself a good meal on arrival well after sunset - prompted by the smell of another boat's 'barbie' as I passed by on my way in to drop the anchor!!

From there, I had to push with the motor, motor-sailing most of the day with only an hour-and-a-half's sailing in peace and quiet just before arrival at Hope Islands. It was low tide and the reef areas were nicely exposed, including a reef joining the two islands - makes it much safer for anchoring when you can see where the reefs are! A float-plane was the only sign of life on the islands and that took off not long after I got there - then I had it to myself. Lovely full moon...

I spent quite a time passage-planning, trying to avoid really long hops between anchorages so I can get a reasonable amount of sleep each night - it's OK to leave in the dark when you've seen the area in daylight on entering, but not so good coming in during darkness, when you not been to a (reef-strewn) place before! I'll have to leave several places really early to be sure of arriving at the next anchorage in safety - preferably without needing to motor too much. I was up at 5.30 a.m. this morning,
to leave by 6 a.m. - well before sunrise hereabouts. (It's winter here, as they keep telling me.... & I'm amazed that I'm feeling it & having to wear fleeces from time to time - despite being in the Tropics!!)