Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Sailing Around Australia; Nature Where the bloody hell are you?

1/01/2014 =  Nature’s wonders, where the bloody hell are you?

I thought that our sailing around Australia adventure would be filled with examples of getting up close with mother nature’s sea life. Leanne had great visions of us living off the land, catching and eating the fish we caught each day and generally living a Swiss Family Robinson type natural lifestyle on board.  

On our local trips like Mandurah to Becher point or Rottnest Island we would usually be accompanied by up to a dozen dolphins who would play and frolic just off our bows or show us all manner of tricks off the stern as we sailed along. One of their favourite things to do is to swim along upside down under the bows. It seemed as if they were as interested in watching us as we were in them.

On another occasion, we were sailing between Bunbury and Busselton, with friends Noel and Sue, April and Wayne on board. It was a beautiful day. One of those where the sea was as flat as a carpeted floor and there was just a faint breeze. After spotting a disturbance in the water about 200 metres from our bow we changed direction towards the bubbling water.

To our delight, we found a group of five or so Whales. They seemed to be resting or sunbaking, or perhaps getting to know each other as they lazed about on the surface of the water.

Amid cry’s of wow and ooh, I was given instructions to steer here or there, go over there and get closer. But having just seen the front end of the whale well off the bow, and the rear of the whale well off our stern, I decided that I would very casually, but quickly move away from the wild animal that was bigger than a bus, and obviously far bigger than our boat.

Since we left Mandurah Marina on the 6th November, and accompanied by the usual dolphin escort until Dawesville, we have not really seen any sign of sea life. We have rounded Capes (including Naturaliste, Leeuwin, Vancouver and even Cape Knob ) sailed into numerous bays (Koombanna, Hamelin, Two peoples, Cheyne and Peaceful Bays) and harbours including (Windy, Princess Royal, Oyster and several Boat or little Boat harbours). But we are yet to see any whales, dolphins, seals or even sea birds of any note. Fortunately too, we have swum several times in the beautiful clear water of these places and are yet to see hide nor hair of the sharks that we were told litter the waters.

At several of the places we have visited we have been teased by the Whale watching, Diving adventure and fishing charter boats that occupy the available moorings. So obviously nature is out there somewhere.

In fact I think our only brush with real nature was here in Dillon Bay. Just snuggled up after a rough day sailing, we were visited by a hundred of the local inhabitants. Mozzies!
So we took to them like any roman invaders would. We murdered as many of them as we could see. Leanne yelling “HI YAA” as she slapped at them like a true Bruce Lee Kung FU warrior. Before long she had wiped out the whole welcome party battalion, single handedly.  Post battle, as calm was restored all that was left was the blood spots on the white walls of our bedroom cabin and our sheets littered with parts of flattened mosquitoes. Another big job for the Ajax spray and wipe.

Leanne has only had a small success in the fishing side of things. A couple of whiting that were only just legal size has been her contribution to our Swiss Family Robinson adventure thus far. Perhaps ours is to be more of a Gilligans Island style adventure. I am sure that B2 can do a pretty good Thurston Howell the 3rd impression and B1 is a dead ringer for the professor. Only problem with that is I am left with the role of Gilligan! ??

B2 has scooped the pool this week. He has managed to be carry over champion of the awesome award. He caught 7 good sized whiting which Eva the wonder chef has turned into breakfast for us all.

We will be looking forward to keeping an eye out on our journey onwards to Esperance in the next week.  Hopefully we will see some form of sea life out there.

So, come on nature’s wonders, where the bloody hell are you.

Getting away from it all at a nice remote, secluded beach...not!
Dillon Bay new years day.

two peoples bay picture gallery

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sailing Around Australia; The Good The Bad and The Ugly

Dillon Bay, Western Australia

30/12/2013 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The last two days of our sailing around Australia adventure have produced many facets of the weather, our boat and our selves.

It was decided that we would tear ourselves away from Two Peoples Bay on Sunday. We had originally planned to leave Monday but B2 and Eva wanted to go before the swell increased as was predicted. B2 had himself a bit worked up as to how to tell us this change to the agreed plan, not wanting to change our minds into something we hadn’t planned. But it was all agreed easily and for his worry we awarded him this weeks awesome award.

The awesome award has been instituted among us for anyone doing something really awesome (or stupid). B1 was the inaugural winner after conjuring a flight in B5’s light airplane. I was unfortunately the 2nd winner for having to do my first ever 3.5 metre dive to untangle our anchor on Christmas Day.

The awesome award winner has the delight of having to wear the black and white checkered “awesome” hat, any and every time the 3 couples are together. (see the meercat photo in a previous blog). Also they must wear the coveted Green jacket. Not quite the golfers version. This one may be, how do I put it, a little ugly. Lime green and hand sewn with swirls and other unfashionable embroidery in Hong Kong, it will look a treat at the Bremer Bay tavern’s public bar.

So it was good that Brian (B2) was worried about how we would feel about him wanting to change our plans, bad that he should know us all better by now and now he gets to wear the ugly jacket and hat.

When we left Two Peoples bay the weather was good. The wind stayed away on a narrow passage through Bald Island (see photo below)and came good enough in the afternoon for us to be making 9.5 knots at one time.

Unfortunately, our cruising guidebook had said that Groper’s Bluff was a good anchorage. I say unfortunately because on this particular day it was a bad anchorage. It had a steady swell that rolled the boats over then back, over then back. Within minutes of being securely anchored Leanne had begun to feel sea sick. There was no way really that Zofia, the monohull, could have stayed there.

They went on a bit further to the next anchorage listed in the book to find it a little bit better than where we were. After they radioed to us that it was better, we headed off to join them. That’s when things turned ugly for us.

When we are anchoring or have someone on the front deck, we use FM headsets to talk to the person at the back of the boat. These are marriage savers. Instead of just yelling at each other we can now abuse each other quite calmly and effortlessly. Except for yesterday when all I had in my headset was screaming, whining feedback, and I don't mean from Leanne.

We were trying to set the anchor about 30 metres from a rocky shore in about 15 knots of wind. Also it is quite a small anchorage so the other 2 boats, including Urchin who were trying to anchor at the same time, were in very close proximity behind us.

Coupled to this was the anchor winch that was constantly jamming. When this happens someone has to run down inside the boat and re set the circuit breaker, while the boat is held in position so that we don’t run over the anchor chain or get it tangled in the propellers or some other similar disaster falls upon us.

All team work and routine was thrown out the window as we had four or five attempts at getting the anchor set. We resorted back to old style communication of instructions, information and insults shouted back and forth whether the other heard us or not.

Fun stuff. Finally we got it set. Leanne retreated to the back of the boat to do some fishing and I sat in silence inside the cabin feeling shattered after an ugly end to the day.

This morning, was a brand new day. After an impeccable anchor retrieval routine, Easy Tiger was off in search of the next adventure. Didn’t have to wait long. As we rounded the headland the wind hit us in the face at about 15 knots straight on. Ugly. The seas and swell combined to form the washing machine effect, with spin cycle added for good effect. Really Ugly.

After 6 hours of ugly crashing and bashing through waves, just when we thought we really had had enough punishment, we came into Dillon bay. A delightful calm little bay with families and kids playing on the beach, bright white sand dotted with some rocky outcrops and clear turquoise water.

What a good place to be for a few days.

Narrow passage between Bald Island and the mainland after leaving Two Peoples Nay

Sailing Around Australia; Its all about the technology.

29/ 12 /2013 Sailing Around Australia; Technology

We are anchored in Two Peoples Bay, some 20 odd nautical miles from Albany.

While it is absolute paradise here. Our battle with technology has left me feeling
a bit isolated. Isolated, just 20 nautical miles from the “city” of Albany with a
population of some 20,000, can you imagine that?

Perhaps it was the fact that we were unable to get enough mobile phone
reception to make calls to our loved ones. Or is it because we really have been
taking the technology we have for granted. I mean boxing day would normally be
spent glued to the telly, watching the Melbourne test match cricket, with live
crosses to the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. But no, no signal so I had
to go without. I had to actually start manually reading a book.

On board we have a Raymarine Chart Plotter that informs us of our current GPS
position, it also has a 24 nautical mile radar, so we can see what’s around us, it
has all the charts or maps of Australia. New Zealand and Indonesia at least, it has
AIS which alerts us to other ships and boats in our area, what their names are
and their course and speed as well.

As back to that system, we have two ipads. One has an app called Navionics
which shows us a map, with google earth on the chart. This shows us not only
where we are but also what the area looks like from up above. This also shows us
where we are (position), Which course we are travelling in (heading) where we
have been (our Track) and also where we are going to (our route). The other
Ipad has an anchor watch alarm. That alerts us if our anchor is changing position
at all, in which case we may not be held fast in position and could drift on to the
beach or rocks etc…

Then we have a predict wind satellite receiver which will plot out track (as you
see at the top of this blog), allow us to receive weather reports and forecasts and
send basic emails from anywhere at anytime.

As back up to all that, we have a garmin hand held GPS, the boat has a emergency
position indicator beacon (EPIRB) and we each have personal EPIRBS and our
liferaft also has an EPIRB which will direct our position and information to a
rescue service in Canberra when activated.

We also each have our Iphone and a mac book laptop computer that we use
almost hourly it seems.

So while we saw all this as necessary, it is interesting to see the blank looks and
the restlessness that sets in to our sailing group when reception is unavailable.

I think about those pioneering folks who set off maybe 5 years ago when there
wasn’t much of this technology available and reception was far more sporadic. I
wonder what they did with their time if it wasn’t spent blogging, facebooking,
texting and instagramming.

On approach to Dillon Bay this morning I asked Eva on board Zofia, who was well in front of us what the anchorage was like. She replied that there were cars and people on the beach  and the best bit was there are five bars. No sooner did they hear that, the Urchin crew started ordering drinks all round. Eva exasperatingly added that there were not alcoholic bars but 5 bars of phone reception. Not sure which we would have preferred at that point.

It reminds me of a Californian guy called John. We met John in Port Denison on
our trip to the Abrohlis Islands.

John and his girlfriend had sailed to Western Australia on a very small old yacht
from California. The boat looked like a pint sized people smuggling boat. Not
flash at all. Most interesting was that they had no electricity on board. No Fridge.
No technology to speak of at all, except a small hand held GPS. Amazing!

So we are about to head off on the next leg of our sailing around Australia epic
adventure. I must finish my blog and upload while there is a small spec of
reception. Then I will spend the rest of the day making sure all the technology
and the back ups, plus all the other batteries are charged by our high tech solar

After that I think I will fire up my laptop and watch a movie, or maybe listen to a
talking book, because I find holding the book open while I am reading quite
tiring. What good is the technology if we don't use it.

You have to see the Meercat video on You Tube to understand... apparently.