Thursday, 26 February 2015

Sailing around Australia; Altered State.

Portland Victoria

28/2/2015  Altered State

The last couple of legs (or stages) of our sailing around Australia adventure have required us to do long hours at the helm of Easy Tiger.

Kangaroo Island to Robe was 27 hours and the leg we have just completed, Robe to Portland was 30 hours of nonstop motoring, with the odd bit of sailing thrown in.

 Being awake so long, can put ones mind into an altered state.

Fatigue becomes a real issue on these long journeys. It’s not like you can pull over and have time out. Although I do recall that the Zofian’s deployed their para-anchor and had a time out while crossing the Great Australian Bight.

I have also heard stories of someone so fatigued that he thought there were lawnmowers floating in the water. One night, when I was long distance truck driving, I was counting big steel framed electricity poles to keep myself amused. I was quite shocked to find there were actually none there on my return trip during the daylight.

To try and combat fatigue, Leanne and I try to keep a rotation of three to four hours on “watch” each. Being on watch involves keeping Easy Tiger on course, keeping an eye out for obstacles such as crayfish pot ropes and floats, reefs and their markers and of course ships. Also, we must watch the wind and sails in case conditions change, record our position every hour and make sure we monitor the engines.

While off watch, we an sleep for a few hours if conditions are calm. If conditions are a bit choppy, it can be like trying to sleep in the middle of a bouncy castle during a four year olds birthday party.

I have also tried reading, or working on the computer during my time off watch with moderate success. Typing my latest blog topic or catching up with news passes the time well, but I can only do that for an hour or so before I risk motion sickness.

Leanne passes her time during the day fishing when she is not on watch. This trip she caught 8 Barracouta. Shame that they are not good eating and are often full of parasitical worms.

The night passages are far worse for fatigue. Also there is little you can do in terms of keeping an eye out for crayfish pot ropes or even unmarked reefs when it is pitch black. All you have got to do is keep looking out into the black. Occasionally we do see a light, grateful for a sign of life, until we realize it may be a cargo ship bearing down on us.

Everything seems to slow down as fatigue creeps in. Unfortunately, staring at the sat- nav in a trance like state does not make time pass any faster.

Last night, we had to contend with plowing into a strong current, which slowed the boat down by a knot. That meant after ten hours of darkness, we were ten nautical miles behind our trip plan and that added another 2 hours to our journey.

The long trips are really tough but when you pull into delightful places like Robe and now Portland, it does seem to be worth it. We just have to stay long enough in each place to get over the fatigue and re-boot our minds.

Overnight, we have altered a geographical state as well. We have finally left South Australia and are now in Portland Victoria.  I must say that we have really enjoyed cruising around South Australia’s coast. From Streaky, Sceales and Coffin bays, to Port Lincoln and Robe these uncluttered anchorages and marina’s are well worth the visit.

We found the facilities and staff at Marina Adelaide were top notch and I think that the economical rates and location of Crown Marina were a real bonus.

Definitely South Australia’s coast is well worth a few bouts of serious fatigue to get to. Oh and if you do happen to see a few lawnmowers or electricity poles along the way, what the heck, that state of mind doesn't last... I hope.

This shot taken from the foreshore walk at Robe South Australia

Barracouta.  Easy to catch but crap to eat... shame cos we caught 8 of 'em.

Our updated map/track.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Sailing around Australia; Bloody Tuna

25/2/2015  Bloody Tuna!

Anyone who knows Leanne, knows that things can get a bit crazy on board Easy Tiger when a fish is caught. For 99 percent of our sailing around Australia adventure, Leanne has had a fishing line or two trailing behind the boat and in Western Australia, did quite well. She caught at least half a dozen Tuna, a couple of Mackerel and not to be outdone I had reeled in a good sized Pike.

South Australia has been a bit quieter, so we had packed most of the fish “processing” tools like the gaff hook for example, away. Leanne has still trawled right down the west coast and Port Lincoln to Adelaide with no success.

When we left Adelaide a couple of weeks ago, Ian and Sue Sully came with us to Kangaroo Island. Ian brought a para vane trawling line that proved it’s worth once the water got a bit shallower. He caught 2 Snook in about 12 metres of water.

This fired up the fishing manager aboard Easy Tiger. Ian very kindly donated the line to Leanne, and she used it on the way from Kangaroo Island to Robe last week. Again two Snook were caught in pretty much the same spot.

On the way out of American River on Kangaroo Island, sailing conditions became very close to perfect for Easy Tiger and we managed to get along at 8 to 9 knots. The water got quite a lot deeper so the para vane was packed away for another day.

We passed the Penneshaw hotel and then the ferry terminal, then turned southeast at Snapper point. We hurtled past Antechamber bay making excellent time with the wind behind us as predicted.

When we logged on with the American River VMR, Carol  connected us with another boat called Sapphire with Richard, Isabelle and their kids Robbie and Rebecca aboard. We could just see their sail on the horizon in front of us. They were also making their way to Robe.

As midday approached the wind softened and it was back to one motor chugging away. This did slow us to about 5.5knots, so Leanne got out the trawling rod, attached a new lure and let a hundred or so metres out.

Everything progressed well as we motored our way southeast towards our destination of Robe.

We did a shift change, with Leanne going off watch and me taking over at around 5.30pm. It was a beautiful warm day, by this time there was no wind to speak of and the sea surface resembled glass. Leanne decided to have a shower and a clean up on the back deck, preparing for sailing overnight.

After Leanne, I did the same, showering and change of clothes into clean, warmer clothes.

I had just taken the helm, when ZZZZ. The trawling line began unreeling at a rapid rate. The rod was bending indication that something quite heavy and strong had taken the lure.

That was when Leanne, who is still recovering from dengue fever, grabbed the rod, stiffened the drag and started winding. All the while urgently shouting, “YES, YES, YES”.

Being as good hearted and natured as I am, I offered to do the heavy lifting for Leanne and bring the fish in. “No way”, she shouted, “I know your rule”. She had a point. My rule is simply that whoever winds the fish in…caught the fish.

To assist the winding in of the fish, I stopped the boat.

After half an hour or so of winding a little, give a little, Leanne had the fish close enough to see that it was a Tuna. A big Tuna.

I did a brief search for the gaff hook without success. I did an even briefer search for the gloves. The only alternative I could manage was wrapping some thick rag around my hand then grabbed the line and hauled the fish aboard.

Leanne has previously used an old shower curtain to “process” the fish she has caught. This keeps the mess contained and off our unsealed cork deck. So the big Tuna was slid on to the shower curtain that was folded in half.

“Now what?” I said. “this may be a bit big for us”. I was looking down on a 750mm long 20kg Tuna. Leanne, had already dashed to get her fillet knife and other “processing” tools. “Gotta bleed it” she said “otherwise we will have wasted it’s life”. Without further ado, she stabbed the big Tuna behind the pectoral fin.

The big Tuna, obviously still alive, objected to being stabbed by flapping violently around. Leanne had severed an artery in the big fish and it did the required trick, meaning it started bleeding. Heavily.

Combine a fish leaking about three litres of blood, have it thrashing around on your cork boat deck and then start sawing it’s head off, result; an unholy mess.

Leanne was now going through her ritual of apologizing to the fish as she was hacking it’s head off. I could now see fish blood now spattered on the roof, on the seat cushions and trickling down into the engine bay. Thinking that we had better get it off before it stained, I got the bucket and filled it with seawater. Then I started dousing the back deck. Unfortunately Leanne was in the way when I flung the fourth bucket of water, splashing cold sea water mixed with fish blood over her.

The fish’s head was now completely off and it’s internal organs had spilled, on to the cork deck. “Oh no”, I said. “We haven’t taken a photo!” This is usually part of Leanne’s fish catching ritual. To achieve a proper photo, I stuffed the organs back inside the fish and pushed the head back in place.  I held it there while Leanne snapped a couple of photo’s for her facebook page, then we swapped and I took a photo.

I continued the bucket sloshing of the entire rear of the boat, while Leanne continued to hack away at the big Tuna. We cast the head and internal organs into the sea towards a waiting bird. From nowhere, one bird instantly turned into 100 birds. Their eyesight and ability to spot a feed form several miles away, must be amazing.

Leanne transferred the fish into the galley. Unfortunately it obviously hadn’t been bled out, as witnessed by the trail of mess from the back deck into the galley. The bloody mess now occupied the entire bench on one side of the galley. “Where are we going to put all this?” I asked, remembering that our fridges and freezer were all full. We had restocked and provisioned for four weeks while we were in Adelaide.

Looking at the big pile of  bloody fish that was accumulating as Leanne hacked away at it, was quite unappealing to say the least. Finally she agreed that we could keep the less blood filled pieces she was trying to extract, the rest would have to go back where it came from.

The birds were very happy to receive pieces of fish tossed to them. The bigger pieces quickly sank. I hate to think what gobbled them up.

After an hour of cleaning up what we thought was the rest of the mess, we re-showered and changed into another set of clothes, then got under way.

Next morning we arrived in the delightful town of Robe. There was a gaggle of people on the jetty to catch our ropes and welcome us, which was nice.

As we tied on I noticed the the red streaks of dried blood on the back of the boat.  I hoped our greeters hadn't seen them. They didn’t say anything, but then you wouldn’t would you? If they did I wonder if they would have accepted our explanation of the bloody tuna fiasco.

Leanne and her prized catch.

Yes! I am holding the head in place for the photo opportunity.
Inside for the "processing". Let the mess begin!!!
The main beneficiaries of our lack of knowledge as to how to process a bloody Tuna!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Sailing around Australia; Whether it's the weather

21/2/2015  Whether it’s the Weather

After spending a week at American River on Kangaroo Island it was time to start thinking about the next leg of our sailing adventures aboard Easy Tiger. Deciding whether it was the right weather to go was a critical decision.

Picking the right weather for each stage has been the most important part of our sailing around Australia adventure. Mostly we get it right which means that conditions are in our favour and we have a comfortable, safe ride. But, sometimes we get it wrong and that spoils everyone’s day.

To find the weather forecast that is the most accurate and localized for the area we want to sail in can be overwhelming. There are dozens of weather forecasting web sites including Willy weather, Seabreeze, Bouy weather,  Accuweather and even one called "Skippysky", to name a few.

To be better at picking the weather we have made a list of the forecast conditions that we are prepared set sail in.

First on the list is that the forecast predicts no more than 20 knots of wind.  As it says on the weather bureau's (BOM) site, wind can be up to 40 percent stronger than the average forecast. That means that 20 knots could easily be gusts of 28knots or more. Winds that strong could make it a wild ride.

The next piece of our criteria is that we want no wind in the direction we are headed. So if we want to go southeast and the forecast mentions winds from the south east, we stay put.

Seas and swell are the next parameter. 3 metres is enough to cope with. Again, the BOM site says that as their forecast is an average, actual swell heights could also be 40% higher than forecast. That means a 3metre forecast could easily be 5 metre seas.  That would raise the heart rate!

Our study of the weather  starts with a quick look at the coastal waters forecast  for both our departure point and our destination. We find this by logging on the Bureau of Meteorology’s home page and using the  clickable map. This gives a basic weather forecast for a reasonably local area. The basic forecast will give wind, seas and swell conditions forecast for the next three days.  It’s quick and easy to use.  It is updated twice daily. We simply compare it with our checklist, if our conditions aren’t met we have another day to do other things.

If the local coastal waters forecast seem to meet our criteria for both our departure point and our destination we will then “dig a bit further” by scrolling down on the BOM site to “Meteye”.

Meteye gives both wind and swell / seas forecast for the local areas via another "click on" map. This can be time forwarded in three hourly increments to give weather forecasts up to seven days ahead for the nearest weather station to the planned route. If Meteye shows favourable conditions as well, we then log on to “Bouy Weather”.

The Bouy Weather website premium subscriber's version offers a seven day basic forecast from the closest weather station to the point you click on. Unfortunately Bouy weather only reports for the morning and afternoon for each day. What you will see is a green flag for ideal conditions, yellow flag for not such ideal conditions or red flags for dangerous conditions. Each flag is accompanied by a short forecast giving wind direction and speed. 

For a more detailed cross reference or double check, we will also log on to the Predict Wind site. We started out subscribing to Predict Wind as they have a nifty satellite communicator that allows us to get their weather forecasts anywhere any time. Plus, their satellite communicator allows us to send basic emails anywhere anytime.

The Predict Wind premium service  has a weather router tool included, which allows one to type in parameters such as boat performance in certain wind types (boat polar), the destination and the preferred date and time of departure.  The Predict Wind weather router will then display a plotted course with three other alternative departure times and the various courses for you to choose from. By clicking on any part of the plotted course on display, you can see what the wind conditions are forecast to be at any point of that route, along with the swell and your predicted boat speed at that time.

For inexperienced sailors like myself, becoming a student of the weather has been a real learning curve.  Whether it is the right weather to be leaving safe haven and tackling the next leg of our sailing adventure is without doubt the most important decision we make on Easy Tiger.

At American River wiring for a lull in the south easterlies, so that we could go south east to Robe.
Sailed past the Penneshaw hotel where we had a nice lunch a few days before
Total glass out. Even the birds enjoyed the calm conditions, and the offcuts of tuna we fed them.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Sailing Around Australia; Hopping to Kangaroo Island

American River, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

16/02/2015 – Hopping to Kangaroo Island

Our arrival back on board Easy Tiger after six months of working, holidaying and visiting family was exhilarating, exciting and frightening all in one.

We were exhilarated to be back after a series of delays, including Leanne fighting off Dengue fever and an airplane with a broken door.

While we were away our friends and prospective catamaran owners Ian and Susan had been keeping an eye on Easy Tiger for us. They had found the art of sundowners (drinks on board at sundown) to be quite to their liking and had come to chat with many other boaties in the marina. We offered and they accepted to come with us on the hop to Kangaroo Island.

It was so exciting to be now back into our sailing adventure. We had to immediately get back into the routine of being in “sailing” mode. Twice daily we check the weather, looking for winds to be mostly behind us and between 10 and 20 knots.

The weather gods smiled on us, presenting favourable conditions for a couple of days, at the end of the first week we were back, which would suit our hop.

Now the fright stepped in. As we hadn’t done any sailing for the past twelve months we were not quite sure of how we would fare. We used to have a good system between each other, but after so long everything including teamwork gets rusty.

Our nervous excitement energy was put to good use we planning our hop. It is a touch over 70nautical miles from North Haven Marina to American river. We normally allow a cruising speed minimum of 5 knots. That is by the time we allow for no wind, against some current one of our Yanmar engines at ¾ throttle will push us along at 5 knots. This meant that the hop to Kangaroo Island would take us around 14hours or so.

The next step we try to take is to plan to arrive in daylight and on a high tide. With these factors taken into account we planned to “throw the ropes” and depart at 3.00am.

Then it is off to the shops for provisioning. As we don’t know how long we are going to be in a given place, we normally provision for three or four weeks at a time.

Also, we prefer to stay in the best protected anchorages. This does not usually equate to having services or stores easily accessible. Plus we have no idea as to when the weather will be right to move on.

Our departure day came in a blur. As planned we did cast off at 3.00am and slipped quietly out of the marina.  Past the rock walls and out into a glassy ocean we motored.

I sat looked at the lights of Adelaide sliding by for the next few hours. Planes appeared, first as stars, then bright flashing lights until they landed and melded into the myriad of twinkling colours.

There was only the deep throbbing of the port motor, punctuated by the odd dolphin puffing as they broke the surface nearby. The serenity is what I will always remember of our cruising sailing adventures.

Dawn brought with it the predicted wind. We deployed the main sail and the multi purpose sail made for these light conditions.We  were able to kill the engine, making our planned speed easily under sail. Well, for 2 hours anyway.

Southwest rain squalls that were not predicted set in.  A quick sail change from the multi purpose to headsail was done albeit by a rusty and novice like skipper.

As we crossed Investigator Strait, the wind came up to 25knots from the south west, but Easy Tiger galloped along at 7 knots with just her head sail in use. We had one motor going just to help against sideways drift.

Once we were inside the Eastern Cove at Kangaroo Island, Ian produced a Blue vein trolling line. He had 2 fair sized Snook on board in quick succession. Great for us, not so good for him as he is allergic to seafood!

Arriving in American River at Kangaroo Island right on our planned ETA also reminded us of why even cruising sailing is an adventure. Winds and conditions were certainly different to the forecast of all three services we use. We also reminded ourselves that having a routine is so important as are checklists to ensure each eventuality is at least considered.

Very quickly after our arrival and attachment to a swing mooring, we had the crab pots in the water and caught some good sized sand crabs for dinner.

We found that the inhabitants of Kangaroo Island must be from a long line of sheep farmers, because  we were “fleeced” the next day by the car hire place. $154 per day for a hire car! Plus they only give you 100klms. Any more than that and it’s 28 cents a kilometer if you don’t mind. That might seem alright until you work out that it is 50klms just to get back to the boat. We are used to hiring bubble cars for about $30 a day unlimited k's.

We ended up doing 240klms. We went to the honey farm, the Eucalyptus farm had coffee and a look another anchorage in Kingscote, then lunch in Penneshaw and out for a look at Antechamber bay.

Ian and Susie caught the ferry back to the mainland and reality the next morning.

Leanne and I are now sitting on the boat smiling at each other. Yes this is why we bought the boat. This is why we worked hard and went without a lot of “stuff”.

We are back! Let the adventures begin.

Spot the 2 male penguins!

2 bees and one not 2 bee.

Leanne and future catamaran owners Ian and Sue