Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Sailing Around Australia; Planning Weather Planning

Bum's Bay  Gold Coast Queensland


Planning for Weather Planning

So our bags are packed our crew are on board, Easy Tiger is full of fuel, water, essentials and  there's enough food on board to feed the Chinese army. We just need the right weather and off we go on the Down Under Go East Rally to New Caledonia and Vanuatu.

We are even techo-ed up after installing an Iridium Go satellite system. This will allow us to send and receive basic emails and sms, make brief phone calls and show our boat’s track in real time.

Most importantly, the Iridium Go allows us to get weather reports from the Predict Wind Offshore app. This will be vital, not only during our trip but while we are in and around New Caledonia and Vanuatu.

Fortunately the set up of the Iridium Go was reasonably straight forward, all seemed to be a bit easy actually until we tried to send and receive emails and messages to each other. It certainly helped to have Brain Oldfield (B2 from SV Zofia) nearby as his assistance was greatly appreciated. I did feel a bit of a dill though when Brian determined that our problem was the spelling of our password.

Talking among the other Rally participants we heard that a lot of them were using a website called Windyty. This is a visual map of wind patterns and forecasts. It uses similar models of weather forecasting to Predict Wind but is a handy quick check, or if you like a second opinion.

In anticipation of the journey, and with the availability of predict wind and Windyty, all the rally participants have become amateur weather forecasters. Each time we see each other we have been swapping possible weather windows, proposing departure dates and discussing the various weather models.

The apprehension is building and the anxiety is high. Mainly because we are all ready to start this magnificent adventure, but also because many crew have flights booked and other things they need to do. This includes our son Luke who is due to fly from Noumea to Florida on the 8th June.  So, if we leave later than the 28th May, we may be faced with finding new crew.

The rally participants are all sent into a frenzy when the word of a possible weather window appears. Two boats have decided that due to their crew’s deadlines, they would brave the amateur weather routes and departed on Sunday of their own accord. We are all watching their track with much interest.

On top of Predict Wind and Windy, part of our fees and also part of our reason for joining the rally is that we get the services of a professional weather router. The weather routing is done by a New Zealand fellow named MET Bob. It is his advice that the Down Under Go East Rally organisers will take to let us know when the best time to head off, is.

As we wait for updates from Metbob, the whispers of a potential departure send all the rally into a whirlwind of last minute preparations. Marina's are booked, fuel is topped up, provisions are purchased in anticipation of Metbob's go ahead. Then we wait. The email pings and  Metbob's advice is... that conditions would be unsuitable in one or another part of the 1000kilometre journey.

Then marina's are left and fuel and food is consumed as we mope around the Gold Coast Seaway anchorages.

After a few days, we all turn our hand to amateur weather forecasting.  Then someone sees what they think is a window and spreads the word…

Windyty Screen Shot

Predict Wind Screen Shot

Monday, 1 May 2017

Sailing around Australia; Deadlines are deadly

Coomera River, Gold Coast Queensland


Deadlines are Deadly

Since we have been on Easy Tiger's Sailing adventures the one big thing we have learnt is that you can't plan the weather. In fact you can barely plan for the weather or, plan because of the weather.

Our son Luke  (DIY Sailing) was planning to sail his boat "Alice" from Cairns to the Gold Coast from where he would join us in the Down Under Go East Rally to the South Pacific. The trouble was though that the rally was planning to leave on the first weather window on or after the 11th May.

He had left it very late , flying in to Australia on the 3rd of April,  just days after cyclone Debbie wreaked havoc on the north east coast of Australia.  After having just a few days to acclimatise himself with the boat, pick up his crew from the airport, get provisions and fit a few handy gadgets, he set off from Cairns without being able to wait for the right weather.

Having a deadline on a sailing boat, I think, is a recipe for disaster. As Luke found out, trying to sail into headwinds and oncoming swell is absolutely no-one's idea of a good time. Once "Alice" rounded the cape she was subject to pretty rough conditions. That was when all the little things that the previous owner, the surveyor and the "advisors" said might need attention came to the fore.

By the time they made it to Dunk Island they were a pretty dishevelled lot on board the Alice. Luke's Facebook post from that day said it all.His "encounters" so far included"; 3x underway engine shutdowns , 2x blocked fuel filters, 1x cracked filter bowl, I x torn headsail , 1x torn luff rope on staysail, 1x toilet door dismantle, 1x tender fuel filter burst, 1x bilge pump blockage, 1x autopilot failure , 1 x wind instrument install failure, 50x rail dips, 7x blinding rain squalls, 20x toilet system backing up, 1x hatch leak into cabin, 1x touching the bottom in sand, 2x paint scratches from a mooring bouy, 1x 30m fishing braid caught in the Wind Generator, ONE MASSIVE SMILE ON MY FACE THE ENTIRE TIME (ok, 60% of the time). She's not always glamourous but learning lots about myself and ALICE that's for sure. Couldn't of done it without @howgoodisliving @bonviiie @laralif and my constant contact from moral support of @leanneludemann and mechanical expertise from @Steveludemann and @rhys_bennett101 constant inspiration from @riley.whitelum @elayna__c @sailing_nandji @sailinguma  #yewwwwww.

Sadly, Luke's "encounters" continued on the next leg of his trip, Dunk to Townsville and Townsville to the Whitsunday Islands. This time his list of encounters included drowning his laptop, go pro and hard drive, springing several leaks and a very sea sick crew member. By the time he got to Airlie Beach unfortunately the realisation that he still had two weeks of smashing into the wind and swell just to get to the Gold Coast temporarily removed his smile as well. A day after he arrived, he rang us with the sad news that the weather and the sea conditions had foiled his plans of joining us on the Go East Rally.

We were very sad to get the news of his decision, but were kind of glad that he had made the right decision to give in to the weather. The upside of that is that Luke has decided to come with us on Easy Tiger for the Down Under Go East Rally.

Our plans are also very weather dependent. The Down Under Go East Rally weather router has been in touch to say that May 11th departure is now looking unlikely. We may not be heading out to New Caledonia until the 16th or so, depending on the weather.

People often ask why it has taken us four years or so to sail from Perth to the Whitsunday's, then back to Brisbane. We reply that it's because we are like Mathew Flinders,  discovering Australia's southern shores. However, it's actually taken this long because we have learnt to wait for the right weather before moving off. 
The Happy Captain
The Mighty SV "Alice"