Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Lakes and our trip around the corner

The Blue Drifter with a pinch of sky...

Just a small section of the Gippsland Lakes

Amazing aeronautical feat me thinks!

In the last post I had mentioned our stopover in Refuge cove. I was thinking to myself what an apt name as it is a true refuge from the ravages of Bass Strait. I had been concerned about how rough the seas of the Strait would be as I am, as most of you are probably aware, a fair weather sailor and take to my bunk feeling green around the gills when the boat starts rolling. All that water funneling through a fairly narrow, relatively shallow Bass Strait gap, in the overall scheme of the big southern ocean quite often means a confused sea. But this, I am pleased to say, has been my best Bass Strait crossing yet.

A few of these public jetties would suit American River!!

Chinamans Creek near Metung

A few days spent around the Lakes was really enjoyable. Jim and Peter, our cruising friends, who are well experienced local sailors, had pointed us in the right direction and after being thoroughly spoiled by them we headed over to Ocean Grange where we tied up to one of the many the public jetties. Had a great chat to a recently married American gentleman living in the beautifully located Grange overlooking the Ocean. Next day we sailed to the small town of Metung and discovered the quiet backwaters of Chinamans Creek where we tied up to another handy public jetty and spent a lazy few hours. The following morning we motored to Lakes Entrance, quite a busy one street town with a great selection of Op shops.

Dawn on Friday saw us with a light wind in a confused sea waiting for the expected change in wind direction and a trough  to pass through.  Thankfully, as the wind gradually built up from the south west the SE swell was knocked down and we had an excellent sail. Ants and Greg saw a Humpback Whale fully amazing sight. Once we had gone past Gabo Island and rounded the corner into New South Wales the winds eased to a light westerly.  This sail included a 24 hour run of 155nms which for coastal sailing is a record for Ants. "Breakfree" does like a good wind on or aft of the beam.

The lookout for Narooma bar

On Saturday we made the decision to make port at Narooma as the Adelaide Crows were playing Hawthorn in the AFL prelim. final and we couldn't concentrate on sailing in those conditions. Unfortunately for all on board we lost....but they put up an admirable fight and it was a close year.

One of the locals!

Greg enjoying Breakfree's outdoor shower

Narooma is a pretty little seaside town on a hill by a bend in the river (sounds like a song?). There is a great fish co-op by the bridge where we treated ourselves to flake & mullet fillets. Greg braved the elements by having an outdoor cold shower down by the beach. Ants went for a cool swim off the back of the boat. We were there on Market day and had great fun rummaging the stalls for fishing lures etc. I got some "happy pants" light weight cotton, quite colourful, trousers which, I think, will be ideal for the Marshall Islands....even though they look a little like pyjamas!

Leaving Narooma we crossed the bar and motored in a sloppy confused sea for the cold front to arrive. We could see the clouds approaching from  the south and finally the southerly buster arrived with gusto at 35 knots. For a few hours we were sailing with only the small staysail at 7 plus knots and a maximum of 9 knots! After 30 hours and 160nm we sailed in past Sydney Heads at 22.00hrs. Greg was particularly impressed with the vista of the lights of Sydney. We anchored quite comfortably on the southern side of the harbour in Rose Bay.

Our thanks go to Brian & Ros for use of their washing machine, the feel of clean salt free sheets is most enjoyable. We also appreciated a lovely Thai meal with them at Randwick, its always great to catch up. Thanks also go to Greg, our departing crew who has jumped ship to fly home to Trudy & the twins on Kangaroo Island. A more able, willing, considerate and good humoured crew we couldn't have wished for. We are hoping to catch up with Kristine & John (Ants's cousin and family) Thursday. Also tomorrow we will be joined by the new crew Brian MacArthur and Kerry Hall for the next leg of our journey.

The forecast for Saturday and a few days beyond is for a mild westerly change so an excellent way to leave Australia for Noumea, possibly an 8 day voyage. We have booked in with Customs for clearance on Friday and than dawn Saturday should see us away.

Oh yeah, even Ants has some trepidation. It is a big trip from here on.
The next time we email/blog may be a couple of weeks from now and it will be from foreign lands!
Salutations, Jane & Ants

Monday, 17 September 2012

According to plan

Amazingly enough it really has all gone according to far

A select group of Strawbridge Pointers wish the Breakfree crew  'Bon Voyage'!

The mirror calm waters of American River on our departure
We left American River pontoon at 9.20 am on a beautiful sunny mirror calm morning. The date, to my amazement, had been selected months previously was 9am on the 10th of September (we had to wait the 20 minutes for a couriered packet). Aboard, joining us as crew for the Sydney leg, is the now proven very able seaman Greg Roberts aka unofficial Commodore of the Strawbridge Pointers. On the pontoon, to very kindly wave us off, were three keen "Pointers" John, Leslie and Robert of American River.

Leading up to our departure we had a couple of incredibly hectic days, enjoying a campfire cheerio with friends, packing up our belongings, deciding what to take, selling our old reliable "Fred the Ford", packing all of the boxes of stuff onto what appeared to be a increasingly smaller boat the list seemed endless.  We must add without the help of family and our Kangaroo Island friends it would have been even more arduous, thanks guys. Incredible as it still seems to us all our bits and pieces did fit on the yacht easily! (its a miracle)

The first sunset of the voyage

Greg one of the Motley Crew....not looking very motley here in the new red jacket!

Our first stop was lovely historic Port Fairy where we enjoyed two nights after the 300 nm passage. With a bit of time to read all the info boards we gained some insight into the early history and the truth about the name change from Belfast to Port Fairy. A birthday dinner for my 52nd at The Star of the West Hotel was enjoyed by all.

Griffith Island, Port Fairy

Breakfree and Skipper at Port Fairy Itinerant berth

One of Port Fairys'  many National Trust houses

OK so Ants has said that the sailors amongst you might be interested in the vital statistics of the weather and winds we have had of the first part of our journey.
Kangaroo Island to Port Fairy:
           *Light winds then increasing northerlies, good fast sailing 20 minutes of rain in the last 20 mins. Altogether 300 nautical miles at 5.5knots average.
Stayed in Port Fairy two nights
Port Fairy to Refuge Cove, Wilsons Promontory:
           * Rough 25-30kts south westerlies, moderating 2nd day and we eventually motored into anchor after 36 hours for 200nms.
Wilsons' Prom to Lakes Entrance:
          * Very gentle 3-10kts aft of the beam with lovely flat seas for 100nms (this is BASS STRAIT!)
 Lakes Entrance to Paynesville/ Raymond Island. 2 hours easy motoring.

Oh I have forgotten to mention the new chap onboard, Tommy, he spends hours on the helm....a thankless task. Tommy is our new autohelmed trim tab that cannot be faulted. The selfsteerer is a trim tab attached to the back of the rudder with a linkage direct to an electric autopilot on top of the tiller....really does work a treat! Tommy can take light winds, heavy winds, motoring and sailing and draws a short ration! He actually hogged the helm and the other crew only had 40 minutes steering in all the passages.


A few photos of the voyage so far for your perusal:

Greg in his new inflatable lifejacket

Griffith Island Lighthouse

Is this White Flag?....found near Refuge cove

Refuge Cove, a truly  magnificent spot

The boys with "Little Fart" at Refuge Cove

One of the joys of cruising is meeting up with like-minded yachty folk. Here we are at Raymond Island, Gippsland Lakes where we have been spoiled by the hospitality of cruising friends Peter, Coralie, Jim & Linda. They have showered, fed, entertained and transported us around this beautiful spot....heartfelt thanks.
Where to now...we have the next few days to appreciate the lakes while we wait for the weather window, gentlemen don't sail to windward do they.... Breakfree can, but does not choose to unless incredibly important.
Keep you posted XX

Monday, 3 September 2012

This is the BIG but ROUGH plan....

Time is truly flying. We have just arrived back from a busy three day Australian Volunteers International (AVI) pre-departure briefing in Melbourne. It was great to meet the other North Pacific volunteers and find we all have similar hopes and a few concerns.  Thanks to AVI changing the assignment start date I am now able to sail all the way with Ants. This will be my biggest/longest sailing voyage ever. Ants, in thirty five years sailing, has never done a leg as long as 1500 nautical miles (2700 km) either.  By the end of the conference we officially knew we had the assignment....phew.

Melbourne was really enjoyable, nice motel, Lygon Streets amazin' selection of Italian restaurants and good weather! When we walked along Lygon Street we were offered from a free glass of wine to a bottle of wine, bruschetta and coffee if we would dine in that particular establishment. We opted for a bottle of wine with a spectacular seafood special, yum. It was fun each morning to walk along the Fitzroy/ Carlton streets and admire the incredible Street Art and the mix of old and new buildings. We had a lovely evening catching up with friends Julie and Royce where we got a great recipe for an alternative choc dessert made with creamed avocado and coco. It may help Ants to survive the two years choc free in the Marshalls.

Lots of farewell dinners with family and friends makes leaving for the Marshall Islands seem more real. Ants's daughter, Kimberley, has been over visiting this week. Also Adelaide friends Kerry and Jenni were over for the weekend and helped scrub and partially anti-foul Breakfrees' bottom....gosh the water was a tad chilly!! (Oz translation: Bloody freezing). Its true that tide and time waits for no man.

Avocados for lunch?
Sailing in the Whitsundays October 2011

So our plan is ROUGHLY to leave Kangaroo Island for Sydney. About 1000 nautical miles
September 10th: KI; possible stops: Robe; Portland; Port Fairy; Lakes Entrance; Eden; Sydney
Crew: Ants; Jane; Greg Roberts

Arriving Sydney September 26th (Greg goes home to Trudy & the twins)
Leaving around 29th:
Sydney; Lord Howe/Elizabeth Reef; New Caledonia possible 8 day leg, about 1100nm
Crew: Ants; Jane; Kerry Hall; Brian McArthur

Arriving New Caledonia/ Noumea October 10th/17th 
onto Vanuatu (about 300nm) where Kerry will abandon ship
Leaving around October 17th for  Majuro, Marshall Islands, the longest leg, about 1500nm non stop!!
Crew: Ants; Jane; Brian Mc.
We will crack open a bottle of bubbly as we cross the equator....or spend weeks stuck in the doldrums!

Proposed arrival date 28th October.......As is apparent this is all very approximate and weather dependent. Also, as is obvious to the mathematically minded, the days don't quite add up....that's sailing for you.

When we leave  home next Monday we will still have both mobile phones and internet so communication through text and email is probably the best. Also excuse the occasional grammatical/spelling errors cuz this is a very casual blog. Chat soon. Jane & Ants XX

P.S. Ants helped to edit this post