late 2012


We must live until we die.

Ok. That being established, shall our sea be gloomy and full of glumfish or shall it be jolly and full of joyfish? Glad and full of gayfish or sorry and full of sadfish?

I reckon it's a question of temperament and inclination more than circumstances, but there's a long graduated scale between cheery and dour and it can be tricky working out where people are at along that winding way.

Or sometimes it can be glaringly and loudly clear.

This is a preamble to describing an unpleasant situation I was in after arriving in Sydney.

The run down to Sydney was great.

Tina had gone home to plant the tomatoes and I had the pleasure of the company of Peter and Ruth, far more experienced sailors than I and well used to passage sailing, which Tina and I had only done a little of.

Peter and Ruth, best sailing companions imaginable.

Two and a bit days from Southport to Sydney. 400 miles in 53 hours. Obvious as it may seem, the result of travelling continuously, that a lot of miles are covered, seems extraordinary when it's a new experience. We motored into a light headwind for most of the first day and then the wind swung around a bit and started to help us, so we could turn one motor off, but the expected south flowing current was perversely playing back eddy games and didn't see sense and start helping us until we got down to Coffs. Then we had a glorious spinnaker run for the second day. By evening it was blowing up to 22 knots which we fixed by dousing the spinnaker, causing an immediate 50% reduction in wind strength, not enough move us at acceptable speed by mainsail alone, so on came a motor for a while. Later the breeze came just right to sail slowly through the night, giving the person on watch plenty of time to dodge all the shipping, a task made easy by constant consultation with the AIS and radar oracles, and allowing the persons not on watch a restful sleep.

After sunrise we put the spinnaker up again for the last run into Sydney. We'd gone quite a ways offshore over the shelf where the depth jumps down from around 100 meters to 2000, where it was easier for the current to help us with 2 to 3 knots. So there wasn't much sightseeing, no land to see until the forms of Pittwater and Sydney Heads appeared slowly out of a thick haze. It was easy to imagine it being a landfall at a new continent after a long ocean crossing. And pleasant to have that experience without the pain of bashing through storms. Fairweather sailing is highly recommended.

We anchored in Blackwattle Bay near the Sydney Fish Market, a designated anchorage for itinerant sailors. It's a bit clogged up with permanent liveaboards and space is very tight, but I squeezed into a space which seemed safe enough, if a bit close in front of a ratty little tub which looked more like a cheap accommodation than a vessel capable of sailing anywhere.

After Peter and Ruth had taken their leave with my fond thanks for being such good company on our passage the occupant of the ratty tub returned and commenced to deliver to me a loud, tightly packed and unremitting stream of invective, abuse and threats. I was all sorts of variously abused anatomy, poxes and plagues should rain upon me, and how dare I park my richly adjectival boat, which he promised to damage as soon as I wasn't looking, in his personal space. Of public anchorage. He must have had the biggest lungs of any man in the history of humankind because he didn't pause for breath in about ten minutes. The tirade was rich and lush, driven by deep and impressive resources of anger and rage. I was hoping for a pause that I might tease out some of the finer points of his argument and actually apologize for being too close while trying to reassure him of how well I had set my anchor and how confident I was of it. But it became clear that I wouldn't get a word in before Christmas and the only options I had were to escalate the violence from verbal to physical and subdue him with superior force, or withdraw. Deep in my hitherto gentle soul stirred a warm feeling for the first option but the truth is that I was in the wrong in that sailing etiquette has it that the latest arrival in an anchorage requires the pleasure of those present in where they may sit. So I withdrew to Rozelle Bay around the corner. Cranky guts had done me a favour really, once I had subdued the urge to murder and conquer him, because Rozelle has a quieter and more pleasant aspect and is more sparsely populated with boats who are all genuine cruisers.

So here I sit waiting for a weather window. Rozelle Bay adjoins the Glebe Federal and Jubilee Parks, affording me nice places to walk and wander. The parks are very doggy, with Glebe's best behaved woofers dashing about chasing balls and so forth.     Because they get to dash about they are well behaved. The ones who stay home and don't dash anywhere go bad. There are also Tai Chi schools, synchronized, orderly and very well behaved. There are walkers, runners and plenty of people working hard on obtaining more fashionable physiologies, often under the direction of trainers, personal and in groups. Of all these the ones sweating up and down and round and round under direction look the least happy, the Tai Chi pupils look blank but graceful and the happiest of all are the dogs.

The weather oracles are suggesting there'll be a short window in a few days which should get us down to Eden. Russell and Colin are coming over and we'll have a go.


Rozelle Bay, Sydney.                6 November    --------------------------------------------------------


It was a bit bouncy coming out of Sydney and Colin and I both felt a bit oomy. So we took drugs. Stugeron is banned here for some reason but not in the US or England so it's not hard to acquire and it works wonders on the oomy and after a while we felt better and settled in for a fairly uneventful trip. Uneventful is good. Boring is good. Boring means the miles and the degrees of latitude and the time zones are being steadily traversed. Exciting is bad. Exciting probably means dangerous. Except in the case of fish. We hooked an Albacore Tuna, the king of tuna on the culinary scale. I furled the headsail and stopped the boat to make it a bit easier but still Russell and Colin had to work for about half an hour to get him aboard. And another half an hour to get him rendered into meal sized parcels in refridgeration. We didn't abandon the okra and ravioli creation I'd been engaged with but we did precede it with some wonderful sashimi.



We got to Eden in a day and a night and another half a day, with a few hours to spare before a southerly change came through and we were grateful for the accuracy of the weather forecast. We anchored first on the north side of Twofold Bay, off the town of Eden which we wandered through and inspected while sheltering from the northerly. An old fishing and forestry town under some threat as the green regulators march relentlessly on towards closing those industries down. Despite masquerading as a modern, progressive political force, the Greens are a party of reactionaries founded on hatred (or fear) of modernity and an unrealistic glorification of primitivism.  Then as the change came through we motored across the bay under spectacular vertically rolling clouds forming and shooting up as the cold front wedged across the bay to the southern side where we could set our anchor to the new wind. By the next evening it was running out of belligerence and swinging around to the east and we struck out for Refuge Cove, Wilsons Promontory.

That's quite a long stretch, taking a night, a day and a second night of steady uneventful sailwise plodding, praise be, across the top of Bass Straight dodging oil rigs and the odd ship, arriving early in the morning just a few hours, again, before a westerly change came through.



 The westerly blew for a couple of days. The walking tracks at Wilsons Prom are well worth a couple of days of footwise plodding through mountain ash forest with ferny gullies and grand views out over Bass Straight with islands and all that. 



Our ambitions were all westerly, but so was the wind. Eventually it swung off to southwest and we snuck around the corner. Passing the southernmost point of Oz seemed more significant than the easternmost, which we'd rounded a few weeks before. There was an impression that the benign conditions were more of a favour to our cause, less to be taken for granted, at the bottom of Oz than at the side. More wrecks along the bottom.


The wind  hadn't swung enough to make Apollo Bay but enough to track north of west up to Flinders, at the bottom of Mornington Peninsula, and we weren't going to be fussy about a chance to get around that particular corner so off we went. Getting to Flinders took a good day and we arrived with just enough of the slowly fading 38 degrees south twilight to anchor off the jetty without getting tangled up in the mooring buoys there.

By morning another westerly was established so we investigated the town of Flinders, finding it handsomely appointed with cafes,  purveyors of foods and beverages and other stylish facilities offering essential goods and services like real estate, antiques, art, hairdressing, astrology and clairvoyance as you'd expect from a pleasant ocean outlook in commuting distance of Melbourne. We had enough of all the four main food groups; salt, sugar, fat and alcohol, aboard but we bought some extra vegetables to accompany the ongoing albacore and other culinary adventures that were happening, and we thought it prudent to also buy some beverages just to balance our loads.

The next day dawned with an easterly and we commenced travelling immediately. The forecast promised us two days until the next westerly change and so our goal was Portland. A day and a night and half a morning. Portland. Along the way there were a couple of events not entirely mundane. I found a largish nut on deck which had fallen off the bolt connecting boom to mast, which bolt had worked itself half out of its job. Nut replaced, no problem. The next event sounded like a big THUMP on the starboard hull. I said WTF? Colin saw a big sharky tail flip into the air astern, attached to a big sharky shark, maybe dozing on the surface like apparently they do, maybe not dozing anymore and thinking WTF? After that Colin reckoned that the starboard motor produced a vibration. I thought it was fairly normal but when we used it in reverse when we got to Portland there was definitely an unpleasant wobbly vibration suggesting propeller damage. It drove forward ok so we carried on.

Portland. Woodchip mountain. The blue thing sticking up at 45 degrees is a truck having woodchips tipped out of it. Trucks flapping up and down all day adding to the pile.

The weather pattern had been regularly giving us windows of two or three days of favourable winds separated by a day or two of winds from where we wanted to go. The forecasting had been good, enabling us to plan our passages with generally half a day to spare between arriving somewhere and having winds helpful to our cause becoming unhelpful. From Portland we only had to go a bit further west before we could swing to the northwest towards Robe. Gentlemen, of course, never travel towards unfavourable winds. Because that might involve bashing. And that's not why we're here. However, the forecast suggested that there was a longer favourable window coming along than had been the recent pattern, but that it would include several days of calm. Gentlemen, while not wishing to bash, prefer to sail than to motor, so if we could just get around that last corner and turn to the northwest then we might get right through to Wirinna, Midnight Blue's intended future home, with more sailing than motoring if we left as soon as were possible.

During our second evening in Portland in postprandial discussion of these matters the westerly wind suddenly dropped out. Somebody said How 'bout it then? Everybody else said Yep, and off we went.  Well the wind had ceased to be unfavourable but the seas were still fairly lumpy so while there wasn't a lot of your actual bashing that night, nobody really got any sleep. When we got around the corner a southerly came up and by morning we were making good sailing progress. Everybody made immediate use, that day, of their time off watch to hit their bed and get whatever rest they could. Three persons on two hour watch rotation allows enough rest to carry on indefinitely, even when conditions aren't ideal. Two wouldn't be as good.

This was our longest leg; a night and a day and another night and most of the next day. All ok except for the cray pots. Southern rock lobster season. The sea is strewn with floats and ropes attached to cray pots. We tried to go out wide to avoid them but there were still plentiful in 100 metres of water. You'd have to go out past the edge of the continental shelf in 1000 and more metres to be safe. Or keep a very sharp watch. Which you can't do at night. So you shouldn't motor at night. But we did because we were afflicted with Let's Get Home disease. So we caught a pot. Fortunately I didn't hear it because I was asleep in the other hull at the time but the port propeller caught a line and chewed it up and broke it, without any apparent damage. Lucky. 

Eventually we hove, rather than turned, being sailors, around the penultimate corner at Cape Jervis and then the very last corner at Rapid Head and slipped into Wirinna. Thus ended for me  two years full time aboard, apart from a couple of excursions. Now Tina and I will see about sharing time between the boat and our house at Willunga.

But first the boat must be prepared for her next cruise. A swim revealed that the starboard propeller had a blade bent like a banana after belting that shark. The port propeller had a piece of rope hanging from it but otherwise looked ok. So now Midnight Blue is on blocks again and I've taken propellers off and starboard drive shaft out because the darn shark bent that too. I'm amazed that it had been driving as well as it had.



There's a new marina facility in the Port River in Adelaide which has big travel lift. How wide is your lift and can it lift a boat of 7.6 m beam? It's 8 m and yes we can. But it wasn't and it couldn't. No problem, we'll get a crane in. A bit scary but actually kinder to the boat than pulling it out on a trolley. It's used to sitting on its hulls and doesn't really like being lifted under its bridge as we've previously done, when it said so with lots of creaks and groans and flexing of timberwork inside. Nary a squeak this time. The marina is wearing the increased cost of crane over their travel lift, this time anyway, because they're embarrassed about answering the question incorrectly.

So I'm messing around down at the port for a few days getting propellers and drive shaft and everything sorted.

I may not have anything much to relate until maybe the next cruise. Which might be in January.

Thank you for your attention.