31 August 2010

Day 237: Darwin, Australia – 31/08/10

I don’t sleep too badly – the drugs help!  When I wake in the morning I slowly wriggle my back from side to side then roll my legs around.  I hear a satisfying click – maybe that’s good?

Mike hears strange noises like lines being rearranged and gets up to investigate.  The huge fishing boat on the opposite side of the pontoon needs to get out and we are proving to be an obstruction so they move our boat back a few feet to give them a bit more room to manoeuvre in.  We will have to turn Jeannius around properly.

I have to get up for my cup of tea as I can’t sit up in bed – it’s too uncomfortable.

Heidi, Casey and their friends Henry and Kim, come over to help us turn Jeannius round.  Mike takes a line out to the piles in the water and attaches it then Heidi winches the line until we have turned 90 degrees and are now stern to.  Unfortunately it means that the gangplank of death has to make an appearance and in my wobbly state passing over it is not something I contemplate happily.

P1030639 Photo:  Jeannius now the right way round!

We have to go to see the customs people to complete the check out procedures.  Heidi has a car and gives Mike and I a lift there.  The procedures are completed quickly and the walk back probably does me good.  Mike then takes himself off to the local chandlery and comes back with two new fenders, an assortment of boat bits and pieces and  an AIS system.  This is the piece of technology that will help us identify ships that appear to be about to run us down ie the name of the ship, the speed and course and how long it will be until they hit you if you do happen to be on a collision course.  Obviously the aim of the equipment is to help you take evasive action!  We both wish we had had this from the beginning but as they say, better late than never!

We walk down to the local fish and chip place for lunch and on our way back stop at a couple of the fish markets to look at the local produce.  We sample three different types of prawns and are amazed at the difference tastes and textures – all yummy though.

P1030637 Photo:  Frances Bay Mooring Basin known affectionately as the Duck Pond

P1030641 Photo:  Fishing boats with skyscrapers in the distance

P1030638 Photo:  Our fishing boat neighbours along the pontoon

After the walking I need a lie down and Mike sits and plays with, sorry, installs his new software.  The it’s time for the skippers’ briefing for the next leg.  Heidi has told me that there are laundry facilites there so I pack up a bag and she picks me up and delivers me there.  Mike has to walk as there’s not enough room in the car for him.

P1030642 Photo:  The skippers’ briefing

P1030644 Photo:  I don’t think Moe or Bev are paying attention!

After the briefing, Jutta brings out her lethal rum punch to celebrate her daughter’s birthday.  Eline joined them on Saturday for the foreseeable future.  It’s good to have a chance to chat to some of the people that I have not seen for a while as we arrived here in Darwin so late.  As we still have work to do on the boat, as well as the provisioning, we will be late leaving here and therefore late arriving in Bali.  We seem to be playing catch-up continually at the moment.

Heidi gives me and the laundry a lift back.  My back is tired and aching badly, so it’s blog, drugs then bed!

30 August 2010

Day 236: Darwin, Australia – 30/08/10

The alarm wakes us up at 6.30 am.  Ugh.  I wriggle back down and wait for my cup of tea but when it arrives I am told that I have to get up when I’ve finished as we need to be underway asap.  Double ugh!

Immediately I get out of bed I know there is something wrong with my back.  Not my normal problem in the thoracic area but lower down in the lumbar region.  I probably slept badly and just hope it will ease off.  We set off just before 8 am, motoring straight into the wind … and the current.  It’s slow going and a good job we allowed plenty of time.  (At times, Mike’s anal retentive tendency to be early for everything pays off!)  En route, I finish the washing that I started last night.

We leave Fannie Bay and go around Bullocky Point.  The town planners around here have a sense of humour and those names are right up there with Yorkeys Knob as far as I am concerned!

Mike tells me to put the fenders and lines on the port side, and as I am carrying a fender across the boat, the boat lurches, I grab onto one of the shrouds and wrench my back.  This happens again and my back starts to feel uncomfortable but again I don’t really take much notice as there’s too much to do.  Then the port engine splutters, coughs and dies.  Shit, what now?

Mike gets it going but it dies immediately.  After about 5 starts it stays on for a few minutes then dies again.  We make it to the fuel dock and raft up against Tucanon.  They refuel first then the hose is brought across their boat and onto ours.  Mike is off the boat and I am left to empty the lockers to get the jerry cans out – of course they are at the bottom and everything has to be taken out.  Grrrr.

Moe comes on board to help me refuel.  Unfortunately the process is its usual messy process in that the froth builds up in the long neck down to the tank and eventually builds up and spurts diesel all over the deck.  I am used to this but Moe is quite alarmed at the mess.  I just squirt it with washing up liquid and throw hot water over it.  While he is returning the nozzle to the fuel tanker, I put the now very heavy jerry cans back into the locker.  As this is a drop of about three feet, this is a big mistake and probably the last straw for my back, although I don’t realise this yet.

I put everything back on top of the jerry cans and finish cleaning up.  Mike returns and we untie from Tucanon and head out to the lock.  As Darwin is so tidal (tidal range is 17 feet) the marinas are protected by locks and we have to go through one of these, manoeuvring with just one engine.  As I tie on the fenders to the starboard side, I realise there is something very wrong with my back.  I can’t bend over to tie them on and adopt a very unattractive squatting position to do it – and it’s painful. 

The lock master decides that as we are having trouble with the engine, she will let Tucanon go through first, then she will open the lock gates for us to go through alone.  While Tucanon manoeuvres the lock, we go in circles around the bay.  The port engine comes on for a while then dies again.  When it is our turn, it is as dead as a dodo so Mike has to get into the lock with just the one engine.  Paul hands a long hook down for me to attach ropes from the port bow and stern so that we can be tied against the wall but the wind gets into the lock and as the water level rises, the boat tries to slew all over the place.  There I am, bad back, with a fender in one hand and pulling a the rope tighter as we rise up the lock.  Not a good idea but necessary and decidedly painful. 

P1030634 P1030635 P1030636 Photos:  In the lock on the way to the “Duck Pond”

I am relieved when the lock opens and we can enter the marina.  Mind you, now the hard work starts, for Mike anyway.

Our berthing spot is just inside but trying to get us in it without the port engine is really difficult and there is quite a bit of wind which is uncooperative. In the end we settle for being blown in sideways by the wind which means that we are side on to the dock instead of stern to.  Our bow is sticking out about five feet into the channel and obstructing it but the lock keeper says we will be OK for now as the lock gates won’t be open again until tonight and the larger fishing boats who might be troubled by our obstruction won’t go out until tomorrow morning. 

Bev, Moe and Paul arrive to help us tie up into position, and once we are safe, I go and lie down, taking valium and codeine on the way.  It’s boiling hot in the boat but thankfully the dock guy turns up pretty soon and hooks up our shore power so we can have the air conditioning on – the temperature is up to 90 degrees and only manages to bring it down to 80 or so over the next few hours.  With all the drugs, I can’t believe that I don’t conk out but at least they take the edge off the pain for a while.  While I lie in bed, poor Mike has to dismantle the fuel filter.  This is two filters, primary and secondary, and a very messy job.  After dismantling and cleaning the primary filter he turns the fuel tap back on and a whole load more sludge comes out and clogs the filter again, so he starts the process all over.  Eventually he connects it all back up and the engine runs perfectly.  It probably happened because we got so low on fuel that all the accumulated dirt in the fuel got squished around and sucked into the engine filter.  Having only one tank, I suppose we were lucky that the other engine kept going!

There is a prizegiving event in the evening but I am unable to walk to the end of the pontoon, let alone up the the Yacht Club so I stay home alone while Mike attends.

When he gets back, I take some more tablets and head for bed.  Getting into bed is hard as it’s five foot up with just two steps.  Getting down is harder.  I hope I don’t have to face that until the morning!

29 August 2010

Day 235: Lizard Island to Darwin, Australia – 29/08/10

Mike wakes me up at 3 am as we get to a bit that my navigational skills should be able to deal with ie going in a straight line with the engine on and no nasty flappy sails to worry about.

Our Telstra dongley thing suddenly springs into life (it’s been totally bloody useless all across the top of Australia even when we’ve been within 5 miles of land because no bugger seems to live there so there have been no mobile signals) but now it can redeem itself.  And it does.  I publish loads of blog and use my e-mail and Skype.  Bliss!

In the distance I can see the smoke from controlled fires – they have a lot of those during the dry season.

I wake up when we are about 4 miles out of Fannie Bay (what a name) and with just under an hour until we anchor I go back to bed wondering what the chances are of me falling asleep now, just to be perverse.  Nil as it happens!  Motoring into the bay, we can see that there are lots of boats around and quite a few of them have no lights on so we decide to anchor quite a way out.

We both go to bed, Mike falling asleep almost immediately, and me, well obviously I don’t.  I am lying there when I hear the anchor alarm go off and shove Mike out to investigate.  It turns out we are just swinging a bit.  I am almost drifting off when I am aware of footsteps on the boat, then banging on the door.  Pest control are here to carry out a hull inspection with a diver – they won’t let you in to any of the marinas until they have shot all the salt water inlet pipes with disinfectant.  While we are chatting, the inspector warns us off going to any of the northern shore beaches as they are closed due to an outbreak of e-coli.  Apparently they just pump raw sewage straight into the sea from Darwin and rely on the 20 feet of tidal waters to deal with it.  Nice.

What they don’t tell you about the disinfecting treatment in advance is that you have to leave it in the pipes for 14 hours.  This means that for 14 hours we can’t use the engines, generator, toilets or air conditioning.  Terrific.  Without the engines we can’t move the boat closer to the shore and we are anchored right at the outside edge of the bay with virtually no petrol in the outboard motor so we can’t dinghy to shore.  Great.  Boat jobs it is today then!  Mike starts on his list of things to fix and I do some cleaning.

In the late afternoon we both manage a nap then continue with some more jobs.  As it gets dark, the smell of smoke is heavy in the air but it makes a fabulous sunset which unfortunately I am too late to capture on film!


Our position is:  12 deg 25 min S, 130 deg 47 min E

Distance so far:  11987 nautical miles

28 August 2010

Day 234: Lizard Island to Darwin, Australia – 28/08/10

I wake Mike up when we get to the shipping line again but as nothing is coming in any direction, he goes back off to sleep for a while, coming up when it is light.  After some breakfast and a cup of tea, I go down for my morning catch up sleep.  It is at this time that the wind and the sea both pick up and the boat starts to pitch, heave and crash it’s way through the water – not conducive to sleep at all.

Then we turn a corner and we are straight into the wind.  I know that if I stay in my cabin I will probably be ill so I get up and install myself instead on the sofa in the salon.  Mike tells me that it will probably be like this for another couple of hours or so until we turn another corner.  I lie whingeing on the sofa until I eventually doze off for an hour or so although the boat’s movements are still with me in sleep because they permeate my dream.

Under instruction, Mike makes lunch – spaghetti with meatballs in tomato sauce and gradually the sea starts to calm down a little, then completely until by the middle of the afternoon we have dead calm seas and absolutely no bloody wind again.  On goes the engine!

Even though it’s a bit early for it, I decide to dye my hair while the boat is so steady.  Looking in the mirror, I can’t believe it is still so short even though it was cut over four weeks ago.  Usually by this length of time I am booking another cut (or more recently would have hacked lumps off) by now, but I am still tugging at it, willing it to grow faster.  Ah well.  Another couple of weeks and I’m sure I will find the pair of scissors in my hand again.

By the time I go to bed, we can already see the lights of Darwin forming a halo over the land in the distance.  It must be over 45 miles away – the light pollution is incredible.  I lie in bed for over two hours, unable to sleep (here we go again).  Eventually I get up and tell Mike to go down instead, but we are in a complex part of the route and he can’t leave the helm for another three hours or so. 

I stand in the cockpit with Mike watching Darwin in the distance.  The boat is slewing from side to side, like in a slow motion skid at the back.  The currents are all over the place, forming little whirlpools as we cross them.  It’s not an unpleasant motion, just a weird one.  Over the last few hours the current has both helped and hindered us, depending on whether it has been coming in or going out.  Darwin is very tidal!

I go back down and almost immediately fall asleep.  My body is so perverse!


Our position is:  12 deg 05 min S, 131 deg 03 min E

Distance so far:  11967 nautical miles

27 August 2010

Day 233: Lizard Island to Darwin, Australia – 27/08/10

Some time in the night, our little stowaway moves away from the guardrail and repositions himself on the sail.  Given how much pooh he has left on the deck, I hope he hasn’t left the same over the sail bag!

P1030610 Photo:  Peering down at Mike from the safety of the sail, our stowaway

After my watch, which I extend by nearly an hour to let Mike get a bit more sleep, I sleep solidly until just after 10 am.  We are sailing along nicely now in a steady 15 knots of wind and if it stays like this we will definitely arrive in Darwin on Sunday.

We are having kangaroo steaks for lunch.  On the packet it claims that kangaroo is “good for you and good for the environment”.  Apparently kangaroos are good for the ozone layer because they fart less than cattle and sheep.  Well, it doesn’t actually say that – it says they produce less methane and therefore don’t add to greenhouse gases.  Unfortunately, none of the kangaroo that we have eaten since I bought the first lot has been anyway near as good.  Today’s steaks are so tough that there owner must have hopped his way across the entire continent before succumbing to road kill.  Good flavour though.

While we are eating, the customs plane makes its appearance again, swooping low to get another eyeful but I have his number and cross my arms across my chest.

We have a few small dolphins who come to play at the bow for a short while but no other wildlife of any description is sighted.

It has become obvious that ships are very much like buses around here, especially when you are near shipping lines.  You know, you wait for ages then loads come along together.  Mike has just left me on watch when two blips appear on the radar.  I go outside to take a look and can just make out their lights in the distance even though they are nearly 12 miles away.  I decide to get Mike up as we have the genoa goosewinged out and although I could alter course if we were motoring, I still don’t understand enough to alter course a lot when the flappy things are out front.  By the time Mike gets up, we can see their navigation lights through the binoculars and realise they are both heading straight for us.  Mike changes course by 30 degrees and the first one passes us just over a mile away, followed shortly after by the second.

Half an hour passes and another two blips appear.  This time I delay calling Mike and just watch their progress.  I can see by the navigation lights that one will pass easily on our starboard side, but the other one has no navigation lights at all.  As we get closer, I realise that it is a fishing vessel – he is lit up like a Christmas tree, deck lights blazing everywhere, and basically just hanging around, but luckily not in our path

That’s enough excitement for one night more me but I have another watch to do later so there’s time enough.


Our position is:  10 deg 52 min S, 132 deg 88 min E

Distance so far:  11868 nautical miles

26 August 2010

Day 232: Lizard Island to Darwin, Australia – 26/08/10

At midnight, the end of my first watch, Mike decides that there is sufficient wind for us to get the main back up.  It takes a while and as usual one of the sail batons gets caught up in the lazy jacks which is harder to spot when it’s dark.  There is a sudden ‘twang’ as the sail suddenly shoots up so that’s probably a broken lazy jack.  As I sit there holding onto the ropes, it starts to drizzle, only a bit, not enough to actually do any good in the boat washing stakes, but enough to make me feel damp.

When I come up for my second watch, there is just enough wind for us to sail and Mike has cut the engine.  The moon, which was at the stern of the boat on my first watch, is now ahead of me and falling.  I stand at the stern of the boat just looking out over the silvery sea and wonder about all the things swimming around us which I can’t see.  Maybe it’s better I can’t!

I go back to bed after my second watch and after managing to sleep for a few hours, lazy thing that I am, I lounge around on my bed with the fan on, only getting up after midday when I hear Sean on Wild Tigris calling on the SSB.  Mike in the meantime has been busy.  He has fixed the lazy jack line and has spent a couple of hours down his black hole fixing a leaking hose from the starboard engine.  Whoever fixed it last time put a length in that was too long and therefore got a kink in it which has spent some time rubbing against a vibrating part of the engine – or something.  Anyway, his temporary fix seems to be working.

Once up, I make lunch and while Mike sleeps in the afternoon, I sit and watch the sea go by – very, very slowly.  During the morning the wind dropped to almost nothing and we now have no sails out as there is less than 5 knots of wind, sometimes less than 2.  The sea is flat calm and we are motoring.  I look around at absolutely nothing.  I have seen no other traffic on the sea for two days now, and the total wildlife we see today is two dead fish on the trampolines, two sea snakes and a whole load of small jellyfish floating by.  Oh, and the strange red algae is back, but this time it looks even more like the remains of some boat’s holding tanks!  Nice!

In the late afternoon, I am standing in the outside companionway near the cockpit when Mike shouts to watch out.  A bird is coming straight at me with his legs out ready to land.  I duck and it flaps off, circling the boat and landing on the guard rail about 10 feet in front of me.  It almost falls off and literally grabs the rail by hooking its neck over it as it tumbles backwards, flapping wildly.  It is obviously exhausted and looking for a place to rest.  As I had been standing still for so long, my head must have looked like a nice, comfy perch.

P1030578 Photo:  Flapping and preening

For the next three hours he sits there preening himself, at first flapping all the time – he is so tired he can’t balance properly – then as he becomes more rested, his flapping stops, and the preening continues less frantically.

We have done so much motoring that we need to put some diesel in the tank from the jerry cans.  Actually, I’m not sure that we do but Mike seems eager to use his new gadget – a special siphon tube with a ball bearing (actually it’s a marble) in the end.  It’s called a jiggle siphon and you shove one end in the jerry can and the other in the tank and jiggle the jerry can end around.  The marble allows the diesel in as you push down and when enough diesel is in, the normal siphoning effect takes over and hey presto it all flows from can to tank.  No it doesn’t.  In reality, the bloody marble falls out into the jerry can and we have to manually fill the tank and then retrieve the marble – three times!  After that, it’s a massive clean up to get all the diesel off the cockpit surfaces, along with the charcoal which has come out of a broken bag that the jerry cans were sitting on and is now all over the floor.  It was in need of a wash anyway.

Our little feathered stowaway doesn’t even shift when the wind starts to pick up in the evening and Mike puts the genoa back out.  At last we are able to sail again and turn off the bloody engines.


   Photo:  Still preening but less flapping

Another beautiful sunset is followed by a beautiful display of clouds.  I fiddle with the camera settings.  One day I must try to understand what some of the more complex ones actually do and the results might be even better.

P1030585 P1030591 Photos:  Guess what?

At the sun dips over the horizon, for the first time ever, I see the green ‘flash’.


Our position is:  10 deg 53 min S, 134 deg 40 min E

Distance so far:  11750 nautical miles

25 August 2010

Day 231: Lizard Island to Darwin, Australia – 25/08/10

I start watch at midnight.  There are still squalls in the distance but amazingly nothing comes near us which is a pity as we could do with some rain to wash the boat down.  Everything you touch is salty and wet.  Quite disgusting.

Mike wakes up a couple of times and comes up to check things but I shoo him back to bed and eventually it’s nearly 5 am before I go off watch, content that he has had some quality sleep.  Then I manage another few hours.  I am starting to feel human again now.

When I wake up the boat is flopping along pathetically in less than 10 knots of wind and Mike decides to put the main sail up hoping that this will stabilize her a little and stop this feeble wobbling.  To be honest, it doesn’t but it’s too much effort to put it away again so we just leave it out.

After lunch Mike concedes that we just aren’t going to go anywhere unless we have some engine power and sticks just one of them on.  We put the genoa away but leave the main.

It’s really hot today and very humid – definitely a day for no clothes.  During the afternoon, while Mike is asleep, I am using the washing up water left after doing the lunch dishes to wash down some of the surfaces we touch the most often in the cockpit (you don’t waste water if there’s another use for it) when I hear the rumble of an engine.  I look around and approaching really low towards our stern, and I mean REALLY low, is a small aircraft, about a 12-seater or so.  I scuttle into the privacy of the cockpit, never quite sure how much you can see through them in bright sunshine and watch it swoop over us and off.  There is no writing on it but I think it could be one of the customs planes. 

Sure enough, a few minutes later the VHF comes to life and a voice asks for the white hulled catamaran to identify herself.  Putting my very official and best London accent on, I reply “This is sailing catamaran Jeannius – Juliet, echo, alpha, bugger what’s N?  I can’t remember but there’s two of them, then India, umbrella, sierra.  Sorry I can never remember the bloody things!”  There’s a pause (no doubt they are sniggering here) before he repeats it back, pointing out that N is November and U is uniform and not umbrella but he is friendly and we have a little chat about the weather.  He tells me to stay safe, no doubt concerned that my lack of nautical lingo means that I don’t know what I am doing.  He’s probably right.

However, as if to prove the opposite, I decide to take the main down by myself.  It is flapping from side to side and the jerking as it does so is really getting on my nerves.  Now I have never done this by myself, and I never go near the ropes on Mike’s side of the cockpit, so this should be interesting.  I tighten up the topping lift, hoping that the noise of me doing this on the winch doesn’t wake Mike up, then let down a few feet of sail.  Crossing over to the other side of the cockpit, I pull on the two reefing lines (reminding myself that these are the ones coloured like Opal Fruits (sorry, Juicy Fruits I think they are these days) until I can pull no more in, then let down more sail, then back to the reefing lines.  In this way, bit by bit, I get it down and into the sail bag.  I had intended getting it all down and therefore confusing Mike but he comes up in the middle of all my activity.  I may not have confused him, but instead, he ends up impressed and now he thinks he can make a real sailor out of me.  Oh look, there’s a pig!

I go for an afternoon nap but it is just too hot below.  I find a small patch of shade in the cockpit and curl up, dozing on and off for an hour or so.  I have two watches tonight.  Joy of joy!

It is a beautiful night during my first watch.  The moon is full and high, and casts so much light, it almost feels like daylight.  There is cloud around but it forms a gold-tinged circle around the moon.  I do wish my camera could capture it but the night setting requires the use of a tripod (which I have) but for that tripod to be left on an unmoving surface and when do you get one of those at sea?


Our position is:  10 deg 45 min S, 136 deg 35 min E

Distance so far:  11551 nautical miles

24 August 2010

Day 230: Lizard Island to Darwin, Australia – 24/08/10

Just after midnight I have to wake Mike because a ship looks like it is heading straight for us.  It ends up passing well to starboard thank goodness and he goes back for some more sleep. 

It’s a night of big sea.  The waves are huge but we skate over most of them, riding huge mountains of white foam.  In the moonlight it looks amazing.  Of course, the odd rogue wave has to ruin it by crashing over us or catching the boat at an odd angle and making the most God-awful noise, but for the most part it’s relatively peaceful.

He comes up a couple more times when noises wake him and at around 2 am he sends me down for yet another go at getting some sleep.  This time, eventually, I drop off and sleep pretty solidly until 7.30 am.  I call Mike and he crawls straight into bed while I am still dragging myself out.

The wind won’t take us directly where we want to go but keeps pushing us towards the shipping lane so Mike has set everything so we actually go further out of our way but well north of that line.  We can correct the course at a later date.

It is grey and dismal when I first get up but by 9 am the cloud has all but disappeared and it is another hot day.  I tidy up a bit then watch some TV.

Mike and I take turns sleeping (I manage another couple of hours around lunchtime) and the weather goes from cloudy to sunny and back to cloudy.  In the afternoon I can see squalls all around on the horizon but they gradually dissipate without doing anything.  Every couple of hours huge tankers and container ships pass us, always in the same direction – going east – but we do not see any other yachts at all.

We are sitting in the cockpit having a cup of tea when we suddenly spot a large, stripy snake casually swimming past us.  This thing is about four feet long and definitely not what you expect to see passing you as far out to sea as you can get in this area.  I jump off the seat and watch him go past us, making sure that he doesn’t jump aboard.  We had one on board in the BVIs once – a little one – that was bad enough and I certainly don’t want one that size stowing himself away.

By 8 pm I am tucked up in bed and soon after, sound asleep.


Our position is:  10 deg 35 min S, 138 deg 54 min E

Distance so far:  11551 nautical miles

23 August 2010

Day 229: Lizard Island to Darwin, Australia – 23/08/10

What fun.  At around 2.30 am in force 8 winds, two blips appear on the radar, straight ahead.  At first I think it is just another channel beacon with a false echo and stand in the galley looking out of the window trying to spot it (not going outside unless I have to).  A particularly nasty crashing wave disturbs Mike and he comes up.  I point out the blips and he goes outside.  After watching it for some time we can see that it’s a ship coming the other way, fast.  He starts to move Jeannius outside the channel on our starboard side to give the ship a wide berth when he sees another ship right where he wants to go.  It isn’t a false echo on the radar; it’s two of the buggers and only a mile apart.  Obviously the one outside the channel is trying to overtake the other one inside the channel.  Great timing!

Mike calls them both on the VHF, gives our position and asks if they can see us.  One responds by asking us to repeat our position …. then nothing.  They keep coming and we have no choice but to hold our position.  Mike calls Wild Tigris and Sean gives Mike the ship names from his AIS system.  As the ships pass, one on each side, I hold both my breath and my tummy in.  It obviously makes a difference and we slide through.  Phew.  About ten minutes later, we are slammed on both sides by their wakes.  Thanks guys.  Great seamanship.

Mike goes back to bed and I await the next fun instalment of the night!

The time ticks past really slowly.  The high winds continue and the seas get bigger.  Wave after wave crashes over the decks and cockpit as Jeannius slaloms her way through the reefs.  Never have we had to use so many waypoints – on average, one every ten miles.  This is anything but enjoyable sailing.

Mike comes back on watch and I go down to try to sleep.  I catnap for about one and a half hours and that’s it.  When I call out to Mike for some tea he tells me that we are now going around the very northern tip if Australia and being so close to land and the offshore islands we have got some internet connection, so I rush up and upload the blog and some e-mails before it disappears again.

At last the sea and wind start to calm, and as we hit the Torres Straits near Thursday Island, the tide is with us and we shoot through, three knots of current giving us lots of added speed.

The freezer seems to be creating frost on the inside walls again, so with all the packing I put in yesterday, I think the food will be OK.  I just take out a couple of things that I know had gone soft to be cooked and eaten today.

Mike has a bit more luck sleeping than me, although all his sleeps are short ones.  I am now light-headed with lack of sleep and I get the feeling that it would take a horse tranquillizer to knock me out now.  Unfortunately I can’t resort to drugs as they take too long to wear off and I can’t leave Mike on watch that long.  Bummer.

Once we are clear of the Torres Straits (the stretch of water between Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea) and out of the shipping channels (hurray for that), our progress is much more pleasant, and in fact, actually enjoyable – really enjoyable.  The seas are a pale colour, more green than blue, and we gently undulate our way through the afternoon, watching Wild Tigris gradually creep up on us until around 3 pm they overtake.  We photograph them.  They photograph us.  We must remember to swap photos.

P1030547 P1030557 P1030571 Photos:  Coming, going, gone – Wild Tigris passes us by

I try to sleep again in the late afternoon, but fail, then again after supper, but after another two hours of wriggling, I get up and let Mike get a few hours.  As I write this and it approaches midnight, I have been awake for about 40 hours and had just two hours of kip.  If I don’t get some soon, Mike will have a psycho on his hands.


Our position is:  10 deg 47 min S, 140 deg 47 min E

Distance so far:  11434 nautical miles

22 August 2010

Day 228: Lizard Island to Darwin, Australia – 22/08/10

We just have about two thirds of the genoa out on one side over night which, in the 20 to 30 knots of wind (with occasional gusts up to 35) gives us an average speed of 7.5 knots.

We normally do four hours on, four hours off but as this is such a tricky part of the journey as we wind our way through the reef with constant changes of direction to avoid them, Mike does most of the watch and we just grab bits of sleep where we can.  He tries to catch up during the day but he has my problem – sleep eludes him.

He talks to Sean on Wild Tigris who are now about 30 miles behind us at 9 am.

Our route keeps us in the shipping land for most of the day and we see a few large container ships coming the other way including one being pulled by a tug.

As we travel up the mainland, we manage to get some internet connection for about 5 minutes via our new Telstra 3G thingy and as we have e-mails ready to send, I despatch them quickly before the signal disappears again.  This part of the Queensland coast is so desolate that there are very few mobile phone transmitters.

The wind picks up throughout the day 25 to 35 knots, giving us average of 8.5 but it’s a comfortable sail (in fact, I might even go so far as to say enjoyable) as we are going with the wind and the waves.  The waves are big and well spaced out.  Riding them is like being on a roller coaster.

There are lots of channel markers which are not on the charts, which, from a distance, look like boats.  They even show up on the radar as they have reflectors so it can be quite confusing.

All goes OK until late in the afternoon I am woken from a nap that has taken me ages to get into, by nasty crashing noises as waves start to hit us hard.  I get up to find we have changed direction as we have to go around a large reef and we are now going straight into the wind and it is 30 to 35 knots with gusts over 40.  This only lasts for about half an hour before we change course again but it is definitely half an hour too long.

When we are on watch, we spend the whole time watching the radar, the chartplotter and staring out at the horizon.  Fun stuff indeed.  It’s not normally this bad, but then we are not normally in these type of waters!

P1030535 Photo:  Interesting watching – not!

In the evening, Mike talks to Sean again – they are just 20 miles behind us now.  I go to take something out of the freezer to find everything swimming in water, although the freezer seems to be on.  I rearrange all the food so that it is tightly packed together, stuff towels all around them to try to keep them cold and hope for the best.  I could be doing a major cookathon tomorrow!

I go to bed at around 11 but give up at just after midnight and take over from Mike.


Our position is:  11 deg 17 min S, 142 deg 84 min E

Distance so far:  11297 nautical miles

20 August 2010

Day 226: Cairns to Lizard Island, Australia – 20/08/10

I do the last watch of the night, 5 to 8 am and watch the sun rise.  Although it is a rougher and definitely noisier night than we have had so far since leaving Mackay, it is still fine.

We arrive at Lizard Island just before lunch and notice that Wild Tigris already in.  When he comes over to say hello to Mike and I, Sean gets a shock when he sees Heidi and Casey on board with them as he thought they would be flying in.

We ask him about the island hike – Cook’s Look track – and he says he is worth the effort and takes about an hour.  What you have to remember is that he is a fit, healthy male, and half my age, but I decide to do it anyway as it will he fun (?) and interesting to look out over the Great Barrier Reef.  Apparently in 1770, Captain Cook (or Lieutenant Cook as he was at that point) used the island as a vantage point to seek a way through the reef for his ship, Endeavour.

We get lunch ready, and find the remains of yesterday’s bread and that of the day before, in a very interesting state.  It has grown a rather pretty, foamy pink mould which matches my tee-shirt exactly.  I know I like to keep colour co-ordinated, but this really is taking to the extreme.  Anyway, one goes overboard and the other gets a de-fuzzing before Heidi pronounces it edible.

Mike decides to take the opportunity of a nap instead as he had very broken sleep last night, and drops the three of us off in the dinghy.  As we jump out and into the water, we keep a sharp lookout for box jelly fish and crocodiles but see nothing ominous.

P1030466 Photo:  Lizard Island beach

We walk to the edge of the beach where a sign warns of a “steep, at times, extremely difficult, track”, 358 metres high and 2.25 kilometres round trip.  Oh, goody!  I can’t back out now.

We start the climb.  The first bit is quite tough and the narrow ‘path’ is steep and covered in loose rocks with nothing to grab on to except for pathetic little clumps of grass.  Onwards and upwards we go, quickly reaching a point where the views start to make it seem like a good idea.

P1030469 P1030471 Photos:  Views after ten minutes of climbing

We meet a guy coming back down by himself,  He says he didn’t get to the lookout, just as far as the ridge and he was too tired to go any further.  At this point we decide that when it gets to 4.30 pm we will turn around regardless of how far we have got as we want to give ourselves plenty of time to get back down in good light and the descent is often harder work than the ascent.  It’s at this point that I remember my buggered left knee which gives me no problem climbing but hurts and burns like hell when I come down anything.

I then notice the difference between Heidi and myself.  Heidi is dressed appropriately in socks, trainers, shorts, and vest with a long sleeved shirt in her rucksack.  I, on the other hand, show no evidence of having been in the Girl Guides, and have started out in deck shoes, a bikini and tee-shirt which doesn’t cover my bottom.  Given the look of the granite slabs we have climbed and the grip that my deck shoes don’t have, my bottom will have a whole lot of exfoliation going on when I have to slither down the rocks on it.

We pose for pictures on the granite slab and I seriously consider the wisdom of continuing but then continue anyway.

P1030472 P1030473 Photos:  Posing, but what a backdrop

Eventually we get to the ridge.  There’s just five minutes left before our turnaround time but Heidi informs me she told Mike we would turn around at 5 pm and that he was happy with that.  Casey wimps out leaving Heidi and I to carry on alone.  We leave him in the shade of the tree with a bottle of water and tell him we are just going around the next corner.

P1030474 Photo:  Me, a natural wonder, but perhaps not in that hat!

Along the rim, the track goes through some dense scrub but for a while at least is flat.  My knee is very tired and very grateful for the respite but that doesn’t last for long.  After a couple of hundred yards we start to climb.  The going is easier now but it just keeps going and we are unable to see where it will end.

Suddenly Heidi screams as something large scuttles in the undergrowth – a huge lizard.  And it’s not the last although Heidi doesn’t scream quite as loud when the second one shoots across our path and away.

We pass trees that have been struck with lightning and signs that other creatures are around and gradually the trees open up and there in front of us … is another bloody hill.  We can see a pile of rocks on it (there is a pile of rocks and a visitors’ book at the top) but when we reach it we can see that it is not the one we are looking for at all.  There’s no sign to say we have arrived and there have been others at previous places.

We are both dripping with sweat and panting and my knee is so tired that although I am not jet in pain, I know I will pay for this on the way down.  Heidi volunteers to climb the next bit along to tell me if the next hill is IT so that I don’t have to waste my energy if it isn’t (she is, after all, ten years younger than me) and off she goes.

P1030485 P1030480 Photos:  Are we nearly there yet?

After a couple of minutes though and before she reaches the top, I go up anyway, only to find that we still are not at the top.  We look at the next hill.  Surely that has to be it.

We trudge forward, get to the top and bingo, we’ve made it.  There is the huge pile of rocks and the visitors’ book in a box (well it’s also inside two plastic containers inside the box along with a supply of pens).

P1030492 Photo:  Cooks’ lookout point

P1030491 Photo:  Signing the visitors’ book

The breeze at this height and with no shelter is very welcome and the 360 degree views are indeed spectacular, although a slight haze is on the horizon making it difficult to see the passage that Cook spotted in the reef.

P1030495 P1030502 P1030498 Photos:  Views all around

Mindful of my knee, the time (now just gone 5 pm) and the fact that Casey is still waiting for us to return, we decide to head back, but first I turn American for a moment, whoop and do a high five with Heidi before having a hug.  Then we start what will be a pretty tortuous journey back down.

Heidi gives me a shirt to wrap around my bum in case I have to slide down on it when we get to the huge granite slabs (in case my stupid shoes don’t find any traction).  It’s fine at first but by the time we find Casey (who had started to call out to us – we had been gone for ages) it is definitely starting to make itself felt.

I take pictures on the way down but nothing shows how steep nor how treacherous the path actually is, especially the last bit down to the beach, which is practically vertical.

P1030504 P1030505 Photos:  This is the easy bit

By the time we find Casey my knee on fire so we stop for a moment, but the light will fail fast and we have to get going.

P1030507 Photo:  Heidi and I at the ridge – now the really hard descent starts

P1030508 Photo:  Huge grasshopper watches us from a branch

When we get to the first granite slab I can’t decide whether to get straight down on my bum or give it a try.  I don’t want to destroy Heidi’s shirt for no reason so I try it, doing my tippy-toe walk as Mike would call it and find my shoes grip just enough.  Signs warn us of how dangerous these areas are which is strange as we didn’t notice them on the way up – not that it would have made any difference.

P1030514 Photo:  Sound advice, seen too late

Towards the bottom, we watch the sun slip below the horizon and wait for the green flash, but I don’t see it.

P1030518 P1030519 Photos:  Sunset from Lizard Island

Back on the beach, Casey is looking all around for crocodiles.  There are bushes down here which make good cover for something stealthy and opportunist.  We call Mike and he comes over in the dinghy to pick us up.  Back on Jeannius, Heidi and I wonder if we will be able to move tomorrow at all!  I can’t believe how close I came to giving up and am so glad I didn’t.

We drink a load of water, I make a quick spaghetti bolognaise, have a very hot shower then we introduce two unsuspecting Americans from Maine to the delights of Essex and Wales via the British TV series, Gavin and Stacy. 

Suddenly the VHF leaps into life.  A broad Aussie voice comes over asking for advice on where to anchor.  The reply, in the broadest, most droll Aussie voice ever, replies “well you’ve just come in straight over the reef, so I wouldn’t anchor just there if I were you”.  Priceless.


Our position is:  14 deg 39 min S, 145 deg 27 min E

Distance so far:  11068 nautical miles

19 August 2010

Day 225: Cairns to Lizard Island, Australia – 19/08/10

Oh boy.  Am I glad we weren’t planning on the Daintree River trip today.  The weather is nasty even here in Cairns.  Mike and Casey return the car and check out of the marina and we are ready to leave by 10 am.  Just before we go Mike rings his mum to wish her a happy birthday.

What a different picture it is leaving, to the one when we arrived two days ago.  Cairns, like any other place, looks miserable in the grey drizzle.  After a couple of hours though, most of the mist disappears and it becomes brighter although the haze never leaves.

I go back to bed after a while.  I’m feeling a bit low and as usual my reaction is to curl up in bed and cry a bit.  It’s just the enormity of what is still left to do.  I know that most people treated Mackay as the half way mark but it isn’t really, not in miles or duration.  In reality it’s somewhere between Darwin and Bali.  On top of that, I have visited all the places I really want to go to and whilst I am glad to have the opportunity of visiting the rest, they certainly are not on my bucket list.  And the amount of bloody sailing in between is daunting for me.  People are putting the frighteners on me about the Indian Ocean and going around the Horn of Africa, without realising how scared I already am.  The only certain thing is that I won’t give up!  That’s just not in my nature.  I wish it was sometimes!!  I fall asleep, and when I wake up I feel better and Heidi has made lunch.  Filling my stomach always helps.

It’s a hot and hazy afternoon.  Mike and Casey takes turns to nap and I take the opportunity of a little sunbathing.

P1030457 Photo:  Heidi and Casey on the side deck of Jeannius

The sunset, when it arrives, is hidden behind the clouds, but the light formations in those clouds is quite beautiful.

P1030448 Photo:  Different colour for a sunset


Our position is:  15 deg 41 min S, 145 deg 22 min E

Distance so far:  11011 nautical miles

18 August 2010

Day 224: Cairns, Australia – 18/08/10

Mike and Casey leave the boat early to get a taxi to the airport to pick up the hire car they arranged online last night.  Mike leaves me with strict instructions to be ready to leave at 9 am which makes me want to head straight back to bed just to be annoying, but I am a good girl and am ready by the allotted time.  Not only that, but I have contacted a tour guide, Dan Irby, the guy recommended by Judy and Jared, and he gives me instructions on how and when to find him.

It’s a bit hazy when we leave but still sunny, and the road winds prettily around the coast.  I can’t help but snigger as we pass a place called Yorkeys Knob.  There are the usual photo opportunities on the way but I only manage to get Mike to stop once.  This drives me mad.  I know that photo opportunities should be taken there and then – it could be dark or raining on the way back, but I am not doing the driving. 

P1030324 Photo:  Deserted beaches right by the roadside

P1030329 Photo:  Heidi, Casey and Mike wait for the return of the photographer

As we drive north along the highway (this is a two lane road, the main road north and hardly a car on it) we pass acre upon acre of sugar cane fields.  There are rail tracks running along the road side and the harvesters dump all the cane into the open wagons sitting there waiting.

P1030341 Photo:  Harvesting the sugar cane and scattering the birds

As we start to head inland a bit, the sky clouds over and the weather takes a turn for the worst with a very slight drizzle hanging in the air.  We arrive at the ferry station an hour early and turn around to find somewhere to get a drink.  We stop at a crossroads cafe, an interesting place where we are the only customers but the girl behind the counter is making enough food to feed an army.  We order hot drinks and muffins.  Interestingly the muffins turn up heated and we are offered cream and jam.  I take the cream but leave the jam and my banana muffins are wonderful.  A trip to the loo leads me through a room which is where obviously the locals drink at night.  It really looks like I am in the outback here (or at least in a barroom scene in the film ‘Deliverance’ although this is artistic licence as I don’t think there is such a scene!).

P1030368 Photo:  Rustic chic near the Daintree River

P1030369 Photo:  A trip to the loo starts me worrying

Getting out of the car at the pick up point, I realise the folly of wearing flip flops.  I was just thinking of rain when I got dressed, not mud.  Oh well, it washes off.

As we walk to the floating pontoons, there are more signs to terrify the tourists.

P1030371 Photo:  We promise, OK?  We promise!

Just as we arrive at the pontoon, Dan arrives to meet us.  He is a great character, a softly spoken American who looks like a cross between the British naturalist, David Bellamy and one of the guys from ZZ Topp.  His boat is an open aluminium box with an outboard motor with 360 degree swivel seats.  As soon as we sit down, the drizzle picks up.

P1030390 Photo:  Dan Irby explaining the crocodiles’ habitat to us

He explains that if it had been a sunny day, we would have seen a whole host of crocodiles on the banks of the river, sunning themselves to store warmth, but as it is not, they will be harder to find but not impossible.  Within minutes of uttering these words, he spots one.  I think it looks like a log but as we approach, it’s easy to see who is right.

P1030374 P1030377 P1030378 Photos:  My first camera-shy crocodile in the wild

As we head further towards the estuary, the rain starts in earnest and the wet weather gear goes on.  We are in the middle of rain forest here and it is determined to live up to its name.

After that one large croc, it’s a while before we spot another, but we see kingfishers, waders, eagles, bats and a whole host of other riverside dwelling creatures.

P1030381 P1030388 P1030407 Photos:  Birds and bats – the tree dwellers of the Daintree River

P1030400 Photo:  The rain closes in and the rain forest lives up to its name

Eventually we see another crocodile.  It is smaller than the first one but exciting to see just the same.  We catch it just as he slides into the water but he keeps a beady eye on us before diving under the surface.

P1030399  Photos:  Crocodile number two

We go up one of the river’s many tributaries where I hope to see even more crocs but they don’t co-operate and all we see are mangroves and crabs.

P1030412 Photo:  Crocodile hunters huddled against the rain

I’m seriously considering saying that we should call it a day regardless of whether we have had our two hours’ worth or not.  It is now pouring with rain and even with umbrellas we are getting soaked when suddenly spots another one on the banks of the river.  He is careful not to get too close and spook him into turning round and going back into the water.


Photo:  Crocodile number three

The trip is now over and he takes us back to the pontoon bedraggled and dripping with water.  While the others go back to the car, I wait in the relative shelter of the ferry booking hut.  I have seen the mud slick that the car park has turned into and I’m not walking through it in flip flops.

We decide to go to Port Douglas for lunch and head for the marina, usually one of the liveliest spots in an area but discover that this one is in its death throes.  We have a relatively hurried (and late) lunch as they have a private function starting in an hour, then wander around the marina shops, but they are tourist tat and not interesting.  Driving out we hit the centre of town which is much livelier and wonder what’s so wrong with the marina.

Finding our way out of town proves to be a problem.  They are not very good at sign posting.  Heidi suggests that this is because most Australians do not travel very far themselves.  It could certainly explain the lack of road traffic.

we end up at the top of the hill where we have a panoramic view up the coast.  Mind you, since we were actually looking for the lighthouse, it gives an idea what the sign posting is actually like!

P1030423 Photo:  Hill with a view

We eventually find our way out of Port Douglas and make it back to Cairns, taking a brief detour to visit the supermarket to buy some more of the wonderful bread mix that is produced here that I used to be able to buy in the UK – Lauke German bread mix – wonderful stuff.  Of course, all the photo opportunities that I had on the way out this morning do not present themselves as the clouds follow us back down the coast.  Still, Yorkeys Knob makes me snigger again.  How juvenile!  We stay in for dinner and watch the film ‘Australia’ which is fitting.


Our position is:  16 deg 55 min S, 145 deg 46 min E

Distance so far:  10953 nautical miles