Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A Thump in the Night

It was around 2am waning gibbous moonlit night, and we were about to have our first gear failure of the trip.  

Katie was asleep down below, and I was up on deck taking in an episode of Game of Thrones (thanks Abe).  The boat was performing fairly well, however the conditions left something to be desired. We were near Smokey Cape (around 60km north of Port Macquarie), an area where the southbound east australian coastal current picks up speed to a frustrating 3 knots.  That means with the boat doing approximately 6 knots through the water we were in effect only going forward at 3kts, add to that the nasty habit of sailing boats not sailing directly into the wind, and we had progress towards the Clarence River entrance slowed a meagre 1.5 knots.

As we came around the cape there was a marked increase in the seas, with a few 3m waves seemingly appearing out of nowhere, that was the final nail in the coffin of my will to sail for the evening, so we started up the "iron spinaker" (the engine) and I furled up the staysail that we had been using on the foredeck.  Now all that we had left to do was listen to the sound of the engine and pound our way through the oncoming waves.

It was then that an apparent oversight from our rigger decided to rear it's ugly head.  Although we can't be sure, my guess is that the tensioner at the base of our inner forestay had not been correctly refitted by our rigger after some work was done on the boat in Sydney, the end result, a big metal thing dangling from the mast banging on the deck as the boat pitched.  And subsequently, a very wet Hughbie scrambling around with a head torch, harness and tether (piece of rope that keeps you attached to the boat no matter how hard you try to fall off).  It wasn't too difficult to get the thing under control and lash it back to where it should have been and the worst of it was probably over within 20 minutes.

I didn't want to go too much further without the option of putting up a staysail, so we evaluated our possible destinations. Port Macquarie was now about 80 km behind us, and Coffs Harbour was 100 km ahead.  Coffs Harbour is renown for being a very easy anchorage to enter and my rough calculations had us arriving at 9am, plus the thought of retracing such hard-won sailing steps was not appealing.  So 8 hours of motoring later we pulled into Coffs Harbour where the words of one of my cruiser friends in Woolwich echoed in my ears:  "Cruising. Otherwise known as sailing to exotic locations and fixing things".


Friday, 26 April 2013


I was having a fight with a woman and then I could hear this dull thudding and vibrating within me, almost like an earthquake shaking the ground and the buildings, the thudding was becoming louder and closer. What is that?

I woke up, something was hitting the hull of the boat. It was 4:45am and still dark. I lay in bed wondering where it was coming from. I got up and the boat was still tied to the mooring, so what was it? Nothing had come adrift into us. I immediately thought that our inflatable dingy was hitting the boat as it was tied up to the rear. So I clambered up the companionway, out the cockpit and over the cold wet deck of the boat to the transom and couldn't see the dingy. I walked around to the port side and then to the starboard side. No dingy. This is a problem. I went downstairs and woke up Hugh "Our dingy is gone", "what?", "we don't have a dingy anymore, 'The Krissy' has gone", "what????"…

We both climbed out of the boat and looked around, I pulled out the big spotlight, no sign of the dingy. After much searching of the shore in the dark, we both went back to bed, hoping that the incoming tide would bring her back. Seems ANZAC day was too much for the dingy and our never fail outboard.

So there was no dingy. Not even Marine Rescue had heard of a captainless dingy afloat in the bay. We were blue. We had lost our trusty runabout, we had no transportation. 

Even though we are blue, we have set out on our first big leg. Port Stephens to Ballina, some 260nm, with an estimated travel time of 3 days. We feel blue, but we see amazing blue water, light blue sky and blue haze over the land. I can see the blue trim on our jib and I am wearing a blue shirt. 

Because they knew we were blue, the dolphins came for a swim with us today. They were jumping and diving all around, and they rode the bow wave with us for a while. Special!


Monday, 22 April 2013

Cabin Fever

On Saturday, the heavens opened, they unleashed torrents of rain, for 12 hours. Cabin fever set in, a full rocky road easter egg the size of my head was consumed and sugar highs and lows shortly followed behind. It was time for the making of tracks. Hanging out in our backyard was not the aim of the game and these gale force winds were going to stop us no more! 

Sunday became boat prep day, ahead of a big sail day on Monday.

Monday 4am, the alarm startles Hugh and I. In the dark we fumble around and grunt at each other. Basic questions: Is that put away? is this up in the cockpit? Do you have your jacket? And in the pitch black of pre-dawn we made way, picking our way through the moorings at Careel Bay with a spotlight to avoid any unwanted 'bumps in the night'. 45.3 nautical miles to go!

Rain again? Our second start is similar to our first. Rain, wind and general chilliness are features of the sail. We motorsail for a while. There are whispers of sunrise on the horizon, however the clouds are having none of that, and keep it a secret from us. Finally the sun breaks through and brings with it the wind, a glorious westerly and so out comes the jib, our most favoured sail which is enormous and takes the boat to a leisurely 6 knots/hr.

We run out of breeze and out of time, as the Swansea bridge won't open for us at 4pm. The motor gets a kick and we are breaking 6knots trying to get to the Swansea bar before 3pm. Thankfully the bridge man is feeling jolly today and gives us an extra 10 minutes leeway to make the 3pm. At 3:04pm we glide through the two-way Swansea bascule bridge, forcing central coasters to wait patiently as we close the Pacific Highway. They don't just open the bridge for anybody…so Hugh feels particularly important!

4:30pm, the captain who conquered the Swansea bar and stopped traffic cracks open his beer after a long and sometimes slow day at sea.


Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Elizabeth Jane II - Peterson 44

Elizabeth Jane II has embarked on several long passages, having been berthed in New Jersey in 1980 and cruising across the Pacific to Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand, before calling Port Adelaide her new home (under the vessel name 'Willow I'). And these are the voyages that we know of!

Under our command, she completed 20 months at sea, cruising the Australian east coast, South East Asia, the Western Pacific (Philippines & Palau) before heading east and home to Sydney, via Micronesia and the Solomon Islands. She is now enjoying the next chapter of her life, with her new own in Victoria, Australia, with aspirations to do some more Pacific Ocean trekking. Fair winds...

The Peterson 44 was the combined effort of racing designer Doug Peterson and yacht broker Jack Kelly, with aims to create the best cruising yacht. Designed in USA and constructed in Taiwan, the Peterson 44 is unrivaled in its comfort for long distance cruising balanced with speed.

The boat hull construction is fibre glass and the deck is fibreglass/plywood/fibreglass sandwich. The deck is gel-coat/non-skid with timber bulkwarks.

The design features a low-profile center cockpit that keeps weight low physically as well as visually. The long-fin keel with cutaway forefoot and afterbody reduces wetted surface for good light-air performance and provides a shorter turning radius. A full-size molded-in skeg supports the rudder and provides good protection during the occasional grounding. Protected also is the prop, mounted in an aperture between the skeg and the rudder. Displacement of 30,000 pounds (10,000 of this is buried in encapsulated lead ballast) gives the Peterson 44 an easy motion at sea.
Elizabeth Jane II
Hull No.267
Maiden Voyage 1980

Down below, the layout offers an aft captains suite with head.

A full-size U-shaped galley is located to port near amidship. Accommodating a fridge, freezer, oven/stove, double sink and loads of storage nooks. 

The main saloon's obvious divider is the mast which runs through the middle of it, however does not detract from the comfortable dining table for 4 (also a double berth) to port and the couch (single berth) to starboard.

Moving forward there is a large head with shower to port and a queen sized V-berth, comfortably accommodating 2 persons.

The cabin is detailed with teak timber joinery and gloss white laminate and white vinyl to brighten the interiors. The cabin sole is composed of teak and rosewood sandwich topped with a gloss varnish.