So finally, after months and months of relentless planning and preparations, we were ready to go! Destination: Indonesia! First leg – north up the east coast of Australia to Cairns. Second leg – from Cairns, around the top of Australia (Cape York) to Darwin. Third leg – Darwin to Kupang, West Timor (Indonesia).
The weather looked good – there was a small low pressure system south east of us which was expected to produce some medium-strong winds, but nothing to worry about because they were in the right direction (southerlies) and we were going with the weather.
We had a merry band of friends and neighbours waving us off from Mooloolaba Marina, which had been our home for a year. The boys, especially, received a hearty send-off from their new buddies, the “Quest Bras” (aka James and Matt from boat “Quest”). The Mooloolaba spit was in the process of being dredged, so we had to dodge the dredger and the odd breaking wave when exiting the rivermouth, but thankfully no dramas.
Let me introduce you to our 2 crew/friends that have joined us for the journey:
Rob is from Cape Town, is a yachtmaster and has done many catamaran deliveries over the years. He is also a keen surfer, so the lure of Indonesia is pretty tempting. Marco and Rob sailed a lot together in Cape Town when they were both obtaining their skippers tickets. Rob joined us in early May and has been tremendously helpful and proactive in preparing the boat for sea.
We met Paul in Margaret River, and he has been part of a number of big projects we’ve undertaken. He helped Marco sail Noah’s Ark up from Newcastle to Mooloolaba when we first bought her, he helped us pack up our house in Margaret River, and he also drove across Australia with Marco when we moved across east. He’s super-practical and imaginative, and he comes up with clever solutions to problems that inevitably crop up. He’s a diesel mechanic (always helpful, given Marco’s love-hate (ok, mainly hate) relationship with our engines) and obviously also surfs.
Best of all, they’re both great to have around and are awesome with the boys.
So, this merry band of sailors finally set off from Mooloolaba, aiming to make it to Cairns before stopping. How naïve we were! It hadn’t been more than a couple hours when we (mainly the boys and I) started feeling queasy. I’d been queasy before, but this was getting worse and worse, and before long I was feeding the fish for hours on end. I’m not sure if I set him off, but Marco soon followed suit. He was so livid – he has only gotten seasick a couple times before in his life, and here he was, finally setting off on his dream voyage, only to be down and out after a couple hours! Even Noah, who is usually strong of stomach, was affected. For more details on our marvelous first day at sea, see Joshua’s blog (coming soon).
Luckily we had a very able and strong crew! Rob and Paul pretty much sailed us through the night, sorted out food, washed up etc. The next day was marginally better, but we all still felt grim. I remember exclaiming that “sailing sucks”, and Marco proclaimed (again) that he was “selling the boat”. The rule of thumb is that one adjusts after 3 days, and I can vouch for this – when we woke up on the 3rd day, we felt amazingly stronger and actually felt like food. I was a little worried that we’d all look skeletal by the time we got to Cairns!
We had decided to stop in Bundaberg – firstly, for some respite from our seasickness, and secondly, to wait for some stronger winds (and resulting swells) to pass. I wasn’t too keen on tackling bigger swells in my fragile state. We anchored in the Burnett river – thrilled with our new anchor which seemed to be holding like a pitbull, and set off to the river bank for a picnic. Bundaberg is the sugar capital of Australia, so a perfect place to rehydrate and stock on some Bundaberg electrolytes.
Fresh and rejuvenated, we left the next morning … still feeling chipper and sprightly. The boat was handling well. The wind was generally 15-20 knots southerly/south-easterly, which was a perfect direction to blow us north. We generally had our genoa out, the big billowing headsail that pulls us downwind, and the mainsail too if we had enough angle on the wind. We reached 16 knots surfing down one swell, but generally averaged about 7 knots during the day. At night the guys were more cautious, and we sometimes just had the jib out, averaging about 5 knots.
I battled to sleep soundly at night, as I’m not used to rolling around my bed in my sleep. The noises of the jib tacking from one side to the other right above my head, as well as the autopilot (which I’ve decided sounds like an orchestra tuning up) were also distracting, so I’d get up feeling pretty tired – despite not doing many night watches. The guys were brilliant, taking turns to do 3 hour-watches, and catching up on sleep at times during the day.
Our AIS (Automatic Identification System) has been so useful – especially at night! We’ve always had an AIS receiver, but now also a transmitter, which means that we can see and identify other boats and they can see and identify us. A bit like radar, but different technology (we now have both). It’s especially comforting when there are big tankers and warships around at night, with lights shining in every direction making it difficult to see which way they are moving. We have had to put on engines to zoot across a shipping lane before a 300m cargo ship crossed over behind us – not a near miss at all, but the AIS definitely helped in the decision making process.
We decided to anchor overnight in Port Clinton – again to wait out some stronger winds and swells (and possibly to give me a good night’s sleep). Port Clinton is a pretty little inlet around a headland near Shoal Bay, just south of the Percy Islands. It was wonderfully sunny, and we had a slow lazy morning – so slow, in fact, that we missed the high tide and had to spend the day there to get safely across the bar on the next high tide. I didn’t mind that – we all went to the beach and played some beach games, whilst Paul climbed the nearby hill.
One of the highlights of our trip so far is that we’ve actually caught fish! This is pretty unusual for us, so there was much excitement all round. For a more detailed description of our fishing success, see Noah’s blog (coming soon).
Another highlight has been making fresh pot-bread! Paul has been the main breadmaker thus far, and we’ve really appreciated fresh warm herby bread, slathered with butter and jam. Mmmm!
We have seen a lot of dolphins, which is always a treat. Since we’ve been sailing with the swells behind us, we often spot them riding the swells behind the boat. We sailed passed a group of humpback whales, with a calf breaching continually – they’re so playful.
The boys are settling into cruising life – but definitely prefer being at anchor than at sea for days. Noah has been making model aeroplanes from a great book we bought before we left, and Josh is powering through Narnia. I must admit that I’ve done a lot of lazing around and sleeping. Although I generally feel okay (i.e. not queasy), I feel really tired a lot of the time, and don’t want to risk spending too long fiddling around in the galley preparing gourmet meals. Schooling is not that easy whilst underway, although we have been reading our curriculum novel in bed together, which is quite fun. We’ve managed to catch up on other schooling whilst at anchor, even on Saturdays (much to the boys’ horror!). Days of the week are becoming irrelevant really, as they should be. Onwards and upwards!