Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hello from Kupang, Indonesia!


Did I wish for more wind in my previous post?  I guess the old saying “be careful what you wish for” holds true…I wished for more wind, and boy, did we get it!!  But let me back track just a little. 

Days 6 & 7 on our trip to Indonesia were beautiful sailing days.  We put our Spinnaker up, and it was downwind sailing all the way.  The seas calmed down as the winds were fairly light, in fact, on the evening of the 6th night, we actually had to take the Spinnaker down, and we motored through the night as the wind was so light.  But as soon as the sun was up, we put the big blue and yellow sail up again, and we once again had lovely winds the whole day and through the night.  With the wind strength dying down, so did the sea state, and it was almost flat with very little swell, so it really was very nice!

Going into Day 8, which was Tuesday, May 30th, we checked the weather as usual, and we knew the wind was going to pick up, as we had seen this in all the downloads we had done every day, twice a day.  So we were not surprised to see higher winds forecast, but none of the models predicted anything more than 20 knots.  With stronger winds, we were making better speeds, and we were hoping to make it to Kupang that evening.  The first incident happened, once again, on my watch.  It was relatively early, and Dave was inside dealing with a toilet that had magically blocked overnight (see, we have the same problems on board as on land…everyone loves a blocked toilet!!!!).  The sky was a little overcast, but nothing I didn’t see anything threatening.  All of a sudden, I noticed the wind pick up…from 15 to 18 to 23 knots in a matter of seconds.  I looked behind me, and I just saw this wall of water and dark cloud.  I shouted to Dave to get to the helm.  He’s pretty quick to react and he was up there in seconds….luckily!  It was a matter of a few more seconds before the squall hit us.  The wind rocketed to 29 knots and the wall of water hit us.  Dave shouted for me to get the spinnaker sheet (rope) and he said, “if I say “go”, just let it all out…get ready to dump that sail!”.  He was worried that the power of the wind could tear the sail and our only option would be to let all the rope out, let the sail flap, and take all the power out of it.  Hand steering through the squall, and surfing down the waves, Dave managed to control the boat and sail, and it was not too long before the storm passed over us, and all was back to normal.  Phew!  That was a shock to my system after my dream-like sailing for the last 2 days!!!

Dave went back to trying to fix the toilet, and I was back on watch.  I honestly don’t know what happened, because I was pretty vigilant about watching the wind angle, and the only thing I can think of was that a wave caught us from the side, (with the increased wind, the waves and swell were picking up again as well), and this rocked the boat, causing the spinnaker to collapse on one side.  Now, this sail is huge, and when it collapses, there is a lot of cloth flapping around!!  I heard and saw it at the same time, and immediately changed course by 10 degrees, to get directly downwind, but it didn’t help.  The sail kept of flapping and overlapping, itself and I shouted once more for Dave.  This time he didn’t come…and I’m trying to control the boat and this sail!!  I shouted again…”Can you guys hear me?!” and I guess the panic in my voice made Dave dash out once again.  The sail had wrapped itself around itself and to try and now undo it was a nightmare.  I honestly thought we were going to loose it.  Dave sprang into action immediately.  When pulling on the sheet didn’t dislodge it, he shouted for us to turn on both engines.  By this time Benjamin was right beside me and he took control of the engines. 
“Rev them to 30,000 RPM!”,  Dave shouted!  WHAT?!  We never do that!! 
“Do it, NOW!”  was the response when Ben and I didn’t react quickly enough.  We did as we were told.
Ben stayed on the engines, and I went to release the sheet.  By speeding up the boat, we were able to take some of the power out of the sail, and by releasing the rope, there was enough slack for Dave to pull the sock down and douse it, and then untangle it.  For the second time that day, I thought we’d almost lost our spinnaker.  It was all too much for me.  I asked Dave to please take the helm for the next couple of hours…the toilet could wait. 

I kept myself busy cleaning the inside of the boat, our usual routine to get ready for our anticipated visit by customs, immigration and quarantine, whenever we check in to a new country.  I didn’t realize how much the wind, that was not supposed to go above 20 knots, had actually come up.  I started hearing those darn “high wind” alarms and eventually went out to see what was going on.  The scene that greeted me was a little scary.  The water had turned into this churning mass of white caps and the wind speeds were a consistent 28 to 29 knots, gusting to 30 knots.  And yes, we had our spinnaker up (this is a light wind sail)!  The sail was handling it OK, but our auto pilot could not.  Dave was hand steering to keep the boat surfing down waves, doing everything he could to keep the power out of the sail.  We were doing speeds of 10 – 12 knots easily…surfing down waves at 16 knots!!  For those not familiar with sailing (or with our boat)….that’s FAST!!  I had many thoughts going through my head, but my most troublesome was, “how on earth are we going to get this sail down?!”!!!  We talked it through for a while…we would wait for a “lull” in the wind (hoping for 18 – 19 knots) and then do our usual routine of getting the sail down.  That consists of Dave at the bow, pulling the sock down on the sail to douse it, Ben on engines and handling the spinnaker guy (rope), me letting out the spinnaker sheet, and Gaby reading out wind speeds and transferring messages from Dave to me, as he is in front and I’m at the back, and it can be hard to hear him (especially in howling wind!).  But that lull just never came.  We were once again getting close to a point where we had to make a turn, and we had to get the sail down!  Ben and I talked about it…our biggest concern was that the auto pilot could not handle the waves, and it would not be able to surf the waves as Dave could by hand steering, so we would never have that surf during which to douse the sail.  We went to Dave with our plan:  Dave stays on the helm and hand steers (and does Ben’s usual jobs), Ben handles the sheet, Gaby does her thing, and I would go up front to pull down the sock.  We had to try it.  So, everyone, donning their life jackets and clipped on, manned their stations and off I went to the bow.  Dave was so busy issuing instructions, that he almost missed the window when Gaby shouted out “19 knots!”, and Dave said “GO!”  Ben let out the sheet, letting the sail flap (wildly!), Dave surfed a wave and I pulled for all that my life was worth!!!!!  The sock slowly came down.  I remember hearing Gaby shouting “Go Momma,  you’re doing great!!”  So sweet…my little cheerleader!!  Well…we did it!  We got that monster sail down in howling wind and all was safe and sound…what a team!  I was so proud of everyone.  The kids really come together in a crisis and just do whatever needs to be done!!   We turned at the waypoint, which was our last stretch to Kupang.  “We’re coming in hot!”  we shouted to no-one in particular!  By 5:00pm we were anchored and just so relieved to have made it safely!  It took a while for it to sink in that we were actually in Indonesia! 

We’ve only been here a day, but that’s a blog post all on its own.  The poverty we’ve seen in such a short time is astounding.  We’ve made friends with Lambert, who lives on the beach, only has one leg, but a heart of gold.  Dave spent the ENTIRE day checking in.  If we had not enlisted the help of a local agent, it would take 2 – 3 days at a minimum for check-in.  The bureaucracy is unbelievable, and to navigate it alone would be an astronomical task.  But we are here, we are happy, we are safe!  And we are all checked in!!  Today’s school was dedicated to learning about the history of this incredibly diverse country of tens of thousands of islands, and about the different cultures and religions; Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Catholics, who currently (but have not always!) live peacefully together.  We constantly hear the call to prayer from the local mosque even though on this island, Muslims are in the minority.  Tomorrow we are taking a tour of Kupang and surrounding area before we head off once again to explore the islands to the north and west.  Our studies today also included learning some basic Bahasa Indonesia words, so with my limited vocabulary, I say to you all, “Selamat Tinggal”  (Goodnight)!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Passage to Kupang: Night 5

If only all nights could be like this. The stars are rolled out like a massive, twinkling carpet on an inky black sky. The soft glow of Darwin's lights, about a 100 miles away, are a smudge on the horizon. Everyone is sleeping . I just saw a shooting star. Seriously. What more could I ask for? Dare I even say it... a little more wind?! We are crawling along, or should I say, wallowing, in 8 - 10 knots of wind, at a whopping 4.4 knots boat speed, our arrival in Kupang, Indonesia just extended by another day. It's night #5.

When we left Thursday Island on Tuesday, May 23rd, we put 2 reefs in our mainsail, anticipating the heavy winds that had been forecast. And it was the right decision. The first 2 days and nights had us dealing with 25-30 knot winds, the high wind alarms frequently going off in the night. The seas were also pretty rough, with big swells and choppy waves rolling across the huge Gulf of Carpentaria. I think everyone was a little miserable, and I for one, was seasick for the first time this entire trip! I don't know where that came from!

It took us 2 days to cross the Gulf of Carpentaria, and once we were able to tuck in behind the Marchibar islands, things definitely improved a little. On day 3 the wind decreased a little, and while we briefly contemplated shaking out a reef, we were glad we didn't, as by late afternoon and into the nights we had strong winds again. Having the reefs in the mainsail reduces the amount of sail area, so there is less strain on the boat when the wind comes up. It is definitely slower, but we figured slow and steady would be the way to go on this trip, considering the distances we have ahead of us.

We've seen surprisingly little on this trip. When we left, we were buzzed by an Australian Border Force aircraft that radioed us for a check-in. We have a sneaky suspicion this might have been arranged by our friendly Border Force officer that checked us out, who was surprised to hear that we had not yet encountered a fly by check up, a very common occurrence in the northern part of Australia, and particularly in the Torres Strait area. This morning we had another encounter, the plane flying so low over us, we thought he might touch the mast! But he had a look, banked to the right and was soon gone again. We were eagerly standing by the radio, ready to have a chat, but no call came. I guess they knew who we were and where we were going!

We encountered a number of ships the first day and night, the Torres Strait being almost a bottle neck in the shipping lanes as they travel from the East to Australia's many ports, New Zealand and beyond. Thereafter, we saw nothing until this evening, when Dave spotted 2 lights in the distance, presumably fishing boats. Also nothing much in the way of sea life... Dave saw a sea snake or eel type thing, we both saw some tuna jumping in the distance, but no friendly dolphins have come to play.

We've now settled into our passage routine. Every evening before sunset, Dave puts on his life jacket and harness and does a thorough inspection of the boat. I marvel at his patience, as he checks every rope, lifeline, pin and shackle. But it's diligence like this that enables us to catch problems before they become disasters. We sleep when we can, taking turns at the helm, just as we do at night. The kids pitch in too, giving us both just a little bit of extra downtime.

The chartplotter tells me we have 436 miles to go, which means we are more than halfway through this 1,100 mile journey. We should arrive in Kupang on the 31st of May. 3 more nights... may they all be as starry, calm and uneventful as this one has been so far... with maybe just a smudge more wind!

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Last Stop: Thursday Island...Farewell Australia!

Our time in Thursday and Horn Islands has gone by quickly and tomorrow we have no choice but to clear out of Australia and be on our way to Indonesia! After arriving on Thursday afternoon (how’s that…we arrived at Thursday Island on a Thursday! Well timed and totally unintentional!!), we watched the sun go down and enjoyed a good night’s sleep!

We had good intentions to go and check out the town on Thursday Island on Friday, May 19th, but admin tasks and the weather got in the way. I spent all day working on our Australian tourist tax refund (making spreadsheets, copying and scanning receipts), the kids did school, and Dave got us all caught up and ahead with finances, paying credit cards, and ensuring our dwindling cruising kitty would see us home! We got a visit from the friendly Customs and Border Control people, whom we had spoken to earlier in the day, and they came to check us out, I guess. They didn’t come aboard, but one poor guy drew the short straw and had to stand in the rain on their boat and talk to us. We got some questions answered and then with a wave they were on their way.

Cool Runnings (way in the distance) anchored off Horn Island at low tide
On Saturday we decided to take the dinghy over the Ellis channel to Thursday Island. Horn and Thursday Islands are not too far apart, but long sand banks between them make it a mile and a half dinghy ride to get from one island to another. We walked around the main street, and unfortunately, most things were closed, it being a Saturday. We still managed to have a lovely lunch of Fish and Chips at the Grand Hotel, and then were thinking of going back to the boat, as there was not a whole lot going on! We walked down to the dinghy dock, and Dave asked a taxi driver how much it would be to take us up to the Green Hill Fort, one of the sights we’d read about. He said it would be $8 for all 4 of us. He also said he couldn’t take us, but he’d radio for another driver. And soon enough, another driver came along, ready to take us up the hill to the fort. We asked him how much for a tour of the whole island, and he said $30, which was a bit better than the $100 another driver had quoted us when we first got there!!

Our greeting as we came ashore on Thursday Island

Gaby with the turtle sculpture...for her friend Mya who loves turtles, and for her friends Julie and Sophie on Nogal..the T-Shirt is for you (from you!)!  We miss you guys!
So we hopped in the van and got a quick tour of this small island. We went to the cemetery where we found many old graves of long forgotten Japanese pearl-shell divers, who came here to seek their fortune, but never made it home. We also saw the grave of our driver’s great, great grandfather, and other Torres Strait islanders. There were Malaysian, Indonesian, and up on the slopes Roman Catholic and Anglican graves. The island is very small, only 3.5 square kilometers, so it didn’t take us long to see it all! 

Graves of the Japanese pearl divers

The grave of our taxi driver's great grandfather

A view of Thursday Island.  Horn Island, where our boat was anchored, is across the channel
The highlight was the trip up to Green Hill Fort, which was built in 1891 – 1893, and is one of the most intact 19th century forts remaining in Australia. Unfortunately the museum that is attached to the fort was closed, but we were still able to view the cannons and enjoy the beautiful views from the top of the hill!

Stunning views of the surrounding water and islands

One of the cannons perched on top of the hill

Dave and the kids inspect one of the cannons

Beautiful views across the Torres Straits

When we took the dinghy back across the channel, we decided to make a quick stop at Horn Island as well. Horn Island is one of the largest islands of the Torres Straits, extending over 53 square kilometers, but it only has 900 inhabitants, compared to the 3,500 living on tiny Thursday Island. I was thrilled to find a little book exchange outside the grocery store/café!

If there's a book, she'll read it!  At the little book exchange on Horn Island

Love it!!

Swapping my books!  My intention was to donate my books to get the ones I'd read off the boat, and make space and  get rid of some weight, but I found some I wanted to read, so it turned into a swap!
At about 5:30pm Dave’s phone rang, and even though it was a strange number he didn’t recognize, he thankfully answered it, because it was our friends on “Moby” that we had been planning to meet in Indonesia. They had left New Caledonia 6 days previously, and were about 330 miles off the Australian coast, heading for the Torres Strait, when they hit a submerged object, probably a log of some sort, which broke off their skeg, and subsequently hit their saildrive, damaging the hull. They were not in immediate danger, but were taking on water, and they wanted to know what the closest Australian port was, so they could divert there and get the damage fixed. Unfortunately for them, the closest port was Cairns, 330 miles to their southwest, so they diverted and had to beat into the wind for 2 days to get there!

The rest of the afternoon was spent getting in touch with Australian Search and Rescue to alert them of Moby’s situation, as well as Customs and Border control. Luckily the family had gotten Australian visas before leaving New Caledonia, for their stop in Cocos Keeling later this year, and that was one problem we didn’t have to worry about. We continued to monitor their position and situation well into the night. Our hearts went out to them, and it was a big wake up call for us as well. You just have to be prepared for anything!

We continued to monitor Moby the whole of Sunday, checking-in in the morning and the evening to ensure all was OK, and although Loic said the damage was a little worse than he initially thought, he was confident that they would make it to Cairns OK. Sadly, (and selfishly) this meant we would not be able to cruise Indonesia together, as initially planned, but the main thing was that they were safe.  We are thrilled to be able to able to report that they arrived safely in Cairns this afternoon!

Moby's track.  They have made it safe and sound to Cairns!
This morning (Monday morning), Dave and I were up at 5:30am and took the dinghy over to the dock on Horn Island, where the ship carrying our new batteries was busy offloading her cargo. We located our new batteries and got them onto the dinghy and then onto the big boat. That was my morning workout right there!! (well, that, and taking the old batteries out, and bringing the new batteries down into the battery compartment!!). Dave spent the day fitting the new batteries, as well as installing some new battery-related gadgets that Rosemary had brought over. We were also able to donate our old batteries to two locals, who were glad to have them. There was nothing wrong with them, they just didn’t hold a charge as well as they used to, and we just didn’t feel comfortable having them all the way across the Indian Ocean, but they were perfectly fine for two locals, who were happy to take them…win win!

It was still dark when we came back with our new batteries
Dave in the midst of the new battery install

All buttoned up and ready to go!
So here we are, on the eve of our departure from Australia. It has been our home for the last 6 months…quite a chunk of time! We’ve had an amazing time. We’ve reconnected with so many old friends and made many new ones. We will miss you all so very much. We’ve often said we have more friends in Australia than we do in America! Each and every one of you is welcome any time at all you are in our backyard…please, please, please look us up! On the other hand, we are ready to face our new adventure: new countries, new oceans, new people. We welcome it all! Thank you, Australia, we will miss you!

(PS: As a reminder, we won’t be able to get our email via gmail, which is dthibberd@gmail.com, so please feel free to email us on our iridium go email, which is hibberd@myiridium.net. We love getting messages while at sea, so please don’t be strangers!! We will try and do blog updates while at sea, but they won’t include any pictures, so until we reach Indonesia, wish us a good journey and Bon Voyage!)
As the sun sets on this adventure, a new one awaits on the horizon!


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Port Douglas to Thursday Island: Gales, Battery Woes and Flying Fish!

 When we left Port Douglas early on Monday, May 15th, it was the calmest we’d ever seen the water since leaving the Gold Coast! The wind was light and the clouds had lifted. For the first time, we saw the rainforest covered mountains without cloud cover! It only lasted for a couple of hours, and by lunchtime, the wind was up again, and we had an uneventful sail to Cooktown. We had the spinnaker up all the way, and we had to take it down in about 25 knots, because that’s what the wind was up to by the time we were ready to enter the Endeavor River, along which the small town of Cooktown is nestled.
Leaving Port Douglas in very calm weather!

At last we see the mountains clearly!
Anchored in Cooktown

We found a spot to anchor in a pretty crowded anchorage, in shallow water. Luckily it was low tide when we came in, making the sandbanks easier to spot, and ensuring we wouldn’t be left high and dry with the turn of the tide! It was very windy, blowing all night long, but our anchor was secure and we got a decent night’s sleep. We wished we could have had a day to go ashore and check out this last little outpost, but with the visa deadline hanging over our heads, we left again at first light on Tuesday morning. 

Sunset in Cooktown
Leaving Cooktown


We did the stretch from Cooktown to Thursday Island (about 400 miles) in 3 days and 2 nights. It was pretty uneventful, except for 3 things, which all happened on my watch! Leaving Cooktown, the wind was strong-ish, (about 22 knots) so we put 2 reefs in the main, knowing we were going to go overnight and we knew now that this stretch of coast always has strong winds! We had a pretty good day, and going into the night we decided I would take the first watch. We had about 2 hours to go to our next waypoint, at which time we would have to jibe, which means we would have to bring the sail from one side of the boat to the other, to change direction, as we were snaking our way up between the mainland and the reef. So I said I would wake Dave at that time, so we could do the jibe together. It has to be fairly controlled, because the force of wind on the sail is so strong, that if you bring it over too quickly, it can pull the car that slides the sail up and down the mast, right off the mast (something we’ve learned from experience in French Polynesia!!).

This is how you would normally jibe the boat
We have a wind alarm for both true wind speed, and apparent wind speed. True wind speed is just that:  how strong the wind is; and apparent wind speed is what the sail feels. Sometimes it can be more, sometimes it can be less than the true wind speed depending on the wind angle. We had our true wind speed alarm set to 27 knots, and our apparent set to 25 knots. About an hour into the watch, the wind started building. The true wind speed alarm started going off. I would mute the alarm, and it went off again. Constantly alarming…27 knots, 28 knots, 29 knots…just blowing and blowing and we were getting closer to the waypoint where we would have to jibe! I didn’t need to wake Dave…the constant alarms did it for me! He came up and assessed the situation, and we decided to change the alarm to 30 knots (as if that would make the wind any lighter!!), just to try and bring the anxiety level down a little. It didn’t help at all…no sooner had we done that, than the wind was 30, 31, 32…gusting up to 36 knots!! We had sustained winds of around 32-33 knots. We were doing boat speeds of 8 – 10 knots with 2 reefs in the main (great decision that morning!!) and no jib up! And that jibing waypoint was getting closer and closer!! And just to throw a spanner in the works, there were 2 ships barreling towards us!!

Dave sat at the helm and I just kept pressing the buttons to silence the alarms. The apparent wind speed alarm was now also going off, so amongst the screeching of the wind, we also had the screeching of the alarms! He was very quiet and I could see his mind working…

“We’ll have to do a Granny Tack” he eventually said.

“OK”, I said, “but that means going into the wind that is blowing 30 knots, right?”

“Right.” He said.

A Granny Tack is something Dave had learned during his racing years. When the wind is so strong, that the danger of capsizing when having to jibe is very high, you actually do a 360 degree turn, instead of 10 degree turn. So you turn into the wind, which takes all the power out of the sail, and then allows you to turn around, and move the boom and sail over to the other side, without the huge force that is in the sail. We waited for a lull in the wind, which didn’t come. The reef was getting closer, and we just had to do it. “OK,” he said, “here we go!” My heart was racing and my legs were like jelly. I was shaking all over, but I had absolute confidence in my amazing husband. He turned the boat into the 30 knots of wind, depowered the sail, continued turning around and listened and watched for the main sail to come over…Amazingly enough, it wasn’t too bad!!


Now we were on the right course, out of danger of the reef, but now had the ships to deal with! We had put the engines on when we jibed, so our first thought was to try and speed up, and go in front of them. We tried that for a while, but we saw it wasn’t going to work. So we throttled back as much as we could, took a slightly higher course, and went behind them. It was all too much for me. I knew Dave had it under control and he urged me to go and get some rest. We had continued winds of around 30 knots for about another hour, after which they eventually calmed down back into the high 20’s. I never thought I’d see the day when I was longing for 25 knots of wind!

After about 2 hours, I came back on watch to relieve Dave. All was good. Still strong winds…but manageable. He went downstairs to sleep and I concentrated on making sure we stayed on course. I had 2 lights to watch, each one signaling a reef, and we had to make sure we went between them. At night, you can get disorientated very quickly, and so with only the 2 lights and the chartplotter as my guide, we made our way through the reef. Here’s incident #2: All of a sudden, a new alarm pops up, and I feel the boat lurch to the side, changing direction almost 90 degrees. The alarm is saying “Pilot Stopped”. “WHAT?!” Oh boy, the auto pilot just stopped working, so the boat is no longer on course, and now heading straight for one blinking light! I had enough sense in me to grab the wheel, turn it back 90 degrees in the direction I thought we needed to be, all the while shouting “DAVE!” at the top of my lungs! He was up in a flash! He grabbed the wheel and I tried to orientate myself and find the 2 lights. “That way!” I’m shouting, and gets the boat back on track. Can my heart take anymore in one night??!!

The reason the auto pilot stopped working was because the batteries just didn’t have enough power to keep it going. We had been concerned that the batteries were not holding their charge very well, but we thought, with careful management, we could make it to South Africa, and replace them there. This was a wake-up call. We would not make it to South Africa with our current batteries. The problem was, we had left all form of civilization behind us, and we knew our only chance was to try and get some batteries up to Thursday Island. Let’s just throw the visa situation into the mix. We had to get batteries up to Thursday Island before we had to leave in 6 days’ time! Oh, and we had no cell phone coverage or internet.

All day Wednesday and Thursday we thought about our options, while our friends and family, that we managed to contact via satellite phone, worked the phones and internet to try and find some batteries for us. We discussed our options. If we couldn’t get batteries to Thursday Island (T.I). by the time we needed to leave, did we try and extend our visa, once in T.I. (at a cost of $1500, if even possible), and head on to Darwin, to see if we could get batteries there? Did we sail over to Papua New Guinea, and come back to extend our visa for 3 months without the cost, (we have multiple entry visas which are valid for one year, but only for 3 months at a time); or did we leave it and take our chance getting batteries in Indonesia?

As we were sailing north, we saw a “Seaswift” ship coming towards us. We knew that Seaswift was the company that delivered fuel and supplies to T.I. so Dave radioed them. He got the contact information for the person in Cairns and found out the schedule of the boat. If we were able to get batteries loaded onto the boat on Friday morning in Cairns, the ship would be in Horn Island on Sunday night, and then it heads over to T.I. early Monday morning. Since we would be anchoring off Horn Island, we would be able get the batteries on Sunday night, or early Monday, before the ship moved over to T.I., and fit the new batteries on Monday, clear out on Tuesday. Now all we had to do, was find the batteries! Luckily for us, a company in Cairns had 4 4D 210Amp AGM batteries in stock. The amp power would be less than we have now (we have 6 200Amp batteries, but they are Mastervolt slimlines, so we could fit 6 in our battery compartment, but we can only fit 4 of the new ones in there), but we were OK with that! Unfortunately for us, the price was astronomical, but we really didn’t have a choice.  By Thursday afternoon our new batteries were ready to be loaded on Friday, and on the ship to T.I. by the weekend!

Our deepest thanks to everyone who came to the rescue, but special thanks to Brian Chambers for sourcing the batteries and Brent on Cat IMPI for his advice, and willingness to help phone around and research getting batteries for us! Thanks also to Brian Smith for doing all the initial investigation on what was available in Thursday Island! We REALLY appreciate everyones efforts while we had no access to cell or internet.....sat phone to the rescue again!!!

Somewhere along the line, we still managed to do some washing!
While all this was going on, incident #3 happened. I was on watch, again, and it was daytime, so I was a little zoned out, thinking about the battery dilemma, when the next thing I hear is an almighty THUMP and then something barreling past me, and off the back of the boat with a splash! You know how multiple things go through your mind in a matter of seconds? The first thing I thought of was that something had happened with the rigging…something had snapped and the white thing I saw was the sail or a piece of the boat. Then I realized everything was in place, so it had to have been something we hit. I thought it was a bird, but I didn’t see any feathers or the bird bobbing in the water behind us. Seconds later we could smell it. It had been a fish! We had seen tuna jumping way out of the water numerous times, and, looking at the evidence that was left behind (blood and scales…and the smell!!), we surmised that a tuna had jumped up, landed on the bow, then smashed into the window, and continued to propel itself, the entire length of the boat, hitting the deck a couple of times, and lastly, smashing into the life line at the back, it jumped back into the water!! Thank GOODNESS no one was sitting on the front deck on the bean bags as we often do, or even that it didn’t smack me in the face at the helm station! That could have been ugly!! So those are the 3 things on our “uneventful” journey from Cooktown to TI! 

So this wasn't actually the fish that hit us, but this is what they do!

This would not have been as peaceful a scene if anyone had been sitting on the beanbags at the time of the "flying fish incident!"
 
All the while we kept on going, when finally, on Thursday afternoon, May 18th, at about 3:00pm, we rounded the tippy top of Australia!! We saw the lighthouse on Cape York and we were amazed that we had journeyed all the way from Sydney in the South to Cape York in the North! 

Our chartplotter showing us about to round Cape York

Ben and Gaby at the top of Australia!

Our route...all along the East Coast of Australia
Leaving mainland Australia behind us, we motored the last hour across into the Torres Strait, around the top of Horn Island, and down the Ellis Channel towards T.I! We anchored off Horn Island, as it is a more comfortable anchorage, in the shelter of the island, rather than anchoring off T.I. which would leave us on a lee shore. It felt so great to finally get here, knowing we had 4 full days to rest and get organized, before heading off on our 8 day passage to Kupang, Indonesia!

Sunset over Thursday Island


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Port Douglas...Shops and Crocs!

The short trip from Cairns to Port Douglas was pretty uneventful. We’ve come to accept that the wind on this coast, at this time of year, is always going to be 20 – 25 knots…luckily the swell is not too bad as the reef gets closer and closer to the mainland, and makes the water a little calmer.

We arrived in the afternoon, and were even more impressed with Port Douglas than we were with Cairns. Beautiful, green landscape with a smattering of palm trees! It reminded us that we were slowly getting to the tropics again! Afterall, we were now at 16 degrees S once more!  (Brisbane lies at 26 degrees south).

Arriving in Port Douglas

Port Douglas's 4 mile beach

Our time in Port Douglas pretty much mirrored that of Cairns. We spent the first afternoon getting acquainted with our surroundings, taking a walk up into the quaint village of Port Douglas. Lots of cute shops and restaurants…really only one main street! 

Lots of trees and cute restaurants

I particularly enjoyed this billboard!
 
The next day was again dedicated to boat tasks. Dave secured the dinghy, and we finally sorted out and rearranged our bow lockers, something that’s been bugging us for a long time! I spent all day on the computer, getting ourselves registered on Indonesia’s new online yacht registration system. We also decided to enlist the help of an agent in Indonesia, who will help with clearing in. While it’s possible to do it all yourself, we read reports on how it can take a couple of days as you get sent from one authority to another. Other reports from yachties that had used an agent, described a 2 hour check-in process as the agent taxied them around and the process was really smooth. We decided the fee charged for this would be well worth it, considering we don’t speak the language, and have heard of many reports of officials demanding bribes. So that all took some time to organize, but at the end of the day, we felt good with the progress we had made, and other than a final shop and filling up the LPG gas, we were pretty much ready to go! We also picked the brain of a local here, who gave us some pointers on where to go (and not to go) between here and Thursday Island. We don’t have much time to get there before our visa expires, but it was still good to have this local knowledge and we filed it under “nice to have”!


Gaby is enjoying experimenting with photography - Cool Runnings in the marina at Port Douglas
So that left a day free on Saturday, May 13th, and we did the same as we did in Cairns, and hired a car. We used it to run our final errands in the morning, and then we set off on a drive to see what we could see. And what did we see…??? Crocodiles…that’s what!! We decided to take a river boat ride up the Daintree River. It was beautiful in its own way. Brown water, muddy banks in parts and thick, green foliage. And in between, lots and lots of crocs! They varied in size from tiny, small, medium, and one rather large fellow! Our guide was entertaining and knowledgeable, and his dog, Duke, kept everyone amused when we were not looking at crocs!

The Daintree River


Dense foliage...lots of places for the crocs to hide...

Duke, our guide dog (or rather, our guide's dog), on the lookout!

Gaby, do you realize what's behind you?

Yep...that's what it was...we actually wondered if it was real, but then we all saw its eyes move...ugh!!!

Dave and Rosemary enjoying the boat ride

Spot the croc...I told you some of them were tiny!  This one's name is "Big Joe"  (I circled him to help you find him!!)

This is the biggest one we saw.  His name is "Bender".  He had apparently destroyed a couple of thousand dollars worth of crabbing equipment, easily bending the metal crab pots.

After a lunch of beef pies, we drove, literally, to the end of the road, where we found the small town of Daintree, but it was nothing like Kuranda, which we had enjoyed so much on our field trip in Cairns. On the way back we made a short stop at Mossman Gorge, but didn’t have time to do any more rainforest walks, and we felt we’d “been there, done that” during our short time in Cairns. So it was back to the boat and after we stowed the last of the provisions we bought here, we set off for a farewell dinner with Rosemary, as she would be leaving us the next day. It was hard to believe her time with us had come to an end…it seemed to have gone so quickly! 

Not much more to Daintree than this!

And this

On Sunday morning (Mother’s Day) we took a slow drive back to Cairns to drop Rosemary off at the airport. She has flown back to the Gold Coast and will be staying with her brother and sister-in-law (Brian and Gaylor) for 2 more weeks before making the long journey back to Florida. We hope she enjoyed her stay…it was definitely not what any of us had imagined it would be, but she got to see first hand what our cruising life is like…the good, the bad and the ugly! After saying our sad farewells, we drove back to Port Douglas. I told the kids to enjoy the peace and quiet and the stable boat, as this was the last time we would be in a Marina for a very long time!! Early on Monday morning, May 15th, we left Port Douglas for Cooktown, on our continuous quest North.

Dave and Rosemary enjoy a few last moments together at Cairns airport

Last Selfie... Bye Granny!!  Thanks for everything you did for us while you were with us.  We will miss you!!!