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Leg 4

Click HERE for Commanders' Weather Leg 7 Passage Weather Forecast

Leg 7-2011

October 9, 2011, 2000 hrs, 26.33 S, 154 13 E, Log: 151,693 miles
Baro: 1011, Cabin Temp: 74 F cockpit 74 F, sea water 77 F
Close reaching at 7.1 kts in 14 kt NW winds, flat seas, clear skies and nearly full moon
Full main and geona

HEAVE AWAY, HAUL AWAY, WE’RE BOUND FOR AUSTRALIA!

So far Leg 7 has had just about every condition imaginable; starting from a tropical anchorage with palm trees and coral to being hove-to in intense frontal passage with lightning strikes around us to sailing close-hauled in 20 kts to finally a spectacular sunset with green flash and just plain gorgeous sailing tonight as we close on the entrance to Brisbane.

Our Leg 7 crew joined us in Port Moselle Marina, one of our easiest and favorite places in the South Pacific to start and end expeditions, and to visit. As usual, we had been watching the weather for the next leg closely for months, and it was somewhat fluid and changeable. Sunday night during pre-joining safety orientation we told crew it looked best to wait 3-4 days for a good departure weather window. Our plan was to sail 70 mi SE within New Caledonia’s lagoon to the spectacular Isle of Pines and wait here for a weather window. However when our requested forecast arrived Sunday night from Commanders’ Weather it mentioned that leaving sooner, vs. later might help us avoid strong southerly headwinds for the last couple days of the 900 mile passage.

With a desire to avoid headwinds upon arrival in Australia 0730 Monday morning I walked around the harbor to customs, immigration and Port Captain and cleared us out for Brisbane. New Caledonia has a sensible but very rare policy that yachts have three days to depart after being granted outbound clearance. In any case, we opted to head for Ile Uere, one of our delightful anchorages with Leg 6 crew. Here at this tiny, uninhabited and totally protected little anchorage, only six miles from Port Moselle and the bustling Noumea harbor, we found tranquility. After unpacking and completing our safety orientation, swimming to shore and snorkeling were the reward.


Crew gathered for lunch — Brian, Thom Ron, Greg, Heidi and Mark
 Phew, it’s nice to pass Amedee light in daylight
Phew, it’s nice to pass Amedee light in daylight

Tuesday morning we hit class hard, covering equipment orientation, safety procedures, watchkeeping, coral piloting, rig check and spares and coastal navigation. There were so many important topics to cover that we barerly had time for a quick lunch and in the end we only just cleared Amedee Light (http://www.amedeeisland.com/default.asp?action=article&ID=21560) and the pass within the half hour before sunset.

Coming out of the lagoon at Pass Boulari we had quite a wind-against-wave chop before we rounded the reef and were able to set a course in the general direction of Australia. The wind didn’t allow us to hold closer than 20 degrees to our charted track. We remained pretty closehauled in rough conditions for the next day or so then conditions moderated. In fact they REALLY moderated and we ended up spending the best part of a couple days motoring in a rather rolly sea. This allowed us serious teaching time, a couple of great mid-ocean swims and allowed everyone to get over seasickness.


“Feet in the Air!” may sound an easy call but with a large swell running a couple of crew actually swallowed a serious amount of water.
Greg plots our course in the hopes that wind will soon  come our way in accordance to the weather chart.
Greg plots our course in the hopes that wind will soon come our way in accordance to the weather chart.
 The on watch team of Brian and Heidi looking as relaxed  and calm as our weather conditions
The on watch team of Brian and Heidi looking as relaxed and calm as our weather conditions

Reefing practice started out with popping in out the second reef but when the wind started to build while Mark was reefing we were soon looking at sailing with the 2nd reef in and possibly the third. We went from broad reaching in 27 kt NW winds in clear skies to rapidly deteriorating conditions. Both our barometer’s two warnings went off; one for a pressure drop of more than 2 millibars in half an hour and the other signaling imminent strong winds.
At 1700 a wall of black began moving in from the west  bringing heaving mass of convection complete with crashing thunder and surface  and cloud-to-cloud lightning strikes. I quickly called Amanda on deck as I knew  we were in for some serious activity.
At 1700 a wall of black began moving in from the west bringing heaving mass of convection complete with crashing thunder and surface and cloud-to-cloud lightning strikes. I quickly called Amanda on deck as I knew we were in for some serious activity.
     We studied the radar for the weakest point to penetrate  although while we were deciphering the mass the distinctive squall line rapidly  approached. We decided to try running off but soon decided to heave-to as  blinding wind-blown torrential rains hit us.
We studied the radar for the weakest point to penetrate although while we were deciphering the mass the distinctive squall line rapidly approached. We decided to try running off but soon decided to heave-to as blinding wind-blown torrential rains hit us.

With Mark monitoring the helm in the pelting rain and wind all we could do was closely monitoring the lightning strikes in the hopes of trying to stay out its path. Heaving to on a tack that angled us away from the most intensive actions seemed to work. Once the lightning and rain lessened, we furled the genoa and motorsailed directly toward the area of least convection in the frontal line.
An hour later we were all called on deck by Brain and we  gazed at the sky in happy awe for a double rainbow framed the black band  receding behind us.
An hour later we were all called on deck by Brain and we gazed at the sky in happy awe for a double rainbow framed the black band receding behind us.
 In the tropics it’s not often that Amanda gets to view the  sunset as she’s most often busy in the galley but this one was one she was  willing to say thanks to. We later learned that Brisbane  had sustained over 20,000 lightning strikes including one which disabled a 30’  aluminum fishing boat on Moreton Bay,  requiring a helicopter rescue of the three crew members.
In the tropics it’s not often that Amanda gets to view the sunset as she’s most often busy in the galley but this one was one she was willing to say thanks to. We later learned that Brisbane had sustained over 20,000 lightning strikes including one which disabled a 30’ aluminum fishing boat on Moreton Bay, requiring a helicopter rescue of the three crew members.

 

October 14, 2011, 1030 hrs, 27.27 S, 153.11 E, Log: 151,827 miles
Baro: 1016, Cabin Temp: 74 F cockpit 76 F, sea water 77 F
Moored at RQYS, Manly Boat Harbour near Brisbane, Australia

Sunday provided some of our best sailing of the passage as the wind speed dropped from the 20’s into the teens and the seas state with it. Now with everyone over seasickness sprits were high and class was a high priority. We covered diesel engines, electrical power systems and watermakers and even managed to answer many pertinent questions. Whew! All the while we kept shaking out and unrolling reefs and even managed to stop for a sedate last mid-ocean swim during which I made a final sponge-off of the small amount of slime MT’s bottom had accumulated. Australia’s Quarantine division is very concerned about water-borne invasive species being introduced via incoming cruising boats. I had carefully cleaned the bow thruster, prop and water inlets including strainers before departing Noumea. The info sheet distributed at Port Moselle Marina in Noumea states that if the bottom of your boat looks dirty they can require you to haul and pressure clean the hull immediately upon arrival.

As we neared the coastline early Monday more and more ships turned up on our AIS screen, and with several behind and closing on us, the AIS again proved valuable. We are looking forward to replacing our receive-only Raymarine AIS with a Class B transceiver later this year in NZ.

Our winds held until 0430 Monday morning when we started  motorsailing, and at 0541, 19 minutes before our ETA for Customs, we entered Brisbane’s  NE shipping channel with a whale accompaniment. As requested, I tried  contacting customs on the VHF radio. When they didn’t answer, Brisbane Port  Control came on and offered to phone them to advise of our ETA at customs dock;  46 miles south down numerous shipping channels within Moreton Bay and then 8  miles on up the river to Brisbane.
Our winds held until 0430 Monday morning when we started motorsailing, and at 0541, 19 minutes before our ETA for Customs, we entered Brisbane’s NE shipping channel with a whale accompaniment. As requested, I tried contacting customs on the VHF radio. When they didn’t answer, Brisbane Port Control came on and offered to phone them to advise of our ETA at customs dock; 46 miles south down numerous shipping channels within Moreton Bay and then 8 miles on up the river to Brisbane.

The navigation alone the channel and then up the Brisbane River kept our full attention. Greg had done a superb job of laying courses and setting waypoints on our new paper charts but due to Brisbane’s extensive flooding last year several of the marks have been moved or temporarily replaced.

At 12:50 PM, ten minutes early, we tied alongside the  Quarantine Berth at Rivergate Marina. It was a treat to hear  them say that Mahina Tiare was one of the cleanest yachts they had ever boarded.  In Noumea we’d printed off their guidelines for visiting yachts and although  they have no definite rules like NZ for the confiscation of food products there  were no surprises when they took away all fresh fruit and vegetables plus meats.
At 12:50 PM, ten minutes early, we tied alongside the Quarantine Berth at Rivergate Marina (www.rivergatemarina.com/au) and shortly after we were boarded by three quarantine inspectors (www.aqis.gov.au). It was a treat to hear them say that Mahina Tiare was one of the cleanest yachts they had ever boarded. In Noumea we’d printed off their guidelines for visiting yachts and although they have no definite rules like NZ for the confiscation of food products there were no surprises when they took away all fresh fruit and vegetables plus meats.

The real surprise was their termite inspection. They looked for evidence of termites and photographed the interior of several lockers along with asking how many days MT has been in an extensive list of islands and countries (basically anywhere in the tropics) which are known to have termites. If you are over a certain number they bring aboard either a termite sniffing dog or termite listening devices. If they suspect termites haulout is then required and the vessel will get tented and fumigated with ethyl bromide. One of the quarantine officers said that the fumigation not only frequently ruins interior varnish but also damages the electronics as one owner of a $30 million superyacht recently discovered.

After completing formalities we had planned to stay the night at Rivergate Marina but as it is located in an isolated industrial setting with a busy bridge and the airport nearby we opted to back track downriver and head to Manly Boat Harbour. Thanks to the kindness of previous Leg 4-11 expedition members Jon and Kate Fawcett they offered to introduce us to their club the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron (www.rqys.com.au). Here we were extremely grateful to be allocated a berth for the duration of our stay.

 To get us to the marina Thom had plotted a conservative  course down river on a falling tide and then on around three islands with shallow channels. We had no difficulties and upon arrival in our slip, E-21,  the depth sounder read 0! It didn’t take our crew long to find the clubs showers,  ATM and bar, and that evening we all walked to Manly village where Jon and Kate  met us for dinner at a trendy shoreside fish restaurant.
To get us to the marina Thom had plotted a conservative course down river on a falling tide and then on around three islands with shallow channels. We had no difficulties and upon arrival in our slip, E-21, the depth sounder read 0! It didn’t take our crew long to find the clubs showers, ATM and bar, and that evening we all walked to Manly village where Jon and Kate met us for dinner at a trendy shoreside fish restaurant.

As we still had some serious teaching to cover and since the weather was brilliant, Tuesday morning we set sail for Horseshoe Bay on Peel Island, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peel_Island; an anchorage recommended by a boat owner on E dock.

   We had an excellent opportunity to practice Lifesling Rescue  techniques. It is always fun to watch the lights go off in expedition member’s  heads when they personally complete the fast and simple rescue technique we  have developed. We were just getting the spinnaker ready to set for the  downwind leg to Peel Island when the wind continued to increase. Our threshold  for hoisting the spinny is 14 knots and as soon as we had the sail on deck the wind  speed climbed steadily to 20 kts, so we packed it away for the next day.
We had an excellent opportunity to practice Lifesling Rescue techniques. It is always fun to watch the lights go off in expedition member’s heads when they personally complete the fast and simple rescue technique we have developed. We were just getting the spinnaker ready to set for the downwind leg to Peel Island when the wind continued to increase. Our threshold for hoisting the spinny is 14 knots and as soon as we had the sail on deck the wind speed climbed steadily to 20 kts, so we packed it away for the next day.

We have a new category on our Duty Roster: Anchor Master and as it was Heidi’s duty she had to select a safe anchorage, ready and deploy the anchor, check it’s set, then rig the chain snubber.

Once the anchor was down Amanda taught the much anticipated sail design and trim class. With a stunning twilight we all dinghied ashore for a sunset beach walk or run. What an amazing beach! Fine white sand and crescent shaped, we can see why Horseshoe Bay is a favorite with locals. If you’re lucky you may even spot a kangaroo or turtle.


Greg and Heidi enjoying their sunset beach walk
Greg plots our course in the hopes that wind will soon  come our way in accordance to the weather chart.
Soon it was time to set sail back to Manly so not to miss the tide. How lucky could we be — we had following winds again which provided a stable platform for celestial although just when we were getting ready to pull the spinnaker out AGAIN, the wind piped up well past 14 kts. Our poor, neglected spinnaker! Hope she gets aired out and a workout on Leg 8.
 The on watch team of Brian and Heidi looking as relaxed  and calm as our weather conditions
Brian proving that even if you’ve forgotten most of the stuff from a distant celestial training voyage you still look like you know what you’re doing.

At first light Wednesday several of us headed in for another run or hike and after breakfast I taught storm avoidance and survival tactics.

Here’s our Leg 7 crew finally getting to enjoy a chance of  wing on wing downwind sailing. Mark, Brain, Greg, Heidi, Thom and Ron
Here’s our Leg 7 crew finally getting to enjoy a chance of wing on wing downwind sailing. Mark, Brain, Greg, Heidi, Thom and Ron
Mark Grist, 36 is a park ranger and professional ski patrolman who on Mt Seymour near Vancouver, Canada. He recently upgraded to a C&C 30 which he uses as transportation to isolated mountain climbing and hiking locations in British Columbia.

Brian Bouch, 64 is an about-to-retire MD in the Bay Area who recently purchased a Norseman 447 which is currently moored in Ensenada, Mexico. Brian has sailed all his life and is really looking forward to his upcoming cruise.

Greg and Heidi Turton, 54 & 47 live just north of Sydney, Australia and are very excited about soon taking delivery of their new Bluewater 42. They own a travel agency specializing in educational tours for school children.

Thom Phillipson, 53 sails his Victoria 18 out of Kalamazoo, Michigan and is looking forward to sailing further afield in the near future.

Ron Buono, 66 is a partially retired accountant from the San Francisco Bay area and a keen triathlete and sailor.


After returning the marina we worked out our celestial navigation sun LAN shots and several of our keen crew went aloft for rig inspection with Mark performing amazing stemming maneuver to get a lot while Ron tails.

Marks view from the masthead of the spacious grounds and slips of the RQYS complete with yacht service business, boatyard, and extensive grass lawns for small boat setup, launch ramp, fuel dock, and delightful two storied club house on the far right.
 The on watch team of Brian and Heidi looking as relaxed  and calm as our weather conditions
Amanda taught winch maintenance in the afternoon and Thursday morning our gang packed up, cleaned cabins and headed off on their own adventures, most spending several days and in Mark’s case, several weeks exploring Australia.

Amanda and I have really been enjoying the relaxed civilization of this quaint area including extensive morning runs on the Wynnum-Manly cycle/pedestrian path, wanderings around Manly village and Wynnum town and the weekend farmers and artist markets held in the Manly park. An added treat was catching the Friday Night traditional Irish music session at the Manly Celtic Corner pub and Amanda was thrilled when they welcomed her Sean Nos dancing (old-style Irish stepping). We’ve just rented a campervan and are now off on a much anticipated adventure packed week visiting friends and previous expedition members along with hikes in the scenic hinterland mountains.

 

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