Apologies this is a long Blog as I haven't had time to update for a few days.
Well we had a lovely sail up from Quoin Bluff South. We left under motor at about 2030hrs after fish courtesy of Ben for dinner. There was no breeze until about midnight when a nice 10-15 building to about 20kn south easter came in pushing us along at an easy 6.5-7kns. I didn't want to go too fast because we wanted to arrive in Carnarvon around 8-9am so reefed in the heady a bit to slow us to about 5-5.5kns.
We made contact with Carnarvon Sea Rescue on the VHF and they advised we would be pushing it a bit to go into the Fascine depth wise, so we decided to go to the fishing boat harbour. I rang DoT and arranged to pull up on the "T-Jetty". Must admit the cost of using the DoT jetties is a bit steep at over $100 per night - someone should do an audit of how they set their fees!!
Wandered into Carnarvon (about 1km from the jetty) and sussed out the local shops and facilities for reprovisioning the next day. On return from town we made the most of what we were paying for by having a cold shower in the public facilities at the end of the jetty. This was a solid concrete structure with corrugated iron used to "form up" the concrete - I'm guessing it is cyclone proof. I said to Nic after emerging from my first shower in two weeks "that really is built like a brick shit-house!".
Thursday morning I refilled our jerry-cans and refuelled the boat from them using my little 12v transfer pump - works like a dream. When I checked the motor I noticed that the High Pressure water maker pump had come a drift from it's mounting bracket. This happened the first time back in Perth and I had to retighten all the bolts which I thought may not have been properly tightened when first installed. However I noticed then a small crack in one of the brackets. This time the small crack had become a catastrophic failure on both of the flimsy steel mount brackets supplied with the pump.
I rang a local steel fabricator and explained my problem - he said "no worries" drove down to the boat within about 10min of my phone call and delivered newly manufactured (and stronger) brackets back at about 4pm that afternoon. In the meantime Nic and I had done our shopping and resupplied. I reinstalled the Water Maker pump and am hoping that problem will be solved (fingers crossed).
We left Carnarvon at 2330 hours after refilling the water tanks from the jetty taps (sorry water maker - just in case!), and headed for Gnaraloo Bay about 70miles up the coast (13 hrs or so). We had a 25kn South Easter so were making fast progress. Nic and I do 2hr shifts and a hand over at each shift - i.e. any thing to keep an eye on etc. On about my second shift 0330 to 0530 I noticed what looked like a fishing boat ahead, they don't normally have AIS and nothing showed up. I got out the bino's and tried to work out which way this boat was going, but I couldn't see any port or starboard or steaming lights - very strange. I figured it may be a fishing boat going in the same direction as us but ahead, so we were coming up from behind and this would explain why I couldn't see any port or starboard lights. I took evasive action and headed about 35 degrees in towards the coast. I watched for another 30mins or so and was frustrated to see the bloody boat was still tracking exactly where we wanted to head. I figured he must have changed course too. I changed course back to about 350 degrees thinking we'll go out and pass them on the ocean side. This seemed to work. Just towards the end of my shift I decided, OK this is the japanese fishing vessel we saw at Carnarvon which had left in the afternoon. They probably don't have normal nav lights but they are going along parallel to us. I relayed all this info to Nic on our handover. When I woke up 2hrs later with the sun fully up, I asked what happened to our rogue ship. Nic said "Oh - that was a Salt Mine on the shore - I took some pictures of it if you want to see!".
We arrived at Gnaraloo Bay around lunchtime. Followed the instructions in the Freo Cruising guide on how to get in. Unfortunately it says stay a cable off the beach, and I had forgotten to find out how long a cable is. Lots of coral and reef around here and I was feeling pretty nervous so we anchored way out in the bay. This was untenable as there was a big swell coming in, so we decided to get a bit closer. A bit of OSAR (Oh Shit Another Rock) navigation was used, with Nic up the mast and pointing out Bommies. We managed to find a sandy patch between two reefy bits to anchor, out of the swell and close to the beach boat ramp as described in the cruising guide. I put out a stern anchor to stop us swinging, but it was a nervous night. In the morning we braved our way around the final reefy bits and found good anchorage in good sand just where the book said - I am going to find out how long a cable is and follow instructions better from now on!
Nic and I did our own "sounding" in the Dinghy this morn and confirmed the track in and out of the bay. We went for a SNUBA on the Power dive in the afternoon. We are going to head up to Ningaloo proper (Maud's Landing) tomorrow, which is 40NM or about 8 hrs, so will leave about 7-8am to get there mid to late arvo. If the snorkelling is anything like here it will be magnificent!!
We spent yesterday morning SUPing at Gerrittsen cove, while making water. Had lunch and then departed at 1345 hrs to head up to Quoin Bluff South. This trip takes you up through the shallow channels at the south end of Shark Bay. It was a gorgeous day with a light south westerly to start that picked up to about 10kns. With motor this pushed us along at 6-7.5kns for the 17 odd miles up to QBS. The track took us close in against Dirk Hartog Island at some points and some great scenery. I had the fishing rod out trolling, but also took the opportunity to bake my first loaf of bread for the trip. As the bread was starting to smell cooked, we were also entering the most narrow part of the channel, so I decided to reel in the line in case I caught something (my excuse and am sticking to it!)
We arrived at QBS at 1730 hrs, 2 other yachts in the bay as we had been told by ACRM Base on the radio at Denham. We enjoyed a spectacular sunset with a "glass off" in the bay.
This morning we dropped in the SUPs for a bit of morning exercise, and SUPed across the bay to the Bluff and then down the beach, before jumping off and going for a longer stroll along the beach. On the way back we SUPed up to say hello to our neighbours, only to discover it was Ben and Belle on "Ocean Jaywalker" on the first boat.
We meet Ben and Belle at Quindalup in January on Paul and Sue Burlinson's yacht "Osborne Star" for dinner one night. They had said then they were planning a trip north. They have been here for a couple of days and are staying on for a few more. Looking forward to hopefully catching up with them again later in the trip and have arranged to try a regular sched on the HF radio. Nic and I are planning to sail over to Carnarvon tonight, leaving at about 2000hrs to get there about 08-0900 hrs in the morning. The idea being to enjoy the days in the bays and make the miles at night if it works. It also puts us in Carnarvon at a favourable time to take advantage of the tides to attempt getting into the Fascine and yacht club marina - something that is new since last time I was up here in the 90's
After discussing our fishing successes, Ben gave us a huge spanish mackerel fillet for dinner (seems like the best way for me to get fish - i.e. be a crap fisherman and rely on the good will of others!). We then paddled over to meet Scott on the yacht "Angel", Scott has single handed up from Quindalup also and is a mate of Ben and Belles. He is heading up as far as Exmouth, and hanging up around the Coral Bay area for a while. It is likely we will catch up with him on our way back.
This is a magical anchorage, great to share it with some like minded yachties.
Safely anchored in Gerritsen Cove at Steep Point southern end of Shark Bay. It took us 30hrs to get here leaving at 0945hrs on Saturday and arriving at 1500hrs today (Sunday) pretty much as predicted. But it was a rocky and rolly uncomfortable trip with a westerly swell 3-5m exacerbated by a rebound swell off the Zuytdorp cliffs this morning. The breeze when we left the Abrolhos was 20-25kns gusting to 30kns in squalls providing some interesting experience for Nic as the wind would go from easily manageable 20kns to 30kns in a couple of minutes and then die down again after 10-15 mins to about 15kns. Some quick hands on the furling heady and we pulled the mainsail down early on to make sail handling easier in the conditions.
The breeze died out about midnight, so yet again found ourselves motoring - batteries needed a boost so not such a bad thing. The Zuytdorp cliffs are speccy as we watched the sun rise so made up for the uncomfortable trip. Massive water spouts are shot up as high as the cliffs as the waves slam into their base. Difficult to get a good picture though when you are in a washing machine!
South Passage at Steep Point has a caution mark on the charts for breaking waves over the bar during large swells, so I was a little concerned we may not be able to get in here and would have to keep trucking up to the north end of Dirk Hartog Island another 6-8hrs and a night time arrival at Turtle Bay. But the entrance was fine, a few breakers but the electronic charts are pretty good and give you a fair guide where to go when combined with a bit of "eyes out of the boat".
Now enjoying a cold beer and a champagne, and will go exploring in the morning!
Well the good news yesterday was that Nic's ribs are not broken, so within 10 minutes of getting that news "fishgirl" was in the water with the hookah and we dived the point reef again. This gave Nic a chance to use her new underwater camera too. I was a bit disappointed because I had the GoPro all set to take some underwater pics and vids of my own, but it was completely dead when I went to turn it on. Seems the battery has died - oh well - something to replace in Carnarvon maybe.
We had another lovely dive and then came back to the boat to settle in for lunch and afternoon activities (sleeping and reading!). The weather as expected started to turn a bit nasty as the evening set in. We were snuggled up below cooking marinated chicken in the oven as the wind started howling stronger and stronger. I went up after dinner to wash out a pan, and just as I got onto the back deck I noticed one of the SUPs starting to drift away from the back of the boat. A quick rescue mission was launched in the dinghy and saved the SUP from ending up in Kalbarri probably.
Nic was pestering me to take the PowerDive out of the dinghy to stow it safely, but I assured her it would be fine. The wind blew up to between 25-30kns during the night but we were safe and snug on the mooring. I woke at about 3am to check everything was OK, but to my dismay the dive flag (air filter tube) on the PowerDive had been snapped off by a flying SUP - oh oh, will wait until the morning coffee to tell Nic about that! It was easily fixed, but reminded me I probably need to be a bit more vigilant about stowing things - and of course follow the girlfriend's advice!
This morning the wind persisted, so dive plans further afield were cancelled and I cleaned the bottom of the boat which was resembling some of the surrounding reefs, while Nic tided up and cleaned inside. We have decided to make the most of the breezes over the next day or so (15-20kn westerly) to head up to Shark Bay. The swell is going to get bigger, but after Monday the breeze dies out all together for a few days and I am sick of motoring everywhere.
We figure we will return to the Abrolhos for sure, but won't have as much time to enjoy some of the spots further North if we hang here for too much longer. So we are packed up and ready for a getaway around 8am tomorrow for about a 30hr sail to Steep Point.
We arrived at the beautiful Abrolhos Islands at about midday on Tuesday after leaving Geraldton in the wee small hours of the morning (3.30am after refuelling). Again we had to motor all the way with very light westerly winds. We came to Morley Island in the Easter group and picked up a mooring. Our neighbours on one of the courtesy moorings came over and provided us with a huge fillet of fish for dinner! So my promise of fish for Nic came true without even having to drop a line in. John, Brian and Kevin came on board for a beer and a chat a bit later, and it turned out that John used to own "Fremantle Doctor" a well known racing yacht that I sailed against a few times when I crewed for Graham Bishop on "INXS"… small world etc. John gets over here quite regularly and said the moorings were good and safe with the weather expected to blow up a bit on Thursday.
We launched the dinghy and blew up the SUPs on Wednesday and finally got the PowerDive hookah going. Nic can't dive until she knows if she has broken her ribs, so I got to do the first dive while she snorkelled on the surface. Masses of finger corals in the shallow areas and then as we worked our way out to the point the reef walls and drops off to about 20m. Nic was excited to see a big yellow nudibranch - last time she yelled at me when we were diving at Rotto it was because she saw a shark, so I was a bit nervous when I heard her yell and point this time, only to find it was a bright yellow slug!!
Lunch time and a nap and then I relocated our 3/4G boost aerial by hoisting it up the mast on a rope - hence the coverage and my ability to update this blog! We went for a SUP over the reefs near the Island as the sun started to set - absolutely amazing scenery - I will post some pics in the next day or so. A few stink boats came in as the sun went down. We finished off John's fish for dinner and then started to plan the days ahead. A bit of a blow coming tonight (Thursday) so we think we will stay put and play around here, and then go and dive Anemone Lump on Saturday and go over to White Bank. Then up to the Wallabi group and maybe make our way up to Shark Bay on Sunday or Monday although light winds still predicted all next week after the blow tonight.
Yes it is very tempting to dip into double entendre's on this post, but I will refrain. If you see a double entendre, feel free to whip it out!
I spent the day servicing the anchor winch, pulled the cover off the electric motor and cleaned the brushes and the commuter, both in need of a fine sandpapering. I also went for a "short walk" from the Batavia Marina, where we are moored - across to the Geraldton Fisherman's Co-op Boat Store to get some oil and other bits and pieces. It took me about an hour to walk there! But success, as I got the SAE 90 oil I needed for the anchor winch and a fish landing net (always the optimist!) and some in date flares (hope DoT people aren't reading this).
I forgot to mention that Nic had gone to the hospital while I was doing this, to check if she had broken her ribs while we were at Rotto. She fell heavily while trying to get into the dinghy from swimming the other day, based on a technique I recommended. IE just slip up over the side "it is easy", she slipped up, then got up on all fours and then fell back on her ribs. We will find out in a few days if she has actually broken them - not much you can do in terms of healing except the right dose of sympathy from the boyfriend, (she still hasn't told me who he is), but it is important NOT to go diving - there in lies the serious side.
That aside - I got the bits I needed to finish servicing the winch, taxied back to the marina with a taxi driver who had been in Gero for 10 days. He has to live 2 years in regional WA to get a permanent residents visa. Immigrated from India and qualified in Commerce and Accountancy. Interesting.
I changed the oil, cleverly decanting the old treacle like substance from the winch into a handy 1litre container I had bought from bunnings for just this unforeseen purpose. I then decanted the brown treacly like substance into a 1litre milk container with a cap so I could dispose of it in an environmentally friendly manner. While this was happening, I started testing the newly serviced anchor winch. To my joy it worked beautifully up and down and back up again a few times with out a hiccup. Then I turned to see my 1litre Milk/Oil container tipped and treacling gluggy oil in a slow ooze down the deck. I said to myself "damn" and walked slowly back to the cockpit and asked Nic if she could find me some paper towel, because there had been a bit of an accident…. (well something like that).
Onwards and upwards - we are setting the alarm for 0200hrs to go over and fuel up at the Fisherman's Wharf and then make our way back to the Easter Group of the Abrolhos (apologies for earlier spelling misteaks) again to arrive lunchtimeish. I have promised Nic fish for dinner tomorrow night so the pressure is on!
Well we had another easy leg from Jurien to the Pelsaert group of Islands at the Abrohlos. We departed Jurien at 1400hrs on Saturday and arrived just off Post Office Island in Coronation Bay at 1030hrs Sunday. A lot of motoring with just 2-3hrs of sailing during the mid to late evening. Listened to the Dockers beat Geelong on ABC radio streaming over the web, as the TV couldn't pick up a signal, and my 3/4G boost aerial provided just enough to let us listen to the game while sailing about 15miles off the coast. The aerial on our normal radio doesn't exist - something to look at maybe one day when we are stuck in port!!
I had hoped to pick up a mooring at the Abrohlos that appeared on one of the electronic charts I have, but it didn't exist in reality and may have just been a recommended anchoring area. We carefully anchored in about 20m of water on arrival, but I thought we were a bit too close to the island and rapidly shelving coral reefs for comfort. We lifted the anchor to try and anchor out a bit further. In doing this the winch started labouring as it hauled in the 40-50metres of chain and eventually "click-clicked" on the up button refusing to lift any further. Hmmmm, lucky there was only about 5m of chain and anchor left to lift and also lucky there was no wind at all - complete glass off.
I figured the last place you want to be with a dodgy anchor winch is the Abrohlos, so decided to head to Geraldton (5-6hrs) to get the problem sorted. I had another go at using the anchor after an hour or so on the way to Geraldton. It seemed to work all right for a bit, but then got hot and did the same as before. Suggests needs an oil change and maybe electric motor brushes cleaning? I'll pull it apart tomorrow. Kicking myself that I didn't service the anchor winch before we left, but it had never caused any problems before - oh well. The weather window at the Abrohlos is looking great this week, so hope we don't get held up for too long, but will just have to go with the flow.
We had a very relaxed day at Rotto on Wed, with lunch at the pub, and a fair bit of time with Nicole finding out where I had stored all the gear. We met Marty and Patty from Callisto, another Beneteau Oceanis 411, and had evening drinks with them and Marty's second cousin Candice and newly acquired husband Ben ( a chef - handy person to have on a boat!).
Departed Thomson's Bay at 1220hrs on Thursday into a 5-10kn Northerly and a 2+m swell, so not ideal conditions for going North to Jurien. We headed NW at about 345 degrees, which meant we could motor sail on Starboard tack. This lasted for a few hours and then the breeze swung into the WNW, still light and fickle. We only managed about 4hrs of sailing at 5.5-6kns between 2200 - 0200hrs the rest we motor-sailed at about 5-6kns arriving in Jurien at 0940hrs.
We had radio coverage from Fremantle Sea Rescue (VN6DI) leaving Rotto on Channel 81 which is a VHF repeater station on Rottnest. I logged off with them on the HF radio in the morning on Freq 4125, which was picked up by Perth Coast Radio, although VN6DI also picked us up but didn't respond to our call before Coast Radio got us and passed through our message. We also logged on and off with Jurien Bay Sea Rescue in the morning on VHF channel 21.
It was a very gentle night at sea with a gorgeous bright full moon coming up just after dark. Our official happy hour has now been set from 1700-1800hrs. Watching a huge full moon rise with a cold beer out on the ocean with a gentle breeze blowing while cruising up the coast is a memorable experience. Nicole managed very well, furling the headsail and adjusting the main to the changing breezes without any need to wake the sleeping Captain! She was very proud of herself, and has been bombarding people with emails, video and Facebook of her adventure - lucky she hasn't got a twitter account or I'd never prise her off her smart phone.
So all up an easy first leg. We are safely moored up in Jurien Bay, took the dinghy for a good spin today down to the town jetty and enjoyed a nice coffee at the Jetty Cafe. We plan to keep moving up to the Abrolhos, so will head off from here at about 16-1700hrs tomorrow to aim for a mid to late morning arrival at Pelasert group of Islands in the Abrolhos on Sunday.
Finally got away yesterday (Tuesday 13th May) at 4pm. After a hectic few days making final preparations it was nice to finally get on the boat and head to Rotto. A small contingent of family and friends saw us off from the Fremantle RPYC Annexe where we did all the final loading of the boat. Of course there was the obligatory bagpiping out of the harbour. This will be Nic and my secret weapon if we want bays to ourselves, I will simply pull out the pipes and give a blast!
Big thanks to Andrew Hill for getting all the electrickery going on the boat - what were we thinking deciding to rewire the whole engine panel, install new chart plotter and replace all the birds nest of wires in the steering station just before leaving? But the boat is much better for it - is working fine and the autopilot did most of the steering all the way to Rotto. Geoff Bishop delivered our new mainsail on Monday arvo as promised - it looks great. Andrew Wright from Stem 2 Stern did a last minute engine service on Monday evening and is delivering some spare parts to Rotto today!! Can't argue with that for service.
Today we are going to try out our PowerDive "Hookah" diving system to clean the bottom of the boat. Have lunch at the Rotto pub, and relax. We are planning to head up to Jurien Bay from here leaving around lunchtime tomorrow. It should take us about 24hrs to sail there but not a lot of wind is forecast so maybe a bit longer and some motoring. That will be Nics second over- nighter - she will be a salty sea dog after 4 months of this.