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Crossing from New Caledonia & arrival in Australia [November 17 – November 27, 2004]

Sydney Harbour

Thursday November 18, 2004

At 6 am – Mileage log says we’ve done 223nm in 24 hours and on the e-chart 203nm so there must be a current against us. Wind SE 20 +, position is 24.21.South & 163.23 East.

Close encounter with a whale Big Whale!!

We saw a whale, a big one, which was obviously on a mission, full steam ahead, am not sure it would have avoided us if we had been right in its way! It was close and it made us realize how big they are. Ivo decided to make a “whale alarm”, not an alarm for us, but an alarm for the whale to know we were there. A bottles with some tea spoons in it, tied to the stern, and bouncing up and down on the surface of the water. Sure made a noise, but not sure the whale would notice and get out of the way in time if it were sleeping on the surface…. Anyway Fiu now has a whale rattle.

Friday, November 19, 2004

6am wind E – ENE 10 – 15 knots, speed 6,5 SOG with approximately 1 knot current against us, log indicates 209 nm on the counter in 24 hours. Position 26.11S, 160.30East. Nice weather again although still a bit chilly (24 C) outside.

At 8:45 am listening to Gary’s net on 4146 (or 2045, 12353, 12362) MHz. Many yachts that we met in Noumea reported their positions. King Harold is also sailing to Coffs Harbour, realised that they are only 20 miles south of us so changed course to meet them. At 11;30 am had VHF radio contact with them – they are on the way home, after 8 yrs of cruising! At 2 pm caught up with them and passed them.

At 4 pm heard on the VHF radio Australian customs airplane calling King Harold! Requesting all the data like last and next port of call, port of registration, POBs, animal/plants on board, etc. Heard this morning on the Gary’s that some cruisers on the way to Bundaberg were already yesterday intercepted by the Coast Guard/Customs plane – today is our turn. Only a few minutes later, heard the plane, nice little 10 seater or so, coming from the stern and obviously taking a high resolution photo of us/Fiu’s stern. They are obviously well equipped with ‘spy’ cameras and telescopes since we heard on the net that after flying over a yacht they usually call them on the radio by the name of the yacht – obviously reading from the photo.

Radio amateur Pancake snack Welcoming committee to Australian waters

Well, Fiu’s name they did not manage to pick up as the lettering on the stern is relatively small and in silver colour so there was obviously not enough contrast to pick it up. Still managed to talk to them, although partially thanks to King Harold/John who relayed our conversation as they were hearing us broken. So much for today’s excitement.

Wind is still SE turning slowly turning to E. We are sailing SSE to position ourself further south as S-SE wind is expected tomorrow.

In the evening wind turning more to NE and at 11 pm gybed to starboard tack – course 220 to 240.

Still having problem with the 1-1.5 kn of a counter current although no charts and pilots indicate a current here, only closer to Australia where the current then should be Southerly!

Saturday, 20 November 2004    

6 am wind is slowing down to 10 kn, E-NE, we are sailing only with the main and our speed is 5-6 kn, and SOG 4-5 kn – still fighting against the counter current and still 330 nm to Coffs Harbour.

Temperature is dropping – at night usually 20C, freezing cold when you include windshield factor.

At 16:40 trip was 663 miles. NE wind down to 8 kn and our speed 3-4 kn. Turned on the engine and making 7+ kn but our SOG is still close to 6 kn – when are we going to get this Eastern Australian current going South??

10:30 pm, still motor-sailing, wind SE 10-12 kn, giving us a little push, 1 knot or so, speed up to 8 kn but in reality, SOG is still 6 to 7 kn. To compensate for the current, our course is changed from what it should be (from 242 T to 221M just keep us on course – so current seems to be still NE instead of S!

Sunday, 21 November 2004

1 am - wind SSE, 12-15 kn on the nose, motorsailing and making 8-9 kn but SOG is only 5-6 kn – it looks like we have now 3 kn of counter current!!! Only 60 miles from the Australian shore and 83 from Coffs Hbr and hardly moving! When are we going to get Southerly current – if any??

King Harold who is now behind us is experiencing the same problem with the counter current.

No traffic, did not see a single ship/yacht all these time except the King Harold who is some 50 nm behind us. Otherwise good sailing but slow progress!

Ominous dark sky to our right – it looks like we escaped a major storm.

Our set course is 265 M which translates to 278T and our COG is 260! Current must be now coming from NNW and pushing us mostly back and a bit to south.

Suddenly we have a problem with the batteries, overcharged and HOT?? Engine was running continuously for almost 24 hours and obviously overcharged two house batteries in the port locker - or they may have run out of water. Turning the engine off, cooling the batteries and topping up with distilled water (these two house batteries have temporarily been disconnected). Luckily the smell of the sulfuric acid was so strong and awful that it alerted us to the problem.

Monday 22, November 2004

6:30 am S wind, sailing but still strong current, what is wrong with this place? And it is soooo cold now.

The baaaaad weather hit us….  Welcome to Australia. We did wonder why there are so few Australian cruisers – either they love sailing in their home waters, or they think the weather is this bad everywhere else too!!  Heavy rain squalls, no visibility, current, big waves, lots of wind. Will we ever get to Coff’s Harbour. Gale warnings every hour on the VHF via the Coast Cuard whom we now can hear. 30-45 knots of wind, yes we can confirm, the forecast is accurate. This weather is supposed to last a few days, and we only have a few miles left, if we can ever get there!

Wet & cold Main ripped, bad weather Talking to the Coast Patrol

During a moment of respite between two squalls, we are sitting in the cockpit resting and Ivo quietly says 'let's hope all the sails hold up in this weather' and looks up at the main sail. Guess what, the main is beginning to rip!! Oh, No! We must take the main down before it gets worse, which we then do and decide to just sail with a tiny genoa 3.

Suddenly an oilrig appears out of nowhere. What the…, nothing like oil rig on the charts!! Ivo thinks he could see it was being towed. Thanks a lot, we got very close to the thing, or it got close to us, just what we need. And an oilrig is BIG. Well, once you get close it is.

Via the Coast Guard we announce our ETA to the Customs and immigration, hopefully at 2 pm will be in shelter.  And that’s what we do eventually.  But before that we suddenly see a lot of water appear in the bilges, looks like we have taken onboard water!! Just what we need at this moment, mainsail is kaput, batteries are dying, water in the bilges ... what is next?? Ivo guesses that water must have come from the sail locker, we did have much bad weather and waves coming across the bow. No harm done, except a lot of clearing up.  What a day! Bad weather, oilrigs, ripped sail, water inside, we are really glad to arrive in Coff's Harbour.

Instructions from Customs is to go to the fuel dock and tie up and not get off the boat. As soon as we arrive they are there, go through everything, ask many questions, tell us off because we did not hoist the yellow Q flag on time and we did not provide advance notification of our arrival via email. They then took about 10kg of our food despite the fact that we had been clearing up and throwing out and had no fresh foodstuffs. However, anything, even dried soup, that contains milk products, is banned. Perhaps Customs should consider offering food vouchers to yachties after taking our food. Never mind, we are soon cleared in and can go get a hot meal.

We move from the fuel dock and tie up alongside Bright Morning Star where we stay the next couple of days while waiting for the weather to improve. Bright Morning Star and few other sailing school yachts were locked for the past 4-5 days in the Coffs Harbor with over 20 crew/students - and still patiently waiting in harbour for the weather to improve.

Tuesday, November 25, 2004

Emily joins us this morning to sail down to Sydney with us. Hope she likes stormy weather….

We get organized, more provisions, and cross fingers for a possible departure tomorrow.

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

We decide to give it a go, but first we need to get off Bright Morning Star to get to the fuel dock for more fuel. Quite a manoeuvre, the wind is pushing us hard against them, but eventually with manpower and ropes, we are with the stern to them (a 90 degree angle) and Ivo can push off with the engine.

We get fuel, and left Coffs at 4:30 pm wind S-SE 30 kn, sea 2-3 m, course COG 120, current of 1-2 kn is helping us (for once). Crew is Susan, Emily and Ivo.

Very good sailing, 3rd reef, only 30% of Gen4, making good speed but not good course, we are sailing ESE at about 60-80 deg to the wind. According to the vector diagram of the hull in the water (blue line) and the speed over the ground (SOG, red arrow) there is a strong, 1-1.5 kn southerly current (yellow vector). However I do not trust this vector diagram much, it does not look very real, will have to be tested in more controlled conditions.

Coff's Harbour Marina & Ivo Emily steering

Wind up to 35 kn, as we sailed towards the edge of the continental shelf the sea was getting bigger – monstrous seas of over 5 meters were hitting the bow and the sea spray was all over us. Fiu performed well, sailed up and down the waves gently, sometimes…After a while Emily did not feel well and it got worse, a bit too rough for a first day.

Tacked after reaching the edge of the shelf, course WSW making very small progress. After sailing for more then 2 hrs made effectively only 5 miles progress towards south which was rather depressing .. so when close to the land we decided to sail back to the Coffs Harbour and anchor in the outer harbour, wet, cold and retired soon.

The weather did not ease during the night so we were glad to have gone back, we had anchored in 5-7 meters depth with over 40 meter chain at least it was holding us in place.

 

Thursday, 25 November 2004

We were hoping for an early morning start - still strong wind, cloudy, real winter weather, but not until about 10am did the weather improve and the wind drop to 15-20 knots. At about noon all 4-6 yachts sailing for Flying Fish left Coffs on their way to Sydney. We’ll set sails after lunch.

Left at 1.30 pm, wind SSE 4-5 (15-20 kn) heavy sea, sunny. Emily steering and doing very well, good sense of the wind. Main up with two reefs, small jib and engine. SOG 6-7 kn, boat speed 7-9 kn. It looks like we have current of 1.5-2 kn on the nose again?!? Aaargh.

At 4:30pm it looks like the current is changing its direction, going south?? Not really - still against us!!

Better weather at last But still very cold

8 pm – made effectively 25 miles in 7 hrs!! Very slow progress in spite of average speed of 7-8 kn – Waves, current, wind everything is against us! So our average effective speed so far is 4.2 kn!

8 pm - Decided to motor to the Smoky Cape and then hope to be in a better position to sail out further offshore. Speed 6.5 kn and SOG 5 kn.

Friday, 26 November 2004

Made effectively approx 140 miles in the last 24 hr – not too bad in spite of the counter current and wind on the nose. Trip counter is at 186 miles – but we did motor a lot.

At 14 hr passed Seals rock and are finally sailing – wind ENE, 10-12 kn on the stern.

Beautiful day, easy sailing, Susan made a good lunch – spaghetti sauce with all possible veggies one can find on the boat and spaghetti, red wine.

7 pm 20 kn NE wind since 3 pm. Making excellent progress now, 7-8 kn sailing, looks like we’ll be on time for our planned arrival in Sydney Harbour in the morning.

Checked-in with the Coast Patrol in Newcastle at 19:30 when approx 12 m offshore. Next check-in point is Gosford. The system along the Australian coast is to notify the coast patrol of planned itinerary and then check in every 25 miles or with the local station to let them know your position. Presumably this makes it easier for everyone in the event of a rescue. However when the weather is fine, it is a bit of a drag.

But we can hear most other boats do the same, and on this journey down from Coffs Harbour it is interesting to hear how the Flying Fish boats are doing compared to us since they left just an hour earlier.

The three of us are taking turns being on watch, we are not far from the shipping lane and can from time to time see the freighters a few miles further offshore.

Saturday, 27 November 2004

1 am – approaching Port Jackson, Sydney Harbour. Weather still with us, NE wind, 15-18 kn, speed 7 kn, 4-5 hrs to go. Full moon, very good visibility, temperature 18 deg C.

Glad that during these last few hours the sailing is comfortable, the night & sea are beautiful, will make us want to come back and sail some more even after 8 months of continuous sailing!!

Back in Australia Ivo at Sydney Harbour entrance Showing the Danish flag too! Susan at Sydney Harbour entrance

The dawn is up and we go through the heads on a beautiful morning. Wow, seeing Sydney harbour early in the morning after all this time, is just great. Ivo has a welcoming committee waiting at the dock at 10 am and since we are a little early we stop at a mooring by the bridge in Middle Harbour (next to the Grand Soleil agent for Australia) and clean up the boat.

Emily & Susan, Sydney Harbour  Sydney Harbour at last ! Roni, the Autopilot getting ready for home coming

We then have time to quickly motor (Emily at the helm since she knows the harbour well and can find her way easily amongst the traffic) down past the Opera house and bridge for a photo session, and then we are at the dock in CYCA where Ivo’s family and friends are waiting. Emily and Susan go for a good fry-up at the Yacht club while Ivo gets re-acquainted with his family. We then say goodbye to Emily who is flying up to Cairns for some more vacation and we slowly begin the clearing of Fiu whose next immediate journey will be the Sydney-Hobart race. The boat has to be stripped of cruising gear and fitted to Category 1 racing standards in less than 3 weeks, before the racing crew arrives for training.

Ivo's welcoming committee

In February 2005 Fiu will be ready to start her new season cruising in the South Pacific – nearly full for the Sydney- New Zealand crossing!

[Why not join us during Fiu’s 2005 season in the South Pacific]

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