Sunday, 2 September 2007

Wellington NZ to PNG to Darwin

My trip continues, but first a picture to put you in the right mood . . .

Since my last posting I have been living in Wellington aboard a boat up on the hard in Evans bay Yacht Club. Sleeping aboard is pretty good as the owner, Matt, has a diesel heater on all the time and a full size DVD screen, TV and thousands of videos plus a hot shower.

I preferred being here. It was warmer than being in a house and at least this meant no travelling costs from Tim and Glenda's place and no infringing on his kids.
At least I got to stay with my mum before leaving NZ. Hope you are still well and not worrying about me mum!

Matt, an ex-pat Aussie, is doing the boat up for when his girlfrend returns from USA. Poor guy I think she may not be coming back. Matt's a cool guy basically born int sailing and he sure knows a lot. Matt likes to party hard so he turns up at the bat with a hangover almost every day.

The Farr was in pretty bad shape but after a lot of work she is now looking pretty good.

Matt was so impressed with my work that he really did not want me to leave just yet but as the sea calls I must obey.

Well it has been a while but at last I got invited aboard a yacht, a Canadian registered Cascade 42, sailing from PNG to Komodo and beyond. I sleep up in the forepeak with Fiona, the other crew member, a 32 yr old nurse from Greenwich. She was really chuffed when we received our first time pips from greenwich on the SSB radio.

With assistance to get to PNG I finally threw in the grindstone (ie. living aboard the Farr 1120 which I was careening and repairing in Wellington - see first few pictures) and swapped 6 degree temps for the warmth of Latitude 6 degrees South to sail via the labirynth of reef country known as the Torres Strait and the pirated waters of the warm Arafura Sea.

Firstly Port Moresby. Wow what a place. Very, very dangerous. Rascals and guns thieves and danger everywhere. No more movie theatre as it was too unsafe for ex-pats to go there.

The yacht Club and fenced surrounds were the only real safe place where we were moored. An armed gun post marked the entrance and also the breakwaters and more than 11 armed guards patrolled the pontoons and bar area all the time.

Still what i saw i liked and actually found the locals to be very polite and friendly. I tried to walk into town but was warned off and given a ride by a local ex-pat. I walked back though with Ian, and Fiona and i also walked to the local supermarket keeping a watchfull eye on everyone we passed especially near the squatters.
Buses are fully caged especially around the drivers.

The blood lining most streets was in fact merely the spittings of beetle juice a past time that even local white collared business man still enjoyed.

We left early on the Friday and then sailed non-stop for more than one week for nearly one thousand kilometeres mostly way out of sight of land.

The first day I felt a bit queezy but this soon went away and I enjoyed being down below as much as on deck. The water here is 27 degrees C and the air about the same or more. Along the way we experienced perfect trade winds of 15 - 25 knots but rather steep seas on some occasions.
I had my watch allocated being: 12 midnight to 3.00am then 9am till 12noon and then 4 to 6pm. Not bad and I soon got used to sleeping when i could. Ian, my age and from Canada, Fiona sharing the forepeak with me from England, and me - just the three of us. We are getting on really well and everyone is performing well too. Yeah we have not hit anything yet!

Matt plans the navigaton on his laptop using MacSea software then uploads it to his GPS unit that we follow. In difficult reef waters we use both to steer by.

Sleeping aboard a moving boat is not easy. Up in the bow you ascend and descend with each passing wave, sometimes volently. The ship rolls from side to side so you have to use lee cloths and stuff sleeping bags around you.

It is too hot to have any covers in fact I sleep nude most nights as it is cooler. Sometimes I sleep in the main cabin on the pipe cot or the lower bunk but there you suffer the noise of the other crew making meals or changing watch.

I soon got used to the regime of watches and quite like it. There is time for overlaps wth the other crew to chat and discuss navigational decisions ahead or weather conditions. When the wind strengthens sometimes we are all up together especially if a gybe is needed in strong wind.

When the wind is strong we sleep in our gear ready to jump up and assist.

Along the seas we saw several cute turtles surfacing near to us, a pod of about 20 dolphins for ages and I had one lonely dolphin play next to me one lonely night time watch. Just me and him and the full moon.

We also saw one hell of a big shark, a few various sea birds one who made our boat his home for a day, no crocs yet. We caught several huge fish , a tuna, several Wahoo and a few we sent back too. Fish seems to always be on the menu.

When we got the eclipse of the moon on the 28th all I could think of was my daughter, Antara is far away in Germany but no way to contact her, nor my sister in law who also shared the same birthday. In fact I think every night aboard I was talking about my daughter. The others must of got sick of me telling how much I miss her.

Some tense moments coming through the rugged passages between the reefs in Torres Straits and also near Darwin where we had to negotiate a very scary pass between reefs against the current and with no wind and in the middle of the night. Thank god for good navigation and GPS.

I have learnt so much on this trip about provisioning, watch's, gear, navigation and ocean sailing in general plus all the other cruisers we have met who have shared the experience of their life living aboard with me like the Nibian family on the boat acnhored next to us in Fannie Bay Darwin. I am here for one week before setting sail again. Once at sea life is strictly regimented. Meal times watch changes etc are all to a carefully timed plan and so it should be. This way it works and no one gets overly tired.

Darwin is hot, in fact it was 37 degrees yesterday mainly dry heat but can be humid sometimes. The yacht cub here is very welcoming. FREE showers, wash facilities and a great place to catch up with all the other cruising yachties which we do as a ritual every night. The excuse being that we have to wait for the tide to return so we don't have to drag the dingies 5 kms down the beach.

The sunsets are wonderful every night.

If you look carefully you may see our boat. It is the furthest one out. Nearly out of Australian waters I reckon! Yesterday I walked 5 kilometres around the shore to the old WW II defences. Darwin was severely bombed by the Japs and had to be rebuilt only to be totally destroyed again by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

When you liveaboard a boat at anchor life ashore is timed by both the tides and use of the dinghy so we all must co-ordinate our times ashore around this. The nights are warm sleeping below and too hot in the mornings when sleeping on deck. Every morning I go for a quick dip in the sea after first checking there are no crocodles or sharks visble. I seem to be the only one game to do this!!

We are off in a hire car tomorrow to see crocodes and the wetlands n the bush inland. This will be the only visit to real Australian conditons for an n his first visit to Australia.
From here we go via Timor, Komodo island, Flores, Bali, Singapore, Melacca Straits, Langkawi to Phuket where I have a possible boat to return to Oz with.
Cheers everyone. "Crazycol"