Monday, January 31, 2011

Planning For Cyclone Yasi

We have continued to worry about Cyclone Yasi which is now predicted to hit this area sometime on Wednesday evening as a category 4 cyclone. Rene and I have discussed all of our options for surviving her. We considered rushing out this afternoon, buying the new boat batteries, setting up Anima to sail and then gunning it up to Hinchinbrook Island tonight. We thought about moving to the other marina in Ross Creek which has taller pontoons. We also considered moving Anima over to another finger in the marina here which is newer, stronger and more protected from the wind/waves. We have decided to go with the latter option. I don't want to put our lives at risk with option 1. Tying up in a mangrove creek is a proven method for sitting out cyclones but we aren't ready and rushing it will mean we take risks. The other marina is more exposed to the winds and also is in a creek so it could flood. The third option seems best. Our friends on SulaSula moved over to B finger last week and are very happy with its strength and design. 
We'll move over in the morning. 

Cyclone Yasi looks very nasty. If you follow this link to the MTSAT Infrared animated image of her, she looks like the Eye of Sauron from The Lord of The Rings. BOM is now predicting that she'll hit here - it's as though she's chasing Anthony on exactly the same path! 

I'm trying to remember to breathe. I'm finding it difficult not to panic. This time, it looks like we very well could lose everything.

The Cyclone That Wasn't and The Cyclone That Very Well Could Be

We spent all weekend getting ready for our first cyclone onboard Anima. Rene added even more ropes to hold us into our marina pen, I stocked up our food stores from the local farmers market and supermarket. We battened down everything, brought all of the things usually stored on deck inside and contacted friends and family. We talked to as many people as we could about how cyclones form, what they feel like, how to survive them etc. etc. After days of watching his progress online, worrying about how the marina would hold up in destructive winds, Tropical Cyclone Anthony decided to head further south of us a couple of hours before he was due to hit here in Townsville. We had a brief rain shower last night and woke up this morning to sunny blue skies. But, it's not over yet, Tropical Cyclone Yasi is now on her way, heading right for us - again. 
The current wind forecast for Cyclone Yasi due to hit Wednesday night.
I'm exhausted - from worry. This morning we spent 2 hours examining all of the latest forecasts and models for Cyclone Yasi which is predicted to hit here in 2-3 days. It looks much much worse than Anthony was. We've studied predictions from UGRIB, the U.S. Naval Maritime Forecast Centre and Typhoon Warning Centre, the Australian Bureau of Meterorology's 7 day wind forecast, wave forecast model, cyclone forecast and maritime forecast. I've also been checking the local weather and news. I'm starting to wonder if all of this information is too much. Each time I look at a model of the cyclone path, my stomach clenches into a knot of fear, I suddenly need to go to the bathroom and feel as though I might be sick. This reaction is getting more intense the more I subject myself to the cyclone forecasts.

Anima all tied up ready for Cyclone Anthony.
Anima is secured with so many ropes!
So today I'm left wondering what to do? If Cyclone Yasi is coming here and is as strong as they say she'll be, what's the point of continuing to work on Anima when she may be destroyed in a couple of days? Should I continue with everything as though we'll be fine? Should I adopt the locals attitude of 'she'll be right, mate' or should we move to somewhere else? The other marina is not as old as this one but would be more crowded. B finger is newer than E finger in this marina but is closer to the rocks and trees of the park. Where we are is good because there are no boats close to us so there is no danger of our masts getting tangled up but if there is a large storm surge, the whole marina could lift up and over the pontoons and everything would be destroyed.... aaaaaagggghhhh!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tropical Cyclone Anthony

Tomorrow night it is forecast that Tropical Cyclone Anthony will hit Townsville. Currently it is a category 2 cyclone - meaning that it will bring destructive winds of 125 - 164 km/h. I've been obsessively checking the Bureau of Meteorology website for their 6-hourly updates on what this cyclone is forecast to do. I'm mostly able to not panic about it all too much - though I have had my moments of feeling very afraid. You see, this cyclone is just the start. On its way from Fiji is another, much bigger and meaner cyclone that could hit here again on Wednesday/Thursday. It would be a category 4 or 5. If this occurs, we will most likely lose everything. Our boat would be destroyed along with almost everything else here. Category 5 is the worst, most severe type of cyclone and not much remains standing after one of them. 
This is the current model of what cyclone Anthony will do.
We have been preparing Anima as best we can for the impending storms. She is tied up with so many ropes that the whole marina pen we are in would have to come loose for us to break free. Once again, we have been bringing in everything from above decks inside so that it won't blow away or be damaged by something blowing onto it. 
Rene continued to work on the new battery system today by building a secure area for the engine battery. We've removed the house batteries in preparation for putting in the new ones. So our early plans of sailing up to Hinchinbrook in the face of a cyclone are dashed. We can't go anywhere without power!  
Screen shot from the Bureau's wind forecast of the second, more damaging cyclone.
I've been packing up some of our belongings into our emergency evacuation bags. It's surreal looking over all of our stuff thinking what do we really need? Because if worst case scenario eventuates, whatever we take with us in those bags will be all we own. I used to be a hoarder. I kind of still am in some ways. But I realised today during my yoga practice that really, all I need is Rene, my family and my friends (old and new). The people I love are what truly brings me happiness and meaning to my life. 

I wonder if our dream of sailing Anima to Indonesia this year will still be an option after this week. Time will tell. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Toiling Away

It was bound to happen but I was a little disappointed anyway. After the flurry of jobs that were completed so quickly after returning to Anima, this week has not seen much in the way of jobs being finished. Instead, I've been starting loads of jobs until I get stuck and have to move to another one. The reason for getting stuck is usually either that I need more materials (a difficult prospect without a car) or that I need Rene's opinion/advice (difficult when he is working pretty much from when he wakes until when he sleeps). Rene is now working 50+ hours per week in an effort to save some pennies for our travel in a few months. This is indeed turning out to be a big effort when we take out the expenses of living in the marina (over $1000 per month), food (it's sooo expensive up here for normal fruit and veggies), boat jobs and spares that we still need to buy and the mega mega tax bill Ren has yet to pay from last year. But... we are still planning to go! I feel this sense of urgency - that we need to just leave! It's somewhat tempting to do all of the improvements we dream of on the boat, it's tempting to apply to work here (there were some great-sounding jobs advertised at the local University. It's tempting to build up more of a kitty so that we could travel for longer with less worry but... we feel like we need to do this now!

Rene with Anima showing off her new portside name.
So, onto the progress. The boat name stickers arrived and we applied them on the weekend. I'm quite happy with how it looks now to actually have our name on display! We noticed that the white topcoat of paint (that the name sticker was applied to) isn't looking as good as it could. It is a little patchy and chalky but we will put off that job until we are in South East Asia. 

Cerae just finished putting on the new names.
Rene working with the batteries.
Rene started the ominous job of upgrading our battery system. This is a huge job as the frame that previously held the batteries needs to be replaced. It was made of steel which is really bad news when combined with batteries! Every time one of the positive terminals touched the frame, a huge spark would burst up! Scary and dangerous. So, the steel frame is removed and so is the old wood which was pretty gross and toxic (soaked in battery acid over the last 28 years). Now we're trying to find the best deal for wet or flooded deep cycle batteries that give us the best amp hours at 12 volts. Rene also plans to replace the wiring to and from the batteries as he thinks it could be done better with less messy cords. 

One of the jobs I started was to go through our excessive pile of old nautical charts. I managed to get rid of a largish pile - this is an example of how old some of them were! I think we inherited it from either Rene's parents or Nick and Jan. In any case it's is so old it looks like it belongs in a museum!
An Ancient Chart.
This afternoon I plan to start sewing up a cover for our navigation laptop so that we can use it outside in the cockpit more safely. But first, I need a coffee!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ticking Off Jobs

I've been able to tick off a bunch of jobs since arriving back in Townsville after spending a month away. While down south, I took advantage of having car to use, being in a capital city and near my Dad. We flew back to Anima with so much luggage - only just making it through under the 23Kg limit each. 

The new cockpit floor fit easily after a bit of trimming and it's a pleasure to walk on. The bread boards fit in to the galley too (also with a bit of trimming) and I'm finding it much easier to prepare meals now that I have a space larger than an A4 sheet to use. The GPS now has a mount so that it doesn't have to fly about in the cockpit while we sail. Two of the portholes are now protected with portvisors so that we can leave them open in the rain without being inundated with water (thanks for Sula Sula for sharing the order for these). The old name was removed and the new name and home port were added on the stern. 
Today I have been measuring and planning a new and improved cockpit awning cover system and shelving for the wet locker. There's many jobs happening simultaneously at present! 
GPS secured and ready for action.

Thanks Dad! The new bread boards work a dream!

Cockpit floor safe, practical and comfy to stand on!
No rain is getting in here - only cool air!
In with the new (I may have to fix the 'S' as it looks a bit upside-down!!)

Out with the old....

Safety is an illusion so keep taking chances

Last week saw the worst flooding that South East Queensland residents have ever seen. Toowoomba, the town where I was born, had such a severe flash flood that it is being called an 'inland tsunami'. Toowoomba has never flooded like this before - it is actually at the top of the Darling Downs mountain range. No one expected it and it just reinforces that safety is an illusion. I feel terrrible for all those thousands of people who have lost their homes or loved ones. But I'm also uplifted by the amazing generosity of community that this disaster has brought out. Tens of thousands of volunteers offered to help clean up in Brisbane after the flooding. We were only able to help out for a few hours ourselves before having to fly back to Townsville. But while we helped our friends from West End, I witnessed hundreds of people all gathering together to clean up their community.

The flooding also reached my parents place which is on top of a mountainous range. You can see from the photos just how much water was around. Mum emailed me the pictures of the flooding and it's so bizarre to see the property looking like this as it has been in a severe drought for nearly 20 years.

We were in Bulimba at Rene's parents place while the flood hit Brisbane and we walked down to the river a few times to see rise. The water reached 26knots and destroyed/damaged many houses in other suburbs. Because of the ferocity of the water, it ripped up many pontoons boats in its path. As we watched a yacht spin out of control down the river, I thought how grateful I am that we sailed Anima to Townsville. We could have been in serious trouble had we stayed in Brisbane (not to say we won't be in serious trouble if a cyclone forms here on Feb 18th which is the king tide!). 

The back road at Christmas (my parents place).
The same road during the floods!
The same pump shed - the creek has never been this big!

The old pump shed at home.
Toowoomba's main street during the flash flood.
Watching the Brisbane River rise at dusk.

Upon arriving in Townsville, some of our lovely marina neighbours collected us from the airport. They had been looking after Anima who was in perfect condition. As a nice touch, John had opened up some of the hatches and turned on some fans so that she wasn't so hot and stuffy when we arrived. Nell and Rosie from next door had been bailing out our dinghy for us which they think is a fun game! We'll miss their help and laughter when they head south for a few months.

It's so humid up here. I feel a little like a vampire that only ventures out from the airconditioning occasionally. When I do, I now wear a large U.V 50+ long sleeve shirt and a hat or even a U.V 30+ umbrella too! I burn within a couple of minutes up here and have decided to be a total sun-safe dag rather than get burnt every day like so many whiteys.

It's straight back into the jobs - Rene has been working at his laptop almost non-stop while I've been ticking off boat jobs from the list. It's not long now before we head off again. In three short months, we plan to set sail for Cairns, and then up to Darwin by July to enter the rally up to Indonesia. That's the plan anyway! Fingers crossed that nature plays nice and we stay safe. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Home Away From Home

After living on Anima so intensively for most of last year, it has been refreshing to spend a few weeks visiting our family and friends back home. Being away from the constant pressure of boat work and the clutter that comes with living in a small space has allowed me the head-space to reflect and recuperate. 

In amongst all of the silliness of the festive season, I've still managed to tick some of the boat jobs off the mammoth list. My Dad helped out enormously. He made us two beautiful cutting boards that are designed to fit neatly into our tiny galley sinks. The red one is made from red ceder - it smelt amazing when I sanded back the surface. Dad also helped us out by firstly suggesting that we use an industrial mat for our cockpit floor rather than constructing one from wood. Once we had the actual mat, he helped me cut it out. I hope it fits! 

Dad making the new bread boards.
Bread boards for the boat!
The new cockpit mat about to be traced and cut.