Monday, June 27, 2011

Are We There Yet? Slow Sailing to Darwin

Now that we're getting closer to Darwin, I'm becoming increasingly excited about being in a city again! I can't wait to get on the internet and buy fresh veggies and fruit. We have so many things to do once we get to the convenience of a large city and I'm itching to be able to post all of my stories on the blog. So we set off again out from Malay Bay after only spending one night in this peaceful place. Rene and the captains from Veedon Fleece and Frecinet all try to work out the currents for Bowen Strait which we will sail up. The tides in this area are a bit strange. There are prevailing currents and tides and everyone's tide programs gave slightly different information!

Rene and I leave before dawn, wanting to arrive at the mouth of Bowen Passage in time to take advantage of the current. Sailing through Mountmorris Bay reminds me of our trips in Moreton Bay back home. Ah to be in protected waters again is such a pleasure!! We finish a game of Scrabble we'd been playing on and off for days. Rene has fun for hours setting, changing, adjusting and tweaking the sails to get Anima to go as fast as she can. I bake date loaf (delicious!) and enjoyed hanging out below decks in calm seas. Despite leaving 2 hours earlier than Frecinet and Veedon Fleece, we only arrive at the anchorage behind Danger Point 30 minutes before them. It is somewhat frustrating to have such a slow boat – though we think we won anyway.

Danger Point - Where the not-so-wild things are.
Danger Point looks like a scene from the film 'Where The Wild Things Are' and we set off ashore eager to explore this wild land. Up close however, the beach is lined with 4-wheeler tracks and littered with cow pats. And is incredibly dry. After a brief, hot walk, we returned and went onboard Frecinet for drinks. A lovely warm evening follows! We share life stories / experiences and the last of our precious cheese. We feel very fortunate to have met such down-to-earth people to cruise in company with for a few hundred miles. Zipping back to Anima in our inflatable dinghy late that night feels amazing. Under an orange, cloudy moon, full of warm food and conversation. Sparkles in the water behind us. Cool, smoky breeze and gentle waves. A perfect moment.

I'm sad to see Frecinet and Veedon Fleece disappear over the horizon the next morning. They were striking out for Darwin (a 24 hour trip with much motoring) while we were only going as far as Point Essington (a 5 hour trip). It will be a while before we get to enjoy modern conveniences again as a strong wind warning has been issued. I have my worst-ever bout of homesickness. The photos I put up on the walls of my lovely family and friends only make the feeling more horrible. I've always known that I feel uplifted through contact with others. Now I really know that I'm a people-person and this kind of remote cruising is very hard for me. I miss the energy that different people provide. I make do with increased communication with Rene, more letter-writing to people at home and the HF radio is our only link with the outside world.
Listening to our HF radio - the only link to the outside world in remote N.T.
The sail to Port Essington is very slow. We are against the tide in light winds and Anima struggles to make 2 knots even with all four sails up. We dream of having a boat that sails better in light conditions. Funny juxtaposition when the song '...' by The Bloody Beetroots (very fast-paced, loud, crazy, electronic song) plays while we drift along at 4 kilometres an hour. Eventually we are forced to motor when Anima starts drifting backwards (towards a reef!) instead of forwards.

Our anchorage for the strong winds is in Berkely Bay, about halfway down Port Essington. It is protected with large sandstone cliffs in white, yellow and red and after we turn off the motor, we're struck with absolute silence. For once, there is no wind (quiet before the storm?). The only sounds come from our movements and the occasional bird on land. Again, we're very remote. The only evidence of humans is a pearl farm which we had to navigate around to anchor.
Anima anchored in Port Essington
Sewing flags
The forecast strong winds amount to nothing. We keep expecting them to pick up but they never do. We stay in the protection of Berkeley Bay just in case. I take the opportunity to do some sewing jobs: the courtesy flag for sailing in Indonesian waters and the 'Q' quarantine yellow flag. Rene continues his work on improving the lazy jack system. We learn of some additional frequencies on the HF radio that allow us to listen in to live news broadcasts and music! Wow – connection with the real world! I spot my first ever wild crocodile floating slowly along in the water about 100metres away at dusk. Sunset drinks on the beach are definitely off! The sunsets here are so red due to the ever-present smoke haze from the burnoffs. 
Can you spot the crocodile?
monohulls due to their strength, which has suited us very well as a first boat, allowing us to get grounded a couple of times without any problems. However, we've decided that we are actually more into catamarans, and have met some strong GRP (fibreglass) boats (and the ultimate - carbon fibre, like the Gunboat, Sugar Daddy), that are still fairly light and thus a lot faster (sorry Rog, Jan, Nick and Jan!). The only real problem is that cats are much more expensive than monohulls. So we'll have to work very hard and save many many more pennies before we can afford to upgrade to our dream boat.
Loving catamaran sailing and style!
The Victoria settlement was set up in 1838 as a military outpost to protect northern Australia from the Dutch. They lived there for 11 years and built a hospital, married quarters, wells, store-houses, military quarters and a church. It was incredibly isolated and disease killed many of the inhabitants. The ruins are all that remain of this failed settlement. 
One of the graves at Victoria Settlement. Check out the spelling.
I felt uplifted from spending time walking through the bush. The smell of woodsmoke and the cool, dry air reminds me of my home in the bush near Toowoomba. I feel at home amongst the gum trees and bladey grass. The settlement was a pretty rough life for the people who lived here and we try to feel how tough it must have been for them. The graveyard contains over 60 people – it really was a very remote and tough place. I feel for the women, the wives of the soldiers. They must have been incredibly strong. Plenty of nature here: we spot a large shark, huge stingray, multiple hawks, a snake and lots of insects. No crocs.
The ammunition store house - still in one piece!
The remains of the hospital. At least the patients had sea breeze and views.

This is all that remains of the jetty for Victoria Point settlement.
Rene's 30th birthday arrives on the same day as Chris from Easy Rider. The strong wind warning is lifted and the winds actually pick up from being flat calm (we can't understand how the last two days could have been classified as a strong wind warning as we saw no more than 10 knots!). A great sail out of Port Essington and around to Alcaro Bay anchorage, just next to Cape Don. There are five other boats here already. The engine springs a minor oil leak and Rene grudgingly fixes it (he wasn't expecting engine maintenance on his birthday). I do my best to cook up a nice meal with the limited food we have left. We have no fresh fruit or vegetables left apart from a pumpkin. Easy Rider elected to spend the day at a resort in Port Essington, we discover later that they had a fabulous time as there were no guests and the staff were super hospitable. If only our budget could have stretched, we would have enjoyed swimming and living it up too.
Smokey sunsets in the Northern Territory.
Everyone leaves at first light for the long journey down through Van Dieman Gulf. We are the last to leave and we discover hours later that we had calculated the tides wrong by half an hour. Our navigation laptop was still set to QLD time! It is important to get the tides right through here as they are strong. Because it's neap tides at the moment,
we only had about 2.5knots current, but Yawarra 2 and other boats had up to 5 or so knots (which took their speed to around 12 knots!). This is great if you are going with it but impossible to make any headway against. We average between 6 and 7 knots initially with all four sails up on a beam reach. But after a few hours of this, the winds start to die down and so does our speed. The tide is nearly against us so we start up the motor and give in to what so many yachties end up having to do – motor sailing. A long day follows with the motor on until we anchor at dusk off Cape Hotham. The other boats must think we're strange – we drive around in circles trying to get a strong enough telstra signal to connect to the Internet. Our efforts are in vain though we do finally have phone and enjoy chatting to a few friends and family.
Finally chatting to my bestie.
We're woken at 4am by roaring sounds that we imagine are crocodiles fighting. We figure it's best to leave now before they decide to visit us – the tides were right too so off we go into the dark. We see four shooting stars and a satellite drift by. It's a peaceful early morning with barely a breath of wind. Pretty soon another boat is following us and within hours they've overtaken us and sailed out of sight over the horizon. How can they go so fast? We have all our sails up but they don't help much – the motor and tide do most of the work of getting us into Darwin. It's so exciting to see buildings again. To see a city! To hear FM radio and be able to use the Internet! My phone works again after 2 months of being out of range (pity I have no credit yet)!
Rene, Cerae, Daryl and James enjoying a few coldies...
We anchor in Fannie Bay with dozens of other boats. It's beautiful here. Yachties we met along the way hail us as we arrive. We get the low down on where to go ashore etc. The dinghy is in the water and we're motoring to shore (about 1 mile away due to the big 6 metre tides here). As we pull up onto the sand, we're hailed by Daryl, Carol and James who are at the yacht club enjoying a beer. We join them and the rest of the day slides away happily as we share a few beers and chat to old and new friends. We drive back through the bay that night surrounded by boats with their anchor lights on and it feels magical again. I'm so happy to have made it to Darwin. We have one month here before our departure for Indonesia. So much to do but also so much to enjoy. 
Fannie Bay. Anima is out there somewhere!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wessel Islands to Cobourg Peninsula - Another Sea Crossing!

The strong winds kept blowing for a week and we waited it out at our anchorage in Two Island Bay in the Wessel Islands. The strong South Easterly winds brought with them cooler temperatures and we started to feel the chill of winter for the first time this year. Eventually the winds dropped off to 25 knots and, as they were forecast to not get any lighter in the foreseeable future, we all concluded to set off. By this stage there were three yachts anchored with us: Frecinet, Veedon Fleece and Wombat of Sydney. Rene and I had originally planned to cruise the top of Northern Territory, along the Arnhem Land coast. The area is not very well charted however, there are big distances between anchorages and we were now behind schedule due to waiting so long for the wind to drop. So, we set out with everyone else across the sea to Malay Bay.
Sailing in company
Salt on everything!!
It felt good to set out with other cruisers. Everyone sailed along Rhum lines (a course that takes into account the distortions of the Mercator projection). We haven't looked into how these can be drawn in our chart plotter yet and just follow the straight line! This section of the coast is pretty quiet. After everyone else disappeared over the horizon, we didn't see another boat until approaching the anchorage – two days later. I'm glad we had regular radio contact so we didn't feel as isolated as last time.
The seas quickly developed into much bigger waves than were forecast. Some were about 4 metres tall and we surfed down them into troughs between the steep seas so that sometimes, it looked as though the next wave was going to crash into us! Luckily we only ever ended up with bits of the waves landing on deck – not their full force. Though absolutely everything is totally encrusted in salt now!

Within hours of leaving, our trolling line had snagged a Tuna. Rene had quite a time trying to fillet it as the boat pitched and heaved about. He tried to teach me how to cut up the fish but I felt so queasy as he pulled the guts out by hand and blood spattered over everything (it was bad enough that the boat was moving about so much without watching a live gore scene complete with blood and guts) that I had to postpone my lesson until a later date. I am really not very good at hunting and killing (maybe all those years being a vegetarian are still with me). I even have trouble trusting the meat that we've caught, killed and prepared ourselves! I scrutinise each mouthful for impurities or problems that I normally never do with meat from a butcher! My first serving of this tuna had lots of miniature red veins throughout the flesh which I was concerned about but ate anyway because it was delicious! Rene cut up and dried out one small fillet of fresh tuna for fish jerky. He sewed the meat onto string and strung it off the mizzen boom in the strong, dry winds. It dried very quickly and looks like jerky but again, I'm not game to try it!
Preparing fish to be dried.
The first night of this passage was the roughest conditions we've been in so far. We were sailing at between 7 and 8.5 knots and the motion was violent. Not only were we being pushed side to side, but up and down and diagonally! It made it incredibly difficult to move around inside. I barely slept. Oh, and it was FREEZING! The cold air smelt similar to the westerly winds I grew up with that usually occur at the end of winter. These South Easterlies must have been blowing right off the desert. They're dry, cold and smell like earth. Because everything is infested with salt, the cold temperatures made everything damp – both inside and outside the cabin.
These big seas inflicted some pain: the spare dinghy that is lashed to our aft quarter was pushed and wedged half a metre above the railing for a few hours until another wave noisily pushed it back down again; our Mizzen sail tore in the strong winds along some old stitching; the depth-sounder tore away from it's position and we both got a few bruises from the motion.
BIG waves!!!
The seas continued to build during the morning until R2Detour stopped working! Luckily the Aries autopilot works well in rough seas. We have decided that it is a necessity for us to buy a decent electric autopilot before setting out to Asia. There is no way that hand steering for days on end is an option if R2 breaks again and Aries misbehaves (like he usually does). Funny how our auto-pilots have become anthropomorphised!! Also funny is that, while at sea, we often hear indistinct human voices speaking incoherently (frequently we call out to one another 'what was that?' only to have the reply 'I didn't say anything'). Other yachties we've met also experience this phenomenon. My theory is that our minds make the sounds of the boat into human voices because we're so used to hearing them that when there's none to be heard, it makes them up! Perhaps we're all actually quite mad and this is proof!!

Thankfully the winds eased off during the second evening and we all enjoyed a lovely sail during the night in calm seas and light winds under a gorgous full moon. The cold air smelt like winter as smoke from fires that must be on land somewhere blew over us. It was bone-chillingly cold though and I wish I could remember where I'd packed all my warm clothes!
Fixing the depth-sounder at sea
We approached the anchorage in Malay Bay slowly. I wanted the sun to rise so that we could see any unmarked dangers and I was awarded with a liquid golden sunrise, with the full moon still high in the sky opposite. Gorgeous! Our depth sounder had torn loose in the big seas and wasn't working so Rene bravely climbed over the stern and re-secured it as we approached the anchorage. It was nerve-wracking to be sailing with no depth readings to reassure us that the chart plotter is accurate and that we aren't about to run aground.
Survived our second crossing.
I had a scrap of mobile phone reception (sporadically) for about 1 minute as we arrived. I hastily dialled my parents number only to be told that the number was not operational! Whoops! That's right, I'm interstate! After adding the area code, I got through to Mum and Dad for long enough to tell them where we were and that we were safe. It made me feel homesick. I've been feeling homesick a bit lately and have been managing to quell it by writing letters to the people I'm thinking about. These letters will not reach the people for weeks yet but it helps. I've also been spending much more time listening to music. I have embarked upon a big project of listening to our entire collection alphabetically. That's a lot of music. So far I've discovered some diamonds amongst the rough that I never knew we had. With all of this time to listen to music, I'm making the ultimate mix tape!
Sunset over the Arafura sea
We were both dead-tired upon arriving at Malay Bay. We managed to get a few jobs done in between collapsing in exhaustion. Rene redesigned and reconfigured the headsail pole attachment on the main mast and I patched some holes in the main sail. My forearms were so sore that I couldn't bring myself to even do one yoga sun salute. Was it from having to cling on to things for 2 days while sailing? Weird.

New To The Northern Territory

Northern Territory beach flowers.
Our arrival at the other side of the Gulf of Carpentaria was timed perfectly to be just before a week of strong 30+ knot winds. Just getting down the Wessel Islands 6 miles to anchor was difficult for Ani as we had to motor-sail directly into a 25+ knot wind with conflicting current and only made between 2 and 3 knots with the engine on high rev's, waves smashing up over our bows and spray blowing over everything. Doing this in a 30 knot wind would be even more intense! We anchored in the isolated 'Two Island Bay' and celebrated with a big fish lunch (yes, more leftovers!) and white wine thanks to Les and Kath from Sea Temple (back in Townsville). The beach here is similar to many others in that it's littered with plastic bottles and random thongs, but there were some differences in the rock formations and more bamboo pieces here. Rene found a bottle of "tea" washed up, and pricked it open out of curiosity, only to find as it splashed back that it was disgusting old urine – eurgh!! Why would you put urine in a bottle and throw it in the sea?

Walking felt strange and my legs hurt after only half an hour! Three days of not walking much is bad for my health. Time for some Ashtanga yoga!!

We arrived here in the Northern Territory with very little knowledge of this remote land. The time zone is different and we didn't know by how much. Are there fishing zones here like in QLD? Where are the Aboriginal settlements? Normally we'd just 'Google' these things and figure out the answers but there's not even a scrap of Telstra signal here :(
I resort to the low-fi technology of HF radio. Through my daily log-ins to the 'Shiela Net', Jan from Yawarra 2 (currently cruising the Kimberley's in Western Australia) has been following our progress and making sure we're OK. She has kindly sent a few emails on our behalf to family to let them know we're still above the water.

Our first full day in the Wessel's was spent relaxing and recuperating. Rene zoomed off on his own in the dinghy to explore the islands and bays here (our dinghy will plane above the water with one person onboard). He found turtle, bird and wallaby tracks.
Anima tows Artemis from the reef.
We were beginning to go a little strange from lack of contact with other humans and so were very relieved when another yacht made its way into the other side of this bay. 'Artemis' (from the Netherlands) radio'd us the next morning inviting us over for a cuppa. They'd had engine troubles yesterday and had arrived under sail. In order to test their engine fix, they elected to motor around the island that separates the two halves of this bay. It worked fine until they turned to come in again, at which point the engine failed again. They were forced to sail into the anchorage (almost directly into the wind). Luckily they have a boat that sails well (it's really nice – 'Island Packet' design) but unluckily, just as they were about to tack across and anchor behind us, they ran up onto an uncharted reef and were stuck! Rene raced over in our dinghy to help while I watched with binoculars, prepared Ani for motoring and tried to apply suncream quickly. Soon he was back again and we pulled up our anchor, motored over to near where Artemis was stuck and used our longest rope (tied to their longest rope) to pull the yacht off the reef and clear of bommies. The manoeuvre worked well – with a close call as Fritz got his foot stuck inside a loop of rope as we were pulling it with our engine. He could have lost his foot but luckily I was alerted by their desperate hand gestures to ease off and he came away with a line of deep bruising and cut skin. Afterwards, while sipping tea and eating freshly baked Anzac's Peter and Fritz commented that we pulled them off like professionals! It was mostly by chance that we'd used the best point on the ship (midships) to tie off the towing line. We had fun chatting with such lovely guys. They were so grateful for our rescue that we were given their old wind instruments! Wow! One of the items on our wish list! Thanks!!

This experience has taught us a few things: it is beneficial to cruise in company with other yachties when in remote locales; it's vitally important to keep a keen lookout when approaching new anchorages because the charts are not always accurate; it's important to be really aware of where ropes are and keep all body parts free of them when they are under great strain. Rene's grandfather lost a good friend one rough night (he was a ferry operator in Kenya) when the man wrapped a towing line around himself and was cut in half).

The next day Artemis bravely set off for Darwin in the strong winds (to meet with their wives in Darwin who'd driven overland while they'd sailed from Cairns) and two new boats limped in: Frecinet and Veedon Fleece. They had unfortunately had to sail for over 24 hours in the strong winds and it wasn't fun. We'd met Frecinet in Lizard Island and had spoken to Veedon Fleece on the Shiela net regularly so we invited them over to Anima
Ros, James, Daryl, Gote and Rene looking up at the customs plane.

Alfa, November, India, Mike, Alfa - ANIMA
The strong winds just didn't want to go away. Stuck in the one spot, I decided to get one of the sewing jobs finished and whipped up a replacement bag for our staysail. Rene got out the Bahasa Indonesia language books and we've begun trying to learn some words and phrases. Getting the pronunciation right from a book results in some hilarity! We watched movies and I baked a lot. Waiting, waiting.
New staysail bag.

Crossing The Gulf

Like any experience, the Gulf crossing had its ups and downs. The journey took exactly three days – 72 hours at sea, most of which were out of sight of land. Because there are two of us onboard, we had to take turns at being on deck for the entire time. This meant that we were both sleep deprived. I've decided to list the good times and the not so good times of this trip rather than setting it all out chronologically.

The Good Times
* Watching billions of sparkly phosphorescent lights in the disrupted water around us and in the waves (is this phenomenon the origin of the mermaid myth? It certainly seems magical!).
* Spending hours reading. I too, got sucked into Stieg Larsson's novel, 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' and am now into 'The Spice Islands Voyage' by Tim Severin.
Sleepy music bliss on watch.
* Laughing as two big brown Booby birds try (unsuccessfully) to land on Anima for a rest – they're so clumsy! One of them settled for sleeping on the water, head under wing, after a close encounter with our wind generator while the other landed on another boat, Armido, for the night.
* Listening to music on my iPod and allowing it to be the soundtrack to my life.
Some great synchronous moments so far have been Florence and the Machine (strong female vocals with harp and rock) to the clear, star-filled night sky with a cool, tropical breeze pushing us along through a hissing sea. Sigur Ross, 'Svefn-g-englar', to an amazing patchwork of clouds at sunset with rays of sun shining down over the Torres Strait.
* Watching the sun rise after the third day of constant grey cloud-cover. It's amazing how closely my state of well-being is tied to light and colour. The deep blood-orange of a rising sun under a peach, pale blue and apricot painted sky. Ahhhh!
First hint of colour in days.
* Seeing our progress on the chart plotter. Every mile closer lifted morale.
* Enjoying a feast prepared by Rene of baked Mackerel and pototoes. Enough to feed a big family (or us for the next 4 days!).
* Drinking herbal teas again. Coffee is too strong on the stomach at sea.
* The mixture of excitement, relief and anticipation upon seeing land (Wessel Islands on the horizon) after three days at sea.

The Not So Good Times
* Being in contstant motion. Simple tasks – like walking, preparing food, going to the bathroom etc. are rendered into complex tasks. Consequentially, it was impossible to do yoga (let alone stand up without clinging onto something!).
* Sleep deprivation. Having to take watches in shifts means not getting a full night's sleep. Trying to sleep in a bed that's constantly in motion is also disruptive.
* Isolation. Our HF radio chose this moment to break. Our only contact with the outside world was with an American yacht, Armido, who was about 10 miles ahead of us. Bob kindly relayed our progress to the HF radio net that we log into daily.
Feeling grey.
* Rain. The weather was gloomy and overcast. When I took over watch at 2am on the second night, it began to pour with rain and didn't stop until dawn. Having to do watches every 15 minutes involved me putting on a rain-jacket, clipping on my harness, clambering out into the pouring rain on deck. Ani was pitching around on waves in the pitch dark. I would peer out into the black, trying to see lights or other hazards whilst clinging onto something to avoid being tossed overboard. This process was repeated four times an hour, for five hours. In between this ordeal, I crouched in the one corner of the cockpit that was only slightly damp (not soaking wet), in the pitch dark, being dripped on from above. Not my idea of a good time!
* Developing Tinea under some of my toes from constantly having wet, salty feet. Gross.
* Nausea. Though to be honest, I only felt sick three times and it was short-lived.
* Variable wind strength and direction. Sails banging and sheets (ropes) whipping about and hitting me.
Grey days at sea.
* Feeling as though I'm wasting my time. There's so much I want to do and sailing across the sea is not high on my list! Due to the sleep deprivation, I wasn't able to do anything except read, try to sleep, eat and look after Anima. I barely even took any photos! Most of my energy was used in simply trying to stay awake and upright.
* Lonliness. Sea crossings mean that when one of us is awake, the other is asleep. There has to be someone on watch at all times (I wonder if yachts who have AIS and Radar can relax more?). There's usually only one of us on deck. That's a lot of hours alone with only the sea for company. I much prefer coastal, day cruising to this!

I like coastal cruising. Crossing seas and oceans is not really me. I love the land (and sleep) too much! Not being able to see the land for days made me sad. I don't like being isolated – I feel complete when I am in contact with other people – with friends, family and the internet! We have to make a few more sea crossings before reaching Singapore, the biggest of which is Darwin to Kupang, Indonesia next month. At least for that trip we'll be with about 100 other boats and Penny will be with us as crew so it won't be so lonely. If we continue cruising beyond SE Asia, I think I'll leave the big ocean crossings to Rene (and any crew we can rustle up). I can think of hundreds of things I'd rather be doing than sailing at sea for days on end. I'm happy with coastal cruising thanks! I don't know how Jessica Watson did it for 8 months on her own. I have even more respect for all those hardcore sailors out there (past and present) making their way across the seas. WOW. You guys are hardcore.
Sigur Ross Sunset.

Preparing For The Crossing

Beach walking at Cape York Peninsula.
We spent a few days just floating about at the top, all on our own. Relaxing and preparing for the big trip ahead. Internet was available at Simpson Bay just around the Western side of the top. The current was so strong here that while we set our anchor, the chain ripped through the winch repeatedly – no matter how hard we tightened the lock. Sailing with the current was very enjoyable with speeds of about 8.5 knots and no waves. We stopped in at the small town of Seisia (the coastal port to Bamaga) to get a few supplies before heading over to the Northern Territory. We anchored near the wharf (we dragged three times and had to keep re-setting the anchor) rather than outside the lagoon. It was thus a short dinghy trip to the beach and then a short walk to the camping ground which allowed us to use their laundry and showers ($3 for a shower was worth it!). The earth is red up here and drier than I'd expected. The walk to the small supermarket was through a coconut palm grove over ochre red earth. Most things at the store were way overpriced – about three times what you would pay in a city – so we just got a few fresh vegetables and fruit to keep us going a little longer. To fill up with water, Rene insisted upon tying up to the wharf. I was happy to just cart jerry cans but Rene, with painful memories of water-runs from his youth, was determined and persistant – despite the wharf being a little too big for us (it's designed for huge container ships). In order for the water to reach our tanks, we had our hose running over the wharf, connecting to a series of three short pieces of hose and finally into a funnel and down our tanks. It took hours. I was not happy about the whole rigmarole and wish we had a water maker!
The Seisia wharf with Anima tied up and locals fishing.
Later, talking to other yachties, we found out that we'd missed a curious feature of the town – the local crocodile is kept in an enclosure by the beach and fed mangy feral dogs. As a result Seisa is one of the few communities up this way that doesn't have a 'dog-problem'! After proof-reading a soon to be published semi-autobiographical novel about teaching in a remote community in western NT, I can understand why this seemingly hardline approach could be employed. One of the more shocking events in this book was when the author discovered the dismembered head of a local petrol sniffer being gnawed on by one of the camp dogs, the victim having been ripped apart while sleeping the night before.

Chilling and Reflecting At The Top

I feel as though rounding the top of Queensland somehow represented my confidence and enjoyment of this adventure turning a corner. I am actually enjoying the sailing aspect more! I actually want to get involved more and am holding back less. I'm not bolting inside to hide when we heel over (well, sometimes I do but not every time!). Rene has allowed me the time and space to get to this point in my own time. No pressure. This has been the best approach as I know my own limits and am learning more when I'm ready to. The more I know, the less I am afraid. Dawn (a fellow cruiser) told me of how a lot of her confidence grew from learning to trust her yacht. Knowing that Anima is built to be at sea, is designed to cope with the strength of the wind and waves has helped me to trust her. I'm becoming used to her perks and quirks and know what conditions she performs best in. I know that sailing is a mix – there's plenty of lovely days when the weather is perfect and then there's some days when it's horrible. Luckily, the slow pace of cruising allows us to experience mostly the good days.

At this juncture, I want to share some of my thoughts and feelings. I am probably an over-sharer – but I can't help it! I've always had an overwhelming desire to share and communicate. Some people I know find this trait challenging. They worry that I put too much of myself out there to be hurt somehow. I've always felt as though sharing my life in fact does the opposite. It helps me to grow when I put into words the stuff going on. I love it when people comment or offer feedback or advice and encouragement. I guess also (like so many others before me), writing helps me feel as though my existence has meaning. That I'm leaving my mark in some small way. Who knows? Maybe these words of mine will help someone to follow their dreams of escaping from the rat race to go on an adventure. To face fears. To share and revel in this amazing experience of life. It's an incredible world and I'm so so so happy to finally be travelling. It feeds my soul when I get to see new places.

I love being out in the wilderness. The beauty of nature always takes my breath away. It makes me pause, gaze in wonder and then breathe it all in to fill myself with love.
I love that cruising has allowed me to be in countless amazing places. I feel so lucky.
Cruising has allowed me time. Something that as a teacher and general 'achiever' type personality, I never really had before. Having time has allowed for plenty of reflection and relaxation. I've never felt healthier, stronger or more alive. Travel for me is about having time to explore – not only the world and all it's people's – but myself.
Cruising has allowed me to face my fears (and is still allowing me!) and to move (ever so slowly) away from them into a less fearful existence.
Cruising has allowed us to live quite cheaply (after the initial expense) and to have a much longer holiday than if we'd bought a house.
Cruising has its own share of hardships but I'm so glad that we're doing this and I'm so grateful for the support and encouragement of so many of you along the way.

Here are photos of just some of the amazing places we've sailed to so far.

Glass-out sunrise over the sea, QLD.

Sunset, Great Sandy Straits, QLD.

Whitsundays isolated anchorage.

Flinders Island, QLD Coast.
Whitsundays golden dusk.

Lizard Island giant clams, QLD.

Magnetic Island rock-hopping, QLD.

Morris Island bird.

Pearl Bay beach, QLD.

Shaw Island rock cairns, QLD.

Sparkly sea, QLD.

Beautiful rocks, QLD.

Breathing it all in!



Fraser Island, QLD.