Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Trolling. How to fish badly.

We left Mooloolaba this morning at very early o'clock (sorry Terry) and headed for Double Island Point to wait for conditions to cross the Wide Bay bar.

Double Island Point from the south

The Wide Bay bar is said to be one of the worst (if not the worst) river bar on the East coast.  Bars are mean things with a reputation for nasty surprises and scary rides.  We've crossed a few now with no problems at all but that's mainly because they scare me sh**less so I make sure conditions are perfect before I make an attempt.  Adrenaline is over-rated when you're cruising IMHO.

We decided to go up to Double Island Point just south of the bar and anchor there waiting for the best conditions we could arrange.  Crossing the bar is best done on a high tide in the morning and with a swell less than 1.5 meters.  Wednesday morning looked good and Thursday morning looked even better.

Tackling the Wide Bay bar is like a right of passage for east coast cruisers.  You start about 3 miles off shore and head for some leeds (navigation aids) on Fraser Island until you line up with the leads on Inskip point and turn to follow them.  This dog leg takes you through some relatively deep water between two shoals, so you have breakers on both side but only the swell in the channel (in theory).  This is very scary because one thing that keel boats (actually any boat) must avoid is breaking waves.  Your rudder and prop lose traction and you turn into a chunk of plastic for the waves to play with.  Anyway, more on that later after we've actually done it.

To get to the point of this story, on the way up the coast, we thought we'd try out our new lure and paravane.  Trolling..  It worked well the first time we tried it in Morton Bay (thanks Thiels!).  We didn't catch anything but it did follow us around for a while.

So I put it out and promptly forgot about it.  A couple of hours later, we rounded the headland and anchored in the bay feeling pretty pleased with ourselves.  Me especially as I had put out a second anchor from the stern to hold the stern into the Easterly swell stopping the rolling!

Then just as I was settling, I noticed the trolling line was still out.. Worse, it was very tight over the stern..  Worse still, it broke when I tried to retrieve it leaving me with about 2 meters of badly twisted line in my hand.

As you've probably guessed, we had reversed over it when we set the anchor and it was wrapped around the prop!

So I spent the rest of the arvo diving down on the prop cutting away fishing line :-(

My guess is that the god of fisherfolk looks like this:


Location: Queensland, Australia
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Monday, 22 June 2015

The difference between feet and meters

We went over to Tangalooma on Moreton Island with Andrew and Robin Thiele for some snorkelling on the wrecks over there.

Good sailing weather with a forecast of 10 to 20 knots through the day and we had an average of about 12 knots on the beam most of the day meaning we sailed the whole way doing around 6 knots with all the sail up except for a single reef in the main (yep, I'm overly cautious).  Awesome stuff.

We got to the channel into Tangalooma around 12:00 pm and it was raining heavily so I hove to with the Yankee and reefed main in the East channel to wait it out.  We'd just settled when I noticed a rather large ship heading towards us so we had to hustle to get the boat sailing again.  We cleared it by a mile but the combination of turning off the AIS alarms (too many false alarms), really bad visibility and lack of local knowledge conspired to get the adrenaline going.  Not so awesome.

We anchored between the wrecks and the beach, had lunch and watched the world go by for a while.  As you can see below, we were very close to the wrecks and we were looking forward to swimming over in the morning.

One of the wrecks just off our starboard side at sunset

I noticed that when the tide changed, the current swung us right around pushing us to the south against the 5 to 10 knot southerly.  This meant that at the next change, we would have quite a strong current and the wind combining to push us to the north.  This sort of thing had happened in the Brisbane river and it caused our anchor to break free and re-set (which was pretty scary) so I decided to sleep in the cockpit overnight and monitor what happened when the tide changed again at 1:30 am.

So the alarm went off at 1:30am and I watched the boat swing around through bleary eyes.  The wind had strengthened to about 15 knots as well so the combined wind and tide fully tested our anchor.  Just as I was dozing off again, I noticed a large yacht moving slowly past in reverse between us and the wrecks!

I woke up quite quickly then and hopped onto the back porch to see what the hell was happening.  A big masthead sloop (50' or so) was slowly dragging it's anchor along the channel about 10 metres away from us and even closer to the wrecks.  I yelled out and shone a maglite into the port lights and eventually (it took a while..) saw some movement on the boat and the panic started.

They had some strife..  The anchor decided to hook up to something (probably one of the wrecks) and they couldn't get it free.  The boat was swinging sideways into the wrecks one minute and wildly out almost on the other side of Venture the next.  Bow thrusters blasting and big handfuls of engine trying to get control and break the anchor free.  They really needed to calm down and just maintain position (keep station) off the wrecks for a while to figure it out but they were way too busy and freaked to think of that.

In the end, the chap dashed back to the cockpit and returned with a hacksaw and cut the anchor chain next to the windlass.

They drifted away almost hitting some other boats and landing on the beach before taking off quite fast up other side of Venture and out towards Tangalooma resort.  We waved at them as they went past and someone yelled out thanks.

Terry took some video but it's impossible to make anything out in the dark except the fancy blue lights under the sugar scoop stern.

The following morning you could see that they'd gone up past the jetty at Tangalooma into the shallows to the south and anchored there.  It was low tide now and you could see the boat was resting on the ground as it was tilted over to starboard about 10 degrees.  Whoops..

A nice boat at peace after all the drama.
The skipper came past in his Jet Ski later which he carried on it's own davits (believe it or not) and tried to explain what happened but it was clear he was really embarrassed and just wanted to be somewhere else.

I think he made two mistakes.

The first and most basic is that he didn't properly set his anchor!  His explanation was that his first mate had called out the anchor rode length on the link counter in the cockpit at 60 when he was on the bow setting the anchor.  He assumed she was talking meters and told her to pull up rode to leave 40 out.  Unfortunately, she was working in feet.

They were in 7 meters of water at the time with a rising tide so with only 40ft out, the scope was around 2:1 and the anchor would be completely useless.  Even with the original 60ft of chain (3:1) any serious tug on it would break it free I'm sure. 

Secondly, he didn't set an anchor watch.  You can be as confident as you like in your anchor but to set it and forget it is a big mistake.  There are a heap of technical ways to warn you if your anchor breaks free or drags and there is the basic Mark-1 eyeball, checking regularly through the night.  Either would have prevented the drama.

Not to brag but on Venture, we had Terry's phone and the tablet both running anchor watch applications (geo-fences basically) and I was also worried about the tide change because we were so close to the wrecks so I made sure I was awake at the critical time.

Chances are that the boat would have kept dragging along the channel and the anchor would have set itself in the shallows to the north of the wrecks without mishap.  After all, it had already dragged past several boats and between Venture and the wrecks.  He would have woken up to find his boat about 3 miles north of where he anchored it with no obvious safe path through the anchored boats and the wrecks!  Can you imagine his surprise :-)

There really is a big difference between feet and meters!

We went snorkelling later but I'll let Terry tell you about that.

Location: Queensland, Australia
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Friday, 19 June 2015

A strange thing happened on the way from Brisbane to Manly

We left Brisbane Thursday morning heading for Manly.  It was very foggy, but this story starts before this trip.

You can just see how the top floors in the two buildings are in the sun.

The KISS generator failed in Sydney as it shook itself to pieces in the "really big winds" in Pittwater in April.  I took it apart and ordered some parts to fix it including new magnets for the rotor and a new stator.  Rotor and stator had met catastrophically when the front bearing failed causing the magnets on the rotor to overhead (through friction) losing their oomph.

While waiting for the parts I stored the bits of the generator including the rotor (with the old, failed magnets) on the quarter berth.

The parts arrived while we were in Brisbane (thanks Phil!) and I replaced the magnets on the rotor and stored it back on the quarter berth.  The new magnets are really strong by the way and very difficult to handle as they desperately, maliciously and single mindedly wanted leap into contact with anything metal or each other!  Awesome fun :-)

Anyway to get back to the story, we left Brisbane and headed for a marina in Manly where we're going to hang for a week or so and on the way, we found the expensive Balmar 110A alternator on the engine did not seem to be working any more.

Bugger..  No charge to the batteries and no tacho.  We left it till we got to Manly and I started trying to sus out what was wrong and we worried all the way that we were going to need an injection of a boat unit at least to fix this.

Everything looked fine, no fuses gone and manually "exiting" the field coil on the alternator generated a magnetic field so the alternator was probably ok..  The regulator also seemed alright apart from not actually kicking the alternator into gear (exiting the field coil).

So I'm trying to figure out what's going wrong without paying for a marine electrician, reading the manuals forwards and backwards looking for clues when it hit me..  The regulator has a magnetic reed switch for programming and guess what, it's mounted on the other side of the bulkhead from the KISS rotor stored on the quarter berth!

So, move the rotor, turn the motor over and all's good with the world :-)

The rotor was stored there for ages with no problems, it was only after I'd replaced the magnets that it caused me strife.

It's strange how mundane things can sometimes conspire to cause really complex and difficult to resolve issues.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Bums bay through the Broadwater to Brisbane

We left Bums Bay (aka the Marine Stadium) on Wednesday 10th June after an enjoyable time with the local cruising folk and Terry's niece Catherine.  Terry will fill you in on the details at a later date I'm sure.

The Marine Stadium, Gold Coast (AKA Bums Bay) just south of the Gold Coast Seaway and right next to Sea World.

We wanted to dawdle up through the Broadwater to Morton Bay but things conspired against us, sort of..

We only did a short hop on Wednesday up to the Dux Anchorage in Tipplers Passage.  It's a great spot with good holding fairly close in to South Stradbroke Island.  It needed to be good holding as well as we had 30 knots of wind and some pretty strong currents at times.  We are pretty confident in our anchor (a 45lb genuine CQR) nowadays after we have gone through some pretty serious stuff on the way up the coast and it didn't let us down with no movement at all overnight.

We use a couple of different apps on our phones to perform our anchor watch.  They are both basically geo-fence type tools.  You "set" it when you drop the anchor and give it a safe radius from the anchor for the boat to be in.  If the boat (or really the phone) drifts out of that circle, then it sets off an alarm. 

On the whole, they've worked ok but they do use a lot of battery (running the GPS) so we make sure they are plugged in and on charge overnight.  I'm having some real problems with my phone though (still waiting for Kogan to deliver my new one..).  It tends to reboot at random times so I can't really trust it at the moment.

On Wednesday we decided to watch the weather for a while (Terry got to sleep in) before moving on as we were still getting 25 to 30 knots in the gusts and I wasn't keen on moving from a (proven) well-set anchor to an unknown anchorage.  On the other hand, we had found a reasonable deal ($220) for 3 nights in a marina right in the CBD as long as we could get there before 2:00pm on Friday and Brisbane was still nearly 60 miles away.

In the end, we figured the strong wind warning didn't really apply to us in the protected waters of the Broadwater and we left just after lunch heading up to the top of Russell Island, another 20 odd miles closer.  The wind picked up just as we left of course but it was behind us and didn't cause any real worries.

Anchoring was a bit of a challenge as it was raining and getting quite dark.  The first time we put the anchor down, we found we'd set it within range of a vacant mooring that was only marked by a tiny yellow buoy which we hadn't seen on the approach so we had to pull it up again and re-set it further away.  We had a bit of an uncomfortable night due to the wash from ferrys and other passing traffic and I wouldn't recommend it other than it's good shelter from southerlies.

On Friday, we left early (basically daybreak) for the last 40 odd miles to Brisbane.

The wind was still quite strong and we had an assist from the current so we made really good time in the end averaging over 7 knot's up to the river entrance but that slowed down to less than 4 knots as we went (a long way) up river against the ebb tide.

We eventually arrived just as the tide changed (by design of course) allowing us to dock without incident on the upstream side of F fingers at the Dockside Marina.

Venture at the Dockside Marina on the Brisbane river with the CBD in the background.
And we are here through to Monday when we'll either anchor in the river for a couple of days or move directly to another marina in Morton Bay.  Thiels and Robin are joining us on the 20th for a few days and we figure we'd take a berth in the Bay while they are here.  I also need a stable platform to re-build the KISS generator as the parts have arrived from the US so we might just get onto the berth a few days early :-)

Location: New Farm QLD, Australia
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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Coffs Harbour to Iluka/Yamba. But wait, there's more..

We left Coffs in the (very) early morning aiming to be in Yamba/Iluka late that afternoon to coincide with a flood tide.

Sunrise heading out from Coffs Harbour for Yamba/lluka

Coffs was getting to us a bit. The anchorage was pretty exposed to swells and the wind conspired to keep us broadside to them setting up a wicked roll most of the time so we were eager to move on.  We were also looking forward to our first visit to Yamba/Iluka at the mouth of the Clarence River.

We had a weather window starting Tuesday going through to Thursday with some big winds forecast for Friday.  Tuesday was out because the bar at Yamba was likely to be closed.  Thursday looked the best for getting into Yamba but Wednesday also seemed like it would work given the following cautionary text in the forecast captured on Tuesday morning:

          Large and powerful surf conditions are expected to be hazardous
          for coastal activities such as crossing bars by boat and rock
          fishing, easing in the afternoon.
The "... easing in the afternoon" made sense as the wind was also easing on Wednesday.  Our "Plan B" if we couldn't get into Yamba was to keep going overnight to the Gold Coast.  The other option (leaving on Thursday morning) would be safer for getting into Yamba but meant much less wind and a risky  "Plan B" (if the Yamba bar didn't co-operate) due to the strong winds due Friday arvo.

So we got to Yamba/Iluka at about 13:00 and as we crossed the leads (checking conditions as we always do) we could see surf breaking in the channel.  Bugger..  I later found out that I should have read Tuesday nights forecast a bit more carefully as they had removed the "...easing in the afternoon" bit.
 We hung around for a couple of hours (hove-to with the full main only) hoping conditions would ease but it wasn't to be.  I phoned the Yamba marina to cancel the berth we had arranged and the owner said that there was no activity down at the trawler berths so no-one was going out over the bar to go fishing either.  That confirmed our decision and we headed off to the Gold Coast.

It wasn't an easy decision to make because Terry (as those who have been reading this blog already know) has trouble with night sailing needing serious and consistent use of a bucket but the alternative was to try surfing in 10 tonnes of full keel cruiser which seems like a "bad idea" :-)

In the end, it was a lovely night!  The moon was nearly full and we had a Westerly breeze of around 10 knots pushing us along in a glorious beam reach at over 6 knots (probably assisted by a smidgeon of northbound current..) all night long.  To top it off, Terry did two long bucket-free night watches!

We were both up to see the sunrise and toasted our transit from NSW to QLD with Baileys.  We are now we're anchored for at least one night in Bums Bay (yes that really is an anchorage on the Gold Coast) and we'll be moving on up through the Broadwater to Brisbane over the next week or so.

The bar at the Gold Coast Seaway.  Nice and flat with no surprises.


Location: Philip Park, Seaworld Drive, Main Beach QLD 4217, Australia
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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Yacht Matira heads out of Coffs Harbour for Fiji

As planned, we are staying in Coffs Harbour for a few nights due to weather.  We have to plan our departure from Coffs around entering Yamba/Illuka over the bar there so it's the weather up at Yamba not the weather here that determines when we can leave.  So we are currently planning to head off tomorrow (Wednesday) or worst case, Thursday.
Sunrise over Coffs Harbour marina from Venture at anchor in the bay

In the end, we decided to anchor in the bay between the jetty and the Western sea wall of the marina rather than take up a marina berth.  Yesterday morning, a boat came past and anchored a bit closer to the beach and I ended up having a bit of a chat with the owners Phil and Di.  They were a complete inspiration!

Yacht Matira anchored next to us
They have been sailing together for 25 years and in that time have sailed around the world, slowly, in their Compass 28 called Matira. A 28 foot long, full keel cruiser built by Compass Yachts in Australia.  This is a full 10 feet shorter than Venture.

Matira and Venture at anchor in Coffs Harbour

We didn't have much time to chat as they were getting their boat ready for their next trip over to Fiji but it was a real eye opener to meet with people who have done so much in such a small boat.  It tends to put our issues with storage in perspective.

Hopefully, we'll catch up with them again somewhere around the coast to hear more about their adventures.

Matira heading out of Coffs on route to Fiji

Location: Coffs Harbour NSW 2450, Australia
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