All the details of my circumnavigation are in the blog entries below, but here's the 'short version' in a one-hour video.
Eliana has completed her global circumnavigation .
The last passage from Scarborough, Queensland was particularly frustrating waiting for suitable weather to get back to the Gippsland Lakes and took about four weeks.
There are some magnificent destinations on the east coast and we were able to enjoy some of these even though our sights were set on getting back to Metung.
Melbourne Cup Day was spent holed up at the South West Arm of the Royal National Park, Port Hacking and was enjoyed with the crews of the 75 foot aluminium yacht "Antarctic" who were headed for the Ross Sea via Hobart and Kittikana from Paynesville who hosted our Cup Day Celebrations.
Jean Menzies joined me again as my "GS" galley slave and is very good at her job !
After waiting out two east coast lows, a storm force wind warning plus numerous gale warnings we left Port Hacking at the earliest opportunity when the east- north easterlies commenced and had an easy run down the coast crossing the Lakes Entrance bar in ideal conditions on Saturday 11 November 2017 having left in March 2013.
We have sailed just under 28,000- nautical miles around the world.
Eliana, crew and I arrived yesterday safely at Scarborough Marina on the Redcliffe Peninsular Queensland, having sailed down from The Port of Bundaberg.
It was a relief to get here as the crew, an old friend of mine from up here was totally unsuited to shipboard life. While most coastal cruisers take the passage down the inside of Fraser Island then have to wait for suitable conditions to cross the potentially dangerous Wide Bay Bar we went around the outside of Fraser Island and down the coast into the top of Moreton Bay as we had an ideal northerly wind behind us. In these conditions it was far quicker, easier and I believe safer to just to go north of the Breaksea Spit and down the east side of Fraser and into Moreton Bay.
We had a pair of Boobies who hitch hiked a ride on our pulpit for the whole night.
I was very tempted to continue on down the outside of Moreton to Southport which would have been far easier ,safer and less stressful than negotiating busy shipping channels at night, trying to slow the boat down with a strengthening wind behind us in order to arrive in daylight to negotiate the Skirmish Passage at the bottom of Bribie Island in daylight and with sufficiently high tide in order not to run aground.
However, I had a number of reasons for bringing the boat here where I will leave her until October.
It was slow and painful not taking full advantage of the northerly as Eliana proceeded past anchored ships and others passing either side of us but we proceeded at 2-3 knots with a triple reefed mainsail only, sheeted hard amidships and the motor in reverse !
Once daylight appeared at 0530 I was able to relax a little, take the shipping channel then the Skirmish Passage on a rising tide and around the bottom of Bribie Island into Deception Bay and down the channel into Scarborough Marina where I had been four years earlier.
Tony Gibbs who built Eliana lives here and I hope to catch up with him soon and have a few drinks at the Moreton Bay Boat Club next door.
Last night after heating up some left overs and drinking the last of the excellent "Chirping Bird" Shiraz which a fellow yachty, come winemaker from Mornington kindly gave me at Bundaberg, I was too tired to go and have a much needed shower having had only about seven hours sleep in the last two days so collapsed into my bunk.
This morning the southerly wind is with us as the B.OM. predicted and after some thunder showers last night the sun is out again. It's not as warm and relaxed as Bundaberg but my beloved boat is another step closer to getting home.
Tonga is a special place to me. The people are relaxed and friendly although shy, the whole place is relaxed and the nanny state has not taken over there. For example, you need to actually watch where you walk as you might fall down a meter square open drain hole at night and never reappear. Car doors are optional as are headlights.The sliding door on one taxi van I used to get to the airport did not close so my luggage just sat there, almost no worries. Rust is no worries too .
Pigs and chooks still free range in the Main Street and people don't hassle you about buying stuff which you don't want in the market, unlike the frickin Caribbean !
Oh, on that,the don't play Bob Marlay's 3 greatest hits in Tonga.
They do sing in church though ! Beautifully. Sunday is a day of rest apart from getting dressed in your finest and spending a long time grooming yourself ,going to church then eating half a roast suckling pig and a dozen sweet potatoes. Vegetables are optional for the Tongans. Mostly they don't eat them but prefer, other than pork , fried chicken, large servings, hold the veg !
They tend to be very big people, that is the norm in Tonga. They would worry about you if you weighed the recommended W.H.O. Weight for height figure. Women who weigh under 80 kilograms are considered borderline anorexic.
So Eliana stayed at the Boat Yard which is as safe a place as you can leave a boat during cyclone season. It's under the lee of a great cliff, a former quarry the Chinese used for building a causeway, and the boats are strapped down to concrete blocks buried in the ground. Some cruisers sailed down to New Zealand for the summer and most copped a beating on the way there, whilst there, and on the way back, so go figure !
Leaving a boat in the tropics for eight months is not without risk even if there's no cyclone. It rains a lot. I removed a hose from a seacock low down in the bilge and had someone checking Eliana weekly. One poor Aussie guy left his catamaran ( in NZ that would be "catamerangue") there unattended and came back to find 800 mills of water in his bilge just from a leaking window. Rain gets in down my mast , hatches and windows although my awning covers all but the mast.
After three weeks solid work including antifoul she was ready for launching again. They use an American built boat trailer towed by a tractor or two. It works well and was great to be back in the water and on a Buluga mooring swinging to the breeze in Neiafu Harbour again. Bernie McGoldrick and his brother Damien sailed in from the west but were on a mission to get to their mother's birthday in Paynesville. I was on a mission to get to Noumea , fly to Aus. return to Noumea and sail back to God's Own.
We caught up for the odd drink or two, meal and church service before heading off on the same day. They were heading for Fiji and us to New Cal.
It was blowing 25 plus when we left so I tucked behind the lee of a cliff near Swallows Cave and set up my trusty little jib in the inner forestay. So with a good reef in the main we set sail and had a wonderful wind with the expectation of a mild front when we were closer to New Cal. My old Galley Slave Jean whom I'd rescued after she was made to walk the plank in Galapagos couldn't come at the last minute as she needed an op for bowel cancer but Nicolee Woods whom I'd met crossing the Pacific last year stepped into the breech so to speak and was happy to leave the Melbourne winter behind.
After a mostly pleasant sail for about a week the wind came around in the nose to greet us along with a good dump of rain as we approached Havana Passage on the ninth morning of the 1100 odd mile passage. I'd been told about a good spot to make for on the first night which was Anse Majic in Bae de Prony, and magic it was especially with the solid, free moorings. Alas, we were in a mission to get to Noumea and could only afford one night there so motored into the westerly the 30 miles up Port Moselle Marina in downtown Noumea. Being first world there were plenty of buoys ,channel markers and light houses to guide us smack into a WAGS race. This was easily avoided and on the way in I noticed a distinctive yellow aluminium French yacht which I'd last encountered in a Cairns in 2013 and had conversations with the solo skipper, small world cruising.
Noumea is a great cruising destination being ( mostly) first world with everything a cruiser could want available, especially good French wines at sensible prices and enough fresh bagets and Brie to keep your cholesterol soaring in the stratosphere.
I had to return to Australia for a couple of weeks and had left Nicolee in charge of Eliana.
After much lobbying I was able to get a marina berth for the duration although it involved moving her once with the assistance of 'arvey from Noumea Yachting Services.
Having a marina berth was far better than the other option of a swing mooring way out whoop whoop .
Upon return I was presented with a third crew member whom I hadn't invited, not happy Jan ! Nicolee fessed up that she had unwittingly (?) invited her daughter's boyfriend a 30 year old Spaniard who puts raw garlic and olive oil on his toast in the mornings as crew. He had no offshore sailing experience and was prone to seasickness but was keen and a nice young fellow. After I'd calmed down which took 3 days, I gave him an untimatum, start a course of Stugeron tablets and he could come or I'd pay half his fares back to Aus. Angel stayed and turned out to be a very handy vegetarian cook and a nice smart young bloke who was eager to learn.
It was all go in preparation for leaving, engine oil change, filters plus the usual list of boat jobs. I engaged weather guru Bob McDavitt from New Zealand to give us an outlook for sailing to Coffs Harbour departing on the Tuesday, not good as a big front was coming. I needed to get back for various commitments , always a bad idea.
After checking out with Customs, Immigration and the Harbour Master, provisioning with plenty of fresh tucker, French wine and cheeses we were off down to the beautiful Amadee light where we planned to stay on a mooring and leave the next day.
It's only about 12 miles down and there was a fresh southeasterly , perfect for sailing so our stay at Amadee was for only about an hour.
As dusk was rapidly approaching we hoisted the mainsail on the mooring then were off following the transit of the Amadee light and a smaller lighthouse in front. Let me tell you that going out between two breaking coral reefs at twilight involves some concentration and is a little nerve wracking but is very satisfying once you are through and in the open ocean. People often ask what I like best about sailing and I truthfully say "arriving "!
The expected front was a couple of days away but we kept a close eye on the barometer which was very high ( " a thousand and thirty, the weather gets dirty") but remained so for the time being. I set a staysail on the inner forestay and had a decent reef in the main. Angel made some delicious meals and we were making progress but had opted to keep well North now aiming for Bundaberg as ports of entry further south were not an option. Having a crew of three meant we could each get six hours off although as skipper you are on call 24/7.
So on my watch at exactly 0100 the wind shifted to the south west and blew to about 35 knots, not huge but building the seas up to 3-4 meters making it quite uncomfortable .
We'd been getting slammed a lot earlier to a point where I could not sleep and needed to rest so I decided to heave to, backwinding the staysail and releasing the main. Now she was comfortable and I felt happy that this was the right course of action so after my watch at 0300 went bed on the settee berth amidships.
Next morning feeling somewhat refreshed and seeing a blue sky came up on deck to be greeted by Nicolee who said " bad news Captain, the mainsails torn ". Bummer !
The stitching had gone on one of the top panels then had ripped up along the inside of the leech, so down she came and packed away. I had tried to get the main looked atvin Vava'u but the sailmaker had gone walkabout. We continued on motorsailing as close into the big seas as was comfortable and possible. At this stage the wind was from the south west as was our course but a couple of satellite phone calls one to Bob in NZ and one to Ian Mulhauser in Melbourne confirmed that this wind would start backing which it did. In the meantime we were still getting dumped on by the occasional large sea which went straight through our two closed centre hatches putting buckets of water on my feet and Angel's head while he was asleep. I could only laugh.
He ended up sleeping on the floor under the table !
Next morning I came on deck feeling happy and rested to be greeted by Nicolee again with " bad news Captain, I think the Genoa has a rip in it" which it did. Is she a "Jonah" or what ?
Somehow the Genoa had caught on a piston Hank on the inner forestay which had split and had about a foot long tear in it. We quickly got it down and saw it was repairable and Angel being a veterinary surgeon stitched it up and on one side we put some sticky back sail repair cloth and on the other side my muso's gaffa tape, again almost no worries ! I asked Angel what was the last animal he stitched up and he said a lions paw in Guatemala zoo after she had been attacked by a randy male.
So now the radar was not working, the Watermaker circulation pump had died, the mainsail was out of action and Genoa torn although patched. Fortunately we had just enough diesel to get to Bundaberg.
The seas kept slowly reducing and wind backing to a point where we could lay our course directly to the top of Breaksea Spit north of Fraser Island where there is a north cardinal mark. When I first went around there in Marloo in 1984 there was a very cute little light ship which is now in a maritime museum .
I told Angel that as we approached Fraser Island it's likely that we would sea whales which we did. A mother and calf in the distance and on dusk several right around the boat. I thought bloody hell, if we run over a sleeping whale we might bend the prop shaft or do some damage, not just to the whale although the boat being steel would be ok.
Sometime after midnight we spotted the channel lights and eventually in the sea of lights I spotted the east Cardinal light at the start of the channel , three flashes then the veritable highway of port and starboard lights leading into the Burnett River. Once in the channel I woke up Nicolee, then Angel as I thought he would be interested and a group of dolphins escorted us up the channel to the river. Rounding a port hand channel marker into the little lagoon next to the City of Bundaberg Marina I dropped the anchor into about five meters of water and switched off the motor on the eighth morning, Eliana having arrived back in Australia four years and four months and 26,822 nautical miles later. I gave my thanks to the boat, the Gods, my guiding spirits then headed for the fridge where the bottle of French Champagne awaited. It was 0430 and the light was breaking in the east.
I recently had the following article published in Ebb Tidings, newsletter of the Cruising Yacht Association of Victoria.
Eliana in the South Pacific
The Marquases Islands are well deserving for being considered some of the most beautiful, visually stunning islands in the world. Lush green tropical forests with dramatic peaks and remnants of volcanic activity, sheer rock pinnacles, rivers, creeks and waterfalls hundreds of feet high make these islands very special. The local villagers are friendly and generous beyond their means commonly making gifts of fruits and fish and refusing payment for them. So it was hard to leave but with elder daughter Ellie coming to Tahiti it was time to push on. I still had my "galley slave" Jean whom I'd felt sorry for when she was thrown off another Aussie yacht for being "too quiet". I like quiet ! Besides, she was a Master 4, and a handy cook who didn't seem to mind washing dishes ! Nuka Hiva has a lovely big harbour well sheltered, plenty of room and no surge as in Hiva-Oa. Leaving there we headed off towards the Tuamotos also known as the "Dangerous Archipelago" because of all the reefs, currents, winds and questionable accuracy of charts making it difficult navigation for ships of old (and new) . It was 549 nautical miles to the little bay inside the reef at Toau , called Anse Amyot which had been recommended by a couple of people and on "Noonsite"and was not tide dependant for entry so after variable conditions for 5 days we entered the tiny bay on the edge of the reef and took up a mooring belonging to the owners Valentine and Gaston. We had been having much trouble starting the engine so next day covers were pulled off and the starter motor removed having cleaned all the leads and electrical connections. After stripping and cleaning the solenoid twice and reassembling it correctly on the second occasion we were just able to start the motor with the help of an additional battery salvaged from the bilge and wired up in parallel with a cut off switch to isolate it when not being needed. A wonderful meal was had on shore at the tiny bar- restaurant hanging over the water. To my chagrin live crayfish were sliced in half and barbecued in front of us and the usual cruiser stories were swapped with the small international group there. After a few short days it was time to head down to Tahiti a voyage of only 220 miles but one of the most unpleasant of the whole trip so far. As it had been quite windy a big nasty cross swell was running with winds up to 38 knots, squalls, heavy rain and boat speed to 8.2 knots making movement around the boat difficult. As we approached Point Venus where Captain Cook had observed the transit of Venus the night lights of Tahiti disappeared in blinding rain squalls. Coming around the point and into the lee the seas were much calmer but there was still heavy rain and wind to 30 knots. With chart plotter with radar overlay plus a dodgy depth sounder we crept up in the dark anchoring at a conservative distance off shore before collapsing into our bunks.
Next day we motored the 4 miles down to the entrance channel at Papeete and I started experiencing severe pain in the groin necessitating me to lie down before collapsing while Jean conned the boat up the channel to the Taina marina. I rallied to back the boat into the berth then at the marina office the lady manager advised going straight to the clinic rather than emergency at the hospital. The young French doctor announced it was a hernia and gave 4 tablets which soon dulled the pain but suggested going to the hospital for an ultrasound to see if it was twisted. I won't bother you with details of an emergency hospital on a Saturday night other than saying it was quite an experience. Next day after testing the engine battery and pronouncing it dead a decent start battery was sourced at the local supermarket which sells almost everything. I hired a car to pick up Ellie at the airport but being left hand drive wondered why I kept running up on the curb. The car was on the wrong side of the steering wheel. Looking at the dents on the wheel rims already it appeared that I was not the first to hit the curb. We decided to leave Papeete and head off to Moorea only 15 miles away and anchored in Opunohu Bay where Captain Cook had been on three occasions down the bay at Robinson Cove. One afternoon a chap paddled up on a surfboard and invited us to dinner at his families waterfront home. His great grandfather has sailed in there in a 3 masted ship and had built a home in a delightful position running down to the bay. He was married to a young Chinese lady and also present was another Chinese woman with her French Canadian husband . They had sailed there from Canada and were living on the other side of the bay. It turned out that our host Herea was a non practising doctor who had been in government and was friendly with Clive Palmer who had flown him to Australia to see his various projects. He had earlier asked me what I thought of Clive and I muttered something about him being considered a bit whacky what with his dinasour park and replica of the Titanic. It seems though that our Clive had bought every member of one of his mining companies a Mercedes Benz once the company became profitable including the cleaners. Having brought along my guitar to repay the hosts in kind Ellie and I regaled them with a few songs which were much appreciated. Possessing a very inquisitive mind, Hirea confirmed the facts of the song "Leaving of Liverpool"on Google while I was warbling away. To my delight it is historically quite accurate. Eric Bogle's "Safe in the Harbour" seems always popular with sailors...
"Some men are sailors but most are just dreamers
Held fast by the anchors they forge in their mind
Who in their hearts know they'll never sail over deep water
To search for a treasure they're afraid they won't find "...
The next night it blew hard and the catabatic winds came howling down the valley along with heavy rain.
Early next morning there was a knock on the hull which turned out to be our Canadian Friend whose yacht had dragged anchor in the night just missing a superyacht and its tender launch. So Ellie and I headed off in the dinghy and rain to help him bring his boat over to a mooring near us . Next night we were invited for another delicious Chinese meal with the French Canadians before heading back to Papeete and the downtown marina which was right in the middle of all the action. Unfortunately, Ellie had to get back to Aus so after the first night of the "Puddle Jumpers" celebrations and a night out with the yung'ns off she flew. Puddle Jumpers is basically a get together of yachts heading westwards across the South Pacific and put on "Rendevous from Tahiti to Moorea " with about 50 vessels joining in the fun race. Then at Cooks Bay Moorea , there were dancing displays, music, demonstrations of tying a sarong, outrigger races and competition trying to lift a 50 kilogram rock to your shoulder which I decided to pass on, and much more. Naturally there was a Polynesian Feast and wonderful dancing by Tahitian woman. No wonder Fletcher Christian and some of the Bounty crew did not want to go back to England !
Back at the very handy downtown marina our new neighbour arrived. That was "Vertigo" Rupert Murdoch's Superyacht. At 66 meters it is the biggest yacht built in the Southern Hemisphere constructed by Alloy Yachts New Zealand. One can't help being impressed by the sleekness, beautiful design and pure feats of engineering in this massive yacht. For example no unsightly anchor was to be seen. I guess it was deployed from a watertight compartment internally Papeete being colonised by the French has wonderful bread and pastries to die for. Long Baguettes were only 50 cents so armed with these ,French wine and cheeses plus fresh provisions from the local market we headed out for Bora Bora 150 miles away. After picking up a mooring in front of the very quiet looking Bora Bora yacht club an American couple we'd met at Anse Amyot suggested a better spot where we could anchor for free. This turned out to be a very sheltered little nook with crystal clear water close to where we could swim with Manta Rays, sharks ( argh ) plus an assortment of tropical fishes. It was also where the local commercial dive boats bring the tourists to feed the fishes and sting rays which are very....too friendly. As they brushed against me I thought of poor Steve Irwin and kept well away from the Rays leaving them for the foreign tourists who probably didn't know of Steve's fate. After a few delightful days it was time to head for my favourite place in the South Pacific, Vava'u , Tonga but you'll have to wait to hear about that.
Cheers and fair winds