Day 187, Year 2: Sixth Day of Passage to Aussie Land–Almost There

Day 187, Year 2: Sixth Day of Passage to Aussie Land–Almost There
Date: Sunday, October 28, 2007
Weather: Beautiful and Sunny; North 10-14 Knots
Latitude: S 24 degrees 09.471 minutes
Longitude: E 153 degrees 42.202 minutes
Location: On Passage to Australia
Miles to Go: 84!!!!!

The race is on. After motoring for almost 24 hours, the winds returned this morning and we were in the sailing business again. Right now, we can see two boats, and we are starting to hear traffic on the VHF radio. If all goes as planned, we should arrive in Bundaberg tomorrow, along with Scot Free II, and probably with New Dawn, Monkey’s Business, Rendezvous Cay, Dutch Touch, Rascals Two, and Ranger. This is based on miles to go reported on the radio net this morning and the radio traffic I am
hearing. We are having to motor again right now as the winds died down a bit in the late afternoon, but we have hopes that they will increase again after sunset. In any case, it has been a wonderful passage with less motoring than most and great sailing. It has been a wonderful ending to the cruising season. The last 50 miles tomorrow are in a shallow bay and up a river, and tides and winds could cause some havoc there, but we hope we have things timed right.

I was having so much fun yesterday when I wrote the log that I forgot to mention that I was eating Brie and French bread and drinking Pouilly Fume to celebrate our anniversary. Maybe I had just a little too much wine, but it was a wonderful evening. This morning when I got up for my 4 AM watch, it was dark. That has not been the case on the rest of the passage. I have awoken to first light each day. We changed our clocks to Aussie time as soon as we left New Caledonia and that gave us very early
sunrises for the passage. Obviously we have moved further west and now the sunrise is closer to 5 AM. This morning I got to watch the full moon go down as the sun came up. I love that time each month. It makes me feel like the world is in balance. I know this is an illusion, but I enjoy it just the same.

We talked to our son Justin on the SAT phone this morning. We had talked to him breifly while we were in Noumea, but he was in meetings at Marina Del Ray in Los Angeles at the time, so we didn’t really get to talk. Today’s conversation was great but it reinforced just how much we miss our kids. We’ve always had them both close to home, but now that Just is in New Mexico, Heather is in Massachusetts, and we are half way across the world, seeing each other becomes most challenging.

It is time to send emails, have dinner, and start the night watches. We will have to be especially watchful tonight as we are nearing land. We have seen two cargo ships today, the first on this passage. We also hear that there are fishermen that set out from Bundy before daylight, put their boats on auto pilot, and go to sleep. So we will be especially watchful for them. If the skies stay clear, at least we will have great light from the moon.

Day 186, Year 2: Fifth Day of Passage to Aussie Land

Day 186, Year 2: Fifth Day of Passage to Aussie Land
Date: Saturday, October 27, 2007
Weather: Rain Showers Early, Otherwise Sunny; Winds NNW 10 Knots
Latitude: S 23 degrees 51.814 minutes
Longitude: E 155 degrees 48.619 minutes
Location: On Passage to Australia
Miles to Go: 201

While celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary today, we managed to steam up the engine room. No worries, however. There was no connection between the two events. The big excitement for the day was mid-afternoon when I walked back to the aft cabin and found water on the floor which looked like it was coming from the engine room. My first thought was that engine room must be full of water and that we might be sinking. I quickly opened the engine room door and found water dripping from everything.
I didn’t know what the problem was but I did know we weren’t taking on water. There was just a salt water spray going everywhere. I called Mark and after a little detective work he discovered that the cause was a missing hose clamp on the mixing elbow going into the exhaust system. This means that water that should have been going out through the exhaust hose was just spraying all over. The hose clamp had probably corroded and broken loose. Mark quickly found a new one and put it on the hose
and all was well again. Whew!

Last night was interesting. After sailing wing and wing for over 36 hours, we started getting fairly heavy winds and had to change the sail configuration. We sailed all night with a double-reefed headsail and full main. We had a steady 18 to 22 knots with gusts to 25, but the wind was behind us so it was no problem. Ross on New Dawn called us in the middle of the night to warn of the high winds in front of us, but we were already in the middle of them. He thought we were further behind than
we were, but we appreciated the call. We also had a positive current during all of this, so we were having a good run. But as morning approached and the full moon set and the sun came up, the winds started to die down and move to the northwest. This put them in front of us, so after four beautiful days of sailing, we had to start the engine. We have been motor sailing all day against head winds, but now as the sun is setting, the winds have gone back to the north which puts us on the beam reach.
The winds are light so we will continue to motor, but at least we are not fighting those head winds. If things stay as they are now, we will arrive in Bundy on Monday, but if the headwinds come back, we might be delayed and arrive on Tuesday. The only boat we can see at this time is Scot Free II. They too are hoping for a Monday arrival, but we shall see.

Last note . . . I got word via email early this morning that the Red Sox won game two in the World Series. Thanks to all who sent the score.

Day 185, Year 2: Fourth Day of Passage to Aussie Land

Day 185, Year 2: Fourth Day of Passage to Aussie Land
Date: Friday, October 26, 2007
Weather: Another Lovely Day of Sunshine and Calm Seas; Winds ENE 12-15 Knots
Latitude: S 23 degrees 47.887 minutes
Longitude: E 158 degrees 03.212 minutes
Location: On Passage to Australia

“The Red Sox totally creamed the Rockies last night … 13 to 1!!!” That was in an email from our daughter Heather this morning. My sister-in-law Sue and my sister Patsy also emailed the same. I call them the “Big Three” as they are always the first to email me important news, and the Red Sox in the World Series is definitely important. Thanks Heather, Sue, and Patsy.

We had another totally incredible twenty-four hours of sailing today. We have not had to turn on the engine since leaving Noumea except for charging the batteries, so to this point, this is the best passage we have had in recent memory. The seas are calm, the winds are light but steady, and we are making great time sailing wing and wing. Out mainsail is vanged out to port and our headsail is poled out to starboard. It would great if things would stay this way all the way, but maybe that is too
much to ask for. We reached the half-way point in our passage at 4:05 AM this morning, so even if we have to motor the rest of the way, we are happy. We thought we might have to motor most of the way due to the predicted winds of less than ten knots. I don’t know where they are, but I hope they stay away from us!

We are still within VHF contact with Jason and Laurel on Monkey’s Business and Ross and Laura on New Dawn. They can’t hear each other, but we are in between and can hear both and relay for them. Jason and Laurel are from Colorado, so we had to fill them in on the World Series. They didn’t know the Rockies were in it, so we will have fun relaying scores to them–scores that will hopefully be in our favor, not theirs. When we talked to Scot Free II and Ranger this morning, Scot Free was fairly
close to us but having to motor to keep up their desired speed. Ranger had sailed yesterday, motored for about six hours during the night, but were going to try and sail again today. We won’t know how that went until tomorrow morning, but neither Scot Free or Ranger seem to have the same winds that we have. Their winds are lighter and more variable. We had a positive current today of one to two knots as we went through a pass between two relatively shallow areas. We weren’t aware of this “pass”,
but Ross on New Dawn informed us of why we were enjoying the increased speed. The favorable current is still with us, but not sure how long it will last.

I spent my waking hours today catching up on correspondence and cleaning the dinghy. We carry the hard-bottomed dinghy on deck with the bottom side up. There were some waterline stains that I needed to clean and tomorrow I will apply the UV protectorant. It is important to get the dingy and outboard cleaned before we arrive in Australia. Their quarantine laws require anything that has come in contact with salt water to be thoroughly cleaned before arrival so as not to bring in unwanted organisms.
That includes engine water filters and salt water systems for the heads.

Some boats in the Port to Port Rally have already arrived, but only a few. If we arrive on Monday, I think we will be in the “top ten” of boats arriving. Mark spent his day working on brain teasers that the rally issued as part of a contest. He got them all but one. Here’s the one he is stuck on: “A knight wanted to visit a princess. He had to arrive at exactly 17h00. If he traveled at exactly 15 km per hour, he would arrive one hour too early. If he traveled at 10 km per hour, he would
arrive one hour too late. At what time did he leave? What distance did he travel? At what speed would he travel?” Don’t email us your ideas as that would be cheating, but enjoy the challenge.

As I prepare to send this log I looked over the stern of the boat and saw a beautiful full moon creeping above the horizon. It should be another beautiful overnight sail.

Day 184, Year 2: Third Day of Passage to Aussie Land

Day 184, Year 2: Third Day of Passage to Aussie Land
Date: Thursday, October 25, 2007
Weather: Another Lovely Day–All Sunshine and No Rain; Winds E 15 Knots
Latitude: S 23 degrees 27.723 minutes
Longitude: E 160 degrees 24.409 minutes
Location: On Passage to Australia

Windbird is my hero, or maybe that is heroine. She always comes through for us. Today has been another beautiful sailing day. When we talked to Ranger and Scot Free II at 7 AM this morning, they were both behind us and having to motor due to low winds. I think Windbird carries her own “wind bubble”, as we had steady 15 to 18 knot winds throughout the day. It is nearing sunset now and the winds are becoming more variable. Our GRiB files say that the winds should shift to north of east late this
evening and the wind speeds should decrease. It does look like that is beginning to happen. We now have winds coming from the E instead of ESE, but we still have a good 15 knots. We are sailing wing and wing as of a few minutes ago ago and we are making great speed. I would imagine we will be motor sailing by midnight, but if so, we will have the memories of an incredible three day run doing 150 mile days. Sometime tomorrow we will be half way there!

Around noon today, we could see two boats behind us. We had heard Monkey’s Business and New Dawn on the radio and assumed it was them. We called Monkey’s Business and confirmed. Jason is from Colorado, so I’m going to have to talk with him about the World Series tomorrow. I got an email from my sister saying the Red Sox were leading the Colorado Rockies in the first game, but I will have to wait until morning to get an email telling us who won the game.

We spent our day reading and relaxing. I did some boat cleaning inside today and hope to do some outside work tomorrow if the calm seas persist. I had to throw the mint I have been growing overboard today as no live plants are allowed to enter Australia. I am refusing to get rid of my ivy plant, however. It was one of the ivies I grew for Heather’s wedding and it has been on Windbird since 2003. Before we reach Australian waters, I will get rid of all the dirt and clean the roots. I’ll put
the roots in a carafe of water and hope the Aussie officials will let me keep it aboard. I really want this plant to make it all the way around the world.

Day 183, Year 2: Second Day of Passage to Aussie Land

Day 183, Year 2: Second Day of Passage to Aussie Land
Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Weather: Lovely Day–All Sunshine and No Rain; Winds SE 15-20+ Knots
Latitude: S 22 degrees 56.211
Longitude: E 162 degrees 54.915
Location: On Passage to Australia

Again I can say, what a difference a day makes. Today has been sunny and the seas have calmed. We sailed all night and all day today on a broad reach averaging 6.2 knots over ground. It doesn’t get much better than that. As evening is approaching, the winds are coming around more to the east and will be further behind us and if the weather information we are receiving means anything at all, we should have one more day of this before the winds back to north of east. Right now it looks like we
have no major weather systems to deal with, just a couple of days of light winds. But, of course, that could change.

We are making this crossing to Aussie Land with the Port to Port Rally. That means there are more boat in transit than normal, so we have to be on careful watch during the night looking for the lights of other boats. Last night we gained on a boat that ended up to be Scot Free II and around noon today we passed them. I can still see their sail in the distance but if we keep moving at this rate, their mast light will be out of sight tonight. Right after we passed Scot Free, another boat passed
us. It appeared to be flying. We think it was Ef-Jay, a large catamaran from Darwin, Australia. The captain, Kerry, was our radio contact in Noumea for the rally, and I’m sure he will be in Bundaberg in two to three days time. We are still planning on arriving on Monday or Tuesday, October 29 or 30, depending on what happens with those predicted light winds. During that time we will have a full moon on October 26 and our thirty-third wedding anniversary on October 27. Last night the near full
moon was beautiful. It was like sailing with street lights. I love passages with moonlight.

We hear from our daughter that the Red Sox are in the World Series. Throughout our lives together, Mark and I have not been big on competitive sports, but when we moved aboard Windbird in 2003 at Shipyard Quarters in Boston, all of that changed. You just can’t live in Boston and not be a Patriot’s and Red Sox fan. I guess our daughter Heather will have to keep us posted on the World Series.

Day 182, Year 2: First Day of Passage to Australia

Day 182, Year 2: First Day of Passage to Australia
Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Weather: Overcast and Rainy; Winds E 25-30 Knots
Latitude: S 22 degrees 32.661
Longitude: E 165 degrees 27.630
Location: On Passage to Australia

New Zealand’s weather guru, Bob McDavitt, says weather is a combination of pattern and chaos. I have decided that there is no pattern. It is simply chaos. From all models, today’s winds should have been in the teens. Well, we see the teens once in a while, but we have had on average 25 knot winds all day, sometimes with gusts to 35. That sounds like a lot of wind, but it is coming from behind us which causes us to rock and roll, but not lean over. Now add to the winds a very rainy beginning
to the day and temps in the low seventies. It has been a cold and damp day, but as evening is approaching the rain has gone away and there is a little break in the clouds to the west in front of us. The passage from New Caledonia to Australia is pretty much directly west, so each morning the sun will rise behind us and set in front of us. This is the week of the full moon, so if the skies clear, the light of moon will guide us at night. The seas are six to nine feet right now, but I expect they
will settle in the next day or so as the high winds settle down. We were expecting low winds starting tomorrow, but we will just have to wait and see if that happens.

Before leaving Noumea, we went to the fuel dock in the pouring rain. It was not the smoothest departure we have ever had. We got absolutely soaked and we had a little mishap as we tried to pull ourselves off the fuel dock with the strong winds blowing us on. Our dinghy outboard motor travels on the outside of the stern rail and as we pulled away, the wings on the bottom of the motor shaft caught on the dock and we lost one wing and part of the metal on the shaft that was the attachment. The motor
is old, but it is a good one, and we will see if there is a way to repair this when we reach Australia. As soon as we left the fuel dock, we foolishly changed into dry clothes. Then we had to get the sails set and we got soaked again. We finally wised up and put on our foul weather gear. We haven’t had to wear that since leaving the east coast of the US in late November of 2005, but I have no more places to hang wet clothes. So until some things dry out, we’ll stick with the foul weather gear
when it is raining.

We know from traffic on the radio that many other boats left today, but we have seen no one out here. Scot Free II left a couple of hours before we did, so they are ahead of us. I think most other boats, the ones with a little common sense, waited until the rain settled a bit before leaving, so they are behind us. Ranger had to have some work done on their prop this morning, so they are probably two to three hours behind us. We are all expecting the passage to take six to eight days, depending
on weather and boat speed, but we should all arrive before the end of the month. So Australia, get ready. Here we come!