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Mico Verde

Darwin, Northern Territory
July 8, 2007

Yacht Yoga in the Darwin Mooring Basin - when was the last time you looked at your packing gland?

(Wojo) Holy smokes we made IT!!!!!!

On July 4th (fitting date) we slipped through the Howard Channel and dropped the hook in Fannie Bay just off the city of Darwin. Wow. We've made a lot of landfalls but rarely are they this sweet. It's only been about two months since we departed Bundaberg but if feels much more like six. In all we anchored in 25 different stops and made more than 2500 miles. Five minutes after getting the hook down we were off for some much need Fourth of Ju-ly cervesas with Chris and KT from Billabong, whom we haven't seen since last November in Bundaberg. I've never been hugged onsite by so many people at once.

Two days later we had a lead on a berth inside one of the local marinas for a slip. The bay was very nice but was an extremely long dinghy ride, not to mention the extremely large tidal range which made dragging the dinghy high up on the beach a bear. We locked through with Moose and Swanya into the commercial fishing-focused Frances Bay Mooring Basin which is suuuper relaxed -- tie up wherever you like ...

Locking through in Frances Bay

The next day was pretty typical. I awoke at 0730 to an annoying alarm going off and wondered who was making so much @#$%'ing noise so early in the day and quickly discovered that it was us! Our large bilge alarm was tripped and screaming for attention. When this happens it usually means something bad is happening -- like we are sinking. I checked the seacocks and found them all to be dry. Then noticed that the "dripless" packing glad behind the engine had a continuous drip coming from between itself and the shaft. I enlisted Steph to help get the cockpit sole off so I could get in and back off the lock nut to tighten up the packing nut. After 1/64 of a turn on the packing nut things were going much better.

Passage across the Gulf of Carpentaria and rounding Cape Wessel
June 26, 2007

(wojo) One of the most common questions we get from non-sailors or even people who are thinking about starting the cruising lifestyle is "what about storms?" Usually I tell them (truthfully) that from Mexico to the Cook Islands we were only using weather fax to "find" wind 90% of the time with the other 10% just to keep a keen eye on any cold fronts coming our way which were very rare. I like to try to end the conversation about bad weather right there but sometimes people will stop me and say "but hey! You've sailed all the way to Aussie. What about from the Cooks onward??" Hmm. How do I put this delicately. All I can say is that from our experience in the past two years the weather gets, shall we say, a bit different from that point West. If you read some of our posts from 2006 you know what I'm referring to -- like getting 30 kts everyday and having an early season cyclone on day two of our crossing from Vanuatu to Bundaberg.

The weather was mostly OK'ish inside the Great Barrier Reef with SE trades in the 25 kt range dominating most days -- fine delivery-style weather to get a heavy boat like ours moving North at 6.5 kts in those 70+ mile "day hops."  Our little group definitely breathed a sigh of relief once we all rounded Cape York and headed down to Red Island for a siesta. Kimberly from Swanya is probably one of the most gifted and thorough weather techs in the entire South Pacific and we felt soooo lucky to have her along. So taking that into consideration, and the fact that the other 10 yachts which were about to make the 400 mile leap across the Gulf of Carpenteria for the final westward march to Darwin were all experienced blue water passagemakers, you can appreciate the following.

Steph had a bad feeling about this passage even before we pulled up the hook in Sesia. Something just didn't feel right. I told her it would be OK and that MetService was predicting three or four days of 15-20 kt SE'rs with more wind coming later. I thought we'd be able to get across just in time to avoid any unpleasantness. The first day of the three day passage was not bad -- the first ten hours consisted of motoring in two foot swell with only 8 kts of wind right behind us. As the wind filled in we all made sail nicely in the high 6 kt SOG range.

Around lunchtime on day two a big pod of false killer whales played with us for more than an hour (see the link to the video below). But by the middle of that day I started to suspect something was up (as did Kimberly). The weather faxes were now showing a fast developing trough heading our way and the bottom was falling out of the barograph. To cut to the chase by dinner time we were in 30 kts and 15-foot huge seas that came from all directions, thanks to the shallowness of the entire gulf. Carpentaria was living up to all of its legend. Around 2200 we decided to heave-to. Heaving to worked out well for us, however, all the other yachts with us just decided to pound through the beam seas and head for the anchorage around Cape Wessel. We needed a rest and slept soundly for 10 hours. When we awoke the next morning the wind was still screaming but we had a new outlook on life and even decided that we'd sail much more comfortably with a reef in our Hasse Stays'il (which we have reefed only one other time in last 14,000 miles of cruising).

To anyone who might be interested in buying a great Westsail 32 (for a fair price) in the future I can honestly tell you that in times like this the boat just looks after herself and thank Neptune for that! Under double reef'd main (why we were not flying the trys'il I have no idea now) and stays'il we just had to set the windvane and go below and lay on the cabin sole on top of the cockpit cushions. I pop my head out to give a look at the RADAR and horizon about every 30 minutes or so. Mico was on autopilot (without an autopilot) as much as she gets in conditions like these.

Later the next day in the early pre-dawn hours we rounded Cape Wessel and beat into 30 kts and 3 kts of current right on the nose, but made it in just at sunrise. (Note: if we hadn't hove-to for that 10-hour period, we would have arrived in the anchorage at night. One of the boats that entered at night went aground and had to be towed off by a few customs boats for six hours. They were very lucky the customs boats were in the area -- talk about remote places!) Our friends were very relieved to see us because we'd not been in contact for a day. Immediately people we don't even know called us to let us know how glad they were of our safe arrival. We have not had a working anemometer since Mexico (gladly so in conditions like these), but we've been told gusts reached up to 45 kts. (Steph) The windspeeds were not the worst thing, however; it was the seas in this notorious body of water that live up to the new name we've christened it -- the Gulf of CRAPentaria.

False Killer Whales playing with Mico before the storm ...

Thursday Island, Torres Straight, Queensland
June 22, 2007

While anchored off Red Island we decided to visit TI the easy way - on someone else's boat! There's a daily ferry that leaves right from the wharf in Sesia (about 100m from where we dropped the hook). It turned out to be the perfect place to spend five hours complete with an old fort, rainforest and Australia's Top Pub for a little later afternoon "sesh."

Guns at the TI Fort

Thursday Island anchorage, with Horn Island in distance

No, "This" is AUSTRALIA'S TOP PUB!

Red Island Anchorage (Sesia), Western Cape York Peninsula
June 20, 2007

After making around the top we caught a fast current into Sesia harbor before heading across to Darwin.

Bamaga village near Sesia

Lizard Island to Cape York hops
June 20, 2007

Anyone who's ever sailed North from Brisbane, Bundy or Sydney can appreciate just how long it is to Cape York once you get north of Lizard Island. There are reefs everywhere, and constant shipping traffic, so you end up swerving through, and around, them all. The transit consisted of very long day hops averaging 60 miles per day with one run at 77 miles. We made the trip with a few friends, which we don't usually do. But one of the advantages of buddy boating is you get a lot of pictures of yourself sailing. Read more!

When you're sailing with friends you are all required by law to take lots of cool pics of each other under sail

 

Stanley Island, Flinders group
June 14, 2007

To wait out heavy weather we spent a very restful four days in the Flinders group. Only 35 short miles from Ninian Bay. The island was occupied by Aborigines going back 5,000 years until 1945, and one cave has some spectacular paintings. The shots below cover some of the art we found. Read More!

 

Boomerang and lugs'il, from the days when ships began to visit

Aboriginal cave art on Stanley Island

Sea turtles and maybe a frog?

Lizard Island
June 7, 2007

The anchorage at Lizard Island

(Steph) We sailed overnight to Fitzroy Island where we took the new/old outboard to shore. We reunited with our friends from Beyond and shared cold drinks at the small bar there. Then it was back to the boat to prepare for the next day's departure for Lizard Island, where we hoped to catch up with some of our other friends.

A lovely day and night of sailing followed. We were traveling in the shipping lanes, which was terrifying but unavoidable in the reef-strewn Coral Sea. When we see ships approach, we always try to hail them on the radio to make sure they are aware of our presence. Very rarely do they respond, and usually the next 30 minutes are spent in sweaty, fearful anticipation while we find out whether we have to change course to avoid their thundering advance. But here, in the extremely narrow shipping lanes between coral reefs, even the big ships are nervous, so everyone responded to our radio calls. For being pretty high traffic, it was pretty low stress ... Read More!

Yes, we are really moored that close to the Great Barrier Reef (hey, it wasn't like it was my boat out there)

 

Townsville to Lizard Island
June 7, 2007

(Steph) We finally left Townsville on June 1st, a Friday. The days leading up to it were a bit stressful, as we were sitting around spending money on a marina slip, rental cars, and easily accessible cold beers and ice cream, all the while anticipating a painful invoice for our outboard. I tried to avoid adding up all the expenses we were pouring into our old outboard, because I did not want to come to the realization that we would have been better off just buying a new one! In the end, however, we were more than happy -- the mechanic did an excellent, thorough job with the outboard and it runs better than it ever has. And, he only charged us for 1.5 hours of labor, which is absolutely preposterous. He must have put in much more than that. Woj thought maybe he felt guilty for all the time it took to finally complete the job, but how could a guy stay in business if he feels guilty every time he does his job? Anyway, we were happy to finally be released from the clutches of Townsville.

We drove to Alva Beach when we had the car. An unremarkable beach except for a huge army of little blue crabs. Thousands of them were running around in herds.

Fitzroy Island anchorage

We sailed overnight to Fitzroy Island where we took the new/old outboard to shore. We reunited with our friends from Beyond and shared cold drinks at the small bar there. Then it was back to the boat to prepare for the next day's departure for Lizard Island, where we hoped to catch up with some of our other friends.

 

Townsville, Queensland
May 27, 2007

Sheesh are we every going to get outta here or what?? We're still waiting for the outboard to be repaired after burning up all the gears and bearings due to some bad fuel. At least there are plenty of Koalas in the wild here to keep Steph happy. Read More!

Townsville, Queensland
May 22, 2007

Sunset with Mico in Cid Harbor from the deck of MV Sea Eagle

(wojo) We're back in the real world unfortunately after three wonderful weeks of real cruising. This week we made a very low stress passage from Hook island to Townsville with a stop-over in Bowen (in answer to your question, unfortunately we did not get picked as extras for the new Baz Luhrman flick). The wind and seas for this past trip were so perfectly pleasant it was scary. We flew the Hasse Spinnaker for most of the day and then switched to our working sails when the wind picked up a couple knots around sunset.

We shot a little silly video of our lizard experiences and flying the new spinnaker here too.

Here's a bit of info on our time in peaceful Nara Inlet on Hook Island too.

Whitsunday Island
May 16, 2007

Goana make you crazy

I can't believe that after all these years of imagining the fabled Whitsunday islands we've actually sailed into Cid harbor! Read More

Brampton Island, Cumberland Group (Whitsundays)
May 11, 2007

We made a nice little day-hop over to Brampton-Carlisle island. Lots happened while we were here including a nasty storm we sat out in the very protected anchorage, hiking every inch of the island and nearly killing poor old Bonobo finally. Read More!

Scawfell Island, Cumberland Group (Whitsundays)
May 8, 2007

(wojo) Well ... that was good is all I can say ... At least we're finally back out there doing it all over again. We sailed from Keppel Island to Pearl Bay two days ago. Pearl is a very pretty but extremely rolly layover on your way North. Theoretically one is not allowed to even go ashore since it's part of a huge military training grounds where the Australian gov't can play G.I. Joes with the real thing. The next morning at around 0900 we set off for another overnigher to Scawfell island which is just at the start of the famous Whitsunday group. The passage was basically OK for the first 90%.

Read more!

 

 

 

 

            Sunset in Pearl Bay

 

Great Keppel Island, Queensland
May 4, 2007

Mico sailing in Hervey Bay just outside of Bundy

(Steph) We are finally cruising again! And with all the good things come the not-so-good-things, but let's back up a day or two ...

On Wednesday morning, May 2, we left Bundaberg. We had been waiting for winds to fill in from the SE for a few days, and finally decided that the forecasted NE winds were going to have to do. We spent way too long in several anchorages last year waiting for weather, and sometimes it never came. So we learned to deal with it. And we like to say we've learned from our past, so we decided to just go for it. And we are very glad we did. We are finally cruising again! Read more!

Coral Coast, Australia
May 1, 2007

Just complete a very nasty job today - cleaning the prop from the dinghy. Last month when we help bring Mystic Rhythms upriver to Midtown Marina we were all dismayed to find that with the dirty bottom we could only make 3.5 knots with both engines at 2200 RPMs!

This was about second worst the prop has ever looked - topped only after leaving Mico in the water for seven months in Fiji. I started chipping away at the barnacles and part of the prop on the edge just crumbled away in my hand! My first thought was - oh my god - this marina was so electrically hot we've just eaten away part of the prop! Actually there was some kind of organic and very touch sheath all the way around the three blades. Phew.

Yesterday was pretty typical too - a job that I thought would take about 10 minutes took six hours. I wanted to enlarge the hole for the eye bolt on the cranse iron which attached to the snubber block so we could go one size up (the smaller ones bend in more than 40 knots at anchor). Drilling through stainless is not the easiest thing to do - even if there's already a big pilot hole. I started using the 12v drill but quickly moved up to the big 500W 110v power drill. It still took hours - however we were definitely using the wrong type of drill bit and didn't have good cutting oil. Eventually we made it through - I feel for my neighbors who had to endure the noise all afternoon.

The marina manager Geoff hosts a field trip to pink dock - note how every kid is required to wear a wide brim hat

Coral Coast, Australia
April 30, 2007

This is an update just for Pierre Semac today - who's always keen on learning about celestial navigation! Today is a simple one, just doing a "Local apparent noon (LAN)" calculation. It's also known as "meridian passage" since using the time when the sun crosses you Longitude is key.

I had a rough idea of the latitude since we've been on this coast for six months but this calculation is primarily used for find it if you don't know exactly. Start with what you 'do' know - a nautical almanac or pre sight computer makes it easy to find out roughly when LAN will occur. This is useful because it means you don't need to stand out on deck for two hours looking for the peak. If you have literaly no idea what you latitude is you can make a graph starting around 1100 hrs. Write down the angle of the sun (using the sextant) and note the time - if the number (angle) is getting smaller you missed it - better luck tomorrow. If it is increasing keep measuring every five minutes or so 'til it starts to decline. The point between rise and fall is you meridian passage. Note down the angle at that time.

For today the angle at LAN - which was at 11:47 EST in Australia (+10 UTC) - was found to be 50 degrees 38.2 minutes.

So - converting back to UTC and using an almanac (note that I used my celestial calc to do this calc) to correct time and Hs (angle observed) we find that for the center of the sun (corrected for shooting to the North) we get a Latitude of -024 degrees 44.8 minutes (neg is south). This is close to the GPS' reading of 24 degrees 45.678 minutes.

So how did we do - OK. The reported position is about 1.5 nm from the actual position. No bad if you consider all we need to do was measure the angle of the sun at its zenith then convert local time to UTC. For more accurate fixes - as in the case of finding a reef pass etc - we'd want to get a three point fix going with more celestial bodies. This is an easy sight to take however and can be worked out in about 10 minutes if you can pre-compute a rough LAN time for your graph.

For a bit of trivia - let say you're in a lifeboat with no nautical almanac to find you LAN at UTC time. There are four times of the year you know exactly where you are if the sun is directly overhead (i.e. Hc = 90 degrees). These are the two equinoxes (if you were right on the equator) and then the two solstices for winter and summer (at roughly 23 degrees 26 minutes N/S).

Coral Coast, Australia
April 28, 2007

We asked our very handsome friend Mark Bruno from Skardu two years ago what I would to improve Mico's looks - he just said we needed to paint the green stripe. He was soooo right! After obsessing about this small detail for years it's finally done - no sweat actually compared to the battle which was the interior painting job.

I've learned a lot about selling a yacht in a foreign port from being in Australia. Lots of our friends have decided to head for land after fulfilling all their dreams crossing the Pacific. There was a rumor in Mexico that it was a breeze to sell your yacht in Australia and that you were guaranteed to make a profit. While the exchange rate IS very favorable (for Australians) this is NOT an easy place to let the yacht go. I thought the French had invented bureaucracy but the Aussie have perfected it! Expect to pay heavily if you decide to "import" the yacht before the sale ... Send me an email if you want more info and I'll put you in touch with the source. That said if anyone is interested in probably THE MOST GORGEOUS Walter Greene catamaran ever launched (he built if for himself) then boy do I have a deal for you!

Mico now has a completely re-upholstered interior for the price of about one boat dollar. While the material is pretty cool - ultrasuede - the work is, well, not exactly what you'd call yacht-quality - at least we paid yacht-prices?! If you want an anti-recommendation for an upholster in Bundy talk to us.

The freshly coiffed Mico Verde ...

Also - we have to give major props to the nice folks from Bumfuzzle on the completion of their circumnavigation. Also, Alex Dorsey finally got his his Westsail 28 ass out of Panama and down to the South Pacific.

BTW - we require music to live on Mico - I suggest that everyone reading this go out and buy the new Spank Rock record now ...

No Dark n' Stormies were injurned or abused (much) in the writing of this blog.

Can you believe this is the photo they're using for my Indonesian cruising permit? Please let this nice cyborg into your fine country.

A happy Steph post painting madness

Coral Coast, Australia
April 25, 2007

We've finally compiled a few notes and pics from our trip to Melbourne a couple weeks back.

Today is ANZAC day in Aussie which is pretty much a combination of Veteran's Day and the Fourth of July for any Yankees reading this blog. It's also the only day of the year that it's legal to play "two up" in pubs.

If you're curious what we've been up to boat-work-wise here's our task list.

Bundaberg, Australia
April 21, 2007

Carrot working hard in the boat prison

I can't help but to write this update in the voice of my idol Capt. Fatty Goodlander.

SO ... I go to bed last night with Carrot as usual and get up the next morning to find out that I've woken up on a yacht! This week Mico was a complete painting universe. We painted all the interior white, the boomkin, the bowsprit, the green stripe on the hull and even the anchor. Wow - she's looking like a million bucks or at least $60k or so.

Have I mentioned that Carrot and I are the white version of the Yin Yang twins?? She's the driven one that gets us moving on long boring and usually painful projects and I'm the one who prefers to live the maana lifestyle. I think we'd still be amongst the newlyweds and nearly deads in Puerta Vallarta if it wasn't for her. I've to give myself some credit too - I've been up at 0600 every morning too (only two hours after Steph gets up).

I'll post some photos of the new and improved sexy beast which is Mico this week.

This has not been a good week for yachts in the Aussie/NZ area. A ghost ship showed up 80 nm off Townsville, QLD. The cat looked like the three crew had just stepped off over the rail: dinner on the table, engine running, sails up ... spooky. There's also this story in Latitude today about a couple from California who 'tried' to sail from NZ to Australia but got their clocks cleaned "real-good." No one died happily but after getting knocked down three times in 60 kts "they're considering all their options" after a trip back to the states.

In case you hadn't heard yet Queensland is in a major drought. To that end I offer you this free MP3 from the Brisbane Hip Hop artist "Ghosty" - listen to the words carefully - there are some good tips in there, especially the one about not trying too hard and using milk in your aquarium.

Bundaberg, Australia
April 17, 2007

I can't believe it but we may actually be getting out of Bundy soon ... We've made great progress on the project front this week and the weather is not insane for once.

Last night we went to a great birthday party for a friend and it was complete with full body tattooing and left us with very large heads in the morning.

Had to publish these photos from Panama (thanks to SY Moose for sharing these). Check out how unflappable this guy is - hard to believe he's a monkey - could be any guy walking down Broadway in the summertime in Cap Hill.

Fine strutting style

We are family!

Bundaberg, Australia
April 12, 2007

Steph has been hard at work getting our latest journals from traveling inland online. Here's the report from Tasmania.

Can you believe that animals can actually look like this??

The refit is going well since we returned from our little holiday. Ms. Parry has been working me like Kunta Kinte - seriously. Oh well, it's probably for the best. In the past two days I fitted the new heat exchanger, replaced engine hoses, flushed the coolant/fresh-water side like a gazillion times, put in a new salt water pump in the galley and replaced the intake hoses for the head.

Getting the new heat exchanger in was a major milestone. The engine has been running just a little bit hot for only the past four years or so. She seems to be much happier with the new arrangement. I'm very excited about the prospect of motoring at 1700 RPMs and making five knots.

The weather is Bundy has been pretty pleasant overall but it still blows like mad night and day. Who knew this was such a windy part of the world? There's always plenty of sun to keep the batteries topped up but we're always just on the edge of a high pressure ridge so 25-30 knots is the norm this time of year. Last week there was a race from Brisbane to Gladstone where not one but two catamarans we're flipped. Did I mention that Port Bundaberg is about the rolliest marina in the world? If you ever head this way go all the way up the river to Midtown Marina to avoid rolling your masts out while tied to the dock.

Bundaberg, Australia
April 10, 2007

We're back in Bundy!!! Ok, so that in itself really isn't very exciting but our forthcoming land logs will be! Here's a little teaser which features some of the highlights of the cute awards held just North of Brisbane last week.

Here's a little gallery with some images from walking around the docks and city of Hobart (Tasmania) - it's not Van Dieman's Land anymore!

Bundaberg, Australia
March 27, 2007

We took a nice nine mile river cruise on a friend's cat today.

Next week we're off to Tasmania.

Father of Snoopy Star - we miss you!

Bundaberg, Australia
March 24, 2007

Yesterday afternoon we were able to solicit some actual expert advice from a local Boatwright Mr. John Jacobson from Burnett Heads. He's given us the thumbs up on the bowsprit and boomkin so we can rest a little easier at night.

Mr. Jacobson and Steph post survey work

Bundaberg, Australia
March 22, 2007

Boat projects and really big BATS!!

UPDATE: Checkout a few pics from our bushwalk two nights ago (complete with lots of roos) ...

Bundaberg, Australia
March 20, 2007

While back in the states we had the chance to chat with the friendly folks from FurledSails.com about our trip so far. Checkout the interview here.

Bundaberg, Australia
March 19, 2007

We're finally back in Aussie! We recently had the pleasure of watching turtles hatching at Mon Repos and had a great St. Patty's day complete with a wedding.

 

SV Mico Verde