Nongsa Point to Keppel Marina Singapore 12th November 2018: the final leg of our circumnavigation.

We left Nongsa Point on Monday 12th for the final journey of our circumnavigation. The morning was fine weather, no rain squalls in sight and we were away by 10.00 with all documents in order. We motor sailed west along the industrialised north coast of Batam  through very dirty water and a small oil slick until we reached the crossing channel through the Singapore Strait to the north side . The channel is extremely busy but the traffic separation scheme puts some order into the busyness and we made it across easily into the western anchorage which we remembered well from our arrival in 2010 . We anchored and the police boat arrived immediately followed by immigration but we managed lunch in between the visits and documents were exchanged by hand, no fishing net this time. We then headed towards Keppel Marina for our ETA of 15.00 and were helped into our berth by the staff and felt we had now really completed our circumnavigation arriving 8 years almost to the day after we had arrived here in 2010 . We felt a strange mixture of a sense of achievement and unreality mixed with relief and then what is the next adventure, knowing that any could only be a poor second to this one.

Singapore in the haze.

A big thank you to our many friends and family who have contributed to this adventure and made it happen and be such fun,

and to all those who have followed Baringo’s Blog .

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Lombok to Nongsa Point 28.10.2018 – 07.11.2018

It was difficult to leave Medana Marina but we felt the need to press on although we had actually forgotten that our Indonesian visas were only for 30 days and when we did finally leave we had no days to spare! However the relaxing atmosphere in Medana had successfully removed these dull administrative matters from our minds so we were lucky to have summoned the will power to move on when we did!

No sooner was Baringo out of the bay she was in a 30knot breeze with accompanying waves so we were too late to hoist the mainsail. We managed well with the little jenny close hauled until the wind veered to north west and then south east and the sailing became more comfortable off the wind. By the morning of the next day 29th October we were approaching P.Kangean where there was a gap to sail through and although not that narrow the sea was so confused with waves coming from all angles and no wind to hold the sails with the motor. We consulted the Dashew Bible but even he did not have a good answer to improving this unpleasantness only an amusing few words to describe it! Fortunately once through the gap the waves settled and by midday the sea had settled and we stopped for the daily oil check, essential with long motoring hours we were doing .In the calm of that afternoon we hoisted the mainsail and dispensed with the flapping jennies. We passed Madura island and its fishing fleet that evening and as we are in the Archipelagic Sea lane there little time goes by without a large tanker or bulk carrier passing. The Indonesian fishing fleets is enormous, we have never seen so many fishing boats anywhere else the numbers certainly do not seem sustainable. On the afternoon of the following day we were treated to a NE wind and had a lovely sail which continued until the early hours of the next morning. We had Kalimantan on our port side but we were further offshore now so fewer fishing boats that night. Stephen Davies advised keeping slightly east closer to the Kalimantan Coast to avoid unmarked hazards to the west and he recommended two “gates “ between shoals and reefs to pass through for a safe passage so we followed this path and had no problems.

Indonesian fishing boat

Island ahead?

island on tow!

We were passing between P.Belitung and Kalimantan keeping closer to Kalimantan and there is a line of reefs and shoals extending eastward off Belitung where again there was large fleet of fishing vessels. Actually passing through them was not as difficult as we had anticipated as they moved out of our way once they had seen us and all we saw were lit ,some scantily though. We had the usual mixture of sailing and motoring, probably more of the latter so refuelling was becoming imminent and we decided that doing this in the Archipelagic Sea lane was foolish and made a course for P.Serutu to anchor and do the refuelling in peace and out of danger. November was ushered in with a serious lightning storm  in the evening after a very sultry day so it came as no surprise but luckily neither wind or rain was that difficult and we escaped a direct hit.

On the morning of 2nd November we reached P.Serutu near P.Karimata just west of Kalimantan and anchored in a very pleasant bay but initially we had a NW wind blowing straight into the bay putting us squarely on a lee shore  but luckily this changed as the morning progressed to SE and the anchorage became well protected. We had a restful day and completed the always unpleasant job of refuelling ,the diesel always seems to get where it is not wanted so the cleaning up afterwards is messy. We had decided to stop at two more anchorages en route to ensure arriving in Nongsa Point in daylight so the remaining journey did not seem too much of a marathon.

refueling at P. Serutu

rock in serutu bay only apparent at low tide.

Leaving P. Serutu

We had a quiet night at P.Serutu and departed at 05.45 on Saturday 3rd November and were rather surprised to see two unpleasant looking rocks further in which had not been visible at high tide when we arrived but luckily we had anchored further out although in our searching for the best spot on arrival we may not have been that far away. We continued NW with the usual mixture of sailing  when the wind allowed and motoring when it did not ,we had more night time lightening but no major squalls and at 00.15 on Monday 5th November we  crossed the equator and put our party hats on and toasted King Neptune with a beer. Only a couple of hours later we felt our toast had been wasted as a huge black squall confronted us and we turned tail to the SW to avoid it which we did. Once it had passed we headed towards P.Mesanak which luckily had an anchorage sheltered form the NW winds which were now with us most of the time .It was a large bay with a well marked entrance and as usual we had it to ourselves.

Toasting King Neptune

Toasting King Neptune

equatorial crossing

position on the equator

approaching squall

We had bought Indonesian Sim cards in Saumlaki and were delighted to see a mobile phone mast on the island so had high hopes of getting 3G but we could not and were not sure why .We learnt later that an Indonesian Sim card to work it needs an Indonesian ID card number,so ours were doomed from the start but luckily had not cost a large amount of money . This apart the anchorage was very calm and peaceful so a chance to prepare the boat for Jane Houng’s arrival in Nongsa Point and catch up on some sleep.

We had a choice for the next anchorage; another island bay but open to the NW or in an estuary north of Tanjung Pinang, Bintan Island in a small port but protected from the NW. We decided on the latter as the wind seemed to be predominantly for the NW now so set off early the next morning for Tanjung Pinang and arrived at the entrance to the port which is up a narrow and shallow channel early in the afternoon. All the marks were present and gingerly made our way to the anchorage spot while being overtaken by high speed ferries on all sides. It was a very busy port with vessels of all shapes and sizes crossing the estuary as there was no bridge between the two sides of the town. The water was full of garbage including lots of worrying plastic bags but we felt we had made the right choice as the NW wind blew quite strongly all night.

Tanjong Penang harbour

Tanjong Pinang kelong

smarter area of town

On Wednesday 7th November we made our way out again luckily avoiding any encounter with plastic bags and headed for Nongsa Point through the Selat Riau with Heavy industry was on both sides and lots of commercial shipping on the move or at anchor, all the way to Nongsa Point as well as numerous ferries dashing past. We had seen on the chart and read in the cruising guide that we might have 5kts of current against us here and the Selat  is relatively narrow but I think Neptune took pity on us now and we had an easy journey with the current helping us all the way ! At midday John sighted the sky scrapers and casino of Singapore, rather an exciting moment for us although we were not counting our chickens just yet .We rounded the North eastern point of Batam island and then approached the entrance to the marina which runs parallel to the Singapore ferry entrance so it is vital to pick the correct channel . Luckily we did and the staff were there to greet us and take our lines so we were tied up by 14.00 on Wednesday 7th November .

We sorted out the usual documentation and then had a welcome swim in the pool. We had actually swum very little on this trip as Australia had killer jelly fish and crocodiles and we had not felt inclined in the anchorages after the snakes’ appearance in the cockpit and the dirty water we had seen everywhere. The marina was part of a golf hotel complex but was not crowded and the restaurant was very good or maybe it was the monotony of boat food that made their meals taste so good ! We needed to provision so hired a driver to go to the Kepri shopping mall,about 45 minutes drive away , where there was  large Carrefour and we bought oil to service the engine from a garage on the way back. Jane was arriving the next day so we serviced the engine the next morning while a large rain squall passed by outside .Luckily all had cleared for jane’s arrival and we had a fine evening swim and a good meal in the restaurant. The next few days passed relaxing by the pool, reading and eating and  chatting . We had to fill up with diesel but decided to just get 110litres in jerry cans rather than go round to the fuel dock ,this would be quite enough to get the 15 nm to Singapore .

Nongsa point marina

nongsa point pool

and the bar overlooking the pool

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Thursday Island to Lombok 8th October to 24th October 2018

Malcolm and Glynis of Pacific Crossing fame had kindly agreed to give us a weather forecast for this voyage as we have lost our French meteo man so we felt very reassured by this and better prepared for the forthcoming voyage .

On the morning of our departure we waited for a very pleasant Torres islander to come and check the fridge , he found nothing wrong so we were relieved but still continued to use the other fridge for the journey but we had a back- up if needed. We weighed anchor at 11.30 with a strong tide running against us as well as a strong wind, very typical Torres Strait conditions .Once round the reef between Horn Island and Thursday island we headed out past Thursday island  doing 11kts over the ground through the Normanby Passage to the Arafura sea . We passed the final departure gate between two lights at 14.00 and we were on our way to Indonesia .

Leaving Thursday island

Wind vanes on TI- good idea as it never stops blowing.

Across the Arafura Sea

We had an excellent start with a pleasant easterly wind across a flat turquoise sea. The sea built up a little as we got further out and we had to jibe our way along to keep on course but this was easy as we only had the big jib and no mainsail. The sunsets were wonderful as were the dawn, such as are only seen at sea so we really appreciated their beauty as they may be amongst the last we will enjoy.

sunset at sea

sunset a little later

Jib only downwind sailing

tattered OCC flag blasted by the Trade winds

We had no moon initially but wonderful starry night skies and we managed the usual watch system uninterrupted by crises. We had a visit from dolphins , always a great pleasure, and we continued our way west jibing to make the best course . The wind began to die by13th October and we had to start to make calculations about speed to arrive in Saumlaki in the Tanimbar Islands in daylight .This was our chosen port of entry into Indonesia, we had submitted numerous forms before departure which we hoped would speed up the process but as we discovered this was in vain .We also had the added problem of not wanting to stay in Saumlakia for the weekend waiting for the offices to open on Monday. Although Indonesia is a Muslim country the office hours are the usual western ones,so we decided to spend Saturday 13th October resting at sea floating along at about 2kts with just the little jenny out .It was a very relaxing day but there was a certain amount of sail flapping so much so that the shackle on the foot of the little jenny shook off and had to be replaced. On Sunday at 03.15 we started the motor as the wind did not appear and we needed to reach Saumlaki by dawn which we did and were happy we had not made a dark approach as once in the bay there were several substantial fish aggregating devices (FADs) almost certainly unlit. We were looking for the anchorage recommended in the pilot book but we discovered that the charts are inaccurate and  while searching for the recommended anchoring spot and simultaneously avoiding a small vessel we ran aground ! Luckily the motor came to the rescue again and we anchored in 17m further out!

Fish aggregating device (FAD) on entry into Saumlaki. Not a place to do a night entry!

Saumlaki waterfront

updated version of a traditional Indonesian craft, a Bugis Pinesi with typical gaff rig.

We spent the rest of the day refuelling so we could replenish the empty jerry cans with diesel for the next leg and trying to assess where to go ashore. The recommended spot was at the Hotel Harapan Indah but we could not see it easily from the boat with the binoculars .However our problems were solved when we had a visit from Higi who said he would help us the next day with processing our papers and getting diesel and provisions; we were to meet him at the ferry pier at 09.00 the following morning Monday 15th October .

We arrived on time for the meeting armed with all our documents and our boat stamp which had languished in the nav.table for the last 5 years but we thought might be useful here .We could not really see a suitable place to land the dinghy so we sheltered under the ferry pier as it was already quite hot and then we saw the friendly wave from  Higi’s friend who showed us where to land ; on  an unwelcoming  pile of rocks up a wall to the road to the ferry! I had doubts about getting up and even more doubts about getting heavy diesel filled jerry cans down but there was no choice .We were guided to the Quarantine office about 10 minutes walk away and the scruffiness and untidiness of the town really shocked us after the cleanliness of Australia . We spent 4 hours in the quarantine office while various officials tapped on the computer and shuffled paper. There was no air conditioning or fan so it became quite warm for everyone. The  immigration officers arrived with their computer in a neat black box and copious pieces of paper were produced, it was then  that boat stamp really came into its own as every piece required the Baringo stamp!  Higi had already arrived in the office and he came with two officials to inspect the boat where there was more form filling but all done with good grace thankfully and more surprisingly without any money changing hands.  Higi then took us to get mobile phone Sim cards and then for a much needed lunch and cold beer. He then organised a friend with a car to try and get some diesel but it seemed the garage was reluctant to sell it into jerry cans but Higi promised to fix it the following morning through his uncle. We had a little tour of the south part of the island including a visit to the rather bizarre sculpture of the first baptism in Saumlaki .Obviously successful as it remains a predominatly christian island .

Curious baptism sculpture

We finished with a little shopping in the market which was quite squalid with broken glass on the floor and children running around barefoot. Australia seemed like another planet. It was a hot and frustrating day but Higi was very kind and helpful especially with the endless zeros of the Indonesian rupiah which take a little getting used to and made all the difference . We finally got back to the boat and Higi promised to deliver the diesel for us tomorrow morning at the ferry pier at 09.00.

The next morning the diesel  was there waiting for us but 25 litres short, Higi had been unable to buy all we wanted but still 85Litre was better than nothing . After negotiating the rocky slope with the jerry cans maybe just as well we only had one full 25litre  one ,we left them  in the dinghy as we had also been told by immigration that we had to check out of Saumlaki before we left . We were not expecting this and another stint in the office was certainly not appealing.

So the day started with another interminable wait in the office but I asked Higi to take me shopping while John stayed in the office oven but at least today he had the phone to entertain him. That saved a little time although the paperwork was not complete when I got back . Just as we thought we had finished Higi said we had to go to the harbour master’s office, our hearts sank but luckily this visit was quite quick and again no exchange of money .Finally back on board we loaded the outboard, hoisted the dinghy, which we are keeping on the foredeck, and finally weighed anchor at 13.00 .on Tuesday16th October .

 

Saumlaki to Lombok 16th October – 24thOctober 2018

We were pleased to be on our way again but the Saumlaki sojourn had certainly been enhanced by Higi’s help .The first two days into the Banda Sea were motor sailing , there was  no wind as we passed the islands of Babar ,Sermata and then the channel south of Wetar and North of East Timor. The islands are very high and mountainous and usually there were the lights of villages visible at night but we kept offshore to avoid fishing vessels and FADs .With so much motoring we stopped every morning to check the engine oil and gave the instruments and Poppy the autohelm a rest .One evening the instruments went haywire as did Poppy and we wondered if this was due to overheating so we instituted the rest period every day. Luckily after the well-tried and tested remedy of switching off and on again the instruments recovered and the spectre of hand steering to Singapore retreated for now at least! There was a slight problem with the circulation of the coolant in the engine so each day we had to pump out the coolant from the reservoir and return it to the radiator but the reason for this for the moment eludes us. We finally found some wind south of Wetar but it was accompanied by lightning and an unpleasant black wall behind us which brought increasing wind but we also added the motor to the sails to escape as quickly as possible as the  sky was alarmingly alight for several hours .

The next day it was  calm again and we refuelled with 120Ldiesel along the north coast of Alor and calculated we should have enough fuel to get to the marina in Lombok  where refuelling was easy .We did not relish struggling in another dirty Indonesian town searching for diesel . We decided we would take advantage of any wind if it came and indeed it did that evening with 30kts for a while but calming and changing direction so we could use it in comfort and make a good course .Somehow during this wind the little jenny sheet got stuck around the jammers on the mast .Luckily John noticed the strange angle of the sail just before dark and we released it as tightening the sail in such a strong wind around the jammer might have damaged it with disastrous consequences. We were not so lucky in another way as we had left the forward hatch open under the dinghy in the calm weather and as the waves got bigger some of them came into the forward cabin under the dinghy and soaked the bed with salt water! One thing John obsessively tries to keep out of the boat. The wind died the next afternoon but we were north of Flores now so making progress and the mixture of sailing and motoring continued as did our fuel calculations and how to arrive in Lombok in daylight.

On the night of Sunday 21st October we had a very strong wind  so neither of us had much sleep and we could only assume this was a land breeze of grand proportions because the islands are so high ,and usually the wind reduced by mid- morning . It was a long time since we had sailed close hauled into such strong winds but the reefing system worked well and Baringo perhaps enjoyed it more than we did. We had a quiet day but again at night the wind came up to 40 kts and for only the second time in the circumnavigation we put the third reef in the mainsail..This seemed a lot for a land breeze but there were no storm clouds and it was not forecast so we could not think of another explanation .By the morning of the 23rd October we were feeling quite tired and not relishing the prospect of another rough night so we started to look for anchorages. Luckily Claire from the convoy days had given us some anchorages and one of hers on the NW of Sembaya just fitted the bill so we headed for it, not far off our route and the right distance for us to reach the  marina in Lombok the next day . There was not much depth information about the anchorage on either Navionics or I -sailor but at least we knew it had been tested by Claire  so did not feel too worried. It proved to be a  pretty deserted bay but what depths were on the electronic charts bore no resemblance to reality ,in fact we though the depth meter was broken but it was just the error of the charts . After two attempts we found the premier spot and had a wonderfully calm night to catch up on sleep.

calm water at Potopaddu bay- wonderful!

 

A 04.00 start was needed to reach Medana Marina ,we had half a tank of diesel so felt secure with that but no sooner were we out of the peaceful anchorage than  the winds started at 30 kts ,presumably the last of the night’s land breeze which we were very pleased to have missed . We sped along the north of Lombok a dramatically high volcanic island and I went below for a short rest after the early start only to be called as John had the very scary and unpleasant experience of seeing a snake coming from the deck into the cockpit! After realising he was not hallucinating we set to finding a way to kill it ,we had no choice. Luckily it took refuge in the halyards and remained stationary and John did the deed  with the end of the wooden oar which we had ready as self defence against boarders . Had the snake got below on board life would have been extremely tricky. We had recently read of the tragic death of a young British man from a sea snake bite so this one was not a welcome visitor and we could only suppose it had climbed up the anchor chain. Sea snakes are some of the most venomous in the world. The wind as usual died by the middle of the day but revived again as we approached the marina and we were motoring during the afternoon into a 30kt headwind presumably a sea breeze this time .There was confusion again with the electronic charts but I- sailor was the most accurate, in fact the marina was not mentioned at all on Navionics and the AIS signal from one of the yachts in the marina was in a different bay! All very confusing but we could see all the masts so used eyeball navigations to get in. We had a few attempts at securing the mooring buoy in the strong wind but were tied up before dark and happy to be there and in addition we had received a welcome e-mail from the marina manager.

approaching Lombok

Medana Marina 24th October -28th October

This proved to be a real haven from the world of 30kt winds, short sharp waves and ceaseless motion. The bay was very calm and we received a lovely welcome from Soria when we went ashore next morning. Nothing seemed too much trouble, the diesel was ordered and laundry taken away and coffee produced in the Sailfish café ..bliss . While in the café we saw another boat coming in and amazingly it was “Intrigue” from Hong Kong although now under an Australian flag. So we had many happy reminiscing chats over the next few days ,accompanied by the local beer. The first  afternoon we loaded our jerry cans now full of diesel on board 190litres in all .The rest was coming the next day in the marina’s jerry cans and we would put that all in the tank .The next day we had an excellent breakfast in the sailfish café to fortify ourselves for the unpleasant job of refuelling the tank .We had to decant the  diesel into 20 litre jerry cans first as we could not carry 35 litres so it meant two journeys and filling the tank is slow using the Baha filter .This is vital as the fuel is quite dirty and certainly looked very different from the clear golden liquid we had used in Australia .We did not manage the task in one day and John had decided to go alongside the next day to have the boat cleaned which proved a good decision as we managed to spill more diesel than desirable during refuelling .We  could then fill up the tank from  the remaining  when we were on the pontoon . It had been an exhausting hot day.

Medana Bay marina

A welcome sign for all boaters!

On Saturday 27th  October we went alongside early in the morning before the wind picked up and finally finished the refuelling with the help of one of the marina staff which made it much easier . After another delicious Sailfish Café breakfast we went to  the capital of Lombok Mataram with a driver and were rather shocked to see so much earthquake damage from a series of tremors that had affected northern Lombok in august .Piles of rubble where houses should have been and many damaged dwellings covered in tarpaulin, our driver had lost his house and was living in a tent with his family. Repair work was underway but it looked like a long process. We found everything we needed in the quite westernised supermarket and returned with the provisions. We  decided to stay alongside as the wind was now strong and we did not want to waste time trying to pick up a mooring buoy .   So we had a pleasant evening in the bar catching up on Hong Kong people and places and meeting the other sailors staying here . Medana Bay marina can be highly recommended for any other cruisers reading this.

Baringo alongside with Intrigue

Moorings at Medana

sailfish cafe

sailfish cafe

We plan to leave on Sunday 28th October for Nongsa Point Marina Batam Island.

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The Northern Queensland Coast Cairns to Horn Island, Torres Straits 27th September – 8th October 2018

Baringo survived her two months in the Bluewater Marina in Cairns very well despite her keel sitting in mud twice daily at low tide. Once back on board we  set about the usual preparations for the journey north along the Queensland coast but there is much less work with her in the water than  when she has been left on the hard . We had the rigging and the hull checked by experts. The anodes are always a worry after staying in a marina and we were next to a steel boat. Apparently all was well above and below the water so once loaded with tins and jars and fresh provisions we untied the lines on Thursday morning 27th September and made our way through the mangrove waterways, first towards the fuel dock in the adjacent marina and then on to the open sea. However our journey came to an abrupt halt sooner than expected when we ran aground in the channel about fifteen minutes later! It was nearly high tide so not very much more water would flow our way but after a lot of engine revving and trying to hold out the boom we floated again and filled all our jerry cans with fuel giving us a range of about 1000nm in preparation for the lack of wind we may find in Indonesia .

Provisions

leaving blue water marina just before running aground

jerry cans in shower

We found the usual SE trade winds awaiting us at sea so sailed with jib alone northwards in pleasant conditions. We planned an overnight sail and as the light faded so the wind picked up to force 7. We were following the main shipping channel as the distance between the mainland and the Barrier Reef is much narrower here which makes for calmer seas but also close encounters with large vessels. By midnight we were on a collision course with two giants one following another, but now with AIS communications are much easier and the vessels courteously altered course and avoided us. We were limited in our manoeuvrability with  the strong wind which they appreciated. The night continued rather rough until dawn but the passage is well marked and the chart plotter makes all the difference. We arrived at our chosen anchorage Bathurst Bay a very large bay  sheltered by Cape Melville where we found a very long beach and managed to get in quite close to try and find shelter. Our experience along this coast is shelter is a relative concept meaning a slight reduction in waves but no reduction in wind strength. Bathurst bay was no exception but we slept well after our first overnight experience for 18 months.

island off QLD coast

We now had a choice between two shipping channels; the original inner passage and a new but shorter outer “Lad’s passage”. The weather forecast was now strong SE winds gusting 40 for the next five days so we chose the inner passage as we might be further from the weather and we had the chance to stop and anchor which we could not do in Lad’s Passage . The morning sail again was pleasant but afternoon brought much stronger winds which became more easterly and we decided to stop for the night at Morris island but this entailed heading slightly north east towards the centre of the channel which proved difficult in the wind which was now 35 knots and rising! With the brute force of the engine we made it and found a tiny tropical island, very Robinson Crusoe, so we anchored just off the beach with the breeze unabated but at least we had calm water behind the large reef.

Morris island

Morris island effect of wind

The next day Sunday 30th September we had planned an early start as the sailing always seemed more pleasant in the mornings before the wind roughed around 3.00pm but at 05.30 the wind was still howling and in the dark the prospect of weighing the anchor did not appeal so it was back to bed and we stayed at Morris Island until the following morning. At 06.00 the next day everything was much more inviting so we set sail for our next chosen anchorage Portland Road where there is a small outpost of people but en-route we had several discussions about the merits of continuing overnight again but as the wind was forecast to remain strong for the next few days, and we preferred arriving at Thursday island in calm conditions as we had to dinghy ashore there, we decided we would stop for the night once more. The wind had been force 5 to 6 most of the day but fortunately the seas were certainly not commensurate with the wind strength because of the shelter from the reef otherwise it would have been a very uncomfortable passage. Portland Road was a pleasant anchorage with the usual relative shelter and a dive boat and a few fishing boats in the anchorage and we could see about 5 houses ashore.

We reviewed the next day’s journey, the pilot book by Alan Lucas is excellent and very detailed and also interesting reading with many historical stories interwoven with the navigation advice. We decided to try for Margaret Bay about 43 miles north but would assess the weather early and decide a final plan. Initially I thought it looked rather too rough but skipper thought we should make progress and it would be no worse than the day before so we left and met some of the strongest winds we have experienced gusting up to 60 knots dropping to a steady 40 knots so rather too much for comfort but at least with the protection of the reef the seas were relatively calm except for a short area where the reef was minimal and we certainly  felt it. We had the added problem of encountering two cargo vessels in the narrowest part of the whole channel which required radio exchange to avoid unnecessarily close encounters. There were also plenty of reefs to avoid which required going more upwind which was unpleasant in the prevailing 40 knots but we changed from the big jib handkerchief to the little jib handkerchief and the boats stability improved very pleasantly as the sail area was much lower even though it is not a downwind sail. Luckily we had no gear failures and with much relief we finally rounded Cape Grenville into Margaret bay   and found two catamarans already at anchor there. We anchored in the prevailing 35 knots but the holding is good in mud so we were quickly secure and below deck out of the wind at last.

It was now Wednesday 3rd 0ctober and we reviewed the weather at 05.00 and decided it was too windy to move on so another make and mend day on board, there are always jobs to be done! Today it was retrieving a rat line we had omitted to remove from the little jib halyard when we had used it in the very heavy wind, it had migrated up to the first spreader. Then we renewed the tennis ball on the spinnaker halyard which prevents the metal shackle from jamming at the top of the mast, a job which had been on the list for some time now! We did some route planning through Indonesia using a friend’s route and the excellent Stephen Davies pilot book. We started the water maker for the journey and luckily it performed very efficiently after the leaks had been sealed in Townsville. We knew the wind was forecast to be lighter the next day. The nearest available anchorage going north is about 65 nm  in the Escape river estuary which we did not favour as our past experience in an estuary was an unpleasant one and this one had the added complication of the presence of pearl farms . We hoped we might get through the Albany Pass at the northern end of Cape York if our speeds were good enough as Shallow Bay just in the north end of the pass looked much more inviting and had the added attraction of knowing that Joshua Slocum had anchored there. All started well, we were making at least 7kts but this was not to continue once the tide changed  we were down to 5kts but nevertheless we passed the river estuary around 15.30 so decided to continue to Albany Pass, only another 20nm . The passage surprised us by its elegance in the crepuscular light but we had a moment of anxiety when we approached the entrance and the water was frothing wildly as if submarine creatures were fighting underneath the surface, but as we closed the entrance the starboard side was calm and we glided pleasantly into the pass under motor making 9.5kts with the tide. Shallow Bay was equally calm and we anchored easily in the company of a catamaran and were joined later by another two vessels.

Typical reefs going up the coast.

white sand cliffs looking like snow, near the top of Cape York

entrance to Albany pass

sunset seen from shallow bay

Friday 5th October was the final push to Horn Island, another dawn start to get the help of the flooding tide and only 20nm to go . Much to our delight and surprise we had no wind that morning, very strange in this the area of the world where the trade winds blow their strongest! The route was well marked as usual in Australia with a dog leg into the anchorage to avoid the reefs. We were called on the radio by the Australian Border force patrol vessel on the way in, they keep a close eye on the Torres Straits but luckily we had the correct responses and were allowed to continue. We had decided to anchor at Horn Island rather than Thursday island as it is more sheltered from the wind and better holding and we could take the ferry across to Thursday island to process the exit formalities .We had anchored by 09.00 and after smartening up for an office encounter we crossed on the ferry to Thursday island. Facilities were not  abundant so after a rather tasteless and unhealthy snack we checked out from Australia, but luckily we were allowed to stay for a couple of days to try and get the fridge repaired….a voyage without a  cold beer is not one to contemplate happily .

Horn Island or now Wongai Hotel

So by Monday 8th October after nearly two years Baringo should  finally leave Australia; but she has received lots of care and attention here which although expensive was of a high standard so we hope this investment will see us safely to Singapore .

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Hamilton Island to Cairns 20th June -16th July

We left Hamilton Island still in quite a strong wind and decided to go back to Port of Airlie marina rather than anchor off and dinghy in ,the lazy option ! We had to collect a new Raymarine display dial as more were going black this year and it would be cheaper to provision here than on Hamilton Island.

cockatoos Hamilton island atop golf cart

We left the marina on 22nd July and headed north west towards Edgecombe Bay, we were trying to avoid overnight sailing if possible on this trip and indeed we had the time and there are plenty of anchorages.  We transited Gloucester Passage to gain the anchorage luckily at high tide as it was rather shallower than we had expected so luck was on our side again. It was a quiet night so the routine of cocktails in the cockpit followed by supper and a DVD was easily accomplished. The next day was a 40nm mile run to Cape Upstart a very high peninsula around the back of which we presumed would be a sheltered anchorage but we were wrong. We spent some time going up and down in search of a quiet spot but there were none, so we picked the best we could and had quite a noisy night with the wind blowing and the waves slapping. Once we left the next morning to our surprise we found ourselves in the wind shadow of this high cape for quite a long time although it had eluded us at anchor!

The wind was quite strong about 25knots and the swell picked up but downwind it was manageable with jib alone and we made good progress to the next stop Cape Bowling Green. This was a complete geographical contrast to Cape upstart as it was long cape of very flat land so we did not expect much shelter from the wind but hoped for calmer waters behind the cape.  Our expectation was not realised and as we went further and further into Bowling Green Bay the  wind and waves remained unabated. As usual the  water was shallow and even when we reached a possible anchorage well into the bay we seemed to be in the middle of nowhere as the land around was so low it was almost invisible. So with no prospect of shelter we decided to continue to Magnetic Island just off the coast of Townsville to seek a calmer anchorage. We made good speed and it was a moonlit night so we arrived to the welcome peace of Horseshoe Bay on the north side of the island at 21.30. There were about twenty other boats there in the recommended SE corner but enough space for all. After dodging an unlit boat we anchored and had a quiet night.

Townsville view from Castle hill with magnetic island in the distance.

After a quiet day at anchor in Horseshoe Bay we needed to go to Townsville marina to get the new Raytheon display unit fitted and operational and we had also noticed our AIS ( automatic identification system ) was not working, we could see other boats but they could not see us. We had confirmed our suspicions by asking a commercial vessel to check if they could see us and they could not. Luckily Townsville seemed to have all marine services available and The Breakwater Marina there was very pleasant and we had both problems fixed in one day .Interestingly the problem with the AIS was corrosion of the wires at the stern carrying the GPS signal!  Despite being protected by plastic coating their position at the stern of the boat in the destructive marine environment had been too much for them over the last eighteen years.  We took advantage of our time there to drive around Townsville and go up Castle hill which overlooks city and almost divides it into two. We had a splendid view over the sea towards Magnetic Island.

We returned to Magnetic island the following day and enjoyed a few days there hiking and swimming and even stand up paddle boarding. It was warm sunny weather and we used the solar panel charging device that Henry had given us to charge our phoned and i-pads with great success. This could prove very useful in the event of electrical failure as we would still be able to charge the i-pad for navigation. So we immediately felt more secure!

solar phone charger

Arthur beach Magnetic island

There is an old Second World War fort on the island built to look out for the Japanese coming by sea, in fact they never did, but the old buildings and gun posts have been preserved and are interesting to look at and realise the difficult conditions the soldiers had to work in there. We saw two wild koala bears on this walk as there are a large number of wild bears in this particular area.

“Wild” Kaola

Wader

It is never long before another problem arrives on a boat and this time it was the generator that stopped. We spent a beautiful sunny day diagnosing the problem ourselves and finally discovered it was the sea water flow sensor, again very badly corroded .John removed it and the generator worked perfectly but clearly this was not safe in the long term so it was back to Breakwater Marina on 4th July for the Cummins expert to help out. In addition to the corroded sensor corrosion had attacked  several important wires which needed  to be replaced as well as the flow sensor . We found ourselves significantly poorer the next day but we did have a working generator.  Repairs are expensive in Australia but they are done well and professionally.

We left from the Townsville Marina on 6th July and continued north for the final push to Cairns. There was no wind so we had to motor to Juno bay Fantome Island in the Palm island group which was  beautiful and a perfect anchorage in the non- existent wind but would have been a different story in an established SE trade .

We had planned  to navigate the Hitchinbrook narrows a channel between the dramatic Hitchinbrook island and the main land but in order to enter we had  to cross a sandbar in Lucinda the small town at the southern end of the narrows .As previously mentioned we had  been moving up the coast under the watchful eye of the Volunteer Marine Reserve contacting them daily with our progress and sailing intentions. This morning before entering the narrows which we knew we could only do on a rising tide we were warned by the VMR against attempting to cross the moving sandbar. Of course it is all on the  charts but as the bar moves every year they could not possibly be accurate so we sailed up the sea side of Hitchinbrook island which was  disappointing but at least safe and  the mountains were certainly dramatic on this the second windless day. We had intended to anchor at the northern end of the narrows anyway and as the strong SE winds were returning, they don’t stay away for long, we found a well sheltered anchorage just off Hecate point and stayed for the next  day as well as there was a strong wind warning. The weather forecast in Australia is very accurate and broadcast twice daily on the VHF radio by each VMR station along the coast which is very reassuring.

We sailed off again on 9th July to our next chosen spot Mourilyan harbour another small sugar port with a very narrow entrance flanked on each side by two peaks Hilda and George. Although the peaks are easily seen the narrow entrance is invisible until you are opposite it. There were several boats at anchor and as usual the water was very shallow and in addition there were many mooring buoys which we had to avoid. So finding a suitable spot was even more difficult than usual but we did but only after one unsuccessful attempt. The tide was strong and the wind weak inside the harbour so predicting the final resting place of the boat which would sit  mainly to the tide is not very easy. We ended up rather too close to a couple of other boats but hoping we would all swing in unison with the tide we stayed put and all was well.

We now had only one more stop before Cairns and we had a good sail under jib alone down wind and made good progress towards Fitzroy Island a popular tourist island near Cairns.  It was a sunny day but on arrival at Fitzroy it did not seem that sheltered and there were several yachts already anchored there so we took the second anchorage choice in Mission bay a little further around the coast. The wind was blowing strongly but we had at least lost the swell on rounding the cape but as usual it was difficult for us to get far enough in because of the depth to really get shelter from the wind. We were obviously getting braver as we left only 0.7m under the keel at low tide .

The next morning it was round to Bluewater Marina which again we had to enter in as high a tide as possible to get up a mangrove creek. We had the usual friendly Australian welcome with someone to help with the lines and we were once again safely tied up. We set to work packing the boat up for the six weeks stay there and luckily had a couple of days spare to explore Cairns and the Atherton tablelands.

Cairns waterfront at low tide

Another view of Cairns waterfront

Crocodile Warning on the waterfront!

Descending from the Atherton table land

Tropical Rain forest Butterfly- Name??

We left on 16th July hoping to return for the final leg to Singapore in mid-September.

Apologies for the paucity of photographs but we lost our camera in Magnetic island.

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Cruising the Whitsunday Islands, Queensland ,Australia 31st May to 17th June 2018

The Whitsunday Islands were named by Captain Cook who thought he passed them on Whitsunday 1770 , although it was in fact the day after but nevertheless the name has stuck . They lie off the Queensland Coast and are the partially drowned Cumberland Mountain range but provide a spectacular cruising ground with an enormous choice of beautiful anchorages, beaches, reefs and hikes …a real cruising mecca.

Jane Houng joined us for our initial exploration but her arrival was greeted by a blocked forward heads which proved annoying but manageable and we did not want to delay our cruise to fix it as Jane had only a short holiday with us.

Janes’s arrival on the Spirit of Queensland from Cairns

So on Friday 1st June we sailed over to our first anchorage in Nara Inlet on the south of Hook Island which is one of two deep fiords on that coast and very beautiful .The water was flat and the fiord sheltered so we got the dinghy in the water and had a look at the coral .For the next three days we moved to new anchorages around the coasts of Hook Island and Whitsunday Island ; Butterfly Bay, Stonehaven, and Sawmill bay. The wind was in the prevailing direction from the south east so it was impossible to go to the eastern side of the islands.  We did try one morning leaving Butterfly Bay but once out of the lee of the land both the wind and the waves picked up seriously so heading into both became too uncomfortable.  We retreated quickly back to the sheltered side and headed for Stonehaven which was well sheltered. Every  anchorage was lovely with beaches and walks and sometimes clear water although the coral was a little disappointing.

The next day we moved to Sawmill bay where we attempted the hike to the Whitsunday peak but were beaten by the falling light, it gets dark at 17.30 in Queensland so as late starters the light often runs out.

 

Jane near the top of Whitsunday island peak.

Dugong Beach Sawmill bay

Sadly Jane had to return to Hong Kong on 7th June so we sailed back to Airlie Beach on Tuesday 5th June a lovely sail across in a good wind and flat sea. Jane left by train from Proserpine the next day but it had been a very enjoyable few days.

Now it was back to work for us and the first problem was unblocking the heads! Not surprisingly it proved rather difficult to find help as it is not a job anyone is rushing to do. A very kind boat neighbour had tried before we left but without success. After a few fruitless phone calls John tried the personal approach and prevailed upon a very kind man from the workshop in Abell Point Marina to come and help us.  John gave him the story of our voyage so far and as he also dreamt of a circumnavigation himself he took pity on us and with the help of a high pressure hose and a blocking device the pipe unblocked much to our delight.  We were expecting Malcolm and Glynis Gibson,our partners for the Pacific crossing ,to join us and so we really needed two functioning heads for their visit . We sent an immediate message to them with the good news and they booked their flights to come and join us. Boat problems never come singly so the next problem was one of the fridges was not working to full capacity and knowing that cold beer and gin and tonic with ice would be a high priority on the next Whitsunday Cruise repairing that had to be dealt with. Luckily the fridge just needed a top up of gas which is what we had suspected and that was easily done .After provisioning to fill the newly cold fridge we left for Hamilton Island to meet our next visitors on Sunday 10th June .

Tides are a significant feature of Whitsunday cruising so moving about  needs planning to use them to their best advantage . We stayed one night en route to Hamilton to get this  advantage and we anchored off Long Island in Happy  Bay  but sadly it had seen happier days as there was a deserted resort on the island which did not look very happy now . We went ashore the next day while waiting for the tide which favourably coincided with the arrival of Malcolm and Glynis’s flight and met the caretaker there who told us we could not go into  the empty resort, but we had a walk and a swim . We then motored the few miles to Hamilton Island and docked in the marina there in perfect time to meet the flight .We were then quickly away to a nearby anchorage but not before Malcolm had bought a large box of beer obviously worried we might not have enough! This brought back memories of the large number of cartons of chateau Clos he bought for the pacific crossing which we kept finding hidden in the boat for a long time afterwards!  We had a beautiful calm evening so plenty of time to catch up on our latest stories. Luckily for the next few days the wind was from the north west so we could explore anchorages that had been impossible the previous week with Jane so the next day we moved to Chance Bay on Whitsunday island  from where we could walk to   Whitehaven Bay, a magnificent beach with the finest sand I have ever run through my fingers .It stretched for miles and once the tourist boat had collected most of the people on the beach it was quite  deserted. We wandered in admiration along the shoreline stunned by the enormous expanse of sand which seemed to reach infinity, we had a quick swim before walking back .

north end of Whitehaven beach

Whitehaven beach with very soft white sand which stretches for miles.

On mooring buoy in Tongue Bay

The next day’s excursion was to Tongue Bay as we were still able to stay on the eastern side of Whitsunday Island and there was another walk where we could view the magnificent sand of Whitehaven from a height which gave us a different perspective of the geography. Our evening entertainment on both cruises was Bananagram a fast version of scrabble which proved very popular and enjoyable with all our visitors .

Grass trees on several islands

Grass tree in flower

We continued to Border Island a little further north and this time sheltered from the south east as the weather looked as if it was going to change  but it was another lovely anchorage with a walk to the top of the hill which was a little rougher than the ones on Whitsunday island but the views made it all worthwhile.

view from top Border island

Time was drawing to a close and we had to return to Hamilton Island so we had our  last night in Macona Inlet the other fiord on the south of Hook Island and the next morning our plans for a final swim were jettisoned as the sky was cloudy and the cool south east wind was back . We had quite a rough trip back to Hamilton Island with the wind and the tides upsetting the millpond seas we had grown accustomed to over the last  few days.

Hamilton island from afar. Tower blocks!

It was farewell time again as Malcolm and Glynis left for the airport but we felt we had done justice to the Whitsunday Islands with our two cruises and there had certainly been no disappointments. The wind continued to pick up during the afternoon and our dislike of manoeuvring in small spaces in strong cross winds made a longer stay in the marina seem a good option.

Whitsunday sunset

whitsunday sunset a few minutes later

Visitors

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Keppel Island to Airlie Beach

We left Baringo in Rosslyn Bay, at Keppel Bay Marina, and went to Hong Kong for a short unscheduled visit  which was of course busy but fun I returned  to the boat on Tuesday 15th May and John arrived a week later after doing some work in Beijing. We left the marina the next day Tuesday 22nd May and sailed a couple of hours over to Keppel North, the island just north of Keppel island where we had anchored before. We anchored there to make the final preparations for the forthcoming voyage  north .We knew the weather was going to deteriorate so planned to sit this out off South Percy island a recommended trade wind anchorage . The Alan Lucas pilot book of the Queensland coast is excellent, very detailed and with lots of drawings of the islands and their anchorages so an invaluable companion.

View of Keppel Bay marina

Rosslyn bay beach

evening time at Keppel Bay marina

Anchorage at Keppel North island

We left the next morning at 06.00 as we had 47nm to cover to the next night stop either Pearl Bay or Island Head Creek a little further north .This latter had been highly recommended by a Queensland coast sailor we had met on the pontoon, so we favoured that one as possible .We had good wind and jibed our way up the coast with 25 knots of wind behind and it was not too rough as the previous few days had been quite calm. We passed Pearl Bay mid-afternoon as we had made good time and tried to enter Island Head Creek. There were sand banks and rocks either side of the passage and no marker buoys to guide us so after a near miss with a sandbank we found some deep water to get further down the creek where we could see other boats anchored but they were mainly small motor boats rather than  yachts .Some seemed to be uncomfortably close to a visible sandbank so we tried to anchor off the beach in a recommended site but between the tide and wind the chain was going under the boat rather than in front so we decided to give up here and hurry back to Pearl Bay .We followed our route out which was as nerve wracking as the journey in and decided estuaries are not really suitable for us. We just made pearl Bay with the last of the sun’s rays and had a quiet night there thankfully.

The next day was another 06.00 start but the weather had changed and the sky was full of darker clouds so we knew the bad weather was on the way as forecast. We started with an easterly wind so  for our north westerly course we needed the main sail but as the wind strengthened, became more south easterly and the rain came we dropped it and continued on jib alone. The tides are significant along the Queensland coast and today the wind was changing direction rather frequently necessitating several course changes during the day. This led at one point to us having to decide which side to pass a rather unpleasant rock with  tide favouring one side and wind the other all very annoying as we were surrounded by so much open sea ! John thought this situation would make an excellent exam question. In the end there were so many frequent wind shifts and we had jibed the jenny so many times which for us requires furling and we were getting tired so we resorted to the iron sail which would probably not have been the correct exam answer. We passed the nasty rock safely and continued to South Percy island where we planned to sit out the bad weather.

The awkward rock!

It is a barren island and the recommended bay is Rocky Ledge bay off the north coast of South Percy in the channel between it and Middle Percy Island. We were pleased to get the anchor down as the conditions were not improving .We also decided to use the anchor buddy for extra holding power, which we have not used often since we bought the Rocna anchor. We had wind over tide moving the boat in a very strange way  with respect to the anchor which meant that the chain went under the boat during the ebb resulting in abnormal stresses on the bow roller in the 30 knots wind and the most sickening grinding as the chain moved over the rocky bottom. We used the snubbers as usual but because of the odd angle of the chain they did not work all the time so we tied on extra ropes to the chain on deck to take the strain off the windlass but by next morning they had broken and the snubbers had come undone and the chain which was taking the  load was pulling out and had nearly got to  the end. We immediately used the motor to take the strain while we pulled the chain in a few meters but the anchor buddy was stuck on the rocky ground pulling the bow down as the tide rose and the boat bounced in the not insignificant swell. It had obviously dropped to the bottom as the tide ebbed so not a good idea for tidal water anchoring. We got the Buddy off and some chain in, retied the snubbers then John had the great idea of using the anchor hook to take the strain when the snubbers were not. This had lain in the locker unused for several years but its moment had arrived and it really worked very well. The wind increased again accompanied by very unpleasant bullets at regular intervals during  the afternoons. One we think reached 60 knots and was enough to snap one of the snubbers. It was all a very uncomfortable experience and one we could do little to improve it. We contemplated moving but as we had no idea about the other anchorages nearby so we decided to stay at South Percy until the weather improved despite the chain grinding sickeningly and the regular bullets. We finally left on Sunday 27th May with great relief especially when the anchor came up without any problem and we were delighted to see South Percy fade into the distance and the past. Much to our surprise we found the thick metal of the anchor hook had bent under the strain of the three days of such strong winds!

Anchorage at south Percy island- looked very calm initially.

Broken snubber- obviously under some force.

We sailed a short way to Curlew island which has flat water and a sandy bottom and a very pretty anchorage behind a sand bar all of which we really appreciated after the last few days.

Large typical rock en route to Curlew island

We set off the next day after a quite night and our next stop was Scawfell Island and oh joy another protected anchorage with flat water although there was some wind. We arrived here at low tide which was lucky as there is a large  irregular fringing reef and some  rather unpleasant coral heads which would not be visible at high tide and another welcome peaceful night.

Alarming drying rock in Scawfell bay

And reefs appearing at low tide.

Looks good with nothing visible at high tide.

We have continued to use the snubbers and the hook for anchoring as the strong tides and wind do make the boat swing in a curious way at anchor . We left Scawfell on Tuesday 29th May and had a pleasant sail under jib alone as the South East trades are in full swing now so at least 25 knots every day and we are always downwind so the new jib is getting well used and at least we feel the purchase was justified . We reached the Whitsunday islands today and anchored off Shaw island in the company of three other boats but again it was a beautiful anchorage and sheltered. We needed to arrive in the Port Airlie Marina by morning and the tide would be against us so we decided to sail overnight to get the tide with us and luckily it was full moon and a clear calm night. We left at 00.30 and had a magical sail in flat water with at least a two knot lift from the tide arriving in the anchorage outside Airlie beach just as the tide turned. We could  see all the island and navigation lights clearly but of course al the electronic navigation aids take a lot of the guess work out of any journey now. We slept for a few more hours at dawn and then checked into Port Airlie marina.

Approaching Whitsunday islands

Cute small bird welcome to Airlie Beach.

 

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