Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Anchorages... San Blas, Panama. January 2010

This anchorage was worth the 5 hour wait until sunrise. Navigating the approaches to anchorages in the low lying San Blas islands with unreliable charts and coral reefs demands good light. Coco Bandero was our first San Blas anchorage after our 1,000 mile passage across the Caribbean Sea.

*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Brisbane, QLD

We are docked at Dockside Marina , in the heart of the city of Brisbane.  Queensland, beautiful one day, perfect the next - so the Tourism ads used to go!

Starting the process of settling back into Australian life.  It was an interesting passage from Vanuatu.  The weather had something for everyone, from mill pond conditions to gale force and back again.  Still, we made it in 8 days, safe and sound.

Checking in is a story in itself, for another time, but all went well in the end and we have to report that the officials were far more human than the reputation that preceeds them (among the cruising community).

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Close to Home

It's 4.30am Saturday and we're only about 145 miles from Brisbane, ETA Sunday afternoon.
I'm finishing my watch and thinking, close to home, just one more night on passage. Two years of cruising coming to a close. Feeling excited, tired, and maybe on the verge of getting emotional. Better get some sleep now.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Nasty Conditions, A Positive Note.

Jimmy Cornell describes the passage from Vanuatu to Brisbane as either slow or rough. We must be lucky, we got both.
Closely following weather forecasts for weeks, it looks like this week will be a good week to sail to Australia. The past week of heavy seas and strong winds is behind us. The forecasts look good, so we'll head off with a group of boats participating in the Port 2 Port Rally to Bundaberg. The Rally has no official start date but expects participants to arrive in Bundaberg during the last week of October. We'll continue on to check-in in Brisbane.
Bristol Rose set sail from Port Vila Saturday morning and for that first day we made good time, sailing at six knots. Conditions were ideal, we felt good about our decision to leave when we did. We're in regular radio contact with the others, Onda, Zenitude and The Road.
By midnight the forecast light air forced us to use the motor. And the motor continued to push us slowly onward for the next three days through a heat haze and mill pond waters, sails empty of air. Elliot caught a big Wahoo, almost five feet long.
The wind was predicted to pick up to 15 knots after we cleared the Grand Passage north of New Caledonia. By 1600 hrs of day 4 we were sailing nicely and by 2200 hrs we had 27 knt winds and needed to reef sails. During the next 36 hrs the winds picked up to 30 knots, 40 knots at times, with very rough 4 meter seas. Waves crashed into the cockpit as the wind roared and the waves belted us on the beam, a potentially dangerous situation. For three days waves have rolled over the decks of a heavily reefed Bristol Rose. She is literally covered in salt crystals but despite a level of discomfort for the crew, she has performed exceptionally well.
While facing this awful weather we are all somewhat dismayed that the forcasts we're getting don't jibe with our reality. That's ocean sailing, you can never be sure of what you'll get.
Today, Thursday, as we near latitude 22 south and longitude 156 east, with about 350 miles to go to Brisbane, the winds have dropped to 15 kts and the seas are starting to abate. Now the Coral Sea weather forecasts are predicting rough conditions in the areas we are now leaving behind us. At last we can think about preparing a real meal and look forward to the prospect of some restful sleep. We'd love to finish this, the final passage on our path home, on a positive note. The GRIB files and forecasters are predicting the path in front of us to be much better, fingers crossed.
On a really exciting, positive note, we've just received an email advising us that Miss Daisie has arrived in Sydney today. She will spend the next 30 days in quarantine. While we have been cruising the Pacific, Miss Daisie has run the gantlet of airline and cargo, Australian Customs and Immigration, USDA and Veterinary rules and regulations required to leave the US and enter Australia. The process exceeded our wildest expectations of effort involved but she has made it, many thanks to our friends in California and Maryland.
We expect to arrive in Brisbane on Sunday night. Fingers firmly crossed.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Anchorages... Chapera, Las Perlas, Panama. February 2010

Bristol Rose, perched in a tree at Chapera.

*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Vanuatu to Brisbane, What's This Stuff?

Position 18 06.933S 166 07.554E
Day 2 of our passage from Vanuatu to Brisbane.
Wind dropped last night around midnight. We have been motoring since. Weather forecast is for light winds for the next 36 hours. The sun is shining, we have moon light at night, full moon is Saturday, and calm seas. The winds are forecast to pick up in a couple of days.
We are traveling with Onda, The Road, Zenitude and Meander. We are checking in with the Port 2 Port Rally net on 8161 mhz at 0615 and 1815 EST. The Rally boats are going to Bundaberg but we will peel off and make landfall in Brisbane.
Today's highlight - discolored water as far as the eye can see. We are not sure what we are seeing. We are sailing northeast of New Caledonia, 120 miles away from the nearest land, in 4000 meters of water. Could the very small floating/suspended particles be coral bloom, discharge from a ship's tanks, evidence of an underwater volcano? If you have any ideas, let us know. We have no clue.
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Saturday, 16 October 2010

Mt. Yasur Volcano

A John Frum village at the foot of the Mt. Yasur volcano
Visiting the small island of Tanna in Vanuatu was for us, one of the most amazing experiences of the past 2 years of cruising.  We anchored in Port Resolution (named after Captain Cook's ship).  When he visited he was not permitted to go up to the volcano.  We took a sunset tour in the back of a truck - that's how everyone gets around.

Bislama is the national language but perfect English is also spoken by many in the villages.  Village life looks much the same as it always has, with no hint of the modern day except for an occasional red "digicel top up" sign.

Climbing the rim

Where there's smoke...

there's an explosion

Sunset on the rim, making the climb to the top of the crater

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Vanuatu Update, Wifi Frustration

So what's new?  We're loving Vanuatu but hating paying over $2 per MB for wifi, and still not able to upload photos!  All that aside.......

Please try to imagine this beautiful country, active volcanos, crystal clear water, the beautiful smiles on the faces of people in the street.

We'll be on our way on Saturday, weather permitting.  Looks like we might have a reasonable weather window to get to Australia.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Anchorages... Chapera, Las Perlas, Panama. February 2010

Chapera is one of the islands where TV series, Survivor Panama, was filmed. The anchorage is between Chapera and Mogo Mogo. We survived this beautiful anchorage just fine.

*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Anchorages... Isla del Rey, Las Perlas, Panama. February 2010

We spent a week in Las Perlas in February and were taken with the beauty of all of the islands in the group. The image is of another "moody" black sand beach on the eastern side of Isla del Rey.

*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Tail With A Sting

Convergence Zone Squall
Squalls are the scariest of sailing experiences.  For the most part they are relatively harmless but, then there is always that nasty one with unpredictable winds.