Thursday, 13 October 2011

The End Is Nigh..

As with any great adventure there is a beginning and an end...

Last Friday an early start from Coffs Harbour had us sailing with the intention of heading straight through to our home port of Lake Macquarie.  There was a forecasted Southerly due in the early evening of Saturday.

The Friday was one of those days that is so awesome that you never want them to end.  A consistent 15 knot breeze from behind (North/North West) that had the Pod sailing along at a consistent 7-8 knots.  The breeze built a little in the late afternoon to 22 knots from behind which had the Pod sitting comfortably at 10 knots - not bad for a 12.5 tonne old girl!  We reefed the main on sunset to ensure we didn't spill our cups of is all about priorities for the crew now.

During the day and as Suellen promised there was a zillion whales and their accompanying pods of dolphins.  The most flipper 'smashes' we counted by any given whale was 19 in a row - it had us laughing and feeling good to be alive.  I can't describe how seeing these big guys jumping out of the water up close makes you feel.

After a great night sail, the breeze died completely and 6am'sh found us at the heads of Port Stephens.  Being a bit weary and not wanting to fight a southerly we berthed at the Dalbora marina by early morning. 
Although the plan is to sail to Broughton Island this weekend the chances are looking slim so it maybe home again, home again...although I have been working on some lino printing for some table ware so wherever I am this is what I will be doing!

Hope you had a great week and that the long weekend is safe whatever you are doing

Friday, 16 September 2011

Yep It Really Was That Big!

It was a cracking good day.
The sun was shining.
The wind was blowing a nice 15 knots from behind.
The fishing rods were trolling.
I was steering.
The captain was reheating some vege rice for lunch

I hear a tick, tick, tick and then ZZZZZZZZ....

Call goes out - Captain your fishing rod is doing something.

Captain comes racing out (leaves the water boiling!)
I get ordered to take photos (whilst steering!) and the captain manhandles this 12-15kg Northern Blue Fin Tuna beast aboard (or a long tail Tuna as it is known in this here parts)

I say beast because the second mate who really is not rattled or concerned with anything aboard, (as witnessed by a 55 knot squall that went through at anchor the other day at Tin Can Bay and she didn't even raise her head) lazily gets up to check out what the action is aboard the back deck with this thing 'Dad' is manhandling...

All is going well whilst second mate is checking out the action, and then the 'beast or sea dog as we have come to call it' - comes alive and starts flipping all over the deck - well the second mate is like the old scooby doo cartoon - legs are flailing and desperately trying to get traction on the deck to escape this Sea Dog - her face says it all 'mum get me out of here this sea dog is alive and coming to get me'

Forget the fish it was truely the funniest thing we have seen in ages!  The fish (not the dog!) really made great sashimi though with friends last night

Anyway here is a little of what I have been up toooo aboard the boat

Have a terrific day..

Saturday, 10 September 2011

People Watching

Marinas are an interesting thing - They are a terrific opportunity for people (and boat) observing.  

If I strike up a conversation with a person I find out all kinds of things about them and their boat - likes, dislikes, where they have been, what they plan next, their boat draft (very important topic up here), where things are in the community etc.  If I don't get to meet the boat owner, I create my own 'ideas' on what they might be doing and why. 

The marina often also reflects the local community - wealth of the surrounding community (aka Manly), number of live aboards in the marina, age of the population (Hervey Bay) etc.  Hervey Bay marina has been by far the friendliest bunch of people.

Here are a few of my observations from Hervey Bay

There are alot of people importing and then sailing yachts over from the US - I have found atleast three in our travels.

This is the boat of John and his wife (located next to Escape Pod) who are live aboards.  They sailed to Tasmania a few years ago, had engine problems and stayed 2 years!  They came back to Hervey Bay, their son grew up (he is now on a Navy Patrol boat in the NT) and they are planning to leave in December to live in Tassie (they purchased two acres as well).  They also have the same headsail cars on their boat as ours

I didn't meet this owner - I think he is either a drug dealer, owns the local ICE factory or was a fan of Vanilla Ice aka Ice, Ice Baby Fame!

I spent about an hour one cold night talking to this owner on my way back from the showers, I didn't even get his name - so lets call him Bob!  Bob and his wife use to own a catamaran but a few years ago purchased this boat from Florida as 'they were getting to old'.  They spent sometime sailing in the US before shipping the boat back to Australia.  They now live aboard at the marina and travel up and down the coast when they feel like it.

This boat also travels up and down the coast - it is the neatest boat on the marina I think

There is also the nice man who washes his clothes on the wharf next to his boat using a magic wash portable washing machine which he purchased for a bargain price of $39 - he liked to chat with me and Charlotte as I did our washing.  Nope didn't find out his name either!

I also met - the gummy shark man at the fuel wharf.  This nice man doesnt have any front teeth but was looking forward to his meat pies as he just returned last night from 5 weeks at sea on a fishing trawler (he tells me the weather was shocking the whole 5 weeks - I told him I purchased some of his prawns today from the fish co-op).  I didnt think it was appropriate to get a photo 

I havent just been observing people - long walks and some flowers caught my eye.

And I thought these hire bikes were as cute as a button..

Escape Pods bits are now fixed and we are down the Sandy Straights

Hope you can take the time to stop and smell the flowers tooo.


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Dont Trust the Weather Man!

The Captain and I, in consultation with the second mate, decided to break up our sadness, by travelling from Moreton Bay to Hervey Bay (destination Urangan which is behind the Northern Tip of Fraser Island - approximately 180 miles away). 

We checked the forecast (about 20 times) - definitely says 10-15 knots Thursday, Friday the same but building to 15-20 knots in the evening.  Calculations on distance - should arrive between 3-5pm (Friday afternoon) if we go via Break Sea Spit - passing the very dodgy Wide Bay Bar at the Southern end of the Sandy Straights around 5am (Friday morning), which is the only other option to get to this area.
Okay all looks good - blast off Thursday morning at 10:00 am in calm conditions - a little bit of motoring ahead.  Finally, sailing along having a lovely day with heaps of whales, massive pods of dolphins and bird life everywhere.  Arrive at Wide Bay Bar around 5am Friday Morning after a dark and cold night at sea - still looking good though and on schedule.

Wind still settled in at 12-15 knots but seas beginning to get a little messy.  All okay though but we do start to drop a little speed due to the seas as there was no corresponding increase in wind strength.  Next weather report changes - building to 20-25 knots and now a 'strong wind warning' is issued, forecasting 25-30 knots by evening and tomorrow but its now to late to turn around and enter through the Wide bay Bar.  Okay batten down the hatches for the last few hours maybe?

Then the wind starts to build early afternoon - seas start to build (luckily they are from behind - we tend not to notice them as much), we are well behind on our scheduled arrival and the wind is already 20 knots.  Okay this is not cocktail hour but we are still fine with this...down to two reefs in the main and a partly furled headsail - which has already broken its feeder arm. 

Pod travelling well, crew a bit tired (after a long night at sea - will Fraser island ever end?) but okay.  Not looking forward to the area known as Break Sea Spit as it is long, disheartening and night is falling and it has a bit of a 'reputation'.  Shouldn't we be there by now?

So we finally get to the mark indicating the end of the Break Sea Spit (the sea is like a bubbling cauldren)literally as the sun sets, as murphys law states, the wind comes hammering through - the seas build even more (this area is known for this type of thing as the tide of Hervey Bay meets the very deep water off the Break Sea Spit (where the continental shelf comes very close to land) - which according to the Captain has all kind of big ooogglies living there....was this meant to make me feel better or just that he was trying to pretend he was fishing instead of battling the wind?) - and wouldn't you know it as we are gybing to round the mark the engine dies!

Holy Moly - I am steering in 30-35 knot consistent gusts, pitch black darkness whilst the Captain is troubshooting - the Captain is dipping tanks (we feared we ran out of fuel for some reason), then changing a fuel filter (because that looked like the possible reason - which involves priming stuff with diesel) whilst the 'Pod is getting hammered. 

Holding on to the wheel I could barely keep my feet so imagine the Captain being beaten up downstairs in the bilge, elbow deep in diesel and filters? - there was stuff everywhere!

So I start singing to myself - "show me the way to go home, I am tired and I want to go to bed"....(pick that movie theme?)

We sail beating through these conditions (having to head upwind now) right through the night (hand steering all of the way) and still can't get the engine working (we now think there is a fuel line blockage).  We change sail combinations to balance monouverability with speed, with pushing the boat too hard, with sheer exhaustion. 

Then the furler chucks it in under extreme pressure, detatching completely from the headstay, we are unable to maintain halyard tension and drive the boat up wind efficiently, the headsail car then decides to break free, sheering its retention pin - we are both absoulutely stuffed, having not even eaten since mid afternoon yesterday, but have no option but to battle on to find the lee of Fraser Island and hide from the wind - whilst Charlotte, of course just snuggles in (until this morning when she decided she needed to go to the toilet - what must people think? I am desperately trying to balance, hold on with one hand, whilst I am holding on to her life jacket whilst she is gamely trying to squat on the back deck! - eventually she decides to go with the captain holding her on the back deck as we proceed upwind in 26 - 28 knots, they both end up with piddle all over them! - thank goodness for the Mustos).

Finally the sun rises - the local Hervey Bay VMR comes back on deck.  We giggle with delirium when the first weather report of the morning says no strong wind warning for Hervey Bay but 25 knots late morning and the VMR radio operator says dryily but those conditions have already arrived actually.  We run our sched and say - VMR "....hey if we sail up to the leads for the channel can you come and get us? (there is no way in these conditions we could sail up the channel (without an engine) as it is very shallow and narrow in some spots and the seas are wild at this point.  VMR reply, how will we know which boat is yours, we reply....."we are the 'other' boat out here..."

VMR bless their hearts come and tow us in the last few KM's - so what happens?  The wind which had been blowing a consistent 25 knots the last 6 hours in the Bay ramps up to 30-33 knots whilst we are under we all get hammered!  Even one of the volunteers of 7 years got a bit green. 

I was steering the "Pod" in their wake under tow but at times couldn't see the tow boat 50 meteres in front due to the waves crashing over us.

But as all of lifes great adventures do, everything is fine now that we have arrived in port and the Captain has spent 2 hours clearing lines in the calm of a marina - as I type this it is still blowing a steady 25 knots but I am now eating chocolate and drinking tea saying 'who would be crazy enough to be out there in these conditions'

Hope your day is sunny with just a little bit of breeze...


PS I would like to confirm for my good friend Mrs D - yes we did wear our life jackets and harnesses, yes we did have our personal epirbs on but no I can't supply a rescue plan - got to leave something in the lap of the gods you know!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

It Is Better to Have Loved...

I wrote the previous post but had not published, prior to recent events with Billy which is why these posts are close together.  The pack had been taking it easy, taking day trips only, staying close to ports as our first mates health was starting to fade - the days were about hanging together and enjoying the moment.

Our big guy was farwelled at Manly Qld, 9 days prior to his 12th Birthday. 

I thought I would share a few of my favourite memories
I still remember how he came into our life by chance.  How when I picked him up for the first time at 6 weeks old, he snuggled my neck.  I was under the paw from that moment on.

I remember the Captains face when he saw Billy for the first time and 'oh my goodness, arent you gorgeous' were his words - they have been hanging down in the 'boys' shed together ever since

I remember when Billy dog got shirty with the captain and I for leaving him to go to a friends house for a BBQ - when we returned slightly tipsy after midnight the keys that we left in an upturned planter pot were not to be found in the same upturned planter pot. 
We still laugh how we were on our hands and knees saying 'where are the keys Billy, find the keys'.  How he scratched in the garden bed in various places as if to say oops...not there suckers.  We still cant work out how he got the keys out without turning over the pot - he did finally give the keys location up though

I remember the Captain, Billy and I running and hiding from the ranger at Glenrock.  We were hiding under a fallen tree and Billy kept putting his head up and giving away the location.  Crazy dog!

I remember how he would raise his head up, even though he kept snoring, everytime we moved around him on the boat.  He hated to miss out on anything.

I remember watching Billy, Charlotte and the captain zooming around the bay, in the dinghy - Billys head in the wind, loving it - like the car but better

I remember that it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved him at all.  We miss him heaps. 

We have now journed up till Harvey Bay....But that trip is a whole new post tomorrow


PS This photo is of the first mate chilling out in his preferred method on the boat.  Notice how much room he use to leave the second mate?

Soooo Busy!

Well life is moving along here.
There has been a little of this

A little of that....(for the record these are the captains wholemeal and not his dark beer scones)
Many walks in the rain with the pups, time spent chatting to strangers in the laundry, time spent chatting to strangers in the toilets/showers, reading and snoozing (not just first and second mate doing the snoozing here either)

Then the sun came out and the wind died to 10-15 knots which prompted an overnighter to the sunny Gold Coast where there is sooo many boats. Then 'that' decision to take the backway to Moreton Bay through the canals and waterways - well because it 'could be interesting' and that it was.

We got stuck high and dry once when we ran out of water depth - a passing stink boat was kind enough to pull us off. We literally missed the edge of the channel and deeper water by 3 feet. We did however make it to our overnight stay at Jacobs Well under our own steam, then we watched the water beneath the keel go down, way down!

All good though and the next day (with a bit of stressing and good navigating by Me - the captain is laughing at this the stressing was all mine he tells me!) we made it out to Moreton Bay - Peel Island. We have spent a lovely night here and will head off to Tangalooma maybe tomorrow whether and Billy dependant.

Apologies for so few photos on this post but a high five to Suellen who got a second place in a photo competition in the yachties bible the cruising helmsman - well done!

PS This past was written on the 30th

Saturday, 20 August 2011

It's Not All Beer & Skittles!

Cruising on a boat is one of the few things in life where it is almost as much about the journey as the destination. I have always been okay with that - I enjoy the offshore sailing, particularly night sailing when the boat finds a groove and its just you/crew and the sea.

So it was a surprise to me (and to the captain!) that just before sunset (6 hrs into a 29 hr leg) I started crying- I am talking sobbing here. A combination of exhaustion (work and leaving preparations), anxiety about first mates health prior to leaving and anxiety about how the dogs were coping with their first big offshore sail was the catalyst (just to clarify whilst I was crying they were snugled in asleep in the cockpit!). Then of course a quick anxiety vomit really just topped it off...

So we kept sailing in a 15-20knt westerly, with no moon, only our trusty compass to steer with, a gps picture as our guide and me still feeling out of sorts. Then around midnight an amazing thing happened - the moon rose bright and clear from the ink blank horizon and I knew all was once again perfect in the world. It felt like the sun on your back on a bright, clear spring day and I was once again ready for the journey that is required for any worthwhile destination.

A few days hiding from the south/south east weather pattern in Coffs is after all an opportunity for some sewing or for the Captain to teach me how to crochet.....

Hope the moon was shining bright for you..Nic

PS. This picture is of the weather that still taunts us at Coffs Harbour (taken on the approach to Coffs).

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

I need a vacation

This says it all - Friday was my last day at work for 6 weeks (& my birthday!). We are now heading off on our sailing adventure.

The weekend was spent packing more things than we could possibly need (I am talking something in the order of 10 trolley loads down the marina here). Finally we set sail on a 10am Swansea bridge yesterday with destination Port Stephens in mind.

We have arrived safe & sound-Although I did receive 8 missed messages from from Miss k. The discussion when I called went something like this - Hi Nic, Umm are you okay, I didnt know if I should worry but the marine police called looking for you because you hadn't called in yet (this was at 4pm) & they thought you were missing. Ummm no we are here safe just took 45 minutes longer than we expected so we were late in logging off the coverage with marine rescue....thanks miss K for looking out for us after having to make a number of calls backwards & forwards!

Pups handled it surprisingly well, maybe better than mum & dad who first thing had to unload the dinghy for a 'dog like' explore ashore. So today a rest day before heading to Coffs Harbour weather permitting tomorrow.

Hope you are having a great day whatever you are doing.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Team Escape Pod

I thought for those that don't know me and for my family/friends who have probably forgotton who I am recently it would be a good idea to introduce you to Team Escape Pod. 

So this is me below and here are 3 things you should know about me...
1) I can talk under water 
2) The captain describes me as colourful (he promises that is meant in a postive way)!
3) I am always interested in people - what they think, why they think that way and what interesting things they are doing.  This applies particularly to sailing, sewing, fabric collections, lino printing and makings skirts and bags.
This is the captain below - three things you should know about the captain
1) He is cheeky and thinks he is funny
2) He can cook scones and is my creative guide for sewing
3) He REALLY REALLY loves to fish and takes over the house and boat with his fishing 'stuff'
This is the first mate below - three things you should know about Billy
1) He is old and loves to smooch and cuddle
2) He loves CHICKEN (the only time he forgets his manners!)
3) He thinks he is second in command in the pack heirachy
This is the second mate below - three things you should know about Charlotte
1) She is naughty - She is sometimes naughtier than naughty
2) She makes me laugh out loud atleast once a day
3) She accepts she is last in the pack but tries to hump my leg occasionally to test the ground!
This is our other home - Escape Pod. Three things you should know about the Pod
1) 40ft Joe Adams design
2) Built in steel around 1986
3) The pack loves her!
Be back soon to show you the start of our adventure....