December 2016 blogs



Day 3,469 - Manly (27° 27.2S 153° 11.4E)
16:20hrs - November 28th 2016
Too Easy

It feels like we've been here a month already, but it was just last week that we sailed in to Australian waters, ending our 841 nautical mile journey from New Caledonia. We averaged seven knots of speed over ground, on a single tack, on what was our fasted passage on Dream Time. We didn't run the engine once to increase our speed, or the generator to charge our batteries. The wind, which blew an average of twenty-three knots, along with the sun, were enough to keep our batteries fully charged while powering our autopilot RAM, the fridge/freezer, the chartplotter, sailing instruments, VHF radio, MOB LifeTags, water pump, cabin lights, navigational lights and iPads.

For five days we were in harmony with the conditions. Sure, at times it was a little sporty, especially when the wind increased to over thirty knots and the seas grew to twelve feet, but it was a sleigh ride, we were safe, sailing in the right direction, and Dream Time's loved every second of it, carving an impressive wake, all foam and bubbles, from the South Pacific right across the Coral Sea.

Australia has a reputation, especially within the cruising community, for being a difficult and expensive country to visit on a yacht. Stories from disgruntled officials, unreasonable fees, fines, mandatory boat fumigation and hull cleaning swamp boating discussion boards, and while once upon a time that may (or may not) have been true, our clearance in Brisbane was as simple and hassle-free as arriving in Opua. In fact, in many ways, sailing to the Land of Oz is a heck of a lot easier than New Zealand, a country we've sailed in and out of six times during our South Pacific tour.

Now we love New Zealand, its people and country are truly enchanting, but the reality of arriving there on a small yacht is less than inviting and could be compared to trying to land a small plane on a distant aircraft carrier, in big seas, with low visibility, during a gale, and yes - you're running low on fuel. It's a passage where the wind often blows quite hard right on the nose, cold wind, too, and the LZ (landing zone) - the northern end of a relatively small island almost a thousand miles south, offers few options to the wearied mariner. Sailing to Opua, or even changing your course for Whangaraei, Auckland or Wellington sadly will do little to improve your approach.

By comparison, sailing from the tropics over to Australia is like landing a plane on a raft-up of aircraft carriers that span the horizon. We chose landfall in the middle, at Brisbane, but ultimately if conditions became unfavorable we had, conservatively, over six hundred nautical miles of downwind coastline in which to make landfall.

The clearing-in procedure was easy, too. Customs was free and if it wasn't for the banter, jokes and storytelling, would have been completed in fifteen minutes, and the quarantine check, which cost A$330, took just an hour to collect our restricted items (fruit, veggies, uncooked meats etc.) and to inspect Dream Time for creepy crawlies, specifically termites (he didn't find any). Shells, wood carvings, whale bones, tapa, all manner of souvenirs we've collected over nine years of cruising were 'no worries'.

We're in Manly now, a boat basin just a few miles south of the Brisbane River where every conceivable yachting service and provisions lay within a thirty minute radius. In under a week we've accomplished more here than a year in New Caledonia. And as it's been almost three years since we last painted our bottom, next week we're scheduled to haul-out and slap on some fresh anti-fouling at The Boat Works Marina - too easy!






Quick Fix: 27° 26.6 S / 153° 06.3 E
November 22nd, 2016 (day 3,463)
Conditions:  Wind: 20/SE Sky: Clear

"These Two Are A Little Shifty"
They requested that we not reveal their identities as it could compromise their 'serious undercover operations'. The Australian Border Force hailed us on VHF 16 yesterday and instructed us to dock at the quarantine wharf at Brisbane's Rivergate Marina. Sporting a renegade handlebar mustache and a goatee, Ken and Scottie boarded Dream Time looking more like outlaws from a Harley Davidson gang rather than official government representatives, and in between stamping our papers shared jokes about Trump, trips to Vegas and whinging foreigners in a dry, casual manner that is distinctly Australian. It was the most entertaining clearance we've ever had. Their final words were a warning to the waiting quarantine officer: 'Watch out, mate, these two are a little shifty!' - Priceless.


November 21st, 2016   |  Jellyfish anyone?


Quick Fix: 23° 47.5 S / 158° 33.2 E
November 19th, 2016 (day 3,460)
Conditions:  Wind: 25-31/SE Sky: Clear

Record Breaker!
Dream Time is charging towards Australia at a determined 7 knots, excited to arrive, almost as though she knows it's where her voyage, or at least the idea of her voyage, was conceived back in 1994. If these conditions continue we will raise Brisbane in under 5 days on what will be our fastest passage ever. A lively 20 - 30 knots of southeast tradewinds are carrying us west and today, accompanied by twelve foot swell, we're regularly surfing at double digits. Skies remain clear and with both wind and sun Dream Time's batteries are fully charged. Conditions are a little sporty so we have one reef in the main and 8 turns in the headsail. The Coral Sea is ahead and this may very well be our last passage in the South Pacific, what an epic sendoff.



November 17th, 2016   |  Yep, we're sailing to Australia! We've officially left the South Pacific and are now in the Coral Sea.


Quick Fix: 22° 16.6 S / 166° 26.4 E
November 11th, 2016 (day 3,452)
Conditions:  Wind: 18/SE Sky: Clear

Shell Shock
Today I witnessed a National Geographic moment! A shark was spotted thrashing around on the reef so I raced over in the dinghy to drift alongside, right alongside, a ten foot tiger shark. The shark had entered a marine sanctuary - a lagoon popular with kite surfers and turtles - to feed, and was wiggling its way in just a few feet of water back towards the drop-off. Kite surfers had temporarily stopped playing and gathered on the beach, kites still in sky, to wait out the scenario (it's a little disturbing to kite over a tiger shark!) but the shark had come to feast not on surfers, thankfully, but on turtles, with success, as it was carrying one in its mouth. I understand the natural order of things, and according to Google, at least. turtles make tasty shark snacks, but it's still a little shocking to witness firsthand.


November 9th, 2016   |  We haven't left, but the climate has suddenly changed. Conditions are both disturbing & unpredictable. Not sure where we go from here.


Quick Fix: 22° 16.6 S / 166° 26.4 E
November 8th, 2016 (day 3,449)
Conditions:  Wind: 23/SSE Sky: Clear

A World Record
Twenty-two years ago this Australian boomerang began its flight around the world. It sailed out of Sydney Harbour in 1994 and travelled west across the Indian Ocean, up the Red Sea and over to Italy. It flew over the Atlantic, arriving in Florida before swinging up the coast to New York. Later, in 2000, it took a quick detour east to Bermuda before returning to New York, and made the same journey all over again in 2003. After circling the Long Island Sound for seven years it continued its flight down to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and caught the tradewinds across the South Pacific. Since it began its epic world loop it's travelled at least sixty thousand miles, and very soon, hopefully in a week or two, it will return home. Not bad for a $20 souvenir.


Quick Fix: 22° 19.9 S / 166° 24.3 E
November 4th, 2016 (day 3,445)
Conditions:  Wind: 8/W Sky: Partly Clear

Well, Hello Gorgeous!
Our new transmission was delivered this week by two men driving an unmarked panel van, who, even though their job requires them to move heavy air freight around all day, only had a homemade plywood cart - that was missing a wheel. We wrestled the box, which weighed over 150 lbs and wanted to go in any direction other than straight ahead, in a three man scrimmage from the street, down the marina ramp and safety to our berth. It took another four hours of knuckle-scraping effort to negotiate it into the engine room but we are happy to report that unlike our old unit, which developed troubling quirks after being reassembled, this one is performing perfectly. To the casual observer it may not look like much, in fact it looks exactly like the old one, but to us, at least, she's a beautiful thing!



Day 3,443 - Noumea (22° 19.9S 166° 24.3E)
12:54hrs - November 2nd 2016
A Bonus Vacation

We are absolutely definitely positively going to sail to Australia, it's going to happen. Eventually. But it does feels like we've been saying this for years, and never actually doing it so it feels quite natural to be delaying this particular Australian gratification just one more time. 

We were actually planing to have been in Australia by now, by mid October even so we could take our usual slow coach time sailing down the east coast to Sydney, but uncooperative weather patterns and a transmission problem means we get bonus time in New Caledonia instead. So rather than being frustrated by the various hurdles we have met on this particular path we are enjoying a bonus vacation.

As previously mentioned we are currently waiting for a shiny new transmission to make its way to us from the very helpful folks in Seattle WA. But it hasn't exactly gone to plan. The day it was scheduled to ship from the US there was a huge storm in the north west which delayed its initial departure and then when it did get going the tracking website showed, and oddly continues to show conflicting information about where it actually is so when we thought it was here, it was in fact still in Auckland. And now that we're tantalizingly close to an actual delivery date, there is a two day French public holiday on Monday and Tuesday which means that customs officials will be enjoying a relaxing well earned 4 day long holiday weekend. And as a result all incoming air freight including our shiny new transmission will have an extended wait in customs clearance at the airport. On top of that we are at the height of transiting boat season in this part of the pacific, so the marinas here are full of trans pacific and returning NZ and Australian boats all checking in and out of New Caledonia at the same time which makes it tricky to secure a spot to actually do the transmission work. Also given that our boat visa time is fast running out and it's getting close to cyclone season once again you'd think we would be more stressed out, but happily we are just fine.

It could perhaps be that this place actually has the power to put an anxious mind at ease simply by being here and it could also be that 10 years of a sailing life just conditions you to be more accepting of plans that turn upside down. I know that I have gradually learned over time that almost always, everything works out just fine in the end despite all signs pointing to the contrary. So, with that in mind I have complete faith that quite soon the transmission will clear customs, be delivered, installed and work perfectly in time for us to be able to leave for Australia, and in the meantime we get to enjoy some bonus holiday time in this lovely place.

However if plans change, we'll let you know :)