Thursday, July 26, 2007

Passage Journal: Darwin to Kupang

Current Location: Kupang, Indonesia
Current Position: 10 09.49' S 123 34.46' E
Next Destination: Alor, Indonesia

Kupang, Indonesia Anchorage

Darwin to Kupang
Departing Darwin with a group of 100 boats was just a wee-bit crazy! We've never traveled with such a large group before - on average IF we are traveling in a 'group' it tends to be under five! There was an official starting 'line', which, being anchored in the back of the Darwin fleet, we were nearly anchored at! As I (KT) don't much like sailing nearby other boats we hadn't intended to actually start at the 11am go-time, rather we were going to start either a bit early or a bit late (while I didn't want to be in the masses, I did want to see what 100 boats sailing in the same general area looked liked!). I guess we got caught up in the moment and energy of the boats around us, because we ended up crossing over the start line at 11:03am, right smack dab in the middle of all the craziness! I told Chris that the word must've gotten out about me, because I swear a number of boats came right at us! But I managed to keep my cool and didn't even pee my pants (or as Chris likes to say "Shit a twinkie")! Actually it was terribly exciting, and quite an experience to be surrounded by boats, sailing with a fleet of varying shapes and sizes!

That first day felt like a party, boats everywhere on the horizon, and the VHF continuously going off with all the chatter. I'm glad that coming up the coast of Australia we had a chance to use our spinnaker; getting used to hoisting it, bringing it down, and jibing it - as it takes some getting used to and learning while sailing in a large fleet would not have been good! Just before nightfall, Chris and did a horizon count, and we could see at least 86 boats! I had thought we'd be more spread out after the hours of sailing, but duhh a hundred boats aren't going to disperse in just eight hours! As the sunset set and navigation lights came on, it was like a city coming alive over the ocean. Red, green, and white lights twinkling all around us! We were surprised to find how few people run proper navigation lights. Some had their anchor lights on, some ran both mast and deck lights, and nearly NOBODY ran a steaming light (when motoring)! It made it a bit more difficult when boats came near, but everyone seemed to be on good watches, so there were no close calls (for us at least).

With light winds over the night, the fleet spread out quickly (some boats motoring right away, others not at all), so that by the following afternoon we only counted about twenty boats on the horizons.
The first and third days of the trip were the best. Both days we ran our spinnaker and the seas were somewhat flat. On the other days we couldn't sail the spinnaker either because there was too much wind, too little wind with too much swell, or we were trying to slow down in order to time our arrival into Kupang. We had actually started the third day without another boat in site, but after flying with our spinnaker up (we do between 6 to 9 kts with it) we quickly came across (and passed) around five other boats.
We sailed most of our fourth (and last) day without another boat in site - which, after the previous days, felt lonely! As tends to be the case with us, when we try to slow down, the wind picks up! We didn't want to anchor in Kupang at night, so were trying desperately to slow down, sailing with a very reefed jib and no main. Every other night the wind had nearly died, so we didn't think we'd have a problem going slower, but of course the last night, when we wanted to go slow, the wind piped up to 20kts! Oh well!

And of course what's a passage without fishing? This trip, our freezer still full from traveling up the coast of Australia, Chris didn't put a lot of effort into fishing. He did throw a line in on occasion and we snagged three small fish - all of which we threw back; Chris says if he's going to clean a fish it has to be a least two meals worth of meat!

While we would've preferred to enter the channel into Kupang during the day, however a number of boats a head of us reported it wasn't too difficult at night, so we went ahead with a night entrance. We stayed near the center of the channel, thinking that would be the safest bet to avoid buoys and fishing nets. We couldn't believe the number of fishing boats (thankfully all well lit), or the city lights. While we knew over 200, 000 people live in Kupang, we still thought it was going to be a small town, not a lit up city! We managed to avoid all the fishing boats, but some were hard to spot against the lights on shore. We arrived just outside the anchorage an hour before sunrise, so we idled around, keeping watch for fishing vessels, waiting for some light. We were less than a quarter of a mile from the anchorage, but couldn't tell anchor lights from the lights in town!

About half the fleet had arrived the previous day, so finding a spot to anchor wasn't easy, and we aren't very impressed with the anchorage - which is open to the wind and swell. But we ended up in a pretty decent location, and the wind/swell seems to be dying. Our day was spent putting the boat 'away' and waiting for customs. By 4pm we were ready to head ashore.

I love arriving in a new location, especially a new country. The way your senses are immediately overloaded with new sights, sounds, and smells when you step ashore for the first time. It's a lot like being a small child, looking around with eyes wide open, trying to process everything around you, thrilled at the discovery of something new, but yet perhaps a bit timid about how you fit in, or what your role is, in this new environment.

Kupang is a bustle of energy, and the addition of 107 visiting yachts seems to push it over the top! At first glance it reminds us a bit of Mexico, with its street vendors selling everything from cigarettes to jewelry. Like Mexico it also appears to be a bit run down, old, and dirty. Walking the streets are a hazard, between the huge holes (more like cavernous pits) in the sidewalks and endless number of speeding motorbikes, one has to keep a careful eye out when touring the city! But what it lacks in styles it makes up for with its friendly energy. The vendors aren't pushy, easily accepting a no thank you when they approach, and everywhere people smile and say 'halo'. The exchange rate is crazily out of whack, one US dollar equating to over 9,000 rupiah! A large Bintang (local beer) is only 25,000 (about $2.50) and I bought a black pearl bracelet (from the Komodo islands) from a vender for $60,000 Rph  all of $6 US! And while they are the imperfect pearls, they are real! We enjoyed a fantastic dinner out, with drinks and all, at about $13 US per couple! It is so inexpensive we will probably end up getting carried away and over spend!!!

We have barely touched upon Kupang, being ashore for only a few hours. I look forward to our future explorations and discovering what lies beneath first impressions.
Continue reading "Passage Journal: Darwin to Kupang"...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sailing Mooloolaba to Darwin

April 30 - July 20, 2007

It surprises most people when we say "we don't/didn't have time" ... after all, we are on vacation, right!?!?!  Ha!  It is amazing just how busy we can be, especially when covering a lot of miles in a relatively short period of time.  Since leaving Mooloolaba we have been constantly on the move.  As such, we really have been falling behind in our photographs and journals.  For those who enjoy the journals more, or as much as the photographs, we apologize ... in order to help us catch up we have covered our journey from Mooloolaba to Darwin in two photograph journals.  We've added more text then normal to these photograph pages, but mostly you will just have to enjoy the pretty pictures!

May 2007:  Mooloolaba to the Whitsundays

Covering: Great Keppel Island, Middle Percy, Scawfell, Brampton, Whitehaven Beach, Nara Inlet (Hook Island), and CID Harbour (Whitsunday Island)

June 2007:  Whitsundays to Darwin

Covering:  Townsville, Magnetic Island, Cairns, Lizard Island, the sail 'over the top', and Darwin

Continue reading "Sailing Mooloolaba to Darwin"...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Reflections of the Pacific

Current Location: Fanny Bay, Darwin, Australia
Current Position: 12 25.49 S 130 49.08 E
Next Destination: Kupang, Indonesia

The Pacific is the largest ocean in the world. At the equator it measures 11,000 miles from west to east. It covers one-third of the earth’s surface, more area than all the landmasses combined. And scattered throughout are hundreds of islands, of which, even after three years, we barely touched upon.

Our original plan was to cruise in the South Pacific for two years; we liked it so much that we stayed an extra year (and cruised some of the North Pacific). We are always asked what we liked best, or what our worst experiences were. They are not easy questions to answer, the Pacific is just too big, and we experienced so much it’s impossibly hard to pick and choose. But since officially leaving the Pacific on June 28th we got to thinking, and this here BLOG is the result of those thoughts … some of our favorite and less-than-favorite times in the Pacific.

Links to our website, when available, have been provided for those wishing to read more about one event or another.


1,300 days cruising the Pacific (December 3, 2003 – June 28, 2007)
18,350 nautical miles traversed
13 countries visited
182 anchorages
114 nights at sea (62 in year one, 21 in year two, 28 in year three, and 5 in year four)
1,150 hours motoring
12,500+ photographs taken (favorite photo journals Niko Weir)

Longest Passage:
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to Fatu Hiva, Marquesas
2900 miles
23 days and 19 hours

Felt like the longest Passage:
Majuro, Marshall Islands to Savusavu, Fiji
1800 miles (at 45 degrees apparent)
15 days and 12 hours

Most miles covered in 24 hours:
Tonga to Opua, New Zealand
175 miles

Most miles covered in a day sail (daylight hours, 11.5 hours):
Lizard Island to Flinders Island (Australia)
83 miles


Best Landfall: Fatu Hiva, Marquesas

Favorite Village: Naviqiri Village, Fiji
Visit 1 (08-22-2005)
Visit 2 (07-02-2006)

Favorite [local] Character: Papa Joanne (Suwarrow, Northern Cooks)

Best Smiles and Love of Laughter: Kirabati

Favorite Local Expresion: “Where are you going?”

Coolest Local Navigation Techniques:
Shallow water reflection creates green cloud- Kirabati.
Ocean Swell pattern- Marshall Island Stick Charts

Most Protected Cruising: Vava’u, Tonga

Best Selection of Anchorages: Bora Bora, French Society Islands

Best Experiences with Marine Wildlife:
1. Snorkeling with Humpback Whales (Niuatoputapu, Tonga)
2. Snorkeling and Diving with Sharks (Fakarava, Tuamotus)
3. Playing with Dolphins (Onotoa, Kiribati)
4. Snorkeling with Manta Rays (Tahuata, Marquesas)

Best “Raw” Native Experience: Nekowiar Festival (Tanna, Vanuatu)

Extremely Unforgettable: Almost being hit by a Lava Ball (Tanna, Vanuatu)

Funny in Hindsight: Sea Snake in our dinghy (Naviqiri Village, Fiji)

Equator Crossings: Three plus a cool Message in a bottle experiment


Scariest At-Sea Moments:
1. Seven hour intense lightning storm (Majuro to Fiji)
2. Hitting a whale at night, with the spinnaker up (Northern Tonga to Vava’u)

Scariest At-Anchor Moments:
1. 68 kts (Tahiti, French Society Islands)
2. Blow in San Martin, Mexico and watching the loss of Koinonian

Biggest Seas: 15-feet rolling side to side (Tonga to New Zealand)

Roughest Seas: Vanuatu to New Caledonia; with one set of waves breaking over the bow and another set on the beam

Most Confused Seas: Gulf of Carpenteria, Australia

Highest Continuous Winds (at sea): 40+ kts (Tonga to New Zealand in a 1041 Mb High)

Unfortunate Health: Chris with a kidney stone right after big blow in Tahiti
Continue reading "Reflections of the Pacific"...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Over the Top (Finally)

Current Location: Fanny Bay, Darwin, Australia
Current Position: 12 25.49 S 130 49.08 E
Next Destination: Kupang, Indonesia

We left the crazy current riddled Cairns anchorage for a peaceful night out by the Cape, only to be nailed with 30 knots and 1 mile of fetch. Oh well!! We had to get moving, we had three weeks to cover the remaining 1200 miles to Darwin, and the 1000 miles from Bundaberg had already taken us 35 days. We left the next morning with the intention of continuing all the way to Lizard Island. The seas started building mid afternoon so we tucked into Low Islets for a break. After attempting to anchor, and pulling the anchor out at our full anchoring reverse and a 30-knot gust, we decided to grab the free mooring ball. The government scatters them around the islands to protect the Barrier reef and provide more options for the local sailors; they usually are closer to the reef then anyone would dare anchor.

After a rolly night we headed north and pulled into Cape Flattery around 10pm and made it to Lizard Island after a quick morning hop. We had heard good things about Lizard Island, the hiking and snorkeling were supposed to be fantastic; in the right weather. We kept waiting and waiting for the skies to clear but they never did. We did get one patch of blue during our hike to the top of Cooks Lookout. It is so strange to imagine Cook’s navigation through these, then un-charted, reefs in a ship with not much maneuverability or windward capability. We also visited the Marine Research Station. They have been around for a while and get lots of traveling scientists studying the reefs around the area. It was fascinating to learn about the crown of thorns, global warming, and how the fertilizer run off affects the ecosystem. Just a one-degree change can have a dramatic effect of the coral polyps. It's scary to think about the permanent damage we are doing to the planet, and we've seen some if it first hand during our travels.

After a weeks wait, with no end to the crappy weather in sight, we left for our next destination. We left the anchorage around the same time as a Santa Cruz 55 and a Farr 65 -- I think Billabong had a small boat complex because she was flying (it also helped that I had just cleaned the bottom). We were doing 9+ knots until we got rolled sideways by one wave and nailed by the one behind it. KT was on the leeward rail standing in water above her knees and I think the spreaders came close to touching the water. Yikes!! We went the more protected northern route and ducked behind an island to drop the main, it was much more comfortable after that, until we noticed the freighter. It was turning down the channel we were heading through that was only 1/2 mile wide. They called on the radio and asked us to move more to starboard until we were sailing about two boat lengths away from the reef. After that EVERYTHING felt like we had plenty of room. We were making such good time we decided to continue on to Flinders. We arrived 45 minutes behind the big boats and covered 83 miles during the daylight. Not a bad little day sail!!

From this point on we just kept moving. Get up, sail all day, anchor for the night and do it all over again. The weather was still crappy, so we actually took a break from 25+ knot winds for a day in Margaret Bay. We had a KT vs. Chris card tournament and I made some more lures. We had drinks on Tulipanno (the Farr 65) in exchange for some spare oil he needed for his windlass. Turns out they had misplaced the seal when they serviced the windlass and all the oil had leaked out into the motor and left the gearbox dry. Billabong's Hardware to the rescue again. What a nice boat, it had a nice raised deck saloon (a concept I love) but there was so much headroom you couldn't see out the forward windows. Oh well I guess every boat has it problems. We got up early (4am) the next morning planning to sail to Escape River. The sun came out in the afternoon and the wind and seas were perfect, so we decided to keep going and going and going; all the way to Darwin. We had heard some horror stories of the rough seas in the Gulf of Carpenteria from boats ahead of us who saw 45+ knots and 15-foot steep seas. We had a full moon, clear skies and 15-20 knots on the stern quarter. Even with those winds, the seas were ugly. Not a single discernable wave pattern could be found. We got nailed from all directions and the boat never really settled into a nice rhythm across the gulf.

We arrived at Cape Don and anchored for a few hours to wait for the currents across the Van Demien Gulf. At first it didn't look like we would make it to the southern pass at the right time so KT went to bed and I kept us going towards our intended anchorage. The wind shifted to the NE making the bay choppy and our intended anchorage slightly exposed and just as I was about to pull in the current grabbed us, so I kept going. It steadily rose until we had 5 knots of current with us as we shot through the southern pass doing 9.5 knots over ground. It was rather scary because KT usually steers the boat to the GPS track while I stand on the foredeck looking for reefs etc, so I don't have that much experience steering the track. It was also pitch black with only a couple of lights to steer me through. I had picked a shorter route and I knew where the lights were, but I had to steer to port of the light I knew was on the starboard side of the island (it was taking me right towards the island). The current was so strong we were skidding out the pass slightly sideways. It would have been much wiser to pass through during the daylight hours. After I cleared the reefs I went down to wake up KT and let her know we were close to the anchorage ... in Darwin. Needless to say she was excited and we woke to our first sunrise over the Indian Ocean. We anchored way off the beach to account for the 20+ foot tides of Darwin and settled into getting prepared for the upcoming rally. It took us about a week to realize why everyone was always late. Darwin is half an hour behind! D’ouh!!!

We made it to Darwin with a couple of weeks to spare. You don't realize how big of a country Australia is until you have to sail part of it. The trip from Bundaberg to Darwin was 2200 Miles, took two months and even that felt rushed and that is only about ¼ of the circumference. Just the trip from Margaret Bay to Darwin was 840 Miles and took a little over six days. In the Pacific we could move from country to country for less miles, and all we got here was a half an hour time change and a new ocean. Although we are excited about the upcoming rally, it feels strange leaving the Pacific after such a long time. It's like we are saying goodbye to an old friend that we've shared a lot of good times with.
Continue reading "Over the Top (Finally)"...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wahoo up the Wazoo

Current Location: Fanny Bay Anchorage, Darwin, Australia
Current Position: 12 25.49 S 130 49.08 E
Next Destination: Kupang Indonesia

Well the curse of the freezer is over, and it's chocka block (full) of fish. After a slow start to the fishing season, we are finally catching fish at will again. In fact, we've never really seen anything quite like it. The wahoo are literally jumping out of the water at our lures. At first I thought it was a fluke. I was coming up the companionway when a huge wahoo leaped through the air right behind the boat, in the perfect spot right between the arch supports, about 7-8 feet in the air. Then the hand-line snubber went tight and I hauled it in, a nice 3.5 footer. Well now that we have the freezer, we can be a little more selective in what we keep and I get to continue fishing.

It started in Lizard Island, you know home of the huge Marlin. We were sitting on the boat when a HUGE school of Trevally came chasing baitfish, slamming into the hull in the process. I got out my surface popper and hooked a nice size one... only to find out that it was a protected fishing area. Australia is trying to preserve areas and has all sorts of categories of fishing restrictions and the boundaries change over time. Some cruising books are out of date so make sure you get the latest info before you wonder why the fishing is "too easy". After our first taste of fish in a while, KT encouraged me to continue fishing by offering fresh made rotis (like tortillas) for fish tacos if I caught us some more. Never being one to shy from a challenge, I immediately got in the dinghy and went around the point to a legal fishing spot. No sooner than I had put in the lure and got up to plane, I had a fish on; and it was a fighter. I use the same 400 lb test hand-lines in the dinghy as I do on Billabong, so I can land some huge fish. It's always exciting to fight a fish mano-a-mano and it is even more exciting to be so low to the water in the dinghy. You usually don't know what you have until right at the end. Well, just as I got this guy close it did a final deep fast dive, tearing the line from my hands. I even got some line burn marks on my hands it was so fast. I finally landed a 2.5 foot Shark Mackerel and almost headed back to claim my fish tacos. I decided I'd take a couple more runs around the point and see what happened. I got a couple of big hits but nothing stuck. Well I've mentioned before that I've always wanted to see a Marlin tail walk, and I finally got my wish. While this wasn't the 1000 plus pound monsters of the deep that frequent Lizard Island (this was a little 2-3 footer juvenile one), it was cool to watch just the same.

I planned our course from Lizard to Cape York at the edge of the shipping channel (to avoid the frequent, huge freighters), and when possible, through the reefs. We got some strange looks from the other yachts as we headed off in a different direction to the same anchorage, but getting amongst the reefs did wonders for our fishing. We kept getting these jumping Wahoo. After throwing back some smaller wahoo and some huge Barracuda with Doberman Picher sized teeth, we finally hooked a 4-foot keeper that had jumped as well. It got so that I could recognize the sound of the fish leaving the water and turn to see it in the air. One time a 5+ footer landed so close to the cockpit (missing the lure) that we both got splashed. I think the record height was 10 feet, and one guy leapt in such a way that the stretch of the snubber pulled the line forward and his height allowed the snubber loop to come off the cleat and it took the whole lot with it. The jumping must have happened 8 or 9 times over the course of a couple of days before KT finally got out the video camera and used a rail mount I made her to film our wake. I guess a filmed wahoo never jumps, as all jumping ceased the minute the camera came out! We froze 7.5 feet of Wahoo, about 25 meals for the both of us, and threw back about twice that much.

Now KT wanted a tuna for sashimi. The problem was that I was already running my lures tweaked for tuna not wahoo. Everything I had read about wahoo said they like to hit fast lures, running deep. Well I was running surface action lures at 4-5 knots and they were loving it, leaping at them. The problem with Wahoo is they kill your lure; the teeth are so sharp they tear the skirt to bits. It got so funny that I would re-skirt a lure, we would guess how long till it caught a fish (20-40 minutes) and I would show KT what was left after the attack; usually just the head of the lure. It got to the point that I would just throw out the ratty lure and they would still hit it. The tuna we finally caught was on a tired lure with only a couple of strands of the skirt left over green glow beads. Oh well.
Sitting in Darwin it is nice to be able to dig into the freezer for a great Wahoo dinner (it freezes well) and I've even started to try and make jerky. The problem is I can't seem to keep any. I "test" its progress usually with nothing making it below decks for more than an hour. We'll keep you posted on our success.
Continue reading "Wahoo up the Wazoo"...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Weather Blues

Current Location: Cape Greenville (Margaret Bay), Australia
Current Position: 11º57.45' S 143º12.38' E
Next Destination: Escape River, AU (en route to Darwin)

Weather. Sometimes I think it should be a four-letter word. I never used to feel that way. Actually, I never really paid much attention one-way or the other. Perhaps that’s because I grew up in Arizona and Southern California – extremely temperate climates. Okay, maybe it gets a wee-bit hot in Arizona, but it’s a dry heat (at least that’s one everyone always says to discount 120 F)!!! Well, let me tell you, there is no dismissing the weather when you are cruising. It seems that we live and breathe it. I honestly can’t recall a single day where we haven’t discussed the weather at least once! It’s crazy how much it affects our lives. The weather determines the “if, when, where”, and sometimes the “why” for us. It determines how long it takes us to get somewhere, and most the time how long we stay at a locale. It also has an extremely strong impact on our opinion of a place. Whenever we get feedback from other cruisers, we have to always ask, “What kind of weather did you have?” It’s amazing how an opinion of the same anchorage/island/port can vary from cruiser to cruiser -- and almost always it’s due to the weather. One group might experience island exploring on sunny days with flat calm nights. Three days later a different group might be in the same spot when the wind picks up, and BAM the anchorage is a rolling nightmare and the rain keeps them from going ashore. Ask, “did you like it” and you’ll get two hugely different takes on the place. It can be frustrating being so dependant on something that we have no control of, and worse, is terribly difficult to accurately predict.

Since cruising it seems that we may have also become a bit wimpy in our tolerance of weather ‘extremes’. We bitch that it’s freezing, donning on our entire fleece wardrobe and digging out the blankets, only to find that the temperature barely dipped below 70 F! Try calling home to the east coast family and complaining about the cold weather when they are buried under 10 feet of snow – you don’t get much sympathy! In our defense, you should know that in Darwin the crocodiles are starving because it’s to ‘cold’ for them to digest their food (now go to and see just how un-cold it is in Darwin). My favorite thing to point out when complaining about the cold is that we are supposed to be in the tropics, however that doesn’t stop me from whining when the weather turns hot! Then we find ourselves lethargically lying in the cockpit, unable to function for fear of melting (and the temperature no where near the west coast family’s 120F). Oh, and don’t even get me started on rain. So okay, perhaps it’s a bit true that we have become wimpish with the respect to the weather. But I don’t think we are as bad as it might sound. As I continuously point out to Chris, we are exposed to the elements. It’s not like living in a house or driving around in a car. We can’t just turn on the heat or air and wait a few minutes. There is no reprieve. Rain doesn’t make for a cozy day reading a book, it makes for a wet, soggy cockpit (and sometimes severe cases of cabin-fever), and god-forbid you have to actually be sailing while it’s raining … how fun do you think it is to sit watch soaking wet?

Since Great Kepple Island (back around May 7th), the weather has dominated our lives more so than normal. In those seven weeks, I honestly think we’ve had less than twelve sunny days (and that’s counting the partly sunny one’s as well). Our tans are fading under the thick layer of clouds that seem to continuously move overhead. The last two weeks (at least) have been wet, sometimes pouring down, sometimes thick layers of mist, both of which ruin visibility. It’s gotten so bad, that if either us sees even the tiniest patch of blue, we start jumping up and down, screaming, “Blue, Blue, Blue”! The wind taunts us by dying one day and blowing 20-30 kts the next (although truth be told, we’ve had more windy days than not). One day we covered 83 nautical miles, averaging over 7kts (boat speed), while the next we barely made 50 n.m., averaging 5.1kts, just making the anchorage by sunset. It’s frustrating, and sometimes depressing, but, as Chris pointed out to me the other day, it could be worse -- we could be working!!!

UPDATE: We actually wrote the above BLOG on June 27th, but for one reason or another we didn’t get around to posting it until today (July 5th). As we want to keep the BLOGs “in the moment”, we didn’t want to re-write or change the above … instead here is a brief update. Since the 27th, we have traveled around the top of Australia and are now in Darwin, having arrived July 4th. Amazingly enough we’ve had at least a bit (and sometimes a full sky) of sun during those 7 days! We are thrilled (and of course happy). The wind was still been fluky (shifting and varying in strength), turning our usual lazy day sails into “work”, albeit this type of work has a terrific pay off! Funny though, yesterday as we were walking about, Chris said to me, “Damn it’s hot here”!
Continue reading "Weather Blues"...