Wednesday, May 26, 2010

No Thursday on Wednesday

We were all set up to leave for Thursday Island when Gipsy Rose, whom we
had met in Margaret Bay, showed up, and warned us that Horn Island and
Thursday Island would require Quarantine visit, probably removal of our
vegetable, fruits and eggs, and could not dismiss the possibility of
having to pay again a fee for the visit.
So, we decided against running into more administrative problems and
change our destination for Gove direct.
Crossing the feared gulf of Carpentaria did not start very well. No wind
and 12 hours of motoring to start with. Fortunately, this was offset by
Olivier catching a large spanish mackerel, which will provide at least
one week of fish for dinner.
This morning, a little bit of wind made itself available, but brought
together with him a beam swell. With the sails wing on wing and the
constant rolling, both sails are flapping continuously and it makes the
experience rather uncomfortable. Hopefully the wind will pick up and the
flapping will diminish. We should reach Gove by Saturday early morning.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Unlikely source for a keyboard

If there is a place where I did not expect to find a keyboard, it would
be Bamaga at the very end of the road to the Cape York Peninsular, in a
small shop selling postcards, hats and bras. But this is where I found
it, and at a very good price too considering its journey from the place
it was manufactured, as I paid less than 50 australian dollars.
But before all that, we anchored in SEISIA (in upper case as the name is
made up of the initials of the six brothers who founded the settlement)
and went ashore to visit. We found a small supermarket, a gas station,
and a camp/resort site with a restaurant, a tourism office and an
internet cafe. Unfortunately, we were told that we had to use their
computer and that they could not provide us with a connection for our
laptops. I do prefer to use my laptop, so that I can keep the mail I
read on my hard drive. Also, my Mac is where I keep all my pictures and
financial transactions, so I would rather wait until we reach Thursday
Island. We also found the plate erected in memory of the crew member who
got eaten by a croc in 1982. A sober reminder not to go swimming.
Having completed our shopping and filled up the jerrican with diesel, we
got back to the boat to store the foodstuff and went straight back
ashore to go and visit the big town, Bamaga, which lies 5 miles away. We
had to hitch a ride as there is no public transportation. In fact, for a
big town, it is hardly bigger than SEISIA, and apart from administration
services, like police, government offices and health care offices, there
is no much than in SEISIA. Just a little bit. To start with, the small
shop where I found the keyboard. Then, in addition to the supermarket, a
bakery and, a must in Australia, a liquor store, which doubles as a
bar/tavern. So we had a beer there, took pictures of the rules of
conduct for the customers, and went back to SEISIA, again, hitching a
ride back.
Tonight, we will go back to the camping/resort site for a shower, dinner
and then back to the boat for a quiet night before heading tomorrow for
Horn Island, where we anchored, and then Thursday Island that we will
visit via the ferry between Horn and Thursday.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cape York

We have turned the corner ! This afternoon, we anchored in the lee of
Cape York at around 3:30.
This came after a high point in our journey which was the passage
through the Albany channel. We saw there, in a magnificent scenery, two
large sea tirtle.
After anchorign, we did not waste time and after a quick lunch, we went
ashore for "the" picture of Olivier and myself in front of the post that
says "you are standing at the northernmost point of the australian
After that, we went looking for the "Wilderness Lodge" along a track
within the rainforest. We found what is left of it, a few abandoned
buildings and a footpath from the main track to the lodge. A little sad,
but I have seen so many of those white elephants in africa that it
almost feels like routine.
On the way back to the dinghy, we found a young australian fellow who
had driven from Bamaga in his 4WD and could not find the Cape. We helped
him out and dinghied back to the boat, mission accomplished, cold beer

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Escape River

After Portland Road, we only had a short hop of 45 miles to get to
Margaret Bay behind Cape Grenville. Turned out to be one of the best
anchorages of the East Coast. Extremely well protected from the SE seas.
Not so much from the wind, but we are used to that by now. We found two
boats at anchor, a motor boat and a sail boat. The skipper of the
sailboat, Peter, came to us and gave us lots of infos about our upcoming
few ports. Turned out, after we thought about it, that he got all that
info from the cruising guide that we have, written by Alan Lucas.

The following leg was 72 miles long, to Escape River, and we had to make
sure that we would arrive before nightfall. So, we left at 4:00 in the
morning. But Papy Jovial showed us that she did not need to be pushed.
With winds still in the 20s, sometime down to 15 sometime up to 25
knots, we averaged 6.2 knots and arrived in Escape River at 3:30 in the

Escape River is a centre for pearl farming and the river is cover with
oysters nets and markers. We sailed up the river, ignoring the group of
houses from the Pearl company at the entrance and went all the way up to
Jardine river.

This time, no wind, no seas and complete silence. Nobody, not a soul
around, but unfortunately no wild life either. The local guides and
brochures keep talking of an area "infested" by crocodiles, but apart
from the one commissioned by the Tourism Bureau in Port Douglas, we
haven't seen any yet. Maybe after we turn the corner.

We enjoyed anyway a totally quiet night before leaving mid-morning for
Cape York and turning the corner.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Speedy Gonzalez

We left Lizard Island quite early, at 6:45 as we knew that we had to
cover 184 miles to get to Portland Roads, and we wanted to be there for
sure before night. In fact, we averaged 7.1 knots and we got there
almost too early at 8:00 in the morning. All along, we enjoyed 20 to 35
knots of wind on the stern, with at first one reef on the main, genoa on
the pole, at first both sails on port tack, but after the first 6 hours
we were able to go wing on wing and gain speed. In fact, a 50 foot cat
which had left same time as us, stayed with us for these first 6 hours
but was left behind when we managed to speed up. We suspect that Cognac
had left shortly after us, but we also lost that sail.
At one point, the wind picked up quite a bit and went up to 35 knots and
Papy Jovial sped up to 11.4 knots. So far a record for me. No idea what
the fastest was in her previous life with Tom and Sarah.
As far as fishing was concerned, it is definitely a mixed bag. We lost a
sizeable spanish mackerel which dropped in the water as it was coming
over the handrail. Also, when we had the gust of wind and a surge of
speed up to 11.4 knots, we got a strike with a big, big fish. Too big
for that speed and the line snapped. But finally, we got another strike
and this time we had rehearsed everything and had the hook and the gin
ready. It was a tuna, 8 kgs and 91 cms long. I hooked it, got it in the
cockpit, then Olivier poured a little gin in its gills and it went
quiet. We had it for dinner.
Next morning we got to Portland Roads with big expectations. We arrived
there early morning and after a short nap, we went ashore to visit the
place. Basically, there is nothing there. At least for the time being.
We were told that a "cafe" will open next week. There is a cistern where
we could get water, although it did not look too nice and we only used
it to take a shower and fill up the jerrican to be used for washing the
dishes. There is a telephone booth, powered by a solar panel, a bloc of
toilets and a shed for those wanting to picnic next to the toilets.
We walked through the village (short walk !), went back to the boat to
pick up soap and shampoo, a bucket and the jerrican, went ashore again
for a shower from the cistern, using the bucket, filled up the jerrican,
deposited our trash in the trash bin and went back to Papy Jovial.
Tomorrow we will only go as far as Margaret Bat, next to Cape Grenville,
with only 42 miles to go.
Today I also had to struggle with the computers. On thge boat computer,
I have lost the keyboard which does work at all. So, I have to write the
blog on the Toshiba laptop, put the text on a USB key and then transfer
the text into the mailing software of the boat computer to be able to
send it off.
For short text, I can still use the virtual keyboard found in "accessories".
On the Toshiba, I have lost 2 keys, the "return" key and the right shift
key. For the return key, I created a file with only the return, so that
I can open the file, put the content on the clipboard and use the paste
fonction to do the return. Not simple !
I am hoping the either in Bamaga or Thursday Island, I will be able to
find a keyboard and bring the boat computer back to normal.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The long march

In Cooktown, we had met again with the four boats that were we us in
Hope Island, including Cognac, with Robert and Ysabella from Melbourne.
Cognac missed the right spot to anchor and spent a good many hours on
her side in front of the main wharf !
Anyway, we left from Cooktown both almost at the same time and got to
Lizard Island the same day, within an hour of each other (I won't tell
you who got there first, but you might guess . . .)
After dropping the anchor we went ashore as I was eager to identify the
track leading to the James Cook Lookout. We missed it and ended up at
Mrs Watson's house, which is basically just a small portion of a single
wall remaining. We walked back to the dinghy along the beach and at the
northern end of it, we found the beginning of the Cook'sLookout track.
That will be for tomorrow morning.
After we went back to the boat, Cognac hailed us and we went to their
boat for a drink and a chat. Back on Papy Jovial, we had dinner then a
movie (the green mile). Halfway through the movie, the anchor alarm went
off and although we had not dragged much and everything seemed OK, we
relocated to make sure we were on sandy bottom. Then we went back to the
Wednesday morning, we left the boat at 7 to climb to the top of the
hill (358 metres) where James Cook went to try and identify an exit to
the ocean. It took us a little more than an hour as the climb is
sometimes very steep over boulders and rocks. Unfortunately, the
weather was not nice, with strong wind, which is a permanent feature
since we arrived, cloudy skies and poor visibility. Cook would have
been disappointed too!
We then walked back, went back to Papy Jovial for lunch and nap. Cognac
being already there, two of the three other boats showed up in the
afternoon with the addition of a 50 foot french catamaran, probably
also part of this indonesia rallye.
Tomorrow morning, I intend to leave early and make Portland Roads the
next day in the afternoon. If there is anything there worth visiting,
we will stay one day before leaving for Cape York.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cairns, Port Douglas, Hope Island, Cooktown

I never thought that taking measurements of the shaft and the thread would be so complicated. We hauled out in the morning, the yard took out the propeller and then took measurements while I was busy with an electrician trying to sort out the power supply problem with the auto pilot.
They were in so much of a hurry that they gave me the data sheet when the boat was already back in the water and I had not time to review it and check. Once back at the squadron marina, I was totally confused wi
th what the had given me, mixing imperial and metric units and I had to go back to the yard twice to sort out the problems. Eventually we got it right and I was able to place the order for the Variprop 3 blades which will be delivered in Darwin when we get there in June.
As for the power supply problem, all we found out was that if we connect the unit to one of the aft cabin lights, it works perfect. If we connect to its cable, it does not work. Conclusion, the problem is either the cable or the breaker. I will wait until I am in familiar territory to do any further wo
rk on that. For the time being, we have the connect
ion to one of the light with a switch in between and that is good enough.
Port Douglas ranks as the number one stop we have made since Sydney. The place feels a lot like Key West. Very laid back, very nice buildings and shop. Good crowd. We had fun.
The day after we arrived, we took a 90 minutes excursion on a paddle boat up the river to look for crocodiles. Apparently, there is one which knows the script perfectly and shows up when the boat arrives, has a go at the cat fish being fed by the boat under our eyes, and then lays on the bank long enough for a photo op.
After that, it was the turn of an eagle to follow the boat and do some acrobatics for us, including grabbing a piece of food thrown at him from the boat while flying. Super fun.
After Port Douglas, we went for the night to Hope Island, an anchorage very well protected from the swell as it is almost a lagoon, but with absolutely no protection against the wind which blew at 15 to 25 all night. Pleasant evening any way as there were four other boats, on their way to the rallye towards Indonesia and we shared a drink with them on the beach.
After that, we went to Cooktown, last town before we turn the corner (meaning Cape York). It feels like at last, we are on our way back to Virginia.
In Cooktown, nice and historic little town, no internet and no phone. Almost, we found a bar/restaurant/hotel which had internet, and I could post this blog. Next postings
will be via the sat phone with no pictures. Next posting of pictures will probably have to wait for Darwin in June.

Monday, May 10, 2010

From Townsville to Cairns

These last two days have been so busy that we probably need a week or two to recover !
First, the technical problems on Papy Jovial. In Townsville, I had an electronician replace the guts and brains of the Navico autopilot, on his advice as he felt that the unit was the cause of the problem.
So, after a late an liquid night on board David's and Alison's boat next door, we left a 4:30 in the morning, hoping to get to Cairns before 10:00 a.m. on Monday.
Less than an hour into the trip, the new autopilot packed up. I woke up the electronician, without too much remorse, and we tried to trouble shoot the thing. In the end, it turned out that the problem was with the power supply. We jerry rigged a connection to supply the unit with electricity coming from one of the reading light in the aft cabin, and it worked fine all the way to Cairns (mind you, in stand by mode only since we had enough wind to use Firmin). So, it might turn out that I bought a new autopilot that I did not need an
d that the Navi
co might prove to work just fine once we solve the power supply problem. That's life.
What was a lot better is that during the day, Olivier got two simultaneous strikes, one being a huge spanish mackerel, and the other one being a spotted macquerel. It disturbed my nap, but I did not mind. It took more than an hour and a half to clean the fish and cut steaks and filets. Most of it will go in the freezer that we restarted for the occasion. We had not used it since we left Sydney, since we can go shopping almost everyday.
This time, we did not have to slow down intentionally, but just . . .We got to the entrance of Cairns harbour as the sun was going up. We sailed up the river to the Cairns Cruising Yacht Squadron and beyond at the Norship marine boat yard whe
re we are supposed to haul out to take the prop measurements. There was quite a strong current across from the access to the travel lift and I was relieved to hear that we could only go up on Tuesday and we should go to the Squadron marina.
In the afternoon, Olivier took me again for one of his favourite long walks, first to the town (5 kms away), then to the immigration office. all that for nothing as we cant do anything more than what we could do on Internet.
We visited the town, no character, but a lot of life, lots of young people, bars and restaurants.
For the way back, Olivier had mercy
on me and we returned by bus.
We haul out tomorrow and we should leave for Port Doublas on Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Four days already since we arrived in Townsville and time has gone through at lightning speed. We are tied up at the Townsville Motor Yacht Club, right downtown, and between shopping, visiting, walking and taking care of Papy Jovial, we did not see time pass.
We still have today, Friday and Saturday to continue enjoying this very pleasant town, supposedly
the largest tropical town of the Queensland, with I believe around 130, 000 inhabitants.
Monday was a holiday to replace May 1st (Labour Day) which occured on a Saturday and therefore had to be moved since they do not wan
t to lose a day off !
We took advantage of this to visit and wa
lk and also pay a visit to what is claimed to be the largest coral aquarium in the world. I must say, the collection of coral displayed in very large tanks is very impressive. We also learned of all the dangers that you would be faced here in Australia if you wanted to go swimming (I am not concerned !). Poisonous fishes, venomous snakes, deadly jelly fish, crocodiles and sharks, just to name a few.
Today, I want to visit the cultural center that will show us a little more about the aboriginal culture. The more we learn about it, the more we realise how dramatic the fate of the aboriginal people has been and how much they were almost threatened of extinction, at least as far as their way of life and their culture was
Then, there is Papy Jovial. Here in Townsville, we replaced almost all of the Navico autopilot with a TMQ one, much simpler and basic, but also completely reliable. We only kep the hydraulic piston and pumps.
As for the propane sensor, it turn
s out that the new electromagnetic valve is very much borderline for the 1 amp fuse and we replaced, after consulting with a professional electronician, the 1 amp for a 3 amp fuse.
I have also decided to replace the fixed blades propeller with a "Variprop 3 blades" feathering prop. To do that, I have to provide the supplier with minute details on the shaft taper and on the prop nuts and we will haul out in Cairns to do that. The prop will be shipped to Darwin where we will be on June 18 and fitted there.
I am expecting to gain speed and to point better into the wind by 5 to 10 degrees. We will see.
Anyway, since there is a huge rallye for boats going to Indonesia and leaving from Darwin on July 17, we have to make reservation for Darwin long in advance, pay in advance and stick to the dates or loose the money. So, I spent the day planning the trip to Darwin and decided that we will arrive there on June 18 and stay for one week.
Also while here in Townsville, we completed replacing almost 100 % of the lights on the boat with LEDs. We only kept the two Alpenglow lights in the main cabin and the one over the chart table. The electric consumption has dramatically decreased and this will certainly be much easier on the batteries.