Sailing Adventures

I had survived into my early sixties and my mind told me I needed an adventure Here I tell you about  my only major sea voyage. A few years back now and I was ready to have an adventure. I found a boat that I liked and it was for sale but it was in Vanuatu approx 1500 nautical miles from Queensland. I eventually flew over there and tested it for a day or two and decided to buy it. I had a lady friend with me and we took a couple of Aussie backpackers with us on a sea trial around some of the islands. It was very beautiful. Crystal clear seas, picturesque islands everywhere, coral reefs and the native inhabitants from the seaside villages who were inquisitive, friendly and helpful. My lady-friend was a little seasick so decided to fly home and of course I was happy to sail the boat home myself. I had never really sailed this type or size of boat but I waited until the weather reports were suitable and left towards the southern end of New Caledonia. One day out of port the seas started to get rough and I ended up in 7 metre seas, which meant that many times the seas were higher than the mast with waves crashing over the boat and a noise like thunder when each one hit. So for 48 hours I could not leave the wheel and got drenched many times. After this time I was in the lee of the Loyalty Isles and the seas were comfortable but I tried to get through the Havannah passage in the coral to get to Noumea to do a few repairs but could not use the motor because one of the fuel tanks had a leak and there was no fuel getting through and I had a buoyancy tank on the Starboard side that had filled with water. So I had to turn back to Lifou and a small town on a big harbour in the Loyalty Isles. The boat registered some incredible speeds on this part of the voyage due to the powerful south east winds and the ballast of the filled buoyancy tank kept the boat stable. So I reached Lifou and found one huge wharf surrounded by coral bomboras. It was built fot tugboats and would have crushed my timber craft. So I had to anchor 100 metres out and swim in because there was no tender with the boat and it was impossible to get one anywhere I went.  I hired a little canoe to get in and out from the boat and set about my repairs. There were almost no supplies for repairs and the local fishermen were calling me McGuiver because I had to fix everything with nothing.

A week later I had finished the repairs and took the canoe back. I swam to the boat, started it up and was to do a loop past the wharf so the fisherman could throw my bread over. I had a powerful south easter blowing and coral all around the wharf then as I approached the wharf the throttle cable broke so I had no power and started drifting back to the coral, which would have ripped the bottom out of the boat. I threw the anchor out in a hurry and removed the motor cover, pulled out the throttle cable I made the end into a handle. then I had to run backwards and forwards from the wheelhouse to the bow and pull up little bits of anchor then accelerate towards the wharf. Eventually I had the boat next to the wharf and had to throw a huge rope 20-ft up to the fisherman then climb up the rope to the wharf. The fisherman only spoke french and I had to explain to him what had happened. He took me to the only parts place on the Island in his little van but they had nothing so he took me back to his place for a cup of tea. In his back yard was an old abandoned lawn mower so we removed the throttle cable and I installed it in the boat using many tricks to make it work. And of course again I set sail with everything working. I hope you are not bored because there is quite a bit more

In the brisk south easter Taurangi 11 (The name of the boat) almost flew across the bay which was 20 miles wide back to the open sea. In the distance was the tiny little church on the hill, Pure white and stood out like a beacon. Then I turned on the motor to charge the batteries for the fridge and there was a bang!! then crunching sounds coming from below. In neutral there was no noise! An inspection down under told me the flexible coupling on the propellor shaft had broken. I kept sailing towards Havannah passage though hoping I would find an answer to my problem. Then I was becalmed for a day no wind at all. So I climbed down into the hull and wired up the coupling with some cheap wire I had bought for the throttle repair but which was not flexible enough. I was able to start the motor and very carefully motored through the passage with many prayers. About an hour later I pulled into a quiet bay to anchor for the night as I needed a rest. It was the quietest night I have ever spent, no wind no lapping of the water on the hull. Nothing! not a sound from anywhere. Eerie! After a long night sleep I motored towards Noumea and was passing between two islands when the wiring on the shaft broke again. Once again I was in trouble there was no wind to sail and the Islands were close together so the wind probably would have given me trouble anyway. There was a tugboat passing so I radioed asking for assistance and he replied yes have $2000 is cash ready when we pull alongside so I said thanks but no thanks. The current was taking the boat the wrong way. Then on the radio came a voice and an Australian training boat twice the size of mine with three masts came to my rescue and towed me out of the narrow passage and into another quiet bay where I was able to rewire the coupling and then motored to Noumea. While they were towing me dolphins were playing at my bow. The islands here are very attractive but dry and barren. So I reached Noumea and berthed in the marina. Then I caught up with the captain of the training ship and we became good mates. His boat was very interesting with all the latest equipment. So I was there for a week while another flexible coupling came from Australia. I did some other repairs that were necessary. Noumea was a very expensive place except for the local markets. The local markets in both places were great for the healthy diet with lots of wonderful fruits, no sprays and picked when ripe normally straight from the natural bush. Once again everyone spoke french.

Well if you thought things could get better!! I was headed south west by west and needed a south easterly wind for good sailing which is the most common wind there but not while I was at sea. There were a few boats going there and a huge shark nearly as big as my boat waiting for the surfers on the reef to get too far away from the reef for a quick exit. The reef goes all the way around new Caledonia and about 50 miles from Noumea you pass through a hole in the reef to the open sea. The Coral Sea. So I got every sort of wind except from the south east. Three days out I had a radio message from a passing boat that I never saw that there was a storm ahead but it was not very strong. So I kept going and the next day the winds started getting stronger and stronger and stronger. Each time I wound in the sails until I had about one sixth of my sails out and was still moving along quickly. Then it hit!! I was in the eye of the storm and the boat started to almost fly. The boat weighed four and a half ton and it was just touching the tops of the waves as it skimmed over the water like a ski does over the snow. Each time the bow touched the water there was a huge bow wave which was so big I was watching it through the ceiling windows in the wheelhouse. These windows look straight up so you can see the wind indicator at the top of the mast. The winds had to be around 80 knots or 150 kilometers per hour! It all only lasted for a few minutes and I stood in the wheelhouse holding the course straight in sheer amazement. I have never run into another sailor who has been through the same experience. I think a few parts of my life repeated themselves but I was too busy to start fearing. So then the seas abated slowly and the next day was calm and sailing became normal again. A few days later I pulled into the top end of Moreton Bay where you have to go for the quarrantine station so they could kill the litle Ghekko that had sailed all the way to Australia with me as my only companion.

After a collection of adventures like that One has to ask. How lucky am I to still be here. The boat was well built but I did discover some rot in one of the pontoons when I slipped it the first time and it involved a few days in repair, Then of course   I thought it was all over but I finally had the boat in a nice quiet anchorage near the Gold Coast and settled back to relax for a few days. The phone rang and it was the skipper of the training ship which had saved my hide on the way into Noumea. He had tried to take his 80ft boat up the broadwater on route to Mooloolaba but was unable safely to pass under the high tension cables that go from the mainland to the southern tip of Russell Island. So he had to sail back south and had only one student on board. not enough to head out the seaway and North to his destination outside the islands. So he picked me up and off we sailed. I drew the short straw and ended up with the midnight to dawn shift. Despite being so big the boat was easy to sail and very enjoyable. That was until about 2am when the storm hit. I saw a blob on the radar but had never been taught anything about radar so just kept an eye on the sea and wind guage and compass. It was very sudden from twenty five knot winds to more like sixty knot winds and we had most of the sails out. Now these are huge sails. The boat heeled over to 25 degrees with the sea and I called the skipper as it hit but by the time we were ready to get out there the waves were breaking right over the decks. This was not new to me but the size of the sails was as the student and I went out to retreive the sails. This boat did of course have a safety line but the waves were crashing us into the masts and decking fixtures. Again this was the worst storm to hit that boat in twenty years. So we eventually got the sails down and the storm went away and everything was calm and peacefull again. we did a man overboard drill which was further taxing after no sleep but got through that with flying colors. What a life?

Whitsunday islands

This wonderful trimaran was the good ship “Taurangi 11″ my last boat. I went through many adventures with that boat including two wonderful winters aboard in the Whitsunday Islands. The Islands are a bit like the Greek islands to look at but all around them are coral reefs so you have to be careful where you sail. There are twenty or so larger islands and originally it was the top of a mountain range so they are very rocky with lush green vegetation on most and of course beautiful to look at. The weather can get a bit nasty but most of the time it is excellent sailing weather with a nice firm breeze to move the boat along. When the weather is not good there are many bays and inlets that you can get the boat in

to shelter from the winds. The fishing was good and we ate fish for lunch and dinner every day. I had many backpackers along as crew including a young lady that was world champion at Judo. We called into Hamilton Island once a week for an exciting night out and Airlie beach on the Saturday mornings had a local growers market with all the fresh vegetables that we needed. I had many fish recipes and with lots of variation. It is not too hot in winter and the diving and snorkelling are great. Whitehaven beach is one of the most beautiful in the world with very fine soft white sand and a picturesque inlet at the end of the beach. It is about 7 kilometers long. on the other side of the island is Sid harbor a safe anchorage spot with a very rough track leading to Whitsunday peak, 1400 ft high and 2 hours up and 1 hour back at pace so fitness is not an issue. From there you can see all the islands on a very clear day. I would love to camp up there so I could watch the sunset and sunrise! Nature of course is part of the story as we respond to its whims and fancies in many ways and despite all the technology of today all the best things in life come from nature. Fact! and the healthiest things in life come from nature and the way our bodies were designed to fit into it.