Our Current Position

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Exploring the Bay of Islands

We have spent the last five days exploring the islands. What a fantastic area to cruise around. It is all very sheltered and there are lots of anchorages in different bays and so there is shelter from just about any wind direction.

We started off in Oke Bay, a beautiful little bay with a nice beach and lined with trees. We then did a fairly big walk to Cape Brett which is at the southern end of the Bay of Islands. The walk was only 5km each way from Deep Water Bay, but there was a lot of up and down! There were great views from the Cape and it gave us an idea of what is to come as we head south.

Deep Water Bay
X-Pat at anchor in Oke Bay

The path to Cape Brett
Cape Brett

We visited Paradise Bay, which lived up to its name. Although we went ashore here we didn’t do any of the walks on the island and so may have to go back. We then did an overnight in Pi Pi Bay. Although the snorkelling here was quite poor I did see a ray, which seemed to be getting cleaned by little cleaner fish.

A ray getting cleaned

The food just keeps coming!

New Zealand Christmas Tree

Amazing root system on these Christmas Trees
We also visited Cook Bay on Motuarohia Island. The beach here turned out to be private, backed by some beautiful houses. So instead we took the dinghy around to the adjacent bay and a walk up the top of the hill, gave us some spectacular views of the islands.

Views of the Bay of Islands

We are back in the marina now at Opua and plan to get the boat tidied up over the next few days before we fly back to Sydney for Christmas.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

So who's idea was it to sail upwind?

Well we got here, we are now safely tied up in the beautiful Bay of Islands Marina in Opua. 

It was upwind all the way and although the winds weren't too harsh (15-20 knots usually) it did become very tiresome living at an angle of 30 degrees. We did a total of 1482 nautical miles in 10.6 days, an average speed of 5.8 knots. Our average speed was actually pulled down by slow progress in the last couple of days. Up until then we had an average of over 7 knots.

Giving Bob (our auto helm) a rest
When we rounded Cape Moreton on the evening of the first day we had over 20 knots of wind and so put two reefs in the main for a conservative first night at sea.  We ended up sailing almost the whole way with those two reefs in! In fact we sailed the whole of the first week on a port tack and it was quite a shock to the system to go onto a starboard tack and find everything falling in the opposite direction.

For the first few days the seas were quite lumpy and the winds strong.  Gwyn was jet lagged, having arrived from Wales the day before we left, Debi was seasick and even Pat felt a bit queasy, so it was a bit tough at first.  However, after a few days we had all settled into the watch system and our bodies got used to being constantly joggled about.

Gwyn demonstrating the pressures of being on watch
The weather on the trip was mostly pretty good, with strong winds to blow us along at a cracking pace, and the sea conditions became better and better.  We had a few squalls where the breeze got up a bit, but the joy of being out on the open ocean meant that one could just bear away which makes everything improve immediately.   

Highlights of the trip were:
·   Passing close by Lord Howe Island and the spectacular Balls Pyramid
.   Fantastic moonlit nights - we had both a waxing and waning moon during the trip, with a full moon in the middle.  Moonrise was particularly beautiful.
.   The stars!  Before the moon rose, or after it had set, we had the most spectacular starry skies.
.    Sunrise and Sunset - one never gets tired of these beautiful events at sea.
·   The fantastic menu each day. Debi pre-cooked the main meals, which worked well but prepared others on the move.
·    Lots of dolphins swimming along with us on many occasions
·    Lots of birds, especially near Lord Howe, petrels, shearwaters, gannets ….
·    Spotting Cape Reinga, New Zealand after 9 days at sea
·    Arriving into the beautiful Bay of Islands at sunrise
·    Clearing customs, getting tied up in our berth and cracking out the champagne, albeit at 9am!

Passing Lord Howe Island after 3 days at sea

The Spectacular Ball's Pyramid
Lowlights of the trip were:

·  The frustration of trying to get east across the top of New Zealand in a prolonged easterly. It was nice to see Cape Reinga initially, but we got fed up with the view when we couldn’t get past it!
·  Breaking the headsail furler, with only a few hundred miles to go. Everything had worked so well up until then.
.    We couldn't lock Bob (our auto helm crew member) so were unable to use Harry (our wind driven self steering system) so we didn't get to use it and had to listen to Bob grunting away the whole way. 

Brunch preparations on the move

Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Eggs - well plated!
It was a tiring but rewarding trip. Gwyn won the award for being able to get to sleep no matter what the conditions. On the first night in the marina we all slept for 12 hours.

We finally got good enough conditions to be able to make water

Gwyn mopping up a small leak in the economy class accomodation
Our communications system using the Iridium Go! worked well most of the time. It was nice to be able to keep in touch with people at home with the occasional SMS. We also had daily exchanges with our weather man Roger Badham and with Jo and Rob on their boat, Double Trouble, who were also sailing to Opua and a day ahead of us.

Land Ahoy! North Cape - New Zealand

Arriving at sunrise in the Bay of Islands

Tied up at the Quarantine dock awaiting clearance

A well earned beer in Russell - the first capital of New Zealand
The plan now is to potter around the Bay of Islands for a week before returning to Sydney for Christmas. Thank you to everyone who followed us on the tracker. It seems that we provided a bit of entertainment for the last ten days!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Time to Go!

Well the day has finally come, the weather is looking perfect, the boat and crew are all prepared and once we clear customs this morning we will be off.

The last few days have been a bit busy. We flew up to Brisbane on Saturday and hired a car. Pat dropped Debi at the supermarket to start provisioning and then went off to get the watermaker which is now all fixed. Pat was only gone an hour but got back to find this .....

Trolley No. 1

This was the first of two trolleys! Anyway it's good to see that there is plenty of health food in there.

Then it was back to the boat to dump all the groceries and then off to Julian and Julia's for supper.

Debi spent the whole of Sunday cooking meals for the trip. Amazingly she managed to cook eight meals in a day, vacuum packed them all and attempted to freeze them. The poor fridge was struggling and so Julian and Julia kindly lent us the use of their freezer. Note to self .... remember to pick up the food!

Galley Slave!
The rest of Sunday was spent rearranging the boat so that everything is safely stowed.

Yesterday we dropped the hire car back and met our new crew member, Gwyn, from the airport. We think he is still in shock having flown in from North Wales to find it's 27 degrees here.

The Crew!
We then went around to Scarborough marina and filled up with as much diesel as we could get on board. We also went out into the bay to test the watermaker which worked fine, but seemed to have a problem stopping! Just a corroded switch.

We have received our weather routing from our meteorologist, Roger Badham and so are set to go. There probably won't be anymore blogs for a while but our progress will be automatically updated on this page .....

The route

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

One week to go!

We are currently both back in Sydney and X-Pat is having a rest in Brisbane prior to departure. The last week has been mainly occupied with filling out customs paperwork for departure from Australia and arrival in New Zealand. Debi has been busy finalising the menu and making a very long shopping list. This coming weekend she plans to cook twelve days worth of food! That should be entertaining. 

Pat has spent a lot of time this week studying various weather forecasts and alternative routes to make the trip as safe and pleasant as possible. At the moment everything is looking good for a departure on Tuesday 28th November, but that could change!

All of the paper charts arrived today. The one below shows that the whole trip can be fitted onto one piece of paper! So how hard can it be?

We'll be travelling up to X-Pat on Saturday (25th) to start final preparations (and cooking!).

The trip across the Tasman Sea on one piece of paper!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Moreton Bay Shake Down

We have spent the last few days on board X-Pat in Moreton Bay having a bit of a shake down to make sure everything is working.  We ticked the following off the list:
  • Lift out at Scarborough marina and had the bottom pressure washed to remove marine growth;
    On her way back into the water after a good clean
  • Sail to windward with new headsail: This went well sailing to windward in up to 20 knots of wind albeit is fairly sheltered waters;
  • Check navigation and auto-helm following installation of new instruments: all seemed to be working fine;
  • Check communication equipment: Our satellite tracking worked well and our track is visible on this site.  Our weather reports via Predictwind and the Iridium Go! seem to work, but can be horribly slow some times;
  • Test out our new “Seabrake” or drogue: Intended for heavy weather this device is dragged behind the back of the boat to slow it down. It certainly worked, slowing the boat from 5 knots to a standstill almost instantaneously. It is however, very awkward to deploy and retrieve, so having a practice to iron out some issues was a good idea. We also found the drogue very effective as an emergency steering device should we have any issues with the main steering;
  • Check out the Watt & Sea Hydro-generator: this power generator has been sitting idle on the back of the boat for the last 18 months, but worked fine when we deployed it, generating a steady 7 amps.
  • Check the water maker: well there was always something that was going to go wrong! It coughed and spluttered into action after a year of being hidden away under our bunk, but I couldn’t really get it to run smoothly and it is quite badly corroded. Then one of the reverse osmosis units started leaking. So time to call in the experts on that one. Hopefully we can get it fixed in time.

Good reason to stay out of the shipping lane!

We did a trip out to Flinders Reef off the northern end of Moreton Island. That was something we had intended doing for a while and we were lucky enough that the weather was good enough. Pat had hoped to go for a snorkel but the tide was a bit strong and so he was restricted to snorkelling whilst holding onto the back of the boat!

Flinders Reef
We have seen turtles, dolphins, parrotfish and lots of birds during this short trip. Debi has been busy cooking and practising her Spanish. Her logic is that if we get the navigation wrong and miss New Zealand she will be able to handle things in South America!

We are heading back to the marina tomorrow to put X-Pat to bed for a final few weeks before our trip begins.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The Preparations Continue

Pat has been back on board for the last few days, servicing bits and pieces and checking systems. We now have shiny new LED navigation lights, the old ones were looking very dodgy and although they seemed to work fine, we were nervous that they may fail soon. The lifejackets have all been serviced and the MOB and EPIRB devices all tested. The sat phone system (Iridium Go!) and weather data system (Predictwind) have all been checked.

New starboard navigation light
We have invested in a seabrake drogue to help control the boat should we encounter bad weather. Hopefully just an insurance measure!

Meanwhile Debi has been working out what we need to do to clear customs in Australia and in New Zealand. Provisioning plans are well underway and we have even bought a vacuum packing machine, to pack all of our prepared meals. 

We will be back onboard on board next week for a one week shake down in Moreton Bay. We are booked in for a lift and pressure wash of the hull next Friday at Scarborough Marina. That should make sure that we don't take any undesirable marine growth to New Zealand with us.

So X-Pat is just about ready, the question is are we? Debi passed her RYA Coastal Skipper qualification earlier in the year and Pat has just got his Offshore Yachtmaster qualification. We have also completed sea survival and first aid courses, so are feeling as prepared as we can be.

Our departure window for New Zealand starts on the 27th November, one month today!

Ready to set sail

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Back on the Water

Finally we got back out on the water today and it was an opportunity to play with the new toys on Moreton Bay. Unfortunately the weather didn't play ball but we managed.

First up was to get familiar with the new Raymarine Axiom plotters, including one at the helm and the new auto pilot. Coming out through the Newport channel was simplified by having the plotter at the helm. We then went through the commissioning of the autopilot, getting the magnetic deviation calibrated and then successfully steered a course to a way point. Bob, as our autopilot is affectionately known, did a fine job of getting us to this initial waypoint and then steering us across Moreton Bay in a 30 knot south easterly! It's good to have him back onboard!

Next up, we got out our storm jib and hoisted it. This is not something that we are planning to use, but it seems mad that we have had the thing in the sail locker for seven years and never tried it out. From the look of it, I don't think the previous owner had used it either. All went well and we now know how to get it all rigged up.

Ironically after we took the storm jib down and got ready to hoist our new furling genoa, the wind built to 30 knots and so we decided to hold off on the genoa and motor across to Moreton island where things were all a bit more sheltered. In hindsight we would have been better off putting the storm jib back up!

Once we got across the bay we got the genoa up and with Debi on the helm we were doing 7 knots, close hauled with no main. The genoa is not too big but we will have a go at reefing it over the next few days, to get used to it.  We are hoping it turns out to be a very useful cruising sail.

We are now anchored in the lee of Moreton Island and things are looking very grey with occasional showers. The forecast does not look good for tomorrow and so it may be the opportunity to test out the other new feature on X-Pat, new mattresses!

New Flexima Mattress in starboard aft cabin

Thursday, 21 September 2017

It's been a while!

Well it's a bit sad that we are now well through September and this is the first post of 2017. That is partly a reflection of our lack of activity on X-Pat due to other things and partly just being lazy. 

After arriving in Mooloolaba in December 2016, we basically just stayed there through until March 2017, doing a few day trips but not a lot else. On 6th March we waved goodbye to Mooloolaba and headed south, initially to The Boatworks at Coomera for the annual service and then back north to Newport Marina, just north of Brisbane where we decided to keep X-Pat whilst we were away on numerous land based trips. 

The trip between Coomera and Newport became a well trodden path after we discovered a leak following the initial service. To cut a long story short this turned out, to be due to poor sealing between the internal side of the hull and the engine tray onto which the sail drive sealed. The area was disturbed during the service, which included replacing the sail drive seal. We don't know why this area was so poorly constructed but am glad that it is now fixed.

It was a very painful process to find the source of the leak and it then took two attempts to fix it. However at the end of the day Josh and the team at Ocean Degree did a fantastic job and the bilge is now drier than the Simpson desert!

The mess around the sail drive and the poor seal which was the source of the leak
After much excavation, cleaning and fibreglassing 
the new sail drive cavity is finished

The finished sail drive installation
The service also included, replacing the old macerator pump, an engine and sail drive service, gas fittings all renewed, new oven, anchor winch service, new sheave on the headsail furler, new electric and manual bilge pump, and fairleads on the bow. We have also just had two shiny new Raymarine Axiom multifunction displays fitted, including one at the helm which will transform motoring through tight situations. The auto helm system has also all been replaced, so we are ready for the next adventure.

Watch this space ......

Safely tucked up in Newport Marina and ready for the next adventure

Friendly Fiji

After a burst of activity early on, it has been a pretty chilled out week. We left Buca Bay on Sunday, motoring out through the reef into...