Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 15- G'Day Australia!

Time: 0100 Zulu, noon New Cal, 1100 Brisbane (Thurs 15 Nov)
Position: 27*27'S 153*06'E
Wind: NE 12 Seas: calm(!)
Avg. Course: 219-deg T
Avg. Speed: 4.2-knots
Rig: sails nestled in their terra cotta covers
24-hr Distance noon to noon point: 67.1-nm

Surprising us, after noon winds picked up from the NW, in cyclical patterns up and down. We drew closer and closer knowing that land loomed near, close enough already to smell it and attributing the inconsistent winds to its proximity. About 30-nm off shore, the water color abruptly changed from that indescribably beautiful deep off shore blue to a lighter hue with shades of green found in shallower waters. Continental shelf?! It has been since California since we've been on one of those, we are used to deep, deep, deep, then land. The VHF chatter was almost non-stop, filled with "securite" announcements from different Australian Coast Guard stations warning of impending heavy weather. As we got close enough to make out all the words, we gratefully realized not until the next afternoon winds were forecast to be up to 35-knots. This increased our already high motivation to make landfall sooner than later. 1430, our last PacSea Net check-in for a while, we marvelled at how we had checked in with them nearly every day of passage since leaving Mexico. Calculating our progress, we replaced the 100% with the 80% and reefed down to triple-reefed mains'l in an attempt to reach and cross the Moreton Bay Bar at high flood to high slack, if we were lucky maybe with a few streaks of sun left in the sky. "Land Ho!" Chris spotted it first in the cloudless but hazy horizon. Beautiful sunny sailing conditions and soon-to-meet-Australian-officials, it was a perfect time to fit in another cockpit shower. We knew it was likely to be another sleepless night, so Shawn stayed up to allow Chris to catch a few extra moments of shut eye for the upcoming marathon, using the extra time to make pizza (in an attempt to use all food stuff that might soon be confiscated).

All too soon, the AIS alarm was ringing too frequently for Chris to ignore. We were close. And there were already 3 cargo ships on the horizon. We played a small game of chicken with one, turning around assuming he would keep speed and course, then slowly working our way around him as he slowed and turned toward the other cargo ships holding at the NW Moreton Bay entrance. Preparing for the hair-raising but purportedly well lit NE channel bar crossing, we rolled up the shade tarp and readied Yannie. Sunset, pizza, and a radio conversation with Britannia and Convivia and it was time. Shallowing rapidly, seas were a bit strangely rolly. At 2000, we dropped the 80% and started Yannie to assist if necessary. Following very specific waypoints that were cross checked with satellite images, we zig-zagged our way between the promised lit markers just inside of Moreton Island. Chris on deck closely followed the GPS track trying not to crash-jibe the mains'l in the squirrely seas as we moved from waypoint to waypoint being flushed with the tide at near unmanageable speeds. Shawn down below, checked our course on our chart plotter and watched with horror the seemingly never-ending stream of cargo ships working their way down the NW channel and more already located inside the bay. Finally our path met the shipping lane path, and we crossed it as quickly as possible turning off the unused Yannie. After skirting through a section among shoals, we thought we were clear of traffic, but it turned out the route we chose was actually used as a shipping lane as well. Shawn was on the radio over and over with this cargo ship and that. Once we had to turn our on spreader lights to illuminate us so a ship could avoid. Because we were not yet checked in we couldn't drop the hook, less than ideal having to ride one flood in and wait 12-hrs for the next flood to ride up the river. Purely exhausted Shawn was unable to handle even one more ship. Luckily we had made it far enough away from the transiting area and were able to heave-to. Bravo again Tao and Chris even managed to stay awake to continually scan for traffic and drift and there was always the AIS alarm to wake us if we dozed.

At 0500 with the first hints of dawn in the sky, we began progress again toward our river entrance with plans to get there near the beginning of the flood and ride it in to our Brisbane River Rivergate Marina goal. With strict check-in requirements, Shawn spent nearly the entire transit cleaning and organizing down below while Chris rode the flooding river out of the Bay and into a quasi graveyard of cargo ships. In our 5-miles up the river we passed two tugs moving cargo ships and pushing them off, and finally we found the check-in having reached it just after the 0730 local start of their work day. Chris did an excellent job docking Tao against the very strong current and about an hour later two jolly Customs officials joined us. Very nice people, it was actually almost fun to check in and begin to learn little bits about Australia. After we had asked lots of questions about where to go for the night, they very nicely offered us to stay at the Q-dock free of charge for one night- citing, and rightly so, a safety concern that we looked "shattered" and "cactus" and obviously needed sleep. An hour later just as we finished with Customs, three Quarantine officials showed up and joined us aboard. They took pictures of the interior wood for future reference to assure that we do not have timber pests. The Quarrantine official confiscated amazingly less than we had expected, so though we have consumed a good portion, we still have way more than we thought we would and plenty food to work through. So we will stay here in this busy river at the foot of a large bridge to take a first go at catching up on much needed sleep. Besides some rough times in this passage, honestly planets aligned to usher us safely here filled with more amazing experiences we have yet to process. It is hard for us to fathom that we are here in Brisbane Australia, for so long such a lofty goal. Now we find ourselves half way around the world to the day four years after departing SF Bay, pinch us, are we really here?


  1. Welcome to Australia you guys and huge congratulations on the passage from Fiji. Its been a highlight of my day to log on and read of your progress and I am just sorry no-one was there to welcome you. I am sure youre going to love being in Australia, its a massive country with all sorts of suprsing things to see and do. Again, well done!

  2. Consider yourselves pinched! Yes, you are actually in Australia, once a huge dream away, and you'll still be there after some sleep and the beginnings of recovery. I'm so proud of you and very pleased that you've made safe landfall. Hugs and purrs from Ithaca.

  3. Congrats guys! So much fun to follow along your journey + plans, and we love reading your updates. Sounds like this was a heck of a passage -- hope you get to sleep for a few days now! Leah + Jon