Sandy Straits, Queensland Australia

After five years sailing in the South Pacific, we have finally made it to Australia. The six day passage from New Caledonia to Bundaberg was a really nice downwind trip. Much more pleasant than the five previous trips to New Zealand! We joined the Sail Down-under  Rally (a first for us) from Noumea. It was a fun week in Bundaberg with the 40 other boats. Many activities, presentations and evening events. One of the first things we did was look for some other musicians.

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Jamming with Norm and Steve

We hit it off with Steve and Norm, playing a few jam sessions together. John, the rally organizer, heard one of the songs Liliane wrote (Friends) and insisted that she play it at the closing event of the rally. Brent and Ana, on Impi, also asked if they could use the song on their YouTube (here is the link)  blog. They raise money to help the volunteer veterinarians in the islands. The song is featured about halfway through and again at the end of the video. The version of the song we used was the one we recorded  with Dave earlier this year in New Zealand (thanks Dave and Margaret!) If you want to hear it, go into the page “Songs By Liliane”.

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Closing the Rally with the song “Friends”

 

Australia is a very different country and huge (hey, not as big as Canada though). Bundaberg is sort of half way down the east coast. That means we still have about 1,200 miles of sailing to do to reach Tasmania, our objective this year. We will do it in a few hops. Lot’s to see and do along the way.

 

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Wish we could have jammed with him

Australia also has a lot of things that can sting, bite or eat you. We got a sense of this at Snakes Downunder, a local zoo that features some of the worlds most venomous snakes, salt water crocs, as well as kangaroos and cute koalas. Here are a few pictures from our day at the zoo:

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Cute when they are little, but still bite

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A “nice” snake

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You don’t mess with Momma

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Is that your tail inside my shorts?

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Big grasshoppers!

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A pet for Cole and Eleanor

 

Also, here are a few pictures from New Caledonia since our last post. We really enjoyed the Southern lagoon and Ouvea in Loyalty Islands. We would have liked to stay longer, but had to rush back to Noumea for medical and chest x-rays for our Australian visas.

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Ouvea

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Liliane Treating

 

 

 

 

 

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View from the top

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Our new pet, a Giant Trevally

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Beachcomber

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Early morning with the mantas

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Our local guide

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Church in the cave

 

 

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Ile des Pins, New Caledonia

We finally left New Zealand. Seemed like we were waiting forever for favourable conditions. We got away early August and arrived after a seven day passage. New Caledonia is a further south than Fiji and Tonga, so it is a little cooler here. Actually our 3mm wetsuits aren’t quite warm enough, but we tough it out. Especially since there is so much to see snorkelling. You will see in a couple of the pictures below,  a cuttlefish  changing appearance in a matter of seconds. First time we saw one of these. Really cool. We also encountered dolphins, whales, sharks, sea snakes and large remoras under the boat waiting to be fed. The sea snakes are amphibian and make there way to land every day. We even encountered them walking to the top of Mato island. They are very passive, neither agressive or shy.

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Cuttltfish in defensive posture

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A second latter more relaxed

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Mount Nga

At Ile des Pins we hiked up Mount Nga with Serge and Joanne (SY Spirare), Lucie and Robert (SY Grace). It is the highest peak on the island at 262 meters. Spectacular view from the top.

Our biggest activity seems to be hunting for fruit and veggies. The supply ship arrived the other day so we are nicely topped up. 50 limes, 20 tomatoes, 20 oranges…………etc etc. The capital Noumea where we checked in has everything. All the delicacies from France. To bad we stopped eating bread.

 

 

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Wildflower on Mt Nga

 

The internet is difficult for us to get. When we leave Ile des Pins we probably won’t have internet until we arrive back in Noumea late October in preparation for our departure to Australia. So it will be trusty old radio e-mail until then.

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Natural Pool Baie D’Oro

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Bathing Beauty in Natural Pool

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Grotto

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Kouaré Island

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Very venomous but docile

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Mouth is to small to bite us

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Dodger and Bimini Complete

The hard dodger is now finished. We are very happy with the result. It took  200 man-hours over three months. As soon as it was completed, I started working on a hard bimini to match. That avoided replacing the current canvas one, as well as giving a stronger structure for the solar panels. That was another 100 hours of my time. I am quite proud of it, as I did this one all by myself. We have now great protection and a fantastic view.

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Day installing Bimini

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Dodger and Bimini Installed

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Solar Panels Re-installed

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Cockpit View

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More Open Area

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Acrylic Roof Panel For Seeing Sails

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Toughened Glass for nice clear view and a few  butterflies made by Cherie

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Vent Hatches On Roof

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LED Lighting

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LED Lighting- Our little night club

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems that since we arrived in Opua it has been non-stop work. Beside the Dodger and Bimini we did other projects. We did however get away to Opononi for my birthday, then for a week cruising and playing music with Ted and Karen on Sequester.

 

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Opononi

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West Coast of North Island

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Bay Of Islands Anchorage

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Largest Kauri Tree in NZ

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Sunset at Anchorage

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Still Practising

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Sunset

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Sunrise in Opua

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Liliane ‘s Treatment Room at Opua Community Hall-View on the ocean

In the meantime while Michael was working on the Dodger and Bimini I wrote some songs, taught aerobic classes three times a week,  treated one afternoon a week and made a dozen shelves. I also finished my first children’s book and almost completed the second. You can see below a couple of figurines. These were made for me by Danielle on SV Evenstar. She also makes some awesome Dragons and other creatures. Here is a link to her site  http://www.daniellesdragons.com

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Brandy and Oceana

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Scan 4

Next is our haul-out at the end of the month, then off to Canada the end of May for 5 weeks. Anxious to see our new granddaughter.

 

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A New Hard Dodger…Some Assembly Required!

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This is our major project while we are in New Zealand this season. It is something we have talked about doing the last three years.

Why a hard dodger? When we left on our journey with our new canvas dodger and Bimini, it was something that we never even considered. But after 25,000 miles of ocean sailing, nine passages between the tropics and New Zealand and six and a half years of living aboard, it became very obvious.

The current dodger is at the end of it’s life. Sun, salt and waves have taken their toll. The cost of building a permanent structure was just a bit more than replacing again with canvas. As well, there is something to be said for something more robust when sailing outside of the tropics. The trip to New Zealand is mostly forward of the beam, with waves over the bow that go along with that. Different than mostly downwind sailing following the trade winds. Most boats here in New Zealand are fitted with a hard dodger, so there is a lot of knowledge here on building.

This year it worked out that we had a place to build it (Ted’s extra shed that we rented) and some professional help (Matt Barrie, a boat builder). The construction is 18mm marine plywood, glass and epoxy. Should be strong enough for anywhere we want to sail. I am very cheap labour, so I am relagated to sanding and fairing….sanding and fairing…..and sanding and faring. We are close to painting and ordering the glass for the windows. We should have it installed by the end of February.

Here are some earlier pictures during construction:

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More updates to come. Meanwhile, back to work.

Sanding and fairing and sanding and fairing………..

 

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Time to Head South

This time of year planning departure south to New Zealand is the topic of conversation amongst all us cruisers here. We look at the weather models every day, waiting for that all important “weather window”. Two important things we look for 1: making sure there is no developing system above us that could clobber us on the way down (early tropical storm or cyclone), and 2: making sure we don’t arrive in New Zealand as a front passes over the North Island (which seems to be every 5-7 days).

PWC_rnd_mm_48_18_178.771_-17.685_.3.2015.11.20.03And the weather models are just that, computer generated projections. Which become less reliable the further you look forward. With the passage from Fiji to New Zealand taking approximately 8 days for us, you see why we look at all this closely.

This will be our fifth trip down (ninth passage between NZ and the tropics), and no matter how much planning you do, you just deal with what you get once you set sail. We can of course get weather updates along the way through Pactor modem.

All things considered we are looking at departing tomorrow (Friday Nov 20). That should put us in Opua NZ around Saturday or Sunday (28th or 29th).

A quick update about what we have been up to since our last post. We arrived in Savusavu from Tonga on Oct 2. Music seems to be our focus the last while. Liliane has been busy writing songs (some great ones!) and learning to play the Blues. I have started learning to play guitar. Now we are fighting over her guitar!

We also had hoped to do some diving at Namena, but the weather wasn’t suitable for the long dinghy ride out to the reef. So it was snorkelling near the boat, and of course music. Upon leaving, while pulling up the anchor, we found our chain wrapped around a steel grappling hook (what the fishermen use as anchors). The chain was wrapped every way imaginable around the three prongs and the shank. We could only bring it within two feet of the bow without damaging the boat. And there was still 75 ft of chain hanging in the water (Namena is a deep anchorage). So I get in the dinghy to try and get some of the chain unwound, and the swell is making this a dangerous plan. At one point one of the hooks slice the dinghy (luckily not my head), so there went that idea. We were finally able to get the snubber hook on the chain below the wrapped mess to take the load off. I still had to cut one of the hooks off with a cutoff wheel. We finally freed the chain, after about two hours. Don’t have a picture of all this, we were to busy swearing. And I end up with a sore back, which I further aggravated a week later trying to land a large wahoo (that managed to get away). So to recap all this, a ripped dinghy, a sore back and a lost fish. Such is the cruising life.

Anyway, it’s getting really hot here. Looking forward to the New Zealand climate and seeing our friends.

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Swimming With Humpback Whales…..Tonga!

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Humpback Whale Calf

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe have been in Tonga for three months now and have seen plenty of whales from our boat. Spouts, breaching and tail slaps. But always from a distance. If you want to get up close and personal, the best chance is to do a whale swim with a tour operator. Tonga is one of the very few places in the world where you get in the water with the whales. It is amazing to see pictures, but the experience is beyond description. It is hard to describe the feeling of being so close to these magnificent animals.

In the first video, the mother is sitting near the bottom and the calf comes to the surface every 10 minutes very close to us. Then back down underneath the mother to be nursed.

In this video, mom and calf are near the surface together (that is Liliane in the pink fins!). The final sequence is another mother and calf swimming together directly below me. You will notice that a large male escort is following behind.

You will also notice the the calf has a lot of scratches. This is caused by the barnacles of the male shoving the calf out of the way to mate with the female. It is tough being a kid.

Mom helping calf to surface

Calf under mom for nursing / protection

After swimming with the whales the tour boat took us to Mariners ‘s Cave. You have to swim under a ledge to end up in a nice cave. Our guide took this picture of Liliane.

Mermaid Liliane

Mike & Liliane

One morning we were woken quite early by the sounds of whales singing close to our boat.We can hear the sounds through the hull. So at 6:45am we got into our wetsuits and jumped in the water. We didn’t see the whales underwater, but we must have been close as we could feel the sound vibrations in our chest. Each year Humpback whales come up with a new song that they all sing. Here is 2015’s greatest hit. Turn up the volume!

While we were recording whale sounds, a sailfish swam over to us. A little blurry, but we captured him. That was almost more amazing than the whales.

Other wonders of the sea, this is a cauliflower jelly fish we found while snorkelling close to our anchorage. They are usually found in very deep water. Somehow this little guy found himself in the shallow end of the pool.

Cauliflower Jelly Fish

While in Tonga, we had a few T-Shirts made with our boat name and the logo that is at the bow of the boat. Liliane had one made that advertises her massage skills to other cruisers.

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New T-Shirts – Good way to advertise

We have been spending time while we are here with our good friends Josef and Renate who own Reef Resort, and their friend Doris. We had a couple of movie nights, as well as a music night. Lots of fun.

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Anchored in front of Reef Resort

We will be leaving for Fiji in a couple weeks, then back to New Zealand mid November.

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Tonga…..Revisited

We are back in Tonga after our last visit in 2012. This time our objective was to visit the Ha’apai group, a part of Tonga that we had never visited. After good passage up from New Zealand mid-May and a ten-day stay in Nuku’alofa the capital, we started working our way up through the Ha’apai chain. Most of the time we didn’t see any other boats and had anchorages all to ourselves. We did however meet very nice local people. One particular family took us in their garden to pick our own lime, popo, and rooted tapioca.  Afterwards we took the young man and his daughter on Meikyo for a visit.

Many times over the last six years our travels, we have used the term paradise to describe a particularly beautiful spot. The term gets to be overused. One particular anchorage deserved the title. Our anchorage was is in front of one of three uninhabited islands. Two of them joined by a permanent sand bar. On the beach in front of our anchorage was natural pool about one meter deep formed by a unique combination of wind direction and tide. So of course we opened our very own “Natural Spa”. Three days later when we went ashore it was gone. Filled back in with sand. Glad we had the chance to see it.

The Ha’apai

Spa Heaven

Come on in!

Exploring the island

Girl who played with fire

Mariner’s Cafe, Pangai

OOPS

Beach Buddy

Anchor watch

Pigs everywhere!

In 2013 Tonga was hit by a cyclone. This is some of the result.

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Nature vs Nature

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Nature vs Nature

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Careful What You Wish For

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Visit on Meikyo

Vava’u

We are now anchored in front of Reef Resort, owned and operated by our good friends Josef and Renate. Still waiting for some good closeup whale encounters. Lots of sightings from the boat in the distance. We are here for a couple of more weeks before sailing to Fiji. While waiting for the whales Liliane has figured that treating the staff at Reef Resort will keep her busy for a while. Plus we get to eat fantastic meals and enjoying wonderful company.

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