What would it be like to sail around the world in a yacht the size of a rowboat? Take a look at sailing vessel Peter Pan. This little gem is approximately twenty-one feet long, five feet wide, and has about eighteen inches of freeboard.
Although you can sit in Peter Pan's cockpit, you won't remain dry for long when you sail in rough seas offshore. Two small sails move the yacht and a small outboard motor makes it possible to maneuver in close quarters in harbors. The interior of the yacht is so small that you barely have enough room to sit up when you are inside. When you cross an ocean in this yacht, you spend a
great deal of time lying on your side or on your back as you bounce over the waves. Peter Pan carries basic safety gear including solar panels for electrical power. Peter Pan is the equivalent of a backpacker's cruising yacht.
We met Peter Pan at the visitors dock at Port Moselle in New Caledonia. Peter Pan was built in Sweden by the owner and captain of the tiny yacht. He then sailed from Sweden, across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Caribbean, transited the Panama Canal, and across the Pacific Ocean. When we met the captain, he had sailed more than halfway around the world in his tiny vessel. The last we heard of him, he had successfully sailed across the Coral Sea to Australia. Bravo!
The captain of Peter Pan admitted that sailing in such a small yacht is not everyone's cup of tea. The cramped quarters and backpacker lifestyle would not suit the average yachtsman. But if you are thinly financed and have a lot fo desire, Peter Pan will get you where you want to go in one piece. Voyaging in Peter Pan is like sailing around the world in a well equipped lifeboat. What a way to go!
A Hail of a Storm
The southwestern Queensland sky glowed a peculiar green color.Hmm.Very strange.Why is the early afternoon sky so dark?Probably just another summer thunderstorm.No worries mate!
And so everyone at Lawrieís Marina blithely went about business as usual as the sky grew darker and more ominous.Except for closing our hatches and getting out of the rain, there wasnít anything we could do if a thunderstorm came through.We glanced at our dock lines to make sure they were secure incase high winds came our way.
Then it happened.All hail broke lose.First, small pill-sized pieces of ice dropped from the sky.So far, so good.The hail shouldnít last more than a few minutes and soon everything will be back to normal.Twenty minutes later, itís still hailing, and the hailstones are getting bigger Ė they are up to the size of marbles.This is a bit of a worry.Surely the hailstones wonít get any larger.Right?Wrong!
The water surrounding Exit Only looks like a boiling cauldron.Large hailstones auger in creating hundreds of geyser-like explosions on the waterís surface.This is getting scary.
Although the hailstorm lasted for an hour, the damaging hail lasted for only twenty minutes.After the sun came out, everyone emerged from their yachts to inspect the damage.Exit Only was lucky.All the hatches and solar panels survived the onslaught.Other yachts were not so fortunate.Awnings were destroyed and painted surfaces took a real beating.One individual who was off his boat left the hatch open over his bunk.The rain and hailed destroyed an expensive new cell phone that was lying on the bunk, and the mattress was totally soaked.
A few minutes later the largest hailstones beating on deck are half the size of golf balls.This definitely isnít good. I have twenty hatches and four solar panels on Exit Only, and I am wondering whether the hatches and solar panels will survive this celestial assault.
Itís no longer safe to stick my head outside unless I put on a motorcycle helmet.This stuff is big and dangerous and is going to do real damage if it doesnít stop soon.Unfortunately, the hail godís wrath is not appeased by fear, and the large hail continues for another twenty minutes.This could turn out to be an expensive hail storm.The cloth of our cockpit awning is standing up to the assault, but the boat next to us isnít so lucky.Its cockpit awning has giant holes in it where the hail shredded the cloth.
Although our catamaran did not sustain significant damage, our Land Rover Defender was not a pretty sight.Land Rovers are constructed from aluminum, and the hail put hundreds of large dents in its soft aluminum skin.Now the truck really looked like it had been outback and beyond and had hundreds of dents to prove it.This was a disaster of non-epic proportions because we had insurance that covered the damage.We took the car to the insurance adjuster, and they appraised the damage at over $11,000.They told us that the insurance would cover the repairs on the vehicle.The dents were so severe that they had to put a new roof and hood on the vehicle, as well as four new doors.The vehicle had to be repainted and decals reapplied.The professionals at Planet Smash Repair performed the cosmetic surgery and the Land Rover Defender 130 is now looking better than ever.Thank God for insurance.
We never saw a hailstorm like that before, and we hope to never see one again.After you look at the pictures, you will understand that it was a hail of a storm!
The Mon Repos Turtle Sanctuary south of Bundaberg, Australia is the site of the turtle triathalon.For three or four months each year, female sea turtles work their way up the beach at night, dig a hole half a meter deep, and lay more than one-hundred eggs in the hole.They cover the hole with sand and then use their flippers to laboriously retrace their steps down the beach and disappear into the sea.Several months later, all one-hundred of the eggs simultaneously hatch and the turtle triathalon begins.
The turtle triathalon is a miracle of nature.For the hatchlings to survive the triathalon, they must do it as a group.A single turtle trying to make it on its own will probably perish.
The first stage of the triathalon is difficult, the second stage is dangerous, and the third stage lasts for the remainder of the turtleís life.The first part consists of burrowing through one half meter of sand to arrive at the surface of the beach.The second stage consists of using their flippers to quickly make their way down the beach to the waterís edge.The third stage is the rest of the turtleís life in the ocean, a life that may last more than twenty-five years if they are not drowned in fishing nets or eaten by predators.
After the turtles hatch, they internalize their yolk sac, which is their only source of food for several days.There is enough air between the grains of sand in the nest to allow the hatchlings to breathe.A single turtle is not strong enough to burrow to the surface by itself.It takes all of the turtles working together as a team to make it to the surface.Each hatchling takes its turn at burrowing toward the surface, and then it sleeps while other hatchlings take over the burrowing responsibilities.Burrowing is an exhausting job.We observed one nest in which exhausted hatchlings were sleeping with their heads just barely sticking out of the sand.They went to sleep just as they were emerging from the nest.They were sound asleep getting a few minutes of rest before their fellow turtles completed the trip to the surface.
For half an hour, we sat patiently watching three sleeping hatchlings with their heads just poking out of the sand.Although these guys did not want to wake up and get underway, the hatchlings below them in the nest decided it was time to make their move.The ground beneath the sleeping turtles started to bulge.Wow!The bulge got bigger and bigger until there was an eruption of turtles from the ground.It was a veritable turtle volcano.
Suddenly, there were hatchlings everywhere.Ten, twenty, thirty, forty turtles emerge from the nest and swarm toward the Rangerís flashlight.The turtles keep coming and we lose count of how many there are.The Ranger corrals the turtles in a small wire enclosure to ensure their safety while the rest of the turtles emerge from the nest.Stage one is now complete.
Stage two begins.The Ranger lines up four volunteers on the beach and has them point their flashlights toward the hatchlingís enclosure.The Ranger removes the wire enclosure and the race is on.The hatchlings are attracted to bright light.The hatchlings regard flashlights as celestial objects (like the moon and stars) and they start their migration down the beach toward the water.Their flying flippers rapidly propel them fifty meters down the beach and into the water.This procession happens at at night and there are no predators to eat the hatchlings on their dangerous journey down to the sea.Five minutes later, the hatchlings are gone, but their lifeís journey has just begun.
Once they are in the water, stage three begins and lasts for the remainder of their life.In the first forty-eight hours, these miraculous critters swim eighty kilometers out to sea and start eating everything in sight.They discover the wonders and dangers of the Coral Sea as they swim to
New Caledonia, New Guinea, and all over the South Pacific.Only one out of a thousand of the hatchlings will survive to adulthood and reproduce offspring.Those female turtles that survive will return to this same beach more than twenty years later to lay their eggs.(Weird Turtle Trivia Factoid #1 Ė The gender of a hatchling depends on the temperature of the turtle nest.Warmer nests make one gender, and colder nests result in the opposite gender.Hmm.I wonder whether hot nests make males or females?)
The turtle triathalon is a miracle of creation.God programmed these turtles so that they know how to survive from the moment they hatch. There is no momma turtle to teach them the ways of the sea.Their only teacher is God and God knew what he was doing!
To Buegel or Not to Buegel?That is the Question!
While cruising in
New Caledonia in 2003, we me European and New Zealand sailors sporting a new type of anchor on the bow of their yachts.The anchor is called the Buegel.
Everyone using the Buegel said great things about it, and when we observed their anchoring routine, it seemed that the Buegel set fast and held securely even on shortened scope.The most impressive reports on the anchor came from people who had switched from CQR style anchors to the Buegel.These yachties sailed large monohulls and multihulls, and when they switched to Buegels, their anchoring woes went away.
We are skeptical when people report the virtues of the newest anchor that they proudly display on their bow.The anchor flavor of the month varies according to the type of seabed found in any particular region of the world.Some people tell you that they have found the perfect anchor, but when you find out where they cruise, you discover that they cruise in a very restricted area in which their favorite anchor design always works well.But if you take that person up the Great Barrier Reef or to the Southern Lagoon of New Caledonia, their preferred mud or sand anchor might not be up to the job.
During the 2003 South Pacific cruising season, we dragged our sixty pound CQR on several occasions.In PronyBay in
New Caledonia, we dragged the anchor twice in forty knots of wind, and at the Isle of Pines we had difficulty getting the CQR to set properly when anchoring in the tight confines of KunameraBay.After these anchoring misadventures, we thought about giving the Buegel a try.When we returned to Australia, we purchased a seventy pound Buegel anchor.
This cruising season we will sail north along the Great Barrier Reef and give the Buegel a major test.Within three months we will know if the Buegel is as good as everyone says it is.We hope so. It will be nice to spend our nights anchored behind the reef without have to set an anchor watch.
Aerogen 6 Wind Generators
Itís rare that we put a new piece of gear on our yacht and it turns out to work better than we had hoped it would.Finally, it has happened.We now have two Aerogen 6 wind generators churning out electrical power on Exit Only.Believe it or not, these generators are quiet and put out tons of electrical power.
We resisted putting wind generators on our yacht for nine years.Older models of wind generators were noisy, unsightly, and electrical output was often disappointing.
Our electrical requirements have increased each year as we add more electrical gear to the boat.Although we have four solar panels, they donít put out enough power to keep our batteries fully charged unless we run our engines several hours a day to drive the high output alternators.So we took the plunge and put two Aerogen 6 wind generators on the boat.
What were the results?Fantastic.While cruising in
New Caledonia, the wind generators kept our batteries fully charged without having to run the engines for three weeks at a time.
When we sailed from
New Caledonia to Australia across the Coral Sea, we didnít run our engines for the first three days at sea, and the wind generators kept our batteries fully charged.The wind generators gave enough power to run the autopilot, radar, running lights, computers, email, high frequency radio, refrigeration, and interior lights.
How much power do these generators produce?In twenty knots of wind, each generator puts out ten amps of current.With our two wind generators running, we get twenty amps of current each hour while sitting at anchor or sailing offshore downwind.That means
over four-hundred amp hours of current are available each day to run the boat and keep the batteries charged.
Since we have been cruising in the trade wind belts around the world, these generators have plenty of wind to do their job.If we get outside the trade winds, the wind generator output will be reduced.When that happens, we will have to cut back on our electrical consumption or run the high output alternators on our engines.
Coral Sea Adventure II
The South Pacific cruising season ends in December.The longer you stay in the waters of the South Pacific, the greater the risk of encountering a tropical cyclone, and so everyone decides to head west or south to avoid dangerous storms.Cruisers get an itchy foot around the first of November and talk shifts to preparing for the sail south to New Zealand or west to Australia.We have sailed twice to New Zealand and once to Australia. This year we decided to make our second trip across the Coral Sea and spend cyclone season in Australia.
At the end of October, we left the Isle of Pines, sailed to
Noumea, and prepared Exit Only for the sail to Australia.By the first of November, the harbor filled up with like-minded cruisers and talk shifted to weather and when would be the best time to make the jump offshore.Weather faxes, grib files, and strategy for crossing the Coral Sea become the main topics of conversation.Each day we download a couple of weather faxes from Australia and New Zealand, and we go to Port Moselle to look at the French weather faxes as well.We also download weather files off the internet (grib files) and get weather maps that predict the weather for the next five days.And then we wait, and wait, and wait for the conditions to be right.
On this trip we waited for ten days before it looked like weather conditions were right to make the trip across the Coral Sea.We wanted a strong high pressure cell to form over the southern Bight of Australia because that would give us a week of reinforced trade winds to push us all the way to Australia.
Figuring out when to check out with customs and immigration is always hard.You donít want to check out too early and then not leave because the weather turns bad.Once you check out, you are supposed to leave the country within twenty-four hours.So we do our best to get our weather right before we go through the checkout procedure.
Unfortunately, you canít check out on a weekend, and if you think that you might leave on Saturday or Sunday, you have to check out on Friday.That is the checkout dilemma in a nutshell.We decided to check out on Friday and plan to leave on Saturday or Sunday if the trade winds kick in.Saturday comes and goes and no trade winds.Sunday, no joy.Monday comes along and things are looking more hopeful, but still conditions are not right to leave.Hmm.Should we check back in or should we just sit on our boats and see what happens on Tuesday.Eighteen boats are checked out and ready to go, and no one checks back in.We all sit on our boats, downloading weather faxes and grib files.Customs and immigration tolerate us sitting in the harbor as long as we donít get off our boats.Most yachts behave themselves and donít go ashore.By Monday evening, the weather fax looks hopeful.The high over the Bight of Australia is moving east, and the trade winds will return tomorrow morning.The consensus among the fleet is that Tuesday morning is the day.
We set our alarm clocks and on Tuesday morning at we stick our heads out to see if the trade winds are blowing.Good news.The trades are blowing.Within fifteen minutes we haul up our anchor and sail out of
Noumea harbor.The voyage has begun.After we are outside the harbor, we look behind and see five or six other yachts raising their sails and leaving the harbor as well.
It takes about two hours to sail the ten miles across the Southern Lagoon to the DumbeaPass and out into the Coral Sea.We know that it will be rough going out the pass because the westerly winds have been blowing for a week and the westerly sea swell has not had time to die down. We expect to have a rough ride as we go through the pass.We are not disappointed.
We line up the buoys leading us to the pass and see the angry seas breaking on the reef, clearly marking the danger zone on both sides of the pass.No problem locating the pass.Just to be safe, I turn on both engines as an insurance policy.I want to get away from the rough waters of the pass as quickly as possible.
The pass turns out to be rough.Short steep waves eight to ten feet high toss Exit Only around and we slow the boat down to four or five knots to smooth the ride.This must be what itís like to take a ride inside a washing machine.It takes about thirty minutes to escape the disturbed seas outside the pass.
Once we are safely at sea, we have twenty-five to thirty knots of reinforced trade winds out of the southeast.Although itís as rough as a cob, we are sailing in the right direction.The downwind sleigh-ride to Australia has begun.
We listen to the chatter on the VHF radio as each yacht goes in turn through the pass.Eighteen yachts sail out the pass and head for Australia.
Itís not long before we settle in to our ocean sailing routine.We download weather faxes at least two times a day and talk on the radio to other yachts at seven in the morning and five in the afternoon.The radio contacts are important to us because we want to know the location of the other seventeen yachts sailing around us in a loose convoy across the Coral Sea.Although itís nice to have other yachts nearby, we prefer to have them at least twenty miles away at night so that there is no chance of colliding with themSome vessels donít maintain an around the clock watch, and they might run into us at night if we are too close to them.Sometimes yachts donít use their running lights at night in order to conserve electricity.This dangerous practice makes it impossible to see them when they are sailing at night.Out of self-defense, we keep a healthy distance from other yachts that are making the trip with us to Australia.
For the first half of the trip, we have twenty-five to thirty knots of wind pushing us along at a good pace, 150 miles the first day, 160 miles the second day, and 140 miles the third day.For the first three days we fly a double reefed mainsail and about seventy percent of our headsail.The strong winds maintain the rough sea state and each morning we listen to other yachts describe how many people are seasick on their yacht.Some keep a record as to the amount of ďspewingĒ on board (vomiting over the side).One eight year old girl set the record by spewing seven times in a single day.
On the fourth and fifth days, the wind dies down and we put up the full mainsail and full headsail.All spewing is over in the fleet and people are feeling good because in a day or two they will be in Australia.The fleet splits into two groups as they cross the Coral Sea.The largest number of yachts head for the Port of Bundaberg, and the others head south to the Port of Brisbane.
At the end of the fifth day, we make it to the quarantine buoy in Bundaberg with a couple of hours to spare before sunset.Within the next twenty-four hours, all the yachts arrive safely in Bundaberg.Although the first three days of the trip had rough seas, it was a good trip.