Tag Archives: Torres Strait

Daily Log: Are we there yet? We’re coming Darwin….

Exhausted Captain Eric

July 12, 2017 – Damage Report – Eric

Damage Report: wind generator (dead), wind vane (chaffed), electric generator (doused), alternator belt (loose), sail sheets (frayed), water maker (impossible to run in bad swell), boat (water intrusion in unexpected places), propeller shaft packing gland (leaking profusely), forward head, (leaking), crew (tired), US flag (shredded like a Fort McHenry replica).

High winds 30-35 mph gusts +40 mph and 2-3 meter seas made upwind sailing difficult. Tried to use engine, but squeaky alternator belt made me nervous. Weather forecast 2-3 days same, so would have to navigate a precise route through Torres Strait at night with a tired crew, and a hard worked, wet boat. Leslie suggested anchoring somewhere. I made a VHF 16 call hailing the coast guard, but there was no response. When I asked “Any boats in the area?” a patrol boat “Cape Nelson” replied. I asked for advice and approval to anchor off Coconut Island. He agreed and said he would notify Australian authorities of our circumstance. Though choppy and windy, the anchorage along side the small island strip was a great respite. I slept for hours. When I awoke, I learned Bryce had swum ashore. I couldn’t believe he could be so ignorant: 1) no knowledge of tides or currents, 2) no knowledge of wild life – jellyfish, sea snakes, crown of thorns, crocs or sharks, etc., and 3) landing before we’ve officially cleared. At a loss as to what to do, I texted Curtis with our Delorme to make contact with the Coconut Island Police. They found and returned him via boat stating, “He is a lucky boy. Lucky to be alive.” The local policeman went on to explain that a previous boater who swam to shore was mauled on his shoulder by a tiger shark. Further, Bryce was swimming ashore close by where sea turtle entrails were being tossed in the water. Bryce was lucky also that his misstep (breaking international law) happened in Australia and not in a strict Islamic country. Before leaving, the policeman mentioned that the officials in Darwin had been contacted and would not be pleased.

7-13-2017 – Coconut Island. Got much work done on the boat!

7-14-2017 – More work, prepped for the next day’s favorable forecast.

Trent Rigney replacing our beaten American flag.
Retired American Flag

7-15-2017 – Pulled anchor 9:00 am. Passage through complex Torres Strait route went smoothly. Very relieved. Bryce caught 20” mackerel and 40” wahoo over 20 minutes. Awesome! Smooth sailing expected all the way to Darwin. Hope we can arrive during daylight hours. No moon then and the tidal variation is high: 18 feet low tide to high tide. Yikes!

Good fishing in the Torres Strait. Bryce landed two Wahoo and one mackerel.

7-20-2017 10:05 am. Almost there – Leslie

This morning the boat movement changed from slow and gentle downwind sailing to a close haul but with gentle seas. We are now healed over on a port tack flying all three sails: white reefed main and genoa sails plus our fluorescent orange staysail. A large pod of small dolphins played around our boat surfing the swell for about 15 minutes until they tired. Only five miles distance to Cobourg Peninsula on the top of Australia alongside Melville Island to starboard, saw a 3 foot sea snake squiggling on top of the water near the dolphins and a very large turtle just under the surface. Maybe the turtle was chasing the snake and got confused among the playful dolphins.

We were just hailed by an Australian Border Force aircraft flying over. The first time we were hailed was shortly after leaving Coconut Island by a border patrol helicopter. After the radio contact, Eric stated, “I read to expect many inquiries from Border Force aircraft almost daily upon entering Torres Strait. Afterall, neighboring island nations could experience unrest at any moment.” Since exiting Torres Strait, it was a straight shot of 550 miles with no obstacles except moving cargo ships. Now that we’ve turned the corner over Cobourg Peninsula heading south into Darwin, we are entering ‘Torres Strait’ navigational circumstances with obstacles and shoals, along with large commercial ships. Eric has configured myriad waypoints on our electronic navigation chart to direct our path avoiding all hazards. We expect to arrive tomorrow morning if the wind holds.

Wahoo tartar made with ginger, garlic, capers and olive oil. MMMM good.
Popcorn for dinner!

Daily Log: Bucking Bronco is Kandu

July 10th, 2017 Monday 23h20. Jiggling it up with boobies.

Kandu is acting like a Bucking Bronco, but she’s keeping it altogether. With the heavy movement, the crew and captain are lethargic. Tonight, we are still benefitting greatly from a slightly waning moon. It makes a great difference when you can see the surrounding ocean and waves instead of just feeling it by how the boat reacts to the swell. The sea has been so turbulent, we’ve been attracting red-footed booby birds and other marine birds as a resting haven. Last night one landed on our solar panel. It did not want to budge. Finally when forced to fly away, he left a rather large wet present behind. Ugh! Tonight during Trent’s watch, he heard a bit of racket behind the cockpit and thought he saw something fall. It turns out, after he scrabbled for the flashlight, two boobies had boarded. One was laying dead on the stern poop deck with it’s neck broken, the other flapped around nearby startled by the light and lodged itself under the starboard genoa lines. The swell was so that every time the boat heeled over, and that was often, rushing saltwater would run down the starboard deck right into the birds face. Yet the booby refused to leave until Eric eventually pushed it overboard in preparation for a jibe as it would have gotten crushed. It’s funny how the booby bird in every language has a silly name. All consider it a very dumb bird. The next morning, we had to jibe again and called everyone up. Eric asked Trent, “Please get rid of that dead booby bird over the side. Do you want gloves?” Trent replied, “If I’m going to touch a booby, I’m not wearing a glove!”

July 11th, 2017, Tuesday 23h15. Torres Strait.

Darwin is getting closer but is still far far away. We entered Torres Strait around 19h30 this evening. No boats along the shipping corridor, just a couple off to the side quite a distance away. We sure are loving our AIS (Automated Identification System) transponder right about now! We’re moving fast for Kandu between 6.5 and 7.5. We don’t really know how fast the wind is because our wind gage is broken, but we’re thinking it is blowing about 30-35 miles per hour with a swell of 2 or 3 meters. It’s overcast and stormy, yet Kandu is handling very well. The cockpit is pretty wet. I’m enormously thankful to have our solid dodger instead of a canvas one blocking the saltwater spray, and our newly constructed cockpit canopy built in Raiatea to keep out most of the rain. Our previous canopy had slipped off and fallen overboard while crossing to Tahiti from Fakarava in 2016. Expensive loss that was!

We continue to attract sea birds. Booby birds seemed to have gotten the word that it’s not safe aboard Kandu, but the medium sized black petrels with red webbed feet didn’t get the message. One landed on top of our canopy during sunset. He couldn’t find grip so relocated near the stern BBQ. I haven’t shewed the petrel away mostly because it’s been keeping me company during my watch, hanging on for dear life. Two others that night didn’t make it aboard instead flying into our wind generator. When that happens, the sound it makes is rather chilling. It’s not ideal sailing the Torres Strait at night. However, with our radar, AIS and mapped out waypoints, ‘We Kandu.’

Little Petrel sea bird taking a rest aboard Kandu.

July 12th, 2017 17h00. Reprieve at Coconut Island.

Shortly after I finished my log notes last night, a large wave struck the boat healing us over 50 degrees or more partially filling the cockpit with water. Immediately after the wave hit, Kandu started to head forcefully downwind into the oncoming swell causing the boat to dangerously heal over again. Our Monitor wind vane had been steering us steadily up until that point, but it wasn’t correcting itself. I grabbed the helm and pulled it to starboard, but alarmingly the helm would not budge. At that point I yelled to Eric for help. I put all my weight on the helm and suddenly something gave. By that time, Eric had flown up into the cockpit and was asking what happened. He took over the helm and while steadying Kandu, realized it was loose.

For the third time since leaving Polynesia, the control line had chaffed. In this case, the frayed section must have gotten hitched on an interior bolt and with my forceful tugging on the helm was shredded in two. Chaffing of the control line has been a problem since using the wind vane continuously while sailing from the Galapagos to the Marquesas. We thought we had the problem fixed in the Marquesas: the Monitor manufacturer replaced the suspect bolt with a shorter one and gave us new lines. Evidently, after three separate incidents of a frayed control line since leaving Polynesia, the problem is not yet solved.

Eric re-rigged the wind vane right away and it continued to work fine after that. But the weather continued to be terrible all morning. Fortunately, we positioned the plexiglass divider between the cockpit and the interior as we took a couple more BIG waves filling the cockpit halfway. Our electric generator stored in the cockpit got completely doused with salt water and then our wind generator failed. Craziness! By 10:00 am, we were all wiped out by the pounding. Eric was stressed and exhausted. After discussing our situation, we decided to see if we could find a place to hide from the heavy swell and winds. Eric contacted the Australian Coast Guard and arranged permission to duck behind Coconut Island, a sliver of an island four hours away, to wait out the bad weather for two days. Anchored in 60 feet with all but 3 feet of our 300 feet of chain out, we collapsed for a much needed nap.

Torres Strait. Note Coconut Island in the middle.

 

Daily Log: Kandu To Darwin by Leslie

Leslie Rigney – on the road again!

July 1, 2017 21h30. Off to Darwin for a 20 day passage.

July 4, 2017 21h30. Fourth of July. No celebrations on Kandu, however, the day passed cheerfully. Everyone helped themselves to breakfast: cereal, leftover banana bread, or toast and grapefruit. The boys and I played 3-way cribbage for the first time to great success (Bryce won) and after dinner, we played a round of monopoly, which Bryce also won. Stinker! We listened to loud music and the boys showed off their growing arm strength by trading off doing pull-ups hanging off the top of the hatchway. Before dinner, I read out loud three or four chapters of “Carry On, Mr. Bowditch,” a book I assigned the boys to read during this voyage. Turns out I had two identical paperback versions on board. Before we left the states, I guess I really wanted them to read the book. And in fact, they are enjoying the story as it’s about a boy indenture apprenticed to a chandlery on the East Coast of the US in the 1780’s, who improves his lot by intense individual study and ‘Sailing by ash breeze.’ Oars are made of ash. Can you divine the meaning of the turn of phrase? It’s a lesson the boys are slowly learning. Early education isn’t about teachers teaching you, it’s about learning to learn and taking it upon yourself to study the materials presented so that you absorb them and make them a part of you. The ultimate goal is learning how to teach yourself.

I took the first watch tonight as I had a late afternoon nap and was wide-awake. It’s a peaceful night: less wind so less swell. Not as scary as the two previous nights, hence my ability to write. We’re steadily heading northwest toward the Torres Strait. It’s also getting warmer the more north we sail. All the port lights and hatches are closed tight. We had some moments early on during this passage when salt water shot inside due to our laxity. Don’t want that to happen again. Yesterday, Eric fixed the stalling engine problem, a second time. He had replaced the filters before we left, but the new ones were still not filling up with diesel, even after Eric worked to solve the problem in Espirtu Santo. Fortunately, he figured the problem was still the same and it was an easy fix, thank goodness. So far, the engine hasn’t stalled again.

July 10, 2017, Monday 7:15 am. Full moons & illegal fishing trawlers. We’ve been enjoying the fullest of moons during the last three night watches. The days are passing slowly. Still an estimated 8 days to go – Eric thinks it will be a total of 18 days at sea. Sailing downwind, we are rocking a lot and moving at a snails pace of 5 knots. Now in the Coral Sea, we’re pulling close to the Torres Strait. We are not yet sailing inside the shipping lane but have already encountered a good share of boats. Two nights ago, little 42 foot Kandu was sandwiched in between two 770-foot cargo ships within 2.5 miles. They were traveling north and south while we were heading west. Everyone’s AIS systems were working that night!

Kandu’s Navigation monitor.

Yesterday morning, Eric and I were enjoying the cool cockpit breeze when a 60-foot fishing trawler surprised us. In the cockpit covered by a towel in order to block the light, I had been intently watching a movie with headphones. It wasn’t until the trawler was 50 yards away to our aft port that Eric heard a strange engine noise, looked up and turned around from sending inReach delorme text messages.

Eric Rigney in the process of texting.
Crystal 102 looked a lot like this.

He shouted in surprise. The trawler had approached dangerously close and all their men on deck were staring at us intently. Bryce quickly hailed them on channel 16, but they didn’t speak English or French. He thought perhaps Chinese, Taiwanese, or Korean. After a few minutes, they fell off displaying their name: Crystal 102. There was another twin trawler about 1 mile to our north. We figured they were illegally fishing in Papua New Guinea’s waters. It’s a shame we didn’t have the foresight to jot down our latitude and longitude in order to report them to the international authorities later. It’s possible that we had crossed over their fishing nets. The way they acted, they were definitely aggravated. They didn’t wave, nor did we.